Over the last few years a very wealthy fellow by the name of Rex Sinquefeld has been making St. Louis the chess capital of the United States and his progress in that regard continued when he convinced the third highest rated player in the world, Fabiano Caruana to come play here at the St. Louis Chess Club.
The unarguably best chess player in the world, Magnus Carlsen, made the following comment on his Twitter account: … so they are indeed buying nerds.
I’m certain Carlsen was taking a humorous and good natured jibe at Caruana and Sinquefeld and I took no offense at the statement but I did want to examine the idea that Sinquefeld is indeed buying up all the world’s best chess players and loading Team United States to become a dominant player in the world. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? No thing at all?
The fact that an extremely wealthy person bought the land and a building which he turned into one of the finest chess clubs in the world is undeniable. That he lured Hikaru Nakamura to St. Louis with a contract that pays him well is a fact. That Sinquefeld also managed to convince the 7th highest rated player in the world, Wesley So, to come to Webster University to play college chess is undeniable. That Sinquefeld hired Susan Polgar away from her chess coach job at Texas Tech is a fact. That she brought her entire NCAA Championship team with her and won the title in 21013 cannot be denied.
None of these people was born in the United States and here they are leading the charge of U.S. Chess. What Sinquefeld set out to do and what he has accomplished are simple facts.
I’ve got an oar in this boat as they say because I live in St. Louis and belong to the local chess club Sinquefeld started. I love playing chess and having such luminaries around certainly makes things very nice for me. But is it good for someone to be able to essentially purchase the best players and thus championships?
It’s clearly been good for St. Louis. It’s clearly been good for Caruana, Nakamura, So, Polgar, Webster University, The Central West End (where the club is based), and a host of others. Money is willingly being exchanged for services and all parties seem satisfied. Of course what is good for one group is often times bad for another. Italy loses its finest chess player. Texas Tech loses its championship chess team, the Philippines loses its best chess player (So).
It is clear that this unbridled capitalism has victims as well as beneficiaries.
My bias is undeniable but I still think what Sinquefeld is doing is not only perfectly acceptable but largely beneficial. He is bringing tremendous publicity to the game of chess although certainly the amazing Carlsen is doing that as well. It’s a golden era for chess as computers have found new and exciting variations that liven up the game. The internet has brought players from all over the world together to enjoy the game they love.
What Sinquefeld is doing by assembling this group of players is good for chess in the long run but I do see the danger. There are competition laws for a reason. What if Sinquefeld were to pay all the top players in the world to join his club? What if he exerted such influence that anyone who didn’t join was colluded against? What if he then started charging exorbitant rates for appearance fees and tournaments because he controlled all the best players?
My argument is that he has yet to do those things and therefore I don’t have a problem. Absolute power leads to absolute corruption as they say. It bears keeping an eye on.
Welcome to St. Louis, Fabiano! See you down at the club.
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