CIPC #98: Guido Metsers, Prins Maurits

IJzendijke – who can honestly claim to ever have heard of the name? A small Zealandian townlet, little more than a hamlet, tucked away near the Scheldt in the Dutch bible belt, with a mill, a chapel, a pond, and a square with a statue adorned. It depicts prince Maurits who, though the rain may pour its saltless tears on his face, will always remain unfazed.1 Below you’ll find a picture of this stern-looking figure, as he fights off the Spanish horde on the sixty four squares of the board. But after that I will stop rhyming, as my interest in that’s declining.2

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CIPC #97: Madonna, Ray of light

Now this is something you’ve probably heard of. In the eighties and nineties, Madonna was perhaps the biggest superstar in all of pop music. In 1998, she released ray of light, which became a worldwide hit. Of course, a music video was made as well. The text consists mostly of the singer claiming that she feels like she’s just got home, which hardly seems to warrant writing a song about. The video is a mishmash of different backgrounds speeding by while Madonna is simulating a seizure in front of a green screen. This all seems very boring, but then suddenly a chess board appears and I got interested faster than a ray of light.1

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CIPC #96: Masha and the bear S2 E2, Time to ride my pony

Usually, I am somehow familiar with the things I talk about. Most of the movies I talk about I have seen. Most of the comics I have read. Even La Bayadère I had at least heard of. Today’s topic, on the other hand, was completely and utterly unknown to me before I had its existence pointed out to me. It is a Russian animated television series aimed at children with the magnificently Russian name Masha and the bear and shows the adventures of a six-year-old girl, a sort of female version of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, and her anthropomorphised ursine friend. As it is a Russian show, it is not so surprising that chess makes an appearance – as indeed it does in episode 28, time to ride my pony:

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CIPC #95: La Bayadère

I am really treading on unfamiliar grounds with this one, so bear with me. La Bayadère (the temple dancer) is a ballet with music by Ludwig Minkus, first performed in 1877 with choreography by Marius Petipa.1 Then, it was pretty much forgotten for a few decades, until it performed with great success by the Kirov ballet in the Soviet Union. There, it quickly grew into a classic, but it had to wait for a western revival until the early sixties. So far, so simple. But — and apparently this is normal in ballet — the original choreography had been changed several times, with pieces being deleted, redone, or moved as was seen fit. I give you all this information as a fair warning: do not watch La Bayadère expecting a chess board, for it might not appear. Of course, we are talking about a version of the ballet which does include a chess board: the recent Royal Ballet performance in a production by Natalia Makarova.

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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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