Your Move



Rob Curling


Commentator: William Hartston

Grandmaster: Jon Speelman


BBC2, 7 December 1990


Claimed as the first ever interactive game show, this was a "computerised phone-in" in which the entire nation played a game of chess against grandmaster Jon Speelman. Viewers could vote for the next move by phoning a number whose last four digits represented the move's start and finish squares (similar to the common "e2-e4" notation, but using numbers instead of letters). Some of the callers also got to discuss their choice of move on air, and when the game was over, Speelman selected the best move made against him, and one of the viewers who voted for that move won a chess computer.

As a pioneering interactive show, it suffered from a few technical issues; in particular, for some reason "1" couldn't be used in the phone numbers, so the "a" rank and "1" file were designated "9" instead, which caused a certain amount of confusion (especially as the basic number to which the four-digit code had to be appended was 0898 991119). There were also, almost inevitably, some votes for impossible moves, and a couple of times a particularly bad move had to be disallowed by Hartston to prevent the game from coming to a premature end.

In the end, Speelman won, though the nation put up a good fight. The show, scheduled for an hour and a half, ran for three hours - an eventuality which had obviously been foreseen, since it began at 11.25pm as the last programme of the night.


Oddly, we may have the film director Stanley Kubrick to thank for this. Apparently Alan Yentob, the then controller of BBC2, commissioned it after Kubrick, a big chess fan, phoned him up to give him an earful about the fact that the BBC weren't covering the world championships that year.


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