I know: it’s doubtful that Popeye even knows how to play chess. But it’s Saturday night, as usual only the hard core is visiting Ethics Alarms, and this particular blot of laziness and incompetence has been driving me bananas for decades. Today was the final straw.
On a new Amazon Prime BBC documentary series “A Very British Murder with Lucy Worsely,” the final episode had Lucy talking about the gamesmanship going on in “Golden Age” British murder mysteries. As she rattled on, we saw a mid-game chessboard, and a hand was seen moving a piece. The chess board was set up incorrectly. The board, which we were shown from the White player’s perspective, had the black square in the right-hand corner.From the first time you learn how to play chess, the little rhyme “White on the right” is drilled into your skull. (It’s the opposite of checkers.) If the board has a black square on the players’ right, it violates the rules, and the game is invalid. Nobody who knows how to play chess would make such a tyro’s error, and yet I see it all the time—in movies, on TV shows, in ads where a chess game is involved. In the BBC example, dozens of people must have seen the mistake and failed to catch it.
I admit it: I look for this blunder now. The gaffe symbolizes for me all the laziness, ignorance, carelessness and lack of integrity in the world. It should never happen, ever; if it does, it means that nobody cares enough to make sure the project is done right.
I started paying special attention to this particular botch when my wife and I were invited to a dinner decades ago at the home of a woman who worked for me. Prominently displayed in the couple’s living room was a fancy chess board and pieces. It was set up incorrectly. That was signature significance: my staffer’s husband didn’t play chess, he just wanted people to think he did. I knew then that he was a fake. Sure enough, the husband proved to be an insecure, posturing jerk, desperate to impress without the goods to do so legitimately.
Chess is having a resurgence, thanks to the hit Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” (where, thank God, the boards were always set up correctly). I can’t be the only one who notices when a movie’s or TV show’s staff hasn’t done their research. Chess is thousands of years old and arguably the most important game in world history. It deserves proper respect, and so do audiences.
White on the right.
If this post stops just one human being from making that stupid mistake, my life will not have been in vain after all.