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From backwards boards to king-flipping, Hollywood can’t get chess right (atlasobscura.com)
36 points by petercooper 102 days ago | hide | past | web | 49 comments | favorite

Hollywood can't get anything right: real police don't act like movie police; real soldiers don't act like movie soldiers; real programmers don't act like movie programmers; real lovers don't act like movie lovers; real clergymen don't act like movie clergymen; real businessmen don't act like movie businessmen — and to the extent that any real people do act like movie characters, it's due to the influence of movies.

What really worries me is that most of us have far more false experience of most of the world than we have real experience: how many of us know much about chess, or police work, or soldiering, or programming (okay, that one HN has down pretty well, I hope), or love (I hope most of HN has that one down at least a bit), or church, or business? And yet no doubt all of us have very strong opinions about these things, due in no small part to … the false movie experiences we've had.

"real people do act like movie characters, it's due to the influence of movies."

Yes, somewhat more bizarre Hollywood influence is that people fall down[0] when they are shot (even though, bullet doesn't have enough kinetic energy to force it), just because they saw this happening in movies.

0. http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2013/07/why-do-people-f...

Here is some WWI footage [1] Look at 0:33. See how they fall down (this may also be from shrapnel). The simple answer is that balance requires active input from the brain to be maintained. Without it you won't be up for long.

Your article is only about getting blown back by the impact which is generally reserved for only the cheesiest of 80s action movies.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iL52P2vH3l0 WARNING: Not excessively gruesome, but it is war footage

OP says noone flips their king to resign, well I do, but I've never played competitively. Aren't most games in movies casual? If they were all played with rigourous application of professional rules then that would be unrealistic too.

I've seen people playing with the board oriented wrongly, not more than a couple of times admittedly. Is the reason for it being so common in films that they've flipped the shot a lot of the time?

>OP says noone flips their king to resign

As in, tip the king? I play chess professionally and I do it especially when it's a close game but I know I am losing and there is no point in playing (unimportant match in tournament, last game with no consequences etc).

I tip the king, shake my opponent's hand and walk away.

There's a whole list of alternative ways to play chess, [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_variants

Yeah, I play chess sometimes, and I could not care less about how the board is oriented.

this raises an interesting question: does one side have an advantage with an incorrectly oriented board? Googling it doesn't really seem to give an answer.

Most results that I found note that it probably does not affect the game that much. If you're planning to write down moves it may become confusing when someone with a correctly set up board tries to replay it.


If you set up the pieces the same way, you literally just play with different colors for the fields.

If you mirror your setup of pieces because you want the white queen to go to the white field, then you just play mirrored chess. Apply this transformation again to obtain the actual chess game.

They cite ornithologists, biologists, archiologists -- and the worst off are chess players? No, the worst off are hackers who will cringe at almost any movie today.

Probably our consulting fee is just too high for Hollywood.

Judging by my wife's comments when we watch shows, lawyers are probably even worse off for inaccuracies (and this often goes just as well for shows that are about the justice system). But they also get a lot more screen time.

Interesting. Can you ask her if there's a movie or tv show that gets it mostly right?

My Cousin Vinny.

My sister and my brother-in-law are both lawyers. They love this movie. Their professors all love this movie. And from earlier this week: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13885659

While trying to answer my own question, I found a pretty neat site with lots of posts about how law is portrayed in pop culture.


Their take on "The Lincoln Lawyer": http://lawandthemultiverse.com/2011/05/27/the-lincoln-lawyer...

My Cousin Vinny is usually mentioned at this point.

She couldn't think of one off of the top of her head, but she mentioned The Good Wife (again, a show about lawyers) as being particularly bad.

She saw My Cousin Vinny, but long before she had studied law, so she doesn't remember it well enough to say.

IANAL, but I have some in the family and I believe the answer will be 'My Cousin Vinny' of all things.

Or military personnel, who don't even see actors wearing uniforms and giving salutes properly.

A funny thing; one movie I've seen called out on different occasions by naval veterans as actually getting a lot right, particularly in how people interact in the service, was the comedy Down Periscope.

You think chess players have it bad with depictions? 75% (based on my non-scientific estimate) of actors/directors in Hollywood don't know how to hold a gun (and somehow hire a complete staff without a single person that does too). And guns come up way more often than chess. Not to mention many movie/tv sets have specialized people who obtain the guns and who, I assume, know better. You'd think they'd at least tell the actors to keep their finger off the trigger. If Hollywood was real, completely accidental and preventable shootings would be the #1 cause of death in the world. #2 would probably be PTSD from hearing fake gun sounds anytime a gun is shown in a scene. Let's face it. Hollywood simply doesn't try very hard and it shows.

The one that really bothers me is when they show someone hotwiring a modern car solely by pulling wires, stripping them, and touching them together. Aside from the obvious issues with transponder enabled keys, they don't even address the steering wheel column lock.

And, it's not hard to get it "kind of right". At least have the thief plug in some kind of "transponder bypass" gadget and mechanically break the steering lock.

My first car, a total banger, was once stolen and then abandoned a few streets away. The thieves broke the ignition and steering lock, which I couldn't afford to get fixed. So for the next year or so, until the thing finally died, I had to hotwire it every time to start.

It never stopped being fun, as I would pretend I was in some kind of 'Gone in 60 seconds' situation, even though the car in question was a rusted-through Metro. And the looks I got from passers-by, especially in car parks, were priceless.

EDIT: And as they also broke the door lock, I could totally unlock it with a screwdriver.

Did something similar: I had a (couple, actually..) Citroën 2 CV with a broken lock. My "No money to fix it" solution was to have the wires somewhat exposed and use a screwdriver (obviously anything metal would've been ok) to short it when I had to start the car.

My door lock worked fine, although I noticed that it was so ~crap~ that I could actually unlock it with the key of other cars of the same type. A couple field tests confirmed that I could unlock _other_ 2 CVs with my key as well, on a regular basis.

My uncle had an old construction truck that was so jerry-rigged it was hilarious.

It was a diesel truck, but the glow plug igniter (or heater, whatever you call it) had gone out, so it was wired to a couple of toggle switches, so you had to flip one switch, wait like a minute or two, then flip a second switch, wait some more, then flip them off, then start up. They were in some kind of pull out tray (probably an old ash tray or the like) from the dash, and the original preheater would still turn on the light on the dash, but not actually heat the plugs, so it was a built in theft deterrent, since you couldn't actually start that way.

Then at some point, someone either ran over his keys or dropped them in a cement pour (I don't remember anymore), but he had to move the truck for some reason, so he busted the ignition cylinder, so he used a stubby screw driver he kept in the cup holder to start it.

The tailgate was kept up by two chunks of rebar slid through holes in the side of the truck into the tailgate. The bed of the truck was rebuilt out of recycled lumber and plywood from demolition work. Grill was rebuilt out of metal mesh that broke off one of his backhoes I think. That truck was a hell of a sight. Wish I had a picture of it.

Is there a good teardown you know of online of a modern transponder-based system? I did some quick digging and came up empty.

The reason I'm curious is that every time I've looked inside a consumer-grade electronic lock, all of the "security" is in the part that's physically accessible to the user, and then there's just a pair of wires that goes to a relay or an I/O pin (+ground) in the main control system. i.e. it's generally trivial to just figure out what needs to be done with those two wires, and forget looking at the innards of the security mechanism entirely.

Caveat: I have only examined a handful of such devices, not conducted an extensive survey.

In this case, what I'm imagining is that since the car half of the transponder pair needs to be near the ignition switch[1], there's a decent chance that it's a complete module with maybe 3-4 pins connecting it to the rest of the car - power, ground, and either "key detected" pin or relay power.

Obviously it would be safer to have the module simply route signals between the ECU and the key, so that bypassing the lockout would require tampering with the ECU, but my limited experience described above makes me think there's a non-zero probability that at least some manufacturers went with the self-contained module approach.

[1] In at least some configurations. For cars where the transponder works anywhere near the vehicle, this would not be the case.

Edit: replaced asterisk with footnote indicator to avoid italics in the wrong place.

All the ones I'm aware of involve the ECU. That is relatively recent though. You can see the dramatic drop in auto theft that starts around 2007, when decent implementations had been going to all cars for some time, and not just luxury models. http://www.iii.org/issue-update/auto-theft (you'll have to scroll quite a bit to get to the year by year stats)

Anecdotal, but I hear most thefts now involve either stealing the key, or towing the vehicle, or simply stealing old cars without this tech.

Or for that matter going old-school and jamming a big screwdriver into the keyhole.

Why would anyone expect Hollywood to get anything right? From chess to gun fights to sword fights to relationships to computing to anything.

Hollywood isn't in the business of accurate depictions.

There was an article recently about a thriving business for ex-military extras. It was specifically about Rogue One and that their use gives a degree of authenticity that extra otherwise wouldn't have in terms of how they interact with, or even just sit in a cockpit. The same for the ground combat scenes.

Years ago when the BBC made a drama series about a cathedral choir they found it easier to take choristers and teach them to act than to teach actors to sing. Whilst the overall plots or concepts may still be greater than life there are directors that appreciate a bit of underlying accuracy.

As someone not in the business, I'm wondering. Are Hollywood movies accurate in their depictions of movie making?

Usually not:


Then again, based on the very large index of TV Tropes pages called 'Artistic License - X', it's pretty clear that Hollywood movies (and other media) are usually inaccurate in their depictions of just about anything. It's entertainment, it doesn't have to be accurate (and in a lot of cases is usually better if it isn't).

Of course when you do accurate depicions, the piece of film can "feel" so much better. We people can kinda detect things that are "off" and not as we remember them and that can push you away from suspension of disbelief and thus enjoyment of the film.

It's easy to fall into the hole of uncanny valley if too much things just don't add up. Keeping things realistic can also add more non-manufactured conflict that makes content more interesting - e.g. see for example The Expanse, where a lot of conflict of the story also lies in the fact that the writers understood how space physics works.

Eh, on the other hand we have http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RealityIsUnrealis...

At this point many things cannot be done in a realistic manner because it would break the viewers' suspension of disbelief...

yes - as an example, how visceral heat robbery feels is owed to how much it looks and plays like an actual, tense shootout


An accurate depiction of life has lots of things wrong in it though. It's easy to fall in to the hole of imagining an accurate depiction is one in which everything is precise and correct.

> It's easy to fall in to the hole of imagining an accurate depiction is one in which everything is precise and correct.

Hmm, what do you mean? Isn't that the definition of accuracy?

To enlarge on the point I often hear people mis-speak, but that never happens in a film, or someone hiccups, or farts at an inopportune time (rather than for comedic effect). These things would be repeated in an accurate portrayal of people but seldom appear in films. Accuracy in entertainment media is over-rated and can impinge on a story's telling.

In academia, yes. In life, however, things are just wrong. For example, a Hollywood where things are so simplified as to be unrealistic, is a real part of real life.

As an amateur who plays chess once every 5 years -- We tip the king, I didn't know there is a correct rotation, check mates are definitely out of the blue and someone could definitely see check mates that us (the players) doesn't.

I am sure we've had illegal positions come up as well, but that one I can understand.

I'm 1500 player in Chess.com, and I still miss out on "Checkmate in 2" or "Checkmate in 3" situations on occassion. That's why I review every single one of my games with Stockfish / SCID vs PC.

Generally speaking, those Checkmates I miss are Queen or Rook sacrifices, or "Smothered Mates". There are plenty of checkmates that are obvious 10+ moves ahead... but if you aren't explicitly looking for a smothered mate, it tends to be hard to see IMO.

I can live with odd chess layouts, but the one that always gets me is the Symbol barcode scanner that's mounted as a dash ornament in the new Star Trek movies.

Every time there's a bridge scene I can't help but look for it and "fondly" remember my barcode development days.

When they say the board in The Seventh Seal is "set up totally backwards", do they just mean that the board needs to be rotated 90°?

Well, if you rotate 180° its ok again, so it's either a 90° error or where the King/Queen are standing on the wrong board colour, sides of each other (e.g. Queen on right), or not facing their opposite piece (K facing K).

I'm fairly certain when I was a kid that I made all those mistakes when setting up the board.

Not sure. But when I think of backwards, I think of the queen and king in switched positions.

From "The Net" with Sandra Bullock: "75.748.86.91" - well, it's more comprehensible than IPV6, I suppose!

That one is more likely to have been on purpose, like the "555" telephone numbers. That movie is from a time when using IP addresses directly was more common, and they probably wanted to avoid problems in case the number they chose was in use for something. Nowadays we have RFC 5737, one of its networks being already available in RFC 3330, but the film is from half a decade earlier.

Does DNS allow numeric domain names? I presume ICANN wouldn't sell us the .91 TLD, but hypothetically it could be an awesome trick to weird out all those smartasses who think they know everything about IP address validation :)

There are numeric domain names, but no numeric TLDs. You can see all the current TLDS here: http://data.iana.org/TLD/tlds-alpha-by-domain.txt

The only rule I can find is from RFC 1738 (http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc1738.txt)

"The rightmost domain label will never start with a digit, though, which syntactically distinguishes all domain names from the IP addresses"

would 75.748.86.91.mydomaininmysearchlist.com work?

Yes. You can register a numeric domain also, like 123.com or whatever, though I assume at least all the 1, 2, and 3 digit ones are taken.

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