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Massive Matches

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I just posted an interesting item on the recent 100-board Estonia - Latvia match. It was sent in by a Latvian chess journalist and also goes into the 30-year history of these matches. Such big events, where amateurs get to play alongside top stars, are great for the sport. Club matches are also excellent for this. I used to play for the Club Argentino in matches that went to 30 or more boards including sections for juniors. Great fun, especially if your game goes long in a tight match and you have a crowd of GMs milling around you down on board 11, as happened to me once.

A city/club chess league in the US would be a great way to popularize the game and also provide a platform for true professionalism in US chess. A steady per-game paycheck is very different from hoping you finish in the money so you can pay the rent. Of course travel is a problem in such a large country, which is where the internet comes in. I talked about this years ago, but perhaps it's time to get more serious. Greg Shahade is actually forming teams across the country, but I'm not sure he wants publicity for this project just yet, so you didn't hear it from me.


Hello Mig,
I captained a team in the last year of the old National Chess League. It wasn't the same as playing in person. A league where play takes place in person is exciting; but not on the telephone or the internet.

If a league like this started up in New York or Los Angeles or Houston or some such heavily populated locale then it could serve as a model for the more isolated parts of America. Trying to establish a nation-wide league is at present impossible, and an internet league would seem soft to me. But if there were serious leagues in big cities then smaller cities would, I think, follow suit.

Right now it would be a tough draw to set something like that up here in Tucson. Of a population around one million, we have about 125 adult players--and two of those guys ain't a-comin', as they are in stir out at Wilmot Prison. But let a league get going in the Boston-Washington corridor, and that would be a start.

Ed Yetman, III

How did the NCL operate?

Flying around the country is prohibitively expensive, not to mention hotel costs. Even rail travel is pricey when you have no real sponsorship. OTB is exciting, but exciting for whom? It's not as if there are many on-site spectators for chess in the US. Having a few dozen people coming in and out is not worth a few thousand dollars and the photo opportunities provided. I would say the chess is better in person though, although today most strong players are very used to playing online.

A spectator online is actually worth more in almost every tangible way. Of course I'm a big fan of OTB chess, but that's probably because I'm pre-internet like you are. As I found out when I organized the first internet supertournament in 2000, today's young fans actually enjoy the fact that the game is actually being played online where they are. ("are"!) Strange but true.

And online you can redefine community and locality. Arizona could have a team to compensate for the lack of players, that sort of thing. The positives of playing online far outweigh the negatives. You could put a webcam on the players' faces, viewable by the opponents. That would be a fun twist on faceless online games.

The NCL played by telephone. We ran a team out of the University of Arizona's Hillel; team name was "Hillel Meshugginahs." Moves were relayed by runners using algebraic notation. Teams in the same time zone played at 12 noon (as I recall; it was 23 years ago!); when teams played from different time zones the difference was split; so if we played the Washington Plumers (our last round match) we were three hours behind them, so they started at 1:30 pm their time and we began at 10:30 am our time. That's as I remember it. I long ago lost all the papers from those halcyon days.

I am not sure I agree with you about the internet, but I'm not in disagreement either. It seems to me that we need new vehicles to get people to play OTB because internet chess is just too easy, too convenient. No sacrifice is involved so the chess community becomes bottom-heavy with players who don't care as much. I think that is one of the problems with USCF; quality people may not want to do anything to help USCF. I know I'm not enthusiastic about it.

Maybe what we need is a big league, with a team going on tour to play against teams from the smaller leagues. There used to be a Border League here in the southwest in the early 20th century. Teams came from both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Players were local men who worked on farms and in mines. One year the Yankees came out to do an exhibition tour, winning 19 games and losing 7. A Big League Chess Team touring out-of-the-way-burgs like Tucson could do a lot for team leagues.

Ed Yetman, III

I had a short conversation with an old timer from Jersey at the Super Nationals. He said the best way to promote chess tournaments would be to get some air time on Saturday mornings in front of the kids.

That got me thinkin'...heck, if ESPN can carry Nascar drivers playing poker, surely they can give a chess league/tournament a shot.

Entertainment value + large audience = $$$
(advertising revenue, sponsorship, etc)

I volunteer to organize a team in my remote area: (southern, middle tennessee)

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on April 26, 2005 5:24 PM.

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