Why is it that listening to David and Danny always makes me want to write? Don't get me wrong, I hold both in high esteem (and not just because they'd wipe the floor with me on the chess board) but I do have a few years on them in life experience, which is where our differing views probably come from.
Today they brought up the idea of making score sheets the property of the players. It is certainly worth discussing. I don't disagree that score sheets are the only tangible output of a chess game and that the players could reasonably be considered the intellectual owners of that output, but I think the notion of marketing that output this way fails for the following reasons:
- Nobody cares, which means nobody would buy it. Apart from the very top of tournament players who would buy score sheets? There are some 10000 titled players on the planet who probably would have to to keep up to date, but that is probably less than 1% of the chess playing public. But now the argument for selling score sheets falls on its face - you have titled players selling other titled players their score sheets. Guess who would benefit? Right, the middle men.
- Negotiating with individuals for score sheets is cost-prohibitive. Negotiation costs time and money. Even if you just wanted to pick up GM games, you'd have to negotiate with 1200 folks. Ouch. Add 3000 if you want to include IMs.
- Score sheets would invariably have two owners, making negotiation a multi-dimensional problem unless you have some form of collective bargaining, which leads me to the next point...
- Once you have collective bargaining in the picture, the individual players will inevitably have to hand over most, if not all of the profits to the middle men. You can see how this works with patents and copyrights today. I have written hundreds of thousands of lines of code and hold three patents with more in the pipe, but I own none of them and derive and have derived no income from them. Why? If I hadn't agreed to sign over any rights to my works, I wouldn't have gotten employment. Same thing would happen here: Want to play in a tournament? Sorry, gotta sign over your right to the score sheets to the TD or the federation or whoever.
While I'm at it, I'd like to point out that other sports that have comparable output, say the program of a gymnast, the program of a ballroom dancing couple and so on also don't get the benefit of copyright on their creation.
And please stop calling downloading score sheets stealing, it isn't. I, for one, have never used Napster because I knew it was illegal. Consequently, I find the suggestion that using chessgames.com is illegal or unethical quite irritating.
Also, griping about having to purchase your own games from chessbase is just a testament to the fact that you either didn't keep your score sheets or that you figure that someone else entering them into the computer for you is a lot more efficient. There is value in that; I still haven't entered the seven games I played this weekend and I'd gladly pay a few dimes for someone to do it. Played the best game of my life (a win against an 1850) and then proceeded to lose four games in a row.
I'm a big fan of constructive criticism, so here are my thoughts on how to make chess more palatable to the general public and with that to sponsors. Sponsors mostly care about exposure and as long as the general public prefers to watch "Desperate pool cleaners, part 25" instead of chess - that's where the money will go. Without further ado:
- Chess needs to pick up the pace. Six hour games are impossible to watch, even for me who has been accused of having unlimited patience in the past.
- I'm sure others will come up with additional ways of making chess more interesting and accessible to watch but to me that primarily means live video commentary. This year's US championships certainly were reasonably well covered. There were issues with the reliability of the feed, the resolution could have been better, certain commentators had grating voices and the web site was somewhat confusing, but it was a good start. Maurice Ashley certainly did a great service to chess there. Videos are why I have a diamond membership here. There is value and real money to be had. Forget about nickling and diming me though, I'd never pay for chessbase's model.
- Local teams and leagues that folks could get behind might help. Having said that, Germany has such teams yet nobody cares much - at least not at the grass roots level.
- I really like today's suggestion of requiring play to the finish line. Energy consuming for the players, for sure, but a lot more accessible to the public. Even my daughter (5) can spot a mate.
- Need to dramatically increase the membership base. As long as chess is a fringe sport, it will be hard to get the general public involved. Teaching chess in schools is probably a good idea here. One of my local chess clubs does this with alleged success.
- More women's chess. Face it, women are a heck of a lot more attractive than the two of you. :-) Sure, their play may not be at the highest level (with the exception of Judith Polgar and hopefully soon Hou Yifan) but imagine ESPN showing a world championship match of Pogonina vs Kosteniuk with a couple of 15 min blitz games per day. You'll argue that you two are much more attractive to women than the average male chess player and I'll even stipulate to that. However, the average chess fan is male and counting on the gay fraction of that is a losing proposition I suspect.
- Annual candidate matches/tournaments with an annual championship match with a faster pace of play, of course. Any other popular sport has annual world championships. The current cycle is shockingly unpredictable and inaccessible not to mention boring to watch. I'd rather drive over the hill to Agoura Hills and watch David play (should he ever deign to visit again) than subject myself to six hour games with an 80% draw ratio with moves and draws I can't fathom for the life of me.