The Master Game
Presented by Jeremy James with expert analysis from Leonard Barden and, later, Bill Hartston, The Master Game was noted for its innovative style, in which a display board with animated figurines and move notation, shown centre-left of screen, was accompanied by footage of the players cogitating, their thoughts during the game heard in voice-over.
As a theme tune, the later series of this programme used the Disco '78 version of Ennio Morricone's "Come Maddalena".
History and technique
The Master Game's producer, Robert Toner, recalled previous work for the coverage of the Fischer-Spassky 1972 World Championship match: "Marsland Gander, then TV critic of the Daily Telegraph, wrote, 'The manner in which the games are presented, with experts standing in front of magnetic boards, moving pieces by hand, shows that television has made no technical progress with chess for the past twenty years'. He was right – from that time I began to wrestle with the problem."
The result was the creation of a special invitational knock-out tournament. The games were played away from the television studio, the audio recordings of the players' thoughts being made immediately afterwards. The players would later be filmed in a studio reconstruction of the game, made to match the audio recordings.
Added to this intensive, unorthodox production method were the ground-breaking animated board and pieces created by designer John Bone and the technicians at BBC Bristol. This effect was achieved using a glass chess table on which the moves were made by a cloaked and gloved player. The piece symbols seen on-screen were actually on the underside of the pieces themselves, which were filmed from beneath in reflection, to correct for the left/right reversal that resulted. In addition to this, the expert commentator could use an electronic pointer, illuminating the squares to graphically indicate the ideas being discussed. The effect that combining all of these elements produced had never been previously achieved and is remarkably similar to a high quality, digitally produced, modern multimedia chess presentation, yet was created using only puppetry techniques, fairy lights, mirrors and much editing.
The series were variously directed by Geoff Walmsley, Sandra Wainwright and Jill Dawson.
Knock-out format, domestic field:
- Series One (1975-6)
First Prize: £250
- Series Two (1976-7)
International field adopted:
- Series Three (1977-8)
First Prize: £1250
- Series Four (1978-9)
Twin group format adopted:
- Series Five (1979–80)
First Prize: £2500
- Series Six (1980-1)
First Prize: £2500
- Series Seven (1981-2)
First Prize: £2500; Second Prize: £2000
- Series Eight (1983) - "The 'missing link", never broadcast due to industrial action. The programmes, taped in English in Bath, was later dubbed into German and shown by NDR.
- Barden, Leonard; James, Jeremy. The Master Game (British Broadcasting Corporation, 1979). ISBN 0-563-17437-4
- Hartston, William; James, Jeremy. "The Master Game – Book Two" (British Broadcasting Corporation, 1981). ISBN 0-563-17916-3
- British Film Institute http://ftvdb.bfi.org.uk/sift/series/10581
- Pfleger, Helmut; Kurz, Eugen. "Turnier der Schachgroßmeister '83" (Falken-Verlag, 1983). ISBN 978-3-8068-0718-9
- Robert Byrne (27 December 1983). "Chess - Tony Miles Defeats Karpov AndWinsBathTournament". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 27 December 2011.