Chess at Baden-Baden, 1925

by Duncan Chambers

In those days, the grandmasters wore suits,
hired, borrowed or family heirlooms.

Waiters patrolled the lines of tables,
bearing espresso, hock, small packs of Camels.

Spectators sat in velvet armchairs,
some making notes, some waiting for the orchestra.

Army cadets manned the demonstration boards,
watching for the signs that a move would soon be born:

one player rubbed his ear, another stared into space;
you’d swear he didn’t quite know where he was.

Then it was done, the name cards and flags
gathered. The winners posed for photographs,

the losers walked into the rain,
back to blocked drains, candles, sardines.