I have often posted about how amazing kids are at chess – their minds take up the game fearlessly. My last post talked about the suggested benefits of chess for the old but for the young the evidence is much stronger. Googling ‘Is chess good for kids’, or something similar, will hit lots of pages, many of which will lead to academic studies. So instead of listing the benefits again I am attaching a link I found to the fantastic documentary Brooklyn Castle.
In my last post I wrote about playing a man in his 80’s and I suggested that perhaps a lack in concentration might be because of his age so I thought I’d post about old age.
The club I belong too has many very young players, some as young as 5, and a number of older players. One player is 93 and he is very sharp, I think he is officially the oldest FIDE rated player that regularly plays FIDE rated games – he always beats me. I’m convinced that by playing chess, and engaging in a community activity, it is possible to stave off the ill effects of aging. Here is a video and some links about about chess.
And there are some interesting articles here and here .
The best evidence, though, is only indicative that mental stimulation (and excercise) prevents, or slows, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
On Sundays I play a 1hr per side game with a 30s increment per move – a 60/30 game (I will use the x/x terminology from now on in this blog). The competition was set up to allow younger players to get used to playing longer time controls and for them to also get used to playing adults. Yesterday I was in the unusual role of the young wiper-snapper as I faced an older man who I would guess is in his mid eighties (addendum – he is 93!). I have played him before an enjoy playing him because he is a bold attacker. Here is the game, I am black.
The last time I played him we ended up in a drawish endgame but unfortunately he blundered which, like this game, was a sad way to finish. On that occasion too he smile, tilted his head and shook my hand before walking off with his cane. I’m sure it would be frustrating for such an experienced player to make these mistakes but I’m equally sure he accepts these concentration lapses as part of aging. I’m also certain that he is slowing down his aging by actively playing.
Oleg Skvortsov sponsored the recent Zurich Chess Challenge which was unusual for its 40min + 10sec time control. His view is that this time control, or something like it, is the future of chess. Shorter time controls are also being introduced to the Grand Chess Tour which in its first leg includes rapid and blitz matches. So are faster matches the way forward?
Well on the pro fast side they are more entertaining to watch, this suggests that it would be more marketable. Another argument put forward is that shorter chess games are likely to be less computer driven, that there is a chance that a player will forget a main line move and consequently the games will move off ‘book’ more rapidly – which in theory would lead to more human games. All of this sounds good.
On the pro slow side there is an argument that the long time controls allow players to think very deeply about their position and as a result the quality of the games are as high as they can be. The slow control allows the best chance to display the pinnacle of human achievement in chess. This also sounds good.
But what is the chess public’s opinion? Well I was expecting faster time controls to be very popular. It is certainly pushed on the largest chess website – chess.com – where they have ‘Bullet Brawls’, rapid ‘Titled Tuesdays’ and video commentary advocating fast chess. But a recent survey on that website surprised me. The survey read:
Yes, rapid and blitz are clearly the future of chess, and soon. (16%)
No, classical chess still has a lot of play left to it. (43%)
I don’t know, but I hope so. I love rapid chess. (11%)
I don’t know, but I hope not. I prefer longer chess games. (27%)
They should go even further and add mostly blitz and bullet. (3%)
This shows that most respondents (70%) favour the existing long time controls. This is doubly surprising because at least 90% of chess.com games are 10mins or less and 97% are less than 40 mins. There is an option to ‘discuss’ the survey and here many people echo my sentiment that at the highest level chess should be slow so that it can reflect, as well as possible, the highest level of thinking.
It seems that speed chess is the most popular to play because it is exciting, risky and will give you an adrenaline rush. Playing speed chess is also useful for getting used to a wide variety of games and respondents cited that they played speed chess to improve their ability at longer format games. But it appears that people respect and value the intellectual aspect of the game above all else – even if a player can fall asleep during a world championship match.
I think there is a good chess scene in Melbourne and I am enjoying a blog called ‘coffeehouse chess’ which often reports on what is going on, here is the link . A recent post showed this game which I thought was totally mad and brilliant. I don’t know if it’s typical of the way chess is going but it I’d like to think it is. It seems to be more of a powerhouse of tactics than a game where positions are built up. This could also be because of the age of the players where perhaps their minds are less closed to unsafe games. The winner, in this case, being a 13 year old, playing white, who is playing a 17 year old IM
Tabia, or tabiya, is an arabic word I recently discovered, it is a position in chess that immediately follows a known opening. To a couple of beginners it might be a simple position reached after a couple of moves, eg the start of the Ruy Lopez as shown above, to a strong player a tabia would be a much more advanced position. I have been working from tabias so that I can get a feel of what a middlegame for a given opening will be like. I do this by setting up a position on a computer and then playing against the computer. I do this over and over and eventually typical themes appear. I then do this again but I get the computer to suggest my moves to make sure I’m not missing any ideas. Finally I repeat the process without the computers help and I feel that my understanding of the middlegames are much clearer. A side benefit of this is that I am more familiar with different middlegames and I feel more flexible transposing from one type of game to another. An example of this would be shifting from a flanking French opening to a Sicilian set up or an English Defense to a Dutch Defense if the position felt like it was moving in that direction.