Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Grotesque Chess

[Nick Gabrichidze, "Chess revolution"]

With all the focus on the 'grotesque' body in art and literature it can be easy to forget that the term isn't always used in relation to living anatomies, human or otherwise.

In chess, for instance, a Grotesque is a fantastical arrangement of pieces designed for entertainment and amusement. Grotesques are endgame studies: arrangements of pieces designed as puzzles which other players attempt to solve and win. Unlike other endgames, though, Grotesques are intended to provoke laughter.

Tigran Gorgiev, a designer of Grotesques, explains in Endgame magazine (pdf here) that "good grotesques are composed with great difficulty." Not only must they be challenging, but they must also include "superfluous" and "comic" elements.

Hungarian Ottó Bláthy is well known for creating Grotesques. Here is one of his inventions:


The white pieces in this scenario are outnumbered to a ridiculous degree. There are a sequence of moves which will ensure a white victory, but to most this would seem an impossible situation.

The chances of this exact pattern occurring during a normal game are very low. It has been deliberately constructed for effect and amusement (although I suspect the level of hilarity depends upon your knowledge of/interest in chess as a game).

Here is a study by Gorgiev. Looks fairly silly, to my untrained eye anyway.


I'm having real trouble finding examples online. Perhaps this is because they are not being called 'Grotesques' anymore?

In any case it is interesting to consider how the term has been used to denote those problems that are simultaneously difficult and amusing. Seems appropriate somehow.

No comments:

Post a Comment