Friday, March 01, 2013

All's Wells

I've often said, you know, I rather like old Ray. He's never done any harm to me personally, most of his fiddles are very much on the trivial side and he provides us with a lot of entertainment. Obviously as a journalist he's a complete disgrace, but he's such a blundering oaf that even his outrages in that field usually make me smile rather than anything else.

Occasionally, though, something he does - some aspect of what he does - leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Such, I think, is the case with today's exhibit.

We're looking at a piece that Ray wrote for the issue of CHESS for June 1991. As you can see, it deals with the late Ian Wells, the highly talented young British master who died in a swimming accident in 1982 at the age of seventeen. Ray had played him, once, in 1980, and in 1991 he annotated the game for CHESS.

Sort of. This is the first page of two.

Until almost the end of the page, nothing is amiss. It's all about Ray, of course - up to and including White's twelfth there are nine games cited, seven of which were played by Ray. (One of the other two was played by his brother-in-law.) But Ray was among the greatest authorities on the variation played, based on his own experience, so that's forgiveable.

At Black's twelfth, though, something less forgiveable occurs, though you have to look outside the article itself - as Ray presumably hoped that you would not - in order to see what it is.

Ray mentions an improvement over another game involving his brother-in-law, and does so thus:

What's wrong with that? Nothing at all, at first glance. Or at any glance, unless one of those glances happens to be at this paragraph, from CHESS for July 1980.

A prepared improvement over 12...Qc8 which had been played before but which had come to grief in a game between Nigel Povah and David Goodman, Phillips and Drew Knights 1980. The attack with Black's b-pawn is considerably more challenging.
CHESS for July 1980:
A prepared improvement over the normal 12...Q-B1 which came to grief in Povah v Goodman, Phillips & Drew Knights 1980 (see CHESS nos. 837-8).
"A prepared improvement....which came to grief." How curious that Ray should use the same terminology as the earlier piece. Or rather, curious if Ray didn't have a very long track record for this sort of thing.

You know, you could probably get away with "a prepared improvement", on the grounds that it's normal chess terminology. But not the "came to grief" bit. That's just copying.

So what we have here is a particularly blatant example of Raygiarism.

What is Raygiarism? Raygiarism is:
  • annotating a chess game by borrowing somebody else's notes unacknowledged and wholesale
  • changing round the phraseology to make it look original at first glance.
But, because you are Ray Keene, it is also:
  • not bothering to do it thoroughly, such that some original phrases still remain.

Let's have a closer look. This is the piece from July 1980.

This, meanwhile, is the second page of Ray's June 1991 piece. (All these images should hopefully enlarge if you click on them.)

It's obvious, I think, that Ray's note to Black's twelfth was borrowed from the earlier article. He was to borrow a lot more than just that, though, before he was finished.

Younger readers often find it difficult to follow descriptive notation, which was still being used in CHESS in 1980. Nevertheless, we think they'll have little difficulty in following the similarities between Ray's 1991 notes and those appearing in the 1980 piece. Note in particular the very great similarities in the variations given.
1991 If 13 Nd5 f6 14 exf6 exf6 16 [sic] Ne6 Bxe6 16 Qxe6+ Kh8 threatening 17...Re8 with a good game for Black. Alternatively, 14 e6 is met by 14...fxg5 15 exd7 Qxd7 followed by ...Nf5.
1980 If 13 N-Q5, 13...P-B3 14 PxBP (14 P-K6 PxN 15 PxB QxP 16 PxP - or 16 O-O-O - 16...N-B4) 14...PxP 15 N-K6 BxN 16 QxBch K-R1 threatening 17...R-K1 with a good game for Black.

1991 Black avoids 14...fxg5 15 exd7 Qxd7 16 Nxg5 when White dominates the light squares. The move played offers an exchange sacrifice for a pawn in the interests of eroding White's pawn centre.
1980 If now 14...PxN 15 PxB QxP 16 NxNP with complete dominance over the white squares. The move played, which wins a pawn for the exchange, was underestimated by White.

1991 15 d5 is no improvement, e.g. 15...Na5 16 Nh3 f5 followed by the raid 17...Bxb2.
1980 15 P-Q5 is no better, e.g. 15...N-R4 16 N-R3 P-KB4 and 17...BxP.

1991 After 18 Bxa8 Black interpolates 18...Bxb2.
1980 Not 18 BxR BxP!

1980 Here it was possible to return the exchange by means of 20 Rxd4 cxd4 21 Rd1 with an unclear position.
1991 Also possible is 20 RxB PxR 21 R-Q1 with an unclear position.

1980 Black should shun 22...Nxf7 23 exf7+ Bxf7 24 Qxe7 when with Ng5 to come, Black's position starts to crumble.
1991 22...NxN 23 PxNch BxBP 24 QxP is less good.

1991 If instead 23...exd6 24 Rxd6 gives White an enormous amount of play with 25 e7 and 26 Rd8 very much in the air.
1980 If 23...PxN, 24 RxP gives White plenty of play. 25 P-K7 with 26 R-Q8 to follow is the threat.

1991 After the game Ian Wells suggested that 25...Bc6 and if 26 Nc4 Be4 would have been a superior winning try for Black.
1980 Ian Wells thought 25...B-QB3 intending 26 N-B4 B-K5 would have been better.

1991 Probably 29...Bd4 is stronger since 30 Ra6 is met by 30...Ne3.
1980 29...B-Q5 was stronger (30 R-R6 N-K6)

1991 Wells sees the devilish trap 34 R1d7? Bxd7 35 Rxd7! Qxd7! 35 [sic] exd7 Nxd2+ forking White's king and queen. The text prepares the rook invasion on the seventh rank.
1980 Not the immediate 34 R(Q1)-Q7? BxR 35 RxB QxR! 36 PxQ N-Q7ch.
In fact, almost all of the earlier article's notes are recycled into Ray's piece - though Ray sportingly avoids copying the suggestion, from 1980, that he probably stood worse in the end.

As I say, unacknowledged and wholesale. Nothing we've not seen more than once before, of course, so what about this particular piece leaves a bad taste?

This, perhaps. The 1980 notes are described as "based on those by Ian Wells". The notes in Ray's 1991 piece aren't described as based on any source but himself. Which is strange, because based on the 1980 notes they very much are. Or rather, they're not so much "based on" the earlier notes, they are those notes.

But Ray's piece was supposed to be a tribute to Ian Wells, wasn't it? So in the course of this tribute, to this young man who died tragically early, he ripped off, wholesale, notes which were based on the young man's own.

That wasn't very nice.

[Thanks to Jonathan]
[Ray Keene index]


Jonathan B said...

Alas not, Jon H.

But if you were to resubmit your comment in slightly ammended form I'm sure we'd be able to.

Anonymous said...

That really is a shameless act. What was wrong with crediting the late man's work, and adding in either your own additional annotations to his piece, or your own introduction?