The strange changes the Internet causes


Is the United States Chess Federation in trouble? (New York Times blogs)

Getting back into playing chess is one of those things that always seems to be high on my to-do list that just never gets done. All I’ve managed to do over these past few years is knock off a few tutorials and practice games on Xbox Chessmaster (yay no absurd security locks), and play the odd game online. I really don’t like playing on television or computer screens because it just doesn’t inspire the same kind of deep thinking that I can do playing on an actual chess set, but I haven’t really had anyone to play chess with in real life since high school. For that matter, my physical chess set kind of poofed after the fire and wasn’t in the boxes of stuff we got back from the fire people, and I haven’t bothered to replace it. (Actually, I take that back: I picked up a two-dollar chess set at Kroger a few years back, but a huge corner of the board was torn off of it when I got it, even though the package the set came in was sealed tight.) Perhaps it’s because of how I’ve been socialized to handle in-person stuff versus Internet stuff, but playing chess over the Internet just isn’t something that works out too well for me.

This article kind of makes me think about how the Internet has changed the various aspects of gaming. I had a youth membership to the USCF when I was in high school, although I never played a USCF-rated game. (I didn’t want to travel to the big tournaments with the rest of my chess team because I didn’t want to spend any more time with them than was absolutely necessary. My love of chess only extended so far even back then.) At that time, playing in school leagues and playing in USCF tournaments was kind of a big thing because it was the only real way to get rated and to be able to position yourself against other people and have an idea of where you stood. Pretty much every online chess service I’ve tried has had its own ranking system, though, and that takes away a large part of the allure of the USCF and what they offer. I imagine that similar games must also be experiencing identical growing pains. I don’t follow chess closely enough to understand all the other politics that may or may not be going on at the USCF, but I can’t help thinking about how the Internet may be changing the face of even the most classic of games that don’t absolutely require physical presence and performance.

As the networking capabilities and pure computational power of the Internet increase, games of the mind are likely to become more and more altered. Chess is one of those games where I confess to being something of a luddite; I don’t want to play speed chess and bullet chess all the time on a screen that doesn’t give me a real sense of dimension. I kind of miss sitting in a school library somewhere, spending two to three hours on a game, enjoying the silence in which I could contemplate my next moves. With the way modern life is evolving, silence is becoming a scarcer and scarcer luxury, and contemplation seems to be almost an anachronism. For all that computing and the Internet make so many things easier for us — I would never give them up — I hope that they don’t spell an end to the old chess clubs and tournaments.

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