BBC's The Master Game on YouTube

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
The Master GameSeveral chess fans have pointed out to us that many episodes of the old BBC series The Master Game have been posted on YouTube. The series aired back in the 1970's/early 1980's and according to one fan, it's "probably the best chess show ever broadcast on terrestrial television". Now you can watch them (again).

The Master Game was a BBC production of televised chess tournaments that ran for seven series on BBC2 from 1976 to 1982. Presented by Jeremy James with expert analysis from Leonard Barden and, later, Bill Hartston, the show was highly regarded for its innovative style, in which a display board with animated figurines and move notation, shown centre-left of screen, was accompanied by footage of the players cogitating, their thoughts during the game heard in voice-over.

The Disco 78 version of Ennio Morricone's Come Maddalena was memorably used as the show's theme tune.

The Master Game's producer, Robert Toner, recalled previous work for the coverage of the Fischer-Spassky 1972 World Championship match:

“Marsland Gander, then TV critic of the Daily Telegraph, wrote, 'The manner in which the games are presented, with experts standing in front of magnetic boards, moving pieces by hand, shows that television has made no technical progress with chess for the past twenty years'. He was right – from that time I began to wrestle with the problem.”

The result was the creation of a special invitational knock-out tournament. The games were played away from the television studio, the audio recordings of the players' thoughts being made immediately afterwards. The players would later be filmed in a studio reconstruction of the game, made to match the audio recordings.

Added to this intensive, unorthodox production method were the ground-breaking animated board and pieces created by designer John Bone and the technicians at BBC Bristol. This effect was achieved using a glass chess table on which the moves were made by a cloaked and gloved player. The piece symbols seen on-screen were actually on the underside of the pieces themselves, which were filmed from beneath in reflection, to correct for the left/right reversal that resulted. In addition to this, the expert commentator could use an 'electronic pointer', illuminating the squares to graphically indicate the ideas being discussed. The effect that combining all of these elements produced had never been previously achieved and is remarkably similar to a high quality, digitally produced, modern multimedia chess presentation, yet was created using only puppetry techniques, fairy lights, mirrors and much editing.

Al Hughes wrote the above text for Wikipedia, which has more details about the different episodes. Mr Hughes wrote to us:

Recently, many episodes of the show have been kindly posted to YouTube from a collection of old recordings made off-air by a splendid gentleman (to use Jon Speelman's phrase) called Robert Radford. (...) Perhaps there is something that CV could do to publicise this resource of classic old chess footage?

It's indeed a wonderful show, so... absolutely! Here are a few videos embedded:






You can find many more videos of The Master Game on Sirb0b1's channel on YouTube.

Update: We received the following request. The 1983 series was never shown in England, only on German TV. We wonder if there are any German readers out there who have taped the 1983 series when it was shown there (dubbed!) and could put some of those shows on the net as well?
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