The World Chess Championship comes to NYC.
You may be thrilled by the feats of Katie Ledecky, mesmerized by the grace of the women gymnasts, or startled by Rio spectators mocking U.S. soccer star Hope Solo with chants of “Zika! Zika!” (the first recorded instance, noted one wit, of a stadium rocking to the invocation of a virus). Allow me, however, to interrupt the prepackaged, heart-tugging, tape-delayed Olympic coverage to bring you the real sporting news of the year.
It has just been announced that on November 11 in New York City the World Chess Championship will begin.
You scoff, of course. For years, I’ve had to put up with amused puzzlement at my taste in entertainment. (Old joke: How do you do the wave at a chess match? With your eyebrows.) But I remain undaunted.
True, chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be. In 1984, when challenger Garry Kasparov forced that championship match into 17 draws in a row — each about five hours of unbearable, unrelenting concentration — world champion Anatoly Karpov was so physically and mentally drained (he lost 22 pounds) that the Kremlin pressured the World Chess Federation to stop the match, thereby saving Soviet-favorite Karpov from forfeiting the title to the brash, free-thinking, half-Jewish Kasparov.
My first tournament — the 2002 Atlantic Open, a weekend of all-day pressure so intense that I left in a near-catatonic Karpovian state — was also my last. I have stuck to casual five-minute “blitz” chess ever since. My winnings — a $150 check that remains framed and forever uncashed — hang as a reminder never to do that again.
And while chess’s governing body cannot match the International Olympic Committee for corruption, the World Chess Federation more than makes up for that in weirdness. Its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former president of Russia’s republic of Kalmykia, is not only a reliable Moscow toady (sanctioned by the Treasury Department in November 2015), but a nutcase who insists he’s been abducted by aliens. They wore yellow suits.
So why am I so excited about the upcoming match in New York? Who goes to a chess game anyway? Continue…
i usually go and see what the latest from victor hanson is, but didn’t see a new post from him… guess he’s on vacation or something this week, but that’s okay… figured this was a nice change of pace from the usual op/ed posting on friday mornings around here.
chess huh? well to be honest, it’s not as lame as some of these olympic sports… thankfully there’s no requirement to watch them, and most of us only hear about it once every 4 years…
p.s. i actually like chess, and used to play it alot when i was younger… played it with my dad, who usually won, but i enjoyed the challenge anyways… and even got some friends to play it on occasion back in high school.