20 November 2016

World Championship Sociology

If The Sociology of Chess is 'the study of social behaviour or society', what can we learn from the World Championship match currently taking place in New York City? In my previous post Chess on 'CBS This Morning', the latest in a long running series of chess videos that I call Video Friday, I mentioned that 'I had plenty of clips about the ongoing Carlsen - Karjakin match to choose from'.

Many of those videos are single game analyses by top players of the ins-and-outs, the twists-and-turns as a game progresses from the standard start position to one of three possible results. Many of them are highlights from the live broadcasts produced while a game is being played. Many of them are interviews of the key people involved in the match, including the two main protagonists themselves.

Surprisingly few of those videos show the spectators, the everyday people whose collective interest makes the event worth playing and worth broadcasting. I went back through the dozens of videos I looked at before selecting 'CBS This Morning' and found only a handful worth mentioning for this current post. Here's a screen capture from one of them. It starts with interviews of people milling about outside the match venue, then switches to the crowd of spectators.

Russian and Norwegian battle for world chess crown
(youtube.com; AFP news agency)

The scene shown could be taken from almost any event where people get together. Until the camera pans around to the wall they are watching, there is absolutely nothing in the photo that indicates these people are following a chess game.

The following embedded clip shows the tailend of the second game. It fell on a Saturday and was the most heavily attended game of the six that have been played so far.

Carlsen - Karjakin, 2016. The 2nd game, after the press-conference. (2:19) • 'New York 2016. World chess championship (for www.chess-news.ru).'

The scene takes place in the same room shown in the previous photo. Reports said that free tickets for use in any game were distributed by the organizers, and that many were used for the second game. Nearly three weeks ago, when I was preparing a post about World Championship Broadcasting, I looked at ticket prices and noticed that game two was already sold out.

Not shown are the tens-of-thousands of spectators -- I doubt that it reached hundreds-of-thousands -- who were watching the game online at the same time. I have no idea how I would measure or portray that interest. I'll think about doing that for the next post in this series on chess sociology.

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