CIPC #179: Sleuth

Ah! how marvellous it is to watch a decent movie again! Granted, whatever movie one watches after the disaster called Alvin and the chipmunks: The squeakquel would appear as a glistening beacon of new hope for cinema but I think that, even without this, Sleuth would have seemed a pretty good film. It is not perfect — in fact, I think it is a bit too clever for its own good and it is more a play than a movie — but it has an interesting plot and is well acted. So well acted that both lead actors, Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, got an Oscar nomination for best actor in a leading role.1 In a major supporting role, but inexplicably not nominated, is a rather fancy-looking chess board:

Explaining the plot in such a way that doesn’t completely spoil it is a task far above my pay grade, so I’ll make no attempt. Suffice to say that it is about a rich author of crime fiction who meets up with a far younger tailor in his manor. Pretty much all the action — and the talking — takes place there. No action takes place on the board, though, and we don’t get any close shots.

This, together with the very unusual chess pieces they use, has made the job of reconstructing the position a very hard one. Even worse is that no attempt has been made to put the pieces on squares. For example, the presumed bishop I projected on f4 is actually placed on the f4/g4/f3/g3 corner. Here’s my best attempt, but it is certainly not a good one:2

In view of the uncertain nature of this reconstruction, I can’t sensibly talk about details like the improbable position of white’s king.

What I can talk about is the completely asinine clustering of pieces. I have played and seen a fair amount of games in my life, but I have never ever seen such strange clumps of pieces. Also, when one side still has seven of his pawns, the other usually has at least one.

Realism: 2/5 In view of the garbage in garbage, out principle, it is impossible to give a reliable number based on a diagram I’ve basically made up. Luckily, the numbers I give are never reliable, so it doesn’t matter.

Probable winner: Whoever’s move it is. If it’s black to move, he has a mate in one, if it’s white to move he can at least win the queen by Be4+. But this is all based on a highly questionable reconstruction and therefore of absolutely no value. Clearly, it fits in perfectly on this blog.

1. [They’re basically the only two actors, which makes Sleuth quite possibly the only movie ever for which every actor got an Oscar nomination.]
2. [You don’t have to be a sleuth to find a tool to make good diagrams.]