Yesterday Magnus Carlsen took the lead at the traditional Dutch year opener at Wijk aan Zee. He's young, a fashion model, a celebrity who appears regularly on TV talk shows in his naive Norway, and in the USA. He jet sets around the world, has an honourary guest at Spanish La Liga giants Real Madrid, and of course, is the World Chess Champion.
But that isn't enough for some. While Holland is hosting the elite of the chess world, the Dutch newspapers aren't all giving positive coverage. (my thanks to my Dutch friend JJ for pointing this out to me) The Dutch journalist Mohammed Benzakour wrote that "Chess Today is Boring". Perhaps the essence of the article is lost in translation, but what I gather Mr Benzakour is saying is that chess players are too normal for his liking. There aren't the quirky, social misfits of yesteryear.
And this is a bad thing?
Our top players don't smoke, don't drink large amounts of alcohol (at least not while on duty), they aren't the social pariahs of the past and more people than ever are accepting chess as an activity they like to play, or appreciate their kids playing. At least that is my anecdotal experience from coaching chess in Australia.
These are bad things?
The elite events in Holland (there are 2 Grand Master sections) has a mixture of young and older stars, local Dutch players, and female players, players representing countries across the globe from China and India, through the Russian republics and Europe across to America.
This diversity is a bad thing?
As well as this, there's more top class chess than ever being played. While the Wijk round robins have still 5 rounds to play, ex World Champion Vishy Anand stars in an amazing field at the Gibralter Open which starts tomorrow. Anand is another of the nice guys of chess who probably fits into the 'chess is boring' category, but both Nakamura and Short are also in the field, who are both fairly outspoken in the chess world. Though not enough for some journalists. And if that isn't enough, half way through Gibralter, another elite open starts in Moscow, the first stage of the Russian Cup. Look at the field! We'll then have a month, just enough time to get our breath back, for the Candidates tournament.
But, of course, all this great chess is a bad thing, full of boring players.
Sorry Mr Benzakour, but what a crock of shit!