2017 London Classic Bore
Chess as a spectator sport?!
Can you imagine 1.5 billion people wanting to watch a bucket fill up over time, drop by drop? No!
Not very likely! Just as unlikely as the ”1.5 billion” figure that has recently been pulled out of a magician’s
ass hat when AGON estimated how many people watch chess tournaments online.
Photography by L. Ootes
This is not meant as a reflection on the invited players’ inability to win a single game against each other in 15 tries so far. The players are trying their best! But holding a tournament at the very end of a very busy year for these gentlemen is not the desired formula for eternal youth and vigor that the London organizers had hoped for. The players are not trained circus dogs. They are humans. Besides, chess tournaments are not supposed to have a circus-type ambient…
I think that it is time re-think the model of what a modern top-level tournament is and especially what the organizers want it to achieve. If the purpose is to turn it into an elitist, stuffy and cliquish sorority of players who don’t want to risk their Elos like everybody else must, then this goal has already been achieved.
But the downside of this modern model is that the world rightly ignores boring things. Especially, worrisome is that even hardcore chess players ignore such boring tournaments.
If the organizers want to attract spectators, then there is no shortage of hungry and up-and-coming talent out there just waiting for their shot at these guys. The Indian superstar Santosh (age 23), who was only recently awarded the ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in India, lamented in an interview that he lacked opportunities to meet these elite players in over the board competition.
The same can be said of a number of his generation. Until organizers of tournaments such as the London Classic want to change the boring model of usual, the up and coming talent will have to wait for the Anand’s and Adam’s of the chess world to die off, voluntarily retire or be kidnapped by aliens from another world before they get their chances to compete. And the question must be asked: Will there still be any spectators left by then?