The well-known Danish Grandmaster Jørgen Bent Larsen (1935-2010) passed away on the 12th of September 2010 after a short illness at the age of 75. Born in Tilsted (near Thisted), Denmark, he is considered to be the strongest chess player ever born in Denmark and the strongest to be born in the Scandinavian region at least until the emergence of Magnus Carlsen. Larsen was a world-class player, winning the Danish Championship at least 6 times, and was a Candidate for the World Chess Championship on four occasions. Larsen was awarded the first Chess Oscar in 1967.
In a time of growing uncertainty, I have recently pondered my own motivations for playing chess. After delving to the edge of human knowledge (just kidding!), I have come to better appreciate the royal game we play. The reasons one plays chess is often difficult to explain, particularly to those who do not share our passion. I have tried to break down this reasoning scientifically.
Click here to see the article “Reasons for Playing Chess“. Note that the clearly inferior article “Why Play Chess” has now become a ‘subset’ of this piece.
Of course chess is a sport, what were you worried about? It is easy to argue chess as a mind sport, but people are often doubtful to call chess a full-fledged sport. However, the skeptics can be silenced when you flamboyantly proclaim that chess is a recognised sport of the International Olympic Committee. Whilst the IOC does approve of chess, it does not feature in the Olympics. Presumably, this is because it is too difficult to arrange – anyway, we already have a World Championship, World Cup and World Teams Olympiad! Any addition of a further world-class tournament would just be confusing.
A new free chess engine called Houdini (version 1.03a) has purportedly overtaken Deep Rybka 4 in playing strength! The IPON rating list places Houdini first in front of several big names like Rybka, Stockfish and Naum. Houdini borrows many ideas from the source codes of Ippolit/Robbolito, Stockfish and Crafty, and is hence released as free software.
I recently read this paragraph that English Grandmaster Nigel Davies (aged 50) wrote: “Perhaps this… has led to the belief that it is impossible for someone to improve their chess after a certain age. Frankly, I believe this view is total poppycock; players can improve their chess at any age as long as they adopt an effective approach.” I think this is sufficient evidence to justify that the excuse of old age has been busted.
On a separate note, I have expanded the Building a chess repertoire article with two new sections: How to learn an opening (coincidentally also based on recommendations from Nigel Davies) and a tip on studying complete games (adapted from English International Master Andrew Martin).
I have released an ebook called Opening Repertoire Suggestions in PDF format. This is a completely overhauled, revised and updated version of my original “Opening Repertoire Suggestions” article on the GP Chess Website.
I present two opening repertoires. One for those who have limited study time and require systems that are simple to learn but still carry some bite. The other one is a ‘strategic repertoire’ for those who have more time to dedicate to chess, but who do not have the stomach to digest the main lines.
Chess-boxing is a trendy new hybrid sport involving alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The creative idea has attracted much attention in Europe. It is excellent that a byproduct of the new sport is to create more awareness of normal chess and hopefully this will lead to more sponsorship for chess events around the world.
I have created a new page for Frequently Asked Chess Questions. I will add to this question bank over time.
I have already compiled two common questions:
Why is chess so attractive?
When I was taking a look at the demographics for my YouTube channel, I assumed that most people who watched my videos were probably teenagers. I was surprised to find that, by a large margin, most people who watched my videos were aged 35-44. Perhaps this is the age that one comes back to board games which they didn’t feel were interesting earlier in their lives!
People have an attraction to chess for a variety of different reasons. Hence, everybody has their own answer to this question. In many cases, I believe the desire to win plays a large part. The feeling of a good win is more satisfying than winning in almost any other primitive battle. It is also a fun pastime, and an enjoyable way to make and spend time with friends…
Why do so few women play chess?
I don’t think anyone really knows the answer to this question, but the reason generally put forward is social conditioning, as women are less aggressive by nature. Perhaps also, men tend to be more obsessive and women are far too sensible to persist in playing a board game, unless they can reach the world elite.
With the knowledge that less than 5% of chess players are women, I think it is easy to explain why there are so few women in the list of top chess players…