Holocene Animals Club Chess Story Goes Sleepy Hollow

I’m afraid those weird happenings with the X Files parody files struck again last time, and most of episode 20 went out with episode 19. I’m sure eagle-eyed greenYgreyliens would have noticed anyway, and photo-memory greenYgreyliens will have memorised the file.

Hi, it’s G.G. Howling, sole XaW Files correspondent since Jack Wolpac went back On The Road to join the travel quest fantasy rambling XaW Filers. I was of course inspired by legendary Harry Potter wizard writer J.K. Rowling.

We’ve put all of episode 20 together for your full enjoyment. It sees the Holocene plot thicken at the end, with a Sleepy Hollow header reference.

Chapter 2 Episode 20

Inside the Hollow

Settling into the Hollow scene, I recognised all the holocene animals, as Love had described them earlier in the journey.

However, I saw a creature I didn’t recognise, one that looked totally out of place, like an elephant in the room. Was there something wrong with the club that Stella hadn’t noticed or acknowledged?

I felt suddenly sleepy, and just then, one of a pair of wild horses disappeared.

Were we in for another thrilling adventure; one I hadn’t foreseen, or maybe something to do with that morning’s dream?

After waking up in sudden thought I felt sleepy again, and after dozing off a little I awoke to find the other horse of the pair had also vanished.

As I looked closer, the elephant now seemed to look more like a mammoth – and a mammoth book at that: The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games.

I looked down closely at the floor for the first time, and now noticed it had a chequered pattern like a chess board.

That morning’s dream of Mikhail Tan re-entered my conscious mind, and I wondered if Tan had any relevance to what I was experiencing. I remembered his quote from my time in Moscow (You must take your opponent into a deep dark forest where 2+2=5, and the path leading out is only wide enough for one.), and wondered if I had an enemy in the room I was supposed to lead somewhere?

I thought the only thing that fitted the bill was the Mammoth book, so I rushed over, and sped read Tal’s entries in it.

I found his story about when he’d been playing chess and been distracted thinking about engineering techniques that could be used to save a drowning hippo, before giving up on the hippo to return to the game, whereupon he cheaply sacrificing one of his horse/knight pieces.

However, his lack of attention worked to his benefit, as his move so bewildered his opponent that it put him off, and Tal won the game. Tal was then congratulated on a genius move.

I was left in a quandary. If dreaming of Tal had relevance, did it mean my thought process caused the wild horses to disappear from the Hollow, as Tal gave up on the hippo?

However, Tal had been thinking of the hippo, lost an actual horse/knight, and then won the game. I had so far been thinking of an elephant and lost real horses. If I tried to get the horses back, would that mean my result would be the opposite to Tal’s: a defeat?

I lost my head for a while, making me think I should just get out of town, but that reminded me of the Sleepy Hollow movie, which also had a HHH theme of Hollow, Heads and Horses.

There was a headless horseman in that, and now horses were going missing, so I put two and two together, and came up with five.

That was it! In our time apart I must have become Stella’s opponent in some way, and having also read Tal’s advice she must have unconsciously led me down into the Holocene, which was set up like a forest to house all the Holocene animals.


Both The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess Games[5] and Modern Chess Brilliancies[6] include more games by Tal than any other player.

Tal’s thoughts on Wikipedia: I do not know from what associations the hippopotamus got into the chess board, but although the spectators were convinced that I was continuing to study the position, I, despite my humanitarian education, was trying at this time to work out: just how WOULD you drag a hippopotamus out of the marsh? I remember how jacks figured in my thoughts, as well as levers, helicopters, and even a rope ladder.
After a lengthy consideration I admitted defeat as an engineer, and thought spitefully to myself: “Well, just let it drown!” And suddenly the hippopotamus disappeared. Went right off the chessboard just as he had come on … of his own accord! And straightaway the position did not appear to be so complicated. Now I somehow realized that it was not possible to calculate all the variations, and that the knight sacrifice was, by its very nature, purely intuitive. And since it promised an interesting game, I could not refrain from making it.
And the following day, it was with pleasure that I read in the paper how Mikhail Tal, after carefully thinking over the position for 40 minutes, made an accurately calculated piece sacrifice.— Mikhail Tal, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal.

Sleepy Hollow was a 1999 Tim Burton movie inspired by “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow“, which was an early 19th century short story by American author Washington Irving (Wikipedia).

Link for multiple Ereaders at Smashwords.

Link for multiple Ereaders at Smashwords.