CIPC #134: Mari Govori, Pososi ty

If you were alive in the spring and summer of 2017 – and I suspect this is not an uncommon occurrence in my readership – you almost certainly heard the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber at some point, if not on the radio then in a shop or a fast food restaurant or something in that style. It was unavoidable. With such success, parodies were inevitable arrived. Most of them are spectacularly uninteresting. Some of them even manage to be somehow worse than the original, which is a considerable accomplishment. But there is also at least one interesting one: a parody in Russian sung by a certain Mari Govori which, as far as I can ascertain, was only released on YouTube. Why is it interesting? Well, it features a chess board! Also, it is a vicious and well-deserved criticism of Putin’s Russia.1 And the title means ‘suck it’.

In this family picture, they look pretty happy, they look pretty normal – but don’t let that fool you! In just a moment the chessboard will be brutally kicked by the foot on the far left, right where it folds. The board will buckle up and pieces will go flying everywhere. Apparently, pop singers like violence against chess boards. Probably, the chess board is supposed to symbolise the current hegemony. Or perhaps the singers are impersonating the violent dictatorship and the pieces stand for the normal people that are horribly mistreated by the establishment.

But this getting dangerously close to deconstruction, which is an enormous waste of time. So let’s just focus on the important bit: the chess! Some of the pieces are not nicely centralised in their squares and I am not one hundred percent sure the piece on b4 is not a pawn. Still, I’m pretty confident that the position on the board, before it gets so brusquely disturbed, is the following:2

…I think I might have to reconsider the symbolism here. Clearly, the board stands for everything that’s illogical, unjust, and straight up illegal in modern Russia. If I were teleported to a weird alternate dimension where I get tasked with defending this position, I would try to argue that these two vagrant pawns on c1 and d1 as well as black’s pawn on h3 have actually already been captured, that they were placed on the rim of the board as there was no good place store. Pointing out that many pieces are badly aligned, I would conclude that this is also what happened to those offending pawns and that it only looks like they are on the board. The prosecutor will then ask where black’s second rook, white’s second bishop, and the missing pawns are if these people care so much about a good place for their captured pieces and I will have lost the case and be thrown back to my own pedestrian dimensions.

But even if we forgive the blatant illegality of the position, it still makes no sense. What the hell happened to the pawn structure? What brought the kings to f1 and f7 respectively? Why didn’t white develop his king’s rook? What’s that bishop doing on g8? Clearly, the current social conventions must be destroyed and replaced by a more sensible one. Down with the system!

Realism: 0/5 Even if the prosecutor accepts my dubious explanations about those awkward pawns, the position is still illegal. Indeed, without pawns c1, d1, and h3, the black pawns must have taken at least four pieces. At first it seems like this is no problem, as there are exactly four white pieces missing, but the f1 bishop must have been taken there, meaning that the position would still be illegal.3

Probable winner: Since this is in Russia, it’s probably going to be Putin, even if he wasn’t playing.

1. [I think. My Russian is, let’s say, somewhat limited. As is my knowledge of Russian internal politics.]
2. [This is parody rather than an actual chess diagram, but if you want to make your own, feel free to do so.]
3. [It also means that the bishop on d3 is actually a promoted pawn.]