Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ten years ago this week

or, A Modicum Of Respect

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.

Sunday Telegraph, 18 November 2001

[Nigel Short index]


Jonathan B said...

If you want to read the whole obituary without squinting you can click on the images for a closer look.

ejh said...

Footnote: Nigel must have done something untoward a couple of Novembers later, since the other day, clearing out old files, I came across a letter:

The Sunday Telegraph


11 November 2003

Dear Mr Horton

Thank you for your letter of 4 November. I have passed it on for the attention of Nigel Short.

Best wishes

Dominic Lawson

Unfortunately, I have no copy of the letter I sent, and no recollection whatsoever of what it might have been about!

Anonymous said...

Re November 2003, wiki says

Writing in the Daily Telegraph in November 2003, Nigel Short claimed that "Tony was insanely jealous of my success, and his inability to accept that he was no longer Britain's number one was an indication of, if not a trigger for, his descent into madness."

This may be a reference to the board order issue at the 1986 Olympiad where Nigel considers he should have been board 1 above Tony and John Nunn. I've never really known who took the decisions about board order in those days. Was it the selectors, as claimed by Nigel, or would it have been the team captain in consultation with the six players?

Jonathan B said...

Don't know Nonny, but I do recall the Dubai Olympiad getting a mention in Dominic Lawson's book in the 1993 World Championship match.

Dominic Lawson writes, if memory serves, of Short playing board three despite being higher-rated than those above him. He also said that the two - Miles and Nunn - were also selectors for the team.

I also seem to recall somebody - Nunn? - pointing out that Short played above Adams in one Olympiad even when Micky was higher-rated than him.

Anonymous said...

Following up the earlier comment, Miles and Nunn were amongst the selectors who selected a team of

It probably wasn't a difficult team to select, except for the last place which would have been Mestel had he not objected to the exclusion of Israel from the event.

But having selected the team, who decided the board order? Unlike a club match, the selections are made several months in advance, so form and ratings can change in the intervening period.

ejh said...

This may be a reference to the board order issue at the 1986 Olympiad where Nigel considers he should have been board 1 above Tony and John Nunn.

And so disastrous was the decision that England nearly won the thing.

ejh said...

Thinking about the 2003 letter, I don't suppose that was the occasion where Nigel attributed Miles' psychiatric problems to resentment of Nigel overtaking him in the rankings?

Jonathan Rogers said...

In November 2003, perhaps the fall out from Short's withdrawal from the Isle of Mann was going on?

Campion said...

Julian Barnes's comparison of Short and Kasparov's off the board springs to mind, except that presumably the sub-editors wouldn't have allowed him to use the phrase "ragingly crass twat".

Anonymous said...

Missed that at the time.

What a complete lack of grace on Short's part.

Ilkley Chess said...

A reprint of Nosher's reply to Justin can be read here

Jonathan B said...

Good spot Ilkley.

If I'd have read that before we might have avoided all that argybargy a few weeks ago.

ejh said...

Mind you, I probably didn't write to The Sunday Telegraph in response to a piece Nigel had published on November 30, seeing as I got a reply from Dominic Lawson on 11 November.

It's a shame that the Chess Café Bulletin Board no longer seems traceable, as I can't see whether or not I replied to Nigel's posting quoted in the link. It goes almost without saying that the case he makes is no case at all.

Ilkley Chess said...

Hi guys, from

482-16 I wonder, in relation to Nigel Short's own attempts at "defending the indefensible", if he has any professional understanding of psychiatric illness, or any personal experience of it affecting anybody close to him. If he has - or for that matter, if he has not - he might reflect that it is not a matter concerning which cheap comments should be bandied about, nor one about which simple assumptions should be made. Short's discussion of Tony Miles fails these tests, and others besides.

I am not sure what Short thinks he is revealing in going through a long list of Miles' psychiatric episodes and personal defects. All of these instances - and others besides - are well-known. They were widely discussed before and after Miles' death. Nor is it a revelation that Miles both disliked Short and resented his success (any more than it is a revelation that Short both dislikes Miles and resents his popularity). But Short does not and cannot connect the two as he would like. What does he know of the roots of Tony Miles' illness? Psychiatric illness is a deep-rooted and intractable thing. All of us experience jealousy, but very few of us suddenly develop delusions that Ray Keene is trying to kill us, or (as is recorded in Genna Sosonko's appreciation) mistake the same gentleman for a sandwich. Who can know what chemical imbalances in Tony Miles' brain, what childhood experiences pushed him down the path to irrationality?

Experience suggests that consultant psychiatrists have enough difficulty in these matters, so I very much doubt that either Nigel Short or I can make confident assumptions on the question. Characteristically, though, Short does so - and he puts himself right at the centre of his answer. Indeed, he even writes that Miles was "insanely jealous" and that this was "an indication...of his descent into madness". To be jealous of someone indicates madness? What kind of talk is this? And this is the problem with Short's whole approach - he cannot (or prefers not to) distinguish the normal, if unattractive, human trait of jealousy from the extremely abnormal and unhappy phenomena that constitute, or accompany, psychiatric illness. But you must, if you are discuss a serious and sensitive question both sensitively and seriously. On the other hand, if all you are trying to do is throw stones, then you are under no such obligation. But could not Short find some better stones to throw?

Short also takes a lopsided approach to the omission of Miles' psychiatric history from Geoff Lawton's recent book. It is quite likely true that if it were included, it might produce a fuller portrait of the late grandmaster. (I have said so myself, in a forthcoming review.) But this doesn't make the book a hagiography, still less a conspiracy to suppress unhelpful evidence that might turn the public against a Miles falsely pained as a saint.


You see it only takes a bit of work (note to self, get a life)

ejh said...

Thanks ever so much for that. Any chance of telling me how you traced it?

I'd stand by that comment pretty much in its entirety, I think (though as ever, the typos make me wince).

Ilkley Chess said...

Hi Justin


into the wayback engine at

go to 2004 and choose Feb 2


Jonathan B said...

Ilkley's link from a couple of comments up got busted by blogger. It should be this

Jonathan B said...

There are some very familiar names in that thread.

ejh said...

It's quite a thread, isn't it? Thanks again to Ilkley Chess for retrieving it.

Red-Halo said...

Woah, now that's revenge