I often say that when you're in your forties it becomes impossibly hard to tell the difference between satire and reality. This feeling is not eased by the similarity between
(a) the Edwards vs Paulson contest for the role of President of the English Chess Federation; and
(b) the Marge vs the Monorail episode of The Simpsons.
This is not because of any resemblance Roger Edwards bears to Marge Simpson.
Now I find it hard to know exactly what to say about Andrew Paulson. It is glaringly obvious what is wrong with his candidacy.
Why is it glaringly obvious?
It is glaringly obvious because people who never in their lives have played a competitive game of chess in England do not suddenly wake up one morning and decide that their lives should be dedicated to the transformation of the English Chess Federation. Do they?
Of course they don't. That much is glaringly obvious.
It's like turning up one day, in a country where you have never lived and of which you know nothing, and expecting to be made Prime Minister next day. It's ludicrous, isn't it?
So if you don't already view his candidacy with disbelief and scepticism, then I'm not sure how much more can be usefully said.
Whatever is happening here, it's not about somebody who suddenly had a vision for the transformation of the ECF. If you think it is, then I reckon Lyle Lanely could probably sell you a monorail.
So, what follows is largely for form's sake. We have a candidacy, so let's discuss who the candidate is and what he says. But really, it shouldn't be necessary. This is a crock. You surely know that already.
It's not as if it even looks plausible. Take for instance the candidate statement. This is in the very first paragraph.
I mean do people actually go for this sort of thing? Presumably they must, or nobody would come out with this stuff. But this is just laughable, isn't it? It sounds like an entry in a Parody A Mission Statement contest.
"Honour, beauty and glory?" Do me a favour.
Then there's this.
Heh. "Needs a grand purpose." For what office is the gentleman standing? I could have sworn the Papacy was settled months ago. For pity's sake. "The moral vanguard of functional and honest chess administration." Who thought that one up?
There's not much in Paulson's statement you can argue with, as opposed to laugh at, because there's so little of substance there. What is this, for instance?
"New event formats." Like what? You must have some idea, or you would not have said this. But curiously you do not say.
"Make...chess events more festive." How do you propose to do this? You must have some idea, or you would not have said this. But curiously you do not say.
Or what of this remarkable passage?
It's evident from this that Paulson doesn't know that the ECF, far from "dilly-dallying", actually spent ages and ages on this very project. He doesn't know this because he doesn't actually know anything about the organisation he's seeking to lead. (Again, it should end here: that fact means he shouldn't be standng, let alone getting elected.)
But let us just zoom in on this bit:
Are you laughing yet? This is hilarious. This chap reckons he has it in his power to "bring to bear" the voices of the Chancellor Of The Exchequer, that chap who used to run Tony Blair, the Culture Secretary and that other bloke who's already been bought up by Rupert Murdoch.
This is bullshit, yes? This chap is full of wind and bombast. He has AVOID written on his forehead in letters the size of his ego.
On top of this, we do in fact have some kind of track record to go on where Mr Paulson is concerned. As it happens, it's not the stuff of which "case studies in how to establish chess federations as professional organisations" are necessarily made.
What we actually have is a record of unreliability and a questionable approach to disagreement and criticism. These are characteristics which are less than desirable in someone who needs to work, with a limited budget, in concert with other people, and communicate with a membership that may at some point like to receive credible information.
There's also Mr Paulson's inclination to pluck unbelievable numbers out of nowhere. Is any information that derives from Mr Paulson actually going to be credible?
Or does he just make things up as he goes along?
This is the chap who, when asked why the audiences at the Candidates were disappointing, responded that that was how he wanted it
I didn't want to have a situation where it was too crowded, where we couldn't control the public.a statement he later admitted was "absolutely fatuous".
What other statements are going to be later written off as "absolutely fatuous"? (I can think of several candidates.)
This is the chap who
- last August described an invitation-only venue as
the perfect place to kick off the new Championship cycle
- but in his candidate statement says he wants to
make chess more of a spectator sport
- but earlier this year didn't want - he was prepared to claim at the time - to have large audiences at the Candidates.
Here, for instance, is Paulson saying how he will put together a package for the sponsorship of ALL English chess.
After it has been explained to him that he is promising to package something which would not be his to package (which is something he plainly should have known) words like "WILL" and "all" turn out not to mean what they do actually mean.
Paulson doesn't know what he's talking about. And what he says doesn't mean what it means.
Of course it's not unknown for characters who are practised bullshit artists to get elected to ECF posts, nor indeed people with a frivolous approach to numerical accuracy (not to mention an unhealthy interest in backstairs FIDE politicking). However, in the two instances to which I refer, they were the only candidates, albeit both should have lost to None Of The Above by a cricket score to nil.
In this case, though, we do have an incumbent, Roger Edwards, who without doing very much in particular has done it pretty well. No disasters. No grandiose schemes. No bullshit.
Think about it, English chess.
I once wrote on this blog:
English chess seems generally incapable of recognising a wrong 'un. Especially when there's any thought that the wrong 'un might promote, or put money into, chess.Isn't it time we learned to recognise a wrong 'un? And urgently?
Because this is urgent.
What the hell is going on here? A very short time ago Andrew Paulson had never shown the slightest interest in us. But now - but suddenly - he's rushing round the country meeting up with everybody he thinks might be a mover or a shaker in English chess.
No history of any actual involvement with English chess. No history of actually playing chess with any actual chess players. Just nowhere yesterday and President tomorrow. By meeting and impressing the right people.
It isn't so much an electoral campaign as an electoral coup.
This is a joke and not a good one. Don't let it happen.
- - - - -
Or alternatively, if you're impressed by the sort of routine which Mr Paulson's candidacy - and his candidate statement - represents, then by all means support him. He may very well win. I wouldn't be surprised. (I was gobsmacked when Tim Woolgar was elected. After that nothing would surprise me.)
But if he does, I'd surely have to consider standing myself the following year, on a platform of
- holding giant open-air demonstration games with dragons and unicorns as the pieces
- a parachutist landing on the middle of top board during the final round of the British
- tournaments to be held on ley lines to improve the players' spiritual awareness
- international TV coverage for third division matches in the London League
- gold coins to be showered by the spectators on any player who manages to sacrifice their queen on g3.
[Andrew Paulson index]