Looking back on last year’s posts, you see American shows, British shows, singers from France or the Netherlands, commercials from all corners of the Earth — bur hardly anything from Belgium. For a site dedicated to Belgian chess history, that’s unacceptable. So today we talk about something very local: De Rode Ridder, i.e. the red knight. He made his debut in the forties, in a series of children’s adventure books by Leopold Vermeiren, and was then used by Willy Vandersteen for a rather popular Flemish comic series.
Johan — for that is his name — is pretty much the embodiment of chivalry in the most positive sense: he is noble, selfless, strong, courageous, and, most importantly, he plays chess! In the fourteenth volume, he is travelling along the Irish coast and he ends up in the local noblemen’s castle. Outside, a terrifying storm is brewing. Inside, it’s worse:1
Johan has faced many unspeakably awful monsters in his journeys, but nothing as bad as this. The pieces are malformed, too small, and badly centred,2 and there is also the tiny matter of the game being played on some alien mockery of a chessboard. But even in these terrifying circumstances, Johan keeps his calm: he is reaching for the b6 rook and Rxb4 does indeed seem like a decent move.
Presumably, a lot of time has passed between the first and the second frame of this strip. I think that, in the second one, it’s probably the year three thousand,3 humanity has fallen in decline, and the noble ways of our royal game have been corrupted beyond repair:
They seem to regard chess as some kind of ritual in which people push small, wooden figures around a board without understanding the object or the rules of the games; much like some students see mathematics as mere meaningless manipulation of symbols.
An Johan, who is supposed to embody all that’s good in the world, lends himself to this! My disappointment is immeasurable and my day is ruined.
Realism: -/5 These don’t even qualify any more as chess positions.
Probable winner: Who knows? I doubt that the very concept of winning and losing has survived into this sad, degenerate future.
1. [The storm is probably brewing chess diagrams.] ↩
2. [This could be clever, as the evil lady uses small, malformed people to do her dirty work. It’s not clear whether they’re badly centred, though.] ↩
3. [Not much has changed, but they lived under water.] ↩