Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rowson: Chessers Are Outsiders

Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson isn't exactly one of my favourite chess writers. His book The Seven Deadly Chess Sins sits on my bookshelf and remains largely unread. I tried reading it once, long ago immediately after my purchase, but the paragraphs and their styling just reminded me too much of my undergrad years reading Sociology! Too highfalutin for my liking, yet I know it's trying to teach me something.

That said, GM Rowson is, indeed, an eloquent scribe. And so I was pleased to stumble upon an article of his wherein he talks about chess and sport, twin topics that will surely be of interest to local readers in light of this petition.

It's a curious thing being a chess player in the world of sport - a mixture of complete identification and complete alienation. You share the love of competition and enjoy the stories of upsets and comebacks. In fact, I sometimes feel chess could add itself to the list of sports and nobody would notice. But although very welcome, you remain an outsider, because nobody seems to think of you, even partially, as a sportsperson.

There is no malice in this position, it's just that chess is not in the sporting orbit of the UK, or The Anglosphere as a whole. I always remind SUS that chess is a fully fledged sport in most of the rest of the world, and I therefore present a constructive anomaly, encouraging them to clarify what they represent.

The defence of the status quo, at its most precise, is that the sine qua non of sport is structured competition decided by physical skill. You might argue that chess is broadly physical because mind and body are interdependent, and even, at a stretch, that games are decided by physiological skill (managing nervous energy). However, if the entry requirement for sport is strictly physical skill, then chess needs to look elsewhere for recognition.

Read more here. Note that I chanced on this article courtesy of the Chess Scotland website.

Also, make sure to scroll through GM Rowson's presentation slides for the SUS. On slide two there is a link to this YouTube clip.


Brian Jones said...

Great video clip!

M. Thomas Southerland said...

Sharp fellow. For some reason I tasted hints of William James in there...

Great subject, and one that is discussed by top players far more than us mere mortals.

Chess being a bona fide sport would sure help with promoting events, and attracting sponsors.

Anonymous said...

Once you get past Rowson's writing style the book is great consdiering your FIDE / Aussie rating level. Cheers