Christmas knights

by Jonathan Speelman
2/20/2022 – Star columnist Jon Speelman continues to link chess positions with Monty Python sketches. Readers pitched in with further suggestions, and in particular one noted the unexpected absence of the expectedly ‘Unexpected Spanish Inquisition’!

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The Inquisition is here

Monty Python[Note that Jon Speelman also looks at the content of the article in video format, here embedded at the end of the article.]

A fortnight ago, I attempted, somewhat spuriously, to link chess positions to Monty Python sketches. As requested, readers pitched in with further suggestions, and in particular one noted the unexpected absence of the expectedly Unexpected Spanish Inquisition.

So this time I’m continuing with a few more, more or less tenuous, links. The Inquisitors will drop by when, I hope, I’ve diverted you sufficiently for them to be something of a surprise. But first from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The Knights who say Ni!

(Watch the sketch)

This nice finish was suggested in the comments to the previous column as an example of this.


But there was no hint of a shrubbery, and I was wondering what else to add when I came across this in the latest edition of Chess magazine as a Christmas solution. The clumps of Black pieces are at least plausibly shrubby, and I’m grateful to Chess’ editor Richard Palliser for kindly endorsing my plagiarism here.



There’s also some shrubbery allied with several horses in this study by a Dutch composer, which was championed a few years ago by Jim Plaskett. I knew of it but couldn’t recall more than the outline, and indeed finally tracked down on Luke McShane’s advice by googling “Plaskett’s puzzle”. I have a vague memory that it may have appeared in Chess too, possibly even as part of a Christmas competition.


The Bishop

(Watch the sketch)

In the Van Breukelen study it is the Bishop who is boss, and we continue with a famous study in which, with the help of a single fierce pawn, a bishop outplays a queen and knight.


The Dirty Hungarian Phrase Book

(Watch the sketch)

This was mentioned by a reader who suggested either a dirty trap in the Hungarian opening or a dirty trap laid by a Hungarian player.

I looked up the former and found a little video by Sagar Shah.


This sketch ends with the shopkeeper Graham Chapman being thumped by John Cleese's Hungarian. But perhaps it was “only a scratch”, as the Black knight claims.

The Black Knight 

(Watch the sketch)

An 18-year-old Garry Kasparov faces a 52-year-old Tigran Petrosian.


And finally.

The Spanish Inquisition

(Watch the sketch)


I think that’s enough Python for the moment, though please do send any other ideas for a later date. It did occur to me that the comfy chair might be the opening 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.g3 b5, which I sometimes encourage as White when I want a very quiet game – but I’ve also lost this position a couple of times, perhaps through getting too comfy...

In a fortnight we’ll move on to something a bit more serious. I haven’t decided what yet, so any suggestions in the comments would be most welcome.

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Jonathan Speelman, born in 1956, studied mathematics but became a professional chess player in 1977. He was a member of the English Olympic team from 1980–2006 and three times British Champion. He played twice in Candidates Tournaments, reaching the semi-final in 1989. He twice seconded a World Championship challenger: Nigel Short and then Viswanathan Anand against Garry Kasparov in London 1993 and New York 1995.


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