"That is not checkmate, Master Bruce."
"What do you mean?" Bruce Wayne looked at Alfred.
"Your queen is not covered. Four moves ago, your knight was here," Alfred explained, pointing at the board, "able to move into the space your queen now occupies. Had you moved your queen in then, she would have been covered by your knight, and I would have been checkmated. But, you moved your knight here," Alfred continued, pointing to Wayne's knight, "and so your queen is not covered. My king can take her. Your knight is no longer protecting her, so you have given her away."
Alfred moved his king forward, and took Wayne's queen.
"Of course, I completely missed it," Wayne replied, staring at the board in amazement. "It's been there right in front of me all along, and I completely missed it."
"It's easy to miss, Master Bruce. One must devote one's full attention to the board when one plays chess, and you have obviously been distracted. You have been seeing how the game develops, but your distractions have kept you from paying adequate attention to some implications of certain moves."
"King takes queen on a knight for a fool...." Wayne quietly said, looking out into the room.
"It was not a good move, Master Bruce, but I would hardly say your mistake qualifies you for a fool."
Wayne looked at Alfred. "Don't you remember? The riddle that Sandra received from Catwoman...."
Alfred looked a little puzzled, so Wayne repeated from memory the riddle that Batman had seen on Dr. Villanova’s balcony:
"Blue is the water by which comes the green.
Tall is the lady; she's Gotham's queen.
Under her eyes, the Roman commands,
Fueling the vices of his empire's lands.
For wont of their vices they give freedom away;
High is the price for their habits they pay.
See the green lady, she is a slave,
See her blue knights, they are but knaves.
Powerful is the Roman, this land he does rule;
King takes queen on a knight for a fool."
"I fail to see the connection, Master Bruce," replied Alfred.
"The Roman is the emperor, and Gotham City is his empire. He is the kingmaker. He has tremendous influence over who is going to be the mayor, who will be on the city council, who will be the judges, and so on...."
"Yes," Alfred nodded.
"The queen is the green lady in Gotham Harbor – the statue...." Wayne continued, as Alfred nodded again. "The queen is our freedom; she is what makes Gotham City worth living in."
Alfred leaned back in his chair, and added, "The mayor is the king, and is threatening our civil rights and freedoms with his War on Crime. Overzealous police have become in some ways a menace...."
"Many police continue to do their jobs honorably and well. Some, however, are on the take, and are merely pawns of Falcone," Wayne continued.
"But some are foolish knights, caught up in the hysteria, and overstepping their boundaries. Instead of protecting Gotham's queen, like they should, they are too focused on going after Aladdin and his henchmen." Alfred paused, thinking. "And Falcone draws them away, just as your knight was drawn away from covering your queen."
"Exactly!" Wayne leaned across the table. "But the real riddle is, who is the Emperor, the kingmaker – who's moving the chessmen?"
"Well, Falcone – we just established that." Alfred blurted out his answer with a note of exasperation.
"That's where our distractions have kept us from seeing the implications of certain moves." Wayne leaned back in his chair, looking thoughtfully out into the room again.
"What do you mean, Master Bruce?"
"Falcone is not the emperor; Falcone is just one of the kings."
Alfred looked at Wayne, studying him closely.
"The mayor is one king, Aladdin is another; but Falcone is not really the emperor. Falcone is just one of the kings. Falcone helps manipulate the mayor, but somebody manipulates Falcone, and it's the same somebody who is manipulating Aladdin."
There was a moment of thoughtful silence, broken by Alfred's next question.
"Why did Batman go to the Roma on Halloween?" Alfred asked, watching Wayne's expression. "Batman risked his life to save Falcone."
"There were several reasons. One was to shake Falcone up some. Another was to save his life." Wayne paused. "Falcone is the key to finding that somebody who is manipulating all of them. I thought it was just a business partner, but now I realize -- that somebody is something more...." Wayne's voice trailed off.
"I feel like Batman is being manipulated, as well," Alfred quietly opined. "Batman is a powerful piece on the board, much like a queen in chess, but Batman has been manipulated ever since this began."
"Yes and no, Alfred," replied Wayne. "Batman is Gotham's Dark Knight, and Batman has been drawn away as well." He paused. "Batman has been distracted, Alfred," Wayne smiled. "And those distractions have kept Batman from seeing the implications of certain moves."
Wayne looked back down at the board, then moved his other knight. "And I believe that is checkmate," he added confidently.
"So it is," Alfred replied dryly, then added, "I remember the good old days, when I could beat you without really trying."
There was a short silence, as Wayne stared off, deep in thought. "Suddenly it all makes sense, Alfred, in light of what Dr. Villanova told Batman over the Thanksgiving holiday."
"That is a part of the story that I believe you have not yet shared."