Is chess dead?

in The Chess Community4 months ago

elonchess.png I edited this image using this source - the chess board in the background is my own

Is chess dead?

It is a question that has quite a trick to it. The history of chess is as old as history itself. A large number of generations have seen how this game has evolved as more and more lovers of the 64 squares have appeared to play a game. Chess is millenary, that much is clear to us.

But the question is: "Is something so old still useful nowadays?". I do not intend to make a post where I write down a list of benefits that of course, we already know that scientifically the practice of this sport brings incredible benefits.

With the arrival of new tools to make our lives easier, many tasks have been automatized. Chess, of course, having a nature that is very friendly to professionals in the area of technology, has served to develop a lot of software around it. That's right, chess engines have given us a new vision of the game.

A few decades ago studying chess was very different from how most chess players learn today. Of course, this does not mean that one generation is better than another, simply the concept that was "believed to have" at a certain point in history has evolved.

Chess is an enigma, a puzzle quite well done and in spite of the great computational power we have today, it is impossible to determine if White having "the advantage" by the fact of making the first move can win the game or if with a perfect game the game will always end in a draw. The truth is that this complexity opens an enormous tree of possibilities that make it humanly impossible to solve this exciting game.

Checkers, on the other hand, is the opposite case, as it is mathematically known that playing perfectly, the game will end in a draw. Of course, the fun of playing this type of game goes beyond knowing if the game is solved or not, once again the tree of variants is too big to memorize.

I try to always refer to the human vs. human game because the game between engines has applications that in my opinion are of the experimental type. Here comes the good part: It is impossible for a human to play like a machine.

We have to discuss this with a lot of objectivity, it is more than clear that eventually a player, no matter how professional he is, will make mistakes, this could be due to fatigue, lack of criteria in a position etc. With the accelerated rise of the engines the great chess players have been able to refine the initial phase of the game, if you have well prepared the initial moves and the variation is very critical you could have a great advantage over your opponent.

Creating your own novelties in the opening with the help of the latest stockfish is something that does not get out of hand. You may find "weird" strategies that go against the elementary principles but you may still find some sense in the following moves.

Look at this position for example:


White on move 3 has made a totally deliberate pawn move, something that in principle does not suggest a consistent idea with the current situation. However the evaluation of the engine "says" that White is not lost or anything like that, it is not the best move but with a certain preparation Black could fall into a surprise.

What I mean is that the engines have given us a new perspective on the game and that not everything we learned in beginner's school is true. But here comes another twist, in the opening it is "easy" to prepare those rare moves, but what about a middlegame position where there has been a little more action?. The answer is that we are going to play as human as possible with our pre-established "beliefs".

It is interesting because it opens a new debate: Do chess players of the new generation evaluate and discard positions better or worse because they pay too much attention to the number shown on the engine? or do chess players who have formed their positional criteria evaluate a situation with more awareness? If a player could find the best moves meaning that they are unnatural then yes it would be better but, you know the answer, the error is always going to come.

This is where the contest becomes valuable and interesting. A mistake triggers a chance for the opponent to take control of the game. It's like a fight. To win someone has to make a mistake, has to concede.

In other words, the fact that there are engines that play at a level of 3500 elo points or more does not take away the beauty of the game.

Elon and chess

Recently billionaire Elon Musk, someone who certainly needs no introduction, made some statements that don't do chess much credit, not to mention that he had a cross word with Kasparov that wasn't very nice either


I don't want to follow up on everything that was said on twitter but in essence Elon makes reference that chess is a game that is not very useful in real life, he disagrees that there are no randon situations and most critical of all that the board is an 8x8.

The fact that the board is limited to 64 squares does not mean that it is easy to solve and any chess player knows that. If we are extremely rigorous, then what other sport is useful in real life? A person is good at what he/she practices. If you want to be a dentist you must train in that area and gain a lot of experience to achieve your goal. Playing basketball will not make you a better dentist, you see my point?.

It does not mean that a sport is useless because it has no practical application in life. The point is that these complementary activities can help you have a fresher mind, keep your neurons active, etc.

It is really unfortunate that someone so influential disagrees with the game of chess. Of course, not everything is perfect and I think it is good that everyone has critical points of view regarding a subject.

What is your take on it? Is chess useless or is it useful in our daily life?


 4 months ago (edited) 

Is chess dead?

Well, at least not as dead as HIVE. :-)

You think I am wrong? But then, why such an interesting post attracts only so few replies?

What is your take on it? Is chess useless or is it useful in our daily life?

To determine what is useful we first would have to define what the sense of life is, right? Is it to be rich/famous/reputable in one's job/happy/spread one's genes into the next generation etc.?

  • Chess can offer quite some fun and satisfaction.

  • It might train certain cognitive skills, creativity and the ability to focus on an aim, which can also be useful for other aspects of life.

  • It can also be a huge waste of time in case for example talented potential future scientists get addicted to playing chess while neglecting their career (or also family and friends). Especially as compared to other jobs/occupations most chess players don't earn much money.

In general my point of view is that people should do what they like, do well and what satisfies them. If it is chess, let them play chess. :)

 4 months ago  

Your answer is very detailed.

Certainly chess can be a great satisfaction or a waste of time if you do not focus well your goals. Maybe everything would change if this sport was in the Olympic Games cycle. Chess players could earn more money and there would be more institutional support. But again, it would not be something related to the game itself, it is a social and economic perception. Soccer players make absurd amounts of money but if it were different, obviously you couldn't make a career out of it

The deal with chess is that very few people in the world can make a living just playing tournaments.

But it's not that bad at end you know, the wired needs more professionals, doctors, engineers, teachers, etc...

 4 months ago (edited) 

Soccer players make absurd amounts of money but if it were different, obviously you couldn't make a career out of it.

Right, but don't forget the following:

  • Most soccer players cannot live from playing soccer. Considering the huge amount of worldwide soccer players the percentage of successful ones should be rather low ...
    From a 'normal' job you can live (more or less) well, even if you are not performing exceptionally well. A soccer player must play far better than average to start earning relevant money. But right, if they succeed, they earn a lot.
  • Top soccer players only earn so much because 'we' all want exactly that by watching soccer in TV and visiting soccer matches all the way. If nobody would like to watch soccer, Messi wouldn't earn more money than you and me. :-)

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An interesting and eye grabbing picture for the chess community!

The smartest people don't know everything.


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