Favourite Commentator

Live tournament coverage has really taken off in the last few years, with all major tournaments now coming with a commentary team broadcasting alongside the action. The commentator’s job varies from explaining the player’s moves, to interviewing them post-game, to generally passing the time with anecdotes or question/answer sessions with viewers. So our poll question this week is who is your favourite commentator?

Nigel Short, Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam, Jan Gustafsson, Emil Sutovsky, Evgenij Miroshnichenko, Maurice Ashley, Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan, Simon Williams, Sergei Shipov or someone else?

The preference for the Candidates wildcard was Aronian ahead of Kramnik:


52 thoughts on “Favourite Commentator”

  1. Yeah – Daniel King is very good. I also enjoyed Peter Heine Nielsen a lot when he has been commentating on tournaments!

  2. I voted for Shipov. It has been ages since I have followed his commentary, but I remember it entertaining and insightful.

  3. I love following tournaments and watching commentary when I can. I find it harder to pick out individuals, I prefer to think there’s great combinations i.e. anchor man commentator + strong GM commentator is my favourite combination. My favourite combination is Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam + any Super GM, I like how Dirk Jan will ask the questions inexperienced players will ask, sometimes when you get two strong GMs commentating they miss the questions a lot of their lower rated audience would ask. There is one problem with this combination and this is during post-match interviews, when the players and the strong GM commentator are analysing the game Dirk Jan becomes a bit redundant for this part of the commentary. For commentary on games in progress he’s excellent though.
    Combinations wasn’t the question asked though but I felt like sharing my thoughts; I would want clarity on whether you meant someone that is consistency doing commentary? Or someone that has done commentary at any time, even if they’re not doing it consistently? I’ll give both though; my favourite consistent individual commentator would be Jan Gustafsson, he is particularly excellent at explaining what’s happening in the opening, he is really up to date in the theoretical developments of most openings it seems. I’m also a big fan of Simon Williams at Gibraltar, I remember back when he did it solo, his enthusiasm and excitement was infectious, and Gibraltar has remained one of my favourites for commentary…

  4. over the years. Must also give a special mention to Yasser but he works best if you get him in the right combination. My favourite non-consistent commentator is Peter Leko, I think his first gig was as a guest commentator for 2 rounds alongside anchor man Dirk Jan, during the Anand-Gelfand WCh match. I love how he not only explains what’s happening in the game, he also delves into how the players are thinking and feeling, he goes into their; emotions, psychology, preparation, experience and everything involved in chess at the top level, I really think he is a special commentator, I wish he did it more, he is the type of commentator I would pay good money to listen to. More recently he has appeared as a guest commentator at Zurich a few times, and was excellent there too. I must also mention Peter Svidler, but he like Leko is more of a special guest commentator, but when he does it, you are in for a special treat. I would like to give another special mention to Ian Rogers, anyone that watched the Tal Memorial tournament that Luke McShane participated in several years ago, may have listened to his commentary for it, it was really exceptional, the fact he did it solo was testament to his abilities to keep it exciting and interesting, it’s sad that his commentary for this event seems to be lost forever, as it was stored on the Russian chess broadcasting site ChessTV, that has since been shut down.

  5. Sorry for massive wall posts, this is just a topic I’m very interested in. I also feel ashamed for not mentioning Nigel Short and Kramnik. The latter is more one for the future I hope, I have only really heard Kramnik commentate in that one year at the London Chess Classic, where players each took a rest day and assisted with the commentary for an hour or so, I hope we get to see more of him commentating when he retires (hopefully not for a while yet, he’s my favourite player stylistically). Short of course phenomenal at the London Candidates tournament and was great with his spell commentating alongside Dirk Jan. It’s sad that his comments about womens chess seem to have damaged his commentary invites, I’m referring to Norway Chess’s decision to snub him in their most recent commentary.

  6. Kramnik gives great press conferences, and it’s always good when Kasparov drops in. I was very impressed by Kamsky on ICC. Svidler has an amazing ability to keep finding things to say, though he does have this annoying false modesty e.g. Things like ‘ I hardly know any thing about the Grunfeld nowadays’

    I cannot stand Dirk van Geuzendam it amazes me he is the editor of one of the World’s best chess magazines yet seems to have so little enthusiasm for chess.
    Seirawan has excellent chess understanding but in commentary he talks so slowly like he is addressing a group of 5 year olds.

  7. Number 1 – Yasser:

    1. his voice is calming, even my two budgies (parrots) and wife are calmer when they hear his voice
    2. his analysis are great and as Nigel often did in London candidates, he show games with similar ideas from the past, they know their classics and we learn a lot from such commentators.

    Number 2 – Nigel
    Number 3 – Daniel King

  8. Gilchrist is a Legend

    I think that you should include non-English speaking commentators, especially for those that never follow commentary in English. For German I pick Jan Gustafsson, for Spanish David Martínez.

  9. Lawrence Trent is missing.

    I also think it is a question of the combination. I voted Gustafsson, he can do both, the host and the expert (and in three languages no less). Geuzendam is too staid for my taste, Ashley too enthusiastic. Seirawan is really, really good, too.

    Short and Trent was kind of a perfect combination in the LCC. Seirawan, Shahade work well. Williams, Krush was a lot of fun.

    Watching a worldclass player comment is always a treat. Leko, Svidler, they are usually much closer to the mark when it comes to the chess and they offer real insights into the background, i.e. preparation, psychology, etc. That is something which is missing when the commentators are weaker.

  10. Computer lines i can read out myself. I generally like strong players analyzing. To get a feel for what the players are thinking, how difficult it is, to what extend their decisions are made based on calculation or on general principles…

    People like Kramnik, Svidler, Leko are top notch in that regard. Super strong players who can also articulate their thoughts well.

    Nothing personal but ten Geuzendam I find awful as a commentator. In the world cup for example he was constantly telling Miro what the computer move and evaluation was, completely breaking the flow of the analysis.

  11. My favourite commentator is Nigel Short. He is the only person that I try not to miss when he is commentating. He may not be a top 10 player or anything like that anymore, but he has played a world championship match with Kasparov and he was one of the best at that time. So even though he doesn’t spend much time to study openings etc, he understands chess at the highest level. He is also extremely fun and tells you lots of stuff during commentary that no other player feels comfortable enough to tell. Others can be boring after some time. Nigel always has interesting things to say about chess and chess players in general.

    My least favourite commentator is IM Lawrence Trent but he keeps getting invited to like every tournament. Watching him feels like watching a recorded 1 minute video over and over. He keeps saying the same things like “in this particular position” 200 times every 10 minutes. His chess commentary isn’t bad though.

  12. Ulf Andersson is my favourite! Only Swedish tournaments, though.

    An unrelated question: What is the name of the English system with 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 followed by g6, Bg7, Nge7, d6, 0-0 etc?

    I have seen reversed Botvinnik and Wedberg system, but also heard that in Yugoslavia it’s called Ribli’s system (or something similar). Is there someone that can confirm or deny this?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. I can tell you who’s the worst: Jan Ten Geuzendam is awful. Maybe a good journalist but when he is on the commentary I just go away.

  14. Svidler by far! Svidler+Gustafsson also quite awesome. I agree that Kramnik is also nice when he’s looking at other positions (he seems a bit biased in his own games). Daniel King and Yasser Seirawan are both great but they’ve been mentioned enough times upthread. Finally, anyone but Susan Polgár is a great commentator by comparison. She is talking on very low levels and it’s painful and I’m about 1700.

  15. @Fat cat is fat

    I agree with you, I also ignore sites where Trent or Ashley comment, Ashley is commenting like its a last round football of match in premiership between first and second club that decides champion. Full of talking and saying nothing.

    I like to learn from commentators, just like from books. Thats why I buy only QC books. Nigel, Yaser and King are the guys which comment and you can learn a lot from them. And its nice when you can comment game with them (like live in playchess) and discuss about positions.

  16. There are many fine commentators out there and it’s fine to have a variety. Who remembers Peter Svidler and Ian Nepomniachtchi commentating at a million miles an hour together? I thought it was great, others clearly did not.

    Of the players who don’t commentate so frequently in English I would mention Alexander Grischuk who has always been enjoyable (and obviously completely on top of the chess) when I’ve seen him and Judit Polgar who in the one event I saw her commentating managed to combine great positional summaries with her tactical vision into a very informative commentary.

    For post-game press conferences I would say Anish Giri is one of the very best. Even after very dull games he explains his reasoning clearly.

    But people like Seirawan, Short, Gustafsson, Svidler etc who’ve been seen a lot can clearly do the job well.

  17. I think the poll is about full-day commentators, not guest stars for 30 minutes. Personally I like Short, Gustafsson and Svidler, but there are many others who can do it in a solid way.

    A point I haven’t seen mentioned in this thread is that commentors usually come in pairs and indeed should come in pairs. This means one host and one expert. ten Geuzendam is a journalist. His job in this constellation is to make sure the flow is maintained and to get the expert and the guests to talk about the right things. I have to say I rather like his style, but he needs a very dynamic expert on his side to compensate his dryness.
    A constellation with 2 experts and no host doesn’t work over a long time, IMHO. Maybe for a day as a gimmick, but beyond that it gets difficult.

    One thing I hope to never see again is f*cking amateurs trying to do interviews. I’m not interested at all in watching Susan Polgar’s unsuccessful tries at making a fluid and interesting interview. On the other hand I also don’t want to see ten Geuzendam play chess. 😉
    So leave the interviews to the most qualified person in front of the camera … and that’s usually not the expert. Interview technique is a huge field for potential improvement for just about every mentioned commentator. Not every interview has to be 20 minutes long …

    Generally speaking chess live broadcasting is on the right track. It gets better and more professional every year.

  18. I enjoyed the Lawrence-Nigel duo back ago, they were hilarious at times. Geuzendam is just boring, Sutovsky is entertaining, he has an amazing tactical eye. Svidler is nuts, the way he feels the positions and almost instantly knows what to do. Leko was also very good. Of course Gustafsson is also good, and has a particular sense of humour which I like. Seirawan is okey giving varations and commentating but after a long time I get tired of his voice entonation. I don’t like Jennifer Sahade (because of her voice), neither Maurice Ashley, as he only gives computer lines. Oh, and I don’t like S.Polgar at all.

  19. I think Svidler is the best chess commentator in the world. He combines exceptional chess ability, a dry sense of humour and an extremely precise usage of the English language. For example during the Karjakin – Elijanov rapid playoff at the world cup he spotted the plan Elijanov would adopt and the reason why he would lose with it before he even played it.
    Gustafsson has most of the same strengths as Svidler, although he is not quite as a strong a player and occasionally gets distracted from the chess with extended digressions on basketball and game of thrones. Svidler and Gustafsson are definitely my dream team of commentators.
    Yasser Seirawan is excellent as well, and the Svidler – Seirawan commentaries from the London chess classic a few years ago are well worth watching. A particular highlight is an extended discussion on Viktor Korchnoi being rude to people (“you don’t get upset. You should frame these remarks and show them to your grandchildren!”)
    Generally I used to really like the commentaries from St-Louis, but I think they have gone downhill recently. I don’t need Maurice Ashley to tell me what the computer says, while Jennifer Shahade often seems to get bored during the broadcast. I think Seirawan needs to be paired with someone more energetic (Alejandro Ramirez for example).
    Of the others Nigel Short is very very good, but his habit being deliberately controversial is tiresome; Daniel King has a tendency to be hyperbolic which I find quite annoying; I…

  20. Svidler is probably my favorite, then Seirawan. Short was great the one time I listened to him.
    Daniel King excels at the post-game reports, but I prefer the S’s for games in progress.
    Yermolinsky should also be mentioned.

  21. I really enjoyed Sutovsky and Miroshnichenko’s analysis during the early rounds of the world cup. Others may be more entertaining if you want to relax, but I just thought they pointed out relevant lines quicker than a lot of other commentators.

  22. Svidler is fantastic. Dirk JtG is tedious. He seems to know little about chess at any useful level, and is dull too. Trent is good value. Williams is thoroughly affable, and enthusiastic.
    Seirawan – lovely voice, true, but if I want that kinda thing I’ll buy a DVD of waves and birds singing and light classical music while doing yoga.
    Polgar is not good at all, just …no. Keep away.
    Svidler please!

  23. There are many great commentators, I like to hear passion excitement and clarity, Williams is my favourite, after listening to him last year even my wife, who doesn’t play, said she hoped it wouldn’t be a Berlin today . . . Tandem pairings at their best give the most information in a position so I will go for Williams and Elisabeth Paethz.

    A sci fi alternative would be Jennifer Shahade overdubbed with Seirawan’s voice

  24. I am very surprised that my favorite live commentator has not been quoted. Miguel Illescas (speaking in English or Spanish on ICC) is clearly the best in my opinion. First he explains both player’s strategy very clearly, and second he has a unique feeling of what will happen in the game.

  25. I have to say I was impressed at the commentator at the Dubai Blitz and Rapid in 2014- not sure of his name? Live commentary at speed with no computer help with lots of explanation and though many didn’t like his accent word choice I thought it added to the drama- ”Carlsen’s big blunder- look at the face, unhappy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxc5ZqSQ9C8

  26. I really like Svidler, Kramnik, Gustafsson, Shipov and Nielsen/Cmilyte. Sinqulefield as a concept was also great.

    Short is annoing for me, especially after the games have finished and players join. He has great difficulties to let them tell their story of the game and constantly interrupts pointing at how many lines he saw during commentating. True, it can also be a bit chaotic when Svidler and Kramnik discuss a game they’ve played together …
    I don’t like Trent in particular as well. His attempts to be funny don’t always work for me, and chesswise there are better commentators.

    On the other hand I’m fine with ten Geuzendam as a co-host. Especially since he is modest and respectful and knows his strengths/weaknesses.

  27. Does anyone else remember Ray Keene and Daniel King doing commentary on TV during the Kasparov v Short match in 1993. Very entertaining!

  28. I want to second Patrick’s comment: Ivan Sokolov live in Wijk aan Zee is phenomenal.
    Has he ever done tournament commentary online? I would love to see that.

  29. One thing I think which makes Short and Svidler so good is they have listened to a lot of cricket commentaries, and have learned how to fill time when not much is happening.

    It is ridiculous Short seems to have dropped off the commentary radar because of a few ill researched press articles. Not only is he a great commentator, but his enthusiasm for the game still shines through – look at the sessions he gave in Edinburgh. I live in hope there was a second motivation for Nigel’s trip to Scotland- a QC book by him!! I think he wrote on Twitter he was considering a book…

  30. I also agree it is the combination. For me the most entreating so far was:

    Nigel Short+Lawrence Trent+Daniel King (It was LCC 2011, I guess)
    Nigel Short+Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam (Tromso)
    Lawrence Trent+Jan Gustafsson (Many)

  31. The best overall is Danny King. His post-game reports are tremendous. If we’re just talking about the in game commentary, Svidler and Short are by far my favorites. Super impressed by how much they “see,” their genuineness and their ability to relate.

  32. GM Ioannis Papaioannou and FM Sotiris Logothetis commenting at the Thessaloniki Grand Prix was something exceptional i frankly has never seen before and after that. And i don’t say that because Sotiris is my friend. I think Mark Crowther has said something similar about that in his website.

  33. Well, since there are so many preferences here, I’d like to personally thank Eugeniy Miroshnichenko (Miro) with his beautiful, passionate presentations and comments in the FIDE Candidates Tournament 2016. What’s amazing he is Ukrainian but speaks perfect UK English! And has beautiful blue eyes too :)) Well, unfortunately he was paired this year with some Moscow guy who didn’t like Ukrainian and was quite openly hostile to his comments, being himself very dull and emotionless.
    Good luck to Evgenij in everything he does!!! Sincere regards to Ukrainian Champion!

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