IN THEIR GENES?
Russia`s chess grandmasters
Since moving to Thailand, I have formed the impression that more people worldwide play chess than bridge. Given that millions of people play bridge in almost 200 countries affiliated to the World Bridge Federation, that means there must be a phenomenal number of chess players on the planet.
Samui is not a particularly big island - perhaps 100,000 live here all year round - but the proportion of chess players is striking. Perhaps 3000 can play. Even the Thais. But all the best players seem to be Russian. In every age group.
Take a look at the photos. 20 children playing chess at ISS. Mostly aged 5 to 9 years. 16 of them are Russian. At least 2 of the Russian 7 year olds are capable of beating what I would call the average adult European or transatlantic chess player. And they make their moves in record time. Which disproves what I previously thought: that Kasparov, Karpov, Spassky & co. were only world champions because they played more slowly and seriously to wear down the opposition.
On balance, it probably isn`t in their genes. Watching them and playing against Russian children, it is not difficult to be impressed by their powers of concentration. Evident from the facial expressions in the pictures:
And they can play game after game without getting bored. As for their speed of play, perhaps their domestic lives means their brains are tuned to more logical thought than we English. Not sure.
One other interesting statistic I have stumbled across is that nearly every Russian youngster has a father and grandfather who played chess in a club. In other words, everyone was taught and encouraged to play chess in Russia.
Perhaps then the sheer weight of numbers playing ensured that, statistically, Russia would inevitably produce more grandmasters. Or perhaps it is the fact that large numbers of players increases the numbers in competitions which raises the standards. Certainly that is the case at ISS.
Will visitors to this page of the website please give me their opinion. Because when I am beaten by a 7 year old, I ask myself whether I could have played as well and as quickly as him at the same age. A rhetorical question because the answer has to be no. I want to know why.