Checkmate TV Show - A Televisual Chess Paradise
The beautiful and engaging Anna Richardson presents Chess in a scenic location assisted by Chess Grandmaster Simon Williams, the handsome, most affable of affable chess grandmasters who has made a living from presenting high quality chess content with a cheeky grin. It looked like a dream ticket.
Photo Credit: Copyright © Checkmate TV Show Ltd https://www.checkmate-show.com
Checkmate TV Show is not a new format, it had been started in 1976 with the BBC's The Master Game which ran until 1983. A group of talented chess professionals on telly talking candidly as they play each other in a series of matchups in a televised chess tournament. Makers of the show actually pay tribute to The Master Game on their website introduction for the show, which is very refreshing and gives credance to our first thought that this would be a worthy successor to such a well loved show, if they played it just right. The Checkmate show though it shares this format, didn't try to simply reproduce the format as a replica but have added so much more. It has Anna Richardson exploring the game with genuine curiosity. Anna admits in the very first episode that she is going to be relying on Grandmaster Simon Williams to provide the chess expertise, and this he does with his characteristic charisma and good humour. Anna and Simon have a fantastic chemistry which makes these chess beginner segments watchable even for advanced chess players. In each episode (Season 1 has 6 episodes) they feature interviews with some of the chess players competing. The location of the show is Gozo, Malta. Not a bad location at all, beautifully shot and filmed.
The Season 1 feels like a pilot, there are areas for improvement, the mix, quantity and transitioning of beginner level instruction to expert level advice will need to be developed as the target audience is determined, it feels like the show's producers were hedging their bets. The stark and gritty feel of the shots outside were not entirely undesirable for such a niche specialized show, as a consumer of much of this type of content it is nice have a setting that is not a studio broom cupboard in which most chess instructional videos seem to be shot.
The best bits were the Grandmasters telling us what they were thinking about during the games as the game progressed. The narration in form of a dialogue has always been a winner and here it comes with the added dimension of a simultaneous discourse between Anna and Simon. The dialogue was very creative and done in a highly engaging way and the right balance was struck between the drama of the game and instruction in the form of questions from Anna to Simon making for a very good viewing experience. This will really sell this franchise to a lot of their desired target audience.
The players featured in the show are Nigel Short ,Tiger Hillarp-Persson, Ju Wenjun, Jovanka Houska, Irina Krush, Nino Maisuradze, Elizabeth Paehtz, Arkadij Naiditsch,Richard Rapport, Igor Lysyj.
This TV show deserves to be picked up by a broadcaster and made available to a wide audience. Perhaps it would fit the Netflix content model, BBC2, Channel 5, Channel 4 or maybe even BBC4. I'd dare say the concept would be attractive to a potential significant audience who have an interest in learning chess and would watch a chess tv show but would never log onto a tournament website, or a specialist chess website like chess.com or chess24.com to watch a FIDE International Elite tournament. A detail that didn't escape us was the inclusion in the show of a very engaging International Arbiter, Adam Raoof. Adam talked about his chess experience as an arbiter and gave us a glimpse of the principal chess official who ensures tranquility and decorum, chess arbiters often seen but never heard in chess television productions. A very good contribution from such a highly respected International Arbiter.
We recommend the Checkmate TV Show as good viewing for chess fans and professionals as well as the wider public who may have a passing interest in chess. The production was to a high standard and the presenters first class and the chess players very charming.