Sunday, February 23, 2014

Make Chess Exciting to Audience : Chess Statistics

Grand Master Maurice Ashley recently asked in a facebook post, what can be done to make Chess dramatically more exciting to the audience and followers, not only to players? As he is working with MIT Lab on this, his plan is to implement some of those in the upcoming Millionaire Chess Tournament at Las Vegas this October.

Being a chess player, commentator, parent / audience I have thought many things at different times around this. Here are some that are coming to my mind. I think point#9 below, bringing chess statistics in front of general audience is the most important of this bunch.
  1. Chess players and their parents should be able to know each round's pairing real-time (as soon as the paring is done). This can be easily done by posting the pairing not only on a physical wall or tournament board but also online at tournament website as well as texted/emailed to the participants and tweeted to through a specific hashtag for an event. This will be very convenient for the players and equally convenient for the audience who can quickly check the pairings or board numbers of their favorite players as well as current standings.
  2. Let the audience watch the games live. Traditionally we have been using standing boards and now-a-days big tournaments arrange DGT boards or e-boards. These should also be broadcasted online, like Monroi does through its server.
  3. Let the audience guess the moves that are going to be played over the board shortly on the games that they are following. If the audience can watch the game real-time, they will often make attempt to guess moves at each step of the games that they are following. Just make it more fun by recognizing the top number of correct guesses from the audience and give some incentive for it probably in the form of a token prize.
  4. Let the audience share and participate on discussions or chats about particular games or about the whole tournament at real-time amongst themselves. This is similar to live chat comments by the players that we see in online broadcasted tournaments. The audience will get a common interest group. For example, ask the audience to vote on what was the winner's playing style on board#1 that matches with a world chess champion of present or past? Does his game resembled Capablanca's style or Tal's? Find a similar game or move from history.
  5. Announce best game of the day in each sections. Probably pick 5 from each sections and let the audience vote, so by next morning you have winners.
  6. Let the top players spend some time after the game in question & answer sessions with audience and journalists.
  7. Use live commentators on top boards who should be able to take questions from audience sitting in front of them as well as from email, sms, tweets or chat. The commentators should not only be giving oral description of the games but also should be updating the tournament events page or tweeting the info.
  8. Introduce the star fobia on audience in each sections. Bounty and Bounty Hunter concept of Millionaire Chess will be very effective in this regard.
  9. Bring Chess Statistics in front of the audience. This may make a great leap on chess followings by general audience. Here are some examples -
    • Player X in Under 2200 section was undefeated for last 10 games 
    • Player Y didn't draw a single game as black in year 2013 onwards
    • Similar to what we say in Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar has made 100 centuries in international cricket or Roger Federer won 17 Grand Slams in tennis. So we can say Nakamura won 53 classical chess games (a fictitious number I just made up) in Kings Indian Defence, highest amongst the contemporary chess players who are rated at least 2400 or above.
    • This exact position in Game Z has occurred 135 times in the past according to ChessBase or this typical combination has been carried out 37 times in the past according to ChessBase.
  10. Use state flags or country flags for each top players in every section (if not all players) in their tables. This way audience will start supporting players whom they don't know, only based on the flags that they carry. 
  11. Make player profiles available in the tournament web site for all higher rated chess players.

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