Alekhine quote

‘I consider chess an art, and accept all those responsibilities which art places upon its devotees’.

Published in: on October 15, 2021 at 1:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Alekhine quote

‘A lifetime in not enough to learn everything about chess’.

Published in: on September 10, 2021 at 12:46 pm  Comments Off on Alekhine quote  

SS vs. racialists

I just removed this image from my Monday post because I changed my mind and now I want to use the below image of José Raúl Capablanca on the cover of the Spanish version (an image of Alexander Alekhine will appear on the cover of the English translation).

Note the size of the pieces with which the masters played in Capablanca’s time and compare it with the reduced size with which chess is played in official tournaments today. And the same can be said about the clothing from a century ago compared to the shitty T-shirts of today: courtesy of American culture. The collapse of the Aryan man can be seen from the way we dress to the music we listen to, which prompts me to say something more about another of the booklets published by Third Reich Books: Translations of the Originals.

This booklet is titled The SS Calls You! and is addressed to very young Germans. When I got to page 7, I couldn’t help but think that I shouldn’t visit again the sites of white nationalism, as they are crap compared to this fighting spirit. It is precisely because the US is founded on that materialistic phrase that contains the misleading word ‘happiness’ that makes America the antithesis of the Aryan hero.

Page 64 and others mention music as career number 87: ‘SS officer and SS music officer’. It refers to classical music of course. How many American racialists repudiate the degenerate music of their country to the point of never hearing it? And page 66 says ‘Sooner or later your son will become a soldier’. We can imagine saying that to racialist libertarians!

Many of those who visit this site do not take seriously what I said here. For example, the final pages of the booklet are about the Insignia Colours of the Waffen-SS. Those in the concentration camps got light brown. Could an American racialist, say one of those libertarians who comment on AmRen, conceive one of his children with light-brown insignia during a project of ethnic cleansing on American soil?

By the way, of the original 206 participants of the 2021 Chess World Cup, in the semi-finals, which will start tomorrow, all non-whites have been disqualified. Only four whites remain: the champion Magnus Carlsen, the Russian Sergey Karjakin, the Polish Jan-Krzysztof Duda and another Russian, Vladimir Fedoseev. Yesterday, Karjakin eliminated the American Sam Shankland, who is not properly white. As long as Americans continue to mix their blood with non-whites thanks to their declaration of independence from Europe and all that stuff about ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, they will never have another Morphy or a Fischer.

I will dedicate this weekend to polishing the typeface of The Human Side of Chess for publication.

Published in: on July 31, 2021 at 12:03 pm  Comments (5)  

Chess is brutal

Today I got the proof copy of my chess book that I was talking about on Monday. Before publishing the English version, I will have to read this copy in the original language to see if it contains errors.

In the emails they send me I found out that a visitor to this site likes chess and we even played a correspondence game last year. With that exception I don’t see many chess fans visiting The West’s Darkest Hour.

Non-fans ignore that the stress on the player is so great that it affects even world champions. In 1974 for example, in the candidates match between Korchnoi and Karpov—a virtual World Chess Championship for the title because Fischer would refuse to play the following year—due to stress Karpov (right) lost his weight and ended up weighing 47 kilograms (about 104 pounds).

I doubt that non-fan visitors have an exact idea of ​​what chess really is: for the mind, something tougher than the Olympics. I would like to add an anecdote regarding what I claim in my book.

I was a teenager when Karpov defeated Korchnoi but this just happened today. Pay attention to what Nigel Short says after the break. Chess players suffer when they commit a blunder that costs them the game. In this case, the Iranian who committed it lost the game, thus he was disqualified, and couldn’t pass to the semi-final of the tournament.

Unlike the physical sports of the Olympiads this is a brutal intellectual sport.

Published in: on July 29, 2021 at 2:52 pm  Comments (5)  

The human side of chess, 16

Stuck on a Greek island

The year in which I wrote the first draft of this book marked a century since the birth of Carlos Torre. Our age is, in many ways, worse than 1904: especially in overpopulation and in degradation of culture. But there is more freedom to question the family institution in which some parents assault their kids’ minds. A hundred years ago it was impossible to film Shine or even write about a similar case in real life. Claroscuro was titled this Oscar-winning film in Mexico, where millions of viewers saw how an abusive father literally drives his son mad.

There are two ways of seeing Caissa: as the great whore of the marginalised and even of those who have suffered crises like the one Torre suffered, or as a generous mother who welcomes the marginalised into her lap. In the original version of this booklet of 2004, an abominable bias towards the first interpretation appeared, although when speaking of my nostalgic park we glimpse that this mother welcomed many social outcasts and abused young people at home.

The fact is that not all of us were able to dedicate ourselves to cinema like GM Marcel Sisniega. At sixteen he had managed to become the national chess champion of Mexico. He came from such a wealthy family that he even had beautiful palm trees in his Cuernavaca garden. When Sisniega retired from competitive chess in his thirties, he presented his last book at La Cabaña of Las Arboledas park. I attended the event and at his speech he said that if the will to win had died out, as it had died out in him, it was pointless to continue playing chess tournaments. After that sporting farewell presentation before a select group of fans who went to La Cabaña, Sisniega devoted himself to the seventh art and in 1996 he made his debut in the film industry with the making of a short film. But even though Sisniega was a year younger than me, he died in 2013.

(Left, Marcel Sisniega Campbell.) Not all of us were able to have a career like Sisniega’s because not all of us received support from the family. That is why, although I dealt little with Fernando Pérez Melo in the park (who in a tournament in the 1980s came to play with Sisniega), I dedicate this booklet to that poor fellow who died after Sisniega died. The point is that the marginalised individual has to do something to escape his fate, and along with drugs, Caissa is one of the best ways to do it, although without killing neurons.

As a teenager I read a comic from Editorial Novaro where the origin of the game of chess was explained. With friendly illustrations I saw the story of a king of ancient Greece stuck on an island. His soldiers were hungry. Then the king devised a game to entertain them, from which chess would emerge.

Being trapped on a small island is a great story to understand the psychology of the player, and why many of these powerless individuals, but hungry for fight and life like those soldiers, have had no choice but to become immersed in a simulation of war, as is the magical kingdom of the sixty-four squares. At the time I review this book, seventeen years after the first version, I cannot even fight for the creation of an ethnostate because I am alone. The so-called white nationalists, bourgeois to the core, enact a reactionary, not a revolutionary, ideology. Fortunately, these Americans are heading for the biggest economic crisis in their history, and since the world’s fiat currencies are tied to the dollar, when the latter hyperinflates we will all suffer stagnations comparable to that of the hungry on the Greek island.

I would like to end this booklet with the words of the cartoonist Luis de la Torre from his cartoon series that he entitled ‘The Most Beautiful Way to Waste Time’ that I saw in the newspaper many years ago:

It seems incredible that a macropolis like this one where we survive barely has three or four [chess] clubs. Why in this Valley of Tears is it not promoted as education and therapy in schools, delegations, parks, companies, houses of culture, etc.? It sure can become a vice. But it is the healthiest of all vices.

Or the least unhealthy I would say.

Published in: on July 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Alekhine quote

‘Chess, like other arts, must be practiced to be appreciated’.

Published in: on July 8, 2021 at 9:21 am  Comments Off on Alekhine quote  

The human side of chess, 14

The profession called psychiatry

The first thing to keep in mind when a loved one is in crisis is the Hippocratic oath of doctors: do no more harm. Unfortunately, it is precisely the doctors who violate that oath, since the crises of the spirit should never be the province of the doctor.

Carlos Torre was electro-shocked in Monterrey when he lived with his three brothers, all doctors. I read this in the book 64 Variaciones Sobre un Tema de Torre by Germán de la Cruz. I was so intrigued that I made some inquiries. I spoke with Jorge Aldrete, a bridge and chess fan from Monterrey based in Mexico City, who had sold me several imported chess sets. Both Aldrete and Ferriz suggested that I contact Arturo Elizondo in Monterrey. On April 24, 2004, I spoke with Mr Elizondo, who graciously answered my questions. This man of more than eighty years was neither more nor less an eyewitness of the electroshocks to Torre. When I asked him if what de la Cruz said in his book was reliable, he replied: ‘I am sure because to control his physicality’ he was ‘by his side’ during electroconvulsive therapy. I asked him what the symptoms were so that they took such a drastic measure with the Yucatecan chess master. Elizondo replied: ‘The only thing, he was stubborn but he wasn’t aggressive and nothing like that’. Elizondo only slightly disagreed with de la Cruz’s version insofar as he affirmed that the brothers weren’t directly responsible for the commitment. ‘It was the nephew, surnamed Torre’, a Masonic grand master and colleague of Elizondo at the Nuevo León lodge. According to Elizondo, this happened in 1957 in the psychiatric ward of the General Hospital of Monterrey. Due to Torre’s ‘excitatory stage’ to use Elizondo’s expression, the diagnosis was manic-depressive, which is now called bipolar disorder. It had been the arousal phase of his manic-depressive crisis when they applied electroshocks to calm him down.

Universities teach kids psychiatric treatments, such as electroshock, as if they were the praxis of real medical science. No wonder that, being Elizondo a chemist sympathetic to medicine, he repeated to me what is claimed at the universities: that Torre-type excitations are of a ‘neurological nature’, a claim that Elizondo repeated several times during our telephone conversation. The truth is that, without any laboratory testing, psychiatrists rule out psychogenic hypotheses of delusions (see once again my anti-psychiatric site whose address appears on page 3 of this book). He also told me that electroshocks are ‘a very noble therapy’ because it ‘completely relaxes’ the excited. Elizondo participated in the coercive relaxation of Torre, in which he even helped hold him down. He even confessed to me, ‘One or two days I gave him accommodation, then he left with his nephew’. But what Elizondo ignored is that electroshock is a crime. This electric hammer blow to the head frequently erases part of the memory of the people who receive it. One of the cases I mention on my antipsychiatric site is that of a graduate student who, after she was shocked from depression, forgot what she had learned in college. We can imagine the handicap that the ‘therapy’ represented for her career. In Torre’s time there was the aggravating circumstance that it was common to perform marathon electroshock sessions: a practice that some call electrical lobotomy. We can imagine how this barbaric practice could have diminished Torre’s intellectual capacity for chess. Do you remember the scene of the electroshock applied to the character played by Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

This type of assault on healthy brains (like the character played by Nicholson, the electro-shocked folk had a healthy brain before ‘therapy’) continues to be performed in Mexico. This is done even in the largest psychiatric hospital in the nation: the Fray Bernardino Álvarez Hospital in Tlalpan, where students do their internships. In 1960, three years after his experience in Monterrey, Torre was once again harassed by his sponsors and by psychiatrists. When he lived in Mexico City, he was committed for a few days at the Sanatorio Floresta, which was in San Ángel, under the care of psychiatrist Alfonso Millán. Alfonso Ferriz told me this personally, who in his splendid naivety paid for the commitment. The Floresta psychiatric hospital no longer exists, but as I indicate on my aforementioned website, on November 25, 1970 an article appeared in Siempre! entitled ‘A season in hell’ written by two sane young men who were interned at Floresta. The authors of the article reveal that a grandson of Victoriano Huerta was lobotomised and confined there: ‘Before, he was very aggressive until he had a lobotomy. He now is a child. At meals he twists around on the chair, he eats desperately. While eating he drives the flies away from the table’. Ferriz and Elizondo acted in good faith, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. According to Ferriz himself in one of the interviews recorded by Obregón, Torre felt resented with him for life after the outrage of which he was a victim in the psychiatric hospital. In fact, Torre didn’t see Ferriz again until the latter visited Mérida.

In his book, Gabriel Velasco, ignoring what psychiatry is, after the New York crisis wrote that Torre ‘needed medical care’. There were still no electroshocks in the 1920s. But if Velasco refers to some other psychiatric therapy that was applied to him, this way of using language (‘medical care’) is a euphemism for medical crime. In the prologue to Velasco’s book, Jesús Suárez praises that Velasco has omitted all speculation about Torre’s ills. The truth is that it was pure intellectual cowardice, both by Velasco and Suárez, to have omitted that he was electro-shocked in Monterrey; that in Mexico he was admitted to the Floresta, and that he resented Ferriz for life.

Those who knew him were struck by the fact that Carlos Torre was a very affectionate person with people. He called them all angelito, padrecito, madrecita (little angel, little father, little mother): expressions that portray the goodness of his character. Let’s put ourselves in the master’s shoes for a moment. Imagine that we speak in sweet Mexican diminutives. How would we feel after the involuntary commitment by our loved ones? What would we feel after the assault on the brain in Monterrey? In addition to the intellectual loss, wouldn’t it be an attack on one’s dignity and self-esteem? How would our self-image look after the attack?

Although Ferriz assured me that he wasn’t electro-shocked in Mexico City, they administered him psychiatric drugs at the Floresta. I wonder if Torre was tormented there with drugs called neuroleptics: a ‘hell’ as described by the authors of Siempre! According to the words of Ferriz himself, which I wrote down in an interview at his house in March 2004, I guess that Torre was sane when committed. Ferriz confessed to me: ‘But also, he didn’t seem crazy! It was hard to get what was wrong with him’. Like the ‘stubbornness’ Elizondo spoke of, Ferriz interprets anger as a mental disorder. I didn’t argue with Ferriz or Elizondo. But after the interview with the former I wondered what they had done to Torre in the Floresta, the psychiatric hospital that had Huerta’s lobotomised grandson in custody. And by the way: was this guy lobotomised there? Nobody asks questions of this kind in Mexico for the simple reason that it’s difficult to imagine that a pseudoscience is taught in universities. It is a stupendous irony that in Mexico the medical institution had to have arisen precisely in the same building of the Inquisition of New Spain: the palace of the old Faculty of Medicine.

This brief book is far from my extensive treatise on psychiatry that can be read on the internet. But just to give an idea of what I am talking about, I will mention a chilling fact: In the 21st century, lobotomies continue to be performed in Mexico and the rest of the world. The fact that defenceless citizens are currently electro-shocked and lobotomised, as they did to the character that Nicholson played in One Flew, may seem incredible to us. But a little story will shed some light on this matter.

For three centuries, Western civilisation has been cruel to people suffering from spiritual crises. Although the individual who suffers a sudden crisis doesn’t harm anyone—let’s take as a paradigm the buffoonery of imitating St. Francis on a public streetcar—the brain of he who suffers the crisis is damaged by society. From the origins of the mental institution at Bedlam in London and general hospitals in France, the treatment of the individual in crisis has been simply to torture him with various techniques (see ‘From the Great Confinement to chemical Gulag’, pages 143-166 in my book Daybreak). Although these tortures have nothing to do with real medical necessity, they were given a scientific lustre in the 19th century for public acceptance. I wonder what they did to Steinitz in one of those so-called hospitals. In his time, psychiatrists hadn’t devised electroshock and lobotomy, techniques that directly damage the brain, but they did devise some torments that broke the spirit of the person in crisis. In 19th-century nursing homes, beatings and chains were a thing of every day. There were even torture devices. I have not read the biography of Steinitz written by Bachmann. I suppose the Kneip technique applied on Steinitz, an extreme regimen of ice water baths, was involuntary.

Iatrogenesis is the stupid attempts to heal by doctors that produce new and more serious disorders than the existing ones. I believe that Steinitz’s illusory ideas at the end of his life, such as his belief that he could move chess pieces without touching them, were aggravated by psychiatric iatrogenesis.

The Kneip torment is discontinued in psychiatry. Due to modern technology, since the 1930s medical science has progressed from tormenting Steinitz’s body to directly assaulting the brain—what they did to Torre. In addition to electroshocks, chemical lobotomisers that are administered to those who cross through crises like the one Torre suffered are currently very fashionable. With a prescription, about twenty of these chemicals are sold in Mexico: Clopsine, Ekilid, Fluanxol, Flupazine, Geodon, Haldol, Haloperil, Largactil, Leponex, Leptopsique, Melleril, Piportil, Pontiride, Rimastine, Risperdal, Semap, Seroquel, Sinogan, Siqualine, Stelazine, and Zyprexa. Aliosha Tavizon, with whom I used to speak at the Gandhi Cafeteria and who in his category won the Carlos Torre Tournament in 2003, was given one of these crap drugs due to an unreciprocated love that temporarily unhinged him. For months he had a crooked neck and many other muscles in his body. To speak to him, he had to position his torso in profile: a tardive dystonia that may have been irreversible. Under no circumstances, not even during flowery psychoses, should an individual ingest any of these dangerous neurotoxins. Fortunately, there are principled psychiatrists, like Peter Breggin, who denounce the crime of prescribing disabling drugs in their profession.

The West, and especially the United States, have fallen into the cognitive error of addressing any psychological disturbance from a biological POV, ignoring the humanities. I do not think that this pseudoscience will be repudiated soon despite the iatrogenesis it produces. In my treatise I show, in a nutshell, that the profession doesn’t pass the falsifiability test devised by Karl Popper that distinguishes between science and pseudoscience, and that those who finance psychiatric ‘science’ in journals are the same companies that manufacture the drugs mentioned above. The academia itself has been corrupted by Big Pharma. If the reader doesn’t want to read my book because I am not an established author, read Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (Cambridge: Perseus, 2001). Robert Whitaker, the author, won the Pulitzer Prize for medical matters.

Published in: on July 5, 2021 at 2:31 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 14  

The human side of chess, 13

Bobby Fischer had horrendous problems with his mother, who invited her Jewish friends from Brooklyn to her apartment; friends who in the eyes of the boy Fischer were but little buddies. Fischer confessed to the women who knew him intimately that, at the age of twelve, he resented the absence of his mother as a great betrayal, who had a greater preference for her little buddies than for the child Bobby. When Fischer achieved grandmaster status at sixteen, his mother left him and his sister to move with friends to Europe. The teenage Fischer never mourned for his parental losses (his father had abandoned him even earlier, since Fischer was two years old). He rather did the opposite: he threw himself on Caissa’s skirts with unequalled vehemence. Such was the vehemence with which he amalgamated his life with Caissa’s that she gave him the magnificent gift of defeating, singlehandedly, the Soviet chess school at the age of twenty-nine. But out of his early unresolved experiences, which some of us call the betrayal of love, emerged the adult Fischer’s anti-Semitism.

Fischer was never a reader of, say, a wise scholar about Jewry like Kevin MacDonald, who continues to write about the subversive way Jews have been behaving in the West. Fischer’s anti-Semitism was more rancid, and at times paranoid. Already exiled in Budapest, he told one of his interviewers: ‘Day and night the Jews persecute me’. He called Kasparov ‘the Wenstein Jew’ despite the fact that Fischer was ethnically Jewish by both parents. (As our society doesn’t allow the child to express feelings of anger towards his parents, once the child is grown these feelings are transferred.)

After conquering the sceptre Fischer fled the world, especially from the journalists who harassed him. In 1975, the year that all the fans longed to see him defend his title against Karpov, Fischer befriended Claudia Mokarow, an older woman whom he affectionately called mommy. When the journalists tracked him down Fischer ran to Claudia’s apartment yelling: ‘Mommy, mommy, they’re here! Help me mommy: they’ve found me!’ Obviously Bobby, considered by some to be the greatest player in history, needed a motherly surrogate for the mother he never had. He never grew up. Some journalists from whom Fischer fled saw symbolism in the fact that Fischer’s mother was called Regina (a Late Latin feminine name meaning ‘queen’) and that when he was a child she was treated precisely as queen by the community of Jewish buddies that Regina brought to her apartment. Fischer never opened one of his classic chess games with the move 1. d4, pawn to Queen four, as we said before the algebraic notation.

Alexander Alekhine (World
Champion from 1927 to 1946).

I had already mentioned that Alekhine took it out on his spouses. His acquaintances noted Alekhine’s strange submission to authority: the quintessential parental figure. He was married four times, always to women older than him. A writer that Reinfeld mentions comments that it seemed that Alekhine wanted to be taken care of, and Edward Lasker says that when Alekhine was twenty years old, in a club he preferred to dance with a woman twice his age and thickness even though there were fairer girls around. All of this suggests an unresolved problem with the mother, who taught the child how to move the pieces. The proof is that one of his wives was twenty years old and the other thirty! His friends teased him that she was Philidor’s wife, a mummy. The tall and handsome Alekhine, whose games, especially those of his youth, are among the most artistic in the kingdom of Caissa, needed a mother. But for being so cruel to his wives he died alone and as a refugee in Portugal, while in Europe a witch-hunt was perpetrated against those who had collaborated with the Third Reich. Reinfeld wrote: ‘My feeling is that Alekhine was an unusually timid man who was terrified all his life by a profound feeling of insecurity’. And a few pages later he adds:

From all accounts, Madame Alekhine’s affection and maternal solicitude meant a great deal to Alekhine in his later years and had a very beneficial influence on him. But what more convincing proof could there be of his timidity, his insecurity, his fear of facing the world? There may also be significance in the fact that Alekhine was taught chess by her mother; this may have created a powerful emotional bond between his need for chess and his constant need for a mother. When all these elements are added up, I think we have an irresistible weight of evidence for the view that Alekhine’s genius for chess had its origin in an unusually virulent form of insecurity.

When Alekhine took refuge in Portugal from the witch-hunt unleashed by the allied forces he was already completely alone. Two days before his death he told a Portuguese fan: ‘Lupi, this loneliness is killing me!’ Unlike the title of this book in Spanish, En Pos de un Rey Metafórico, for the English translation I chose The Human Side of Chess. And it is that the photograph of someone who had been an idol in my early teens died in a hotel in his days of maximum solitude in times when the allied forces perpetrated a true holocaust of Germans, portrays the side of the game that fans don’t dare to see.

Also the great North American champion of the 19th century had something hideous unresolved with the figure of his mother. Paul Morphy, a native of New Orleans, the city where Carlos Torre would later grow up, had a curious habit of forming women’s shoes in a semicircle ‘because he liked to look at them.’

During a period of his life he would go up to the roof of his house to declaim in French a paragraph that seems to be taken from a song, of which its last words are et le petit Roi s’en ira tout penaud: and the little king will walk away covered in shame. Morphy saw no one except his mother with whom he spent every afternoon, whom he obeyed even though he was already the best chess player in the world. Even when his mother found him dead in the bathtub, Morphy was surrounded by women’s shoes. Morphy defeated all the active grandmasters of his time, including Löwenthal, Anderssen and Paulsen; although the match I like the most was the one he beat Harrwitz in Paris, played a century before I was born. That match shows that Morphy had already found, since then, how to handle the semi-open and closed openings. But like Fischer, Morphy suffered from paranoia. He believed that his brother-in-law and his friend Binder were conspiring to poison him and destroy his clothes, and it is said that on one occasion he showed up at Binder’s office and attacked him. Let us never forget that, like Fischer, Morphy retired from chess at the height of his chess career.

Paul Morphy, who died at 47.

I have said that Fischer’s greatest pleasure was breaking the adversary’s ego. This reminds me of why I was attracted to chess as a boy. I remember a time when I told my parents that the best moment of my life was when my opponent lost his morale to my game. This memory may give me the key to penetrate Fischer’s mind. ‘Break the ego’ is an oblique resonance of how his mother broke Fischer’s ego as a child (and how my mother destroyed it through constant humiliations). When decades before I found out that Fischer had said similar things I said, I was referring to a problem not only with my mother but with my father. In sixth grade my female teacher once asked the question of what had been the happiest moment of the students. To the teacher’s fluster, I replied euphorically that the happiest moment was when I defeated my father in chess: whom I loved enormously but at the same time I had to refute. His vehement religious beliefs had hurt the sensitive child that I was, but my childish mind didn’t know how to refute them.

Some have said that chess is a game of schachmaty, of killing the father. Before I read the enlightened philosophers and freethinkers, chess was a perfect metaphorical substitute for going after the father. The same word ‘refutation’ was constantly used by the adolescent I was, although without arguments yet, when talking about what I wanted to do with my parents’ beliefs: put an end to them. But because we love our parents, the volcano of anger that many children, and adult children, feel towards them can only erupt with substitute objects: opponents whose ego we break as Fischer would say. However, such a transfer can produce a split personality, especially in those who spend their lives running away from themselves through gambling. As I said, I have heard of various fans, and other adults who have nothing to do with chess, who have been damaged by their abusive parents and have suffered psychotic breakdowns: like that funny crazy man who, according to Reuben Fine, believed that Botvinnik was the real leader of the Soviet Union. But that’s a distant case. I remember the late Ricardo Bravo, one of those who went to the park and who was known to have suffered hellish conditions at home. Ricardo crossed the line from mere psychological trauma to insanity and virtually committed suicide by abruptly crossing a busy avenue.

The human side of chess, 12

In case of mental disorder

‘First do no harm’.

—Hippocratic Oath

Carlos Torre Repetto undressed on a streetcar in 1926 on Fifth Avenue in New York. That happened during the crisis that eventually led him to quit chess. The immigration police deported him in a steamer to Merida. Gabriel Velasco, the author of the only well-written book about the Mexican grandmaster, omits these vital events about his life in his misnamed book The Life and Games of Carlos Torre. I know Velasco personally, but in the next few pages I will break the taboo of not writing about Torre’s life. What did the champions think of the Mexican GM? Alekhine wrote:

(Left, Carlos Torre.) Since 1914 the chess world has not seen a first-rate luminary, one of those players who, like Lasker and Capablanca, mark a milestone in contemporary history… But about six months ago, shortly after the New York Tournament, in the United States appeared a faint light susceptible—at least we hope so—of transforming into a star of the first magnitude. We are talking about the young Carlos Torre, who is nineteen years old and whose short career has peculiarities worthy of attention… Without a doubt, Torre is not mature, which should not be surprising in a young man who has so little serious practice, but we admire the solidity of his game as well as his brilliant tactical qualities that allow him to emerge safely from sometimes dangerous positions in which he finds himself due to lack of experience. After having examined a number of his games, we cannot but congratulate Dr Tarrasch on his resolve to invite him to the next tournament of international masters to be held in Baden-Baden.

Alekhine wrote these words in 1924. Just two years later, when he came within a shot of winning the 1926 Chicago Tournament, Torre had the New York crisis. It is worth saying that the only game that Torre played with Alekhine was a ‘grandmasters draw’ played precisely in the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament. Alekhine, who two years later would dethrone Capablanca, immediately accepted the premature draw proposition by Torre on move fourteen: a sign of the respect he had for the Mexican. That year, the Moscow International Tournament was also held, where Torre made a sensational start. He started out beating three strong masters, including Marshall. He then drew two games with Tartakower and Spielmann to obtain other resounding victories, one of them against Sämisch, with which he placed himself along with Bogoljubov, Rubinstein and Lasker leading the tournament. Lasker said: ‘These first steps by young Torre are undoubtedly the first steps of a future world champion’. One of the most famous games of that tournament was the one Torre played with Lasker himself, who had been world champion from 1894 until Capablanca dethroned him in 1921, four years before the Moscow Tournament. Lasker held the title of champion for twenty-seven years. This great champion had to face Torre in the twelfth round of the tournament and got to obtain a positional advantage in the opening: an opening that was baptised as Torre Attack because the Mexican master introduced it to the practice of masterful chess. But on move 25 something unexpected happened. Word spread in the tournament hall: ‘Torre has sacrificed his queen to Lasker!’, something that rarely happens in professional chess. When it happens it causes a sensation. Within minutes Torre and Lasker had fans around their board. That game, known as ‘The Mill’, carved the name of Torre in chess annals; among others, it deserved an extensive comment from Nimzowitsch in My System.

I have quoted what Alekhine and Lasker thought of Torre’s future. The other champion of the time was Capablanca; as I said, the only Latin American who has won the title of world chess champion. It is an irony that very few Mexicans, and Alfonso Ferriz is an honourable exception, openly say that Torre could have conquered it as well. Capablanca commented on Torre after the Moscow International Tournament: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if this young man soon started to beat us all’. The only game between Capablanca and Torre was played in that tournament. Capablanca was then the world champion, and his virtuosity lay especially in his mastery and understanding of the end of the game: that is why his game with Torre has a special value. The Mexican played with such precision and ingenuity that he managed to tie a very difficult endgame with the champion. Averbach, the Russian pedagogue, chose this ending to illustrate the theory of positions in his book Comprehensive Chess Endings: Bishop vs. Knight. When analysing the ending one is left with the feeling that this game between Capablanca and Torre is beyond the comprehension of ordinary fans, and that only a chess professor like Averbach and others can decipher it. When he played with Torre, Capablanca was at the height of his abilities. His game with the other Latin American is a tribute to the classic style of both, and should be studied as a paradigm of the endgame of knight against ‘bad’ bishop.

Torre’s arch was like the myth of Phaeton. After Torre’s crisis at the age of twenty-one, which marks the end of his brilliant but fleeting career, he lived without a profession, in a petty way and depending on his family until the early 1950s. He worked for a time in a pharmacy helping his brother in Tamaulipas, but he didn’t make a career or have children. In 1955 Alfonso Ferriz brought him to the capital of Mexico and kept him in a ‘very cheap’ guest house, according to him. Both Ferriz and Alejandro Báez, generous chess lovers in Mexico, tried to help him. Ferriz employed him in a hardware store, but the sixty-four-square aesthete was overwhelmed by the clientele.

During my vacations from junior high to high school, I worked at the Bank of Mexico and over time I purchased chess books for my collection (when I came of age I got rid of all of them). After work at the Bank of Mexico in the centre of the great capital, I would visit El Metropolitano: a chess den that, like all dens, reminds me of the room where opium addicts tried to escape from reality. In that unlikely place I listened to the chess master Alejandro Báez. His talk wasn’t directed at the beardless ephebe I was, but at the fans Carlos Escondrillas, Raúl Ocampo and Benito Ramírez who frequented El Metropolitano. My presence at a distance in those talks in 1973 went unnoticed. But what stuck with me the most was that Báez pointed out Torre’s admiration for San Francisco: the saint who undressed in a public place as a protest against the humiliation that his father had inflicted on him. I deduced from Baez’s talk that imitating the Franciscan buffoonery frustrated Torre’s career.

Carlos Torre died in 1978. The Russian magazine Schachmaty published an account of the tournaments of the time when Torre had flourished, from 1920 to 1926. Although Torre was then fifth in the world behind Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Vidmar, he was ahead of masters of the calibre of Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein, Bogoljubov and Reti. Note that this fifth place refers to the early years of Torre’s career. Would he have reached the top without his psychotic breakdown, imitating the man of Assisi? As I said, in the book that Velasco wrote about Torre the premature retirement of the master from Yucatán is taboo.

Some Mexican players wonder why if Chigorin, who was close to being a world champion, is considered the father of national chess in Russia, Mexican fans ignore Torre’s figure. One possible answer is that the stigma attached to the term ‘mentally ill’ is the most degrading thing we can imagine: more degrading even than having been in jail or having had a homosexual scandal in Victorian times. It is a subject buried in mystery, and the Criollo Velasco’s reluctance to touch on the subject perpetuates the darkness. Many grandmasters, and even world champions, have suffered nervous breakdowns. Although Steinitz is considered the first world champion, at the dawn of the 20th century he died in abject poverty. It is rumoured that he believed that he was in electrical communication with God, that he could give him a pawn advantage and, in addition, win him.

(Plaque in honour of Wilhelm Steinitz, World Champion from 1886 to 1894, in Prague’s Josefov district.) What causes insanity? Since it is prohibitive for today’s society to ponder the havoc that abusive parents wreak on the mind of the growing child to become an adult, a pseudoscience is tolerated in universities that, without any physical evidence, blames the body of the disturbed individual. This is such an important subject that I have written a dense treatise to unravel it. Here I will limit myself to mentioning some reflections that have to do with chess players.

One of the things that motivated me to write this little book is to settle the score with Carlos Torre’s biography. Unfortunately, there is no relevant biographical material on Torre to know exactly why he lost his sanity. The rumours of his supposed syphilis don’t convince me. Ferriz told me that his friends took him with whores in Moscow. But Torre was sane for the last eighteen years of his life. Had he had neurosyphilis his symptoms would have gone from bad to worse. Torre’s mystical deviations and his imitation of the man from Assisi suggest a psychogenic problem. Likewise, Torre’s nervousness, manifested in the film that captured him playing in Moscow, as well as his habit of smoking four daily packs of Delicados brand cigarettes, suggests a psychogenic problem.

The syphilitic hypothesis that Ferriz told me reminds me of some speculations about Nietzsche’s madness. The author of the Zarathustra suffered from psychosis for almost a dozen years until he died: a psychosis very different from Torre’s fleeting crisis. But as in Torre’s case, blaming a supposed venereal disease for Nietzsche’s disorder has been done so that his tragedy fits within the taboos of our culture.

The root of Nietzsche’s madness was not somatic. The ‘poisonous worms’, as Nietzsche called his mother and his sister in the original version of Ecce Homo (not the version censored by his sister), may have played a role. In The Lost Key Alice Miller suggests that the poisonous pedagogy applied to him by his mother and aunts as a child (his father died prematurely) would drive him mad as an adult. It is worth saying that Stefan Zweig’s splendid literary essay The Struggle Against the Daimon (Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche) has also been translated into English and Spanish. As Nietzsche confesses to us in Ecce Homo, a kind of autobiography where his delusions of grandeur are already noticeable, his mother and sister were ‘the true abysmal thought’ of the philosopher in the face of the eternal return of the identical.

Nor is it convincing what Báez said: that Torre masturbated a lot. In the 19th century the myth that excessive masturbation among boys caused insanity became fashionable; and when old Báez said that Torre was a consummate onanist, I can’t help but remember that myth. Equally wrong is the story of Raúl Ocampo. Although Ocampo is one of the best connoisseurs of Mexican chess, Juan Obregón captured him on the tape recorder maintaining a bizarre theory: that a telegram sent to Torre by the Jews to inform him that his girlfriend was breaking up with him was the trick that triggered the crisis. When I interviewed Alfonso Ferriz, one of the few survivors who knew Torre, he couldn’t tell me anything substantial about the Yucatecan’s childhood and adolescence: the time when his mind was structured and the only thing that could provide us with the lost key to understand his mental state. But one of Ferriz’s anecdotes that most caught my attention was that Torre ‘had an almost mystical respect for women’. He called women las santitas (the holy little ones). ‘How is the little saint?’ was his question when referring to Ferriz’s wife.

I would like to talk a little more about Las Arboledas park. Although Fernando Pérez Melo fled home due to abuse and became destitute, I don’t know of anyone among the park fans who has held his father responsible. Society has been obsessed with not seeing the obvious. As the mother is the most deified figure in Mexico, why not start with her, breaking the taboo of the parental deity? Just as it caused a shock among the ancient Mexicans to see how the bearded people pulled from the pinnacles of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan the effigy of the Coatlicue’s son during the fall of the Aztec capital, for us to mature the figure of the mother has to be defenestrated. When Humboldt visited Mexico, the New Spaniards unearthed the Coatlicue statue to show it to him. They didn’t understand this work of art and they buried it again.

When I speak with Mexicans, I realise that they continue to bury the symbols of those female figures and terrible archetypes that they don’t understand or don’t want to understand. For this reason, the ‘santitas’ that Torre spoke of—compare it with Nietzsche’s expression ‘poisonous worms’—continue to be an object of veneration in Mexico. However, and despite all this speculation of mine, there is no substantial information about Torre’s childhood. Ferriz says that Torre never spoke about his parents or his siblings. So, instead of speculating about his childhood, I will focus on the life of a chess player who died in more recent times and about whom a little more is known.

Published in: on July 2, 2021 at 7:20 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 12  

Alekhine quote

‘You can become a big master in chess only if you see your mistakes and short-comings. Exactly the same as in life itself’.

Published in: on July 2, 2021 at 1:52 pm  Comments Off on Alekhine quote