Chess in the news



Robert Snyder Shipped Back to the US

Mon, December 7, 2009

Convicted US Child molester Robert Snyder – who went by the name Augustin Rios in Belize was sent back to the United States today where he will be treated as a fugitive after failing to keep up with the terms of his probation when he was released from a Colorado prison in 2007.
This video  of him was taken at the airport today(SEE LINK) where he was escorted by Belize police and then later picked up by a US Marshall who escorted him to Houston on a Continental Flight and from there to Colorado. We could not confirm what immigration status he had in Belize, but because he is a US citizen – he was presumably given an order to leave, expels from Belize.

According to best reports Snyder came to Belize in or around the last quarter of 2008 where he married a policewoman and started seeking out jobs as a chess instructor – which is the same career he had when he was in Colorado. According to US media reports, he used that profession as a means to get close to his young victims.

Snyder worked under his Rios name at a number of primary schools in Belize City where he was a paid chess instructor. That last name proved important because when background checks were done on that name they came up empty. It is believed that he changed his name in Mexico before coming to Belize. At this time, there have been no complaints against him in Belize.

The Belize National Youth Chess Foundation today sent out a strong release declaring that they had no association with Snyder and that he worked independently. The Youth Chess Foundation said they differed with him because he charges for chess instruction and the foundation strictly offers instruction for free.


  Chess Wants Sponsors as Mates
In an age when niche sports such as darts and poker have managed to attract a mainstream following, chess fans are wondering why there has been so little attention devoted to the London Chess Classic, which begins today and has been billed as the strongest tournament in the U.K. in 25 years.
English Grand Master chess players Luke McShane, right, and Nigel Short take part in a blindfolded game of chess in a London Eye capsule.
Sellout crowds are expected across the five days at the Kensington Olympia, while more than a million enthusiasts will follow the tournament online, with six-figure audiences expected to follow for the much-anticipated showdown between former world champion Vladimir Kramnik and newly crowned world No. 1 Magnus Carlsen, a 19-year-old Norweigan whose prodigious talents have seen him hailed as the Mozart of chess.
The meeting of a giant of the sport’s past and its leading light of the future has generated serious buzz in online forums world-wide, but it has so far failed to generate big money.
Although a group of private investors has agreed to sponsor the London Chess Classic, the purse of €100,000 ($148,520)—a record for a British tournament—is indicative of the sport’s struggle to translate its popularity into cash.
Corporate sponsorship has proved elusive, while lucrative endorsement deals are rare, even for the sport’s leading stars. Last year, Mr. Carlsen spent 200 days on the road playing and earned roughly $250,000 after expenses, his father says.
Those earnings will increase following his rise to the top of the rankings, but even for the world’s leading player, it is clear chess can’t compete with the riches on offer in mainstream sports. Even more galling for chess organizers, it now fails to generate the revenues of other “mind sports.”
While the winner of this month’s World Chess Cup will receive $120,000 in prize money, this year’s World Series of Poker champion pocketed about $8.5 million.
“Chess has simply failed to tap into its enormous potential: We have too many people shooting ourselves in the foot, or in the head if you like, and we’re not enough progressive enough as a sport,” says Nigel Short, a former world championship challenger and current British No. 1.
He blames the International Chess Federation, known by its French acronym FIDE, for failing to leverage the sport’s enormous global reach. With 158 member nations, FIDE is the second largest world-wide sporting organization after FIFA, the governing body of world football.
“At the grassroots level, chess is huge but on the top level it doesn’t translate into anything,” Mr. Short says. “There are hundreds of millions of chess players around the world, so the money’s there, but FIDE has failed to put chess in the mainstream.”
Indeed, many of FIDE’s attempts to increase the game’s commercial appeal have appeared puzzling. Hopes of generating mainstream media coverage were raised when the organization announced the launch of a new Grand Prix series in 2007. Yet high expectations were swiftly dashed by poor execution.
Originally envisioned as “a series of six tournaments held over two years in leading world cities,” according to the FIDE Web site, only five tournaments in two years have taken place, the past three of which were held in Elista and Nalchik in Russia and Jermuk in Armenia after plans for more exotic venues were derailed by the collapse of sponsorship agreements.
“Who wants to sponsor a match in a place they’ve never heard of or a place they’d rather not go to?” asks Malcolm Pein, organizer of the London Chess Classic.
Yet FIDE has also been hampered in its attempts to attract sponsors and sell chess to a wider audience by a lack of mainstream broadcast opportunities. The London Chess Classic won’t be televised by a single TV network and Mr. Pein says efforts to air the tournament were doomed because of a lack of interest on the part of broadcasters.
“Chess hasn’t been broadcast in Britain properly since 1993, and there’s been very little coverage in Western Europe or the U.S. generally,” he says. “It’s not an issue of cost, the broadcasters just don’t think it would command any interest.”
This is the problem for chess. Without TV coverage, the sport can’t hope to attract the lucrative sponsorship deals and commercial partners that swell the coffers of other second-tier sports. Despite concerted efforts to sell television audiences on shorter versions, including rapid chess (timed games taking less than two hours) and blitz chess (three to five minutes per move), the game has yet to devise a format that captures the imagination of the people that matter: TV executives.

“If it’s not a good sport for television, it will struggle to generate major revenues, because that’s where the huge audience of media comes from,” says Nigel Currie, a director at London-based sponsorship consultancy BrandRapport. “Poker works because they’ve found a way for you to see the cards so you can assess what’s going on, but in chess it’s just in two people’s minds really.”
While attempts to increase revenues at the top level have stalled, other signs point to a renaissance. Grassroots participation has rocketed over the past few years as reports citing the educational benefits of chess have led to a resurgence in scholastic chess.
More than 70,000 children now take part in the annual British Land U.K. Chess Challenge, while First Move—a program run by the America’s Foundation for Chess to teach second- and third-grade teachers how to use chess as a learning tool—now serves about 50,000 kids in 26 states.
The globalization of the game has also raised interest levels across the world as the Internet allows fans to follow a match through online forums.
If the London Chess Classic goes well, Mr. Pein hopes to bring the world championship to Britain in 2012, a prospect that would allow a sport played by an estimated 300 million people to move a step closer to fulfilling its vast potential.
“I’m hopeful that having a tournament with a Western European as world No. 1 in a Western European city will bring chess back into the public eye.”
Brief editorial comments:
It seems that whenever we try to have an intelligent discussion about chess and its status in the world today, we always converge on the topic of sponsorship.  Especially about the LACK of sponsorship in the game.
I will remind my readers that on June 26 of this year I wrote an article about an international marketing firm’s research into the differences between sports and the reasons why sponsors favour one over the other.
One of the conclusions of a study discussed in that blog entry is that chess lacks prestige and visibility in the world today, and that sponsors are much more demanding when they consider investing in a sporting activity: especially, what do they get in return?  There is a science available for answering these concerns, and unfortunately chess flunks badly in all comparisons.  A fact of life.  Chess is a great game, but it is not the only great thing out there for sponsors to link up with…and chess , being a very old game, carries with it a lot of un-marketable qualities in the modern world.
Chess does not compete with other mass sporting activities.  It is not commercializable (Duchamps), nor is it easily adapted to TV. And it is a real bitch for the general public to understand what is going on when it does get some TV time.  You can not learn chess on TV.
Superstardom:  transcending your sport and creating your own trademark
Nor does chess produce superstars like, for example, soccer or golf. Chess has its stars, but no trademarks.  Kasparov, for example, wouldn’t be able to sell bottled water in the Sahara desert.  Ronaldo and Tiger Woods would be able to sell you a broken broom!  Beckham is much bigger than his sport.  Real superstars transcend their sport.  When Kasparov appears in the news for Russian politics, you learn in the first 3 seconds that it is Kasparov THE CHESS PLAYER!  He is a prisoner of chess, not a superstar with his own trademark.

Another problem with chess is that we chess players do infact shoot ourselves in the foot too often.  We like to constantly refer to our champions as ‘geniuses’.  Have you ever heard of Tiger Woods refered to as a genius? Or Wayne Gretzky?  No, of course not!  But we hear a hundred times a day that Carlsen is a genius, a Mozart.  That Kasparov is a genius, maybe the greatest in history.  That Judy Polgar is a genius….etc, etc.  You get the picture.

If we send the wrong message to those who have a real passion for the game of chess out there in the public that unless you are a genius you will never do anything in chess, then they will lose interest quickly!  Poker is such a phenomenon because ANYONE can become a winner.  No one tries to use the extra-ordinary talent of Tiger Woods to kill the ambitions of a budding golfer!  It would be bad for golf and bad for sponsorship.
Another negative aspect of our behaviour inside the  chess world  is that we are constantly ‘dumbing down’ our game to the chess public: our top players write books and spend 25 pages analyzing one single position, trying to show every damn variation and half-baked idea (why it works or not), so that even the biggest idiot out there would understand.

Our magazines give games that are sometimes just print outs of computer generated Fritz nonsense: the chess public and the chess amateur are fed up with being treated like idiots! They want to be able to think for themselves.   In the times of Lasker and Capablanca it was understood that a few judicious remarks were sufficient to guide the player to understand the play and think for himself…
You can not sell chess as an activity for intelligent people if you rob the individual’s thinking opportunity at every move. Intuition and judgement are human qualities that need to be reinforced thru the game of chess, not eliminated or replaced by a micro-chip, or pushed aside and ignored by a ruthless company trying to sell you chess software and mega-books written by authors with oversized egos.
Next, the chess players have to organize themselves to protect and promote their own interests.  Chess players need a professional association like in golf and tennis.  The closest effort in that direction was made 23 years ago with the GMA, but it failed miserably because strong personalities like Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short could not work together for the common good.  In the end, in 1993 they not only finished off what remained of the GMA, but they joined forces and tried to get rid of FIDE.

We all know what happened!  Kirsan is now the person who runs world chess, and is making a real mess of it.  Kasparov has already admitted that 1993 was the biggest mistake of his life, and only Nigel Short refuses to change his mind.
Certainly one day there will be a professional chess players’ association, and this organization will help to attract what few brave sponsors there will be who will want to associate themselves with the game.  But it will never be like golf or tennis.  It has to be like chess is, and not what TV or some over ambitious politician wants it to be.

Finally, it is time to dispell the myth of ‘hundreds of millions of chess fans” in the world who follow the game..  I have read such descriptions in accounts of the world championship between Lasker and Capablanca (1921) and again in the reports of the Alekhine vs Capablanca match (1927).  In those days there was no way to know for sure, so such exagerations could not be disproved.

Today with the internet we know that there are no ‘hundreds of millions of chess fans”.  It is enough to know that no chess site in the world gets more than 100k unique,individual hits per day.  Most get less than a 1000 unique hits.  And there is a trend to try to fool around with these numbers by talking about technical stuff such as page views, etc.  It is all trickery.

The internet has proven that the chess world is much smaller than originally thought.  Counting children who are present in schools when some federation employee shows up to promote the game (like in Turkey) and considering them as chessplayers registered with their federations is mere sophistry.

In anycase, the sponsors know the truth.  They pay for this information from professional organizations that do the marketing research necessary to ensure that the sponsors’ investment is intelligent.

It is time for chess players to face up to reality.  Sponsors have.

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