Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Night Train to Lisbon

There was a pause.
'Gregorius?' Doxiades asked at last.
'How do you say chess in Portuguese?'
Gregorius could have hugged him for the question. 'Xadrez,' he said and the dryness in his mouth had disappeared.


I'll let you read the novel for yourself, but rest assured that that isn't the only chess reference. I enjoyed it irrespective of the chess content, even if the translation from the original German was patchy in places, and I'm looking forward to the screen adaptation.

Gregorius is an introspective soul and he derives a lot of pleasure from the narrative of a game of chess. I think a lot of players would relate to his desire for life to mirror art; for risk-taking to be rewarded and for winning the battles with yourself. I found him very reminiscent of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse.

Gregorius waited. One wrong word, one wrong gesture, and Eça wouldn't say another word. He went to the chessboard and looked at the game in progress. He had to risk it. 'Hastings 1922. Alekhine beats Bogolyubov,' he said.

Eça opened his eyes and looked at him in amazement. 'Tartakower was once asked whom he considered the greatest chess player. He said: "If chess is a battle - Lasker; if it's a science, Capablanca; if it's an art: Alekhine."'

'Yes,' said Gregorius. 'The sacrifice of both rooks reveals the imagination of an artist.'

p. 132

 Position after 29. Rxa5

 Position after 32. Rxf8+

It's hard to look past the beauty of this position. Black plays 32... Kh7 and basks in the inadequacy of white's material advantage. Art doesn't have to be striking; it can sneak up on you. In 4 moves, Alekhine turns something everyday into something immortal. That's the mark of a true artist.

A Literary Reference Index


Robert Pearson said...

Part II of the Best of Chess Blogging
is now posted!

Jonathan B said...

That Bogo-Alekhine game has got to be the most well-known Dutch Defence game of all time.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the best known Dutch that BLACK ever won, Jonathan....

I would say that Ed Lasker v Geo Thomas has the overall award, however??

Jonathan B said...

Hmm, you might have a point there nonny.