Friday, April 28, 2006

Chess-playing musicians

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

They say that chess players are music lovers and vice versa. The chess immortal Paul Morphy was able to memorize any piece of music after hearing it a single time. Mark Taimanov, a strong grandmaster who qualified for the candidates matches in the 1970s, was a concert pianist and included in the list of the top 100 pianists in the 20th century.

He retired from chess after being demolished, 6-0, by a guy named Bobby Fischer in their candidates match-up. Bobby himself is a great lover of classical music.

According to the prolific chess writer Bill Wall, musicians who play chess are Jean Absil (composer), Jon Anderson (of the rock band Yes), Thomas Beecham (English conductor), Ludwig Beethoven, Art Blakey (jazz musician), Sir Arthur Bliss (Master of the Queen’s Music), Alex Borodin (Russian composer), David Bowie, Clifford Brown (jazz musician), John Cage, Enrico Caruso, Pablo Casals (cellist), Ray Charles, Chopin, Bobby Darin, Neil Diamond, Antonin Dvorak, Mischa Ehlman (violinist), Ferenc Erkel, Dizzy Gillespie,

Gerry Goffin (songwriter), Leo Kahn (violinist), Gene Krupa (drummer), John Lennon, John Lill (pianist), Johnny Marks (wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), Felix Mendelssohn, Modest Mussorgsky, Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, and Nash), Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, Sergei Prokofiev (composer), Helen Reddy, Ruggiero Ricci, Tim Rice,

Sviatoslav Richter, N. Rimsky-Korsakov, Monz Rosenthal (pianist), Arthur Rubinstein (pianist), Robert Schumann, Dmitri Shostakovich (composer), Ringo Starr, Isaac Stern, Richard Strauss, Bjorn Ulvaeus (Abba), Giuseppe Verdi (composer), Heitor Villa-Lobos, Paul Whiteman (jazz musician), Rudolf Wilmers (pianist, and Tadeusz Wronski (composer).

Exceptionally strong players are Adolf Brodsky (1851-1929), a violinist who was the first person to play the Tchaikovsky concerto declared unplayable by Leopold Auer to whom the original dedication was made, Sting (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner), principal singer of The Police before he went solo, whose original ambition in life was to be a grandmaster and Francois Andre Philidor (1726-1795), a talented composer who was considered the unofficial chess champion during his time.

Other strong chess players are Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), a conductor who had one of the longest careers as a violinist in the 20th century and even before his 20th birthday was already a legend; David Oistrakh (1908-1974) was a violinist of Russian Jewish background who won several competitions, notably the Queen Elizabeth competition in Brussels and the Wieniawski competition in Warsaw; Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976-Russian cellist) is considered by the great violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian as the greatest strings player of all time.

His wife, Jacqueline, was also a strong chess player and a member of the US Olympiad team in 1963. In that year the Piatigorskys organized a chess tournament in Los Angeles won by Paul Keres and Tigran Petrosian and in 1966 another tournament won by Boris Spassky in Santa Monica.

TIMEX SPONSORSHIP. Mandy Baria, Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) president and organizer of the match-up against the Mez 1 & 2 selection, recently informed me that Timex Philippines Inc. will donate three watches for the competition. This is certainly good news and will add color to the match-up, which will be held on May 6 at Fairchild Semi-Conductor Philippines Inc. in Lapu-Lapu City.

Format will be 20 boards, with each player playing two games of black and white pieces. Time controls have not been agreed upon but a good figure is 45 minutes with 10 seconds increment per player play to finish.

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