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20 July 2010

First Day Issue / Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta: Lewis or Uig chess pieces / PizzaQ! / media noche at the Versailles / mark of a devious mind / Staunton v. Fancy-Schmantsy or Artsy-Fartsy designs / Scotland 11, England 67 (score not Final)

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First Day Issue
Tierra de los Sueños ■ TdSPosta
Lewis or Uig chess pieces

And a PizzaQ ... 2 slices extra mozzarella ...

What are the perforations?

Stamps and this thread inspired by comments by Christopher Lawson and patfromch,

Eleven of these are in the Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Admission to gawk at these astonishing objects is free, but I'll stuff a Scottish Pound (issued by the Bank of Scotland, but usually accepted south of the border) into the donations box.

The other 67 chess pieces are in the British Museum, London. Hovering over them is a huge and vociferous tug-of-war over where they should reside, should they be reunited; and recently a smaller collection with pieces from both sets toured small regional museums in Scotland.

Okay, I bought the resin reproduction, a standard complement chess set.

Real chess players -- good ones, serious ones -- play exclusively with the familiar Staunton design, and most of the time a cheap $5 plastic child's starter set, because in timed games you bang the pieces pretty violently on buttons on the top of the clock to end your move and start the opponent's clock running.

Fancy sets of any design other than Staunton are confusing in serious play -- is Shiva a knight or a bishop, is Ulysses S. Grant the king, is Cal Ripken the rook?

But chess sets have always been a focus of design art, the temptation to design a new and pretty chess set (or just a geeky one, like Napoleon's Grand Armee vs. Wellington's Waterloo coalition, or Red Sox vs. Yankees) is as overwhelming as the temptation to design a new type font. I am one of the idiots who buys pretty (and useless for play) art chess sets, although for play there's a nice wooden Staunton nearby and ready. I got Tenniel's "Looking Glass" set, a really nice machined heavy brass set, and I finally couldn't help myself anymore, I paid the outrageous price they were asking for Yankees vs. Red Sox.

Sherlock Holmes did not respect the game or its players. He concluded that chess is the mark of a devious mind, and those too fond of or skilled at the game were an untrustworthy lot capable of bestial acts.

Somewhere around here I have a book of recorded games by famous people; it includes a game by Karl Marx, and I think a game between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

These chess pieces are, I think, the oldest complete chess set on Planet Earth -- although scholars suggest they may have been a merchant's trove of pieces from five sets. The buzz, from similar pieces found, is that they were carved in Norway. They're dated to the 12th century A.D., people played more or less modern chess with them in the 1100s. (Castling and en passant are fairly recent innovations.)

The Lewis chess pieces were found in an exposed dune on the Bay of Uig in Scotland in 1831. The man who found them exhibited them at home for a while. Locals concluded they were pagan mini-idols, likely infected with ancient pre-Christian Bad Magic. They were then sold to Captain Roderick Ryrie, who recognized them as chess pieces, and a remarkable surprise from the past.

A good game of chess is one of the most intimate and intense experiences two personalities (or one personality and one robot, or two robots) can have. For somewhere under an hour -- occasionally considerably longer -- two strangers alternately reveal and conceal the most profound traits of their personality and character to and from one another. At competitive grandmaster levels, chess burns more calories per hour than most physical athletic activities, a day of it is more exhausting than a triathlon.

Most odd of all, a Spanish-speaker and Russian-speaker can sit down and commence a volcanic, anxiety-ridden, ferociously competitive game, conclude it in a win or a draw or a concession, and neither player needs a single word of the other's language. You can test this odd phenomenon around 1 a.m. in a chess and domino park across from the Versailles restaurant on Calle Ocho in Little Havana, in Miami. (Cubans socialize in those hours, after the oppressive day heat has broken.) 

After the game, eat the lengua asada at the Versailles. Or a media noche. Lots of killer desserts. A favorite beverage is fresh-squeezed sugar cane juice, in a large glass.


Ryszard Wasilewski said...

Plastic Staunton, by all means, but if the clock belongs to your opponent, the weighted version are worth the extra few bucks.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Ahh, the psychout. Soften up your opponent with tiny little annoyances and unpleasantnesses, the Death of 1000 Little Cuts.

Oh, I forgot to mention, I also got Cats vs. Dogs, this set is Beyond Adorable.

I can't believe there are n Ryszard Wasilewskis on Earth and on-line, where n > 1, and I picked the wrong one.

There are other Googlable Robert Merkins:

1. a world-class trophy bass fisherman from I think maybe Downer's Grove, Illinois USA. Trophy fishermen are always getting into smarmy scandals (like onion gardeners in the UK), but I think Fisherman Bob is clean, strictly Isaak Walton.

2. A UK professor who writes the big best-selling textbooks of international, EU and UK corporate accounting, taxation tariff stuff. Also to the best of my Googling, 100% free of any Monkey Business.

I'm the only one brave enough to post his photograph out front where Estonians can look at it.

The bang-the-clock cheap plastic Staunton nature of timed chess is contrasted with Go -- also a timed competitive board game, which players of both games usually think is more difficult than chess to play at master and beyond level. (The rules are much simpler than chess, so in 5 minutes, anybody can play legally but badly.)

You can be in business with a Go board and bowls of white and black stones for $60, but the top players and most obsessive devotees play on a board worth around $50,000, carved from a single tree grown specifically to someday become a high-end Go board. Then the high-end stones, black of polished slate, white of polished mother-of-pearl (nacre).

A clock, but no violent banging. The noise of Go is the click of the placed stone on one of the 19x19 rectangular intersections on the wooden board. The tactile pleasure through the fingers and ears of stone-placing is a sort of Zen hypnosis, click by click growing a spectacularly beautiful pattern of the end game involving 100s of stones. Some players claim they abandon the desire to win and cooperate with the opponent (also with no word exchanged) to complete a beautiful pattern.

With eyes closed, a big Go tournament sounds like a room full of knitting grandmothers.

Oddly enough, grandmaster-level computer chess has been a Solved Problem for decades, but computers are still hopeless potzers at Go, children still routinely defeat them fairly effortlessly. According to The Legend Of the Ing Prize, a dead Taiwanese rich guy will reward the first Go program which defeats a human Go master with U$1,000,000.

Like chess, Go (Wei-Qei, I think in Chinese, Boduk, I think, in Korean) riddles and irradiates East Asian art and literature. In Japanese 19th and 18th century painting, samurai in ferocious battle often grab a Go board as a weapon, stones and blood fly all over the place. So there's your Go violence: strictly an apres-game phenomenon.

* * *

While he was producing the animated TV show "Ren & Stimpy," Jon Kricfalusa (sp?) gave an interview and said "If a cartoon show was crappy, I worked on it." Ren & Stimpy make constant use of the cheesy bongo drum sound effect of Hannah-Barbera's "Yogi Bear" and "Huckleberry Hound" (the greatest achievements of the underpaid non-union animators of Tijuana, Mexico).

Ren Hoek (please put two .. above the o) is an asthmahound chihuahua who speaks like Peter Lorre, and his Pal Thru Thick and Thin in this Vale of Tears is Stimpson J. Cat, whose only material possession in this world is his litter box, which he fills exclusively with Gritty Kitty Litter. When they are separated, Ren plunges into depression, and sleeps in Stimpy's sock drawer.

They gotta have Ren & Stimpy episodes on YouTube, else this world would be unjust and unbearable.

My nice wooden Staunton is weighted and felted.

Lazarus Lupin said...

Art to Artiface 4
making art of chess can at best become a performance piece
as the pieces move across the board the design is refined, redesigned, insighted
pawn in passage
math/chess/art/the fingerprint of God
Check and mate

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hmmm ... would God play chess? Everything that makes a great chess player is a vice or pseudo-vice we're systematically educated to believe is not one of God's traits or characteristics.

And what would happen if you beat God?

Most US prisons have banned the ancient tradition of postcard chess, a chessplayer on the outside can no longer play a postal game with a prisoner on the inside, because the mail is censored and the guards who censor the mail can't read chess notation, so it might be secret code the censors can't understand. That sucks.


(It was too long for your Comments.)

Vleeptron Dude said...

from AML, the Artistamp Mailing List:

Re: 1st Day Issue / Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta: Lewis or Uig
Posted by: "Joel Hoover" AndreDesch
Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:48 pm (PDT)

On 7/21/2010 8:04 PM, Elmer wrote:
> ... also a Question about the perforations, 1st correct Answer wins 2 pizza slices with extra mozzarella (shipping not included, you gotta come here or I got to go there and buy you the pizza).
Looks like... chain mail?

Joel, #258



Okay Joel, give me e heads up if you're gonna be in New England, or I'll heads up you if I'm gonna be near you.

the dak of droll said...

Hurray Joel! That's chainmaille allright. Or is it a picture of chainmaille? I don't see perforations. What am I not seeing?
Her Grace, of Pondidia