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I'm one of those sad geeks that, instead of watching football of some sort or another, prefer to watch the super GM's battle it out whenever my schedule allows. This weekend I was looking forward to following the FIDE Grand Prix Series, just to find out to my dismay that they are having a rest day on Saturday.

Now I understand that chess is a demanding game and that GM's need their rest, but why do they schedule rest days over the weekend, when spectator interest is at its highest?

Why not have rest days on Mondays and Thursdays, for example? Or alternatively, have a system where players have various rest days, but there is at least one game going on every day for the duration of the tournament.

Surely it is in the interest of the game to maximise the spectator value, which in turn improves the commercial value of the game?

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I would say the problem is that the Grand Prix is a Fide organised tournament. If you see how often those tournaments are played in almost completely empty halls, it is obvious that Fide doesn't much care about spectator value.

Some other tournaments conveniently have an uneven number of players, which leads to an extra rest day for each player, "unnoticeable" to the spectator.

Generally non-Fide tournaments try to maximise the income from visitors, which means the weekends have to be played (From the top level tournaments I visited, I would estimate that weekend days draw double to triple the number of visitors compared to workdays.).

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  • If I recall correctly, the weekend games in the Baku hosted FIDE Grand Prix attracted a full house, but I get your point that the current version in Khanty-Minsiysk looks dreadful from a crow point of view. Does FIDE have no incentive to make the game more popular? – firtydank May 22 '15 at 10:55
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    Wijk aan Zee never has an odd number of players, you're confusing it with some other tournament. They also don't charge admission for spectators. – RemcoGerlich May 22 '15 at 21:32
  • Yes, your right. I was pretty sure they used to have 13 players, but it seems I was wrong. About admission, in that case Wijk aan Zee is special because there are many (amateur-)tournaments on the same site. – BlindKungFuMaster May 23 '15 at 7:25
  • BKFM, you might have had in mind some recent edition(s) of the London Chess Classic, which had an odd number of participants, and with the off-day player sitting in for part of the commentary on each round. – ETD May 24 '15 at 20:40
  • Yes, I was specifically remembering the commentary, but I actually now thought that was Zürich … but you are right, it was in London. Shows I should really start double checking my memories of top tournaments. – BlindKungFuMaster May 24 '15 at 21:15
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Also many of these huge tournaments usually have side excursions/simultaneous exhibits/autograph sessions/kids meeting grandmaters/ etc that are best put over the weekend when spectators, chess enthusiasts and parents can make time to attend/take their kids over as opposed to weekdays that are majorly working days and school time.

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(the following is my speculation based on following chess for a few decades, I might be wrong)

Most top level chess tournaments do not make money from spectators or from commercials shown to spectators. They make money from sponsors. Sponsors don't usually care all that much about spectators either.

Sponsors care about prestige, about showing business relations around and having them meet some of the grandmasters. About speeches in which they can talk about being smart and looking many moves ahead, and then having their name attached to a tournament.

Having a lot of internet spectators probably helps in attracting sponsors, because you can show that a lot of people are interested and it has global appeal; but that's indirect and not usually considered when choosing rest days. Having good facilities for business networking (weekdays?) probably counts more.

The entire tournament has to last some logical period of time (e.g., they rent a venue for two weeks, from weekend to weekend, because venues are available to rent per week) and then if you want to have a rest day, it's logical to have it in the middle. The more rest days you have the more expensive it is, because the venue probably won't be useable for anything else on the rest days.

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  • If that is the attitude of elite tournament organizers then we can safely stop wondering why chess is struggling to attract spectators even though it is one of the most popular games in the world. Most other sports also don't make the bulk of their income from entry fees either, but their administrators understand that the value of the game lies in its popularity. People don't become interested in something they don't have access to. – firtydank May 23 '15 at 5:09
  • Also, I don't think they need to have more rest days, just different ones. As Blindkungfu pointed out, there are ways to organise a tournament so that there are no tournament rest days, but each player still gets a number of rest days. And taking the current GP as an example - if they switched play between Friday and Saturday, they would have same number of rest days and still have their weekend crowd. – firtydank May 23 '15 at 5:22
  • Sponsors don't usually care all that much about spectators either?? You'd better back that up with data - why do we see the sponsor brand names being put on every object around a football game? – user4378 Jun 2 '15 at 8:08
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    Because football games have a completely different type of sponsor, and way more spectators. – RemcoGerlich Jun 2 '15 at 8:13
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The physical demands of GM chess for a game day is higher than pro sports.

Chess Life in the late 50s (early 60s?) had an article by a PhD psychologist who actually measured physiological results of playing in tournaments.

The scheduling has to do with other factors of holding a tournament as TV revenues are not a major concern for the organizers.

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