Chess – Stefan Zweig

The other day I finished The man Who Loved Dogs, of which a review will be forthcoming soon but upon finishing said book and being impressed by it, everything else on the shelves seemed a little less exciting.  With a day out with mates on the cards – which means getting to a meeting place at least five hours early to read – I needed something to occupy myself.  So I finally decided to reread a couple of novellas, the first of which, being this slinky effort.

Chess-mondoTravelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires find that on board with them is the world champion of chess, an arrogant and unfriendly man. They come together to try their skills against him and are soundly defeated. Then a mysterious passenger steps forward to advise them and their fortunes change. How he came to possess his extraordinary grasp of the game of chess and at what cost lie at the heart of Zweig’s story.

At 78 pages you wouldn’t think that this story would contain much in the way of depth but despite the length or lack of, it’s thinness is at odds with its surprisingly weighty subject matter.

The challenge of writing a review for such a short book is a bit like a game of Chess itself, both have limits, for one it’s 64 black and white squares and for the other, allowing only a certain amount of information to escape the review without spoiling anything important for the reader.  Both are fascinating pursuits, whose limits belie the ridiculous amount of depth involved and an infinitely malleable ability with which to play with.

Chess can be read as a straight forward story of two men squaring off against each other in an epic battle to decide who wins between these two polar opposite (in all ways) opponents.  It’s not just the colour of their chess pieces that differs, there is a clash of experiences, styles and mindset, as well as histories and motivations that are completely different and their only shared desire being the extreme obsession to win.

Naturally there is substance to the tale than that, Zweig wrote this book at a time when Hitler was busy conquering Europe and although he escaped to the Americas, his disgust and sadness at seeing the events unfolding eventually lead to the author and his wife’s suicide shortly after this book was first published.  There is certainly a feeling in the prose of the profound effect of surviving,  coupled with that of despair as well, with a lack of anything approaching real redemption. Continue reading “Chess – Stefan Zweig”

Christmahoosive Cheer!!!!

Using last years photo as I like to do my bit for recycling.

The snow is back on the blog so it’s time for that most topical of posts the Christmas one (on a side note get your cards off soon speaking of post!)…Being a sentimental type of fella, I am getting quite giddy as I do at this time of year, it’s a traditional thing.

I managed to avoid anything Christmassy until 1st december this year so I am having a proper non materialistic start festivities, that incidentally usually starts in the last week of August for me.

Today I have decided to plug in the head phones, ramp up the volume and write this to the tunes I find myself humming along to every year.

So far I have been listening to my absolute favourites: When a Child is Born, The Fairytale of New York, Stop the Cavalry as well as – bizarrely – Band Aid 20, admittedly the rap bit is growing on me even if it isn’t a patch on the original version.

So brilliant music sorted, my musings are of different sort for Christmas this year, as I find myself thousands of miles away from the vast majority of my friends and family. It will certainly be different but on the positive side, it will allow me to be more appreciative of all those special people who have made not only this year but also the years previous fun, at time outlandish and always acutely memorable.  I honestly believe my sanity was actually kept in check by the exceedingly absurd things we have gotten up to.

So with all those memories swirling at the forefront of my mind, the pleasurable feeling of knowing (and being able to keep in touch with) such wonderful people, more than outweighs the material side of things.  Although I am slightly envious of everyone being able exchanging gifts and hugs and get those final drinks in before the big day that I would no doubt be starting to do right now.  Nothing beats that last pint before heading home knowing that everything is taken care of and all is right with the world for a day or two. Continue reading “Christmahoosive Cheer!!!!”

Between a Rook and a Hard Place

“Chess is mental torture” – Garry Kasparov

“Checkers is for tramps” – Paul Morphy

Chess art 9

The noble art of Chess, is one I haven’t indulged in for many a year, until recently when I found I had it on the laptop all along,  I’m a bit slow like that.  These last few days I have been satiating a long forgotten love for the game and reminding myself of the ridiculous amount of complexities surrounding it.

There are many reasons why I adore this pastime, the rules that are simple to master hiding the detailed intricacies and endlessly fascinating nature of it, its graceful flow and brutal takings of the various pieces.  There is risk involved of course, the press makes a big thing of a few of the grand masters going insane, so I like to think I am on the threshold of madness.  I like the drama.

To combine psychology, logic, intuition and creativity into a simple game is probably something that won’t happen much in this age of fast thrills and non stop, wall to wall repetitive noise, so it’s nice to kick back with those 64 squares, a board you have to control knowing that any mistakes are all your own doing and adapting your game plan as you go is key to success. Continue reading “Between a Rook and a Hard Place”

5 Christmases and No Hungry Hippos

book-tree-1Apologies for my tardiness in posting and replying to you wonderful people, I have had a bit of social life and haven’t had the time with work and all to post.

In fact I was going to do a book review but seem somewhat lethargic and uninspired so today on the eve of December I shall choose to ignore the lack of Christmas shopping that I have so far successfully completed and instead embark on some sort of random rant that loosely involves mentions of Christmas.

Ignore that last bit, I just thought of a book that tends to get me in the mood for the festive season and brings back a whole raft of nostalgia and also makes me exclaim out loud over pictures, which is not something I tend to do in polite society.

TV Cream Toys: Presents You Pestered Your Parents For – Steve Berry

Do you remember tearing down stairs at five in the morning, in wide-eyed anticipation of the mountain of wrapped boxes under a Woolies’ fireproof silver tinsel tree? Do you remember the sense of disappointment when what you asked for wasn’t among them? Or – worse – when you found a cheap, knock-off version of a toy you really wanted?

Personally, no I don’t, to any of them but you get the gist of where the book is going.  It’s a nice light-hearted ramble through the toys of yesteryear (from the 60’s to the 90’s), which lets face it were better than the ones today which are all cheap plastic and noises.

Before finally succumbing to buying this, i.e hanging around at a mates house to read it for free, It had always been one of the books on the ‘bargain’ table at W.H Smiths which makes me dubious and on guard straight away, so I was happy to part with whatever little cash it cost to take this home. I do feel I should point out that this is the one and only thing I have ever found to be a bargain on that table and this only worked because it wasn’t attempting to be a substantial read or a dictionary. Continue reading “5 Christmases and No Hungry Hippos”