I imagine there will be lots of invocations of "hard work" as the foundation of success, a principle not necessarily applicable to the PR for the show which is in the best traditions of the lazy invocation of chess in contemporary journalism, seeing as the list of contestants includes one James McQuillan whose puff describes him as a "football referee, sports fanatic and former child chess champion". How much of that is true, I wonder? The reffing? Probably. The fanaticism for sport? Quite likely. The child chess champion? I'd like to be convinced. Mr McQuillan suffers, he tells us, from "foot in mouth syndrome" and I wonder if this may not be more true than he imagines.
The "child chess champion". I don't know that we've seen this one rolled out since Andrew Flintoff helped win England the Ashes, something neither he nor they are likely to do again this summer. Freddie, you may recall, was described to the wondering world as having been, when at school, a chess champion in Preston. Or maybe he wasn't. Maybe he just played for his county as a schoolboy. Or was a "top player at school". Or maybe, when anybody tried to find out anything specific it proved harder to locate than a duck in Basil Fawlty's trifle.
"How does the horsey move again?"
PR monkey see, PR monkey do. PR monkey see "chess", PR monkey write "chess champion". (At least they haven't described him as a "prodigy", an all-too-common touch. Or at least they haven't yet.) Still, PR monkey not that dim, since PR monkey well aware that every hack in universe will copy it out without bothering to ask, or check. And I suppose every hack in universe isn't so stupid either, since nobody's going to know either way and nobody's going to ask them. Or nobody except a chessplayer. And a chessplayer, by definition, is a nobody.
"Of course it's crap but so was the Amstrad"
Well, nobodies though we are, let us ask, given that to my knowledge, nobody else has. Is there actually the slightest evidence that Mr James McQuillan, former child chess champion, has ever been champion of anything or anywhere, when a child or at any other time? I've never heard of him, and chess is a very small world indeed. Can anybody put me right? To be fair, Mr McQuillan is 32 - it says here - and it he had been a child chess champion it would have been a long time ago, before anything would ever have appeared on the internet. Which is just as well, because if you Google "James McQuillan" chess nearly all the references are to the claim Mr McQuillan is making and none of the remainder give us any reason to believe it.
I'd like to believe it, though. I'd like to believe that believe that this wasn't just another example of "it's-only-chess-so-we-can-make-it-up" and that Mr McQuillan had ever been chess champion of anything, anywhere. Or, shall we say, anything that would be considered an actual champion in any other field of sporting endeavour, since I have a suspicion it will turn out that he was, indeed, champion of class 2B when he was thirteen. So it would actually be true. Or sort of true. Or true as far as it goes. It just wouldn't go very far.
Maybe if Mr McQuillan goes far enough, somebody could ask him.
[Update Wednesday PM: English Chess Forum thread investigating same question with as yet not dissimilar conclusions]
[Thanks to Sean, Carl Hibbard]