Friday, November 07, 2008

The question of chess

I am annoyed. Not very long ago I saw a good quote about chess, which I intended to use in this piece and which I shall paraphrase. I shall have to paraphrase it, because I no longer recall either the exact quote or the source. It was, if I recall at all correctly, about the limited creativity, or artistic content, of chess: and what it said, roughly, was that nothing can be called truly creative or artistic which leaves nothing behind it after it is finished.

I had thought it came from HG Wells, but his well-known critical piece on chess contains nothing of that sort - and I thought I had seen it in something Tom had written or sent me, but he denies all knowledge. So I'm totally tortured now, as Mr Pink said to Nice Guy Eddie on finding himself in a similar situation.

Anyway, creativity. Creativity and chess. And quizzes. I gave up quiz nights for chess, as it happens, and creativity was among the reasons why. It was a conscious thing.

I had stopped playing competitive chess for a few years, at university and afterwards, for no reason that I can now recall - and when I came back to it, I had been spending nearly every Thursday night for several years competing for a quiz team and rediscovering chess, I found quizzes dull, in comparison to chess. I found them uncreative.

It seemed to me that they comprised a recitation rather than an exploration, that they involved a regurgitation of knowledge rather than its development. A jaundiced view, perhaps, but then again most of my views are jaundiced. A consequence of experience, I like to claim. Especially on a Friday.

Anyway, ignore me, for my views are of little value. Especially on a Friday. And on this Friday especially. Because this evening, on BBC2 at 8pm, among the contestants on Mastermind will be one Mark Hannon, who I remember from my days in the Oxford and District Chess League: and Mark's specialist subject will be Bobby Fischer - Life and Career.

Best of luck to Mark. I played him once - the game is given below. Not very creative and despite my best efforts he didn't quite manage to win. I hope he does rather better tonight.

Now can anybody help me with that quote?


Anonymous said...


I read something of what you suggest is to be found in the preface to the paperback version of Bergman's Seventh Seal... but can't find Simon's copy of it so will leave it at that.

Managed to get back on time for Mastermind, only to find the wheel spokes snagging on a door stop, so reached my TV in time to hear Mark say "Worldwide Church of God" after the buzzer had sounded for the last question. hmmmm


ejh said...

So how did he get on?

Neill Cooper said...

Was the quote:
"Now chess is completely dead. It is all just memorisation and prearrangement. It’s a terrible game now. Very uncreative."
Bobby Fischer in 2006 on Icelandic radio

Neill Cooper

ejh said...

Afraid not.

Bit like the Nietzsche/God joke, that one, anyway....

Neill Cooper said...

You can see Mastermind on BBC iplayer:

Starts at 4.10

Neill Cooper

Anonymous said...

I listened to all the mp3s of Fischer's post 1999 interviews while preparing for the show that last inerview on icelandic radio is quite moving he seems to have been a bit more peaceful there.

Anonymous said...

I had an amazing coincidence today the day after the show went out I went to play in a chess tournament today and there was a 73 year old American chess master called James Sherwin there who was one of Bobby Fischer's opponents in one of his most famous games, almost all the rest of the have passed away by now. So I got him to autograph the game - Game 1 in Bobby Fischer's 60 Memorable Games arguably the best chess book every written.

While the day before I recorded it I got to see Boris Spassky at the Hay on Wye book festival.