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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Kramnik crushed!

Brawn over brain

January 1st, 2016

BY JAMES MCQUILLEN

Quick, name this sport: rival world champions, a shady multi-millionaire commissioner, drug testing, boycotts and shapely young women parading around in skimpy costumes. If you said professional wrestling, you get partial credit. The correct answer, of course, is chess. The governing body of world chess, led by its eccentric president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, has launched an all-out campaign to remake this most elevated of intellectual exercises into a fast-paced, high-stakes spectacle suitable for prime-time television.”
— Lev Grossman, Time

A frigid wind blew through Minnesota last Saturday night, but fans inside the Mall of America in Bloomington worked themselves into a hot lather of anticipation over this winter’s top sporting event: the first-ever FIDE-WWF matchup. Emboldened by the popularity of chess-playing heavyweight boxers Vitaly and Vladimir Klitschko, promoters chessvswrestlingpromised more thinking outside the 64-square box, pitting current world champion Vladimir Kramnik against perennial favorite “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

The soft-spoken champion entered the arena in a blue three-button jacket, yellow cardigan, and grey slacks; his opponent, vigorously pumping his fist at the roaring crowd, in a leather briefs-and-vest ensemble adorned with a glittering skull. This kind of sartorial unorthodoxy hasn’t been seen in the chess world since Bobby Fischer showed up for a 1967 Skopje tournament dressed as a milkman.

Kramnik drew white and opened with d4. Austin responded with a Chicken Wing Hammerlock, then rejected the subsequent Queen’s Gambit by treating Kramnik to an Airplane Spin followed by a Monkey Flip over the board, putting him literally on the defensive.


Now playing Black, Kramnik adopted an atypically conservative Orthodox Defense, concentrating his forces toward the center; Austin then eschewed the Rauzer Variation in favor of the Scorpion Leg Lock. Here Kramnik found himself in a doubly precarious position. His knights, the sole line of defense for a rank of insufficiently developed pawns, were vulnerable to capture from White’s bishops, and his trachea was pinched between Austin’s massive thighs. He judiciously chose the Capablanca freeing maneuver, which Austin answered with a swift blow from a folding chair, bloodying Kramnik’s nose and eventually forcing Qxf6.

Though Kramnik appeared hamstrung in the midgame, he asserted control of the center files with quiet finesse despite Austin’s use of the Power Bomb and Figure Four Fold Over Double Armbar. Following 22…Rxa1, 23 Rxd1 Rxd1+, 24 Bf1, White was up a Queen but nonetheless doomed; neither the Camel Clutch nor the Atomic Drop could prevent 25 a5, Rxf1mate.

In a typical departure from FIDE convention, Austin ignored Kramnik’s checkmate and put his own crushing finish to the match with his trademark Stone Cold Stunner, after which he deposited the grandmaster into the ringside seats. Declaring himself the winner, he bellowed that he would demolish the best that chess had to offer.

Engineers at IBM have eagerly taken up the challenge and are currently retrofitting Deep Blue into the bed of the eleven-foot, 1,500-horsepower Eradicator monster truck.

This article first appeared in the January 2003 issue of Black Lamb.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, McQuillen | Link to this Entry

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