The Stanley Random Chess Files

The Punto Intermedio and Bauer-schlurfen

Stanley Random Chess has developed many fascinating traditions over the course of history. This article introduces the unique tradition of Bauer-schlurfen.

The completion of the fifteenth move marks the middle of the Second Set, and is traditionally called the "Punto Intermedio" (not to be confused with the "Punto Que Comienza" or the "Punto Final"). This Spanish term designates the middle point of the game, and was first used in 1815 by the Puerto Rican grandmaster Juan del Pueblo, infamous for the bizarre costumes worn by his support team of two distractors, and his eccentric requirement that games only be played with his own set of SR Chess pieces which were hand-carved out of beeswax by his grandfather. Although the next Tea Break is only scheduled at the end of the Second Set, it is customary for all pawns to be shuffled at the "Punto Intermedio". This mandatory Pawn Shuffle (Bauer-schlurfen) is a process where the same coloured pawns trade cells, and does not affect the current board position.

This practice of Bauer-schlurfen originated in the late nineteenth century following a friendly match between Queen Victoria and Gustavus, Crown Prince of Sweden. At that time, matches between royal personages were played on a huge oval, with life sized pieces and soldiers in costume. This particular game was played in stormy conditions, and the two unfortunate foot-soldiers assigned to the role of Queen Victoria's pawns on a2 and b2 had not moved after five hours of play, despite the game being well into the Third Set. They subsequently developed serious cramps as a result of poor blood circulation, and one later died of hypothermia in a British hospital. Following an inquest, a SR Chess Improvement Commission was established in Edinburgh, with Queen Victoria presiding. The outcome was a Royal Decree that stipulated a mandatory pawn shuffle at the "Punto Intermedio", to ensure the physical movement of all pawns at some point of game, and to prevent any similar tragedies. Even though it had no effect on the game, the Decree was also applied strictly to over-the-board games.

In modern times, the Bauer-schlurfen is conducted as a very solemn ceremony, with players donning white gloves, and accompanied by a solo trumpeter playing the Last Post. Scholarship is still undecided on the question of whether the original intention of the Decree required the Bauer-schlurfen to be done right handed or left handed, and sadly there is no uniformity of practice in this respect. Naturally these accompanying traditions are quite impossible to implement over the internet. However if you look closely, one correspondence server for SR Chess does implement an automated randomized pawn shuffle at the "Punto Intermedio", with all pawns of the same colour exchanging places.

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
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