Friday, August 14, 2009

Giddins Gracious Me

Steve Giddins is unwell.
Monday 10 August was not a great day for your correspondent. As regular readers will know, I suffer from a termite allergy, and the wretched creatures always seem to be in particular abundance around this time of the year. Yesterday, however, the usual irritations were compounded by a sudden and quite unexpected attack from a stomach bug (come to think of it, I guess bugs are another form of termite...). Blissfully, the symptoms proved as short-lived as they were virulent, but they prevented me from straying more than a few yards from the bathroom for much of the day.
I'm sorry about that. He used to be a good writer not so many years ago, his How To Build Your Chess Opening Repertoire having a good reputation and having been reviewed very favourably in Kingpin by the author of the present piece.

Recently, he seems to have started churning them out a little, though not - yet - at the rate of the Penguin, whose coterie he appears to have joined, providing Staunton Memorial reports, collaboration in instant-book production and perhaps most importantly, toadying services.

I suppose something of no value can, indeed, only grow in value. My apologies for the barrage of capital letters, which are present in the original and which are, come to think of it, very similar in style, dashes and all, to the postings from "Ray Keene" in the comments* to these two Chessvibes reports. The first of these is actually written by Steve Giddins, in proper English - at least until the end of the report when it suddenly degenerates into the same capitals and dashes, as if not only were Giddins writing for Ray, but Ray was writing through him.

Perhaps that's the explanation: Ray has transmitted himself to Giddins like a virus and the virus has begun to take its subject over. A sad fate for what used to be a healthy creature. Take, for example, his review, in the Winter 2000 issue - number 33 - of Kingpin, of The Brain Games World Chess Championship 2000 by Ray Keene (and Don Morris, one of Ray's sidekicks at MSO and BGN) which ponders the question of
which bits are copied from which previous Ray Keene books

and comments that

the padding proceeds apace

and observes that

by now the weary reader has stumbled his way through to page 47 out of the total of 128 ....and still has yet to see a pawn move in anger.
Giddins, by the way, refers to Ray throughout the piece as "Mondo", a term I will speculate he uses rather less in his present employment (though I suppose he may refer to his boss as "Sir Mondo" in conversation). Anyway, the games begin, with their characteristically light annotations:
Those of you who have great difficulty imagining the man slaving for hours over a hot laptop will not be surprised to learn that concrete variations tend not to feature very prominently
which I trust is not something that can be said of the two recent books about world championship matches in which Giddins has shared authorship credits with Keene.

After Giddins makes fun of several more bad Mondo habits including the plugging of longtime crony Tony Buzan and the use of several pages to talk about "BGN's plans for the future" (which presumably did not entail going bust not long afterwards with Ray pursued by angry shareholders) his final paragraph begins:
So, is there anyone to whom this book can be recommended? Well, certainly not to anyone who has access to the Internet (ironically, BGN's great hope for the future) where, free of charge, all the games can be found
which made me smile having read in the Staunton first round report the blunt comment that
it would appear that the days of everything on the net being provided for free are numbered, and hallelujah to that.
Well, Hallelujah indeed, Steve. Perhaps an appropriate term (if not an appropriate termite) for somebody who has apparently seen the light.

The Kingpin review begins:
It is often said that one only appreciates something once it has gone.
So you do, Steve, so you do.

What a difference a decade makes. What a shame.

[* Some of these comments, by the way, relate to this piece by Lars Grahn (seen here achieving the not-difficult feat of being the best-dressed of a group of three chess people) describing the apparently unauthorised use of his photographs during the 1983 Candidates' Matches in London, organised by Ray Keene. I was shocked - shocked - to hear of such a thing.]

[Ray Keene index]


Anonymous said...

Where would Batman be without the Penguin? This tournament is an outstanding chess event for London. Unfortunately the viewing facilities for spectators are only good if you have Superman's telescopic vision. So yesterday I logged on to the live games and paid my £5 and was entertained for several hours ending with Gawain Jones great victory. The £5 allows access for the whole tournament which represents great value. The antarctic ice is receding lets save the Penguin !
Joe S

Jonathan B said...


you may be less chuffed to discover that after the round finished the cost of the live games facility fell to £2.50

Morgan Daniels said...

Innaresting post, Justin.

It's funny. Eric Schiller had a problem with termites this time last year, too:

Must be a Staunton thing.

ejh said...

Also, would we say "termites"?

Note "termites" in the first round report as well.

Sometimes I wonder who's writing what.

dfan said...

I will say in Giddins' defense that 50 Essential Chess Lessons and 50 Ways to Win at Chess are excellent, and I would recommend them to anyone as a stepping stone on their way from Chernev to Nunn.

Jonathan B said...

If I recall correctly the "termite" label got applied in a number of reports that went out under Steve Giddens' name last year.

Curiously, the Daily Reports that I've seen on the official Staunton Memorial website have never been attributed but I've seen exactly the same material - word for word - republished elsewhere with Giddins acknowledged as the author.