Betting on chess


Published: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 3:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2004 at 12:00 a.m.

Perhaps the best proof that chess is becoming more popular is when a concept applied to some of the world's most popular sports is adapted to chess. I am referring to betting,

This age-old activity traditionally tied to sports such as football, soccer, racing, etc. has made its way into the world of chess and thanks to the Internet it is easier than ever to partake in.

I am not a big fan of gambling in general, so to avoid any potential accusations of promoting such behavior, I will withhold the Web addresses of the sites that allow betting on chess. I will, however, describe how the process works.

As you probably recall, there was a lot of controversy several years ago when the World Chess Federation (FIDE) introduced the new knock-out style for world championship events. Critics argued among others that the system robs the world champion title of credibility, that the contest becomes a survival marathon instead of a chess tournament, and that too many matches are decided in the speed chess playoff phase. FIDE officials defended the format with two main arguments: it generates more entertainment for the fans, and it creates more interest among potential sponsors.

Personally, I would agree with the first statement. The second is more questionable, especially given the almost complete lack of corporate sponsorships for these events even after the new format was introduced.

One unexpected consequence of this knock-out style was the perfect fit with the betting industry. Gamblers and fans can now bet money on their favorite players in a myriad of ways. The first bet can occur before the start of the competition, where similar to March Madness they can pick eventual semifinalists, finalists and the winner. Once the event is under way, individual bets can be placed on the outcome of every single game and match, with the odds being established by the betting exchange.

Finally, there are even some stranger bets such as predicting the first move in a game, guessing the number of moves it will take for the game to end, etc.

I have never placed a bet on such a site, so I can't tell you how it feels. Nor can I tell you whether it makes watching the individual games very exciting. Based on the number of people doing it though, it sure seems to make at least some folks happy.

You can reach Gabriel Schwartzman via e-mail at gasch@fdt.net, or c/o The Gainesville Sun, P.O. Box 147147, Gainesville 32614-7147.

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