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Chess & StarCraft: The Gentleman-Child

TheOnlyShaft 2015-03-24 11:19:52
When I hit that castle it didn’t even shake, so if someone else can come along and tear the whole thing down, I really need to go and train.” -Goku

 

:: The Gentleman-Child || qxc and Adolf Anderssen :: Philidor made significant contributions to chess during his lifetime. He was clearly one of the best players of his time, but for one reason or another his style did not really catch on until 1850 with Wilhelm Steinitz. This is not Steinitz’s story, however; this is a tale of the century divide between Philidor and Steinitz.

People have many different responses when it comes to a new idea. If it’s a fun, exciting idea, it might catch on rather quick. These ideas are often firecrackers, filled with explosive energy yet possessing a meager lifespan. A shooting star sure is pretty, but doesn’t last long. Some less fabulous ideas come along, garnering less of a cult-following immediately but eventually withstanding the tests of time. Players who grew up idealizing and studying the Modenese masters never truly relinquished these beliefs, despite having witnessed the efficacy of Philidor’s style. These players would then pass these beliefs on to their own students, students who, unlike their masters, will have been exposed to such defensive play styles and theories at an early stage of development. This creates the strange, transitional amalgamation referred to as the “Romantic-era” of chess. Many Romantic players had abandoned the Italian Game opener in favor of the Ruy Lopez. This opener, while still aggressive, offers much more long-term viability than the more-explosive Italian Game. This is a nod towards Philidor, a sacrificial acknowledgment that defense can and does occur. But because people were so indoctrinated into the minds of the Modenese masters, this acknowledgment was usurped by community-made rules external to the game itself. It was considered unsportsmanlike to decline a gambit, to play a defensive game. It was more highly-regarded at this time to lose “with style” than to win with defense.1408528703032 “It’s more fun this way” is what a Romantic-era player might claim, seeking to convince a playmate to join in, unconsciously implying the game is not good enough if Philidor’s principles are permitted. Because of players’ insistence in accepting gambits regardless of consequences, pawn structures, if maintained at all, were open, flimsy things that a strong breeze might knock over. An open game is one where the lines–rows, columns, or diagonals–are not broken by immobile pawns. This increases the strength of long-range pieces such as rooks and bishops, emphasizing tactical play to gain position or material. Some tactics favored by these players are forks, skewers and discoveries, moves that severely limit an opponent’s options in an effort to make the opponent’s next move more predictable. One player from this era is Adolf Anderssen, most famous for his Immortal Game against Lionel Kieseritzky and the Evergreen Game against Jean Dufresne. In the Evergreen Game, Anderssen trades recklessly without regard to inherent piece values or pawn structure. With a series of key counter-attacks, Anderssen sacrifices additional pieces in rapid succession which ultimately earns him a narrow victory. This game gets its name from Steinitz, who called it the “Evergreen in Anderssen’s laurel wreath,” signifying this as Anderssen’s crowning achievement. Remember, winning with style is more highly-prized than winning from a well-structured positional game. This Evergreen concept, representing eternal youth, struck this author as both odd and analagous to today’s StarCraft 2. First, it is odd to think of an archetype like the Gentleman as eternally young but at second glance makes sense: Romantic chess players experienced massive upheaval early in their careers, at relatively young ages. Also, it is newer, often younger players that enjoy changing rules they dislike. It is even more profound that it is Steinitz, the man credited with tearing down the dying castle that was Romantic chess, who offers this symbolism. Chess’s growth into a mature sport had been delayed nearly a century, stuck in its adolescence, itself forever young1408528703032 as a result of men like Anderssen and Dufresne. Was this a compliment or insult? Either way, it seems quite the barbed comment towards Anderssen and those who supported him. Nonetheless, late in life, Anderssen, who was a fairly charismatic guy, was considered an elder statesmen of sorts for chess, often turned to for his advice and commentary. That, dear friends, is a lot about chess. It is certain that the reader must wonder by now how this all relates to StarCraft. Bear with this article just a moment more and all will grow clear. What player, specifically foreigner, is known to this day for his high-level competition in addition to public relations, casting and coaching? This man is always high-energy, even earning such comments from Shaun “Apollo” Clark as “[I am] not as excited as you are” and “I know you did a lap around the desk. I had to sit you down, put your headset on for you, wipe your mouth a bit…” Kevin “qxc” Riley. Known as “the Bandanna Terran” due to his near-constant appearance, qxc is the ideal gentleman archetype. First, he is clearly one of the more charismatic foreigners, maintaining a respectable following despite little success in the last few years. At his peak, however, qxc was to be feared. Participating in the GSTL, qxc, a member of one of the lowest-ranked teams in the event and a foreigner to boot all-kills the best Korean team in the world at the time, Incredible Miracle, defeating top-notch players like MVP in the process. 1408528703032This would turn out to be his Evergreen Game, with qxc offering a well-deserved victory ceremony to commemorate the occasion: the kamehameha wave. At twenty-four years of age, trumping this author by only ten months, qxc would still have been only a twinkle in his father’s eye when the kamehameha wave first aired on Japanese television. For him, like me, this show would have been a staple growing up. Dragon Ball Z was everywhere. This very ceremony, chosen in the heat of the moment by qxc, hearkens back to days of his youth–the Evergreen in his laurel wreath. From his college-esque appearance (bandanna and all!) to his love of cosplaying Jedi, qxc displays clear appreciation for the awesomeness of his childhood, not unlike early Romantics meditating upon memories of their Modenese masters. qxc’s style is also very much like that aspired-to by the Romantics. He loves harassment, drops in particular, to draw his opponents into key positions then exploiting weaknesses opened elsewhere. Oftentimes he would drop in multiple locations at once to test his opponent’s multi-tasking. In addition to all of his other endeavors, qxc, with the drive and energy to make a five-year old green, produces UMS maps designed to help train certain skillsets critical to top-level StarCraft play. These games include his build order tester and “So You Think You Can Micro?” Anderssen, too, seemed to possess all of the energy of a ferret surviving only on Red Bull. Even in his old age, Anderssen published books of chess problems and tactics, mind games to challenge both his students and contemporaries. The creative spirit of the ever-young can never die, rivaled only by its admiration for offense, chaos and destruction.

 

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