Frank Poole vs. HAL 9000, Discovery 1

The splendid chess program Chessmaster 8000 comes with a library of classic games. From just seeing the near-end position in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey someone there has reconstructed the probable moves made by astronaut Frank Poole as White and the HAL 9000 computer as Black. Since no one would buy the program solely for its having this game, I node it here, partly as advertisement for their fine product, but mostly because it may shed some light on a hidden clue. Read on! (Read chess notation and algebraic notation if you need help deciphering the moves.)

In Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey", super-computer HAL 9000 engages astronaut Frank Poole in a game of chess en route to the planet Jupiter. Although only the last few moves are seen, the beginning of the game has been reconstructed here. Frank and HAL undoubtedly played the Ruy Lopez-Morphy defense opening.

       Poole    HAL
1.      e4      e5	
2.      Nf3     Nc6	
3.      Bb5     a6	
4.      Ba4     Nf6	
5.      O-O     Be7	
6.      Qe2	
The so-called Worrall attack, in lieu of the usual 6. Re1. The idea is to use the king's rook more profitably on d1, but Black has other plans.
6.      ...     b5	
7.      Bb3     O-O	
8.      c3	
This is an invitation to a variant of the Marshall Gambit which is usually seen only against 6. Re1.
8.      ...     d5	
And here it is, even more effective because the White queen is in a vulnerable position.
9.      exd5	
Wiser would have been the tame 9. d1 holding the strong point e4.
9.      ...     Nxd5	
10.     Nxe5    Nf4	
This in-between move takes advantage of the queen's vulnerability to gain time.
11.     Qe4     Nxe5	
12.     Qxa8
With three pieces to capture, none is a bargain: 12. Qxf4 allows the other knight to sink into d3, with a gain of a tempo, and for the pawn black has wonderful lines and a constricted enemy.
12.     ...     Qd3	
Depriving the White queen of the last safe retreat at e4, throttling the white center, and opening the brutal discovery by the queen's bishop on the next move. White is busted.
13.     Bd1
What else? Perhaps 13. Qa7, but then Nf3+ 14. gxf3 and mate to follow after 14. ... Ne2+ 15. Kg2 Bh3+ 16. Kxh3 Qxf3#
13.     ...     Bh3	
Of course! The White queen could prosaically play to a7, but the result would be the same:
14.     Qxa6
The film picks up the game at this point. Frank says, "Anyway, Queen takes Pawn, okay."
14.     ...     Bxg2	
And HAL says, "Bishop takes Knight's Pawn."
15.     Re1	
Frank: "What a lovely move. Rook to King one."
15.     ...     Qf3	
HAL: "I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it: Queen to Bishop three, Bishop takes Queen, Knight takes Bishop. Mate."
While it is true that white has a lost position, it is NOT a mate in two as HAL claims! Frank has options besides 16. Bxf3 that will prolong the game. (MD: 16. Qe6 is forced to prevent Nh3#. Then 16. ... Bh4 threatens to mate with 17. ... Qxf2#. 17. Bxf3 Nxf3# as in the game, but at least we have lasted a move longer than Poole! What about 17. Re2 Nxe2+? It looks like we could drag it out a little longer.)
Did they make a mistake in the film? Could this mistake be the first sign of the computer's impending breakdown? Or has HAL already begun to deliberately deceive his crew?
16.     Bxf3    Nxf3#	

0-1
Frank: "uh huh. Yeah looks like you're right. I resign."
HAL: "Thank you for a very enjoyable game."
Frank: "Yeah. Thank you."

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.