Chess Quotes about Chess and Life - selected and compiled by Elke Rehder

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Chess Quotes  and reflections about the game of chess and life

Elke Rehder: "Chess is a Mirror of the Society."


Chess Quotes Part 1 - Life is like a chess game

Benjamin Franklin: "Life is a kind of chess."

Benjamin Franklin chess quotation, drawing by the artist Elke Rehder

Lelouch Lamperouge: "Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move."

Charles Buxton: "In life, as in chess, one’s own pawns block one’s way. A man’s
very wealth, ease, leisure, children, books, which should help him to win, more often checkmate him."

David Bronstein: "In chess, as in life, opportunity strikes but once."

chess quotes David Bronstein with drawing by the artist Elke Rehder

Garry Kasparov: "I, like many others, see in chess a remarkably accurate model of human life with its daily struggles and ups and downs." 

Garry Kasparov: "Botvinnik tried to take the mystery out of chess, always relating it to situations in ordinary life. He used to call chess a typical inexact problem similar to those which people are always having to solve in everyday life."

chess quote Garry Kasparov Botvinnik. Drawing by the artist Elke Rehder.

Savielly Tartakower: "In chess as in life, the best play is being performed."

Savielly Tartakower chess quotation with drawing by Elke Rehder

Vassily Smyslov: "In chess, as in life, a man is his own most dangerous opponent."

Vassily Smyslov chess in life drawing by the artist Elke Rehder

Jose Raúl Capablanca: "Chess is more than just a game, is an intellectual fun that has something a lot of art and science, is also a means of social and intellectual approach."

Jose Raúl Capablanca drawing by the artist Elke Rehder

Boris Spassky: "Chess is like life."

Boris Spassky Chess Life drawing by the artist Elke Rehder

Bobby Fischer: "Chess is life."

If you say that chess is like life, you must not forget that in real life you also need a bit of luck. In the beginning around the year 1030, players played with pieces in combination with dice. Today people in various countries play Raindropchess. This game offers a perfect balance between tactic and chance.

Raindropchess the chess game between tactic and chance

Part 2 - Chess is a mental training

In 1779 the famous Benjamin Franklin wrote in his article The morals of chess:
"The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn:
1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action ...
2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: - the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; ...
3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily...."

The game of chess can be a tool to aid your intellectual development. Cornel Pacurar is a chess problem composer living in Toronto, Canada, who started publishing an electronic free bulletin dedicated to chess composition (in general, and Series-Movers in particular).

chess problems bulletin 2014 first issue ISSN Canada with chess drawing by Elke Rehder

The first issue of the Bulletin appeared in March 2014 and includes a short overview of some past prizewinners, an assorted collection of original compositions, the results of the 5th TT (BackHome), an interesting Vertical Mirror Circe article, followed by a number of recent series-mover tourney announcements and, finally, an up-to-date table of series move-length records.

In the first edition of the Bulletin you can find important names of the world's best chess composers, such as:
Alberto Armeni
Alain Bienabe
Michel Caillaud
Vlaicu Crisan
Nicolas Dupont
Dominique Forlo
Geoff Foster
Jean-Christian Galli
Eric Huber
Branko Koludrovic
Vaclav Kotesovec
Ralf Krätschmer
Sebastien Luce
Emmanuel Manolas
Dan Meinking
Cornel Pacurar
Paul Raican
Ivan Skoba
Adrian Storisteanu
Jaroslav Stun
Arno Tüngler
Kjell Widlert
and others

To view the full and public versions of the bulletin please visit the website of chess bulletin

The presentation of a chess problem generally includes the following:

- The initial position (or final retrograde analysis) of the problem. This position is made, that is to say, it is not taken from a real game played but was created from scratch for the specific purpose of making a problem. The position is often impossible from the viewpoint of the game of chess. For cons, the position should be legal, that is to say, it must be obtainable by the rules of the game.

- The problem statement is most often the matte black king imposed a number of shots. This statement is often indicated by abbreviations.

- The author or authors of the problem.

- Publication of first publication or competition in which the problem was and the year of publication or indication that this problem is new.

- A possible reward obtained by the problem.

The presentation of one or more themes and aesthetic qualities of the problem are considered for the award of prizes awarded in composition contest.

As against the Chess composer has two implacable enemies:

- Demolition: the problem must have a solution and it must be unique (or have the exact number of solutions shown in the statement). If the problem is considered "demolished", he loses any artistic value and is eliminated from the competition in which he participated eventually.

- Anticipation: to be rewarded, it is necessary that the idea or the implementation of the idea presented in the problem is new. The anticipation of the problem may be total (and the problem loses interest) or partial (one recognizes him a share of originality or interesting enrichment). (translated from the French Wikipedia).


Part 3 - Analogies and parallels to the game of chess

The following text is by Günther Nicolin and from the introduction to the book "Schach - Spiegel der Gesellschaft" (chess - a Mirror of the Society), published 1992 by Arno Nickel (Edition Marco), Berlin. ISBN 3-924833-26-5.

Fernando Arrabal, the Spanish dramatist, stated Bobby Fischer during the world championship fight against Boris Spassky (1972 in Reykjavik):

"Chess is not like the life…
Chess is the life.
Exactly like the theatre. "

On closer examination: Arrabal is not content to see the game of chess in comparison to the life but he sees it as an analogy for the life in so far an equality of conditions. For the dramatist Arrabal is it obvious to draw also the parallel to the theatre.

The flank bishop - Chess painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
"The Flank Bishop"

Elke Rehder’s artistic reflections on chess go into a very similar direction. Remarkable is that the artist became the inspiration by observing an open-air chess game. Normally the game is played sitting and nearly motionlessly. But in open-air chess the playing field must be entered by the players and the chessmen must be carried from field to field, in order to realize the respective draws. The intellectual debate of the players gains additional dynamic and life. Furthermore this game is played in the public; chess becomes quasi a "res publica", a public thing.

The e Pawn - Chess painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
"The e-Pawn"

Elke Rehder understands the game of chess as a reflection of social life in the historical past just like in the present: hierarchical systems and class societies become visible - competitive situations as for example in the working sphere (searching problem solutions, goal-oriented working, switching disturbing factors, enforcing of own ideas, eliminating a competitor) appear, the chessboard becomes to a social experimental field with many possibilities of social cooperation and disharmony.

On closer look to Elke Rehder’s chess pictures, which are painted on canvas and in mixed media on paper or with acrylic, some significant characteristics attract attention. Abstract to the game situation, the opponents of the game are not displayed. The artist deliberately omitted the pose of the two chess players and their game-arranging dominance. However the chessboard and the chess pieces (= social experimentation field) are taken into the view; the chess pieces win an independent existence: the kings negotiate with one another, the bishop dances over the chessboard, the pawns - armed with lances - are nearly always present, marked by the artist in a provocatively shining red.

The titles of the pictures - a further characteristic - are mostly from the chess terminology, like "The Opening", "Dragon Variant", "Knight takes Rook", "Remis" etc. What in the respective picture is shown, does not correspond to the chess terminology in the sense of a chess diagram. Rather we see a life situation, differently said a scene "exactly like the theatre" (Arrabal).

Some examples:

The Opening - Chess painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
"The Opening"

The view falls by an opened door, which is secured by a pawn, on the sub-range of a chessboard, on which in some distance inconspicuously two further figures emerge. Dominating is the pawn in the foreground. Without the pawn, the opening is impossible, like well-known in the game of chess also. Turned in the social this means: without the base (= the pawns) nothing works.

Dragon Variant - Chess painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
"Dragon Variant"

The pawns, four at the number, in the "Dragon Variant" are substantially involved. The "dragons of this world" were not up to the solidarity of the basic pawns. A dragon lies ended in its blood.

Knight takes Rook - Chess painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
"Knight takes Rook"

Of special attraction is the composition "Knight takes Rook". The imp under the chessmen, the knight, unorthodoxly in its forward urge, overwhelms the rook, this support of the society. The social avant-garde overcomes the crusty, in firm courses moving establishment. In the line work of this picture the crucial draw is to be discovered: red point as starting point - once diagonal - once straight - draw with impact effect = little red cross.

Chess - Draw - Remis - painting by the German artist Elke Rehder
Draw - Remis

And last the kings in a draw (Remis). An absurd, an impossible situation in a game of chess which can be taken seriously that the kings remain on the chessboard. Indeed, in the presented picture they do not stand on the chessboard, but sit on a scale. In social context this means: weighed and found too light.

It is a charming game in form and color, Elke Rehder sketches in her chess pictures. The deeper sense of their artistic statement requires the decoding - one way leads into the social critical dimension.

text by Günther Nicolin (translated from the German)


Part 4 - Chess - Mirror of Life

The following text is by Dr. Gerhard Stübner to the art exhibition "Elke Rehder artists' books and graphic arts" in the national library in Hanover 2009. 

Chess is after Stefan Zweig mathematics, which does not calculate anything; an art without works; an architecture without substance. But nevertheless this in the 6th century developed combat game has a continuous fascination up till today, because basic elements of human thinking and acting, which are formalized in its rules, have timeless validity and topicality. The rules as conservative structure form the basis. But what happened on the chessboard are dynamic conditions by the infinite possibilities of moves. Crucially for the result of the game is the thinking, which enables the player to examine his own strategy permanently at the material experiences and to see his own chances and those of his opponent and acting afterwards.

Chess Room Installation  Art by the German artist Elke Rehder
Chess Room installation by Elke Rehder 


The artist Elke Rehder became attentive to chess, when she watched an open-air game in a park. Here the participants must carry the figures from field to field, in order to the moves, contrary to usual games, where the players sit motionless opposite. The open-air players seem indissolubly connected with the chessboard.

For Elke Rehder became this an experience of symbolic sense and the reason for the intellectual and artistic approaches to the game. But sporty interest did not arise from this. Her attention is drawn to the chess pieces on the board, not to the players. In the hierarchical structures and in the strategy of the game she sees similarities to situations in the real life. The figures develop thereby an independent existence and become a metaphor for social phenomena.

Strong Pawn Position Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "Strong Pawn Position"

The White starts - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "The White starts"

The artist developed her own symbols for the chess pieces, by assigning a color to each one. All pawns are explained in red. For Elke Rehder stands the red color for activity and vital strength. The bishops always wear a mitre. Like the rook, they are designed in black-yellow color combination, whereby yellow stands as warning color also as symbol for ideologies. The color of the anarchy is black. The combination of both colors signals danger. In case of the rook it exists in the inexorable straight line thinking. With his mass - symbol for conservative structures - he runs down everything that comes into his way. What the rook cannot clear, takes the bishop, symbol for church power and guarantor for the consistent penetration of ideologies. The knight in blue color stands for the avant-garde, the maladjusted, the new. The king combines all colors of the rainbow in himself. A shiny stature; magnificently, awkwardly and relatively immovably.

Looking to the woodcuts and etchings more closely, some characteristics are noticeable, which are not conform to the rules of chess. The artist creates her own meaning of symbolism and develops combinations in comparison to the real life.

Some examples:

Knight takes Rook - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "Knight takes Rook" 

The mobile knight strikes the massive rook from the field. New, forward arranged thinking prevails over conservative structures.

Pawns threaten the King - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "Pawns threaten the King"

The lowest caste in the chess hierarchy - the pawns - succeeded in to threaten the king and possibly setting mate. The king as single figure - without his vassals - has hardly still motion possibility. He cannot free himself any longer. Historical events of world history come into the sense.

The Fight - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "The Fight"

Pawns face each other hostilely. Problems of the everyday life can be the reason, in addition, because they were instigated from the powerful ones to do it. Different ideologies and provoked hate were responsible in order to send millions into death, how the history of two world wars and numerous dictatorships shows. The opponent is not a personal enemy, but the enemy is made, because he thinks differently.

Remis - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "Remis"

An absurd situation. Two glitzy dressed kings are not sitting on the chessboard, but opposite on a scale. The balance is balanced; i.e. the balance of power is alike.

Irrational Position - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "Irrational Position"

The artist irritates with a presentation, which does not exist in the game of chess. One pawn is up, another positioned underneath the chessboard. A game beyond the reality, which would blow up all borders of chess combinations. The human spirit would be overtaxed by playing to such rules. The picture is a synonym for infinite thinking possibilities. Transferred it means that not all aspects of living together are plannable, predictable or logically comprehensible, because humans have the internal freedom, to do things, which are outside of existing standards.

The Pawn is weak - Chess woodcut by the German artist Elke Rehder
woodcut "The Pawn is weak"

Between the blocks of secular power (rooks) and ecclesiastical power (bishops) the pawn collapsed. His lance is lowered, because there is no more sense to fight. He must endure his own powerlessness.

Bishop to b3 - Chess etching by the German artist Elke Rehder
etching "Bishop to b3" 

In the etching "Bishop to b3" the situation is similar but with the exception that the pawn places himself to the resistance. He does not know yet that he is chanceless.

Is chess a mirror of life, or even life itself?

Elke Rehder’s pictures cannot answer the question, because in the rules of chess moral, religious or political convictions do not exist. In her conception and paintings the artist goes out far beyond the rules of chess. With her own symbolism, which she assigned to the different chess pieces, she creates a mirror of the society. It analyses the essential structures of hierarchical systems and makes sensitive for new aspects. The 64 fields of the game are not sufficient for this. The artist opens new thinking areas, by making the reality surreal, in order to clarify it and showing paradoxies, in order to provoke common sense. An artistic statement, which leads into a sphere whose extent yet is not to be foreseen.

Dr. Gerhard Stübner (text translated from the German)


Part 5:  Chess is art - Art is chess

The Opening - Chess etching by the German artist Elke Rehder
etching "The Opening"

During the preparation of the art exhibition Elke Rehder said in a general manner: "We do not make a pure chess exhibition, but at chess one does not go past!" In the discussion becomes further clear, what provokes her to the topic. It is not the pure illustration or realistic presentation of the chess game. She arouses the pieces to alive persons and points out, how the game becomes reality and reality becomes a game.

The Fight - Chess etching by the German artist Elke Rehder
etching "The Fight"

The fight against each other, also in ritualized form, the destruction of the opponent, probably strategic and tactical moments, all this the artist pulls it together to a multicolored kaleidoscope of opinions and actions in cycles.

Three Pawns - Chess lithography by the German artist Elke Rehder
lithograph "Three Pawns"

The artist symbolized "The Opening" with the opening of an entry door. Defense by crossed lances or "Three pawns" to a group arranged like parts of a cornfield.

Quotations translated from the German exhibition catalogue: Dr. Johannes Spallek: ''Elke Rehder - Bilder, Grafik, Bronzen“ 36 S. Stormarnhaus, Bad Oldesloe 1994.

more information about the art exhibition catalogue you'll find on my homepage art studio


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