I want to complain about something. Not just because I like complaining — although I definitely do — but because something has been bugging me. We, as chess players, are constantly given short shrift. Every now and then, we get a little scrap. A throwaway mention of checkmate, a passing mention of the game, a brief glance of a chessboard — just enough to make us feel like, perhaps, at some point, we will get to see something real to talk about. But most often, we get something like the still picture above.
It comes from Maigret, a series based on Simenon’s famous detective of the same name. Said detective is unofficially investigating the disappearance of a politically charged report from the minister’s cabinet. His superior is none too happy about that and they can be observed strolling through one of Paris’ parks1 discussing the potentially disastrous results.
To prevent our attention from wandering, there’s two gentlemen playing a nice game of chess at one of the tables. But, alas, we get naught but a fleeting shot, far too unclear to make anything of the position.
What am I to do now? Do I just make up a position to talk about? You know what, sod it. I’m going to do just that. So here is the position:2
Of course this is nothing like the actual position these two people have on the board: black has many more pieces on much more active squares. But if I’m just getting a sad, undefined blob of pieces I’ll reject that reality and substitute my own.
And I can pick a particularly pretty reality, like the one above, which Sam Lloyd made a century and a half ago. It is — as far as is known, at least — the quickest possible stalemate.3
Realism: 5/5 Yes, this position occurred in an actual game. Admittedly, it’s less likely to happen in a free game in the park than in a tournament game between two team mates.
Probable winner: Well, nobody, obviously. Especially not us, chess lovers.
1. [At least diegetically. It’s apparently one of Budapest’s parks in our universe.] ↩
2. [Luckily, we don’t need to come up with a good diagram editor.] ↩
3. [Exercise for the interested reader: get to this position after white’s 10th move. And no peeking at the link!] ↩