A rant about WHY chess isn't more mainstream (at least in the U.S.) & possible solutions

DreamscapeHorizons wrote:

Martin,  the rising entry fees will create lower attendance which is like shooting urself in the foot. I'm guessing only higher level events are worth putting effort into as far as publicity & other steps. I was thinking the U.S. Class Championship would be significant enough to stream the games though & at least be able to replay the moves from the top games. Last I checked it wasn't possible. At least the results are up.


Unless the top boards are using DGTs, it takes time to get score sheets into a digital format, fix any errors, and sometimes you just have to guess what may have happened at the end of the game.  In my smaller events, it can take a significant amount of time to get that completed. The easiest is getting the crosstables and results online, but depending on how you host the data, using hotel WiFi probably isn't the best method.


I can't speak for the margins these larger official events might pull, to know if hiring a few people to do that work would even be feasible.


The only way tournament organizers can afford it will be if advertisers invested with them. Entry fees will never create enough margin to pay for the extra expense. But in order for people advertising to want to pay the organizer is if they can offer eyes & attention on the event in return for that investment by the advertiser. 


     No matter how convenient it is to follow chess events, only the people who are already interested will want to watch. Chess compulsory in school? Most kids aren't going to like it, and even most that do will drift away and forget about it,  just like most of us forget most of the "dull" stuff we learned in school.

     An elective in schools can be more popular. In my area, the Berkeley (California) Chess School has for many years provided after-school chess programs. Educators were pleased--kids learned to apply logic and that study and learning can lead to skills improvement in an arena they enjoy. The program also has summer camps and weekly tournaments between different schools. It has been so successful that it has spread to many schools throughout the East Bay. One graduate (Sam Shankland) has gone on to considerable chess success.

     For all that, the chess scene in the San Francisco area has been little affected. When I played a lot (1970s and 1980s) there were frequent local tournaments and a few regular clubs. I quit playing for 25 years (conflicts with work schedules left me unable to play much) and when I retired five years ago and returned to chess, I found that interest had waned considerably.

     Government support can keep chess infrastructure strong and keep the game in the public eye. The Soviet Union is cited as a model in this, but chess was already popular in Russia before the revolution (Lenin was an avid player but quit because it took too much time away from more serious political work), it was a cheap way to provide activity for the masses, and (later) gave the USSR a good bit of international prestige. It's unlikely these circumstances will repeat themselves very often.

     Bottom line: chess has a limited appeal, little possibility of serious economic payoff, not enough excitement for the uninitiated, only occaissional fad booms. Better to expose more people to the game and make it more possible and convenient for those who are interested to  learn and play


This is only my opinion, and I am not trying to force anyone to think like I do. But in my humble estimation, I cannot understand the obsession with making chess “Mainstream”. Have you not seen what happens to ANYTHING that becomes “Mainstream”. It becomes watered down to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the population and gets destroyed. The way these impatient twitch gamers are treating chess after the whole pandemic+queen’s gambit effect already shows me what would happen if the mainstream was in charge of tournaments and chess proliferation. Chess has always been a dignified sport for those who are patient and hardworking enough to invest their brain power in it. I would hate to see it become all about 1 minute bullet matches by foul-mouthed, screeching teenagers. Yes, we need to keep championing chess as a great way to introduce kids to logical decision making and problem solving. Yes, we need to help tournament organizers embrace newer technologies. But I would hate to see the day when the world chess champion is sponsored by twitch booty leggings because “sex sells” and we need to “make it cool to the masses”.
Part of what attracted me to chess in my youth to begin with, was to AVOID the stupidity of the “masses”.
Just my 2 cents.