Wednesday, August 01, 2012

What are buildings with the people gone?

Hurrah! The Grand Prix is coming to London. Or such was the feeling after the announcement was made* confirming the rumours that had been around for some time, that the leg scheduled for Chelyabinsk would, after a dispute with the organisers there, be moved to London instead.

Fine, I thought: even though it's going to be at Simpson's-in-the-Strand. Or perhaps because it's going to be at Simpson's, since we all know who lives there and hence we were surely in for a treat. Sure enough, in the Agon press release the man himself gives us a glimpse of what may be to come.

That's the Immortal Game, as I am sure Ray knows, not that he's responsible for the typing. (Besides, these things are rushed out and sometimes typos happen: similarly, in "one of the world's most respected commentators on the sport" they may have forgotten to add the "dis".)

But let us not dwell on that, nor on the magnificence of
the Grand Prix in September represents the start of a long journey to restore chess to its rightful place in the public imagination after decades in the media wilderness.
nor even on
I am relishing the return of the World Chess Championships to Simpson's
or not for any longer than it takes to ask "how can something 'return' to where it's never been?"

Nor let us trouble ourselves too much with this

- at least, not beyond wondering whether we can actually find references to Simpson's as the "home of chess" soon after 1828, as opposed to soon after Ray started dining there - and noting that it's copied directly from Simpson's own website.

Nor let us even be too sceptical of Andrew Paulson's claim

that Simpson's is
possibly the best-known chess venue in the world
and let us not waste too much energy on cheap and easy targets

by asking, say, what "long partnership with Agon" CJ thinks he's signed up to, or what the reference to "our Olympic year" has to do with anything, or indeed what CJ has to do with anything any more.

No, let us get to the meat of the thing, which hunk of meat is quite a large one, yet one which seems to have escaped people's notice for a few days after the announcement. Let us turn back to Mr Paulson:

As possibly the best-known chess venue in the world, it is the perfect place to kick off the new Championship cycle. However, the requirement to transfer the event to London from Chelyabinsk at this relatively late stage means that it will be a smaller, invite-only event.
Come again?
it will be a smaller, invite-only event.
Yes, it's not an Open, we knew that, all the players are invited, or qualified, or.... mean you're not talking about the players?


It means there won't be tickets on general sale to the chess public.

The London chess-playing public can't actually get in to see the chess? Then why in the name of God are they supposed to be pleased about the event being in London?

Sorry, could I look at that spiel from Paulson again?

it is the perfect place to kick off the new Championship cycle
The perfect place. Except that nobody can actually get in to see it. In what ludicrous conception of the word - come to that, in what ludicrous conception of the world - does that constitute "perfect"?

Where you won't be

I say "nobody can get in to see it". Actually I will hazard a guess that among the very few who will be able to get in to this "invite-only" event will be Andrew Paulson, Ray Keene and CJ de Mooi.

So there we have it. Although it does not have us.

Now I am not such a fool as to not understand that sometimes things happen and that venues obtained at short notice are often very less than ideal. However, if there were any indication that this matters a good damn to anybody, I'd hope to see it noted rather more regretfully in the press releases, i.e. rather more "we're really sorry that the public can't get in this time, we very much hope this won't happen again" and rather less "it is the perfect place".

Because if that's all you choose to say, then why should I not choose to believe that that's all you care about? I have to conclude that the statement

entails an implict "and these ambitions do not include access for the chess-playing public".

Truly, there is something very contemporary about our being invited to celebrate an event from which we are actually excluded - except the people bidding us to celebrate. Very contemporary indeed.

And truly, there is something deeply objectionable about
a long journey to restore chess to its rightful place in the public imagination
which begins by excluding that public.

[* On 17 July, I think: I was travelling and only caught up with the news a bit later]
[Simpson's/Kramnik image:]
[Ray Keene index]
[CJ index]


Anonymous said...

It isn't known how many of the ECF Directors will be seeking re-election in October. Is it possible that invitations to be a spectator at Simpsons will be offered as incentives for support of established candidates? Not all ECF Council delegates, Congress ones in particular are accountable to anyone for their actions.

Anonymous said...

hilarious srticle.

But a serious own goal in trying to make chess spectator friendly.