Thursday, November 26, 2015


Just a little side-note relating to the Stephen Moss piece. On the English Chess Forum thread devoted to the article, one John Foley informs us:

John links to here rather than to the page which actually advertises Stephen's talk, a page he will be aware of since he wrote it himself. It contains this passage:
It might also be surprising to the general public that the author of these lines was also a candidate in the elections referred to, where he was an ally of the "ousted" Chief Executive and Marketing Director, and in which contest he was defeated by an enormous margin.

For some reason John decided to leave this out, as if he were a disinterested critic.

It may be that he didn't wish to draw attention to his role because one of the major reasons why Phil Ehr and chums got booted out was that they were considered responsible for bullying a number of long-term servants of English chess, both on the ECF board and outside it. (You won't have read a word of this in Stephen Moss's article, of course, though you'll find a link to a piece by John Foley.) John was, and continues to be, part of that effort.

Guilt? Hypocrisy?

Probably not. Probably just myopia.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Magic words

Back to Stephen Moss's not-entirely-balanced Guardian piece and that characteristically aggressive section from Nigel Short. Today, though, we'll be looking at the comments at the top end of the passage (and elsewhere) rather than the string of insults at the bottom.

First point: what's this?
It is very different in a game like football, where everybody has their heroes...why should you give any money to Wayne Rooney?
Is Nigel really under the impression that there's no resentment of what top players get paid in football, or that they're closer to everyday football people than top chess players are to everyday club players? If so, he really needs to talk to some football people. he would find out otherwise.

Second point: if we accept that there's a "disconnect between the top players and the club players", might that have anything to do with the way in which our most prominent players chooses to conduct himself? I mean I don't detect a great deal of resentment of Mickey Adams, for instance. On the contrary, he's much-liked. So is Luke McShane. Similarly David Howell, Gawain Jones and pretty much every other leading player.

But Nigel, not so much.

Why would that be, do we think?

So here's a little something for Nigel. A very little something.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Well worth repeating

Ray, the Times, last Friday:

Well worth repeating indeed. Here's the first half of his column:

and here's the first half of his column for 11 December 2014.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The decline of the "The Decline of English Chess" article

The Guardian’s Stephen Moss wants to get a debate going. Which is nice.

I think it fair to say that the reaction to last Friday’s Grandmaster crash: the inside story of how English chess pawned its future has been mixed. There are certainly plenty of people who liked it, but equally you won’t struggle to find some folk who feel that a critical review of TGSM’s piece would be at least as long as the source material itself.

"It’s an interesting article"; "Well worth reading"; "Stephen Moss is a good journalist who is interested and informed about chess". All comments from the EC Forum thread.

On the other side of the coin we have Jon Manley observing the similarity between a short passage in the Guardian article and something that had appeared on the Kingpin website a few days earlier, EJH of this parish having his say and Dennis Monokroussos opening a not altogether favourable review with the phrase "longish and questionable".

No matter. The Guardian’s Stephen Moss responded to Monokroussos's blog post by making clear that the "main thing is to get a debate going about these issues."

There are are number of 'issues’ you could debate with Grandmaster Crash... How about this passage, for instance,
The government’s ruling that the game is not a fully fledged sport denies British chess the recognition and financial support it needs to compete with established giants such as Russia and Ukraine, and fast-rising powers such as China and India
Does the ruling really do that? In the glory days chess didn’t have the recognition and financial support that supposedly comes from being considered a sport either. It didn’t seem to do us any harm back then*.

Talking of things that are supposedly signs of The Fall and yet - curiously - were also happening during the height of the Golden Age, how about the prominent position the article given to Nigel Davies’s 'defection' to Wales? Why is this supposed to be some kind of measure of how bad things have got? As opposed to when he he did exactly the same thing in 1989, I mean.

The truth of the English chess is in decline narrative is that it’s a story that’s been told for a quarter of a century now. It’s very strange that John Nunn gets a nod in passing in Grandmaster Crash ... without any mention that he himself had written a decline article as long ago as January 1991. It’s hard to imagine why anybody writing about the decline of English chess wouldn’t want to include an account of how long we’ve been talking about the decline of English chess. The very length of the debate is central to the story, wouldn’t you say?

In truth, though you wouldn’t know it from reading The Guardian, since John Nunn put pen to paper (as I imagine he would have done back then), the fall of English chess from the position we had once enjoyed has hardly been off the agenda. What is more, if you look around it doesn't take long to find a much richer discussion of the possible causes - the break-up of the Soviet Union, changing domestic socio-economic conditions, students now graduating with five-figure debts, increasing housing costs for instance - than anything The Guardian’s Stephen Moss has to offer.

Here’s the bottom line: Grandmaster Crash ... has little if anything new to say and demonstrates nothing save for showing that articles written about the decline of English chess are not as good as they used to be.

And The Guardian’s Stephen Moss’s subsequent "the main thing is to get a debate going"? That’s no different to Quentin Tarantino saying that nobody was talking about slavery until he made Django Unchained.

* James Plaskett’s Playing to Win (Batsford, 1988) begins, "On the 23rd May 1986 I sat in the public gallery of the British House of Commons and listened to a debate on chess where the issue of how much money the Government should allocate to it was inextricably linked to the question "What is chess?" and under which department should it fall?"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grossly immature

There's quite a few things, not all of them good, to be said about Stephen Moss's Guardian piece yesterday, but this passage, perhaps, stands out as much as anything.

Especially the last part. You really wouldn't have thought it possible, with Nigel's long history of puerile sexism, to quote him calling other people
grossly immature
without irony.

But Stephen Moss did.

[Nigel Short index]

Friday, November 20, 2015

No such thing as sexism in chess

To:, 7 November 2015.

Dear Dominic

I'm a member of the English Chess Federation (membership number 4166) and my attention was drawn by a sentence attributed to you by the Times newspaper on October 27. It claims you said the following:
There is no such thing as sexism in chess.
As this statement seems on the face of it absurd, I was wondering whether you were correctly quoted and if not, what exactly you did say.



(No reply received by time of publication)

[Dominic Lawson index]

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bookshelf II

This one is mine. Part of mine. Probably the part I use most often.

There's more of it, of course: here's about half of it, as badly photographed as I could manage

and here's roughly the other half, excluding the Rough Guides at the top and the books, nothing to do with chess, mostly out of shot at the bottom.

Probably many readers have much larger collections, if you'd call them that: it makes them sound more coherent, both in the way they were acquired and the way they're organised, than they usually are.