Greengard's ChessNinja.com


| Permalink | 5 comments

Some thought-provoking items from a thought-provoking and rather forgotten book.

"What needs emphasis is the plain fact that a chess genius is a human being who focuses vast, little-understood mental gifts and labors on an ultimately trivial human enterprise. Almost inevitably, this focus produces pathological symptoms of nervous stress and unreality."

While it's undeniable that chess isn't going to cure cancer, that's beside the point. Tarrasch's oft-repeated statement about chess (like love, like music, etc.) having the power to make men happy is good enough for me. We don't worry about basketball players or musicians doing "trivial" work. They love what they do and it also entertains millions.

More than a few famous chessplayers have expressed their concerns about chess being a waste of time. Most famous of these would be world champion Emanuel Lasker, who was also accomplished in math and science. Before WWII it was almost unseemly to be considered "only" a chessplayer. It's also true that being great at chess doesn't necessarily mean you would be great at anything else. So maybe that talent isn't being squandered at all.

"There is evidence, moreover, that the capacities for highly abstract spatial imagining, for the rapid mental calculation and projective analysis that are needed in mathematics, music, and chess may be inherited. The large Jewish presence in topflight chess, as in modern mathematics or mathematical physics and in the performance (though not the composition) of music, does not look accidental."

– George Steiner, Fields of Force, Fischer and Spassky at Reykjavik, 1974 (Previously titled The Sporting Scene: White Knights of Reykjavik, 1972)

I'm a committed Darwinist, but the heavy emphasis on education and study (and music) in Jewish culture surely has much to do with these achievements. The jokes about every Jewish mother wanting her little boy to be a doctor or a lawyer exist for a reason.


Follow the money! In most sports the athletes are only able to compete until their early 30’ies, so there is a life after their sporting career. Golf is a notably exception where players can compete until 50 when they join the senior tour! But golfer earn a lot more money than chess players, so they don’t have to worry so much about wasting their time!

Chess is also an exception where players can be competitive until a high age. But unlike golf there is not much money in chess leaving a lot of strong players without a sufficient income to support a family and to make a saving for their retirement. I think this is a reason for strong players to think chess is a waste of time and to look for other occupations.

I think Rimfaxe is on to something. No money means those who devote their lives to chess have nothing to show for it. And no where to go once their chess playing career is over.

Sad, really. At least the pro athelete has a bankroll to get himself started in something new. (I'm not sure if women atheletes make enough $$ yet for this to be true of them.)

I think that the other limitation to chess is that unlike musicians and actors and atheletes chessplayers can largely only amuse themselves or very small audiences, at least at this point in time.

Two things needed: 1) larger audiences and 2)a post-chess retirement plan.

"The large Jewish presence in topflight chess, as in modern mathematics or mathematical physics and in the performance (though not the composition) of music, does not look accidental."

NOT composition? What about Mendelssohn, Rubinstein, Mahler, Schoenberg, Copland, Gershwin, Weill, Bernstein, Babbitt, Glass, Reich? In popular music, what about Offenbach, Cohan, Berlin, Rodgers, Lerner, Dylan? Not to mention all the Jewish composers in the film industry.

perhaps you would like to include this in your next update www.freebobby.org. An organisation that spun off here in Iceland to help free the former world champion. There is a petition on the site where people can sign their names.

and the best about us: we are sooooooo modest. Do you realy beliefe that our moms wishes make us a genius.....
What about this: Im 2m tall, extremly good looking, blue eyes, blond hairs, muscles like an ox. I have an IQ of about 140 and a doctor hat in physics. Even if it would be true.....sounds like an asshole, doesn`t it?

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on July 26, 2004 4:18 PM.

    Willkommen Bobby? was the previous entry in this blog.

    Dumb Chess News #1 is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.