Monday, March 13, 2017


Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" is a movie about a dystopian, Kafkaesque world of bureaucracy, superficiality, and terrorism. The main character descends into criminality and madness when he tries to swim against the current using his conscience, passion, and resourcefulness. One of the images toward the end of the movie involves a heroic figure becoming enveloped and then consumed by flying scraps of paper, a metaphor for the triumph of bureaucracy.

One of my recent games involved enveloping an enemy piece in pins and cross-pins in order to eventually win. Here is the position after Black played 16...h5:

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) wakes up one night to find the central heating in his apartment has gone on the fritz and is now too hot. He leaves a message with the Central Services answering machine and goes to sleep with his head in the refrigerator.

Black seizes the initiative with a flank attack on White's g4-h3 pawn chain. Note that if g4-g5, Black has the fork Bf4+. 17.Nh4?!.

Sam is awakened by freelance outlaw repairman Archibald "Harry" Tuttle (Robert De Niro represented by the White knight) who tries to resolve the heating problem.

I think that my opponent wanted to try to exploit the hole at g6, but there is no time for that because the Black rooks are going to use the tempo Rh6 to assist in doubling on the h-file. 17...hxg4 18.hxg4 Rh6.

The call to Central Services goes through and two repairmen, Spoor (Bob Hoskins) and Dowser (Derrick O'Connor) are dispatched to Sam's apartment on a collision course with Harry Tuttle.
With some quick thinking, Sam rebuffs the attempt by Spoor and Dowser to bully their way into his apartment by requesting official paperwork, thereby preventing an armed confrontation with Tuttle. Tuttle zips away via a zipline.

White regroups with an awkward sequence: 19.Ng2 Reh8 20.Rg1?!. I mentioned after the game that White should have probably exchanged one pair of rooks so that I wouldn't get so much activity with the second rook on White's third rank.

Far from being defeated, Spoor and Dowser (Black's rook pair) keep showing up at Sam's apartment, once to pull all the ducting out of the walls, and then once more when the system has turned the apartment into a freezer. During the daytime, Sam spends all his efforts at work trying to track down the girl of his dreams, Jill Layton (Kim Greist).

Black's rooks soon lodge in White's position, first at h2 where it causes immobility in the Ng2 because of the looseness of f2. White tries to stabilize his weaknesses by moving his king from c1 to e2. This is double-edged in that his king becomes the target of pins and skewers. 20...Rh2 21.Kc2?! Be8 22.Kd2 Bg6 23.Ke2 R8h3 24.f3. With the third rank pressure preventing White from moving his Rd1 for fear of Bd3+, White blocks this coordination by advancing his f-pawn. But now the knight is pinned to the king.

With the aid of Sam's erratic behavior, Sam (White King) and Jill (King Bishop Pawn) run afoul of the law and are soon labeled as terrorists.

I'm somewhat proud of this next sequence which was not easy to find and advance the attack. The light-squared bishop is hindered by the f3 and g4 pawns. It would really like to participate in the attack on g2 and therefore belongs on e4 or h3, but there is currently no path. Luckily, a pawn break 24...f5! was handy, weakening the f3-g4 structure enough to become porous. Then followed 25.gxf5 Bxf5 26.Rdf1 Rg3 27.Rf2 Bh3.

Once 27.Rf2 appeared on the board, I had to calculate the possibility of 27...Bh3 being answered by Ng2 jumping. The trickiest jump is 28.Nf4 because it cuts the rooks off from their protection by the bishop on d6. At first I thought I had to trade both pairs of rooks 28...Rxf2+ 29.Kxf2 Rxg1, but I worried about 30.Nxh3. I couldn't see clearly enough to find 30...Rh1 which reopens 2 threats of Rxh3 and Rh2+ skewering the Bb2. But I was reassured when I found 28...Rxg1 29.Rxh2 Bxf4 30.Rxh3 Rg2+ 31.Kd3 Rxb2. Unfortunately, the next pair of moves were both blunders. White bluffed and Black blinked with 28.cxd5? exd5?. 28...Bxg2! would have been completely winning as Bxf3+ is difficult to meet. But finally, the White king walks into the trap that Black initiated with 20...Rh2. 29.Kf1. The knight is pinned again.

Sam hatches a daring plan to erase Jill from the Ministry of Information's databases. Unfortunately, Big Brother is more than a one-trick pony. Information Retrieval, e.g. police forces and interrogators, find Sam's hideout, break down the doors, and arrest him.

With the rooks and knight and king largely immobilized, the plan of Bd6-Bf4-Be3 seemed decisive. 29...Bf4 30.Re2. Here I missed the clever zugzwang 30...g5!. 30...Rxf3+ is enough to win, but my advantage falls from 5.9 to 3.0. 31.Rf2 Rxf2+ 32.Kxf2.

Sam finds himself about to be tortured. Suddenly a shot rings out and he is rescued by some commandos, including Harry Tuttle. There is seeming triumph over bureaucracy when Tuttle blows up the Ministry of Information buildings.

A semi-crucial move appears at this point of the game. If I had felt confident with all the pin pressure I had put on the Ng2, I still had to find my way to a winning endgame. The extra pawn at g7 could still win, but the ending should be bishops of same colors to win it. With that in mind, White must not be allowed to unpin the knight and capture Kxf4. Therefore, 32...g5! was necessary. My opponent said he thought he had a chance at this point, but the advance of the g-pawn shut down his last hope. The cocoon around the knight unravels, but the knight is also gone. 33.Kf3 Rxg2 34.Rxg2 Bxg2+ 35.Kxg2 g4

But the falling paper debris from the explosion envelops Tuttle and mummifies him like a spider's prey. Sam rushes to help, but by the time he unravels the paper, Tuttle has seemingly evaporated.
The authorities chase Sam until he finds Jill again and they escape to the idyllic countryside.

The game concluded with fairly simple plans of centralizing the Black king to f5, possibly e4, and trying to queen the g-pawn. The exploitation of two weaknesses is a common endgame principle. 36.Kf2 Kd7 37.Bf3 Ke6 38.Ke2 Kf5 39.Kd3 g3 40.Be1 g2 41.Bf2 Bh2 42.a4 g1=Q 43.Bxg1 Bxg1 44.b4 Kf4 45.Kc3 Ke4 and White resigned.

The unharmed faces of Sam's tormentors, Jack Lint (the Black King Bishop, played by Michael Palin) and Deputy Minister of Information Mr. Helpmann (the Black King, played by Peter Vaughan) interrupt Sam's fantasyscape, revealing that Sam has only escaped his torture by becoming completely delusional.

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