It was with sadness I read this notice at the end of the chess column in the venerable New York Times: “This is the final chess column to run in the New York Times.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/crosswords/chess/after-rocky-start-grand-prix-finds-a-favorite-in-the-lead.html?_r=0)
This is yet another sign that when it comes to chess, the public has turned off.
When Bobby Fischer battled Boris Spassky in the 1972 match for the Championship of the World, the NYT was where we obtained the score of the games. Back in those days there was a column every Tuesday and Sunday, written by GM Robert Byrne. Every trip made downtown to visit, and play chess, with friends like W.A. Scott, Bob Joiner, Mike “Mad Dog” Gordon, and John “Smitty” Smith, who all worked near the heart of the city, 5 Points, would find me at the public library, making copies of chess columns from not only the NYT, but the LA Times as well. When Karpov battled Kasparov I was driving a taxi for Buckhead Safety Cab. The Lenox Inn was the first stop for the early morning newspapers and the employees got to know me so well they would “reserve” a NYT for me during the WC chess matches on those occasions I was not awaiting delivery.
The number of times I have had people come talk with me about chess while sitting with the NYT chess column, and my chess board, defies counting. Now the only people reading a newspaper are older. The young people sit with a gizmo glued to their nose. When people talk now they say things like, “You mean people still play chess? I thought the game died when that Russian lost to the IBM computer.” Times change, and so do people. Something has been lost, never to return.
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