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Oliver Quilala

Oliver Quilala is from Berkeley, California.

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October 2007
August 2007

The Two Grenadiers and the King's Gambit

Published: Oct. 28, 2007 at 7:57 PM
I've moved on to the next piece in a beginner's book called "The Two Grenadiers" by Schumann. I've listened to the song over and over on the CD. It sounds like an anthem. But the tricky thing is the rythm part. I have trouble with lots of things but the confounding one that gets me when I start a piece is rythm. When it goes from quarter notes to eighth notes to sixteenth notes, well it just goes haywire and my playing doesn't sound like the CD anymore. And, of course, there's a dot on top of the sixteenth note where you're told to lift the bow off the string to play it. And along with rythm I have to play the right notes and sound good too. Most troubling.

I wish all problematic issues of technique and musicality would just fall into place magically so I wouldn't have to suffer endlessly trying to play these songs.

So, as a diversion and to ward off frustration I read. The latest is called "King's Gambit" by Paul Hoffman.

The book is a memoir and is described as an "insider's look at the obsessive subculture of championship chess." As the book details, anyone who aspires to the pinnacle of their endeavor, one must practice their art nearly day and night. The prodigy, Bobby Fischer, was never known to have been seen without a chess set. Chess literally becomes their life:

"The thrill of competition, the euphoria of victory...its warlike struggle awakens the minds and bodies of people. 'Chess is like life,' Spassky once proclaimed. Fischer was more extreme: 'Chess is life.'"

It goes on as it details the quirks and eccentricites of chess players:

"So awkward, clumsy, poorly dressed and inarticulate that it is a wonder that any woman should find him attractive...I cannot help being reminded of one or two of my colleagues, who against all odds somehow enter into matrimony. Literally being unable to knot a tie or tie a shoelace is apparently no impediment with the fairer sex."

Also:

"Madness is rampant in championship chess...after all, to reach the pinnacle of chess requires a certain psychological stability...'Chess doesn't drive people mad. It keeps mad people sane.'"

"Because chess culture has turned a blind eye to how chess players dress of speak (or whether they can speak at all), chess culture is a haven for social misfits. For those who are inclined to escape from the rest of the world, chess offers its own rich world."

"Let's face it...there are more unbalanced people in chess than in your average profession of activity...but that's because the chess community is wonderfully accepting -- everyone is welcome to play and you don't need any social skills to succeed."

A fine, insightful and humorous book.

'Til next time, maybe I'll be on a another song, hopefully, or another book, maybe.

-Oliver

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