A game of chess was played by a group of Grandmasters against Twitter at the London Chess Classic. It may be a pointer to the power and limitations of decision-making through the social media. It has some parallels with the match played by Deep Blue against World Champion Gary Kasparov, some years ago
The game was reported in The Independent [6th Dec 2011] by Chess grandmaster Jon Speelman. It was played as “a game on Twitter between the grandmaster collective totalling 25,000 chess rating points” [or roughly the combined efforts of around a dozen grandmasters] and what was described as “the denizens of Twitterdom”.
As the youtube above indicates, the Grandmasters [playing the black pieces] moved at lightening speed, and with a certain degree of levity.
The video also shows how the moves via twitter are being communicated by an arbiter, and displayed for onlookers on suitably large chess boards. The Grandmasters seem to be playing without a great deal of direct interaction yet were able to sustain a coherence of plan. There is a great deal of shared and tacit understanding of the possibilities of the changing position on the board, but also bounded improvisation around selection of moves. Think of Barcelona playing a game of beach football!
The wisdom of the [Twitter] crowd
The ten grandmasters (black) amused themselves by selecting an opening rarely seen in Master chess. So they did not want to win just by superior technical knowhow. Speelman noted that “The North Sea [opening] is highly provocative but not utterly absurd.”
The Grandmasters get a positional advantage
The grandmaster collective “soon got a very fine position” positional play.
The game ended in 23 moves, which would be a crushing defeat in high-level tournament play
To my (non-masterful) eye, the black forces followed a famous idea of Bobby Fischer which won him a game in his World Championship match against Boris Spassky who was flummoxed by the unexpectedness of the opening.
Consequences for leadership
Leadership is becoming increasingly seen in many situations as better being distributed than left to the whims of a powerful leader. On the other hand, the chess game adds support to such theories.
And what about Big Blue?
Which leaves the unanswered question whether the collective human brain that is Twitter in action would beat today’s version of Big Blue, the program which defeated the then World Chess champion, Gary Kasparov…