segunda-feira, junho 25, 2018

Alekhine’s Embalmed Body: “Theory of Shadows” by Paolo Maurensig



“‘Imagine,’ he said, ‘that Stalin, with the complicity of the Portuguese police [PIDE], gave the order not only to kill him, but also to bring his body back to bring his body back to his native soil. Although the man was considered a traitor, his genius belonged to Great Mother Russia. Imagine that Alekhine’s embalmed body is to this day displayed in a showcase in some secret room in the Kremlin. Imagine that, as the conclusion for your novel.’”

In “Theory of Shadows” by Paolo Maurensig


For those of you who don't know, Estoril is near Lisbon. 


Chess is a troublesome game. I gave it up after many years playing at expert level. At club level the element of sheer chance involved means that most players would have more fun and probably considerably more success playing Ludo. This does not stop egocentric oddballs from exhibiting a most unbecoming arrogance whenever the dice happen to fall in their favour. This is likely to be true at Grandmaster level equally and explains much about their strange behaviours. Alekhine hated losing and would have fits of carpet-biting rage whenever he did. Weird lot of them chess players! There is of course no chance at any level of chess except for the draw in some tournaments. If two novices play, the chances of one making some silly blunder before the other does are I suppose what we expect; but for anyone to win at any level, someone has to make some kind of mistake, after all. But chess certainly is the domain of the oddball. The nervous competitive tension of the game combined with time pressure and the rhythmic pulsing, clicking, or flashing of the clock will bring out the strangest unconscious behaviours in people as well as exacerbating whatever tics, compulsions, rages, and other psychological afflictions they may already be suffering from. Tal's genius still takes my breath away. If only there could have been a match between Tal and Kasparov: Saladin versus Richard the lionheart: the finely-sharpened blade verses the broad sword :)

Alexander Alekhin was quite normal by any standard. He was born into aristocratic privilege, drank like a fish, and willingly collaborated in Nazi-sponsored tournaments during the war - as well as publishing a number of nakedly anti-semitic articles. We need more chess players like him. Er, maybe not. The late Harry Golombek knew Alekhin well, and said he was perfectly normal, which he probably was. He is on record as making anti-Jewish comments before WW2. But these were typical of someone from his class and background, and are probably only skin deep. Once you are a French citizen in the hands of the Nazis, things can get precarious. So I suppose you allow your name to be put to any journalistic article placed in front of you. Other players took part in German chess tournaments during the war, including Keres, and Bogoljubow - I think the latter had been a German citizen for years anyway. The only eccentricity I found in Alekhin is the pronunciation of his name. He insisted it was pronounced Alyekhin. The only Russian I have heard pronounce it this way is Anatoly Karpov. Every other Russian I have met pronounces it Alyokhin. (One of the hooligans from Pu$$y Riot was named Alyokhina.)

Alekhin was a wonderful player with a very complete style.

NB: “Xeque-Mate no Estoril” (Checkmate at Estoril) by Dagoberto L. Mark was the first book I read regarding Alekhine’s death (unfortunately there’s only a Portuguese version).


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