Chess and Bond, James Bond
This article will attempt to demonstrate
the importance of game-playing in general and chess
in particular in Ian Flemings James Bond novels.
After Bond as well as Fleming have been shown to be
passionately keen players, four abstract levels of discussion
will be distinguished.
On the first level, numerous examples
of the use of chess- and game-related vocabulary, as
well as examples of chess history, will be cited as
a piece of circumstantial evidence of an essential connection.
On the second level, the metaphorical use of
chess will be investigated, as will its characterising
function. The very act of thinking corresponds to the
formal speech of the player - Bond or Fleming. This
act of thinking strives to resolve complex situations
into simplified structures of the game, with the aim
of dealing with the situation easily and playfully.
The initial thought here is the insinuation that conduct
in games, especially in chess, acts as characterization.
The enemy in particular (the Russians) are portrayed
as chess players. They are cold, unfeeling and calculating
(like chess players): Bond is distinguished from them
by his love of gambling. The gambler is, however, no
more than a mad (verrückte ) chess player and in
terms of essence is therefore not distinguished from
them. By characterising his enemies through the use
of chess metaphors, Bond respects them, but is at the
same time distinguished from them, and admits that he
himself is no better than them, but that only he stands
on the right side. (gambling vs. chess)
However, for him and his men, political
business, including Secret Service work, is also portrayed
as a game of chess, in which he only plays the role
of a pawn.
The third level will investigate
the plot, which is understood as a game of chess, according
to Umberto Eco . In his analysis, Eco determines an
only slightly varied stock of conflicts between characters
and values, which, in an "ars combinatoria
with fairly simple rules, is always realised in
diverse yet structurally monotonous game situations,
and lead us to understand the essential parts of the
plot as a game.
The yield from these three partial investigations
is verified in an interim extract with the help
of the book "From Russia With Love. In it
chess plays a central role; it serves not only to highlight
the basic political situation, and to characterise individuals
and the entire Soviet-Russian system, but also acts
as a framework and like a connecting thread.
Finally on the fourth level, a
meta-level, the collected examples and ideas will lead
to more abstract conclusions.
It is asked what makes for the appeal
of the game of chance, and for what reason Bond/Fleming
recoils from games where the chance factor is eliminated.
It is the love of Chance, the love of Fate, the amor
fati! (Nietzsche). Therefore, as a type, the figure
Bond is of more general interest, as this love of fate
is not one which is based on his composure (Gelassenheit),
but rather on his fatalism. This fatalism, on the other
hand, can be explained by Bonds existential ennui, which
he flees, by an inner emptiness, which can no longer
lend any intrinsic sense to his life. The Unforeseen,
the Sudden Event and Chance must then become the elixir
of life and intellectual comprehension is replaced by
motor skills. Therefore Fleming has succeeded in sketching
and anticipating a type of person whose relevance to
the present is obvious. Life is, nowadays to an even
greater extent, designed as a game. In this we can see
the reason for Bonds lasting success.
The love of Fate, the will to play with
fortune leads Bond to victory. A game of a determined
and intellectual nature such as chess must appear as
the opposite of this idea and is avoided by Bond/Fleming.
The chess players may be the others, but even this is
all part of the alienation.
Bond is the man who can take no account
at all of the complexity of his surroundings or can
leave such thoughts to others. For him there are only
basic decisions between good and evil, black and white;
only in this way does he succeed in avoiding the "jungle
of the world and concentrating upon the job in
Finally we shall once more ask the question
about the secret for the success of the books. Is it
the vulgar taste of the masses? Are they archetypes,
"imagined by the collective unconscious of our
time ? Is it the identification with the hero?
All of this may play an important role, but in any case
it is being attempted to set forth that the attraction
of Bond is also the attraction of games in general and
of chess in particular. One can only understand Bonds
success if one understands the anthropological success
of playing games. The tension and the satisfaction that
the reader gains on reading these books are very probably
comparable to that of the player. The very act of reading
becomes a game and is part of the game situation. This,
of course, requires identification with the hero, but
does not, however, sufficiently explain the fascination.
"verrückt in German: mentally ill, nuts,
insane, mad etc. but also: to move [or push] sth [somewhere]
 Umberto Eco: Die erzählerischen
Strukturen in Flemings Werk. In: Der Fall James Bond.
München 1966 (original: Il caso Bond. Le origini,
la natura, gli effetti del fenomeno 007. Milano 1965)
 Antonimi: Psychoanalyse
von 007. in: Der Fall James Bond. 152f and 162f