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TMI’d, bizarre, and psychotic PDFs I’ve ever scrolled through— an endless string of projected moves, crackpot tactics, and strategies on how to find “love,” or at least try to. Chess is not an easy [conquest], says even Burt Hochberg,

game expert and former Chess Life editor. Apparently, neither are women, because it takes Gordon 591 pages to demon- strate to the grandmaster the delicate art of picking-up “SHBs” (smoking-hot babes). At one point, Gordon considers quitting chess altogether, evok-

ing Hallman’s realization that he no longer wanted to be a serious chess player after panning the “watered-down machismo and bent personalities” of the Skittles room. A woman plays chess with the devil in the 14th-century

moral treatise The Edifying Book of Erotic Chess by French physician Evrart de Conty. First meant as commentary on the allegorical work of a poet, the extensiveness of de Conty’s notes made it a popular work in its own right. This “manual of seduc- tion” offered highly symbolic descriptions of a series of “love battles” between the narrator and his lady. The move-by-move narrative was meant to clarify respective—and respectable—gen- der roles in courtship (and to guide a future narrator during her online games with a so-called peaceart). One of the original man- uscripts was destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden in 1945.

Knights in Shining Armor:

Love Triangles on Squares Back to square a1: Chess and romance are no longer bedfel-

lows in our collective psyche. However, the game pieces still embody the notions of chivalry and romance that are still big players in Western consciousness. Women are to wait (in vain) for their knights in shining armor, having been raised on Dis- ney-princess paraphernalia. A king-sized bed is a requisite of the consummate bachelor pad. Men are to be knightly and fight for a woman’s honor, be it in a sports arena, on the silver screen or in a nightclub in Turin. Chaste or not, the bride is to say ‘yes!’ to the corset and white dress, made popular during the Middle Ages by Anne of Brittany as a symbol of virginity. And because illicit affairs never go out of fashion, we’re still in love with legends of knights who squarely gallop into triangles. Many films have revisited the legend of Tristan and Iseult. King

Mark (Rufus Sewell!) sends his nephew Tristan (James Franco!) to Ireland to fetch the princess Iseult (Sophia Myles!), who is betrothed to the king. On the trip back, Tristan and Iseult acci- dentally drink a love potion meant for the bride and groom, after which viewer discretion is advised. Instead of depicting the lovers in flagrante delicto, a 14th-century carving renders them, well, engaged in a game of chess. The legend of Tristan and Iseult is said to have influenced that

other one we treasure, Lancelot and Guinevere. It’s a familiar story: Lancelot, King Arthur’s trusted knight, falls in love with the king’s wife Guinevere. A 14th-century painting depicts Lancelot send- ing Guinevere his prize after winning a chess game: a magic chessboard in which the pieces move on their own accord.

The lasting power of these legends is especially not lost on

marketing forces. In 1997, Playboy ran a Smirnoff’s print ad that was captioned “Pure Mate.” The photograph captures a chess game in progress, during which the white queen (e1) is swept off her pedestal by a black knight (e2). Their embrace is made to look illicit in a number of dramatic

ways. That the queen is white and the knight is black imme- diately appeals to taboos about crossing class and racial lines, not to mention the implied “beauty and beast” (white-princess and black-horse-man). And whether positioned deliberately or by artistic license, the black king stands in his queen’s square and the white queen in her king’s square (‘off her color’). The

kiss is made further secretive by the framing of the couple inside the product bottle, which stands rather erect in the foreground. Behind the couple and partly framed within the bottle is a naughty little voyeur—the black bishop (f5)! Refraction bends the bishop’s upper body to suggest that he’s leaning towards the couple in a gesture of curiosity and disapproval. Meanwhile, beyond the frame of the bottle, the game of life appears to be in stasis for those chess pieces not immersed in vodka or in the throes of lust. These poor souls include: 1) a black pawn standing alone (c3), 2) a black rook (a8) facing a white bishop (a5) and a white pawn (b6), 3) a white pawn (d5) singlehandedly confronting the black king (d8), and 4) the God-fearing half of the aforementioned black bishop (f5). I leave it to the chess analyst to divine any other subliminal mes- sages from the board positions of this ridiculously staged game:

White and Black to mate after choosing to drink love potion.

r+-mk-+-+ +-+-+-+- -zP-+-+-+ vL-+P+l+- -+-+-+-+ +-zp-+-+- -+-+-+-+ +-+-+-+- (Smirnoff, 1997)

Making Moves The most talked about convergence of alcohol, chess, love and

battle took place in 2006, after the 37th World Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy. In this contemporary legend, coined ‘Gormally- gate’ by the media, British GM Danny Gormally punches Armenian GM and world number three Levon Aronian in a jeal- ous fit after Gormally sees Aronian dancing with Australian Woman International Master Arianne Caoili. The duel takes place at a nightclub with the impossible name of Hiroshima Mon Amour. Revenge comes a few days later, when Gormally is allegedly assaulted by several of Aronian’s teammates. In the end, the chess world gets more press coverage than ever, the dueling knights patch up, and Aronian and Caoili live on hap- pily ever after as a couple. Caoili has since won the London Chess Classic Women’s

Invitational Tournament and appeared as a celebrity dancer in Australia’s fifth season of “Dancing with the Stars.” “When two people make moves, like in sex, like in love, they

do some moves to win,” says Maria Manakova, ex-wife of Yugoslav grandmaster Miroslav Toši. “Yes, not only he, but she, the woman.” The Erotic Book of Chess encourages women to play an active

role in seduction. According to Yalom, not only does the woman make the first move by playing white, but “she initiate[s] the course of love through her most strategic weapon,” a weapon Manakova deployed when she posed nude for the Russian men’s magazine Speed. “Once people see that chess is not just for nerds,” says

American International Master Jeremy Silman, “but also for real people who love all that life has to offer, more people might give [chess] a serious try.” If he’s right, Chess and Romance might just be pausing their game to open a bottle of wine.

. Chess Life — February 2012 29

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