Bishop's Castle, Capablanca, Capdevila & ChessThursday, November 05, 2009
El tablero de ajedrez (fragmento)
" Como en la vida, todo es problema en el ajedrez, desde la apertura hasta el mate. Pero todo es equidad y todo es ley. Tengo aquí peones, Caballos, Alfiles: están medidas mis potencias. Puedo adquirir, sin embargo, nuevas fuerzas por la combinación acertada de las que me han sido consentidas. Y, a la inversa, puedo disminuirlas o perderlas. Nadie sino yo tendrá la culpa de esto. Una combinación errónea me traerá siempre a menos, bajo el jaque del rival. De donde se infiere, provechosamente, que la violenta ambición es perversa consejera, y que tan sólo se ha de tomar en cuenta el interés de la armoniosa verdad. La multiplicidad de peligros de que vivimos rodeados se evidencia en el tablero. Hemos jugado por fin. ¿Qué hará el adversario?... Es el dueño de innumerables posibilidades; el mero paso de su peón, con ser nada más que un peón, puede comprometer todo mi plan y ocasionar mi ruina. Lección incomparable, que nos instruye en la suprema ley de la relatividad. ¿Y lo que se pierde, se pierde para siempre? El ajedrez nos da un consuelo. Si cuidamos la marcha de los ínfimos peones, tan pequeñitos como son, apoyando su avance con bien distribuidas fuerzas, alguno de ellos entrará a los últimos cuarteles del adversario y será nuestro precio de recate por la pieza grande que entregamos en temerario arranque al lazo del enemigo. Así, del propio error viene a servirse el ajedrizta paciente para la ulterior victoria. Parece que por tales caminos se nos aleccionará de que no hay modesta intención ni altruista constancia que al cabo no fructifique. Porque todo este juego se funda en el ejercicio altruista de los poderes, como se ve de inmediato cuando se considera que siendo el Rey la pieza menos útil, por él pelean las demás, denodadas y terribles. También se advierte que la pieza jaqueada no atiende nunca a su particular salvación sino a la del conjunto que se le sobrepone. "
Arturo Capdevila (1889, Córdoba, 1967 Buenos Aires)
Yesterday I toured our garden and saw one of my roses, uncharacteristically in bloom this late in the season. It is an English Rose called ‘Bishop’s Castle’ Two years ago when I first purchased it, the bush was glorious with multi canes and blooms. But it has ultimately been a poor grower. Now it is a sorry spindly thing. I am not all that sure it will come back for next spring. The very thin cane was bent over and one of the blooms was dragging on the ground. But one of he others was in all of its glory and in spite of the cold weather I could smell its exquisite scent. It is a scent that will remain in my memory, as the days become wetter, colder and bleaker, until spring.
I wondered why the rose had the name. The first thought in my mind was that it could have something to do with chess. I quickly shifted my thoughts to other possibilities as the only chess connection would have to do with moving both the bishop and the knight out of the way and or the queen if one were to castle (the only move in chess where two chess pieces, the king and the rook, are moved simultaneously).
But while I finally found out that the name has to do with a small market town in Shropshire (close to where David Austin hybridizes his roses) by the same name, chess lingered in my mind.
I began to play chess when I was 8 but I abandoned it when I was 20. I realized I could never be anything but a competent player. In losing in chess one quickly learns to eliminate all excuses, and what is left, is surely a lack of intellectual activity and a torpid movement of electrical impulses in one’s neurons. Simply put, I was too stupid to be a good chess player.
Until it finally sank in, I read books on chess and my hero was the Cuban chess master with the beautiful name, José Raúl Capablanca. I had a two-month chess rennaissance in 1966 when I was on board a slow Argentine ELMA (the Argentine merchant marine) Victory ship, the Rio Aguapey en route from Buenos Aires to Veracruz. As soon as the captain Guillermo Magliorini found out I played he summoned me every night to his quarters for a match. I think that we were pretty even so when I disembarked my pride was almost intact.
In the late 50s I would take the bus to downtown Mexico City to Calle Palma. Calle Palma had blocks and blocks of chess stores where I would stare at chess sets I could never afford to buy. Most of us, in those days would buy the cheap and hollow plastic pieces. We would fill them with sand to make them heavy and then we would glue on the bottoms the finest green felt we could find. The chess board was another problem. For years I had a foldable cardboard one but I finally was able to save enough to get a wooden one.
I often would go to Chapultepec Castle to feast my eyes on the most beautiful chess set I had ever seen. The black obsidian players were Moctezuma, Cuauhtemoc and the fierce Aztec warriors. The jade players were Cortez, his captains and his soldiers. The chess board consisted of inlaid squares of obsidian and jade. The set disappeared in the early 70s. In the mid 90s I returned to Mexico City and I was able to secure an interview with one of the castle’s curators. She told me that the set had never existed and that I must have been confused with some other museum.
Of late I have been thinking that I should buy a chess set and teach Rebecca. I am sure that her neurons would be able to accommodate more chess activity than her grandfather’s.