CIPC #114: At land

At land is not as well-known as the movies I usually feature in this series, so maybe some explanation is in order. It is a silent American short film from 1944 directed by and featuring Maya Deren.1 It is about, about – well, actually, that’s not true. It’s not sensu strictu about anything. Let’s rather say that it includes a woman waking up on the beach. She very slowly gets up, climbs up a fallen tree’s trunk – which is also a table at which a fancy dinner party is being held (yeah, it’s that kind of movie) – and crawls along it. When she reaches the end of the tree/table, we finally see what has attracted her attention: a chess game in progress.

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CIPC #113: 7up commercial

It is relatively common to see chess in commercials, but it’s very rare indeed to see correspondence chess make an appearance. And the last place I would expect it, is in a commercial from I think the nillies. For a soft drink, of all things. Yet this is precisely what happened in the 7up1 commercial we’re talking about today. The plot of the ad is that there are two guys on tropical beaches, presumably some distance apart from each other, that are playing postal chess via message in a bottle. A 7up bottle of course. I have not the faintest shimmer of a sparkle of an idea as to how this is supposed to entice people to drink 7up. The bottle they send to each other, thanks to oddly reliable ocean currents , doesn’t even contain 7up. But we should focus on the chess, like this guy:

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CIPC #112: Civilization IV

Chess is, of course, the greatest strategy game in the world; I don’t think the readers of this blog need to be convinced of that. For a few centuries, there was little in the way of competition. There was checkers, but that hasn’t got anywhere near the complexity with its single type of piece. There was go, but that relies purely on the size of the board for its complexity and was only very locally popular. Things like backgammon, hnefetafl, or the game of the goose are barely worth mentioning. But at the end of the twentieth century there was a huge boom of strategy games, both board games and video games, many of which were of high quality. One of those was Sid Meier’s famous Civilization series. If you happen to win by conquest in the fourth entry in the series, you might be treated to the following spectacle:

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CIPC #111: The smurfs, Vol.11: The Olympic Smurfs

In the more than two years I have been discussing chess in popular culture on this blog, I have seen the most horrible atrocities being committed against the noble game of chess. I have seen wrongly set-up boards. I have heard unintelligible pretend chess babble. I have seen illegal positions, illegal moves, even wrong boards. But I have never, never, never seen something quite as horrible as our subject for today. Today we take on the smurfs again. In the eleventh volume of the comic series in the middle of the sixth page,1 we are confronted by the following gruesome image:

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CIPC #110: Hummel, Schachpartie im Palais Voss, Berlin

Originally, this was planned to be a sequel to last week’s post. I was going to dissect another slightly less obscure 19th century German painting. I had an even lower quality picture and everything – but then I found out that today’s subject is actually not that obscure! The painter, Johann Erdmann Hummel, has his own Wikipedia page in six different languages.1 On the English version, there is even a picture of the Schachpartie im Palais Voss which is reproduced below. For a moment, I was happy that I didn’t have to resort to another crappy mobile phone picture. Then I realised that something more intriguing was going on.

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CIPC #109: Haaga, Schachstilleben

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that you end up in Hannover. Assume, still completely hypothetically, that you have strolled through the Herrenhäuser Gärten and around the Maschsee, that you have noticed that the curved lift in the Neues Rathaus is not in operation, and that the famous Roten Faden is not as trustworthy as its mythological counterpart that guided Theseus out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. What do you do? Well, you go to the Landesmuseum1 to see a pretty standard collection of stuffed animals and fossils and a rather extensive gallery with a few pretty nice paintings, some horrible ones, and a whole load of middle-of-the-road ones. One of the last category is our subject today: Eduard Haaga’s Schachstilleben.

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CIPC #108: Toyota Tacoma commercial

Having a contest with the grim reaper with one’s life at stake is a very old trope. Older than chess, in fact. But in medieval times, as the game became popular, a nice game of chess against the bony one became a standard conclusion to the life of a character in a novel. The most famous example is no doubt in Bergman’s The seventh seal, but I’m reserving that for a special occasion – like hell freezing over, perhaps. But I have no problem talking about references to said film, like in this Toyota commercial hailing from I think 2013. The plot is that the Toyota Tacoma is playing a game of chess against the grim reaper, but it’s cheating! With its backup camera, it’s keeping an eye on a chess book placed on the ground behind it.

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CIPC #107: The big bang theory, S5 E18: The werewolf transformation

If you’ve been living under a rock for half your life, you are probably an invertebrate. Also, you might not know about The big bang theory.1 It is a TV-series about a quartet of nerdy roommates, their dumb blonde neighbour Penny, and a wide cast of supporting characters, the main selling point of the show apparently being that they are all absolutely insufferable. But four of the protagonists are supposed to be smart! This means that they play chess, so we will have to suffer through at least some of it. Through the 18th episode of the 5th season, for example, where we find Leonard (played by Belgian born Johnny Galecki) and his crush Penny (Kaley Cuoco) at the board.

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CIPC #106: Ao no ekusoshisuto, Chapter 15

Today I’m absolutely in terra incognita, but sooner or later it had to happen. In this day and age, one cannot be a critic of popular culture without ending up talking about manga. So here we go. Okay. Well. Today’s subject is some kind of mango. Sorry, manga. Which is a general term for Japanese comics. That, in a nutshell, was pretty much my complete knowledge about the topic, so I headed to Wikipedia. Apparently, the title of the series means Blue exorcist and, presumably, it deals with an exorcist who’s blue –  whether that’s blue in the literal or figurative sense, or – God forbid, both – I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t care. The only thing I care about is: where is the chess? How is the chess? Where does it come from? Where does it go? 1

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CIPC #105: The bone collector

The bone collector. With a title like that, who can blame me that I was expecting a thrilling tale of ruthless rivalry, fierce competition, and enormous piles of bones in a nice Victorian setting, in short, that I was expecting an in-depth documentary about the Marsh and Cope bone wars? But, alas, it was not to be. There are no triceratopses, no allosauruses, in fact, no palaeontological digs at all. There is just a dime-a-dollar giallo knock-of with a magnificently stupid plot centred around Denzel Washington playing a quadriplegic ex-police detective who guides a rather clueless patrol officer (Angelina Jolie) through crime scene after crime scene in search for the murderer du jour because he thinks she’s talented, for a reason which remains more of a mystery than who the killer is.1 At the beginning of the film, before the bodies start hitting the floor (or river, as the case may be), Denzel spends his time playing chess with his voice controlled computer.

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