Friday 7 November 2008

Chess on Mastermind Part 2

Well, in the end I did get to see Mark Hannon answering questions on Bobby Fischer on Mastermind tonight. Despite not having access to my own TV, I managed to watch via my computer using a TV tuner card. Isn't modern technology wonderful?

Mark Hannon did extremely well, scoring 13 points (and no passes) on his Bobby Fischer questions. I think he failed to get two of them - one, on the number of consecutive games Fischer won in the 1971 Candidates Matches - he said 20 when the answer was 13 (I think he misheard the question and added the games Fischer won at the back end of the Palma 1970 Interzonal). And he couldn't remember which piece Fischer had sacrificed against Spassky in one of the key 1972 match games (the answer was bishop and he said rook - for my part I cannot remember which game was being referred to). But 13 was a very good score under pressure (I think I got about 11 - under pressure of the glass of wine I had drunk shortly before). The questions were a good deal fairer than the last time chess featured on Mastermind. There were one or two tricky ones (where he had to remember the opening variation played in games) but he rose to the challenge.

But it was a case of "the operation was successful but the patient died." Mark piled up another 12 points on the general knowledge questions (some very tough questions in there) to score a very creditable 25 points overall. But another contestant just pipped him to first place, scoring 26. Never mind - the honour of chess was maintained.

Chess on Mastermind

Mark Hannon, a Welsh player of around 2000 strength, wrote to tell me recently that he is to be one of the four contestants of an episode of Mastermind going out on BBC2 on 7 November 2008 (Friday) at 8.00 PM. His specialist subject is "Bobby Fischer - Life and Career". Good luck with that, Mark.

The fact that Mark wrote to tell me about is perhaps an indicator that he did well, but I wouldn't guarantee it. I recall that a previous chessplayer contestant on the show in 2005 also tipped me off about his participation despite the fact that he had bombed horribly answering questions on the history of the world chess championship. But then so would most of us with some of the completely daft questions he was asked. For example, "in how many moves did Spassky beat Petrosian in game 19 of the 1969 championship?" - and I cannot think of a reply to that which isn't either rude or obscene. The number of moves played in a game of chess is an utter irrelevance - the equivalent of asking a football specialist how many throw-ins there were in the 1966 World Cup final. I would be hard pushed to tell you the number of moves played in any game of chess, either one of my own or a famous one such as Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick, though I could probably give an approximation in many cases. Of course it is a big clue that the question setter knows little of chess and in compiling questions has simply looked up a few facts on Wikipedia.

Should Mark get one of these ludicrous "how many moves" questions I can see me getting very hot under the collar watching tonight's show. But fate has taken a hand to ensure that I don't burst a blood vessel. It so happens that my TV set will be inaccessible tonight as the sitting room floorboards are being treated for woodworm today and we won't be able to enter it for 24 hours. Probably just as well...