Good morning, Tuesday! As you can see from the pic above, I like things with lots of double-letters. Call me wweirrdd if you like…
So today is the last day of February! Where does the time go? Seems to me that only yesterday it was January 20 (Trump sworn into office–who can forget that?!)…Speaking of things that are a measure of time, today is the last day of my friend and colleague Stuart Conquest‘s 49th year! Tomorrow he turns 50! Enjoy, Stuart! Have a GREAT birthday!
Stuart and I go way back, longer than either of us want to remember. The first time I visited England (1985) I was paired against this skinny teenager in some weekend tournament and he somehow managed to draw effortlessly against me. My opponent, Stuart, was just 17 and clearly talented. Soon he became a grandmaster. Today Stuart is the director of the TradeWise Gibraltar Chess Congress, and when he manages to find some free time, he divides it between promoting chess and playing in a tournament or two…
The PR disaster in Sharjah
The first of four FIDE Grand Prix tournaments apparently came to a merciful end yesterday. Or so I am told…I had not seen a single game played in the tournament up to now because I have been so busy on some other projects and I just could not find the free time. So you could imagine my surprise earlier this morning when I read the negative reviews of the tournament published on some of the top blogs and twitters. For example:
I checked out what ChessBase wrote, as well as EuropeEchecs, and then Leontxo’s El Pais column. They all said essentially the same thing: the tournament SUCKED! I can not recall a single elite tournament being so harshly criticized (I am 62 years old) by the chess press. It is almost as if the chess press has stopped reporting, preferring to pass judgement instead. Perhaps we can not expect better in the age of Trump…!?
Congrats to Grischuk for taking first place! A great start to the year.
There was some doubt about whether the prizes were divided (3 players tied for first) and it was just assumed that the prizes would be split evenly by the players. Apparently this was not so, though only today has this been revealed:
However, there was a lot to criticize in this tournament! The players abused the lack of a ‘no draw offer in less than 30 moves’-rule and a full third of the games were short draws without any fight at all. Worse still, 3 quarters of the games ended in draws, literally killing the internet coverage of the event.
YouTube numbers (views) for the daily production of the Sharjah Grand Prix were the lowest of any tournament in years! Many of the videos have less than 100 views! This is all bad news for AGON, of course, as they had hoped to make money with their pay per view packages.
While AGON does not usually release viewer numbers (and if they do, they are thought grossly exaggerated) it has been learned that less than 400 people bought a viewer-package. That is 400 people in the ENTIRE world! Pretty pathetic, no?
Ofcourse, the chess press is wrong in pointing the blame solely on the organizers. While AGON has not been very successful in finding sponsorship, they do deserve credit in NOT cancelling scheduled events and losing money in the process.
Why not criticize the players’ attitudes?
What about professionalism? Or, especially in this case, the LACK of professionalism of the players. To criticize the organizers for NOT having an anti-draw rule is completey ridiculous! The players are not children…for so many of the participants to abuse the ethics of sportsmanship is a scandal in itself. That the chess press has chosen to ignore this aspect of the tournament and to instead pass judgement on FIDE and AGON speaks volumes for the quality of chess journalism that the chess world has been forced to suffer in recent times…
Generally poor internet coverage today
I have written numerous times on this blog of the poor quality of tournament coverage on the internet. Especially LIVE-STREAMING for hours and hours…nothing kills spectator interest more than endless shop-talk. For example, the TradeWise Gibraltar Chess Congress averaged a lowly 10,000 to 15,000 unique viewers each day of its 10 day event. (That is in the ENTIRE world). YouTube numbers, also, prove how ineffective the current model for broadcasting. When one of the most important tournaments of the year (Sharjah) registers double digits for some of its YouTube videos, then it is time for those involved in producing this boring content to either up their game or choose another profession. Because it is simply not working…