But Nakamura - who at 15 became the youngest American grandmaster, breaking Bobby Fischer’s record - says that he might give up pro chess because there is so little money in it. Losing Nakamura would be devastating for American chess.
OK, so American chess is devastated and then … what? I understand how afficinados might find this a sad day, but I suspect that society in the USA will continue to operate pretty much as it has.
The key point seems to be that chess is intellectually stimulating and this would be lost. Oddly, the other sport chosen for comparison is poker, which while it has some intellectual aspects, is usually more about psychology than probability. Yet the real problem isn’t that poker is over shadowing chess but that in our technological society, there are an enormously wider variety of choices for intellectual activity than hundreds of years ago. In those days, one could argue that chess was in fact an important source of intellectual effort with a paucity of other choices. But that no longer holds. I, personally, might have gotten in to chess if I hadn’t been exposed to computers. A hundred years ago, intellectual activities that required a lot of infrastructure (such as computer programming) were, of course, restricted to the wealthy. Chess sets could be constructed easily from crude materials and so provided a stimulating past time for the less fortunate. But now, resources beyond the dreams of kings of old are available to all of the middle class and much of the lower economic classes as well. This means that chess is but one choice from an enormous variety of activities, even if one considers only intellectually stimulating ones.
Moreover, one might argue that activities that are more cooperative than competitive might better suit the times. War and military conflict, which is what chess is a simulation of, are no longer profitable. Cooperative pursuits are where the real money is these days. Perhaps it’s time to regulate the exclusive winning paradigm to physical sports.
I have nothing against chess per se, and it would be fine with me if people kept playing. But to consider its descent to obscurity seems just a tad overwrought.