Sunday, 12 January 2014

Chess is completely dead. It is all just memorization and prearrangement. It's a terrible game now. Very uncreative

Bobby Fischer  ( 

I was riding my bike the other day, past some little children in a park and thinking about when i was little. At the tender age of 11 not only did i reach my tennis playing peak, i also followed my calling as a Churchillian leader of men to a brief captaincy of my school chess team. Chess is an interesting game, what was once a way of developing the tactical nouse of military commanders has become an exercise in memorization. Today whole games can occur without ever leaving "the book" . Previous catalogued grand master games are studied by amateur enthusiasts and, if both players are well enough read and don't fail in their recollection, whole games can occur without either player ever making one unique move. What was once a substitute for war becomes nothing more than a spectacular undramatic form of theater. Both players adopt a role and simply go through their lines.

It seems to me that bike racing is headed in the same direction, too many people spend too long studying, analyzing, reading not riding and staring at screens instead of stems. Go on a group ride today and  everyone has read in bicycling magazine that they need to be at the front on a hill so they can drift back. Everyone wants to conserve their efforts and win the sprint. it makes for boring racing and even more boring spectating. Races follow a repetitive pattern with an early break of sacrificial pawns, straight out of the book with each team sending one rider to cover each move until one sticks.  These pieces move idly in the open space while the more powerful pieces are arrayed. Later the pawns are swept away, cannon-fodder, the knights and rooks set up the stage for the endgame, which again rolls directly from the well worn chapters of the book with a few possible variations: the late break, the bunch gallop, the mountaintop finish or the hill sprint. Just like in chess the whole battle can be a reenactment of previous conflicts .

 in his last game against the Deep Blue super computer in 1997 (which i can recall eagerly awaiting the results of on the BBC news) grandmaster Gary Kasparov played an extremely unorthodox Caro-Kann defence, his theory being that an opening move so rarely seen would confuse the machine with its extensive memory of previous grandmaster games which seldom used this opening. later in the game Kasparov would make other moves charachterized as foolish by commentators, notably in his 11th move which finally forced the game out of the book and challenged the super computer to think.  Kasparov would ultimately be defeated in just 19 moves. He went hard, early and got dropped hard and early. after the three previous games had resulted in a draw Kasparov went on the offensive, and it cost him his reputation and a large prize fund.

recently i was riding with a less experienced rider who, at the top of a climb proceeded to ride in circles in order to complete a 20 minute interval. This strikes me as not dissimilar to the chess player who, rather than playing more chess in order to improve his tactical ingenuity, takes to the annals of matches past in order to memorize previous chess games. Great cyclists are not those who can ride at an exact wattage for an exact time, they're those who can do enough whats for long enough to get to the finish line first. What i love about cycling isn't the science it's the art. I love riding up a hill for as long as it takes and being exhausted at the top. the cyclist who approaches a hill as a chance to do a 20 minute interval rather than a 20 minute interval as a chance to climb a hill is missing the joy of cycling. He may as well stay at home and ride the trainer reading his books and articles about bike racing. I'll be out riding my bike.
these sunglasses are not out of the book either 
I've always tried to be a Kasparov and not a deep blue in my bike racing, I've always tried to make unorthodox moves. Most of the time the book turns out right, we fall back into the script with my efforts little more than those of a heckler in a crowded theater or a pawn, slowly crossing the black and white squares, one by one,  between his starting point and the other side of the board.  Sometimes, rarely, the pawn can make it to the other side of the board and then that pawn can turn into a queen and change the game completely. This will never be a chapter in the book, never a tactic for those book learners to read about because the science, the numbers and the logic say it's not worth it. Rather it'll be an anachronous footnote. That's fine with me, i'd rather be a pawn who sometimes gets to be a queen than a queen moving in well worn tracks.

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