Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Archive: UNCUT! 44

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
*Column 44*
* *December 2005* *

Make A Wish….
A Cautionary Tale For The Festive Season

The three passengers looked up as the old man boarded the train and sat down opposite them. After a short time he produced a deck of cards and began shuffling them. He allowed one to fall to the floor and as one of the other passengers bent down to pick it up he noticed the face of the card depicted a chess problem.

‘Oh - chess!’ he exclaimed. ‘I play a bit myself. These cards look interesting.’

He other two men were also chess players and now the ice was broken they began discussing the greatest of all games. The old man had thus far remained silent but when the conversation lulled he sat up sharply to attract attention.

‘With these chess problems I can determine your futures’ said the old man. The three passengers looked at him in surprise but his countenance remained staid; it was clear that the old man sincerely believed what he said to be true.

‘Er…how, exactly?’ ventured the first passenger.

‘Well’, he replied, ‘Come closer and I shall tell you…’

The men did as they were bid. ‘Tell me what you desire’ said the old man, tapping his ancient finger on the top of the pile of chess problems.

The first passenger leaned closer still. ‘Ok, I’m not afraid to try’ he bravely said. ‘I have the overwhelming desire to be successful in my next weekend congress. In fact, that’s where I’m going now. Ever since I started playing in these events I’ve never been able to take first prize. Second, every now and then; third more often…but never first! That is my burning ambition.’

‘So you seek the ultimate weekend…so be it.’ With this, the old man tapped the cards again and then with surprising dexterity, began shuffling the pack before quickly sliding out a card and placing it, face down, on the table.

‘A word of caution, my friend…if you solve the problem, all that you desire will be yours. If you fail…’ here he left his sentence unfinished but stared the man full in the face. It was decision time. The man thought for a little while and then broke into a grin. ‘

Ok, I’ll do it! Just show me the problem and give it a go.’ The old man turned the card around to reveal the following position…

White to play and mate in four moves

As the man sat there, engrossed in the chess problem, the train rumbled on.

The second man leaned forward. ‘May I try?’

‘But of course’, came the cool reply. ‘And what is your desire?’

‘Well, there’s this girl…’

The old man smiled. Ah yes, there is always a girl…

‘She’s not a chess player and she thinks I spend far more time on the game than I do on her. She is in fact an artist, with her own studio in town. Her speciality is painting animals, especially birds. Blackbirds, robins, starlings…the likenesses are incredible and her style has an almost mesmeric quality. Sometimes I go to the studio and spend hours just staring at her tits. I want to spend forever with her but have time for chess as well. My desire is for her to see my side of the story and be more accommodating. Surely she can see that chess means just as much to me as she does and accept the fact?’

The old man said nothing but merely dealt a card. The man stared at the chess problem and the world around him melted away…

White to play and mate in three moves

Still the train moved on down the line. The third man looked at his two fellow passengers, oblivious to their surroundings, and felt left out. Driven by the paranoia that haunts all chess players, he wanted to be part of the experience and asked the old man if he could try a problem.

‘My desire is simply to improve my playing strength a little. There’s a guy down at the club who always seems to beat me and it would be great to think I could get the better of Mr Kwan some time.’

The old man looked up. ‘Ah - your friend is of the Oriental persuasion?’

‘He wouldn’t need much persuading; he’s Chinese.’

‘So be it,’ said the old man, ‘Here is your challenge,’ and he flipped over another card from his deck.

White to play and mate in three moves

After a while, each man in turn decided the problems were beyond them. Shortly afterwards they had to disembark but as they turned to say goodbye to the old man, they found he was no longer there….

The first man’s weekend turned out to be the worst of his life. With the unsolved chess problem occupying all of his thoughts, he lost his Friday night game by a hideous blunder. Then he misread his hotel instructions and ended up on the same floor as a Doctor Who Convention. Waking up in the middle of the night, he was shocked to see his room full of silver-clad robot look-alikes. One of them was leaning over him with a strange device in his hand. The last words the man heard before he passed out were: ‘Activate the magnetron!’

The second man got off the train and set off to see the woman in the shop. Unfortunately, he decided to call in at the local chess club first and when he finally went around to see her it was too late - she had left. For good. The bird had flown…

The third man failed to spot the chink in the defence of the Black King and, like his fellow travellers, gave up on the chess problem. Never in his life did he ever beat his club-mate.
All three had been guilty of the same mistakes and their lives were never the same again.

And what of you, dear reader? Dare you take a card and stake your future upon it?
So be it! Once you have solved the three problems above, then here is a special bonus one, just for you.

And don’t forget - be careful what you wish for!

White to play and mate in two moves

Answers in the New Year…if you are still around! Mwahahahahahahahah!

Sean Marsh

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