26 June 2020

A Blockbuster Dustup

Last week's post, A Blockbuster Online Event, ended,

The announcement for the Magnus Carlsen Invitational [MCI] was blockbuster news that made the non-chess press take notice. The switch to online chess was suddenly noteworthy, especially in a coronavirus pandemic where most sports events had been cancelled or postponed. Not everyone was pleased, however, about the MCI.

My first inkling that something in the chess world was awry came while preparing a post on the top engine vs. engine competitions, Leela Beat Stockfish in TCEC S17 & CCC13 Finals (April 2020). I linked a Peter Doggers report on CCC13, Leela Chess Zero Beats Stockfish 106-94 In 13th Chess.com Computer Chess Championship (chess.com), and remarked,

I can't remember Doggers reporting on another CCC event, a reflection on the lack of top-level human events which have been decimated by the global coronavirus COVID-19.

Doggers' reports always attract comments, often well-informed, but many of them here had nothing to do with the CCC13 final. The first such comment said,

Somehow this makes the news, but Firouzja beating Carlsen in Banter Blitz final, or the Carlsen Invitational doesn't?

This received a response from another member:-

That’s because those things are on a different site, Chess24, which is competitive with Chess.com.

Somewhat later the accusations became more pointed:-

It seems the Carlsen Invitational online tournament happening right now is not chess news, since I can't find it here. That is so wrong. What are your priorities chess.com? Money it seems. For sure it is not chess; if it was, serious journalism should be about informing chess fans about the important events happening, even if you are not organizing them. On the other hand, can you be the organizer of everything? In the Carlsen Invitational Nakamura is playing, Ding is playing, Firouzja is playing, Carlsen is playing, MVL is playing, Caruana, Giri, Nepo. Not news? Shame on you.

This received a response from Chess.com staffer NM Sam Copeland:-

The event looks like fun, but we don't consider it different from our events like the Speed Chess Championship and the PRO Chess League. If we see Chess24 covering these, maybe we could reconsider coverage.

I follow chess news on both sites and their coverage is not on the same level. Chess.com reports on nearly everything that has to do with chess, while Chess24.com reports mainly on world class events featuring the top players. Whatever the relative merits of the two sites, the discussion about the MCI continued for some time.

A few weeks later, Doggers wrote another report: Magnus Carlsen Wins Magnus Carlsen Invitational (chess.com). Of more than 100 comments, the second and third said,

Great article! Wonder why there weren't earlier reports on each round? • Peter Doggers didn't use one word in this news that says 'chess24'.

And the debate was on again. Chess in the online era might be entering a golden age, but the biggest prospectors are already jostling to control the richest deposits of ore.

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