On Sunday night, I went out for dinner with my brother-in-law Steven and his family and Weng Siow and his family. Our whole night was peppered with talk about chess, chess and more chess (much to the dismay of my wife).
Weng provides a very interesting insight into chess. For example, I did not know that my last opponent Bob Sewell from Parramatta, was actually a chess coach.
During the evening, our conversation drifted to one of child prodigies. Weng mentioned of how certain promising youngsters like Moulthun Ly with a phenomenal rating of 2345 (he was well on his way to being a GM given his enormous talent) has dropped off the chess radar as they grow older and dropping chess as a result to pursue other interests.
Weng also had discussions with Peter Parr (of Chess Discount Sales) as Weng sometimes takes his son Dylan along for competitions. The conclusion that was arrived was that chess makes a very poor profession.
Don't get me wrong. Chess makes an excellent hobby.... but a poor profession.
The life of a chess professional is indeed a rocky one and one that does not pay well in contrast with other professions where high intellectual capability is very much prized and rewarded. Even Australia's 2nd GM Zhao's main profession is not chess but another profession outside of chess.
When I hear of the potential of young chess prodigies like Max Illingworth and future youngsters like Anton Smirnov, Joshua Lau, I start to wonder for how long can these youngsters can continue to take up the chess mantle.
It's pretty sad that even in a sports-crazy country like Australia, chess is pretty much consigned to the back-burner and is usually mentioned as an after-thought. The promotion of chess also seems to stop at the school level. Beyond that, chess is not widely regarded in the same league as other physical sports like tennis, rugby, soccer etc. Part of that reason stems from the fact that the target audience is miniscule unlike other sports and as a result, big sponsors are just not willing to put any money in chess .
What does this mean for chess? I don't forsee the chess culture in Australia changing for the next couple of years. Chess will continue to play a minor rule in the school curriculum but beyond that, chess is unlikely to be promoted as well as other mainstream sports and because the sponsors aren't there, chess is simply not feasible as a profession.
As a result, pursuing chess as a career will continue to follow the slippery slope of the law of diminishing returns.