Tuesday, May 15, 2007

GeekOut Overdrive

It was in the bar downstairs at Golden Lane a couple of months ago that Dave Varley dropped the bomb. He had, he said, spotted Servalan, erstwhile Supreme Commander of Federation forces across the universe, more than once on the Northern Line heading into the West End. News to warm the cockles of the heart of any Blake’s 7 fan.

After getting over the shock of the realisation that such goddesses walk amongst us, well amongst Dave V at least, I remembered there was an episode of Blake’s 7 that had a very strong chess theme. It took me a while to track it down but eventually I discovered it was Series Two's rather unimaginatively titled, “Gambit”.

For reasons I shan't trouble you with, Blake and his crew find themselves at Freedom City. Entertainment is largely to be found at the enormous casino but there is one game of skill available – Speed Chess. House rules are 10 seconds per move for each player, exceeding the time limit being punished by the loss of a pawn. For a prize of a million credits a punter may take on a resident chess expert known as The Klute. Challengers get the White pieces and draw odds but, and here’s the rub, should they lose they are executed for the entertainment of the watching crowd.

First up is a space traveller down on his luck called Frels. The game proceeds as follows…

Frels – Klute
Freedom City

1. e4 e5, 2. Nc3 Nc6, 3. g3 f5, 4. exf5 d5, 5. Qh5+ Ke7, 6. d4 exd4, 7. Bg5+ Nf6
reaching this position...

Frels looks confident - but now we jump to the position after The Klute has played his 13th move.

14. Be3+ Kxc4, 15. a4 Nxf2

Frels begins to look quizical - as well he might. This is hardly the kind of position one wants to be sucked into when only needing a draw. We see him eyeball The Klute suspiciously and when we get back to the game the following position has been reached...

23. Rxe1 Bb4, 24. Qxh8 Ba2+, 25. Kc2 Bc4

Frels looks really worried now - with good reason. The game ends with bad news...

The Klute mated Frels on move 28 then without batting an eyelid hit the 'fry him' button. Frels disappeared in a rather cheap looking special effects flash - perhaps the ultimate answer to the question of whether or not rapid chess is good for you.

But what of the missing moves 8-13, 16-22 and 26-27? Can anyone offer any suggestions as to what was actually played?

Blake's 7 uber-geeks everywhere await your reply.


Tom Chivers said...

Most of that was an agony of incomprehension for me, but I had a quick go at the chess part.

1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 f5 4. exf5 d5 5. Qh5+ Ke7 6. d4 exd4 7. Bg5+ Nf6
8. O-O-O dxc3 9. Bc4 cxb2+ 10. Kb1 Nb4 11. Nf3 c6 12. Rhe1+ Kd6 13. Bf4+
Kc5 14. Be3+ Kxc4 15. a4 Nxc2 16. Qh4+ Ne4 17. Nd2+ Kb4 18. Qxd8 Bxf5 19.
Nxe4 Nxe1 20. Qxa8 dxe4 21. f3 Be6 22. f4 Ka3 23. Rxe1 Bb4 24. Qxh8 Ba2+
25. Kc2 Bc4 26. Rd1 Ka2 27. Qxg7 Bb3#
{Black mates} 0-1

Jonathan said...

that's not bad.

I suspect, though, that White must have taken the rook in the corner as soon as the Bishop moved off c8 - in your line Black could just play RxWhiteQ on d8 couldn't he?

Also, after 9. Bc4 can't Black take play 9. ... dxc4 10. Rxd8 Kxd8 with Rook, Knight and Bishiop for the Queen.

Perhaps instead...

8. 0-0-0 dxc3, 9. Nf3 Nb4, 10. Kb1 cxb2 now if Black takes it White has Re1+ so 10. ...c6, 11. Rhe1+ and we're back in the game.

I'm no clearer about the later moves though.

PS: Surely 3. Nf3 was a much better choice in the circumstances ... or even 1. Nf3

Jonathan B said...

On reflection, your way of playing the opening moves ... cxb2+ before Nb4 is probably more likely than the other way around.

Tom Chivers said...

Well, I wasn't assuming either player was good. Or to put it another way, that the script-writers analyzed the moves too closely. To make it coherent will be a lot tougher.

Good luck!

Jonathan B said...

I suspect it was taken from a real game - wait for part II! - although whether that makes the moves any good is another question of course.

It looks like one of the those 18th or 19th century hacks where White tries to eat all of Black's pieces regardless of the obvious doom he is heading for.

Tom Chivers said...

Try searching for it in MegaBase then? And google parts of the PGN string.

ejh said...

There's aren't Blake's Seven fan sites where you can ask this sort of thing?

Incidentally, I once saw a Coronation Street actor on (if I recall) the Central Line, the guy who alwys used to say everything twice.

ejh said...

(No, it wasn't the Central Line, it was at Archway.)

Anonymous said...

It's almost certainly the above with the move order 9. Nf3 Nb4 10. Bc4 cb+ 11. Kb1 c6 and

19. Qxa8 Ka3 20. Nxe4 Nxe1 21. f3 dxe4 22. f4 Be6 etc...

Anonymous said...

Surely there were other games of skill at this casino like poker? Also the loss of the pawn for greater than 10 seconds thought brings me to believe that a whole new genre of problems would spring up on this theme (where it was actually beneficial).

ejh said...

Jan Ehlvest might be inclined to agree with you.

Anonymous said...

He would? Why?

ejh said...

It didn't hurt Rybka.

Jonathan B said...

As I recall, the only game the view sees other than chess, skillful or otherwise, was in fact Roulette.

Other problems with the 'lose a pawn if you go over ten seconds per move' rule include:

what happens if you've already run out of pawns?
which pawn gets removed if there are several to choose from?
who makes the choice?

Jonathan B said...


the 'no other games of skill' was a direct quote from the croupier and not personal interpretation!