Blockchain, Looted Art, Civil Rights, Kortchnoi

Before announcing the winner, a little thematic detour. It was interesting and in hindsight not surprising to see how many readers express a critical opinion on the subject of cryptocurrencies and in particular NFTs. In our role as a software producer, we are inclined to view every technical innovation with a positive curiosity. However, we have also experienced ourselves how profoundly chess has been changed by the introduction of technology, and so we are used to significant critical opinions as well as enthusiastic adoption. Nevertheless, here are some optimistic thoughts on the future importance of blockchains.

Looted art and provenance research

The science of “provenance research” deals with determining the origin of works of art and cultural property. After the upheavals of the 20th century and colonialism, this field offers stimulating research topics. Even if there is today a political will for restitution, that is to say for the restitution of looted or extorted art below its value, proof of ownership is not trivial for the heirs. Provenance research can become a thriller: We recommend the moving film “The Golden Woman” with Helen Mirren, which tells the fate of the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer painted by Gustav Klimt in 1903 (see cover image of this article).

But in the future, provenance research will become less and less important: Proof of ownership via the blockchain makes it easy to trace the origin history of a work with just a few clicks, although individual owners may remain anonymous. Do you find it exotic and only marginally interesting? Imagine buying a used car instead: the seller gives you the car’s ID token in a blockchain and you immediately see all previous owners with mileage, maintenance, repairs and accidents. The distributed and self-monitoring structure of this data protects against manipulation.

Kasparov: Crypto is Freedom

Famous civil rights activist Garry Kasparov (president of the human rights foundation) advocates cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology in the same direction. Digital evidence of ownership and identity enhances civil liberties if stored in a decentralized manner. Hard currencies that cannot be printed by central banks in arbitrary numbers protect small savings from inflation.

Kasparov – Crypto means freedom

Governments are trying to block donations to civil rights organizations, but supporters are turning to cryptocurrencies because they are harder to police. Alexei Nawalny or the Nigerian women’s rights movement are notable examples. Moreover, repressive regimes like to withdraw the passports of citizens who wish to leave the country, thus restricting their freedom of movement. In a country that stores proof of identity on a globally distributed blockchain, this will no longer work. Ethiopia is taking the first steps in this direction with Cardano’s Atala Prism. A citizen carries his passport in his brain, so confiscating a printed copy makes no sense.

The passport in your brain

How to keep your passport in your memory? Well, a “wallet” that stores crypto tokens such as cash, NFTs, or passports is basically nothing more than a large number of about 77 decimal places. We could memorize that number. But that would be an impossible task in the decimal system. Wallet addresses today are represented as sequences of words. The Metamask wallet which is common to NFTs can be reconstructed from twelve words on any web browser in the world.

Imagine being forced to emigrate from your country. Now all you have to do is memorize a sequence of 12 words to get your passport, maybe your diplomas, your belongings (and maybe even an art collection) across the border.

Korchnoi as an emigrant

A well-known emigration destiny in the history of chess is Viktor Korchnoi, who was granted political asylum in the Netherlands after his participation in the Amsterdam tournament in 1976. Viktor Korchnoi is certainly one of the most strongest and most titled who did not become world champion. From then on, it seemed obvious to pay tribute to him in a separate NFT.

For the World Champion Series auction, 490 individual bids were submitted, representing 490 lots. From these we have drawn the bidder “b22c3”, to whom we have now transferred the Kortschnoj NFT. The name “b22c3” can be read as “b2 to c3”. Does anyone here play 3.Sc3 against the French and then accept the doubled c-pawn? Viktor Korchnoi would have liked it in black. Congratulations to “b22c3”!

Viktor Kortschnoj. Photo Rainer Woisin, Hamburg 2005.

Finally two famous games of Viktor against a white b22c3 🙂

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