1st Magistral MARCEL DUCHAMP
A round robbin tournament named in honour of the late Marcel Duchamp, French-born chess master and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, is presently being held at the prestigious Argentine Chess Club in Buenos Aires. Some of the best known GMs in South America are participating, including Gilberto Hernandez and Carlos Garcia Palermo.
”…I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” Marcel Duchamp
Why Buenos Aires, you might ask? Apart from the obvious question of honour and prestige, while still a young artist, Marcel Duchamp fell in love with chess while staying in Buenos Aires in 1918 and this passion would stay with him for the rest of his life. When he eventually returned to Paris he started to dedicate more time to the game than to his art! So obsessed did he become with the game, that once his wife became so infuriated with him that she glued the chess pieces to the board!
Opening ceremony. GM Carlos Palermo picking his number in the sorteo
International Arbiter Blas Marino Pingus explaining the rules
Gilberto Hernandez is white today
The Club Argentino de Ajedrez is located in central Buenos Aires not far from the Obelisk. This is one of the oldest and most prestigious chess clubs in South America, and houses a chess museum that contains a number of remarkable items, including (below) the board, pieces, chess clock and table and chairs used in the 1927 World Chess Championship match between Capablanca and Alekhine!
Only Capablanca and Alekhine are missing!
A bit about Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp (28 July 1887 – 2 October 1968) was a French artist whose work is most often associated with the Dadaist and Surrealist movements. Duchamp’s output influenced the development of post-World War I Western art. He advised modern art collectors, such as Peggy Guggenheim and other prominent figures, thereby helping to shape the tastes of Western art during this period. (wiki)
Marcel(left) with his brothers Jacques and Raymond, both also artists
A playful man, Duchamp challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and art marketing, not so much by writing, but through subversive actions such as dubbing a urinal “art” and naming it Fountain. He produced relatively few artworks, while moving quickly through the avant-gare circles of his time. (wiki)
In 1918 Duchamp made a hiatus from the New York art scene, interrupting his work on the Large Glass, and went to Buenos Aires, Argentina. He remained for nine months and often played chess. He even carved from wood his own chess set, with the assistance of a local craftsman who made the knights.
During this period his fascination with chess so distressed his first wife that she glued his pieces to the board. Duchamp continued to play in the French Championships and also in the Olympiads from 1925-1933: Paris 1925, The Hague 1928, Hamburg 1930, Prague 1931 and Folkestone 1933. Duchamp favored hypermodern openings such as the Nimzo-Indian.
Sometime in the early 1930s, Duchamp reached the height of his ability, but realized that he had little chance of winning recognition in top-level chess. In following years, his participation in chess tournaments declined, but he discovered correspondence chess and became a chess journalist, writing weekly newspaper columns.
The Bar Meliton, in Cadaques, was Duchamp’s favourite place to play chess
Addicks J. – Duchamp M.
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Qc2 Bb7 6. Nd2 Nc6 7. e3 e5 8. d5 Ne7 9. a3 Bxc3 10. Qxc3 d6 11. e4 Qd7 12. Be2 Ng6 13. h4 Nf4 14. Bf3 h5 15. g3 Ng6 16. Bg2 c6 17. Bh3 Qc7 18. dxc6 Qxc6 19. f3 Bc8 20. Nf1
20… Nxe4! 21. fxe4 Qxe4 22. Kf2
22… Nxh4! 23. Rh2 Bxh3 24. gxh4 Qf5 25. Kg3 Bxf1 26. Be3 Qg4 27. Kf2 Bxc4 28. Rg1 Qf5 29. Ke1 Rc8 30. Qd2 d5 31. Rg5 Qf1# [0:1]
While his contemporaries were achieving spectacular success in the art world by selling their works to high-society collectors, Duchamp observed “I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.”
A victim of chess. But a happy victim!
On another occasion, Duchamp elaborated, “The chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chess-board, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem… I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.”
Duchamp’s pocket chess set
In 1932 Duchamp teamed with chess theorist Vitaly Halberstadt to publish L’opposition et cases conjuguées sont réconciliées (Opposition and Sister Squares are Reconciled), known as corresponding squares.
The theme of the “endgame” is important to an understanding of Duchamp’s complex attitude towards his artistic career. Irish playwright Samuel Beckett was an associate of Duchamp, and used the theme as the narrative device for the 1957 play of the same name, “Endgame”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbW_5_WE7hg
Duchamp left a legacy to chess in the form of an enigmatic endgame problem he composed in 1943. The problem was included in the announcement for Julian Lev’s gallery exhibition “Through the Big End of the Opera Glass”, printed on translucent paper with the faint inscription: “White to play and win.”
Grandmaster Larry Evans(above, left) knew Marcel Duchamp (right) very well and published the problem in his popular chess column, offering 15 dollars (!) for the correct solution. He was inundated with correct solutions and the whole venture turned out to be very expensive. (More on this on the above link!)