The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,I was looking for a theme for today's post, and nearly picked the one that we used yesterday, since it's not hard to find old sources which give the impression that Kasparov announced his retirement on March 11, or even one that (in this surprising case) says so outright.
- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
Still, Dirk was there, and Dirk is reliable if nothing else
so if we are to find an event that coincides with 11 March then we may have to make do with the Candidates Tournament, which starts today. Or, alternatively, yesterday - depending on which part of the front page you look at
or come to that you could have consulted AGON and discovered that the tournament actually began last Tuesday.
I assume the 10 March date refers to the Opening Ceremony. What AGON are on about, I have no idea.
Meanwhile, what are AGON on about? What is this nonsense? Are they really going to go after people for doing what we've always done - always, since we first started following chess on the internet - for posting the moves and discussing them with whoever else we choose?
Apparently they are: not just other chess-broadcasting sites but little people, you and me.
And how are they going to do this? They're going to do it by making us log in to their site, with the conditions of the log-in to include, if I understand Dylan right, promising not to re-post the moves.
This is likely to result in a big ruck, since the main chess-broadcasting sites are promising to proceed wtih their transmissions - or, perhaps, it is just as likely to result in AGON backing down and pretending never to have made any threats at all. This would be a preferable alternative. But at any rate, this is bullying, on a grand scale - and it's not just bullying, it's bullshit, and quite important bullshit at that, because chess moves aren't subject to copyright. Chess moves are facts.
You cannot buy up the exclusive rights to broadcast chess moves, because there are no rights in those chess moves: you cannot prevent people repeating them, just as you cannot prevent people repeating that (say) Barnsley are leading 2-1 at Colchester but have had a man sent off, or that a man has grown a beard. These are facts, and to try and prevent the repetition and discussion of facts is to threaten free speech in a real and potentially important way. (See very good Chessbomb piece here.)
It's also stupid, and on the principle that you can judge the quality of an idea by the quality of idiot who endorses it, here's Steve Giddins.
One of these two people is a lickspittle to a larcenist
Still, leaving aside, for the while, threats to the right freely to disseminate information, it really is the sheer stupidity of the idea that's most impressive. What better way to prevent chess gaining a wider audience than to make it much harder for regular players to discuss it casually with other internet users? (This is something I used to do regularly.) What better way to cut down on traffic to your site than to insist on people logging in (that's all the casual viewers gone, for starters) and then to put conditions on that log-in that many of your potential visitors loathe and have no intention of respecting?
Tell you something interesting. A few months ago, I was contacted by the very same Dylan Loeb McClain, asking me to write about chess for AGON. I turned him down - not, I confess, without thinking about it first. But it seemed to me, before and after thinking about it, that if I wanted to write about the sort of thing I wanted to write about, in the way in which I wanted to write it, I'd probably be closed down before very long.
Yes, yes, there were guarantees of independence, but guarantees from Ilya Merenzon? Not somebody I'd rely on to tell me the date unless I had a calendar to hand. Maybe Dylan believed him, anyway, and that explains how somebody who used until recently to be a serious journalist comes to be playing the pop-up head for this particular idiocy. Well, he wouldn't be the first chess journalist we've seen turn to the dark side over the lifetime of this blog.
Still, you can't always write what you want, and perhaps it's just as well. I'd intended, before AGON intervened, to make this piece about openings and endings, and yet there's little enough I know about the second of these categories. Yes, that's everybody's story, for sure, we all know our openings better than our endings and we all know it ought to be the other way around, but I've not just never written very well about endings, I've scarcely written about them at all. There's nearly a hundred posts on endings here and here. I didn't write any of them. I can think of this one to my credit - and can't, not immediately, come up with another.
If I'd ever read any of these properly, it might have helped
but I always had my mind on the Scheveningen instead. Or if it wasn't the Scheveningen it was something else, however briefly that might have been.
Hey, I forgot to mention that Kasparov's last ever win in tournament chess was with the Scheveningen. Come to that it had also slipped my mind that the very last game he played, with his mind clearly on other things, culminated in his losing a pawn ending.
Topalov is winning here, but shouldn't have been after the move (27. h4?) he played - and then Kasparov shouldn't have been losing, but was, and did lose, after the move (27...g6?) he played. Or so they tell me. I can see the explanation and I can understand it. I can even indirectly understand it when the computer tells me it's a draw - which it does, not by showing me a line ending with 0.00 and bare kings, but by the equivalent of tapping its fingers on the table and looking straight at me to see if I've worked out the obvious yet.
But though I can follow it, and work out what has already been explained to me, I'd never see it, never reproduce it, over the board. I never learned enough about the endings to stop blundering about and start thinking about them properly, with some idea of where I was going and some idea of how to get there.
Which - the blundering about part - is more or less how I do everything, including writing for this blog. And I imagine it's how I'll follow the Candidates games, if, given all the bullying and all the palaver, I can be bothered to follow them at all.
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. I never knew enough about any sort of ending to talk about it properly. So it makes a kind of sense that when a proper ending comes along, I really don't know what to say.