GM Benjamin Post-Mortem
Posted: 11 December 2021 07:03 PM  
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GM Joel Benjamin’s article on game 11 brought up an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while: where do we go with time controls?

I grew up with classical time controls of 40/120,20/60… and sometimes longer, and adjournments weren’t uncommon. I still remember the debates about how to make chess more ‘exciting’ by shortening the time controls, especially for broadcasts to attract a wider audience. While I supported the idea of attracting a wider audience, I did wonder what might happen to classical controls and how it would affect the quality of the games played—quick thinking, pattern memory, and immediate tactics versus deep thinking and subtle, positional strategy. Joel rightly noted there were some beautiful games played under slow controls.

I try not to be one of those ‘things were better when…’ people, and I recognize that shorter time controls have benefits. It’s possible to play a quick game over lunch, and one does exercise their pattern memory and tactics when deep thinking isn’t possible. It makes tournament scheduling less complicated as well. I also support the variety of controls used now so people can play according to their personal preferences.

Perhaps, though, it’s time to revive the discussion. Not so much for casual play, but where do we go with tournaments? What do we want chess to become? Can we find a way to enjoy deep, subtle games as well as quick, sharp tactical games in tournaments, or do we, as Magnus apparently prefers, emphasize one over the other. Personally, I would miss long, leisurely games, but then, I miss smoking a pipe while playing as well. We now live in an age of personal computers and powerful chess engines with massive databases, which have also changed the character of the game. My old ECO’s and printed Informants don’t get much use these days. My computer does. But, I still enjoy chess.

At my age, I probably won’t be around to see the ultimate result of current trends in the game. But I do love the game, and as Joel observed, it is probably time to consider carefully what we, especially the younger players, will make of chess in the now not so distant future.

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Posted: 12 December 2021 07:35 AM   [ # 1 ]  
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Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Chess has never been a media-interesting subject until recently. The just-concluded World Championship Match has been the best-ever media-covered chess event, with several teams of great commentators live during the games, GMs and journalists writing tons of articles, and, last but not least, the socials (especially Twitter) boiling with comments. Literally millions of people have followed Carlsen and Nepomniachtchi battle over the board.
Of course, to get such coverage, chess needs to be spectacularized. In this case, it was the WCC, and it’s like Wimbledon for Tennis. But “normal” tournaments don’t have this kind of following. One of the easiest ways to make chess more captivating for the masses is to shorten the time control.
In these almost two years of the pandemic, we’ve seen online chess exploding, to become a worldwide attraction. The games, though, were played mostly at a rapid pace, much easier to follow for the general public.
It looks easy to predict that chess is going to change in that direction, at least for the majority of elite events.
Time will tell us, I guess grin

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Posted: 11 January 2022 07:50 PM   [ # 2 ]  
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An aside to Lyon: chess was a media-interesting subject during my childhood—I grew up in the era of Bobby Fischer. His career triggered a lot of media interest at the time, and as it waned, the beginning of fast games was debated and rules developed. I remember the discussions on the mail page of Chess Life (USCF) at the time. I also remember when digital clocks were first developed, the debate about delay vs. increment, other proposals, and the eventual acceptance of rules for rapid and blitz games. Many members felt fast games were antithetical to “good” chess, but others were concerned that waning media interest would lead to less popular support and, as a result, less money available to hold tournaments. So, this isn’t the first time tournament standards have been debated with relationship to media, but we now have online chess and many more participants than in my past. This is all good, and I’m glad people find chess enjoyable at whatever speed they wish to play.

I also note, in passing, that I’m looking forward to some really deep and beautiful games in the upcoming Tata Steel tournament, which is being played at 100/40+30, 50/20+30, g/15+30.

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