Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chess, Chandler, And Capablanca

It was night. I went home and put my old house clothes on and set the chessmen out and mixed a drink and played over another Capablanca. It went fifty-nine moves. Beautiful cold remorseless chess, almost creepy in its silent implacability.

When it was done I listened at the open window for a while and smelled the night. Then I carried my glass out to the kitchen and rinsed it and filled it with ice water and stood at the sink sipping it and looking at my face in the mirror.

"You and Capablanca'" I said.

-- From Raymond Chandler's, THE HIGH WINDOW (1942)

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Jose Raul Capablanca links:
Bio | The Capablanca chess games | Film footage and photos

24 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Although I haven't played chess in a while I love the game. I've played through most of Capablanca's games at various times, as well as Morphy's and Fischer's and many others. Chess is an amazing game.

David Cranmer said...

I've played mostly against the computer for the past few years, but recently began playing a co-worker and we are pretty much evenly matched. However, he started to pull ahead and I decided to research the masters like Aron Nimzowitsch, Alexander Alekhine, & Capablanca. I also found this site: http://www.jrobichess.com/ where I used the interesting Pincer Attack (it's under the blog section) to win both my games today.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I know just enough about chess to say I can play and then be shown by someone who *really* can that I can't really at all.

I love J.K. Rowling's concept of Wizard Chess. :)

David Cranmer said...

Chess pieces that are animated and destroy each other. Too cool.

And wasn't it Seamus Finnigan that had pieces that kept shouting him advice because they did not trust him? Now that's funny.

sertech said...

Do you remember the old Radio Shack chess boards that lit up the square to tell you where to move the pieces?

David Cranmer said...

I owned a Radio Shack chess computer when I was in the Army. They were pretty sturdy little items. I can't imagine they still make 'em but wouldn't be surprised if they do because it's still a lot more fun moving the pieces around on a board.

Clark Kent said...

I'm with Alyssa on chess, altho it's been so long for me that I no longer pretend I can play. For a long time I had thought I was just another dummy, then I learned, several years ago, that I have attention deficit disorder. Whew, what a relief! Now at least I know I'm a special dummy.

Glenn Gray said...

My collection of chess books comes in a close second in terms of number only to my crime/mystery books! Man, it's an addicting game. I have a current USCF card in my wallet (dork!) and have played in many tournaments, including blitz. I particularly like speed chess - nothing like a 3 min game to get you going! I too like playing odd openings and defenses for kicks. My favorite defense is Alekhine's. I've played this Pincer before, but never had a name for it! Cramped center with wild play on the wings. Careful!

Happy Holidays...

Evan Lewis said...

Shucks, I'd surely forgotten this passage. Time to read Chandler again.

David Cranmer said...

Clark, When I play I have to keep reminding myself to slow down... way down. My tendency is to move fast and, of course, mistakes are made.

Glenn, Alekhine's Defence is terrific and I've used it many times. It was introduced in a 1921 tournament and is still going strong today. I'm godawful at speed chess but there is no doubt it keeps the blood running. My favorite openings is the Ruy Lopez (which I will use tomorrow) and the Four Knights. A bit passive for some players but fits my style. I'm going to use this Pincer for defense again when I switch back to black. The main thing I've found is you need to know when to abort the Pincer Attack if white doesn't allow you to get into that position.

Evan, Chandler mentions Capablanca and playing chess throughout. This passage is from the very end. It kind of reminds me of McQueen In Bullitt where he studies himself in the mirror at the end. A lonely hero.

Clark Kent said...

Your comment, David, reminds me of the quote attributed to Wild Bill Hickok regarding gunfighting: "Take your time, but do it quickly."

David Cranmer said...

That's a marvelous line for a gunfighter. Another favorite is don't insult seven men with a six-shooter.

Barrie said...

I'm no good at chess. Although I have a child who is. Perhaps it skips generations? ;) Merry Christmas, David!

Elisabeth said...

I'm new to your blog. I have the horrors of chess. My father played it ruthlessly one by one with my brothers. Conquest seemed his primary concern, conquest of his sons. But chess, I'm sure now has more merit than that. Thanks for your introduction to Chandler, Capablanca and chess. This post is haunting.

David Cranmer said...

Barrie, I'm glad to hear one of the kids has the chess bug. It's a very rewarding game and teaches life lessons along the way. And MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Elisabeth, Did your brothers ever turn the tables and begin winning? I remember an individual who always beat me at the game decided chess bored him after I started winning more than I loss.

Thanks for stopping by and I will click over to your site a little later today.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wish I could take games seriously. Got beat too many times at Old Maid, I think.

David Cranmer said...

And Old Maid is one game I've never played.

Dave King said...

Apart from teaching my son to play, I last played at college. Still feel the urge, but somehow can't get excited at the prospect of playing a machine. (Haven't forgotten to email you. Sorry for the delay.
A Happy New Year to you.

David Cranmer said...

I began playing online with some select friends and I enjoy the slight differences the computer offers. But there is still nothing like going face to face into battle and moving the pieces with your hand.

And it is a quick question for you.

Sarah Laurence said...

I learned in my Shakespeare class that chess was the only approved activity for a noble boy and girl together in a bedchamber. The 2 lovers play each other in The Tempest. It is the game of the classics. I love Chandler’s more modern take on it.

Randy Johnson said...

I can barely remember the last time I played chess. I was never what you would call "good" at the game. I think the last time I had a friend's King tied up about six different ways. I was sure it was mate.

He kept looking and found a move that put me in mate, no way out, and I realized then I was more inept than I thought.

David Cranmer said...

Sarah, "It is the game of the classics." I like that. Very interesting history I was unaware of. Thanks.

Randy, My first actual games with a human being after four years, I lost pretty darn good. But like the writing muscle the more you flex it the better you become. I'm doing pretty good and have tied the games at fifteen a piece with two draws.

Cloudia said...

Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

David Cranmer said...

Buenas dias!