Monday, April 17, 2006

One word for why you play chess....

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, who some unfairly have called the "Kournikova of chess," is interviewed by Misha Savinov at ChessCafe (permanent link here). One memorable exchange between them goes as follows:

AK: Generally, justice is very important to me in everyday life. In chess justice can be obtained, and this is wonderful.

MS: But can justice really be obtained in chess? The game often turns chaotic, when it can hardly be controlled.

AK: Well, this is a global question. Maybe our life is an illusion, who knows? For me there is more justice in chess than in everyday life.

This theme of "justice," which first gets raised in this exchange, becomes a recurrent motif in the interview and seems to get to the heart of her motivation for playing. I wondered if other chessplayers have tried to express in a single word what is most compelling for them about chess? Certainly Lasker famously said that it is a "struggle," and perhaps that word captured his motive. I remember once telling a friend that what attracted me to chess was "truth," since you often can learn the truth of a particular position in chess through close analysis, while in much of life the truth remains always a bit beyond our grasp.

If you had to use one word to capture what interested you in the game, what would it be?


Blogger Patrick said...

One word is quite a restriction, but i'd settle on "paradox".

I like moves that look ridiculous at first glance but have surprising depth and logic. Like Alekhine's Re3 move against Bogo. Or Capa's Kg3 against Tartakover. Or h6!! played by an 1815USCF player. A move like that looks like a patzer's blunder-- but amazingly it works. Like an optical illusion.

Mon Apr 17, 03:33:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Icepick said...

I've been thinking about this for a day, and I still can't get it down to one word. There are many different reasons to play the game, but the one that keeps me coming back is the effort to create beauty through advertsity.

Wins are (almost) always good, but the moments that stick with me are the moments when something beautiful is created, even though the opponent is doing everything possible to do the opposite.

What counts as beautiful? I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.

Tue Apr 18, 05:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Newvictorian said...

Dialogue. I say something by making the first move, you say something back, and so on...

I like the 'justice' aspect, as well. As I've written elsewhere, the fact that in chess you get exactly what you deserve (as opposed to the ridiculously judged sports like ice skating) is a part of its charm.

Thu Apr 20, 11:33:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Michael Goeller said...

These are all good words... :-) Thanks for taking up the question.

Fri Apr 21, 05:15:00 PM EDT  

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