Television may be a relatively recent phenomenon, but the ‘relatively’ in that sentence is becoming more pertinent with every passing year. Already, there are more than seven decades of television series, most of which have long since been forgotten. One of those series which I’m guessing not one person in a thousand still knows is The rifleman,1 which aired on ABC between 1958 and 1963. Its main star, Chuck Connors, was originally a professional base- and basketball player who turned actor in the early fifties. In the seventh episode of the fourth season, two of his character’s old friends turn up. They are quarrelling because they suspect each other of cheating during their chess games and they want their old buddy to be the arbiter for a duel. The latter convinces them to duel on the chessboard instead.
The guy holding the serving plate is one of the contestants’ server and he has made a bet with the other contestant’s server on the outcome of the game. He offers the players drinks and, while doing so, holds his plate over the chessboard and surreptitiously moves black’s rook from a8 (which is a white square – hallelujah!) to a7.
Not surreptitiously enough, though, because both his betting opponent and their host have noticed. The latter keeps quiet for the moment. The former too, but he decides to organise a distraction and restore the rook on its original position. When the game is resumed, a quibble starts about where the rook should be.23
This leads to the demasking of the gamblers and they have to play a game themselves, where the winner is to be fired and the loser to be killed. They reach the following position:
Black, after some thought plays Nxc4, which is obviously and hilariously stupid for any number of reasons. His opponent ponders for a moment whether he should just take the queen and simplify to a winning endgame with Rxe2 Nxb6 Rxg2, but in the end decides to go for the mate in one with Qd4 (although Qxb4# would have been a decent alternative).
This astonishes the spectators to no end:
Black:4 It’s amazing!
Chimera del Laredo: It’s witchcraft!
Black: I’ve never seen such tactics!
Me neither, my friend, and I’m very happy about that.
Realism: 2/5 I’ve never seen such king positions! Not that the positioning of the knights is that much better. The bishop on g6 is also weird.
Probable winner: Well, white delivered mate.
1. [The only rifle in this episode appears in the intro. I haven’t seen the other episodes, but this one is much less exciting than the title suggests.] ↩
2. [The servants have been gambling and meddling like this for some time, which is why the two former friends have fallen out.] ↩
3. [If you have fired your untrustworthy servant and have to make your diagrams yourself, you might want to consider using this.] ↩
4. [That’s not the guy playing black, that’s just a guy named Black.] ↩