Monday, August 08, 2011

CJ, the ECF and Constable Savage

Yes, we've had it before, but it's 2:43 that interests us today

T-shirts, eh? Who knew that seven words on one could generate so many words about one?

There’s so much to choose from, but of everything I’ve read over the last couple of days - and I’ve read a good deal, not to mention written a fair bit - one small section of CJ’s first statement caught my attention above everything else:-

The other 2 arbiters said "no problem with it" and "I hadn't actually noticed” but after a discussion returned and ....

Hold on a second. Let’s back up a moment and run that middle bit past ourselves a second time.

Somebody hadn’t noticed? The bright red t-shirt with the MESSAGE WRITTEN IN WHITE BLOCK CAPITAL LETTERS? They hadn’t noticed?? That’s right up there with Constable Savage not spotting that Mr Winston Codogo was a 'coloured gentleman'.

"I hadn't actually noticed"? For real? It would be hard to believe that such a thing could possibly have been said outside the realms of parody if we didn't have CJ's assertion right at the beginning of his post that, "everything in inverted commas is an actual quote given this morning from an interested party" to reassure us that it was.

Anyhoo, whether the quote is true in detail or merely true in substance doesn't really matter. Either way it rather neatly illustrates how the ECF have (not) been responding to some of the things that CJ has been up to over the last year or so. It isn't just the arbiter cited above; the whole federation has been Savage-esque in its ability not to notice for quite some time now.

The ECF President: hard to notice

I ended last Thursday's post by acknowledging that to a very large extent (I save some praise for the players being willing to slug it out and everybody behind the scenes whose work allowed me to watch the games live/download the pgns) the credit for Sheffield 2011 being a great tournament goes to CJ. I wrote those words with the intention of following up with something this week on the theme of, "however that doesn't give him a free pass for everything else" although, I must confess, I hadn't exactly expected that it would turn out quite like this.

When we look, if we choose to look, there's a back story to the last couple of days' argy-bargy and focusing only on the actions of the one particular arbiter who did notice the t-shirt* will leave us missing a much bigger picture. Sooner or later we'll take a peek at CJ's penchant for private initiatives and the ECF's taste for managing not to notice how they create conflicts of interest, be they actual or potential, for him. For now, let's quickly review what happened at the beginning of Sheffield 2011 and start to wonder whether all the unpleasantness, not to mention the negative portrayals of the game that appeared in the press yesterday, could have been avoided had our national body opened their eyes just a little bit sooner.

Guess Who breaks the news on Twitter

I was going to write something about CJ wearing a t-shirt and jeans at the opening ceremony first, but let's cut to the chase. It's the fact our old friend Raymond Dennis Keene was present that's really interesting.

Raymondo popping-up raised a few eyebrows, not least our own. The ECF, however, seem not to have noticed Keene's presence at all. In fact they failed to notice to such an extent that his name does not appear in official programme nor, as EJH pointed out at the time, could any mention of him be found on either the tournament or ECF websites. Even today, although room has been found to thank Ray for "over thirty articles" that mention the championships, I still don't see anything to say that he opened the tournament with CJ. Not that's all very odd, isn't it?

It is important, I think, that we keep a sense of proportion about all this. It was twenty years ago that RDK left what was then the BCF [Keene's Gambit; Keene's Move; Checked Again] after all. To put that in perspective, that's sufficiently long enough ago that even if he’d murdered Tony Miles back in Tunis, he would have been released from prison by now.

Nevertheless, as fond as I am of RDK - and I am genuinely fond of him - the fact remains that there is a difference between allowing somebody who has ‘paid their debt’ to get on with their lives and simply pretending that murky events from days gone by never happened. I have, therefore, some questions for the ECF:-

  • Have the matters relating to Ray Keene's departure from the (then) BCF now been resolved?
  • If so, how?

and also,

  • Who decided that Ray Keene should be at the Opening Ceremony?
  • When was this decision made?
  • Why was the decision not made public?
  • Why has no mention of Keene’s presence at the opening ceremony appeared on either the tournament or ECF websites?

I'm not saying that it's necessarily wrong that Ray be brought back into the fold, but it might be as well that we clear that lot up before we - including CJ - go any further.

Dated reference ahoy:
CJ didn't get where he is today by being noticed

It's been quite a weekend, but fortunately it ends with everybody loving everybody else once more. That is to be welcomed, although it is also to be hoped that the matter does not end here. Many pages before the end of that EC Forum thread I wrote,

A good discussion of the nature of CJs relationship with the ECF is overdue

and that's as true after the kiss-and-make-up messages as it was before.

The ECF's ability not to notice - including but not limited to clothing and blossoming relationships with former British Champions - paved the road that led us to Saturday morning. If there's one thing I know about the last few days it's that, regardless of what I feel about the issue, I'd rather hear "Um, CJ, about what you're wearing. Perhaps ..." over "I see no t-shirts" every time.

Or are we - meaning the ECF and the English chess world in general - going to decide that the only thing that we're going to notice is the amount of cash a person, CJ, RDK or anybody else, can bring to the table? We could, I suppose. We could reduce our relationships to "Show me the money" and "We love you long time" if we want. It would be a rather savage existence, though, don't you think?

* which is unfair anyway since CJ's account makes clear that a number of people were involved in making the decision. However, I shall take advantage of this footnote to say that while I do not know the particular arbiter concerned, Jack Rudd does and if he is willing to write publicly that "I'm happy to accept that she wasn't being homophobic and that she was trying to act in the best interests of the tournament" I am equally happy to accept that he what he writes is true.


DRS said...

If I'd been an arbiter involved with the prizegiving at the British Championships, I don't think I'd have noticed either. At the relevant time, presumably five minutes or so before the scheduled start, I would expect to have been:

a) making a final check of the prize list;

b) ensuring I could pronounce the names (if making the announcements);

c) perhaps most importantly, checking that the trophies to be presented were in the correct order.

As regards CJ, I would just have made a quick glance to check that he was present or, quite probably, simply asked "Is CJ here?". Only when the time came to ask him up onto the stage would I have noticed what he was wearing.

David Sedgwick

Jonathan B said...

Fair enough David. It did occur to me - perhaps I should have included this in the post - that the person concerned might not have seen CJ properly that morning, but "I didn't see you" is a bit different to "I didn't see your t-shirt" I think

Anonymous said...

T shirts available here:
Some people wear t shirts - Get over it !
Joe S

Tom Chivers said...

Sarah failed to notice that Peter's hairdresser the other day was wearing this t-shirt, until I pointed it out after.

Tom Chivers said...

I'm thinking of buying one of these and wearing it to chess events, but I'm worried people will think I play the Stonewall.

ejh said...

I'll probably say less about this affair than I'd once intended, what with there having been something of a reconciliation, but there's a few things:

1. There's a good case, which has been made by people on all sides of the argument, that the closing ceremony was neither the time nor the place for a political gesture. I'm inclined to agree with that, and I write as somebody not at all averse to political T-shirts, nor gestures. There's also a case that more sober attire might be suitable for the occasion, which I can also see, though I'm not so interested in that (and I didn't see anybody complaining at CJ's clothes when he opened the ceremony, if indeed he did).

However, if we're not going to have this sort of thing, I think we need to say so in advance rather than have a last minute panic about it. If anybody says to me that this couldn't really have been anticipated - well, maybe maybe not, but either way, there's now some time to think about how to deal with such things in the future.

By the way, I'd have thought it highly likely that CJ himself thought that wearing the T-shirt was neither political nor a gesture, and that he didn't anticipate any objections. This might be borne in mind before anybody accuses him of staging some kind of publicity stunt. I think he's far from faultless in the matter, as I'll go on to say, but I do't see any reason to assume he was expecting to make a splash.

2. If I understand right, CJ was told it was OK to wear the T-shirt for the adults but not the juniors.
If that's right then I'm afraid I don't agree with that. If it's not OK to have a T-shirt making a statement, then it's not OK full stop. But otherwise, in the context of the T-shirt he was wearing, I'm afraid that we're saying it's not OK to be gay in front of the kids. (This, I think, was the point being made by Martin Regan on the English Chess Forum thread,. I don't necessarily recommend people wade through it, but I I think Martin probably got this one about right.) I don't think gay people need to pretend they're not gay because there are kids about, I don't believe that kids should, or can, have the existence of homosexuality hidden from them. I appreciate things aren't so simple as I've put them, but that's how I see it. It's simply part of thr world, and the process of education involves learning about the world, and if parents want their kids not to know about it then they need to keep them away from the world, just as if they don't want to their kids to read certain books or learn certain things then they need to keep them out of libraries and lessons.

ejh said...

3. If anybody does think that kids shouldn't learn that CJ is gay, then it's not really worked out that way, has it? What with it being in the papers and everything.

4. I think Lara Barnes might have got this one wrong, but at least she had the nerve to raise a problem when she thought there was one, and I respect for that, as I respect her generally.

5. It would have helped a great deal had CJ talked through, with the people he was supposed to be working with in the ECF, what he wanted to do. That's what you do in most situations - you broach your plans in team meetings, or whatever they might be, so that people can talk about them, make suggestions, raise objections. That's what should have happened here and what manifestly didn't happen here, and I'm afraid that's not at all atypical of the way CJ has gone about his role as President. There's much to be said for the man, but his way of working is one I don't much like, and inviting Ray Keene, without the knowledge (let alone approval!) is by no means the only manifestation of this, though it'll do as an example.

I'm not so great at working with other people myself sometimes, I can be a bit take-me-or-leave me myself, as can many other people in chess. I understand. But it's absolutely not a way of building long-term working relationships with people.

6. Finally,I hope that the response to all this will be less "phew, we got away with that, as you were" and more "how can we improve the way we work so as to make this sort of thing less likely to happen again?" Things will always come up, but I'm sure that they can be dealt with better than this was.

Anonymous said...

I was sure you would bring up expenses here. Or rather the matter of a presidential campaign that stated CJ would not be claiming any.
A couple of months into the job and he started to make expense claims.
I'm pretty sure CJ is well out of pocket from his role at the ECF so money isn't the issue, but campaigning on false promises isn't right.
Also did you ever get the accounts you sought for the Short simul tour?

Anonymous said...

He does seem to spend a lot of time doing his own things, and since some of these things are supposedly done as a private individual with his own money, the ECF says nothing. But at the same time he is only able to do some of these things because he is the ECF President.

Thus, no doubt he did not ask the Board its view about condemning Ilyumzhinov over Gadaffi, or about whether he should fly to Russia to (somehow) help Karpov's campaign. And while it's great that he puts some work and conditions in the way of our top players, the lion's share goes to Adams and Short who are the ones who don't need it. Meanwhile there is still no money at all in the ECF pot for junior coaching, etc.

I actually don't mind him as President, but I agree that he must work with the Board, and talk to them ... Some of his admirers seem to have, I think rather unfortunately, encouraged him to think that he IS the new ECF (something which came across in his original statement).

Jack Rudd said...

I'm aware that Anonymous doesn't have access to the facts, but he's certainly wrong about the condemnation of the Ilyumzhinov-Gaddafi association. This was a genuine Board decision on which we voted.

Jonathan B said...

Thanks for that, Jack. And Raymondo at opening ceremony ...?

Mike G said...

Another correction: CJ raised the expenses issue himself at a Council meeting and there was no objection to him starting to claim expenses, indeed the only comment that I recall being made (because it was mine) was that he should go ahead and do so.

On the Ray Keene issue I should firstly say that I have read all the Kingpin pieces about him. If Ray were to approach me or the ECF with the suggestion that we invest some money in a chess venture I would certainly hesitate but I see no reason to treat him as a social pariah. It is true that you could have knocked me over with a feather when he turned up at 14.15 on the first Monday of the British Championship, but I have absolutely no problem with him being there or opening it.

I notice that you guys are quite happy to turn up and spectate at the Staunton Memorial? Shouldn't you all be boycotting it, on principle? Is there just the tiniest hint of double standards here?

(I add the fact that these are all my personal views and do not represent those of any organisation.)

Jonathan B said...

Mike, thanks for your comment.

From, "you could have knocked me over with a feather when he turned up at 14.15 on the first Monday of the British Championship" I assume that the matter was not discussed within the ECF beforehand. Is that right? It is, in any event, what I've been hearing.

If that is true it is - of course - much more interesting than the fact of his appearance per se.

As for "double standards", double standards why?

I say in the piece - and other S*BCBers might disagree, but it's what I feel - I'm not saying that it's necessarily wrong that Ray be brought back into the fold

This post isn't about RDK per se. It's about the ECF and CJ and the working relationship between the two.

That said, since you raise it, I don't think RDK should be a social pariah either. He's an interesting man who's done a lot for chess. What I *am* saying is that the ECF's dealings with him should be - as they should be for anybody else - handled in a structured way and not made up on the spot.

You have no problems with him being at the Opening Ceremony? OK, but if you or somebody else had? When could they have been raised.

Also, I'm tempted to ask, if the ECF *really* doesn't mind Ray opening the championship, why does it say nothing about it on either the official or tournament website?

ejh said...

For what it's worth:

a. I've never been to the Staunton Memorial. (Matter of fact, I don't think I've seen Ray in the flesh since 1984.)

b. I'd have no hesitation in going, though - what would not going achieve? I frequently disapprove of the sponsors and other financial supporters of sporting events, sometimes more than I disapprove of Ray. (For instance, I went to enough Oxford United matches when Robert Maxwell was chairman.)

c. I do see reason to treat him as a social pariah, this reason being - as I've said a few times, and will say again tomorrow - his track record. Which is long, and not ethically attractive, and no more attractive in that respect for him having raised money for chess.

Doesn't mean anybody else has to think the same, but I'd like to be sure that they could bring Ray into the fold and look in the face the people who Ray has wronged.

simona said...

For the most part I take Justin's view here. Nobody comes out of this well, least of all CJ. The ECF could have handled this better, but are largely a voluntary organisation with little media savvy. They should have made a statement quicker.

As my sister, a journalist that used to play some chess as a kid, wrote to me: "[this situation] doesn't reflect well on ECF; the fact they weren't able to diffuse the situation ... pretty much immediately is their own fault... and they need better control of their president."

She also wrote: "You know what, Andrew Farthing, next time the Sunday Times is on the phone, don't say you can't comment at this time, tell them it's a misunderstanding and the ECF is not homophobic."

I'm glad this whole sorry saga seems to be over, but there is one question I would like an answer to:

- If CJ "at no time ... used emotive terms such as 'homophobia' or 'discrimination'", why was he tweeting Jeremy Vine, asking if there was anything "interesting in my recent tweets"? Presumably CJ thought there was something newsworthy. So what was it? He knows how the media works and now there are stories ridiculing chess.

At best, he has shown very bad judgement here, as he may or may not also have done with Ray.

And yes, I do appreciate the hard work he has done to promote chess and money he has put it during his presidency, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't ask the question.

ejh said...

I notice the Pink News story refers - amusingly - to Lara Barnes as "Laura". Presumably she should spend the next few hours, or days, demanding an apology from them on Twitter...

simona said...

re. lara/Laura: Yeah, I noticed that and have pointed it out, along with the other shortcomings of the journalism in that piece. The comments under "sa" on the Pink News item are mine.

DRS said...

I think "simona" and his sister are very harsh on Andrew Farthing. In my view great credit is due to him for successfully defusing the situation on Sunday, the following day.

As for CJ, he's accepted that his actions in the immediate aftermath, when he was upset and angry, weren't as carefully considered as they might have been.

In my opinion his biggest error was in the wording of his initial statement. By using the word "she" he identified one of the arbiters involved, whereas her two male colleagues remain unnamed to this day. He should either have named names or made sure that his statement was truly anonymous. "Simona" has commented elsewhere how unfair it was that Lara Barnes took all the flak.

The story does seem to be dying down now, not least because, as Jonathan B has commented elsewhere, other events make it all seem rather trivial.

David Sedgwick

Tom Chivers said...

Seems to me that if there was a dress code, CJ should have been told this in advance by the relevant officials. SInce he was not the arbiters shouldn't have interfered. The suggestion he shouldn't present awards to children, intentionally or not, suggests that homosexuality and paedophilia are the same, which goes without saying is appallingly offensive. CJ's reaction hardly seems ott as a personal one, although possibly it wasn't the most presidential thing he's ever done. The discourse that has followed has exposed some chess players as homophobic - sometimes overtly so, sometimes thinly disguised - which suggests CJ was damn right to wear the t-shirt in the first place.

simona said...


I don't know what went on behind the scenes, and if you give great credit to Andrew for his work there then that's good, I'm happy that is the case.

My comments (and those of my sister) were specifically with regard to the interaction with the media - CJ and the ECF. In these days of social media and networking, 'news' spreads like wildfire and it is necessary to be proactive in this respect. When someone is receiving hate mail, I don't think it's trivial, regardless of what else is going on in the world.


Jonathan B said...

TC, the voice of reason!

As for CJ's reaction: I tend to agree with the suggestion he was very cross and his responses should be seen in that light. However, I'm not sure how many of us, however cross we were, would have "I'll contact the media" as our first response.

RE: Andrew Farthing.

I think Simona + sister make reasonable points about first media reaction, but, as Simon himself acknowledges, it's important to remember that the ECF are essentially amateurs - albeit well meaning - and not necessarily going to be 'media savvy'.

Much more important, I suggest, is the road that led us to Saturday morning. Quite wrong that one particular arbiter should be the focus of all this.

We shall be returning to the subject next week. I hope the ECF are seeking to learn lessons from both closing and opening ceremonies rather than just saying "Phew. Glad we got through that".

Andrew Farthing said...

I admit that I'm an amateur when it comes to the media.

My principal difficulty was that I had been out until about 3.15 pm on Saturday and knew nothing about events when the first call came from the Sunday Times literally five minutes after I returned home. I spent the following 45 minutes or so getting myself up to speed as best I could, bearing in mind that I was unable to contact ANY of the involved parties within that time.

By that point, the Sunday Times contacted me again and said that they had reached their deadline. "No comment" seemed as much as I could honestly say, but I agree that with hindsight a general rejection of the accusation of homophobia would have been worth making.

It didn't seem right to state that it was all a misunderstanding at that time (although this did occur to me) because, without having been able to speak to the people involved, I could only hope that this was the case rather than believe it to be true based on knowledge of the facts.

I accept that my not wishing to say anything unless I believed it to be true probably just confirms my "well-meaning amateur" status when it comes to media relations.

The weekend was a learning experience for me, and Jonathan is right to say that there are longer term lessons to be derived here.

"Phew! Glad we got through that" certainly doesn't describe my feelings about all this, considering the damage caused by such a distraction from what was otherwise a very successful event.

"Never again" would be closer to the mark.

DRS said...

Andrew, thank you for taking the trouble to comment.

Simon: "When someone is receiving hate mail, I don't think it's trivial, regardless of what else is going on in the world."

Absolutely right, of course, and undoubtedly the worst effect of what I described as CJ's biggest error.

It was good to see CJ's outright condemnation of such behaviour in his final statement. I don't doubt for one moment that he was shocked to learn about it.

Jonathan B, you wouldn't go straight to the media and nor would I, but CJ isn't the first person in the chess world to do so. It was a long time ago, but given the attention this blog pays to Ray Keene, I imagine that you recall, or know about, Ritson Morry's behaviour regarding Hastings in 1986.

David Sedgwick

simona said...

Thanks for commenting Andrew.

One more quote from my sister, that the S & B blog authors might like:

"I have to say that, as a hack, I wouldn't have tweeted in the way Ray Keene was tweeting yesterday, either."

Jonathan B said...


Thanks for taking the time to comment. For the record, when I made a reference to well meaning amateur I didn't at all mean this as an insult or put down, but rather an attempt - as I believe was SimonA's intention - to recognise the difficulty of your situation.

Had I been in your position on Saturday I'm far from convinced I would have done anything different/better.

Andrew Farthing said...

No problem - I didn't take the "well-meaning amateur" as a putdown. It's a perfectly fair description in this context, so I'd be daft to take offence.

I meant to say to Simon: If your sister is looking for unpaid work in the service of the chronically unsavvy, the ECF's door is always open...

simona said...


I do appreciate you were in a difficult position, I just think someone should have taken the initiative.

I'll see my sister at the weekend so will put it to her, although I suspect she may claim to be too busy! I am likely to be offering my own services in the near future though, unfortunately (?) in a technical rather than a media/PR capacity.

Jonathan Rogers said...

As I understand it, this thread is about the relationship between CJ and the ECF Board in general, not just T-shirtgate and the immediate aftermath - important though that is.

While Andrew Farthing, Mike Gunn and Jack Rudd and others are here, my question to them is this:

Now that you know that Keene was invited to open the British, and assuming that the rest of the Board might think that it was unwise, whose role would it be to ascertain this and then to tell CJ this; and when and how would it be done?

HeinzK said...

Some T-shirts may provoke. Get over it!

John Cox said...

>The suggestion he shouldn't present awards to children, intentionally or not, suggests that homosexuality and paedophilia are the same

I'm not sure I entirely follow that.

It would have been educational to see how the various opinions expressed would have differed if the T-shirt had read, let us say, 'Cunnilingus is great; you should try it'.

It seems to me that when presenting prizes the presenter's main task is to ensure that the prizewinner rather than the presenter is the one attracting
the attention. I'm not sure wearing slogans about sex on your clothing is really the way to achieve that.

Jonathan B said...

did you ever get the accounts you sought for the Short simul tour?

Kept meaning to answer this and kept forgetting.

If you go to the EC Forum and look for the thread on Nosher's first simul tour you will see at the end that CJ has posted a list of figures. I will leave you to supply an answer to the question of whether it constitutes a set of accounts.

My opinion on the matter will appear in a post on this very blog at some point next week.

hylen said...