BCH

CIPC #35: Age of Empires II

Age of Empires II was in its heydays the most popular real-time strategy game in the world and this popularity has lasted. The original game was released in 1999, but as recent as December 2016 a new expansion pack came out and a remastered definitive1 edition has been announced. Millions of players all over the world have been attracted by the widely different but well-balanced unit trees, the easy to understand but difficult to master gameplay, the careful crafted solo missions, and the worldwide multiplayer mode. One player2 has been attracted by the opening cut scene of the game, wherein we see two kings playing chess.

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CIPC #34: The Simpsons S28 E14 The cad and the hat

Thirty-three episode long have I managed to avoid it, eight months have I put it off, but today I finally give in. Today I accept the inevitable. Today I talk about the Simpsons. This show has run for twenty-eight seasons by now and has, out of sheer necessity, dealt with almost everything. As a consequence, it works as a rather strange attractor for blogs dealing with popular culture.  The episode we will talk about was first aired on February 19th 2017, making it the most recent subject of this blog. We see the Simpson family walk among a few chess board.

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CIPC #33: Suske en Wiske Vol.245 De 7 schaken

Imagine, if you will, that you are a chess-obsessed kid in Flanders. A bleak prospect, perhaps, but try to entertain it for a little while longer. Chess is pretty much invisible to you: nobody cares about it, nobody mentions it – certainly not kids. Suske en Wiske, on the other hand, is omnipresent. It is perhaps the most popular comic books series, spawning several spin-offs and adaptations, it can be read in daily instalments in the newspaper – you cannot avoid it. Obviously, when you learn that there is a Suske en Wiske volume called De 7 schaken, you get excited. Chess is even in title! You don’t rest until you’ve got your hands on a copy. From there, things go downhill with the speed of an avalanche in a Ferrari.

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CIPC #32: Mystery science theater 3000 S5 E5 The magical voyage of Sinbad

Mystery science theater 30001 might just be my favourite television show ever. As far as I’m aware, it only ever aired in the United States, so I’m guessing most readers are not familiar with it. The basic premise of the show is simple: making fun of really bad films is amusing. MST3K, as the show is abbreviated by its loving fans, is about a guy who has been shot into space by a mad scientist in order to be subjected to really cheesy B-movies. Together with, Crow T. Robot and Tom servo – two robots he build to keep him company – he tries to hang on to his sanity by making fun of such cinematic masterpieces as Eegah, The incredibly strange creatures who stopped living and became mixed-up zombies, or The magical voyage of Sinbad.

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CIPC #31: The unbearable lightness of being

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that every single book with good reviews, must be in want of a movie version. Hence, with the inevitability of a parakeet going tweet, the unbearable lightness of being was made into a film. The book is by Czech-French author Kundera,1 the movie is not. Instead, it was directed by Kaufman and come into (unbearably light) being in 1988.  Rather close to the beginning of the film we see the protagonist in a swimming pool. As is apparently not uncommon in eastern Europe, some people are playing chess in the water:

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CIPC #30: Friends S6 E20 The one with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.

Humour occurs when a surprise is recognised as harmless. This is why a predictable punchline kills a joke. This is why a joke you’ve heard before is no longer funny.1 More interestingly, this allows for the creation of meta jokes, like this one: an Irishman walks past a bar. This is a very good joke. First there is the absence of the expected punchline, but then there is the realisation that there really was a punchline. I swear I’m going somewhere with this gelotological talk. You see, today we talk about a joke.

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CIPC #29: Vladimir Aniskin’s Chessmen

Halt! Stop the presses! I have found what could be the most awesome thing ever! So there’s this Russian guy, you see, and he makes sculptures. That in and of itself would be scant justification for my rather bold claim, but he’s not just any old sculptor: he’s a micro-sculptor. He sculpts a convoy of camels that can parade right through the eye of needle. He makes a book which he displays on half a poppy seed. And he sculpts an entire chess table out of a walnut shell.1 From what I understand, the set has been in an exhibition of Aniskin’s work with the pieces in the position shown below. If you look at the picture it might not seem like much, until you realise that the dark brown blob on the left is the head of a match.

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BOBCH #3: Colle vs. Röthemeyer (1922)

By now, there are several thousands of games on this site. How is one supposed to find games that are interesting? The answer is that one is not. One can, from now, look at the Best Of Belgian Chess History posts to find some of the more interesting ones. One can even make suggestions to the webmaster. One is very lucky, indeed.

The scene:

Every year, the German chess federation organises its chess congress. The main tournament is the German championship, of course, but there are – or at least were – a whole bunch of minor tournament. In 1922, one of these minor tournaments was a guest tournament for foreigners residing in Germany. One of the participants was a young Belgian, probably a member of the allied forces occupying German land. His name was Edgard Colle.

The protagonists:

White: Edgard Colle, 25 years old

Colle was the first Belgian chess player of international renown. According to chessmetrics.com, he reached the world’s 14th place in 1930, which is the highest place ever by a Belgian (if we discount Ukrainian-Soviet-Belgo-Turkish grandmaster Gurevich). He earned a great deal of fame and respect for his sharp attacking games, many of which have become rightfully famous, and for the Colle system, which is still very popular with amateurs all over the world. Of course, all this was still in the future in 1922. Then, Colle was just a local maestro. Sure, he had won the Belgian championship, but that’s not exactly the most prestigious of all titles.

Black: Röthemeyer, ? years old

The name Röthemeyer means nothing to me – or to google for that matter: searching for chess and Röthemeyer turns up a book about a certain Carl Röthemeyer who was a prisoner of war during the first world war. He send a postcard to his brother Herbert mentioning chess, but that’s hardly proof than any of them was our man. The one thing I do know is that Röthemeyer was living in Cologne when this game was played.

Why did I pick this game?

Because it should be an absolute classic. Black doesn’t drop a piece or anything like that, he just plays too passively – and Colle profits brilliantly. Strangely, neither Reinfeld’s nor Euwe’s collection of Colle’s games  include this little gem. (The same holds for Harvey’s book, but that only collects Colle’s games in the Colle opening.)

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CIPC #28: Friends S7 E20 The one with Rachel’s big kiss

I am not very knowledgeable about Friends.1 It’s a hugely popular television show which ran for approximately fifty bazillion seasons, that much I know, and I guess it’s about a group of friends, but I don’t even know how many elements that group has. The following picture proves that 2 is a lower bound, by showing the stronger statement that two elements in the group can be localised simultaneously in a single apartment. The two elements can even be chosen in such a way that they’re on both sides of a chess board – but it’s still an open question whether one can choose the position on that board to be sensible.

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CIPC #27: Dixit

It it little wonder that I discuss many television series on this blog, it is perfectly normal that I often scrutinise comic books, and that the occasional movie finds itself in my crosshairs will also surprise no-one. But every now and then there is something different, something strange and unexpected. There might be a chess position in a medieval engraving, for example, or on the cover of a book. Or in a card game. Dixit, Spiel des Jahres of 2010, is not only a great deal of fun to play, but also to look at. Consider for example the following (part of a) card:1

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