The Stanley Random Chess Files

Memorable Stanley Random Anecdotes

The history of Stanley Random Chess includes some fascinating incidents and events. Here's a sample of some of the stories from the pages of SR Chess history.

Queen Victoria and West Facing knights

Under the "Magic Mirror" defence, all West Facing knights are temporarily frozen, preventing immediate material gain. This only works because the knight on b8 is not yet flexible, nor East Facing (as in the game attributed by legend to King Arthur against Merlin, AD866). The limitations of a West Facing knight reminds me of a curious incident that occurred at the All England SR Chess Championships in 1897. With Queen Victoria herself in attendance, the legendary GM Lord Humberton-Snapf was playing teenage sensation GM Reed Redding-Hood (nicknamed "the Wolf" on account of his large ears) for the title. When Redding-Hood played the illegal Ng4 by mistake, Queen Victoria herself (resplendent in a short red dress that even Czech SR Chess WGM Svetlana Gargoyle would have been afraid to wear) stood up and proclaimed a STAR move. Significantly, the Queen adjusted all knights to make them East Facing instead of West Facing, an act intepreted by later scholarship as expressing latent sympathies for the communism that would emerge in Eastern Europe. Humberton-Snapf was dressed as a bagpiper in honor of the occasion, complete with a set of bagpipes which he been using to play "Scotland the Brave" - most dreadfully, according to later newspaper reports - during his own thinking time. Following the STAR move, he launched into a solemn rendition of "Amazing Grace", and then performed a particularly daring Gladstone Goodge Street Gambit using one of the East Facing knights. It is common knowledge that he followed this two moves later with the now famous Camden Co-axial Combination, which led to his spectacular win 64 moves later. But it just goes to show how critical the knight alignment can be.

The Spanish Butterfry

The semi-circle alignment of White's king, queen and three pawns is a clear indication of the Spanish Butterfry (not to be confused with the Spanish Butterfly, which is more of a flighty move, and doesn't have the same advantage of the cramped position caused by a cholesterolic effect). This novelty was first played in 1803 by the eccentric Spanish GM Inigo Montoya, who was in the habit of announcing "My name is Inigo Montoya. You fathered my killer. Prepare to die." at the commencement of every game. Montoya was diagnosed with Toxiphobia (the fear of poison) at an early age, and insisted on his opponent moving his pieces for him, with his mouth. During the game in question against Montoya, Puerto Rican grandmaster Juan del Pueblo (whom you will recall was in the habit of only using beeswax pieces hand-carved by his grandfather) subsequently lost his dentures in a rook. The game would have been postponed if a noble spectator had not donated his own dentures to del Pueblo in the interests of not delaying the game. As is usually the case in response to the cramped position the Butterfry creates, Black often has only one legal move, which involves diagonalizing both rooks.

The Shy Horse Tragedy

The "Shy Horse" (as the Pacified Knight Opening 1.Nh3 is referred to in rural areas) gained particular notoriety at one of the All-Asian Tournaments of Champions - in the early 1990s I think it was? I wasn't present at the game in person as a result of some delicate surgery involving the implantation of facial hair. But the story is told about the guest exhibition game between GM Edgar Mildew of Great Britain and GM Geert Holdebro of Holland, which was being relayed to the crowd with a live human sized chess set in the gardens outside the Convention Center. I don't know the all the details, but I gather that in the absence of horses due to the city location, the Tournament Officials had the bright idea of replacing White's life-sized knights with two mechanical bulls. Perhaps others are more familiar with the details of what happened next, but I gather that somehow a fracas ensued with a golfer in a red shirt from an adjacent golf course, involving one of the mechanical bulls, two golf clubs, three Japanese players dressed as life-sized rooks, and resulted in seventeen arrests. Three Grand Arbiters were included among those arrested, and even more tragically, both cooks responsible for preparing that evening's sushi. As a mark of respect, to this day Asian players typically avoid the Double Shy Horse.

The Longest Surviving Pawn Award

In a recent game involving a complex right-handed capture of the partisan unbuttoned Knight (mainly because having two pawns on the same file has quadrupled the number of legal possibilities for loading the rooks), one of my opponent's pawns had an excellent prospect of winning "The Longest Surviving Pawn" Award, sponsored by the Charles Darwin Foundation. Darwin was a schizophrenic SR Chess amateur who spent most of his life in a bubble bath, playing a single SR Chess game against himself with inflatable pieces. As well as developing acutely wrinkled skin, he published an annotated account of the game under the title "The Organ of the Species." The book has survived longer than the man himself, which says everything really (he suffered a horrific death after neglecting to take the prescribed daily dose of medicinal super-glue to attach his wrinkled skin to his body). Some of the notions in Darwin's book, particularly his random musings about the evolutionary development of SR Chess pieces from primates, are thoroughly ridiculous, but the book does have value as a vacation fire-lighter.

Ben Franklin and Shylock Homes

SR Chess Dancing (which in its purest form actually requires a simplified game, where all the focus can be on the two rook and bishop breeding pairs that remain on the board) was the speciality of noted American scientist Benjamin Franklin (who invented electricity by rubbing cats backwards). After inventing Daylight Savings Time, he wrote a book entitled "The Unauthorized Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Other Writings" in which he recounted his brave adventures with daylight and with SR Chess Dancing, including a bishop-rook dancing manoeuvre similar to the one played here.

Franklin's career declined sharply after a visit to England in the late eighteenth century, when he played a friendly game against the current All-England champion, Shylock Holmes. Holmes later received the death penalty for a spree of serial killings, but was then posing as a brilliant detective, and played SR Chess in his spare time. The official regulations of SR Chess were under development at that time, and the selection of colour was still decided by an arm-wrestle. Holmes had played white in 294 consecutive games after being unbeaten in this novel colour selection process. But on this occasion he was not prepared for his opponent's brutal strength - although there has been speculation that Franklin used some early form of an electric stun gun. Holmes immediately collapsed over the board in some form of faint. One of the spectators, a certain John Watson, a medical doctor, rushed to his side and immediately injected him with a 7.5% solution of cocaine, which enabled Holmes to regain consciousness and commence the game in a partially revived state.

After winning the game handily with Black in just eight moves, Holmes revealed that his collapse had been staged in order to create a quick result, so that he could fulfill his intentions to attend a performance by the London Symphony the same afternoon. When the winning knight move had been played (a Hangman's Noose mating net with two pawns and two knights, a strategy since refuted with 2.Ke2), Franklin announced that "a horse divided against itself cannot stand" and resigned. He lodged a formal complaint with the BSRCF, and when his appeal was not upheld, made an official Declaration of Independence from the BSRCF, and formed a rival player's association in America, a revolutionary move that met with limited success.

Sir Orville Snoodley and the Terrier Flight

As recounted by R. Maximus Toeffr, in relation to an incident in which GM Lady Cecilia Gladstone-Wedge tossed her lapdog Sweetums across the Thames into a standard waste-paper basket:

It was this canine-flinging event that subsequently inspired Sir Orville Snoodley to attempt and nearly complete the first recorded (in tournament play, at any rate) SRC maneuver initially called the "Terrier Flight" (later simply referred to as the "Snoodly-Sweetums Projection"), It involved a small dog, the afore-mentioned basket, and several pawns arranged in a pleasing fashion along the river bank. Pastries and inedible meat pies were sold as the contestants prepared themselves for the clash. Insults were hurled, caught, and returned like tennis balls at Wimbledon. Knowing spectators placed bets. As stick-wielding bobbies kept the rabble from the chess table, Sir Orville's mostly-forgotten opponent, Baron Heinrich von Schmeinrick, produced a spare Knight on the board behind his opponent's King in what was later to be thought of as a terrible mistake. However, when the puppy-flinging commenced, it became clear that this move was indeed brilliant. The puppy missed the basket. Muttering, the crowd tossed a few meat-pies at the contestants and stomped away. Sir Orville tipped his King and the event would have been forgotten had the terrier not swam back across the river and bitten Sir Orville in a rather personal place. Sir Orville, his dignity now gone where his game had led, howled in agony and threw the board and all the pieces in to the air. When they fell to earth, they landed in checkmate position: Schmeinrick was the loser! However, since Sir Orville had already conceded, this remarkable evocation of whole-board STAR adjustment was judged interesting but irrelevant, and the game written off as yet another rather ordinary SRC match.

SR Chess GM Gregory Topov

Posted Tuesday - 2006-04-04 - 12:07:25 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
All Rights Unreserved - Loof Lirpa Publishing
Text may be freely copied & redistributed

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