The greatest (chess) show on earth

by ChessBase
7/23/2005 – It is a two-hour extravaganza, which is theoretically viewable by a 300 million TV audience. A chess match between teams from Russia and the USA, playing against each other via the Internet. In the studio live commentary, and a bluegrass band called Bering Strait. You can watch it tomorrow on terrestrial, satellite, cable or web TV. Come and watch.

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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).

CITY TV Station Channel
Boston WLVI WB 56
Philadelphia WPPX-PAX 61
Washington, D.C. WDCN-UPN 20
Baltimore WBFF-FOX 45
Norfolk WTVZ- WB 33
Winston-Salem-Durham WLFL-WB 22
Memphis WHBQ-UPN 16
Jackson JKT-UPN 16
Nashville WUXP-UPN 30
Tampa WTTA- WB 38
New Orleans WXPL-IND 49
Houston KKXH-UPN 26
Austin KAAB-UPN 29
Dallas KPXP-PAX 68
Pittsburgh WCWB-WB 22
Columbus WTTE- FOX(ABC) 28
Indianapolis WIPX-PAX 63
Twin-Cities KSTC-NBC 45
St. Louis KPCX-NBC 50
Denver KPXC-PAX 59
Kansas City KCWG-UPN 62
Phoenix KPPX-PAX 51
San Francisco KKPX-PAX 65
San Diego KSWB-WB 69
Portland KPXG-PAX 22
Seattle KIRO-ABC 23
Buffalo, NY WGRZ-NBC 45
Chicago WJXS-IND 62
Dayton WRGT-FOX(ABC) 45
Louisville WBKI-WB 7
New York WRNN-IND 48
Lexington WBKI-WB 17
San Jose WPNX-IND 30
Oakland WPNX-IND 30


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