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Chess Games in TV Show Mr. Robot

dcgreens

The series of chess games shown in Season 2, Episode 4 of Mr. Robot appear mostly to be ludicrous. Here's a photo of one game. The games are a series of stalemates, and one explanation suggested that these games were chosen as ones that quickly reach stalemate. But no one would ever play chess like this. The show creators ought to at least make some minimal effort to make it plausible. Has anyone else analyzed all the games?

 

Uhohspaghettio1

They're quite fond of the Ware and Desprez openings in these shows aren't they... 

 

I suspect these shows sometimes intentionally go out of their way to be clueless about chess, or at least, someone in the crew or writers or researchers knows about it and doesn't do anything about it. In Criminal Minds they've had similar nonsense, despite the fact that Reid (the skinny savant guy) was supposed to be somehow using chess to hone his intellectual skills and has a reputation as a savant, you'd think they would get it right. Especially with the type of pseudointelligent show that they do, I could understand in something like NCIS. It seems a lot worse though if it was a major point in it rather than a silly side gimmick. 

 

In a Cold Case episode one of the characters played chess and apparently "his favourite move" was the "Ruy Lopez - Nf3"..... or something outlandishly ridiculous like that. It was that episode that got me to thinking that there may have been something of an intentional joke to it.    

 

In Criminal Intent there was an episode where there's a guy who's basically meant to be Bobby Fischer (except they have him committing a murder!), and the position looked plausible enough, and "Bobby" says something like protect your queen and I was hoping so much for it to work but it wouldn't.  

 

Wouldn't it be cool if they had some famous chess historic position for those in the know or who care to research it, like they did in From Russia With Love? From Russia With Love seems unfortunately to still be after all this time pretty much the only good representation of chess on screen for mass consumption.   

  

Tidesson

Ray vs. Elliot

This game followed the moves of 'The Immortal Game' played in 1851, one of the most legendary games in chess history. The white player (Adolf Anderssen) sacrificed both of his rooks and his queen to get checkmate, probably the only time that's happened in top-level competition. In the show, the players' lack of reaction to this spectacular checkmate stretches believability, even for the near-catatonic Elliot :)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortal_Game

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1018910

Elliot vs. Mr. Robot - Game 1

This is an artificial game, created by Sam Loyd. His goal was to produce the shortest possible game which ends in stalemate - in this case, after only 10 moves, black cannot make a legal move and the game is over and declared a draw. The moves make no sense whatsoever, other than to achieve the final position. An actual game would never, ever go like this, but it's quite a remarkable feat, to compose a game that reaches stalemate so quickly.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalemate#Stalemate_in_problems

Elliot vs. Mr. Robot - Game 2

The final position is not shown, but it looks like they are just re-playing Game 1.

Elliot vs. Mr. Robot - Game 3

This is another artificially composed game, this one by Enzo Minerva. The notable thing about this game is that it's the shortest possible game in which a position is reached where BOTH sides cannot make a legal move - it doesn't matter whether it's white or black's turn. A double stalemate/mutual stalemate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalemate#Double_stalemate

dcgreens

Yeah, besides the first game, the other games make no sense.

RonaldJosephCote

   I saw that. Very symbolic to the show.  I thought the moves we're suspicious but the camera moved fast. I was more intrigue with the dialog in the background. He's a computer hacker, a drug addict, and he's talking to himself.

ReddyJ

dang, for robots they are noobs at chess
 

P.S i didnt see that show that much really, and i know they arent robots, so what are they?

jaaas
szachmalp wrote:

The series of chess games shown in Season 2, Episode 4 of Mr. Robot appear mostly to be ludicrous. Here's a photo of one game. The games are a series of stalemates, and one explanation suggested that these games were chosen as ones that quickly reach stalemate. But no one would ever play chess like this. The show creators ought to at least make some minimal effort to make it plausible. Has anyone else analyzed all the games?

Frankly, the chess set in the picture is horrible. Black's kingside bishop as well as some of his pawns are virtually invisible. But yes, for some reason sets like this ("black-on-black, white-on-almost-white") keep being mass-produced. Possible reason being that the manufacturers somehow assume that most of the consumers assume that chess sets are supposed to be like that. Then you have such a set depicted in a popular TV show, and the vicious feedback cycle of misconception is closed and reinforced.

RonaldJosephCote

The show was produced on the USA network. It could have been a budgetary thing.Undecided

RonaldJosephCote

    "Major Crimes" on TNT had a couple of games played by Rusty and his psychiatrist.

jaaas

By the way, there used to be a motif revolving around chess in the second season of the Twin Peaks TV series, and as I seem to recall there was a fixation on stalemate as well; the main characters were trying to find a way to get a game to end in stalemate as quickly as possible (and that without any chessmen being captured, if at all possible).

I guess "stalemate" is being considered to sound somewhat mysterious/perplexing to the general viewer, and as such it's eagerly (ab)used by producers as a "dramatization" gimmick. What the minority of people who know more about chess think about it, they obviously couldn't care less about.

RonaldJosephCote

          Rizzoli & Isles did an episode last week, where the killer lied about playing chess on-line. When his moves turned out to be a pre-programmed Fischer/Spasky game, well, you know the rest.  Also, "Bones" did an episode last Jan called, "Master In The Slop" in which "Sweets" the FBI psychologist showed excellent skill in chess, and also catching the killer because he wouldn't sacrifice his queen. "Criminal Minds" had a couple of episodes that portrayed chess.

Pedohammad

It could also be that Elliot, the character, pretty much sucks at chess and is just a complete n00b. And of course he is playing himself so "they" both suck at it and can't see simple moves and/or "they" just don't get the rules. Cool

dcgreens

But it's actually difficult to reach stalemate that quickly, let alone repeatedly. So if he is a complete noob playing idiotic moves, he wouldn't reach stalemate like that. And if he is smart enough to know how to reach stalemate that quickly, then they wouldn't make such idiotic moves. Also, one game is a actually The Immortal Game, so that makes even less sense. 

It's just dumb directing in an otherwise interesting show.

chessbumbler

I like Mr. Robot a lot, but I agree with some comments here that the chess could have been handled better. I saw a thread on reddit* with some similar comments - would a stalemate be likely with so many pieces left, and would a player stalemate himself so easily. I don't know if the show claims that Elliot (the hacker) is really super strong at chess per se, I think he just used it as his first programming experience. But still.

*[Spoilers S2E4] The chess games in this episode are all famous games

**My Real Question** - I actually like the chess set they used. Does anyone know what it is called or where I could buy one like it?

Thanks for any help!

RonaldJosephCote

    MAN!, what a crazy episode this week was...Undecided  Man in the trunk?  Special guest star, ALF? Surprised   Its a spin on 60's sit-com.

Uhohspaghettio1

I think I might quit watching it. I've only watched a few episodes of season 1 so far and from what I hear it goes a lot into hallucinations and the viewer can't tell what's real and what's not anymore, I really hate that. Should I continue watching or is it a lost cause? 

Mealimo

I think most people in this thread are missing the significance of the scene (though if you don't watch the show that's to be expected, but I'll be directing this to people who do since it'd be tedious and spoiler heavy to explain all of the context).

  

If you look at Tidesson's comment above you'll see that the first two games are a composition of the shortest stalemate.  In order for this position to arise in only ten moves both players would have to consciously attempt to reach a stalemate as quickly as possible.

 

In the context of the show this means that Elliot and Mr. Robot (since they're the same person) are actually cooperating in order to resolve their conflict, the solution being to recognize that they are complimentary elements of the same person.  The significance of black being stalemated in these games is to illustrate that Mr. Robot (the darker, more active, less compassionate, etc. part of Elliot's psyche who is the force behind fsociety) is locked up as long as Elliot insists upon fighting him rather than their real enemies.

 

The third game is the shortest mutual stalemate.  The point of this game is that Elliot also can't make any moves to achieve his ends in the real world as long as he's fighting this internal battle against himself.

 

I think this is pretty illustrative of Elliot's plotline in the second season.  Elliot thinks he has to engage in a battle with Mr. Robot in order to keep him from taking over and doing things Elliot doesn't want, while, I think, several things are quite apparent to the viewer about Elliot's struggle with Mr. Robot.

 

First, that Mr. Robot is the part of Elliot that actually began the whole hacker plot, which the Elliot personality was fully willing to engage in, but was too much of "a zero" (to use Mr. Robot's phrasing) to initiate.  Second, that even though he thinks he has to fight Mr. Robot in order to keep himself in control, the only thing he's actually doing is stalemating himself (as evidenced in how he doesn't do anything to affect the main plotline until after the chess game epiphany).

  

Even though Elliot doesn't realize it, by viewing Mr. Robot as an antagonist and experiencing his play as trying to win, he is beginning to understand that Mr. Robot is a part of him who helps him affect the changes in the world that he wants to see.  In spite of the appearance of an antagonistic relationship they have always been acting cooperatively to achieve the same ends, though Elliot dissociates himself from the rage and trauma that caused him to begin down that path in the first place.

 

The point isn't that Elliot can't beat Mr. Robot, but that he doesn't actually want to, it's just that the part of his personality that he identifies as himself (i.e. doesn't dissociate from) hasn't come to terms with the fact that they're both parts of a broader person, as well as the traumatic experiences that caused him to dissociate in the first place and the experiences which have fueled and shaped the Mr. Robot personality.

Uhohspaghettio1
Mealimo wrote:

I think most people in this thread are missing the significance of the scene (though if you don't watch the show that's to be expected, but I'll be directing this to people who do since it'd be tedious and spoiler heavy to explain all of the context).

  

If you look at Tidesson's comment above you'll see that the first two games are a composition of the shortest stalemate.  In order for this position to arise in only ten moves both players would have to consciously attempt to reach a stalemate as quickly as possible.

 

In the context of the show this means that Elliot and Mr. Robot (since they're the same person) are actually cooperating in order to resolve their conflict, the solution being to recognize that they are complimentary elements of the same person.  The significance of black being stalemated in these games is to illustrate that Mr. Robot (the darker, more active, less compassionate, etc. part of Elliot's psyche who is the force behind fsociety) is locked up as long as Elliot insists upon fighting him rather than their real enemies.

 

The third game is the shortest mutual stalemate.  The point of this game is that Elliot also can't make any moves to achieve his ends in the real world as long as he's fighting this internal battle against himself.

 

I think this is pretty illustrative of Elliot's plotline in the second season.  Elliot thinks he has to engage in a battle with Mr. Robot in order to keep him from taking over and doing things Elliot doesn't want, while, I think, several things are quite apparent to the viewer about Elliot's struggle with Mr. Robot.

 

First, that Mr. Robot is the part of Elliot that actually began the whole hacker plot, which the Elliot personality was fully willing to engage in, but was too much of "a zero" (to use Mr. Robot's phrasing) to initiate.  Second, that even though he thinks he has to fight Mr. Robot in order to keep himself in control, the only thing he's actually doing is stalemating himself (as evidenced in how he doesn't do anything to affect the main plotline until after the chess game epiphany).

  

Even though Elliot doesn't realize it, by viewing Mr. Robot as an antagonist and experiencing his play as trying to win, he is beginning to understand that Mr. Robot is a part of him who helps him affect the changes in the world that he wants to see.  In spite of the appearance of an antagonistic relationship they have always been acting cooperatively to achieve the same ends, though Elliot dissociates himself from the rage and trauma that caused him to begin down that path in the first place.

 

The point isn't that Elliot can't beat Mr. Robot, but that he doesn't actually want to, it's just that the part of his personality that he identifies as himself (i.e. doesn't dissociate from) hasn't come to terms with the fact that they're both parts of a broader person, as well as the traumatic experiences that caused him to dissociate in the first place and the experiences which have fueled and shaped the Mr. Robot personality.

Then they should have had games from someone with a reputation of drawing when he might have won, like Karl Schlechter. It would make sense that those moves would be made, while still having the reference to the real games.   

  

RonaldJosephCote

 For awhile, I thought Mr Robot WAS Elliot.Undecided  It wasn't until last week's  episode did I realize that Mr Robot is actually Christian Slater.Embarassed

Mealimo
Uhohspaghettio1 wrote:
Then they should have had games from someone with a reputation of drawing when he might have won, like Karl Schlechter. It would make sense that those moves would be made, while still having the reference to the real games.

 

That would entirely change the meaning of that scene.  If they were games of someone with winning chances who ends up drawing then it would mean that Elliot and Mr. Robot were actually antagonistic, but unable to overcome one another.

 

The point of the games they chose is that, even though the Elliot personality isn't consciously aware of it, they're cooperating to achieve the same purpose, which is to stalemate.  Elliot is an unreliable narrator:  he tells us that Mr. Robot is an antagonist, he tells us that they're trying to beat each other, however, the games we actually see demonstrate that neither of these things are true, he just hasn't realized it.

 

The moves only don't make sense if you believe Elliot and Mr. Robot are antagonists who are each trying to win control of his body.  Understanding that they're both parts of the same fractured mind which is becoming consciously aware of their cooperative existence is the only way to make sense of the moves.  The moves they play are only sensible if they're attempting to stalemate as quickly as possible, which is exactly what they're doing.

 

How often have we seen Mr. Robot acting to help Elliot while he thinks he's antagonizing him?  How often have we seen Elliot be unaware of what he's actually doing or what his mind is trying to tell him?

 

If you could provide an argument for why a game which is competitive but ends in a draw symbolizes the their relationship I'd at least be able to understand why you think that, but it doesn't seem consistent with Elliot's internal struggle and the contradiction between how his mind actually works and how the Elliot personality perceives its workings, which has been the focus of his plotline this season.

 

We can either assume that the writer's meant to illustrate Elliot and Mr. Robot as actually competing but unable to beat each other, in which case they chose terrible games, or we can assume the writer's meant to illustrate that Elliot and Mr. Robot are actually cooperating and do so to reach a stalemate (which is viewed as deadlock competition by Elliot because he doesn't understand their relation to each other), in which case they chose the right games.