Duchamp’s Pipe: A Review Part 2

Published by North Atlantic Books, which can be found by clicking here:

Duchamp’s Pipe

The quoted text is pulled directly from the book.

Marcel Duchamp vs George Koltanowski

BEL Cup 01st Brussels 1923


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. f4 c5 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9. Bxd7+ Nxd7 10. e5 cxd4 11. cxd4 O-O 12. Nf3 e6 13. O-O Nb6 14. Ba3 Re8 15. Qb3 Bf8 16. Rfc1 Bxa3 17. Qxa3 Qd7 18. Rc2 Rec8 19. Rac1 Rxc2 20. Rxc2 Nd5 21. Qc1 a5 22. g4 Nb4 23. Rc7 Qd5 24. Qe3 Qxa2 25. f5 exf5 26. gxf5 Qb1+ 27. Rc1 Qxf5 0-1

“For Koltanowski, it was as much about what attracted him to the game as it was how to attract others to the game. To that end, he developed a chess persona along the lines of a visionary chess maniac.”

“Koltanowski understood his memory as a different order of knowledge outside conscious effort – a trance state that the fortunate artist or chess player might experience.”

Duchamp said, “Chess is a sport. A violent sport.”

“After crossing paths at a few tournaments in Europe, from their Paris match in 1924 to The Hague in 1928, Duchamp and Koltanowski met again in 1929 at a chess match at the Tournoi d’Echecs, the Paris International Chess Championship. In an unexpected twist, Koltanowski lost to Duchamp in fifteen moves.”

George Koltanowski vs Marcel Duchamp

Paris 1929

E00 Queen’s pawn game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d6 4.e4 b6 5.f4 Bb7 6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.Nf3 e5 8.d5 g6 9.O-O exf4 10.Bxf4 Bg7 11.e5 dxe5 12.Nxe5 O-O 13.Qd2 Nxd5 14.Nxd7 Nxf4 15.Nxf8 Bd4+ 0-1

“Koltanowski only casually mentions the game in his Chessnicdotes – in which he relates a more detailed win in 1944:

Marcel Duchamp vs George Koltanowski

New York 1944

Grunfeld (D94)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 c5 7. O-O cxd4 8. exd4 Nc6 9. Bf4 Bg4 10. c5 Ne4 11. Ne5 Bxe2 12. Nxe2 Nxe5 13. dxe5 Nxc5 14. Nd4 Qd7 15. Re1 Rac8 16. Qd2 Ne6 17. Rac1 Rxc1 18. Rxc1 Nxf4 19. Qxf4 Rc8 20. Rc3 Rxc3 21. bxc3 Qc7 22. Nf3 Qxc3 23. h3 Qc4 24. Qg5 f6 25. exf6 Bxf6 26. Qe3 d4 27. Qf4 Qxa2 28. Ne5 Qb1+ 29. Kh2 Qf5 0-1

“Marcel Duchamp, the renowned artist (Nude Descending a Staircase),

loved the game of chess. He played in the French Championship on a number of occasions, was a member of a French Olympic team, and his book, L’Opposition et les cases conjuguees (1932) was very successful.

His painting of a family chess game in the garden, which hangs in the Philadelphia Museum, is one of the more famous paintings including chess as its theme.”


“He helped the American Chess Foundation tremendously with his works of art and getting the support of the New York elite…I played him twice in Brussels tournaments, winning in both cases. In Paris, 1929, I lost.”

“Following his triumph against Koltanowski in 1929, Duchamp was at the pinnacle of his chess career. In the following year, in Hamburg, he played his friend Frank Marshall-whom he knew from his many evening games at the Marshall Chess Club in New York. That the game was a draw was an impressive result, given that from 1909 to 1936 Marshall (1877-1944) was the US Chess Champion.”

Frank James Marshall vs Marcel Duchamp

Hamburg olypiad (Men) 07/13/1930

E12 Queen’s Indian defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 b6 3.c4 e6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nc3 Bb7 6.Qc2 d5 7.e3 O-O 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Nxd5 Bxd5 11.Bd3 h6 12.a3 c5 13.dxc5 Rc8 14.b4 bxc5 15.Rc1 Nd7 16.Ba6 Rc7 17.e4 Bb7 18.Bxb7 Rxb7 19.bxc5 Qxc5 20.O-O Qxc2 21.Rxc2 Kf8 22.Rfc1 Ke7 23.Nd4 Ke8 24.f4 Rab8 25.e5 Nf8 26.Rc5 Rb1 27.Rxb1 Rxb1+ 28.Kf2 Rb7 29.Rc8+ Ke7 30.Ra8 Ng6 31.g3 Kd7 32.a4 Ne7 33.Nb5 Nc8 34.g4 Rxb5 35.axb5 Kc7 36.g5 hxg5 37.b6+ Kb7 38.Rxc8 Kxc8 ½-½

“Koltanowski describes Frank Marshall

as an artist who loved the brilliance of chess: Love of the game for its own sake, rather than for the awards which fall in the path of a successful player, was apparent throughout Marshall’s career. Winning did not matter to him half as much as the creation of a masterpiece on the chessboard.” Koltanowski in Chessnicdotes

“At the least, Duchamp’s pipe is an latered industrial object that embodies a friendship of shared wit and a mutual love of Caissa. But the pipe is not only a utilitarian object; in chess it is part of the activity and environment in which it is used-held to the mouth in a physically intimate way, simultaneously concealing the smoker’s expression. Undulating smoke, the pipe’sn mutabel fumes enhanced concentration and reflection, creating a meditative state of mind within the comfort of habit. Duchamp’s pipe embodies a authentic gesture of exchange, infused with a Duchampian cocktail of ideas that unwrap the ebb and flow of their personal relationship.”

“Marcel Mauss askes: “What power resides in the object given that causes its recipient to pay it back?” This is the power of exchange. Embedded in the pipe, the relationship flows through the redolent smoke as ephemeral as thought. The pipe embodies something of Duchamp, something of Koltanowski, and something personal and “affectionately Marcel,” as Duchamp frequently signed his letters. The intimate nature of smoking – drawn from the mouthpiece, through the mouth and exhaled through the breath – is made visible in Duchamp’s pipe. The smoky vapors surround and scent both men, creating an atmosphere of communal enjoyment. Embodying the phenomenon of “the gift,” the pipe expresses an exchange beyond words or measure.”

“Mauss claims that “objects are confounded with the spirits who made them.” Given from Duchamp’s hands, Koltanowski’s pipe is not merely a material object; it is also an expression of kinship and reciprocity saturated with the smoky fragrance of the chess players. More than the sum of its parts, the pipe gives form to an altered significance. It is not surprising that pipe-smoking is linked to gift exchange in most world cultures.”

“I believe that pipe-smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs.” – Albert Einstein

“Duchamp and Koltanowski puffed their pipes while playing chess, the transicent tendrils curling upward around each posture and gesture. The smoke veiled their thoughts and scented the surroundings. Smoke simultaneously revealed and concealed the chess game, joining the players together in an infrathin screed of smoke and intense concentration.”

“Duchamp’s attraction to Koltanowski derived from their mutual passion for chess, complemented by an interior mental focus that bordered on the mystical.”

“For Duchamp, chess was an art, its primary function cerebral “play.”

“Art is a road which leads towards regions which are not governed by time and place. – Marcell Duchamp

“A game of chess washes the mind.” – Koltanowski

“Koltanowski simply pursued the pure cerebral enjoyment of chess-and he made his passion contagious.”

“Duchamp enjoyed the pure intellectual play of the game; it was a cerebral pursuit without repetitious art production, and at the same time it required a great deal of imagination. Koltanowski found Duchamp’s chess choreography compelling. Both loved chess for its aestetic brilliance.”

Many people in the art world wondered why Duchamp “Gave up art for Chess.” They did not understand that Duchamp did not “give up art” because he knew Chess to be art or else he would not have said, “While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”

The review ends with the Afterword: Coffee House Chess, by Irwin Lipnowski:

“All the human attributes of intuition, judgment, creativity, rational foresight, and computational skill become inconsequential in competing with the processing speed of a chess-playing program. Admittedly, human beings designed the program’s evaluation function and human beings have significantly improved the processing speed of computers. Yet it is difficult to overestimate the negative impact that computer chess development has had on the sense of accomplishment and self-esteem of chess masters and grandmasters.”

























Duchamp’s Pipe: A Review

Duchamp’s Pipe

A Chess Romance

Marcel Duchamp & George Koltanowski

by Celia Rabinovitch

Published by North Atlantic Books, which can be found by clicking here:

Duchamp’s Pipe

The quoted text is pulled directly from the book.

This is a wonderful, enjoyable, entertaining, and easy to read, book. It is well written and deeply researched, much of  which emanates from the wonderful California Chess reference resource, ChessDryad (ChessDryad.com), where one finds on the home page of Chess History Archives:

What’s New

A brand new must-have book!

Intrigued by the title I decided to get in touch with the publisher to write a review. Prior to reading this volume these are the only books previously read concerning Marcel Duchamp:

When first learning of the book I was curious as to how a writer would be able to write a book concerning the gift of a smoking pipe. After all, so much has been written about Marcel Duchamp one would think it impossible to find anything new about which to write. I was wrong. In addition, I wondered about the title, “A Chess Romance.” Since it concerns two men, why not “A Chess Bromance?” After all, the definition of bromance is, “A platonic or nonsexual friendship between two men, usually two heterosexual men, likened to a romantic relationship.” (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/bromance) Replace the “B” with “R” and we have: “A love affair.” (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/romance)


“Duchamp’s last summer was spent in Cadaques, Spain. At five o’clock every afternoon he could be found at Cafe Melion. One time Laurent Sauerwein boldly decided to “intercept” Duchamp and speak with him. Before long a man appeared and a chessboard was produced, at which point, Sauerwein recounts: “I knew I had to shut up. the serious business was about to begin [and] Marcel kept focused, samurai-like, periodically puffing on his cigar…I didn’t stay until the very end actually, because…what was at stake on the chessboard seemed too intimate to watch.” Lewis Jacobs captured Duchamp in Cadaques, footage he later used in his 1982 documentary Marcel Duchamp: In His Own Words, in which Duchamp shares how chess “is a peaceful way of understanding life [and as with all games] you play with life. You are more alive than people who believe in religion and art.” In other words, the game is in the player’s hands, whereas art and religion require devotion.”

“Duchamp once stated that “chess is a school of silence.” (http://ubu.com/film/duchamp_drot.html) In 1964 the German artist Joseph Beuys, known for his dissenting action-performances, staged “The Silence of Marcel Duchamp Is Overrated.” With this work, Beuys criticized Duchamp’s apparent withdrawal from the art world and social responsibilities in order to “merely” play chess.”

“Duchamp’s chess-playing came to the fore in the last dozen years of his life, during which time he also re-emerged after decades of apparent self-imposed isolation from the “industry” of art: making, promoting, selling. In an address to a symposium at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art, in March 1961 Duchamp said, “The great artist of tomorrow will go underground.”

I have read about Duchamp in an attempt to understand why he decided to devote time to Chess in lieu of devoting time to art. In 1928 Duchamp commented in a letter to Katherine Drier: “Chess is my drug; don’t you know it!”


“In 1951, Koltanowski expanded his readership by publishing his chess columns in popular magazines and in-house company newsletters. The San Francisco Fireman’s Fund Record published an article titled “The Walking brain,” about Koltanowski and his renowned Knight’s Tour Exhibition. In chess, the knight’s tour demonstrates a sequence of moves on the sixty-four squares of a chessboard whereby the knight visits every square once. To fill each square, Koltanowski asked the audience to suggest names or numbers in combination. He looked at the board, took a few minutes to memorize it, and proceeded to perform the tour while naming the contents of each square. He set another record at the San Francisco Chess Festival at the Marines’ Memorial Club on December 2, 1951, where he played a Blindfold Speed Chess Exhibition by playing fifty blindfold games, one after another, at ten seconds a move in eight hours and forty-five minutes.”

“Humphrey Bogart came to San Francisco for the premier of The African Queen in March 1952. The San Francisco Chronicle staged an exhibition in which Koltanowski played Bogie while blindfolded. Playing to the crowd, Kolty muttered, “This guy is dangerous and I’m not kidding.” Bogie, of course, had played tough-talking detective Sam Spade in the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon, which was set in San Francisco. Dark Passage, release in 1947, just five years before the chess match, was set on San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill, not too far from Kolty and Leah’s apartment on Gough Street in the Cathedral Hill area. The event sparked Kolty’s flair for drama-combined with San Francisco’s foggy atmosphere in his blood. He played up the intensity of their contest both on the radio and in the newspaper. Photographs of the match show a Koltanowski intensely concentrating to defeat Bogie-which he did, in forty-one moves.”

“In late 1952, Kolty was the prime mover behind a new organization, Chess Friends of Northern California. It had its own magazine-Chess in Action-and he was the action. This was just one part of his lasting legacy. In the decades to come, Koltanowski published chess columns all over the world, wrote books, and broke ever more chess records. Upon his death on February 5, 2000, his Chronicle (itl) column had run for fifty-two years, at that time the longest-running chess column in journalism. He was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame in 1986, and awarded an honorary Grandmaster title in 1988. He was the greatest showman since P.T. Barnum, besting the great blindfold chess exhibitioners before him with his self-appointed title of World Blindfold champion. He was a true Dean of American Chess-so named by the United States Chess Federation-and there will never again be anyone like him.”

The Pipe

“WAS DUCHAMP’S PIPE A UTILITARIAN object? Was it an altered readymade with transformed meaning? Or was it intended to embody Marcel and George’s chess relationship? Duchamp was known to make gifts of his work to those he was close to or admired. An admirer of the artistry of industrial objects, Duchamp gathered ideas from plumber’s shop windows, department stores, iron works, and industrial sites. He admired their lack of embellishment combined with stalwart purpose in their machined manufacture. In choosing his pipe ebauchon, he chose its blocky original form. [The majority of pipes sold today, whether handmade or machine-made, are fashioned from briar. Briar burls are cut into two types of blocks; ebauchon and plateaux. Ebauchon is taken from the heart of the burl while plateaux is taken from the outer part of the burl. While both types of blocks can produce pipes of the highest quality, most artisan pipemakers prefer to use plateaux because of its superior graining. https://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Smoking+pipe+(tobacco)%5D  Commercially designed tobacco pipes take refined shapes with curved contours, while those hewn by artisan often employ eccentric forms. By contrast, Duchamp’s extraordinary pipe allows the rough geometric shape of the raw ebauchon to linger, evoking the memory of its crude industrial manufacture.”

“THUS UNFOLDS THE EXCHANGE BETWEEN Duchamp and Koltanowski and the game they loved-a love triangle with the art of chess. The characters are incongruous: Marcel Duchamp, the audacious, ironic French artist; George Koltanowski, a memory-gifted Belgian Jewish chess champion who escaped the Holocaust in Europe; and the game of chess itself, embodied by the goddess Caissa. First referred to in Europe in the sixteenth century, Caissa became the patron goddess of chess devotees who, like George, would invoke her to inspire their game. The poem “Caissa, or: The Game of Chess” (1763), by the linguist Sir William Jones, (http://www.chessdryad.com/caissa/caissa.htm) expresses in heroic couplets Dubhamp and Koltanowski’s mutual chess obsession: “No prize we need, our ardour to inflame;/we fight with pleasure, if we fight for fame.”

“As part of the wandering intelligentsia of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century-buffeted by political upheavals and wars and circulation through countries-Duchamp and Koltanowski survived by wit, artistry, and alliances, their worlds meeting in the game of chess. And just as in romances, the two character’ motives are colored by friendship, rivalry, and a shared admiration for the elusive chess mistress. Their exchange of chess and ideas for over a quarter century was embodied by Duchamp’s pipe. Their encounters cut across three continents-Europe, South America, and North America-and span three decades, through various chess tournaments, informal chess clubs, and cities including Brussels, Paris, The Hague, Buenos Aires, Havana, and New York City. Surviving the chaos of World War II, and as part of the European flight to America, these two men lived through the major upheavals of the twentieth century. And while they played-in cities and tournaments, or in smoky private clubs-they reflected on chess strategy and opened their senses to its marvelous duration, all the while smoking their pipes.”

End Part One


All The Wrong Moves Part Six: Floating In A State Of Static Mediocrity

This is the penultimate post in what has become my longest book revew, ever.

“People love using chess as a metaphor. Supposedly, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is the most chess-like of the martial arts. One chef I knew, upon hearing of my passion for the game characterized his selection of flavors as a “chess game I lay with you mouth, bro.” Part of me hates this tendency. After all, as I’ve mentioned, part of what makes chess wonderful is how much it isn’t like all to this other shit we put up with on earth. Chess has a way of encircling the imagination, of generating fanciful poetics and dubious conceptual linkage.”

Our hero meets Katherine, “…a senior editor at a publication that demanded scrupulously written arts criticism based on diligent research. He “…delivered to her inbox a scrambled piece of mumbo jumbo, larded up with a few pretty sentences so she maybe wouldn’t notice how bad it was. She noticed.”

And a new game of love was on!

“I lived two lives: a public, romantic one with Katherine, and a private, shameful one with chess.”

His chess life “…mostly consisted of playing thousands of games at my computer, huddled and nonplussed. This was not satisfactory. It was lonely and unglamorous and possessed no drama beyond the momentary rages of one game or another. When I told my children about my twenties, I didn’t want to explain that I spent big chunks of it in my bedroom staring at digital chess pieces, surrounded by granola bar wrappers, occasionally noticing the snow drifting by the window. And more importantly, I didn’t want Katherine to see me abasing myself in such a fashion.”

It would appear our hero had come to a fork in the road of life. Or as Yogi Berra (https://yogiberramuseum.org/about-yogi/biography/) said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“No. If I was going to be a victim of chess, like Duchamp,

I was going to be a proud victim, like Duchamp. If I was going to waste my hours, I was at least going to waste them flamboyantly. Rather than skulking alone in my room, I decided, I would hold my head high. I would play in real tournaments, in countries near and far, for real money, against live, breathing opponents, hopefully with Katherine at my side…”

He did this because, “…chess is about the most human thing you can do.”

And because, “Chess takes the most banal act of all – violence – and makes it a symbolic ballet with a culture entirely of its own.”

The author, “…decided to set myself an ambitious goal that I would almost certainly fail to achieve, the key word being almost.”

“Yes, I thought: in roughly a year, I would play in the Los Angeles Open, and I would beat a player whose rating was at least 2000. That would represent a violent assault against the limits of my truly meagre talent.”

Why a 2000-rated player?

“Well, it’s just such a satisfying number: those three zeroes standing neatly in a line. Also, the prospect brought me a sort of vicious glee, because I imagined that whoever had taken their rating past that second thousand would be quite proud of themselves. Proud enough that they’d feel extra bad when their position came crashing down before me.”

When I began playing Chess seriously as an adult in Atlanta, Georgia, the top players attending the Atlanta Chess Club at the YMCA on Lucky street in downtown were rated near 2000 but there was not one who sported a 2000 rating. Although there were a few players with a rating beginning with a “2” Tom Pate was the top active player with a rating in the high 1900’s. When seeing the first number of my rating a “2” I will admit to being “quite proud.” I stopped playing Chess to begin playing the much more lucrative Backgammon and upon returning to Chess the going was difficult, to say the least. There was a period when bonus points stopped being added which caused rating deflation, making it even more difficult to garner the much needed rating points. When I did finally break the Expert barrier the Legendary Georgia Ironman said, “You did it like a salmon, Bacon, by swimming against the stream!” Tim figured I would have made it over 2100 if bonus points were still being handed out, but that mattered not to me because I had a TWO at the beginning of my rating.

Our hero made the decision to play in a tournament knowing, “All tournaments are created equal. Most are inglorious little affairs conducted in church basements on weekends. You do battle with a crowd of local yokels… Meanwhile, top-tier tournaments are calm,buttoned-down affairs, sponsored by energy companies and banks, taking place in spacious, teal-carpeted venues.”

“Economically, chess is sort of like acting: top people make money, second-rate people teach, and everyone else receives spotty compensation at best.”

The tournament was in Canada. “There’s a menacing lull that precedes all open chess tournaments – a silence tinted by the excitement of incipient conflict felt by a room full of dorks awaiting their fate. Their fate is determined, during those long moments, by the arbiters,

who run an algorithm that determines the pairings. Also, the computers are always beat-up old PCs. There are no Macs in the chess world. The anthropological significance of this is left to the reader.”

And what did our hero learn from the experience of playing in his second tournament?

“This is one of the embarrassing things about coming to chess in your twenties. When you’re in the lower ranks, your opponents are basically of two varieties: children with promise who haven’t yet developed their skills, and adults who are long past their peak, too old to calculate complicated tactics. Meanwhile, you float in the middle, in a state of static mediocrity.”


“Clearly, I needed to stop relying on my own judgment. What I really needed was a teacher – someone who could actually figure out why I was so terrible. One name came to mind instantly: that of Grandmaster Ben Finegold.”

Ben and Karen Finegold in happier daze

All The Wrong Moves Part 5: Marcel Duchamp’s Puzzle Without A Solution

Decades ago I read a book about Marcel Duchamp:

Although interesting I must admit to being somewhat disappointed because there is little Chess contained in the book. I was fascinated because Marcel renounced art for Chess. When it comes to Duchamp most Chess players will immediately think about the iconic photograph of Marcel playing Chess with a nude woman, Eve Babitz. Although similar, this is mot the picture to which I refer:

Eve has published a new book:

I prefer the cover of her earlier book:

Marcel Duchamp’s Problem

White to move (https://www.chess.com/forum/view/endgames/marcel-duchamps-problem)

“There are those moments when you’re aware that your human programming is a little defective. You become acquainted with the possibility that you’ve been designed to pursue insane commitments directly opposed to your survival. In these moments, when you feel like you need to call God on His private line and demand a refund for what He personally placed in you cranial cavity, it’s sometimes reassuring to remember that you’re probably not alone.”

“Given the number of people who have lived and died, there’s usually someone, alive or otherwise, whose faults resemble your own. For this reason, I often seek consolation in the story of Marcel Duchamp,

a man whose chess problem was a lot like mine, but dialed up to an implausible intensity.”

“You probably know Duchamp’s work, or have at least heard of him. Duchamp is considered one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, a reputation he established by infuriating people.”

“Duchamp is both loved and loathed – celebrated as the man who freed artists from their old constraints, and vilified by the people who thought those constraints were a good idea.”

Duchamp, my man!

In a 1952 interview with Time magazine, he said, “It (Chess) has all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.”

That was, two years after I was born, and this is now. In a futile attempt to commercialize the Royal game it has been besmirched and whatever purity Chess had has been replaced by greed so it’s position in society has been sullied. After informing someone you played Chess back in the day the response more often than not was, “You must be smart.” Now the reply is often a one word question, “Why?”

“But in chess, of course, there is no pageantry – none of the pompousness that Duchamp’s work tried to skewer. One can’t speculate about whether a chess move is honest or dishonest. Chess can’t be pretentious, or self serious. It’s just not that kind of thing. It’s simpler than all of that. It is what it is.”

What is it? Chess is a game. Nothing more; nothing less.

“In the final analysis, Duchamp gave up being one of the great shit-stirrers of the artistic tradition, and ended up being a mild curiosity in the history of chess.”

“I am still a victim of chess,” he (Duchamp) said, in the aforementioned Time magazine interview.

“If you’re a player starting late in life, the most you can be, generally, is third class. Duchamp actually did remarkably well, given the low ceiling of chess achievement available to a late bloomer.”

I can testify to that!

“Moreover, age isn’t the only factor that constrained Duchamp’s success. If that were the sole determinant of chess mastery, then every intelligent player who started young and had a solid work ethic would have a shot at the World Championship. But that’s not the case. That’s really, really not the case. Being great at chess is also a matter of raw talent. Chess is one of those things, like music or math, that certain minds really fuse with. You just have it, or you don’t.”

Our hero returns to Toronto after five months travelling while attempting to find an identity.

“My time away left me with no real insights. My world view was not transformed. Everything was essentially unmodified, including me. While I wasn’t sure what I expected, I was sure that it hadn’t happened.”

Been there and done that…

“The only thing that was different about me was, well, chess. Or, rather, at that point the lack of chess, because I’d sworn to give it up – both to myself and to the few friends who knew about the more tedious details of my existence. After all, life was out there for the taking, and I shouldn’t spend all my time getting checkmated. But there was a cavity in my head where all the churning about the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Winawer French Defense used to be. Without the activation of that specific part of my brain, I felt weak and watery.”

I’ve had the exact feeling, often when in time pressure. Now there is no time pressure because time is added. Chess was better before time began to be added.

“Everything non-chess-related seemed silly.”

Are you thinking that if the man just gives it a little time he will drop the “non?”

“Once I had inhabited the realm of chess, full of violence and aesthetic beauty, but also replete with the restfulness of unambiguous actuality, my previous life was unappealing. When you quit chess, or try to, you don’t just leave a game behind. You leave a world behind. It’s painful. All I did was get drunk and circulate, inhabiting vague mental states in barrooms and living rooms. And on one of these nights

I came home a little more drunk than usual and fired up a little blitz game. The next morning, having realized that I’d played chess the night before, I told myself that a slip isn’t the same as a relapse, and I solemnly renewed my vow to never again move a single pawn. Six hours later I was in full relapse – a week disappeared into a long session of unsatisfying blitz. Following this, I tried again, this time installing software that prevented me from accessing chess websites. A few days later, I came home drunk again and uninstalled the software. Another clump of days evaporated. Finally, it got so bad that I told myself I’d trade one addition for another – I’d take up smoking again, which I had quit during my last month in Bangkok, in exchange for not playing chess. This is how I became a chain-smoking chess player.”


Duchamp’s Endgame, in Chess and Art


All The Wrong Moves Review: Part 2: Hooked, Lined, and Sinkered

I enjoyed every minute spent reading this wonderful book.

It was so interesting the book was completed in only a couple of days because I simply could not put it down. From the inside front cover jacket one reads, “Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. (“I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.” Marcel Duchamp)

Like countless amateurs before him – Albert Einstein,

Humphrey Bogart,

Marcel Duchamp

– the game has consumed his life and his mind.”

Which means, even though he is a writer by trade, he is one of us! On the inside jacket one finds, “Sasha Chapin is an award-winning journalist and recovering chess enthusiast.”

I have yet to win an award for writing and I am still recovering from the years spent playing the Royal game.

The book begins, “Anyway, like most people, I became obsessed with chess after I ran away to Asia with a stripper I’d just met.”

I had been hooked, lined, and sinkered after reading only the first sentence! The stripper was Courtney and she “…made an impression.”

From experience I know most strippers make an impression or they find another line of work.

Courtney suggests they “do drugs together – specifically Psilocybe cubensis, aka magic mushrooms. “Doing shrooms with somebody instantly acquaints you with about half of who they are.” Unfortunately, as often happens when dealing with the opposite sex, “I became sullen and Courtney became moody and erratic.” What to do? “”Since we were going crazy, I suggested we take a trip to Bangkok.”

Courtney runs out of money and decides to return to Toronto earn it the old fashion way.

“She left just before Christmas, so I was alone on New Year’s Eve in our Chiang Mai apartment…”

“In January I was writing six pieces at once, but in February I was barely writing one. My credit card balance crept up; I observed it with no particular emotion. And as I predicted, there was no sign of Courtney.” That’s when my troubles really started. That’s when life as I know it began. Not that I knew that at the time. The future never announces itself. Your destiny is quietly prepared offstage, until the hour when it emerges, saying something like, “Knock, knock, motherfucker.” Elena arrived in the apartment bearing a contagious excitation about the most recent leg of her travels.”

“Nepal is so interesting,” she said.

“What’s going on there?” I said.

“There’s a blockade, gasoline isn’t making it over the Indian border, nobody can do anything and, like, everything is paralyzed.”

“That sounds good. Should I write a story about it?”


And Sasha was off to Kathmandu.

“So I did – a story about the incredibly complicated domestic tensions there, which I barely understood, even after extensive research. Essentially all I knew was that reporters should talk to people, so from the moment I landed in Kathmandu, I began a conversation with everyone who engaged me in more than a moment of eye contact. During the ungainly process, after after ambling down an arbitrary lane, I found myself in a rubble-strewn square presided over by a group of chess hustlers – strong players who make their salary on small-wager games with suckers like me.”

You know what comes next: “He opened the game in the most common fashion, by playing e4. This was the only opening move Bobby Fischer

enjoyed playing; he called it “best by test.” In response I played the move e6-the first move of the French Defense. The French Defense was an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. I hardly recognized it when I saw it on the board, although we had once been intimately familiar. It was my weapon of choice when I played on my hippie alternative school’s Pawnishers.”

This is how the first chapter concludes, and how the book begins. Now you know how I became hooked, lined, and sinkered.

Irresponsible Chess Poetry Mediums

Irresponsible Mediums: The Chess Games of Marcel Duchamp

by Aaron Tucker, published by Book Thug of Toronto (https://bookthug.ca/), (Not to be confused with the bookstore with my all time favorite name, BookThugNation, which “…is an used bookstore and community space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.” http://www.bookthugnation.com/)

is a small volume of poems created by a computer program, Chess Bard, created by the author. The only redeeming thing found in the book is the introduction by Jennifer Shahade,

and the only THREE games by Duchamp published. There are EIGHTY poems. There is enough blank space to include almost every Chess game played by Marcel Duchamp in his life!

“All artists are not chess players – all chess players are artists.” – Marcel Duchamp

Jennifer begins her introduction with, “In my study of Marcel Duchamp’s chess games and career, I am often struck by his statement that “Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry; the chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thought; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem.” Duchamp’s understanding that visualization is at the centre of chess explains to me how he reached chess mastery at nearly 40 years old, a relatively advanced age to become fluent in chess patterns. In teaching adult students chess, this visual aspect is often the hardest-because they are so anxious for verbal cues and shortcuts.”

Also included in the introduction is her (in)famous picture sitting across from a tattooed naked man.

This one was left out of the book:

Jennifer writes about “blindfold” Chess:

“In the fall of 2015, I went to Toronto to play my first-ever public blindfold game with Aaron Tucker, as an experiment for this project. The blindfold game also generated a poem. I’d given hundreds of simultaneous chess exhibitions called and talks, but had firmly resisted on of the most crowd-pleasing of chess spectacles, the “blindfold.” I never enjoyed the mental exertion, which literally induces headaches. It never seemed like an efficient way to improve general chess strength.”

Contrast this with an article at Chessbase, Learning to play blindfold with Fritz 16 by Albert Silver on 1/20/2018, which begins, “The overriding theme of Fritz 16’s new functions is chess improvement, and among them is a special feature for blindfold chess that can help you refine your visualization skills like no other.”

Oh really? Jennifer begs to differ. Reading on one finds:

A valuable training technique

“On the surface the blindfold chess feature in Fritz 16 could be dismissed as just a curiosity, or as a function that is beyond your current skillset. Whatever the case, this would be a serious mistake, since used properly it could become one of your key training tools, even if you can barely play a few moves without seeing before you get lost. In fact, especially if that is the case!” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/learning-to-play-blindfold-with-fritz-16)

That last sentence caused me to recall a grammar school teacher who said that because of my writing I alone had caused her to use “several” red ink pens that year. Knowing this guy is writing for a living would, no doubt, make her turn over in the grave…

The book begins with this game:

“Playing White vs Mario Schroeder (New York, 1922)

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Qb3 c6 7. e4 Qb6 8.
Qxb6 Nxb6 9. e5 Ne4 10. Bd3 Bb4 11. Bd2 Nxd2 12. Nxd2 O-O 13. f4 Bd7 14. O-O c5
15. a3 cxd4 16. axb4 dxc3 17. bxc3 Rac8 18. Rfc1 Na4 19. c4 Nb2 20. Be2 Nxc4
21. Nxc4 dxc4 22. Rxa7 c3 23. Rxb7 Bf5 24. g4 Be4 25. Rd7 f5 26. Rd4 c2 27.
Bc4+ Kh8 28. Bb3 Rfd8 29. Rxd8+ Rxd8 30. Bxc2 Rc8 31. e6 Rxc2 32. Rd1 Rc8 33.
e7 Re8 34. b5 Kg8 35. Rd8 Kf7 36. gxf5 Rxe7 37. Kf2 Rb7 38. Rd4 Bxf5 39. Rb4
Rb6 40. Ke3 Bd7 41. Kd4 Rxb5 0-1

After this game was put into the “Chess Bard” the program ejected this “gem.”

machine sealed sand or
resistance, any blurred sketch, instant
questions deserted cell or cord

single cast or broken sand
warily measures some seashell

single silicon gobbles within
the reassemblage, dormouse beside coherence

each speed the purposeful decomposition
gobbles beside the cloudy redundancy

I cannot make this up. The Chess Bard did…

“Playing Black vs Henri Weenink (The Hague, 1928)

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nc6 5. c3 Nf6 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bf4 e6 8. Nf3
Bd6 9. Bxd6 Qxd6 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 Bd7 12. Nbd2 Na5 13. Ne5 b5 14. b4 Nc4 15.
Ndxc4 dxc4 16. Bc2 a5 17. a3 Ra7 18. Re3 axb4 19. axb4 Rfa8 20. Rc1 Bc8 21. Rg3
Bb7 22. Ng4 Qf4 23. Nxf6+ Qxf6 24. Bb1 Kf8 25. Qh5 Ra1 26. Qd1 Qf4 27. Rg4 Qd6
28. Rg3 Bd5 29. Qg4 g6 1/2-1/2

Imagine that centre centers hooded diagonal!

personable estimate, some clogged radar
negates and blesses some fork

the knight, verbose can or
insult fits below evolution or
proud cog lithely reproduces

I once lost a game due to that centre centers hooded diagonal! Dammit!

The last game given in the book:

Playing Black vs Eduard Glass (Folkstone, 1933)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 b6 5. Bg5 Bb7 6. Rc1 O-O 7. e3 d6 8. Be2
Nbd7 9. O-O Bxc3 10. Rxc3 Qe8 11. Nd2 e5 12. f4 exd4 13. exd4 Ne4 14. Nxe4 Bxe4
15. f5 f6 16. Bd2 Qd8 17. Bh5 d5 18. Qg4 Kh8 19. Rh3 g5 20. Bg6 1-0

Fortunately, the poem is as short as the game:

the estimated half or insult (insult)
rustically forgets bookshelf among memory

a L-shaped butt suspends
the centre devilishly contains plaster

Now I would like to focus on two poems with no game attached.

Playing Black vs Gosta Stoltz (Hamburg, 1930)

this centre or diagonal
suspends and forgets butt, curiosity
and estimate (estimate, estimate) between elderly punctuation

a memory, this centre
accusingly short-circuits or materializes database

clogged mathematics, any washed smartphone
reproduces woman under beefy ghost

a farm or truthful ownership
core slimes and traps

Playing Black vs Frank James Marshall (Hamburg, 1930)

this instant, estimate punctually slights
central noise and collared revision

Which personable path darkens any foreground?
a slight pitch

gear must delightfully evolve bust!

specific or wooden isolation, isolation
pitches bust or equivalent opposition

nonstop mineral and each smartphone tricks

I do not believe Stoltz, Marshall, or Duchamp had a smartphone in Hamburg back in 1930, but I could be mistaken.

For the record, I will publish the two games since the author, or the Chess Bard, chose to leave the pages blank. The book would have been better if the author had chosen to leave the “poems,” and I use the word loosely, off of the page in lieu of the games…

Playing Black vs Gosta Stoltz (Hamburg, 1930)
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6 (Duchamp, MY MAN!) 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. g3 Nd7 (…7 Qd5) 8.Nh4 (c3) Be4 9. f3 Bg6 10. Bg2 Qc7 11. O-O e6 12. Qe2 O-O-O 13. c4 Nb6 14. Bf4 Qd7 (14…e5!?)
15. Rfd1 Be7 16. a3 Na8 (16…Rhe8) 17. d5 e5 18. Be3 Nb6 (18…f5!?) 19. f4 cxd5 20. c5 Na4 21. c6 Qe6
22. Qb5 Nb6 23. Bxb6 axb6 24. Qxb6 bxc6 25. f5 Qd6 26. Rxd5 Qc7 27. Qa6+ Qb7
28. Rxd8+ Rxd8 29. Qxb7+ Kxb7 30. fxg6 fxg6 31. Rc1 Rd6 32. Bf3 f5 33. Rd1 Kb6 34. Ng2 Kb5 35. Be2+ Ka4 36. Ne3 Kb3 37. Rxd6 Bxd6 38. Bd1+ Ka2 39. Nc4 Bc5+ 40. Kf1 Bd4 41. a4 Kb1 42. a5 Kc1 43. Ba4 1-0

Playing Black vs Frank James Marshall (Hamburg, 1930)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. c4 e6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. Nc3 Bb7 6. Qc2 d5 7. e3 O-O 8. cxd5
Nxd5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. Nxd5 Bxd5 11. Bd3 h6 12. a3 c5 13. dxc5 Rc8 14. b4 bxc5
15. Rc1 Nd7 16. Ba6 Rc7 17. e4 Bb7 18. Bxb7 Rxb7 19. bxc5 Qxc5 20. O-O Qxc2 21.
Rxc2 Kf8 22. Rfc1 Ke7 23. Nd4 Ke8 24. f4 Rab8 25. e5 Nf8 26. Rc5 Rb1 27. Rxb1
Rxb1+ 28. Kf2 Rb7 29. Rc8+ Ke7 30. Ra8 Ng6 31. g3 Kd7 32. a4 Ne7 33. Nb5 Nc8
34. g4 Rxb5 35. axb5 Kc7 36. g5 hxg5 37. b6+ Kb7 38. Rxc8 Kxc8 1/2-1/2

The price for this book is $18, but it also available as an eBook, which must be cheaper. EIGHTEEN BUCKS!? Fortunately, I suggested my local library system, the Athens regional library system, the Georgia public library of the year in 2017, purchase this book, something I now deeply regret.

What is Chess?

The Legendary Georgia Ironman once remarked, “Chess is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” With my eye swollen shut I had time to reflect upon his statement while contemplating the question, “What is chess?”

The new people who have entered the chess world because of the scholastic craze do not seem to understand this simple fact. Their ignorance is masked by new slogans and “vision statements.” A recent example can be found on the forum of the North Carolina Chess Association. It is election time in the Great State of NC and Sara Walsh has thrown her hat into the ring, running for the post of VP. Unlike my home state of Georgia, the NCCA has a forum where mud can be slung, and from reading the comments on said forum, it is being fast and furiously flung. In her post of Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:14 pm Sara wrote, “While working on a project and looking for content, I realized that there was no About Us page on the NCCA website. So my challenge to you is to come up with a portion of an About Us page. A succinct overview of what defines the NCCA and its role in NC Chess. Think about what’s on the website, what’s in the Bylaws/Charter. One might include a Mission Statement, Vision, Objectives, a short history, possibly some highlights, or anything else you think belongs on an About Us page. Any thoughts?”

There it is again, the “vision” thing. What is it with women and a “Vision statement?” Does chess need a “vision statement” to answer the question of “What is chess?” Women evidently think it does.

The USCF has put all its eggs in the one basket of scholastic chess. Chess has become a game for children. Chess has become a “learning tool.” For example, the new Executive Director of the USCF, Jean Hoffman, writes in the August 2014 issue of Chess Life that one of the USCF goals is to, “Educate children, parents, teachers and school administrators on the benefits of chess as a part of a school curriculum and as an extra-curricular activity.” Thus far this new century has been devoted to transforming the Royal game into a frilly fun game for children in hopes it will give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Chess is anything but warm and fuzzy. The children learn chess at a young age. As they start to mature they realize what chess is in actuality and stop playing. Children are much smarter than some adults give them credit for, and are astute enough to know when adults are selling them a bill of goods.

Chess is a difficult game to learn and even more difficult to play. The game of Go, or Wei Chi in other parts of the world, has only a few rules and is much simpler to learn, and it does all the things chess people have sold to educators. The number of people on the planet who have taken to the game this century, most of whom are children, has tripled, and is increasing exponentially. Chess is a game of the past, while Go is the game of the future.

Chess is a war game. War does not instill the “warm fuzzys.” The mentally deranged yankee general, William Tecumseh Sherman, is best known for uttering, “War is hell.” Chess is hell. I have heard chess called many things, including, “Mental torture.” I have seen grown men brought to their knees by a game of chess. I have seen grown men cry after losing a game of chess. GM Vassily Ivanchuk once beat his head against a wall so hard and so long after losing a chess game that it left blood on the wall and dripping from his face. Chess is a psychic knife fight. Chess is pure and simple combat, which takes place in the mind.

Over the years I have read chess called many things by the greats of the game, and other notables. Here are some examples:

Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponents mind. – Bobby Fischer

Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people. – Nigel Short

Chess is, above all, a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

By some ardent enthusiasts Chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be – what human nature mostly delights in – a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

A chess game, after all, is a fight in which all possible factors must be made use of, and in which a knowledge of the opponent’s good and bad qualities is of the greatest importance. – Emanuel Lasker

Chess is a test of wills. – Paul Keres

Chess is a contest between two men which lends itself particularly to the conflicts surrounding aggression. – Rueben Fine

Chess is a sport. A violent sport. – Marcel Duchamp

Chess is mental torture. – Garry Kasparov

In the Soviets’ view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war. – Pal Benko

There is no remorse like a remorse of chess. It is a curse upon man. There is no happiness in chess. – H.G. Wells

Chess has been sold to the parents of young children as something it is not, a wonderful game where everyone goes home a winner. Life is not like that, something which the children learn the hard way. As the author Gore Vidal so eloquently put it, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Many aspire to be the best, but there can be only one World Chess Champion.

The following is taken from an episode, “Three Coaches And A Bobby” (season 3, episode 12), of the cartoon show, “King of the Hill.”

The problem with Soccer

I dedicate this version to my friend for over four decades, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, a BIG fan of…

REO Speedwagon Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this version to myself because it was popular at the time I lost my first love and helped me out of the funk:

Jerry Butler Only the Strong Survive

And here is a live performance many years later:

Jerry Butler – Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this cover to my crazy cousin Linda who had three passions in life, with Elvis being one, and include it because although many have been called the “King” of popular music, there can be only one King:

Elvis Presley – Only The Strong Survive ( Alt.Take,X Rated )

Chess is Doomed

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you must be wondering where the comments of my friend the Discman, aka NM Chris Chambers, I mentioned in my previous post could be found. Chris sent me an email and rather than making a post I decided to leave a comment on my own blog. It did not work, and I do not know why. It is something I will have to look into, eventually.
Many years ago Chris was the first to give me a heads-up on a hand held gizmo containing a powerful chess program, telling me it would kill chess. I probably wrote about it on the BaconLOG. Monday, Sept. 30. 2013, the Discman sent me this email in reply to my post of “Widespread concerns about the potential for cheating.”
“It’s still too easy to cheat – even in FIDE rated events.

All you would need is a device that could send a pulse, for example a device in your shoe.

An outside agent could then send moves to you through sequenced pulses via this device.

A spectator could very easily signal in moves to a player simply by standing there – both arms hanging loosely at your side means “knight.” Left hand clenched means “bishop” etc.

Until you send every player through a screening device and allow nobody else access to the room I’m not going to be convinced that cheating isn’t possible. Nobody wants to play in an environment like that.”

How ironic this became after the article concerning Borislav Ivanov refusing to remove his shoes appeared on the Chessbase website Oct. 3!

Another email from Chris came down from the cloud and was in my box this morning:

“Agreed. I reached the same conclusion once $50 programs played at a GM level several years ago.

It’s way too easy to get moves transmitted to a player if he has a partner. I can think of 5 different methodologies off the top of my head that you and I could pull off with no sweat (if we were cheaters which of course we’re not).”

Sent from my iPhone The major problem facing chess now is the loss of credibility. Perception is reality. Unless and until something is done no one can ever be certain he was not cheated. Every player will wonder if it was really his opponent who came up with that amazing move, or did it emanate from a 3500 rated program. Many years ago I wrote, facetiously, the only solution was “naked chess.” That was before the possibility of implants. Now not even what we can call “Duchamp chess” will eradicate the onerous problem of the possibility of cheating. There is no solution, therefore, as I wrote to Chris before the latest reply in which he agreed, chess is doomed…DOOMED!