Why chess has remained popular, and why the internet is hard to predict

Those are the topics of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

It turns out that chess is oddly well-suited for a high-tech world. Chess does not make for gripping television, but the option of live viewing online, supplemented by computer analysis or personal commentary, has driven a renaissance of the game.

For one thing, computer evaluations have made watching more intelligible. Even if you barely understand chess, you can quickly get a sense of the state of play with the frequently changing numerical evaluations (“+ 2.00,” for instance, means white has a decisive advantage, whereas “0.00” signals an even position). You also can see, with each move, whether the player will choose what the computer finds best.

In essence, some of the suspenseful stupidities of low-level video games have been infused into eggheady chess. You can indulge your inner Pac Man without feeling guilty about it.

At first it was thought that online viewers would favor rapid and blitz chess, which are (as you might expect) more fast-paced. In fact, the slower games, including contests of five hours or more, have not put viewers off. If you are sitting at your office desk, you might wish to glance at the position every few minutes or so. A slower game means you can do that without missing much of the action, and yet still most of your work will get done. If the game is heading to a climax, you can pay full attention for that short period.

Fortunately, the software programs that evaluate the games and players are not yet infallible. So if Stockfish (one such program) indicates that your favorite player is far behind, you can hold out a slim hope that the software is wrong. “Creating artificial suspense” is one of the killer apps of the internet.

There is much more, including a discussion of basketball and trash talking, do read the whole thing.



As compared to what?

Metric kickball, maybe?

spürte ihr Kleid (Anna Maria) - EE

fermeture éclair (Zipper)


Little kids are reading 20,000 leagues in the sea in the library! With VB

My six-year-old watches YouTube videos where other people play with toys. Next time I'm tempted to roll my eyes at him, I will remind myself that some adults watch other people play chess.

Great article Tyler!

Right in TC's wheelhouse!

Can someone tell me where to find my meds?

Tyler Cowen; go on Chapo.

Basketball has stars whereas baseball does not (or way too few). Fans like their stars. I wouldn't know but chess has stars according to Cowen. I played chess every day when I worked for the sergeant at arms in my state's Senate (44 years ago). Chess fit the schedule: waiting for the next call from a Senator's office to do this or that errand, then back to the chess match, repeated over and over until the game was over or the work day had ended. Since the job required little or no intellectual effort, we could focus on chess. Then there is Searching for Bobby Fischer (the 1993 film). I watched that film several times. Supposedly based on the childhood of chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin, the role of the young Waitzkin was played by the child actor Max Pomeranc. Ben Kingsley played the role of the chess master and teacher of young Waitzkin. Laurence Fishburne played the role of a Washington Square Park speed chess hustler. Both the speed chess matches and the (long) competition matches are fun to watch. The characters and the actors playing them served to pull you in, much like stars in sports.

Good article. The top players are much more accessible now than in the past. They give post game analysis, they provide commentary, they play blitz/bullet online. I like for example the Hamburg 30 min simul format given by Carlsen every year now ( against 10 players) where after the games, he goes over every game with the player and discusses what went wrong and what went right. Carlsen has been a godsend for chess. He is not just an extraordinary player but also very charismatic, frank. honest and always interesting to watch and listen to.
I like the combination of real time commentary + chat + online guest in a window . Today I listened to Peter Svildler/Sopiko and Grischuk commenting. Funny, entertaining, educational, just excellent.

I've found chess24 better than St. Louis chess club, which caters to Class "E" tyros and patzers (besides the fact they banned me for mild trolling). My only complaint is that while GM Svilder is excellent (albeit over-serious, which adds to his charm), GM Sopiko (Giri's wife, they have a mixed race Georgian-Indian child) is a good sidekick like Gracy to George Allen, GM Grischuk, who I understand in Russian is funny, comes across as a bit of a jerk in English (unintentional) because he doesn't understand the language and seems self-absorbed. But in fact he's a genuine thug-life funny guy, proof here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6ZDqUzGivU&t=333s (start @6:40 mark to see the special effects)

Chess is a cuckgame

No it isn't.

I hope some day you reach the plateau you probably dream of, where you will be wedded to a woman who reminds you of the sort of woman you used to imagine, in your poverty-stricken, and to tell the truth, obviously low-IQ earlier years, when you are married to the sort of woman who might be - who probably isn't, but who might be - the sort of woman that the sort of guy who cuckolds other men's wives would want to sleep with.

Probably not, though. Most of us are pretty unattractive without clothes and most of us are not all that attractive no matter how expensive our clothes are. Probably you, too. I hope that, in your little perch in China, you figure out what you need to do to leave behind you your sad compulsion to talk about cuckoldry.

Here, in the real world where real men (like me) live, it is not a big thing. There is zero chance that any man will cuckold me: a man who rapes my wife will be killed before the next sun rises, and dead men are not important: and there is no living man who can seduce my wife.

Live long and enjoy life, and be kind and honest, and repent of your shameful past ---- we are all in the same boat.

Remember that some day you too can be a decent human being.

Also I am way better at chess than you, you poor little guy.

Most of the Sasha Grischuk jokes are cheesy but a chess-y one is my favorite at @13:36, referencing the famous Wilhelm Steinitz vs Curt von Bardeleben game "The Battle of Hastings" Hastings (1895), Hastings ENG, rd 10, Aug-17 http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1132699

The reporter was trying to make a serious point that's sound for beginners but got ambushed by Sasha in an obnoxious but funny way, pointing out in chess for every rule there's an exception.

While the internet certainly has helped spur the popularity of chess, the fact remains that actually playing it requires a very minimal capital investment. This, as much as anything, accounts for its world-wide interest for many years.

Technologically, some sports, especially baseball, way behind the curve. Broadcasts of games, rather than using the inane comments of the stooges in the press box, should include conversations with the players themselves, who would be fitted with remote microphones and receivers. It would be great, after an outfielder makes a spectacular catch and throws a runner out at the plate, to hear his description of the play and the decision-making process he went through before making the throw while he was still out on the field: "I knew I had him. That Jones runs like a little old lady. I nailed him a month ago in the same situation." Much better than listening to arcane statistics that have little to do with a given play.

"I knew I had him. That Jones runs like a little old lady. I nailed him a month ago in the same situation."

You think that's what the players are saying? Hahaha classic MR Cuckold-thought.

Watching the first game of the Championship the other day was indeed riveting even though it was slow. Actually the slowness is a benefit if one if watching over the Internet. You can go do other things while Caruana is wasting time pondering his next move. You can also be astounded that a great player like Carlsen can make a school boy mistake.

"suspenseful stupidities of low-level video games" - what a condescending comment. Tyler probably gets pwned in COD all the time so resorts to insulting games other than chess. What a n00b.

You just described the appeal of test match cricket.

"It should not be surprising that 64 squares and 32 pieces of wood could produce one of the world’s great avocations and internet pastimes. If you do find that kind of alchemy surprising, maybe it’s a sign that you don’t yet see just how much the internet will, in due time, change everything."

Should I be reading this at face value? Another way of looking at it is that if we pass time online just as we always passed it, then the internet hasn't changed very much at all.

I used to think I was good enough that I considered getting rated. Not for a long, long time. I doubt the nearly-completely-lacking-in-evidence claim that "chess has remained popular". I also disagree that someone who barely understands how each piece moves can make much sense out of the game, commentator/analysis or none. I suspect watching a long chess match is almost the same as an aquarium screen saver or a cheery fire in a fireplace. You only need pay attention (actually, not even then since you can wind the video back or forward). Understanding a match between two Grandmasters often requires in depth study/analysis (at least it does for me) and is anything but a "real time" activity. So, if Chess survives the internet, then it won't be because a lot more people (%-wise) play or understand it, I'll bet. I'd guess the three most important factors are: 1) it is *not* better in real time 2) video replay & expert (or AI) analysis - and keep in mind everyone who owns a PC can have a program which can give a GM a run for his/her money for free (or nearly so) so that they can shadow the game and 3) Everyone can find an opponent (on-line or in the park, cafeteria, etc.) at their own skill level. That is, it is relatable, unlike many sporting / gaming events. What's the ratio of people playing vs watching baseball compared to those playing /watching chess? How many 50 yr olds have picked up a glove in the last 5 yrs? Etc.

So what would be a few great recent games to watch online, with commentaries?

Here is a game and commentary that I very much enjoyed. From 1972. https://youtu.be/iu5hMy_CIUI

What if Robert Mueller and Donald Trump played chess .. oh wait, they are!

Callus (68) Perseverance (133) long story short 82, 25, 54, 47, 76


A minor quibble: let’s capitalize the word “Internet”!

I think the chance of Stockfish being wrong is not really what generates the suspense. That happens in certain types of position, but in many classes of positions it is quite clear that SF won't be wrong. The suspense rather comes from the fact that a player might blunder.

Holding out for stockfish to be very wrong is not the best of options: The computer is very close to right for the next 20-30 moves, and the places where a human and a computer disagree with each other in evaluation are easy to tell by looking a at the differences between the first, second, and even fifth best lines. Even the very best can't find the best moves every time.

What has changed is opponent and teaches availability: While before finding an opponent that was 1800 or above might involve going to a club, or moving if no club is nearby, now you can play someone with any rating very easily. You can see hundreds of high quality lessons from the Atlanta or St Louis chess clubs on YouTube, get lessons over the Internet from middle of the road or just a bit old GMs, and even play them, often for no more money than playing in the park. For 99.9% of players, you can learn as much from playing blitz vs someone rated 2500 than vs Magnus or Hikaru. You can't get random pickup basketball games with LeBron.

It's the same effect the internet has had in many other niches. Fringe opinions and hobbies are easier to participate on, and feel social acceptance while doing them, than ever before. The trick is that for every board game hobby, you get "support groups" for bulimics, incels, racists, pickup artists and child pornographers.

The internet

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