Judging by the overflowing crowd at the venue last night, or by the Grandmasters merrily analyzing away in the bar after their games, or purely by the entertaining chess being played, one would think this year's Staunton Memorial Tournament another unqualified success.
Yet organizer and arbiter Eric Schiller's interesting Behind The Scenes article suggest a problem with certain metaphorical termites: a problem which threatens the very future of the event. These termites, says Schiller, are people who complain on the internet about certain aspects of the event - such as the inclusion of underdog Bob Wade - whilst attacking the organizers personally.
"The foundations of the event are ... being undermined by a tiny minority of “termites”," writes Schiller, going on:
The organizers are subjected to abuse for many decisions, often under circumstances beyond their control, as the termites would know if they had ever in their lives attempted to put on a Grandmaster chess event ...Indeed, it would be a real shame for London to lose the Staunton Memorial, and I've often wondered why Dutch sponsor Jan Mol hasn't considered moving the event to Holland.
Termites have an affect. They nibble away and cause the true chess workers endless grief, and organizers and staff grow tired of it and become less enthusiastic about repeating the experience. We have lost many good organizers and staff because of this. None of us are making any money on this ...
The termites threaten to destroy the Staunton, as they have destroyed many fine tournaments in the past. Keep in mind the hard work required to put on a major chess event and don’t become a termite! I hope we’ll have another fine event next year, but the insidious insects try to make this less likely.
Still, the negative comments on the internet are clearly in the minority, and it's usually best not to engage in such squabbles anyway. On which note, the tournament website has today introduced a positive response, in the form of a new page called Quotes. In fact already there's two enthusiastic comments there to read - one from Shaun Taulbut and one from Andrew Martin - and there is also an email address provided for fans to send in comments. Will local chess-loving Londoners - who perhaps feel lucky to have this tournament held here each year - follow suit and email in their support to help bolster this event?
Or will this summer see the last Staunton Memorial - with all that remains a dust-pile at the centre of our city, the termites scuttling off in search of fresh wood for next summer?