21 November 2020

The Norwegian Connection

Remember Eric van Reem? Although it's been a few years since I last mentioned him on this blog (use the search box on the right navigation column to find specific posts), he's long been one of the movers and shakers in the small, but expanding, world of chess960.

For the last couple of months he's been producing a podcast, Let's talk about chess (letscast.fm), where he has already featured important segments on chess960. One interview, split into two parts, was introduced in:-

  • 2020-10-03: #4 GM Jonathan Tisdall (part 1), 'Let's talk about chess in the 80s' • 'In this fourth episode Eric talks to Jonathan D. Tisdall. Jon (born 1958 in Buffalo, New York) is a chess grandmaster (title awarded 1993) and works as a freelance journalist. An American citizen by origin, he became Irish and later Norwegian. He was Norwegian Chess Champion in 1987, 1991 and 1995. Combining chess with his job as a journalist, he often attends major chess events. [...]'

The chess960 discussion appeared a few days later:-

  • 2020-10-05: #5 GM Jonathan Tisdall (part 2), 'Let's talk about Magnus and chess960' • 'In this fifth episode of the podcast, Eric continues his conversation with three time Norwegian champion GM Jonathan Tisdall. In the previous episode, Jon told us some great insider stories from the eighties and in this episode, Eric and Jon talk about the current state of affairs in the world of chess, the popularity of online chess, chess960 and other variants. [...]'

Chess960 is mentioned a few minutes into that fifth episode:-

12:40 JT: 'For the very top players I can see why they're big fans of chess960. It's not for 99.99% of us, but for the very top players.'

We can quibble with the statement 'It's not for 99.99% of us', but this isn't the right time. The podcast continues,

13:30 EVR: 'Are you a fan of chess960? You just mentioned it and you've commentated on it. Do you personally like it? Do you play it yourself?' • JT: 'I don't play anything myself these days but, yeah, I really like it. It's just so liberating to see people -- world elite -- happy to predict the first two moves, sometimes thinking at move one.'

The chess960 segment lasts eight minutes. At one point GM Tisdall mentions an interview he had with GM Carlsen, perhaps the most famous Norwegian in the world today:-

It hasn't come out yet and I can't say so much about it. Magnus is a huge fan of chess960, much more so than I thought.
After that, the subject changes to the recent variants proposed by AlphaZero, a subject I covered on my main blog in Nine Chess Variants (September 2020). English excerpts of the interview with GM Carlsen appeared later in:-

Both articles use the term 'Fischer Random', so that's the key to zero in on the relevant paragraphs. There is much more to the interview than chess960, which is to be expected when World Chess Champion Carlsen starts promoting chess in general. In some way, both chess and chess960 are part of the same landscape in contemporary chess.

I'll cover van Reem's second chess960 podcast in another post on this blog. The invited expert was GM Andrey Deviatkin, another chess960 mover and shaker.

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