Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 25, 2015

Chess as Metaphor

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 3:47 pm

More importantly, the game has entered the parlance of political science as a metaphor for the Cold War and its lingering traces with Washington and Moscow pitted against each other. If you Google “Geopolitical Chess Game”, you will encounter 363,000 results. Not surprisingly, Michel Chossudovsky’s Global Research is at the top of the heap, a website that sees every struggle on earth as involving pieces moved about on the board. Pace Chussodovsky, can we say that the white pieces stand for Moscow and the black ones for Washington? It is impossible to determine why the game’s inventors allowed white to move first but a preference for that color springs to mind.

“Pawn Sacrifice”, a film that opened in September and that is playing at middle-brow theaters everywhere, is about as close to the geopolitical metaphor as you are going to get since it is based on the historic showdown between the 29-year old Bobby Fischer and the reigning world champion Boris Spassky, who was six years older. As the title of the film suggests, Fischer was a foot soldier in the Cold War at the time even though he was one with superpowers. Arguably the greatest chess player that ever lived, Fischer had a burning hatred of the Russians based more on their Bill Belichick bending of the rules than anything that mattered to policy-makers in Washington. Indeed, despite the fact that his mother was a Communist Party member, his hostility to her was based not so much on politics but on his generally contrary nature. In an early scene in the film, Fischer, who is in his early teens, throws his mother and her boyfriend out of the house because their lovemaking noises seeping through the thin bedroom walls did not allow him to concentrate on his game.

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  1. Just a small point, chess masters don’t have to memorise whole games, just the first 10 to 20 moves of opening theory. Otherwise excellent stuff, thanks.

    Comment by Gerard Killoran — September 26, 2015 @ 12:50 pm

  2. Good piece. I’m looking forward to the movie when it’s released here in a few weeks. He was a huge contradiction of a man. Since chess is a game and basically useless in real life we have to wonder if functioning people can master it. It seems all the best players were singularly focused on chess which means they couldn’t put their obviously powerful minds to things like science. Interesting to watch in any case especially with your analysis in my mind.

    Sadly counterpunch has a bad habit of messing good things up. In this case :

    ‘But my recommendation is to see the documentary “Bobby Fischer Against the World” that is online at .’

    Incomplete sentence.

    My guess is that you put the link after “at” and they cut it and hotlinked the title to it. Of course is just a guess that I got by reading it. After finding similar mistakes in almost everything they publish nowadays in wondering if they read what they put on the site. Old Man Cockburn was a stickler for proper use of the language. He wouldn’t like this very much.

    Comment by Jon Y — September 27, 2015 @ 7:56 am

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