Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
BECAUSE OF the emotional sensitivity of some grandmasters, it has become a common policy to allow them to opt out of playing against any computer that may be in the same tournament - providing they register their objection before the event begins. In some cases, players dislike meeting machines because they know the game is liable to be used as free advertising copy if they lose. In other cases, notably that of Vassily Ivanchuk, the objection to computers is based on the emotional commitment invested in the game. It is surely a cruel and unusual form of punishment to force a man who invests such emotional energy into a game to compete against a silicon brain that will not even be happy if it wins.

In this climate of sensitivity, how then could the organisers of the British Championship last week have paired a man against his ex-wife in the penultimate round? Surely the time has come to compile a register of emotional interests of grandmasters. Every player should have the right to opt out of playing an ex-spouse, or the new husband/wife of an ex-spouse, or, indeed, any player with whose spouse he or she is having, has had, or is planning to have an affair.

You have only to look at the way Susan Lalic lost to Keith Arkell to realise the damage such pairings can cause. The pure emotions of chess are bad enough without more human feelings intervening.

White: Susan Lalic

Black: Keith Arkell

British Championship 1998

1 d4 Nf6 10 Rxf5 Re8

2 c4 e6 11 Nf2 Bc8

3 Nc3 Bb4 12 Rf3 a5

4 Qc2 O-O 13 Rg3 f5

5 a3 Bxc3+ 14 Qh5 f4

6 Qxc3 b5 15 Rc3 b4

7 cxb5 c6 16 Rxc4 Rxc4

8 Bg5 cxb5 17 Ba2 Be6

9 e3 Bb7 White resigned

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