The generation divide in British chess
A generation divide is growing in British chess.
The ageing survivors of the 1970s Bobby Fischer boom learnt their skills in giant weekend congresses and thriving chess clubs. The group’s best players became England’s first grandmasters, won Olympiad silver medals behind Soviet gold and wrote dozens of books. They competed only in face-to-face games across the board, and played fast blitz games just for relaxation and training. In more recent years, they have gravitated to the national league, the 4NCL, which stages its matches at weekend hotel venues.
This week, they are watching closely as England’s over-65 and over-50 world senior teams defend their crowns at Struga, Ohrid Lake, North Macedonia. There are several rounds to go, but the omens are not favourable, as the 65-plus team lost a key match to Germany while the 50-plus squad were beaten by the US.
Economic headwinds are a threat. Congress entry fees have soared since the 1970s, but prizes have not increased. Venues for clubs and tournaments are becoming scarce and expensive. Volunteers to do the organisational work are fewer. All this was discussed at length in an interesting thread on the English Chess Forum.
For Generation Z, on the other hand, the future looks bright. They learnt their skills from videos and computer programs, play dozens of blitz and bullet games every day, and know their openings in great depth. Their principal heroes are the world No 1 Magnus Carlsen and the popular streamer Hikaru Nakamura, and when these two met last Friday in the final of Chess.com’s annual Speed Championship, a global audience of nearly 50,000 watched online.
The event, a brilliant clash of concepts and tactics at speed, did not disappoint. The lead changed hands several times before Carlsen edged it at 13.5-12.5. Its final dramatic game was settled only after Nakamura missed mate in two, Carlsen’s reply forced a win, and an agreed draw settled the match. Another highlight was this week’s puzzle diagram (see above).
Magnus Carlsen vs Hikaru Nakamura, chess.com Speed Championship 2023. Black to move. What would you play against the world No 1?
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