Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Future of Chess

High Park Toboggan Runs, 1914. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 441A."
As a kid I remember a similar photo of Franklin Park Golf Course with a man-made wooden ramp.

I think it's time to discuss the future of chess, given all this conversation about chess players migrating to poker and children being attracted to internet games.

Forty plus years ago those who wanted to play a serious thought game for recreation had to physically relocate themselves to a chess or bridge club. Before the 60's television was in its infancy and again people had to go to theaters and symphonies for entertainment greater than radio. Entertainment business found ways to attract people and their money. Bowling, dog and horse tracks, boxing, other spring events also attracted people. In the 1800'ds to early 1900'ds during winter golf courses would build giant toboggan slides and fields were flooded to enable outdoor skating.

It was expected to visit someplace to be entertained. Or have a piano and other instruments at home to play for one another.

At the BCF the board is in a conversation as to how to improve attendance to chess lectures. Five years ago lectures attracted at least 30 people, today you are lucky to get 12. Which is sad because of the excellent quality of these lectures. Attendance to all the arts has been off the last couple of years. So for what ever the reason, people are using the internet and television to entertain themselves at home.

For all of the above reasons I foresee that OTB (Over the Board Chess) chess will slowly decline over the next few decades. It will never go away, but demographically you can see players dropping out or dying off. Although there is a huge population of children playing chess; around their sophomore or junior year of high school as the rigors of college approach ,and they discover the opposite sex, time for chess just goes away.

At any given time there are ten's of thousands of chess games being played over the internet. Internet chess is in its pre-adolescent stage as the players, service providers, and professionals work to develop successful models that will supplant the decline in OTB. I see the savvy chess professionals positioning themselves in places to leverage internet opportunities.

We have to realize that chess is above all a recreation and competes for time and resources with an ever expanding market of recreation: a recreation that can occur from ones home. My kids are all good chess players their preference has been internet games. And if they want to get physical they use the wii. Yet I think OTB, where you have to interact with other people directly provides benefits to all ages and types of chess players. The social benefits of community is great; yet I realize that these internet virtual worlds are becoming more social as well.

Organizations like the USCF, MACA, and the BCF must strive to redefine themselves involving the internet. BCF President David Vigorito is looking for ways to leverage the internet and blog evidenced from his first meeting with the Board of Directors as BCF President. I agree with David that we have to find ways to involve chess and the internet. I wish I had some good ideas in how to involve the local Boston chess community. I would like to see a way in which clubs could have an avenue of involvement with internet chess. Perhaps with the involvement of some site like ICC chess, we could have an Internet Met League where clubs could play each other in the way national teams face each other in the National Chess League via the internet? And we need a way to attract very young kids and e-teach them the game.

Where do you think chess is headed?

Please Comment.

Thank You.

Mike Griffin 02/04/2010

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