By DJ Allen
The Fantastic First Edition
Welcome, one and all, to the first edition of the New Chess Experience, exclusively produced for Lime Flavored.com. As you can imagine, I’ll be talking about chess in this column. Surprise!
Well, writing a column and actually having to research a specific subject can be quite enlightening. I was originally going to come out swinging at the fact that there is no effort by anyone to put chess on TV, or more so the case in this Internet based world, in video as a regular feature. Imagine my surprise when the research began and I discovered Xtreme Chess Championships.
The XCC (I don’t know if that’s what they call themselves or whether they ONLY use the full name, I am going to refer to them using the acronym) is, at this moment, an eight-player chess tournament between some of the younger American chess players in the country. A quick search of the names shows that the ratings of these players are all over 2000, which means that there is some legitimacy involved in this effort. If you want to see more (including their sole released episode to date), do a search on Facebook for X Chess Championships (also on Twitter and YouTube).
Originally, my article was going to comment on BBC’s Master Game TV show back in the late 70s and early 80s. The technology they used was top of the line for the time and the concept was brilliant as far as bringing chess to the masses. While the XCC is a nice concept, utilizing a portion of the Master Game’s technique, it fails to capture the game the same way or with the same impact. Too much emphasis is placed on the players in really boring interviews and very little emphasis is placed on the actual PLAY of the games. They are promoting the IDEA of chess without actually promoting chess.
Another attempt at bringing chess to a wider audience sees some of the same people involved in an effort called America’s Next Chess Star (or for the purposes of the show are just Chess Star). Some of the personalities are over the top and except having a chess themed atmosphere; almost nothing about actual CHESS is being done in a public way (or at least in an easy way I can discern).
I cannot fault BBC’s Master Game for not having the most up to date technologies in the twenty first century because the show no longer exists. We can only look back and fondly wonder what the show would have become if it were still on the air today. I would even wonder if chess would be as obscure as it is if the Master Game were actively running.
Roughly five years ago, I began formulating an idea about how to bring chess out into the public consciousness instead of languishing in the distance. My initial concepts related more closely to the WWE, where the games would be real but the action would be overblown drama. The idea of “World Chess Entertainment” to most people, I’ve since discovered, turns them completely away. My idea wasn’t to fictionalize chess; my idea was to make chess more of a spectacle.
Time passed and I realized that relating chess to something that wasn’t wholly an entertainment was a better bet. So, I began comparing the idea to televised poker, which is all about the actual game being played but focus on the player’s personalities is as much a focus as the game. Anyone who is a chess enthusiast, though, has been somewhat averse to poker. So, I’ve once again failed to reach the masses with my message.
Before I continue, I want to stress that the idea I have is to bring chess to a larger audience and expand the conscious to chess among the general populace. I don’t know how much on the minds chess is in countries that are not the United States but in the United States, no one who does not actively play that game (at a somewhat high level of competitiveness) gives a rat’s ass about chess. Period.
Now, let’s get back to my quest.
When I was introduced to BBC’s Master Game, I realized that what I was trying to relate chess to was leaving out the important factor of teaching the game to the casual viewer, who might be missing the point of what was going on. The education of the viewer was my missing component.
Since I’ve discovered the Master’s Game, and subsequently the XCC, I’ve reformulated my ideas for bringing the chess to the masses in an entertaining form. But wait, there’s more!
I’m one of the millions who has (relatively) recently left the cable industry and the satellite television industry in favor of getting all of my television entertainment online. I watch NetFlix, Hulu Plus, and I utilize the network websites for shows that aren’t a part of those two major distribution points. For anything else, I either wait or figure out another way to watch what I want to watch.
There is a major trend of consumers moving away from “normal” outlets of television and that means that the Internet is quickly becoming the “mainstream” as far as entertainment goes. Moving away from the stationary computer or even the laptop, entertainment is becoming cell phone (or tablet computing) based. That means my chess idea should be consumable in much smaller portions than I’d previously needed to consider.
I could go on and on about bringing chess to the masses in one single column but I think that would be overdoing it. That, and I genuinely believe there is so much more to talk about while I drop small tidbits more about this particular subject in the future. After all, if I’m going to be a chess columnist, I should do some actual talking about chess.
With Wilk an zee coming to a close soon, there will be more to talk about: like the upcoming World Chess Championship between Boris Gelfand (the challenger) and Viswanathan Anand (the champion), Dortmund, and the odd event that I can’t come up with off the top of my head.
After that, there is the numerous chess websites that are all about the Internet. But, I should save that for future columns.
Thanks for reading.