Monday, January 18, 2010

Do You Care About Today's Grandmaster Games and Tournaments?

Over at IM Mark Ginsburg's blog I was moved to comment on his post The New Chess, "When young grandmasters whip out crazy theory backed by millions of pre-game CPU cycles."

Just as a personal impression and certainly not from some scientific poll, I think this kind of chess has led to some loss of interest by today's amateurs in current grandmaster games.  I commented in part:

My impression reading the chess proletariat’s blogs and talking to U-1800s at tournaments and clubs is that a lot of them just don’t care that much about GM chess these days. Sure, they look at the Corus results and sometimes follow on ICC but but games like the above, how does this help me whip Jones for the club class B championship? There are still beautiful tactics and interesting chess involved here, to be sure, but the masses increasingly don’t care about innovations at move 17 or 25, even compared to 20 years ago in the Kasparov era. We can study Tarrasch or Zurich 1953 or even 60 Memorable Games and get more out of it, in a purely practical sense.

I’m sure ambitious 10-year-olds are also studying this game, but my purely unscientific sample says that the over-teenage, under-2200 crowd spends a lot less time at the club discussing the latest GM games than when I started going to clubs around 1980.

So, for any reader who has been around serious chess long enough to have seen the beginning of the computer era, what say you?  Do you look at yesterday's Wijk aan Zee games with annotations by the excellent Dennis Monokroussos, or was it on your radar at all?  If you were around for both, were you more likely to look at the games from Karpov-Kasparov 1985 than Anand-Kramnik 2008?

While you think about it, LET US ROCK!

13 comments:

LinuxGuy said...

The K-K matches were about the event, not just the games.

I could still be interested in today's games, if I chose, but ever since they left the original world-championship event type format (or at least a more traditional fashion of it), it hasn't meant anything to me, they may as well be playing blitz matches just about as far as it generally concerns me. It seems like it's done just to be done, but w/o any type of tradition that I can perceive. They play enough of one another, IMHO, as it is.

Beispiel said...

20-25 years ago we didn't discuss grandmaster games at the club either. Some of us did follow the K-K games with keen interest, studied the first Kasparov books to learn this new dynamic playing style, and read the first issues of New In Chess, which are still very readable even now! But those were few and generally around 2100 strength. Even then opening theory was big and hard with Informators and NIC Yearbooks only for those who can read and remember such books easily. I suppose it may be easier nowadays to follow opening theory when you have the software with automatic updates, but the relevance for club play is naught. Even if you get a technical variation on the board a club player wouldn't be able to handle the resulting positions. At club level you can just play any opening variation you like. The value of opening study for club players is grossly overestimated.

Mark Weeks said...

GMs don't do a very good job of promoting their art. How often do you find a 2700+ player annotating one of his own recent games? It's their own fault if no one, except other GMs, is paying attention. - Mark

Beispiel said...

Mark, in New In Chess magazine and in Informator the GM's do annotate their games. Especially NIC is recommended reading for all 1600+ club players.

Aziridine said...

Perhaps another reason why fewer players are interested in top-level chess nowadays is the relative lack of colourful personalities and distinctive playing styles - most of the top GMs seem to act the same way, both on the board and off.

Liquid Egg Product said...

Sometimes, looking at GM games is like trying to understand partial differential equations, while knowing that you need to know calculus first. And not only have you never taken a calculus course, you just started learning algebra.

Aaron DeWeese said...

Hardly knowing anything of chess, I hardly know of any of today's GMs, much less their games.

I am, as in most things, interested in the antiquated.

I also am now interested in "New In Chess" and "Informator"—just bookmarked them and someday I may come across money enough to pursue.

I do admit to needing a postmodern role model, that would be novel—someone to follow in the present...

Aziridine said...

I think being exposed early on to Watson's Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy (before I had ever really touched a normal positional textbook) has given me a better appreciation of top-level chess today. I accept that many of the positions GMs get into are simply too complicated to be rationalized in a simple way and I'm happy to sit back and watch them madly hack at each other. It's more chess-as-mud-wrestling and less chess-as-ballet, I know, but it's fun to watch anyway.
That being said, when the very top GMs play weaker ones the games do tend to be more clear-cut and instructive - to borrow an earlier metaphor, when the top players put away the "PDEs" and beat their opponents with just "algebra" then I really start to appreciate their mastery of the art.

Mark Weeks said...

Beispiel - I should have been more precise: How often do you find a 2700+ player annotating one of his own recent games on the Internet or Web? Informant and NIC have published on paper ever since they started, in the 1960s and 1980s respectively, and have never upgraded their models. I haven't bought a copy of either for at least 10 years and can easily live without them.

The increased interest in chess is due to the existence of digital, electronic technology. People play each other online, they discuss online (like we're doing now), and they watch instructional videos online. I watched a Carlsen video last year where he explained a game that he had just played (Caro-Kann against a Dutch player?) and it was extremely interesting. I would settle for a Java viewer where I can step through the moves / variations and read the verbal comments. - Mark

chesstiger said...

I just read (or nowadays lissen) to the daily tournament reports.

The K & K matches i played thru the games but even then the level was to high to really understand each and every move.

I guess that nowadays, in comparison with the past, internet and the good chess programs made it so that lower level players are less intrested in GM games because its mostly home preparation by chess engines and one has an overwhelming amount of GM games so one can be picky which one to see and which one one will pass.

Vernon R Young said...

I think you have provoked some interesting thoughts in us! Generationally the computer is a main part of a majority’s analysis as well as learning process and it is possible to fully prepare for any battle if you have the time to expend. But I remember the time when I first started playing chess and the only research material that was available to me was Tartakower's book 500 Master Games of Chess. The original copy that I used to learn chess still sits on my bookshelf in pieces. I used to set up a board on my left and one to the right with white's perspective and the other with black's. Each move and game was analyzed several times as I worked through the book over and over.
My point is that computers make it easier for us to quickly and accurately find the innovations to material we have already internalized or answer a question we may have about a position or overall plan for a structure. Instead of just memorizing moves you can actually take a broad perspective and look at a great number of games that are created from identical or similar lines that intrigue you. The old-school methods of studying the board will always remain available, but whether we choose to use the computer as a dynamic tool to help us answer our questions is up to our dexterity with the mediums available such as engines, database programs or practice programs for tactics, position etc.

Anonymous said...

Breaking news from USCF press release in press area of USCF website. USCF has settled the lawsuits with Polgar and Truong, including a $39,000 payment to Polgar's attorneys. No matter which side you're on, money talks.

Brit club player said...

The last World Championship match I followed to the level of playing through the games was Spassky-Fischer. I did play a couple of Kasparov-Short, but only because Short is a Brit.

Fischer was the last GM where I felt I could understand what he was trying to do without notes. He had a very clear style and played the sort of moves I would play except of course he was seeing much deeper.