Pawns at the Hawthorns
Date: Friday 1st October 2010
When pundits get sufficiently too far up their waste-chutes, they can sometimes be heard to remark that "football is like a game of chess". Even the highest-profile managers can be prone to this preposterous notion. In May 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson remarked, "Football is like chess, lose your focus and you're dead." Chess can be many things, but death does not usually follow from a lapse in concentration. I once lost my bishop quite early on, because I went into auto-pilot for a basic Ruy Lopez Spanish Opening. It made things tricky, but I survived the encounter alive.
There are several chess-like games, based on the game of football. In The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, Pritchard lists five under the name of 'Football Chess' including the one invented in 1951 by Joseph Boyer, one of the most productive inventors of chess variants. The game is played on a board of 9x9 squares, checkered, with black squares in the corners. Each player has a king, a queen, two rooks, two knights, and two bishops, i.e., the usual set of pieces without pawns. There is an additional piece, not owned by any player: the ball.
Fortunately we don't have two knights - just one (you see - the opening two paragraphs were going somewhere!) - and there has been significant debate this week about our best CB pairing for this game. Should Knight play alongside Queen Cahill or should Bishop Ricketts retain his place? Should we sacrifice our Knight and play the Bishop and Queen in a bold Kings Indian defense? My guess is that Coyle is more old-school Russian grandmaster and will adopt a conservative approach, sticking with what he knows best - a Queen/Knight strategy.
Bishop Ricketts could be deployed elsewhere, though - to reward his recent good form and storming forward forays. Rook Robinson seems immovable, especially since he has switched to White and will be especially pumped, but Rook Steinner might be looking over his shoulder.
Elswhere most of the pieces are available for deployment, midfield Pawn Davis is still injured though. (See what I did there?) It'll be a surprising opening gambit that doesn't see Muamba, Holden, Petrov and Lee pawns supporting the advanced Mandy and Davo pawns.
As for West Brom, their players will welcome back their Czech Mate, striker Roman Bednar, though after their success against grandmaster Wenger whether he is used in the opening Gambit remains to be seen.
Five out of Seven of the last encounters between these two teams have been stalemates. You'd have to go back to 2004 for a West Brom win and to 2005 for a Bolton win.
My guess is that there won't be many goals in this, and that it might be a cagey affair which could go either way by an odd goal. Others might say it will be a bit like a game of chess....