Suppose I play EJ in chess—I think his rating is something like 2300 and mine is maybe, I dunno, 1400? Anyway, we play, and my only goal is for the games to last as many moves as possible, and EJ’s goal is to checkmate me in the minimal number of moves. Say I have to pay him $1000 * (50 – X), where X is the length of the game. (We can safely assume that he’ll win.)

So, here’s my question: What will X be? How long will I last, if my only goal is to last, and his only goal is to bring it to an end in as few moves as possible? 30, maybe? And what if you swap out EJ with Magnus? Could he checkmate me in 20 moves? I’m assuming that Magnus will be told some sense of my ability, so’ll know ahead of time that he doesn’t need to play safe.

Or am I being too pessimistic? If my only goal is to delay the inevitable, could I drag things out to 40 moves? For that matter, how long could EJ last against Magnus, if again his only goal were to maximize X? 60 moves? 70 moves?

I really have no idea. But some of you must know.