The dawn of a new era

4/6/2004 – Sunday Telegraph columnist Nigel Short was enchanted. "For the first time people could watch the European Women's Championship on TV, with the charming participants themselves presenting their strategic masterpieces – often in delightfully Russian-accented English." Nigel calls this development 'a new era in chess.'

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The following are excerpts by the Telegraph columnist Nigel Short. The links given below each section lead to the full stories. Note that you have to register, free of charge, to read the columns. This entails giving an email address and a password for future logins. Each column contains an annotated game by the author.

Nigel Short on the dawn of a new era


Nigel Short, Telegraph chess columnist

04.04.2004 The dissemination of information in chess has undergone a revolution of quite extraordinary magnitude over the past couple of decades. In my early days as a professional it was considered the height of sophistication to carry the odd encyclopaedia and the latest Chess Informant when travelling to tournaments.

For important events, like Inter-zonals, it was deemed worthwhile to risk severe back-strain by taking the occasional opening monograph or tome on endings as well. Alas, books – which for the younger generation are thinly sliced pieces of wood held together by stitching or glue – are not only cripplingly heavy but also don't contain anywhere near as much of value as one would like.

Naturally, the computer age transformed this exceedingly primitive state of affairs. By the time of my 1993 match against Kasparov, I had meticulously acquired a silicon database that contained as many as 240,000 master games! Fantastic! Today, of course, one can buy 2.6 million games on a DVD for a few pounds. But perhaps you need help in understanding this gigantic quantity of material?

No problem; for less than €50 you can employ Fritz 8 as your own permanent analyst. How strong is this Teutonic gentleman? Well, good enough to tie with Kasparov and Kramnik at a regular speed and, almost certainly, to thrash the hell out of them at a faster tempo.

What has not kept pace with these breathtaking changes is the presentation of chess. Things are improving somewhat: increasingly the moves from tournaments are broadcast live on the internet and, if you are lucky, you might also find an ineptly positioned webcam. Now, at last, we are at the dawn of a new era.


ChessBase TV coverage live from Dresden

Those people with a broadband connection have, for the first time, been able to watch the European Women's Championship in Dresden with ChessBase TV on the playchess.com server. Not only has expert commentary been provided during the rounds, but later the charming participants themselves have eagerly presented their strategic masterpieces and combinative blows – often in delightfully Russian-accented English.

To investigate, open a free account at the server for a month. Upon expiry, one can either take a €29 subscription for the year or, simply buy Fritz 8 which entitles one to free access. In addition to watching the live television or videos (for which there is an additional very low charge), one can also play chess. More than 14 million games were played on this server last year by people from 183 nations. Numbers are growing rapidly. Chess is hugely popular worldwide; it has just not been marketed properly until now.

Editor's note to Nigel: it's 40 million games played per year on the Playchess.com server. Currently there are well over 100,000 games played per day, times 365 = 40,000,000. Here are the stats for yesterday (Sunday, April 5th 2004):

  • 12,850 players from 190 nations played on the server.
  • At 21:40:06 GMT there was a peak of 2371 players logged in.
  • Total number of games played: 110,910
  • Average time online per player: 49 minutes (=10,500 online hours)

Oh yes, and Fritz 8 gets you one year of free access to the Playchess server. If you enjoyed the year you can pay €29 or get the next version of Fritz to extend your subscription.


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