Moscow 1994 provided an altogether different, sleazy sort of ambience. The giant 'Cosmos' purported to be a hotel, but in reality was the biggest brothel I have ever seen in my life. The working-girls, numbering well into three figures, would think nothing of phoning your room or knocking on your door to offer their services. Even if one wanted to, there was no escaping them because the weather was so damned cold one didn't really wish to venture outside more than a few steps. Not a few of those who did were mugged. One player, escaping the pain of a recently failed marriage, initially found solace in the dodgy basement nighclub. That was OK, except it was very expensive. He soon discovered that the girls at the Carlsberg bar on the ground floor were somewhat cheaper. A different, less fancy bar further from the lobby, proved more economical still. By the end of the tournament his funds were depleted to the point where he had moved on to seducing the babushkas on his floor."Olympiads", says Nigel Short, "are all about sex". To prove it, he spent a whole column in New In Chess telling us about it. Not all about it, I should say, but we'll get on to that. But about it, anyway, and in the process, telling us rather more about himself than either sex or Olympiads.
- Nigel Short, New In Chess 2012/7, page 69.
How some grown-ups talk about sex
Nothing that we didn't know before, mind you, but that's also true of Nigel's not-terribly-interesting sex stories. It's not a great revelation that people on trips abroad sometimes engage in casual sexual intercourse. Good Lord - next thing we know, Nigel will be telling us people on holiday send postcards to their friends!
Nigel has a habit of writing, not very illuminatingly, about sex, in New in Chess - see, for instance, this and this from previous years. Not to mention his notorious sex tourism is hilarious piece, which crossed the boundary -crossed, and kept on going - that separates arrested adolescence from obnoxiousness. It's a piece he reprised, in part, last issue, but before we move on to the more obnoxious parts of the article, perhaps we may comment on the more boring parts.
You see, as I say above, Nigel's stories aren't very interesting. Legover stories, to use Private Eye's old term, rarely are, except as gossip. An anonymous four-in-a-bed story isn't all that juicy, not in 2012 (it might have been a different story forty-nine years ago) and a skinny-dipping story loses its point if the army comes past after you've finished dressing.
How Nigel talks about sex
So how do the stories fare as gossip? Not well. Because, with a couple of exceptions, no names are named. Which is perfectly OK if the intention is to respect other people's privacy and decide that it's none of our business. But if that's the idea, why bother in the first place?
However, Nigel's explanation is rather less honourable:
Thus ends my little snippet into the private lives of chess players. When my doctor informs me I have only six months to live, I shall pen a far juicier and more extensive account, names included, without fear of repercussions.Which, perhaps makes Nigel's present account not particularly brave as well as not particularly interesting. But though there are unsubtle clues to various individuals' identities, he is brave enough to name the "morose, jealous and inebriated Danny Gormally".
Uh huh. Well, Nigel doesn't like Danny Gormally, tell us something we are interested in knowing. Thing is, not only does everybody in the world already know that Gormally chinned Lev Aronian, they also know that Gormally has apologised for his conduct, something I am not sure I recall Nigel Short ever doing. He might be a fallible human being, Danny Gormally, but as with so many of Nigel's targets, he actually comes across as a more likeable human being than Nigel.
But let us move on to Nigel's attitude towards women, and to women in the sex industry in particular. Here's another long passage from the New in Chess piece. Sex tourism is, again, hilarious:
All Olympiads have their volunteers, but Manila 1992 was unsurpassed in the sheer volume of totty. There were literally hundreds of smiling and invariably polite eighteen to twenty-something-year-old Philippina hostesses. Not a few liaisons were struck up during the course of two weeks. Joel Benjamin related to me, in a mixture of admiration and mirth, the story of a silver-haired colleague demolishing his last-round opponent before smilingly walking away hand-in-hand with his tournament amour.Jesus. This is horrid, isn't it? Embarrassing and horrid. Hundreds of women working as "hostesses" - a dreadful spectacle - and Nigel writes about "the sheer volume of totty".
- Nigel Short, New In Chess 2012/7, page 68.
Totty. Not women. Not really people at all.
You wouldn't think Nigel Short actually has a daughter of that age, would you? But not even that is enough to make Nigel know better - nor New In Chess, who should have red-pencilled that passage and told him that if he wanted to write like that he could do it somewhere else.
Where the piece should not have appeared
Nigel concludes: "it comes as no surprise that Manila 1992 is considered to have been one of the best Olympiads in recent decades". Yes, because having so many women working as "hostesses" is such a plus point, isn't it? I believe it's the aspect of their country that Filipinos are most proud of.
if they had, actually, exercised the judgement that they do not appear to possess, New In Chess might also have cut the passage that heads our article, with its hilarious account of a hotel full of Russian prostitutes and its side-splitting recollection of some cash-strapped player forced to resort to ever cheaper whores until he was reduced to "seducing the babushkas".
Now nothing is off limits for humour. There are grimmer subjects than prostitution. You can make a joke about anything. If the joke is funny enough, which Nigel's jokes are not. Or if the joke sees people as people. Which Nigel's jokes do not.
But Nigel has always struggled to see other human beings as human beings, especially where they are anonymous and poor and desperate and women. This is pure Nigel Short, Nigel Short the bully, the Nigel Short for whom other people are there to be trodden on and laughed at.
It is a disgraceful piece. New in Chess should have seen that. They should have seen that and told him that the piece was unfit for publication. But they didn't. They never do.
Still, at least this time he didn't say he'd screwed anybody else's girlfriend.
It's a joke that hates women, Gethin
[Nigel Short index]