What have we got so far?

One of the most keenly anticipated chess events in decades and the most-watched chess match in history is under way. Magnus Carlsen, a young prodigy, the Justin Bieber of chess, “aspiring to cement his status as the game’s biggest star since Bobby Fischer” (The Washington Post) is challenging the reigning World Champion Vishi Anand, part of an older generation. The “war of the wizards” promised to be the most explosive (sic) match since Fischer and Spassky fought out the Cold War across the chess board in 1972 (The Sunday Times).

“Most of all, I am hoping for big games, a hard fight, and a great boost for chess around the world as a legend and a legend in the making do battle in Chennai,” Kasparov put on BBC.

With all the hype going around in the chess world, let’s ask an honest question now, What have we got so far?

And let’s answer honestly, if we have the courage to call it what it is, a boring, uneventful and pathetic match. Like this…

Drawing by Michael Maslin, Contest No399

The Chennai cowboys, drawing by Michael Maslin, The New Yorker

“I suggest that you back up slowly two paces and take one step to the side,” was the caption winner of The New Yorker’s Caption Contest #399, which quite vividly depicts the Chennai happening so far.

What is most disheartening to me about the match is that the situation, for most of the chess public, is almost quite normal. Pretty much just mild comments, or even silence, all around the place. You may hear few chess authorities voice their dissatisfaction, like the top GM Hikaru Nakamura, the World #4, known for his fighting spirit, “I am not feeling inspired by the start of the WC match in India,” on his Twitter account (@GMHikaru; a little bit too diplomatic after all).

You hear GM Alejandro Ramirez on ChessBase.com rightly say (he’s too young:), “Only two rounds have passed but something very alarming is happening.”

Even the challenger hasn’t been that enthusiastic, “I wasn’t too thrilled about the way the [first] game went,” Carlsen said.

Don't get bored. Enjoy chess and life to the fullest till the and

No, I really didn’t think you should play like that

But you can’t hear much more, that you should, about it. Typically general comments hoping to see more exciting chess (or less boring, depending on how you are looking at things) in the upcoming games. As I said, quite normal situation. Not that I wouldn’t like to say here, normal, like in a — snafu.

The chess world seems to have gone pretty numb in the past few decades, not entirely knowing how to interpret the apparent erosion at the highest levels of professional chess, as an attitude toward the game and disrespect the top players are showing for the game and us, the chess public. We’re kind of approaching the moment of final entropy of chess.

I won’t cite the late legendary GM David Bronstein again, how chess has ceased to be a game, that chess doesn’t excite anyone anymore, that the System does work without chess, etc. Let’s hope that we will see some transformation in how Anand and Carlsen really praise the the game (those millions cached in, put aside). The’ve shown some improvement in that regard (games three and four), but still a far cry from what we all should expect.

art Monica Fagan

Will some chess light shine on in the ghostly Chennai darkness? Chess art Monica Fagan

Meanwhile, here is what Joe Weisenthal, on Businessinsider.com had to say after the game two, in the most critical view I’ve found anywhere,

So how are things going so far? Basically, terrible. They’ve played two games already and both ended in draws. And they weren’t just any draws! They were short games (16 moves for the first, 25 moves for the second) that produced no exciting play, and which exposed one of the biggest problems with chess that’s played at the highest levels, which is that it can be incredibly boring and conservative.

To prepare for these games, top chess players spend a ridiculous amount of time working with computers, learning various openings many moves deep, and getting to know everything about what openings and lines their opponents like to play, so that they encounter no possible surprises. So much of the game is done in the preparation, that when the players finally get to the board, there’s little chance for excitement. –Joe Weisenthal, Businessinsider.com

Whatever it is, you are still to wait for some interesting, I mean captivating knock-out games like this one:

BLA BLA

Yet to be seen in the 2013 Anand-Carlsen match

A new light upon darkness?

It may be. After all chess is black and white… 960!

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