Thursday, May 03, 2007

Us: Why?

Via the ever-excellent Boylston Chess Club Blog, I encountered this article that asks the question:

Why do we have chess clubs?

In the internet age, the article argues, their primary purpose can no longer be to provide opponents. Therefore: "The main reason we have chess clubs today (as opposed to the past) is to provide a social environment for chess players."

Now, on the one hand, my story would seem to confirm this. I lived in London for two years without a chess club, until I encountered one whose members I became friends with. That is - Streatham & Brixton Chess Club. In that period without, I mucked around one heck of a lot with internet chess, too.

But on the other hand, this experience of coming back to over-the-board chess enables me to understand other, distinct advantages as well, linked to belonging to a club. Three in particular I think are worth highlighting. Firstly and simply, I think you get the best chess advice from people who know you, have played you, and seen you play regularly.

Secondly, I'm retrospectively unconvinced that internet chess is a substitute for over-the-board chess, and measures much at all. Before returning to over-the-board chess, I was fairly comfortable with my internet "improvements": a playchess rating typically between 2200 and 2300, defeats of FMs and IMs, a draw with Nakamura in an ICC simul - all empty brags, and I've not even started on those I can muster from correspondence play. But back at the board, my rating turned out to be in the 160s much as before, as I analyzed last week on the blog.

Thirdly and relatedly, by joining a chess club you get a lot more games: from five minute fun in pubs, to serious League stuff. It's pragmatic, in other words. You get to play far more than you could get just by playing expensive weekend tournaments as a lone player, where difficult travel arrangements, extra costs, become necessary and so on. Of course you get less games than on the internet: but, each game counts. You see the opponent, and know they are sober and trying. Even if you beat a titled player on the internet - how do you know they weren't on the phone the whole game, a bottle of booze at their side, bored out of their mind? And so what, even if they were playing their best: no money rested on it, no team result. Nothing, in short, matters that much.

So - aside from the social side - the advice, the competition and the experience that being a part of club offers are, I think, unrivalled by the internet. I'm curious as to if you agree - or think otherwise?


Robert Pearson said...

Yes, I'm with you--I wrote about this on my blog awhile ago. Chess against a person, in person, is simply a lot more fun, more intense, more real than playing a "handle" on ICC or wherever. I've tried a few internet games against people I've met previously over the board, which was better but still not as satisfactory.

I want to look 'em in the eye when I say "checkmate," or "I resign--well played."

Anonymous said...

I have to agree.

I prefer to move actual pieces rather than clicking on a screen - though blitz games online can be fun too at the right time.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree, Tom.

There's something nice about lining up next to your team mates to do battle (even though you can't actually help them!).