Chess and Astrology

Jan 23, 2016, 5:24 AM |

Many, many people, even those at the pinnacle, take comfort from astrology. However, in the chess universe, where, perhaps, the inhabitants are too battle-hardened and scarred for such frivolities, it has not been able to find a hold. 

Although astrology is essentially bunk, it has an inbuilt fascination that has enabled it to survive for millenia. But it could not have survived so long without having some usefulness. Probably, consulting the astrologer was akin to consulting a psychiatrist today. You felt better and reassured after the session

Famous chess players' oddities are well known. Spassky, was that rare species of chess champion who was completely normal. Botvinnik was morbidly suspicious. Fischer was paranoid. Karpov was the blue eyed boy of the communist party of the USSR, known for his propensity for making cliff-hangers of world championship matches despite having unassailable leads like 5-0, 1984, and 5-2, 1978. If any of these players had had their charts drawn up, it would have made news.

World champions come from all parts of the zodiac. Fischer, pisces, a sign reputed for its dreaminess and lack of focus. Petrosian, gemini(!), a sign known for its quicksilver-like nimbleness and speed. Suspicious Botvinnik, a leo, supposedly the most gracious and outgoing sign of the zodiac. Alekhine, yes, a scorpio, fully living up to his sun-sign's scorpionic, even malevolent reputation. Capablanca, another scorpio, easy going and flamboyant.

What about the other chess champions?  Steinitz, slow moving, cautious, taurus. Fits. Karpov, moody,family loving, cancer. Kasparov, impulsive, brash, even violent aries, fits. Morphy, cancer.

The thing about astrology is that you can rarely say that it completely doesn't work. In the above list of diverse zodiac signs of world champions, other than the few random fits, there is one pattern, if one is inclined to see it. The greatest players of all time, Morphy, Capablanca, Alekhine and Fischer, are all water signs (cancer, scorpio, scorpio and pisces). Two not-so-great world champions, Tal and Karpov, were scorpio and cancer, so that makes for a lot of water signs at the top. (The twelve sun-signs are clubbed 3 each under the heads fire,(aggression) earth (stability), air (fickleness, communication), water(emotion, depth), starting with aries, fire, then taurus, earth, and so on down the zodiac.) 

So? Well, in such a small sample, some trends do appear, but have no significance, because the sample size is microscopic by statistical standards. But try telling that to a believer.