Mig 
Greengard's ChessNinja.com

2006 US Ch Recap #1

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Well, Dirt-style at least. I'll be posting all sorts of leftovers here and on the official site for a few days. I still need to put up more photos and a quick recap of the final match games, although I don't think they really require much in the way of analysis, being sloppy rapids. The problems I had getting good pictures with my new camera continued through the final day, made worse by nighttime conditions, so my shots of the trophy ceremony suck. I'm trying to get others from some "official" photographer who showed up sporadically and whose output I barely ever saw. Most of the photos on the Championship site are by John Henderson, the rest by me (most of the good ones are John's).

Two good arbiter moments: Wojtkiewicz trying to claim a repetition draw in a position that hadn't even repeated twice, let alone three times. Similar, Kreiman, on Novikov's move, going to the arbiter to warn him that he and Novikov were about to repeat three times before the 30 move rule, then Novikov varying and winning. Arbiter Franc Guadalupe already blogged about how he admonished Vigorito and Becerra for their game ending before move 30 only to be asked by fluffy if it was okay if he resigned on move 27...

All in all a good show with lots of amazing chess. The two groups thing, of which I was not a fan, was bad for expected reasons and good for a few that surprised me. One element I didn't see mentioned much, and that perhaps was too obvious to mention, was that it meant we had two tournaments to follow. Two leaders, two chasing packs (four if you count the women leaders), so there was more drama and more sporting interest. Perhaps not exactly double, but it definitely created the feeling there was a lot more going on. (KO events take this to the extreme, of course.) It created technical problems with the pairings, particularly colors, but certainly it wasn't a disaster.

The final matches did feel a bit anticlimactic simply because they were over so fast. Two weeks of brutal, wonderful chess and then 90 minutes of rapid just doesn't feel right, at least not to anyone following them the entire way. I didn't see the TV crew they had hoped for, but there were over 400 people filling the hall for the final match, probably the largest chess audience in the US certainly for a professional event since the various Kasparov vs computer matches. It was a very pleasing sight to see two great players battling it out in a crowded hall in front of a giant projection of the game. This is US chess! Awesome.

Local coverage was good. It was mentioned on the local network news (and Don Imus?!) and there were regular items in the local papers. Having a 30-year-old Ukrainian as champ instead of a 16-year-old New Yorker won't help national coverage, but this is a slim vs none discussion. (And sad, because Onischuk is cool and well-spoken.) There's no demand for greater chess coverage in mainstream media because the community is so well served by specialist sources like this one. We LIKE to see chess in the newspaper because it makes us feel accepted and helps to spread the game, but it's not like our local paper is going to present more or better info than we get from ChessBase, TWIC, and official sites. We can't judge the success of a US event by how many times it's mentioned in the paper when there isn't a demand for such coverage. I regularly beat the drums here to write letters and email to local papers and such, but real fans already know where to get their chess news and all the press releases in the world aren't going to make it into the headlines if there is no demand.

37 Comments

Mig,

Thanks for the report. I followed the actions daily. It was exciting but I still don't like the 2 sections followed by the rapid championship matches. Having said that, it was still enjoyable to watch.

On another note, 400 is not the biggest since Garry. 2,500 tickets were sold for the Chess For Peace event in Lindsborg, Kansas (http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2713). 400 is still an impressive number though. I wish they had 400 every day.

Thanks again for the updates and reports.

Best wishes,
Susan Polgar
www.SusanPolgar.blogspot.com
www.PolgarChess.com

Ex-Illinois governor George Ryan should have as dedicated a lawyer as Mig, who is intent on proving that the complete lack of news coverage of the U.S. championship final is not the fault of any failing of any person or group of persons in or around the USCF or AF4C, but is rather due to the failure of the chess public to DEMAND that our newspapers cover chess news. However, all the DEMAND in the world is not going to produce any chess stories in our newspapers if there is no SUPPLY.

I opined that because the press function was delegated to the NTC Foundation, whose function is to manage a single building in San Diego for local cultural events, the possibilities for national chess media coverage were abandoned. I am saying that the problem was at the supply end. Mig is saying the problem is at the demand end; if he follows the logic of his argument, he will have to argue that, basically, it was a mistake to have a "press room" at all, and it is a mistake to try to get any media interest in chess at all, because there is no demand! It makes me wonder what these sponsors are supposedly getting for their money, if nobody outside San Diego, outside of chess aficionados, is ever going to hear about what they are paying for.

Well, can we decide between these hypotheses?? Sure we can. IF the problem is at the demand end (nobody cares about chess at all), then there will be no stories about chess in the media no matter what information you try to give them. On the other hand, IF the problem is at the supply end, then WHEN we supply the media with some chess-related information, it will turn up in print after all.

Well, which explanation holds up? In fact, as we know, there ARE chess stories in the media. There was the salon.com story about GM Nakamura this week. He hated the story, by the way, but they took the trouble to print it; they must have thought there was demand for it. There was a four-page spread on Susan Polgar in Newsday this week. There are stories on the local chess scene in the Chicago media every few months. GM Polgar, in another post here today, wrote that the news media DID cover the girls' tournament that her foundation organized. They probably sent out PRESS RELEASES. It's not CHEATING to do that.

What happens when organizers and volunteers DO in fact send out press releases? They get stories in print. Here is an announcement about the upcoming Rea Hayes Memorial Tournament in Chattanooga, TN: http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_81909.asp

Here is an article on the Kansas high school state championship: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/mar/12/chess_players_converge_ku/. It was won by Thomas Reams, Thomas Clark, Keely Stenseng, Kellen Cross, and Peter Lesslie, all of whom got more lines of newspaper coverage in the state of Kansas than GM Onischuk did in his home state of Maryland.

An article on the Colorado Chess Challenge: http://www.chieftain.com/metro/1142175612/6

A few inches from the Salem, Oregon State Journal on the Chess for Success tournament: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060312/ITK/603120319

The Wheaton, Illinois Sun, which is a few miles from GM Shulman's residence, hasn't printed anything about GM Shulman, probably because nobody has sent them the story. But "a parent" DID send them this story about the 4th and 5th graders at St. John Lutheran School winning the State Scholastic Championships, and they DID print it: http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/sunpub/wheaton/news/ws10chess.htm

I consider that these little data-points are evidence either that there is SOME demand for chess stories in the media, or that at any rate the media will print these stories whether there is demand or not. However, the information in these stories does not magically appear on the editor's desk. For that, God has provided us with the Fax machine. I continue to believe that if someone had in fact used such machines to send such data to these media, they might have printed stories about the U.S. Championship as well.

Well, this may not convince you, Mig, so I have a modest proposal to make. Let's pick out some upcoming chess event of national significance in the U.S. and do an EXPERIMENT. Let's PRETEND for a moment that if we do what everybody else in the bloomin' world does, from anti-war activists to the Microsoft company to candidates for county dogcatcher, when they want the news media to write about them, namely, SEND OUT PRESS RELEASES, call reporters, and so on, then it MIGHT actually have a result. Let's TRY doing some real publicity work and see what happens. In fact, I have a test case in mind: TORINO. I am willing to bet you a whole dollar, Mig, that if some group of people actually takes on the challenge of writing press releases and distributing them about the US teams in Torino, then some of them will actually get printed. What do you say? Is your sporting blood up?

petrel

Hey, I just got some moderation page that I never saw before. Is this because my reply was long, or because it had five or six links in it, or am I on the 'watch list' now? If this goes through without comment, I suppose it was probably length :-)

p>

Multiple links flag posts for approval as possible spam.

Reminds me of the story about the Reti-Alekhine game where Alekhine claimed a draw by repetition, even putting on his coat, etc. during the argument, but the claim was shown invalid, Reti varied, and Alekhine went on to win brilliantly. Maybe Boris was being similarly canny (btw, it is a draw upon the third occurrence, not the third repetition).

Petrel,

I'll pass along a tip I got early in my career that served me well. "Good press coverage is a matter of dialogue, not diatribe."

Meaning you can't just send out a press release. You have to both follow up (as you mention) AND have someone available to answer the press contact phone and email in a timely fashion. Timely usually meaning less than 2 hours.

I think Susan Polgar's foundation has done this particularly well. Not only do they present events as good stories, they're available to answer additional questions, reframe the story if needed, answer questions and do followups.

So putting out the right press release is the first step. Being available to answer reporter questions is the second. And doing followup is the third.

(None of this is to suggest that this wasn't done for any recent events one way or the other. Just a going forward reminder, that many people here I'm sure already know, that often one feature story gets chosen over another simply because one organization answers the email faster.)

regards,
duif

Petrel, I know it's a lot easier to exaggerate and put words in my mouth than to have an intelligent discussion, Petrel, but please give it a shot, Petrel. "Gosh, Mig says nobody should ever send chess stories to anyone!" is asinine, Petrel. Petrel. (Apparently using your name a lot means we're having a conversation.)

That local papers cover local events, including chess, is hardly a surprise. There is a demand for them, or at least the editors assume there is. Editors run what they believe is interesting and useful to their readers. The San Diego papers covered the championship quite well. Surburban Chicago News did not. You think that would change had they sent a release to the editor of the Suburban Chicago News?

Obviously you need both supply and demand when it comes to getting national coverage for rather obscure events. I pointed out that papers rarely bother to send reporters to chess events. If they do it's because the editor perceives a demand for it. But there is no way they will even find out about it unless supplied with that information. This is the job of the organization and, one would hope, the responsibility of anyone who would like to see more chess coverage. Spending thousands of dollars on wire press releases is of dubious value. Grassroots is cheaper and more effective.

PR costs money. Bombarding people with easily ignored press releases at $500 a pop is not cost effective. Editors and TV producers have to choose between thousands of stories every day for limited space.

There are also many different agendas in play. Making the San Diego chamber of commerce happy is probably more important to the organizers than making sure Yury Shulman's hometown paper knows he came in second. Obviously the NTC's approach was quite provincial; they have a giant new building complex and foundation to promote locally. A Vegas casino would have a very different agenda and would probably focus more on national press. If your only measure of success is national press, the choice is easy. If you also want to make your local hosts and sponsors happy, it's not so clear. If you want to do it all, you need a lot more money. Hiring a professional PR company with national contacts is not cheap and the benefits are not at all clear. I'd rather have that $30,000 put into organizational costs for next year's championship, to make sure we have one, than raise the national visibility 0.1%. Your argument assumes unlimited money, which makes everything easy. The top priority these days it to make sure there is another event.

More creative methods will be required for chess to make more of a dent than that. There was a national release yesterday and how many outlets have picked up the story so far? None on the web at least. As for Torino, instead of pretending this is some bizarre challenge, why not spent some of your massive free typing time and start it yourself, as I've encourage people to do? Of course you'll work for free, as will this "group of people" you mention. Send out press releases, call reporters. Or you can sit around here complaining about how other people aren't doing it.

One more quick comment in response to two things--Mig's excellent point that fervent chess fans already have good sources of information about events, and a private note I got from a person asking what good a generic press release would do.

It's my experience that corporate sponsors are often less interested in reaching the fervent fans than they are in tying in the existing iconic power of an event to their own brand. So they like seeing outreach to exactly the kind of people who don't know that this site, or chessbase.com, exist.

Again let me say that as far as I know all of the ideas that I'm about to list were already done for this event. And there's no guarantee that any of them would pay off. But just as an example of the kind of approach I'd take, it would be to send individually crafted notes to go along with the generic press release to possible interest connections. Some examples:

1. Definitely send a note on the Siberian Cats poem to the several Siberian Cat fancier associations and to CATS magazine.

2. Press release for San Francisco on Chimi and Mechanics.

3. Press release for Pacific Time or similar Asian American news programs on Nakamura's winning the Larsen prize.

4. Press release to astrology outlets on the Joyce Jilson prize.

5. Press release to Latino USA and similar outlets on the US junior champion playing in the event (he's originally from Peru).

5. Press release to a couple of the multicultural magazines on appropriate participants.

6. Definitely the blog picture and story on the Powerade bars and the chocolate bars to those two companies.

7. Note to whatever company made the earplugs that were given out.

8. I'm going to assume that all the San Diego city tie-ins are obvious, but I'll just mention them.

9. Note to the hometown media of every prize winner, top 3 finisher, and teenager.

10. Note to the unviersity media of every participating college student and/or faculty person.

11. Note to AARP and similar media on the over 50 participants.

12. Note to the hotel chain management of the official hotel.

13. Note to the manufacturer of whatever computers were used with an explanation of the tiebreak issue.

14. Note to each of the restaurants mentioned in the blog, and to the local restaurant critic and to the chain headquarters if any of them were chain restaurants.

15. Note to the San Diego Zoo about the Siberian Cats special prize.

16. Note to Donald Trump's radio show about the fact that the majority of people answering the blog question picked The Apprentice as the reality show they'd like to be on (actually, I sent this the day the blog was posted. I'm a big fan of the Apprentice. :) )

17. Note to the company that makes the nail polish that Hana Itkis wears in the photos.

18. Note to the beer company selected as the blog beer.

19. Note to the US Naval base community liason.

20. Note to the company that made the trophy.

21. Note to the bank that the checks were written on, with the picture of the big check.

22. Note to the Danish Embassy about the Larsen prize (because I think it's cool that there's a przie named for a Dane given out at the US Championship)

23. Note to the employers, where appropriate, of the various participants. (This one hits so close to home, though, that you need individual participant permission.) That includes places where teenagers work part time.

24. Note to whichever company makes the swimsuit Elizabeth Vicary wore when she beat Mark in the swimming race.

25. Note to the White House, and to the congressional representatives for the district of each prize winner.

26. If the "lucky pens" are a particular brand, note to that company.

27. Note to Apple's iPod division.

28. Note to all of the bands mentioned.

29. Note to whoever made the chess statues.

30. Note to the company that made the scotch that John Henderson brought.

31. Something from the dress code...surely soebody had a lucky tie or lucky jacket or first time they'd bought a jacket in X years, or something.

32. Note to whatever company, even printer maker, that enabled the technology to produce the on site signage.

Well, I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea. The point is to make the connection with someone who mgiht think a one line mention in some other publicity that they're doing for themselves would be cool. And even if they don't use it, to raise a little awareness of the event and the players.

Thank goodness Mig does such a great job on the site, because it's a perfect thing to refer to in the notes.

And of course someone would have to be available for followup.

Do I think any of these will use it? Can't say. But it's not about just feeding the needs of the hardcore chess fans. It's also about tieing in the existing iconic value of chess to a specific event and specific players.

fwiw,
duif

Hey, I'm not opposed to dialogue, let's have some dialogue.

"The San Diego papers covered the championship quite well. Surburban Chicago News did not. You think that would change had they sent a release to the editor of the Suburban Chicago News?"

Yes. Because GM Yury Shulman lives in suburban Chicago. I do in fact believe that a press release tagged "local interest" and emphasizing that Shulman was going to play for the U.S. Chess Championship, or that he won the second prize, would have gotten some play here. A press release issued early on would also have mentioned GM Gurevich.

"Obviously you need both supply and demand when it comes to getting national coverage for rather obscure events. I pointed out that papers rarely bother to send reporters to chess events. If they do it's because the editor perceives a demand for it. But there is no way they will even find out about it unless supplied with that information. This is the job of the organization and, one would hope, the responsibility of anyone who would like to see more chess coverage."

OK, we agree on this. I wasn't sure.

"Spending thousands of dollars on wire press releases is of dubious value. Grassroots is cheaper and more effective."

All right, here our consensus breaks down. In the first place, it does not take "thousands of dollars" to send "wire press releases". It takes a few dollars. It takes someone's time to write up the press releases. It takes a fax machine (or a computer with broadcast fax capability) and a list of fax numbers. It takes some electrical power. It takes a phone line. That's what it takes. Not "thousands of dollars".

Of course, you can DO it by spending "thousands of dollars" if you hire a top-of-the-line PR firm to write the press releases. But why do that when we have not only volunteers but also paid staff who can do it. You can write a press release. I can write one. Jen Shahade can write one. There are probably five or six people in Crossville and just as many people at AF4C who can write one.

You then write that "grass roots is cheaper and more effective." Well, it depends. Grass roots is better for local events, but we're not talking about a local event. We're talking about a national event, THE annual national chess event, and it should have gotten national publicity. That doesn't mean sending a separate press release to every paper and radio and TV station in the country, but I think it SHOULD have meant:

- hitting the major wire services and networks (AP, NYT, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, for example) on a daily basis

- going after the players' home markets with material emphasizing local interest

"PR costs money. Bombarding people with easily ignored press releases at $500 a pop is not cost effective. Editors and TV producers have to choose between thousands of stories every day for limited space."

Again, I have no idea where this idea comes from that press releases cost "$500 a pop". In any case, I don't see that we have to feel guilty about sending out information about an event that we feel is important and, yes, exciting. If some editor doesn't think it's worth carrying, that's his or her decision. If we prejudge the matter and don't send out the story, then it's our fault if it doesn't get covered.

Some people accuse me of putting words in their mouth, and yet here and elsewhere it is made to seem as if Petrel is the advocate of a hugely expensive and impossibly spammy campaign of junk press releases. That's not true. But I am in favor of doing a national publicity campaign of SOME kind rather than no national publicity campaign at all. I am in favor of making information about our premier national chess contest available to the media rather than of keeping it secret from them.

"There are also many different agendas in play. Making the San Diego chamber of commerce happy is probably more important to the organizers than making sure Yury Shulman's hometown paper knows he came in second. Obviously the NTC's approach was quite provincial; they have a giant new building complex and foundation to promote locally."

Yes. That's precisely my point. I'm not criticizing the NTC foundation for this. I'm merely saying that it is a bad idea to entrust what SHOULD be a nationally directed publicity campaign, of WHATEVER scope, entirely to an entity whose "provincial" priority is to promote its building. I'm saying that we should not do this in the future. I'm saying that part of the USCF's agenda should be to publicize our championship nationally, and we should make sure it gets done properly.

"If your only measure of success is national press, the choice is easy. If you also want to make your local hosts and sponsors happy, it's not so clear. If you want to do it all, you need a lot more money. Hiring a professional PR company with national contacts is not cheap and the benefits are not at all clear."

Whose only measure of success is national press? Who is getting words put in his mouth now?

"I'd rather have that $30,000..."

What $30,000? Eh?

"... put into organizational costs for next year's championship, to make sure we have one, than raise the national visibility 0.1%. Your argument assumes unlimited money, which makes everything easy. The top priority these days it to make sure there is another event."

Well, not to belabor the point, but I have in fact worked on nationally directed publicity campaigns without $30,000 and indeed with basically no money at all. I notice that my hypothetical PR budget goes up at an exponential rate. First it was $500 a pop for press releases, then it was $30,000, now it is "UNLIMITED MONEY".

Next, I am not talking about increasing national visibility 0.1%. We could have increased "national visibility" of Onischuk's victory maybe, I don't know, 1,000% at rather low cost, I think, since if we had hit the wire services in a timely way and gotten ten more papers to mention the name "Onischuk", that would make a total of 11.

Next, I don't think this issue of "visibility" is as divorced from the issue of "making sure there is another event" as you imply. We are or ought to be interested in getting sponsorship. Possibly even sponsorship from people and entities outside the city limits of San Diego. It contributes to the goal of having an event next year if potential sponsors know there was an event this year.

"There was a national release yesterday and how many outlets have picked up the story so far? None on the web at least."

See, this reveals a misunderstanding of what that "Yahoo Bizwire" release actually was. Really it wasn't a press release even if it looked like one. I bet that it doesn't actually get delivered to any media outlets, producers or editors. It was not the sort of thing that could have been "picked up" by other outlets. I think that its purpose is to put an article out there that is searchable on Yahoo. This is of benefit to the NTCF if someone does an online search at a future time to find out what fine events take place there. But what we really needed was for releases to go out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - not Monday - when there was NEWS, not history - and to the press or press services, not the Yahoo Bizwire. No, I don't expect any newspapers or radio stations to stumble over some story in an Internet PR archive and get inspired to tell everyone who won the U.S. chess championship day before yesterday or last week.

"As for Torino, instead of pretending this is some bizarre challenge,"

I'm not really. I'm perfectly serious. Not about the dollar, I'm suppose. But I really do want the USCF to pay attention to this. I wrote to this effect on the uschess.org forums. It hasn't gotten much in the way of serious attention, of course, but I really mean it.

"why not spent some of your massive free typing time and start it yourself, as I've encourage people to do?"

Wouldn't it be better if someone with some legitimacy started it? What is this crack about "massive free typing time"? Just write "shut up and go away" if that's what you mean :-)

"Of course you'll work for free, as will this "group of people" you mention."

Why not? This whole darn blog is composed largely of free typing by people. I don't want to dash off ALL the press releases myself. I could volunteer a couple and would like to encourage some other people to pitch in. However, I don't want unnecessary duplication of effort. Who knows, the KCF (chief sponsor of the US teams, I gather) may be completely in tune with what is needed here. They may already have staff people writing these press releases. Or the USCF may be doing it. You are probably better able to find that out than I am. I would love to be reassured and reliably informed that everything is going to be all right this time and that we will learn from the "Invisible Championship" in San Diego.

On the other hand, if you discover that everyone involved in the official US effort has the same kind of sarcastic disdain and distrust for nationally directed press work that you have evinced throughout this post, please give us the good news early on so that I have some lead time to assemble a secretive band of guerrilla chess publicists.

"Or you can sit around here complaining about how other people aren't doing it."

You have no idea what an evil whiner I am. I was a lot harder on those hard-working FEMA guys, if you can believe it.

petrel

I think Mig is getting irritated because his double standards are being exposed. He has in the past crucified FIDE and others for far smaller errors. Take the issue of using rapids to decide champion, using swiss and not round-robin or cycles, organizational mess and bad playing conditions as mentioned by JohnF and others, bad press coverage and limited feed to news agencies, goofup in prize money for the second year etc. He has had a much tougher on FIDE and other European tournaments in the past when he wasn't involved with them.

Kapalik

Petrel, you can argue with me all you like but I'm still not going to disagree with you. I have no idea why you decided this was an argument. I'm all for publicizing chess in any way shape or form. My point was that rushing to criticize the NTC, or the AF4C for working with them, is short-sighted since your goals and theirs are not identical. Better to outline a plan to achieve your goals, and/or explain why your goals are worthier.

As for the money, I've worked with many PR firms on chess related projects. They aren't cheap. 30K is a (low) ballpark figure for a campaign of several months involving pre-event promotion, coverage, and the essential follow-up. The amateur/volunteer army of promotion you describe won't have the same impact, but might be more effective in other ways. We don't know. I'm certainly not against using my reach here to promote such grassroots efforts. I've done it many times in the past. As for disdain, reread your first post. I'm glad to see that change to a willingness to be constructive and to organize.

Kapalik, you make the same error I addressed in other threads on the format. Of course there are separate standards for different events. The same format should not be used for every event worldwide, nor every title. I'm not in favor, for example, of deciding the Texas U-10 scholastic title with a 20 game match of classical chess. The US championship, and US chess, are not the same as the world championship and global chess and they shouldn't be prescribed the same treatment. US chess has a long history of national irrelevance so experimentation is required.

Besides that, I criticized, and criticize, the use of rapids and the two groups. Absolutists cannot understand the concept of understanding the motivation behind something they disagree with, or giving something a chance when they aren't sure what the outcome will be. I am not an absolutist. The two groups were a lot of fun. The final match was a frivolous let-down, at least to me. But if that final match was the only thing many people saw of the event it probably wasn't so bad.

The playing conditions were very good, apart from the plane noise (there was, I believe, one complaint, and arbiters allowed the use of headphones) and shifting sunlight on a few boards. Things to be corrected, no doubt. The conditions were praised by the players despite the few obvious deficiencies (I mentioned the lack of analysis areas, leaving most players to post-mortem on tables outside).

"Bad" press coverage is obvious, but since it's relative to past chess events, not the Super Bowl, I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. Was anyone expecting the US championship to be front-page news across the nation for the first time this year? If so, why? It's always negligible and this year was no exception. Disappointing, of course. Worth freaking out about, hardly. There were regular items in the San Diego papers.

All of that said, I'm not sure what you want from me. Of course I'm not going to act exactly the same in every case. Especially since that wouldn't make any sense as no two cases are exactly the same. Miscalculating the distribution isn't the same as bouncing checks. Having sunlight on a few boards isn't the same as playing without doors and windows.

Lastly, I can't comment on every single thing in every post. There will be more recap items to come and many of these things will be addressed, some with player comments. The hotel thing was ridiculous, for example, and fewer than half the players stayed at the expensive official hotel.

Working on this project also gives me insight into the problems and the people involved. "Crucifying" them for minor problems wouldn't make me objective, it would make me an ass.


FWIW I like the idea of having more than one "group" and having winners or top finishers from the groups playoff against each other.

Kapalik: "I think Mig is getting irritated because his double standards are being exposed."

You have to give Mig some credit though for actually posting about the prize fund screw-up immediately. Even if you don't agree with his stance that the total prize pool stated in the contract carries more weight than the listed prizes for each place, you have to acknowledge that he still had the bollocks to bring the controversy to light when it might otherwise have slipped by more quietly. It's even more brave since he DID work for them this year and may be risking (a bit at least) his standing for next year by doing so. Hopefully not. You may have problems with Mig's fairness and bias, and sometimes I do as well, but he is still a good webmaster for chess.

Mig,

Your point about the costs of big PR projects is certainly valid. Although I've worked with agencies on many projects, for this kind of thing I think individual notes along the lines of "I thought you'd enjoy hearing that...at the US Chess Championship in San Diego this week." and then a paragraph or so of why this matters to the individual recipient plus the generic press release probably works even better.

It's about recognizing that "the US Chess Championship" has enough weight just as an historical event to be interesting when you make the connection personal.

It doesn't take an army of volunteers, or a PR firm. It takes 1 person, about 5 days, and assuming they already have a phone, about a $1,500 mailing and printing budget to do 500 of the kinds of notes I've indicated.

(I DREAMT about this stuff. Sigh. Hard to turn the brain off. But def. add when appropriate 33. the employers of parents of teenage participants
34. the employers of spouses of participants
35. the alumni associations for any participants who have already graduated college
36. the chambers of commerce and the mayors' offices and the hotel chain headquarters and the hotels of any qualifying event tourney that produced a prize winner.)

A PR firm would do all of this for every participant, include a glossy bio package, and you'd have to pay for their research time to learn your information. They'd synchronize all the release arrival dates. They'd interview alll the participants in depth looking for every possible association. And then there's branding costs! I've sat through 3 day branding workshops with 30 people followed by multiple focus group research sessions before the first item gets sent out.

Instead, smaller organizations use their own person (usually the sponsor's representative) and cherry pick which notes they have time to do. The notes dribble out over a week or two. They make an immediate decision about which notes should be sent based on what they already know. They do the easy stuff first. If they can't find an address for an alumni association, they skip it and move on. When they run out of post event communications money, they stop sending notes.

The smaller organizations do miss a lot of opportunities, and their notes are undoubtedly less successful than a full scale professional campaign. But it's a question of resources. I can't say whether doing a $1500 5 day project is better than doing nothing. It depends on your resources and long term goals. But I do think it's worth considering. (And again, they may already be doing all this for the particular event. I'm just trying to give an idea of how it might be done.)

I suppose part of it depends whether you feel energized or drained by this kind of project. I love finding out the positive things about people, I love the history of chess, I like going back and thanking people because it makes a positive connection. So I think a hotel that hosted a tournament that produces a qualifier who won a prize will find that fun to know. And maybe good for business. And I think the mayor's office in that city will enjoy knowing that. I think it's just fun stuff.

(And again, folks, I'm too sick to do any of this kind of thing professionally these days, so I have no hidden "hire me" agenda. I'm just trying to say that there are people like me who do this kind of thing pretty well, in part because they enjoy it.)

I love looking around an event and thinking of all the people who helped make it happen. Of course the AF4C, of course NTC Promenade, of course the onsite staff and the players and their families. But I mean --everybody--. The San Diego Zoo, the candy bar makers, the statue sculptors, the computer designers. I love that web of associations. Post event communications are really fun because you get to start thanking people for things they didn't even know they were a part of. I like that.

(Hey, some people like the Najdorf. Is that any less weird? ;) )

Well, I'm going to go back to sleep. Hopefully my dreams will have found another subject by now.

cheers,
duif

p.s. 37. The opening bell! That was cool. Def. a note to whoever manufactures that.

38. And the hotel (was it a hotel, I've forgotten. I think so). where Ben and Kelly got married.

39. And...and... Zzzzzzzz.....

A quick comment to all that typically great stuff from Duif is that those people tend to create substantial work for other people (e.g. they ask me or someone else) and it also assumes all the players actively participate. It can be like pulling teeth, as a quick glance at the questionnaires shows. Collecting all that information would take weeks, probably months. Of course it should still be done, and won't all those Russian and Ukrainian high school alumni clubs be proud! ;-)

In this case the organization did have people on hand who theoretically could have been directed toward such things. But then we get back to agendas. It would be fun to assign players to volunteers, preferable people who live in the same area, to do that sort of campaigning. Adopt-a-Chessplayer! Sounds like a groovy idea for the next championship. Hey, as a Green Party veteran I'm used to grassroots organizing for hopeless causes.

I like the "adopt a chessplayer" idea. And again if you don't have the info on a player, move on to the next. And I should also say this is 100 times easier because "US Chess Championship" is a self-explanatory title.

It may seem weird to the fervent fans who read this board, but in some ways it's easier to do this kind of post event communications for something like the Iowa State Chess Championship than it is for something like the World Open. Because you have to stop to explain what the WO is. You can still do it, but it's harder. Anyway, the US Chess Championship is special for that reason.

going back to sleep now...

duif

39. Armed Forces. Emery Tate won the US Armed Forces Chess Championship at least 5 times. Is this the first time an Armed Forces Champion has played in the Overall or not? Def. notes to various armed forces media. Any other former US service people in the playing field? Any parents or spouses with a US military connection?

40. Didn't Elizabeth mention bicycling? They must have rented them. Where? Or did the hotel have them? Manufacturer? Bicycling magazine. Notes.

Oh, gosh, now I'm listing them alphabetically. C. Cats and computers. D...

"Petrel, you can argue with me all you like but I'm still not going to disagree with you. I have no idea why you decided this was an argument."

("This isn't an argument!" "Yes it is!" "No it isn't!" "Yes it is!" "No i isn't!" --- "Argument Clinic", Monty Python.)

(That was meant in the spirit of levity.)

"I'm all for publicizing chess in any way shape or form. My point was that rushing to criticize the NTC, or the AF4C for working with them, is short-sighted since your goals and theirs are not identical."

*deep sigh* I thought I had clarified this point before, but: I am not criticizing the NTC, and never did in any post. I am not criticizing the AF4C for working with them, and never did in any post. My original focus was on finding out why and how the non-occurrence of national publicity took place, and I found out only from Mig - for which information I thanked him, and now thank him again - that the NTCF had been left in charge of press work.

I am criticizing the action, or inaction, of delegating the press information function entirely to NTC. I still don't know whether this was a product of the mistaken assumption that NTC was going to do national publicity, or whether this was done in the knowledge that they wouldn't do it but in the belief that national publicity was impossible to get otherwise or of too low a priority to justify any activity, or whether it was something that just got overlooked and not mentally processed until it was too late.

As for "crucifying" people, I thought I made it clear, and now clarify again, that I am not interested in pointing fingers and blaming people. I am taking the position that we should do differently next time. I am taking the position that doing differently next time ought not to take impossible expenditures of money, and is likely to be good for us.

"Better to outline a plan to achieve your goals, and/or explain why your goals are worthier."

Well, I thought I had done a little of both.

OK, that's it for me, I'm done with it whatever it is unless new points get made by new people.

p>

Petrel, you've done a great service by ferreting out the background about the NTC and their agenda, exhaustively searching the Web to find the few stories that did get published, and then building a coherent and plausible explanation of what (and what didn't) happen in terms of promotion/publicity for the US Ch.

I'd like to work with you on putting together a "guerrilla publicity" team for some future event (maybe Torino, maybe something else). Rather than having this discussion on the blog, please email me - jacobs310@optonline.net.

By the way as the holder of an advanced degree in journalism who spent 17 years as a reporter and editor, I can say on pretty good authority that your explanation of how the press itself works and how one should work with them in seeking to get stuff published, is spot on.

Mig tried to obscure the debate with his references to national TV network coverage (obviously all but impossible for an event like this, unless perhaps Shaun Alexander or Paris Hilton were to be seeded into it; maybe that's an idea for next year - I don't think either of them could do any worse than Cottrell did, but not being an "applied mathematician" like tommy, maybe I'm missing something) ... when from the start your comments about "national press" focused not on network TV but on newspapers around the US, which are by definition local (whether big-city, suburban, or small-town).

Duif's idea of a snowball publicity campaign -- aimed at building something like a living web whose tentacles keep growing, by not directly targeting news organs but instead sending notes to hundreds of organizations that might have reason to include some of your chess material in press releases of their own -- is interesting, and is something I never thought about before. But your idea of targeting local newspapers (and maybe local TV stations too) in cities that have some connection to one or more of the participants, seems simpler and more promising. (Although I'm not saying it's an either/or situation)

Thanks, Petrel, for pointing out the Salon.com profile of Nakamura. {deep sigh} This isn't what I would exactly call accurate, "in context", or flattering publicity for Nakamura and U.S. chess.

I was wondering if the writer of the article, David Kushner, even sat down with Hikaru before he wrote the piece. It doesn't seem like it. (I recognize some of Hikaru's quotes from other interviews.)

Howard Goldowsky

Jon,

I had news organs in there in several points, including 2, 8, and 9. And I think doing as much major media coverage as you can afford is also a great idea.

But I do think that if something appears in CATS magzine, the Microsoft employee newsletter, the bank's newsletter to its shareholders, that not only are you creating a larger association net, you're putting chess out there in a way that is in some ways more memorable to many readers.

So if I had a very limited budget, I'd do the standard press release for the majors and the customized notes for the special interests. But that's just me. :)

regards,
duif

For the record, Google hasn't quite completed global domination. There was a bulletin board full of clippings from local papers, including the main San Diego paper, with photos and coverage of the tournament. None of these are found by the aggregators. Clipping services and Lexis-Nexis would doubtless turn up more. Google News and its ilk aren't bad for relative measure, but when it comes to national chess they mostly reflect whether or not AP covered an event, and they swore of chess a few years ago.

If you look, you'll find regular items here in the Dirt in which I encourage people to write their local papers and TV stations with chess news and to ask them to cover it. The problem is most fans don't see much reason to do this because they get so much news on the web from specialty sources.

When did I mention national TV coverage, Jon, and why would I try to obscure anything? I'm beginning to believe there are two of me around. You'd think there was a cabal out to make sure no one heard about the Championship and you heroes are going to slay us with your shiny swords.

My references to typing time and such (apparently sarcasm can only go one way) boil down to this being a volunteer project. NTC had its own agenda and worked toward it and paid people to do so. Grassroots web organizing is a different breed and, as the saying goes about Linux, is only free if your time is worth nothing!

Putting together a coalition, consider it open source, of people willing to donate time and resources for such a project in an organized fashion would be marvelous. A structure where people could contribute in different ways, chipping away at the whole, would be ideal, a distributed system. It wouldn't take much work to put up a checklist of "things to do" that people could take on in only a vague order. Some one-time, others repetitively. Closest analogy might be a wedding registry.

Looking back at that I realize I turn everything into a software project... But with a layer of people doing minimal follow-up it could work almost entirely decentralized.

Mig, I see you're right, you did not refer to national TV coverage (not on this thread anyway); I apologize for carelessly putting words in your mouth.

The concluding paragraphs of your last comment may align with what Petrel has in mind. They also fit with the "adopt-a-chessplayer" concept you mentioned earlier.

However, I see problems arising if a system is TOO "distributed" (i.e., decentralized). Each media organ that is approached MUST be given the name of just ONE or TWO permanent contact people the reporter can follow up with before, during or after the event. As both Duif and Petrel noted, those contact people must be reliably reachable for an extended period, and must be prepared to return phone calls / answer emails within 2 hours or less (it should be MUCH less while the championship is under way, just in case a title contender's hometown paper wants to cover it as breaking news).

While in theory you could have different contact people for stories about each player or for each metropolitan area, logistically it would be much simpler to centralize all the media contacts (at least the follow-up part, if not the work of producing and distributing the press releases).

The more decentralized the actual media contact work is, the more chances for things to go wrong (I'm mainly thinking of contact people being unreachable when a reporter calls).

Mig,

I like the registry approach.

you do need to be very clear what your measurable definition of success is for the project.

One person's objective might be "chess covered as a sport in 50% of the major newspapers."

A quite different measure would be "a chess column in 50% of the major newspapers."

A third might be "chess on the 6 o'clock news twice a year."

My own definition is that after a 5 year promotion program, the top 1% of US players could earn $30,000 a year each in sponsorships and endorsements.

So because that's my definition, the affinity web I talked about earlier is helpful to my goal. But maybe not at all to the weekly column goal.

The measurable goal will help you decide where to put resources.

regards,
duif

My two cents on this press coverage discussion/arguement:

I hate it when people say "Let's not argue about the past, let us instead talk about how to do things better in the future.", or something to that effect. The two are not exclusive. In fact, discussing what was done in the past is usually helpful in planning for the future.

In this specific case, there is a very important question which ought to be answered before future events are planned. The question is "Should there have been more outreach to the national press?".

Petrel says "yes". Mig doesn't give a yes or no answer to that question, but offers arguments that seem to support the "no" position (e.g. there is no demand for mainstream media chess coverage, it would be prohibitively expensive). I think Petrel is getting the better of the argument so far, but my point is that the question needs to be answered before you can talk about planning to do better next time.

I think that the piece on Nakamura, while very much exagerated, is actually good press and does, as well as any 2 page article in mainstream media, capture some of the changes that are going on in the chess world right now. I think that article would be a fun read for the "laymen" and might give them a different image of what chess players are really like(at least a much closer portrait then the insane genius or the geek with massive spectacles). It is sort of related to how one views the Kosteniuk press or the Manakova press that was discussed earlier on various forums, but I think that since it does not involve sex, it is less controversial.

DP,

Yes, what you say is true; however, the article took on, what I would consider, a slightly unnecessary negative flavor. It fixed Naka as this somewhat egomaniacal teenager, and this is far from the truth. The author pulled, somewhat out of context, quotes from my and NIC's interviews of Naka (as well as, perhaps, others), and it didn't seem to me that the author, David Kushner, took his time to form his own opinion. It seemed to me that Kushner decided, before he even wrote the piece, what type of portrait he was going to paint. I emailed Nakamura asking him if he even talked to Kushner at any point. (No reply yet.) From the article, it seems like Kushner did, in fact, meet with Nakamura at one point. But if this was so, why did Kushner not provide a more sophisticated profile? I assume that he assumed a more sophisticated (read: accurate) profile would not go over well with the Salon editors.

Granted, asking a mainstream writer to understand the subtleties of our niche chess culture is a lot, and it is usually easier, from the mainstream writer's perspective, to just pick an angle and go with it.

Mig, perhaps you can get Naka to give his take on the piece for DD readers?

Howard Goldowsky

Rather than finding fault with Mig or the AF4C, we should accept what is obvlious to everyone, except psychotic chess players: chess is ALREADY getting the coverage that corresponds to such marginal (but beautiful!) activity.

That's all.

Only sick minds would expect chess to be more than what it is. Accept and love chess for what it is. Take whatever you can get out of this or any other tournament; take whatever you can get out of chess. Stop the craziness...

Why are you guys arguing on how to market chess? Chess is unmarketable.

That's what I just told them, John.

Your years of experience as a tournament organizer in NY should have made you aware of how sick the average player is, though...

Well, chess is mostly filled with egomaniacs who are 1400 and think they are the biggest geniuses who ever lived. I've actually found that the average chessplayer is dumber than the average human. Fortunately, I'm not talking about this.

CHESS is unmarketable - situations and personalities can occasionally be marketed. Certainly Kasparov and Fischer are the only to globally marketed chessplayers in modern history. In the US, you have no chance marketing anyone of foreign descent. Sorry. Not a chance, even though I am good friends with some of them, they're unmarketable. You'd be amazed how many reporters would stop talking to me when they found out that the "US" or "American" player was born in the former Soviet Union or some other place.

Note the similar dearth of marketing of the 2004 Olympiad Women's team - only 2 of the games were even played by someone born in this country.

US reporters only care about US players. When I explained to one reporter yesterday the players in teh finals, it was two Ukranians, one Georgian and one Belorussian. The reporter quickly lost all interest.

There's a natural marketing link between basketball and gym shoes. And there's a natural marketing link between chess and computers and the internet.

Early evidences of this link came when Intel and IBM started sponsoring chess events. Maybe ten years will or more will have to go by before these firms get over having been slapped in the face for their troubles.

When chess, unlike boxing, has a stable governing body and an undisputed champion (hopefully one who's not prone to tantrums), the natural sponsors will start to come back.

USCF championships should be organized in Europe or Mexico. This has been done before in other countries. With success.

I think John Fernandez has touched on a critical point: "chess" is unmarketable. It already gets way more "product placement" than most games, and beyond that, I wouldn't know where to start.

I also agree with him that some chess personalities and some chess situations ARE marketable.

I do think quite a few more top US players could develop personal sponsorships than have them now, but that requires a commitment on the part of the individual players to learn how to do that well. So far, very few have seemed interested in this idea unless it's at a very high level of support. So it goes.

I do have to disagree with the "US reporters only care about US born players" comment, though. Susan Polgar is a clear counter example. She's getting better press and raising more sponsorship than just about any other American player, and she didn't arrive in the US until she was in her 20s. So it clearly can be done, but it is more of a challenge, certainly.

regards,
duif

p.s. I recently received some promotional material from an organization that highlighted, among others, a woman from Georgia (the country), and men born in China, Cuba, Russia, and the Ukraine. Not a chess event--the San Francisco Symphony. :)

I think there is indeed a lot of nativism out there which poses challenges to people trying to drum up interest in U.S. chess personalities. We see it on the ICC all the time - people complaining that "this is the Russian championship" and so on (and just try to explain to these people that neither Onischuk nor Shulman was Russian! Just try!).

However, I don't think these obstacles are insurmountable. In the first place, there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US who are themselves immigrants from the former USSR, Yugoslavia, and Warsaw Pact, and millions more who are descendants of such immigrants. (Many of these people play chess, too.) There's a reason why one of Chicago's sister cities is Kiev. When GM Onischuk is the champion, the Ukrainian community might be interested in his prospects and might even be a potential source of sponsorship and support.

In the second place, as any fan of professional sports can testify, if someone is playing for our own city, his/her place of birth becomes a secondary consideration. (This is one reason that the USCL is such a good thing.) Imagine if we could have gotten the governors of Maryland and Illinois to bet crab cakes against pizza on the outcome of the Onischuk-Shulman match, for example. (This is an argument for giving some lead time between the tournament(s) and the final round.)

Of course taking advantage of these points really does require some grass-roots effort, people active on the ground in the local communities, organizing events and publicizing local teams and so on. I don't expect all the publicity for the USCL to come out of Crossville or some national office. Really, I wonder if one of the useful things that the USCF might actually do mightn't be to hold workshops on the occasion of the U.S. Open/Delegate's meeting where organizers for local clubs and state chess associations could LEARN how to do publicity, get sponsors, sponsor GM events, and so on.

And then, in the third place, in Torino, our whole team is going to have the US flag on their tables regardless of birthplace - another reason it's such an opportunity. This applies to all FIDE WC cycle events.

petrel

It's not the foreign origin of the players that's the trouble; it's the sport. Americans don't have trouble embracing Manu Ginobili, Jaromir Jagr, or Sammy Sosa despite the fact that they barely spoke any English when they arrived in the US to play basketball, hockey, and baseball. Yao Ming was plastered all over television by Nike (?) and American Express. Last year we had a cocky teenage chess champion from New York for the first time since Fischer. Was there a mainstream media jump relative to the attention paid the Latvian-born Shabalov living in Pittsburgh? Only in a few New York papers from what I could tell and only right after the event.

Chess doesn't make an impact in the US unless it's something unusual and/or heavily promoted (Kasparov vs machine matches). At this point, with the world championship degraded as it is, even an American winning the world title (take your pick) wouldn't make a dent lasting longer than a day or two. There is no huge fan base, no vested interests, no corporate giants, and no massive PR machine in place for chess, unlike basketball and other popular sports.

There are always a million reasons why it is not possible to do something that isn't being done, but sometimes some people then do it.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 14, 2006 10:59 PM.

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