The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Wittgenstein TLP 5.6
Whilst my students had to spend an entire day listening to a northerner
drone on and on extol the virtues of applied research, I stumbled across the BBC production ‘Battle of the Brains’, which can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qJ0oLwpcxQ .
Brain-weighing contests and their impracticability… .
In sum, the doc is an attempt to compare a group of ‘high-fliers’ from different backgrounds, subjecting them to a variety of ‘intelligence tests’ in the hope that something useful could be gleaned from it, the representative from the chess world being GM Susan Polgar. I found it to be of some interest because chess, to me, has a noticeable disconnect from the intellectual community as a whole. Even in our age of cross-departmental academic funding, chess is more likely to retain its veneer of enigma rather than serve as an important academic learning tool. Within our beautiful game education is not a prerequisite of ‘expertise’, only enough talent to obtain a title and enough wisdom to understand the value of having many friends is needed. I wondered what our more academically-minded friends would make of our guest chess player, and what conclusions they would draw about her.
If Wittgenstein were alive today, he’d be turning in his grave.
The documentary is technically accomplished, as you would expect from a BBC production, though it needs to be borne in mind that it was filmed, primarily, for entertainment purposes and thus shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Apart from anything else, the sample size is so small that it denies any firm conclusions being drawn from the content, and there is the unfortunate point that it is eerily Wittgensteinian from start to finish… well almost. You have to sit through most of the production before it becomes apparent that perhaps the term ‘intelligence’ is being used very differently by the various commentators without them realizing it, which coupled with the fact that GM Polgar performs predictably poorly throughout is a bit of a disappointment. Much of the language employed is conveniently vague also, making the narrator sound more like a seaside fortune-teller at times. Nothing is said of why the participants agreed to partake either…I am assuming, of course, that their actions were based upon self-interest rather than a belief in the concept of the show, which leads to the intangible problem of motivation and its relationship to success. Were the participants really up for it I wonder?
A new world champion is born…
…anyway, speaking of motivation did you notice that Vishy got a bit of a tonking in his world championship match? And what about the ruff-n-tumble of the media scrum that followed? Were we really to make sense of the match so quickly after it had ended? Websites across the net were replete with talk of eras ending and new chapters beginning yet what, exactly, were we able to understand about it all? We had to wait a while to start finding answers, I have linked two media files below with brief accounts why but before I do that I would like to say my piece.
The author says his piece.
In my opinion, Vishy was the greatest of all FIDE world champions. Not only did he defend his title successfully more times than anyone else has (Lasker fans take note that I am referring to FIDE world champions only) but his manners both over and away from the board have always remained impeccable. This has helped steer world championship matches further away from more public controversy in spite of the fact that FIDE continues to remain as unpopular as ever, and disagreement -or perhaps uncertainty- over the best format for a world championship match continues unresolved. Vishy could have criticized FIDE when they awarded his home town Chennai the rights to stage the match when more substantial bids were tendered. Instead, he chose to say nothing. Given the inspiration he has been for his home nation, which is now becoming a major global force, I was personally happy to see FIDE’s effort to bring chess home to its champion’s nation achieve the success it did. Vishy was a model world champion and an inspiration for a generation, I hope we will say the same of Magnus in years to come.
There, I said my piece… .
Clip 1 -
As reliable as ever, the whirlwind, GM Danny King gives us an overview of the match, highlighting key moments over the board. Game 3 is particularly instructive.
An interview with Vishy for a local station. What is different from this interview is that Vishy has had time to digest what happened, and more importantly, he is candid about it. Less professional interviewers often annoy their subjects by asking them daft questions (just find any press conference surrounding the match to see what I mean) resulting in the interviewee often giving pithy or perhaps distanced answers, or sometimes refusing to answer at all on account of the question being too daft! We don’t get any of that nonsense here, we get a quality interview instead. It is the only interview that you need watch.
Wot no Magnus?
…er nay m’lud, I’m really not a fan.
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language. Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations 109