18 October 2009

Winter's (Chess960?) Proposal

Continuing with Some Numbers on Chess Book Publishing and Whistling Past the Graveyard?, the topic is chess publishing and the subtopic is books about chess openings. If chess960 eventually nukes the market segment built around opening books, what will take its place?

One idea is Wanted by Edward Winter, the doyen of chess history. Written in 1999, before chess960 was even introduced at Chess Classic Mainz, Winter's essay included the following lament.

Until the day we too 'cease publication' we shall never fully understand why so many chess writers (and, it must be assumed, so many book buyers) are primarily interested in books on individual chess openings. Is the chess public as a whole really more inspired by a book on the Semi-Slav Defence than by a comprehensive guide to Euwe's career or, even, Kasparov's? In a sane world, wouldn't at least some of the works proposed in the present article be viewed as mainstream chess literature, with openings monographs regarded as of merely minority, and ephemeral, interest?

The proposals embedded in the query -- 'a comprehensive guide to Euwe's career or, even, Kasparov's' -- are just two examples of many scattered throughout the essay. Along with 'monographs on individual players', Winter suggested 'games collections grouped around an identifying theme', 'treasures contained in old magazines', 'algebraic editions of the classics', 'books for which English translations are sorely needed', 'basic reference material', and more. It's easy to come up with many similar ideas.

When I was in my pre-teen years, I was intensely interested in baseball. On top of following my Dad's favorite team, I had a small collection of books related to the history and lore of the game. I remember passing many an hour reading and re-reading the stories about the great players, teams, and events that had taken center stage before my time. The intense interest lasted only a few years, but it established a comfortable acquaintance with the sport that has stayed with me throughout my life. Where are the books that will kindle a similar interest in young chess enthusiasts? Chess isn't just for grownups, after all. It's for everyone.

No comments: