Chess is undoubtably cool and it needs to look cool. The London Candidates Venue looked great – modern, studious, dramatic. Bobby Fischer in his dark blue suit was Gucciesque. Who can forget the soviet era with all its cold war chic – Kasparov vs Karpov, KGB limos? Think James Bond circa 1960’s or as per Casino Royale. There is clearly an opportunity to reinvigorate the image of chess rather than have the image at the top of this post.
My suggestions are… Get rid of the audience. Over a million people were watching the World Championship online and about 12 were in the audience – most looked like they were there under duress, seeing them looked awful. Make it a feature that there’s no audience – ‘the players are now going into isolation… They will come out when a result occurs’, like space explorers stepping out of the landing capsule. Use design to highlight this process of ‘going into isolation’ – like the Big Brother house but not crass. Have a dynamic stat showing internet audience if possible (as long as the figure is large) – this will make people feel as though they are part of something big. When you have ads (commercials) don’t have a Phosphate manufacturer for agribusiness, dont play a poorly produced video of someone ambling around a one room chess museum in Moscow. Surely an international high tech company or a logistics company would jump at being associated with chess – the YouGov Poll shows an ideal audience. Don’t have advertising on clothes, use the ad breaks for the sponsors to sell. The same holds true for the venue, use the press conference to have background logos. Design an incredible set in a prestigious location. An observation station on a high mountain peak in the swiss alps or the top of a skyscraper in Shanghai, even a purpose built temporary venue in Washington Square Park (architectural competition) – the venue can be quite creative since you are now free of a physical audience. Use technology beautifully. Make technology interactive so that people can, for instance, choose what commentator they want to hear – beginners will want different commentary to those that understand algebraic notation, some might choose commentary in a different language. The commentators should be the only audience at the venue and should not use engines, put them in dark little glass boxes overlooking the play. Also use technology to provide features like analysis boards so the internet audience can try out their own moves. Allow the internet audience to vote for moves before they happen and have a competition to see who gets closest to the actual game. The internet audience should be able to choose engines to evaluate players standings or suggests moves. Have more stats.
In summary understand that this event is an internet event; not TV, not physical audience.
I have been watching the world championship matches live on the internet with commentary by Peter Svidler and Sopiko Guramishvili. It’s fascinating to listen to because the commentary lets me understand what great players think about during a game. I’m enjoying the depth to which the commentators explore potential lines, even if sometimes they aren’t played. I also like the fact that, because it is live, I can imagine myself in the players position and doing so makes me think along with them rather than review a fait-a-complis – this makes me think harder. Today, however, I played lazily in my 1hr Sunday competition and even as I played I thought that I should be trying harder, that I should be looking at more options and following them through more concretely like the commentators do. I didn’t though and I lost to an eight year old. I look forward to watching more commentary and adapting my thinking to emulate better how they think. Hopefully by doing so I will be able to win the rematch with this youth.
When I was about seven I learned the moves for chess. I remember a friend of my dad’s visiting and my dad telling me that he was a chess expert, one of the best players in Belgium. I told this expert I could play chess and the board came out. The only thing I remember him telling me is that you should start with either 1.e4 or 1.d4 and castle as soon as possible. Over time other ‘rules’ have been added to my knowledge; control the centre, develop pieces, castle, grab open files, link pawns, close the centre before attacking on a flank, trade weak pieces, don’t bring out your queen early, etc…
Recently I have posted about the King’s Gambit and my joy at discovering such a wild opening which seems to break so many of these rules. I have also been playing deliberately more unusual moves and caring less about rules and set openings – aiming instead for tactical sequences. This hasn’t translated to better results but the games have been fun and I’m exploring more ideas. I was inspired to post about this change because I noticed a few moves by Carlsen in his second round match with Anand that seem to reflect this more tactical, combinative approach – moves I would have never considered as candidate moves a few months ago. The moves were 12. Nxb6 and especially the rook lift 14. Ra3. Here is the game.
This rule – breaking is something I have noticed in a lot of contemporary games. If you compare them to older games of the 1800’s they are markedly different and much looser. It seems to me that tactical combinations have greater weight than they used to.