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:: Wednesday, September 23, 2009 ::


I remember chess being big news during my childhood in the '80s, around the time I started playing. So it's interesting to see the biggest match, and biggest rivalry, of the era being relived.

"Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov have renewed their old rivalry in a twelve game exhibition match at Valencia. The contest will last three days with two rapid games on days one and two to be followed by eight blitz games on day three."

Channel 4 news gives a nice introduction [video link] including some explanation of the political backdrop.

The rematch so far is reported here.
"Garry Kasparov beat Anatoly Karpov in two games Tuesday at the start of an exhibition chess match marking the 25th anniversary of their first title bout, a grueling event that was eventually ended after five months."

Pierre Garon: How the game of chess lost its soul
"Yet we only know these names today because of one man: Bobby Fischer.
Before Fischer, chess in America was an intensive care unit patient on IV. The title of world chess champion belonged to the Soviets. Then Fischer rose to prominence in the Sixties, and with incredible ease dispatched all candidates to become, in 1972, official challenger to titleholder Boris Spassky."

Coincidentally, I'm currently reading one of the more accessible books about the match. David Edmonds' and John Eidinow's Bobby Fischer Goes to War.

The psychology is interesting. The authors perhaps overplay the suspicions of cheating, the chapter applying game theory to Fischer's unreasonable behaviour is perhaps a step too far, but it's a riveting read nontheless. The profiles of both players early lives make me wonder about the mindset of the grandmaster. The savant like powers of recall make me wonder about how their brains may be differently wired to some other peoples. In much the same way as Oliver Sacks considered musicians in Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. I'd like to see chess get a similar treatment.

The "Living Chess" chapter of the Bobby Fischer book mentioned touches on this, mentioning the similarities in thinking between mathematicians, chess players and musicians. It also quotes Nabokov, who said, "There is nothing abnormal about a chess player being abnormal. This is normal." It goes on to cite some of the more extreme examples, such as Paul Morphy, the unofficial world champion in the 1850s. (The official world championship is generally regarded to have begun in 1886.) Quoting the same book at length:

"[Morphy] also despised the chess 'scene'. While only in his twenties, he descended into a state of paranoia and depression, and became a recluse. Occasionally he was seen wandering the streets of New Orleans, muttering to himself in French. A shoe fetishist, at the age of forty-seven he was found dead in his bathtub - rumour says surrounded by women's shoes."

For further accessible chess related entertainment there's always the film Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine, reviewed here.

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