Watching two grandmasters play chess can be a tedious affair, especially for those unfamiliar with the nuances of the game. But now organizers of the World Chess Championship, the game’s largest and most prestigious event, have come up with a plan to make it more exciting for spectators — strap biometric monitors to the players.
“Chess matches can be very dramatic, and biometric data gives fans and spectators alike another opportunity to follow the games and relate to them on much deeper level,” CEO of World Chess Ilya Merenzon told the Telegraph on Thursday. “It’s not enough to know what the next best move is anymore: you have to know what the grandmaster is thinking.”
While various body monitors won’t exactly tell spectators what’s going through the players’ minds, they may help in determining how worried a player is at any point in the game. For example, when someone feels stress, the body reacts by releasing adrenaline, which boosts the heart rate, blood pressure and rate of breath. Presumably, then, when a player felt comfortable, his or her heart rate and other measurable indicators would remain at the baseline.
“[The addition of biometric data] makes watching the games so much more exciting,” Merenzon added.
Does it really, though?
It may depend on how the data is presented. At the Consumer Electronics Show in 2014 in Las Vegas, the tech company Nordic Semiconductor tapped reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen to take on more than a dozen competitors at once, while he and all the participants wore heart monitors.
For chess fans, however, the most exciting part of watching Carlsen play is watching where his hands eventually move on the board, and not what his heart is doing on a screen. Take, for instance, his final move in last year’s World Chess Championship held in New York City. He surrendered his queen, the most powerful piece in a chess player’s arsenal, to force his opponent Sergey Karjakin to expose his king. The move caused spectators at the event to audibly gasp as Karjakin decided to bow out at that point.
Would the ending of that historic game been any more exciting if spectators also got to see either players’ pulse race?
Who knows? Carlsen, who remains sponsored by Nordic Semiconductor, said it’s worth a shot to see.
“I am not against the sensors,” the 26-year-old told the Telegraph. “There is nothing insulting or strange it in. And the audience will probably enjoy how the players heart rate is increasing and whatever else that can be measured.”
Before players wear any biometric data monitors, however, the device will need to go through an approval process overseen by the game’s international governing body, FIDE.
World Chess and FIDE did not immediately return requests to comment on how far along in the development or approval process they are.
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