The champion who performed chess with Lauren Bacall | Culture | EUROtoday

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The author David Torres has recreated it in a current novel, The girl who did not perceive the world (Kingdom of Cordelia), the lifetime of the nice chess participant Sonja Graf, little recognized even amongst consultants. She was an uncommon girl, with a robust character, a helpless childhood, a bohemian life and a tortuous previous, hooked on a recreation that gave her every little thing and took nearly every little thing from her. She was born with a magical present that, nevertheless, was not sufficient to succeed in the highest, since she was condemned to be eternally second on the earth, all the time behind the British champion Vera Menchik, fortunately married with youngsters, with much less persona. and a much less engaging and attention-grabbing life, however with a millimeter extra expertise and self-confidence: that is chess.

The novel describes Graf’s complete life arc: his wanderings from boarding home to boarding home since adolescence, from lover to lover, from nation to nation and from board to board, and his surprising finish in New York after residing for a few years in Hollywood, as nicely. fortunately married to an sincere and delicate sailor. It may be very potential, Torres maintains, that lots of the video games that Graf performed in his final twenty years have been performed with the well-known members of an unique chess membership close to his home the place he used to drink vodka, one other of his addictions. Her rivals have been Marlene Dietrich, Billy Wilder, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. It is alleged that Dietrich performed very nicely. Also Bacall. Wayne was very fond, however he was worse at it.

In actuality, we all know little about Graf. He was born in Munich, however it isn’t clear if it was in 1908 or 1909. The first concept of ​​Torres, creator of greater than seven novels and Nadal finalist in 2003 with The nice silence, who got here throughout the determine of the chess participant in Leontxo García’s guide Chess and science, blended passions, was to develop a script for a documentary. But the shortage of photos and dependable biographical information quickly deterred him. Graf herself wrote two autobiographical books, This is how a lady performs y I’m Susann, however they comprise so many lies and half-truths in them – and depart so many issues untold – that the author in the end most well-liked to show his heroine into the meat of a novel and fill within the gaps and shadows of her life with creativeness. The author did not care that his character by no means turned a world champion. On the opposite: “I like seconds. The fact that she doesn’t win makes her even more attractive. The winner is boring. The loser, no. The fact that she was almost on the verge of catching up with Menchik all the time, who was always running after her, makes Graf a tragic character. Plus, there is her childhood…”

Hits, beatings, anger and unhappiness

Her childhood: Graf’s mother and father mistreated her, every in their very own approach. Her father, a mediocre painter who specialised in forging well-known artistic endeavors, merely beat her up out of behavior. Her mom ignored her, all the time despising her, preferring any of her siblings. After a type of paternal beatings, Sonja determined one afternoon to run away from house. She was 15 years previous and had nothing in her pockets besides anger and unhappiness. He summed all of it up in a phrase that Torres, conveniently altered, has used because the title of the novel: “I don’t understand the world.” She did not perceive the world. But, in keeping with the novelist, her world did not perceive her both.

After wandering across the metropolis that fateful day, he ended up by likelihood in entrance of the window of the Rats café, on Munich’s Marienplatz. From there he noticed a number of chess gamers in the course of a recreation. He liked that recreation. Her father had taught her tips on how to play, she had performed along with her brothers till they received uninterested in dropping to her. She watched with out shifting the totally different video games that have been going down with a lot consideration and a lot consideration that the gamers inside her ended up noticing the lady and invited her to return in and sit down. That afternoon, solely with the power of her intuition, she beat all of the gamers within the cafe. The scene is implausible, however like so many implausible issues, true. She completed all the espresso applauding the stranger.

That afternoon Sonja Graf left each her house and her childhood and was born as knowledgeable chess participant. Since then, that sport turned her itinerant lifestyle, her lifeline and her poison: she lived for a few years glued to the board, with nothing else to carry on to, at first risking her bread and the lodge room in video games. bar after which going to more and more prestigious and better-paid tournaments, however all the time for cash.

Sonja Graf, left, and her eternal rival, the British Vera Menchik, in 1936.
Sonja Graf, left, and her everlasting rival, the British Vera Menchik, in 1936. J. A. Hampton (Getty Images)

Torres’ guide, which unfolds over a protracted imaginary dialog in Los Angeles between the protagonist, already on the finish of her life, and a younger girl who desires to make a movie about her, narrates different figuring out episodes of life. de Graf: in 1939, shortly earlier than the outbreak of World War II, he escaped from Nazi Germany and ended up in Buenos Aires to play, as a stateless individual, within the Tournament of Nations, below a colorless flag during which solely the phrase appeared. “free”. A logo of her persona and her future.

It was there that she got here closest to successful the world championship, though, as all the time, within the closing match, she ended up defeated by the inevitable Vera Menchik. “I had the game won, but I made the three most stupid moves one can imagine,” she confessed a few years later to the journal The New Yorker. During all that point she was, as Torres describes her, “a single, independent woman, without husband or children, who dressed like a man, who smoked like two and who slept with whoever she wanted, men or women.”

In the tip, in her maturity, uninterested in the fast-paced life, of consuming, and after seeing that her chess expertise was diminishing over time and {that a} new technology of Soviet chess gamers was arriving destined to displace her, she determined to retire after getting married and having a son. “It gives the impression that, in the end, Graf made a plan with life,” Torres summarizes.

“Deep down, chess is not the theme of the novel, but rather the setting,” clarifies the author, who can also be a fan of this recreation. And he provides: “The book, which wants to be a tribute to women chess players, the great forgotten ones of this sport, is really about identity, about who that woman really is, who she thinks she is, who we think we really are. ”.

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