First HP Lovecraft Chess Tournament Interlude: Q and A, The "Real" HPL/Chess Connection

First HP Lovecraft Chess Tournament Interlude: Q and A, The "Real" HPL/Chess Connection

Oct 14, 2009, 5:23 AM |

    Due to numerous (mostly imaginary) suggestions from the many readers (some of whom are also imaginary) of my recent HPLT blogs, I felt compelled to explain a bit about this illustrious event. Here are a few FAQs to help clarify things a little for those with the curiosity and temerity to go forward in the pursuit of knowledge at the expense of their own sanity and well being.

Q: Who the heck is H.P. Lovecraft?

A: Howard Phillip Lovecraft was an early 20th century author of horror and fantasy fiction. He inspired and was inspired by many other accomplished authors in that field like Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Bellknap Long, Peter Straub, Lord Dunsany, and Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian. Even Stephen King has taken a turn at some HPL inspired stories, and his novella "The Mist" (which was made into a Hollywood film) is nearly a tribute. HPL's most recognized legacy was the creation of a pseudo-mythological cycle of godlike or demonic beings, variously referred to by him as The Ancient Ones, The Elder Gods, The Old Ones, the Outer Gods, etc. These stories were organized and collected in the early sixties by Lovecraft's friend and admirer August Derleth , who I believe is responsible for terming the collection "the Cthulhu Mythos", by which title the works are largely known today.

Q: WHY create a HPL chess tournament?

A: Why not? It's approaching Halloween, as some of you, not yet completely poisoned against various holidays by the marketing media and religious reprogrammers, might have noticed. I enjoy HPL's work, and I enjoy chess. The challenge of trying to find dark and outre themes on the board that somehow mirror Lovecraft's literary ideas amuses me, and hopefully my efforts to share these will amuse someone others as well.

Q: What the blazes does Lovecraft have to do with chess?

A: There is actually a connection, albiet an indirect one. Lovecraft was a great admirer of the English fantasy author and dramatist Edward Morton Drax Plunkett the Third,and modelled several of his own stories around this other man's style. Plunkett is much better known under his pen name (and actual baronic title) of Lord Dunsany. Dunsany was both the local pistol marksman and a reknowned chess champion in his day, and once even played the mighty Capablanca to a solid draw! There are several amusing anecdotes about his skill with both firearms and chess floating about for the avid investigator. Edward Winter, a famous "chessophile" wrote a superlative essay about him, entitled 'Lord Dunsany and Chess'. I recommend it to anyone interested in both fantasy fiction (particularly fans of Dunsany, if there are still any of us out there!) and the game it's self.

Q: Ye Gods, what is the point?!

A: Initially, the tournament was started in hopes that people with even a passing interest in HPL's work might meet and discuss it over the board during a few moderately amiable games. When I realized the random and international nature of those responding to an open tourney invitation, I soon concluded that at least in it's maiden voyage, an interest in HPL took a back seat to an interest in finding a well matched, low club level tournament for most who signed aboard. But I was undaunted. If the people would not come to Cthulhu, then I would bring Cthulhu to the people! The point of the blog (other than self amusement) is two-fold. First, to make others both aware of and curious about the competition, in hopes that a larger tournament with the same theme can be held soon. Second, to show and prove a strange but potentially powerful idea; chess can be about ANYTHING. Much like tarot cards, I Ching coins/sticks, mahjong tiles, and the writings of Douglas Adams, the game of chess was likely constructed by mysterious persons possessed of a deep understanding of the underlying structure of the universe, and all the forces and outcomes of combining those forces within it. If this is true, then chess, like these other tools of divination, can be used to illustrate any story, theme, idea or relationship concievable. This concept is hardly new, but has become somewhat of a novelty in our decidedly cynical modern times. Still I feel that if this notion were further explored, the game could unfold into new realms of appreciation and depth of emotional experience for those involved. It could provide a useful learning tool for otherwise very abstract ideas, and could also be a means to bring more interest to the game, especially in younger players. For anyone that thinks this idea is the very pinnacle of folly and wish the whole mess would just go away, I have some unsettling news. In addition to continuing the HPL tournaments as recurring establishments here at, plans are under way for both Wizard of Oz and E.A. Poe themed-tournaments as well.

Q: You guys aren't all that great at chess, why all the fuss?

A: The tournament and blogs are about using chess to explore fantastic literary themes. I never said I was great at chess, or that I have any of the qualifications necessary to be a serious annotator of games, or a composer of problems. It's my hope that in time my skills will improve and naturally enrich anything that I can bring to this community. In the meantime, I try to bring something a little different to the tables, and to stir the imaginations of like-minded individuals for whom chess can sometimes be so very much more than "just a game".

Q: U guy! U dont even have member! Y U think U so kewl???

A: It's a bit rude to assume things about another person's morality, financial situation, and lifestyle. The site offers free services, so I don't find it reprehensible to take advantage of what is offered. Having said this, if I am still not a registered member of the site by this time next year, I will be as surprised as any of you.

Q: What is that wet stuff dripping off the edges of all your boards and pieces?

A: Thats just residue from some cthonic emissions, a natural part of any dealings with mythos beings. If it really bothers you, a damp cloth can be used to wipe the majority of it away, though I am told the smell lingers eternally.

~ TRC ~