Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Life is full of failures, so chess life must be too.

In marketing, or making presentations to generation sales, by some method, some ideas work best with timing that is near perfect, or a product which is so cool, and so new, that it elicits gasps (oohs and aahs).

Possibly the introduction of a certain celebrity can help or not.

But when all is said and done the "offer" must be so compelling as to overpower all the reasons to do nothing. But there is one factor which shouldn't be ignored and it is the NUMBERS. Being a math guy, I can appreciate this.

If a proposal is made to 1,000 people and 1% respond positively, or 10 people in this case, then is THAT compelling? It depends on other "numbers." If the unit (as Steve Ehrbach would have called it) is $100,000 that might be enough, but then we have to look at some other numbers, such as, "How much is the unit going to cost us?"

We keep coming back to numbers.

Some could look at 990 people saying "No", in effect, as a failure, but if the product cost $25,000 each, then a profit of $750,000 might be considered a huge success.

Similarly, but conversely, if you gave away something for FREE and 80% thought it to be worthy enough to say "Yes" while the "unit" cost was $10 each, then that $800,000 expense better have a big "Whammo" upon final rollout or somebody might just go down the drain.

So while it is perspective, it's also numbers. It doesn't do any good for me to scratch my head and ask WHY there isn't a bigger turnout for the "Chess TNT" event if NO ONE CARES! To "care" something must be compelling, something to get us out of our rocking chair and take action. E.g., if our car has bad brakes, most of us will take some kind of action to solve that problem because life and limb are at danger here--a pretty good sized priority.

But, if we forgot to put out the garbage one week, that's inconvenient, maybe smelly, but probably not life threatening. So where's the "in between?" Marketers ask themselves that question ALL the time, so by that FACT alone (i.e., "all"), there must be lots of "failures."

What happens when there is a big SUCCESS? There is an attempt to duplicate it in many cases. When Elvis Presley died the t-shirt vendors, music companies, etc. went crazy selling "stuff" and still have. Maybe it was only a minor success (because there were so many different vendors). But when Steve Jobs died those "marketers" tried the same thing with bobbleheads, etc. and from what I have read, the lovers of Apple products didn't respond (unless it was an iPhone 4S). It's ALWAYS dicey.

The guy who marketed the Farrah Fawcett posters sold millions of them but he went broke! "How's that possible?" Lots of distributors he sold them to didn't pay him what he was owed. They kept the money they made, but he was left high and dry. He probably lost everything and possibly the printers did too.

This pretty girl came up to a dude and he asked her if she would sleep with him for a million bucks. Quickly she said, "Sure honey." Then he said, "Would you do that for five bucks?" She replied, "What kind of girl do you think I am?" He backed up and said, "We already know what kind of girl you are, we are just trying to agree on a price!"

Successful events are like that too. What is the right price, the right location, the right venue, and the right time? Is Neil Diamond worth $150 in Chicago but only $60 in Davenport, Iowa? Is he coming on a week night or a weekend? (Funny thing, Neil Diamond can come to the Quad Cities where I live, on a Thursday night, and sell out 10,000 seats, but running a chess club on a Thursday night, which is close to free, can get only a half dozen or less involved.) Has the potential ticket buyer seen that show before and is it necessary for it to be different to see another one?

In all honesty I don't have the answers and even the "numbers" guys are wrong from time to time (that's the "bell curve" for you), more than you might believe because "how hot is hot?"

Maybe something "outrageous" would draw people like watching Jerry Lee Lewis play "Great Balls of Fire" while playing chess too on a board that is on fire. But the chess would be incidental. If magician Chris Angel was playing chess with Garry Kasparov and made Kasparov's Queen suddenly disappear, would people come to see that? Would you? It would cost a sack of donuts to get those two guys to show--and know that there would be a lot of media there and it would probably have to be done on TV or closed circuit TV. The logistics would be pretty incredible.

If you have been with me for all this, WHAT would it take for you to attend a chess event? Let's take ONE thing out of the mathematical expression: COST. What would you like to see or do? And how long would your attention span be? What hurdles would you be willing to give up to come?

My bet? Only a few people who read this Blog (or maybe none) will take even 2 minutes of their life to answer. In many cases there has to be an "event" just to talk about the Main Event. That is, a captive audience.

One reason I am curious: Recently someone spoke to me about "Next Year's Event" and the first thought which came to MY mind, was "What do they know that I don't know?"

I'd like YOUR input even if you think it isn't valuable because it is. There will be others who think or behave JUST LIKE you do. No kidding! You won't lose points with me. This is a fact-finding mission. I do not have George Gallup to help out. Don't guess what you believe someone else would do (i.e., other chess players), just what it would take for you. I have some ideas of my own, which could be presented in 2012.



  1. Bob,
    You already know my thoughts on the TNT Event. But it would be interesting to see if my comments will generate more ideas from others. You asked what others want. Here is my response:

    I really feel that none of us who are below master strength can ever get enough instruction and/or guidance in the areas of middle game planning and endgame knowledge. Once I get beyond the first 10 or 12 moves in "my opening," I'm simply hoping I have a playable middle game. And there's the rub! At this point in any opening, play now revolves around making plans (yours or dealing with your opponents) and the process to implement them. This is the "meat" of chess!

    There are probably many out there who could put on a TNT event dealing with "opening preparation." It would take a lot of work on the part of the presenter, but with some good references, and time, they could do a decent job with this type of event. But I could do that myself at home if I felt like putting in the time and had access to the resources. What would really "trip my trigger" is for someone (like Andrew) who has the knowledge, and experience to back it up, give me advice on the "meat of chess." Having an expert talk to a group about things that are in almost every game: (1) weak/strong squares and how to exploit them, (2) making use of open files, (3) how to make the most out of having the two Bishops, (4) important concepts to remember when playing closed positions, (5) important concepts to remember when playing open positions, (6) examples (which might not be obvious) of using the rule of the square, (7) using the idea of triangulation and the opposition, (8) pawn play in the endgame—God, we would hang on every word!

    These are just a few ideas that probably occur in everyone's games and (I think) would appeal to a great many serious players. When someone says to me, "We are going to have an event where you will be shown some things by an expert about X, Y, and Z openings, and then we will put into practice what you have learned," I would first ask myself if these openings appeal to me, and if so, then be somewhat interested. But if someone were to say to me, "We are going to have an event where you will be shown some things by an expert that will occur in many, if not most, of your games," then you have my undivided attention.

    I would be very interested in what others think!

    Steve L.

  2. Bob,
    It is always hard to know why people don't come to anything, since you really don't know who they are - because well, they don't come. But here goes some notions:
    1. Timing: The fall is a busy time. Schools are back in session, a lot of professional and business meetings are held, there are a lot of holiday and social events. Football for example has a major social component (tailgating and parties) and consumes 6-8 weekends.
    2. Timing and a Limited Pool of Potential Attendees: There was already one event this year up in Red Wing, MN. For many people there is only so much time (not to mention money – but you ask not to involve cost as a primary factor) budgeted to chess. Even regulars at local tourneys may only play in a big state event occasionally and play at a national meeting every few years. Time (and money) for a training session is clearly finite – and perhaps that was all consumed already.
    3. Format/Method: This is a new(er) way of doing things so it may be a hard sell just because of the newness of the concept. Steve L. makes some good points; having an expert like Andrew push you to analyze positions, pick a move, and defend your choices is really helpful. As a patzer, it is interesting that even better players like Steve L. (to whom I have lost badly) face many of the same problems - it suggests a universality of these concerns. Opening books have traditionally sold better than middlegame and endgame books, so an opening theme is not necessarily a weak point. Clearly people are interested in openings. But I can see why some players may not feel that this is time well spent at a weekend training event.
    Hope this helps some.