Monday, June 15, 2009

Happy Monday

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers," said Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, in 1943.

Ah, there's nothing like the 100% faulty prediction, the prophecy whose absolute inverse soon becomes undeniable fact, the bland and blasé statement said in passing, proven by time to be both blind and deaf to the turning cog of history ---- nothing quite like it for raising a superior little smile, a smirking look backwards at a whole life overshadowed by a single quotation.

Chess of course has its own infamous one-liners. "He doesn't understand anything about chess," Botvinnik said of a twelve year old Karpov in 1964, or so folk-lore says. And now, flicking through one of the forewords to The Ideas Behind the Chess Openings by Reuben Fine just yesterday, I thought to myself that I'd just discovered another one:
chess theory reached its full maturity in the period from 1930 to 1945, and is unlikely to change any more.
What moron said that!, I wondered. And when! Wasn't there a revolution in the 70s? The Hedgehog and all that? What about Kasparov raising the bar again and again and again? I skipped the page.

None other than Reuben Fine himself said it. In 1989. With a full view of most of the developments I casually supposed refuted his belief. Not so smug, so smurking, so superior now, eh? Quite the opposite... And not only that, it turns out that Thomas Watson was misquoted. Ah, happy Mondays.


Sverre Johnsen said...


I notice you start your quote with 'chess' (lower case c). Is the quote his conclusion of a longer sentence?

Tom Chivers said...

Yes ---- before that he says that the main difference between now and the 1930s is the addition of the Indian & Sicilian Defences. He goes on to briefly mention hypermodern approaches to the centre & dynamics. He doesn't seem to have updated the book itself ---- on the first page it still says that "Black's problem is to secure equality", but of course this is not the intention behind all defences nowadays.

Anonymous said...

Five computers. That's five more computers than there would be in the world if I had any say in it.

Jonathan B said...

Anonymous ... I think you just won the nobel prize for irony.

Sverre ... are you by any chance the Sverre Johnsen who's just published "Win with the Stonewall Dutch" - which I purchased this very afternoon?

Anonymous said...

Not really JB. You have to use computers if you want a decent job, if you want to stay in touch with friends who won't have time for you unless you're on F^%&&&^k, to not see your grade drop 10 points a year etc. That doesn't mean they shouldn't all be put in a big pile and have a nuclear warhead dropped on them.

Similarly I have to have a mobile phone, as because everybody else has one they're now closing down the payphones etc etc.

If I don't lower myself to everyone else's level then I miss out. Sorry I know that sounds really objectionable but you get my point.

Tom Chivers said...

If a friend doesn't have time for you unless it's on Facebook, then they're not a friend.

(Writes someone whose emails from Facebook are automatically diverted into his spam folder.)

Sverre Johnsen said...


Yes, I am the co-author of 'Win with the Stonewall Dutch'. Sadly I haven't received any copy myself yet.

Hope you enjoy the book!


Thanks for the info!

Jonathan B said...


you should get hold of a copy - it's looking pretty good.