Reigning World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen is known to gather a lot of mainstream attention by making various appearances at unexpected places. This time he appeared in the longest running animated sitcom, The Simpsons. Read the story in this report by Shahid Ahmed.
Magnus Carlsen on The Simpsons Show
The Simpsons is an animated series made up on half-an-hour episodes, which is currently running its 28th season. Math: the series is also older than Carlsen himself. The three-time World Chess Champion appeared in the 15th episode (611th episode overall) of the 28th season of the iconic animated series, titled, ‘The Cad and The Hat’.
Homer Simpson, the protagonist of the series, stops over to check the game at a beach.
Notice the player who loses with the White pieces, looks strangely familiar? He has a beard like ‘Wilhelm Steinitz’, the first official World Champion in the history of chess. After his opponent leaves the board, he calls, Homer, “Hey Blobby Fischer, you’re up”. When his son, asks him if he knows the pieces, Homer nonchalantly replies, “Of course, there’s the King, Mrs. King (Queen), the Lightbulb Babies (Pawns), the Mini Ashtray(Rooks), Slit Face (Bishop) and who could forget Dr. Horse (Knight).”
Homer Simpson names all the chess pieces in his own unique way.
Homer does a Smothered Mate with Ng3 and he says, “Another victim of the Budapest Gambit.”
When Homer’s son wonders how his father remembers the chess moves when he cannot remember the rules of ‘Chutes and Ladders’, Homer informs them that he used to play chess with his dad.
First flashback of Homer playing against his dad.
Homer announces Checkmate in 3 with the move Qd8 in a very famous tactical theme.
Homer plays 10. Nxb5 from the famous game of ‘The Night at the Opera’ between Paul Morphy and Duke Karl & Count Isouard (Although the King at e8 & Bishop at f8 is barely visible)
Homer plays a simultaneous match at a bar.
When Homer announces a mate in four, his opponent says, “Homer, You’re playing like Polugaevsky at Mar del Plata!"
Homer Simpson as a baby loses the game in a ‘Fool’s Mate’ and his dad laughs at him.
The showrunners humorous take on the most famous World Champion in the history of Chess, Bobby Fischer.
The first error found in the episode which is the board orientation. Can you guess which World Champion does baby Simpson’s opponent has an uncanny resemblance with?
After taking lessons from the professor regularly, baby Homer defeats his dad and then his dad says, “We had a beautiful thing here and you had to ruin it by getting good."
After rekindling his love for chess, Homer plays a game even in a bowling arena
Homer decides to give up chess as someone points out his secret behind why he is so good at it.
Homer’s wife makes one last attempt to bring him back to the game by saying, "Homer, before you give up, I skyped someone who knows a little bit about chess.”
Magnus shows up in a new avatar through Skype with his words in a Stephen Hawking-like voice, “I’m the World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen.”
Carlsen tries to counsel Homer, “When I heard a fellow chess player had a mental problem, I skyped at once.”
Magnus says, “Homer, I’m afraid, you cannot run away from chess.” Homer replies, “The reason I got into chess was because it didn’t involve running.” Magnus breaks his character saying, “I share your disdain for exercise...” which we all know is not true.
To continue with the show's humor, Magnus chimes in with, “Now I will say something with all the emotion a Norwegian can muster...” and he remains still for a few seconds. His advice to Homer is, “To find your true feelings, you must finish your final chess match with your father.” Carlsen then predicts what Homer will do and he does. Magnus finishes the segment with, “I’m always 3 moves ahead.”
Homer turns up at the ‘Springfield Retirement Castle’ (I bet that’s another pun by the writers) for a final match with his dad. The clock is set up on the wrong side of the board, I guess that can be forgiven—it might be due to some production issues.
The match is broadcasted at a local bar on both, a demo board as well as a large monitor like screen.
Magnus commentates with, “An excellent move by Homer... a stout defense by grandpa.” When a random guy enters the bar and asks, “Doesn’t anyone want to watch the Super Bowl?” The bartender replies, “Get lost.”
When Magnus asks for permission to go politely as it’s 4 am in his time zone, the bartender replies, “Sure, Fine.”
A random asks, “Who is that guy?” Another random guy in the bar replies, “Magnus Carlsen, my cousin”. The show truly displays the ignorance of common people towards the name of Magnus Carlsen.
During the credit roll at the end, Homer inquiries if the chess players get groupies, Carlsen replies, “Homer, I wish you could stop. These skypes aren’t free.” Homer replies, “Yes they are.” Carlsen exits the show and ends the episode with, “I still don’t want to talk to you.”
Overall the episode was absolutely fun for someone who watched an episode of The Simpsons for the first time in its entirety. The writers and the makers of the show made a very good research about chess. Unlike any other TV-shows where chess is shown casually with a few anachronisms and mistakes, The Simpsons only had a few errors. I am sure they are only due to some production issues. Maybe the World Champion himself helped the showrunners or his presence inspired the creative team to make sure that the authenticity of the Chess is maintained and it’s portrayed as a sport, not as just another board game.
The episode also had a side story about ‘Guilt’. Magnus Carlsen made another record as the first chess player to show up in an animated series by giving voiceover to a character portrayed as himself. One can only await Magnus’ next move in the pop culture.
About the Author:
Shahid Ahmed is the First AGM (Arena Grandmaster) of India. He is a coach at Dibyendu Barua Chess Academy (DBCA) and The Heritage School. He is also the founder of chesspert.com. He manages the Facebook page of Bengal Chess Association and DBCA.