At one point last week in the charade known as “the Syria peace negotiations”, John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, announced solemnly, “This is not a game”. Well, he was wrong there. This certainly is a game: the trouble is that Barack Obama is trying to pretend that it’s chess, while Vladimir Putin plays hard-faced poker. The absurd story that the White House has been concocting off the top of its head – in which the stage we have reached was actually the American goal all along – is desperate. We can expect the talks between the US and Russia to be punctuated by repeated announcements of “agreement” like the one we had yesterday, to make this seem credible.