CIPC #216: Suske en Wiske – korte verhalen – schaken

Everybody in Flanders know Suske en Wiske. There are well over three hundred issues in the comic book series, there have been a couple of films, some video games, a musical. All of this is well-known and deeply dull. Less well-known is that there is a YouTube channel dedicated to the series. I’m not even sure how legitimate this channel is, because I can’t find a trace of it on the official Suske en Wiske website. Then again, nothing has been uploaded there in years, so perhaps they forgot about it as well.

Most of the videos uploaded are trailers for new issues of the comic series, but there also used to be (very) short sketches. It is from one of those that the above screenshot comes. The character on the left is the series comic relief Lambik, the one on the right is Suske, probably the best person in the cast. They have decided to play a game of chess. Nice! Let’s see how this pans out.

Suske has black. And he goes first. With 1. b6. Oh no.

This is going to be painful, isn’t it? But there’s no two ways around it. I choose this schtick, I’ll stick with it. Lambik has trouble finding a good reply to his opponent’s startling opening choice.1 He first considers pushing his h-pawn,2 then playing 1. … Nc3, but after long and arduous calculations rejects both options and goes for 1. … e4.3 Suske gets fed up with him taking such a long time and insists on using an hourglass. He continues with 2. g6.

Then — get ready for the joke! — Lambik fetches an enormous hourglass.

This is where a certain Simpsons meme would fit. If I had one!

Perhaps this would have had a small change of provoking a chuckle if people actually used hourglasses, but they don’t. For good reason too: if you play with an hourglass, you have a fixed amount of time per move and you have to use that time. Even if you obviously have to recapture a queen. Also, if you originally were not planning to use the hourglass, why is it there? Is it just normally standing on the table on the odd chance someone wants to cook an egg? But why in the living room then? What is the point of it all? Why am I questioning this thing no-one cares about?4 What is my life coming to?

Realism: 0/5 If we pretend for a moment that Suske’s pieces were white and Lambik’s black, the position can be found in most databases. It’s not the most common position, of course, but it’s there, which would earn it a 5/5. However, if we don’t pretend but instead consider the actual state of things, we realise that black started and that therefore this whole thing is illegal.

Probable winner: We don’t have enough information. Only three moves have been played and none of them are especially terrible.

1. [He is probably classically trained and expects 1. e4 or 1.d4.]
2. [Okay, probably not.]
3. [Or is he?]
4. [Well, I am the webmaster of a site dedicated to Belgian chess history; I have a certain proclivity for things no-one cares about.]