Speed Kills

Like most chess fans I have been following the World Cup. Unlike most fans of the Royal game I have only watched the games played with a longer time control. I am uncertain what to call those games because the “longer time control” is not a classical one. During a discussion of the WC I mentioned to the Legendary Georgia Ironman I had not even gone to the official tournament website on the days of the tiebreak games in order to make a statement, certain the organizers checked the number of fans clicking on each day. I cannot help but wonder what those numbers show. Are there others doing the same?
I made an exception today, clicking on today just in time to hear GM Nigel Short, a much better commentator than those previously doing the commentary, say, “It looks like neither player has a clue as to what to do. At this speed it does not matter; they just better move.” The comment sums up what happens to chess when played without enough time to think. The games are played at such a rapid rate that the moves come in bunches, making it impossible to follow the action, a comment I have heard from others.
I won the only tournament played at the now antiquated time control of 40 moves in 2 ½ hours. It was the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship, played at the downtown YMCA each Wednesday night for five weeks. There were no adjournments and the games finished at a reasonable hour. In those days a player reaching time control with a lost position would resign. Today the players play on, hoping for a “miracle,” which means a blunder, or “howler,” as GM Yasser Seirawan would say.
Former Georgia champion, and Georgia Senior champion, LM David Vest mentioned people watch NASCAR to see the wrecks. I wonder if chess fans who watch the quick play games are doing the same thing? Do they spectate only to see top GM’s humbled by making horrible howlers like the ones they make in their own games? I have heard players say something like, “After seeing GM X make that blunder I do not feel so bad about the ones I have made!”
The hyperbole reached epic proportions on the Chessbase website on 8/22/2013 in an article “World Cup 4.3: unparalleled drama in Tromso.” (http://www.chessbase.com/Home/TabId/211/PostId/4010880/world-cup-43-unparalleled-drama-in-troms-230813.aspx) I do not know about that; what about the last game of the 1987 Kasparov-Karpov match in Seville when Garry was in a must win situation? Chessbase comments on the last game of the match between Quang Liem Le and Peter Svidler, a quick-play game lasting 135 moves, won by Svidler, writing, “This game is well worth replaying.” I think not.
One of the things I have most liked about playing chess is having time to cogitate. Thinking is not for everyone. The winner of the ECF book of the year 2012 award was, “Move First, Think Later,” by Willy Hendricks. The title says all one needs to know about the state of modern chess. The other books shortlisted that year were, Advanced Chess Tactics by Lev Psakhis (Quality Chess); Fighting Chess with Magnus Carlsen by Adrian Mikhalchisin & Oleg Stetsko (Edition Olms); & Gary Kasparov on Garry Kasparov Part 1: 1973-1985 (Everyman). What does it say about the state of chess when books by the current number one player by rating, and the player called by some “the greatest player of all-time,” lose out to a book advocating one move first, then think? Chess Café announced the winner of its award with this: “After several weeks of voting, the early front runners for Book of the Year were Aron Nimzowitsch, 1886-1924 by Per Skjoldager and Jørn Erik Nielsen and Move First, Think Later by Willy Hendriks. Grandmaster Preparation: Calculation by Jacob Aagaard had its supporters, but just not to the same extent as the other finalists.” (http://www.chesscafe.com/Reviews/boty.htm) Days after acquiring the Nimzowitsch book I recall reading on the internet a question posed concerning how the Nimzo book could have possibly won the award. “Who would buy such a book?” the writer asked. “Me!” I shouted in my mind.
Earlier in my life I would often hear old-timers say, “The world is speeding up.” I was left wondering if it was them slowing down…Now that I have become an “old-timer,” the question has been answered.
There can be no doubt about the fact that the world of chess is “speeding up.” I cannot help but find it sad. Backgammon is played at a much faster pace than chess. The faster one plays the more games can be played in a limited amount of time, which means more money in the pocket when the “Last call” is given. Chess is an exponentially more complex game than is backgammon. The game does not need to be sped up to create blunders. The Chess Bomb (http://chessbomb.com/) has a color coded system with weaker moves given in purple and howlers in red. I seem to recall a back to back series of red moves by GM’s Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian in what is now called a “classical” game. Chess is too difficult a game to play well even at longer time limits. It does not need to be sped up for the best players in the world to make mistakes.

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