Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chess Column

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One of the most absurd aspects of the recent world chess championship match was the press conference that followed each encounter.

After hours of gruelling play, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen were forced to answer some strange and often inane questions. Much of it was almost too painful to watch.

As a professional journalist, I am generally in favour of full transparency and expansive media access. Sometimes grandmasters can offer interesting insights into the games they have just played, but that doesn't mean it always makes sense.

I think back to some of the gruelling and emotionally draining games I played in my career and wondered what it would be like to have to answer questions immediately following a harrowing loss. What can you say? Yes, I was an idiot. No, I guess I should not have blundered.

Here is one exchange that occurred after Game 6, when Anand had just suffered his second straight loss to Carlsen.

"Mr. Anand, you said it was a blow to you," said Ole Rolfsrud of Norwegian television. "How will you now work out of this blow?"

"Well, you just do your best," was Anand's polite and sensible answer.

After another question from an Indian journalist who wanted Anand to comment on the retirement of a popular Indian cricket player ("There are other things on my mind," said Anand), Rolfsrud was back for more.

"I am still wondering if Mr. Anand will elaborate by what you mean by doing your best?"

This seemed to be the final straw for the former world champion, who snapped back: "Doing your best means doing your best. I don't know why you don't understand English."

My full sympathies are with Anand on this. In football or hockey, you can sometimes blame conditioning or injuries or a variety of other factors for a lack of success. In chess, it usually comes back to your own mind. The reason you lost or didn't play well is because you screwed up. The synapses in your brain were not firing as well as the other guy's.

The post-game press conference seems like a strange sort of public flagellation for the losing player. They are forced to explain the unexplainable. Then when they fall short of doing so to the satisfaction of the flagellators, they are asked to elaborate on the unexplainable.

Here is my unsolicited advice to the organizers of major matches: Make the press conferences voluntary. Let the loser grieve in peace. Internet audiences all around the world will thank you.

-- -- --

The 3rd Tyndall Park Open tournament is being held today at the Tyndall Park Community Centre, 2221 King Edward St. Some of the event's proceeds will be dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

-- -- --

This week's problem: Mate in 2 (Gamage). Solution to last problem: White mates with 1.Rd4.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2013 D18

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