FrayerChess Blog

The World of Competitive Computer Chess

From Hobby to Sport

frayer-photo-4-4-09From a hobby to a sport, the time has come to make the jump. Computer chess has a problem, it is simply too competitive to be a hobby and has no governing body to be a sport. If anything we do is to be taken seriously by the international chess community, this conversion must be made.

Wikipedia defines a hobby as:

A hobby horse is a wooden or wickerwork toy made to be ridden just like a real horse (which was sometimes called a “Hobby”). From this came the expression “to ride one’s hobby-horse”, meaning “to follow a favorite pastime”, and in turn, hobby in the modern sense of recreation.

Hobbies are practiced for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward. Examples include collecting, creative and artistic pursuits, making, tinkering, sports and adult education. Engaging in a hobby can lead to acquiring substantial skill, knowledge, and experience. However, personal fulfillment is the aim.

Wikipedia defines a sport as:

Sport is an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. Sports commonly refer to activities where the physical capabilities of the competitor are the sole or primary determinant of the outcome (winning or losing), but the term is also used to include activities such as mind sports (a common name for some card games and board games with little to no element of chance) and motor sports where mental acuity or equipment quality are major factors. Sport is commonly defined as an organized, competitive and skillful physical activity requiring commitment and fair play. Some view sports as differing from games based on the fact that there are usually higher levels of organization and profit (not always monetary) involved in sports. Accurate records are kept and updated for most sports at the highest levels, while failures and accomplishments are widely announced in sport news.

Now I will leave it up to the individual computer player as to which definition they best identify with. As for me I would have been quit content to have left our sport a hobby. However as we discovered in the last century with amateur sports such as tennis and golf, the specter of commercialization can have a corrupting influence. Not just pitting amateur against professionals, but controlling the sport (or hobby) to exploit maximum profit rather than creating level playing fields to exhibit excellent and advance progress.

The only solution to this problem is to establish a players association or come under the governance of one of the existing international bodies. Set rules along with the ability to sanction players and tournament sponsors is the only way to take engine chess, as well as freestyle chess to the next phase of its development. Computer chess is not the only sport that has had to wrestle itself free of greedy promoters.

As we have recently seen in America, on Wall Street and in our financial institutions, not only does the prospect of quick profits form unregulated markets breed unethical conduct, it clouds the judgment of what is, in the long run a more profitable strategy.

As for those that say, you know, Kevin is a great guy, I just wish he would stop his cometary’s and only provide advice and recourses for engine chess. Well that’s probably not going to happen. Silencing the dissenting view of the status quo is seldom a good idea. Let the computer chess world determine who speaks for the players and who speaks for commercial interests.


April 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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