Wednesday, 3 March 2021

The Comic Blunder Syndrome (Though Nobody's Actually Laughing!)

Right, let's get the chess out of the way, first.

On Monday the A team chalked up a 5-3 win over hitherto 100% leaders, Warwick University A. I won two surprisingly good games on top board against Joe Varley to take my season's score to 10/10, but this was counter-balanced by Jude's tough evening on Board 2 against University captain, Jonathan Fowler. A pawn sac in Game 1 was never quite enough, and the extra pawn proved decisive in the ending. Game 2 was a tough struggle, but Jude was under pressure and short of space, so when the tactics started they were not in his favour. Mike swung the match decisively in our direction on Board 3, with another 2-0 result against Feargus Roth. Mike got given a free piece in Game 1, but Game 2 was a terrific fight ending with Mike infiltrating the Black position to win several pawns. Artistic Bernard split the points with Anuman Goel on Board 4, despite blundering material in each game - and giving rise to the philosophical musings below! Luckily in Game 1 his own blunder was later trumped by his opponents, but Game 2 was a bit of a disaster as he was 2 pawns up when he fatally blundered a piece.

But it was classic KCC agony on Tuesday, when the B team went down 3-5 against reigning champions Nuneaton A, in a match they could - and should - have won. Two points went west from totally winning positions, while Nuneaton could only claim to have let half a point slip away. Dave had another good night on top board, drawing easily with Colin Green in Game 1 before absolutely demolishing his Pirc in Game 2 to deliver a mating attack and take his own score for the season to an undefeated 7.5/10. Ben drew two very tough games against Tony Green on Board 2, but Back should really have won both. In Game 1 Ben was totally outplayed in Tony's pet Philidor, and the game looked resignable as Ben's pawns started to drop off. But then opposite bishops appeared on the scene, and despite being two pawns down, Ben adopted the French cry from Verdun, "Ils ne passeront pas", and held on for a miraculous draw. In Game 2 Ben won an exchange from seemingly nowhere but faced big problems getting his queen and rook working against Tony's queen and knight. But when Tony eventually allowed Ben's queen right into the White position it looked all over. But Ben took the wrong White pawns and got his queen stuck offside. Despite plenty of wriggling, Ben was then unable to stop a perpetual check. Absolute tragedy on Board 3, where Will had a very tough pairing against Paul Davies, who has been an absolute points machine for Nuneaton recently. Game 1 was a disaster, as Will's knowledge of Petroff theory ran out on move 4, and his king got massacred in the centre. Game 2 initially appeared to be another horror show, as Will got a piece pinned against his queen and it fell off. I zoned out for  few minutes, but when I came back, the position had completely turned around and the engine was showing +3 for Will. Paul had to give back the piece and his king was at the mercy of White's queen and two rooks. When I came back to the game again, the Black king was on c3 and a complete sitting duck. Will correctly turned down Paul's draw offer. But Will was in desperate time trouble and just couldn't find a winning move - of which there were many at various times, most noticeably a one move fork of king and queen - and inevitably the lack of time cost Will dearly in the end. A great pity, after a terrific effort, as Will missed out on what would have been a great scalp. Less tragic, but equally costly, was Solomon's performance on Board 4 against Thomas Glenn. In Game 1 Solomon was three pawns and five minutes up, but as soon as he started to think the quality of his play went down drastically and he managed to lose all three pawns back and had to concede the draw. Game 2 saw him under some initial pressure after a Morra Gambit, but the engine was showing around +3 for us when he made the incomprehensible move Re7 (Qf6 was excellent for Black) which totally shut all his pieces in, and he ended up getting mated soon after.  So a golden opportunity for a massive B team victory ended up in a cruel defeat. Great effort though, guys!

But look, folks. There are bigger issues to worry us than mere chess match results. Life, the universe and all that jazz, right? So who better to guide us through the metaphysical world than our own artist in residence, creative thinker, and all round Renaissance man, Bernard C? So moved to existential angst was he by his own efforts on Monday night, that he felt impelled to share his philosophical musings with me (big mistake!) and so now to a wider public. It takes a special kind of person to bare their soul like this, and to confess to their own inner doubts and frailties. And Bernard is that special kind of person. Now, stay awake at the back of the class, and try to follow his line of thought. You never know, you might actually learn something!

"I am prompted [to this philosophical reflection] by having developed an aspect to my play recently that could be termed comic blunder syndrome. This particular condition prevails when the blunder is not a misreading of a complex position, but when making moves with happy optimism in ordinary configurations, ignoring completely basic tactics or captures!

Of course, blunders per se are painful but this comic variety at the chessboard has a special agonistic quality that bring existential meaning into question in a way I’m sure Jean Paul Sartre, the philosopher, must have appreciated as a chess player himself, never mind the artist and chess aficionado, Marcel Duchamp. Also occurring is the idea of the ‘abject’ as developed by another philosopher, Julia Kristeva, where, in her book 'The Powers Of Horror'(!), the abject refers to the human reaction to a threatened breakdown of sense, including vomiting!

In our scenario, at this abject moment at the chessboard, all chess status is thrown into confusion, usually accompanied, if not by the above, by adjectival decoration not to be heard in any respectable tearoom (but entirely possible in this online era). Of course, the absurd has a role to play in these moments as Albert Camus, another chess player and author of The Myth Of Sisyphus, would have noted and with approval from the Dadaists.

The underlying thought I had to these philosophical and other references is that chess has this way of echoing or rehearsing the dilemmas of life. The blunder, especially in its comic appearance, parallels in sign language the moments in life where meaning is in crisis. Fortunately a blunder in chess, even in comic garb, is not life significant (unless you are contesting at the genetically modified [gm] level or perhaps need to get a life!).

But could it be, as these philosophical and artist personas might have argued, the comic blunder syndrome is the place to rediscover why and how you play chess or even life!?!"

Well said, Bernard. Exactly what I was thinking. Especially the bit about the vomiting!

But that's quite enough highbrow stuff for the KCC Blog. I know my readership, and they don't do highbrow for more than a few minutes at a time! After these intellectual thoughts, there could only possibly be one song to finish with.

But a warning - some slightly earthy language, so minors or those of a sensitive disposition, look away now. For the rest of us, it's singalong time! And how great is it that it's also known as Bruce's Song?!

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