Chess and the media – a discussion

by ChessBase
4/29/2005 – Ten days ago we published an article by former women's world champion Susan Polgar, decrying the tendency of the media – in this case ESPN – to harp on the negative stories in chess, when there are so many positive developments that are equally newsworthy. Hundreds of letters from our readers show that the article apparently touched a chord.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


After the original article by Susan Polgar appeared on our news page we started received letters in great numbers, and they still keep trickling in at the rate of a dozen a day. We forwarded them all to the author who was somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of messages – and by the fact that many were quite extensive. Some in fact are mini-articles on their own. In the second part of this page we bring you a selection of letters we received. But before we do that here's an interview we conducted with Susan about the reactions to her article and her general efforts to promote chess.

Interview with Susan Polgar

Susan, in response to your article we received hundreds of letters from chess fans, which we forwarded to you. Did you expect this kind of reception?

I am very happy to see so many people around the world sharing their views about this sensitive issue. Promoting chess is an issue that is very dear to me. Thank you for all your support and feedback. I do want to clarify one thing, though, which some people may have misunderstood. I don't have a problem with the interview and clip from Jeremy Schaap. My positive opinion of Jeremy is still there. I feel the pain for Jeremy. He genuinely seemed distraught and frustrated. I would not want anyone to say bad things about my Dad either. His Dad was a legend and one of the most well known sports journalists.

The point is it would be great if there are 20 other chess newsworthy stories from the media on TV in addition to this one. The problem is the other 20 chess newsworthy stories are not shown. It should not be one or the other. It should be both.

We all agree that chess is wonderful and beneficial for just about anyone. It can help youngsters as well as senior citizens and everyone in between. I hope the mainstream media now knows how large the chess playing community is. Perhaps more positive attention will finally be paid to chess. Volume speaks!

Sounds very plausible, but what concrete steps need to be taken? What will you yourself do?

"Little Women" team Jana Robbins, Josh Groban and Sutton Foster with Susan Polgar

I like to try new and radical things to bring chess to the fore front. Recently, I was invited to be the chess consultant for the off-Broadway play “Fit to Kill”. I accepted this offer because of my love for theatre and Broadway. Because of your write-up here and one on, the play got wonderful support and upbeat reaction from the chess community, which helped boost attendance.

Because of this, I was invited by Jana Robbins to attend the Broadway hit “Little Women” on my birthday recently. She is one of the producers of this hit show. Immediately after the wonderful and riveting performance, I was personally escorted by Jana backstage to meet the star of the show and Tony Award winner Sutton Foster. I asked her if she plays chess. She said yes and said that she would be proud to have her name added to the chess playing celebrity list. As an added bonus, while we were chatting, multi-platinum recording artist Josh Groban walked in to surprise all of us. Josh performed together with Sutton in Chess in concert in 2003.

So what is the moral of the story? The point is if companies are aware of the incredible size of the chess community, they will take notice and this will lead to new possibilities. That is why I am pushing daily to promote the game to the mainstream media. I will not give up until chess can match the popularity of other big time sports. And why not? We certainly have the numbers to compete.

Quite an experience. How can this help chess in general?

I have no doubt that there will be more co-promotional efforts between chess and Broadway. This goes for any other industry and I am positive it will. Persistent! Persistent! Persistent! The chess community is large and any industry can benefit from this co-promotional activities. In fact, I am working on a number of new ideas which have never been tried before. We need more creative efforts to bring chess to the next level of popularity.

Your optimism is clearly visible and contagious.

And I believe justified. Countless corporations will soon realize the fantastic benefits in sponsoring proper chess events. They can get so much in return for the money invested in chess just like in other mainstream sports. It is business. Corporations want to get good values for your money.

However, we must do our parts as well. National federations, worldwide chess organizations and FIDE must do more to promote the positive image of chess and all its benefits. They need to speak much louder. Chess players, chess professionals, and chess enthusiasts will all play pivotal roles in the growth of chess. However, we must put aside our differences, cooperate, unite and work in harmony if we want chess to hit the big time. Only then we can expect the mainstream media to change their attitude toward chess.

There must be a uniform World Championship system, something that the world can accept, understand and relate to. Otherwise, who would they cheer for? What is sport without its heroes? Can the average person on the street name the reigning World Chess Champion? I doubt it. In other sports, people can relate to names like Tiger Woods, Anika Sorenstam, Andre Agassi, Serena and Venus Williams, David Beckham, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, etc. We need to do the same in chess. Our stars should be much more positively exposed like Anand in India, Xie Jun in China or the Polgar sisters in Hungary before.

You are particularly interested in women’s chess, aren't you?

We definitely need to promote women’s chess more. However, it has to be done in proper ways and not by degrading or cheapen their image. Women can be smart and beautiful at the same time and we should not have to just rely on our looks. I am very disappointed that FIDE is throwing money left and right to try to fix this mess in the World Championship. And yet there is not even one bleep about the Women’s Championship. I have brought this issue up a few times with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Unfortunately, nothing changed.

I would love to have the opportunity to work with someone like Xie Jun to further promote women’s chess and bring good relations between the U.S. and China. I really admire what she has done for chess in China. I regret that we never had a chance to play a second match. Maybe one day we can have goodwill chess exhibition matches in China and the U.S. There are also many other women chess players that I would love to work with to promote women’s chess worldwide.

Another women event I remember was the Accoona women’s chess event. The idea was wonderful. However, the PR could have been even bigger. Not everybody knew about it. I remember people on the street asking “Who are they?”, “Are they filming a commercial?”, and “What event is this?”

Well, good luck with your promotional enterprises, Susan.

Thanks. I would like to thank everyone who wrote in and offered their views. I promise I will not slow down in my efforts to promote chess in a positive way. I encourage everyone to chip in and do their shares to help chess. I am working on a number of large and unique projects to promote chess. I hope I will be able to let all of you know more incredible chess news in the very near future.

Feedback to Susan Polgar's original article

Arbër Racaj, Lier, Belgium (originally Kosovo)
Very nice respond to a TV piece full of hatred, revengeseaching and negative sensation. Well done Susan - as a real chess fan I'm really glad you did this and I'm even also greatfull you did it. If an anonimous person as I am should try to react to this, no one would have taken the notice. But when it comes from you it's different, and you did it in a great manner and style and with a plenty of facts an truth to it. Congratulations and thanks,

Marcus Lemmond, Greenville, SC
I enjoyed your article, and I agree that in principle spending so much effort on a story where one attacks and provokes Bobby Fischer is easy to do, rather like kicking a mangy dog that can't really defend itself, but the rest of your article deals with the good things journalism COULD cover in chess, with lots of nice, happy, and idealistic angles a journalist like Jeremy Schaap could use.

But this just isn't the state of mainstream journalism today. Perhaps I'm too pessimistic, but in a society where COPS is one of the longest running and popular shows, where Jerry Springer and other trash shows bombard us in the daytime, and sex and violence filled dramas and sitcoms assail us at night, with real-life LA Freeway police chases sandwiched in between; it should be obvious that television media in our country is more concerened with the worst of human nature than the best. We delight in people's failures in life, and Lord knows Bobby has quite a few. So of all the possible chess stories that could be followed, the media will pick one where this great magnificent genius has fallen to some low due to mental instability and pressure. This way anyone watching can say "See, my life is much better than this supposed genius." and "Hey This guy (Bobby) may have a 180 IQ, but he thinks 911 was great and all Jews should die, so I guess I'm smarter than he is". And so on.

Maybe this sort of reporting does obtain higher ratings than a story about Lennox Lewis playing chess, or one about you and your sisters, but it strikes me as a wee bit sad, since frankly I'd be just as happy letting Bobby fade into obscurity. He's Iceland's problem now.

Speaking of you and your sisters, it occurs to me that rather than expect fair and accurate news coverage of chess events, more positive views on chess could be expressed though movies than anything else. Look at the success of the Luhzin (sp?) defense and especially Searching for Bobby Fischer. I think people would really enjoy a mainstream movie about how your family entered and dominated the world of men's chess, and maybe it would better prepare them for news stories about the game, stories that could actually be in a more positive light.

Johan, Copenhagen
The final paragraph: "These are only scratching the surface. In the Netherlands, the Dutch found that kids who play chess overall do 8% better in mathematics and science compared to kids who didn’t play. The statistic for girls alone is a difference of 12%" seems to be a classic example of reversed causality (of course, I don't know the specifics of the survey in question). It is much more likely that children who play chess (especially those who stick to it) are those who are already good at mathematics and science. These sort of erroneous use of statistics is incredibly common in newspapers every day.

Fabio Popowski, Paris, France
I loved this article madame, thank you. I play chess a lot, but I don't find the time to teach my little daughters. I think I will change that.

Brayden Soo, Brisbane, Australia
I totally agree with you about how chess does not gain the respect it should among the media and the public. An example I can provide can be derived from when I played chess competitively in school. I'm 17 and finished school last year. The school I went to was part of a system of private schools called GPS. The GPS schools play a very large amount of competitive activities, including chess.

Every week we hear reports on how each of our teams went, but when it comes to chess we are shunned in announcements. Physical sport seems more of a priority, but the thing is the activity who has the most players competing at the highest level are chess players. We have had teenage IM's playing, people who have played in junior individual and team world championships, and a national champion now as well. We are the only activity which can boast many players of international standards.

There have been many media announcements on other activities regardless of the competition and the results, but chess has not received the public recognition it deserves. We have also handed out many scholarhsips to our school in sport, music, academia, and public service, but no chess scholarship.

I was annoyed at all this in the five years I competed on behalf of my school, achieving first placings numerous times only to be forgotten moments later. I have since returned to my school as a volunteer in hopes to change how things are being done. I am pushing for more chess recognition and awareness. In the 4 months that I have been volunteering we have had more players than ever before. More tournaments have been organised for us to compete in, and more respect has come our way.

It is people like you who truly inspire me and give me hope that I can achieve something for the chess world. No matter how small it is. I commend you, and will be forever grateful to you for contributing the way you do to one of the passions of my life.

Darrel F. Bourne III, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
While I appreciated your article and the thoroughness of your research, I was left feeling that there were some critical points that are not addressed. Admittedly that what follows is mostly opinion and conjecture, but I feel very strongly about these issues with regard to the growth of chess in the United States.

First of all, with regard to Mr. Fischer and the ESPN story, I am in agreement that there was little to no purpose in the effort taken to produce it. Bobby has long ago been recognized as a tragic hero in the United States, as such there was no reason to rehash what it already known.

Bobby did more to generate interest in Chess in the US than anyone before or since could have. However,lets be realistic about what was the real source of the interest. If Bobby Fischer had beaten Ulf Anderrsen for the title, I doubt that there would anywhere near the interest. The point was that an American beat the Russians at their game during the height of the Cold War. That was why people were interested. As is typical, the person was elevated then brought down just as quickly in the pulic eye. However, I firmly beleive that Bobby hastened this fall.

My feelings towards Mr. Fischer are typical of others that I speak with. He was a great chess player, if not the greatest. I respect his ability. However, I personally cannot accept his racial hatred, regardless of how it manifested itself inside of him. I feel pity as opposed to anger. He should be left alone (extradition serves no purpose other than needless political motivations).

The problem is that with todays media in the United States, tragedy sells better than triumph. Your questions regarding why the triumphs that you have celebrated were not received as such in the U.S. is a valid and fair question. The answer is quite simply there is not enough of a population in the US that understands chess as a sport, and as a society/culture we have shown little use for that which we do not understand.

Which is a part of the problem with chess in the US. The US has turned out large numbers of youth chess players, so why is there limited mass appeal of the game? The answer lies in several areas in my opinion.

First, people just do not understand chess. I am rated around 1800-2000, and some of the motifs and moves that GM's like yourself play still baffle me completely. I have a freind who is rated 1400 who could not follow the commentary on the Kasparov-Deep Fritz match as it went over his head. I have heard comparisons to why Poker is so popular on TV, why not chess. The reason is that people can easily understand Poker. The rank of hands can be explained in a short period of time and novices can quickly see what is happening. They may not understand why someone bets as they do, but they definitely understand when someone has been bluffed out of the pot. Unless you understand chess, there is no equivalent feeling of comprehension when a sacrifice at h7 wins. Also Poker hands finish quickly, which leads to issue 2.

Chess games are too long to generate interest in todays MTV/Video Game US culture. Thus, Blitz chess is said to be the saving grace. The problem with this goes back to the first issue. If the general public does not understand the game when played at a slow pace, how will they appreciate it when played quickly?

My final issue again fall into the category of being a victim of the US culture, and that is there simply is not enough money in Chess to generate enough appeal to the general populace. Tennis and Golf Tournaments have sponsors that put up millions of dollars to have their name emblazened across banners at the tournament site and the players themselves because they beleive that they can get a return on their investment. The recent announcement of the tournament that Maurice Ashley is organizing is a step in the right direction, but until we find a way to maintain continual corporate sponsorship at a high level, we will not succeed at elevating the status of chess in the US.

For chess to achieve the accolades given to other sports, we have to market to the general population. The issue is clearly how to reach this population when in reality it has already been lost. The population that understands and appreciates chess is small in the US, and will continue to be so until there is similar money applied to the game as with other sports. Until the children that flock to play the game in their youth maintain that passion in their adult years, we will continue to lose ground. Unless a better marketing strategy is developed, better US (and worldwide) organization established, and charismatic leaders championing the effort, chess will never receive the attention from the media (and thus the general populace) that it does deserve.

Edd Davies, Hampshire, UK
Maybe an new TV station should be introduced purely for chess and chess variants, (afterall, there are hundreds of TV stations nowadays). This would be great in itself, and would without any doubt lead to the main channels copying and having chess sports shows and things, but even if they didn't, chess would have it's own TV channel. That channel could be widely advertised and a great number of people will probably idly switch onto the channel and start watching, as almost everyone has some association with chess or some interest in chess. I'd say that the channel should be free and sponsored by advertising as only people already interested in chess would pay to watch the channel. Also, by having companies use the advertising space on the channel, they would become very interested in the channel itself to assess it's ratings etc, and many sponsors would very likely arise for tournaments etc. Hope this might add to the ideas that could help chess.

FM Taibur Rahman, Bangladesh
Your reaction and report on this site is so impressing that I am now translating for my country newspaper. I really like your effort to popularize chess not only in USA but worldwide. Why don't you start a world tour on this isse? The chess lovers from all over the world will love it! Keep writing like this.

John Perry, Palo Alto, CA, USA
I am a college professor. Between classes, rather than hiding out in the faculty lunchroom, I play chess at two of the campus cafes and have sponsored the college chess club when I've had the time. Playing chess with students also gave me the chance to talk about life while playing skittles.

Susan, I think you are terrific and I like the way that you put the emphasis on the fact that chess, above all, is the play of the spirit. It is fun! Yes, it has a serious competitive side but it also draws people together who seemingly have nothing in common. Chess can produce joy in everyone from club players who delight in occasionally knocking off a "big cheese" expert of master to rank amateurs who converse over a casual game to World Champions. I think it enhances intellect and the unity of human beings. You are doing a great job.

Jamshid Begmatov, Tashkent, Uzbekistan (Economic Analyst, European Commission's office in Tashkent)
From the pure chess point of view, I really appreciate and even admire what Susan wrote in this beautiful article. All is correct -- chess is great for kids, chess can bring millions together, chess is a drug-free sport, chess offers many many other benefits to mankind... That is how we want people to view the world of chess. But my professional involvement in chess and chess journalism during the last few years opened my eyes to the mean human side of the chess world. I will not touch the issue of Bobby Fischer here for I think everybody has his own opinion and none is 100% right, but will give a few examples from my experience.

In the developing world there is a certain level of fraud and corruption in virtually all areas of human activity, including chess. Well, when, out of sheer desire to help, you ask a friend from ChessBase to send training programs for free for a chess school which otherwise could not afford them, and the school principal receives discs from you and swears to not make a single copy from them, and then you learn that he is making pirate copies and selling to students of that very school (my sincerest apologies to ChessBase for this). When you play in a tournament, and the chef arbiter comes to you and asks you to lose your last round game to his son so he can complete his Master's norm, and you learn from other players that the same happened in previous rounds. When a powerful person (who is also a FIDE official) forces the coaches of your national youth team to take his amateur-level daughter to the Youth Olympiad, and she hardly scores 2 out of 11 without winning a single game... When you see special tournaments organized for a single person to complete a FM norm, and many respected players lose their games to him for a compensation... When you do live TV coverage of a World Championship match, and your partner, who is a strong player, takes and pockets all your money from the TV studio's paydesk, using your passport details in the knowledge that you won't take him to court... When all this happens you think twice before you bring your kid to this world. Of course, these are just individual examples, and will not happen everywhere, but still, some of them are very very common in some countries. By writing this (if it gets published) I in no way meant to discourage people and especially children from chess, just wanted people to see the underside of it. And sorry I can't give any names, but all the above is true.

My message: play chess, learn chess, teach your kids chess, this most beautiful game and sport, but please try to avoid this dirt.

Steve Lopez, Maryland USA
Regarding Susan Polgar's piece on the Schaap "confrontation" of Fischer...I wholeheartedly agree with her fine points on the positive benefits of our game and her extensive list of celebrities and *positive* role models who enjoy chess. That's precisely why I find it so distressing that Bobby Fischer still garners the amount of attention he receives in the media. The man gave up his title, has played only one public match in over thirty years, and his public statements have mainly consisted of demented ramblings advocating his own questionable, warped views on world politics and religion.

Yet he still receives an ungodly amount of media attention. And we chessplayers have ourselves to blame. Just take a look at the number of Internet posts on the subject of Bobby which are made daily to Internet chess message boards and discussion groups. And the ChessBase website has to shoulder some of the blame -- look at the undue attention paid to every sighting of Fischer and to each sick (and sickening) interview he gives.

It's past time for *all of us* to give it a rest. By all means remember Bobby's great chess. But ignore the man himself -- if the media (including keeps giving him a soapbox, he'll continue spewing his venom and hatred. Let's concentrate instead on the people Ms. Polgar mentioned in her article -- people who will present a *positive* image of the game.

Roberto Manunta, Milan, Italy
I appreciate all your efforts in promoting a positive image of chess, but I don't think the so-called competitive benefits should be emphasized too much. Although competition is the easiest way for people to get involved in the game, I feel that it should be followed by a correct comprehension of how chess can improve everybody's life. This second step is usually left to the intelligence of the player (who somehow has escaped the treacherous "chess-is-a-complex-and-brainy-game" trap), and while a Polgar-Karpov match is a good first move to catch the audience emotionally, I wonder what move you would suggest for helping the above player make that second step - possibly a move as good as the first one.

Dave Kolarik, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
It is great to see mature, constructive and well-articulated viewpoints being expressed by top-notch players such as yourself and Mr. Kasparov. Bravo!

Giulio Francia, Toronto, Canada
I just read your piece on Jeremy Schaap at Sadly, it reminded me of the Annika Sorenstam story, which was front page news (on the Toronto Star) here in Canada. Back then I wrote to the paper criticising their story; as an example I stated that Judit Polgar was not only participating, but also winning "men's tournaments". It seems the mainstream media crave the combination of exploitation and ratings, rather than just ratings alone. The Jeremy Schaap farce is yet another sad reminder of that.

David Hardin, Gainesville, Florida (USA)
Susan, While I agree with you that chess should be newsworthy for its positive stories there are still tragic stories that must be told. The Fischer story on ESPN should definitely have been aired. People want to know why Fischer has become the person he is today, as tragic as that may be. Why does he hate the Jews and the U.S. and blame them for his own troubles? I think Jeremy Schaap, especially since his father knew Bobby, would like to know as well.

Roberto Giovannini, Milan, Italy
I think Susan's approach is quite correct: chess need to be treated as a great enjoyable sport and not as a source of pointless chats about oddities and strange behaviours of chess champs (which is unfortunately what happened so far in most cases: Fischer blaming USA, Kasparov histerical in Linares, and so on).

In marketing terms you need heroes and confrontations, people you like and want to support and competitors, just like in any other sport. To get TV coverage you just need some imagination on how to broadcast what is essentially a slow game (I don't believe that blitz or quick play is the solution): maybe TV could prepare commented "highlights" of tournament matches, in order to show entire games in a reasonable lenght of time, or maybe broadcast live only the final hour or so of play (although this may prove quite unpredictable), I don't know, but I guess the point is here and it should not be restricted to a chess channel or so.

Chess need popularity:the beauty of the game will do the rest. Thanks to Susan for her brave attitude and for being against the mainstream also in the Schaap affair: if it happens, Susan, congratulate Bobby for me and convince him at least to write about chess, if not to play again!

Dr. Ioannis Kerkines, Athens, Greece
Great article. I just want to add that another actress that has stated chess as one of her hobbies is Julie Delpy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset).

John J. Henry, Toronto,Canada
As a senior instructor at Chess & Math Association Canada I see first hand benefits of chess. Self-esteem,logic,social contact,planning,thinking etc.I have taught blind students,students who have Autism and many other handicaps but the common thread is they all love Chess. I make it fun-puzzles,mazes,CVT-chess visualization training-etc.-anything to keep interest up-it works-some students I have trained for five years! The parents love to see their kids think and get away from video games-Chess fills that void perfectly! Chess is the perfect game for adults to slow dementia. Studies have stated this. Chess never ends and we as Instructors have an in-exaustable resoruce,we are very lucky for Chess has surved centuries and will continue to do so.

Michael Bartlett, Chatham, England
I am a filmmaker and run the popular independent filmmaking website I love chess and used to play at a 2266 unofficial rating when I was 17. I am now 28 and falling in love with the game all over again. My groom's cake at my wedding is even a chess set! I have had an idea to make chess more popular, and also women's chess. I want to shoot a documentary film that follows around a player. The player can be in the midst of preparing for a WC match, a tournament, anything realy. Documentaries such as SpellBound, Super Size Me, etc have done well recently, and I think such a documentary on women's chess would be very very interesting. What do you think? If you like the idea and have a filmmaker in mind, feel free to take my idea and pursue it. However, I would love to direct this kind of project with your help. All the best - let me know what you think.

Gideon Giwa, Warri, Nigeria
This is wonderful. When will people like you in be in charge? I see Chess doing a lot for mankind and we the global body to deliver that. It will be nice to see how we can get more media attention and am sure we will! The opportunity to be a better person is so enormous, academically and socially. I am a product and so is my immensely talented younger brother. We are just the average Nigerian, but men, the fun of playing and discussing chess with our numerous chess friends, including former national champions - Bunmi Olape and Adebayo Adegboyega - can never be described. Though, we are apart now, where I practice my Geology a few hundered kilometers from where my brother intends to practice Medicine, any family reunion is an opportunity to blitz away all night. Susan, if and when I do take a retirement (if possible now), I will really love to do a lot to promote chess teaching globally. Please keep up the good works and know the international chess community stand by you and to Chessbase - you guys sure possess a global followership and you are doing a good job.

Jon, Houston, USA
I am a 21 year old, who has a 11 year old brother. Teaching my little brother at the age of 8 the moves of Chess he learned very quickly. I could see a good change in his thinking about everything he would do in school, paying attention better and becoming a better student. I know Chess has had some influence in his life and I am proud of my little brother.

In my own life quickly, I have been working constantly to have money saved up to go to college, while playing Chess. I have suprized myself in picking up on a 2nd language and a 3rd. I know my mind is ready for college now. I believe strongly that my memory had increased and whatever challenges that bring I have been able to make reasonable decisions for my future.

Chess needs to be everywhere! In all schools for Children, at the YMCA's, etc. I've noticed by teaching young people that they are very drawn into Blitz Chess. THAT would bring in tons more students for Chess. I hope one day that more celebraties would be able to get together with young strong Chess kids and adults to play a Celebraties VS the world, which hopefully would inspire ESPN to broadcast live and attract other news.

I thank you very much Mrs. Polgar for what you are doing for Chess. I believe someday very soon Chess will be well respected in the later future and get the attention it is well past due.

Frank Johnson, Minneapolis, USA
While the Fischer story may not have put chess in the best light, it was certainly enlightening to some. I saw it with several friends, none of whom know anything about chess, but it caught their interest immediately. In order for chess to truly become popular in the mainstream, the world needs to know something about it. Just like the introverted, bizarre athletes (Ricky Williams comes to mind), people want to hear about Fischer. I don't agree with about anything Fischer says, but if it gets people talking I'm all for it.

George Simon, NJ, USA
The article is very good, but will people other than chess fans read it? It has to be reprinted by a few major publications to actually make ripples. Somehow chess in the US has become a club activity, while years ago it was a popular hobby, with major newspapers running chess columns. Getting back to that situation would be great. Perhaps Fischer Random chess could help? Of course, demonizing its inventor helps nothing and nobody. But it is a very sad reality of our time: the media always favors negative stories over positive ones.

Lawrence, Las Vegas, NV
There are many problems in the chess world but one main factor is in it's presentation. Many people feel that it's history is boring, dull, and offers no real, "fun," like other sports. It's history is in private hands and not even the average person can enjoy rare photos, scorehseets, letters, like other historical subjects. If collectors, historians, and players came together maybe all of us can inspire more people to play the great game and to understand it's roots. Now the only thing we can really enjoy is the memorabilia and the arifacts that have surrounded this game. By publicizing chess memorabilia, i.e. chess sets, photos, documents, into libraries, museums, and the internet, many more people will understand that the greatest of all minds have onced indulged themselves into the finest board game ever created.

Charles Hall, Orlando, FL, USA
A very powerful, very thoroughly researched, and extremely enjoyable article! A survivor of a kidney transplant at 10 and spinal fusion at 13, and still going strong at 40, I am infinitely grateful to my father for introducing me to chess and encouraging me to be active in club and tournaments. I have been blessed with countless friendships, confidence-boosting peaks, and humbling valleys, and I fully agree that the mental processes that drive the human chess engine translate to increased successes in school and life. I live in an area where there are several nationally celebrated chess playing youths that exhibit not only excellent board skills, but display well-advanced intellect and maturity at all times. In few endeavours do you find children with prodigal skills also so well behaved and down-to-earth as chess. Susan, I am looking forward with happy anticipation to future articles on with your signature.

David Cairncross, London, UK
I just wanted to say how welcome Susan Polgar's comments are. Since the only things the press deem 'newsworthy' are its morbid fascination with Fisher & his more extreme opinions or the endless arguments over the classical world championship - it's no wonder that international competition is struggling for sponsorship. Yet, at the same time, chess continues to flourish at grass roots level, and for that all fans of the game should be truly grateful - in no small part due to inspirational figures such as Susan Polgar - let all the cynics and detractors of the chess world take note!

John Dendy, Atlanta, GA
I disagree with Susan. Regardless of Fischers ability, his behavoir makes him fair game. He has sullied his reputation and I find his racist attitude and his anti-US remarks offensive. I admired him many years ago, but I am no longer am interested in what he says or does or where he goes.

Timothy P Connolly, Queens, NY
I couldn't agree more! Media should play a bigger role in promoting chess. And by the way, Happy Birthday Susan!

Eddie Moore, Ripley, MS
I read your article and it was interesting and I very enjoyed it. However, I don't agree with your premise that Schaap went to Iceland just to confront Fishcer. I saw the entire interview and it would have been hard to ignore Fishcer's anti-semtic rantings. I think too long people have given this unbalanced man a pass when it comes to his child-like, over the top behavior. I realize he is probably a very sick individual emotionally and mentally, but he still should be held to some account for his outlandish behavior.

I really think you missed the point. It was Fischer, not Schaap, that is the real problem here and it's time that people, especially world class chess masters, stop condoning the actions of this selfish individual. Yes, indeed, he is no doubt a great genius of chess, but he is also a self centered and very egotisical individual who has harmed Chess as much as he has helped it. I applaud Shaap and support his actions entirely. It's time Fischer, as a high profile representitive of a game we both cherish, is held to some account for his actions.

I think it is pretty telling that you use the phrase "the big bad USA" in your article. What's up with that? I saw nothing in the interview to lead you to such a comment. Do you hate the US as so many do out of jealousy? If so, then why not leave and go to a more suitable country for you? I amd sick and tired of you celebrities who come here and deride this great country and then, hypocritically, attempt to profit from it. I followed the first Fischer match and I was proud of him for beating the Soviet hegemony single handedly. It was a great feat and caused me to become a lifetime fan of Chess. I do hope some day America will field a world champion, unlike Morphy and Fischer, who are mentally balanced as well as great champions. Schaap was in the right here, just as America is in the right in Iraq, in trying to challenge this immature, egotiscial anti-semetic bigot. He should be the shame of all rational and free thinking chess players for his political ideas. Just because he is--or was--great at Chess shouldn't give him a pass to break the law and spew venom about Jews.

If you are truly concerned about the image of Chess and getting postivie stories about Chess then I would suggest not rationalizing the actions of this hateful, self loathing man. He is a very poor representive for a great game. I am very glad that Chess now has a remarkable man as the new image of the game for most. Garry Kasparov has done far more for chess than a score of Fischers. It's no coincidence that the game has increased dramatically while he was world Champion. I long for an American Kasarov--not another Fischer.

Robert Giffords, Eagle, ID
I also had hte opportunity to see Mr. Schaap's report, and I strongly disagree with GM Polgar's opinions regarding it. While she makes a great point about the many other stories available in the chess world, it can'tbe denied that to the non-serious chess player in the USA Bobby Fischer is THE story. GM Polgar mentions the 1990 Miracle on Ice US Olympic Hockey Team, and thats a great comparison -- GM Fischer's championship in 1972 was the chess equivalent (in the USA at least) of the "Miracle on Ice". As such, GM Fischer's behavior and actions since then would be similar to one of the celebraties from that hockey team (Mike Eruzione, say) later espousing virulently anti-semetic views, anti-USA rants, etc. Such actions would certainly draw madia coverage, so it shouldn't be any suprise that GM Fischer attracts such (sadly bad) publicity. I do not believe the piece had anything to do with "provoking" GM Fischer (as she notes, that is not particularly difficult). It did have to do with covering what GM Fischer has done since his historic match, and where he is at today. There is no question this is newsworthy, and both ESPN and Mr. Schaap did a fine job of presenting the material.

Lefteris Samaras, Athens, Greece
I really appreciate what you are doing for Chess and its a real blessing that people like you exist in these grey days. I am considering chess as an Art, an artistic game that has unlimited nature, unlimited beauty. Please continue what you are doing, from your position you can do much more than us. After all you are our Queen!

Alex Herrera, Fairfax Virginia USA
I loved Jeremy Schaap's piece on Fischer. For Jeremy it was about finding a man that was practically a son to his own deceased father. All the kindness Dick Schaap showed for Fischer through out the years was laudable. Jeremy was not mean spirited towards Bobby, if anything the whole episode left him sad. Also, Jerremy wasn't hounding Bobby. On the contrary Bobby needed to get back to Jeremy by addressing him over and over, as if to confront his past. The whole piece gave me an insight as to where Fischer is at this time, after 9 horrible months in detention. It seems that he is in a worse place than before. Dick Schapp said that Fischer didn't have a sane bone in his body. I believe that this statement sprung from an enduring affection. Tha alternative is that Fischer is not insane, in that case he's evil.

Jan Zvolský, Prague, Czech Republic
Thank you for your interesting article, I do agree with the opinions on chess as a tool, which helps anybody to improve themselves in various subjects such as memory, writing, reading, planing, concetration, patience etc. I started to play chess when I was young (at school), then I didn´t play much until a day, when my brother was given a computer program on chess (Playstation) and I started not only to play again, but I also begun to learn from the progam´s lessons and I was improving and eventually fell in love with the game. I actually didn´t believe that you could get better in chess (I thought that either you are gifted - then you play well, or you are not, then you simply aren´t good and probably shouldn´t play), but I was wrong, now I know from my own experience(I am 23 and started to study and play chess a year and a half ago) that anybody can get better at anything, you just need to find out how. And I guess this doesn´t count only for chess! So I really appreciate your effort to popularize chess, I think many people might benefit from that all their lives. Two thumbs up.

PS: I recently had to visit a psychiatrist and now I am fine, partially thanks to chess. Because I am never that much calm and relaxed, like I am when when sitting at the chessboard, trying to find the best move.

Suneet Singh Mausil, India
I may not be a GM, even rated, but that didnt stop me from getting high returns from it! It changed my personality, my outlook, my thinking, my perception, in short it changed me. this webpage can give u a brief view about how chess can change a life! An introvert like me has started making confident moves in the game of life!! Please don't promote chess as just a sport, its a lifestyle and should be promoted that way!

Harvey Mintz, Manchester Center, VT
Enjoyed your article - is is indeed unfortunate that the US press seems to only publish negative sensationalist articles about Bobby Fischer, and perhaps occassionally mention that Lennox Lewis plays chess. I was a little surprised to not see Akiba Rubenstein mentioned, as if I am not mistaken, he was Arthur Rubenstein's father. Also wasn't Taiminov a world-class pianist as well as a candidate for the world chess championship?

Alan, Las Vegas
Susan Polgar's has written an excellent article, but it neglects the negative effects from the major chess organizations. All sporting events have to deal with the media, but some promote themselves better than others. The most newsworthy events usually have to do with championships of some sort. What can be said about the inability of the chess community to hold widely accepted and regularly scheduled championship events? In my opinion, the Kasparov man-machine matches were very popular because they were actively and inteligently promoted. I saw many interviews with Gary in the mainstream media prior to the event. Unfortunately, this type of promotion is the exception to the rule. It might be more productive to fix this shortcoming, rather than rail against the media.

Edgar Calvelo, Napa, CA, USA
Dear Susan, thank you for your article in the ChessBase. I admire and salute you for what you have achieved and are doing to promote and help the young people learn and enjoy chess.

Mickael Desse, France
I think that chess is the best way to show to someone our passion. It's the way to be together, without exclusion and reject, chess is life

Mark McCardle, Phoenix, AZ USA
Considering there is not set schedule for chess, no season, so set of governing bodies that determine who was the best player of the year, chess still has recieved a good deal of positive coverage in the media. Man v. Machine matches recieved good coverage on ESPN. Can ESPN or other networks even provied better coverage than is being offered now by internet outlets? If the coverage isn't a benefit to those who are interested, why should it be covered. If not covered, they could recap. What? Give them one event each year that needs recapping. Football gets lots of bad press, much, much more that chess could ever hope for. But every year in January (for how many years in a row?) they've played the Super Bowl to determine who is the best of the year. The Bobby story was news, deserved to be covered, and most likely helped chess. How many out there will do a little research and follow this years world championships?

Suresh Chandra, Kanpur, India
Chess is a beautiful game and the beauty of which must reach the millions. It must get the amount of appreciation that it deserves but the way it's been covered by media and other so called sports channels have just gone to shown that sport journalists have a complete lack of interest and understanding of chess. They have a duty as a journalists which they fail to understand. Take the example of Indian chess player P. Harikrishna currently ranked 51 with Elo ratings 2646, and his having a hard time finding his sponsers. He even said once that he might have to stop playing chess. It is only beacause the lack of awareness of the beauty of chess in our country, India that this situation has come. And who's responsible for this? It's the media there is no doubt about that.

Joshua Mankey, Pittsburgh, USA
Perfect. This should be a national article , not just on a chess website. Kudos.

Femi Lawson, Bonny Island, Nigeria
This is a well written piece. Particularly, about celebs and other people who play chess. it is comforting, educating,and encouraging to konw that i'm not the only one on earth.

Eric Peters, Tucson, AZ
Wrong!! Not everyone knows about Fischer and his current situation. For many, he is frozen in time back to 1972 as a hero. And as that "hero" people listen to him and may even give credence to his opinion. He needed to be outed. My only quandry with Schaap is that Fischer is obviously mentally ill; he should have left it at that.

Hrishikesh Salvekar, Pune, India
szia, Susan, csak semmi izgalom! Cool Down I think you are wasting yout time and energy for these foolish ESPN. I am 100% agree with you that they do not know for what they should give coverage. It is always there (many times All Over The World, with news agencies also) and you dont give importance to The ESPN. Try for some different constructive things, there you use your precious time. I congratulate you for your great performance on the top board, in Olympiad. Bye, vigyázz!

Rick Garel, Orillia, Canada
When Fischer and Susan Polgar played, was it Fischer random they were playing? It looks like it from the picture but it's hard to be sure.

David Couture, Westminster, Massachusetts, USA
Susan Polgar's column "Chess in the mainstream world today" was a good one. Her point regarding focusing on positive chess news was well taken. However, her list of famous chess players nearly negated the rest of the article. Joseph Goebbels? John Hinkley (the mentally unstable would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan)? Lenin? Please Susan, remove the names of the infamous and you've got yourself an excellent column.

Richard Huntley, Bow, NH
Thanks for taking on ESPN. I stopped watching the program because I didn't like the emphasis. Keep up the good work. By the way, we have girls in our club and one of them had her picture in our local paper because she was a girl at a tournament dominated by boys.

Greg Delaney, Menasha, Wisconsin USA
Susan Polgar's remarks regarding ESPN's "coverage" of Bobby Fischer while reporting nothing about several highly significant chess-related events shows exactly why chess is so meaningful: her commentary is insightful, well-organized, irrefutably logical, and well-planned. These traits reflect the inherent value of the game and what may be learned from it.

Valer Eugen Demian, Vancouver, BC, Canada
You are emerging as one of the greatest chess ambassadors in North America today. In moments of despair, or sadness for seeing so much ignorance toward chess like in this article, please remember that you are not alone! We fight side by side for educating people on the benefits of chess in the young life of kids, teenagers, as well as adults all together. You are doing the right thing and we stand beside you!

Lonnie Kwartler, Chester NY USA
Perhaps, to promote chess, Susan Polgar and others need not walk on eggshells with regard to Fischer, but should use the media's desire to report on Fischer to get publicity for what is being accomplished without him. More kids than ever are playing chess in the US without any encouragement from Fischer. People of all backgrounds, even Jews and Arabs, are playing together in the US where nobody is supposed to tell them they shouldn't. That is in contrast to the FIDE championship that took place in Libya. If stories that are positive are not reported on their own, maybe the media will use them with negative stories as a contrasting story twist.

Hans Jung, Kitchener, Canada
Chess supporters everywhere take note. ESPN's coverage cried out for a response! Susan was there at the right time and with clear and crisp communication of the many positives in chess! ESPN take note!

Steven Osaland, Norway
I am so excited to know, and I think I speak for all of us, how those games you played against Fischer went? How many games did you play? And how many did Fischer win?

Stephen Whitis, Dallas, Tx, USA
I can understand why Susan and others in the chess community would hope that the article would be more about chess. I can understand why you would like the mainstream media to cover more chess events. But bottom line, most people in the US didn't know that Fischer had been in prison for almost a year, and if they did, they didn't know that he had recently been given citizenship by Iceland. Most don't know about his demented ravings, his support of terrorism, etc. "Why focus on something that the whole world already knew and knows." That's the point. This was news - recent news about a big name. Most people knew little of his history past the last time he played Spasskly. And they told the story. Those of you in the chess community who don't like the coverage shouldn't blame the press - Bobby Fischer could get great press for chess if he tried. He's tried for years to not get any, and when he allows it to happen, he shows that he's a nutcase off his rocker. And you blame the media for covering what is happening to him. You should know better. But perhaps Fisher isn't the only good chess player who isn't rational.

Craig Gross, NJ, America
I am in complete agreement. I am dumbfounded by the inability of a major network such as ESPN to put chess on television. They have no trouble putting two people in a boat for an hour while they try to catch fish, but chess is boring? I do feel that chess needs to be edited for televsion, meaning it should not be shown live, at least not at first. America is still to fast paced for one entire game. However, turn it into a one hour or thirty minute show, and now you have something. News, reports, puzzles, updates, etc, etc. It would be fantastic!! All with the aid of the latest technology showing the board, and the pieces. Highlighting squares, using arrows, so the audience can better understand what is going on. Remember, you will have many different levels of viewers wacthing. Okay, I have rambled long enough. My point, is there is much more that any network can do for chess. Gosh, we all ready have the Game Show Network, and I believe there is another cable channle on the way that will concentrate on table games, Scrabble, chess, etc. Hopefully they do it right.

Jeff Querner, Terre Haute, USA
Susan, I think this world needs to leave Bobby Fischer alone. Let the guy live his life. This world focuses too much on the negative aspects of almost anything a celebrity does. We as a global society needs to try to focus on success and we as people from world over need to do a better job trying to contribute success to each other.

Stanislav, Boston, Massachusets
I think you wrote very profound article. Many times sport ( not just chess) is politisized and results are bend according to big media mood. i barely remember seeing any program about chess on TV these days even on ESPN that is why i don;t watch TV anymore. it much better to listen to chessbase radio or see independent web sites where you can get unbiased opinion. interviewing Bobby Fisher when the guy needs to be left alone is a ridiciulous idea in my opinion.

Lawrence J. Gagliardi, Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.
I think chess is the greatest game ever invented. It is because of Bobby Fischer that I got interested in the royal game. I was 28 years old in 1972 when Bobby Fischer won the championship. I have been playing since, and the only regret I have is that I didn't learn the game a lot earlier in life. I think Bobby Fischer is the greatest player of all time.

Bruce Martin, Edmonton Canada
I could not agree with you more. The whole world knows that Bobby is easily excitable and can be procoked at the drop of a hat or a word for that matter. This has been shown often over the last few decades. Can we not just admire him for his contribution to the world of chess with questions focused on subjects that are not volotile to him, rather than trying to get a rise out of him? I would love to hear him respond to questions about his life and his happy memories rather than his well known stance on the USA and the Jewish people. Those are the rantings of a madman, but his chess mastery at the board and the way he kept us spellbound in the 1960's is the work of a promotional wizard and chess genius. Thank you for getting involved. And keep up the terrific work you are doing to promte chess in the USA.

Nathan Bauman, Seoul, South Korea
I am a lousy chessplayer who is nonetheless a big fan of the Polgar sisters! I have to register my deep disappointment with the article, however, with the disclaimer that I have not actually seen the TV program in question, although I have read about it on the web.

In the first place, I feel it was wrong for the writer to judge Mr. Schaap's actions in such an uncharitable manner. Mr. Schaap is a journalist. He went to Iceland to cover a story which was waiting to be covered. Only Bobby Fischer is responsible for Bobby Fischer's actions and views. Provocation, real or imagined, has nothing to do with Mr. Fischer's own (and oft repeated) hatred and prejudice.

Second, I do not agree that the whole world knows about Mr. Fischer's rabidly anti-Semitic views. Much of the chess world at the non-club playing level does not know, in fact. Accordingly, Mr. Schaap was doing the world a service. Frankly, I am surprised that Iceland would want such a person as an honorary citizen.

I personally feel that Susan Polgar has greatly erred in writing this article, through the fault of her own kindness and gentle nature. Unfortunately, such gentle people often have a tendency to see sheep where there are actually wolves. The fact that the writer chose to use murdererous dictators and Nazis who regularly employed torture and the injudicious use of the death penalty, like Ivan the Terrible, Goebbels, Arafat, and Castro, to help publicize chess in this regard is very strange. At the very least, it's ironic that she then criticizes Mr. Schaap for merely writing about one man's bigotry, while she has approvingly cited Hitler's right hand man.

Finally, Susan Polgar would like journalists to cover chess more positively. So would I, but why not praise Mr. Schaap for his previous coverage of the Kasparov-Deep Blue Match, and leave it at that? The condemnation of Mr. Schaap was unnecessary.

Frankly, if the chess world would get its act together (nor more racist world champions, no more unsportsmanlike behavior from world champions upset at little boys, no more never knowing who the real world champion is, etc.), maybe the media would actually cover the great game more positively.

Edward McDougal, Northfield, IL
Thank you for your articulate well researched article exposing ESPN for what they are doing in missing some tremendous opportunities for their own ratings and to promote and celebrate the burgeoning sport of chess worldwide. What a shame they missed this opportunity. I hope your article hits the right target. I've encountered you a few times and found you to be gracious and down to earth. I appreciate that. Nothing has gone to your head except wisdom and love for chess and its participants. My son, Eddie, ranked in the top 100 in his age group admires you greatly. And so do I. Don't ever sell out - keep speaking the truth.

Charles S. Bloodworth, USA
Most intelligent article written. Honestly, demonstrated Mr. Shapp's coverages as only semi veiled attempt to give Fischer honest interview. Then, you didn't dwell on it, but made positive suggestions of the many ways chess could be positively portrayed in media as it is played around the world by yourself and others. Then, in conclusion you mentioned celebrities. They say you get more bees with honey than sugar. You did it!

Julian Maltese, Los Angeles
Wilt Chamberlain was a chess player, who often appeared at the Santa Monica Chess Park. The actor Tony Burton (The Shining/ the Rocky pictures, etc) was Wilt's friend and chess instructor. Tony used to be a regular at the Chess Park in the 1980s. Edward Witten, the father of superstring theory and the man who some regard as the greatest theoretical physicist alive today, is an active tournament player.

Anthony Barreras, Atlanta , USA
Such class, and well put! Your truly a breath of freash air on all of this nonsense! It's a classy game and you represent it well! Thank you!

Rich Van Riper, Phoenix, Arizona
Susan, you're right that the TV media is the route to go to promote chess in the USA, and all those celebrities can be key to attracting an audience. Many cities receive up to 1000 tv cable or satellite channels that include cooking, gardening, do-it-yourself, exercise, and other special interest shows; why not a chess channel?

Victor Hsu, Vadnais Heights, USA
I totally agree with you that chess can be shown in a more positive light, I think the media really hit chess hard when Kasparov lost to Deep Blue, and since then, a large portion of the world believe that people are not as good as computers. Its depressing because it shows that those people cannot appreciate human creativity as much as before. Although we may not be capable of 200 bazillion calculations per second, I think the most fun in chess is not seeing if we can beat raw calculating beasts, but in playing each other and meeting mind to mind, having a good game. I liked this article a lot, and I wish the general public would support chess in the same light.

Murray Baxter, Sydney, Australia
You rock Pol, still like to hear about how "Young Polgars" used to play the version of Kings Gambit where you would push out the bishop early, eyeing of blacks F pawn. I really think the first network to realise chess potential, as you point out, will make big bucks. Isn't that what post it notes are like - why didn't someone think of it earlier? WRT Bobby its obviously the dumbed down journalist approach, or maybe the editor?

Mark Spalding, London, UK
I was interested to read your thoughts on Jeremy Schaap. Whilst Bobby Fischer's anti-semitism is widely known,mainly because of his desire to promulgate his views,it is still valid to challenge these views. Just because Bobby Fischer was an extraordinary chess player does not mean his views should not be challenged. For too long the chess world has indulged this unhappy, bitter individual and his chess prowess should not be permitted to become a platform for anti-semitic rants. Mr. Fischer has created a lot of the misery in his own life by his inability to function and I do not believe this entitles him to inordinate respect,especially when his views are so despicable.

Robert LeBlanc, Massena, NY USA
Thank you Susan for this great article on chess. Thank you for using your notoriety to express what many of us think. You are doing a wonderful job at promoting the game of chess. I am doing the same at a much smaller scale. Together with the millions of other players around the world we might put this game back were it belong media wise, especially here in the USA.

Chris Brashers, New Bern, NC
Thank you for this article. The argument is very convincing. The problem is that the readers are already convinced. This needs to be read by the skeptics. As far as reporting on a network, the "masses" wouldn't want to watch a game that they probably don't understand, but results and other elements of the games/tournaments are exciting to people and could prompt them to follow chess. Maybe, just maybe, this could become as popular to watch as billiards and the like. Thanks again

Lennard, Mechlowski, Perth, Australia
I agree with what you say. The Bobby Fischer story has been done so many times that people, like me, are tired of the same old stories. We need new stories, of the current generation battling it out. I for one am all for females taking a stand and entering in men tournaments. As far as I am concerned they are equal. Mind you, back in the eighties, I was playing in my third state junior championships and I was leading until this girl came along and beat me. She also won the championships.

Leonard Dickerson, U.S.A.
Your article was excellent! More than just highlighting Schaap's ineptitude, you gave us the positive. I was impressed by your listing of public figures who have embraced chess and will use it to promote chess in my neck of the woods! (By the way, I was a TD at the SuperNat'ls)

Noah Spaulding, El Mochito, Honduras
I too watched the ESPN special about Bobby Fischer and I was upset greatly by it. I am an avid chess player and feel chess is getting a bad rap with the only media attention surrounding Fischer and his anti-Jew, anti-USA remarks. I believe a good network to contact might be HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. I wrote to them and told them a few great chess stories (Nakumara being the second youngest champion, Garry Kasparov retiring and entering politics) You also may want to contact them so that we can get some positive exposure about Chess.

Steven roseboro, Carson, California
I am an unranked chess player age 48 that began to regain interest in chess about 6 years ago, after not playing for over 15 years. The reason I am writing is because in 1972, I was 16 and playing for my high school chess team. Bobby fischer was a gigantic story in the world, and he was the idol of anyone that played in the us. It is sad to see the recent headlines, and I applaud your compassion for him as well as your criticism of the generally poor media coverage of a great game, especially for young children. I taught myself the moves and we would play all day. Continue your great work and stay positive, the game will outlive its worst critics.

Billy Wiseman, New Port Richey, FL, USA
That was a great article about Fischer and Schaap, I caught parts of the program. Granted, Bobby is not politically correct and is easily provoked, bit Schaap was a touch provacative. Maybe he felt that Bobby had slandered his father, who knows. Only Bobby and we'll have to wait on his take on this sad affair.

Thomas, Irvin, Seattle, WA
The problem with chess marketability as a spectator sport in the US (and I suspect elsewhere) is the duration between activity. The format of long tournament or match play chess is simply not conducive to the hyper-active, media obsessed, modern attention span. If the goal is to promote chess via a sports network, such as ESPN, I think the most marketable paradigm would be that of a Blitz tournament, with it's ensuing highs of hyper-kinetic activity. I would suggest following the models of other successfully televised tournament formats, such as the NCAA College Basketball tournament, whereby you would gather a rather large pool of talent, both favorites and underdogs and display a single elimination event. With sufficient TV sponsorship, I'm sure a lucarative prize fund would draw prominent participants, but I would be sure to include some local talent on the basis of exceptions or a selection system that would necessarily include champions from smaller markets in the US. The interest is certainly there, it is the format that is preventative.

Chris Major, Mountain View, U.S.A
Edgar Allen Poe wrote that "the greatest Chess player in the world may just be the greatest player of Chess". How true I think, when I look at Fischer. This guy is a nullity outside chess. But okay, let's be fair, being "just the greatest player of Chess" is quite a feat. It's like being the greatest painter in the world, no one expects the greatest painter to be good at anything else.

Regarding Schaap, I got an impression that was quite contrary to yours. Fischer provoked Schaap, not the other way around. In fact, I think there was much dignity in the way he replied to Fischer before leaving the conference room. That Schaap stroke back at Fischer is quite alright to me. The public has the right to see both sides of Fischer: the fantastic chess machine on one side, and a total nullity on the other one. And it's wrong to think that average Americans knew about that.

Regarding the benefecial effects of chess on scholar results. I'm sure there is somewhat of a truth to that, but I'm sure that - to a large degree - mathematically inclined students are simply more attracted to playing chess than the other students. So there could be a strong bias there. The only way to really tell would be to check the scholar grades before and after entering a chess training program. I think the greatest teaching of chess praxis is simply that there is no magic: you gotta be logical and cold blooded if you don't want to get into trouble. It's quite an excellent lesson. Unfortunately, it seems to me that Fischer never learned that lesson outside the 64 squares.

Finally I would like to add a little more evidence of Fischer's nullity. I read some Fischer biographies, and his notion that he is a self-made man is a total fallacy. Many adults spent a lot of time with him when he was a youngster, even before he became a celebrity. I don't think they ever got back anything from this.

Nap Lopez, Quezon City, Philippines
Below is the caption if your picture and Bobby Fischer published together with your article. "Susan Polgar playing friendly games against Fischer, June 1993 in Budapest. " Would you be kind enough to tell us what happened? Do you still remember the game and its moves? Thank you very much. And let me congratulate you for all that you do about chess. I also teach my kids how to play good chess, and I'm with you all the way in your efforts to popularize chess and get the media coverage that it deserves.

Eric, Farmington, NM,USA
You are preaching to the crowd at chessbase. Shorten your article and forward it to the NY Times, Wall Street Journal and ESPN.

Menashe ben Ezra, Virginia, USA
Just finished reading your article 'Chess in the Mainstream World Today' and agree with you 100% that the general press has consistently missed the opportunity to cover the positive and relevant aspects of the sport of chess.

But the press has also, by trial and error, learnt that each story must appeal to the widest audience possible -- and the subtleties of the game of chess are difficult to explain to the non-player (I've been playing chess for about a year and find that I am just beginning to appreciate the basics!). You make an excellent point in your article about how chess has a positive educational impact for children and I think that, in large part, explains the tremendous growth of chess at the scholastic level in the US -- but these types of human interest stories, in any sport, seldom get the attention they deserve. They get top billing before the Olympics when self-interested networks 'hype' the athletes -- but most of they are relegated to the back pages of the paper, or the second half of a the news programme when everyone has gone off to bed. Most of the time it's just good-old-fashioned Schadenfreude and fear that make a story compelling. Scandal and tragedy always get top billing.

If there is one thing that is universally more interesting than a brilliant champion who climbs to the height of great achievement, it's a champion's equally spectacular Wagnarian demise. Bobby Fischer combines so many elements of the heroic and tragic that he is a completely irresistible magnet for public attention. He's a lightning rod for controversy. His story is more powerful in the popular imagination than than the subtle sport he plays, and as long as he remains in the public eye this will always be the case.

The best thing for both Bobby Fischer and chess in general would be for Fischer to be allowed to fade into obscurity -- where the media would not feel compelled to provoke Fischer into his infamously perfect soundbyte outbursts, and the sport itself (and its other positive stories) could emerge from the shadow that Fischer casts over it.

All this said, you are absolutely doing the right thing -- that is working to promote chess and keep the focus on the game as opposed to the troubled personal issues of a past champion. While it may not have the same magnetic appeal for the general media, you are making a difference one chess player at a time -- which, in the long run, is a greater contribution to the game than any article or broadcast segment.

Dana Mackenzie, Santa Cruz, USA
Great column! Do you have any way of getting in touch with Jeremy Schaap personally? I tried to find an e-mail address for him or even a reply form like this one, but I didn't succeed.

I couldn't agree with you more about the need for the chess world and the media to move on from this very sad story and talk about the other great things happening in the chess world. If poker can turn into such a hit on ESPN, I feel certain that chess, if appropriately edited and made comprehensible, would also draw great ratings for them. To me, the reason the poker broadcasts work is that they show you onscreen the odds each player has of winning, so even viewers who don't know anything about the game can tell when someone is bluffing. ESPN could do the same thing with chess. Take a regular four-hour game, edit it down to thirty minutes with good camera closeups of the players' faces, and most importantly show Fritz's evolving evaluation of the position in a corner of the screen. That way even a non-chess player can follow the action. Of course, the commentators could always explain that Fritz isn't perfect, that Kasparov's pawn sacrifice may be based on factors that the computer can't calculate -- and that would only add to the drama.

If you have any contacts with ESPN, I hope that you can keep putting pressure on them and help them see that there is a huge potential audience for chess. Thanks!

Claus Vilhelmsen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Thank you so much for your comments on Jeremy Scaap's visit to Bobby Fischer and your comments on Chess in general. They are the best and most postitive comments on both issues I have seen for a long time.

John Torrance, United States
This hits the nail right on head. Until the Fischer situation is resolved it is almost impossible to get on television or have sponsorship for the great game.

Jonathan Kenny, Washington, DC
Thanks for your article, Zsu Zsa. Just to add a name to the list; Lavar Arrington, linebacker for the Washington Redskins, is an avid chess player. He once had a chessboard set up on the Redskins sidelines during a game. When the tv camera showed it the commentators said that Arrington had a chess room in his house and liked to play for three hours a day. As a teacher of chess in elementary school clubs, I have often wondered how I might be able to get some local sports figures to appear at a club or local tournament. I've seen this happen up in NY with some of the Knicks players. Any thoughts on this?

Donald Polanco, Aiea, HI
I enjoyed your article on Chess and the newsmedias coverage of it (ie. Jeremy Schaap). It was insightfull and I hope the media will take note of it. Aloha.

Mark Hulsey, NM, Texas
Wow! What a great article by GM Polgar! This article has not only hours of work in the writing, but reveals a heartfelt love for chess and lament for what those of us who have had to live in the US culture all our lives have known ever since learning to play chess...chess is not considered a valuable pursuit by mainstream US culture.

She is right that this customary US perception of chess is starting to change, because the children nurtured by the chess in schools programs developed by USCF 30 yrs ago have begun to grow up. In addition, there has been increased immigration into the US by peoples from many countries that have a more positive attitude toward chess (and intellectual pursuits in general), and this has enriched the US culture. But, overall, the US still has an anti-intellectual and definately an anti-chess attitude.

One more factor in shaping the attitude of a journalist like Schapp: it is NOT alright in the US popular media to espouse racial denigration. Any comment that even sounds like it might allude to a racial judgment is grounds for condemnation of its author. In this aspect the US is not tolerant. I do not defend Fischer's antisemitic conclusions, nor do I defend racial denigration, because I do not consider it logical. However, journalists like Schapp who go out of their way to attack individuals like Fischer on grounds of fighting racism are simply playing to the audience, jumping on the bandwagon, making soundbites. Schapp may even be personally offended by Fischer's remarks. In my opinion it would be more appropriate for a figure like Schapp to look behind the fierce Fischer front and ask why he turned this way. I suspect a thoughtful research would find that Fischer was mistreated by not only individuals in his past, but by the public at large through the paparazzi, not for reasons of racial identity, but for reasons that go to who we all are as a society in the way we go about living our lives at this point in history.

There is more progress to be made in society in how we treat each other. Fortunately there are kind, intelligent, and well intentioned individuals such as Susan Polgar doing the day to day popular work that will get us there. Having said that I admire Susan Polgar as a person, I would point out that it did not keep her from smashing me brilliantly in our chessboard encounter!

Duif Calvin, San Rafael, California
The number of participants has very little to do with sports coverage. Many 10K races have thousands of participants, but that doesn't mean they deserve more time than an NBA game that has only ten on the floor. And amateur events regularly draw more participants than professional ones. The Association of Contract Bridge Players always has at least 5,000 players at its national championships--all in one location, just like the chess event. Even the American Pool Players association attracts thousands of amateurs to its national team championship every year. So the fact that the SuperNationals draws 5,000 players isn't enough to make it a unique sports story. In sports coverage, it is usually quality, not quantity, that matters.

Tibor Weinberger, Santa Monica, CA
Your characterization of Mr. Schaap as a provocateur is not correct and besides the point, unfortunately. And that is because Bobby is obsessed with the world Jewish conspiracy and will not talk of anything else. Your ideas of promoting chess are laudable, but journalists will not and should not be guided, controlled is more accurate perhaps, in a free and frewheeling society such as ours.

Brian Barbehenn, Wilmington, DE usa
Good for you Jeremy Schaap. Its so hard and brave to make sense and converse with people that have pcychological difficulties. Especially when you might have some affection or connection in you heart to them. Your heart tends to override your common sense. You confronted your demons and cleansed the speculation in your mind, and at the same time confirmed your father's gut feelings. Nothing wrong with the gut, it most often leads to the mysterious truth. Don't regret what you do - regret what you don't do!

Armand Rousso, New York
Very nice article about Chess, one of the best I have seen...

Jason Liegois, Clinton, U.S.A.
I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with your article regarding the Schaap piece on Outside the Lines. (I just finished watching it myself.) I'm a chess enthusiast myself - although I haven't played any sanctioned tourney's I'de estimate my strength at 1000 to 1200 Elo. I want to go through your column as you wrote it.

First, I'm not sure Schaap went over there to "provoke" him at all. Schaap certainly didn't do anything to provoke Fischer's outburst at the press conference unless identifying himself as Dick Schaap's son is "provokative." I think Schaap showed tremendous restraint in what he did considering that Fischer was essentially Jew-baiting his father in front of a world press event.

Your next point, however - that there are a lot of positive stories about the growth of chess in this country and others - has quite a lot of merit. My only guess as to why there is not more coverage of this is 1. A lingering question as to how to properly package such an event for television consumption and 2. TV's normal bias toward drama and conflict of any kind over positive stories. I believe there certainly are ways to properly package chess for TV, delving into the process of the tourneys and matches, such as how NBC handles the Olympics and the Ironman Triathalon in Hawaii. Maybe it would not be a super sport, but perhaps on a level like arena football and hockey (pre-strike).

I also agree that the newsworthiness of women in chess is perhaps bigger than that of those in other sports. (big fan of your sister, BTW.) This needed to be better exploited and I can only think that they somewhat chaotic state of world chess regulation has something to do with this, and that not enough marketing effort is being put forward. However, it didn't help that Fischer pulled a disappearing act at the height of his fame and with wide interest in chess bigger than ever. For all the tomatoes you are throwing at the media for the lack of broad public attention on chess, save a couple for Bobby, too.

Why focus on Fischer? This is arguably the greatest chess player of all time and the greatest in the U.S. saying that the U.S. and Jews should be destroyed. People are naturally interested in why someone so smart became a total wack job (I said it and I mean it.) No one in hounding Fischer to make these announcements on radio. This issue would matter to a lot of Americans, many of whom would string Fischer up on sight if they knew all the stupid things along this line that he said. (Not that I'm advocating this.) There is a natural human interest story in such a brilliant man seemingly incapable of governing himself.

However, I know that chess can be brought to the media masses, using some of the examples you mentioned and others. That would be a superb thing to see.

Robert Slobodan Kirc, Clifton NJ USA
Your article was simply super. You promoted chess very well, and I wish other chess players do the same. Bobby Fisher was my hero back in 1972 and prior to than. There is no question that Jeremy Schhap provoked Fisher, alhough Fisher crossed the line many times without being provoked. Like you I was not born in USA. I was born in Yugoslavia as it was called then. My father was born in Hungary.I love chess and played since 6 year old. I left the country 1948 after tieing Ivkov behind Matanovic for under eighteen championship of Yugoslavia. In 1955 I was on a tie-breaker first for the championship of Toronto Canada with Geza Fuster. I did well in this country and get upsett when anybody talk bad about it. I wish I had more time for chess which I love very mush but the time past me by (I am 75). I know that you and your family are proud what you have done for chess. I had no vision how much woman chess players would have advanced in the last 30 years. Chess clubs in my days had none. It too bad that we had to come to provoke and confront the old man. I hope was not too long and good luck.

Bill, Nashville, USA
You are so right! I live in Nashville and did not hear one word about the great tournament held here until several days afterwards when I happened to be reading chess news on I watch several different news broadcasts daily too. This is a crying shame and is unacceptable to thinking people because chess is by far the greatest game that human beings have been able to create. What a great pasttime it is and benefit to it's lovers, win, lose, or draw. Thus, as those that should appreciate and promote the greatest sports game of all don't, I have an idea that I would like your opinion on. Why not try to start-up the chess channel. We won't need ESPN etc. if we have our own television channel to cover such events. Also, it could easily broadcast 24 hrs. daily with lectures, exhibitions, etc. I think that it would be successful because there is an intellectual hunger for the grand game as you just whitnessed
in Nashville.

Megan Esler, Portland, Oregon, USA
I agree with you completely concerning this broadcast. It was sum what disturbing to watch, and not the least bit informative. It just reiterated the rumors which we have all heard countless times concerning Bobby's sanity and his anti-Semitic beliefs. Although he may have had an enormous impact on chess, the impact wasn't necessarily because of his personality or even his chess abilities. So many people had grown up exposed to American anti-communist propaganda, and Bobby Fisher was a role model in the eyes of hundreds of young men. Sadly the increase in numbers of chess players during the years of Fisher did not last, and the numbers fell just as dramatically when Bobby stopped playing chess. Until people are capable of understanding chess beyond the stereotypes we've all grown up with, I think the media will address the aspects of chess that everyone can "appreciate" or at the very least, understand.

Poker, basketball, football, and other such sports and games are so simple and easy to understand. Unfortunately chess is not a very good game for spectators. I think the best way to promote chess is promote chess personalities (you, judit, fisher, Nakamura). Obviously some personalities have been promoted more than others, and in a negative light (in fisher's case) but I think there are a lot of young, attractive GM's that could promote chess all on their own. Quite often the competitors in American Sports are made celebrities, and then even if the sport is not enormously popular (golf), the players are widely respected and known.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register