Sunday, October 20, 2013

A giant chess set at a local fair -- and a metaphor: the Kibitzer's Problem (maybe the Spanish Prisoner?)

Sunday night, just a little bit of lighter stuff. On Saturday afternoon, I found a small street fair outside the Angelika Mosaic theater in Merrifield VA, most of it commercial.  But there was a giant chess set, set up with the colors off at a 90-degree angle.
I started to set up the pieces correctly, and in a moment a few small children were helping.  I hope that learning something about the game actually meant something to them. I then played the first three moves of a controversial opening called the Benko Gambit.  I wonder if anyone around recognized it.  
Later, I saw a couple of Virginia license plates with odd names possibly related to chess.  One of them read “Ddippy”.  Back at the chess club at George Washington University back in the mid 1960’s, the term “dippy” was used for openings that didn’t have a good reputation according to theory.  “Unbooked” could have been the term.  But then grand masters like Kasparov started finding virtue in unbooked openings.
Another license plate read something like “um good”.  That was a term we would use when an opponent had an obvious positional weakness, like a “backward queen bishop pawn” (like in the Exchange Variation of the Queen’s Gambit after a “minority attack” by White).  There was a little bit of hazing in all of this.   People would “slurp” when they had winning positions, or maybe find out they had miscalculated, that a sacrifice was really a patz, and that the mouth sounds amounted to a “reverse slurp.” 
Back at GW in the 1960’s, one of the strongest players became obsessed with playing chess, to the point of skipping classes and dropping out of school and getting drafted.  During the era of the Vietnam era draft, this resulted in loss of deferment and was foolish and dangerous.  The particular guy got signal corps and made it back OK.  Another player enlisted for four years and served in Army intelligence in Vietnam.
People often like to kibitz, which of course cannot be allowed in tournament rooms.  Neither are skittles games allowed around rated tournament games.  The kibitzing issue does track to “real life”, where voyeurism into the activities of others from those who are less competitive is often seen as socially disruptive.  There are some times in life you have to step up and get involved.

That does loop back to the problem of “implicit content” that has surfaced before.  If someone weights in on a controversial issue without having a direct stake in terms of his own exposure to risk or responsibility for others, some people will see such public involvement as provocative or as trying to incite others into undesirable behavior, rather than as just making a debate point.  
This does sound like the "Privilege of Being Listened To" problem that I've mentioned before.  I realize I have some issues with it.  But no one can tell me what issues (or even cases) to take up or "touch" online.  My site is not a democracy (maybe a "timocracy").  As in a college course, "everything" is ultimately relevant. 
Last picture: a bust stop in Minneapolis, 2003. 

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