CIPC #175: A matter of life and death

After a short detour to the land of advertising, we return to our usual playground of movies. This time, we go all the way back to nineteen forty six for on of the most critically acclaimed films I have ever covered on this blog. It stars David Niven, who later went on to win an Oscar, as a fighter pilot in the second world war who slips through a crack in Death’s administration and gets caught up in a celestial court case about whether or not he gets to live on now. He gets visited every now and then by a heavenly messenger with a strong French accent who is possibly just a figment of his imagination.1 In the few hours he stole, he has fallen madly in love with a young American girl. She has arranged for a doctor to see him and, while they wait for him, they play a game of chess:

Don’t worry, I am not just going from this one shot; to do so and still attempt a reconstruction would be madness. But there are closer shots. One so close, even, that his plane crashed. You will be glad to learn the board has been set up correctly, at least, with a black square on a1.

You will also be happy to learn that black, that’s the girl, plays her bishop to the b-file to give check. You will be less happy that this happens on b3, not b4. You will lose any remnant of happiness if you see position:2

As mentioned before, black has just played the immensely moronic Bb3+, proudly announcing check. Of course, not being a complete idiot, white answers Nxb3 which in turn elicits a truly baffling reply:

June: Oh dear, I didn’t see that one coming.

Really? Really? You didn’t even bother to check whether the piece you’re giving check with could be taken? You couldn’t be arsed to look at the grand total of two legal moves? You could have just taken the rook on a2, you know, it wouldn’t have been so bad.

And there’s something else. I understand that, as this film takes place in world war II, some political upheaval is to be expected, but you can still let your kings start on home squares, for God’s sake!

Realism: 2/5 My first instinct was to call this an unmitigated disaster, but no, it is mitigated. Very slightly, but still: there are quite a few pieces on natural places.

Probable winner: White is three pieces up. Admittedly, black has some compensation like two connected passed pawns on the queen’s side and the cramped position of white’s pieces, but if your pieces are cramped at least you still have some.

1. [And who is also into chess! He even borrows Alekhine’s My best games of chess from the doctor.]
2. [A matter of chess diagrams.]