Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Exceptionally Rude, Ignorant, Caucasian Peasant . . .

Ever since Nigel Short was sacked from his weekly Telegraph column, my Sundays have never been quite the same. They're so much more - what's the word - peaceful? Polite? Unprovoked? And if - like me - you miss all those pointed remarks and scathing polemics, you'll be pleased to learn Short hasn't altogether stopped hacking away at his keyboard, as he once hacked away at the kings of the chess elite.

For England's finest pops over to kibitz at his games collection at chessgames.com every now and again. And he is - what's the word? - as direct as ever. For instance, he received criticism from the Armenian kibitzer Davolni for his description of Petrosian's behaviour following this simul game, and Short responded to Davolni as follows:
I met Petrosian once. He behaved disgracefully. Full stop. Unfortunately that will always be my memory of him. Davolni's vituperative "All these comments do not make you a better player. Plus some it is still a big question whether or not you fully deserved the win." displays an extraodinary incapacity for reasoned argument. I never claimed that saying Petrosian was a boorish Armenian peasant makes me a better player. It obviously doesn't . Nor did I claim that I deserved to win. On the contrary, the text he quotes indicates exactly how lucky I considered myself to be. Whether I was lucky or not does not, however, excuse Petrosian's exceptionally poor manners - amongst the worst I have witnessed in 34 years of tournament chess and particularly unbecoming for a former World Champion.
Remind you of something? Perhaps a Short article from The Sunday Telegraph in 2004, in which he wrote: "I have never succeeded in thinking of Petrosian as being anything other than an exceptionally rude, ignorant, Caucasian peasant" - ?

Ah! Happy days are here again . . .

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, he did seem very lucky to win that game. Any idea as the specifics of Petrosian's behaviour?
Andrew

Tom Chivers said...

Indeed. Also via chessgames.com, originally in the Telegraph I think:

"The legendary Armenian needed only employ but a fraction of his rich strategic understanding to totally outmanoeuvre his naïve and inexperienced 12-year-old opponent - myself. In closing in for the kill, however, he allowed a cheap tactical trick, whereupon he was forced to resign, which he did by pulling a face of utter disgust, angrily shoving his pieces into the middle of the board and storming off without shaking hands."

ejh said...

Presumably Short was too young to knock off Petrosian's missus in revenge.

Tom Chivers said...

That was the most stunning thing I've ever read in an obituary, except perhaps the whole of Lieutenant-Colonel John Pine-Coffin's.

Short continues on Petrosian at chessgames incidentally: "I have often observed that citizens of small nations tend to be exceptionally touchy about criticism of their national heroes. Our former nanny - an electrical engineer from Tblisi - for example, would become extremely angry whenever it was suggested that Joseph Stalin was not exactly a saint. Of course it would be grossly unfair of me to compare the Tigran Vartanovich to the afore-mentioned mass-murderer."

There is a flipside to that of course. In certain other countries, certain other heroes might lose their popularity rather quickly...

Michael Goeller said...

Apparently, Short's description of Petrosian's behavior is completely in keeping with FM Steve Stoyko's experience back in 1976 (or possibly 1978 -- memories are foggy on the date) when Petrosian gave a simul at a nearby club, winning every game but one. Steve (near or already a master at the time) was the final game and managed a draw -- whereupon Petrosian knocked over the pieces and stormed off. You can read the story and see the final position here at our site "Tactical Endings."

Tom Chivers said...

Thanks Michael - interesting - you ought share that with chessgames too, on Nigel Short's page. Probably it says a lot about the competitiveness of world champions. As, perhaps, does Short's ever-vindictive memory - or at least of almost-world champions. That ultra-competitive streak . . .

That's a nice drawn endgame. By odd coincidence, our board 4 had a very similar draw tonight - two pawns down but stalemated on h8.

David said...

All I(Davolni) and a lot of other kibitzers of chessgames.com were trying to say that Short DID NOT use the right words to express himself. He is free NOT to like Petrosian, he is free to HATE Petrosian or whatever, but somebody, specially a GM, should not allow to express himself in that manner about the 9th WORLD CHAMPION, a CHESS LEGEND, who is not alive any more. He could have easily chosen different words. Nobody is saying Petrosian's behaviour was acceptable. But to go ahead and make comments like that, one should look at his achievements and who he is in his life in general, what is he worth, before INSULTING somebody else.

Daryl Taylor said...

FWIW, I think Petrosian lacked the physical stamina for the simuls that he gave in London back in January 1978. Simuls at the old Central YMCA always provided tough opposition, and on this occasion our ranks were swelled by some of Britain's strongest junior players as well. Future GMs Nigel Short and Daniel King were not members of our club.

Petrosian had just played at Hastings and I believe he was simply tired. We were wearing him down, as we had previously worn down a much younger and more energetic Rafael Vaganian 3 years before. I got the impression that Soviet GMs nevertheless accepted our simul challenges as a matter of honour and would never turn us down.

Nigel was certainly one of the youngest players in the room, and I suppose Tigran was disgusted at his own performance against this still relatively unknown small boy, whom he really should have beaten comfortably. I also beat him after a long endgame and found him quite gracious in defeat.