The “Chess MasterMinds” show
The idea for the show was born in April this year, during the Supernationals Scholastic Tournament in Nashville. The producers of the television show met Susan Polgar and talked about a TV show that would take chess to the next level of popularity. They discussed the prospect of a long-distance match, and slowly moved on to a two-hour TV extravaganza. Russia vs the USA, via the Internet, with the national team playing in the studio in Nashville.
The studio setting, where the USA side of the event was played
This was the idea Susan sold to the TV network people, whose professionalism, knowledge of the industry, and enthusiasm for doing something revolutionary were very impressive. They on the other hand were won over by her personality, credentials and achievements, and her obvious passion for the game.
The electronic sensor board with Internet connection to Russia
The next few months involved a lot of planning, coordinating, and making the show happen. The players came to Nashville a few days early to test out the equipments and familiarize themselves with the studio setting.
The US team: GMs Alexander Stripunsky, Susan Polgar, Boris Gulko, Alex Onischuk
The TV producers wanted to give the Hollywood taste to the participants. They wanted the players to understand that chess does not have to be small time. The grandmasters were treated like stars. They were picked up one by one by stretch limo (Lincoln or Hummer), the players stayed at the Sheraton Music City Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville.
Transport for the players in a (would you believe it) stretch Hummer
Inside the Hummer Limo
Each player received gift basket when he or she arrived, and they had open charge privilege at the hotel. The players were transported by limo throughout the entire event, and during a tour of the city. Each player has their own dressing room and personal assistant at the studio.
A Nashville tour in another stretch limo
"The Gang": players, production and band during preparations for the show.
Part of the show was the very very talented bluegrass band Bering Strait. The members are located in Nashville, TN, but hail from Obninsk, Russia. They were the first Russian band to be nominated for a Grammy award.
The Bering Strait band in action
The idea came from the producers to combine chess and music and to reach out to both fan base. It was a genius move because it really opened a new door of opportunity.
Lydia Salnikova, keyboards, backup vocals
Natasha Borzilova, lead vocals, acoustic guitar
Friday was the day the players and the band met the media. Saturday was studio rehearsal day. A special set was created for the event. The players spent the entire day at the studio to make sure everything will work smoothly on Sunday.
Susan Polgar with the Russian bluegrass band Bering Strait
The players and the band were in separate studios, doing their preparation. The only interaction was with the media, the taping and here and there during rehearsal.
Setting up the chess, computer and Internet equipment in the studio
Susan Polgar trying out the electronic chess board
The setup – how the US team played against the Russians
The event is being broadcast via satellite worldwide (more than 60 countries and more than 30 major markets in the US) to a potential of more 300 million people around the globe. They also have Web TV for everyone else who cannot get access to the show worldwide which can add countless millions more. Full information is given below.
A friendly game between Boris Gulko and Alexander Onischuk
The show was taped with ten studio cameras in three separate studios (the players, the commentators and the live audience). It was the most professionally done televised chess event.
Taping a teaching session with Susan Polgar
There will be many more spectacular chess TV shows. The ultimate goal is to get chess on TV to a billion people, giving it the same popularity as other major sports. Perhaps it is a very lofty goal, but we have to shoot for the best.
For the above pictures and information we thank Paul Truong, who is one of the two expert commentators on the show (the other, for the Russian side, is GM Semon "Sam" Palatnik).
Where to watch
The two-hour chess show will be broadcast to a potential audience of more than 300 million people worldwide. The local channel number may be off. Please be sure to check or double check your local listing. The show will air on July 24 at 12 PM ET (NY time).