16 May 2012

World Championship Chess on TV

I'm old enough to remember the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match, when I saw chess on television for the first time. I don't remember how many times I caught the Shelby Lyman PBS show, but I vividly remember watching Spassky - Fischer, game 19, an Alekhine's Defense where Spassky sacrificed a Knight for a Kingside attack, which Fischer countered by miraculously forcing the exchange of Queens. I had already been playing for a few years, was rated around 1800 at the time, and the moves of both players seemed supernatural.

Eighteen years passed before I next saw World Championship chess on TV. It was during the second half of the 1990 Kasparov - Karpov match, played in Lyon, France. According to my page on the event, 'The match was televised by the main French station TF1, which broadcast 14 programs of 45 minutes.' Although I didn't note where I got that information, I never invent details like that so it must be right. The shows must have been aired late in the evening or I would have had competition for the remote control and would most likely not have seen any of them.

A few years later, I caught several TV broadcasts of the 1993 Kasparov - Short match. It must have been on BBC1 or BBC2, because we didn't receive any other BBC stations at the time. The recaps were up to BBC's usual high standards, but I wasn't able to find out ahead of time when the shows would be aired and missed most of them.

These memories all came back while I watched the first four games of the 2012 Anand - Gelfand match, broadcast live on the web from Moscow. For various reasons, live chess doesn't suit network television. While there are also some annoying aspects of the Moscow broadcasts, they are far outweighed by the sheer pleasure of seeing the most important chess event of the year in real time. Kudos to everyone responsible for the web production.

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