segunda-feira, julho 31, 2017

Chess Shenanigans: "Mortal Games - The Turbulent Genius of Garry Kasparov" by Fred Waitzkin



The K-K sequence of matches is unrivalled in competitive sport. In Portugal at the time there was much information regarding this match, but I remember following it on the weeklies chess programms with expert commentary on the chess as well as insights into all the backstage shenanigans. The introduction, playing Prokofiev's Dance of the Nights to the backdrop of snowy Red Square was unmissable and a brilliant entré to the great chess battles that followed. After the resumption in 1985, the climax came with game 16 when Kasparov paralyzed Karpov on move 16. I just had to look it up to freshen my memory. Karpov couldn't move a piece without provoking disaster to his position. Perhaps the most brilliant display of Kasparov's genius and unlikely that any grand-master has ever achieved such a dominant position in a chess championship match before or since.

The rating system in international chess (Elo, designed by Arpad Elö) is incapable of comparing playing strength between players from different time periods. It is designed to facilitate a comparing of a closed group of players. More so up until the seventies there was no rating-system in place. You also have to take into account that the rules have significantly changed over time, specifically time-limits. Training methods have been hugely improved with the arrival of computers, Gary Kasparov was himself the first world class player to regularly use computers (he was directly involved in the making of ChessBase and his copy has the serial number 0001). Any claim to who is the strongest chess player ever always has to be considered "tricky". Gary Kasparov certainly is one of the strongest in modern chess as are also; Anatoly Karpov, Michal Tal, Mikhail Botvinnik, Paul Keres, Capablanca, Robert J Fisher, Alekhin, Bronstein, Anand, and many others.

By reading about the in-fighting in FIDE, which Waitzkin makes abundantly clear, one concludes FIDE is more corrupt than Blatter and FIFA. A couple of years ago I remember a situation when the Russian embassies around the world were actually openly canvasing/coercing for Putin's suspected bum chum Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Once again Russia had an inferiority complex that due to massive investments in developing the game there, a small country like Norway could produce the greatest chess player in the history of the game so far. I guess it is difficult for Russia to dope its chess players to get better results, unlike their athletes. Carlsen, as I understand it, is the highest rated player of all time. Looking at the current GM list, could we conclude 21st century chess is vastly more competitive than in Kasparov's day? 104 players who've achieved an Elo of 2700+, with all but 6 of them doing it this century? Is this mostly attributable to advances in theory, or rating inflation caused by the Elo system? Actually it is the advent of computer preparation which has resulted in rather robotic play and "unnatural" opening choices. The ratings have inflated a lot however it is important to know that the modern 2700 GM would beat or at least be equal to any yesteryear 2700 GM because he is armed with a lot of computer preparation.

Does anyone else know of a human activity, sex excepted (and accepted), that is as widely practised as chess but so profoundly mired in clichés and ignorance in most Western societies?


Checkmate! Just won my game, while reading this story of chess grand-masters. Will this rub off on me, so that I can puff out my chest? Nah. I've got to keep working on it...Too much time out of the game...

4 comentários:

Book Stooge disse...

I didn't think anything could be more corrupt than FIFA!

And I know ALL about the Sex thing. Totally got that covered. I should probably write a book telling everyone what they're doing wrong and make millions. I'm wondering if The Totally Magnificent Sex Guru would be too ostentatious of a title? What do you think?

As for chess itself, I stopped playing the computer when I lost regularly on easy :-D
Magic the Gathering, with it's intrinsic element of "luck of the draw" is definitely more my style.

Manuel Antão disse...

Funny how Western culture now has endless exposure to, advice on, and conversation about sex, and yet everyone--especially the young--is depressed and anxious. Save us, sex! Redeem us! C'MON, MAN--MAKE US HAPPY!

NB: Neymar'S transfer from Barça to PSG = 222 million euros. I don't know how much is this in USD. Have you heard of it in the States? In Europe is all the rage. Immoral to say the least...

Book Stooge disse...

Maybe in the soccer community the Neymar thing IS a thing, but outside of that, nobody here has even heard of the teams, much less the guy. I just check and the euro is only about 1.2 dollars! Crap, I remember when it started it was at 2dollars a euro. And back to the sports thing.
Sports are practically America's gods now so hundreds of millions for players, perceived really good players, is the norm. Everyone gets up in arms for about 2 weeks and then it's back to normal. The franchises know the fans will pay the ticket prices, the cable channel prices, buy the gear, etc, so they have the money to spend. Now, I can't remember any sports guy ever getting 200+ million contract, but I haven't paid attention to those kinds of things for quite some time now.

Manuel Antão disse...

Neymar, a Brasilian guy is the rage now in Europe. Well, let me get back to my book... :)