05 June 2020

The Collapse of OTB Chess (*)

Last month, in TWIC and the Coronavirus (May 2020), I wrote,

The Covid coronavirus lockdowns started mid-March. That means TWIC1323 (16-Mar-20) might serve as some kind of a baseline reference. Note how the subsequent TWIC files decrease in size for both the game file and the news file. The ratio also decreases, perhaps reflecting the size of the events being reported, i.e. events with a small number of elite players. The numbers start to increase at the beginning of May.

Of course, this is all speculation that needs to be confirmed by reviewing individual TWIC files. Maybe I'll do that another time.

For once, I managed to follow up an action. The following chart shows statistics for eight issues of TWIC ('The Week in Chess' by Mark Crowther). The first line is the baseline reference (TWIC1323 16-Mar-20) that I identified in the original post.

The fields 'EvntCt' and 'GameCt' show the number of events and games reported in an issue of TWIC. Since the first event in any TWIC issue is always 'Introduction' and the last is always 'Forthcoming Events and Links', the 'EvntCt' is two more than the real number of events.

The last gasp for OTB chess was apparently documented in TWIC1325 (30-Mar-20). The 11 events were a mixed bag:-

  1. Introduction
  2. FIDE Candidates Tournament 2020
  3. 224th-225th YMCA Winter A and B 2020
  4. 4th New Chess Brains Tournament 2020
  5. 52nd Belgrade WGM 2020
  6. RADNICKICHESS GM Round Robin 2020
  7. TCEC Season 17 2020
  8. Chess24 Banter Blitz Cup 2019
  9. TCh-CZE 2019-20
  10. Active Team Events
  11. Forthcoming Events and Links

That issue, The Week in Chess 1325 - 30th March 2020 (theweekinchess.com), included the last four games of the cancelled Candidates tournament. In his 'Introduction' Mark Crowther wrote,

When the Candidates can be resumed and whether it will be in time for the World Championship match to take place as scheduled at the end of the year are questions that don't particularly interest me right now, I simply want this Coronavirus crisis to go away. Even if the Candidates and World Championship Match happen this year I wonder when mass participation international opens can realistically take place.

The immediate future of chess is online. There is bound to be much less chess in TWIC in the coming few months, I will use the time to improve the website and the program routines I use to produce the magazine. Most of all I'll try and stay safe. I wish everyone out there good health.

More than a third of the 341 games were from the 'YMCA Winter' event (Warsaw POL; Crowther: 'could not be completed due to the coronavirus') and none were from the 'New Chess Brains' tournament (Hamburg GER; 'I'm still looking for the games').

Now that I've started looking into the data behind 'TWIC and the Coronavirus', I'll make a short series out of it. I'll also return to TWIC Data Through the Years (May 2020), where I wrote,

These numbers in the charts raise more questions than they answer. Will I find time for further investigations?

I know that most people are only interested in the games distributed each week by TWIC. The series is also a trove of higher level data about chess since the mid-1990s.

(*) OTB Chess = 'Over the Board'

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