23 August 2015

It's All About Money

Let's take a break from the chess curriculum series, last seen in Pre-chess, and return to a related subject last seen in The Riddles of Chess. The related subject is chess and Alzheimer's disease, about which a nasty fight has broken out on English blogs.

How is a chess curriculum (i.e. chess in schools) related to chess and Alzheimer's disease? Because both are areas in which their proponents tout the magical benefits of chess on the brain. Anyone buying into those magical benefits might very well buy into chess, meaning more money for everyone involved in chess instruction and training. Given that there is so little money in chess today, any additional sums would go far.

The English blog fight began quietly more than four years ago with a post titled Chess Against Alzheimer’s on Chessimprover.com. The post has been removed, recently I suppose, and now returns a 'Page not found' message, although it still survives in the Google cache.

There's no need to look in the Google cache, because the Streatham & Brixton blog (S&B) has copied most of it into a post from last week titled DG XXIII: Doctor Nigel. In case you're not up-to-date with S&B terminology, 'DG' stands for 'Doctor Garry', as in GM Garry Kasparov, and XXIII means the 23rd post in a series rooting out all proponents of the magical benefits of chess on Alzheimer's. Kasparov was S&B's first target in the series. 'Doctor Nigel' is GM Nigel Davies, the latest target. He replied to S&B with Dear Professor Verghese..., which starts,

Due to some recent controversy on the matter I have been considering writing to Professor Verghese about his Alzheimer's study. Although 'board games' were cited as being associated with a lower risk of dementia, would this happen to include chess?

and then went on to accuse the S&B crowd of 'pedantry', along with a Wikipedia reference in case anyone doesn't know the meaning of the word. I happen to agree with the S&B line of reasoning, as overzealous as it might seem, and would replace the word 'pedantry' with the phrase 'responsible journalism'.

Responsible journalists don't overhype the direction of medical research. They don't give false hope to people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, or to their families. No one knows what effect chess might have on Alzheimer's disease -- that 'no one' includes GM Kasparov, GM Davies, the S&B crowd, and me. In his original 2011 post, Davies wrote,

As this research has been around for a few years it amazes me is that chess federations around the world are not singing this from the rooftops.

Perhaps the chess federations understand their responsibility to society in a larger context.

1 comment:

Jonathan B said...

Hello Mark

Thanks for this article. When i started writing about chess and dementia a year and a bit ago I thought that it was a subject that would interest absolutely nobody but me. My biggest delight over the last 15 months has been to discover from time to time that there are other people who think this is an important topic.

Sadly, with regard to your final comment.

"Perhaps the chess federations understand their responsibility to society in a larger context.",

I’m afraid I’m not sure the ECF are one of those federations.


(Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog)