Wednesday, March 08, 2006

(38) Tamburlaine: Part One ...and the others

On the morning of December 23rd 1988 I looked at GM R. Keene’s Christmas Quiz of twelve chess puzzles in The Spectator.

The tenth of these was a challenge where white was to move and force checkmate in ten moves.
The notes read -
"The key to this problem is to mate in exactly ten moves, ignoring faster wins. The black King ends up trapped in the middle of the board, and the problem is affectionately known as ‘Tamberlane’s cage’."
In 1986 I had read Marlowe’s play, Tamburlaine the Great, Part One.
I recalled that a man is imprisoned in a cage on wheels by his captor who then has him wheeled around, almost like a circus exhibit. Eventually he commits suicide by banging his head against the bars.
Looking at this chess reference to Tamburlaine I thought on how nice a coincidence it would have made had I come across it on the same day as I had read the play.

At 4:39 that afternoon I was watching the grand final of the TV quiz show Fifteen to One.
A question was asked which was something like -
"Christopher Marlowe wrote a play about this fourteenth century Middle Eastern king... "
The answer was Tamburlaine.
The question was asked in the opening round of the quiz: Part One.

Part Two
On December 28th 1988 I won this game in the Hastings Challengers tournament -
White: Lopez Black: Plaskett
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Qc7 7 Be2 b5 8 f4 Bb7 9 Bf3 Na5 10 Qe2 Nc4 11 0-0-0 Nxb2!

12 Kxb2 Ba3+! 13 Kxa3 Qxc3+ 14 Nb3 Bc6 15 Bc5 a5
White Resigned.

During the game I chatted with IM Byron Jacobs who pointed out to me that playing in the event were two unrelated people called Goldberg and that this had made him think of a character of that name from one of Pinter’s plays.
In response I asked him if he had ever read any of Marlowe’s plays, e.g. Tamburlaine?
He said that he had never heard of it.

At 6:30 p.m. that day I was in the lounge of the Queens Hotel when GM Eduard Gufeld asked me to demonstrate the game that I had played that day.
When I got to the position after black’s 12th move he asked what my reply would have been if instead of 13 Kxa3 white had played 13 Kb3 (?) I then showed him 13...Qa5 after which white can only stave off mate by suffering disastrous material losses.

Eddie smiled at the hopeless confinement of the white king after 13...Qa5.
"Is like Tamurland, in special metal, this white king here", he said, in broken English.

I asked him if it were Tamburlaine to whom he was referring and he confirmed that it was.
"You know that he was put in special metal?"
"A cage, you mean?""Yes."Gufeld explained that this image had just popped into his mind.

He knew nothing of the earlier conversation.

Part Three
The featured game in Leonard Barden’s chess column of The Guardian of January 28th 1989 was -
Adams Vs Gelfand, European Junior Championship, Arnhem 1988.
He remarked that it "... features an uncanny coincidence, or else reveals a Soviet spy at the Hastings congress! Judge for yourself."
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd4 4 Nd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e5 7 Nb3 Be6 8 Qd2 Nbd7 9 f3 Be7 10 g4 h6 11 h4 b5 12 0-0-0 Nb6 13 Qf2 Nfd7 14 Kb1 Qc7 15 Nd5 Bd5 16 ed5 Nc4 17 f4 a5 18 fe5 de5 19 Nd2 Nxb2!
"Decisive, for if 20 Kxb2 Ba3+ 21 Kxa3 Qc3+ 22 Nb3 a4 and white will be mated.
Adams Vs Gelfand was played on December 29th, and just one day earlier in the opening round of the Hastings Challengers, grandmaster Jim Plaskett won this neat miniature -
White: Lopez Black: Plaskett 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 e6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nc6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 Qc7 7 Be2 b5 8 f4 Bb7 9 Bf3 Na5 10 Qe2 Nc4 11 0-0-0 Nxb2! 12 Kxb2 Ba3+! 13 Kxa3 Qxc3+ 14 Nb3 Bc6 15 Bc5 a5 White Resigned.
The setting is different, but the winning tactic is identical."
Five Fingers and warfare between Russia and the Middle East: Tamburlaine Part Four
At 4:15 a.m. on November 14th 1989 I had just read one of my coincidences from 1988 to which I had given the heading
The rediscovery of knowledge lost with the burning of the library at Alexandria.

Its final paragraph contained a reference to the film The Beast with Five Fingers.

Less than ten seconds later I was perusing the example headed Tamburlaine: Part One.
In the background on TV was the news programme 60 Minutes and Harry Reasoner was talking to a Soviet veteran of their war with Afghanistan.

The interviewee said "It was about as logical as having five fingers on your arm."

The previous afternoon I had begun to read Peter Ustinov’s book My Russia.
On page seventeen there is a picture and the caption to it reads -

´A Persian manuscript showing Tamerlaine besieging Herat. Tamerlaine never reached Moscow and the Mongols eventually forced him out of Russia. ´
This is the only reference to Tamerlaine in the entire book.

When I went to Ustinov’s book to check this I noticed that the figure of Tamerlaine is depicted with five fingers and a thumb.

1 comment:

EXX SVV said...

Part four, five and six.... I google "force checkmate in ten moves" and yours is the only page I see with such a phrase. I learn about the play, and the cage, and your coincidence diary. COINCIDENCE?? Or fate?