I was surprised to learn, from his Twitter feed, that Ray Keene had been invited to open the 2011 British Chess Championships.
I was surprised for a number of reasons, most of which I'll not go through here on the assumption that they are long since over-familiar to readers. Still, I might just mention that to my recollection, Ray resigned from what was then the BCF, over twenty years ago, rather than repay money he was accused of acquiring illegitimately. (As I recall he then went on to set up a rival, the English Chess Association, membership not very much more than one.)
So one assumes that this is now all settled and the money has been repaid. Otherwise it's kind of hard to understand how come Ray was standing in front of the competitors before the Championships
[Image: Andrew R. Camp]
giving an opening speech, before heading back to London with great satisfaction
conceivably at having got away with it once again.
What's odder still about this business is the absence of any reference to it on either the Championships website or that of the English Chess Federation. I mean who invites somebody to open their premier event - and then leaves that totally unmentioned? One might as well forget to mention the sponsor's name.
So you'd think we would have a piece saying "the Championships were opened today with speeches from the President, CJ de Mooi, and Raymond Keene OBE, columnist for the Times and the Spectator and author of several hundred chess books". Strangely, though, we don't. They keep it low-key. So low-key, it's basically invisible.
What's all this about? Lord knows, though it's not the first time that Ray has been a great deal more heavily involved with the ECF than CJ de Mooi has been prepared to admit. But the two of them seem to be quite the mutual admiration society, even if on CJ's part it's deemed politic to keep quiet about his half of the admiration. However you describe it, though, it seems clear that the two of them are on very good terms.
It's my view that, at the very best, this shows very poor judgement of the part of CJ de Mooi, since he's the President of the English Chess Federation and Ray Keene has a thirty-year record of ripping off other people in chess, English and otherwise. Put simply, the association, between our President and Ray Keene, is a tawdry one.
Still, y'know, Ray gives a lot of publicity to chess (or at least his Times column does) and he's raised a lot of money in the past though sponsorship and - like Kirsan - he's never been convicted or anything and yadda yadda yadda. I know how that routine goes and I'm not going to engage with it. Partly because I'm not going to engage with an argument that says that ethics don't matter if somebody might wave some money at you or give you some publicity. Partly because I know from long experience that it's just not worth it.
I'll just say two things that I have said before, and which, no doubt, I shall have occasion to say again. The first is that the reason Ray has got away with it for so long is that people have been prepared to let him get away with it. They've done so precisely because of an absence of ethics, a preparedness to look the other way, to pretend and mumble and say well-it's-never-actually-happened-to-me, which is an identifiable feature of English chess. It's been going on too long for any other view to make much sense. English chess accepts Ray Keene because - to an extent, too great an extent - what he is like, is only what English chess is like. Writ large. Writ very large.
The second, of course, is that as long as English chess tolerates Ray Keene, it has no business complaining about Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Because Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is just Ray Keene. Writ larger. Writ figuratively larger.
[Ray Keene index]
[Thanks to Jonathan and Angus]