30 June 2008

The Cone of Silence

The Chess Grand Slam continues to make progress off the radar. The page covering the Grand Slam Chronology (last update 13 May 2007) asks,

Have you ever wondered why chess players receive 10 to a 100 times less money than Roger Federer or Tiger Woods? Or why even 2600+ rated Grandmasters have to worry every day about paying bills and supporting families? Answering those questions is not as easy as it seems. The main cause is that chess is lacking sponsors.

Why is chess lacking sponsors? One reason is that chess organizers are hopeless at publicizing their events. Why would any sponsor want to drop $500K into the cone of silence that surrounds professional chess. I'll use the latest announcement on the Grand Slam as an example.

First, the announcement Chess Grand Slam Final in Bilbao is undated. Is this recent news or old news? The copyright notice at the bottom of the page says 2007, but Google dates it to '15 Jun 2008'. That makes it recent news, but good luck trying to find a mainstream news service that picked it up.

Second, the article starts, 'Since the Mtel Masters in May, there have been many rumors around the Chess Grand Slam.' Assuming that's May 2008, I read a lot of chess news and I hadn't encountered a single 'rumor' anywhere. I even went looking for news on the Grand Slam when I wrote, 'What happened to the Chess Grand Slam?' in Ivanchuk Wins 2008 M-Tel Masters (23 May 2008).

Third, the three news items (rumors?) in the announcement are

  • 'There will not be a Chess Grand Slam tournament in Mexico City.'
  • 'The Chess Grand Slam in Bilbao will take place 1-13 September 2008.'
  • 'Seattle will join the Grand Slam Chess tournaments in 2009. [...] China is one of the candidates to join in 2010.'

Which of those items is the most important? I'd say it's the second, especially since the prize fund will be Euro 400K. So why does the piece start with the bad news about Mexico City? Why even mention Mexico City?

Revealingly, the subtitle of that piece (just after 'Chess Grand Slam Final in Bilbao') is 'exclusive information update'. This gets to the heart of the issue. All of these chess news web sites -- no names, you know who they are (and I don't mean TWIC) -- are vying with each other to be the first reporting chess news/rumors. Their main objective is to scoop the others. Not a single one of them is interested in getting the news/rumors to a wider public.

No news means no interest. No interest means no sponsors. No sponsors mean no money.


A few days after announcing the Grand Slam Final, the same news/rumors site published Mexico City Open Letter (subtitled 'Cancelation of the Chess Grand Slam in Mexico'; Google: 17 Jun 2008). The 'Open Letter' (dated 16 May 2008) by Hiquíngari Carranza, the (ex?)-organizer of the Morelia side of Linares/Morelia blaims, 'the disastrous handling of the World Chess Tournament in Mexico City, in which, as you know, I did not participate', when 'the chess world in Mexico was severely damaged'. • What 'disastrous handling' is he talking about?


Tom Chivers said...

Yeah. Chess badly needs a PR agent. Or the Wu Tang Clan.

Ryan said...

A case of chess shooting itself in the foot when it could be blowing it's own trumpet?

Why do we always get it wrong? Is chess destined to be ignored by the wider media forever? sigh...