Chess, drama and dreaming of a billion spectators
What Makes a Chess Game Memorable?
Drama, of course! Preferably a well played game, but it MUST contain some element of drama. Sometimes that drama will take place OFF the board, as when Fischer played Spassky at the height of the Cold War.
Or the drama might take place ON the board, as when a move is played that leaves us stunned or shocked. Like the game Spassky-Bronstein, St.Petersburg 1960, when Bronstein advanced a pawn all the way to the 7th rank, attacking Spassky’s Rook, and then both players completely ignored it for several moves!
It is no secret that drama succeeds every time. Hitchcock established his reputation as a brilliant film director creatively employing elements of drama in each critical scene.
Of course, it is more difficult to create drama in chess than in cinema, if only because the two chess players do not control the circumstances under which the game is played. Even more frustrating, especially for the spectators, is that chess – by nature a VERY logical game – more often than not has very logical outcomes! Normally, the stronger player comes out on top…
The Men’s World Championship
Regrettably, we have unrealistic expectations for the match between title holder Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana. Supposedly the premiere event of the year, we want drama, excitement and blood each game.
In reality, neither player wants to lose, and to achieve that goal it is important to manage risk. The easiest way to manage risk is to try to eliminate it all together, and that often translates into boring chess: gratuitous piece exchanges (the Berlin; the Petroff), 40 moves of home preparation or waiting for the other guy to die first.
Wanted: A Billion Spectators
The above is just the reality of it all. Chess is not football. Worse still, chess lacks visibility and prestige. No money. No sponsors. No spectators. Especially no spectators.
Spectators want entertainment, cheap beer and sex. Preferably dirty sex and gratuitous. None of that can be found on Chess.Com, Chess24, ChessBrah, ChessBase or any of a dozen other clones.
It is obvious, isn’t it? For chess to be more popular, we need to want to make chess more popular. A conscious effort to try harder. To do better. To respect the legacy of chess. Everybody. Not just the players, but the organizers.
We need to stop taking artificial and hurtful measures. Stop changing the rules. Stop changing time controls. Stop armageddon. Stop zero tolerance. Stop organizing in church basements.
Then, maybe, people will begin to notice chess a bit more than they do right now. There is no magic bullet. Every one has to pull his own weight.
And it would be nice if game 5 between Carlsen and Caruana shows a bit more inspiration. I don’t think this is asking too much…