Is it just me or are people playing chess a lot better than they did 25 or 30 years ago?
Since I've taken up chess again I've played maybe 50 games over the Internet, first mostly using Chessmaster 10 and lately at the Internet Chess Club (http://www.chessclub.com/). I also played in only my second OTB tournament - an "Unrated Beginner's Open" (my only other tournament experience being another "Unrated Beginners" tournament I played over 25 years ago).
Now I'm not great stuff by any means, but it sure seems like I have to fight a lot harder to win a game nowadays than I used to 25 years ago when I played in the school lunchroom or even in the low key college chess club I ran. And the kids I played in the beginner's tournament were remarkably skilled - I played one 5 year-old in particular that could very well have beaten me!
Chess players seem to be just plain better than they were 25 years ago - at least in terms of beginners, students and casual players.
Why is this? My best theory is younger people (and everyone in general) today have so much more resources for playing and learning the game.
Thirty years ago I had a heck of a time just finding someone to play chess with. Now you can find thousands of opponents on-line day or night. And if you can't do that you can use any dozens of chess playing software programs.
Side Note: Speaking of chess playing software programs - they are so tough to beat at any setting I think those that persevere beyond the initial novelty of playing against the computer simply must get better or simply give up. I wonder what percentage of Chessmaster buyers immediately put the program aside because of frustration at losing. Let's face it - a computer just can't play like novice even as much as the programmer's try to throw in "human behavior" characteristics.
More Instructional Materials…
For the motivated student of chess there are dozens of excellent training software packages out there - so many I can hardly keep track of them. And they're a lot more engaging than trying to read through a 400 page chess book by a Capablanca or a Nimzovitsch. Years ago the best thing I had as a beginner was the "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" book - thanks to a diagram on every page - but that was the closet we came to the likes of the "chess tactics" software packages of today.
More of Everything...
And my goodness - speaking of books, there were a good number of chess books back in the 70's but how many hundreds of thousands can you get now? But that is not the end to it. We have:
- chess TV (DVDs)
- chess radio (www.chessfm.com)
- chess web sites (thousands upon thousands)
- chess databases (on-line and off-line CD and DVD's)
- live Internet chess match relays
- chess coaches (locally and on-line)
- chess curriculums (for use in the schools)
- etc., etc.
Information overload for most, but to a motivated player there has never been a time in history were such a wide array of learning resources were so available.
My conclusion is that because of this huge mass of chess material the average player is no longer an average player.
As for me, I'm still trying to work through Fred Reinfeld's "Complete Chess Course" that I purchased at age 10 and still haven't finished :-D