I considered Suzi Quatro1 to be the most beautiful woman in the world and I could not have been any more jealous of Chris Norman2, because during a performance of the song that late Evgeni Machavariani3 would show us (in his historical TV show), alongside my girlfriend Suzi, happy Chris Norman was the one standing and smiling.
I also wanted to get my share of happiness right then, in my childhood, and that’s why I got the idea of commercial chess, which was pretty simple – the opponent defeated by me had to pay me 10 Manetis4, exactly the amount the placard of Suzi Quatro cost. We never used the word “poster” back then and the Georgian equivalent of the word „placard” simply didn’t exist, just like my 10 Manetis didn’t exist for the simple reason that with my parents’ strong belief – money was able to debauch a person even in childhood. Of course, I could have saved up 10 Manetis (because of Suzi Quatro), but I chose an easier and faster - a commercial chess - way and my classmate Kakha Salia was the first person I offered to play a commercial match with, because that same day, a red 10 Maneti banknote had fallen out of a pocket of his pants. Salia (that is how – with surnames – us kids addressed each other in the Soviet schools) bent down to take the money so languidly that I instantly realized how easily he would give up the 10 Manetis with the hope that his father would gift him the banknote once again (to calm him down, for example) and maybe even a crispier one.
For that reason, I instantly explained my rules to Kakha and in addition to that, I told him why I needed the money and it’s no surprise that he asked me what I would have given him if he won (this commercial game) and not - me.
I listed all of my possessions: a placard of Franz Beckenbauer5, a Soviet bicycle “Arleonok”, polish chewing gums, a pair of jeans sewn in a haberdashery shop of Khashuri6, a toy steering wheel “Za Ruliom”, the questionable sneakers from Kiev and an Adidas two-piece created in Kutaisi7.
I urged him to choose.
Apart from being my classmate, Kakha Salia was also my friend and that is why he had seen (more than once) the large and chromatic placard of Franz Beckenbauer on my bedroom wall and of course, that’s what he chose.
The Suzi Quatro placard was sold in an underpass on Chavchavadze8, near the 9th Hospital, where several small shops were located, including a music one. On that enlarged photograph Suzi Quatro was wearing the leather pants and a guitar was hung over her shoulder and she was so beautiful that I just stood there and stared, and whenever I looked at it, I was on the verge of crying.
I also wanted to cry when Kakha Salia had won that commercial match and I realized that I not only could not buy a Suzi Quatro placard, but was also losing Beckenbauer. I should have listened when one of my classmates and friends – Giorgi Kiknadze – warned me that Salia had a Megrelian9 brain and he could easily defeat me. Before the game I was calming myself down with what I had also told Jora – “I’m also a Megrelian from my mother’s side” – and Giorgi told me that both of Salia’s parents were Megrelians and also because I was a school champion he would not have a mercy on me.
Kakha Salia indeed did not have a mercy on me and before I knew it, he had already killed my Knight, then the Bishop and lastly, my Rook and I was probably so worried and deep in thought about Suzi Quatro that my mind went completely blank and when my Queen’s turn came, I could barely hold the tears. Another one of my friends and classmates – Gocha Kukhalashvili – whose house was hosting the commercial match, looked over my hopeless situation (on the chess board) and told me without a hint of a smile – “now you can shove in all your remaining Pawns wherever you desire”.
I, as well, did not smile on that day and neither on the next, when I took the Beckenbauer placard, taken down from my wall, to Kakha Salia. And every kid in the Soviet Georgia knew that delivering on a bet was a necessity and a holy work, but Kakha Salia, aside from being smart, turned out to be kind (very kind) and as a replacement of Beckenbauer, he gave me Suzi Quadro.
Without telling me anything, he went, bought it in that underpass and gifted to me…
Of course, I started to love him.
But I could not start to love or adjust to losing and I started nagging Kakha once again to play one more time. The most enlightened person among us at that time – Giorgi Kiknadze – said, in an offended voice, that playing for money was awkward and suggested to think of an alternative. Then, he himself found a solution and a pretty logical one at that – to play chess not for money, but for books.
The first book I won from Kakha Salia in that winter was “Three Comrades” by Erich Maria Remarque and it was followed by many chess conquests and the house of Salia family experienced such a significant loss of books that Kakha (involuntarily) avoided eye contact with the thinned out book shelves.
Once, when I was taking away my wins (books) in a bag, after going outside I, extremely satisfied, started to look around. I found that it was already spring and such football weather (as Mr. Nugzar Jugheli10 would say) was reigning the Tbilisi streets that I instantly realized – I didn’t have time for chess anymore…
P.S. after many years, when I met another one of my classmates and friends, Gio Akhvlediani (a.k.a. Aka Morchiladze11) at Piccadilly (place of meeting which was agreed in advance) in London and gave him the cigarettes taken from Tbilisi, Gio (as a thank you) reminisced about our childhood and told me smilingly – “If you want, we can go see your girlfriend, I know exactly where Suzi Quatro lives”.
It’s a good thing we didn’t go to see her…
Suzi Quatro1 – An American rock singer-songwriter
Chris Norman2 – An English soft rock singer
Evgeni Machavariani3 - The author and the host of the music show which on the only television channel of the Soviet Georgia
Maneti4 - Soviet Georgian currency
Franz Beckenbauer5 – A German former professional footballer
Khashuri6 – A Georgian city
Kutaisi7 – A Georgian city
Chavchavadze Avenue8 - One of the main avenues of Tbilisi
Megrelian9 - An ethnic subgroup of Georgians that mostly live in Samegrelo region of Georgia.
Nugzar Jugheli10 – A sports commentator in the Soviet Georgia
Aka Morchiladze11 - A pen name of Giorgi Akhvlediani - a Georgian writer and literary historian