Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Trip to Paris

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There is something about Paris that brings out the proverbial rustic in all of us. One close relative came back from Paris very impressed from the (as the relative pronounced it) "tomb-es l-es invalid-es". Another close relative and I -- with whom I was walking in Paris on a rainy Tuesday this week -- stumbled upon what he later called "a small place off the guidebooks" -- the Montparnasse cemetery. As for myself, I found out that my ability to translate, say, Poincare (as I had to during my studies) did in fact allow me to read the newspaper, road signs, Metro instructions, menus, etc. -- but as for speaking, the French might as well have been talking to me in High Martian, for all I understood. Everybody should just speak a normal language like English that people can understand, that's what I say.

Well, in the Montparnasse cemetery, I had insisted on visiting Alekhine's grave. To my astonishment, the board on the gravestone was -- you guessed it -- rotated 90 degrees, with a black square on the lower right corner. How could such a thing happen on the grave of the world's chess champion? The solution is simple: as chessbase notes, the grave today is a restoration, with both the marble image and the board renewed after being damaged in a hurricane in 1999. It was then, not when the tombstone was originally erected in 1956, that the screw-up occurred. It would have been indeed astonishing for FIDE in 1956 to set up a chess board wrongly on Alekhine's grave, quite another for a restorer to do so 43 years later.

To my mind, the originals were far better, not only because the board was in the right orientation, but because the marble image of Alekhine on the grave was superior.

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