Friday, September 05, 2014

The flipside of Dominic Lawson III

I obtained a measure of revenge not only by eclipsing Tony in terms of chess performance but also by sleeping with his girlfriend, which was definitely satisfying but perhaps not entirely gentlemanly.
Unless I am much mistaken, the most notorious obituary in chess history was published in the Sunday Telegraph when Dominic Lawson was its editor.

For some reason the editor chose not to red-pencil the most objectionable passage, though Nigel is often fortunate with his editors in that respect.

Lawson is a columnist now on a variety of papers, including, as we saw on Wednesday, the Mail, and yesterday,1 the Sunday Times for whom he pens the occasional climate-change-denial piece.2

He is also the chess columnist for Standpoint magazine, in which capacity he wrote the following intriguing passage about Tony Miles:
The itinerant Miles's behaviour at overseas tournaments became increasingly eccentric. Back in the UK, he was arrested by police as he climbed over barriers to Downing Street to protest to Margaret Thatcher about an imaginary threat to his life from other chess players.
Curious because, as everybody knows, because the imaginary threat wasn't so much from "other chess players", plural, as from one Ray Keene. Singular.

Why Lawson should have difficulty naming or mentioning Ray, God only knows, since they have been associates for a very long time.3 For Dominic Lawson is, I'm afraid, a Friend of Ray.4 He was one of Ray's editors at the Spectator during which time he had a certain degree of involvement in the 1993 Kasparov-Short match.

Forbes, Nigel Short: Quest for the Crown, Cadogan, 1993, p. 93.

What happened in 1993 has been gone over millions of times, so it's not the rights and wrongs of the PCA split as such which interest me here. What does interest me is that Lawson appears to have had no compunction whatsoever about going (or agreeing that Nigel should go) to Raymond Keene. Which is of interest in the present circumstances, since (as Forbes knew very well, but did not say) the reason Ray had "established the English Chess Association" was that he had left the then British Chess Federation - now the English Chess Federation - after being accused of defrauding that organisation of several hundred pounds in the Tunis affair.

This had scarcely been forgotten by the time the Short-Kasparov match game around: indeed, Nick Pitt's Sunday Times article ran in 1991. Nobody in English chess who chose to work with Ray in 1993 can have been unaware of what Keene was accused of, or the absence of any remotely convincing rebuttal to the accusations. If they chose to work with him anyway, it's safe to assume that they didn't give a monkey's. Chess federation ripped off? Who cares, there's money to be made.

Now of course Dominic Lawson isn't the only person who could be accused of acting without principle in 1993, not by a very long chalk. However, he is the only person who is currently nominated for the post of President of the organisation whose alleged defrauding previously failed to concern him.

So I wonder this. If accusations of defrauding the British Chess Federation didn't seem to concern Lawson in 1993, why are we being asked to have him as President in 2014? What questions has he been asked about this by the ECF officials who nominated him? How did he answer them?

More Lawson tomorrow.

[1 Do see yesterday's post again for the remarkable passage added late last night. ]
[2 Behind paywall. Naturally the man is entitled to believe any nonsense he chooses, but I did have the passing recollection that weird and irrational beliefs were considered a bad idea among chess presidents. Maybe that just applies to aliens. I would welcome clarification on this point.]
[3 There is also no mention of Ray in his candidate statement.]
[4 Curiously he is also son-in-law to Ray's live-chess-with-dogs friend Lord Monckton.]

[Dominic Lawson index]


Anonymous said...

If the ECF was prepared to have Nigel Short as FIDE Delegate, it shouldn't be a barrier to be "a friend of Nigel". If a dividing line is needed to you know who, it's that the current candidate has never previously been an office holder of any shape or form in the ECF or the BCF before it. As far as the limited number of voters is concerned, I suspect he starts with a clean sheet. Voters can speak for themselves if they dare, but there may well be an inference that at least some share Dominic's views on non-chess issues.


ejh said...

If the ECF was prepared to have Nigel Short as FIDE Delegate, it shouldn't be a barrier to be "a friend of Nigel".

However, it is not being a friend of Nigel that is an issue here.

ejh said...

there may well be an inference that at least some share Dominic's views on non-chess issues

Oh I'm damned sure that some of them do. The question is whether the ECF thinks that somebody who expresses those views, in that way, is somebody suitable to promote chess to all parts of the population.

This is one of a number of questions to which I am not expecting an answer.

Jack Rudd said...

I could express an opinion on behalf of the ECF if you like, although I think the Manager of Disabled Chess probably isn't really supposed to do that.

Anonymous said...

Quick point. I think we shouldn't speak of "climate change deniers" for the same reason we don't call creationists "evolution deniers".

This implies they are similar to holocaust deniers. But this is going too far. Junk science (or pseudo-science) is one thing, holocaust denial quite another. Not every idiot is a wannabe Nazi.

ejh said...

It's a point of view but I don't think anybody really believes that, ah, climate change deniers are being compared ethically to Nazis. I'd welcome suggestions for a better phrase though.

Incidentally, if we are making comparisons then I'd prefer somebody who believes they've been kidnapped by aliens than somebody who insists we ignore climate change science. The first kind, at least, does no harm.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure in the chess context?

The media likely to see a climate change sceptic as a right winger, probably with oil industry sympathies, and respond according to their own position. A person claiming alien abduction likely to be mocked as a nutter.

Paul C

ejh said...

I'm sure that's what actually happens, yes. My point is that it should not, for in fact, while both involve blatant disregard for scientific reality, one belief is harmless crankery and the other is not.

I wouldn't call it scepticism, by the way. Scepticism is an informed, rational position: it's a substantial and necessary part of the scientific method. When Lawson père et fils make their claims, that's not because they're following the scientific method.

Anonymous said...

I think the The Guardian uses sceptic. But I'm arguing a very nuanced point, because I agree entirely with your position on the issue itself.

It just that however regrettably, DL's position is on the edge of the political mainstream, but not outside it. I see him as one of those people who see their role as to prevent the drift to the centre, so that sort of positioning typical from him.

I'm going to find almost every column he writes objectionable, but I think that is a political judgement. So I'm suspending opposition in relation to the chess role.

Paul C

ejh said...

I think that is a political judgement.

It's not, of course. It's of suitability to perform a post where you have to work with and represent real people.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree but your position is clear. I'll respect that this is your platform.

I think you probably already know why I'd disagree with the more recent piece, so I won't comment on that either.

Paul C

Anonymous said...

Why on earth should someone who has not been convinced about climate change be assumesd to be 'right-wing', and why the apparent inference that being 'right-wing' is somehow wrong?

ejh said...

Why on earth should someone who has not been convinced about climate change be assumesd to be 'right-wing

Oh I dunno, maybe from about another million of the same individual's columns?

Anonymous said...

Can I just say that Dominic Lawson seems to me to have the right credentials and the necessary gravitas to make an exceptional president of the ECF.

You can (and I do) criticise his political views, but they seem to me to be broadly mainstream rather than outlandish, and certainly no reason to disqualify him from the Presidency. MW

ejh said...

On "views", see tomorrow's posting.