Saturday, May 2, 2009

When MacArthur met Ruy Rudy

When I was in high school, my mom worked for a summer at one of the parks in Alameda. Also working at the park in the off-season was MacArthur Lane, an NFL running back. Mac started his career for the then St. Louis Cardinals, got traded to the Green Bay Packers and ended with the Kansas City Chiefs. Besides being the running back for the Packers, Green Bay used him to kick off instead of their field goal kicker, a little soccer style guy named Chester Marcol. Mac couldn't kick it quite as deep as Chester, but he made up for that by not being afraid of hitting people.

I was very keen on chess when I was a kid, and Mac played as well. It was popular in the Cardinal clubhouse, and Mac wanted to get better, so I gave him a few lessons. I taught him a few opening move strategies. He wanted to know what "the best" was, so I taught him the first moves that get to the position known as the Ruy Lopez, which is any game that starts as follows.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5

MacArthur, like most people in the 20th Century, didn't know anyone named Ruy, so he called the opening the Rudy Lopez.

Once white moves the king's pawn to e4, some players playing black will opt out of the Ruy Lopez line by playing e6, which leads to the French Defense, or c5, the Sicilian Defense, which was very popular back in the Sixties and Seventies. I often played c6, The Caro-Kann, which wasn't terrible and a lot of opponents didn't study it, so I could sometimes gain an advantage by knowing the opening variations a little better.

When MacArthur played, he liked to give a running commentary at the start of the game. Playing white, he always opened with the king's pawn. The commentary would go something like this.

1. e4

"Alright now, now we're goin'. You know where it's goin'. Don't mess with that other stuff, you know what's gonna happen now..."

This was him lobbying me away from the Sicilian or French or Caro-Kann.

1. ... e5
2. Nf3

"Alright now! You're gonna meet him. I'm gonna introduce you. It's all over but the shoutin' now!"

Black does have options other than Nc3 now, but they are generally inferior. And anyway, the next part was too much fun.

2. ... Nc3

Now MacArthur would play


slamming the bishop down with authority while shouting "Rrrrrrr-UDY!"

And that's the story of when I introduced MacArthur Lane to Ruy Rudy Lopez, and how Mac would re-acquaint me to Rudy whenever I played black.


CDP said...

I love this story.

Matty Boy said...

Coming from you, that means a lot.