Why do People Spectate in Chess Tournaments? (Explained)

Spectators in real-time chess tournaments are able to observe the body language and tension of each match, plus the ups and downs of who’s winning without getting spoiled of the results. Spectators can also meet with players that they like as well as other people who are interested in chess.

With the boom of chess tournaments online, many enthusiasts are looking forward to prestigious chess games on the live stream, the online commentary is becoming better.

Which is why some might wonder why a couple of people are even interested in watching chess in real-time and even paying for it? 

After all if one is going to experience the same thing then a free online stream is the way to go, there must be a reason for watching things in real life. Why are there spectators in chess tournaments? 

I think this is an important topic to be brought up if we are talking about the implication of online development to chess.

This would tell us if watching chess in physical places would cease to exist in the future and will online viewing dominate the game completely, it is a crucial discussion. Without further ado, let us begin. 

Is there any difference between watching chess in real-time than online?

Watching chess tournaments in real-time allows a spectator to observe the player’s body language and reactions during each of the moves, and the tension of up and down in matches that can be fully enjoyed without being spoiled of the results unlike with online viewing.

A lot of people think that spectators in real-time tournaments are usually unable to see the boards since it is so small, this is wrong since the distance from the stands is not that far.

If you are in a tournament the board is visible from the stand of the spectators, a real-time view of the playing board along with multiple interfaces provides a new perspective in the match.

This means that you are able to view multiple games all at once from different perspectives, where you can look at it on the board or just see it in the given interface.

Some tournaments will show screens that allow spectators to be aware of what’s happening on different boards, this can give a powerful feeling about the progress of the match.

If you are just viewing something online the flow of the game is simply monotonous, meaning one can only view one match at a time.

By being able to view the different matches in the tournament all at once one can really get to feel the competitiveness of the tournament that is important to establish the context.

The context being how hard it is actually to convert a win, when you are able to see how many draws there are it is easier to appreciate victories.

It is unlike in online viewership where you already have a clue that there is a decisive winner before even watching, this takes all of the surprises when someone actually did win.

Chess tournaments are much more intense than you think

Another thing that spectators in real-time tournaments have is the gift of being able to see human behavior, in online you rarely get to see the face of the competitors.

Participants of chess tournaments usually have been preparing for the event for a long time. There is a lot at stake, you can feel it at the emotions of the players.

This takes away all the story behind the match that is important in appreciating what is happening on the board, I think this is important.

Online viewing of chess matches usually leaves out the psychological condition of the game, you can view the intensity of the match when you are present in the tournament.

Sometimes there is more beyond the game that actually makes a match interesting, viewers online usually do not get the same coverage as with real-time spectators.

There could be an intense rivalry between the players that show their body language in every move, eye movement, hand gestures, and whispers.

These are all manner of intimidation that gets left out in online viewership, people just don’t receive the spice of the games.

Another is the triumph that comes from defeating someone very strong, the moment where a competitor proves himself on the stage.

This is a video of an 18-year-old Andrey Esipenko beating the almighty Magnus Carlsen himself which is arguably the best chess player of all time:

With this footage, you’re able to see the passion that this kid has for the game and how much meaning there is to beat the world champion.

This is something you wouldn’t even feel if you just watched the game online (which probably did gain some traction) but not the same effect of being physically present at that moment.

Being a real-time spectator is entertaining

Some people think that watching chess in real life is extremely boring where you would sit there waiting for moves all day.

This is again not true since there are multiple boards being played at the same time that you usually wouldn’t get stuck waiting for one player to make a move.

Watching chess tournaments can be fun for those who are serious about pursuing the game, many people would be playing at the same time where moves get updated every minute or so.

There really is less waiting involved and spectators can easily get the juice from different boards without having to wait for long.

Online viewership commoditize good games

Now I like the nature of online chess where people can just pick the craziest game that occurred and choose it to be featured.

However, there are some not-that-beautiful games on the surface that gets fundamentally complex when studied with detail, this is pretty hard to find online.

Or it could be that a game has interesting variations but doesn’t get to live mainstream since the game ended in a draw, this is much more common than you think.

When you are spectating real-time you’re able to experience all of the good lines despite the blandness of the ending, something that you might miss online.

There are so many tournaments being played every day that some interesting matches don’t even get the chance to be featured in the mainstream, being a spectator allows you to see some of that.

There are after all a lot of essential things that you can learn in drawn games that are not present in decisive games. Spectating in real life allows the opportunity for the viewers to experience such matches and absorb the concepts within them.

There are usually good commentary in real-time spectating

Now, this is not always the case, there are obviously a lot of legit chess live streams that feature good commentary (like with chess 24).

However the organizers usually put more effort into the commentary that can be featured for real-time spectators than the one found online,  this should help to give some insights on the matches.

Chess tournaments usually have an excellent commentary that is rarely present in online analysis, the feeling of having a companion that will analyze things with you is convenient.

In online viewership (most of the time) there is little to no commentary for the moves and are not that entertaining nor educating (there are exceptions).

Do people spectate in tournaments because of the players?

One of the largest benefits of spectating chess tournaments in real-time is the opportunity to meet the players. Some spectators are able to converse with the participating players along with some of their friends and families.

I think this is one of the largest reasons that it is even worth it to spend money on physical tournaments, the prestige of mingling with the players.

Some of you might not know this but chess players have fans too, there are those who want to see their idols in real life and even talk to them.

The world champion Magnus Carlsen for example is so revered that some enthusiast would even travel from another country just to spend some minutes talking to him.

It is just different when there is a face rather than just a picture you can view online, it is an experience that is beyond the power of images.

One part of living after all is meeting people that you adore in real life, I can imagine many would do this if possible. This does not only apply to the world champion but also to other elite grandmasters that are famous for their style of play.

Look at this video:

The ambiance of being able to be around elite players is a valuable experience in itself, again, something you cannot do online. By being able to see their faces, the way they walk, talk, sit, and behave with other people would give you an idea of their personality.

Family and friends of elite players

Which people are usually present in tournaments? the players of course but also their friends and family who support them.

This means that on some occasions you are able to converse with some close relatives of the player that you like and even associate yourself with them, that is a great opportunity.

In other words, you are likely to find family members/friends of elite players that you like, this gives an opportunity to meet the elite player or even befriend them.

You are not meeting the player by themselves but if you can do it with someone that is their camaraderie it can give you chances to see them down the road.

Chess tournaments attract a lot of titled players

If you don’t know already it is pretty difficult to meet titled players in real life and even online, some people would really want to talk to such individuals.

Chess tournaments, especially elite events usually attract a lot of titled players that spectators can meet and converse with. It is an amazing experience if you have some questions in your head.

These questions can be something that cannot easily be satisfied with a simple google search, something pretty unique. If you have an expert you can talk to it will help clear up some misunderstanding in the game, and it is just fun to meet good people.

Real-time chess tournaments are entertaining

I want to ask you why do some people watch basketball? or soccer? or baseball? It is of course the thrill of the moment that comes with the presence.

Spectators simply watch because it is entertaining just like with any other competition, you are more likely to appreciate the intensity of the match than if you just watched it online.

There is just something different when you have seen the game with your own two eyes, somewhere far from the reach of a screen that is presented by computers and cellphones.

We are creatures of multiple senses, when you are present at a particular event you are more likely to remember every bit of it like how the air smells, or the sweet impression of the audience.

This is a detail that is being left out in online viewership since there is no empirical record of the impressions.

Do people spectate in tournaments to socialize? 

Being a spectator in chess tournaments gives the opportunity to meet other chess players that one can build social relationships with, spectators often talk about chess-related topics and even play some blitz games which is not possible online.

Spectating in real-time tournaments can give you friends

Meeting someone who is interested in chess is pretty difficult (unless online), being a spectator in a chess tournament can allow an individual to meet other people who are interested in the game.

Even online, it is hard to find someone that you can build an actual relationship with. The connection is just harder to establish when you haven’t met the individual face to face

Spectating in real-time tournaments gives just that, the opportunity to meet new people that you can share your thoughts with. Just look at this quick snippet of Grenke Chess Open 2019 and how many people are there:

All of these individuals are most likely interested in chess and also are open to talking with anyone interested in the game, it is a social opportunity.

You can analyze with another spectator

In tournaments, spectators are usually close to each other and within talking distance, people can talk with each other about the game.

A spectator can talk about the game (analysis) with another spectator who is likely to love the game themselves, finding a reasonable discussion is becoming harder to find these days which you can get here.

It can be a friendly discussion that has learning in the end, something that online viewership definitely does not accomplish.

There are a lot of trolls on the internet that are just looking to trigger someone, you most likely would not find a person worthy of discussion.

When you have someone who can actually listen it would lead to a reasonable learning opportunity that you can have together, it is amazing.

Real-time spectators can play some blitz games

This is probably one of the things that I like in spectating real-time, which is you don’t only talk with people you can also interact with them.

Meaning you can also play chess with other spectators after all you all like chess and there are a lot of boards available in these settings, so why not play some games?

A spectator can play some blitz games with other spectators that they can socialize with, some participants of the tournament would even join to play some quick chess on some occasions.

You can be with new people that you have met and learn to bond with them, there is just something different with playing over-the-board games.

A lot of people who have met under the circumstances have become friends for life, these encounters are much more powerful than you think.

They can be your peers that you will even usually meet in various chess tournaments as opponents, or you can even be under the same chess club.

The point is you get to meet new friends and play chess with them, I think that’s something that online play lacks where we cannot see each other’s faces.

If there is a large enough group you can usually attract titled players and even have a match with them, you can test your skills while building a connection

The best-case scenario is when an elite player participating in a tournament would actually play a game with you which could happen.

That is such a golden experience since you are likely to even converse with these people for even more matches (online) later down the road.

You not only meet the people that you adore so much you actually have the opportunity to play chess with them, isn’t it awesome?

Do you now know why people are spectating in chess tournaments?

I believe that in every competition there are nuances in spectating real-time that you couldn’t find from just viewing online.

This is the so-called being able to live the moment as opposed to just witnessing it, it is something that will leave an imprint on one’s memory over the course of time.

You wouldn’t just forget meeting your idol if you are really interested in that activity, this is the same with chess.

If I could meet Magnus Carlsen right now and shake hands with him it is better than me just looking for his pictures online.

I think this could also apply to other pursuits in life, we should live in the moment than just observe it. If you have an elite tournament nearby what do you know you might want to spectate, sleep well and play chess.

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