The Chess Ostrich

In an essay by Dave Cameron, “White Bred: Major League Baseball’s Intern Issue,” in the excellent book, “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014,” a Fangraphs production, I read, something that made me think of my writing about chess. Dave wrote, “Even within a single organization, it is valuable to have people pushing back against the accepted ideas so that traditions don’t become entrenched simply because it is the cultural norm for the majority of the employees.”
Bill James is considered to be the “father of sabermetrics,” because he questioned the accepted ideas that had become entrenched traditions in Major League Baseball. The game has changed in many ways because one man dared to question the Status-quo.
Progress is not made by conservative people who do not question. If our forefathers had accepted the Status quo we would still be subjects of the Queen of England. If Albert Einstein, and his wife Mileva (http://www.pbs.org/opb/einsteinswife/) had not questioned accepted wisdom and given us special relativity and general relativity, we would not now have GPS.
Former President of the GCA and former Senior Champion of the Great State of Georgia Scott Parker once said about my writing, “I do not often agree with you, but I will admit what you write is always interesting.” Michael Mulford, another chess “pooh-bah,” wrote in an email that he only agreed with me “about 25% of the time.” My thought was, “That much?” The Georgia Tech radio station, WREK, one of only two college stations in the world that possess 100,000 watts (WRAS, the Georgia State station being the other one, but that could change if Georgia Governor Nathan “Raw” Deal has his way: http://clatl.com/atlanta/up-in-the-air/Content?oid=11215404) used to play something that began with one bird singing, then another joining in, and culminating with many birds singing. Then a voice could be heard saying, “Here at WREK we give all the birds a chance to sing.” Everyone should be heard, no matter how outlandish one may think their opinion. Otherwise we are all “singing to the choir.”
I write this because chess is facing difficult times. There is the draw death issue, the cheating by gizmo issue, and the Kirsan the ET issue. The signs are everywhere, if one is receptive to them. For example, a decade ago chess books were crowded off the shelves at bookstores by books on poker, the latest craze. Now that the air has been let out of the poker balloon, one finds very few books on poker on the shelves (“Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire” by Ben Mezrich). The space has not been replaced with books on chess. Backgammon was the “in thing” back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, and then it faded quickly. The game is still played, and there are tournaments, but at least a zero has been taken off the number of participants.
I, and many others, believe the proliferation of short draws has diminished the stature of chess. There are enough hard fought, “serious” games ending in a draw without players agreeing to split the point before a “serious” game can be contested. What some ignorant people fail to understand is that if only one fan of chess decides he has seen enough short draws by the best players to last a lifetime and turns to something else more interesting than another boring draw, it has diminished chess and hurt the Royal game. When the news from the chess world is of yet another cheating scandal like the one now known as “Toiletgate,” it diminishes the game in the mind of the public. When the game has no credibility in the mind of the public, there is no game.
Because the issue of so many short non-game draws is so important I decided to put my post of June 6, “What Constitutes a “Serious Game?” on the USCF forum. It has, as of this writing, been read by only a couple of hundred people (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=20054&sid=b5bf1c80970edc2dd56544fdd20b3c44). A few readers have left comments, including one by tmagchesspgh, or Thomas P. Magar. His comment culminates with this paragraph: “If you want the players to be gladiators at all times, selfish spectators, pony up the cash to sponsor the event. Buy tickets. Then you can demand that the players play for blood. Otherwise, just shut up and watch. There are enough deluded professionals out there who will sacrifice health, sanity, and their economic well being to provide you with free games to watch.”
The Discman sent me this comment concerning the post by Thomas Magar:
“Well that post is over the top. Spectators just want to see hard-faught games between great players.
Free lessons & DVD’s? What the heck??”
It is difficult, if not impossible, to hear the birds sing when one has, like the ostrich, buried his head in the sand.

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