Monday, July 14, 2008


Let's start with the title. I was going to call this energy crisis, but then I decided to take it pedantic and introduce some SAT vocabulary. The other day someone even used this word, but I can't remember where. I think the proper pronunciation comes out sounding like "on-we". It sums up my feelings lately about chess. Listlessness, like the River Lethe overflowed its banks and filled up my house, including this small pocket of the universe that encloses my brain. I suppose this will go down as yet another conceit that I'm essentially writing about writer's block.

While watching such revered personae as Blue Devil Knight and Temposchlucker make their untimely exits, I watched only half forlornly, as these forefathers I never knew left without really imprinting upon me the dearthy future I would now face in their absence. I only knew that there were chess muses inside me that strained against my typing fingers for an expression. But it's time for me to face it. There was little here that hadn't seen the sun before. See, I just did it again with my penchant to cite and plagiarize without a personality of my own. I'm like Shang Tsung, the absorber of souls, ultimately without my own voice. And now the internal voices are suddenly hushed as if their owners were silently appraising a new predator in the jungle. Seeing other people's freeway accidents is a kind of visceral vicarious thrill until it's your own crumpled wreck that you're gazing dazedly out of.

It's rather ironic that I have been afflicted so. Apologies to those who I've left hanging with my nonresponsivenes. This goes especially for J.C. Hallman, whose work I panned in my last post, some forty-odd days and nights ago. I guess I came with some preconceived notions about how a book entitled The Chess Artist should go and cried false advertising when my expectations missed the mark. It's true that my feelings about the book were of disappointment. But the author seems to hint that he intended for us to feel the disillusionment that a chess player feels when he realizes that his performance will inevitably betray his lofty dreams. I am reminded of the moment in Ratatouille when Anton Ego reviews the restaurant run by the rat chef and realizes he's been wrong about the world for much of his life. And now I'm living proof of Mr. Hallman's thesis. Well played, sir.

When I was in grad school, my friends got to talking among themselves. There was one guy who I always thought was a blowhard. The question came up whether I would ever get tired of chess. Well, the said emphatically that no I would never get tired of chess, as if he had peered into my soul and seen the hole that would ever remain chess dependent. I guess I resented being so predictable, but I continued feeding the monster nevertheless. Then in 1998, for a four and a half year period, I proved him wrong, but at the end of 2002, I fell off the wagon.

I have been strong in my chess enthusiasm for about five years now with a few sine waves along the way, but this feels like a flatline that may last a bit longer. It took the leap toward chess lessons for me to see it more clearly: how much I suck at this game and how faulty my memory seems to get with the passage of years. Opening lines and problem concepts fade so fast on this dull tablet, as if written in distilled water on the cement driveway under a blazing sun. And me and my TD hat always had a tense relationship. I hope my hankering for chess playing returns, but I doubt I'll ever miss chess TDing.

I met ChargingKing yesterday. I had thought about his ideals of the Cobra Kai dojo with respect to chess and found my own cyberphilic paragon. A usual, my homages went haywire and I went for a conglomerate of major screenplay themes. The ruthless efficiency of machines relative to we frail and imperfect humans seems to get lots of traction in cinema. With regard to this particular post, their tirelessness is the antithesis. The arc I'm thinking of begins with HAL9000, continues with Cyberdyne Systems T-850, and on through Data and Six. At least in science FICTION, a machine's logic is impeccable, its memory banks perfect, and its battery life unflagging.

HAL 9000: I'm sorry Frank, I think you missed it. Queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop, mate.

Kyle Reese: Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Data: I am an android, I do not require rest.

Six: All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again. (Another way to say "There is nothing new under the sun.")

Speaking of new, I recently read Neuromancer by William Gibson. Wow, I am in awe of this man's writing ability and clairvoyance. While there's perhaps only one chess sentence in the whole thing, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It was an education in one of the seminal works of cyberpunk, which I recently learned is the combination of high tech and low life. As far as I'm concerned, the Wachowski brothers owe Gibson some royalties for The Matrix. Someone told me that Neuromancer was the birth of the word "cyberspace" in 1984. If the father of the internet is ever up for a popular vote, I nominate Gibson.

When ChargingKing asked of my preparations for the Western States, my enthusiasm buzzed slightly above baseline noise. It's still a possibility I'll get back into the game, but the drought seems to have a momentum that I am unwilling to check. Chess Karma once remarked that chess might be a little narrow to spend an eternity on. Like Phil Connors, I'm going to try a few new things, perhaps even piano lessons. Caissa is going to have to content herself with forgotten concubine for a while. I should be back; I just can't say when.

I'm going to close with two more quotes.

Alfred Lanning: When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote of a soul?

Terminator: Hasta la vista, baby.