12 April 2020

Melodies in and out of the 64 squares

A submission by Zaara Zayan

‘Victory will come like an exquisite combination shattering the chess squares with its poetry.’

A combination, in chess, is a sequence of moves which includes capture and/or exchange of pieces and/or pawns. A well thought out and precisely executed combination would lead to an overwhelming positional or material advantage or even checkmate. Sometimes tournament organizers offer what are called ‘brilliancy prizes’ and they usually go to a player who has played such a sequence, especially with subtlety and finesse complementing the inexorability of the overall attack. 

Chess enthusiasts would call it art. Indeed anyone who looks for and recognizes potential for incredible coordination of hand, eye and mind in and among players (if it’s a team sport) would say that the particular sport is an art form. 

The winning submission
 Murali’s work with the ball, for example, is like a detective novel for the relentless probing that is often necessary in order to ‘get his man.’ 

Akila Kavinda
There’s art in the footwork of Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, commonly known as Ronaldinho Gaúcho or simply Ronaldinho, the incredible Brazilian soccer player. It is a dance, one can argue. A penetrative centre in a rugby team, the court-vision of LeBron James, the finesse of Roger Federer at the height of his tennis career are examples that come to mind. There’s a novel, a melody, a ballerina frozen in ‘Falling Water,’ the beautiful house in Southwestern Pennsylvania that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for Liliane and Edgar J Kaufmann. There’s art all around us.

In these times of ‘house-arrest’ courtesy Covid-19, thanks largely to technological advances and of course the nature of the game, chess players (unlike cricketers, for instance) are not starved of competition. They can play countless games online and even the occasional tournament. In Sri Lanka, for example, various clubs and groups of players have arranged and held several such competitions. 

It keeps people in touch with the game and with each other. Keeps intact their competitive spirit. Keeps the artist in them alive for chess is a dance, it is poetry, architecture, sculpture and, at least a few would swear, it is music as well.

Chess players rarely need to seek ‘art’ outside the 64 squares; you name the art form and you’ll find the requisite material right in front of you. If you have the imagination of course, and that’s something that most if not all chess players are endowed with.

But just the other day, against the run of play so to speak, Akila Kavinda, one of the strongest chess players in the country who has represented Sri Lanka in numerous tournaments and in my opinion one of the best coaches too, went outside the 64 squares looking for art. Put another way, he brought a different kind of art to chess. Simply, he organized an art competition!

It was open to all chess players. There had been some 30 entries. Lakshitha Randil, another strong player and also a very good coach offered a prize: ‘Fabiano Caruana: His amazing story and most instructive chess games,’ by Aleksandr Kalinin. Zaara Zayan, a 16 year old schoolgirl, was adjudged the winner. All participants received modest prizes. Nice gesture.

Akila posted the artwork of the competitors on Facebook with a simple note, ‘Thank you very much for adding your colors to enrich our competition.’  He added a wish: ‘…..a great and wonderful chess journey.’

The little competition organized by Akila and Lakshitha left me wondering about chess, art, teaching, learning and humanity. Maybe all of it is art. Maybe it’s all chess. It is an exquisite combination that meandered in and out of the 64 squares like a verse moving in and out of mind until finally checkmating me on an unnamed square in my heart.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Let's not stop singing in the lifeboats
When the Welikada Prison was razed to the ground 

Looking for the idyllic in dismal times    
Water the gardens with the liquid magic of simple ideas, right now    
There's canvas and brush to paint the portraits of love    
We might as well arrest the house!
The 'village' in the 'city' has more heart than concrete
Vo, Italy: the village that stopped the Coronavirus    

We need 'no-charge' humanity 
The unaffordable, as defined by Nihal Fernando
Heroes of our times Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
 'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds
Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays   
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry
Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds