Global chess enthusiasts are sitting enthralled this week as the sport’s latest World Championships head toward a tense finale in London. $600,000 in prize money awaits the victor of the 12-game clash between Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian wunderkind and current titleholder, and his younger challenger Fabiano Caruana, a combative U.S.-born grandmaster of Italian descent.
Yet while this long-anticipated contest is being fought out between an American and a European, rapid developments in modern chess hold intriguing lessons — technologically, geographically and institutionally — for the future of Asia too.
For starters, chess is a corrective to those who fret that new technologies, and in particular artificial intelligence, will render human beings redundant. Basic smartphone apps can now easily beat Carlsen, Caruana or indeed any flesh-and-blood player. Despite this, interest in the game is thriving.