CIPC #214: Dracula A. D. 1972

There are very few stories that have been adapted to the big screen as often as Bram Stoker’s late nineteenth century gothic horror novel Dracula. Our subject today isn’t one of them. Instead, it picks up a century after Dracula’s demise, with a bunch of useless tweens holding a black mass to bring ol’ pointy teeth back to unlife. The official reason is that he’s Johnny Alucard, descendent of Dracula’s trusty servant, but I suspect it’s mainly to see Christopher Lee reprising his title role. Peter Cushing happens to be the grandfather of one of the tweens, so it promises to be a cosy reunion. Especially when this shows up.

This scene occurs when a resurrected Dracula has made his first victim and the police are trying to understand why a body drained of blood has turned up in the middle of the city.1 Peter Cushing is playing a descendent of the original Abraham van Helsing here, and is supposed to be a distinguished professor or anthropology with a specialisation in demonology. As such, he has an old fashioned study room with heavy curtains, an understated floral wallpaper, some seventeenth century Dutch master’s painting — and a pre-Staunton chess set!

Apparently, he even uses it, because it is not in the starting position. Unfortunately, the murder and reappearance of an ancient demonic creature seem to take attention away from the board and we never really get a clear shot of the whole thing. The following diagram is mostly correct, but black’s queen’s side is conjectural.2

It’s the only reasonable piece configuration, but that it’s a reasonable position is non-trivial assumption.

Two questions arise naturally, here: why has white played h3 and why is this position sitting in the corner of his study room? It seems unlikely that he was playing someone but they decided to adjourn the game after a couple of house of deep labour — they should have gotten further than move three for that. But there is a reasonable explanation! Yes, on this blog!

You see, I think that professor van Helsing plays a bit of correspondence chess. h3 is probably an idea he is trying out here. It is not as silly as it looks; if black goes for a four knights game or an Italian, h3 is a useful move. Black’s best option is probably 3. … d5, after which the point of h3 is less clear.

Realism: 5/5 This positions can be found in most database. You can’t get much more realistic than that.

Probable winner: It’s too early to tell. The dark powers might still be vanquished. Or they might still prevail. It’s almost like real life.

1. [Probably giant mosquitoes.]
2. [Put together your own battle between the forces of light and darkness here.]