The game of chess has been around for nearly fifteen hundred years. Over this extensive period, many changes have occurred to how the game is played. However, the modern version of the game came into existence sometime around the latter half of the nineteenth century.
It was the year 1860 when the present game rules were officially recognised by the leading chess authorities worldwide. These rules and regulations associated with modern chess stemmed from the mind of renowned chess player Howard Staunton.
Most of the conventions that we associate with chess, for example, white pieces getting the first move, pawns having the right to capture rival pawns via the ‘en passant’ movement, stalemates in the game resulting in a draw, etc., were all formulated during this phase of the game’s development. Staunton is widely regarded as the finest chess player of his time, that being the middle years of the nineteenth century.
Audience Craving for More Decisive Outcomes
Chess has been affected by the changing nature of how the game is perceived by the general audience. In fact, after the 2018 world championship bout between reigning champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Fabiano Caruana, it was decided that the modern game needed to be moulded to suit the taste of the contemporary spectator.
This championship contest produced twelve consecutive draws between their generation’s two most outstanding chess professionals. Only a tiebreak at the end could determine a winner, Carlsen. Carlsen and Caruana have occupied the top spots in live chess ratings for quite some time.
The need for this chess update in the game’s basic rules resulted from the call from a section of the crowd that too many draws would eventually harm the sport’s attractiveness and turn away admirers. They voiced their opinion about the need to make sure elite chess competitions produce good results.
Also, the rise of online chess during the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to FIDE acting speedily to think about a chess update at the earliest. During the lockdown months of 2020 and 2021, millions of new chess players registered on online chess portals such as Chess24 and Chess.com and began their tryst with this beautiful game.
No More ‘Draws’ in Competitive Matches
Taking cognisance of the issue, the international governing body of chess – the Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE), has stepped forward to make some changes to the game. In a drastic exercise in early 2021, FIDE decided to do away with ‘draws’ altogether from competitive chess. In any latest chess tournament, the new rules are applied in full force.
The most crucial move FIDE has implemented to change the game’s character is clearly doing away with ‘draws’ from all competitive fixtures. As more and more people are being drawn to chess, thanks to several factors, including the lockdown period and the popularity of the Netflix show ‘The Queen’s Gambit’, FIDE must have felt it necessary to cater to the demands of the larger body of chess followers.
A series of draws in any elite chess tournament, they felt, would slowly reduce the following that chess is presently enjoying in the mainstream. From now on, in any latest chess tournament, you will see definitive wins or losses. Earlier, contestants had the option of agreeing to a draw by mutual consent, and this criterion has been struck off from the rule book entirely.
One more significant move that FIDE has taken concerning its effort in bettering the game is moulding the nature of a ‘stalemate’. As many of you would know, a stalemate in chess occurs when one player is pushed to a situation where no more legal move is at their disposal.
Stalemates meant that the game would automatically be designated as a draw. But after FIDE’s 2021 chess update, whichever player retains a stronger position when the game reaches a stalemate will be deemed the victor.
The third notable move that FIDE has ratified relates to the age-old norm that the game automatically becomes a drawn match after three repeated moves. The new chess update has mandated that the player who makes the same move three times will be declared the loser.
And to top it all, to discourage this standard practice, FIDE has invented a new term – ‘Cowardly Master’ or ‘CM’, that will be awarded to any competitor having a tendency to play this technique.
Chess Update Met With Mixed Reception
However, this particular chess update has mixed responses, with several chess observers appealing to FIDE to reconsider its stance. This episode has given rise to a full-scale war of words on various social media platforms. Terms like ‘New Chess’ and ‘#newchess’ have flooded the chess discussion forums since FIDE made the announcement.
The new moves in chess have been met with mixed reviews. On the one hand, top-level grandmasters like Anish Giri have openly voiced their support for ‘New Chess’. On the other hand, the last player to challenge world champion, Magnus Carlsen for the world title, Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi, has called for the withdrawal of these latest moves.
Nepomniachtchi, currently the world number three in live chess ratings, considers these changes a “joke” and has no faith in them. He has declared that he would stick to the traditional rules of the game wherever he competes.
Online chess portal Chess.com, on its part, has set about integrating the newest moves notified by FIDE’S chess update. Earlier, anyone playing games at chess.com had the option of ‘offering’ draws to their rivals, and this avenue has now been removed from the website’s page.
On this topic, chess.com’s Chief Chess Officer, Mr. Danny Rensch, told reporters that the time is ripe for the chess world to accept the changes FIDE has brought forth and that chess’s latest avatar – ‘New Chess’, is something that is here for the long run.
To learn about how chess has metamorphosed over the ages to reach its current form, check out our blog titled ‘Learn the Rich History and Origin of Chess’. to get the complete picture of what the game is all about.