Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Prime Ministers and Retrograde Analysis

Who said politicians aren't interested in chess? This picture, given to me with the kind permission of Yosef "Tommy" Lapid (himself an Israeli politician), shows David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, playing chess. Judging by his age and the spartan settings, the game was played when he was in retirement, in the Sde Boker kibbutz in the Negev desert.

Update, 17/11/2012: a much higher resolution picture is found on flickr. It turns out that the photo was not taken during his retirement, but when he was (still) PM; and not in Sde Boker, but on and Israeli gunship. It was an official photograph by the Israeli Government Press Office

From what can be seen of the position, it seems Ben Gurion's opponent is doing his best to not beat him. It isn't clear where most of White's kingside pawns have gone, or why most of his pieces are still on their starting squares. Still, at least Ben Gurion hasn't opened the game with the tyro's "standard" 1. Ph2-h4 or 1. Pa2-a4.

From the picture, we can, however, deduce what the opponent's last move was--making this post the first known connection between politics and retrograde analysis. Highlight the next paragraph for the answer.

Solution: White is about to move the c5 pawn. This pawn only has a legal move if Black's previous move was 1. ... Pd7-d5, and White intends to reply 2. Pc5xd6 en passant.

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