The Golden Age of Chess
When was the golden age of chess? Unquestionably now. When I started playing chess in my first year at secondary school, 1962-3, Botvinnik was World Champion and though he was an electronics engineer by training and was working on chess computers, practical home chess computers were decades into the future. Players and students of the game had to rely on books, periodicals, over-the-board play and postal chess by 'snail mail'. Books were of variable quality. I read D Brine Pritchard's The Right Way to Play Chess, which is still in print and available from poor quality outlets like W H Smith (who presumably find it profitable as I guess it's out of copyright now). It's a good book but out-dated and has none of the psychological insights to be found modern works. The other book I had was Nimzovitch's My System which no doubt is brilliant and profound but difficult for average players like myself. I had the hardback edition published by Bell as a school prize. There were annotated collections of games including those aimed at novices by Fred Reinfeld, who also produced some works of tactical puzzles. The two periodicals available were the British Chess Magazine and the racier Chess, run from Sutton Coldfield railway station by B H Wood. How I remember the double-barrelled Sutton Coldfield as a place of mystery! I was disappointed to learn later that it is just a suburb of Birmingham. Chess had a regular column 'How Good is Your Chess?' Not very, turned out to be the answer in my case. But now in the Golden Age of chess the resources available to students of the game are very much greater. The on-line tactics trainers and databases put at our disposal material which would only have been available in the most well-resourced specialist libraries, and the finding aids are much quicker and easier to use. Above all we can play live or correspondence, ('turn-based'), chess with players around the world, closely matching our preferences for grading and time controls. Chess 960 and the Fischer time control, both unheard of in my youth, are great improvements and easily available through the magic of the internet. And then there are the various chess softwares of which I know very little. A Golden Age indeed.