Deadly Women (with Matt Fullerty)


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"Oleanna" rehearsals with Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles begin today!



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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ronan Bennett and Daniel King on chess: how to find the best square for a threatened piece

Ronan Bennett, Daniel King
Tuesday September 15 2009
The Guardian
We thought that with our latest relocation it was time to reintroduce ourselves and to remind readers that this is a different kind of chess column. We don't bring you the latest tournaments (the internet does that a lot better), or annotate games by the greats (better left to anthologies and magazines). Instead, we try to provide the enthusiast and the club player, those for whom chess is a hobby rather than a profession, with useful advice and exercises in the form of a "master-student" dialogue between an average player (RB) and a grandmaster (DK).

Some of the positions we look at involve fairly high levels of chess understanding, but we also like to explore the kind of things ordinary players might encounter. Today's position falls into the latter category, and kicks off a series of columns themed around the question of finding the best square for a threatened piece. So where should the queen move to?

RB This looks rash, but since the queen is out we might as well go for it: 1 Qxc5. I'm expecting either 1...Nxe4 or 1...e6.

DK If you play the queen out so early, you are either very good or very bad. It's a beginner's ploy, vainly hoping for a quick checkmate. But if your opponent has an ounce of nous, the queen will be beaten back and you will have merely lost time. Ronan decides that he may as well grab a pawn, but Black recaptures, 1?Nxe4, and attacks the queen again. If 2 Qe3, Black plays 2?d5, staking a claim in the centre, and already has the more promising position.

However, if one is very careful, it is possible to play so outlandishly. The rising American star Hikaru Nakamura has made a speciality out of this shock tactic. Instead of taking the pawn, he has tried 1 Qh4. Now it is harder for Black to push the queen around, and if he castles on the kingside, the king could come directly under fire. But perhaps one needs to have the talent of a prodigy to make this work. The old rule of developing knights and bishops before anything else should still apply to most of us.

-- Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009

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Why are we still reading Dickens?

Jon Michael Varese
Friday September 4 2009
The Guardian
It seems that you cannot turn a corner this year without bumping into Charles Dickens. So far we've seen the release of four major novels based on the Victorian icon's life: Dan Simmons's Drood (February), Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens (March), Richard Flanagan's Wanting (May), and Gaynor Arnold's Girl in a Blue Dress (July). Earlier this year BBC1's lush new production of Little Dorrit was nominated for five Bafta awards in the UK, and 11 Emmys in the US. Newspapers and magazines have run stories on his relevance to the current global economic crisis. And with the Christmas season now only four months away, it seems that there is no getting away from him any time soon.

As someone who teaches and writes about Dickens, the question of why we still read him is something that's often on my mind. But that question was never more troubling than one day, nearly 10 years ago, when I was standing as a guest speaker in front of a class of about 30 high school students. I had been speaking for about 20 minutes with an 1850 copy of David Copperfield in my hand, telling the students that for Victorian readers, Dickens's writing was very much a "tune-in-next-week" type of thing that generated trends and crazes, much as their own TV shows did for them today.

Then a hand shot up in the middle of the room.

"But why should we still read this stuff?"

I was speechless because in that moment I realised that, though I had begun a PhD dissertation on Dickens, I had never pondered the question myself.

The answer I gave was acceptable: "Because he teaches you how to think," I said. But lots of writers can teach you how to think, and I knew that wasn't really the reason.

The question nagged me for years, and for years I told myself answers, but never with complete satisfaction. We read Dickens not just because he was a man of his own times, but because he was a man for our times as well. We read Dickens because his perception and investigation of the human psyche is deep, precise, and illuminating, and because he tells us things about ourselves by portraying personality traits and habits that might seem all too familiar. His messages about poverty and charity have travelled through decades, and we can learn from the experiences of his characters almost as easily as we can learn from our own experiences.

These are all wonderful reasons to read Dickens. But these are not exactly the reasons why I read Dickens.

My search for an answer continued but never with success, until one year the little flicker came ? not surprisingly ? from another high school student, whose essay I was reviewing for a writing contest. "We need to read Dickens's novels," she wrote, "because they tell us, in the grandest way possible, why we are what we are."

There it was, like a perfectly formed pearl shucked from the dirty shell of my over-zealous efforts ? an explanation so simple and beautiful that only a 15-year-old could have written it. I could add all of the decoration to the argument with my years of education ? the pantheon of rich characters mirroring every personality type; the "universal themes" laid out in such meticulous and timeless detail; the dramas and the melodramas by which we recognise our own place in the Dickensian theatre ? but the kernel of what I truly wanted to say had come from someone else. As is often the case in Dickens, the moment of realisation for the main character here was induced by the forthrightness of another party.

And who was I, that I needed to be told why I was what I was? Like most people, I think I knew who I was without knowing it. I was Oliver Twist, always wanting and asking for more. I was Nicholas Nickleby, the son of a dead man, incurably convinced that my father was watching me from beyond the grave. I was Esther Summerson, longing for a mother who had abandoned me long ago due to circumstances beyond her control. I was Pip in love with someone far beyond my reach. I was all of these characters, rewritten for another time and place, and I began to understand more about why I was who I was because Dickens had told me so much about human beings and human interaction.

There are still two or three Dickens novels that I haven't actually read; but when the time is right I'll pick them up and read them. I already know who it is I'll meet in those novels ? the Mr Micawbers, the Mrs Jellybys, the Ebenezer Scrooges, the Amy Dorrits. They are, like all of us, cut from the same cloth, and at the same time as individual as their unforgettable aptronyms suggest. They are the assurances that Dickens, whether I am reading him or not, is shining a light on who I am during the best and worst of times.

-- Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009

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Driven to kill - law to change for women who kill violent husbands!

Julie Bindel
Friday June 26 2009
The Guardian
During her relationship with her husband, Malcolm, Sara Thornton endured repeated beatings. She sought help from numerous agencies, called the police repeatedly and her husband was eventually charged with assault. But he died before his court appearance. As he lay drunk on the sofa one night in June 1989, she stabbed him to death. The following year she was convicted of murder and given a life sentence by a judge who said she could have simply "walked out or gone upstairs".

Thornton became a cause celebre for feminists campaigning against domestic violence. At the time, as the judge's comments made clear, little was known about what drives a battered woman to kill her abuser. Thornton appealed against her conviction, arguing that she killed as a result of "slow burn" provocation. She lost.

Two days later, Joseph McGrail killed his common-law wife, as she lay drunk, by kicking her repeatedly in the stomach. He was given a two-year suspended sentence for manslaughter and walked free. The judge expressed "every sympathy" for McGrail, adding "this lady would have tried the patience of a saint".

In response to the glaring discrepancy in treatment, the feminist law reform campaign Justice for Women (JfW) was born in 1991.

Men commit almost 90% of domestic homicides, and the victims are their female partners - who have often been previously battered by their killers. On average, two women die every week as a result of domestic violence. For men who kill their partners, the defence of provocation is tailor-made. Provocation will reduce a charge of murder to manslaughter if the defendant can show that things were said or done to provoke them, causing them to experience a sudden loss of control. In such cases they will often justify their actions by claiming that they "just snapped" or "saw red". Judges have been known to express sympathy for men who claim they were nagged or cheated on by female partners, but often appear to have little for women who kill after being raped by their partners or experiencing domestic violence. This tends to be because when women who are being regularly beaten by their partners kill, their dominant emotions are usually fear or despair - not exactly a sudden, explosive "loss of self-control".

After 20 years of feminist campaigning, however, the law is about to change. Next week, a new bill will be debated in the House of Lords which contains a clause that proposes abolishing the defence of provocation and replacing it with a partial defence that relies upon evidence that the defendant killed out of a fear of serious violence or a "justifiable sense of being seriously wronged".

Thornton's story had a happy ending. She finally won a second appeal and was acquitted of murder in 1995. But the change in the law comes too late for the estimated 70 women currently in prison for killing a violent partner. These are just three of them:Sharon Akers

Sharon Akers is serving a life sentence for murder. She endured six years of abuse and humiliation from her partner, Nick Doolan, before snapping and killing him. They met in 1998, shortly after her divorce from the father of her two young sons. Doolan was good-looking and popular, and Akers was flattered by his attention. "Sharon was obsessed with Nick," says one of her close relatives. "She genuinely loved him." As their relationship progressed, Doolan chipped away at Akers' confidence. She gradually became emotionally dependent on him, and felt unable to challenge the verbal, sexual and physical abuse that Doolan meted out to her. He had a history of violence. Having been jailed for grievous bodily harm against a neighbour,he was on bail for an assault on Akers when he died, and had been arrested on other occasions for assaulting her.

While he was in prison Doolan still managed to control Akers. If she missed a phone call from him he would accuse her of being unfaithful. During the six years she was with him Akers attempted suicide nine times.

Doolan invited his friends to his house to have sex with Akers, reprimanding her when she said no. And although she left him several times, she always went back to him. "I lost all my self-confidence," says Akers, "and felt unable to function without him." The last straw was when Doolan claimed he had slept with her mother. Although it was a lie and her mother denied it, Akers became paranoid.

On the day she killed Doolan, in October 2003, she had been drinking heavily in her local pub, becoming increasingly distressed. Doolan had been sending abusive and threatening text messages. "I called my mother and said, 'I can't take any more. Nick has ruined my life,'" said Akers. She decided to confront Doolan, and drove to his home, taking a knife with her for protection. When Doolan opened the door she stabbed him. "I was convinced he was going to kill me," she says. Although Doolan did not attack her on that occasion, his abuse and threats had terrified her. Akers is full of remorse. "I did not mean to kill him. I just wanted him to stop tormenting me and my family."

She lost her appeal against her murder conviction in 2007 and her earliest release date has been set for 2015.Alicia Crown

Alicia Crown (not her real name) has been in prison for more than eight years. Her tariff was originally nine years, but was reduced to seven and a half in 2006 to reflect the evidence of violence and abuse that led her to kill. For Crown the stigma of being labelled a murderer brings an added burden. Recently she has lost her appeal against deportation to Jamaica, a country she had escaped because her life was in danger from a violent ex-partner as well as the ghetto violence that had led to her brother being murdered.

Crown met Andrew Semple shortly after arriving in the UK in 2000 while working in a club, and moved in with him. But Semple soon became possessive, violent and controlling, often threatening to report Crown to immigration for overstaying her visa. Sometimes he would punch her when she was least expecting it, and he once threatened to push her under a train. In March 2000 Crown moved out and the relationship seemed to improve for a while, continuing on a more casual basis, but Semple remained jealous.

In May that year, Semple asked Crown if they could meet and sort out some problems in their relationship. When Crown arrived she could tell Semple had been drinking. He noticed Crown had a sore on her lip and accused her of having syphilis. In the ensuing argument, Semple started punching her in the face and threatening her with a fruit knife. Crown grabbed the knife when Semple dropped it and stabbed him during a struggle, running barefoot and injured from the scene, crying for help.

The flat revealed evidence of a struggle between the two, and a police doctor who examined Crown two days later found injuries partly consistent with her account of having been attacked by Semple. Crown pleaded self-defence at her trial, but the jury convicted her of murder. Following her conviction, the judge said the evidence suggested she may well have killed in "excessive self-defence".

In law, the force used in self-defence must be equal to the threat and there should be no obvious means of escape. But the reality is that in a typical domestic violence relationship, where one partner is physically stronger and more confident in the use of violence, the victim may have an exaggerated fear of the danger. In cases where women kill, a knife is often used to defend against a fist, and sometimes a woman may kill to prevent a further attack.

At Crown's appeal it was accepted that she had experienced a lifetime of abuse and violence when growing up in Jamaica. However the argument by her defence that she could claim diminished responsibility due to having post-traumatic stress disorder at the time she killed Semple failed. Crown was described as "remarkably resilient".

Marai Larasi, an expert in domestic violence and Jamaican women, wrote a report for the court about the often racist stereotyping of black women who suffer male violence. "[The] failure to look beyond Ms Crown's 'resilient' exterior is not unfamiliar ... In my experience black women are particularly susceptible to being viewed as 'strong', able to cope and somehow not vulnerable."

Recently Crown was moved out of open prison back to jail as a result of her pending deportation. She continues to challenge the court's verdict as well as the prison move.Kirsty Scamp

Kirsty Scamp stabbed her boyfriend Jason Bull to death on his 28th birthday. She had been reluctant to go out to celebrate with him because she was wary of his heavy drinking and cocaine use, which often led to violence.

"I had made him a birthday cake and wanted it to be a special day and not the usual drunken display, " she says. But on Bull's insistence, the couple went out in the late afternoon to meet friends in a pub. Bull drank heavily and took cocaine. When they returned home they started to argue, and when Scamp tried to stop him from drinking more, Bull began punching her and pulled out clumps of her hair. She left the flat to let him calm down, and sat on the steps outside the front door. She then overheard him on the phone "slagging me off" and went back in to confront him.

At that point, Scamp says, he turned "really nasty". She said she "had never seen him look the way he did that night. It was frightening." She grabbed a knife and stabbed Bull in the chest. "I ran out into the street and called an ambulance," said Scamp. "He was slumped against the door, and there was lots of blood, but I had no idea he was so seriously hurt."

While she was awaiting trial the prosecution barrister offered her a deal - the Crown would drop the murder charge if she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Scamp rejected this. She felt she had acted in self-defence. "I don't remember killing him but I suppose I must have done," she wrote in a letter from Holloway prison. "I just know I was scared he would kill me."

Like most women jailed for murder, Scamp says she loved the man she killed. She said she had tried to help him break out of his increasingly frightening behaviour; Bull suffered from mental health problems and regularly erupted into drink- or drug-fuelled violence. During the relationship he repeatedly attacked her. The penultimate assault gave Scamp a perforated eardrum, and he was on bail for this offence when he died. Bull had also assaulted previous girlfriends, some of whom testified at her trial.

Scamp had grown up with domestic violence and spent time as a child living in refuges with her mother. While with Bull she was working in a care home for vulnerable adults with behavioural difficulties. After four days of deliberation the jury returned a majority verdict that found her guilty of murder. The judge told her she must serve at least 12 years.

The judge commented to the jury that Scamp should have been able to tolerate Bull's erratic outbursts because of her experience at work. "How dare he?" says Scamp. "My work has nothing to do with what I can or cannot put up with in my personal life. Those residents were not controlling or beating me like he was."

Scamp is now in Holloway prison, hoping that her new legal team will find grounds to appeal against her conviction. "Being life'd off is a nightmare," she says, "but I know I am not a murderer".

-- Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2009

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Tribeca Film Festival: Review of "Queen to Play"!


In a world where a chess game is equivalent to a night of steamy passion, you have to be a little skeptical. In Caroline Bottaro's first feature, chess is played up to the extreme, turning the game into an excruciatingly obvious motif throughout the film.

Set in the ever-scenic French Riviera, Queen to Play tells the story of a maid, Hélene (Sandrine Bonnaire), who becomes obsessed with the idea of learning chess—and soon does, with the help of her client (Kevin Kline), a snobby retired doctor. As she spends more of her time "checkmating" the Doctor, she drifts away from her cleaning duties... and her husband. In a way, her chess-playing indulgence is like an affair—and, frankly, it could rightfully be one. According to Bottaro, her film depicts "a real romance" between the mentor and the student, and their chess matches are equivalent to love scenes.

Meanwhile, the idea of the game of chess completely engulfs Hélene's world, rendering her a one-track-minded pawn. Everything from checkered tiles to square tablecloths transforms into a chessboard in her subjectivity—and thus ours too. The problem, besides the fact that this sort of imagery is entirely too obvious and forced, is that at the film's core, it's nearly impossible to connect with this woman. Our leading lady is constantly sullen, mostly expressionless, and uncommunicative. She appears to desire her husband, but then rejects his affection and empathy. But yet, she's consistent in her rendez-vous with the doctor, who (in a pretentious "I'm Kevin Kline but playing a smart doctor who's speaking only in French hah!" kind of way) plays the part of the reluctant teacher who soon falls in love with the soft spoken working class maid in a strange condescending (and maybe metaphorical?) way.

In fact, this marks Kline's first role performed entirely in French, which is apparently depreciating his English skills—at the Q&A after the film screened, he sometimes couldn't find words to verbalize in his native tongue.

You can basically guess how Queen to Play will conclude within the first 20 minutes of the film. You just have to sit through the next hour of hit-you-over-the-head chess metaphors and aloof characters. The film is not an unpleasant experience on the whole—it just doesn't illustrate anything extraordinarily fresh to really care about.

Recommended: Maybe, with reservations

Look out for: Chess pieces thrown in your to speak

Check out Tribeca Film Festival schedule to find the next screening.


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Chess, Film, tribeca film festival, tribeca, Matt Fullerty, Paul Morphy, The Pride and the Sorrow, F Street Review

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Chess on film - the history of chess in movies!

Chess on Film
By Dylan Loeb McClain


As one of the oldest and most ubiquitous of games, chess has appeared in movies almost since people started making them. While there have been some movies where the game played a central role, even advancing the plot, the game is usually a bit player.

When chess appears in films or on television, it often gives the actors something to do while they talk, and the subtext seems to be that their characters must be intelligent if they can play the game. Of course, it is a proxy for strategy and conflict, so it appears in advertising, sometimes in surprising places, as in this recent advertisement for the National Basketball Association playoffs.

Often chess is included in a film because it is a favorite past time of one of the principals making the movie, as for example in the films of Stanley Kubrick, who loved the game and sometimes popped into the Marshall Chess Club on West 10th Street in Manhattan.

Now an Italian man named Lucio Etruscus has put together four compilations of clips from films and television shows in which chess appeared. The compilations are set to music and can be found here, here, here and here.

Chess also seems to be fertile ground for people who want to try their hands at animation. There are quite a few animated clips on YouTube that use chess pieces, but this one is particularly remarkable.


  1. 1. May 23, 2009 10:32 am Link

    Interesting entry, I enjoyed the four "Chess Rhapsodies" with some of my favorites: "Searching for Bobby Fischer", "The Luzhin Defence", etc. But I didn't see one, "2001: A Space Odyssey" with HAL beating the human crew member. Here is the game:

    As an amateur animator, I also enjoyed the claymation. Here's another modern show with a chess sequence, "The Wire" (caution, some bad language):

    "The King stay the King" - D'Angelo

    — Steve Kennedy
  2. 2. May 23, 2009 6:26 pm Link

    can anyone shed any light on two questions of chess and movie history? the character james bond was created by ian fleming. long after fleming died in 1964, it became widely known that during the second world war he was a very successful british intelligence operative who was well aware of the breaking of the german enigma codes by british codebreakers building on the efforts of the poles. this was one of the most important allied secrets during the war. fleming worked with the codebreakers and conceived operation ruthless. this was a plan to obtain an enigma machine that was not actually carried out for technical reasons, but very likely contributed to the plot for the movie U-571. it is surely no coincidence that a number of james bond plots revolve around equipment for breaking codes.

    the british codebreakers included cho'd(hugh) alexander, harry golombek, stuart milner-barry and many other chess players. alexander was a legend in british intelligence and after WW II he headed their codebreaking unit for decades. it is widely believed that he was not allowed to play chess in eastern europe because of fears that the russians would kidnap him.

    some years ago i read in an earlier edition of david kahn's codebreakers that while playing in a tournament somewhere alexander learnt that bronstein was also a codebreaker. bronstein was spelt differently in kahn's influential book, but i have to believe that he meant david bronstein.

    which gets us to my questions of chess and movie history. in the 1963 bond movie 'from russia with love' one of the villains is the GM kronsteen, smashing a hapless opponent in a tournament game. this is a miniscule part of one of the clips referred to above, but can also be seen here.

    it turns out that kronsteen's win is based on spassky-bronstein, USSR championship 1960.

    my questions:
    - was david bronstein a codebreaker for the soviets?
    - was the spassky-bronstein game chosen with this knowledge, with the loser on the opposite side of alexander?

    — L
  3. 3. May 24, 2009 4:22 am Link

    "The Seventh Seal," by Ingmar Bergman (1957) has scenes of Max von Sydow playing against the Grim Reaper.

    — Dan
  4. 4. May 24, 2009 9:50 am Link

    One of Satyajit Ray's film is titled `Chess-Players'. Its two protagonists are chess-addicts, who do not realise that British are playing another game of chess, to acquire the north-Indian state of Awadh.

    — Kapil
  5. 5. May 24, 2009 11:17 am Link

    chess the "game" is for retards…chess is actually a simple BINARY SCHEMATIC which shows in 3 dimensions the formation of numbers and letters.
    because of the limitations of a 2 dimensional surface, the flat board 99% of people miss the realization that chess is far more than a "game"which it is not.

    here is the equation…
    wave pulse by the square root of N to the 6thpwr denoting the movement of an electron in PI around a line of concentric force,56 radians persecond.
    for math purposes the line of concentric force is shown down the middle.
    here are some clues for you..the king moves one space each direction thus making a mathamatical arc of 180 degrees…the queen moves any number of spaces any direction….
    in engineering male is sending female is recieving since the electron moves in PI the line of concentric force is a receiving force thus the female or queen can appear ANYWHERE within PI potentIally..hence any number of spaces any direction……………………………………

    ever READ ABOUT a so called CHAKRA this equation explains it and the origin of chess/the SQUARE OF MERCURY

    an old cathode ray tube uses the same basic equation to produce an electron beam
    CHESS IS TV…………………………………..

    — judge alan
  6. 6. May 24, 2009 11:32 am Link

    Chess, which was invented in India, has been intrinsic to the country's literature as well as films for a very long time. One of the most compelling examples of the game as a literary device as well as a movie theme is "The Chess Players" or 'Shatranj ke Khlidai' based on the book by the great Hindi writer Munshi Premchand and made into a film by the redoubtable Satyajit Ray.

    The game here is both a metaphor as well as an actual act of apathy and indifference by the two players in the face of the British confiscation of a a major king's domain.

    — Mayank Chhaya
  7. 7. May 24, 2009 3:05 pm Link

    I forgot to mention a good resource, the book "Chess in the Movies" by Bob Basalla. Wtih over 2000 movies summarized in about 400 pages of small print, it is pretty much the "Oxford Companion to Chess", except for movies. An example of what you can find is "Chess Fever", a 1925 Soviet silent comedy about the 1925 International Chess Tournament in Moscow. I haven't seen it yet, but with a star turn by Capablanca himself, it sounds pretty funny.

    Amazon has it as part of a three movie collection of Soviet silent films.

    — Steve Kennedy
  8. 8. May 25, 2009 5:35 am Link

    see this, one of the best animations using 'chess' - my favourite!

    — frodolk
  9. 9. May 25, 2009 2:57 pm Link

    if you've ever tried to write a film script by yourself, it is very much like playing chess against yourself…

    — eve shebang
  10. 10. May 28, 2009 10:11 am Link

    Thanks for quoted me! It's an honor for me that my little videos are cited here ;-) Greetings from Italy!

    — Lucio Etruscus
  11. 11. June 4, 2009 10:17 am Link

    Another great chess video on YouTube:

    — Catbus
  12. 12. August 24, 2009 2:51 pm Link

    I do not know if this is in Etruscus's collection, but a novella in which chess was absolutely central is Schachnovelle by Arnold Zweig, which has been translated into English as The Royal Game. This book was the basis of the 1960 movie Schachnovelle (German title), Brainwashed (English title), with Kurt Juergens and Claire Bloom.

    — Steve W
  13. 13. September 2, 2009 7:21 pm Link

    I really liked your article on how chess is used in the movies and also in advertisement. I love the game of chess, since the day my great grandmother taught me how to play. I have a blog on collectible chess set, if you would like to read it and give me your opinion on it. ""
    thank you on agreat article

    — brian conn
  14. 14. September 7, 2009 9:26 pm Link

    I really liked your article on how chess is used in the movies and also in advertisement. I love the game of chess, since the day my great grandmother taught me how to play. I have a blog on collectible chess set, if you would like to read it and give me your opinion on it. ""
    thank you on agreat article…

    — Asner

About Gambit

In its 1,500-year history, chess has imbedded itself in the world's culture and vocabulary. Ideas, terms and images from the game have long been used as proxies for intelligence and complexity. But chess is more than a diversion. Thousands worldwide play professionally or earn a living by teaching it to children. The Internet has transformed the game, making it easy for players anywhere to find an opponent day or night. Chess computers, originally developed to test the bounds of artificial intelligence, now play better than grandmasters. This blog will cover tournaments and events, trends and developments. Reader comments and questions will be more than welcome.



Chess of the Times

They're No Fun to Learn, but Endgames Lead to Wins

Serious players must master basic endgames. Figuring them out during a game is difficult, if not impossible.

Age Showdown Where Players Are Considered 'Older' at 33

At the NH Hoteles tournament's generational battle, the older team won for the first time in four tries, but three of its members were in their 30s.

200 Years of Charging Knights and Kings in Check in Zurich

This month, Schachgesellschaft commemorated its anniversary with a series of events including two open tournaments and a round-robin, rapid chess competition.

Once a Prodigy, a 44-Year-Old Englishman Is Still the Standard-Bearer for His Country

Thirty years after making his debut on the international tournament scene, Nigel Short is one of the top two players in England.

Highly Skilled Competitors in Real-Life Mating Games

As more women enter the top tier, there are more marriages among ranked players.


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Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Queen to Play" - film review - checkmate!

Film Reviews
Queen to Play -- Film Review
By Frank Scheck, April 27, 2009 05:39 ET

Bottom Line: Some good moves, but no cinematic checkmate.
More Tribeca reviews

NEW YORK -- Chess as metaphor for life is the theme of Caroline Bottaro's French drama starring Sandrine Bonnaire as a maid who rediscovers herself thanks to her newfound love for the game and Kevin Kline as the misanthropic recluse who teaches her. While "Queen to Play" boasts an admirable dramatic subtlety and several strong performances, its overly familiar ideas and lugubrious pacing, as well as the fact that chess is not exactly the most cinematic of subjects, will make it a tough sit even for dedicated art house audiences. It recently received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Bonnaire plays Helene, a chambermaid at an upper-class Corsican hotel who's dealing with financial problems, a rebellious daughter and a less than ideal marriage to a handsome but not particularly sensitive blue-collar worker (Francis Renaud).

When she sees a glamorous, barely clothed couple (including Jennifer Beals in a cameo) intensely playing chess on their balcony, it stirs something within her. She promptly buys a set, but her husband proves to be an unwilling player. Spotting a board in the home of Dr. Kroger (Kline), for whom she moonlights as a cleaning person, she implores him to tutor her in its intricacies.

Kroger, who has barely spoken to her in all the time she's worked for him, initially rebuffs. But sensing her passion, he eventually agrees, and the two begin weekly sessions in which the pupil soon starts overshadowing her teacher. By the time she's allowed to participate -- in underdog "Rocky" fashion -- in a local tournament, all the principal characters have undergone life-enhancing emotional changes.

That the film works to the degree that it does is largely due to the sensitive performances. Bonnaire delivers a beautifully modulated turn, delineating Helene's liberating transformation in quietly powerful and convincing fashion. Kline, in his first entirely French-speaking role, intriguingly underplays as the mysterious Kroger, and Francis Renaud strongly conveys the husband's complicated feelings of disdain for his wife's new obsession and concern for his marriage.

Production: Mon Voison Prods
Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Francis Renaud, Jennifer Beals, Valerie Lagrange
Director: Caroline Bottaro
Screenwriters: Caroline Bottaro, Caroline Maly, Jeanne Le Guillou
Producers: Dominique Besnehard, Micher Feller, Amelie Latscha
Director of photography: Jean-Claude Larrieu
Editor: Tina Baz
Production designer: Emmanuel de Chavigny
Music: Nicola Piovani
No MPAA rating, 96 minutes

Queen to Play -- Film Review

By Frank Scheck, April 27, 2009 05:39 ET
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