CIPC #367: Scorpion S3 E16, Keep it in check mate

Let me start with a quick warning: this is one of the most irredeemably bullshit things we’re seen yet.1 So, Scorpion. It is a show in the grand tradition of The big bang theory of laughing at the stupidity of people that are supposed to be very smart. The premise is that the US government has brought together a team of geniuses to deal with delicate operations both in the homeland and abroad. But the moment any of these geniuses says something we understand why their team is named after such a remarkably stupid animal.

In this particular episode, they have to extract a chess master-cum-spy from a fictive Eastern European country.2 But as a chess champion, she is heavily guarded and difficult to talk to. Their plan is to talk to her at the chessboard during an important tournament. Luckily for them, there is an online tournament in which two wildcards for the tournament can be won. That’s not what a wildcard is, but if I start to grumble about those things, too, we’ll be here all year. But I can’t resist grumbling about what these knuckleheaded geniuses are saying:

O’Brien: Chess is not a boardgame. It’s the ultimate test of genius and strategy since the seventh century.

Okay, Nimrod, how does it being the ultimate test of genius contradict it being a boardgame?

Dodd: It’s all about probabilities. After the first three moves, there’s a hundred and twenty one million possible positions.

No, you pillock! That’s like saying poetry is about probability because after six letters there are three hundred and eight million possible strings. It’s bollocks of the highest degree. Also, I’m not quite sure where Dodd got his number. Sloane has about a hundred nineteen million. I found some blogs claiming a number close to a hundred twenty one million possibilities for the first six plies, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.

But maybe I should concentrate on the actual chess. In preparing for this online qualification event, O’Brien can be seen fiddling about with a cheap plastic set. He has failed to set up the board correctly, because he is so unbelievably clever. For a bowl of petunias.3

Okay, so maybe for these guys, chess really is about probabilities. It certainly seems like they’ve just been playing moves randomly. Normally, I can spend a whole post on a position like this, complaining about the wrong king positions, the inexplicable disappearance of white’s queen’s bishop, the idiotic lack of development, or the fact that black jut allowed a mate in one. But it only gets worse from here.

The first time we see Dodd playing in this online tournament, he has white. We see him play d4 in the starting position — except that the kings and queens are in the wrong places. And his opponent has already used time. And we can see part of the PGN on the right of the screen, including moves up to eleven! An impressive total of three irreparable mistakes before the first move.

And we’re only getting started. Somehow, both Dodd and O’Brien qualify for the main tournament.4 The tournament takes places in a large, fancy hall. As in no chess tournament ever, there is a live announcer in the playing hall, loudly commenting on the pairings and games. Normally, I’d suggest that no one involved in the production had any idea about chess. This time I’m inclined to think they are perfectly familiar with the ways and mores of the chess world, but that they have a deep contempt for them.

And this is proven when the tournament starts. We get some quick shots of people playing — incidentally,5 about half of them play with one hand and hit the clock with the other —  but for most games there’s not enough to give a reconstruction with any kind of reliability. But here’s the final position in O’Brien’s game:

Yes, that’s pretty final, but it’s not a pretty final. And I have no idea why black didn’t resign a billion moves ago. Or why anything resembling this position would ever appear on the board. Admittedly, this it the first round in a presumably Swiss tournament, so there is probably a large difference in playing level. But a look at the white knights suggests that white hasn’t been playing particularly well. Nor has Dodd, for that matter:

Black takes on c6 with the pawn here, although he had a much better move in resignation. I’m starting to wonder how these people were selected to play in this tournament. I’m starting to wonder even more when we see that O’Brien’s next opponent, the whitest guy ever, plays under Eritrean flag.6

And it just continues like this. Ridiculous position…

…after ridiculous position…

…after ridiculous position — yes, black has apparently castled his queen in the next one —

…interspersed with unfunny and implausible shenanigans. And then, when the final is about to start, we get the kicker:

I quit.

Realism: -/5 They should have kept it in cash.

Probable winner: The lord of chaos.

1. [So many thanks to the chess friend who pointed it out to me!]
2. [How terrible that country is is best illustrated by the fact that they’re trying to get this spy to the safety of Belarus, of all places.]
3. [Even a bowl of petunias could use this diagram editor..]
4. [Presumably, all other participants were bowls of petunias.]
5. [And indecently.]
6. [There is no Eritrean flag to be seen in current standings, though. Perhaps this guy just took a random flag with him to the tournament? It would definitely not be the most outlandish thing he did.]