chess959: Hello Jan, thanks again for accepting us for the second part of the interview we already made the first part.
Jan Gombac: Yes, you are welcome.
chess959: Today we’ll touch some sensible topics and most probably someone will manipulate that information into some other, first things first: we don’t have any intention to attack someone’s religious beliefs or something else.
Chess is a “waste of time” and causes enmity between players, according to the grand mufti of S. Arabia. This is not the first time that a spiritual leader has denounced chess as a distraction from religious devotions. An Italian sage of the 11th century, Saint Peter Damian, scolded the bishop of Florence for his weakness for the game. Chess was initially outlawed by Iranian Revolution which prevailed in 1979; however in 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini said it was permissible as long as it is not combined with gambling. However a contemporary Shia leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani of Iraq, has emphatically forbidden all forms of chess, whether played online or with physical pieces, and regardless of whether betting is involved. Why do fundamentalist religious leaders feel threatened by chess?
Jan Gombac: Well, there are several options here. Firstly I would like to say that I don’t agree with the statement that chess is a waste of time-chess (despite the fact that nowadays needs an improvement in terms of its randomization) is a highly educative tool for people and it develops capability of critical thinking. The first possibility is that those leaders who prohibit it simply aren’t aware of it, but it is also possible that they are aware of it, but don’t want their nation to be capable of critical thinking. Than there is of course also the fact that every religion has it’s restrictions. Here we need to distinguish between faith/belief and religion-faith is always ok, it’s a personal belief in God, while religion is actually just a political movement. On this planet-above all-we need to be afraid of egoism, racism and chauvinism, in my opinion.
chess959: Did you know that there are 64 squares on the chessboard and 64 codons in human DNA?
Jan Gombac: No, I didn’t know. I did know about the first part, of course.
chess959: Here is my connection possibly labeled as absurd, but anyway here it is:
There is a secret code located on chessboard that allows humanity to achieve immortality. The most dramatic discontinuity (of religious traditions) will surely be when we achieve effective human immortality, which, whether it’s achieved by biology or digitally is not clear, but that is something that inevitably will be achieved.
Jan Gombac: Well, I do know that there is already a practice of freezing people when they die. In order to bring them back to life after some medical progress will be made. Anita Ryskin is such an example, but not the only one. And yes, I agree, this will be the most dramatic discontinuity of religious traditions.
chess959: Ok, lets continue with Kasparov.
Jan Gombac: Aha, here we go.
chess959: “I remember in the late seventies Tigran Petrosian was complaining, he was annoyed about the Chess Informant and all these new magazines, telling us younger players that chess is losing its beauty because there is too much preparation being done, there is so much information you should look for. It was really a different game he used to play twenty years before. And he called my generation the “Chess Informator generation”. And when I look today at the top one hundred list, of the best players, I guess that more than half of the players from that list – the top one hundred list from FIDE rating – they were some of them born, and most of them learned how to play chess after the creation of ChessBase. So I think this generation can be called the “ChessBase generation”.” ~ Kasparov
It really is hard to believe that Kasparov can so fundamentally misunderstand what Tigran Petrosian was saying:
Kasparov goes on to say how chess databases have helped chess to become more “sophisticated” and advanced. Can he be serious? I shake my head sometimes but also respect how beautifully asleep the chess world is. Tiger Petrosian was not talking about the beauty of Chess being destroyed, but that the beauty of how Chess used to be played is being destroyed. In the early days of Chess, players had to be creative and think through the moves from the start as they played. They also had to be very disciplined and creative in their study as well, because many judgement errors could be made simply in the analysis. But modern readily available database information is washing that “beautiful” way of playing and studying clean away. That was Petrosian’s point. That was Bobby Fischer’s point as well. When will Kasparov understand that?
Jan Gombac: Haha. Well, the point is that Kasparov already understands that. I don’t want to discredit his creativity as a chess player, but he is well-known for his deep opening preparation. Also, it would be interesting to know on which side is he politically-on Israeli/U.S.A. or on the Arab? And it would also be interesting to know who is taking away the oil from Arabic people? And there is of course the connection: oil-electricity-computers-chess engines/databases-chess opening preparation. I would also like to say that we, promoters of the random chess, aren’t anti-chess propaganda, but pro-chess propaganda. I would like to invite readers to watch Fischer’s videos about Fischer-random chess, they are on youtube, the title of videos is “Bobby Fischer is travelling from Japan to Iceland”. And, please, don’t pay any attention to his long beard or so, but instead just close your eyes and listen to his deep words. And Petrosian was also correct with his judgement, of course.
chess959: Wow Jan, you prepared well.
Jan Gombac: Well, I consider it to be my duty, but also my pleasure.
chess959: Kasparov goes on in a wishy washy fashion about the benefits of “Advanced Chess” which he has been pushing for the last fifteen years. He probably has some idea that teams of kids can play Advanced Chess together and use databases in open competition. I think that is a consistent idea, but what message is it teaching kids? That we have almost complete information to solve the problems of the future world that these kids will inherit?
The problems that these kids will have to face, cannot be solved with databases alone, because they are going to have to deal with many unresolved questions of perception. When we stare into a database we tend to see only what is familiar to us conceptually, no matter how big the information store is. Problems we will have to face right now and in the future will have to be resolved by creative and skeptical thinking, where kids should be taught not to be afraid of the genuine unknown and the complex, but in fact to actually embrace it and be challenged by it. Do Kasparov’s ideas to have kids looking up a chess database actually help that?
It is a bit like saying that giving a pocket calculator to a team of children will help them think better. He then concludes with a warning to Chessbase.com, which will be perfectly obvious to them already, that if they do not innovate they will go under…. Kasparov simply states the obvious but offers no real ideas. He has been doing this for years. He did it with Chess960 when he offered a solution to play a few Chess960 positions but never followed it through despite that he knows that it has much to offer (just as a very simple example, SP534 is just as deep as SP518). His other idea was to create another chess superstar as he himself was by promoting Magnus Carlsen very openly. But how good an idea was that when you actually think about it?
Jan Gombac: I don’t think that Kasparov’s ideas are actually helping kids. First of all, we need to be aware that Kasparov is a very political person. He supports this so called neo-liberalism very much. He is very much pro-capitalist. It is, of course, another question how liberal the capitalism really is. I don’t think it is. But Kasparov has, of course, always his economic calculation on his mind. And then there is a problem of selection of the nature, or-maybe better to say-law of the evil: people are very open when some comfort is offered to them, but very conservative when some discomfort is offered to them. And, unfortunately, they consider chess databases/analysis to be the comfort, while they consider chess960 to be the discomfort. In reallity is of course, the other way around. After all-chess should be mostly about critical thinking. And if chess is mainly just about following computer analysis (and it goes into this direction) then I would prohibit it myself. And about Carlsen-yes, he is also mainly Garry Kasparov’s product. As we can see, he also doesn’t play/promote chess960. Anyway-the main rule for big majority of people in capitalism is the following: don’t think, just obey and everything will be alright.
In chess960 computers could be used as well, but their usage wouldn’t be essential (like in chess) and that bothers people like Kasparov, because it would ruin their economical calculation.
chess959: Interesting analysis Jan. It seems to be you’re not a regular chess player but have deep knowledge on economics and current politics. You’re very correct on capitalism and liberal ideals misconnection. And you’re totally correct on the connections of oil, electricity, computer systems and here it is ICCF. Did you know engine usage is allowed there?
Jan Gombac: You mean in correspondence chess? Yes, I knew it. It is totally ridiculous in my opinion.
chess959: Yes human correspondence chess is dead already. Only centaurs compete each other in correspondence chess.
And actually we’re talking about same things over and over: More money!
It won’t be a surprise to see a next world correspondence chess champion will be an oil-rich Arabian Sheikh or a South American drug lord or a Russian oil oligarch. The last one at least culturally chess-rich.
Jan Gombac: Yes, it’s dead already because it doesn’t really represent anything but the strenght of engines. Some will argue, of course, that it is important how a human directs a chess engine, but consider this-give a thousand times stronger processor to a non-chess player and he/she will win against anybody in correspondence chess. Of course it won’t be a surprise, since this world is all about money (power). No room for fairness, honesty and really constructive creations, when you think about it. Haha, Russia is really culturally chess rich. However, it is also true that chess comes from Arabic world-just look at the above mentioned connection from oil to chess opening preparation.
chess959: Jan thanks for your time. We know how busy you’re, hopefully we can make the third part of this interview not too distant future.
Jan Gombac: You are very much welcome and I look forward to the third part.