18 February 2018

The Week in Podcasts

Many of the recent posts in my series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) have featured videos. For a change of pace, let's have a podcast.

Interview with Mark Crowther, founder of The Week in Chess, about the story of TWIC (1:03:27) • 'Published on Feb 14, 2018'

The description said,

Mark Crowther is the founder, editor, and writer behind the indispensable online periodical The Week In Chess (TWIC). In our conversation, we talked about Mark’s origins, TWIC’s humble beginnings, and how he manages the workflow of writing about and publishing a relentless torrent of chess games played by top players. Mark and I [Ben Johnson] also talked about the chess world more broadly. He shared a rumor he recently heard about the next FIDE election and discussed his own chess playing, plus shared book recommendations.

I imagine that everyone with a keen interest in chess knows about Mark Crowther's TWIC and has the site bookmarked somewhere, but as a courtesy I'll repeat the URL: TheWeekInChess.com. At about 44:00 into the clip, the interviewer turns to chess960. I have another blog that concentrates on chess960 and once featured Crowther in a post titled The Week in Chess960 (December 2013). There I quoted him tweeting,

Mark Crowther @MarkTWIC 10 Nov • @AndreyDeviatkin @mikhail_golubev • If Fischer Random is the answer then it's time to take up a completely different game.

At that time I dismissed the comment by putting him in the same category as publishers who specialize in books about chess openings:-

I'll cut Crowther some slack, because the success of TWIC is partly based on his weekly distribution of recent games. The interest in his work stems from players maintaining chess databases for opening research and would shrink (disappear?) if the game scores were chess960 games.

Back to the podcast:-

Q: You're not a fan of chess960. As we're recording, we've got the Nakamura - Carlsen chess960 match as the next big event in the chess world. What is it about chess960 that you don't like?

A: I think that the opening positions are ugly. Chess is a classical game. The pieces are on the starting squares that they're on for a reason. There's a balance, a symmetry to it that's just not there if you randomly rearrange the pieces. I was thinking about it this week. Why did I have such a viscerally anti-anti-chess960 reaction. It seemed a bit over the top when I reflected upon it.

I think in part it was disappointment with Fischer himself. Fischer came back in 1992. There was an expectation that he might come back as a venerable gentlemen to play some other events. Then he came up with this chess960 which seemed to me to be a way of avoiding to come back at all. I think I'm right in thinking that. He didn't want to come back to lose, the main reason that he stopped in the first place and chess960 was his excuse.

It has to be said that in the World Championship matches, particularly Gelfand vs. Anand, if the two players are highly booked up it's not interesting. That match was the pinnacle of preparation. Gelfand didn't like it when people said the match was boring. Theoretically it was fascinating for those who liked the positions they were playing, but there was very little chess in that match. It was all prep and that was not a good feeling.

But Carlsen... I like the way that Carlsen plays. Most everyone does, but he's more anti-theory. That said, maybe this is the only way. Maybe chess960 in another five or ten years will be the only way to keep chess going. If theory really starts to get exhausted and people can draw well with Black, then where do you go?

I had an email about that with David Navara. He was saying that he would very much like to play some professional chess960 events. At the moment, if he wants to, the only events available to him in the Czech republic have 30 pound prizes, very low prize funds. He would like to play proper chess960 and he thinks he's good. A number of top players are enthusiastic about playing chess960, so maybe I'm wrong.

The Crowther interview includes 'EP.59' in the podcast title. For the previous 58 episodes and for future episodes, see the YouTube channel Perpetual Chess Podcast.

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