Is Chess Art?
Popular film critic Roger Ebert has decided to write a long statement defending his pronouncement long ago that "Video games can never be art." I really don't care what he says about video games: it's what he says about chess in his essay that bothers me. As he writes: "chess, football, baseball and even mah jong cannot be art, however elegant their rules." He grants that if we follow Wikipedia's definition of art as "the process of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions," then "as a chess player I might argue that my game fits the definition." But he refuses to accept it and refuses even to acknowledge the long history of statements about how chess can be experienced as art. Several readers have taken him to task for this. I thought I would just mention some quotes. The failure to at least acknowledge a history of argument comparing chess to art shows willful ignorance on his part.
"Chess, first of all, is art." -- Mikhail Tal
"Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry; the chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes throughts, and these throughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. Actually, I believe that every chess player experiences a mixture of two aesthetic pleasures: first, the abstract image akin to the poetic idea of writing; secondly, the sensuous pleasure of the ideographic execution of that image on the chessboard. From my close contact with artists and chess players, I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists." -- Marcel Duchamp, August 30, 1952 address to the New York State Chess Association"Chess is in its essence a game, in its form an art, and in its execution a science." -- Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa
"Great chess games are breathtaking works of art." -- Stuart Rachels
"Chess resembles writing, painting and music in being an obsessional mental activity preoccupied with exploring tension and complication to resolve them to triumphant harmony." -- Andrew Waterman, The Poetry of Chess
Labels: chess art