On Chess: Chess press in the U.S.
This articl first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 27, 2012 - The television program “60 Minutes” recently featured chess superstar Magnus Carlsen. Magnus, 21, is the highest-ranked chess player in the world and the youngest person to ever be ranked No. 1. I have written about or referring to Magnus before.
Chess players are always interested when chess gets into the press. Pick up any chess magazine; and you will see pictures, articles and games of the top chess players, but hardly ever does chess break the barrier of the mainstream media. When a major television program has a feature on chess, chess enthusiasts all around the world take notice. It is even rarer to see a significant feature on one player, which makes the “60 Minutes” piece extraordinary.
When I lived in Belgium from 1988 to 1992, I was not surprised to see chess magazines at newsstands on the streets, especially if I was visiting countries like Germany and Holland. When I played chess in Amsterdam, the tournament results and information were on the nightly news. I once was interviewed by local Dutch media, and I even remember an instance where I was recognized on the streets in Leidseplein from a local who saw a news report on the tournament. Chess in the mainstream media is normal in much of Europe, so it is refreshing to see similar coverage in the U.S. like the “60 Minutes” piece.
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is one of the forerunners in the fight to get chess more publicity in local, national and international markets. Each year the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship are followed on the Internet live in more than 160 countries, and the U.S. media have been more receptive to media outreach over the past few years. The chess community loves to watch live games via the Internet, and U.S. Championship organizers hope a major television outlet will soon recognize there is a significant interest in chess and consider providing coverage of the event to a more widespread audience.
Magnus is an amazing talent, and I have no doubt he will someday be World Champion (probably in the next three years). I think we will see much more chess coverage in the mainstream media when an American (most likely Hikaru Nakamura) gets his chance to fight for the world title. Hopefully, we will see a throwback to 1972, when Bobby Fischer battled Russian Grandmaster Boris Spassky for the World Championship and chess dominated the headlines.
Ben Finegold is the GM in residence at the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.