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Homer Vs. Abe, Tarkatower Vs. Botvinnik

This week’s episode of ‘The Simpsons’ featured a duel between father and son, played as a reenactment of a 1936 game between legendary Jewish grandmasters

Jonathan Zalman
February 21, 2017
Facebook / The Simpsons on FOX
Facebook / The Simpsons on FOX
Facebook / The Simpsons on FOX
Facebook / The Simpsons on FOX

There was a time when chess was all the rage in America—in my mind at least. A time when regular people played the game with regular purpose and looked up to chess’s best, like Bobby Fischer or Garry Kasparov or Paul Morphy. I like to think that we are living in a bit of a renaissance for one of the world’s most ancient and complicated games, thanks in large part to the rise of Magnus Carlsen, the current world champion. Carlsen, a handsome, brilliant, and sometimes unevenly tempered grandmaster from Norway, has a ton of sponsorships to his name and even his own app. But his appearance on The Simpsons this week is maybe the top of his fame pile. (Riddle me this: What other life apex exists outside of an appearance on The Simpsons? That’s right. There is none.)

Anyways. In Episode 15 of Season 28, titled “The Cad and the Hat,” there is a storyline in which Homer is revealed to be a ridiculously good chess player (thanks in large part to playing with his father as a boy), to the awe of Springfield. In the duo’s final showdown, Homer and Abe Simpson play a game that chess historian Olimpiu G. Urcan pointed out was a reenactment of a 1936 game between Mikhail Botvinnik and Savielly Tartakower, both world-class chess champions during their time.

Homer’s last game with his father is a reenactment of Botvinnik v Tartakower, Nottingham, 1936.

— Olimpiu G. Urcan (@OlimpiuUrcan) February 20, 2017

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.