CIPC #348: Banacek S1 E1, Let’s hear it for a living legend

During the relatively short history of television, an unfathomable number of detective series have been produced in every language under the sun, in all sorts of historical settings, and with any particular take on the genre that’s even remotely plausible. The angle chosen for this particular show, Banacek, is this: the eponymous main character works for an insurance company1 and nets ten percent of the money they don’t have to pay out because of his findings. That, at least, is something new for this blog.

In the very first episode of the show, he is investigating the case of an American football player who disappears from the field, in the view of thousands of spectators, after being tackled to the ground. During his investigations, he calls in the help of a bookish friend of his, who has set up camp at a chessboard in some kind of library.2 I like him already.

Apparently, he is embroiled in a correspondence game with some guy from Kyiv who has just sent him a postcard with the mysterious message “K to Bp 1”. Presumably, he is trying — and failing — to use the old-fashioned English notation. He probably meant Kc8. At the very least, that’s the move that is actually executed on the board, leading to this position:3

Given that white’s rook on e1 is hanging with checkmate, we can safely assume that black moved out of check from b7. Both Ka6 (because of Ra1#) and Kb8 (because of Bxc7+) were impossible, but c6 would have given black a very decent position. So it is understandable that white reacts with unsuppressed glee when he sees his opponent has played Kc8, which allows the strong Qa8+.

Could it be that the miracle finally happened? Did someone on set actually give their chess scene some thought? Ha ha! Of course not! No, white claims his next move is going to deliver checkmate. I don’t think I like him any more.

Realism: 4/5 This seems to be a perfectly reasonable position with opposite side castling. The one dubious thing is the black queen on h7, but I’ll let that one slip.

Probable winner: White has the better cards,4 but since he apparently thinks he has a mate in one he cannot be a very strong player. So who knows, really?

1. [And his name is Polish! That’s repeatedly stressed in the show, for some reason.]
2. [But a library with string quartet music playing.]
3. [Let’s hear it for a diagram making legend.]
4. [The better pieces, too!]