Chess on TV? St. Louis center is televising championships

AP News
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Posted: Apr 03, 2015 2:08 PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some may not see chess as a broadcast-ready sport, but St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield disagrees.

Taking a cue from televised poker, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis that Sinquefield founded is taking a new step to bring attention to chess with a live-streaming broadcast complete with running commentary.

The U.S. Chess Championships started this week and run through April 14. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1ERu33q ) reports that Sinquefield had a state-of-the-art television studio installed.

Commentators will follow up to 12 matches at a time, cutting away to capture moves as they occur while filling in time with analysis of matches and playing styles.

Maurice Ashley, the first black grandmaster, is delivering chess match commentary.

"The next move could decide the match," Ashley said during one encounter. "Sixteen-year-old Kayden Troff, playing in just his second national championship, facing Hikaru Nakamura, the top-ranked player in the country. Troff reaches for his bishop — but that's a move that analysts and computers say could prove fatal ..."

Ashley, 49, of New York, is leading a team of commentators covering two dozen of the nation's leading players, including Nakamura and Troff, Ray Robson, Irina Krush, Tatev Abrahamyan, Sam Shankland, Alisa Melekhina and Sabina Foisor.

The new studio is equipped with 20 cameras. Some players are wearing high-definition personal cameras for close-ups of their moves.

The broadcasts are live-streamed at Chess24.com and USChessChamps.com. Organizers hope to put the matches on cable television next year.

Ashley has made a career of chess by coaching and lecturing on it. His fellow commentators are Jennifer Shahade, a two-time women's national champion, and Yasser Seirawan, a four-time national champion.

"We try to get into the mind of each player to help people connect to the game who may not be totally familiar with chess," Ashley said.

In addition to $250,000 in total prizes for the overall and women's champions, a $64,000 prize will be awarded to any player who duplicates Bobby Fischer's perfect game.

The annual Sinquefield Cup, played in St. Louis in August and including international players, awards a $100,000 first prize.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com