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CIPC #20: Promofilm liga Antwerpen

What is the last place where you would expect an impossible position to appear on the chessboard? I don’t know precisely what my own answer to this question would be, but I think I would consider “in a promotional spot for a chess federation” a pretty good answer. First of all, you wouldn’t even expect such a promotional spot to exist. Secondly, you would expect a chess federation to take a more or less reasonable position for such a spot, even if it’s just out of habit. Not so, apparently. I was looking around on the website of the Antwerp league chess federation,1 and saw that there was a promofilm. Out of curiosity I decided to watch the full 45 seconds, and then I was confronted by this:

as part of some kind of slideshow. We don’t get a clear view of the whole board, which makes it even more impressive that  the position is completely impossible. Right under the S of Strategie, you can clearly see the edge of the board. This implies that the white pawn on the bottom of the shot is necessarily on the a- or h-file. But wait a minute! What about the white pawn on the far right of the picture?2 It must be on the 1st or 8th rank. The former is blatantly impossible, so the pawn must be on the last rank, that is, it must have promoted.

This present us with a conundrum: when is a position illegal? Clearly, the position above could never, never, ever occur as a diagram you might find printed in a book somewhere, but it could perfectly well occur during an actual physical game: when one promotes a pawn, one can put the pawn on the last rank, take a different piece, and only then replace the pawn with it.3

So when is a position illegal? Who can truly claim to be good? What is the meaning of life? Does the Riemann hypothesis hold true? Was the world created from the dusty nothingness by the Omnipotent Cleaning Shrimp?

Honestly, there is a much more likely explanation: the Antwerp chess league supports many junior tournament – and in junior tournaments everything can happen, including illegal moves. Or worse: a bughouse match.

Realism: Undefined.

Probable winner: Whoever writes his Ph.D. thesis in philosophy on the potential for existence inherent in aforementioned position.

1. [For a reason which escaped me immediately after finding out topic for today.]
2. [He will be elected president of the USA.]
3. [See the official rules of chess.]

CIPC #19: Lang leve de koningin

Due to enormous success1 the last time I commented on a chess-themed movie, I will do it again. This time, the focus will be on a Dutch movie, because focusing on obscure films in minor European languages is a sure-fire way to bring in more hits. It is called, as the brighter reader might have gleaned from this post’s title, Lang leve de koningin (which can be translated as Long live the queen2) and was written by Euwe’s granddaughter Esmé Lammers. It won a prize for best Dutch film of the year, but that’s like winning a concours d’élégance for Hyundai Matrices. Let’s see what it gives.

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CIPC #18: Hamilton watches advert

Watches, especially the high-end ones, have a very posh image. They’re supposed to be for the distinguished gentleman, evoking images of a quiet British club somewhere, with people in smoking discussing economics in an exceedingly polite fashion. “Wait a moment!” someone must have said in a meeting somewhere “That’s just like chess!” and lo! a new advertisement campaign was born. Chess and watches: could this be a match made in heaven? Let’s find out!

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CIPC #17: 1984

One sure sign of an author’s lasting success is when his phrases and his words become common parlance. Very few authors have achieved this in the English language1 , but one of those lucky few is George Orwell: big brother, newspeak, doublethink, have by now earned a permanent place in the vocabulary.2 Hell, even Orwellian is a word now. Of course, with an author this popular, movies3 abound. One of those is 1984 from. It features a chess scene (which I don’t remember from the book, but it’s been ages since I read that) as you probably guessed from the fact that there is a post about it on this blog.

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CIPC #16: Guust Flater Vol.5: Daverende flaters te koop

Guust Flater, or Gaston Lagaffe in the original French, is probably the most popular anti-hero of the Franco-Belgian school of comic books. The series, written and drawn by Franquin, features the various mishaps of the titular character, who terrorises his colleagues in the offices of the Spirou magazine with chemical experiments, cacophonic eruptions on his Gaffophone, and other types of typical office shenanigans. There is, as far as I recall, one panel featuring chess in the series, which you can see below. It comes from what might possibly be something like volume 5 of the series, but the entire series is the most chronologically confusing thing ever,1 so let’s just talk about chess.

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CIPC #15: Book cover galore

Chess, due to its symbolical connotations, is a popular motive for book covers, even if the book itself has nothing whatever to do with it. The idea is, no doubt, to invoke visions of scheming minds and intricately interwoven plots. Usually, this is restricted to an empty chess board or a single piece somewhere but sometimes there is a bit more to it. This week we’re going to talk about a few of the more interesting examples I know of. No, that does not include Breaking Dawn.1

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CIPC #14: Knight moves

Fourteenth instalment! Finally a nice round number!1 That deserves something special, I’d say. Something very special indeed: I’m going to watch a movie. More specifically, I’m going to watch Knight moves, an obscure 1992 film about a chess grandmaster getting mixed up in a serial killer case, and am going to write my impressions along the way. Clearly, there will be a good deal of chess to discuss, but this time I’ll try to pay attention to the plot as well. The main stars are Christopher Lambert, fresh from the enormous success2 of Highlander II, and one of the lesser Baldwins. What could go wrong? Let’s find out…

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CIPC #13: Tintin Vol.5: The broken ear

Obscure engravings, highly local comics series – the ‘popular’ in the name of this blog has become somewhat spurious lately. High time, I think, to go back to more well-known things. Things like Tintin. The famous reporter that does no reporting can be seen playing chess a few times in the series. The most famous instance is probably in Tintin in Tibet, where our eponymic hero is playing captain Haddock in a Swiss hotel. Unfortunately, we don’t get a good view of the board there, so instead we go back to Tintin’s first visit to South America in volume 51 of the series: The broken ear. Tintin has been made colonel and aide-de-camp of general Alcazar. Together they can be seen trying to solve the myriad problems a successful revolution faces.

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CIPC #12: Kiekeboe Vol.14: Een zakje chips

Kiekeboe is a family adventure comic series which is hugely popular in Flanders and, to some extend, the Netherlands. The series has been running for more than four decades and well over a hundred volumes. Especially in the beginning of the series, the stories were often inspired by whatever happened to be in the news. In those days, that meant things like Idi Amin Dada, the Bermuda triangle, or the Karpov vs. Korchnoi world championship matches. The plot of the fourteenth volume is about a grandmaster trying to lay his hands on the chips of a supposedly unbeatable computer. Unsurprisingly, things do not go as smoothly as he hopes, and while his goons are desperately trying to get the blasted things, he’s playing the first games of his match.

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CIPC #11: Checkmate the king

As you might already have deduced from this site and its title, I have a slight interest in history. Yet in this blog, I haven’t gotten further than the seventies. Impermissible! Unfortunately, one hundred years ago, movies and television series were comparatively rare and the chances of finding a computer game from Victorian times seem quite slim. What to do, what to do? Well, there are still the graphic arts, of course – and chess features heavily in those. Take the following image, for example. It1 is quoted as being called checkmate the king and is claimed to be from around 1475. It shows an engraving of some king or other playing chess against death. Some online sources attribute it to Israhel Van Meckehem, but from what I understand his name is more or less the default for engravings of this time. (I must admit, though, that I don’t understand a whole lot.)

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