I have bad news for the regular CIPC readers: today we’re going to tackle a philosophical question. Yes, one of those deep mysteries that bother all of us but that, on closer inspection, vanish in a puff of ill-definedness. An enigma no less profound or more irrelevant than the age-old question of why we are here on Earth: what, exactly, is chess? What is appropriate material for this blog? Would a bughouse game be an acceptable subject? Should van Leyden’s famous painting be disqualified because it actually shows courier chess?1 Should I include scenes where xiangqi is played?
I have decided to answer these questions the way that most philosophical question are answered: I do what I want, perhaps after giving some flimsy but plausible-sounding justifications, and see whether I like the results.
After this long introduction, let’s finally get to our subject. It is a Thai commercial for ceiling tiles.2 As any decent commercial about ceiling tiles, it starts with two geckos in love. They live above ceiling tiles of an unnamed, inferior brand. The tiles crack and half of the couple fatally crashes on a makruk board (Makruk is the Thai version of chess). Overcome with grief at the view, its partner jumps after it to its own death. Their demise is greatly mourned by the players,3 who rue the day that inferior ceiling tiles were ever invented. This rather original plot is half the reason I wanted to talk about this commercial.45
At the moment the first gecko plashes on the board, black is executing a move with his king, which is why there is no black king on the board. Note that the bishop on f8 is not an actual bishop but a khon, which can move either one step forward or one step diagonal in any direction.
Admittedly it’s not the most exciting position in the world, but it is by no means worth committing suicide over.
Realism: 4/5 I’m not really sure how makruk games usually end, but this seems fairly plausible to me.
Probable winner: Not the geckos. I know too little about makruk to make a judgment about the position itself, but it looks drawish. I find it hard to believe that a khon and king win against a lone king or that white can force the pawn’s promotion.
1. [The answer is no, but the fact that there is already a detailed analysis out there.] ↩
2. [The brand appears to be called Shera. I will just point you to the obvious potential of jokes based on the existence of a rather cheesy cartoon of the same name and leave it at that.] ↩
3. [It is also quite unrealistic; a gecko would have survived a fall from that — and possibly any — height.] ↩
4. [That would be the flimsy but plausible-sounding justification hinted at before.] ↩
5. [If you prefer your ceiling tiles black and white, you might want to check this out.] ↩