Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, Boris, there is a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit

Many years ago an eight-year old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, looking for the truth about Santa Claus. The quick response by veteran newsman Francis P. Church, which was printed as an unsigned editorial on Sept. 21, 1897, has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial. Some ninety-plus years later, in BDG WORLD 37, November 1989, I imagined a letter from Virginia's twin brother, Boris, with similar doubts about the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. I provided a parallel answer...
One of the joys of editing this modest little paper comes in the letters we receive from our readers. For example...
Dear Editor-- 
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. Papa says, "If you see it in BDG WORLD, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit?
Boris O'Hanlon

Boris, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see in ECO. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Boris, whether they be grandmasters' or children's are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Boris, there is a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. It exists as certainly as truth and courage and imagination exist, and you know that they abound and give to your chess its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! It would be as dreary as if there were no Santa Claus. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in Sozins and Scheveningens. The eternal light with which chess fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the Blackmar-Diemer! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus. You might get your papa to hire men to watch all the grandmasters in all the tournaments to see a Blackmar-Diemer, but even if they did not see one, what would that prove? Grandmasters don't play BDGs, but that is no sign there is no Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor grandmasters can see. Did you ever see Santa on your rooftop? Of course not, but that's no proof he wasn't there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in chess.

You tear apart the chess clock and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest grandmaster, not even the united strength of all the strongest grandmasters that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Boris, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Blackmar-Diemer Gambit! Thank God! it lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Boris, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, it will continue to make glad the heart of chess.
--Tom Purser, with appreciation and apologies to Francis P. Church and the New York Sun. You can see a clipping of the original "Yes, Virginia..." editorial and a photo of Frank Church here.