Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Short Organum for Chess

Or, 'That wacky Brecht: what will he think of next?'


'Yesterday, after a game of chess, Brecht said: "If Korsch comes we shall have to work out a new game. A game in which the positions do not always remain the same; where the function of the pieces changes if they have stood for a while on the same square: then they become either more effective or weaker. Like this, the game does not develop; it stays the same too long.'

Walter Benjamin, 'Conversations with Brecht', 12 July 1934.


ejh said...

Hmm. I can just imagine Bertie and Walt and Karl all sitting around deciding that Chess wasn't creative enough for them. But were any of them actually any good?

Martin Smith said... has a picture of "Brecht and Benjamin in Danish exile" playing chess.

Looks like Brecht (white) and Benjamin (black) and these moves:
1 e4 e6 2 f4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 g3 f6
5 f6 Qxf6

Brecht ECF 100; Benjamin ECF 120 maybe?

Morgan Daniels said...

I trust you're asking whether any of them were any good at *chess*, Justin? There are various references to the game throughout WB, but I doubt he was ever any good. He uses The Turk in his treatise on history ( and there are various snippets about the Cafe de la Regence in the Passagenwerk. Benjamin did also mention his chesscapades with Brecht on a few occasions, including this:

'I have a large garden at my disposal, in peace and quiet, and my desk in front of a window with a clear view of the sound. The small ships that sail past therefore represent my only distraction, apart from the daily chess interlude with Brecht.'

Letter to Gerhard Scholem, 8 July, 1938

Morgan Daniels said...

Great find Martin! Perhaps Waltie would have been less keen to play 1...e6 if he'd known that the failure of the French defence would in part cause his death.

ejh said...

Oh, good taste.

Morgan Daniels said...

I'm sorry. Don't get me wrong, Walter's my king and all. Red Star Streatham, what?