Latest in Julian Barnes

Volatile Egos

  ‘For decades the world championships had been run by FIDE, the International Chess Federation; but increasingly there were collisions between this entrenched bureaucracy and volatile egos with high financial expectations. Relations between FIDE and the top players deteriorated sharply under the Presidency of Florencio…

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Gazza Factor

  ‘If all players were as intelligent, voluble and linguistically assured as Gary Kasparov, the game could print its own cheque-books.’ Julian Barnes, ‘TDF: The World Chess Championship’ The New Yorker (December 1993) reproduced in Letters from London 1990-1995 (Picador, 1995), p.273   See also…

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Beauty and Power

  ‘the best chess contains a striving not just for victory but for something beyond: for an ideal harmonious state that produces a perfect mixture of creativity, beauty and power.’ Julian Barnes, ‘TDF: The World Chess Championship’ The New Yorker (December 1993) reproduced in Letters…

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Luck

  ‘Surely in chess there is just you, your opponent, the pieces, and – in Kasparovian terms – an examination of the truth of the position. I put the matter to Colin Crouch, a bearded and amiable International Master who holds one of the strangest…

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Life

  ‘Chess is, famously, an activity entirely unrelated to the rest of life: from this springs its fragile profundity.’ Julian Barnes, ‘TDF: The World Chess Championship’ The New Yorker (December 1993) reproduced in Letters from London 1990-1995 (Picador, 1995), p.249   ‘We could even make…

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The Living Game

  ‘If you watch a video of an old Wimbledon final or Ryder Cup match, you aren’t really re-analysing, you are merely reminding yourself of what happened and suffusing yourself again with the emotions provoked by the original events. But a chess game, after it…

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Pen-portraits by Julian Barnes

Edward Winter bemoans the lack of pen-portraits in chess writing:  ‘a highly demanding form of writing which requires no particular chess expertise yet is almost universally avoided nowadays’. Chess writers are, with a few exceptions,  chess experts rather than writers and rarely venture outside their…

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TDF

  ‘Lawson also recalls a tournament in Barcelona where he first heard Short use the acronym “TDF”, which he assumed to be shorthand for some complex tactical ploy. At first he didn’t want to confess his chessic ignorance, but after Short and the American grandmaster…

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Playing for Peanuts

A couple of years ago, Hartston did the following calculation during a grandmaster tournament in Spain: assuming that all the prize money on offer was divided simply between the grandmasters (and there were some powerful IMs scrapping for the loot as well), their average earnings…

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Violence and Intellectuality

When you eavesdrop on the chatter of chess, you discover that it reproduces and confirms the game’s compelling mixture of violence and intellectuality. As pieces are finger-flipped around demonstration boards in swift refutation of some other grandmaster’s naïve proposition, half the language has a street-fighting…

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