Stephen Moss (The Guardian) traces Beckett’s lifelong fascination with the game
Beckett had a lifelong interest in chess and was a keen player, following many of the big matches, says his nephew, Edward, who oversees the Beckett estate. Samuel was taught to play by his elder brother, Frank, and by his uncle, Howard, who achieved the remarkable feat of beating the Cuban José Raúl Capablanca, later world champion, at an exhibition in Dublin. There are a score of chess books in the library of Beckett’s old flat in Paris, which is now occupied by Edward and his wife. Beckett played regularly with friends during the second world war, when he was holed up in France working for the Resistance; he liked to annotate master games – the chess books in his library are full of comments – and corresponded with Spanish playwright and fellow chess aficionado Fernando Arrabal. In the early 1940s, he also played – and lost to – Marcel Duchamp, an expert on the game who wrote a chess column for the Paris newspaper Ce Soir.