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July 12, 2004


bob mcmanus

Shit. Astonishing. Did a cursory search at USCF, found no inactive Holbo. But the name still rings a bell. ICC? Probably a paranoid hallucination.

Umm. Patzer kibitzing. Is it the moves not made that distinguish a human chess player from a computer, art from drawish dullness? The variations not on the board or scoresheet, that may not be infinite, but at least include the history and all the other games ever played? Is the African mask "art" because we have seen the "Demoiselles de Avignon"?

Ray Davis

A very rushed note:

1) I'm sure you were joking, but just in case: the Wittgenstein corollary was prompted by no one's nattering but my own.

2) I don't know if you checked my old foundations link, but does it work at all as a response-in-advance to the paradox you're describing? That is, our impulse to call a chess problem or a mathematical proof "poetic" when they're clearly not poems results from our feeling an aesthetic impulse behind both and from poetry being a cultural marker for "pure" art -- as opposed to, say, calling a chess game "Bruckheimeresque", which Steinitz comes close to doing.


Bob, about four years ago I undertook an intensive, year-long self-study chess course. Basically, I played hard for a year, reading a lot of books and such, then got bored with it. So I'm OK, but pretty rusty these days. (I discovered blogging and chess pretty much went away as far as I was concerned.) I composed the chess skeleton of this dialogue way back when, although a lot of the flesh got added more recently.

Ray, yes I was thinking in part of your old link. Chess is a nice example, of course, because chess players only calculate around the edges even though the essence of the thing is so clearly mathematically pure. Obviously chess players look for patterns. (Everyone knows that.) And they have rich fantasy lives. I think one of the best bits of concrete advice I got out of any of those chess books I read was to 'construct a fantasy position'. That is, put all the pieces just where I want them in my mind's eye, then try to find a path by a mixture of deductive logic and, when that doesn't quite do it, further fantasy. That fits perfectly with your point that "Studies in experimental psychology indicate that deductive logic (as opposed to strictly empirical reasoning) is impossible without the ability to explicitly engage in fantasy."

Kip Manley

I'll just footnote, then, with an early Scott McCloud webcomic: "My Obsession With Chess."


Thanks Kip. That's good stuff from Mr. McLoud, as the NYT would say.




Hmmm. Artificial languages not allowed at the temple of poetry. Of course, without the mental image of the position on the board, the interaction, the tension between the pieces, the plans, attacks, defenses, counterattacks, sacrifices and combinations that each position contains - that language is quite dead.
Just as the written notes on the most magnificent musical compostition are dead, not only to the deaf, but equally so to one who has neither heard the piece nor learned to read the language of music. Unless one hears the notes either in their ears or in their mind the concert is quite dead.
So sad that the effort required to see the beauty of chess exceeds the desire of most to view it. But isn't it the same with art? If you had to travel to the Louvre to see Mona Lisa, would you? If she were not in books and on the internet but you actually had to take the journey would you? Even in the age of jet flight to Paris in less than a day from anywhere, the answer is overwhelmingly "no". The cost is too high.

And for most, the cost to be able to see those tensions, that music of the chess pieces, the cost is too high. We live our lives like we have an eternity. We can get around to it one day. Perhaps we do have an eternity in that spiritual realm, but not here in the material world. Not in earthen containers.

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