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|Jennifer on Mainstream Chess: From NPR to the Flat Screen|
|By Jennifer Shahade|
|August 22, 2010|
Chess got its fair share of NPR time last week. A piece by Sean Phillips on All Things Considered: A Gender Divide in the Ultimate Sport of the Mind explored the controversy of women's titles and tournaments. The piece was recorded at the 2010 US
Women's in Saint Louis and featured interviews with IM Irina Krush, Jean Hoffman of 9queens and IM Sam Shankland. I was also interviewed for the piece, which concluded with a distinction between women's titles and tournaments I first made on this blog:
"In an academic analogy, there are women's colleges, women's conferences, even anthologies of women's work but there are no WBAs or WPHDs."
"Only a Game" included a segment by Rachel Lippmann on play by play commentary at the 2010 US Chess Championships and US Women's, featuring me, GM Maurice Ashley and GM Ben Finegold.
Amidst this prime mainstream coverage, there are some setbacks. As the Lippmann piece references, the Geico commercial making fun of chess annoys me way more than it amuses. Chess is also the butt of a joke in a new ESPN commercial with two good-looking high school jocks discussing the math intricacies of baseball stats. A group of frizzy-haired, bespectacled boys, led by a kid wearing a T-shirt that reads "Chess Players Make Great Moves", call the jocks "Geeks." Not only are the jocks good looking, they're also smarter than the chess players in this skit. Talk about a double checkmate!
But I'm still optimistic about chess's prospects on the flat screen, even without the readymade story arc of man vs. machine. Though it may take ideas purists will cringe at, such as fast paced editing, play to checkmate, highly produced casting and forced trash-talk between moves. I'm working on a few projects to that end, and they don't even involve hula-hooping or nudity. Cross your pawns! If chess can make it on to NPR twice in one week, it's only a matter of time before we net a spot on a late night cable or online network like hulu. If I can dream :)