Six and a half hours later, the mayor of Venice, a tall man with a thick black beard and a hard-to-pronounce last name, sets my queen’s pawn on d4 in the ceremonial first move of the World Chess Championship.
The cameras click.
The spectators clap.
The waves push patiently into the lagoon.
Then the mayor leaves, closing the glass door behind him, and the garden lulls into a peaceful quiet.
I (Mallory Greenleaf; US; World ranking: #1,843) glance at my opponent (Nolan Sawyer; US; World ranking: #1).
I find him already looking at me, a warm smile in his dark eyes.