Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shadowy, unhappy, unreal-looking men

So - what is a chess player? According to H.G.Wells (in an nice long and interesting article in Times magazine from 1972, relating to the Fischer-Spassky match) a chessplayer can be described in the following way:

"There is a class of men — shadowy, unhappy, unreal-looking men — who gather in coffee houses, and play with a desire that dieth not, and a fire that is not quenched. These gather in clubs and play tournaments...but there are others who have the vice who live in country places, in remote situations — curates, schoolmasters, tax collectors — who must needs find some artificial vent for their mental energy."

So now  - let's listen to what these "shadowy, unhappy, unreal-looking men" have to say for themselves (Wells, not surprisingly at that time, 'forgets' to mention women!).

For this I have to give credit to "ChessVibes" for pointing me in the direction of the Italian chess documentary "Chess me out – talk on board" (created by Davide Fasolo). This is a set of interviews with a number of chess players, including Karpov, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and David Levy. I must admit, some of them don't look too happy whilst playing their favourite game!

Incidentally (plug alert!) ChessVibes have announced the very first issue of their brand new magazine ChessVibes Training - see below (or visit the page here).

As you might expect, they make some very good points such as the fact that, as well as chess being a sport (which they accept as a given) it also has an aesthetic aspect. I also like Karpov's anecdote about how, as a child, he used to cry when he lost. Apparently his father gave him an ultimatum - "if you cry when you lose just once more, I won't play any more games with you!".

On the subject of women in chess - they are characterised as having the desire to do other things in life, whether it is having children or simply not wishing to devote their lives to one single activity. One theory is that women may actually have better concentration pre-puberty but that with the onset of puberty males aquire the inclination to become single-minded, even obsessive. Thus, a male will take up some interest or other (computer programming, music, chess, tennis etc) and start to acquire those well-known 'nerd' characteristics.  This reminds me of the theory (not explicitly referred to in the video) of males as "hunters" (in prehistoric times) and women as "nurturers". Kosteniuk doesn't see why women should be intrinsically weaker than men at chess ... though she appears to then qualify her statement somewhat (you will have to judge for yourself).

Well, there certainly are a lot of women players around the chess scene these days. Let me take the opportunity to simply reproduce a post by one, Yelena Dembo, in a ChessWorld forum a couple of months back - please see below..

Chess as meditation, chess as a creative process - chess as a metaphor for life itself. It touches on the concept which I talk about in another post (Warning - this post could change the way you play chess!") ie people play positions that no-one would play before ... chess was much less materialistic in the early days".

It's a long video, so you can sit down with a beer and the video and enjoy yourself. They also speak of chess as a language - Karpov likens it to Esperanto! You will also hear about playing chess during a bombing raid etc!

Yelena Dembo's post (from one of the ChessWorld forums):
My name is Yelena Dembo, 22 years old, I have WGM and men's IM titles, 8 medals in European and world women's and youth championships and elo of 2441. I also play on this site. I would like to recommend a book I have written on middlegame. Its name is "The Very Unusual Book About Chess". It contains my own thoughts, rules and ideas about the middlegame and chess in general. This book teaches (ed.) the joy of chess! I am sure it will be interesting for many players and you as well! GMs like Shirov, Dautov, Avrukh, Svetushkin and others have bought it already! As of course, many IMs and amateurs did! You can find more info about the book on my website.
Best wishes and good luck!

What is ChessVibes Training?
Every issue consists of a PDF Magazine and the accompanying PGN file. The PDF consists of eight pages (A4 size) with the following contents:

    * Giri’s Grab Bag – A weekly column by GM Anish Giri in which he tells about his tournament practice and his excitement and worries during a top level chess game.
    * Guess the move – A weekly game quiz by IM Merijn van Delft that gives you the opportunity to solve problems that GMs couldn’t. What move did they play? Can you calculate as deeply? Give it a try and see how many points you score this week!
    * Improve your play – An interactive section by IM Thomas Willemze that discusses games from our readers. Yes, that’s you! You can send in your game(s) and Thomas will pinpoint mistakes and possible improvements from a number of amateur games every week.
    * Tactics, tactics – 12 tactical exercises carefully selected by IM Robert Ris, arranged in increasing level. Regular tactical training is highly important to maintain your top form, and now it will be easier than ever with new diagrams delivered in your mailbox every week!
    * Practical endings – IM Robert Ris gives a clear explanation of a recent endgame played by strong players, focusing on text rather than variations. Every week a typical endgame theme is discussed, sometimes with the emphasis on the theory, but always providing you with useful guidelines.

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