As Marlon Williams releases his new album Make Way For Love, he explains how chess genius Bobby Fischer's obsession with his chosen pursuit manifests itself in the Kiwi's music.
Bobby Fischer died of renal failure in 2008 aged 64 in a hospital in Reykjavik, after a blocked urinary tract was left unchecked due to Fischer's paranoid aversion to western medicine. In fact, by the time of his preventable death, Fischer was paranoid about pretty much everything.
The son of an unknown father and a Jewish mother investigated for her communist ties, growing up in the darkest days of McCarthyism, it's perhaps little wonder that the young Bobby grew into a man bedevilled by paranoia, self-loathing and an horrifically misguided antagonism to the world around him.
And then there's his obsession with a pre-7th century Indian board game. Attempts to mathematise the game of chess in the relatively recent field of combinatorial game theory give a conservative lower bound of possible outcomes from start to finish of any given game to be an intimidating 10 to the power of 120. Famously, that's a higher number of possibilities than there are atoms in the known universe.
I think it's no exaggeration, then, to call chess players gods of their own universes, imbued with the powers of omnipresence, omnipotence but, crucially, not omniscience. Power to see all, power to change the conditions from one state to another, but a limited ability to assess the cost/benefit of doing so. To say that that would be maddening to an obsessive personality hell-bent on perfection is an understatement.
An even more recent application of this theory of combinatorics has been in the field of language: The number of possible twenty word sentences in the English language is at least a hundred million trillion. Another terrifying number. Another brush with the practical infinite, so far as the brain can grasp it.
The difference between crafters of sentences (novelists, songwriters, you trying to woo that babe on tinder) and chess players, however, is that chess is a zero sum game. Win, lose, or draw, those are the outcomes. There are right moves and wrong moves. Bobby the chess god wages battle against a devil. His universe has a point to it. A point easily understandable to a child; "Capture their king. Protect yours."
Wordsmiths (and artists in general) create their own goals, and the fact of whether or not they achieve them is shrouded in the merciful cloak of subjectivity.
Thank God I am a mediocre chess player. Thank God you can never prove that I am a mediocre songwriter.