'Chess could be a spectator sport with cheerleaders'

By Venkatachari Jagannathan, Chennai, Nov 18 : While it is said that no board game is a major spectator sport, chess could be made into one with slight changes in the format, holding more promotional events and even cheerleaders, said a former women's world champion.

"Chess has all the drama and excitement to be a spectator sport. I believe that with a slight change in format it could be made a major spectator sport, fit for playing in a big stadium and not in hotels," Susan Polgar, 44, winner of four women's World Championships and five Chess Olympiads, told IANS here in a free wheeling discussion.

She added that though chess is a game of ideas and strategies, there should still be a separate category in tournaments for women.

Polgar is here as one of the four official commentators for the ongoing World Championship match between reigning champion Vishwanathan Anand from India and Norwegian challenger Magnus Carlsen.

She is the eldest of the famed Polgar sisters in chess, the other two being Sofia and Judith.

According to Polgar, the format changes could be stricter time control, and no draw within a specified number of moves, among others. She added that there could be more promotional events, best of 10 or 20 blitz games and also have cheerleaders to generate more spectator interest in chess.

Expressing satisfaction at the manner in which the ongoing championship has been organised, Polgar said there should have been a couple of documentaries about the two players that show their off-the-board personality, likes and dislikes and other things.

"Lot of documentaries were made about me and my sisters."

On brand endorsement opportunities, Polgar said chess players would make cost-effective brand ambassadors for financial service providers like insurance companies, banks and also for computer companies.

"I have endorsed products of a bank and insurance company in Hungary. Generally, investments are linked to strategies and computers to their computing power, both of which chess players signify. Companies are aware of this aspect. They use a chess piece or the board as part of their advertisement even if they do not use a chess champion as their brand ambassador," she said.

According to her, the world's top players may be charging not less than USD 100,000 for endorsing a product.

"On their part, chess players should be more media savvy and be active on the social media to improve their marketability," Polgar advised.

Queried about the need for having a separate women's chess category as the game is basically of ideas and strategies, Polgar said: "Very few women play chess. Till such time the game attracts good number of women, there is a need for a special category."

She said women play more concrete chess whereas men play more abstract. Now mainly into chess coaching, Polgar is the director at Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE), training the US-based Webster University's chess team. Out of the 14 students, nine are Grandmasters, two international masters of which one is a woman and one FIDE master.

Interestingly her two sons -- Tom and Leeam -- are not very active chess players.

"I did not want to force my choice on them. They would decide what they want to become. My elder son Tom plays chess," said Polgar, who plans to visit a couple of temples here during the rest days and also do some shopping.

--IANS (Posted on 18-11-2013)

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