Friday, November 22, 2013

A Warning from History

'Give me an 'e'! give me a '4'! What have you got? Open game!' (Image credit)

A certain Magnus Carlsen had, it is rumored, won a rather important match recently.

Young and enormously talented, we hear the usual prediction about him winning the world championship: that this will make chess massively popular, as in the case of Susan Polgar (who, frankly, should know better, presuming she is serious and not just trying to please the interviewer) which argues cheerleaders in chess might be the next thing, or others arguing that it will make chess cool, that we are now in the "Carlsen era", and so on.

Possibly. But while Kasparov won the world championship in a similar age and indeed ushered in a nearly 20-year-long unchallenged reign (though without cheerleaders, except of the metaphorical sort), one should note that the equally young and talented Tal, Capablanca, and Fischer either lost the title on their first attempt to defend it, or else (in Fischer's case) failed to defend the title at all. Edward Winter's Chess Notes -- see "Chess History" link on the links list -- is an excellent source for numerous successful or failed predictions of this sort. Also, for rather obvious reasons, no matter who wins the world championship, cheerleaders and millions of new chess fans are not too likely.

All this is not said, of course, to belittle Carlsen's achievement, but as a note against making such predictions.

1 comment:

  1. Wise words. I am entirely in agreement.
    Moreover, concurrently with Carlsen, there is a whole lineup of very strong youngsters (such as Karjakin, Giri, and Caruana) which have maybe not yet reached their true potential and may provide a much bigger challenge to his reign that most would predict.
    Plus, the old guard (with Kramnik, Gelfand, and Ivanchuk) is in no way played out. Interesting times ahead!