Jennifer, Daniel, and Greg's first installment of their tv pilot, Xtreme Chess Challenge, is up here:
(sorry it's so primitive with the lack of hyperlinks-- I'm without my laptop in Cancun, writing from Jonathan's iPad, and I guess he needs to update his browser.)
I have a few things to say:
1) Overall, it's entertaining and fun and gives you a nice little dose of chess. I think it's really hard to get the balance right in talking about chess with a mainstream audience, keeping it intelligible without pandering, and I think they do an excellent job on this.
I wish I had my copies of all the recent mainstream books that have tried to talk about chess: Counterplay, the Chess Artist, King's Gambit, and Bobby Fischer vs. the World with me, because I think they all faced something like this same issue in written form: how to talk about chess without getting too technical or too simplistic/symbolic. I want to read their chess passages side by side and compare their approaches/ success.
2) I think a lot of the success of this series will be determined by often the hosts can get the kids to open up and say interesting things on camera. Kassa stands out with his "I'm calm, cool, and collected" but most of the kids' sound bites don't grab me at all. I hope that changes as we get into the later episodes, but I know it's not easy getting kids to talk about themselves. There are some nice brief clips of them doing non chess stuff, but they are very short-- I wish we saw more of Alisa dancing and Justus playing judo.
3) Jonathan, who has no real interest in chess beyond a polite one, wanted to see Survivor-like challenges added in: to advance to the next round a contestant would have to talk to a pretty girl in the lunch-line, or change a car tire.
4) I like the NYC/MTV/fast paced feel, but I'd like to hear more a more extended blurb from the players about their lives and what place chess has in it. Maybe a 2 minute "this is who I am," like they do in the winter Olympics?
5) one of the most interesting things about the event was the weird Greg-inspired rules: you bid a low amount of starting time to get white. In the event of a draw, players switch colors and play again, but keep their remaining time. I'm a little confused why this wasn't explained-- maybe to keep here video short? It's a cool, completely original twist that also maybe provides a jumping off point for the kids to talk about their tournament strategy/approach to each opponent.
6) I can't tell if it's weird to have 4 hosts. I know 3 of them, so it wasn't for me, but I suspect it might be more than most shows have. It also seems a little weird that Greg, the highest rated player and someone with a cult following of video watchers, doesn't do any of the commentary.
Overall, I think making a popular tv show about chess is extremely difficult and they've done a great job.
In other news, James Black is 2313! It took him 14 months to go from 2100 to 2200, but only 3 months to break 2300. He will be the second highest rated 13 year old in the country on the next list, just 25 points behind Kayden Troff. Justus Williams is also doing extraordinarily, beating both Kassa Korley (2378) and Eli Vovsha (2531) in his last tournament.
I'm in Cancun, enjoying the sunshine and the all-inclusivity of the resort. I've read/ am reading 1Q84 (Murakami, great, but I was disappointed in the lack of an ending), Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman, about cognitive bias), and Everything I Never Wanted To Be, an entertaining /touching memoir of drug addicted family life by a female comedianne/ grocery store cashier from Albequerque.