To some extent, one can get round this problem by having expert commentary, explaining what is happening. But then we run into another contradiction. Most people agree that, if chess is to be made suitable for a TV audience, the game needs to be speeded up - one cannot have players sitting at the board for hours at a stretch, with only the occasional move being made. The TV viewer needs action, we are told, and that means rapid and blitz chess. But here is the rub - the faster you make the game, the less time there is to explain what is going on in the position, so sensible expert commentary becomes much harder to present, in a rapid or blitz game.
This is where I found the Hearn documentary especially interesting. What I discovered was that, some ten years ago, Hearn persuaded Sky Sports to broadcast fishing! Yes, fishing - that "action" sport, where a bunch of guys sit by the river for hours on end, with nothing much happening. A keen angler himself, Hearn sold Sky the idea of Fish-o-Mania, named after the wrestling equivalent. The programme lasts most of the day, with anglers competing over the course of a fixed number of hours, for who can catch the most fish. The show has been on for some ten years already.
Now this surely gives the lie to the idea that chess needs to be speeded up drastically to attract TV coverage? What Hearn realised is that dedicated TV sports channels have hours and hours of airtime to fill, and are always looking for cheap ways of doing so. If they can take six or seven hours of fishing, why not the same amount of chess? It would not be difficult to put together such an event. If anyone can do it, it is Barry Hearn. And, after all, his closest friend and number one protege, Steve Davis, is himself a keen chessplayer and former President of the BCF. Surely he can persuade Barry to give it a go?
"Let's get the boys on the boards!"
Of course, if this were to happen, chessplayers would have to ape their darts and snooker counterparts, by adopting nicknames and walk-on music. What could we expect, one wonders? Vishy Anand, "The Tiger from Madras", entering to the theme tune from Rocky III? Vlad "The Impaler" Kramnik, marching into the arena to the strains of Boney M's "Rasputin", perhaps? "The Viking Raider" Magnus Carlsen, coming on to Abba's " The Winner takes it all"? And it would surely be worth the price of admission, just to hear compere Rob Walker trying to pronounce some of the names: "He is the fastest blitz player in the game. Blink and you'll miss him! It's the Hurricane - Vladislav Tkachiev!".
Ah, the potential is endless! Are you listening, Barry?