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Madonna News - November 2004

Chess: the new rook’n’roll?

“Chess is the game which reflects most honour on human wit” – Voltaire.
Chess has had an image problem. It conjures up thoughts of bespectacled men in anoraks hunched over boards in the upstairs rooms of grotty pubs, or spotty, gangly schoolboys who can’t get a girlfriend and make do with the Sicilian Defence (Winawer variation).
“Dysfunctionality” is the word that springs to mind. As former British champion Bill Hartston said: “Chess is not something that drives people mad; it is something that keeps mad people sane.” The board’s 64 squares are so much less challenging than life.
Chess was not something you could admit a passion for – until now. For Tesco has announced that sales of chess sets are booming and that its new own-brand set is selling at double the rate forecast. It attributes the sales spurt to the fact that celebrities such as Madonna play, and makes a startling claim: chess is trendy.
“Chess, of all the really traditional board games, has undergone an image transformation,” said Karen Harris, Tesco’s senior buying manager. “Being able to play chess is fast becoming a very cool skill for young people.” At last, we chess lovers can out ourselves.

“The celebrity factor is important,” said Gerry Walsh, president of the British Chess Federation. “They are role models for the young and encourage them to take up the game. When chess was featured in the first Harry Potter film, we noticed a sudden upsurge in interest.”
Madonna and her husband, Guy Ritchie, who have taken chess lessons from former Scottish champion Alan Norris, are the best-known celebrities. But a surprising number of famous names enjoy the game: former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis; Andrew Flintoff, the superstar of English cricket, who used to play chess for Lancashire; former snooker world champion Steve Davis; and pop stars Bono, Moby and Sting.
British chess has, however, yet to unearth anyone to rival the Norwegian Simen Agdestein, who is both a chess grandmaster and played football for Norway. If only Wayne Rooney knew the intricacies of the Modern Benoni. “Anything that can get us away from this nerdy image of chess has got to be good,” said John Saunders, editor of the British Chess Magazine. “That image has never been true in countries outside the UK and US. In Russia and much of Europe, it’s a mainstream sport.”
Here, the government has refused to put chess on its list of recognised sports (a move that would have tax advantages). Walsh said his priority was to convince the government to change its mind. The artist and chess obsessive Marcel Duchamp had no doubts. “Chess is a sport, a violent sport,” he insisted. “If it’s anything at all, it’s a fight.”
Saunders believes that in the UK the nerdy stereotype dates from the immediate post-war period, when chess was a middle-class, grammar school activity. “If you flick through back copies of the British Chess Magazine from the 1940s and 1950s,” he said, “you see an endless succession of elderly men in horn-rimmed spectacles and tweed jackets.”
Chess is now played well beyond the confines of grammar schools. According to Walsh, there has been a huge increase in the number of primary-school pupils playing – up to a hundred in every school. Last year’s British Land UK Chess Challenge, a nationwide knockout competition for pupils of all ages, attracted 71,000 entries. “The interest in primary schools is enormous,” said Walsh, “though there is a big falling off when they go to secondary school, and we don’t know why.” He added that chess was no longer seen as a boys-only activity. “At primary level it’s about 50-50,” he said.
It is helping the chess-in-schools cause that the education secretary, Charles Clarke, is a keen player – he lists it as a recreation in Who’s Who. Clarke’s father, the senior civil servant Sir Richard Clarke, was an excellent player and invented the British chess rating system (every player registered with the British Chess Federation has an official rating for tournaments.)
“Chess is a mind game,” Mr Clarke told the Times last year. “It forces you to think. If you tried to prove that playing chess helps you with GCSEs, that would be difficult, but it forces thinking. It’s a game which develops logic and strategy.”
The growth in the number of sets being bought has been fuelled by the encouragement of chess in primary schools. But Saunders, whose magazine sells 3,000 copies a month, said he had seen no evidence of a boom in top-level chess. There are around 18,000 registered players in the UK – players who have ratings and compete in tournaments – but the figure does not appear to be rising.
The internet has encouraged more people to play. There are many sites, both subscription-only and free, on which it is possible to play one-to-one games against players all round the world. But, said Walsh, that could act as a disincentive to players to join their local club.
Saunders said there was an inevitable lag between an increase in popular interest in the game and the emergence of top players. The boom in the mid-1970s, driven by the world championship match in Reykjavik in 1972 between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, produced a generation of strong British players 10 years later. But now the UK is lagging again. In the recent chess olympiad in Spain, England had one of their worst ever results, and Scotland, Wales and Ireland also finished well down.
The question now is: can Madonna and Bono have the same effect as Fischer and Spassky did 30 years ago, producing a generation of cool chess players who can challenge the Russians and Ukrainians? Anyone fancy some rook’n’roll?
Queen’s gambit
– Madonna plays chess in two of her music videos
– U2 frontman Bono said: “At 12 I studied the grandmasters, and I was fascinated”
– World boxing champion Lennox Lewis was said to play chess as part of his build-up to bouts.
– Sting and his band took on champion Garry Kasparov simultaneously at a charity match in New York in 2000 – they were defeated.
– Jude Law was a keen player at primary school.
source : guardian.co.uk

More than 13m see Band Aid debut

It was shown simultaneously on BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five. The figures do not include Sky One or the other digital channels which showed it.
Pop star Madonna, who does not appear on the track, urged fans to “feed the world” before Thursday’s screening.
The single is due to be released on Monday 29 November.
BBC One was the most watched terrestrial channel while the video aired, with 3.9m viewers, according to unofficial overnight figures.
ITV1 drew in 3.1m viewers and BBC Two was seen by 2.6m. Just over 1m tuned into Five and Channel 4 incorporated the screening into the end of the Richard and Judy programme, which attracted 2.6m people.
The video began with Coldplay’s Chris Martin in the main hall of Air Studios, north London, where the song was recorded at the weekend.
It also featured some stars whose voices did not appear on the song – including Sir Paul McCartney playing bass, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke on piano and Blur’s Damon Albarn, who served tea.
The video included footage of organiser Bob Geldof in the studio playing the stars a video of an emaciated young girl in the 1984 Ethiopian famine.
The girl, now a young woman, was then introduced to the singers, many of whom were moved to tears.
Madonna’s introduction began: “Twenty years ago, I performed at Live Aid and the world watched. You saw me and my generation demanding a change.
“Once again, here we are 20 years later,” she said, over images of starving African children. “More people die of hunger in Africa than war and Aids put together.
“In a world of plenty, it is hard to imagine that most African children will go to bed tonight hungry.
“Bob Geldof and his friends are here to remind you that we can never forget. Not ever. Feed the world. I am honoured to introduce Band Aid 20.”
The song, a remake of the 1984 original, was recorded on Friday, Saturday and Sunday by more than 50 artists including Joss Stone, Dizzee Rascal and The Darkness.
It is tipped to be the Christmas number one, but bookmakers have shortened the odds on the track’s long-term success after it received lukewarm reviews.
The single, which also features Bono, Sugababes and Will Young, was made available to download from the internet on Thursday from a number of music services that will donate proceeds to the cause.
It is also being launched as a charity mobile phone ringtone with proceeds going to the Band Aid Trust, which is supporting food aid to the Sudan’s troubled Darfur region.
source : onlypunjab.com

Madonna on Richard & Judy

International Queen of Pop and icon Madonna is arguably the most famous woman in modern popular culture. Hot off the heels of her latest world tour, Madonna now launches her fourth children’s book and will be talking to Richard & Judy on Monday [ 17:00 CET ].
source : channel4.com

Good Lourdes

Madonna has admitted that she would dissapprove of her daughter Lourdes following in her raunchy footsteps.
When asked if she would like her eight-year-old “prancing around the stage in her underwear, singing and hollering”, the singer replied: “Probably not”.
However, Madonna said she wouldn’t mind Lourdes making a career out of pop.
Madonna, who has followed the Kabbalah faith for eight years, made her comments during an interview on CNN in America.
She added that she would love George Bush to convert to Kabbalah, a mystical Jewish religion.
source : sky.com

Madonna is a class act

POP queen Madonna took centre stage to entertain children with a reading from her new book.
Pupils from St Winifred’s Junior School in Newstead Road, Lee, were invited to the launch of the superstar’s book, The Adventures Of Abdi, on Thursday last week.
Madonna read the entire story to them at Selfridges department store in central London, followed by a question and answer session.
She thanked headteacher Mark Corrigan for the youngsters’ excellent behaviour.
He said: “The children were excited and nervous before the event but once we arrived Madonna soon made them feel at ease.”
He also thanked Penguin Books for allowing them to attend.
source : icnetwork.co.uk

Band Aid 20 video to be shown across UK

The new Band Aid 20 video is about to be shown for the first time – with pop queen Madonna expected to remind people “none of us can forget”.
Do They Know It’s Christmas? is tipped to be the seasonal Number One.
The single is now available to download and the tune is also being launched as a charity ringtone with proceeds going to the Band Aid trust.
Mycokemusic.com said it was putting on its website with all profits donated to charity.
Madonna, who performed at the American Live Aid gig in 1985, is expected to say: “I performed at Live Aid. You saw me and my generation demanding a change. Once again, here we are and more people die of hunger in Africa than war and Aids put together.
“Bob Geldof and his friends are here to remind you that none of us can forget. Not ever. Feed the world. I am honoured to introduce Band Aid 20.”
U2 frontman Bono won the battle to belt out “And Tonight Thank God it’s Them Instead of You” as he did two decades ago. Coldplay’s Chris Martin, singers Dido and Robbie Williams have the opening lines of the song.
The Sugababes, Fran Healy from Travis, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, Will Young, Jamelia and Ms Dynamite are also on board.
source : itv

Madonna: Bush should read Kabbalah

Madonna has urged American President George W Bush to study the Kabbalah to make him a better leader.
The spiritual Material Girl is convinced the mystical Jewish teachings would give Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair an improved outlook on the world, in light of their handling of the war in Iraq.
When asked by CNN what she would like to change, she replied: “To get George Bush to study Kabbalah. Yes. It would be amazing.”
When CNN host Richard Quest suggested: “Maybe Tony Blair could join him?” Madonna enthusiastically responded: “That’s a very good idea.”
source : breakingnews.iol.ie

Madonna adapts kids book for big screen

Superstar Madonna is adapting her debut children’s book The English Roses into a film.
The Material Girl penned the moral tale last year (03), about young bullies Nicole, Amy, Charlotte and Grace tormenting lonely, but beautiful Binah. But, after a visit from a fairy godmother, they soon see the error of their ways and make friends with her.
According to American gossip site The Scoop, Madonna is hoping to start production on the big screen version of the story this year (04).
source : contactmusic