On January 4, 2019, the review of the first ever SpecterChess happens right here at EmeraldSpecter.com. Subscribe to the podcast (SpecterChess) to get the automatic downloads via your favorite pod-catcher. Stay tuned to EmeraldSpecter.com for the game the day before the broadcast!
This is a column I’m about to detail a whole bunch of things in and it’ll involve everything to do with EmeraldSpecter.com, the podcasts, the articles, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and the future. This is a roadmap to getting me from where I’m at to where I want to be, which will include what I’ve done in the past that worked that I’ve stopped doing.
Despite my sincerest desire, “winging it” with a lot of my content isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. There are spurts where I can do just that but I also have the opposite, which is long periods where nothing works. This leads me to look back at what has worked, which means looking back to LimeFlavored.com.
When I started Lime Flavored, I literally just needed a place to do things online that entertained me… and hopefully along the lines someone else would be entertained as well. That philosophy has definitely held up for the years and has become a pseudo-business model for what I’m doing with Emerald Specter. There was a point, though, where things needed to have a little more structure.
Fast forward a few years (from 2000 to about 2010), where the Lime Flavored Podcast jumped into the world. The show started as a place for me to talk about this and that, sort of like how the Specter Show has been, and then I started bringing on guests to talk to… several episodes then were mainly about the conversation between two people. This eventually led to me having regular cohosts for the show, with two dominating the show for lengthy runs, but died down when excuses from those cohosts began to take down the recording schedule. That’s when I initiated “the show format.”
Rather than beg guests to come on, or talk about the random this or that, I came up with a weekly rundown of segments that would be structuring the show into something more… structured. This version of the show was the most popular, got the most downloads, and fell to the wayside when trying to edit the video content for episode 50… the LAST episode.
Lesson learned, although not immediately.
During the run of LimeFlavored.com, as well as falling well into EmeraldSpecter.com, was the Greatest Show (originally known as the Greatest Show Online). This was me and my best friend Bob getting together to talk about whatever we wanted to, which ran like this for a long time, including my wife into the show as something for us to watch (she cooked while we talked and filmed the cooking), turning eventually into inviting a few more friends on to turn the show into a round table discussion of the more recent years. Special guests have been had and though most of the hosts aren’t on most of the time, those that show up when they can are welcome. Guests have also started to become a big part of what the future of the show is going to be…
Back in the early days of Emerald Specter, I had a multitude of columns. There was the generic “Emerald Specter” column, Gaming Specter, UFC Specter, Storytelling Specter, SpecterFit (also known as Fitness Specter), and those are just the ones I can name without looking up the others. Each of these were short, primarily to keep content flowing, but all eventually started dropping off here and there in favor of a more generalized column… that would be the current Journal of the Emerald Specter (which you’re reading issue 92 of right now).
I’ve added the Specter Show as a podcast as well, doing the “winging it” audio I was in the early days of the Lime Flavored Podcast, along side the Greatest Show (which takes longer breaks between episodes than I’d like but as long as it keeps going I’m good).
This is a lot of unstructured things happening at once, most of which interfere with my ability to progress on structured things like life, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and producing more content that I’ve wanted to start producing.
So, I am going to make some changes to streamline, structure, and produce higher content.
Starting with what has become the flagship content provider of the site, the Journal of the Emerald Specter.
Each issue of the Journal will be presented with a unique “cover,” going along with the comic book feel of the site’s aesthetic. This will more than likely convert to a square cover instead of a more comic book traditional shaped cover, but this will be the first step.
Next comes the banner topic, the “geeky thing on my mind” in a smaller than current segment. This could be about anything I listed above but will be concentrated on that topic alone. I plan on planning out these topics in advance, too, allowing for the research that might need to be done when writing.
After that comes the first ever serial fiction I’ll be writing. I will be writing an installment of a serial fiction story with the intent of finally putting out my fiction that I’ve wanted to create for a long time. Including this into the column will allow me to remove the self imposed requirement of having the story completely written before hand and just get my ass writing again. I don’t know how long the installments will be, I’ll let that flesh itself out after a couple of columns.
That is followed by a sports commentary of some sort. I often want to write entire columns about sporting items and rather than dominate a column like I have with chess over the past two issues, I figure I can throw a tidbit into this in order to quench my thirst. Ideally, I’d be covering whatever sports are actively happening but I am not going to limit myself to just that. I’m hoping that continuous commentary on certain topics might one day pan out into a paying gig on another site.
Next comes bullet journalling updates. I am going to include an update EVERY SINGLE TIME and that means I better be making progress on things in the background. Play testing the BuJourneyRPG hasn’t started as of this writing but I’m on the edge of actually being able to do that, and that means I can definitely have content for this segment of the column.
Finally, there will be an RPG tidbit included in each column. This might be a story hook, a review on a new game, a story about a game that I participated in, or just a general discussion about merits of why a certain system works well. This won’t be as big as the main topic but I want to start doing something gaming related and that means writing is probably the best place to start.
That is just the Journal of the Emerald Specter, folks. Let’s look at the Specter Show next.
Just like the Journal covers, the Specter Show will also be getting custom covers for each episode. You might be wondering why I’m interested in doing this for both of these and it’s because I’m interested in putting out quality content, meaning that if everything is planned ahead of time I don’t have to scramble to accomplish anything.
The show will be led off by a geeky topic of discussion, I’m thinking that this might be the place where I talk about my love of TV and movies (reviews, reactions, etc), but I am not locking myself into anything specific. Media seems to be big on the podcast scene so that is definitely where I’d be looking towards for inspiration on this.
Also like the Journal, there will be an installment of a serial (not the same serial), read aloud of course… and this would probably be on the shorter side but with this being altogether different than the written stuff, I’m interested to see what kinds of wonderful pours out of my head in the near future on the serial fiction front.
Finally, the show will include a “what to watch for” segment. The reason for the media being in the beginning could relate to what I’m talking about in the “coming up” section. Movies, TV shows, comic books… all that I’ll be consuming in the near future.
I also had a plan for the Greatest Show, but I won’t be locking anything down on that front because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone else into following a strict rundown. Time will tell what form the show takes but what we’re doing seems to be working for now.
When will all this go down? I did have specific issue/episode numbers for when I’m rolling this out but I want to make sure all the back end stuff is done before I roll out everything. There will be a few graphical updates to the site, too, but they won’t be monumental in difference.
Yes, yes, I know… another chess column. But if you didn’t like chess, then why are you coming to this website?
Before I begin with the meat of this column, I should note that the things that interest me are the things I talk about. Those include, but are not limited to: chess, sumo, NFL, UFC, soccer, comic books, bullet journaling, RPGs, TV, storytelling, writing, NASCAR, podcasting, fitness, and movies. I try to keep from talking about one or two things too often but I honestly cover things when I think of them or something in the world happens that relates to them.
With that said, there is a chess story in the news I thought about and that leads me to talking about what I’m going to be talking about.
There is an election coming up for the president of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), where the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been in power since 1995. The election is not the first to attempt to unseat Ilyumzhinov from power but this is the first election to really have a shot at making that happen.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been plagued with corruption his entire run as president and has even been placed on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department, meaning he can’t do any business with US dollars. Since that is the currency a lot of the world use (though by no means is it the strongest currency), he can’t actually open bank accounts (they’re frozen) for FIDE… which is a problem for an organization that needs funds in order to operate.
While we could be ending up with an alternative to Ilyumzhinov, we might end up with a thinly veiled new version of him because of the Russian Chess Federation.
One of the candidates running is Arkady Dvorkovich, who has now been officially recognized as the candidate for the RCF. I don’t know anything about this guy at all but from what I’ve heard, there may be other issues that prevent FIDE from being looked at as corrupt if Dvorkovich wins the bid.
So, what is the issue with FIDE?
FIDE has a serious image problem. They give official tournaments to places that ban certain players (like a not so long ago tournament) or allows shady happenings to occur with voting from the General Assembly (absentee voting, even when not absent, is an issue). There is also a perception (based on practices) that lead most players and interested parties to see FIDE as discouraging the very game they are charged to administer.
That last sentence is like the NFL actively working against the teams in American Football.
Dvorkovich is unlikely to make the sweeping changes necessary for chess to survive long into the future under FIDE’s control. There are two other candidates but worries about the General Assembly passing anything that doesn’t directly benefit those who are benefitting from the current system is a real concern.
So, how does one fix this dilemma? Simple: provide an alternative to FIDE.
As I see it, FIDE began with good intentions and somewhere along the line started falling out of that in favor of lining people’s pockets. FIDE should be a non-profit organization, or at the very least, be doing everything humanly possible to make chess the most popular game in the world.
FIDE needs to die and something better needs to be there to take its place.
Here’s how I would like to see things:
The formation of another chess governing body should form (for the purposes of this little thought experiment, let’s call it International Chess Association… or ICA) and immediately recognize the largest chess federations in the world. Right off the top of my head, that would include the All India Chess Federation, English Chess Federation, Russian Chess Federation, and US Chess Federation (there are more, but I’m not into just coming up with a large list). The ICA should also immediately recognize the World Chess Champion (who at the time of this article is Magnus Carlsen).
Sponsorship deals should be formed to fund the ICA. There are several options for what exactly sponsors could be paying for: ratings list, specific tournaments, website, federation naming (like the English Premier League for soccer is currently sponsored by Barclay’s, making it the Barclay’s Premier League), and merchandise. Let’s say that the ICA, now sponsored by Coca-Cola, becomes the Coca-Cola Chess Association, publishing a ratings list (using the URS method instead of Elo) will be sponsored by Tesla (the Tesla Top Players List, or the Tesla Ratings Report), and all of this can be found on the official ICA website (something like ICA.chess) sponsored by GoDaddy.
The ICA should also spell out how competition will work, ideally allowing for multiple ways to compete in the sport. I’m personally envisioning a couple of distinct means of competing but I’ll limit my ideas to just two: match play and tournament.
Let’s begin with tournament play.
The Grand Chess Tour is a series of tournaments set up to be chess’s version of tennis or golf, determining a “champion” by means of pivotally important tournaments. Rather than come up with an alternative, allow the GCT to continue with ICA support and get them to expand from five annual events to six (one every other month, ideally). Recognize the winner, give that winner a slot in the World Championship Cycle, and just generally encourage the GCT wherever possible.
Match play is a different animal.
Traditionally, chess (and more specifically, the World Chess Championship) has been about match play (two players getting together to play a series of games to determine an ultimate winner). At some point in the past, match play became less of “a thing” and gave way to tournament play. Sadly, tournament play is almost exclusively how chess players interact with one another.
This is where recognition of the World Champion comes heavily into play.
Set up a ladder system for the ICA, encouraging match play between players at different points on the ladder. The World Champion would be listed at the top, and then using ratings, determine a definitive ranking of players from 1 to 100. Rather than only defending the World Championship once every three years (see the 2018 cycle’s results), match play would encourage an annual championship defense… with every third year being a required player based on the outcome of the ICA’s World Championship Cycle.
An automatic qualifier for the Cycle would come from the GCT (as suggested above), the top two qualifiers from the Chess World Cup, the top two rated players on the ratings list (that are not otherwise qualified from the other categories), a nominated player by vote of the General Assembly of Federations (one vote per federation, no absentee voting, no giving your vote to anyone else to cast), a nominated player by vote of the top 100 players, and a fan voted nominee (utilizing a poll or some form of verifiable social media to prevent multiple votes being cast). These eight players would then compete in a double round robin tournament (no more than two games per day per player, preferably one game per day per player) to determine the “mandatory championship contender.”
Outside of this cycle, however, individual match play would be encouraged by the ICA to give a competitive feel to match play that hasn’t currently existed outside of the World Chess Championship match since the pre-1950s. Encouragement would come in the form of match prizes being funded by whichever sponsor wanted to jump on the specific “match card” for promotion (like the UFC has sponsors plastered all over the Octagon during fights).
This idea is the one that will meet the most resistance but I believe will draw the most attention from non-chess players (casual players or fans of competition that don’t necessarily include chess) because they can latch onto big names that provide “exciting competition.” Ask someone who five of the top 50 players are right now and only die hard chess fans would be able to come close to being correct.
There is one more competition variation that I did not consider… but now that I’ve gotten this far into the article, I want to include it. The PRO Chess League is team play, run and formed by IM Greg Shahade, and is another exciting version of chess. The ICA would formally recognize the PRO Chess League and work to aid in endorsing the promotion of team play.
Now that we’ve got some basics out of the way, there are some bullet points that also need to have the ICA declare for better chess:
- No tournaments will be held in locations that will prevent all competitors from attending.
- No tournaments will be held in locations that force local customs on the competitors.
- Proven cheating will result in a 5 year ban from the ICA, meaning the player cannot enter any tournament where the ICA is providing the prize funds. They would also be removed from the ICA rating list for that time. A second offense results in permanently banning the player.
I believe that allowing for an alternative that promotes chess, doesn’t charge players for being listed on the ratings list, doesn’t charge member federations for belonging to the organization, and is generally trying to do things that would be working towards making chess more popular would have federations leaving FIDE in favor of this ICA idea.
Without getting into detail, the ICA would be able to put chess on TVs like poker has been, provide high quality documentaries, build chess academies for youth players (or maybe financially supporting already existing chess academies), provide a spotlight for chess play (both promoting match play events as well as tournament play events), and maybe even working to include other forms of competitive play (other than team, match, and tournament).
Corruption is bad. Perceived corruption is the same as corruption. Perception is reality. If someone perceives FIDE to be corrupt, it is corrupt. FIDE has to work on correcting that image and the only way to do that is to get rid of those who are in the spotlight of the perceived corruption.
None of the ideas expressed here would be without consulting some of the top players in chess. One thing that FIDE is famous for is ignoring the very members they are governing in favor of just doing whatever the hell they want. I’m honestly surprised that the top players in the world haven’t already formed their own federation and driven FIDE out of business.
Wilhelm Steinitz declared himself World Champion in the 1880s (utilizing a match with the next best player at the time to legitimize it) and there was no governing body back then. FIDE didn’t pop up until the 1920s, and wasn’t even a position of power to do anything until 1946. Why is a floundering and corrupt body being allowed to continue when FIDE isn’t even really completely necessary?
Before FIDE, players determined who would play for the World Championship based on the ability to raise funding. I don’t think we should go back to those days but FIDE isn’t running the show in a sustainable and uncorrupt way. A replacement is necessary unless FIDE can right the ship, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.
I just wanted to put this out there as a possible alternative.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’m going to be covering ALL of the Chess Basho stuff in this column. There will be a mini-history, a recap of the first two Chess Bashos (the unnumbered ones), and then I’ll cover Chess Basho III and IV (I’m hoping that by the time this posts that Chess Basho III will be over).
Let’s get to the good stuff.
I had an idea that I thought was worth exploring. That idea turned into combining the competition of sumo with the game of chess. Thus Chess Basho was born. The Emerald Specter Chess Club (the rules are here, and the running posts about what else is going on can be found here) was created on Chess.com to organize a regular series of tournaments to allow for people who will never be called “Grandmaster” or “International Master” to have a chance at earning other titles.
As of this post, only two others have joined the club to pursue this. It should be noted only members of the ESCC can hold the titles.
Chess Basho I, originally known as Emerald Specter Winter 2018 Basho, was the January 2018 event that introduced everyone to the system. Including myself, there were 12 players that jumped in to compete and much to my delight, there were more than a few strong players who entered the tournament. The results were as follows: WINNER Alexin2 (21), Nikbasketball12 (19.5), Sim_zama (14), dukenukem123 (13), tom36adams (12), pantheon-67 (11), AlCzervik (11), ANTE1990 (11), OlegMalikov1965 (9.5), mancroft (5), EmeraldSpecter (5), and bespaly (0). The top four were initially made Sapphire Adepts but haven’t returned to competition.
Chess Basho II, originally know as Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, was the March 2018 event that saw no one return but competition was just as fierce. No Adept titles were granted from this as there was some interest to return from the original group but I’d opened the tournament up to the world and it filled too fast. The results were as follows: WINNER ArturFaust (21), homozzapien (20.5), anujvaniya78692 (15.5), biraandrada (14), King_of_Not (13), ardirahendro (13), Aurel1954 (12.5), Fredl1963 (9), EmeraldSpecter (7), PietroSalem (4), sarotaromchuen (0), and vedantachess07 who withdrew.
Having communicated with the original group and the second group, almost no one wanted to return for a regular cycle of events. Their interest was primarily in a tournament that was quick (1 move per day) and they weren’t interested in what I was trying to accomplish… which is completely fine. It was learning this that I instituted the requirement to be a member of the Emerald Specter Chess Club to be promotable, getting automatically invited, and getting notified when new tournaments opened up. Two players joined, only one of which had previously competed: King_Of_Not.
Chess Basho III, fully known as Chess Basho III: May 2018, saw a full roster of players jump in to compete, including the three members of the ESCC (I am, of course, a member). As of this writing, only two players have the chance to win the whole thing: syibil (currently at 19 points with one game to complete) and FlashyFerrari (currently at 16.5 points with four games to complete). King_Of_Not will be promoted to Sapphire Adept for achieving 11.5 points, while both Mmuse and EmeraldSpecter (myself) failed to achieve the 11 point requirement. King_Of_Not is the first person to actually have a shot at being the first Ruby Adept after the next tournament.
As Chess Basho III stands, I have a chance at increasing my points to 7.5 if I can win my final game, which will again be higher than my previous finish. I’ve noticed that my games are all over the place with how I’m performing (I beat some higher rated opponents but lose to much lower rated opponents just as often). I am going to compete in the Chess Basho system until at least the end of 2018, if I fail to achieve an Adept title by that point, I’ll likely step aside to allow 12 other players to compete without the founder in the way.
Since July is fast approaching, I announced the Chess Basho IV event with a pretty new banner and a start date of July 8, 2018:Both King_Of_Not and I have joined already and I’ll be opening up the signups to everyone on July 1 or the end of Chess Basho III, which ever occurs first.
Hopefully everything keeps going super smooth for a long time, though I’m also hoping for membership to start picking up.
I am going to be devising a means of advertising the ESCC more broadly. I feel that there is a lack of exposure that is hindering the club and the goal of the club, which means I just need to get the thing out there and up front.
I’m also interested in creating a match play league, which wouldn’t rely so heavily on membership but could definitely drum up at least a little interest if done right. The details are still in the air a bit, but if you’re struggling to think of an analogue for match play, consider thinking about the UFC. One vs one. There would be an altered point system to encourage fighting to the end (i.e. no draws) and I’m interested in building mini-events around them.
Let’s get the Chess Basho system working fully, though.
The title is really a misnomer, sort of… I really mean “how to fix chess to be closer to a spectator sport than it currently is” and you can already see that title is too long. So, I shortened it.
I’ve got a story to tell, it’ll be less about just that sixth grade chess club (though that will definitely be included) and be more rounded to my entire chess experience. Come take a walk down memory lane as I lead up to the meaty part of the column.
I learned to play chess in the sixth grade and was part of, for lack of a better term, a chess club that ran itself like the WWE of the 80s. I call this the 6CC (Sixth Grade Chess Club). We had a World Championship for the top tier, an Intercontinental Championship for the second tier, and we had ourselves a really good time. Some of us got better as time went on and some of us didn’t.
I was a someone who got better.
Without getting into the minutia of how everything went down, I personally ended up as the club’s final World Champion before the end of the year. I took that championship into the “next wave” of the club, which was smaller and operated slightly different, but held on to the excitement we had all experienced. The new club went forward with everyone on the same level, and those who weren’t quite up to snuff for a championship run were helped to get better so they could have their own runs as champions.
We were an all inclusive and collaborative bunch.
The next wave club lasted twice as long as the first one but still suffered a pseudo-death. I wasn’t the one to end up with the championship for this transition but the guy who did wouldn’t last long into the newest club before I was once again the champion.
This newest club, which I’ll call the last club, was really composed of a hard core group from the first and second groups (because a few from each group joined) and we ran closer to what an actual chess club with a champion would run like… we had a couple of tournaments, we had some championships among the best few players good enough to hold it (I was one of them), and we ended when all but one player (yup, me) left the group.
Instead of thinking that no one was interested, you should be aware that the others left school (all of these clubs were based in my small home town) and some moved to different towns to go to different schools.
My final year of high school, I helped form the World Chess Organization (WCO), and the WCO decided that there would be a two player match for the WCO World Championship. I won’t embarrass the runner up with publicizing his name, but I won a “best of 13” by winning all 7 games.
I won the WCO World Championship on April 24, 1994 and defended it almost 10 ten times in three countries (Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United States) with contenders from over five nationalities (Greece, England, Philippines, Mexico, and Canada). The reign was not unbroken, I did lose the championship to the Filipino (and regained it). Except for three months, I was the WCO World Champion from April 24, 1994 until July 24, 2004… when I retired the championship and ended the WCO.
Now, I’d love to continue the WCO but I’m not a 2800 rated player. I’m not even a 2000 rated player. I have, though, been trying to figure out how to recapture that exciting feeling when I was back in that first chess club.
There have been many attempts to exactly recreate the chess club but each and every attempt has failed. Some times the failure was due to a misunderstanding about what the “club” was about, sometimes there was a lack of participation, and there have also been disruptors that basically sought to undermine the entire effort because they didn’t believe in it. (To that last point, why did they bother joining? I cannot answer that.
There have been a few different variations of the club attempt: straight up WWE style (again), something more akin to how boxing operates, a tournament series (akin to NASCAR), and some other options too numerous to list.
Then I made a connection with something I love that seems to have taken hold.
Merging sumo and chess, putting a time control on this that puts a little pressure on the participants, seems to have made an impact. The Emerald Specter Chess Club on Chess.com hasn’t gotten a full roster of players yet, but we’re only three events in and things are working.
The time control is a 1 day per move and if I had the time, I believe running an even shorter time control for a single day 12 times a year would probably get more steady attention.
The concept is to give an interesting competition for players who may never have a chance at a Master, International Master, or Grandmaster title in their lives. I’d like to see this go through as a bigger “organization,” modeled to have our own versions of Yokozunas (Diamond Adepts) headlining and hopefully eventually going on to do something more than they thought possible.
I’ve been evaluating what I’ve done so far and seeing what else might be able to be done with this format. Would it be popular enough to get a sponsor and maybe some modest prize money for the winners? Ideally, that would be great and then transitioning into more of a known entity… like the PRO Chess League.
The PRO Chess League took rapid chess and put a team play spin on it. Basically, this is the NFL of chess.
This doesn’t necessarily make chess a spectator sport. So, isn’t that what I told you I was going to talk about? Yes, and I needed all that to start talking about it now.
Every one of the clubs I was a part of in school had an audience for the chess matches. Every time I defended the WCO World Championship there was an audience for the chess matches. Every game played in the Chess Basho system in the ESCC has an audience for the matches.
Do you know who the audience was for each and every one of those? Chess players.
You’re probably thinking to yourself “of course, who else would be interested?”
THAT’S THE POINT.
I have been evaluating what I have been trying to do and how to make that fit into the vision of what I ultimately have been working towards.
The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to get the average joe interested in watching chess. I do not have the answer to this question and I know that is an unsatisfying ending to this column but I have learned something from all of this: if you want to build something for the masses, you need to start building for the players first.
Chess PLAYERS want some expert analysis while events are going on. Spectators that aren’t well versed in chess may not understand the analysis and are more just looking for a “what’s happening” type recap.
What else would the common person want from chess? This is what stumps me.
Part of the problem is over saturation. Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion, playing Fabiano Caruana, current next contender for the championship, isn’t big news in and of itself. Why? They’ve both played each other, I’m guessing, over a hundred times. Where’s the excitement in that?
Every active player in the top 100 of FIDE is similar. You have played everyone you’re ranked with at several tournaments already, you’ll probably play them a couple of hundred more times before your stint in the top 100 is done, and the only thing that matters is “how did that particular day go?”
The other killer for chess as a spectator sport is the time control. There is no reason to play a single game for 8 hours. Not a single reason. The PRO Chess League went with a much shorter time control and it makes the games more exciting because you know you aren’t going to be sitting around for 6 more hours waiting for a result.
Fixing these things is exactly as easy and changing the situation to elicit the results that you want. Sounds simple, right?
Do you want shorter chess games with vastly more activity? Make the time controls 15 minutes or shorter.
Do you want less drawn games? Score wins much larger than draws, maybe even going so far as to reward losses more than draws to cut them down.
Do you want to see games less frequently between the same people to make their meeting far more anticipated? That is something that would need to be figured out…
I made lots of references to the WWE style organization we used for the 6CC. When people hear or read “WWE” all they can think about is predetermined results and chair shots. There are two better references that can be made this two decades later that would be better analogies: UFC and poker.
I’ll start with poker.
Professional poker is a series of tournaments leading to a final tournament to determine the winner of the year. It’s kind of like NASCAR in the respect you have to win your way to the end, then win again at the end. The problem with poker is that you have multiple organizations claiming dominance and running their own tournaments irregardless of what the others are doing. ESPN shows the World Series of Poker, which some regard as THE championship, while Travel Channel as the World Poker Tour, which I believe is presented far more interestingly than what ESPN does. Personal preference, really.
If you’re interested in keeping the format a series of tournaments and running through to crown an ultimate winner at the end, this is definitely the scenario for you. In fact, don’t even limit the field of competitors… start the cycle out a hundred “qualification” tournaments all over the world, open to anyone. If you qualify from those, you get to then enter the next level and try to keep going from there. The field gets smaller and smaller as the year progresses until you reach a final tournament at the end to crown your champion. The later stages of the cycle are also where you’ll see the top players hang out as they’re really good at chess.
You could also use a point system to allow for advancement. Wins could be 5 points, losses could be 2 points, and draws could be 1 point. This encourages the players to actually play to win because right now “draw” is the word that you hear most often in results. The top 1024 point earners from the qualification rounds to advance into the heat of the competitions? Use the points.
Now, let’s talk about the UFC.
The UFC signs players to contracts, the best of the best in the world, to offer them a series of fights that heightens the excitement of the company as well as enriches the status of the fighters. Due to the fact that this is a combat sport, scarcity is a necessity… but the UFC doesn’t limit those who want to be really active and are healthy (see Donald Cerrone). They have multiple divisions for fighters to compete in based on their weight and they promoted the bejesus out of events to make sure they draw in the crowds.
Personally, I love the UFC and the way they do things. They get fighters scheduled to fight and let them smack talk each other the whole process, leading to the eventual fight to resolve the matter. WWE used to do this type of thing but their model is vastly different now.
This model, like the 6CC, would rely on some scarcity. In this scenario, ratings don’t matter… in fact, don’t even publicize the ratings of any of the players that sign on to this scenario. Group players in different categories so that super strong players aren’t taking on less competitive players. Behind the scenes, use the ratings to group them up… maybe in 200-300 rating point increments. Ideally, you’d allow for a little overlap per “division” so that someone who is getting better can opt up rather than be stuck in a division because they can’t find the competition to help them excel.
Yes, I’m saying keep ratings behind the scenes but don’t let the public know them. If John Doe is rated 1753 and Bill Fold is rated 1562, the potential spectators would know that Bill Fold’s chances are very low. If Art Work is the Gold Division Champion and his opponent, Jim Shoe, has played his way through some exciting games for a shot at the title, this is a scenario that would garner more interest because you aren’t focusing on the number. Sure, Art Work could be 1612 and Jim Shoe could be 1599… that could even be a selling point under normal circumstances, but keeping those numbers unpublicized makes the potential much greater (and if the players don’t know the exact strengths of their opponents, that eliminates them mentally beating themselves if their rating is lower).
Arrange matches (two game matches, one with white and one with black) to determine winners and losers. Use the point system from the poker example to keep draws almost non-existent (or use points per winning with white and black pieces specifically, same thing with draws… that would also be a winning combination to keep the draw counts down and allow for players to play for the win). Get players to “sign” for the organization to compete in so many matches, like the UFC, so that if the player wants to go on and do something else (or more traditional), they aren’t locked in for an indeterminate amount of time (but do have to participate a minimum number of games).
Hype the matches. Have the players do some smack talking about their opponents right up until the match. Even UFC fighters hug after the fight, showing their opponent respect. Chess players can do that, too. Really drive up the potential value of a, let’s say, blitz match between two championship contenders. Yes, they’d be ranked, which is another way to get them interested in smack talking and competing for ranking. The ranking and opponent’s rank could determine the prize fund (a #1 vs an unranked player might draw $100, whereas a #4 vs #7 would draw $300 because ranked players playing would be more interesting).
There is something I haven’t said in this column that would affect almost all of these ideas. Ratings are that subject.
Nothing I’ve talked about up to this point involves anyone rated higher than 2200. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re probably looking at a rating cap of 1800. The reasons for that may not be entirely obvious but they’re completely valid.
A player with a 2200 rating has a more “traditional” view of chess and would be less interested in the showmanship of what I’ve talked about. Players with 1800 ratings and up are more interested in studying games, figuring out how to improve their games, and are interested in competing for traditional prizes in traditional tournaments against other traditionally minded players.
On the lower end, players rated 1000 to 1300 seem to be more open to some shenanigans during their play. I have a regular game against a 1300-ish player that results in some fun back and forth while we play. We haven’t gone overboard with straight up smack talk but the potential is there. I’m also under the belief that players in the 1400 and 1500 range might also be willing to participate, as they’re in that “I’m not good enough for top ranked play but I’m better than casual games.”
The reason for the rating limit is to encourage those who aren’t really in any danger of winning any prizes to participate in something that will draw some attention to the game for someone who doesn’t necessarily play. I’m willing to lay money down on the bet that if you have an event (a single player v single player match, or maybe a couple of those) played at a faster time control with a whole bunch of smack talk leading up the actual games, on top of the event being promoted like a UFC fight, that you’d get non-chess players at least moderately interested. This draws attention to the game, allows players who are interested in doing something a little more on the “fun” side of the game to participate, and gives those interested in learning chess a platform to jump onto that isn’t a traditional “stuffy chess scene.”
I believe these ideas have merit. I believe that with the right group of people that a successful organization could rise up to bring chess to a wider audience. I believe that if some effort was put into these ideas that, if nothing else, could be a way for lower rated players to feel like their accomplishing something great, even though they may never reach a 2000 rating.
Isn’t that worth giving a shot?
The title of this blog doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m going to be changing a bunch of things up. I wanted to leave the title vague enough to be able to accommodate a lot of options, while I’m not necessarily going to be speaking about making anything actually larger, the idea is that I’m going to be talking about what I’m doing and where things will be going.
If you haven’t listened to the Specter Show (episode 49), then maybe you want to… I explain a little bit about things.
Since this is a readable blog post, though, I’m more interested in where I’m going to be pointing for the majority of the topics here. I’ll be covering a lot of stuff here, so why don’t I go ahead and get things rolling.
I tried something new with the naming scheme of the Specter Show but it didn’t take when I downloaded the episode myself. The next time I’ll have to rename the entire post to see if that works, which means the graphics identifying the episode will need to be spot on for the download. The idea is to remove the show name from the title and just have the episode number and episode title.
This isn’t the only thing I want to talk about with this particular section.
The Specter Show has long not really had a focus. I’m going to be catching up on the numbering of where I should be after more than a year of recording and to do that I’m going to be doing some different types of episodes. There will be a little bit of BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG updates, which have become the centerpiece of the podcast, but there will also be some fiction read by myself (which fulfills the hope that I might someday get to record audiobooks).
Those will start as short story readings of public domain properties and possibly morph into (hopefully) writing and reading my own fiction.
Will the fiction reading take over the podcast completely? No. If things go well enough, or if there is enough interest in me continuing, then I’d spin the podcast off into its own thing.
Included with those above things, I’ve got two other projects that I’m looking to include into the rotation that I’m super interested in developing. The first one is a “funny news” podcast that I’ve written a script for (the first episode only), and as long as the news still isn’t out of date, I’ll be including that one real soon. Assuming that there is interest in continuing that, it would also eventually get its own podcast feed.
The second one is a little bit more complicated. Rather than having a weekly feed for this particular idea, I’m angling at more of a monthly show release schedule instead. What I’m talking about will require a somewhat in depth explanation… so here it is:
The Freemasons have a slogan that has always interested me: “We take good men and make them better.” In order to accomplish this, they have a set of lessons wrapped in allegory to teach those men how to be more well rounded. They call it “finding more light,” but whatever you call it, they’re teaching people about ideals and virtues that everyone should generally have. I’d like to research these allegorical lessons and turn them into a long form informational podcast.
Before you roll your eyes and start thinking about baby sacrifices, Illuminati plots, butt sex rituals, or any of the other conspiratorial things you associate with the Freemasons. None of that is true and believing it without proof makes you silly and ridiculous for believing things without proof. If you want to believe in conspiracies, then what I just laid out isn’t going to be for you, anyways. Just 15 minutes of research on Freemasonry without paying any attention to the Satan linking idiots out there taught me a hell of a lot, maybe others wouldn’t be so taken with conspiracies if there was some common sense involved in the research.
What I’ve laid out are items that I’d like to include JUST in the Specter Show, and if they’re interesting enough to folks, spin them out into their own podcasts.
I’m also going to talk about the Greatest Show. With all the hosts but myself, my wife, and Metal Jesus showing up on a regular basis, I’m trying to figure out how to adapt the show into the future. This means the infrequency of the podcast will continue until I figure that out.
The guest rotation thing, including people that I want to interview of just generally have a conversation with will be on the show at irregular times while I try to figure out what’s next.
I play the Sumo Game, where you pick who will win and lose each day of the 15 day sumo tournament (or basho). I’ve only competed in three bashos so far and I’ve managed to have a kachikoshi (more wins than losses) each time. The goal is to eventually become a Yokozuna (Grand Champion), just like real sumo.
I’d like to get more people playing, more people interested in sumo, and more attention to the sport that is far more nuanced than most people understand. Personally, I’ve only really followed THE true sumo in the Japanese Sumo Association, where the best of the best compete.
Much like Kintamayama, where I catch most of my “digest” style recaps of each day’s action, I’d like to have my own little sumo competition going on like he does on his own site. He was a Yokozuna for a time on the Sumo Game site, I don’t think he needed to start his own but it always helps to have a system for building up something from a common source.
The first basho was a hit, the second basho was a hit… there have only been two people to sign up to be a part of the “permanent” rotation, so the cycle will continue to happen with the two other members, myself, and a slew of random folks.
The goal, of course, is to have a steady group of “top division players” to then start expanding out in order to build up a regular competition and maybe even get some attention of some big time players to want to compete (and by “big time,” I’m talking about titled players who aren’t in the top 100 but want to do something that is a little different than “normal.”
I’ve been jotting a few things down in the last few weeks. Some of those jottings have been about things to include into the website, and of course, some of those jottings have been about fiction. I’m not going to do a lot of talking about the things to include on the website, so this will be more about the fiction.
The “Journal of the Emerald Specter” that is currently on it’s 83rd iteration, has formed out of the original “Emerald Specter” column that I was writing and has evolved over the years that I’ve been writing it… what it currently is and where it appears to be going doesn’t really seem to fit with what things were way back when. If you went back to read the original column, then you’d see that there was more of a commentary going on than anything informational. I also had some legacy things going on from other columns I had written in the past (see: Think on it.).
With writing fiction, I’d like to have some of that see the light of day. Serial fiction is a big deal these days, see SerialTeller and SerialBox for examples, and if I wrote some short stories, I could release that on the site. I’m going to start by writing short stories and include those into a column rather than releasing them separately (or maybe separately AND inside another column).
I’m rambling a little on this because I’ve contemplated either renaming this column with a focus or, in the fashion of both Marvel and DC, relaunch the new column in a “new #1 issue.” I still like that idea, but we’ll see if that catches any traction with me over the next week.
I’m going to be hiring someone to work on this website. It’s going to remain a WordPress site but I’m going to be getting a custom framework built that I can update the graphics on periodically to keep things fresh. While what I have going on right now isn’t terrible or in need of updating, I am looking into the future for the next version of this site.
The thing you do as a web designer (which I can’t technically say I am anymore since I haven’t physically coded one in over a decade) is change things and that normally involves planning ahead. I’m simply talking about planning ahead.
Are you interested in a chess tournament that happens six times a year with a one move per day time control? Are you interested in competing against no less than 11 other players to fight for titles in a sumo-style tournament brawl?
Well, the Emerald Specter Chess Club is for you, then.
And to make life better, here is an update on what’s happened so far in the world of the ESCC.
The Emerald Specter 2018 Winter Basho, also known as the 2018 January Basho, concluded in February and saw the first set of “Sapphire Adepts” added to the list. This led to mass invitations out to the original players with a shot at new players getting involved for the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho. The tournament hadn’t been “invitation only,” and the original players never really got a shot to return for the second tournament as a whole new batch of players flew in to snatch up the spots.
That leads us to where we are now, with players interested in continuing to build and play while others still wanting in (yes, I’ve gotten requests for inclusion in the future).
First things first, though, let me state that ESCC competitors should sign up to the ESCC group on Chess.com in order to be considered for the tournaments that are invitation only. After 2018, the ONLY way you can continue to be included in the top division will be by being a member of the ESCC group.
That being said, an invitation was sent out to every player who participated in either the Winter or March Basho this year to be allowed in to the invitational circuit. If there isn’t a full roster of 12 players (minimum) who sign up, invitations will be granted to interested parties who make contact with me.
The March Basho finished as such:
ArturFaust – 21
homozzapien – 20.5
anujvaniya78692 – 15.5
biraandrada – 14
King_of_Not – 13
ardirahendro – 13
Aurel1954 – 12.5
Fredl1963 – 9
EmeraldSpecter – 7
PietroSalem – 4
sarotaromchuen – 0
vedantachess07 – withdrew
With this we’d have SIX Sapphire Adepts, just like last time… though we’d only have added one if the original players were still involved (assuming the standings remaining the same in both cases).
Thus, we will begin with a soft reboot of the ladder (division) for the top, depending upon who joins the club and who does not. I will also be starting an “Open Basho” each time to allow for the experimentation of the newer players and for a promotion/relegation system to begin being looked at, as that is also part of the sumo system.
The remaining Bashos in 2018 will continue with the naming structure as the others have (May, July, September, and November) with one caveat: the numbering for future installments will be added. That means, since we’ve already had two Bashos, the Emerald Specter 2018 May Basho will be listed as Emerald Specter Chess Basho 3: May 2018 will be the title. After 2018 ends, the naming will more than likely just be everything before the colon.
I will personally be competing in at least two more Bashos this year, and if my luck with the rest of you remains steady, I’ll probably withdraw just to administer this effort. I’ve enjoyed playing but work took a toll on me by causing me to miss a number of game moves in the allotted time, so I guess I would have done a little better (optimistically speaking) than I actually did.
Anticipating that about half of each group will want to continue participating in the future, I can see a solid 12 player division being constant before we reach November, leading to a need for expansion if the interest continues to grow.
One move per day is the quickest time control I can create without forcing people to be online at the same time to play real time. If we get to a point where real time is something people want to do, I’d consider expanding this into a 12 annual tournament “live tournament” cycle in the same manner as the one move per day, though the two would be separate from each other.
Hopefully things keep looking up.
Things are not going as well as planned… hell, I can’t even plan at this point. When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. Unfortunately, I have no water or sugar, so I’d just be squirting sour juice into my eyes and that’s already what it feels like, so I’m not really digging that idea.
That, and I’m not big on lemonade.
The biggest thing to suffer in the attack on my free time is the BuJoRPG.
There is, in place, a plan for me to accomplish a certain series of things by certain points in time to complete the thing that everyone is really waiting for: BuJourneyRPG. I’d really, really like to get moving forward on that and I’m continuing to spin my wheels trying to just get through work.
So, I’m anxious to unveil SOMETHING about BuJourneyRPG, so I’m going to drop the “cover” of the BuJourneyRPG book… revealing, also, the “logo” for the new system.
Are you ready?
I chose to go with a library look and that lends to the idea that the system will be the basis for a slew of options. That means the “templates,” which are the “splats” that you’ll be somewhat familiar with as a concept if you’re an RPG fan, and those will help build the “library” of content.
This past weekend was supposed to be my “long weekend,” but I was denied one day of that and I had another project which HAD to be started/completed and that limited my ability to do a lot of extracurricular activity.
The time is being scheduled, though.
Without getting fancy, here is the first ever “ESCC Banzuke” (rankings) from the first ever Emerald Specter Basho (previously called the Winter 2018, though shall also be known as the January 2018):
Sapphire Adept #1 (East): Alexin2
Sapphire Adept #1 (West): Nikbasketball12
Sapphire Adept #2 (East): Sim_zama
Sapphire Adept #2 (West): dukenukem123
East #1: tom36adams
West #1: pantheon-67
East #2: AlCzervik
West #2: ANTE1990
East #3: OlegMalikov1965
West #3: mancroft
East #4: EmeraldSpecter
West #4: bespaly
As you can see, I placed second to last (since this is literally just a finishing listing from top to bottom, which the first rankings was always going to be)… and we had one player, bespaly, break Chess.com’s fair play policy and forfeit all of his games. Other than that, I think things went swimmingly.
Now, we see whether or not anyone returns to compete in the Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, which is scheduled to begin as soon to the spots are full. There are still only 12 slots available, and since bespaly is out, the first one to join who wasn’t re-invited is welcome to join the fray. If some others don’t rejoin (allowances will be made for keeping their rankings if new people join first), then the experiment grows with a wider array of possibilities.
I’m curious if anyone would be interested in hearing a solo RPG actual play podcast? The idea crossed my mind that I’d like to publish the results of my solo RPG adventures (which I haven’t started playing, yet)… but I would need to know something: is the interest (if there is one) in the actual play part, or the story being unfolded as play continues?
The actual play would be me, on mic, playing the game of choice vocally and you’d be privy to all the rolls and mucking about. Unless you’d rather hear the results (moreso), and then the focus would be on the results of the story and I could more work out a sound effects option in line with the narration that would be part of the production.
Which would you rather hear? Would you like to hear anything of the sort?
In the end, I’m playing the game. Whether or not anyone else hears what goes on is entirely up to the potential audience.
So the Greatest Show appears to need a re-envisioning. Not a reboot, I’m not starting numbering over or wildly changing anything, yet. There is going to be a few more shows with (at least) myself and one or both of the Kevins. If I can’t get the rest of the cast to come back on, then I’ll be working on the changes that need to be made.
As soon as I get a chance to actually work on guest scheduling, I’ll do that, too… but work is a problem.
Let’s end with a few things regarding “work.” Ideally, especially outside of the peak season I’ve referenced so often, work would be a long day on Mondays and Tuesdays, then a crap shoot for shorter days the rest of the week, leaning shorter most of the time.
That is not what has happened.
I won’t get into the logistics or the specifics of what is causing the problem, know that I’m a side effect of a personnel shortage on certain days and the problem is actively being corrected, though not for at least another week or two.
What I do want to get into is the fact that I’m being too flexible. My wife will tell you that I give in too easily and I’m about ready to stop being so nice about things at work. I am not on the “special over time list” at work, so I shouldn’t be getting near the amount of over time I currently am… mainly because I don’t want it.
I’m going to fix that by waking up a little later in the morning. I’m going to be rushing in the morning because strolling in early enough to hang out isn’t what I want to be doing anymore. That means I can stay up a little bit later at night and, you guessed it, means I can work on things after work.
Wake up, get ready, work, supper, prep the next day, watch a little TV, and work on BuJourneyRPG… days off, get a little house stuff done and work on BuJourneyRPG.
Time is coming and it’s because I’m going to make sacrifices on how I operate to get them done. That shouldn’t be how things work.
The PRO Chess League weeks 1 and 2 are over and I do a terrible job covering them. First time back jitters.
Host: DJ “The Emerald Specter” Allen
Hashtags: #chess #PROChessLeague
How are things? They are going swimmingly! There are a couple of items, though.
First, while I was initially going to stick to four bashos this year (Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn), the tournament is going so well that I’m going to up this to the actual sumo-esq schedule. There is no reason we shouldn’t be done before the next tournament starts, so we’re ditching the seasonal names and going with the months that they’ll be happening in.
Second, I’m going to be making a page for the long term explaining the rules of the ESCC in detail on this website. Yes, there is a post that defines things, but I need to have a fixed position page to point people to for the future… which does lead into another little bit of information:
Third, there are limits to the number of people who can be promoted into positions. I hadn’t listed any specific limitations in the initial post and that needs to be defined so that more people than there are spots for aren’t expecting to be promoted regardless of there being a position for them to be promoted into. Early in the process like this, there will be some “feeling out” of how this works out.
Next, I learned how chess.com “seeds” players when a tournament begins, so the “ESCC” ranking won’t have any impact on how players will be seeded. The seeding is done by chess.com ratings, so if I expand out the top division to 24 players or 48, or whatever, the seeding works like #1 goes into Group A, #2 goes into Group B, #3 goes into Group C, and so on, with the #5 following #1 into Group A… this is designed to keep the top rated players most likely advancing to the “final round,” allowing me to have an “east and west” group for a 24 player division (two player playoff for the yusho), but allowing for that final match to not have a direct impact on the ESCC if someone has a tournament winning lead going into it (like sumo tournaments can be awarded long before the final day, depending on how many wins they are ahead). In the case that the #1 seed would have a 4 point lead going into the final match, they’d win the tournament according to the ESCC rules regardless of the last match.
I’ll detail it all on the fixed page.
Lastly, I’ll be publishing the “banzuke” (official post-tournament rankings) as soon as I can get them done. That will allow us to see who comes back to participate in the second basho and who will be involved moving forward. I’m probably going to re-invite the current players to the second tournament to see if we can build on the successes of the initial effort.
Check back soon.