Friday, 2 April 2010

Chess Fantasia: 1001 Reasons Why The Game Is Important In The 21st Century (Particularly In Education): A Personal View By Matthew Devereux

Image above: Marcel and Teeny Duchamp and John Cage playing chess, 1968. The photograph is by Kubota Shigeko (久保田 成子)

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The image above right is the Wolfson building, St.Anne's college, Oxford University. where I studied Modern History, St.Anne's third team football and the art of reading tea leaves between 1996 and 1999. Please see point number 107 below.

Play me at (handle = amadeusdevereux)

PLEASE NOTE: I have attempted to provide sources for all images used in this blog. I will happily remove any based on copyright if requested. I have provided links with images to make sure that the people responsible are credited to the best of my knowledge and ability. Ideally when I get my book deal the illustrations in the book will be fresh and original commissions given to up-and-coming artists around the world. I am currently building a spreadsheet with some of the names of people I would like to commission. Well, I say "currently building" but there is a considerable proportion of kipping going on (English slang for sleep).

The author of this text is not to be confused with British grandmaster Maxim Devereaux. He is also not to be confused with BBC Radio One DJ Dev. He is also emphatically not Jenny Devereux, UK floral printmaker. He is also neither UK photographer Lucy Devereux nor Mark Devereux.

I have chosen the number 1,001 for this blog based on the Scheherazade (شهرزاد) story from the Arabian Nights. She had to tell 1,001 stories in order to attain her freedom. Almost hidden in the name Scheherazade is the word 'echecs', the French word for chess. Arabian Nights can obviously be wordplayed on in relation to the knight, as, for example, in the work of Siouxsie and the Banshees. A household where chess is centre-stage is a happy house.

In honour of Dodie Smith's "101 Dalmations", I initially put 101 love letters up here. Later on I couldn't help resist the temptation to sneak another five in. So there are 106 here. The remaining 900 or so will be written when I get a book deal.

Image above right: "The Chess Player's Handbook" (1st edition) by Howard Staunton

1) Chess has a history that is even deeper than Deep Blue. Chess is a fundamentally democratic game. One story of its birth involves the Brahmin Sissa and his outfoxing of a tyrannical ruler through his demands for pieces of wheat on each square of the board in an exponential series. One of the messages of the game, within this story, is that all the pieces of the board are important - just as all people in a society or country are important. Philidor said that pawns were the soul of chess.

2) In life, decisions are made upon the basis of the relationship between long-term strategy and short-term tactics. A successful marriage of the two brings harmonious decision-making. Chess encourages long-term thinking, just as the Great Law of the Iroquois held that decisions in human life should be based on the welfare of those living seven generations hence. Particularly in Rapid, Blitz, Bullet, Lightning or Armageddon chess, or in other variants such as Bughouse or Siamese chess or Atomic chess, it also encourages rapid decision-making within that overall long-term framework. It is thus the confluence of the long-term and the short-term. Devereux would like to offer an opinon on Fischer Randomchess but what remains of his sanity will be exploded into the stratosphere if he even starts thinking about it. Similarly, speculation about whether or not Anti-chess is in some way related to the proliferation of anti-matter in the universe does not help when bills have to be paid, yoghurts bought from shops, and socks washed.

3) It is not correct, as public opinion often thinks it is, that proficiency in chess makes one less attractive to admirers. It is the reverse. Chess is the ultimate aphrodisiac. One need only watch "The Chase" for verification of this proposition. If that is unconvincing, how about the chess scene from "The Thomas Crown Affair" from 1968? Or the Austin Powers chess scene? Or Jennifer Shahade's "Naked Chess"? Or Natalia Pogonina's "Chess Kama Sutra"?

Image on left: "Playing Go (Japanese chess)" by Miyagawa, Shuntei (1898)

4) It is not true that chess is a mere pastime divorced from everyday life. As Benjamin Franklin put it, "The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it...for life is a kind of Chess". Or as Garry Kasparov puts it, life imitates chess. Or as Devereux puts it, life imitates chess, which imitates life, which imitates chess, ad infinitum. Or, alternatively, we can Ockham's razor our way through life through Bobby Fischer's aphorism that "life is chess".

Image on left: bronze chess piece of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid,
c.780 AD-850 AD


Because life is chess, I have something of a penchant for the A01. Nimzowitsch-Larsen Attack (1.b3) which I have been obsessed by since the age of eleven when my mum bought me a book about it as an opening system.
I play this way because it has an element of surprise (which I have now lost by telling you about it) which is what life is full of and because I fell in love with the word 'fianchetto' as a boy, at the same time as I fell in love with Vespas and Lambrettas. The films of Federico Fellini came later. Even as an adult, I have no idea what they are about. I actively prefer them to films which I understand. Life, as well as chess, isn't always linear or comprehensible: why should cinema be? Particularly when it is chess cinema?

Image on right: Chaturanga: the oriental origin of chess

5) Which came first: chicken or egg? Chess or life? Chegg? Chess-chegg? Or Keith Chegwin?

And will anybody join my forthcoming online petition to get a victory in chess renamed from a 'win' to a 'Chegwin'? A mere Patzer and Fish and Woodpusher and Rabbit-in-headlights and purveyor of cheapos could surely see that this beats the rest of the chess slang out there.

6) Chess is pure conflict but without violence. Chess is Battle. It channels aggression into something creative and not destructive. It is war, but peaceful. It is, therefore, a superb outlet for the frustrations and tribulations of youth and adolescence. As well, of course, as the frustrations, tribulations and jubilations of the other Shakespearean seven ages of (wo)man. In the poetry of polymath Bedros Afeyan, "chess is grand pilgrimage from aging to progress". If chess were a person, it would surely be given the Nobel Peace Prize. Then the game could obviously be renamed Chess Peace.

7) One does not need to be a monomaniac or a narrow, one-dimensional human being to play chess. Everyone from Albert Einstein to Lev Tolstoy, from George Soros to Ono Yoko, from Susan Sarandon to Alan Turing played and play chess.

8) Chess is a rhapsody, as Vsevolod Pudovkin (Все́волод Илларио́нович Пудо́вкин) pointed out.

Image on right: bishop from the Wells chess set, twelfth century

Image on left: almost-chess from Star Wars

9) As well as high dudgeon, chess incorporates low cunning. The technique of Chico and Harpo Marx in "Monkey Business", that of stealing the board and pieces, is not technically in the rule-book, but can be effective when facing problematic endgame positions against superior opposition. As Steinitz put it, "have you ever seen a monkey examining a watch?" Baltimora's classic 1980s anthem "Tarzan Boy" also mentions monkey business, but has no relation whatsoever to chess. One day over the rainbow we may discover whether or not there is truth in the rumour that Baltimora based their hit on "Monkey", the classic of Chinese literature. Monkey Chinese Xiangqi (象棋) chess sets are available.

10) Chess can be easily combined with other arts and crafts, such as clay-modelling, as shown in the work of Riccardo Crocetta.

11) Chess is a game of the gods ( Or, according to Sir William Jones in the 1763 poem "Caissa", a game of the goddess.

12) Chess is a game for lions.

13) Chess is a game for tigers (Nigel Davies). Chess is a game for Tigrans (Petrosian). Chess is a game for crabs.

14) At one level, chess is a zero-sum game. There is a winner and a loser. Losing feels worse than winning. On another level, chess is a game of Nash equilibrium points. In every game the loser teaches the winner as much as the winner teaches the loser. Chess is not the sound of one hand clapping. As Kasparov asserted in his game against Topalov in 1999, "it takes two to tango". Or, in the wise words of Susan Polgar, "win with grace, lose with dignity".

15) Point number 14 is nonsense. The point of chess is winning. Second place is first loser. There is no dignity whatsoever in losing. Forget grace. As A.A.Milne wisely spurted out, when he wasn't busy following the Hoffite Tao of Pooh: "it is impossible to win gracefully at chess." One should win strutting and strident and with one's shirt collar up like Eric Cantona or Kelly Smith. One should be keener than mustard and as keen to win as Raymond Keene OBE.

16) Chess is the harmonious interconnection of left and brain hemispheres (at the risk of a simplistic binary opposition between the two). As is clear from this text, Devereux has not harmoniously interconnected his, since point number 14 is written from his right brain hemisphere, point number 15 is written from his left, and point number 16 is a desperate attempt to bring the two of them together, which has ultimately failed. This is a bit like the chariot allegory - the Platonic and Socratean myth of the horsemen trying to keep a white and a black horse balanced. The fact that the author of this text refers to himself in the third person is also evidence that he quite possibly requires some medicine. This is in contrast to an artist such as Paul Klee, who was far more balanced and presumably far better at chess. Marcel Duchamp was so balanced in his hemispheres that he represented France in the Olympiads as well as playing Eva Babitz in the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963 and inspiring Dai Lowe to play Natasha Staples in the Scottish Arts Club. His second wife Alexina 'Teeny' Duchamp was also balanced enough in her hemispheres to be a quality chess player.

17) Chess is medicine. As John Maynard Keynes said, "chess is a cure for headaches". As H.G.Wells declared, "no chess player sleeps well". Wells's comment is clearly an affirmation of point number three.

18) Kasparov might be right when he says that "chess is mental torture" but on the other hand, a leisurely post-prandial trawl through the Caro-Kann after a thumping good lunch of caviar and Chateau Margaux with a nice little Baked Lasker for dessert has got to beat being put on a rack in anyone's money.

Image on right: Spassky v. Petrosian by Dossi

19) Did the chicken cross the road to reach the other side of the board? And when it got there, was it promoted? Or is that not how evolution or intelligent design works?

20) The beauty of chess is its humanity. It exists in the middle of raw mathematics on the one side and pure emotion on the other. Even though Rudolf Spielmann tells us to play our endgames like machines, the fact still remains that we should play the middle game like magicians. And magic cannot happen without human emotion, no matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes. As Judit Polgar observed, "Chess is thirty to forty percent psychology. You don't have this when you play a computer. I can't confuse it." HAL9000 in Arthur C.Clarke and Kubrick's "2001: Space Odyssey" is a good chess player, but terribly unimpressive at banter in the bar afterwards. With the best artficial will in the world, even the puns on quotations from "The Chess Machine" by Robert Lohr fall flat.

Image on left: 2001: Space Odyssey

21) Chess is a game of skill. You make your own luck in chess. This point has nothing to do with the song "Comanchero" by Moon Ray, which has as little do with chess as Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy" but since the video for it is hilarious this point includes a link to that video here. Moon Ray share the same surname as Indian film director Satyajit Ray, auteur of "Shatranj Ke Khilari" or "The Chess Players".

22) In chess, revenge is a dish best served out of the deep-freeze. Particularly, as Thomas Middleton might have put it, when the Game At Chess is a Revenger's Tragedy.

23) As Irvine Welsh almost wrote - choose life, choose chess. Choose living chess sets.

24) Chess is an Art (the Brixton and Streatham Chess Club). Jonathan Levitt captured this as follows: "Paintings are generally accepted as a valid art form, and rightly so. There is every reason why chess composition should be treated in the same way. Just as paintings exhibit the skill and genius of their artists, so can chess positions show the brilliance, imagination and depth of thought of their composers."

Chess is as much of an art as the art of making puns, for example the Eneidin Line, which is a pun on the Onedin Line.

25) Chess is musical. Particularly when it involves rice pudding. Or chess pianos.

26) Chess is inherently anti-racist. Chess pieces see no colour.

Image on right: Chess Piano (Guido van der Werve)

27) Chess is the marriage of theory and practice. Bruce Pandolfini made this clear when he argued that "It's bad to have a wrong theory that fails, but it's worse to have a wrong theory that works."

28) Chess is compatible with other vices, for example the consumption of whisky, as proved by the English grandmaster Joseph Henry Blackburne, who used whisky as the ultimate weapon. This contravenes Anatoly Karpov's perspective that "you can't play chess when you are groggy from pills". Some of us reach the Olympian peaks of our game when at our most groggy. Or grogged.

29) Point number 28 is entirely irresponsible, particularly in relation to any children or young people reading this who are thinking of taking the early steps towards one day making chess their mistress (Bent Larsen called chess "a beautiful mistress"). Chess is a dream that is best when it is lucid. For tips on children and the game, please see Richard James's Chess for Kids.

30) Chess is mercifully free of the kind of cliches that one encounters in other fields of life such as football. In chess, one is never as sick as a parrot or over the moon, one never gives 110%, and doors are never early. It is true, however, that Viswanathan Anand recently grumbled that his opponent couldn't hit a cow's latter strata with a banjo. The previous sentence is a lie.

Image on right: The Manesse manuscript, Germany, 1320 from Medieval Chess by Carol Hamill

31) Despite popular opinion to the contrary, it is not true that Magnus Carlsen has drunk deep from the Fountain of Eternal Youth. Nor does he possess a portrait of Dorian Gray in his attic. He is not a cyborg, avatar or 18th century Mechanical Turk. The claim that Devereux recently vanquished him in a series of Blitz games in Rejkjavik is, of course, merely the product of a disordered, phantasmagorical mind which is congenitally incapable of facing reality in any way whatsoever.

32) 32 is the magic number of pieces on the board initially. Chess is as beautiful as Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. Europe's song "Final Countdown" contains no references to chess, although it does rhyme the planet Venus with "let's hope no one's seen us" which is enough to merit a reference to the video here. Hermann Hesse was European, and therefore is one degree of separation away from the song. Chess teaches that the universe is interconnected in meaningful patterns (Michael Schneider). Unless of course one has just lost yet another game, in which case it is just a silly pastime and as random as Capablanca Random Chess and in no sense whatsoever an external manifestation of our internal intelligence.

33) Despite Jonathan Levitt's claim that chess is snooker without balls, it takes balls to play chess. Unless, of course, it doesn't. As Alexandra Kosteniuk might or might not put it.

34) Like hip-hop, chess has Grandmasters. And Flash. As well as JavaScript.

35) The chess board has 64 squares. There is no falsehood in the rumour that Paul McCartney and the Beatles wrote "When I'm Sixty-Four" as a love poem to chess. Unless, of course, it's a complete lie, which it probably is. Devereux, who is 32 years old (half of 64, and the total number of pieces on the board at the start of the game) looks forward to the telephone call from Sir Paul clarifying the situation.

Alternatively, in order to muddy the waters still further, Devereux anticipates with excitement the telephone call from artist Paul McCarthy pretending to be Paul McCartney. McCarthy's Kitchen Chess set, from 2003, can be seen alongside others at this link.

Image on left: the Messier 64 or M64 galaxy (the Blackeye galaxy)

36) It may be equally untrue that Commodore created their classic computer the Commodore 64 in homage to the noble game. The same fallacy may also apply to Chopin's Waltz Op.64 No.1. Ditto with the Nintendo 64. Obviously an identical category error can be applied to episode 64 of the Mahabharat. I could continue putting in '64' into YouTube and then posting up links to videos here, but I have bills to pay and yoghurts to buy and you probably do as well.

37) J'adoube. I have 1,001 of these to get through so I thought I would make 37 an example of journalese filler by simply writing 'j'adoube' in a bid to make it look like I am fluent in French. I am, unfortunately, only anywhere near being fluent in French when attached to Google Translate. If you don't tell anyone I won't either.

64) Number 38 has been renamed 64 in honour of the 64 squares.

39) Devereux would just like to point out, rather hubristically and arrogantly, how excited he is to have filled in 37 and 38 so easily, and without having added to the sum of human knowledge or in any way advanced the position of the game of chess in human affairs. He also notes with hubristic glee that point number 39 also achieves no such things. Nemesis is unlikely to be far behind. One of the beautiful aspects of the game of chess is that Nemesis is never far away when Hubris has been invoked by a player, whatever the level. As the Tao te Ching has it, victory should be celebrated as a defeat.

40) Chess is musical. Particularly when it is remixed on a 64 track recorder.

Image on left: the Money Chess set at The Chess World blog

41) The $64,000 question, or £64,000, in chess, is what the ultimate motivation in chess is. Some people, apparently, play for blood, though that might just be a dystopian fantasy of Gothic literature. For others, the motivation is the beauty involved in higher mathematics. Jeremy Silman said it was the money and the women that attracted him. Benjamin Franklin exhorted that the game of chess is too important to be played for money - a position rather similar to that of Grigori Perelman when he solved the Poincare conjecture and turned down a $1 million prize. Others just play it for the laughter and the trash talk (Daaim Shabazz PhD). That's unless one insists on silence in the game (see point 103).

42) Although it isn't actually true, it could be argued that White pieces conform to Max Weber's lions and Black pieces conform to Max Weber's foxes. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Machiavelli as there are Kings and Queens in chess, but no Princes. Neither do the Black pieces have anything to do with the black swans of Karl Popper's theory of falsifiability in science, or of Nicholas Nassim Taleb's discussion of finance and economics.

43) As the bishop said to the actress, chess is a game that lends itself to double entendres. Words such as 'mate' and 'pin' and 'fork' and 'pawn grabbing' were born for play. It is not true, however, that it is possible to make any jokes about nuns and John Nunn, because those would be illegal and immoral. Get thee to a Nunnery.

44) Things were better in the days when people were less obsessed with the corporeal side of chess worldplay. The pre-Morphy, Adolf Anderssonian Romantic era was a halcyon age. Instead of making silly jokes based on 'mating' and 'pinning' and 'exchanging of pieces' and 'trade' and 'weak squares' and 'unclear positions' and 'woodpushers' and 'opera box games', people wrote proper chess love poetry in a Wordsworthian and Coleridgian idiom.

45) Chess isn't interested in class. It is interested in talent. A chess baron does not need to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth. That's why the game is class.

Image on right: chess fashion (link from Boylston chess club, Massachusetts)

46) Chess is one of the wonders of the world. It is a colossus (Martin Bryant). It is as civilised as a Sid Meier computer strategy game.

47) Chess does not reward literal thinking. Chess rewards lateral thinking. Like Edward de Bono or Tommy Cooper, it is best to wear a thinking cap or two when playing the game. Chess is a metaphor.

48) Chess and literature have a long-term love affair with each other. Samuel Beckett loved chess so much he wrote "Endgame". T.S.Eliot loved chess so much he the second part of the "Wasteland" is called "A Game at Chess". Vladimir and Vera Nabokov loved chess so much that Vlad wrote "The Defence", amongst others. In true alliterative style, chess features in Chaucer.

49) It is no surprise that it was love at first sight between chess and computers. Chess is based on the binary. Computers are built on the binary.

50) Chess is musical. Particularly when it is Chess Records. Or when it involves chess records.

Image on left: Patra carnival by Barela Odyssey

51) Chess is a game for titans. Sometimes it is Titanic.

52) Chess is stylish. There is no reason why anybody should not be as well garbed as Miles Davis when they alight at the board. It works for Nigel Short. Rook van Winkle has some snappy suggestions on attire. Of course, the one major reason why somebody can't be fully Davisian is financial. But you can often get a decent suit in a charity shop these days. I picked up a ripper for £20 in Cambridge a while ago. So it's possible to get dressed for success like Roxette even if you are not a multi-millionaire, billionaire, trillionaire or quadrillionaire, as most people in human history have not been. One of the greatest aspects of chess is that a child from a poor family can eventually become one of the greatest players in the world if they are given some of the basics they need and some guidance. When I was a boy I had to badger books from my mother and stepfather or, alternatively, find whatever I could in the local library. Today there are databases and tuition everywhere on the internet so anybody can effectively teach themselves. Of course there is to some extent the problem of information overload which is where guidance and chess teaching is now probably more important than ever. But really the world is the oyster of the young player and social background should be irrelevant. After all, in life REWARDS should equal TALENT multiplied by DEDICATION squared. The best chess players combine inspiration with perspiration whatever their level of family wealth.

53) Chess is a game for heroes and heroines.

54) Chess is architectural. Particularly when it involves Roy Lopez in Hertfordshire, who may or may not have invented the Ruy Lopez opening system when he was a Spanish priest in the sixteenth century.

55) Chess can be Hell. Equally, it can be Funny. Fundamentally, however, it is Love.

56) Chess is a masterpiece. Chess is tasty. Particularly when it is on the menu.

57) Chess is interior design. It is as much about the harmonious composition of the five elements as Feng Shui. Chess is yin talking to yang.

58) Chess is dazzling. Chess is zazzling. Chess is a game for strategy fiends (Russ Bastable).

Image on left: 3-D chess from "Star Trek"

59) Chess is jade. Chess is emerald. Chess is diamond. Chess is sapphire. Chess is topaz. Chess is opal. Chess is agate. Chess is pearl. Chess is ruby and lapis lazuli and rock crystal quartz.

60) Chess is one of the few places in the universe where aliens and predators can unite. Albeit in mental battle. And even if sometimes the aliens are made out of Lego. And even if sometimes the aliens that are made out of Lego aren't even aliens at all, but are Vikings. Or, alternatively, when the Lego Vikings turn out not to be Vikings after all, but Lego clones and droids.

61) Chess is musical. Particularly when it involves Sergei Prokofiev beating Jose Raul Capablanca in Cuba in 1914. Or when it is live from the Royal Albert Hall.

62) Chess and coffee go together like a horse and a carriage (Mikhail Golubev). Or like a chess cafe.

63) Dragons really do exist in chess. Particularly when they are the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian. Or when they are Dragon Chess.

Image on right: Smullyan, R.

64) is the magic number, as Puff the Magic Dragon might put it.

65) Chess is the immortal game. Chess is the ultimate gameshow. Chess makes super TV.

66) Unlike in life, where monarchies work on the basis of the hereditary principle, in chess one can be promoted to become a Queen. Chess is a fairy-tale. Rather like the Fairy Tale Chess Shop in Odense, Denmark.

67) As Maria Yurenok asserts, chess is a world of adventures. We have Chessington World of Adventures. Where is the Chess World of Adventures theme park?

68) Chess is a game for giants. As Johnathan Swift didn't write in "Gulliver's Travels". Neither did he say that it is a game for monsters.

69) Chess players see the world in three dimensions. Particularly when they are indulging in Raumschach (space chess), tri-dimensional chess, Matrix chess or Asimovian hyperchess. These are particularly good for hyperactively intelligent children and the lengthening of their concentration spans.

70) The city of Chessville (also known as Chessgrad or Chesstopia) is a red hot, beautiful megalopolis with bustling boulevards bordered by lush and verdant countryside. Why not come and stay for a while in the Chess Hotel?

71) Chess is open source.

72) Chess and the human brain go together like A and Z. Chess is a neural network (Jerry Chess).

Image right: Chess Records

73) Chess is a high-wire act. Particularly when it is in Baltimore in "The Wire".

74) Chess is a hard enough game at the best of times. Challenging Death, as in "The Seventh Seal", is probably a blunder. As is inviting Death to a dinner party to discuss "The Meaning of Life". Dicing with Death is not advisable either, unless it is in the context of Dice Chess.

75) In chess, knight's move thinking is positively encouraged. Particularly when the thinking involves a Monty Pythonesque Black Knight.

76) Chess is compatible with other martial arts.

77) Just as chess involves the development of pieces, so it helps the development into adulthood.

Image on left: Chess matryoshka, The Russian shop, Lisle

78) Chess is musical. Particularly when it involves prodigies. Such as Liam Howlett from the land of Brainytrees in Essex.

79) Chess is musical. Particularly when it involves drums.

80) Mistakes are the key to chess success (Andy Soltis).

81) Chess is a game for all the family. Even when that family is the Simpsons.

82) Chess is noisy. Even when it is a product of the silent film era.

83) Chess is abstract (Vincent Siracusano).

84) Chess is concrete (Concrete Classics).

Image on left: Chess Piece Couture (Tilda Swinton/Craig Dean in AnOther Magazine)

85) Chess is musical. Jazz and chess are brothers. Some people think that chess has more monks than Thelonious, but I could not possibly comment. Also I have no information on whether or not Charlie 'Bird' Parker was involved in the creation of Bird's Opening.

86) Chess is musical. Particularly when played by Anthony Braxton.

87) Chess is fun (Jon Edwards). Chess is Baron (Chess Baron) Chess is a Demon (Chess Demon). Chess is King (the British Chess Magazine and the London Chess Centre).

88) Correspondence chess contains more correspondences than the work of Charles Baudelaire.

89) Chess is creative. Chess is philosophy (Alchessmist). Chess is practical. Chess is DIY (

90) Chess is a game of order. That does not mean that it cannot be combined with chaos theory.

91) I would love to join the debate on whether chess is fundamentally linear or non-linear, or some sort of synthesis of the two, but he is too ignorant to do so. I would quite like at this juncture to write "fractal my dear I don't give a damn" but I'm not sure that quite answers the question. Equally mentioning that Chuang Tzu/Zhuangzi/ is dreaming himself as the Butterfly Effect is unlikely to get us very far forward. These might be attractive answers to the question but unfortunately they are also rather strange. What do you think?

Image on right: Vitrail provenant de l'hotel de la Bessee (1430-40), Medieval Chess

92) Chess is musical. It is inherently contrapuntal. It is the Art of Fugue transposed to a board.

93) Chess is as enigmatic as code-breaking. It is as much about communication and bridge-building between cultures and peacemaking as the translation of languages. Was machst Du in deiner (Todd) Freitag?

94) Chess has more tricks than a sorcerer's apprentice (David Bronstein and Tom Furstenberg).

95) Chess is more illuminating than a sequence of light emitting diodes. The beauty of chess is transparent (Yasmin Sethi).

96) Chess is as blessed as Brian (Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish).

97) Don't knock solo chess. It's chess with someone you love.

Image on left: "The Chess Players" by Lucas van Leyden, 1508 (Courier

98) Chess is vital in education. It is as super as Mario. It can lead to even more of an Academy than a book by Plato (the Andrew Martin Chess Academy).

99) Chess is as tidy as Norman.

100) Chess was not created in the UK. That doesn't stop some people thinking that it was. Check out "Games Britannia" on BBC Four by Benjamin Woolley for a refutation of the theory.

101) Chess is a fantasia. Chess is fantastic. Chess is a fantasy. Chess is a phantasm. Chess is phantasmagoria (Paul Philidor). Chess is an Art of Fantasy (Carina Jørgensen). Chess is fantabulousa! Chess is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious(The Sherman Brothers)!!! Let chess be your fantasy (Baby D)!!!!

102. Chess players are as cool as William 'the Refrigerator' Perry. The notion that chess is limited to nerds is all Geek to me.

103. Becoming good at chess is a good way to get on in the world. In the film "The Knights of the South Bronx", for example, chess is shown as a way out of challenging external circumstances (it is based on the story of the New York teacher David MacEnulty and his students). It can be very liberating. It can even get you out of a cage if you listen to John Cage enough. Particularly if he is number one in the charts on Christmas Day 2010. Although it doesn't involve chess, I personally recommend Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" as a stocking-filler to accompany the Cage number one. Or, alternatively, another other example of silence in literature. I myself plan to one day write a book about silence as a result of the John Cage 4'33'' Christmas Number One campaign. Personally, I like my chess to be as silent as Wittgenstein's view in the "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" that "whereof one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence" and there is little more beautiful in life than wandering into a room full of people silently battling over chess boards. You can taste the concentration in the air.

104. Chess has relevance for the paradigm shifts (to use Thomas Kuhn's term) in the history of ideas. As Goethe had it, daring ideas are like chessmen moving forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game. Often new ideas, like the Copernican revolution and its replacement of geocentrism with heliocentrism, go through initial resistances only to become orthodoxies in the long-term. Their progress can sometimes be seen as similar to the progress of pieces on a board. Perhaps one could argue that the checkmate point is the point of critical mass or the tipping point in Malcolm Gladwell's terms when a new idea becomes established and the paradigm is shifted.

Image on right: photorealistic portrait of the chess player Tania Sachdev by Jørgensen.

The Carina Appreciation Society Facebook group is here - please join and please invite all your friends.

Tania's games can be viewed at this link.

Please note: I cannot confirm or deny rumours currently circulating on the internet that the original portrait of Sachdev by Jørgensen with signature by Jørgensen is for sale for £1,000,000 or, at the time of writing (Tuesday 12th October 2010) the Danish equivalent which is 8,538,610.50 Danish Kroner (DKK). Since I am not an auctioneer, I cannot tell you how the bidding is going either. I am not sure if the formal bidding has started quite yet but the telephone number for Sotheby's in London is +44 (0) 20 7293 5000 and the telephone number for Christie's in London is +44 (0)20 7839 9060. There are a number of auction houses in Copenhagen (København) and contact details for them can be found at this hyperlink. Sorry that the Danish word for Copenhagen in brackets has gone so big - it happened automatically and I don't know how to amend it. And sorry that the hyperlink doesn't work - please just put "auction houses Copenhagen" into a search engine for more details.

105. Unlike many other games, one of the great and most beautiful aspects of the game of chess is that there is not a random element in the structure of the game itself. In chess, one does not rely on the luck of the cards. One relies on the interconnections between the one hundred billion neurons in one's brain. Card games can be a lot of fun, but there is merit in Paul Morphy's declaration "Let the chessboard supercede the card-table, and a great improvement will be visible in the morals of the community". Perhaps one first step would be to resurrect the plasticene character from the old Tony Hart children's art programmes and rename him from Morph to Morphy. Perhaps if he had amazing adventures in the land of Chessica a few kids might get hooked to the game early doors as footballers say.

106. Even though chess is formed from black and white pieces, its complexity can help to teach people to avoid simplistic black and white thinking. Playing chess can help us see the world in rainbows of colour like Sir Isaac Newton looking at an apple through a kaleidoscope.

107. I would really like to challenge Prof.Marcus du Sautoy OBE of Oxford University to a chess game live on television. I studied Modern History at St.Anne's college, Oxford, between 1996 and 1999 and ideally would play the Professor in the Radcliffe Camera building of the Oxford Bodleian Library. It isn't a building I sadly spent a lot of time in during my three years in that beautiful city as St.Anne's is a fair old walk north of it and I was very busy drinking tea and not learning how to cook and having wonderful conversations with wonderfully intelligent tutors and contemporaries. Conversation was my favourite aspect of the place, as Theodore Zeldin might put it. Conversation is my favourite form of chess (apart from chess). We could always play one game in the Rad Cam with the Professor playing White and one on the stairs of the Wolfson building with me taking White. Above is an embellished image of my favourite building at St.Anne's, the Wolfson building named after Mary Wolfson. It was designed in 1964 by Howell, Killick, Partridge and Amis and concrete brutalism doesn't get any better. Incidentally, I am pretty sure the Amis in question was neither Martin nor Kingsley. There is no hint of irony whatsoever in my view that Wolfson is the most beautiful building in the world. That's because objectively it is the most beautiful building in the world: it is the Vitruvian man of buildings. St.Anne's is, of course, the most beautiful college in the world, because as I understand it, it was built on rock n roll.

It might be fun to do all sorts of tricks such as hooking ourselves up to machines that measure the activity in our brain and all that kind of jazz (see Finn Peters, below, and also 'Ginger GM' Simon Williams). It might be a fun way to discuss chess and its fundamental mathematics on TV (which is a place where, as A-ha told me, the sun always shines). I will obviously attempt to distract his concentration throughout the game by wearing outlandish clothes, humming jazz standards, and whispering confusing heresies about zeta functions and the alpha state of consciousness as he makes his moves. I have no information, incidentally, on whether meditation helps one to become calmer when one plays chess or whether chess proficiency is related in any way to the law of karma. I also have nothing to contribute to the debate on whether ESP (extra sensory perception) such as telepathy comes into the equation. I must offer thanks, however, to Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson for one of their fundamentally hypertextual adventure books I had as a kid that got me thinking and dreaming about ESP and, funnily enough, about parallel universes and what William James called 'the multiverse'.

Image above: Jack Daniels chess set (in honour of J.H.Blackburne)

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Below is a piece of artwork I have just made. It is called "Humanai" as in "Human v. Artificial Intelligence". It is subtitled "Man v. Machine: Ever the Twain Shall Meet" and is sub-subtitled "what is 169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 multiplied by the 100 billion neurons in the brain multiplied by the speed of light squared?" and is named in honour of Mark Twain (and his 'greatly exaggerated reports' statement) as well as Albert Einstein. It is also influenced by the Kraftwerk album "The Man-Machine".

The original with original signature and notes on the back is for sale for £169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000. Copies of the image printed off the internet are worth zero. It might be possible to organise some sort of hire purchase/installment plan/closed-end lease payment structure if it is not possible for people to stump up the £169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 in one go. Alternatively there might be a share system. I haven't quite worked it out yet. Thanks to the jazz musician Finn Peters for informing me on the radio that the brain has approx 100 billion neurons in a project about music and the mind and for Jez Nelson on BBC Radio Three for allowing him the airspace to inform me. The chess set I have copied and pasted is a photograph of the classic chess set the Lewis set so I imagine if I am paid the £169,518,829,100,544,000,000,000,000,000 then I will have to give it all to the person who took the photograph and the people who unearthed the set as a result of copyright law.

Below is a piece of artwork I have produced which is inspired by the mathematics of the story of Sissa the Brahmin and the wheat on the chess squares. It is dedicated to everybody who is currently involved in a positive and creative project, whether personal or collective. Please click on it to make it bigger and the text easier to read. Please note: the initial 'A-ha' moment is also called the "Take on me" moment, as a Gestalt psychologist famously never said.


  1. Fantastic post Matthew. I have commented about your first 101 reasons on my blog. Wishing you success in getting a book deal. I would certainly buy this book.

  2. This is great Matthew. I was going to look at your Carpe Diadem, but got distracted by this. I love playing chess!
    Susan Gilman