December 26, 2010

Chess is cool!

Today is a special day: my brother in law, Dennis l'Ami, writes his first entry on my blog. Dennis is a writer and published his first book "de Eeuwige Mens"(Eternal Man) last year. Following his ' little'  brother Erwin during his chess career, Dennis got an interesting inside in the World of Chess. He intends to share his insights with us from time to time!

by Dennis l'Ami 

As it has been stated before on this blog, chessplayers are often looked at as eccentric, weird or just extraterrestrial. Of course I can confirm that, due to the fact that there are some chess-players among my familymembers. But, surprising enough, most of the the times they act quit normal so there's more to it than the image that's constantly been projected on the players. On a more serious note, let's kill the myth today: Chess players are average, ordinary and very social creatures. Or aren't they? Let me first of all state for the record that it shouldn't be important what the image of the sport is. It should be all about the sport itself. The games, brilliant openings, elegant endgames and so on. On the other hand: it is important. Important for sponsors, media-coverage and the general view on how chess is looked upon by the public. This is all interconnected. Image is evertything; if a sponsor decides to combine beauty and brains in a commercial, a get together of Liv Tyler ans Magnus Carlsen could be the result. The image of a bright young kid playing chess, with a woman like Tyler by his side can do more for chess than one can imagine. The image says that chess players attract beautiful women, isn't? Karel van de Weide's piece on this topic is quite interesting.

True or false, Carlsen's ad campaign can give a sparke to some young kid somewhere in the world who sees it and thinks: I'm going to be a chess player one day!'
Let's further state that a chess-player, deeply concentrated during a game, in general is not particularly a pretty site to watch. Sure, a deep crack in the forehead might look photogenic in the papers, but photogenic and mass appeal are two different things. Maybe this is the first problem when considering the image of chess: People tend to identify the act of playing a game of chess with the character that's playing. For the same reason, people tend to think that moviestars and politicians can grow to mythical proportions because they talk about things bigger than themselves. The succesfully used slogan 'Yes, we can!'  makes you think you're part of a larger than life community while, at the end of the day, all Obama needs from you is your vote. Strange things happen here. The mask of the exciting event is projected at the person that's holding the mask, and make the person exciting. Or dull.
Let's see how it works in real life and why chess, despite it's image, is often used by producers and directors in Hollywood and actually looks cool while doing so.


Harry Potter's playing chess like it's supposed to be: sacrificing yourself, cliff-hangers with every single move, and a little bit of romance on the side.

A nice comparison in The Wire between drugdeals on the street and a game of chess. Never a dull moment around here!


Even Humprey Bogart made his moves, ever so gently. As we see the scenes in which chess is used as an accessory of intelligence, the following question comes to mind: If drugdealers in streetlife-serie The Wire, a magician like Harry Potter and classic icon Humprey Bogart needs chess to make them look smarter, more interesting of even more dangerous, isn't the mantra that remains echoing throughout the world, saying chess is for geeks, an outdated one? A teenage boy would kill nowadays to spend some time with actress Liv Tyler. Magnus Carlsen did, in a multi-million campagne for G-Star! It's 2010 and chess players are among the coolest, hippest and people alive! Throw the old image away, in comes the new one. Not because the players want to, or because the public says so, but because a new image pays hommage to the timeless game that chess is.


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