Back in the early 1990s, thanks to the then-newborn miracle of cheap desktop publishing, a gang of masters and grandmasters published an anarchistic 'zine called Chess Chow. It lasted for only a few years, but during that span it brought a spirit of iconoclastic fun and barbwire wit to the chess world. Some memorable features included:

But the part of Chess Chow that brought tears (of laughter) to my eyes when I flipped through a set of old issues recently was a series titled simply Agony --- GM Michael Wilder's comic tales of painful over-the-board encounters. A few sample bits follow, slightly edited to fit here.

Volume 1, number 5 (Oct-Nov 1991, p. 45):

Failing to win a game where you are the equivalent of a full piece up right out of the opening is a classic type of agony --- you must feel like a real horse's patootie! I instruct my students not to capture more than an extra two pawns during the first twenty moves, because a greater surplus so randomizes the game that material becomes meaningless. An example is Wilder-Leow (Philadephia 1981):

1. d4 f5 2. Bg5 h6 3. Bh4 c5 4. e3 Qb6 5. d5.

We had sat down early, and played these moves in less than a minute. Objectively, White's last move was a trifle questionable, since 5 ... Qb4+ clipped the White cleric on h4. A full piece down with White after 6 moves (against an International Master), I was more concerned with the fact that neither player on the adjacent board had yet arrived, and it would be embarrassing to have to resign before the round officially began. Suffice it to say that White won in about 20 more moves. After the game I was gracious to my opponent (though I laughed in his face and taunted him with a stick, I did promise him I would never publish the game). The point is that in situations like this the player on the losing end should take the initiative in being unsportsmanlike.

Volume 2, number 3 (Apr-May 1992, p. 34):

Your game reminds me of a certain game I lost once that cost me a lot of money. It was an absolutely fantastic struggle, involving multiple underpromotions and a problem-like endgame culminating in a chimney mate. Not that my loss and your game are particularly similar (though I couldn't tell you for sure, because I haven't actually looked at your game). In any event, I'm not going to show you that game.

Instead, witness this ordinary and all-around tedious affair with (British junior) Matthew Sadler. What will be unique is the revolutionary new annotating technique I will be introducing. Have you ever read Kotov's Think Like a Grandmaster? If you haven't, don't lose any sleep over it --- it's a load of rabbit-poody anyway. (He tries to describe the way the thought processes of a grandmaster are supposed to work. My reaction was, "Wake me up if there's any nudity.")

What I will be doing today will go Kotov one further: thanks to the miracle of Chess Chow Technology, we will be bringing you "Grandmaster-Vision". This amazing device will enable you to follow what I was actually thinking during the game --- uncut, uncensored, and real. Through a verbatim transcription of my thoughts, you will be privy to the stream of consciousness in the mind of a grandmaster. You will see how a grandmaster really selects candidate moves and weighs options, and the disorganized process by which he finally decides which course to take. Grandmaster-Vision will be signified by quotations.

[ ... after move 8 ...] "Things aren't going that well. Don't panic. Remember when I panicked because I thought I had a tiny lump on my left testicle? And when I went to the doctor he told me that the tiny lump was my left testicle? Well, the principle is the same --- there is no need to panic here, no siree. Just have to figure out how to channel my nervousness into something constructive. I know ..." (I got up and went outside and changed my socks. The reader should not get the misimpression that grandmasters carry an extra pair of socks with them --- I simply took the socks I was wearing and switched them on my feet. Back at the board ...) "Yeehaw! My feeties feel nice. Maybe I'll try to discombobulate him with a side-winder."

[ ... and after the loss at move 31 ...] I was drawing a blank trying to come up with an appropriately nasty remark, but then recalled a quip that a Chow staffer had ad-libbed at a collegiate insult contest. So I grinned at my opponent, pumped his hand warmly, and said "You look like a pine-cone."

So if there is a moral to the story it is this: Chess will always embitter you; the important thing is to keep everything in perspective, and to be unpleasant to other people whenever possible.

Volume 3, number 6 (Nov-Dec 1993, pps. 23-24):

[ ... at move 14 ...] Recognizing that my queen was about to be trapped, my heart skipped a beat. Then it added a beat. Then it started to accent off-beats to create a syncopation effect. Then I had problems with my tummy.

I thought about the scene in the movie "Alien" where this nice astronaut is having a pleasant dinner when all of the sudden his stomach starts to throb violently, and then a monster bursts out of it, ripping him open and killing him. (In fact, the exact same thing happened to me shortly after the last time I ate sushi.)

14 ... axb5 15 Nd1

Parting with the lady, part deux. Sigh.

Few are aware of this, but in grandmaster practice it is common, even expected that you will converse extensively with your opponent during a game. I would recommend to our amateur readers that you try, whenever facing a GM over the board, to start talking to your opponent after the first few moves, and try to say something after every move. The goal is to build "good will" (i.e., receptivity to bribes). Do not be discouraged if your GM opponent does not respond, or if he/she complains to the tournament director.

It was around here that I made the first conversational overture of the game. I said, "Lev, I don't think the game is going well and I'm feeling a little vulnerable. How about a hug?"

(No response from Lev.) "Lev, what are you, made of stone or something? (My tone becomes increasingly hysterical.) I finally work up the courage to express my feelings, and you just toy with them."

(Still no response from Lev.)

15 ... Rxa4

"Say, Lev. I have been told that my upper body is so freakishly muscular as to be unsettling. What's your view on this?"

(No response from Lev. Cannot get a rise out of this guy. But amazingly, my position is starting to improve.)

16 Bxb4

But not by much.

Well, perhaps you have to play in chess tournaments to appreciate GM Wilder's deathless prose. Everybody else in my family just stares at me as I chortle and choke ....

TopicLiterature - TopicHumor - TopicRecreation - 2001-09-26

This is hysterical! What a lift on this kaka day. I'm living in the middle of the mother of all whirling low pressure systems which has faculty and students staggering about with head ache. Humor is the antidote to blah. Yes. I know. What a good word choice.

Wilder's humor is simply awsome, nothing alike have ever been written before.
I die for more of him, in fact, i'm actually stalking a guy who i sucpect has some chess chow material.
Anyway, i wanted to say that i almost choke on floating laugh from mike's columns...
Least to say...I want more!
ricortiz73 (at) hotmail (dot) com

(correlates: OutOfSync, UnimaginableTimelessness, AnnotationPunctuation, ...)