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‘Chess Tactics’ and other poems

By Douglas J. Lanzo

Chess Tactics

Gambit, exchange, sacrifice,
veiled subterfuge to entice,
the relinquishment of position,
in return for short-lived attrition;
Conceiving multiple moves ahead,
capricious impulse is put to bed,
springing traps and double attacks,
halting pawn storms in their tracks;
Developing pieces with precision,
foreseeing weaknesses with great vision,
seizing key squares, promoting to queen,
no pawn to spare, planning is pristine;
Deploying pieces to check his king,
increasing options from which to spring,
an orchestrated fait accompli,
leaving no quarter for him to flee.


A Young Woman Heeds Her Call

Transporting her school-aged
brothers and sisters
from lives selling maize
in the slums of Kampala, Uganda
to lives full of hope and achievement;

Ending a life of hardship and sorrow for her
widowed mother,
rescuing her from the travails of
collapsed homes, robberies and evictions;
Enduring bouts with malaria and
the unspeakable sorrow of losing
her father to AIDS at age 3
and her beloved eldest sister
to an unknown disease;
Braving nights sleeping on the tin
roof of her 10 by 10 foot home
to escape drowning from floods
that tore through their ghetto with
deadly torrents of raw sewage;
This bright but timid young girl
who came to be known as the “Queen of Katwe”
transformed the lives of her entire family,
uplifted the Katwe slums of Kampala
and inspired millions of people across the world;
Following her older brother,
hoping to find her next meal,
Phiona Mutesi fixed her gaze
upon black and white chess pieces that
silent, smiling children moved upon
a flat board she had never seen before,
finding beauty in the pieces and
yearning to experience
the quiet joy of the children;

Welcomed to join them by chess instructor, Robert Katende,
she accepted the invitation from
this kind Ugandan missionary and local football star,
who treated her with fatherly compassion,
coaching and mentoring her and
other poverty-stricken youth
in lessons of life and chess;
Becoming the junior womens’ national champion by the age of eleven
and leading Uganda to an upset victory in an
international chess tournament in Sudan by age thirteen;

Representing Uganda
in four international Chess Olympiads,
three times winning the Ugandan Womens’ Junior Chess Championship and
being crowned Uganda’s National Junior Chess Champion;
Becoming the first
Ugandan female to ever to earn a chess title:
the title of Woman Candidate Master,
at the 40th Chess Olympiad in Istanbul;
Phiona has brought tremendous honor to
Katwe, Kampala and all of Uganda,
leading to joyous celebrations,
the founding of Phiona Mutesi Chess Clubs and
the planting of chess
in the hearts and minds of thousands of
schoolboys and girls worldwide;
Her prodigious achievements, called “awe-inspiring”
by journalists covering the world of chess, have
led to her life story being told in a 2012 book and
dramatically portrayed in Disney’s 2016 film: Queen of Katwe;

Using royalties from this book and film
to transform the lives of her family,
Phiona has focused on inspiring others
throughout Uganda and beyond
through motivational speaking;

Going far beyond her original goal of
“finding the safe square” in life through chess,
Phiona has “paid forward” to millions of adoring fans
the compassion of a coach and
love of Christ that uplifted her.


Rafael Nadal

Intensity personified in every aspect of the game,
relentlessly attacking, unleashing fury upon the frame,
producing spins and revolutions without precedent every stroke,
tenacity and toughness epitomize a style so bespoke,
that not one pro or Hall of Famer can emulate it to this day,
leaving “Rafa” unrivaled in dominance upon all courts of clay;

Having hoisted eleven winner’s trophies at Rolland Garros throughout the years,
he has shattered all-time and Open era records formerly set by his peers;
Bearing a decisive winning record against a legend of his time,
Rafa defeated the reigning champ of Wimbledon in Federer’s prime;
He has garnered Majors on all three surfaces, adding a career Grand Slam to his name,
securing his spot as an all-time great and future giant of the Tennis Hall of Fame.


Haiku Realization of the Day

Armed with bass fishing lures
guaranteed to work or
be re-shipped from China
and visions of largemouth bass
swimming in our heads,
my 11-year old identical twin sons
and I headed for Little Seneca Lake.
We were brimming with confidence
that we would land the big one:
the Lock Ness Monster-sized bass
with perhaps a pickerel to boot,
rivaling the size of the mighty
Arkansas River catfish
we had watched Jeremy Wade noodle
bare-handed on River Monsters.
Hours later, we emerged with a small arsenal
of bucketed fish that we released back into the Lake
and memories of other sundry captures
enhanced by a fish tale of the giant bass that,
fortunate for itself, had managed to bite
its way through Gregory’s fishing line to freedom,
thus narrowing escaping
an otherwise certain pan-fried death.

This mighty arsenal consisted
of a tiny Green Perch
hand-caught by my other son, Alex,
while hiding safely, or so it thought,
beneath a late summer leaf,
a three inch iridescent Green Sunfish and
four-inch black speckled Crappie,
each caught with a fishing net
hovering beneath a chicken-baited line.

Not to be outdone, my personal exploits
notching my hunting and fishing belt that day
consisted of a hand-caught and released
Yellow Swallowtail that, much to its chagrin,
had been caught entranced in a mating dance
with its would-be lover along a creek
and a near-sighted Morning Glory
net-caught along the lakeshore
while refueling for its fluttering travels.
Haiku highlights of the day included:
approaching within forty feet
of a preening Belted Kingfisher
restoring its royal feathers
and blue crown to regal glory,
truly the crowning achievement of the day;

witnessing a Great Blue Heron
displaced by a paddle boat
squawking and croaking in protest as
it flew to the opposite lakeshore;

observing pairs of swallows
playfully criss-cross,
weaving paths hot in pursuit
of doomed and frenzied mosquitoes
along the sun-drenched lake;

inspecting a beaver-hewed birch tree stump
partially chewed through and surrounded by
myriad pieces of wood clippings
marked with souvenirs of beaver teeth
fit for ornamental display;

last but not least,
beholding a bright green grasshopper
steadily plodding along the pebbles
of a rocky embankment near the dock house,
only to realize that it was being propelled forward,
not by its own energies, but by a tiny ant hoisting
its lifeless body along an arduous path
all the way to a mound of dirt
housing its awaiting colony.
And so, we left that Lake,
likely teeming with giant bass
that had lived to roam free and wild another day,
but bearing a most valuable realization.
This true haiku moment was our appreciation
that Mother Nature has a remarkable sense of humor which,
if properly appreciated and nourished with humility,
brings wonder and enchantment, transforming
ordinary moments into extraordinary experiences.


A featured and award-winning poet, Doug’s poetry found homes since 2020 in 31 literary publications across the U.S., Canada, England, Wales, Australia, Mauritius and The Caribbean. Doug resides in Maryland with his wife and 12-year old identical twin boys, fellow published poets who likewise enjoy nature, biking, tennis and chess.

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