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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Times Chess Column is Dead…Maybe

    The New York Times chess column has been published since 1962 but at the end of Monday’s column there was a note reading, “This is the final chess column to run in The New York Times.” with no explanation given. Gary Kasparov Twittered that ‘few would mourn.’ Guess he didn’t think much of the column, or perhaps he was just being realistic and pointing out that it wasn’t widely read. I don’t know.
     However, there was apparently enough protests that the Times is thinking about changing their mind. A Times spokesperson said they were considering eliminating the chess column in order to keep freelance costs in line and a final decision for the column hasn’t been. So, the decision as to whether or not to keep the column is based on money.
     That and the perception (or is it the reality?) that chess isn’t like basketball, tennis, golf, or for that matter, online poker. Most non-chess players don’t enjoy watching chess. This is different than, say, golf. I’ve never played and don’t want to, but I watch it on television sometimes. The same for a program like Dancing With the Stars. I don’t dance and don’t know anything about it, but my TV remote privileges have been revoked when it’s on, so there isn’t much choice…watch it or do something else. So, I watch it and while I don’t understand the difference between a foxtrot and samba and don’t know ballroom dancing terminology, I do enjoy the competition.
     I doubt the same thing would ever happen if a non-player were to sit watching a couple of guys think for a long spell then finally move a piece and slump back into a thinking pose…there’s just no action. Non-players look at chess like they do mathematicians and scientists. Nobody wants to watch astrophysicists at work.
     Right now it looks like the print-run is ending, but the column's online future is still an open question. In 1897, Adolph S. Ochs, the owner of the Times, created the famous slogan 'All the News That's Fit to Print,' which still appears on the masthead today. He wrote the slogan as a declaration of the paper's intention to report the news impartially. I guess they figure chess news isn’t fit to print. They won’t be alone. The newspaper of the town I grew up in, the New London Record, doesn’t print any chess news either.

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