The World’s Most Boring Sports Event

Let me just get this off my chest…

The recently-concluded world championship chess match between Vishy Anand (India) and Boris Gelfand (Israel)–in which Anand successfully defended his title–was mind-crushingly dull. And if they keep it up like this, top-level chess will go extinct.

First they played twelve regular games of chess–ten of which were draws! Each won a single game, leading to a series of “rapid chess” (in which less time is allowed) to break the tie. Anand won one of those and Gelfand didn’t, sparing the world a tie-breaking series of “blitz” (real, real fast chess). And if that had wound up tied, too? Flip a coin? Perhaps a game of battleship?

Don’t even ask what the purse was for this stultifying exhibition of futility. It would only depress you if you knew.

These were boring games! But in championship-quality chess, everybody trains with chess computers using the same software, everybody endlessly studies everybody else’s games, and the world’s top masters wind up playing the same tedious moves all the time, each hoping the other guy falls into a cataleptic trance or something… And with so much money at stake, no one dares try anything original.

Imagine any other sport in which 10 out of 12 games end in a tie. Maybe if they knocked $50,000 off the purse for each draw, the players would change their ways. Or had these big impatient guys on hand to beat the masters up every time they played to a draw… I dunno, but they’ve got to do something. And just about anything would be an improvement.

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