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Old 04-16-2013, 04:17 AM   #16
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Having said that, I personally found it a bit hard to believe that someone as apparently thick as Czentovich had the subtleties of mind to become a chess champion.
I don't have as much of a problem with this although it is pretty curious. He would lose a game and then never lose again. I think it was a matter of him requiring time to imprint certain elements of his opponent and then use those elements against them. After a while of course, he had imprinted enough to win without the initial loss. He wasn't subtle - he was a machine, a computer.

This is why he was still managed to be upset by someone who played with a kind of mad inspiration. But just like with all other opponents in the past, he only really required one full attempt to understand what was required to win, and in this case it was to let Dr B destabilise and defeat himself. It only really demonstrated that Czentovich was able to apply the same tactics off the board as on.

But I didn't have a problem with this aptitude being shown by an apparent dullard.
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Old 04-16-2013, 06:11 AM   #17
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It was a re-read for me. I liked it very much when I first read it in my younger days and I was curious if I would like it today too. Yes, I did. And I felt the same kind of sadness about the outcome. Although Dr. B. wins this one game (which is a tremendous achievement, chess world champions never lose to amateurs, at least not when playing on the same conditions) he is the loser in the end. I always thought this as a reflection of Zweig's own life which led him to commit suicide soon afterwards.

For those of you who are interested in the general story - intellectual jews who had to flee from Nazi Germany - I could additionally suggest reading some books by Erich Maria Remarque. But unfortunately, I don't have any knowledge about translations and availability in English.
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Old 04-16-2013, 06:11 AM   #18
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Some chess forums have interesting comments on this book. For instance, it seems that Zweig actually had a book of grandmaster games of the type described in Chess and he frequently played and studied these games. It is quite possible that it is from that volume that he obtained the famous game between Alexander Alekhine vs Efim Bogoljubov in 1922. If you wish you can replay the entire game here: {It's quite exciting and there are some interesting comments on it}.

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1006949

This caused me to reflect on the fact that Alekhine was the reigning world champion at the time the book takes place. So, I'll first fill in a bit of background information about him.

After his sensational and unexpected win against Capablanca in 1927 {to whom he never gave a rematch} he only played two players for the title. One was Bogoljubov, mentioned above--who was a poor match player {though good in tournaments} whom he played twice in 1929 and 1934--winning easily both times--and Euwe the Dutch Grandmaster in 1935 and 1937 losing the first match and regaining the title with the second. During that time he avoided a group of new young players such as Reshevsky, Botvinnik, Keres. Flohr, and Fine. At that point the title holder, in effect, "owned" the title and defended it when and against whom he pleased. {This changed after Alekhine's death when the FIDE took over.}

World War 2 brought an end to most international Chess meetings. Alekhine took a rabid anti-Semitic position while living in Portugal. He wrote six articles in 1941 claiming that Jews played cowardly, inferior chess. After the war Alekhine was put into coventry by the rest of the chess world. However, finally, in 1946, Botvinnik challenged him to a Championship Match (which he certainly would have won} in London. Alekhine died before the match could take place.

There are those who claim that Alekhine feigned his anti-Semitism to protect his wife--that it was a pragmatic decision forced on him and this remains a possibility.

Here you will find a summary of the main facts in the case.

http://www.geocities.com/siliconvall.../7378/nazi.htm

Now, was Zweig aware of these articles or of Alekhine's alleged anti-Semitism? Czentovic certainly doesn't physically resemble Alekhine nor does he sound as if he plays in the dynamic tactical style of the latter. Further, Alekhine was evidently quite pleasant and charming on a personal level. But if the then-current world champion had been in Zweig's thoughts, then the conflict at the chessboard takes on a deeper significance and the conflict gains a political as well as a psychological dimension.

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Old 04-16-2013, 06:30 AM   #19
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Thanks for the interesting links, fantasyfan!
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Old 04-16-2013, 08:33 AM   #20
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Lovely stuff fantasyfan.

Just out of curiosity - do any of our readers of Chess actually play the game? I know how, but I'm not a big fan.

Actually I don't think I'm even good at applying myself to it. Far too strategic and forward thinking for me. It's possible that I'm also stunted a bit that I like to play to enjoy more than to win and chess isn't really that sort of game.
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Old 04-16-2013, 08:37 AM   #21
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Billi - a thought. You very happily gave this book an endorsement during the nominations. You've made the reasons for this apparent, but I'm curious to know if there is any connection between this story and the avatar you've chosen.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:16 AM   #22
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Lovely stuff fantasyfan.

Just out of curiosity - do any of our readers of Chess actually play the game? I know how, but I'm not a big fan.

Actually I don't think I'm even good at applying myself to it. Far too strategic and forward thinking for me. It's possible that I'm also stunted a bit that I like to play to enjoy more than to win and chess isn't really that sort of game.

Thank you.

When I was in University I was a member of the Chess Club and played for its team. I was very enthusiastic about the game and its history then. But, like yourself, I found the cut and thrust of the game--the need to win rather debilitating. It really can become obsessive. Thus I switched to Chess problems which have a kind of satisfying abstract beauty which I continue to enjoy.

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Old 04-16-2013, 10:18 AM   #23
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I'm curious to know if there is any connection between this story and the avatar you've chosen.
I'm no detective, but I'm guessing the connection is chess.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:27 AM   #24
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Having said that, I personally found it a bit hard to believe that someone as apparently thick as Czentovich had the subtleties of mind to become a chess champion.
I had an easier time believing in an idiot savant who mastered the game than someone who through playing mental chess games for a few months was able to defeat the champion. I suppose it's best not to take either too literally.

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I always thought this as a reflection of Zweig's own life which led him to commit suicide soon afterwards.
Oh, yes. The outlook as suggested by this story is quite bleak. Zweig had reimagined himself more than once; he wasn't up to another effort, nor could he foresee eventual victory for good.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:44 AM   #25
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Just as an aside, the match itself made me think of the Fischer-Spassky match in 1972, where Fischer allegedly used psychological tactics to gain an (unfair) advantage.
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Old 04-16-2013, 03:47 PM   #26
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Just out of curiosity - do any of our readers of Chess actually play the game?
Yes, I do. I'm a member of a chess club and quite regular play in team competitions (Does this answer your second question too? When I chose the avatar I thought it tells something about me).

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When I was in University I was a member of the Chess Club and played for its team. I was very enthusiastic about the game and its history then. But, like yourself, I found the cut and thrust of the game--the need to win rather debilitating. It really can become obsessive. Thus I switched to Chess problems which have a kind of satisfying abstract beauty which I continue to enjoy.
I had a suspicion in this direction when I read your long post above.
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Old 04-16-2013, 10:14 PM   #27
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Yes, I do. I'm a member of a chess club and quite regular play in team competitions (Does this answer your second question too? When I chose the avatar I thought it tells something about me).
It does indeed answer the second question.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:20 AM   #28
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Just out of curiosity - do any of our readers of Chess actually play the game? I know how, but I'm not a big fan.
I'm a fan of the game. I play badly.

I didn't get a heck of a lot out of this story. I didn't mind reading it, but I'm not sure that I'm any better or more enriched for having done so.
Maybe I'm missing something, or I just need something a bit more high-concept. In any case, this short story has delusions of grandeur if it ever had the nerve to call itself a 'novel.'


A quick chess joke:

My friend and I were playing chess and he said "let's make this a little more interesting...."
So we stopped playing chess.
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Old 04-17-2013, 01:29 AM   #29
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I didn't get a heck of a lot out of this story. I didn't mind reading it, but I'm not sure that I'm any better or more enriched for having done so.
I can understand that. For me, I guess I was taken by the psychological aspects of the story. I missed some of the ideas that issybird brought up, but she always has very astute observations while I'm often mired in the literal.

I wouldn't necessarily rush out and read everything that Zweig has written based on this, but it made for an interesting diversion.
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Old 04-18-2013, 11:17 AM   #30
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For those of you who are interested in the general story - intellectual jews who had to flee from Nazi Germany - I could additionally suggest reading some books by Erich Maria Remarque. But unfortunately, I don't have any knowledge about translations and availability in English.
I'm following up Chess with Peter Gay's My German Question, which tells of his boyhood as an assimilated Jew in Nazi Berlin (his family fled in 1939) and deals with the issue of why more Jews didn't realize/didn't get out in time and his feelings about Germany and being German. I had assumed Gay was from an intellectual family, but in fact they were solidly middle class.

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some of the ideas that issybird brought up, but she always has very astute observations while I'm often mired in the literal.

I wouldn't necessarily rush out and read everything that Zweig has written based on this, but it made for an interesting diversion.
Aw, shucks. I have to contest the mired; the literal is the story. I don't think you can be too "mired." I always find your exigesis of the plot and characters to be illuminating.

I don't think Zweig is aging well, so I agree with your second comment. That was my real objection to Chess; it came across as rather fusty to me. Good when it was written, but not penetrating or original enough to achieve classic status. But there's nothing wrong with being highly readable and shining a light on contemporary attitudes. Social history more than literature, as it were.
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