An artist's touch at the chessboard

Artists and musicians have frequently shown a marked affinity for chess: The Oistrakhs, Richard Strauss, Mischa Elman, Gregor Piatigorsky, and John Cage, among musicians, come easily to mind. Among artists in other fields there is no argument who was the strongest chess player; while many have loved to play the game, Marcel Duchamp (whose ``Nude Descending a Staircase'' caused great controversy at the 1913 New York Armory show) was clearly the best. The famous artist also made many aesthetic contributions to chess, including designs for pieces and a fine-quality pocket set, and was co-author (with Halberstadt) of a book of endings. He was once quoted as saying, ``All chessplayers are artists.'' Especially after abandoning painting, Duchamp demonstrated an unflagging interest in and enthusiasm for the game. With mixed emotions I recall that he and his wife were the sole spectators on New Year's Eve, during the resumption of my adjourned last-round game with Bobby Fischer in the 1966-67 US Championship. Fischer had already clinched first place; I needed a draw to qualify for the Interzonals. Bobby's superb endgame artistry in notching the win was thoroughly approved by Duchamp, who nodded approvingly at each of his moves.

Before making New York his permanent home, Duchamp played for the French Olympic team in Hamburg, 1930. In that event he drew a critical game with the legendary Frank Marshall, US champion for almost 30 years and one of the original group of players awarded the title of grandmaster in St. Petersburg, 1914. The draw was no giveaway, either; the half point enabled France to tie the match with the United States. The game is featured below.

Queen's Gambit Declined Marshall Duchamp 1. P-Q4 N-KB3 2. N-KB3 P-QN3 3. P-B4 P-K3 4. B-N5 B-K2 5. N-B3 B-N2 6. Q-B2 P-Q4 (a) 7. P-K3 O-O 8. PxP NxP 9. BxB QxB 10. NxN BxN 11. B-Q3 P-KR3 12. P-QR3 P-QB4 (b) 13. PxP R-B1 14. P-QN4 PxP 15. R-QB1 N-Q2 16. B-R6 R-B2 17. P-K4 B-N2 18. BxB RxB 19. PxP QxP (c) 20. O-O QxQ 21. RxQ K-B1 22. KR-B1 K-K2 23. N-Q4 K-K1 24. P-B4 R/R-N1 25. P-K5 N-B1 26. R-B5 R-N8 27. RxR RxR ch 28. K-B2 R-N2 29. R-B8 ch K-K2 (d) 30. R-R8 N-N3 31. P-N3 K-Q2 32. P-QR4 N-K2 33. N-N5 N-B1 34. P-N4 RxN (e) 35. PxR K-B2 36. P-N5 PxP 37. P-N6 ch K-N2 38. RxN KxR 39. draw (f)

A.The Queen's Indian will soon metamorphose into a Queen's Gambit Declined. More aggressive for Black is 6.... P-B4, since 7.P-K3, BxN; 8.PxB, PxP; 9.PxP favors Black because of White's tattered pawn skeleton.

B.Black alertly seizes his opportunity to advance his backward pawn, though there are still some murky waters to be negotiated before he equalizes.

C.This possibility may have been overlooked by Marshall when he played his 12th move. Now 20.QxQ, NxQ; 21.RxN? R-N8 ch wins for Black.

D.Black has been successfully treading a narrow line. Marshall, with an advantage in space, pulls out all the stops trying to win.

E.Black carefully prepared this clever riposte, which places a damper on White's winning aspirations.

F.After 39.NPxP, K-N2; 40.PxP, KxP, it is White who must exercise some care to achieve the draw, since his KP is vulnerable. He can halve the point by either 41.P-R4, P-N3 (forced to prevent 42.P-R5, R6 and queens); 42.P-R5, PxP; 43.K-N3, K-N3; 44.K-R4, K-B4; 45.KxP, K-Q4; 46.K-R6, KxP; 47.KN-7, K-B4; 48.KxP or 41.P-N6, PxP; 42.K-B3, K-N3; 43.K-N4, K-B4; 44.K-N5, K-Q4; 45.KxP, KxP; 46.KxP, K-B4; 47.P-R4.

International Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier is a former US champion and has won or shared the US Open title five times.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to An artist's touch at the chessboard
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today