This was a bad year for chess

Published: Thursday, January 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2003 at 11:02 p.m.
One thing we can count on at the end of every December is a thorough media analysis of the previous 12 months. Virtually every year we get the same articles and TV shows reviewing the year's top events in sports, music, politics, cinema, and almost every other imaginable field of interest.
Since I don't want to break with this tradition, I figure it is time to see what 2003 brought in the world of chess.
The year started with great promise. This was supposed to be a wonderful year for chess. We were looking forward to several high caliber matches that were going to eventually lead to a re-unified chess world with just one world champion. I remember thinking how refreshing it would be to stop having to refer to three different people as world champions in my columns, and the unavoidable confusion.
Instead, what we got was more of the same. Lack of sponsors, uncooperative players, terrible leadership at the World Chess Federation are all very common themes in the last decades. And, as usual, the result was cancelled matches, anger, disappointment and ultimately another step back in the quest to assert chess as a viable sport for professionals.
Internationally, a year that was supposed to have some of the best matchups of the last 10 years instead turned into a year with very few high-level tournaments, and virtually no matches. Meanwhile, domestically the U.S. Chess Federation came dangerously close to bankruptcy, and is facing perhaps its worst financial crisis ever. In the midst of this gloom, is there anything good to pick out of the last 12 months? I think so.
The matches between the best humans and best machines are still attracting a lot of interest, and the TV exposure chess received during the last such match was very encouraging.
Also, scholastic chess is continuing to experience uninterrupted growth. More and more schools are starting chess programs, and the number of children exposed to the game is greater than ever.
I am certainly hoping that come December 2004, this column will be full of such positive thoughts, and the word "disappointment" won't be part of it.
Happy New Year! You can reach Gabriel Schwartzmann via e-mail at, or c/o The Gainesville Sun, P.O. Box 147147, Gainesville 32614-7147.

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