There was a rollercoaster of emotions in Tapon last night, as a game of noughts and crosses that had started amidst great excitement and expectation finally petered out into a tame stalemate.
The participants were Helley and Yasmi, stepdaughters of local waster, Moys Kenwood.
Helley chose 'crosses', and placed one in the rather obvious and unoriginal centre square. Yasmi, left with the only other option of 'noughts', secured the top right corner position. The gauntlet had now been thrown down!
Helley moved swiftly to secure the bottom right corner space. Yasmi blocked this attacking move by inserting her O into the top left corner. Now the game was really on!
It would have been easy at this stage, for Helley to have gotten carried away in her zeal, and to have missed the looming disaster that presented itself in the top row, but her concentration level was set at 'maximum', and she thrust her X into 'top row middle', and Yasmi's opportunity was gone. She needed time to think, and studied the grid. The move was obvious; only a block in 'bottom row middle' would save the match, but her instinct told her to stall, and think - it wasn't straightforward. She decided to go to the toilet.
Visualising the relative positions of O and X as she sat 'curling one off', Yasmi saw clearly what she had to do. She knew - or thought she knew - that Helley had seen the potential win at 'bottom row middle' if she, herself, didn't claim it first. But - and it was a big 'BUT' - was it possible her sister hadn't noticed? Could she get away with making a cavalier insertion at 'bottom left corner' in the hope that Helley wouldn't notice this devilish move, and that she hadn't already seen her chance to close the game out at 'bottom row middle'? It was tempting, but carried a huge risk! Gambling like that, and getting caught out would be extremely embarrassing and hard to live with. It would long remain in the memories of both of the protagonists. She finished on the toilet, and rejoined the fray, forgetting to wash her hands.
Helley was waiting patiently, her forehead beaded with sweat. She had seen the opening long ago, but was trying to feign an air of ignorance, as if she were blissfully unaware of the critical point to which the game had come, and was thoroughly bored. She heaved a huge sigh.
Yasmi, no fool, decided that her elder sibling had seen, and elected to play safe. She watched for her opponent's crestfallen look as she placed her O in 'bottom row middle', effectively ending the contest.
Or had she?
Helley saw that there was still one last chance to win the game. If she placed her X in either 'middle row left' or 'middle row right', and Yasmi then failed to notice the threat this posed to her along the middle row, and chose, instead, 'bottom left corner', victory could still be had! It was worth a try! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! She claimed 'middle row left', and prayed to the God of Perseverance, that He might smile fortuitously on her efforts, and award her the win.
Yasmi studied the situation. To you, now, dear reader, the position is clear: only an O at 'middle row right' could prevent an embarrassing defeat. But Yasmi was tired after a long day at school, and there was something she wanted to watch on the television. Her head was swimming, and her bowel was starting to alert her of the need to make another trip to the bathroom. She closed her eyes, held her breath, and placed her O in 'middle row right'...
There was silence. The game was over. It was a draw, a stalemate. The spoils were shared. The two players wiped their brows, and their heartbeats started to return to normal. They thought about shaking hands, but didn't.
Then, they did something else.