“From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” Marcel Duchamp, 1952.
Artists have long loved the symbolism of the chess board and represented it in paintings, sculptures and other forms. Is this the art of chess? Actually I would describe it as the art of chess symbolism and would clearly distinguish this from the art of chess thought. The former is associated with having an ornate chess set on one’s coffee table, the latter is about abstract mathematical patterns which are woven into forms that represent human thoughts and emotions.
So I would say that the current Saatchi Gallery exhibition on The Art Of Chess rather misses the fact that there are two separate art forms associated with the game.
Where would Marcel Duchamp stand on the matter? It seems that he was actually a ‘real’ chess player and more interested in chess thought than pictorial representations of the pieces. And the following game shows him in action against George Koltanowski.
Is there a lesson here for the chess improver? I believe there is. In order to master the art of chess thought one should probably steer clear of too much confusing symbolism. Get a good Staunton set and ignore the fancy pieces, they’re just going to get in the way.