|Anand-Gelfand live, in the Israeli sports channel. Credit: see below.|
|Gelfand - Anand on ynet, Israel's major news site. Credit: see below.|
Due to Boris Gelfand's battle for the world championship, the Israeli press looked at chess -- for once -- with a different eye. Not being a television fan, I didn't know that the Israeli sports channel actually transmitted the game live and that for seven hours Gelfand - Anand was the top story in www.ynet.co.il, Israel's most popular news web site. (Credit: Ha'ayin Hasvhi'it [The Seventh Eye, a media blog and magazine], "When Gelfand Scratched his Head" [Hebrew], by Shlomo Mann for the photos above).
Mann's article is quite interesting (if a bit cynical). He notes that the media's lack of interest in chess isn't, necessarily, due to bias, but due to the fact that it is not a television-friendly medium. The real movement in chess is in the invisible thoughts inside the players' heads, which doesn't make for must-see TV, and to non-players the commentaries are "advanced gibberish" in any case.
Mann ends his column with the same idea that I have reached in my Jerusalem Post article the other day: the hope for chess' popularity is on the Internet. While this seems blindingly obvious, we both apparently agree not enough was done in this respect in Israel. His suggestion is that if one of the main media outlets in Israel would be willing to give chess a professional web page column on their web sites, things might look different.
Then again, there is a downside to all the publicity. In Ma'ariv this week, Gelfand is on the front page of the weekend edition, and the interview with him, over seven pages, shows as usual his intelligence and strength of character. Excellent publicity for chess -- but, the problem is, he is photographed on the cover with an Israeli actress which decided to "come out" as a lesbian this week, in time for the yearly "pride march" of the homosexual community in Tel Aviv.
This sort of cheap sensationalism makes one wonder whether chess should be all that popular. Certainly Gelfand himself, in the interview and elsewhere, sees popularity as greatly overrated.