CIPC #209: Monsters S2 E2, Portrait of the Artist

If I had been a little smarter, I would have done this episode in the Halloween season, but I’m not so I haven’t. So yeah, it’s going to be Monsters today. It is a horror anthology show that aired on TV in the USA at the end of the eighties. There is little more to say about the show in general since, it being an anthology show, the actors, actresses, and directors tend to differ from one episode to the next. So let’s just focus on this particular one. The plot is about the father of a missing young lady who is told that a rather disturbing portrait of her daughter has turned up in an art gallery. Together with his friend and informer, he meets some kind of janitor. He looks and talks like a bumbling yokel — but he has a chessboard!1

The first time we see the chessboard, the remnants of a Trompowsky are on the board. Who the players were or whether perhaps the janitor was just studying some opening theory remains unclear. But the choice of opening is quite poignant, since this episode aired in 1989 and all sorts of offbeat queen’s pawn openings shot up in popularity in the eighties.

During a short absence of our protagonist, his friend has disappeared. He notices that some pieces have been knocked over and urges the janitor to call the police, which is being done in the still shot above. While they are waiting for the police, the janitor challenges his guest to a game. It starts as follows: 1. e4 e5 2. c3. This 2. c32 is a very rare move in competitive chess and there’s a reason for that: after the obvious reply 2. … d5, white would have a terrible version of a Ponziani, which ain’t great at the best of times.

Instead, black answers with the very weird looking 2. … c5. White plays 3. Nc3 and — wait! What?! White plays 3. Nc3? But he has a pawn there! Why is that pawn now suddenly on c4? I call shenanigans! Probably, this yokel is some kind of alien with secret pawn pushing abilities. Or maybe it is a poltergeist. Our protagonist makes a move we don’t see, and then we get a startling bit of dialogue:

Yokel: You’re a pretty good player.

Protagonist: No, I’m not. I’m an international grandmaster.

Wow! An international grandmaster? And he’s not a pretty good player?3 And there’s more strange dialogue. Keep in mind that no more moves are played before we hear this:

Protagonist: Oh, I resign, you have mate in seven moves.

Come again? Black was in no trouble at all just a moment ago. What on Earth was your last move? Why did you play it if you now see that there’s mate in seven? Has there been more alien activity? Perhaps a poltergeist? A monster in any case.

Realism: 0/5 If one moves a pawn to c3 and it then is on c4, you have an unrealistic situation at hand. Either telekinesis or living pawns, but an unrealistic situation.

Probable winner: Black resigned. That’s usually final.

1. [This picture is shamelessly nicked from a YouTube video which in turn was probably taped from when the episode aired (or perhaps re-aired) on TV.]
2. [Apparently, this is called the MacLeod attack. Some people call it the Lopez opening, like 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5, but I think there can be only one.]
3. [Maybe our protagonist is Andrei Crisan.]