Genius or Fraud?

Isaac Newton accomplished quite a bit. He was an inventor, though of course no one truly needs some of the more highbrow stuff – either this Calculus, or the one with numbers and symbols. He was also a theoretician who happened upon gravity. Newton is supposed to have had one of the highest IQs, by inference since they didn’t have such tests in the 17th century, even among geniuses. He wrote theological works and found time to study optics. It’s a luminous CV, but one thing he couldn’t do was play chess.

There is record of him owning a board, but no evidence exists of his game scores. I surmised the other day I could “wipe the board with him” and set out to prove it. Of course he’s quite dead, so a human being had to play as Isaac.

“Isacc” agreed to calculate variations well, but without a conscious plan. A genius unfamiliar to chess but possessing formidable analytic skills might play this way. Isaac agreed on forgoing any positional considerations not noted down in literature extant to Newton. His technical endgame technique would be purposefully hideous and we decided that Newton, cagey fellow, would play a random opening to try to get his more modern opponent away from a theoretical struggle. Here is how the old coot fared. He has black in a Game in 30.


1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. f3 {I’m trying to convert this Pirc into a Saemisch
King’s Indian. Black can play the lines of the Austrian Attack, this has some
similarities, without issue since white’s f4 will take two moves. F3 attempts
to “strongpoint” the e4 square.} g6 4. c4 Bg7 {They didn’t really fianchetto
bishops back then, nor did they have Indian Defenses. Of course, without
mixing it up a little an older player would be lost in a theoretical jungle
against even an average tournament player.} 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Bd3 Nc6 7. Nge2 e5 8.
d5 Ne7 9. O-O Nd7 {Perhaps better for white is just to develop and take the
dark squares. He’s solid and has a spatial advantage. He’s proven what he
needed to out of the opening.} 10. b4 a5 11. bxa5 {B5 would be better because
I can control the hole on c5 thanks to my queen. That knight on c3 isn’t going
anywhere, anyhow.} Rxa5 12. Nb5 Nc5 13. Bc2 c6 14. dxc6 bxc6 {Isaac gave me a
preponderance of pieces in my area of attack. Let’s see if he can deny me the
space I need for my plans.} 15. Qxd6 cxb5 16. Qxc5 {This pawn sacrifice is
quite exceptional and enough to make black slightly better. Not bad for a
human computer.} bxc4 17. Qxc4 Qb6+ 18. Rf2 Ba6 19. Qb3 Rb5 20. Qa3 Rc8 {This
is quite a critical section of the game. Black is under no threat, and I like
his practical chances. Unfortunately Newton doesn’t know how to optimize his
piece placement.} 21. Be3 Qb7 22. Bd3 {Black is now threading a fine line
between activity and chaos in the ranks.} Bf8 23. Bxb5 Bxb5 24. Bc5 {Not as
good as the simple Qc2 which breaks one pin and engages another. I was in love
with the a3-f8 diagonal but it’s time to change plans.} Nc6 25. Bxf8 Ra8 26.
Qb3 Kxf8 27. a4 Qa7 28. Qxb5 1-0

Sorry old boy. We might not do a lot in the world today, but we did build a society where mediocrity can flourish. Take that back to the 17th century with you.





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