Monday, March 31, 2008

New Media Chess Essay

Two Columbia journalism students put together a website that explores chess people and chess in New York City. They interview six players on video (including Nakamura, Ashley, Waitzkin, and Vicary), present some photos and video of chess sites in New York City, and have a History of the game. The content is somewhat scattershot, but there is a lot of content to explore. While the site is ostensibly called "Masters and Hustlers", besides the interviews of some masters and a few hustlers, there really isn't a unifying principle that threads the site together.

The interviews of the players are the best part, and is worth checking out just for those-- the one with Nakamura is especially illuminating. There is an interview with a chess hustler as well, which seems put in for completeness sake.

The timeline of the history of the game was interestingly presented, but only on some years did I get Padolfini's narration; I'm not sure if that's a site error, or there wasn't any narration on some of them (mysteriously, you have to click on the "GAME" link, and not something called History). Unfortunately, some things just seem like they were added at the last moment (e.g., inconsistent fonts, typos), but this only slightly detracts from the presentation.

Furthermore, they try all sorts of Flash-esque techniques on the website (cursor changing, zooms, fades, rolling clickable landscapes, and so forth). Some are useful and some are superfluous and ultimately frustrating. When they keep it simple -- the embedded video with a textual sidebar overview, for instance -- it works the best.

In summary, even though it is unfocused, a little sloppy, and tries too hard at times to be clever, the website does present some insightful, probing, and worthwhile content. If you are interested in chess players or chess in New York City, then by all means, check it out.

1 comment:

Michael Goeller said...

Very good analysis! Everyone else who referenced the site (including myself) was so pleased to see someone doing something like this about chess that we didn't want to critique it in any meaningful way. I was most bothered by the lack of coherence -- the title, as you point out, just does not receive much support. Maybe if they had an essay of their own to tie it together and talk about hustling vs. other modes of professional play? Also the timeline seems a bit arbitrary. Where is New York 1924, for example?