Known as the game that is “beautiful enough to waste your own life for”, chess has inspired many artists to portray it in their work throughout the decades. But could chess be, in its essence, an art? Harold Osborne (1964) mentions the concept of intellectual beauty and states that chess can be regarded as an art form since it allows for the creation of intellectual objects characterized by beauty.
Surely enough, no chess player will be able to deny that, in his lifetime, he has encountered a breathtaking combination or a stunning move that struck an impression on him, as powerful as one that can only be created by remarkable artwork.
These beautiful moves and combinations that have the unique ability of bringing tears to the chess aficionado’s eye have inspired some of the greatest artists in the world, and that’s exactly what this article is all about.
Perhaps the best-known example of a connection between chess and art is that ofMarcel Duchamp, one of the greatest and most revolutionary artists of the 20th century, who, in 1923, left behind his successful career in arts to pursue his passion: of course, the game of chess. He became a chess master and eventually retired from tournament play and dedicated himself to correspondence chess and journalism.
Some of his most famous quotes about this mysterious connection between chess and art are "I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art—and much more.” and “ I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”
Literature, of course, is one of the fields in which chess is commonly represented, as an inspiration for poets and novelists alike. Perhaps the most famous chess-themed novel isThe Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, whose main character, Aleksandr Luzhin, sees chess as a refuge from his daily life and becomes obsessed with the game.
In poetry, Jorge Luis Borges’inspiring poems are some of the most beloved.
And, of course, we must not forget theWizard’s Chess, the magical version of the game that appears in the renowned Harry Potter series, inspiring many young children and teenagers to learn the game.
In painting, besides thewell-known artwork by none other than Duchamp, from 1911, the French painter Henri Matisse also used chess as an inspiration for two of his paintings.
Last but not least, chess is also a major inspiration for the seventh art - some of the world’s greatest films feature games of chess, chess players or other themes related to the game. For instance, thehighest-rated movie of all times on IMDB features chess as the favorite hobby of the main protagonist Andy, who used to carve pieces during his time in prison. InBlade Runner, a chess game played out between two of the main characters is inspired in theImmortal Game.
More recently, a few movies inspired by true chess stories have been created. Bobby Fischer’s unique life and character are seen as enticing and mysterious by many artists -a very recent film, from 2014, portrays his World Championship match against Boris Spassky, played right in the “heat” of the Cold War.
Even Disney could not help but get on the chess wagon - the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess player with a truly inspiring life story, has inspired the 2016 movieQueen of Katwe.
Of course, many other pieces of art which have been inspired by the most noble of games have been left out of this list - but this is a good selection to bring out the art lover in you and start exploring the many faces of chess.
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November 18, 2019 3 min read
The globalized and technological world we live in has all sorts of advantages, and chess, the most traditional of all board games, has also benefited a lot from this.
Nowadays, you can find excellent chess material online, and computers have made it a lot easier for players and lovers of the game to improve: it’s easier to have access to books, there are plenty of great DVDs, you can quickly check what your opponent usually plays and prepare against it… all sorts of advantages!
Today, we are going to
October 09, 2019 3 min read
Maybe you have been playing chess for a while now, and you are starting to feel frustrated; you are not earning any rating points (whether that is online or in competitive tournaments) and your play does not seem to be improving.
If this is the case, and you are willing to dedicate yourself so that you can climb up the ladder, you may consider diving into chess literature.
Obviously, many books could be included in this “top 5” that we are building - but the idea is to keep it short and concise, so that all of them can be instantly added to your reading list.
September 28, 2019 8 min read
“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.” – Savielly Tartakower
Does the above quote ring a bell? Do you often feel lost in the chess board looking for plans or ideas when there is no concrete tactical solution?
Don’t worry - that is perfectly normal. Strategic play is, arguably, the hardest field to dominate for any beginner, simply because you have not yet developed a deep understanding of the game.
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September 21, 2020
Nice article on the comparisons between chess and art. I feel the same way both as an artist and chess player. I actually just created a drawing that illustrates this comparison between chess and art here: https://www.mimoart.com/blog/chess-artwork