Today, I was in a relationship. It was the happiest and saddest, the most hazy and yet abundantly clear thing that I’d ever experienced. And though I have loved and lost, I feel no regret, and have been made not a better person, but more a person, just from the experience.

My lover - lover? - was an opponent on online checkers. As far as I know, he was an expert from Portugal. I say ‘he’ generously, it could have just as easily been a girl. During our first game, I noticed that he played like me. Indifferent to the way pieces slid at the beginning of the game, eager to get to the action, the striking finish. The type of person who would ignore the beginning of the battle, the endless masses charging at each other, but instead await the vivid conclusion, where strategy really came into play, and the pieces came crashing down.

We gave up our pieces like rubbish, trading one for the other, until very few were left. It was invigorating; I knew his thoughts were the same as mine. I could hear the wheels in his brain clicking far away across the sea, as he looked at the pieces and thought about the causes and effect of every move. Move to the right, two get taken. Another piece could jump at the expense of a second piece . . . another move could lose pieces, but position him well for a master plan.

We played like that. He won the first game. I knew he would win before the game was up, calculating my options as my last five pieces lay hopelessly on the board. People praise chess as a better game, but checkers is far more dramatic. In chess, only the king must be captured, in checkers, bloodshed must coat every piece of the team before the war is over . . . I knew he had won as his strategy became clear, but I had so much respect for him that I would not just resign, or worse, try to draw. I knew what he would do if I tried to draw of course: he’d refuse . . . an interesting aspect of checkers is that you must assume the opponent is thinking logically and will make the right decision. Drawing would be hopeless, and disrespectful to my opponent’s intelligence. So strange, how we, anonymous strangers online, with nothing at stake, actually care who the outright winner is. But we do, we must.

So I played out the entire game, until all my pieces had fallen, had disappeared. He deserved that victory, he really did. The computer waited to find out if we would agree to a rematch, and I had the feeling he would accept, and I accepted too. Then we played again, and this time, I was winning. By the end, we were stuck in a loop - I had practically won, but he kept moving one piece back and forth in the corner, so I could never get it. We both knew I had won in reality, but I could never carry the final blow. And so when he offered me a draw, I accepted.

By the third and final game, I like to think that he too was excited to find out who was the true master, the better player. This game went my way; I had won by the time five pieces were left on my side, and four on his. But then he did something that broke my heart: he left the game. I was shocked, and my shock turned to fury. How could he do that? Leave, with no explanation? I had won, he knew that, why would he not let me deliver my final blow, or at least surrender? I was a king, cheated of my rightful victory by a spiteful opposing army. I wanted to chase after him on my horse, flashing my sword and shouting, screaming in anger. But he was gone, somewhere in Portugal, and I could never reach him . . . could never find him. I felt betrayed; I had mistakenly thought he felt as I did. What we shared was not romantic, but more of a mutual attraction of minds. We were intellectual equals, strategically, with cunning to match each other’s. But competition outweighed that; for in this world there is no one, man or woman, who would rather have true love and happiness over winning, over that seductive monster called success.