12 March 2015

Down Memory Lane with Andy Soltis

Whenever I have a new issue of Chess Life (CL) in my hands, one of the first pages I turn to is GM Andy Soltis's 'Chess to Enjoy' column. A mix of chess news, chess history, chess trivia, and chess gossip, it is currently categorized by CL as 'Entertainment'. Entertaining it certainly is. This month's CL had the following headline.

Where Have You Gone NextGreatChessWebsite.com?

The column started,

More chess literature is available today than ever before, thanks to the Internet. and yet more chess literature is being lost today -- on the Internet. The vanishing content appeared on websites that are now dead. Whether they succumbed to lack of readers, money, ideas or energy, the sites have gone to that great server in the sky.

This was followed by a list of ten chess sites ('You probably know the names of some of the departed'), then the observation,

Several of them were launched in the 1990s, before the Internet became the place serious chess players started their day. Others began in the halcyon days around 2000-2005, when it seemed that every four-digit-rated player was blogging. Still others first got our attention and clicks in the last few years.

GM Soltis has never been known as an early adopter of trends -- his column was the last piece of CL real estate to switch from descriptive to algebraic notation (January 2002; I just checked) -- and he is around five years early on the 'halcyon days' of blogging, but let's not quibble. He asks a good question and makes a valid point.

Even though I witnessed the births of both the Internet and the Web, I didn't recognize all of his ten domains ('Chess Check' ?) and there was at least one typo ('Wollfchess'). I did verify that most of the sites for which he pines are still available in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. For example, Soltis mentions,

It’s not just writing that we’ve lost, but a lot of good games. For example, Vladimir Kramnik was world champion when he gave an eight-board simultaneous exhibition through the site Chess21.com in September 2005. Kramnik won six games and drew two. But the games, like the rest of the site’s content, seem to have vanished.

With the help of that precise time frame, I found this after a minute or two at Online simultaneous display with World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik on Chess21 (dated 2005-09-16), and saved the game scores for my page on Vladimir Kramnik's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1984-; 'Last updated 2005-05-03', but what's the rush?).

It might be useful to come back to Soltis's list on another occasion, especially when I have no particular ideas for a post that day. Which is most days...

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