Monday, October 29, 2007

Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chess

Originally, I was going to name this post “Love, Rekindled”, but after some brainstorming, I pulled together a lot of war-related movies to make a short novella about my favorite game from the 2007 Western States Open. Suddenly, one more movie reference seemed to fit the title of this post even better.

The night was sultry. Men's thoughts turned on the anticipation of going into battle in the morning, causing perspiration to be added to the cigarette smoke and humid air in the tent. I had been assigned to artillery duty with Queen Platoon Artillery and had been in a couple of battles that hadn't gone our way, so I was feeling quite nervous about our chances. General "Ol' Crusty" White got up and spoke: "This battle is crucial. Because of our recent losses, the President is thinking about giving up on the War. While that might be good for you and your fellow soldiers, I assure you that in the end, it won't be good for our country. Now go out there and win one for the Gipper". Major Queen stood up next. Behind him was a blackboard with the following list written on it:

Battle Script

Mobilize Troops

Seize High Ground

Lay Down Suppressive Fire

Advance Infantry

Place Artillery In Strategic Positions

Smash Enemy Defenses

Capture Enemy

"Gentlemen, here is your battle plan. At daybreak, we're going to march out to the battlefield, mobilize the troops so to speak. There's a hill right in the middle of the battlefield. We're going to seize the high ground. From the hilltop, machine gunners will lay down suppressive fire while the rest of the infantry press forward and the artillery get into position. Once the artillery is set, we're going to smash General Black's fortifications and capture him. Any questions? No? Dismissed."

Afterwards, we enlisted men all snickered at Major Queen. It started with his name, which was not too far off since he had effeminate features and mannerisms. He was fresh out of West Point where he had studied military tactics and strategy. But this was his first battle. One of the men sniffed, "Whoop-de-frickin' do. Wait'll the mortars start landing and we'll see if his shorts stay dry." We might not have gone to some military academy, but we were educated enough to have heard that some general had once said, "No battle plan survives contact with the enemy."

Hong,E (2002) - Traub,I (2001) [A15]

Western States Open Expert Round 5, Board 15, October 14, 2007

1.c4 Nf6 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nc3 b6 5.e4 e5 6.Nge2 Bc5 7.0-0 0-0 8.d3 h6 9.Nd5
Machine gunners moved forward and started spraying fire in all directions. The enemy retreated. 9...Nh7 10.Be3

Enemy sharpshooters were pinning us down. Major Queen sent a platoon of sharpshooters to return fire.10...Bxe3 11.Nxe3 They took them out, but they also took heavy losses. A platoon of machine gunners had to pull back to carry their casualties off the battlefield. We watched the first casualties stretchered by and tried not to shudder in our boots. 11...d6 12.d4 With the sharpshooters gone, our lines began to move up the hill. 12...Bb7 13.d5 Ne7 The enemy fell back. Emboldened by the momentum, Queen strode forward. We were on the hill, but it was not yet secured. 14.Qd3 Bc8 15.f4 After surveying the field from the high ground, the Major decided to advance on the right flank to help secure the hill. 15...exf4 16.gxf4 Ng6 17.Nd4

Machine gunners set up a pill box at the hilltop. You could see the enemy begin to shrink in their foxholes at the withering cover fire.17...Re8 18.Rae1 Orders came to our artillery platoon to help support the guys on the hilltop. 18...Bd7 19.Nef5 The second platoon of machine gunners charged to the right hand side of the front line. They came under heavy fire from all directions. 19...Nh4 Then the enemy charged forward to try to flank them. 20.Bh3 Bishop's sharpshooters had been trying to shore up General White's compound after a stray shell had taken out the front wall, but when the enemy machine gunners showed up nearly at the doorstep, they grabbed their guns, took up positions, and started pouring fire at the enemy. 20...Nxf5 21.Bxf5 The sharpshooters charged forward to cover the escape of the machine gunners, but they themselves became pinned near the point of attack. 21...g6 General Black made moves toward sending his personal bodyguards to finish them off. 22.Qg3

Upon seeing this, Major Queen grabbed a rifle, took three steps to the right and sent a shot right into General Black's headquarters that made him duck for cover and keep his bodyguards around him.22...Kh8 23.Bxd7 Qxd7 24.e5 The line surged forward again. 24...dxe5 25.fxe5 Ng5 A brave enemy soldier charged forward right toward Major Queen and General White. 26.h4 Just before they met, an infantryman zinged a bullet past his head. He didn't fall so it must have just scared him. 26...Ne6 He changed direction and headed straight toward the pillbox, lobbing grenades everywhere. 27.Re4 We rushed ahead to help, but it was too late. 27...Nxd4 Just before a grenade blew up the pillbox, I could hear the machine gunner laughing hysterically and yelling, "It's beautiful, man! Frickin' beautiful!"28.Rxd4 We barely had time to pick up the machine gunner's body before enemy artillery shells began pounding the area around the pillbox. 28...Qe7 29.Rg4 Major ordered us to move to the right flank and start positioning against General Black's compound. The pillbox was now abandoned. 29...h5 30.Rg5 Qc5+ The enemy officer started to take up position in the pillbox. 31.Kh2 He got in a shot that made General White duck for cover and then made preparations to pull some artillery into the hilltop. 31...Qxc4 32.Rxf7 While that was happening, our artillery started raining shells down on General Black's compound. King Platoon Artillery took out one corner. 32...Qxd5 We were trying to get the aim just right for the other corner of the compound. Major Queen came over and said with a steady tone, "Line it up good and make it count." Just before the enemy artillery arrived at the hilltop, we crossed our fingers and let the shells fly. 33.Rxh5+

BOOM! The compound crumbled to its foundation, leaving General Black bereft of cover. Seeing as how he was in the sights of two artillery platoons commanded by the now imposing Major Queen, he surrendered right then and there. 1-0

As we celebrated our hard-fought victory, Major Queen pulled out a cigar. He coolly lit up and declared, “I love it when a plan comes together. I thought back to last night and realized that everything had gone according to the plan, Major Queen's battle script. I suddenly had this surreal feeling that perhaps someone had found a way to fight a war that wasn't chaotic, visceral, and random. Maybe Major Queen was a genius. Or maybe he was just damned lucky. Either way, it gave me confidence that we had such a person on our side.

I had been down on my chess, down on this particular tournament, thinking about giving up chess at least temporarily, but this game reminded me that if I try hard to think about the variations in front of me and have the patience to wait for a good position, eventually I'll enjoy myself and remember why I love chess.

1 comment:

Robert Pearson said...

Bravo! I think you have a great future ahead as a script writer.