Loses chess players

There are around 600 million chess players in the world, and more and more are playing online. Considerations on the game during the "Skilling Open" tournament

Hikaru Nakamura has fun with his game Photo: Screenshot / Bongcloud

From Detlef Kuhlbrodt

It's nice to rediscover things. A working lighter, for example, under the bed or the enthusiasm for playing chess. I was maybe eleven when my grandpa taught me chess. In the lower school of high school we had played chess tournaments for a while and posted the tables and results on the black board in calligraphy. We played every day, often before and after school. After reading Stefan Zweig's “Schachnovelle” and the “Glasperlenspiel” by Hermann Hesse, the chess enthusiasm was also mentally underpinned and embedded in narrative. As they say.

One of the narratives was loss: after a while I won all the games against Grandpa, we stopped playing chess and just watched sports. Only once had I taken part in a chess competition against another school and failed to checkmate the (older) boy from the other school with queen-king against king.

Loss plays the main role in all Gambit games. Usually it is a pawn that you sacrifice as the boss of your own pieces in order to get a better position. Actually, of course, it is victim fraud and calculation. The funny thing is that in chess, as in life, it is always both - no gambit is irrefutable and the most beautiful games are created through mistakes. The German GM Robert Huebner, who narrowly failed to challenge the world champion in 1978 (“Merano Massacre”), has written two books about it: “Fifty-five fat mistakes” and “Sixty-six juicy blunders”. And he had failed to patent games of chess.

Battle of the Systems

For a couple of decades chess was part of the battle of the systems. When I learned the game, Bobby Fischer was world champion. The most dramatic world chess championship was that of 1984 between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in Moscow. After 48 games and 300 hours of play, the match was canceled on February 15, 1985, officially out of "consideration for the health of both players".

The chess programs that reported about it in the third programs were no longer than 30 minutes. Sometimes there was a column with the notations of the games that you could reverently replay on your own chessboard. Back then we sat cross-legged on Flokatis, on the knee-high table from Möbel Kraft - birch color, with castors underneath - the chessboard. My characters were from a game collection and were a little shiny.

The number of chess friends has risen sharply since March 2020. The Netflix series “Queen’s Gambit”, which came out at the end of October and has so far been watched by 62 million people, then “exploded” interest in chess - online and offline - as it did in the Washington Post was called.

Follow the world's elite

It's Thursday evening and I'm watching a couple of videos of my favorite chess teacher IM Eric Rosen playing against the bot from Beth Harmon, the heroine from "Queens Gambit". Then the “Skilling Open” begins on GM Hikaru's Twitch channel. The “Skilling Open” is the first of ten tournaments on the Champions Chess Tour 2021. 16 grandmasters from the world's elite play rapid chess games for a total of 1.5 million dollars in prize money. The games are not only broadcast on chess.com, chess24 (the platform of world champion Carlsen) or the Lichess platform, but also on Eurosport. The final tournament is in September.

GM Hikaru Nakamura is number one in blitz chess and is number 20 in the world rankings in classical chess. At 15, he had been awarded the title of Grandmaster. In August 2020 he signed a contract with Team Solid (TSM), "a kind of FC Bayern of the Internet" (SZ) and has been a professional gamer ever since. He is the most successful chess streamer in the world, has over 600,000 followers on Twitch. As he is currently playing, IM Anna Rudolf and IM Levy Rozman are moderating his channel. For their part, both have switch channels with increasing subscriber numbers.

Anna Rudolf is a multiple Hungarian champion, has lived in Madrid since 2010 and has been concentrating on her chess-oriented activities on the Internet since 2017; IM Levy Rozman, aka GothamChess, has been a chess teacher for ten years, lives in New York and has published many beautiful opening videos on Youtube. Both act a bit cheerleading and in the broadcasts of the "Skilling Open" overexaggerated as GM Anish would ironically remark later when he was their guest. I really enjoy letting them explain the games to me. The official broadcast is more like CNN.

Sometimes IM Rozman cheers, for example: "H5 - this will gonna get wild." There are supportive posts in the chat window: "(Blumenmoji) Spam this flower to give Hikaru Power."

The next morning I play a game against Marcus Söder. In any case, my opponent chose this nick. The game was bad on both sides, I am briefly paralyzed by the idea of ​​playing chess with Marcus Söder; “Marcus Söder” may be confused because he plays under this name. Somehow I can also well imagine that Söder sometimes plays a lightning match of chess with his cell phone at Lichess.

In the evening, the preliminary round games of the “Skilling Open” again. When Hikaru is in trouble and plays the weaker move, Anna Rudolf encourages the viewers to send positive energy via Mojis in the chat; yesterday it would have worked. Almost 40,000 are watching. It's going very well.

It is said that the Netflix series "Queen’s Gambit" has been exploding interest in chess since October

There are an estimated 600 million chess players in the world, 360,000 active tournament players and 1,594 grandmasters. 35 of them are female.

In the afternoon of the next day I visit M .. I proudly recite my prepared sentence: "Hikaru is an acronym of Haruki and chess an acronym of hash"; he believes me and I'm glad he fell for it; like the black pawn earlier, who in his greed had overlooked the fact that he would lose his queen if he eats my horse, M. had overlooked the "c" that chess has more than hash.

The keeper in the chess club

Then we play chess as usual while the Bundesliga is on the radio. Since M. has had a keeper who plays in the chess club, his game has improved. I play a little cocky, he's winning for the first time in months; Hikaru gets into the round of the last eight. He says: “That's the problem with chess, you can only use each new idea in one game.” The games are immediately available on the net.

Typical Hikaru sentences are: “This is not a human move” (about the best moves that the engine recommends) and “This is quite a human move.” Finally: “Humans aren't good chess players.” IM Rosen again often says “Let's play this” or “maybe this”; others say so too, but Eric Rosen says it best. It's fun, but as soon as I start mumbling "maybe this" during my Sunday games at Lichess, like the big chess streamers before I make a move, it almost always goes wrong.

Hikaru loses against Wesley So in the semifinals. I am often surprised that grandmasters overlook features that commentators see. In the final of the “Skilling Open” Wesley So wins against Magnus Carlsen. Then the world championship in blitz chess continues, which ends on December 13th. Many hope for a final between Magnus Larsen and Hikaru Nakamura. He won the semifinals on his 33rd birthday.