Monday, September 08, 2008

Improving the Image of Chess?

As I've said before, the last thing I want is for chess to become more popular - because that would just mean more players able to beat me, of which there must be hundreds of thousands alive already, if not millions. Not everyone sees it that way, of course, and there are even those who - for reasons entirely alien to the present writer - try to actually improve the image of chess.

Like David Levens, reports This Is Nottingham, who plans to run a marathon whilst playing six games of chess:
David is . . . taking on the challenge to counter rumours that chess players are nerds.

He said: "It's just something different. I was thinking of ways to raise awareness about chess. It gets no publicity because it's not classified as a sport, but it's very popular.

"I'm doing it to raise money for the Leprosy Mission, but particularly to make people aware that chess players are not all geeks!"
Goodness. It makes chess players sound a healthy, charitable and fun bunch, doesn't it? (Is that what we want in our opponents?!)


ejh said...

to make people aware that chess players are not all geeks

And how would this particular gimmick assist in that endeavour?

Anonymous said...

Popular? Having recently done some analisis of the new grades, it turns out there are only in the order of 12'000 graded players in England. That's about 0.023% of the population. Even accounting for the number of casual ungraded players, I reckon it's still under 1%.

That said, I don't think this particular feat will do much to help the image of Chess players.

Dean said...

I think there are a lot of people who know the rules of chess and enjoy playing friends and family, but have absolutely no idea about the chess scene, tournaments, grades etc. So I guess it depends how we define popular.

David Levens does a great job for chess in the Nottinghamshire area, and is just trying to drum up some more interest and publicity.

ejh said...

My Private Eye arrived this morning and I note that Pseuds Corner includes an entry by one Jonathan Rowson, in a piece about boxing.

I really don't weant to knock anybody who's interest is in promoting chess (as opposed to promoting themselves, by which I mean neither Mr Levens nor Mr Rowson, but do have a particular individual in mind). I'm just sceptical about gimmicks because I think people will just look at them and form the impression, not entirely without reason, that we're desperate, rather than that we have something of genuine value to offer.

I'd like chess to promote itself - to present itself - as chess, with all its fascinations and all its drawbacks. If it can't survive as itself then it can't survive. But I think it can.

I also think that there are many, many more chess players in the UK than the 12000 with gradings, but a very large proportion are internet players, or people who learned at school and have never played regularly. How to make contact with them - that's not an easy question to answer. But it is the question, I think.

There are two things in particular I'd like to see chess do. One is, get on TV. Even if it's only some obscure Sky channel at three o'clock in the morning, I think it's fundamental. The other is get a regular slot on the BBC site. I can't tell you how either can be achieved, but I'd be keen to hear anybody's ideas on the subject.

ejh said...

Talking of the image of chess, what in God's name is that tie Topalov is wearing? I don't reckon even Jon Snow would wear it.

Jonathan B said...

We put a damn great big fishbowl in the middle of Trafalgar Square and stick half a dozen of the world's top players in it.

That would get some interest I suspect.