Saturday, July 10, 2010


If you have read foreign chess magazines or books over the years occasionally you will have seen chess caricatures of Tal, Portisch, excellent ones of Fischer and Spassky in Iceland, Korchnoi, and so on.

Not too many modern ones except perhaps Anand and Kasparov in England's CHESS Monthly.

When Andy Soltis and I launched two books in the 90s, Grandmaster Secrets: Endings and Grandmaster Secrets: Openings my son Rob drew all of them for me. He did a great job as various interested parties pricked up their "eyes," and yet still virtually nothing in US chess press. It could be two reasons: paucity of money, or paucity of talented artists. I suspect both.

Yet, for many years or so, there have been cartoons on chess. Most of them were OK in the art field, but it was usually the captions that held the looker's interest. Some were clever, and others repeated time worn expressions about such subjects as the "battle" between husbands and wives over chess extremes or interests and what was up the food chain and what wasn't.

There's been a lot of artistic chess manipulations on the covers of Chess Life but few that excited me. What is amazing is how many interpretations of chess there are by NON-chess players, and most of them way off base such as when one painter gave us a scene from medieval history only to embark on the details of a Staunton chess set which didn't happen until the middle of the 19th century.

Man Ray came up with a chess set design which was in left field but you could tell he knew something about chess. We know French artist Marcel Du Champ played chess as in the famous photo of him seemingly oblivious to a naked woman as his opponent (of course I don't buy this in real life yet there are examples of men caring more about TV sports than their own wife strutting sans clothes in front of a TV screen and being ignored with a "Move out of the way," comment).

Artists of all kinds have featured chess as a whole or in part of their works. The other day I saw a fantastic commercial, perhaps on CNN, showing two guys playing chess with a commentator freaking out in the background who would make Maurice Ashley look like he was on sleeping medication.

At our chess clinics there are many humorous moments, but no art. Has digital photography supplanted it?

Rob's caricatures will be featured in many upcoming issues of The Chess Reports. In issue #4 of Chess EXTRAS there will be a piece on "stealing" art ideas for a chess cover from a 1920s architectural publication: Karpov's Find the Right Plan. See ya then.

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