World Chess Championship, Game 2: I never met a game that makes me feel the way that you do

Posted: November 10, 2018 in chess
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In the 1990s, I worked on a computer chess game called Power Chess. Among other tasks, I wrote thousands of lines of dialog for the game’s talking chess coach, demonstrated the game for the press, and often acted as liaison between Elon, the game’s designer (a genius), and the rest of the team (like me, ordinary schmucks).

Power Chess.jpg
Power Chess, now available for Windows 98!

Elon loved to talk and I loved to listen. Naturally, we talked quite a bit about playing chess, and over the months we worked together, Elon gave me an earful about the openings and defenses he liked to play. I didn’t say a word on this topic. You never know whom you’re going to meet in a tournament.

Elon and I never met in a tournament, but on the day we shipped the game, at our celebration, someone set up a board and a clock and the team demanded that Elon and I square off. I had white, and I opened with a move that I knew he hated. Elon looked at me and immediately understood what I had done (or hadn’t done). Everyone was watching, the clock was ticking, and on the seventh move, probably while he was trying to remember everything he’d revealed to me, he blundered his queen. Game.

The lesson here is to employ treachery whenever possible, but also, be prepared. Fabiano Caruana was totally prepared today when Magnus Carlsen, playing white, unleashed the Queen’s Gambit. The Queen’s Gambit is chock-full of traps, and even though we’ve known about them for 800 years it’s still a treat to watch two grandmasters offer and dodge them while whistling innocently and acting as if they had no idea that that wicked little landmine was sitting there.

Mag Wheels pressed hard, but Fabio knew everything that was coming at him, and after 49 moves and an hour and a half the two men agreed to a draw. (Unlike yesterday’s seven-hour epic, where the two men collapsed in each other’s arms and were carried off by paramedics.)

It was a terrific outing for Fabio, but a disappointment for Mag Wheels. He started yesterday’s game half-asleep, woke up, almost pulled off a win with black, blundered, and spent hours moving a rook back and forth. I expected better of him today. This Fabio guy is going to be tough to conquer.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is a travel day. We’ll use that time for a quick look at the most fabulous traveler of all: The sky-diving, meditating, vegetarian chess master who just set the record for playing the most games of blindfold chess. Until then, if you have white against Elon, remember: 1. c4.


  1. Dan says:

    Thank you for your insights. I hope that you keep writing about chess.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      If my readers are depending for me for insights, they might be in trouble….I’d like to start playing chess again, but if I do I’ll start a chess blog and not torment people here in my music blog.

      Thanks for your kind words, Dan.

  2. Dan says:

    Is it better to beat a bad boss at chess or a good boss? It seems like with a good boss you want to stay on his good side.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      A good boss will applaud your victory. A bad boss will seek revenge.

      I suppose the safest thing is depicted in “The Company Way” song in How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying:

      Finch: Do you have any hobbies?
      Twimble: I’ve a hobby: I play gin with Mr. Bratt.
      Finch: Mr. Bratt! And do you play it nicely?
      Twimble: Play it nicely…still, he blitzes me in every game, like that!
      Finch: Why?
      Twimble: ‘Cause I play it the company way.

  3. Dan says:

    Beating your boss at chess… Not sure if that’s the right thing to do?

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