Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Levenger chess set

As a once-serious chess player, I cannot look away when a catalogue depicts a game in progress. The first thing I check: whether the board is properly positioned, with a white square at h1.¹ Next: whether the position shown is at all plausible. The latest Levenger catalogue has a pretty startling game in progess, also available online. This is your chess set on drugs:

The board is properly positioned, but even a beginner should be able to recognize that this game is a mess. The position is, I suspect, an impossible one: I cannot see how White’s bishop could have made it to its present square, nor can I see how White’s missing bishop went missing. But there’s more. Here’s an aerial view of the damage:

Yes, the person responsible for setting up this board has confused kings and queens. But straightening out that problem does nothing to make the position more plausible:

Hey, Levenger catalogue: it’s enough to show a board with all thirty-two pieces nicely lined up for play. Or if you must show a game in progress, choose a recognizable position from a standard opening. Chess players will like that. Keep it simple, or you run the risk of creating something ridiculous. Imagine a photograph of a notebook whose pages are filled with fugiad diughiuwr (that is, gibberish). That’s what this chess game looks like.


3:56 p.m.: The position on the corrected board can be achieved, though the moves required are a comedy of errors: 1. e3 d5 2. Bd3 c6 3. b3 Bg4 4. c3 e5 5. f4 Nd7 6. Nf3 f5 7. fxe5 Nxe5 8. Bxf5 Bh5 9. Kf2 Nf6 10. Rg1 Bd6 11. d3 Qb6 12. Ba3 Kf7 13. g3 Rhe8 14. Nxe5 Bxe5 15. Qd2 Bd6 16. Qc2 Bxa3 17. Qd2 Bd6. I used no drugs in working out these moves.

Related posts
From the Levenger catalogue
Levenger Pocket Briefcase, revised
Tools for serious readers?

¹ That’s algebraic notation. The square is also known as KR1.

[I used the Apronus Online Interactive Chessboard to make the diagrams.]

comments: 4

Anonymous said...

Michael, This post reminded me of Michael Chabon's novel Summerland, which I read with my son when he was about 10 and getting deeply into baseball statistics and keeping scorecards for individual games. Chabon's book, which is about Little League baseball players getting sucked into a world populated by baseball-playing folk heroes, sounded like a real winner. But as we read, we realized that Chabon knew nothing about how a baseball game plays out-- that there are only three outs in an inning, for instance, and nine players in the lineup, and how you can't come up to bat three times in the first five innings if the pitcher is throwing a no-hitter. The whole book was lost on the both of us based on the fact that Chabon had no respect for the actual realities of the game of baseball. Call me a purist, but I like my scorecards to work out.

Michael Leddy said...

David, I’m wondering if you’re pulling my leg, but it doesn’t sound like it. I wonder what other baseball fans think of this novel.

Anonymous said...

No, I'm serious. I loved the post and the level of attention to the photo. I think probably some designer just decided this is what looks good so let's put the board this way. But that's not an excuse. Chess is a serious thing, not just a decoration.

As to Summerland, unfortunately my copy of the novel has gone into the ether so I can't give you an unequivocal example of what Chabon does. But all the way through the novel Chabon recounts games with a questionable level of attention to what must have happened. It is annoying to me because the game is what's important to me. There needs to be a level of detail that makes it clear the author knows what he's talking about. It's sort of like a guy who reads a novel about a nuclear sub who's actually worked on a nuclear sub.

So yes, I am serious, and you can call me not just a purist but probably seriously wacko. That's okay with me.

Michael Leddy said...

I wondered if you were joking about a novel that was dealing in magical realism, but I guess it isn’t. One person’s “seriously wacko” is another’s “thoughtful and attentive.” You sound like the latter to me.