World Chess Championship, Game 9: The pawn must go on

Posted: November 21, 2018 in chess
Tags: , , ,

Yesterday, during a five-on-a-side game of football, Magnus Carlsen and an opposing player cracked skulls. Their own. The men suffered cuts and bruises but no concussions and finished their game.

The other guy was a Norwegian journalist. Insert your own joke about the fake news media here, I’m tired of making these things up.

Id rather fight than switch
Magnus Carlsen: “I’d rather fight than switch!”

I don’t know what Fabiano Caruana was doing on his off-day. He was probably listening to Kendrick Lamar and Killah Priest (he’s evolved from Metallica and Led Zeppelin) and preparing to play the black pieces in Game 9, not sucking down Big Gulps and watching There Will Be Blood.

Was Mag Wheels rattled or ignited by his collision? He got off to a strong start today and came close to a winning position…until move 25, when he pushed a rook pawn for the second consecutive move. That’s his normal level of aggression (as the Norwegian journalist found out the day before), but too much for this game. Fabio, whose position until then had looked about as stable as banana Jell-O at a kindergarten birthday party, immediately spotted a way to fight back. The game was equal by the 30th move, but Mag Wheels, clearly upset with himself, plugged along until move 56 when he accepted reality and the draw.

In chess, we call a substandard player a wood pusher or a pawn pusher, implying that they are barely competent to push pawns, nevermind the other pieces. Carlsen’s first pawn move was a clever idea, a dagger pointed at Caruana’s kingside. “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee!” The second pawn move was more like one of my wood-pusher ideas.*

Even Homer nods, especially when his head hurts.

Three games to go. Something’s gotta give?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. We celebrate that happy day by overeating and throwing asylum seekers into POW camps. This year at the dinner table, everyone will be talking about chess. Don’t be the person sitting silent in a corner like a character in a Left Behind novel. Just memorize the following list:

My favorite chess quotes!

  1. Professional chess requires a level of peak mental alertness that most of us achieve only in the throes of searing tooth pain. (Seth Stevenson)
  2. Chess is a constant struggle between my desire not to lose and my desire not to think. (Jan Gustafsson)
  3. [Chess is] as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency. (Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye)
  4. In chess you may hit a man when he’s down. (Irving Chernev)
  5. The chess mentality offers rich pastures in which psychoanalysts may safely graze. (David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Bobby Fischer Goes to War)
  6. Chess is not something that drives people mad; chess is something that keeps mad people sane. (William Hartston)
  7. When you don’t know what to play, wait for an idea to come into your opponent’s mind. You may be sure that idea will be wrong. (Savielly Tartakover)
  8. Chess has this in common with making poetry, that the desire for it comes upon the amateur in gusts. (A.A. Milne)
  9. Chess has no social purpose. That, above all, is important. (Marcel Duchamp)

There’s a lot of good writing about chess. Vladimir Nabokov’s The Defense leads the pack, though after I read it I was depressed for two years. Sometimes you find something memorable in unexpected places. The English master Jonathon Rowson, in a review of Neil McDonald’s The Benko Gambit Revealed, produced this gem about a particular position. It won’t get you extra stuffing at Thanksgiving, I just enjoy reading it:

…Black has much less pressure than normal here, according to McDonald. I was going to leave it at that, but I have to say that this assessment is not as compelling as it might be, and I’m taking the author’s word for it to some extent. This makes me wonder if he is taking someone else’s word for it, and so on and so on, back to the baseless conjecture of a forgotten man in a drunken post-mortem, in a pub that has since closed down.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* Emanuel Lasker, who was world chess champion from 1894 to 1921, once said about players like me, as if to console us: “In life we are all duffers.”

  1. Dr. D says:

    Hey, I like “There Will Be Blood”!

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      Who doesn’t? It’s the perfect family movie for a cozy Christmastime afternoon of eggnog and extreme violence. It’s certainly better than two pictures in the Hallmark channel’s holiday lineup, ‘It’s Christmas, Carol!’ (starring Carrie Fisher) and ‘It’s Christmas, Eve” (LeAnn Rimes).

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