CIPC #187: Thoroughbreds

Let’s continue this strange trend of recent movies appearing on this blog. Today’s victim is Thoroughbreds, a 2017 film starring Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy. It is about two teenage girls, from rich families but deprived of both redeeming characters and natural speech inflections, who are plotting to kill the step-father of one of them. Before their plotting has gotten very far, they can be seen in the garden at a stone chessboard:

The first thing to note is that whoever designed this board has cleverly avoided the old h1-is-black trap by making all squares of the same colour. The second thing is that this is not one of those cases were we see a chessboard for a moment but nothing happens. No! One of the girls, the cleverer one, starts playing against herself.

She opens with 1.e4. A brilliant move, doubtlessly played to distract attention from the fact that the kings and queens are on the wrong squares. She continues with 1. … Nf6 and a story of how she tried to euthanise her horse, first with black-market drugs, then with progressively sharper metal instruments. The knight in her hand is clearly petrified.

She then plays 2. f3 and at this point the viewers, too, are starting to feel uncomfortable. The more sensitive among them starting feeling a first shred of uneasiness when she played the Alekhine, but 2. f3?1 Suddenly, there is the feeling that we really are dealing with a real psychopath here and that there’s nothing she wouldn’t do.

There follows a cautious step forward (2. … e6), a knightly reconnaissance mission (3.Nc3), and some light skirmishes (3. … d5 4. exd5), all of which leads to the following position:2

Unfortunately, the girl that’s not playing now suggests that they should kill her dad. This seems to take away some of the game’s attraction, at least in the director’s eye, because we get to see no more moves.

But maybe I should take back that ‘unfortunately’. Perhaps this appearance of a new potential victim has distracted dangerous attention away from our beloved goddess Caïssa.3

Realism: 0/5 Starting with an illegal position was not the best move for getting a high realism score.

Probable winner: Who knows? White’s f3 is, at best, a tempo lost, but I highly doubt it’s so bad that the game is lost now.

1. [Note the double role of the question mark.]
2. [For real, thoroughbred diagrams.]
3. [I am not sure goddess is the right term. Caïssa is usually called a muse and the muses were goddesses, but I think she was originally supposed to be a dryad, and dryads don’t qualify as goddess, as far as I’m aware.]