Thursday, October 08, 2009

Not a Real Geek

The first episode of the Australian version of Beauty & the Geek aired tonight on Channel 7. And, of course, we've been talking about this because among the so-called geeks is Canberra chesser Jeremy Reading. Looking at his performance in tonight's episode, however, I couldn't help but wonder how this guy made it past the auditions. He's simply no geek!

Compare him to Toby, who's studying for three degrees (maybe Jeremy should fix him up with Arianne Caoili), or Alan the Asian child genius (yeah, Asians are geniuses with nasty moustaches) or some physicist named Xenogene (he could be a Greek geek related to some chess big wig), our Jeremy is pretty, well, "normal".

Jeremy's geekhood seems to be founded solely on his chess-playing. And herein is my problem. Why should this guy put his mug on national TV, make a song and dance about his chess, and call himself a geek? Does he not, in fact, damage all chess players?

Have your say. Look right and vote in our poll!

By the way, in yesterday's Tele the following appeared:

Jeremy Reading is always on a mission to find his next challenge and starring in a reality television series was one of his ultimate goals.

After three attempts at
Big Brother and a single swipe at gaming competition Wipeout failed to deliver his 15 minutes of fame, he decided to look for thrills elsewhere by jumping out of a plane and taking part in a 42km triathlon.

"I've applied for heaps of other reality shows but I guess I just haven't been the right fit for those shows", the 24-year old Canberra resident says.

So he gets his 15 minutes of fame at the expense of ...


Shaun Press said...

Actually I think the opposite is true (although I only watched the first 5 minutes of the show). If Jeremy (and David Smerdon, if he had made it) is only considered a geek because he is a 'chessplayer', and it turns out he isn't (as you have already observed), doesn't that burst the 'chessplayers are geeks' balloon?

Arianne said...

Actually TCG, this is one of the rare occasions where I have to agree with you. Chess already has a geeky image in this country, and this is not going to make chess more popular in an already chess-starved Australia, where chess players are considered nerds.

Do you think school kids want to aspire to a bunch of guys depicted as social losers?

Jeremy is cementing the [unfortunate] distorted image of chess players in Australia - confirming the chess player as being the social outcast who cant score.

And Shaun, you've made a very moot point, since viewers dont usually discern the differences between nerds put in one box. The point is that he has actively put chess in that box, which is marketed very clearly in the eyes of viewers.

Data-Success said...

I agree with Shaun. The common perception of the society of chess players is that it is riddled with geeks. This is what turns people off from chess because to be a geek is (in many groups (especially high school ones)) social suicide. If we can alter this image such that people see chess players as regular and fun people (the type of people you'd like to have a beer with), then I think more people especially women will gravitate towards chess.

Jeremy said...

I just love it how people are judging the contestants on the show already, even though they really have no idea who they are. Judge for yourself if you think I am a Geek or not, but before you blog anything about it, make sure you have all the facts straight:

Geeky Qualities

UAI: 99.00

Former University: ANU

Degrees: A degree in engineering with majors in both telecommunications and mechatronics. Also first class honours in Engineering. A degree in science with a double major in mathematics, including honours level courses.

Profession: Radiocommunications engineer

Hobbies: Chess and Balloon modelling

Other: Never been on a date, had a girlfriend, never been kissed

NOT Geeky Qualities:

Alright dress sense

Lots of friends, including female friends

Not socially awkward

Very sporty

Jeremy said...

Oh, and by the way, you seemed to be fully supportive of David Smerdon in regards to him applying for the show and I think that he is a lot less Geeky than me.

Your blog post July 13:
"Local chess fans should probably pop over to the Samford Plaza (150 North Terrace) and give our man some moral support. I only wish I could be there, for I reckon it will be an absolute hoot."

I have nothing against David (I talked to him about the auditions) and nothing against you (I dont even know you), I am simply disappointed because I thought that at least the chess community would have given me their full support.

I do understand that some people in the Australian public may think I am a tool etc , but I hoped it would not be chess players.

The Closet Grandmaster said...

No need to get upset. I'm simply exploring the notion that this may not be a good idea at all (that is, you being a geek and a chesser). You just happened to be the chess guy who ended up in the box.

Other than that, good luck to you.


Kevin Bonham said...

I'm sorta with Shaun here; I think that if the guy they consider to be a geek largely because he plays chess is noticeably less geeky than most of the contestants, then that's likely to encourage some viewers to revise their preconceptions. Hopefully that has a more positive impact than the show flogging the idea that chess is geeky.

I wouldn't consider Jeremy a geek or even especially geeky based on the facts he outlines. He seems not much geekier than Smerdon, and Smerdon (despite his attempt to qualify) just isn't geeky at all, IMO! But "Never been on a date, had a girlfriend, never been kissed" is exactly the sort of thing that titillates this kind of show and its audience so I suspect that was the clincher.

Libby said...

You have a poll on whether or not Jeremy is "damaging" chess?????

Jeremy is a great guy (as in relative evidence by his efforts in the first episode). If anyone paid enough attention to detail to note him as a chessplayer - it certainly wasn't especially rammed down your throat - more of a feature was made of the balloon tricks. I may be wrong but I thought a couple of the other contestents were actually filmed playing chess.

Chess is seen as an intellectual pursuit. Something "brainy" people do.

Football is seen as a bit of a boofhead activity. That itself is quite true in many cases (this Carlton suppoter happily cites Brendan Fevola) but it's not true that every footballer is a boofhead.

And not every "spray tan technician" is a bimbo. It won't stop people exploiting stereotypes for ratings and it won't stop the general public latching on to stereotypes in their everyday life.

If Jeremy is labelled a "chessplayer" and continues to be his great, socially well-adjusted self, then I can't see chess being "damaged." He already breaks through the stereotype - he's not wearing glasses or a cardigan, he's engaging sensibly in conversation, he's personable and cheerful, and he's friendly and open to having a laugh at himself (hence his participation).

I think chess can survive.

Anonymous said...

lets hope so

jan from germany

Mario said...

I think you owe Jeremy an apology.

I don't think it is for us to judge whether or not Jeremy is a 'geek'. But I think your reasoning if fundamentally flawed. Rather than labelling him a 'geek' that's ruining chess in Australia by promoting a negative stereotype why don't you consider the folliwng:

Jeremy is single handedly putting chess onto mainstream primetime television, Australia wide, every week.

How could you possibly think this is a bad thing? Did you ever consider that perhaps children might aspire to be this chess 'geek' with an attractive partner?

Jeremy has been an active member of our community for many years now, and to run a poll asking whether he is "damaging chess players" is beyond rude. Just because he isn't a GM with a 2500+ rating doesn't make him less valuable than others. Lastly consider this: How many people in Australia now have heard of Jeremy Reading compared to David Smerdon?

I ask you to consider your words more wisely in the future...


Jeremy said...

Thanks for yoru support Libby and Mario. I knew that going on TV I may have people hate me, but I was prepared to live with that. I guess that I was upset because:

1. I thought that I would have the support from the chess community at least
2. You seemed in full support of David Smerdon when he was applying and now you have done a backflip
3. You don't even know me and you were judging me already
4. You were posting on a blog in a public forum and having a poll that I was 'damaging chess'. That is quite a strong statement.

But anyways, I will stop complaining. :) A chess guy like me got to spend time with 8 hot beauties 24 hours a day and I even got a pash from the cutest one Emma. I would not change anything for the world ;)

Anonymous said...

I missed episode 1 (although I will be watching the show as I'm a bit of a sucker for some of these shows) but out of curiosity I've just watched a Q&A video with Jeremy and Emma. Who knows what I expected but I have to say that after watching it I think Jeremy could only be good for the image of chess. He comes across really well; as an intelligent, decent guy who also happens to be very sporty. (Like a lot of chess players I know in fact... :))


Anonymous said...

you guys are analysing this from a chess players perspective. coz we all know we are cool people and not necessarily geeks; in this case of course jeremy is doing good. but the thing is that he is being watched by non-chess players.

this is where arianne and tcg are right. chess is now even more in the geek box.

Anonymous said...

This is speculation; we will know the influence when the show concludes.

Anonymous said...

I don't care whether chess is considered geeky or not. Why are some chessplayers so insecure about how the 'great unwashed' view them?

You don't hear poker players agonising over whether Phil Hellmuth makes them seem like whiny, bad losers.

Chess is a game for people of strong character, (a tough, uncompromising, one on one battle)and people who obsess over the image of chess to the point of not playing it are probably not going to hack it for very long anyway. If you want a game that appeals to preening airheads, chess is probably never going to be it, because it takes too much intelligence and discipline to be any good at it.

You do get groupies hanging around some chess tournaments overseas, dreaming of snagging a famous player or whatever, and this will probably come to Australia gradually, if and when prizemoney increases. It won't be for a while yet, though! Once chess gets regular coverage on TV things will change, as they did for poker, which was commonly seen as a seedy, low life kind of activity before it became the glamorous, Las Vegas style sport it now is.

Chess appeals naturally to interesting, intelligent, bohemian types, who are strong enough to make their own judgements about the value of something and don't need the validation of a simpering media or an entourage of Brownlow medal type groupies.

For the record though, chess has always attracted dashing and desirable figures. Even amongst world champions, who should in theory be the nerdiest of the lot, Capablanca was a suave diplomat whom the women swooned over, Fischer had a huge fan base in his heyday, Spassky was a ladies man and the young Tal had a lot of female fans.

Plenty of beautiful women have excelled at chess, too, including here in Australia.

(I'm not saying the image is glamorous, though. It isn't, and that's largely because the reality of chess in Australia isn't glamorous.)

Even if Jeremy is reinforcing a nerdy image of chess, if you're someone who cares, ask yourself why you care? Could it be because deep down, you feel you are yourself a nerd? Do you hate yourself for being a nerd? Aha!Then work on accepting yourself... don't criticise Jeremy for having the gumption to do what chessplayers are good at, doing interesting things.

Ask yourself why people think being a 'nerd' is an undesirable thing? After all, we are supposed to like nerds and barrack for them in all the movies where the jocks or cheerleaders are tormenting them. It's for the same kinds of misguided psychological reasons that an intelligent woman pretends to be stupid, or a man refuses to cry. On a basic level it boils down to insecurity.

Even if chess was perceived as the coolest sport on earth, if you don't feel secure in yourself, it wouldn't mean anything. If it did then people who always follow the latest fashion, who date the best looking person even if they're unsuitable, who desperately seek out anything that fits the 'cool' image, would be the happiest people. They're not.

Go Jeremy! Even while chessplayers argue about whether we shouldn't as a group encourage the stereotyping of chess, (we wouldn't be chessplayers if we didn't!), I'm sure the vast majority will be supporting you.

Guy West

Libby Smith said...

I don't know about "knowing the influence" once the show ends. I think you're attributing far too much to a show I'm yet to notice has captured the nation's attention.

I can't see that any casual observer will change their opinion about chess or chessplayers any more than I am moved to re-examine my thoughts about fungus enthusiasts or revisit some preconceived ideas about meter maids. It's a piece of fluff TV.

Sometimes the most significant part of this, or any, publicity for chess is letting the broader population know that clubs and activities exist that they, or their children, can seek out and be a part of. I was a past part of the "broader population" group and I had no idea.

And Jeremy's already a fashion trendsetter - there's someone on the show's message boards who's keen on his t-shirt & general fashion and another thread devoted to he and his partner being so "cute." To prove a point - this contributor has identified Jeremy as the "balloon maker."

Arianne said...

Guy, you have defined the chess player brilliantly :)

However, my only real point is, that the whole nerd image will not make chess popular, which a lot of us are interested in doing.

Maybe, Guy, you have alluded to a very valid point... that chess will never be popular because the great unwashed aren´t attracted to chess naturally....

sad but true? I was hoping that one day, chess for young people would be a good distraction from mindless crap such as drugs etc etc... a way to focus our energy into something useful. i just dont see this whole thing as good publicity to market chess to the great unwashed.

maybe there will be other ways.

other than that... go the nerds!

Anonymous said...

Guy's comment deserves a "!!!"

Anonymous said...

Hi Arianne.

"I was hoping that one day, chess for young people would be a good distraction from mindless crap such as drugs etc etc... a way to focus our energy into something useful."

Amen to that.

Yes, there must be good ways to promote chess to the young that we are not fully exploiting yet. I'm a big fan of trying to package an exciting TV chess show similar in style to "The Master Game" which was popular on British TV decades ago. I still enjoy watching my old videos of that, and people who didn't even know the moves used to watch it for the player's comments and expressions, and the commentary.

I should add that you have been a great ambassador for chess via your various appearances, Arianne. I think Jeremy could end up being an asset too, simply because people will like him. He's not horrendously nerdy, like Mr Bean.


Anonymous said...

Go Jeremy, those of us who known you well, know you are a cool guy. The world is populated by two types of poeple, the "gusty" and the "gutless". Don't be upset by the ramblings of the latter !!

Anonymous said...

What is better for the image of chess?

1. Going on tv and making chessplayers seem a bit geeky

2. Going on tv and making chessplayers seem like blatant liars who love themselves

Anonymous said...

I was intrigued to read all these comments after speaking to Shaun Press about the criticism that had been leveled at Jeremy for entering this show. I always thought that most chess players had the intelligence and awareness to see past such appalling social class distinctions that our backward society labels on some people who may seem a little different. I applaud Jeremy for having the determination to enter a show where the contests are generally viewed by society as outcasts or 'social losers'. As for the adolescence, they need to unlearn all crap that our society has falsely brainwashed them with. We are all in some way beauties or geeks. We are all made of stardust and are all part of a much bigger cosmic experience.

Charles Bishop said...

I just like the fact that he wore his ACTJCL shirt on episode 2 :)

All publicity is good publicity

Jeremy said...

Glad you noticed the chess shirt :)

Kevin Bonham said...

Whether or not Jeremy is a real geek, a question worth exploring is: is he a real champion?

According to his contestant profile page at, Jeremy says:

"I’m the ACT champion – it’s really annoying not being able to say state champion."

But the 2008 ACT championship was shared between Allen Setiabudi, Mos Ali, Justin Chow and Bill Sargent ( while the 2009 event was shared between Emma Guo and Milan Grcic (

Reading did win the 2006 ACT Rapid Championships and an earlier ACT Junior Championships and perhaps other ACT minor titles I have not thus far located but from what I can see on Ian Rout's page, Jeremy is not, and has never been, ACT Champion as such.

Kevin Bonham said...

Sorry, incorrect link in my previous post. The first link should be

Libby said...

Can chess survive!!!!

Jeremy wins $50000 and draws even more attention to himself.

Congrats Jeremy (you can pop my share directly into my account - after all, I did design that ACTJCL shirt you wore in one episode ...)