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CIPC #94: Toen was geluk heel gewoon S5 E67, Schaken

Toen was geluk heel gewoon (back then, happiness was normal) was a Dutch sitcom that ran for sixteen seasons between 1994 and 2009. It was loosely based on The honeymooners, an American series from the fifties and was supposed to play in more or less the same time period, making it a bit of a strange sight in the nineties. Of course, from the fact that I give you all this information, you can easily deduce that there must be an episode dealing with chess, and, indeed, in the sixty-seventh episode, our royal game plays an important role.

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CIPC #93: Das Wachsfigurenkabinett

Today, we travel all the way back to 1924. The roaring twenties! It’s the time of the Weimar republic, Jazz is becoming big, Joyce’s Ulysses is published. But it’s not all bad news: it is also the age of art deco, Aviation is booming, penicillin is discovered, silent movies conquer the world. One of the latter is on our plate today: Das Wachsfigurenkabinett, a German movie from 1924 which was released to the English speaking world as Waxworks. The story is quickly explained: the director of a wax museum wants some stories to go along with his figures. For this purpose, he hires a poet. Most of the movie is taken up by the stories he comes up with. The first of those tells of Harun al-Rashid: “The caliph kept his brain from becoming as fat as his stomach by a daily game of chess with his grand vizier.”1

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CIPC #92: Barque advertisement

Pretty much every time I talk about chess in advertisement, I point out that chess is used to symbolise intelligence and sophistication, but it has never been so blatantly obvious as today. It is a piece of advertisement for a Toronto based smokehouse which opened in 2011 and claims more refinement than your standard steak joint. To advertise this fact, they made a classy old fashioned poster featuring a carefully coiffed cow in what may be a smoking1 seated at a chess board. The bovine player looks askance at the viewer, as if inquiring what he might be staring at. Or maybe he’s just waiting for him to make a move.

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CIPC #91: Basil, the great mouse detective

When people talk about great Disney movies, they usually mention Fantasia, Toy story, The lion king – but no one ever mentions Basil, the great mouse detective1 and that’s a great shame, for it is a sublime film. It is based on a children’s book by Eve Titus which, as the name of the movie suggests, heavily draws inspiration from Sherlock Holmes and the imagery associated to him. The story is about Olivia Flaversham, an adorable little girl who lives happily with her father until he gets kidnapped. This is clearly a case for the great Baker Street detective and he, indeed, gets duly involved, together with Dawson, a former military mouse who2 just arrived in London after a long stay in Afghanistan. In their search, the terrific trio ends up in a big toy store at night. There, they walk over a chess board:

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CIPC #90: Zorro S2 E8, The flag of truce

What, oh what, did people do before the internet? Or, generally, before the rise of the computer? Hell, before cheap pocket editions of all the classical books where available in any reasonable book store? Apparently, they played chess. At least, this is what the tv series Zorro suggests; well-nigh every time we see Zorro in his downtime, he is playing the royal game. We have seen it twice before, we see it again today, and we might see it many more times. The episode currently under investigation is the eighth of the second season The flag of truce. The titles refers to the plan to allow rebel leader Joaquin Castenada to come to Los Angeles in order to meet the governor of California and discuss his grievances with him.

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CIPC #89: Vittel commercial

Can I go on a little rant for a moment? Well, this is my blog, so I most definitely can! So here I go: modern advertisement makes no sense. Usually, it is impossible to know what an ad is actually trying to sell to you before it explicitly tells you and even if it is not impossible, the scene has very little do to with what’s advertised. Case in point: a tv commercial for Vittel’s bottled water, showing some chess game in progress. It’s probably quite an important game, as many spectators are shown at some point. The guy in the following picture, who is leading the white pieces, seems to be suffering quite badly.

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CIPC #88: A talent for murder

And once more we end up in our wheelhouse: crime fiction. This time, we’ll talk about a British made-for-tv movie from 1984. Angela Lansbury plays Ann Royce McClain, a crime fiction author who has produced dozens of detective stories but now finds herself in the middle of the plot to one, as one of her heritage hungry relatives turns up dead in her garage. But long before that, we can see her in her wheelchair playing chess with her doctor and former lover Anthony Wainwright, played by the great Laurence Olivier. Those are some of the greatest names in the world of acting – together they have over a dozen Oscar nominations – so there is clearly a talent for acting here, but is there a talent for chess? Let’s investigate!

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CIPC #87: Sandra and Woo No.574, Intelligence in pets

One of the more popular webcomics at the moment – number twenty on this plausible-looking list – is Sandra and Woo, which tells off a girl and the highly anthropomorphised pet raccoon she and her father rescued from an abusive owner. By now, Powree, who does the drawing, and Oliver Kn├╝rzer, who does the writing, have together made over a thousand strips, mostly in the typical American newspaper comic style. Of particular interest to us CIPC’ers is the five hundred seventy fourth one, in which we are treated to the rare sight of a specimen of procyon lotor – and a rather nice specimen at that – playing chess.

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CIPC #86: Kunt U mij de weg naar Hamelen vertellen, mijnheer? E40, De zoon van Zwankezwaan

Whoever heard of a fantasy television series conceived as a sequel to a Grimm fairytale with a nine word title and 45 minutes episodes which are put on hold three or four times for a song? Well, now you all have! Can you tell me the way to Hamelin, sir?,1 for that is the translation of the horribly long title, was just such a show. Airing on Dutch television from 1972-76, it pertains to answer the question of what happened to the children of Hamelin after the pied piper lured them away. No matter how alluring the concept might be, it only becomes interesting for us at the beginning of one of the last episodes, we see two of the main characters, Bertram Bierenbroodspot2 (Rob de Nijs) and Hildebrandt Brom (Ab Hofstee), playing chess.

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CIPC #85: Professor T. S2 E10, Het DNA van een moordenaar

Here we go again. How many times have I spotlighted television series about detective?! The Mentalist, Midsomer Murders, Columbo – I have the impression that I’m barely talking about anything else! Is it just that crime fiction has sort of become the default genre for tv series or is chess more likely to be featured in it? Whatever the case, it’s time to go back to our wheelhouse. This time, we’ll be talking about the Flemish crime series Professor T., which is about professor of criminology Jasper Teerlinck (Koen De Bauw) and the cases he deals with. Is it good? I’m tempted to say no and, since there’s nothing stopping me, I’ll say no. Not that it’s horrible; it’s just in all respects slightly worse than its higher budgeted competitors named above.

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