Hoffman for chess in ESPN

11/6/2003 – Chess is at the brink of mainstream popularity. and who better to bring it over the edge than Paul Hoffman. The Harvard educated science journalist has been an editor at Scientific American and Discover magazine, and publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Paul is also an avid chess player who next week will comment on Kasparov vs X3D Fritz for ESPN. More...

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A Conversation with Paul Hoffman

by Howard Goldowsky

Chess is at the brink of mainstream popularity and who better to bring it over the edge than Paul Hoffman. Years ago, after playing chess religiously as a kid, he escaped the addictions of the game to attend Harvard, and to build a career as one of the premier science journalists of our time. He has been an editor at Scientific American, president and editor-in-chief of Discover magazine, and president and publisher of Encyclopaedia Britannica. On television, he has hosted science programs for both PBS and the major networks. David Letterman and Oprah have swapped math jokes and high-tech jargon with him on the air. And if the rest of his career isn’t impressive enough, this year Hoffman finished his eleventh book, Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight. His previous book, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, was an international bestseller.

On January 29, 2000, Hoffman played in his first rated chess tournament after thirty years. Shortly after, with the same passion to educate the layperson as he has had for science and math, Hoffman began to write about chess. He is a class-A player with a combined skill at chess and talent for writing that allows him to publish chess articles in such prestigious publications as the New Yorker, Smithsonian, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Time. (A complete bibliography of Hoffman’s chess writing is given following this interview.) This man, who has a personality for television, a passion to promote chess, and a deep understanding of our game as well as the technology emerging as humanity’s rival to it, is, starting November 11th, going to be the liaison between ESPN’s audience and our chess world. He will be a commentator alongside Yasser Seirawan for all four games of the Kasparov-Fritz3D match at the New York Athletic Club in New York City. We chessplayers, our game, and prospective fans, can’t go wrong.

Paul Hoffman and I met for a few hours recently in the lounge of the Novotel Hotel in Times Square, New York City. We spent the time previewing the upcoming Kasparov-Fritz3D match, and we discussed topics such as Hoffman’s role as commentator, and the related issues of computer chess and how to promote chess in America.

Here is the full interview with Paul Hoffman by Howard Goldowsky for the Chess Cafe. Note that the interview will be available in its current HTML form for a few weeks only. After that you can read it as a PDF file in the Chess Cafe Archive.

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