Why Not Chess?

Why Not Chess?Nothing drives me crazier than the cliche reasons people use to explain why chess cannot appeal to the masses. Why is it that Joe Sixpack plays poker instead of chess?

Intimidation. Fear of the unknown. A mental-association, mandating that if you lose, you are a loser. And God forbid the lack of instant gratification, because chess is not broken up into bite-size chunks like “hands” of poker.

These factors are not limited to chess, but are deeply ingrained in the cultural DNA  of the Western world. I don’t pretend that chess is the answer to all of our problems, but it is a great antidote for a world descending into a vegetative state of being. So, why not chess!?!

Reassess The Game Of Chess

The next time your buddies want to have poker night, push hard for a chess initiation tournament. The rules of the game are simple, a quick explanation accompanied with cheat-sheets will suffice. Six to ten guys is plenty, don’t worry if you have odd numbers, the games pass quickly. The main equipment you will need are a sufficient number of chess boards, one stopwatch per game being played, and an additional time piece. The extra clock measures the overall time allowed for all games in a round (15 to 30 min), and the stopwatches provide a handicap for lower ranked players.

I have had great success using this system to foster interest and confidence in newer players. The experienced player is given just 5 minutes for all moves. If a stopwatch is used, the inexperienced player controls it. He starts the clock when he finishes his move, and stops it when an opponent removes their hand from the piece that they have moved. Courtesy warnings at the minute marks can be pre-arranged.

This new environment provides a novice with an opportunity to focus on something other than winning by checkmate. Instead, he or she focuses on moves that steer clear of trouble. In other words, by including “win on time” in their strategy, they realize playing conservatively improves the chances of success . Conversely, I have found that experienced players welcome the challenge of risking the sure thing for the handicap format. It gives them a chance to test their own creativity and chess imagination in a “tournament” type setting.

Tournament Format

Assign each player a number. The strongest player in the group is number one, the second is number two, etc. If you have eight players then round one is played as follows: #1 vs #3 / #2 vs #4 / #5 vs #6 / #7 vs #8. Round two matches the winners of the top half  against each other, and the losers of the top half play the winners of the bottom half. This process is repeated at the start of the third round. Once round three is completed new ratings are assigned. The players in the top game of that final round are the new #1 and #2, the runner-up game determines #3 and #4, etc. etc.

Tournament Format(click on picture for actual size)

Time—The Great Equalizer

There are two ways to implement the time control. The more conservative approach uses the stopwatch only when a player from the bottom half plays against any player from the top half. And when the lowest two ranked players, play anyone besides each other.

The preferred method is that the higher ranked player in every match earns the right to keep their spot by submitting to the handicap format. In the tournament format above, the first round matches #1 against #3. And #1 will be limited to a cumulative 5 minutes, as will #2, #5, and #7. For illustrative purposes, let’s say both #1 and #2 lose their first game. This means in Round Two the top game will feature #3 and #4. In this scenario #3 is now the higher ranked player and therefore subject to the 5 minute time limit. Throughout the tournament, unless they face each other, #1 and #2 will be the higher ranked players in their respective matches and therefore remain bound to the time cap.

It is recommended that the overall game clock is set to a minimum of 15 minutes. And experience says the optimal time is between 20 and 30 minutes. The whole tournament can therefore be as short as 45 minutes, and at the very longest will only take an hour and a half. Leaving plenty of time for poker, or perhaps a rematch?

Draws and Odd Number Players

The draw can favor either the higher ranked player or the lower ranked player. In each case the decision is made before the start the tournament. If it doesn’t work one way, reverse it for the next one.

An odd amount of players means that in each round one player will have a “by”. In Round 1 the second-to-last ranked player will sit out. In round two the loser of Game D sits out. And again in the third round, the loser of Game 4 sits out. This ensures that the lowest ranked player, will be a different person at the end of each tournament.

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2 Responses to Why Not Chess?

    myspace chips
  1. myspace chips

    lol quite a few of the commentary visitors make are kinda silly, in certain cases i ask myself whether they in fact read the content pages and threads before posting or whether or not they pretty much read over the titles and post the first idea that one thinks of. nonetheless, it is actually pleasurable to read sensible commentary every now and then instead of the very same, classic oppinion vomit that i more often than not observe on the web i’m going to have fun with a couple of hands of facebook poker cheers

  2. Jason Williams
  3. Jason Williams

    Hi, I’m a Chess and Poker Enthusiast and I think I can answer your question. There are two main factors why chess has not reached the number of people that poker has. First, in American culture chess has failed to find a Chess Hero. Bobby Fisher was great on the board and his world title inspired many young players but he was not very media friendly and yes that was 30+ Years ago. Second, Poker intrinsically has a luck factoer built in this lets any slub who isn’t willing to learn pokers finer points occasionally get lucky and take home a pocket full of money. Once they do, BINGO there hooked?

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