Magic on The West Wing

Discussions of new films, books, television shows, and media indirectly related to magic and magicians. For example, there may be a book on mnemonics or theatrical technique we should know or at least know about.

Postby Guest » 06/11/03 10:02 AM

In a recent episode of The West Wing, there was a reference to Balducci. (It may not be a recent episode in the US, but it was recently transmitted in the UK.)

The president was playing chess, and his opponent played P-K4 (as white) to start, and the president observed that that was the Captain Evans Gambit. And yes, on whites fourth move, it transpires that it was the Evans Gambit. (And I happen to know that the Evans concerned was actually a Captain Evans.) But there was no way that black could know from the first move that white would employ the Evans Gambit.

So that made me think that the whole chess thing in The West Wing was a bit of a p*ss take.

And in the next game, the president announced that the opening was the Balducci. The Balducci isnt a chess opening that Ive ever heard of, but that proves nothing. More to the point, it isnt in my copy of the encyclopaedic Modern Chess Openings.

Coupled with the earlier preposterous statement about the Evans Gambit, I wondered whether this was a jokey allusion to the Balducci Levitation?

Dave
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Postby Jeff Eline » 06/11/03 10:43 AM

There was also an episode where one of the characters joins a poker game in progress and does a few moves with a deck of cards, including an in the hands riffle shuffle/waterfall. The actor is the one that took over for Rob Lowe and he was also the nerdy producer on Sports Nite (another Aaron Sorkin creation).
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Postby Pete McCabe » 06/11/03 12:28 PM

I've known Aaron Sorkin for years, and although he respects both chess and magic, he isn't particularly knowledgeable about either. I'm sure he didn't mean an allusion to the levitation.

Josh Malina is, aside from being a fine actor, an excellent poker player and has spent many hours with a deck of cards in his hands.

I've often thought Josh would have been a great magician had he wanted to; he's a skilled actor, is funny, has great timing, and has that kind of obsessiveness that makes people practice sleight-of-hand for hours.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 06/11/03 09:17 PM

I believe that the references to the two chess openings were simply the character's use of psyhic-out moves on the opponent. It will typically put fear in a player when you refer to moves by names and they have no idea what you are talking about.
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Postby Guest » 06/12/03 12:29 AM

Originally posted by Larry Horowitz:
I believe that the references to the two chess openings were simply the character's use of psyhic-out moves on the opponent. It will typically put fear in a player when you refer to moves by names and they have no idea what you are talking about.
Quite so. And I've done that too, and I've been on the receiving end of it too.

But for black to announce the Evans Gambit after white's first move is analogous to the spec, upon being asked to pick a card by a conjuror whose repertoire the spec doesn't know, naming the precise effect that is to follow. It's ridiculous.

More to the point, one of the named openings was genuine and well known, and the other was (I believe) a total fabrication. And it was the name of a conjuring effect.

By the way, are you related to the Al Horowitz of chess fame?

Dave
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