Will Chess Championship get lost in Election Aftermath?

Right in the midst of a contentious Presidential election, the American populace has been fixated on the candidacy of Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. It has been such a bitter election, that most other news stories have taken a back seat. This week in New York, the World Chess Championship will begin in Manhattan and the American public has hardly noticed. After Tuesday’s election, we will be hearing the post-election analysis complete with chess puns and analogies. Will the championship get lost in election aftermath?

Well… maybe America should focus on the real chess match. While the chess match between the incumbent Magnus Carlsen (25-year old Norwegian) and challenger Sergey Karjakin (26-year old Russian) is not likely to have the drama of name-calling and fist-fights, there are already minor controversies brewing. Carlsen recently expressed a fear of Russian hackers who he feels may compromise his match plans the way the Russians have affected the Presidential campaign with alleged hacking of Clinton’s e-mail. Will this be another “spygate” as we have seen in other matches?

Unlikely, but what is the angle for this match? How will it be marketed? Thus, far marketing themes have run a bit thin. There is neither Fabiano Caruana nor Hikaru Nakamura (two New York bred chess players) to give the match a powerful subplot. Of course New York was chosen prior to the Candidates qualifier and AGON’s CEO Ilya Merenzon stated that the site was chosen without regard to nationality of players. Thus, competing are the two child prodigies who have very different personas. It will be interesting see how AGON will appeal to the mass media outlets in New York.

The Carlsen-Karjakin match will have its own battle for the media attention.
Photos by AGON Limted.

AGON, the organizing body, has sole rights to package the match to the public and hope to make the broadcast a pay-per-view bonanza. The media rights have come with some legal issues resulting in a case concerning the Candidates Tournament hosted by AGON. Instead of trying to control the action from their own site, AGON has offered a widget as part of an affiliate program so international websites can carry the games.

This feature will only provide the game moves, the times on the clocks and an analysis engine. For those who pay the online package, AGON promises a state-of-the-art production. Its WorldChess.com website will include a live video stream with multiple camera angles, 360-degree Virtual Reality, and live commentary. However, the media machine will have to be ramped up with all the political noise of the American mass media.

Judit Polgar has signed on to do commentary as well as a number of guest Grandmasters. Thus, thousands have signed up for full access to online coverage. The online options start at US$15. Tickets to view that action live range from US$75-US$1200 with the entire premium package going for US$3,000. The match will take place at the Fulton Market Building – Seaport District, NYC (11 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038). There will be limited seating with capacity for 300 guests.

The opening ceremony will be Thursday, November 10th and the first game of the 12-game match will be the following day beginning with the closing of the match on November 30th. The games begin at 14:00EST or 20:00 CET.

Official Site: https://worldchess.com/nyc2016/
Match Regulations: https://www.fide.com/

Daaim Shabazz

Daaim Shabazz is the founder of The Chess Drum, while serving as a tenured faculty member of Global Business & Marketing at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA. He holds a B.S. Computer Science from Chicago State University, an MBA in Marketing and a Ph.D. in International Affairs & Development, both from Clark Atlanta University. He has served the journalist community for more than 30 years and still competes in tournaments occasionally.

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