World Chess Championship 'Kama Sutra' Logo Goes Viral
One of the 2018 world chess championship logos that was revealed earlier this week has caused quite a stir. Described as "pawnographic" and Kama Sutra-like, the image went viral on social media and was reported on by mainstream media all over the world.
On December 17, World Chess, the company that organizes the events that are part of the world championship cycle, announced its new branding for the 2018 world championship, scheduled for November 9-28, 2018 in London.
One of their logos is a bit "different." And it went viral.
The colors reversed version of the logo. | Image courtesy World Chess.
The storm of reactions to the logo, designed by Shuka Design, has mostly been about the possible sexual connotation of the image. Chess fans have also pointed out that the chessboard has been represented with 6x6 squares instead of 8x8.
One of the very first to mention it on social media was GM David Smerdon of Australia, who added some subtle hashtags.
@dsmerdon) December 19, 2017
GM Simon Williams responded to Smerdon with a tweet in which he imagined how the meeting about the logo could have taken place, and mentioned Kama Sutra. IM Malcolm Pein, the organizer of the London Chess Classic and chess columnist for the Telegraph, then joined this thread:
@theworldchess I rather like it. It reminds me of the logo created when I was involved in using chess to market a viagra competitor - I kid you not - it was called Uprima— Malcolm Pein ( @TelegraphChess) December 19, 2017
The similarity with a Kama Sutra image like this one is striking.
A few days after the logos were published, more or less everyone active on social media has seen them and has an opinion—including GM Garry Kasparov:
Thanks, I guess, to everyone sending this to me. I'll answer with a line from the great Tim Rice musical, Chess: "I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine!" https://t.co/xmv9nqM4L2— Garry Kasparov ( @Kasparov63) December 20, 2017
Some are already wondering about World Chess's next logo, such as GM Mohamed Al-Modahki:
@almodiahki) December 20, 2017
A second reaction from Williams included a creative spoof:
GingerGM has been working hard overnight with a team of graphic designers to come up with a logo that will help chess appeal to the billion or so chess fanatics out there in the world.— Simon Williams ( @ginger_gm) December 20, 2017
(Thanks Matthew Pratt for design) pic.twitter.com/OrnKY3m8SF
Not everyone finds it funny though. GM Susan Polgar was not amused, pointed out that the logo might not be suitable for children and asked World Chess to "scrap the logo."
I strongly urge @theworldchess @FIDE_chess to scrap these logos and come up with something else which is classy, attractive, clever, marketable and most importantly something the entire global chess community can be proud of! @EuropeEchecs @chessdom @chesscom @chess24com pic.twitter.com/UESY7RuEKp— Susan Polgar ( @SusanPolgar) December 20, 2017
There were tweets from outside the chess world as well, such as American poet Heather Christie:
I do not play chess and so I am grateful for this helpful, informative diagram of how to set up my body correctly.— Heather Christle ( @heatherchristle) December 19, 2017
Meanwhile, lots of (mainstream) media have picked up the story. The Times used the word "pawnographic," which was recycled by others including the Hindustan Times. Other media mentioning the logo include BBC News, the Telegraph, Huffington Post, Russia Today and SkyNews. The story was upvoted by 32,000 people on Reddit.
On the World Chess website it seems that the controversy was anticipated as the following, somewhat cryptic tagline was used: "Key visual for the 2018 World Chess Championship is controversial and trendy, just like the host city."
Chess.com asked Ilya Merenzon, the head of World Chess, for a reaction on how the logo has been received. In an email he noted that the logo under scrutiny is one of several logos, and not intended to be the main one. He then promptly recored a video and answered some questions:
"We told [the designers] it's about two people fighting, and actually this is what the championship is about. We learned in New York that to market the world championship match you to make it about people and specifically about two people fighting for their nation and for their title.
"Therefore we asked the design studio Shuka—we've been working with them for a long time—to design us something which stands out, which would be visually striking. Some people can say that it's a little bit sexual but first of all it would be nice to bring a little bit of sexual appeal into chess and second we just wanted it to stand out.
Ilya Merenzon: "It would be nice to bring a little bit of sexual appeal into chess."
"If you think about it, design was a substantial part of the chess discourse for a long time. We're just getting this back for us.
"Thank you again. We love the logo very much. Don't worry if you feel it's a little bit controversial and you don't want, let's say, your kids to see it. It's not going to be a logo used in this place; it's going to be someting different and this one is just limited editions. But again, collectors are loving it and we hope you'll love it too and also we appreciate the fact that chess is in the news in design media. It's about time."
So... Was it all a marketing strategy by World Chess? This tweet does seem to suggest it:
@theworldchess) December 20, 2017
UPDATE: Our Chess.com Founders have done a real-life exploration of this new logo. Caution - may not be entirely safe for work.