21 February 2010

Chess & Vampires

Chess and Vampires - this was a part of Geoff Chandler's latest "corner".

Go to Chandler Cornered

Chandler is a well-respected Chess Writer & Chess Historian from Glasgow, Scotland. I hear that, apart from writing about Chess, he's a huge Celtic fan.

One of my Internet Bullet games posted below vs. Korch was published in the aforementioned article as well, so I'll give the link again, go read it.

Go pay a visit to Korch Chess - Blog about Chess while you're at it; he's good - and happens to be the first guy to comment on this Blog.

Enough of the but-kissing; now to Vampires & Chess. This short story was posted years ago somewhere on the Internet and I copied it to my computer. The webpage has expired since then, and I don't know who wrote it originally. But it is a good story.

If you aren't interested in the story, but do want to give the chess problem a try, scroll down to the diagram for the short version. If you are interested in the story, read on and at the end skip the short version. Confused yet? I am.

Bobby Fishy vs. Count Dracula

The Longer version

Once upon a time, there lived in Transylvania an evil count named Dracula. His main sport, as most of us would probably know, was 'suckya' (or sucking blood out of helpless human beings). There came a time, however, when Count Dracula got bored of all of the nightly gore. He decided to add more spice to his bloody life by pursuing a new hobby. He wanted a diversion that was not only intellectually challenging, but also one that would hone his 'killer's instinct'. He took up the game of chess.

Count Dracula's chess skills rapidly increased as he learned the intricacies of the game. Soon he was consistently beating the strongest players in his neighborhood. Encouraged by his strong performance, he began playing at higher levels - first against rated masters then later against noted international grandmasters. From there, the vampire juggernaut was unstoppable. Everyone who faced the Count was demolished over the board in 25 moves or less.

As Count Dracula scored one stirring victory after another, his arrogance also found new heights. He taunted the world to find a mortal who could beat him. Or else, he was going to quit chess for 'lack of challenge'. Fidd'leDD, the world's chess governing body, offered him titles such as 'International Grandmaster' and 'World Champion'. But the evil count vainly declined to accept such tokens of recognition. "I don't need those titles," he boasted. "You mortals can have them and shove 'em up your ..."

This insult was the last straw. Is there someone who could beat this son of a bat? That was the question bugging the whole chess world. No one seemed to have the guts anymore to play against the count. Those who did came out dazed, speechless, and eventually quit playing chess. Someone suggested to match Dracula against Deep Thought but the count flatly refused. He only played against flesh and blood, not against bits and bytes.

The sport was dying. It needed a flesh and blood hero badly. But who else was there? Then the world remembered Bobby Fishy, the former American world champion. He retired from active chess and became a recluse after accusing Fidd'leDD of being run by the Russian Mafia. But Bobby was the only remaining hope. The world waited with bated breath as Don Queen tried to arrange a multimillion dollar chess match between Count Dracula and Bobby Fishy. After much haggling, it was finally decided that there will only be one game. And that match would be played in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the world.

Bobby Fishy arrived in Las Vegas the day before the match. He was relaxed and confident. The long years of 'quiet inactivity' had not eroded his chess skills. Unknown to many, Bobby had been playing actively (though anonymously) by correspondence. He knew the latest opening quirks and his middle-game and endgame techniques were as sharp as ever. He had no doubt that he would beat Count Dracula.

There was only one thing that bothered Bobby. As he analyzed the games Count Dracula played against the world's leading grandmasters, he was amazed at how those outstandingly fine players committed such 'stupid' blunders right at the opening. He tried to interview those players but they all avoided him like the plague. All of them stopped playing chess right after their game against Dracula. They refused to give any comment or explanation.

Shaking his head, Bobby could only wonder why. He then decided to retire for the night. At the stroke of midnight, Bobby was awakened by a loud crashing sound. It seemed to come from outside the window of his hotel room. As he sat up on his bed, the window suddenly burst open and a gust of cold air quickly filled the room. An eerie mist of smoke appeared and rose slowly from the foot of his bed. In a few moments, the smoke encompassed the sinister figure of a man in a black cape. Bobby recognized him almost instantly. It was Count Dracula!

Bobby quickly edged back towards the headboard. The sight of Dracula's razor-sharp fangs dripping blood all over the sheets sent chills up the American's spine. "Wh-what do you want?" Bobby stammered. "You must lose the game tomorrow and speak to no one about it," said Dracula in a slow deliberate voice. "Or else, I will find you wherever you are and bleed you dry!"

After uttering those words, Dracula let out an ugly shriek of laughter. His figure then began to dissolve in a mist of smoke. As this happened, his laughter faded into the cold night air. In a few moments, the room was quiet once more. The window slammed shut and Dracula was gone. Bobby sat there for a while stunned. He tried to convince himself that it was just a bad dream. But as he turned his gaze towards the foot of the bed, he realized that it was no dream at all. There was blood sprinkled all over the sheets, blood that fell from Count Dracula's fangs. What would he do now? For hours, Bobby agonized over his decision. He loved the game. But he also loved his life. Why throw it away over a stupid game? At the break of dawn, he made up his mind. For the first time in his life, Bobby Fishy would play to lose.

The day of the crucial match had finally come and Las Vegas was sizzling with anticipation. A week before, betting odds were lopsidedly in favor of Count Dracula by as much as twenty to one. But as the day of reckoning approached, the gap narrowed down considerably. Now hours before the match, betting odds stood at even money. Everyone knew that being a totally 'night person', Count Dracula only played after sundown. He claimed that sunlight disturbed his concentration. It was also bad for his skin.

Meanwhile, as the sun began to set over the horizon, Bobby Fishy looked out the window of his hotel room. His heart felt heavy as he contemplated the course of action he was about to take. In an hour or less, he would be playing the last chess game of his life. And after that game, he would merely be a statistic - one of Count Dracula's victims over the board who fought, lost badly, and faded into oblivion. Indeed, what an inglorious end!

Bobby had just turned away from the window when he heard three sharp knocks on the door. He went to the peephole to take a look. There stood outside two burly looking men. "Yeah, what do you want?" Bobby called out. "Mr. Fishy," one of the men said in a thick Italian accent. "We have a message for you from the hotel management." Bobby unlocked the door.

As he was about to open it, one of the men suddenly barged through, throwing Bobby violently backwards. "Hey, what the hell do you think you're doing?" yelled Bobby. "Shut up and siddown." the bigger man said in a calm but authoritative voice, his finger pointing towards a chair. Bobby knew better than to mess with this guy. He obediently sat down. The other man closed the door behind him and stood there motionless, watching silently.

The first man now began to speak. "Mr. Fishy, my name is Clemenza. And that guy over there is my good friend Tesio. Our boss, the Godfather, extends to you his warmest regards. He wishes you the best of luck in your game against that sonofa... I mean ..."

"Okay, okay. I got the message," Bobby interrupted. "Please tell your boss I appreciate his concern. I'll do my best, okay? Now please leave. I have a game to play. What the hell happened to my security ..." Bobby tried to stand up but he was easily pushed back like a limp doll. "You don't understand, Mr. Fishy. My boss is making you an offer you cannot refuse. He's got tons of dough invested in you. If you win, we're all gonna be one big, happy and rich family. But ..." "But if I lose?" "Let me put it this way, Mr. Fishy. The Godfather does not like to be disappointed. He hates losers. He really does. So don't just try your best. It ain't enough. Make sure you win against that sucking bastard." "And if I don't?" "Then I'm afraid you, Mr. Fishy, will have to sleep with the fishes."

Bobby did not need anybody to tell him what that meant. He swallowed hard and fell silent. Clemenza headed towards the door as Tesio opened it. But before stepping out, he paused, turned towards Bobby one last time, and spoke somberly. "I hope you understand, Mr. Fishy. It's only business, nothing personal."

Both men walked out to the corridor and closed the door. Bobby's head was spinning as he remained glued to the chair. He could not believe what was happening to him. No matter what he did now, there was no escape. If he won, Dracula would get him. If he lost, the Godfather's thugs would hunt him down and waste him. To play for a draw would even be worse. This would surely piss off both Dracula and the Godfather and Bobby did not have to speculate what would happen to him.

He wanted to run and hide. But where? Bobby stood up and slowly walked out of the room. The playing hall was several floors down. As he strolled towards the bank of elevators, he felt like a dead man. Bobby entered the playing hall to thunderous applause. But he was oblivious of the crowd. In his mind, he was no longer the awesome chess gladiator that everyone perceived him to be. Thoroughly confused, he felt more like a lamb being led to the slaughter.

Count Dracula was already seated at one side of the playing table, casting an amused stare at the approaching former world champion. Before he sat down, Bobby offered to shake hands with his opponent. Dracula ignored the extended hand and punched the clock instead. A grim silence suddenly fell upon the playing hall. The much-awaited match had finally begun.

Bobby Fishy played the white pieces. But that was only because Dracula wouldn't have it any other way. The notorious vampire's favorite color was black. He simply refused to play any other color except that. As expected, Bobby opened with his patented e4. Dracula immediately responded with c5. The Sicilian! This was one of Fishy's favorite opening lines. But tonight, he was in no mood for it. It only reminded him of the Godfather.

The game proceeded along weird lines that completely befuddled the audience. At one point, white gave up all his pawns recklessly exposing his king. But when Dracula pressed his attack, Bobby defended brilliantly, narrowly escaping all of black's mating nets. This pissed off Dracula who did not expect this kind of resistance from his opponent.

Not to be outdone, the evil count also exposed the black king by marching it up the center of the board towards the white camp. Black was obviously taunting white to go for a mating attack. "Go ahead, make my night!" Dracula hissed at Bobby.

But Bobby remained indecisive. The game had now lasted more than forty moves. This was no doubt the longest game the count had played against any player. Bobby could see that his opponent was already getting impatient. But the game had to end somehow - and with it, unfortunately, so must his life.

Bobby glanced wearily at the board to study the position one last time. He had had so many opportunities to end the game earlier. But he could not muster the courage to do so. Even in the present position, he could see many winning lines but... Now wait a minute, Fishy told himself as he suddenly straightened up on his seat. Is it possible? Fishy looked hard at the board again. He couldn't believe what he was seeing. For the first time that day, Bobby Fishy broke into a smile. He then played his move. What did Bobby see?

The ultra-short alternative version

You are captured by Dracula, he challenges you to a game of chess. If you win you die. If you draw you die. If you lose you die. After a tense struggle this position arises. You are White and have the move. What would you do?


1. If white loses, he dies
2. If white draws, he dies
3. If white wins, he dies - unless...

The solution... click here for the final position

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