January’s puzzle was created by the great novelist and poet Vladimir Nabokov. White to move and mate in two.
Bring your puzzle solution to Bookman’s on Speedway Family Chess Night, 6:30-8:30pm, first Wednesday of every month–in January, Wednesday the 4th–and win a free prize. The whole family, new and experienced players are all invited to join us to play or learn to play chess.
The Poetics of Chess
Poetry and chess teamed up at a recent Tucson event held on the lawn of the Himmel Park Library. The Emily Dickinson Tribute Chess Tournament attracted chess enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels for a three round chess tournament, gourmet lunch and reading of Emily Dickinson poems. The event was co-sponsored by Kore Press Big Read Project, 9Queens and the Tucson Public Library.
Two Emily Dickinson poems read at the chess tournament addressed mental focus:
I felt a cleavage in my mind
As if my brain had split;
I tried to match it, seam by seam,
But could not make them fit.
The thought behind I strove to join
Unto the throught before,
But sequence raveled out of reach
Like balls upon a floor.
The brain within its groove
Runs evenly and true;
But let a splinter swerve,
‘Twere easier for you
To put the water back
When floods have slit the hills,
And scooped a turnpike for themselves,
And blotted out the mills!
Poetics and chess cross at many junctures. Beauty, structure, precision, concentration and seeking the essential purity of a form are not all that the subjects share. The language used to describe chess concepts and play often wax poetic.
In the recent HBO documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World, Dr. Anthony Saidy speaking of Game 6 of the 1972 World Championship match between Fischer and Boris Spassky, describes the game as a “symphony of placid beauty.” Fischer’s triumph over Spassky was “a beautiful game. . .a model of precision,” says former US Chess Champion Larry Evans. About Fischer, Boris Spassky told the press, “Fischer is a man of art.”
Saidy writes in his book The World of Chess (co-authored with Norman Lessing) that, “A most felicitous definition of chess–from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia is: ‘an art appearing in the form of a game.’ For indeed, the element of beauty is its most captivating quality.” The poetics of chess explores beauty.
In the book Bobby Fischer Goes to War, the authors David Edmonds and John Eidinow write–“Genius in chess is a magical fusion of logic and art–an innate recognition of pattern, an instinct for space, a talent for order and harmony, all mixed with creativity to fashion surprising and hitherto new formations.” This is an apropos description of poetry.
The great conceptional artist and chess master Marcel Duchamp proclaimed, “Chess has the visual possibilities of art. It is a mechanistic sculpture that presents exciting plastic values. . . .The transformation of the visual aspect to the grey matter is what always happens in chess and what should happen in art.” As Duchamp more famously stated, “From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”
More about the beauty and art of chess in puzzles to come.
Bobby Fischer Goes to War, David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Harper Collins, New York, 2004
Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, Francis M. Nauman, Bradley Bailey, Jennifer Shahade, Readymade Press, New York, 2009
The World of Chess, Anthony Saidy and Norman Lessing, Random House, New York, 1974
Solution to last month’s puzzle taken from a game with Judit Polgar vs Xie Jun, Amber Rapid Monte Carlo 1996: 1.Bh7+. . .Kxh7 2.Qxf7+. . .Bg7 3.Qxg7#