El ajedrez en los tiempos del covid

por John Nunn
30/01/2021 – La pandamia del coronavirus ha tenido efectos desastrosos en las vidas de muchas familias y ha traído cambios en la vida cotidiana de casi todo el mundo. Por el lado positivo, cabe notar que uno de los "efectos secundarios" de los confinamientos ha sido que el ajedrez ha vivido un auténtico auge. El gran maestro inglés, John Nunn, ha participado en muchos torneos cibernético. Ha comentado una de sus partidas especialmente interesante, porque logró dar jaque y mate a su oponente con un jaque doble. El artículo de John Nunn (en inglés).

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Chess under Covid

John Nunn

The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating for many families and has brought many changes to the way billions of people live. It has also wrought a transformation of the chess world. Online chess was always popular, but with the effective cancellation of almost all over-the-board chess, the shift to online play has resulted in an explosion of chess activity. Boosted by lockdowns and the Nextflix series The Queen’s Gambit, online play has reached new peaks and attracted many players new to the game. While the overall effect of the pandemic has been horrific, chess itself has actually received a boost.

Last year I would have been able to play in 65+ events for the first time and at the start of 2020 I was busy planning trips to the various senior championships taking place during the year. The cancellation of these events was inevitable once the pandemic took hold, but over the past year I have been more active with chess than for several years. Chess organisers in many countries have done a great job of organising online events, and the chess world has adapted surprisingly well to the new circumstances. In my own country, the English Chess Federation have been very active both in switching existing events online and in creating new tournaments. Moreover, independent organisers can quickly arrange an event on one of the various platforms. Chess has the advantage that, unlike many other activities and sports, it adapts well to online play and the chess world has taken full advantage of this.

I could not have imagined a year ago that there would be regular chess broadcasts on Eurosport, with David Howell and Jovanka Houska doing an excellent job of trying to explain top-level games to the audience. I also enjoy watching these events on the television, although the standard of play does seem unexpectedly low given the strength of the players. I think it would be fair to say that most players are weaker at online chess than at a physical board, although this may simply be due to unfamiliarity.

The bane of online chess is, of course, cheating. For ‘serious’ events the players are on camera and their screens are shared, with the task manager on display to ensure that other processes are not running on their computer. This does make it hard to cheat; doubtless someone who is really inventive could find a way round it but, as events have shown, it’s also possible to cheat in over-the-board chess. One could even argue that this type of online chess is safer from cheating than most over-the-board events. For more casual events which are not monitored by an arbiter, there is a far more substantial risk of cheating. I believe that a clever cheater is unlikely to be caught and this will always remain a problem.

On the other hand, there are many advantages to online chess. It’s convenient and quick, there’s no travelling or accommodation costs for the players, while the organisers don’t have to hire a hall, arrange for clocks and sets, provide refreshments, and so on. In some discussions between my ‘senior’ colleagues, they almost all said they couldn’t wait to return to over-the-board chess. I don’t see it like that. Certainly, over-the-board events will return once the pandemic is over, but I think much chess will switch permanently online. When playing online you miss out on some of the social aspects of chess, the meeting of old friends, and the chat over a drink in the evening, but for many people the pros of online chess outweigh the cons. Those enthusing for over-the-board chess are mostly keen players who live in cities with easy access to a chess club and tournaments of various kinds. Many people live in more remote areas where even a journey to the nearest chess club is a substantial effort. Other players are too old, too young or too busy to justify travelling hundreds of miles to a weekend event, but would happily play in the same event if it were online. Traditionally, chess has not catered well to beginners and casual players, but online chess has changed that and has offered the opportunity to attract large numbers of less committed players to the game.

John Nunn on a visit to beautiful Cornwall

Wife Petra, who is also an active chess player, and son Michael, who studies in Exeter

The Atlantic coast. Also read: John in Cornwall, and Problems and Compositions in this breathtaking landscape

One interesting aspect of the recent growth of online chess is the organising of events which would be inconceivable without it. A few weeks ago I played in the great international match-up Cornwall vs Fiji. For a small part of England (population about 500,000) to play against a country on the other side of the world (with a slightly larger population) would have been impossible only a few years ago. Now innovative events can take place and bring chess players from all over the world together in unprecedented ways.

Anyhow, now is the time to present one of my online games.


Latest chess book by the author

Everyone knows they should work on their endgame play. So many hard-earned advantages are squandered in ‘simple’ endings... But it’s tough finding a way to study endings that doesn’t send you to sleep and that helps you actually remember and apply what you have learnt.

“While endgame theory books are helpful, active participation by the reader is a great aid to learning. I hope that this book of endgame exercises will encourage readers to put their brains in high gear, both to test themselves and to learn more about the endgame. I have spent several months selecting the 444 exercises in this book from what was initially a much larger collection.” – John Nunn

All major types of endgame are covered, together with a wide-ranging chapter on endgame tactics. Examples are drawn from recent practice or from little-known studies. The emphasis is on understanding and applying endgame principles and rules of thumb. You will learn by experience, but always backed up by Nunn’s expert guidance to ensure that the lessons you take away from the book are correct and useful.

The Chess Endgame Exercise Book, 192 pages, £17.99/$22.95/€24,30

Dr. John Nunn (nacido en 1955) es un gran maestro inglés, autor de libros y de problemas de ajedrez. Formaba parte de la elite mundial durante veinte años. Ganó cuatro medallas de oro con el equipo nacional de Inglaterra ha recibido varios galardones por sus libros. En 2004, 2007 y 2010, John Nunn fue Campeón del Mundo de solucionadores de problemas de ajedrez.