06 November 2012

It's Silly Season in Chess Life

Today is an election day in the United States and, not entirely by coincidence, the November Chess Life arrived in the mail box. The lead article was 'The Politics of Chess Players' by Alexander Robinson. The subtitle noted,

As we elect a U.S. president this month, one writer asks, "Do conservatives play chess differently than liberals?"

This is a dangerous topic for a chess magazine, since chess is by all appearances a nonpolitical occupation. The author explains,

I've always noticed that a great number of chess players are political, and many were happy to answer when asked if they were "very/somewhat Liberal/Conservative/ "Centrist"? With chess not being particularly popular in America compared to many Socialist/Leftist European and Asian countries (from everything I've heard and observed,) one might expect that Liberal (LP) chess players would signifigantly outnumber Conservatives (CP), but I found this not to be true. One possible explanation for this evenness is, in my opinion, a certain "Libertarian" strain among chess players as, unfortunately, many of the best players do fit the stereotypically shy personality.

Note the definitions of 'LP' and 'CP'. They are important to understand the rest. Note also the spelling of the word 'signifigantly' and the non-sequitur in the last sentence. Was this article edited? The bulk of it consisted of 20 bullets titled 'DATA'. Here are the first three.

• First, I must make the point that questions like whether "CPs are more 'aggressive' or 'sympathetic' than LPs" are, in my view, inapplicable to chess. The point of chess is to capture your opponent's king and protect your own in the most effective way you can, so "aggressiveness" is good, no matter what "kind" of player one is. However:

• CPs play more speed chess than LPs, who tend to play more 20+ minute games.

• CPs tend to look to exploit an opponent's weakness, while LPs tend to create plans and list concepts like "balance/ imbalance" more than do CPs.

The other 17 bullets are more of the same, although some are considerably wordier. My favorite is

• CPs tend to use the tactic of "pinning" to paralyze his/her opponent's pieces while LPs use more so-called "skewer/x-ray" tactics to force opponents to uncover their back-rank pieces.

From the first of the 'CONCLUSIONS', which follow the 'DATA', we learn,

In all the above categories, the differences between CPs and LPs became more pronounced as their rating/skill level increased.

So masters and experts pin or skewer as a result of their political convictions, not on the tactical requirements of the position. That's simply rubbish.

I'm not familiar with the author, Alexander Robinson, and there is no information on his background or credentials. He mentions 'a bachelor's degree in psychology' and 'players I met locally in New York City', but for all I can tell, the name is a pseudonym. Anonymous articles shouldn't be published in Chess Life, especially when they are as silly as this one is.


Tartajubow said...

USCF management has never been known for their good judgment. Several years ago they ran an article by a player that was as much about his sexual adventures in Europe as it was about his quest for the IM title.

Mark Weeks said...

Yes, that connection occurred to me as well. For the record, the piece was 'My Hungarian Adventure' by IM Tim Taylor, published in the May and June 2005 issues of Chess Life. - Mark