CIPC #335: Psych S2 E7, If you’re so smart, then why are you dead?

British detective series are the bread and butter of this blog. But every now and then, I want to mix things up by spotlighting an American detective series instead. So also today. Psych is a comedic detective show about a guy, Shawn Spencer, who convinces the police department that he has psychic powers and that he can help them with their cases. In this particular episode, he’s following up on two kids who suspect someone at their school might be planning a murder.

But that plot is entirely irrelevant to us. What’s important is that this episode is bookended by two scenes of Spencer playing chess with his father. The first one is from when he was still a kid. His father, who has white, is waiting for a move in the following position:1

Frankly, if I were in his shoes, I wouldn’t be so impatient. He’s a full knight down and his opponent has no fewer than seven ways to checkmate him in a single move.2 That’s one in six of all legal moves! In the end, Spencer chooses to, in his own words, “take your pointy sad-faced guy with my horsey”. That is indeed one of the checkmates, so the actual episode can start.

There’s some comedy, some tension, some people die, some don’t. Then the episode is over and we get to the second chess scene. Once again, Spencer has the black pieces and once again he has an overwhelming position.

Overwhelmingly stupid, that is. Somehow, through all of these years, they’ve gotten much worse at chess. Now there’s even a black pawns on the eighth rank! Putting aside the obvious illegality of the position, Spencer seems to be doing well again. In fact, this time he has mate in two in a variety of ways.3

But he doesn’t go for it. Instead he plays Qc4, which is obviously also winning. Recognising that his position is hopeless, white decided to take on h7. Because if you’re dying you can eat everything, I guess. Maybe he was hoping for a swift dead with Qc1, but no such luck: his son prefers torturing him with Be5. Resigning himself to his lot, he takes on h8, perhaps to get a rachenschach in. And now, now that he should deal with the check, black decides to checkmate with Na3!

Realism: 2/5 & -/5 The first one is very implausible, but I guess black has been toying with his opponent. In the second one, even that excuse doesn’t fly.

Probable winner: Both times black, although in the second one his opponent could have at least prolonged the game by challenging his illegal move.

1. [If you’re so smart, why aren’t you using this diagram editor?]
2. [Finding them all is left as an exercise to the interested reader.]
3. [Here, even the number is left as an exercise.]