Saturday, July 5, 2008

Intellectual sports - why don't we hear about them in the press any more?

Hope you had a happy July 4th.

Here is another example of intellectual accomplishments not being part of the mainstream news in this country. The Philadelphia International Chess Tournament just concluded last weekend. This event gets more press internationally than within the US, since it is one of the most prestigious international chess events held in this country.

Here is a story that appeared on the OnLine edition of the Indian Express, but lost in obscurity in American press. The event was won by a 15 year old Indian chess player from New Delhi, the first time an Indian player has won the event. By comparison, Bobby Fischer had only won his first US title at this age, and had never won an international event. The world championship in chess was claimed by an Indian, Vishwanathan Anand, for the first time ever, last year. He is still the top rated player in the world, according to the World Chess Federation (called with its French acronym FIDE').

Link to the tournament results attached:

But the mainstream media has never picked up on chess as a sport on which to report.

Leave it to the Indian press to pick up what we do not do here.

FYI - I was so disillusioned with the lack of emphasis on intellectual activities in the state I lived in (Oregon), I helped start the non profit Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation ( ) , which sponsors chess clubs in schools, and to date has signed up more than 2000 competing members, and has held three state championships. My younger two have been chess players all their academic lives, and routinely participate in state and national tournaments. The Indian culture, which gave birth to the game of chess, still considers this the ultimate mental challenge. When I visit my hometown of Mangalore, I take my kids to the local chess club, where the top kids are rated internationally. My kids are usually humbled by competition that is several years younger.




kprugman said...

One of the best ideas for innovation in math education incorporated chess lessons into math ELL classrooms in Quebec.

The textbook series, Challenging Mathematics, was so popular that parents demanded the books be used when the students were mainstreamed. Chess lessons are taught once per week beginning in the first grade.

Chess is a universal language - so it makes no difference that you speak another language. Not surprising that you have some of youngest, French speaking, Russian-Canadian grandmasters in Quebec. That's how you help create a intellectual culture.

Part of the culture of sport is speculation or the art of gambling. Unfortunately, Americans look at chess as an intellectual activity, not as a sport.

But if you visit Eastern Europe or the Philippines it is a sport and everyone who gambles, plays chess. Teaching chess is one of the subjects I enjoy most and most Americans can't even imagine teaching a first grader how to play and enjoy playing.

Niederhoffer wrote an excellent account in the Education of a Speculator.

Americans 'lost' more than their talent for math, they lost their ability to use money wisely.

Its curious that we find ourselves further into a recession than we were in 1973, yet journalists hesitate to use the word depression, although it wouldn't matter. Few people are left who know what that life was really like.

I think we failed because our 'god loving' society logically confined math to intellectual and not speculative activity.

kprugman said...

There are two things that Americans will need to discern before they can intellectualize.

1. What is the difference between gambling and speculation?

Gambling is for entertainment and speculating is for work.

2. How to judge between god-loving and god-fearing?

God treats everyone the same. Speculation should always be regarded as a hedge against the future turning against you.

The answers are easy, its following this advice that's difficult.

kprugman said...

Am I unhappy about this? Financially, not at all. It helps that people gamble because God loves them more than me. I would much rather hedge my bets so I can live to work another day.

What I miss about not living overseas aside from excellent food is stimulating conversation.