Here is a story with a curious date. It's about how Viswanathan Anand won the world chess championsip. He did this on a Saturday night. The story appeared on Monday morning.
Now I admit there's a certain pre-internet charm in that: in my day, you were lucky if you knew the football results before you saw the Monday papers. But this is 2007 and the BBC Online news service surely - and justly - considers itself as comprehensive as any in the world. So how come the story was reported so late? Was it:
a) because BBC Online has no regular chess news, despite covering all other sports in admirable depth?
b) because, indeed, somebody was reading the papers on Monday and realised they'd missed something important?
c) because they received at least one complaint on the Sunday night about the non-appearance of this story?
I'd put my money on a combination of a), b) and c). I'd also put my money on this happening again, and continuing to happen, until the BBC chooses to (or is persuaded to) include regular coverage of chess on its website. Which I've seen described as the best website in the world, a description which - the omission of our game notwithstanding - I think I'd agree with.
I've felt for a long time that if there's a crisis in English chess, it's not due to the absence of sponsorship or the ECF or FIDE or any of the other usual easy targets that people like to pick on. It's a crisis of coverage: it is barely in the newspapers, not at all on television and almost wholly absent even from the BBC, with the result that not only is the genuine interest in chess, that already exists, unappreciated, undeveloped and untapped, but no real attempt can be made to develop new interest in the game. To put it as Baudrillard might have put it: chess does not take place.
A crisis in Welsh, Scottish and Irish chess as well I would say...
But what can we do about it? What about a concerted campaign of letter writing to the BBC until it gives in? It worked for Doctor Who... :)
I dunno Ryan. Perhaps hat I wonder is whether the Great and Good could engage in a concerted approach. Britain's GMs, chess magazine editors, chess correspondents. I'll maybe get back to the matter soon.
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