Friday Chess update
Good Friday! Yesterday the Gibraltar Open came to a close. I finished with a modest 6 points from 10 games, far from the leaders, but still good enough to finish as top veteran (shared with GM Bellon). I hope to play some 80 games this year, and Gibraltar is a good way to start the new year! Originally I had intended to participate in the Lisbon Open that begins tomorrow, but instead I will head back home to take care of something that just came up. I will keep readers up to date with my plans.
Hou Yifan’s Gambit
I suppose that the REAL story of Gibraltar is not Nakamura’s impressive victory (3rd time–congrats!) but instead Hou Yifan’s surprising protest yesterday:
gm Hou, Yifan — gm Lalith, B Gibraltar (last round)
Hou Yifan at the end of yesterday’s game.
Apparently the former World Champion was very upset with her pairings in this tournament and she felt that the organizers had deliberately conspired against her. The previous day she had made her views known to the organizers, who of course denied any such conspiracy. What ever the case, their explanations did not convince Hou Yifan, who then decided to essentially throw her last game in some tragic-comedy fashion.
I believe that Hou Yifan’s actions are unjustified, even if eventually her claims are proven correct. There are better and more effective ways to protest and/or make known her displeasure with the Gibraltar organizers. Forfeiting without play readily comes to mind. Making public a sharply written letter to the organizers also sounds reasonable. Refusing to participate in any future Gibraltar tournament is equally principled.
However, to protest in such a way that brings into disrepute the game itself might have serious consequences for the Chinese superstar. It is entirely possible that Hou Yifan can face sanctions from FIDE. I would think that a 6-month suspension would not be unreasonable.
Lessons to draw from Hou Yifan’s protest
The late FIDE president Florencio Campomanes once told me that any publicity — even negative publicity — is good for chess because it gets people talking about the game.
Whether you agree with this or not, the proof is in the pudding: Hou Yifan’s protest yesterday did MUCH more to put the Gibraltar chess tournament on the global map than all of the efforts by the Gibraltar public relations team put together over the past ten days.
You only need check the number of views of the above YouTube video. When I last checked, it had already registered more than 25,000!
I would not be suprised if this number reaches 250,000 before the weekend is over. Drama is good for chess, and I would hope that future organizers learn from this episode. Simply putting on endless LIVE internet commentary of any given tournament is not an effective way to promote either the tournament or the game of chess.
The secret of how to create said drama is, ofcourse, the key question here. Why not start by hiring a professional to handle this? Currently in the chess world, LIVE internet commentary is handled by well intentioned amateurs who have no working experience in public relations and don’t have a clue about promoting chess to the greater public. Endless hours of LIVE streaming is the most boring , brain-dead thing you can do. Even a one-legged, semi-comatose monkey on life-support can draw more interest! LIVE commentary kills the public’s interest and only satisfies die-hard chess fans. Isn’t the point to draw in and attract NEW chess fans?
The late great Bobby Fischer was a genius in creating drama. The match in 1972 against Boris Spassky was going to be a success regardless of Fischer’s antics, but by creating drama even before the match began, and hence captivating the public’s attention, Fischer single handedly brought tens of millions of new chess fans into the game. We often refer to the ensuing (post-1972) period as the ‘Fischer Boom‘.
Unfortunately, the chess organizers today have not yet learned this fundamental lesson…