August 3, 2021

Chess, science in black and white

Chess, science in black and white


Eduardo Scala has long understood that chess was not a sport, "but an art and a system of knowledge," he says in consonance with the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Chess (Moscow, 1990), which sums it up as "an art that manifests itself in the form of a game ». He had just won the City of Burgos Tournament of '67 and, since then, he gave himself over to the "game of games", forgetting the competition and becoming a "judge", missionary and apostle », explains who would now be in the National Library (BNE) ) the exhibition «AjedreZ. Art of silence ». A sample in which "to invite to the enjoyment of this entertainment that is not a martial game neither violent nor aggressive and yes a pleasure similar to the music, a concert of pieces and silence". The value of the game as a sacred space, the basis of moral precepts and spiritual paths.

From the submission to those 64 squares of the board, Scala proposes a journey through 32 books -pictures as figures- of Spanish authors in which the path of chess is followed from the first text in the West on the necessity of the escaque in the formation school, from Petrus Alfonsi to the "Chronicles of chess", by Fernando Arrabal, "who, in addition to being a universal writer and filmmaker, is a tournament chess player and even a journalist in the French press," says the curator.

With the Asian origin of the game in question, but being India the place indicated by the great theses, «what is known with certainty is the reinvention in the Iberian Peninsula of what we know today as modern chess», presents. Introduced into the continent by Muslims who divided the territory with Christians, it was the Jews who played a fundamental role in the exchange of customs. This is demonstrated by the rabbi of Tudela with Abraham ibn Ezra with the bases of the reviled Arab style that includes in a poem from the mid-twelfth century: "The order in everything: that they are arranged / seen in the table, keeping their posts / with eight different square sections / in two daring male camps ». Because, until then, it was a pastime of men.

Until the "Book of the Games", commissioned by Alfonso X a century later, collects in its illustrations the presence of the woman, who began as a spectator before becoming a judge and, later, an executor. "Scachs d'amor", a 64-stanza poem written by three Valencian humanists in 1475, was to certify that change of course reflecting the irruption of the lady during the story of the first modern game: the king remained the main objective, but now the strongest piece was a woman. The old and slow movements of the alferza -or prime minister- were exchanged for the almighty queen that went from one side of the board to the other in a single movement. Thus the universal rules that have governed chess for a millennium were set.

The great absence

However, it is no less important than the "great search and misfortune" of Eduardo Scala, "Llibre dels jochs partitis dels scachs in the name of 100": "The first printed book of chess in the world of which we do not have a single copy. It is the great absence [representada en un espacio vacío] of this exhibition with which we want to take advantage of to make an appeal for its recovery. Very important for chess and for the own printing press ». Scala speaks of the lost volume of Francesch Vicent dated May 1495 and in which he poses 100 problems on the board.

They are the beginnings of a game that would continue to develop in the Peninsula under the protection of elites and religious. Also from a Santa Teresa de Ávila who "was a good chess player and handled the code", explains Scala among a good number of manuscripts: "Who does not know how to arrange the pieces in the game of chess, who will know how to play and if he does not know how to check , will not know how to give mate ", picks up" Way of perfection ". In the same way that "the greats of our language", as the fourth part of the exhibition gathers, they embraced the game. The Cervantes, Lope, Covarrubias, Benavente, Unamuno and company stopped in the game of the 64 squares: "In the bag of death everything is framed; the king, the poor … », the commissar cites the Sancho of« Don Quixote ». "It is the game of life and death in which we are all equal, chess. It is established in the magic square of Mercury, then it is a matter of wise men and merchants, where the valuation of the pawn or the queen is made from the point of view of the merchant. If you focus here, the game is a pleasure. " It is Scala's endeavor in "AjedreZ" which is also collected by the historian Fernando Gómez Redondo in the book of the exhibition: "It can not be conceived as a simple pastime, although superficially it can also be, but as a transcendental allegory of the mysteries that surround the life and death, day and night, white and black, two extremes between which the architecture of "silence" extends, in which all the possibilities of being and feeling are calculated ".

But not everything is spirituality around chess. Science also has its weight, as demonstrated by the "Deep Blue" that Kasparov confronted in 1996 and is reflected here by the automaton machine that advanced eight decades to that duel: "The Chess Player", "a Torres Quevedo alley that it gives good sample of the Global Spain that now they want to sell to us ", Scala closes.

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