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Spectator Sport

Tamquam fierent

The moments I am most proud of in chess is when I see how many people tune in to watch a broadcast or when a large audience shows up to the playing hall. It's in these moments when I know that my work is valuable. And it's in these moments when I realize chess is a sports. 

I've been spoiled as a kid with Wijk aan Zee, where I played in a hall with 600 other chess players, including the world champion. Combining an open with an elite event is a successful concept, also used by Grenke and London Chess Classic.

Other notable tournaments are the Paris Grand Chess Tour, played without an audience in the Canal+ TV studios, the World Championships matches, and the Magnus-mania in Norway.

With a healthy dose of jealousy I visited an ESL eSports event in Katowice, where about 10,000 fans gather together to meet their gaming heroes in real life. But those events offer more than just sports: it has a huge expo center, where the big tech brands allow you to play games on their latest gear, there is merchandise, huge screens outside in fan zones, and some fans spend he whole night outside to be the first in line.

I wish I could say that chess has a bright future as a spectator sport, but I think this will only work when chess gets a chance at the Olympics.

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