Stop by Fitchburg Access Television on Monday evenings and you will see the world in black and white.

Stop by Fitchburg Access Television on Monday evenings and you will see the world in black and white.

In a lighted studio, cameras move in on a set decked with comfy-looking arm chairs, checkered mats, a surreal chess print, and a chess board.

George Mirijanian of Fitchburg – a long-time fixture on the area’s chess scene – and champion player Martin Laine of Lunenburg, greet viewers amiably, and spend a few minutes talking about a great figure in chess history, or a great moment in chess history.

Then, they get down to it – a nail biting game, which they walk the viewer through, but with the same grit as if the game were being played for the first time.

The game is in fact, a classic; chess games can be entirely improvisational, but devotees of chess know that they can also be recorded, preserved and replayed by generations – much like a revered symphony.

It might not be a Hollywood square, but each episode of “Chess Chat,” the local access show about all things, people and places chess, is garnering a following beyond the cable subscriber base in Fitchburg with a Web cast that draws in chess fans from all over New England and beyond.

  Future games

Mirijanian – among other things, a certified chess tournament director, chronicler of chess and program director of the Wachusett Chess Club at Fitchburg State College – said the show launched about two years ago and credits the encouragement of his niece, artists and events promoter Sally Cragin.

“She told me, ‘you people at the Wachusett Chess Club should have a TV program.’ We talked about it, but it was Sally who spurred us on.”

She even supplied the show’s first guest, her three-year-old son, Christopher Cragin-Warner.

The show is also seen on Bellingham-Mendon’s local access television programming.

Mirijanian said the show tries to draw in laypeople as well as seasoned chess players, noting celebrities such as the late Ray Charles and his friend, Willie Nelson, known for their love of chess.

If there’s a sport of kings, perhaps chess is the game of presidents: Thomas Jefferson played, as does former President Bill Clinton.

While revealing chess history and mysteries, Mirijanian said the games played on the half-hour show “are actual games that are played. What we do is explain them. We give analysis -- not complicated analysis. We gear the program to someone who plays chess who would understand the game tactics.”

Since the show became incorporated into a Web cast, Mirijanian said, “ I’m getting now people around new England, who say the show is great. One of the most prominent people who has posted is Susan Polgar, runs a chess institute in Lubbock, Texas. She has posted chess chat on her site. She gets thousands of hits per day.”

It has also given Mirijanian and Laine a bit of name recognition around town.

Mirijanian said, “I have had people come up to me in the supermarket to say, ‘I enjoy watching Chess Chat, because I learn something new.’”

 Tyler Knapp, program director at FATV, said, it’s impossible to determine how many viewers actually tune into the show, although he said Fitchburg has about 11,000 cable subscribers who can tune into FATV program offerings.

Knapp said the Web cast gets a healthy number of hits, saying that one recent episode got more than 500.

“TV online is starting to get really big,” Knapp said. “People are jumping on the bandwagon.”

“Chess Chat” airs Mondays at 7 p.m. on Fitchburg Access Television. For more information, and to view the Web cast, visit

Margaret Smith is Arts and Calendar editor of Community Newspaper Company’s Northwest unit. E-mail here at