Thursday, December 11, 2008

If you want to get ahead, don't get a hat

There's always something good in New In Chess, partly because it's a good magazine, partly because there's always something in it about somebody I don't like. The latest issue arrived last week and I was gratified - if that be the right word - to find an item explaining that despite losing the world championship match, Vladimir Kramnik has in fact still got a world championship trophy in his possession, this being the Howard Staunton Memorial Trophy. A trophy that he won in 2000 - but only recently received.

You may have thought (and not unreasonably) that he surely got his hands on the cup shortly after he completed his match victory over Kasparov, but not at all. Dear me no: it turns out to have been in possession of the Penguin all the time. Nic's Café explains:
...after the demise of Braingames he felt that they still owed him 14,000 pounds and he decided to keep the cup by way of compensation.
This surprised me, since on reading that Ray still had the trophy I had assumed the only reasonable explanation was that it was too valuable, fragile and historically and culturally important to be allowed to leave the country, in much the same way as the Ashes never actually leave Lord's - a comparison I am almost equally surprised to find that Ray didn't think of himself. Perhaps he could use it in his Spectator column, assuming, as we regrettably must, that he is not likely to be sacked from it any time soon.

Moving swiftly on - more swiftly than the cup, at any rate - we find an article about the recent Commonwealth Championship in India, written by its winner, one Nigel Short. Writing of his early-tournament travails, he tells us:
In the first round I faced one of the very youngest generation, 11-year-old Shardul Gagare. Winning was no trivial affair. Indeed I became so disconcerted by my opponent's mature play at one moment, and was moved to protest to the arbiter about my antagonist's woollen cap.
Nosher explains what troubled him:
...worries about a possible hidden electronic device. The room, after all, was warm and the boy's hat covered his ears. The offending item of clothing was removed, and, as expected, it revealed nothing untoward.
At about this point I started thinking that I'd read about the tournament already, and sure enough, on searching in Chessbase I found it: and I was chuffed to discover that it included a photo of the young lad, in play against Nigel, complete with his suspicious titfer. I'm surprised he's as old as eleven, to be honest: he looks young enough to have a teddy bear on his side of the board. God knows what Nigel would have done with that.

Underneath the picture you can see the gamescore and a comment: "the game is interesting to replay". Actually it isn't or at very least, not unless we know the point at which Nigel decided to have the boy shaken down.

Oddly, though, that aspect of the game isn't mentioned in the story. One wonders why. Presumably the Chessbase piece was written before the NiC article in which Nigel was perfectly happy to tell us all about it, so it's not as if he might have had a change of mind.

I imagine the explanation is simply that Nigel just didn't think it worth mentioning to Fred Friedel when they talked, shortly after the tournament. Although it is, I suppose, also plausible that Friedel knew what Nigel had done - but decided it was better not to mention it, wondering, as Nigel probably does not, how having an eleven-year-old boy searched midgame for electronic devices would make him look.


Anonymous said...

Titfer, of course, is rhyming slang. Tit for tat = hat. Ironically, Nigel ended up looking like a Bristol City.
Joe S

Tom Chivers said...

It's an extremely distracting feeling, the feeling your opponent may be cheating (or indeed that any other player may be.) I wish I had said something the times I've had suspicions.

Anonymous said...

I believe the incident took place at a time when the use of a concealed earpiece was a live issue. From memory, an (older, non-child) Indian player had been caught red-handed (or red-eared) at a tournament in circumstances identical to the one described here.

Nigel does not make a habit of being heavy-handed towards his opponents, certainly not without reasonable cause (ie Kamsky). I imagine the incident referred to above would have been praying on his mind

Atticus CC

Anonymous said...

I once had to play Meri Grigoryan-Lyell(aged about 25) with her over two-foot high teddy-bear sitting on the table looking at me.

ejh said...

I imagine the incident referred to above would have been preying on his mind

No doubt, but if it loomed that large in his mind might it not have been better to raise the issue at an earlier stage of the game, like for instance about the point at which the photo was taken?

Leaving it - but then complaining about it when the opponent doesn't fall over in the first twenty moves (which 2090 players don't, always) is, shall we say, a little graceless.

Incidentally I wasn't kidding about wanting to know when exactly the Nigel could take no more. It's not as if he was going down under a cascade of sacrifices - all his opponent was doing was exchanging some pieces (and as it is, Nosher was practically winning not far past move twenty). What did the lad not miss that made Prince Charming think he might be playing against Rykba?

If ever I play Nigel I shall, I think, wear a hat....