Last Sunday marked the finish line of Tata Steel 2021, the ‘Wimbledon of chess’ as it is often being referred to. The timing meant that from a tournament usually looking like this:
It went on to looking like this:
Which, in some cases, might not necessarily be a bad thing. In this particular case, it provides us with an equitable space to examine an issue which chess players seem happy to ignore: the wardrobe.
Sports uniforms are usually the most obvious thing in the world. That’s what they’re there for, to be obvious. It’s part of the game, pun intended, almost part of the rules, the system. Basketball’s bright mesh, Tennis’ white wonders. Yet chess players, the civilian servants, sport’s undercover agents who secretly lose thousands of calories per game by playing with their minds (which sounds incredibly silly but is actually true) - are deemed to scramble on their own and come up with whatever they may find ‘appropriate’.
This is how we end up with the chess banker look.
Not only is it not a good look, it is accompanied by the unforgivable sin: a lousy fit.
The scrunched up shoulder pads. The overly tight shirts. How come these guys - including phenomenal genius and world champion Magnus Carlsen - look like they’ve just picked up a blazer on Celio’s end-of-season sale?
While ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ was anchored in reality when it came to the game itself - Gary Kasparov took care of that - the same could not be said of the show’s aesthetic. From a novice follower’s point of view, today’s chess couldn’t be further than the fancy, showoff-y clothes and the glamorous indoor spaces exhibited throughout the series. In reality, chess drama seems to take place in what mostly resembles a respectable insurance agency lobby.
But who decided that civilian servants and office lobbies are doomed to glam-lacking existence? It was Demna Gvasalia, as the head designer at Balenciaga, who showed us the antithesis in the closure of the 2010’s.
Okay, so no one expects chess players to start showing up like this to their next tournament:
But it’s not that hard to imagine these beautifully fitted frocks populating the Tata Steel hall:
Luckily, one sole player is holding strong against the continuous stylistic blunders of his colleagues. Daniil Dubov, a super grandmaster who grew up in 1990’s Moscow and was able to beat the Magnus Carlsen just a month ago, has the sweater to prove that he just gets it. Yup, it’s Balenciaga.
Dubov will play Magnus again today afternoon in the Opera Euro Rapid quarter finals. But when will he meet with Demna Gvasalia to discuss a future campaign? Now here is a match that can change the course of chess.