Chess and art: War with the Newts…
Chess has appeared many times in the art world, sometimes in the cinema, in the painting…
“I was playing chess with Belamy in the hall of the French Hotel, in Saigon… I lost that game.
Suddenly, I thought that every play over the board had been already performed by another person and on another occasion. Maybe our story had been already “played” and here we are ready to move our pieces making the same expressions and towards the same mistakes…”
The fatality of ‘everything was written’ is reflected in a verse of ‘War with the Newts’, the most famous work of the Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938).
Capek was the inventor of the robot concept, which he introduced in his play R.U.R. (1920) and he is considered one of the pioneers of the science fiction.
The Knight and the death…
Ingmar Bergman declared that the idea of making his movie ‘The Seventh Seal’ arose as a result of seeing a medieval picture, in which was a knight, the death and a chess board. What the great Swedish filmmaker didn’t say is what was that picture or the place where he saw it.
I think I found it. It must be, in fact, a fresco located in a church of Täby (Province of Stockholm), with the sign: “Alderkes Pictor” (That should be read: Alderkes, Pictor, it means, Alderkes, painter) dating from, approximately, 1470. There are other ten or twelve churches, throughout Sweden, with pictures of the same artist.
Bogey in the Congo…
In 1951 the famous actor Humphrey Bogart was in the then Belgian Congo, filming ‘The African Queen’. (John Huston directed the film.) He was with his cast partner, Katharine Hepburn and his wife Lauren Bacall.
In those places a guy called Dr. Paul Limbos practiced medicine, he impersonated as an amateur chess player.
But in fact, he was a player good enough as to having won several times the Belgian Championship. It seems like Humphrey Bogart and Limbos were playing chess during the filming breaks, betting 1 dollar per game.
I only know one of those games (1-0 for Limbos, French Opening, 22 moves). Despite the beating, the level of play of the actor seems reasonable for an amateur. As a consolation, the loser won the Oscar for Best Actor that year, precisely for his performance in ‘The African Queen’.
Chess and art, two worlds connected!
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