Sunday, March 04, 2007

What is Chess?

Recently we were wondering whether Chess was a sport.

So what exactly is chess? I lifted the following from Plaskett's book, "Playing to Win"...

“Chess is a mixture of science, art and sport, and for some time past mostly sport.” (A. Karpov, 1975)

“Chess for me is art.” (G. Kasparov, 1985)

“Chess is the art which expresses the science of logic just as music is the art which expresses the science of acoustics.” (M. Botvinnik)

“Well of course it’s a sport!” (N. Short, 1983)

“I just move the little wooden things.” (A. Miles, 1976)

“I became accustomed to thinking of chess as an art, and have never regarded it as anything else, for all the science and sport involved in it. And moreover, an art which in some ways is much closer to music than it is customary to think. Perhaps chess and music are drawn together by laws of harmony and music which are difficult to formulate and difficult to grasp, or perhaps by something else.” (V. Smylsov, 1983)

“Chess is bigtime sport.” (A. Miles, 1985)

“Chess is work.” (W. Browne)

“Asked what they valued most in chess Jan Smejkal replied ‘the depth of a strategic idea’, Ivan Radulov replied, ‘the beauty of a sacrifice’, but Vladimir Tukmakov answered characteristically ‘the courageous struggle’.” (A. Soltis, The Younger School of Soviet Chess)

“I think chess is just a game.” (L. Portisch, 1979)

“My greatest satisfaction comes from crushing the opponent’s ego.” (R. Fischer)

“What I like about chess is that so many people play it for so many different reasons.” (J. Nunn, 1983)


ejh said...

Forget "courageous", it's just a bloody struggle.

Jonathan B said...

"Chess is annoying" would be my personal contribution

Tom Chivers said...

I think in a reflective moment, chess is an incomplete beauty. Over the board, chess is more an imcomplete murder.

Anonymous said...

Dave Norwood GM said "chess is truth". In so many walks of life (especially work related) you run into politics, people purporting to be skilled at something when really they are just skilled at making themselves appear good etc etc. You think you are good at chess, know how to play "correctly", have read all literature worth reading- well however much you talk a good game, your results say it all. It is down to you.

Tom Chivers said...

Isn't there a powerful Lasker quote along these lines Andrew?

ejh said...

On the chess board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.

I dunno though, most of the time we can play pretty badly and get away with it.

Jonathan B said...

Plaskett makes more or less exactly that point in Playing to Win.

Referring to Game 16 in the 2nd Kasparov - Karpov match (that's the one Gazza won after sacrificing a pawn in the opening from the Black side of an ...e6 sicilian), he notes that all the commentators at the time hurled praised at Kasparov for his play. The opening was unsound, though, as Karpov proved when he duffed up van der Wiel in the same line a few months later.

Kasparov was, in reality, playing very badly and may well have lost the match if Karpov had found the refutation in time.

However, that said, following on from Andrew's comments, I have to say that part of what appeals to me about chess is that I stand, or more often fall, on my own merits with nobody else to muck things up/make improvements on my behalf.

Having spent much of the last 15 years working for large local authority organisations I have to say this is a very attractive quality indeed.

ejh said...

Oh, for sure. Or another way to put it is that chess appeals to those of us who are not very good at subordinating ourselves to a team or taking orders!

I'm reminded of Geoffrey Boycott's observation (how serious, I don't know) that if he had his time again he'd be a golfer rather than a cricketer.

Tom Chivers said...

I think the reason I play chess is due to a historical accident. A neighbour's son played, he taught me, and there was a nice weekly club at a nearby Library for juniors, which I enjoyed mostly from a social perspective, from the age of seven. Through that I eventually crept up to the level when you start to understand chess enough to appreciate it for its own sake. After that, you never really quite the game.

I don't think I'm a very natural chess player. In IQ tests I always score lowest on the memory part, then on spatial visualisation. Although solely within the context of chess, my memory usually does a lot better than normal.

It is true I'm quite mentally independent and this causes problems for me with the sheer fact of having to work. (Hence I'm part-time.) But I have to say, I don't really recognize in myself that the opportunity to 'express' that indepence is really part of the appeal of chess for me.

Jonathan B said...

Interesting interview with crime writer Ian Rankin on the tv over the weekend. Mark Lawson whether he'd have been a copper or a criminal if things had turned out differently. Rankin said he'd have been a hopeless policeman as he had no 'team player' in him whatsoever.

I have very much got the temperament to be a writer - just not the writing ability sadly.

The thing I like most about the chess/individuality thing is that nobody leans over my shoulder halfway through the game and says "we've decided not to try to checkmate our opponents anymore. These days we want to promote as many pawns to bishops as possible."

At work ... it aint so.

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts (though I'm probably not thinking straight as it's late and I've had a few glasses of wine):
- Allied to the question "what is chess?" is the question "why do I play chess?" (which seems to be what most of the comments are about).
- Personally, I believe (though I haven’t much thought about it) that I play chess because I like to switch off for a few hours and absorb myself in something, probably in the vain hope of producing something of artistic merit but also because I get a kick out of grafting.
- Could playing chess be considered a craft?
- I think the comments about chess and individuality and being a team-player are interesting. I like the idea of being a team-player but often find myself up again those in authority; does that make me not a team-player?…

ejh said...

Well my boss always used to say that.