Chess is considered very good for the brain. Kids become intelligent overnight after learning the moves. Blue chip companies in Europe are on the lookout for Grandmasters with some sort of university degree. Parents of chess playing kids like to boast to other parents: ‘mine plays chess’. Chess is called ‘the royal game’, a game historically associated with the powerful and awesome, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and Vladimir Lenin. Chess represents in humanity some sort of super-intelligence only matched by creatures from outer space.
It’s one of the biggest lies ever told. Because chess is actually harmful to the mind, body and soul. It leads to bad habits like alcoholism, anti-semitism, extreme arrogance, vindictiveness and encourages the development of mental illnesses. I will present 17 solid reasons why this happens using the World Champions as examples.
Reason 1 – Paul Morphy (world champ 1857-1859): Regarded as the first unofficial World Champion. Within 2 years of playing international chess, he went cuckoo. Chess rearranged his neurons and he was no longer the same. He spent the last decade of his life wandering around the streets of New Orleans aimlessly, talking to himself all the time. He died a beggar.
Reason 2 – Wilhelm Steinitz (world champ 1884-1894): The first official World Champion died in a lunatic asylum in New York, broke and flea infested. He introduced the scientific method of looking at the game, a breakthrough that broke down thousand year old chess mysteries into easy to understand concepts that allowed millions around the world to understand chess like a master. The father of modern chess, no doubt. He would have been better off serving tea in the Vienna cafes where he began his chess career.
Reason 3 – Emmanuel Lasker (world champ 1894 – 1921): A mathematical genius. One of the 12 people in the world who understood Einstein’s Theory of Relativity when it was first published. In fact, he was one of Einstein’s best friends. They discussed complex equations together. Einstein however noticed that Lasker was a genius lost to chess. He could have been part of the team that developed the atom bomb but instead Lasker wasted his life pushing wood. Lasker could have won the Nobel Prize, instead he preferred to remain World Champion for a record 27 years. He was marked for the ghettos by the Gestapo but escaped from Nazi Germany just in time. He died penniless in some obscure and run-down apartment in New York.
Reason 4 – Jose Raul Capablanca (world champ 1921-1927): A handsome, charismatic man, a womaniser who never did a day’s work in his life. Everything came to him easy. He was born into a rich and prominent family that had good connections with the Cuban government. He learnt chess at the tender age of four by just watching his dad and uncle play over two afternoons. He didn’t need any training at all. He didn’t read any chess books. His brain automatically figured out what needed to be done in order to become World Champion. The Cuban Government made him an international ambassador and paid him big bucks to just roam around the world and play chess. All this developed in him one of the most gigantic egos chess has ever seen. Eating gourmet meals in fine restaurants, flirting with and seducing the best looking ladies, playing cards with aristrocats, smoking home-made Cuban cigars…this was his after-tournament routine…in contrast, other Grandmasters would be sweating and torturing themselves trying to find improvements and nuances in familiar openings in their hotel rooms for many hours. Capablanca died playing chess in a New York club. He burst an artery in his brain due to high blood pressure. He was wearing a $1500 suit when this happened.
Reason 5 – Alexander Alekhine (world champ 1927-1935, 1937 – 1946): This guy spent over 12 hours a day doing nothing but playing and studying chess for over 40 years. He executed some of the most daring and brilliant chess combinations ever known to man. After beating Capablanca in the famous World Championship match in Buenos Aires in 1927, he took life for granted and became a drunkard. He arrived at the board stinking of alcohol. Some of his Kenyan chess fans have even invented a pseudonym for him – Alexander Alco-Khine. Once, he even peed in his pants during the middle of a game because he was too drunk to stumble all the way to the toilets. He lost his title in 1935 because of his favourite Polish cognac. During World War II he became bosom buddies with the Nazi top dogs in Poland, this despite being a pure Russian himself, and penned a bunch of anti-semitic articles. He was assassinated by Mossad in Portugal. His dead body was found hunched over a chessboard.
Reason 6 – Max Euwe (world champ 1935-1937): The most boring man to have ever played chess. The accidental World Champion. The guy always did the right thing, said the right thing, treated everyone respectfully, lived a healthy and wholesome life and died peacefully in his native Holland. There was not a trace of humanity in the man, he was all robot. A nice, friendly robot. He did everything according to the book. Because of this, Bobby Fischer was forced into retirement and chess was dealt a blow. Bobby Fischer would have taken chess into the big time. Today it would have been up there with Premier League soccer, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in terms of status and sponsorship appeal. It’s Max Euwe’s fault because he was so stiff and so respectful of correct procedures that as FIDE president he did not bend the rules for Bobby Fischer when Bobby demanded the world championship match versus Karpov be run his way.
Reason 7 – Mikhail Botvinik (world champ 1948–1957, 1958-1960, 1961-1963): The father of the Soviet School of Chess. The first soviet World Champion. The first player to take a systematic approach to chess preparation. Garry Kasparov’s teacher. A communist who was shocked when the Soviet Union crumbled toward democracy in the late 1980’s. An obstinate man. He dedicated his first international tournament victory to Stalin. He wielded the power of a cabinet minister in the Soviet Union and used this to kill off the chess careers and world championship ambitions of more talented grandmasters like David Bronstein and Paul Keres. He died a communist in democratic Russia.
Reason 8 – Vassily Smyslov (world champ 1957-1958): An exception who proves the rule.
Reason 9 – Mikhail Tal (world champ 1960-1961): The genius of the chess combination. No other chess player before or since has managed to create the level of chaos Mikhail Tal created. His games are shocking. His moves were from another planet. Planet Tal. A player who was 50 years ahead of his time in chess thinking. A chain smoker and drug addict, he executed masterpieces of attack under the influence of amphetamines. He saw his own things on the board. He smelt of cigarettes all the time. Sometimes he wore the same clothes for a week because he lost concept of time. Always ill, always in hospital. He died prematurely, a fifty something year old man looking eighty years, a kidney failure of a man, due to a lifetime of indulgence in Vodka, cigarettes and hard drugs.
Reason 10 – Tigran Petrosian (word champ 1963-1969): A cold man who invented the cat and mouse style in chess. His style was prophylactic. He killed the opponent’s dreams of an attack before the dream entered the opponent’s head. A vindictive man. Another communist. He wore the face of a seasoned, hardcore Armenian dictator.
Reason 11 – Boris Spassky (world champ 1969-1972): The World Champion with a chameleonish style of play. He ushered in the era of universalism. His games are a dual model of how to build up an attack and how to sit tight and defend. A pathological whiner, complaining about everything from 2 dead flies in his chair during the 1972 World Championship match to Kasparov and Karpov fixing games. Was best friend of the mentally ill Ficher.
Reason 12 – Bobby Fischer (world champ 1972-1975): Arguably the greatest player of all time. An American who broke the Soviet domination of the World Championship. Crystal clear play. How he did it, no one knows. The greatest killer-instinct ever exhibited over the board. You play him and you know you will lose. An anti-Jew despite being Jew himself. Fischer celebrated the downing of the Twin-Towers with laughs and a bottle of champagne. He wanted the USA wiped off the face of the earth. A man of extreme contradictions, he felt he was the chosen American to teach the commies ‘a lesson in humility’. That’s what he thought his match versus Spassky was all about. A schizophrenic. Spassky ended up becoming his lifelong friend. Fischer died via kidney failure. He refused all medicines. He said chess was finished as a game.
Reason 13 – Anatoly Karpov (world champ 1975-1985): A man with cold reptilian eyes. A look from him can freeze you to death over the board. An almost electronic voice emanating from his vocal chords. A python-like chess style, once he has you, he has you. The greatest defensive player of all time. A communist. Politically, the most powerful Soviet chess player ever. He wined and dined with the politiburo big wigs regularly. He had access to an exclusive government dacha on the outskirts of Moscow. Rumours suggest he ordered the assassination of Leonid Stein because Leonid Stein was a threat to his success in the 1973-74 candidates cycle. Viktor Korchnoi claimed Karpov and his people had a plot to finish him off had he won the 1978 World Championship match held in the notorious Baguio City. A corrupt man. He bribed Kasparov’s team left, right and center in order to make them divulge confidential opening preparation. Now an elected politician serving in Putin’s government. He owns a gas field in Siberia, has one of the largest collections of stamps, and is rumoured to be an undercover billionaire.
Reason 14 – Garry Kasparov (world champ 1985-2000): Botvinik’s favourite student. The game changer in chess history, Kasparov revolutionised the way the game is supposed to be played like no one before him. He destroyed the pillars which held up the classical positional ‘rules’. He showed another way to interpret positions. He ushered in the computer era in chess preparation. Was world number one for a record 20 years. His games constitute some of the greatest creative achievements in chess. The greatest attacking player of all time. A big ego. Arguably the most arrogant chess player ever. Hard-headed. Obstinate. Kasparov’s way or the highway. A two time divorcee, his first wife left him without notice. Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, two of the biggest names in contemporary chess, dumped him as a trainer because of his abrasive attitude. He is an enemy of Putin. He supports the Republicans in the USA. He’s an opportunist who has cut deals with Ilyumzhinov and Campomanes in order to secure his gains in chess. Nigel Short called him a gorilla.
Reason 15 – Vladimir Kramnik (world champ 2000-2007): The only human to beat Kasparov in a match. The last great product of the Soviet Chess School. The best endgame player since Anatoly Karpov. He stands over six feet tall. A former chain smoker, this former hippie look-alike has paid the price for it and is now succumbing to a rare form of rheumatism. As a result his former powers have dwindled. The extreme tensions of modern chess have not helped. Topalov has alleged the guy had the guts to use a computer in the toilet to help him out with moves in their world championship match. The Toiletgate Scandal.
Reason 16 – Vishy Anand (world champ 2007 – 2013): A middle-age man unable to let go of his golden twenties and thirties. A new type of stubborn species. Half-man, half-tiger. Unable to let go of past triumphs, he will not let super talented young genii like Caruana, Karjakin and Nakamura get their deserved shot at the World Championship title. No, like a tiger in the manger, he viciously protects his right to challenge for the top slot. He is obsessed with the Nordic. De-striped and half-tailed now, in his aging forties, this former lightening-kid insists on basking in the post-baku-beast chennaizoic era. A half-man, half-sabertooth creature who always drives his political cars in neutral gear – will not support what is right, neither will he support what is wrong. With his political aloofness will let aliens hold on to FIDE presidency like the way he holds on to the prized candidates tournament idli-sambar.
Reason 17 – Magnus Carlsen (world champ 2013-present): The wunderkind from Viking land. Now grown up and sitting atop the Elo Everest. An Everest overlooking the fallen kingdoms of the Hindu-Kush. A young man who plays chess with a casual attitude. Finds the game so boring he falls asleep in world championship matches. Finds chess to be the equivalent of playing lego. Interested in more mentally challenging tasks like appearing with supermodel babes in million dollar budget advertisment videos for designer clothing. Animal rights activists have blacklisted him for causing the extinction of the tigers in the Sundurbans during the Viking invasion of the Indian subcontinent in 2013 A.D.