Chess and fashion…

I’ve always loved haikus. Mainly, perhaps, for their brevity and concision: that ability to make every word matter. A magical reticence, a wizardry of simple words. It’s as if you’re offered a thought in a plainly packaged bottle, and it’s up to you to dilute it, almost like Yupi’s famous catchphrase: “Just add water!”

On this occasion my attention was caught by Matsuo Basho:

“Even the leaden crow
looks right this morning
how much prettier!”

It strikes me he was talking about spring, about that time of the year when all your senses awaken, and your desires become sharper. Walking along the street you smile at passers-by because the sun is smiling down on you, the sky is blue, and the birds are singing their mellifluous song. At that time, like it or not, you want to wear a shorter skirt, higher heels, brighter make-up and go out and conquer the world!

- Brain, and what shall we do tomorrow?
- The same as always! Try to take over the world! ©

Taking over the world is the bare minimum, but the main thing is to correctly choose the spot to take over. For example, I’ve always been curious as to why chess tournaments shouldn’t be the right spot for fashion shows?

By the way, spring 2007 saw a fashion show marking the release of a collection by Anna Gulmann, in which the whole chess range was used. And in 2001 at the Russian Fashion Week there was a pret-a-porter presentation by Olga Feshina, entitled “Chess, a knight’s move”. And if we take into account the numerous reminiscences?

Walking around the heart of Moscow, on Red Square, I discovered an exhibition in one of the windows of the GUM Department Store. I’d like to describe it, remembering Basho, by writing my own haiku, as far as my limited poetic abilities allow.

Spring. GUM. Chess.
Fashion flirts with me.
I’ll be black. White will be Hermés.

Why are there such a countless number of designer chess sets, where your hands can’t resist trying out the pieces in action, and no lack of designer clothing… Lost somewhere in Britain is Chess Boutique, which offers its fair female visitors original dresses. It’s as if you’re playing against fashion! The only thing is you always have to play White! But what do we do?

Chess tournaments rarely turn – what am I saying, never turn – into parades of high fashion. There was a flicker of hope when Magnus Carlsen signed a contract with the denim fashion label G-Star Raw, and then featured alongside Liv Tyler in a fashion shoot by the maestro Anton Corbijn.

In an interview with GQ Magazine Magnus Carlsen mentioned that before he signed the contract with G-Star he’d never taken an interest in fashion, but now he’s started to pay attention to his style. It’s no surprise, as his wardrobe is now picked out for him by stylists from the Dutch label. And, you have to stay, not always successfully…

For example, the “Mercedes Benz Fashion Week” was held in the Lincoln Center Theatre in New York. Magnus attended in the company of actress Mena Suvari (“American Beauty”). Uptight and wedged-in, it’s unlikely Carlsen did a good job of representing the dynamic Dutch label that evening. Although many did appreciate his blue socks!

Carmen Kass was a breath of fresh air, but the weaker sex didn’t follow in the footsteps of the famous supermodel, and we didn’t get to see bold outfits by famous labels at chess tournaments. Why not?

There are, of course, rare individuals capable of spicing up the dull chess picture, but there are so few that at times they’re lost amid the endless sea of nondescript clothes you find in playing halls during tournaments.

Not so long ago, Lord of Chess appeared on the chess scene, offering a large collection of high-quality textiles and accessories for everyday use and at reasonable prices. The idea was conceived by the German Grandmaster Arkadij Naiditsch and the designer Sascha Wagener. T-shirts, polo shirts, watches – the most important details of any chess wardrobe!

And in light of that it’s a little odd to hear Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s comments on the chess dress code.

K.I.: “There are interesting young designers who can come up with different options for chess players and arbiters. For example, the organisers of the Asian Games in China and Qatar gifted each player a few sets of designer clothing, released specially for chess players and arbiters. The options are legion. I’m not talking about a tuxedo and bow tie, but at the very least not going to official events in trainers and a T-shirt.”

But, as we know, many chess players are guilty of using that universal form of clothing – simple, convenient and it doesn’t get in the way. Just think, an important event…

Nevertheless, a dress code might help to make the halls in which tournaments are held more attractive… And a requirementclean shoes. An absolute necessity! Sometimes you want the cloakroom to include a shoe cleaner, who’d provide all the essential services. And how essential that is at times! I think you know what I mean.

Girls are, of course, a separate issue. You get the impression that we’re not going to a tournament but… a monastery. We cover up all the charming places, we’re shy, embarrassed, and we forget about bright colours and enticing imagery. Of course, mini-skirts aren’t the answer. Sometimes theyre very inconvenient. High-heels also don’t always win out over flat-soled shoes. As they say, I love my new shoes: they’re so comfortable… to sit in :-)

In any case, we should find a compromise! We’re girls, after all, and we shouldn’t forget it!