Test Match Cricket - the sport of the gods.
England are playing India right now, well they would be if it wasn't raining, and due to the rather tedious necessity to earn a living I've been following the game via the Guardian's ball-by-ball coverage.
During the afternoon session the conversation between commentator and readers (via email) got on to the subject of worst managed teams in sport. After a few run of the mill suggestions - Welsh Rugby Team, Leeds United, US Ryder Cup side of recent years etc - one Richard Woods wrote in to say,
"The most shambolically managed sports team is the England Men's Chess team, assuming you accept Chess as a sport ... The managers have made English chess the laughing stock of the chess world."
(see over 80 from the afternoon commentary via the link above).
Is that true? I know England used to win medals at Chess Olympiads and we don't now, but what is a realistic expectation of our national side? Are England underachieving?
At some point I was thinking of going a series of posts on the decline (or otherwise) of English chess, since I reckon a great deal of nonsense is talked about it and a great deal of unearned blame attributed by people who have not thought through what they're saying. This statement would fall very much into that category (by the way, no Richard Woods is listed in the English Chess Federation grading database and if you try the search "richard woods" chess you get this blog).
How is English chess "the laughing stock" of the chess world and how have "the managers" managed to achieve that? We are not told, so we do not know what criteria are being used or why it is suggested that "the managers" (whoever is being referred to) are responsible for that.
One assumes the Olympiad side is being referred to - it is weaker than it was at its height, and it will likely become weaker as Messrs Short and Adams decline in strength, as no obvious replacements are emerging - though it's not clear that it's the fault of the "managers" that Luke McShane is unlikely to become the world-class player he might have been. It is, however, no weaker, rather the opposite, than it was for most of its existence prior to the mid-70s. People might ask how many English Grandmasters there were before then - none - and thereby gain a sense of perspective.
It is not, I think the ECF's fault that there are rather more attractive ways of earning a living than chess, as there have always been (what was Max Euwe's profesion?). Nor is it their fault that the UK is not in general a society which values or rewards chess and nor is there sponsorship just waiting around to be picked up like apples plucked from orchards, as certain whinging professionals appear to think.
Anyway, this series of posts will probably never happen, but I might instead compress them all into one and post up a number of questions tomorrow (or in the next few days, should more pressing matters intervene). Then hopefully people from within and without the club can comment on them and perhaps a debate that sheds light rather than heat may ensue.
Even on the internet.
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