CIPC #154: 2016 Kia Optima commercial

After one whole blog post about high culture, we descend once more into the dank morass of the worst type of popular culture: commercials. Our object of study today is a 2016 commercial for the Kia Optima starring American basketball star Blake Griffin. Griffin and Kia had partnered up before and have again partnered up since, to some considerable success, if success is measured by YouTube compilation videos. The main point of this particular commercial seems to be that Griffin is ‘in the zone’ and it is suggested that one can get there by the simple virtue of driving a next generation Kia Optima.1

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CIPC #153: Kilburne, A game of chess

Let’s get this new year started for real! Now with some shitty pop music, like last year, not with an obscure publicity photo, like 2018, and certainly not with something as low-brow as a Smurfs comic, like this whole blog started all the way back in the beginning of 2017. No; this year, we’ll start with some proper culture! With some English genre painter you’ve probably never heard of, but who has an impressive collection of honorifics gathered behind his name, like cars in a pile-up. A man with the quintessentially Victorian name of George Goodwin Kilburne. Isn’t that beautiful? The painting isn’t half bad either. But how about the chess?

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CIPC extra: The best and worst of 2019

And thus, a third year of weekly blog posts has finally drawn to an end. It is therefore time for my yearly look back, collecting highs and (mainly) lows of fifty-two looks into popular culture. I will give your four of each, for the simple reason that, otherwise, I would have to give a different number. Or shut down the blog, I guess. Or just skip this overview. Okay, let’s just get on with it.

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CIPC #152: Hein Heijnen, Rokade

Rokade is a book written (in Dutch; the title means Castling) by an MD by the name of Hein Heijnen. It appeared in the prehistoric1 year of 2013 by the publisher Aspekt. It is about a pharmacist, Ewoud van E, who is going slightly mental. Half of the book is dedicated to the dialogues he has with his psychiatrist and the other half to a secret diary he keeps of the things that drive him crazy. So far, it doesn’t sound like something that should appear on my blog, but it it described both on the publisher’s website and the blurb on the back of the book, as a chess novel. Naturally, I was intrigued and started reading.

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BOBCH #6: Schuermans’ double deflection (1991)

By now, there are several thousands of games on this site. How is one supposed to find games that are interesting? The answer is that one is not. One can, from now, look at the Best Of Belgian Chess History posts to find some of the more interesting ones. One can even make suggestions to the webmaster. One is very lucky, indeed.

The scene:

At the end of the eighties, Belgium had a brief chess boom, with the OHRA and SWIFT tournaments in Brussels as well as a decent amount of open tournament, with the one in Ostend being perhaps the most important. By the early nineties, the enthusiasm was dying down but had not gone just yet. In the shadow of the greats, the Flemish players were playing their regular tournaments. For them, the VSF interleague had some importance, because it was a qualification tournament for the Belgian championship.

The protagonists:

Robert Schuermans, 41 yeard old, rating: 2280

Schuermans had already been a mainstay of chess in Antwerp for two decades. He had built a reputation as an incredibly dangerous opponent with a firm theoretical knowledge and a penchant for sharp, tactical positions in which he sometimes overwhelmed his opponents in real 19th century style. Amongst his victories are numerous editions of the Antwerp league championship, training matches against Proost and Van Herck, a shared first place in the Ghent open of 1980, and — as a highlight — the title of Belgian champion in 1987.

Marc Lacrosse & Valère De Buck

Lacrosse is a real amateur who plays an enormous amount of games per year, visiting tournaments mainly in Spain and Italy. At the time of the 1991 VSF interleague, he had a FIDÉ rating of 2205. De Buck made a name for himself in the Ghent chess scene but, as far as I know, never played internationally. At the time of this tournament, he did not have a FIDÉ rating.

Why did I choose these games?

The first round of the VSF interleague pitted Schuermans against Lacrosse. It was a game in true romantic style: black sacrificed a piece in the Vienna gambit and, for fifteen moves, pieces were flying everywhere until the following position was reached:

black does not have enough compensation for the piece and there are several winning moves, but Schuermans found the most precise one: 16. e6! A very nice deflection! The point is that if the queen takes the pawn — and there’s no real alternative — the line 17. Bc4 Rxd1 18. BxQ comes with check, leaving white a rook up.

The day after his first round victory, Schuermans had black against De Buck in the second one. True to his style, he played the Fajarowicz gambit and after just ten moves the situation on the board was as follows:

There is a terrible threat on g2 and white’s queen is hanging. Naturally, he tries to get his queen in safety with tempo: 11. Qa4+. Here, Schuermans plays b5! Again the best move on the board, again a deflection of a queen by a pawn sacrificing itself, and again a check is involved! The point is that, if the queen takes on b5, 12. … c6 attacks the queen again — but this time by a protected pawn, thus keeping the queen busy and preventing white from dealing with the threat on g2. Of course, one should calculate what happens after 13. Qb7, but it just works for black.

Deflection is quite rare in practical games and yet here two very similar deflections played by the same player on two consecutive days! That’s more than remarkable, that’s incredible.



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CIPC #151: The spirit of Christmas

‘t is the season to be jolly! To put a tree with more decoration than Idi Amin in a prominent place in the house. To get together with the family for a hearty meal with too many courses. To watch super schmaltzy Christmas movies about misanthropes growing a heart and finding love after all. Preferably with ghosts. The 2015 made-for-TV movie The spirit of Christmas fits that bill quite nicely: it is about a woman who prioritises her work as a lawyer over relationships, until she has to assess an old house which is haunted. By an old-fashioned, handsome, gentleman ghost.

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CIPC #150: Saturday night live 20-01-1996, Spartan cheerleaders

From what I understand, Saturday night live is pretty much a staple of American culture but largely unknown outside of the USA. It is a late-night show consisting mostly of a bunch of sketches, often inspired by current news, which are strung together by an ever-changing host. It has been running for well over four decades, several of its sketches have been turned into feature movies,1 and it has, at the time of writing, gathered a record 71 Emmy primetime awards. Of course, in such a long history, chess is bound to pop up at some point. And indeed it has, for example in the episode of January 20th, 1996:2 there is a sketch about two doofuses cheerleading for the ‘Midwestern regional chess tournament’, whatever that may be.

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CIPC #149: Gravity Falls, S1 E11: Little Dipper

Gravity Falls is a critically acclaimed cartoon show produced by Disney about twelve-year-old twins Mabel and Dipper, who spend the summer holidays with their great-uncle — or gruncle, as they call him — Stan in the eponymous town. This town happens to be a hotspot for all sorts of paranormal and superhuman activities, and of course the siblings have to investigate them all. In the particular episode I will discuss today, the magic MacGuffin du jour is a crystal that makes things bigger if light falls through it in one direction and smaller if it falls through it in the other direction. But before they discover this, the two siblings can be seen playing chess:

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CIPC #148: US marines advertisement

The US military has many detractors all over the world, but none could possibly make them look sillier than they did themselves, from what I understand around 1986, in the commercial we will talk about today. It looks more like a trailer for some upcoming fantasy movie than a commercial for work in a modern military corps. In fact, it reminds me quite a bit of the fabled Maradonia trailers1: there are honest-to-God knights on horseback, an evil queen, flaming swords, and an epic soundtrack — but most of all, it has a chess theme! Everything to lure naive young men into the army, I guess.

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CIPC #147: Giving the devil her due, Vol.1

At the very beginning of Giving the devil her due, a webcomic1 by D. S. Newman and Magaly Abarca, a certain David gets run over by a truck. He dies, but before his death is finalised, he gets to play his traditional game of chess against Azrael, the angel of death.2 In a rare twist on this classical theme, the grim reaper himself promises to serve him for the rest of his life if he manages to win. This is where the real plot twist happens: it turns out that death, despite several centuries of practice against millions of opponents, is not very good at chess and he loses against our protagonist, who turns out to be a sixth grade state champion. At least that’s what he claims, but I don’t believe it.

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