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CIPC #119: Translucid Vol.2

Translucid is an artsy take on the superhero genre published by BOOM! studios in six instalments between April and September 2014. I must admit that I haven’t read it, but the reviews seem to be generally favourable and the artwork seems to be above par. It’s focus is on a supposed supervillain with a horse’s head and his nemesis without a horse’s head. It is perhaps – well, definitely – not the most famous American comic, but at first glance it seems no worse than its competition. And it has chess in it! So that makes everything okay, right? Right? It does not showcase the most ridiculous, idiotic, pathetic excuse for a chess position that has ever blighted the Earth with its existence, right? Please say it doesn’t? Pretty please?

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CIPC #118: Barbie in the 12 dancing princesses

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any single thing capable of making a fortune must be in want of a movie script to be made into. It is, then, not a great surprise that there exist Barbie movies – but there’s twenty-three of the bastards! That’s (at the time of writing) more than the Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings franchises combined! Yet, I’ve never even heard of a single one of them reaching movie theatres. However, it has gotten to my attention that chess makes an appearance in one of them; of course, I tracked it down. It is called Barbie in the 12 dancing princesses, but does not actually feature any character named Barbie or royal cannibalism. The chess scene happens quite early, when the plot, or what there is of it, is only just starting to unfold. Genevieve, one of the twelve princesses and the closest thing the movie has to a protagonist, is playing against her father, the king.

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CIPC #117: House S3 E23, The Jerk

I have remarked before that, as the number of episodes in a given television series tends to infinity, the probability of chess appearing at least once, perhaps even in an important role, approaches one. Therefore, since House ran for eight seasons, totalling a shit-ton of episodes – as it is usually expressed in the highly specialised lingo of the experienced chess-in-popular-culture blogger – it stands to reason that there will be some chess I can talk about somewhere, and that is precisely what I’m going to do today. Let’s first get the formalities out of the way: House is an American television series about – as the title suggests – the maverick medical doctor House,1 played by Hugh Laurie of Blackadder and Jeeves and Wooster fame. He is a genius, which apparently means he’s good at diagnosing obscure illnesses,2 and a huge jerk. In the penultimate episode of the third season, he meets his match: teenager Nate is equally genius and equally jerkish.

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CIPC #116: Kelly, The plateau of chess

Unless you are a connoisseur of the graphic arts, the name Leon Kelly probably doesn’t mean much to you, so a short biographic note seems in order. Kelly was a twentieth century painter from the USA whose works are on display in such museums as the Metropolitan, the Whitney, and the MoMa – but he has nevertheless produced some pretty good stuff. According to wikipedia, he was active in cubism at some point, as well as in abstract art and realism. Today, however, we are featuring a work from his surrealistic period called The plateau of chess. But that becomes immediately clear once you see it:

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CIPC #115: The Addams family

The Addams family is the story of an old noble family with an enormous fortune, a slight supernatural touch, and a distinct taste for the macabre. It started as a series of cartoons in The New Yorker, saw several adaptations as tv-series, video games, and feature films. It is the first one of the latter we’re spotlighting today. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, now most famous for the Men in black trilogy, it hit the cinemas in 1991 and was a huge financial success, making ten times its budget at the box office. Its plot it centred on Gómez trying to bring his brother Fester back from the dead and a loanshark’s attempt to profit from this and from the likeness of her adopted son to the lost sheep.

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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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