About Chess, Inner Beauty and Rockstar Pride
I. Quixote Rockstar
For a while I am of the opinion that Don Quixote’s mind is more interesting than his actions, but Cervantes had to invent wild and spectacular adventures to make it a novel.
In the same train of thought, a Cuban grandmaster, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, once said something like the beauty of chess will be always hidden for those who don't know the game.
He was right. So don't expect anyone to understand us, don't dream about a ChessTV, don't expect to be acclaimed by enthusiastic crowds. We are not stars, and we won't be. If anything, maybe some elite players will reach a limited visibility like some contemporary artists, which confusing ideas are painted with abstract colors and are sold at exorbitant prices. No more.
II. Pretty people.
Once, some years ago, in my 3rd year of college, a member of the crew I had formed to produce a documentary about an old chess amateur, asked me: "Why chess?" And I said "Because it’s beautiful." He, totally alien to our little chess world, had started the project thinking that I wanted to portray the shattered old man living conditions and the disaster, the grayness and dirt from Cuba's most famous chess club, opened his eyes in amazement, and said: "I don't understand."
I'm sure all of us had trouble anytime trying to explain why and how the Chess fed our need for beauty that we, like any other human being, we have. So I started thinking another answer than the old (and failed) ones; I needed him as a member of my team to understand. Finally, I found the answer.
"Give me your wallet," I said, knowing that he treasured a photo of his precious family. "Look," I said, knowing that he would not take offense at what I was about to do: I showed him the photo of his grandparents, "Do you know how many people think that your grandparents are NOT pretty?” His grandparents were no models, totally wrinkled, carrying the weight of their years in more than one way, not suitable in any way for advertising use about happy elder people. He recovered the wallet, not knowing what to say ... until he said to me, "Nobody knows what they have done for me, the love they professed to me and the hours they spent with me. I do not care at all what people think; they are the best grandparents in the world"
III. The Country of the Flags.
I came from a country where ideology is confused with patriotism, national symbols (flag, coat of arms, national hero) have been imposed as a representation of a tyranny that has lasted more than 50 years, so many people think if they betray the government they are betraying the Homeland, while others make rejection of the national symbols when in fact their anger is against the goverment.
Nearly three years ago, while crossing from Montreal to New York by bus, for more than six hours I never stopped to see all the way down American flags of all possible sizes. But there any similarity ends. Everyone in this country (parties, factions, independents or just thinking people) agree that the flag of stripes and stars is representing them all, and are very proud of it, and they give a damn what others think about it –for good or bad.
In the same way, long ago I stopped to worry thinking that my occupation is not interesting to others. I cheer myself: and I consider myself privileged, as many of you: we are possessors of an ancient art whose beauty we and only we can appreciate. So whenever you're asked, puff out your chest like a rooster, hit it like gorillas do, and say “I'm a chess player”.
With pride. Repeat: "I am a chess player."
PS: As usual, the documentary "El Pita" was interpreted as an attempt to critique the precarious conditions of Capablanca Club and the lives of some of its members and chess in general.
As usual in my country, the Club was renovated after a while (some say due to my documentary), but I imagine that the living conditions of some members remain precarious; Chess in Cuba continues to be showcased as a government’s ideological victory.
I've never been able to recover the film.
This article was originally published here.
Esta es una versión imperfecta en inglés de mi artículo orginal en español, el cual lo puedes encontrar aquí.