Chess on TV

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Gavin Strachan
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Chess on TV

Post by Gavin Strachan » Fri Apr 06, 2007 10:48 am

Having Sky TV at home, I find a lot of TV channels about just about everything (except chess!). Apart from page 568 on Ceefax, chess coverage on tv seems quite limited. Has anyone with more money, connections in media, at the ecf, etc ever thought about trying to promote chess on tv either through a short upbeat regular program on events such as 4ncl or/and top world chess events currently occuring.

You can now buy quite a few coaching videos. Couldn't some of these be reformatted for tv in such a way as to promote the game in an exciting, up-to-date way that will attract new players?

Chris Stratford
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Post by Chris Stratford » Tue Apr 10, 2007 5:36 pm

I share your disappointment, Gavin, that - with all the available channels - none is devoted to chess.

There is one for my other favourite pastime, golf, and it makes for excellent viewing.

However, I imagine that is financially viable because it is supported by adverts for all the beguiling (and very expensive) equipment which most golfers get seduced into buying in the belief that it will make them a scratch golfer.

Golf equipment is an industry worth millions, maybe even billions of pounds a year hence the Golf Channel is sustainable.

For a chess TV channel to work I think we would need a philanthropist and enthusiast with the wealth of Chelsea FC's Roman Abramovich - someone like Jim Slater (remember him? I think I have his name right).

But it would certainly be a winner with me. I have recently (last September) returned to competitive chess after more than 30 years away and am experiencing the same thrill as when I first discovered the game, during the early 70s when chess became huge thanks to Bobby Fischer.

I was an avid viewer of BBC 2's chess competition (Master Chess? Excuse the fading memory) and I also have hazy recollections of the TV entertainer and magician David Nixon presenting a How to Play Chess series on ITV.

If I win the lottery I will certainly explore the possibilities of setting up a chess channel. So watch this space...

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Nigel Wright
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Post by Nigel Wright » Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:12 pm

Yes, it is sad that there is no chess on TV, but unless something is done about the image of chess being a "nerds" game of which is easy to play and therefore boring (not my opinion, of course), then unfortunately it will never happen.

Although, if, like the Soviet Union (being too young to remember it myself), we make chess compulsory to all school children, maybe people would take it more seriously and would want a chess channel, or at the very least a chess program on TV.

Could the ECF make podcasts to make chess appear "cooler" to the younger generation to kick start things?

Great post Gavin

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Post by Chris Stratford » Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:23 pm


I was one of those who became absorbed by chess when it became 'the' craze among schoolboys in the wake of Bobby Fischer beating Petrosian to qualify to play Boris Spassky for the world title.

The reason it was such big news, of course, was because the Cold War was still being waged, and America v Russia at anything made headline news.

Whether or not such a boom in chess would have happened in today's environment is hard to say, but I agree with Nigel that the game suffers from the two myths that it is 'easy' and only for 'nerds'.

The use of podcasts sounds an excellent idea as a means of invading youngsters' consciousness. Perhaps it needs to be sold as a war game, which at its most basic it surely is.

I have been amazed how many people, when I have advised them that I have started playing chess competitively again, have made jokes at my expense about my purchasing an anorak, or perhaps taking up trainspotting as well to achieve complete geekdom.

I will tell anyone who will listen about how the game combines art and science, about the drama of a well-fought game, the joys of winning and the dread that goes with making a poor move and, I'm happy to say, two colleagues have bought themselves chess programs and have learned the basics of the game.

If I can just persuade them that playing another human over the board is even more enjoyable our ranks will at least have been swollen by two. Hardly worthy of Mr Fischer, but it's a start.
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Gavin Strachan
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Chess on TV

Post by Gavin Strachan » Wed Apr 11, 2007 7:24 am

I can understand sports such as golf being able to finance a tv channel due to the billion pound industry. My argument is that you have channels devoted to a range of interests, such as poker. Chess could be easily spruced up in a similar way. Chess could join up with other like activities like draughts, backgammon, bridge, go, poker and have channel competitions, coaching, news from top events. At the moment there loads of short clips on You Tube (which i have liberally incorporated into my own clubs website! http://www.brentwoodchessclub.org/BCCHOME.html

It is ironic that the Fischer games and the other programmes (some of which I remember) mentioned before reached a tv audience in an era when there was only 3 or 4 channels! Some of the channels on Sky are so Heath Robinson they look like they are filmed by my Dad.

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Post by Mike Gunn » Thu Apr 12, 2007 3:12 pm

The BBC 2 programme was called the Mastergame (I think) and very good it was too. Didn't Nigel Short effectively kill of chess on UK TV when he thought for about 40 minutes before making his move in a completely innocuous position on C4's live broadcast of his match against Kasparov ? Widespread derision of the chess broadcasts in the rest of the media followed this spectacular own goal. (Personally I enjoyed Danny King's discussion of the colour of the players' ties and what they may have had for breakfast, but I can see why it didn't lead to more chess programmes on TV).

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Greg Breed
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Post by Greg Breed » Thu Apr 12, 2007 4:11 pm

Standard Play Chess cannot be televised live. Neither can a poker tournament. It's too boring. It's also too long. Highlights would work and I would love it if those highlights were prepared with annotations by experts with charisma and a bit of humour such as Danny King. Rapid Chess would also work but I would still prefer edited and annotated highlights.
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Post by Chris Stratford » Thu Apr 12, 2007 5:19 pm


A quick look through my bookshelves on returning home revealed the BBC2 series was called The Master Game (I have both accompanying volumes).
This was, of course, a highlights programme and Bill Hartson provided wonderfully insightful and dry-witted analysis.
I agree that live chess could never work for the masses, but highlights and tuition certainly could.
By alluding to the Golf Channel I did not mean to suggest I felt a chess channel was not viable just that it was very difficult, as even the Golf Channel is not awash with profits, I understand.
I think Gavin's idea of podcasts could be viable, though. Perhaps an ECF-affiliated subscription service could be run, providing subscribers with regular (weekly/ fortnightly/monthly?) podcasts - via email - on all facets of the game.
I love my collection of chess books - particularly those by Max Euwe (Chess Master and Grandmaster, Chess Master v Chess Amateur, The Road to Chess Mastery) and Jeremy Silman, but feel computer technology could be used to enhance the breadth of understanding of the lessons they provide.
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Greg Breed
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Post by Greg Breed » Fri Apr 13, 2007 8:07 am

For podcasts and similar a quick browse of the Chessbase website shows that they have something similar and a large subscriber base.
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Nigel Wright
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Post by Nigel Wright » Thu Apr 19, 2007 1:21 pm

Yeah, but chessbase is not the ECF, unfortunately. (That I'm aware of) :)
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Alice Wood

Post by Alice Wood » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:57 pm

I well remember Bill Hartson on Master Game, I think that's where I got my first real interest in chess although I was way too young to understand it all.

A podcast? Great idea, why not?

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Post by Lee Shuck » Fri Jun 15, 2007 5:04 pm

One of the most recent TV item I recall viewing is Derren Brown when he plays a simu match agaist 9 top players

http://youtube.com/watch?v=evZmpsl3jI0

With the popularity of online poker this has become something I series link and watch it when I have some free time, they dont play the whole match but they do show the key hands, they could do the same with chess so that if a player takes 40 mins to play a move they can just edit it down so that games apear more fluid... unless the director wants to show the drama.

Bill Wilson

Post by Bill Wilson » Fri Jun 15, 2007 10:03 pm

The details of the BBC show

http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/10581

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Carl Hibbard
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Post by Carl Hibbard » Fri Jun 15, 2007 11:01 pm

Bill Wilson wrote:The details of the BBC show

http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/10581
Hmm, would perhaps pay money to download or see those again!

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Kevin D Plant
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Post by Kevin D Plant » Mon Jun 18, 2007 9:07 pm

I have somewhere in my attic Videos of some of these programs that i taped and also the world championships between Karpov - Kasparov and Nigel Short - Kasparov.

During this weekend i will see if i can find them and convert them so i can put them on my site and post the link here :D
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