Thursday, February 19, 2009

The other Master Game

During England's second innings in Antigua yesterday I was following the Guardian's over-by-over coverage when, shortly before the declaration, I read the following entry:
This story from Jeremy James may even be true, who knows: "Many years ago when the world was young and all our futures were before us (mine jolly nearly wasn't) a sadistic TV boss sent me off to get an interview with the West Indies team. 'And I want to see Wes Hall bowling to you.'

Cor. Wes was very decent about it, or so I thought until I saw him disappearing over the horizon. I didn't even have time to back into the side netting before my stumps were splattered - by an orange. Is this the origin of the word 'jaffa'?

Jeremy James. I know that name. "Sadistic TV boss". Jeremy James and TV. Surely that has to be the Jeremy James who presented The Master Game.

I sent my own email to The Guardian:

Reading the comment from Jeremy James, mentioning "a sadistic TV boss", I wondered - is your correspondent the Jeremy James, who presented The Master Game when I was a young chessplayer? If he is, he should know that a lot of people remember his show with great affection.

A few overs before the tea interval I had my answer: it was the Jeremy James who presented that great show.
Ay, guilty, I was that.
He added, perhaps a little obscurely:
Mixed chess is almost as lethal as mixed hockey. Forget those dreamy erotic scenes of a King tracing a woman's lovely naked curves; think being hit very hard over the head with it. Much, much more dangerous than an orange.
Ah, maybe. Anyway, his reply was accompanied by a rant the Guardian had received from one Jeremy Douglas:
Yes yes the Master Game. That was absolutely superb, back in the days when the BBC knew how to televise chess. But this arcane knowledge had been utterly lost by the time of the Kasparov-Short match. The key insight was to show the game AFTER it happened, rather than live as was inexplicably the case during the World Championship match. They also got the players to do a "stream of consciousness" commentary to give the impression of a live game and show you why they made the moves they did. It was straightforward and excellent.

I have no idea why the BBC and Channel 4 both messed up their chess coverage to quite the extent they did. The only thing worse than Carol Vordermann on Channel 4 was the Newsnight - yes, Newsnight team trying to cover the match on the BBC. I guess they thought "Oh these people seem quite intelligent, and you have to be intelligent to play chess, so these intelligent people would be good at covering chess even though they don't necessarily know the rules"... wrong wrong wrong... aargh... it pains me to remember it...
Up to a point, Jeremy. But isn't that rather unkind to William Hartston?


Jonathan B said...

A previous Master Game appearance on our blog.

Anonymous said...

I thought the BBC coverage was mostly of the parallel "official" Karpov-Timman match with the Gazza-Nosher stuff added on, wasn't it?

ejh said...

Not as I recall, no

Anonymous said...

I think you will find Karpov-Timman was definitely covered on the BBC, Justin.......

Channel 4 of course did not even deign to mention it's existence :-)

ejh said...

Of course it was mentioned - it's the "mostly" that's wrong.