Friday, September 9, 2011

Chess960: The argument against 960 that the media don't understand it

Listening to the commentary at the FIDE Chess world cup, I was struck by how hamstrung the chess commentators are when discussing traditional chess openings. These are the kind of thoughts they were expressing:
Commentator lines of thought:
"Well I'm not an expert in this theory"
"Well I can't comment much on this opening line a lot has been written on it"
"I guess he picked this line because he is familiar with it"

I've heard it said that another reason why Chess960 won't stick, is that the media don't know what to think about it. In Chess960, they cannot really report factual information on the game, like what type of opening the players have played. But what I actually hear them saying when commenting on traditional chess, are unspoken fears that what they might say has been written somewhere and proven incorrect.

I think that Chess960 will benefit commentators and the chess media. This is because commentators are free to say what they think during the opening! They do not have to feel constrained by "academic correctness". Often our human impulses on the Chess960 opening are all good and interesting. We like certain way of openings because they achieve pleasing things (like opening up a file or a diagonal). Even if the commentators are wrong, it doesn't really matter because there is no concrete theory on it to prove that they are wrong.

Let's imagine that every traditional chess commentator overcomes these issues by having a computer in front of them. How will that help Chess coverage? The audience probably have computers in front of them as well. And so the situation on commentary is even more ridiculous because there are no arguments other than semantic discussions about what are the best lines the computer thinks during the opening. The commentary is empty talk! But in chess960, the commentators can dispense with the computers, and can argue and debate and create some heat, which can only benefit in generating some real interest and personality.

This is why Chess960 will be a blessing for Chess, but people do not see it yet.

Enjoy 960.

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