CIPC #337: Lexx S4 E18, The game

I may just have witnessed the most bizarre thing to appear on this blog. It was an episode of a mostly forgotten science fiction series from the nineties, called Lexx.1 In it, an undead pilot accepts the challenge of a certain Prince trapped in a television set to a game of chess with high stakes: if he wins, he gets to live again; if he loses, his friends’ lives are forfeit. And so they repair to a desolate rocky landscape somewhere and settle down for the weirdest game of chess ever broadcasted. And that single game is essentially the whole episode. The only other scene are two people partially disappearing as the game progresses. Because of course.

The board is recessed, with a wall of some twenty centimetres tall around the rim, so that the players have to peer down on the board like on some museum exhibit. Even stranger is the way the pieces are moved. Instead of conveniently taking up a piece and putting it down where they want, the players have to manipulate some handles, which open up squares on the board and put the pieces into motion along hidden rails. Also, the pieces are severed heads, loudly commenting on the goings on in the game and bloodily bludgeoning any piece taken.

The opening is not too silly: 1.e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5. But here white makes a strange choice: he plays 3. Qe2. Even stranger, after black’s very classical reply 3. … Nf6, the white pieces start mocking him, saying that he just blocked in his queen while the white queen is well-placed. But, in fact, the opposite is true! Especially so after white’s next move 4. d3. This makes clear that, whatever the skill of the players may be, their pieces are morons.

Moves come in quite quickly: 4. … Nc6 5. c3 Ne7 6. f4. This last move is again commented on by the pieces, who claim it is a sacrifice and go on to explain, for the very obtuse viewers, what a sacrifice is. And it goes on like that, the moves quickly follow one another, brainlessly commented by the pieces. The evaluation of the position changes quite often. The two people not on the scene are disappearing bit by bit.

The critical moment of the game comes in the following position:2

White is doing very well for himself. His king’s side attack should be decisive. But one of the most tempting attacking moves is very much wrong. White chooses 25. h5 and comes to regret it bitterly. He furiously attacks black’s king and manages to get his h pawn to g6, f7, and then to f8 getting a new queen. But, in the meantime, black’s two knights are harassing white’s king and they manage to checkmate him the very moment white’s pawn promoted.

All in all, this is a remarkably realistic game that works very well in the story, weird as it is. But then, when they could honourably have stopped, they go astray: instead of stopping after the checkmate, the white king makes a move and gets captured. And while I can accept insect-robot hybrids, extradimensional planes of existence, or people disappearing for no reason, I cannot accept that.

Realism: 4/5 Clearly, these are not particularly strong players. But all moves, even the bad ones, are more or less logical. Possibly, someone involved in the production of the show was an amateur and used one of his games.

Probable winner: Black. White got his head smashed in by a morning star; that tends to be fatal.

1. [Lexx, is the spaceship. It’s an insect-robot hybrid and, presumably, hard.]
2. [And the diagram comes from here.]