Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iglesias and the dangers of chess

El País, 29 November 2015:

If you've followed the news in the last couple of days you'll probably have read a little bit, some of it possibly accurate, about Podemos, Pablo Iglesias and the results of last weekend's election. What you probably won't have read is that Iglesias's aim for Podemos is expressed in a phrase borrowed from chess.
Pablo Iglesias
reads the opening sentence
has built a good part of his project on the basis of a metaphor which he borrowed from chess.
The metaphor, which of course is not at all a metaphor in the game itself, is "ocupar la centralidad del tablero", which, as I'm sure you can work out, is "occupy the centre of the board". The phrase was apparently included in the founding statement of Podemos when it was set up only last year.

I confess that I'd missed this up to now, despite being en buena parte a sympathiser with Podemos myself: alas, as my chess too often shows, I lost the capacity to pay attention years ago. But I'm not totally surprised, given that chess phraseology plays a generally larger part in Spanish than it does in English. I came across a good example just yesterday:

the story here is that Sporting de Gijón want to sign a Colombian centre back, Bernardo, but Premier League clubs are also sniffing around and there's no way they can compete. Not sure how exactly we'd choose to put that in sports-page English - maybe something like BERNARDO: PREMIER LEAGUE MAKES IT NO GO FOR SPORTING but in Spanish, the same idea can be conveyed as CHECKMATE TO SPORTING. Hard to translate properly, because in fact we don't usually say checkmate "to" anybody or anything.

How accurately the concept occupation of the centre is being interpreted by Pablo Iglesias, or Podemos, or commentators on either, I don't know and I don't think I'll try too hard to guess.

As far as I know Pablo isn't actually a chessplayer himself, although last November El País seemed to think otherwise.
Pablo Iglesias, from chess to the political struggle
They tell us
a Pablo Iglesias le gusta hablar de Juego de tronos, ajedrez y baloncesto
Pablo Iglesias likes to talk about Game of Thrones, chess and basketball
although the only any actual chess-related term of Pablo's they can come up with is the one we're already familiar with:
apeló a la mayoría social para "ocupar la centralidad del tablero" político, como en una partida de ajedrez.
he called on the majority in society to "occupy the centre of the (political) chessboard", like in a game of chess.
But they develop the theme themselves with several chess references:
para él ha llegado el momento de pasar de la teoría a la práctica, del ajedrez al asalto político
for him, the time has come to pass from theory to practice, from chess to the political offensive
desde entonces, hizo de la Eurocámara su tablero de ajedrez y su laboratorio de estrategia
since then, he's used the European Parliament as his chessboard and a laboratory for his strategy
and finally
y esta es la partida contra "la casta" que pretende disputar en el tablero español.
and that is the game, against the "caste", which he is hoping to contest on the chessboard of Spain.
I hope he wins.


AdamFF said...

I'd have thought "occupying the centre [ground]" to be the (rather clichéd) aim of a lot of politicians, each defining it as whatever they happen to believe.

ejh said...

That's so, but in those instances the idea is usually to move one's party to the centre ground, as opposed to produce ideas which themselves will occupy the centre.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

In the USA, the primary election is a struggle over the last rank.

Anonymous said...

The phrase "playing 3-dimensional chess on a 2-dimensional chessboard" is used to describe politics sometimes, or more recently Trump's provocations with the USA media, the way he manipulates them. I think I saw someone muse about Obama's "nine-dimensional chess" once, when his handlers were trying to assert he was out-thinking everyone else on some global situation.