CIPC #8: GEICO commercial

Chess is just the most exciting thing ever. Just think about it: two men staring at some pieces of wood for five hours on end, barely moving, not speaking a word, trying to fork bishops and queens – enough to keep millions watching!1 Still, for some unfathomable reason, people seem to think that chess is boring. It is on this baffling misconception that GEICO plays in this commercial. It’s from a series of commercials with supposedly rhetorical questions, one of which is “Can fútbol announcer Andrés Cantor make any sport exciting?” To demonstrate that this is indeed the case, they cut to a chess match he is commenting on.

The commentary goes a little bit like this:

Andrés: Es un partido intenso. Está pensando! Está pensando!

and so on, until Black takes a pawn with his knight, which  elicits a loud and prolonged Goaaaaaaaal! My Spanish is non-existing, but I think that means It’s an intense game. He’s thinking! He’s thinking! or something in that style. The Goaaaaaaaal!, I’m guessing, means goal. I don’t know what would constitute a goal in chess, but if black has indeed scored one it was a pyrrhic victory. Because he’s going to lose. Badly. So badly, that even Andrés Cantor can’t make it exciting any-more.

Let’s see as for why. When position appears for the first time, it looks like this,2

Unbelievably, it´s the g pawn that black takes.

and at first glance, it seems quite reasonable. White has castled to the queen’s side and is attacking on the king’s side, while black has kept his king in the centre and is trying to whip up some counterplay on the half open c-file. This is all in true Sicilian fashion. Or so it seems.

Reality is different, though. That bishop is really on e2 and not on, say, e3. This turns the position from perfectly normal into completely bonkers. It means white must have promoted a pawn. To a bishop, no less, and on a white square to boot. This means that white’s f or d pawn must have promoted. Since black is only missing a few pieces, this promotion probably took place on g8 or c8, and the newly inaugurated bishop must have fled back.3 One would almost forget that black is a rook down.

Realism: 1/5 A position can’t be more insane without being impossible. In fact, this was the first time I had to verify that the featured position wasn’t impossible.

Probable winner: White is up a rook and can win a knight. I feel that should suffice.

1. [To my surprise, that really seems to be true.]
2. [The diagram is made with the best editor in the field. You can put on the pawns, first. And then to the rooks! Bishops! A Queen! Goaaaaaal!]
3. [Which is the first evidence in history of a priest hole built into a chessboard.]