As far as I am aware this practice seems to have originated with Ray Keene and CJ de Mooi, which is something less than a recommendation. But it seems to have become a touch more widespread recently: I heard Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam address Nigel thus during the commentary to the first game in the world championship match.
It's true that "Deadeye" Dirk is rarely last in line when there's obsequiousness to be engaged in, but as Nigel is very particular as to how he is addressed* it is surely worth a moment or two to make sure that this form of address is actually proper and correct. It's certainly unusual, insofar as I can offhand think of no other example from the chess world of someone being addressed as "Doctor" when in possession of an honorary degree (for such is the qualification that Nigel received in 2010).
Doctor John Nunn
There are, naturally, many chessplayers who are medical doctors and many others in possession of academic qualifications entitling them to the title of Doctor. John Nunn (Doctor of Mathematics, University of Oxford) might be the best known in the English chess world, but he is very far from alone: one might mention, for instance, Dr Morgan Daniels, occasional contributor to this blog and recently awarded a PhD in History by Queen Mary, University of London.
Doctor Morgan Daniels
Nigel, however, received his honorary doctorate - according to his old school - along with
other well known figures including Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce.Funnily enough I've not seen anybody referring to "Doctor Allardyce" (though perhaps now he's got West Ham back into the top flight, that may change) but it's true that the practice of referring to even the holders of honorary doctorates as "Doctor" is not entirely unknown, as the relevant Wikipedia section attests. (Its title, in truth, a tad ironic, given that its first claim comes with a "citation needed". Come to that, its first footnote misspells the name of the institution that it cites.)
Not entirely unknown. But not exactly common, either. And not exactly respectable.
Perhaps the best thing, then, would be to look at the Regulations and Procedures applied to Honorary Awards by the University of Bolton, the very institution that honoured Nigel two years ago. What do we find? We find this:
So there you have it: "it should always be made clear that the degree is honorary". If we're going to use it, we need to insert a rider, e.g. a little (h.c.), thus "Doctor (h.c.) Short".
There's a reason for this: it's so titles don't become devalued. It takes a lot of time, effort and skill to get a doctorate, as it does to get a grandmaster title. You don't get either just for turning up.
It's Nigel Short, International Grandmaster. But Doctor? No.
[*I've not heard him use the "Doctor" prefix, I should say.]
[Dr Nunn image: Absolute Astronomy]
[Nigel Short image: Bolton School]
[Nigel Short index]