Monday, September 24, 2012


I could sleep when I lived alone.
Is there a ghost in my house?

When someone is no longer there, they're around so much more. I wonder whether the initial grieving process would affect a chess player's ability to play more than, say, a footballer, because of the predominantly mental demands. Grief undoubtedly manifests itself physically, but perhaps the faster pace and the constant interaction would sufficiently distract from the ongoing anguish. 

I've touched on this before, albeit in a rather different context. Nevertheless, the concept of ghosts potentially affecting concentration is pertinent to this scenario, quite apart from any implicit sadness.

Paying tribute by carrying on regardless can be an extraordinary gesture. French GM Christian Bauer did it very recently. Despite losing his baby daughter mere days previously, he travelled to Istanbul and scored 50% in the Olympiad, including an impressive save against David Howell. It was an episode reminiscent of Billy Sharp's trauma last year.

Ghosts are healthy; they keep us from forgetting. But they have a time and a place. If they only appeared when we wanted them to, their pejorative aura wouldn't exist. I'm not sure if I could cope with that uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of a loved one dying. I'm not sure whether I'd be brave enough to carry on, or even sufficiently together to make any decision. Because the idea of trying to dismiss that person from the scene, that chess, or football, or whatever, is more important than them at that moment; that's an idea I think I would struggle to cope with.

Yesterday was odd. I woke up to a message saying that a friend had died overnight. Punch drunk, I then stumbled upon a minefield of ambiguity on someone else's Twitter page. Fortunately, the plethora of It's been a pleasure and I'll miss you so much type messages were there because they were merely moving abroad. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Spending the rest of the day in a funk, I had to decide whether or not I would fulfil my obligations to this column. This isn't a direct tribute, but I think he'd enjoy the fact that his passing has turned me into an introspective wreck.


ejh said...

Nature of grief. You don't really want to do anything, you haven't the stomach or application to do anything constructive over any significant period, but you can actually operate properly over a period of hours and your energy tends to be concentrated when you do.

Or so I think. I achieved my highest (English) rating during a period of intense and long-lasting grief. Perhaps because it mattered less. Or because I was, without meaning to, putting more of myself into chess. Or both.

Jonathan B said...

Bryan Gunn (Norwich keeper a while back) also chose to play days after the death of his baby daughter iirc.

Chess (and football) can be absorbing. Sometimes it helps to be absorbed. At least in the short term.

Anonymous said...

My experience of grief is as ejh describes. Similar to a state of depression. I stopped playing chess for many months.

But I still kept in touch with chess by watching it online.

One tournament I watched the players through the webcams.

Observing life, but unable to interact with it.

I had become, a ghost.