Anytime I talk about chess, I end up telling the same story about what I experienced and would like to see happen in the chess world. Rather than tell the story again, from scratch, I’ll just go over the highlights.
In the school year of 1986-1987, there were a few of us in my class that played chess. We were, for all intents and purposes, a “club” but we acted more like we were professional wrestlers. There were two championships we had, the World Championship for the best of the group to play for, and the Intercontinental Championship for the second tier of players. Some people went from tier two to tier one, but that was a very limited number. As with anything, though, practice improves play. What I remember about this whole experience is that when enough people are having fun doing something, then we can accomplish something great.
Playing in the style of professional wrestling, as we were, we organized our games into events (like the WWE Pay Per Views). The World Champion would defend against an opponent, the Intercontinental Champion defended against an opponent, and the rest of us would pair up to jockey for position for the next shot at one of the championships. None of us had the concept of a large scale tournament until some of the girls wanted to play and thought we wouldn’t let them… that wasn’t true, they just never asked. A grade-wide tournament was set up and some of the girls hung around to play in the club after the tournament was over. The reigning World Champion was the one that won the tournament, proving he was the best in the grade at chess. When the school year was over, some of us continued on but the club was never the same.
I’ve often wanted to recreate this as an adult, though I understand that the instant someone hears “pro wrestling meets chess” automatically assumes that I want to falsify the games and just tell stories instead of playing. What I want to do is create a club that has real games, competitive games, tournaments, championships, and special events… all while highlighting the interesting players, the characters they might choose to play “for the camera,” and the smack talk that modern society seems to enjoy greatly in competitive scenarios.
I’d like a UFC style chess club. I’d like a World Series of Poker style chess club. Is this too much to ask?
I follow the world of competitive chess. I am a fan of reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, I follow the exploits of Vishwanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Hiro Nakamura, and the others as they play at a level I know I’ll never achieve. They, however, are what I would define as “stuffy.”
Picture for a moment the most recent battle for the World Championship between Carlsen and Anand. Wouldn’t it have been better if Carlsen, while respecting Anand’s abilities, was really not giving the former World Champion a chance against his superior skills? Wouldn’t if have been more interesting if Carlsen was egging him on a little more? I think it would have added some spice to the situation…
My goal is, really, to make chess commercially viable. I am working on a model and you’ll all get to see pieces of that as I write this column. Right now, though, think about that and let me know if this might be something that interests you…