23 May 2021

Holmes vs. Moriarty, 2011

If you've never wondered why chess appears so often in movies, it's because you know why. It's the potential for symbolism. First you have two intelligent people in direct, intellectual combat. They manipulate six different pieces -- including a symbol for feminism and a symbol for the little guy -- where all six convey a different message. Then there are check, mate, and stalemate, each representing different phases of combat. Add to that circumstances surrounding the game -- a friendly game, an extended match, a game for life or death -- and there is room for boundless interpretations of real life situations.

Most competent chess players, club players and stronger, understand the symbolism, but what about the rest of the world? That's where this video plays a role.

Someone Had to Explain the Chess Scene in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (23:04) • '[Published on] Apr 22, 2021'

Along with links to a dozen different resources, the description says,

Playing a board game while stopping the bad guy is a really superfluous flex, Sherlock.

What does 'flex' mean in this context? According to one source, Definition of Flex (dictionary.com), one meaning is '[Slang] to boast or brag; show off'. OK, that makes sense. I get it.

The game used in the movie is the well known Bent Larsen vs Tigran Petrosian; Second Piatigorsky Cup (1966), Santa Monica, CA (chessgames.com), featuring a Queen sacrifice. Petrosian was World Champion at the time and Larsen was one of the best players outside the Iron Curtain.

For more about the movie, see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (wikipedia.org; 'the 12th highest-grossing film of 2011 worldwide'), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - 2011 (imdb.com). The IMDb summary says,

Detective Sherlock Holmes is on the trail of criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, who is carrying out a string of random crimes across Europe.

Both pages reference chess only once. That in itself is symbolic.

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