The Parable of the Two Butchers

We have been pampered with top chess lately and one might even say that we are inundated by it. Last month I wrote here about the Grand Prix tournament in Zug, Switzerland, and the Alekhine Memorial in Paris and St. Petersburg. After that there was the Supreme Masters in Norway (not won by Magnus Carlsen for a change, but by Sergei Karjakin) and at the time of my writing there is another fine Grand Prix tournament going on in Thessaloniki, Greece. It's almost too much.

As Alex Baburin, the editor of the daily chess newsletter Chess Today put it recently: "Nowadays there are so many complex games played at very high level, that I sometimes feel longing for a good old-fashioned miniature – with clear scenario and easy-to-understand tactics."

I understood what he meant and I was reminded of a column about the good and the bad butcher by the Dutch writer Ischa Meijer (1943-1995).

He was a versatile man; interviewer, columnist, hard-hitting theater-critic, playwright, singer, actor, stand-up comedian and also author of several autobiographical books which, contrary to much of his work, were far from light-hearted.

As a baby, he had been deported, along with his parents, to the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Though all three survived, the family's war experience weighed heavily on his childhood and later life. As he put it in the title of one of his books, for his parents he was the boy that should redeem everything, and of course he couldn't do that.

His column about the good and the bad butcher was about two butcher shops, easily recognizable to many readers in Amsterdam, that were located on the same street, not far from each other.

At the good butcher's, well-off patrons scrambled for the finest pieces of the Japanese imperial Wagyu rind, the Spanish Castellan sucking-lamb or the Limburg cloister pig, all raised and slaughtered ecologically correct and animal-friendly. The proletarian products of the bad butcher were a lot less refined and a lot cheaper.

One day Ischa Meijer said to the good butcher that of course his products were delicious and healthy, but that sometimes he had an irresistible longing for a good fat proletarian bite from the bad butcher. Was that something that the good butcher could understand? The good butcher, struck speechless, looked at him as if he were a miserable insect that should be wiped from his shop.

At the risk of being considered a chess barbarian, I will show a game that was a delight to the primitive side of my nature. It was also presented inChess Today, a few days before Baburin expressed his longing for a bit of simple chess, and played at the individual European championship in Legnica, Poland, which was won by the Ukrainian Alexander Moiseenko.

Let me not exaggerate. The players are quite strong and the game is not simple. But it is certainly not suited to a refined taste. White, a piece ahead, commits a grave mistake after which he is suddenly dead lost. Two moves later he is winning again, and after three more moves he is again lost and this time for good.

What a sensation! And what a wonderful picture. In the diagram position the three black queens in the corner seem to be sequestered in an oriental seraglio.

2013 European Championship
Position after 50...g1Q

Annotated Game: Simply click on the game to play through it.

Pelletier - Hagen


2013 European Championship