CIPC #199: Alice in Wonderland

If you were to ask some random schmuck from the streets to give an example of chess in popular culture, provided you do this at a point in time when there doesn’t just happen to be a massively popular chess-based series going on, chances are they’re going to answer Alice in Wonderland. But they’d be wrong! There is no mention of chess in Alice in Wonderland. The famous chess board appears in its sequel Through the looking-glass, and what Alice found there. However, some of the movie adaptations that appear every couple of years have fused both books together and include a chess scene. So, too, our subject for today.

It is a Paramount pictures movie which appeared in 1933 and features some of the greatest stars of the time: W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, and so on.

The very first scene of the movie is a thoroughly bored Alice trying desperately to kill some time.1 Now she’s absent-mindedly leafing through a picture book, then she’s petting her cat, or aimlessly wandering around the room. She ends up at her father’s chessboard and starts playing with the pieces like a little girl is wont to do.2

Making out the exact position is pretty much a hopeless task. The queen’s side never really comes in view, the king’s side only barely, there’s no overhead shot, and the pieces are once more some unconventional set.3 Here’s the best I can do:4

I didn’t even attempt to reconstruct the queen’s side and I’m not convinced at all that the king’s side is correct. Therefore I cannot moan about the absence of black’s king or anything really.

And I can’t really moan about anything else either, since I don’t know what’s on the board. So, yeah, this whole post is just a gigantic flop.

Much like the movie.

Realism: ?/5 There is just too much uncertainty to give a proper score here.

Probable winner: There is no game going on, so there can also not be a winner.

1. [Poor time! All these people out to get him. What has he ever done?]↩
2. [Although that little girl was nearly twenty at the time of filming.]↩
3. [And by this time the Stauntons were not a recent invention any more.]↩
4. [No doubt you can do better.]↩