Friday, September 21, 2012

We Used To Be Closer Than This

Separate or combine?
I ask you one last time.

While the music fraternity digested The xx's second album Coexist, an important question was raised within the English chess fraternity. It has since been retracted in the recognition of a misunderstanding, and that's fine. But I'm going to ask it again. 

In fueling speculation, in being critical, in filling these pages, are we damaging English chess? Have I damaged English chess? Am I damaging English chess? 

An inevitable consequence of the size of the player pool is that there are fewer commentators than in other pursuits. And this means that there's more chance of only one side of a debate being heard. And this means that the subjects or 'targets' of the commentary are more exposed, and may feel completely undermined. And this means that they may fade into the wilderness. 

I'm not saying that this was the case with Andrew Farthing, CJ, or whomever, but it's certainly possible. A soapbox is designed to elevate someone above the masses, to put forward the idea that the person upon it should be listened to, perhaps that they're more important than everyone else. And a blog is simply an extension of that concept. 

A blog that is impervious to feedback but still seeks to invite it, so that material for the next wave of vitriol is forthcoming, is nothing short of a troll. A parasite that cannot create any good. But we all love a bit of controversy, don't we? I know I do. But at the expense of people who volunteer to be held accountable? Who pump their time and money into our sport because they feel it's the right thing to do. Is that fair? I don't know. Possibly. 

One argument is that elected officials put themselves on a pedestal, in a position to be unceremoniously shot down in full view of everybody. And, in writing for publications such as this one, we pompously draw ourselves to our full height, look them in the eye and tell them where they're going wrong. In an ideal world, they would rise above it, or at least meet the challenge. In some circumstances they might even be able to tell us to sit down and shut up. We love it when Paxo destroys a public figure, but isn't it actually even more impressive when he's on the receiving end?

Given ECF officials are volunteers, I'm not surprised that they don't wish to risk flying too close to the sun. Or that they immediately retreat if the political heat starts to ratchet up. Of course they should be accountable for their mistakes. And of course they should be answerable to the people they represent. I just wonder whether, of late, we've gone too far. 

I do my best to separate people from their art. Criticising someone's output shouldn't necessarily entail a criticism of that person. I suppose my primary discomfort with the issue is this, something I've been saying quite a lot recently:

Chess isn't important. Not at all.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the whole story of the ECF's involvement with Kasparov, White and Case, CAS , legal action against FIDE has yet been told. Conspiracy may be too strong a word, but the decision to go along with a plan to eventually take FIDE to CAS may well have been taken by one or two individuals even before Andrew Farthing became CEO. It's that when issues are raised and you get an answer that is economical with the truth, trust is broken

Tom Chivers said...

What is 'English chess'?

PJM said...

I'm not putting any opinion forward in terms of individual issues/people. Certainly, as has been highlighted many times on this blog, there are questions that remain unanswered.

I'm merely uneasy with the lack of actual transparent debate that takes place. There are figures on the English Chess Forum who are a very vocal minority, but who don't get the respect they perhaps deserve. We need dissenters on both sides, and that practice is arguably eroding away.

It's like when Paxman hand-delivered an apology to Peter Mandelson when Matthew Parris outed him on Newsnight. I'm uneasy with the level of integrity we're currently at.

John Cox has said: "I [don't] really see how any commentator could put English chess, let alone world chess, in a worse light than its administrators manage all on their own."

The problem is that it's not a case of 'what we say' vs 'what administrators do'. It's who has the loudest voice. That's what people on the outside will hear.

PJM said...

Tom, I would say that 'English chess' is the interests of its paid up members, the interests of its prospective and future members, together with the picture portrayed to the outside world/media.

Make of that what you will. As I've said, I'm merely responding to the suggestion that there's a problem. If there isn't one, then great!

Tom Chivers said...

I don't think we have a real influence on how chess is portrayed to the outside world or media. I don't think, say, chessvibes does particularly either, or, say, the British Chess Magazine, if it is still going.

That leaves in your list of more or less internal interests. What do you think those interests are in concrete terms?

Anonymous said...

Contrary to the opinions of those who have posts in the ECF, I doubt that those who enjoy playing competitive chess whether in leagues or Congresses care very much about the ECF whether it lives or dies. The ECF is something you put with, as part of the price of playing graded chess. You just hope it doesn't do anything too harmful such as demanding membership at £ 20 to £ 30 a head for a single game.

Tom Chivers said...

Scroll down for two textbook comments from chess players.

PJM said...

The best interests of English chess can only be served if the right people are in office. Whether we like it or not, everything from grass roots to international selection is coordinated through the ECF. Malcolm Pein and Sabrina Chevannes' efforts increase the public profile and the ECF is much the poorer without them. It's good that the 4NCL and ECF now have a relationship through Mike Truran (and possibly now Roger Edwards).

I think that the ideal President should be a public figure who works closely with the Marketing Director to ensure that our sport has the correct image.

Sounds familiar, I suppose. However, that correct person is out there, but is less likely to bother if there's a bad smell emanating from the English chess scene.

The same is true of council/board positions from within the chess playing community. For prospective candidates, is it all worth it?

Anonymous said...

I disagree with PJM that "grassroots" is coordinated through the ECF. It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that the ECF could run out of money and implode. If that happened, would it take local leagues, clubs and Congresses with it? I rather think not. Certainly you would need to reboot a grading or rating system sooner rather than later, but you've got a certain amount of leeway. I agree that sorting out the FIDE representation would also be a priority for the successor body.

Mike G said...

Yes, I think English Chess has been damaged mainly because the ECF has lost the services of a number of people who were doing good work but decided they had had enough.

I remember when I attended my first county association meeting 15 years or so ago that the ECF was being accused of all sorts of crimes. As much as I tried to follow the ctiticism I just didn't get it. I didn't get it then and I still don't get it. The natural assumption of many in English Chess (and I don't just mean posters to the EC Forum or the S&B blog) is that the ECF is out to do disadvantage them in some way. I guess this (at lest in part) down to chessplayers' natural paranoia - if some public statement or action is taken then there must must be some devious plan/ unannounced strategem behind it which is at variance with the stated purpose.

I have been on the ECF board for approaching two years now and if there are conspiracies to hide stuff from everybody else then I am as much a dupe of these conspiracies as everybody else.

Many years ago (when Tony Miles used to write the chess column) I used to buy the New Statesman every week. They had a political columnist (Alan Watkins) who used to write that most historians favoured conspiracy theories to explain historical events, but (in his experience) the more you knew about actual events the more you realised that many things were just due to cock-ups (not conspiracies).

Hmmmm, could the ECF be much the same?

ejh said...

I just wonder whether, of late, we've gone too far.

I don't.

In the first place, healthy debate is integral to a healthy society.

In the second place, I don't believe this whole narrative of people being criticised unfairly and hence withdrawing their services. Quite a lot that is said on this subject is simply false.

In the third place, I'm afraid the discussion genie is out of the bottle and the stopper can't be put back. The only consequences of attempting to do so are likely to be adverse: more secrecy, and hence more dubious activity carried on under the blanket of secrecy, and on the otheer hand, more rumours, more leaks, more discussion without people being in possession of any facts.

I should say that I don't share John's opinion about English chess administrators - or at least, at worst I think we get the ones we deserve. (In the same sense, though in the opposite direction, I think that people like Kirsan and Ray and so on are in a large sense what chess deserves, because it has such a high tolerance of dubious conduct.) I think we get well-meaning amateurs and I don't use either term in a pejorative sense. I don't think the state of English chess is particularly the fault of the ECF.

But I do think that complaining about the existence and consequences of debate will make both English chess and the ECF worse rather than better. And I also think that a lot of people complaining about the discussion that does take place show no signs whatsoever of being able to do better. Rather the opposite.

ejh said...

The natural assumption of many in English Chess (and I don't just mean posters to the EC Forum or the S&B blog) is that the ECF is out to do disadvantage them in some way. I guess this (at least in part) down to chessplayers' natural paranoia - if some public statement or action is taken then there must must be some devious plan/ unannounced strategem behind it which is at variance with the stated purpose.

Yes, but....

a. this has always been a pronounced tendency in chess, and indeed in sport generally.

b. I think that the more coherent the complaint, the less it conforms to that pattern. You can of course find people shrieking that the ECF is some kind of protection racket, but you can also find much more detailed and thoughtful criticism of the organisation (or of individuals within it). And I think these criticisms are by and large much more generous in spirit. Put it this way, if the level of criticism I'm thinking of is too much, then any level of criticism is going to be.

c. What can you do? Over the past few years there have been several scandals within the ECF (the chess sets fiasco, the Sheffield money, the Sheffield T-shirt, the FIDE law suit, I could go on) in most of which, secretive and/or unaccountable conduct has been an issue or a contributory factor. Or both. It would seem reasonable to conclude from this that if the ECF becomes more secretive and more unaccountable, the number of scandals will increase.

d. The degree of criticism will not reduce because anybody wants it to. It is possible that it will decrease if there is better communication and better decisions are are taken, though if you're sceptical about that then you're not alone. Also, you know, people feel passionately about things. No doubt they shouldn't, and Phil is right, and chess is not important. But life is not like thata.

e. Getting back to the point that many people think the ECF is out to get them - there's been an increase, in that particular sort of paranoia, in the wider world. I won't necessarily expand on that point, since I normally avoid direct political commentary on here, but anyway, one can't expect chess to be unaffected by that trend.

But, as I say, I don't really buy it. There are of course lots of really stupid and insensitive criticisms about, but without making a rule of it, I think the ones that have hit home the hardest have been the ones that are neither.

Paul said...

So, no apology for accusing people of lying without any evidence. Just the assertion that they probably lied about unfair criticism being a reason they withdrew their services.


Anonymous said...

In reply to Mike Gunn, there's been attempts to force a universal membership scheme on English chess players for approaching twenty years. Notwithstanding numerous rejections, the advocates kept on coming back again and again. Finally with the help of some dubious costings from Andrew Farthing asserting that the cost of having a membership scheme was less than the cost of not having a membership and sleight of hand on the voting to avoid a constitutional change, they finally forced it through by about 70% to 30%. So determined are they to keep such a scheme that the only declared candidate for ECF President, who has expressed a desire for review, is being subjected to all sorts of attacks from many different quarters. The ECF is not to be trusted. Take the requirements for FIDE rating. The ECF for many years claimed it was a FIDE requirement that you had to be an individual guarantor member of the ECF to have a rating. Not true, as the Scots established to enable non-members to play in their rated league.

ejh said...

Not following you Paul, can you be a bit more specific?

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd mention - Paul is not me!


John Cox said...

Great link!!

Seriously, though, what's with the wobble? Take my word for it, it just isn't possible to be *sufficiently* critical in public of the likes of CJ de Mooi, let alone excessively critical. Carry on.

Should you really allow anonymous green-ink loons like some of the comments higher up this thread, by the way, specially since you seem to know who they are. I don't know about English chess, but that brings your blog into disrepute.

ejh said...

you seem to know who they are

I certainly don't. (In this instance I can't even make a guess.)

On anonymous comments. I don't like 'em much, occasionally I say so, and I'd rather they didn't happen. Trouble is that I don't think with the (unsatisfactory, albeit free) Blogger comments system we can efficiently prevent them without making people register or something, which given that commenting is a user-unfriendly process anyway, is setting the bar too high.

So basically we take each comment as it comes, each moderator using their individual judgement. (We don't have a formal comments policy.) Anonymous comments tend to get shorter shrift than signed ones - you can see an example on last Monday's post - but it all depends on the particular comment and which particular moderator is dealing with it.

Paul C said...

“I certainly don't. (In this instance I can't even make a guess.)”. This is disingenuous. I’m sure ejh knows who I am, and Roger comments regularly on this blog in his distinctive style. The blog authors don’t identify by name either.

ejh argues he is a principled seeker after the truth. This reminds me of those tabloids who publish pictures of topless celebrities and justify them with talk about freedom of the press and Watergate.

I assume that the request for specifics is an attempt to go “aha, I can prove I didn’t actually say it”. Well, frankly, bollocks. This blog made CJ look like a fraudster and Andrew Farthing like an incompetent who was engaged in cover ups. The only ECF volunteers that we end up with are those who don’t mind a bit of agro (Nigel, Mike T, etc) and duffers. That is how English chess gets damaged.

I can’t imagine pjm liked the casual reference to one of his friends as someone who might have done something massively unprofessional in Austria, because they are the kind of person of whom one could believe the allegation. Maybe the phrasing was woolly enough to be a legal defence. But ethically, I don’t think it cuts it. It is still mudslinging.

John Cox gives the impression he is out of touch. People like CJ? Who are they? Is he saying Andrew Farthing is a person like CJ? Is he tripping? Does he understand it is not ejh wobbling it is pjm? The blog might want to be a loose collective, but I can understand why they would not all want to be associated with ejh’s categorical and unwavering self-certainty that what he is doing is right.

It isn’t.

Jonathan B said...

"Seriously, though, what's with the wobble?"

Different writers, different opinions.

I’m sure ejh knows who I am
This is untrue. Well, it might be true now, but it I know it wasn't before.

this blog made CJ look like a fraudster

How exactly.

ejh said...

This is disingenuous. I’m sure ejh knows who I am,

I do when you sign yourself "Paul C", Paul. If you don't, I don't. This is obvious, isn't it? Just as it is obvious when Roger comments, provided he signs himself RdC.

Of course if one of the anonymous posters above was actually you, now would perhaps be a good time to say so.

The rest of your comment is largely an exercise in assertion and in claiming people have said things which they haven't said.

You said this! You know this! No, I don't have to demonstrate it! It's just right! It's not an approach I have any time for.

This being so, I'll refer you to Matthew 7:3-5 until such time as you want to come up with something more coherent.

ejh said...

(Actually, I add this re: Andrew Farthing. I've said a number of times that I think Andrew has made some bad mistakes as CEO, and I wasn't at all impressed when he chose not to tell us how much of the Sheffield money wasn't properly accounted for. If saying so is out of order, then I'm afraid that precisely what I mean by "if the level of criticism I'm thinking of is too much, then any level of criticism is going to be".)

Anonymous said...

The Sheffield financing saga still has to be closed. This will come with the publication of the ECF Accounts for the year ending 30th April 2012 since they will have to detail how much was given to the ECF for the 2011 British and how much was spent. Amounts raised by CJ and others and paid directly to participants won't be disclosed. Patrons may wish their contributions acknowledged, but unless the amounts can be validated by being handled by a third party, it would be better to generalise about the amounts.

Paul C said...

I suppose our previous arguments meant more to me than ejh, since I felt Paul was enough to identify myself, when making a point I'd made before. I used Paul C deliberately the second time for that reason.

None of the completely anonymous ones are me. Fairly obviously if you know my opinions I would have thought. I can't say for certain which anonymous comments were made by Roger. But I can see which ones make the points he has made in the past, using the phraseology he has used in the past. Maybe I should ask ejh to choose whether he is stupid or a liar, for the purposes of irony.

I genuinely didn’t understand one of ejh’s sentences. But on the final point, a difficulty in trying to discuss something with someone who is an extremist, or is being irrational, is that they rarely know what they are. They will claim to be the moderate in an argument with a moderate.

Maybe I’m the extremist. I doubt it, but then I suppose I would. Or maybe I wouldn’t, because extremists and the irrational have absolute certainty they are right.

With apologies to Jonathan, i’d be quoting a whole serious of posts and saying “collectively, this is the impression they give, that something underhand is going”. There doesn’t seem much point. But if you want a specific, John Cox made a comment on the bottom of one of the least balanced pieces about “dark hints”. I think we’ve already established he and I don’t see eye to eye. So if he also thinks there is a subtext in some posts, I’ll claim that is a inference a reasonable person might draw.

ejh said...

I suppose our previous arguments meant more to me than ejh, since I felt Paul was enough to identify myself

No doubt. But in fact there was obviously more than one Paul who it could have been. And I assumed that a statement signed "Paul" was not among those being referred to as "Anonymous". What with that meaning "without a name" and all.

I can't say for certain which anonymous comments were made by Roger. But I can see which ones make the points he has made in the past, using the phraseology he has used in the past

Ones he has signed, yes? So what would be your reason, or mine, for assuming that he had broken with that practice?

John Cox made a comment on the bottom of one of the least balanced pieces about "dark hints".

Ah, this one. (John's comment, coincidentally not long after a signed one from RdC.) I don't particularly consider it an unbalanced piece, and you'll have to forgive me if I don't think your judgement on that particular issue is self-evidently good.

I wrote:

"I would have thought it highly unlikely that CJ acted alone and unadvised. That's what I think, but as yet I do not know."

This is because I think it unlikely that CJ acted alone and unadvised: basically because things were actually going on in the shadows back then. It doesn't follow that I reckon I know who advised him. I don't, and I reckon probably I never will. And given that we are now rid of him - thanks not least to the work of people who you relentlessly criticised - it probably doesn't matter.

John Cox said...

Well, I still have no idea who Paul C is, but fortunately I don't actually care. Still, it's not only the bloggers who might like to know who anonymous commentators are.

I'm rather failing to follow PC, anyway. People like CJ? Irresponsible narcissists unfit to run whelk stalls - you want me to name some more? Seriously? I'd have thought they were ten a penny, but OK then, wandering somewhat off topic - Boris Johnson.

Is Andrew Farthing like CJ - I've no idea. All I know about him is that he seems to hold some kind of position in the ECF, that at one time he used to post in various places and answer some reasonable but no doubt rather tedious questions, and now he doesn't.

Of course I understand that pjm and ejh are different, but as PC says the blog does generally speak with a very loose collective voice, and the present occasions seems to be slightly different.

I don't recall any suggestions that any friend of pjm's behaved massively unprofessionally in Austria - at least not by ejh; I dare say Mr Rahman might have made some. Anyway, when is that post going to return and/or some explanation for its absence going to be given? Mr R may have had his faults, but there's no denying his schtick was more entertaining than most meta-chess discussion.

Anonymous said...

Nigel's report to the ECF AGM is now available at

I'm not sure whether it had been previously disclosed, but he confirms that GK had approached the ECF about taking the VP issue further.

The ECF was then asked by Garry Kasparov – the organiser of the Karpov 2010 campaign – whether, if we were provided with full financial guarantees, we would be prepared to appeal to the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) in Lausanne Switzerland

While that's a straightforward disclosure, it seems the ECF felt unable to make it when first pressed for detail about the case, instead claiming "the issue was first discussed by the Board in February 2011"

Paul C said...

I’ll stick with Paul C, or I will look needy. I’m arguing with ejh about treating Andrew Farthing unfairly and irresponsibly. John Cox is both saying the blog should continue what it is doing, and he doesn’t know much about Andrew Farthing. I guess it is obvious why he is annoying me. I don’t want to reopen the Austria discussion, but I trust my recollection on what was written about the relevant coach.

I suppose ejh and I are just demonstrating to everyone else that we don’t agree. What he considers balanced, I consider unbalanced. Criticism he considers relentless, I thought considered. The pig wrestling quote comes to mind again. I enjoy these arguments; but I don’t want to be the pig, so I should desist. I guess it is already clear what I think of pjm’s dilemma, and all the other various issues.

PJM said...

I'd like to say that I linked to the 'Unfortunate Flounce' piece to give an unfamiliar reader some context. It wasn't a dig at Justin, though I can see how it may be construed as such.

In terms of me having a wobble, I've remained fairly neutral on most issues throughout. To the point where I haven't said anything.

As highlighted by a couple of outspoken rants published elsewhere in summer 2011, my main problem with how things are lies with another blog. I've referred to it in this piece. Unconsidered tripe that produces only bad feeling makes it more akin to Littlejohn.

While I may have disagreed with some of what's appeared on here, I appreciate its need to be said, by people who really care. Perhaps I just don't care as much.

Whatever the rights, wrongs and suitability of what I've said, I'm pleased that a discussion has taken place. It's apt that some of the discussion has been about attribution of commentary, because that's part of the issue.

ejh said...

I'm arguing with ejh about treating Andrew Farthing unfairly and irresponsibly.

I have to say that to my recollection nobody has yet showed me anywhere where I've done so.

I don't even mean "such that I agree", because of course that's not necessarily going to happen. What I mean is, nobody has pointed to a given piece, isolated a particular passage or phrase, said this is unfair and irresponsible and explained why.

Which is kind of a minimum requirement.

John Cox said...

>What I mean is, nobody has pointed to a given piece, isolated a particular passage or phrase, said this is unfair and irresponsible and explained why. Which is kind of a minimum requirement.

Nonsense, Justin, it's perfectly fair to link to a piece and say the overall tone is unfair even if every individual phrase may be fair.

But since you ask, let's say, for example, it were suggested that calling AF's refusal to answer any more questions a flounce were unfair, given that it may be based on, for example, the amount of time that an unpaid (is this right?) official was willing to devote to the online scrutiny of one or two unelected online commentators.

After all, you seem to have 'flounced' out of the Austria debate at least as much. Would 'flouncing' be a fair description of your behaviour there?!

ejh said...

It's perfectly fair to link to a piece and say the overall tone is unfair

Sure it is. But without examples, it's an argument with no evidence.

it were suggested that calling AF's refusal to answer any more questions a flounce were unfair

"Flounce" is the standard internet term for departure for an announcement of one's own departure from a forum (as opposed, say, to simply disappearing quietly). Which is what occurred. Hence my use of the term. Whether it was reasonable or not is another question: but by definition, a flounce it was. As it was when Paul, for instance, did the same thing, or when I have done so from other forums in the past.

(If anybody wants to have another go, they're welcome to do so, and provided that reasonable courtesy is employed I'll do my best to provide a reasonable response. But it may have to wait until tomorrow, as SD Huesca are playing Elche this afternoon and I am just off to watch it.)

Paul C said...

Can I assume you've decided not to publish my further comment?

Your site of course. But I'd prefer you to say you've decided to end the discussion.

ejh said...

Paul - I'm not seeing any new comments other than the one you've just made. Apologies if the system has eaten it. Would you be able to have another go?

Paul C said...

I wrote some comments yesterday afternoon, but assumed they were pending rather than lost. It might have been my error with the Robot check. In passing, assuming ejh isn’t familiar with having four or five goes on it for every comment, it might contribute to inconsistency in how posters sign themselves.

Defending the title of the article isn’t the same as defending the overall impression it gives. What I thought was missing from that article was an understanding of what the CEO’s role is, or empathy for the situation Andrew was in. That is fine if you position the article as criticism of mistakes you think were made, but not if you intend the article to be balanced, and want to have the right to make judgements.

The point that “not only have I not said anything unfair, I’ve not even said anything that a person who disagrees with me could consider unfair” seems to me wrong. The article includes comment that some people disagree completely with ejh’s view, people who must then see the criticism as unfair.

I find it hard to believe ejh really thinks his opinion is uncontroversial. So the point of setting this test before responding seems like a debating tactic. Maybe a good one, but it goes to my point that I feel when winning the debate has become more important to me that the substance, I think I should back off. I am making the same allegation against against ejh, that he lets the debate, the blogging, the defence of his position on many interconnected matters, become more important than the ECF.

I flounce, ejh flounces. But surely the CEO of the ECF gets to be bigger than the ECForum? If he says it’s a considered decision, we have to respect that; don’t we?

ejh said...

Thanks for having another go. Yes, I know the system isn't up to much but we can't apparently do anything about it. Probably a good idea to copy and paste longer comments before posting.(Which you shouldn't have to do, but I recall having to do on various blogs which used Haloscan.)

Will get back to the substantive point later.

Anonymous said...

Any candidate for ECF CEO and to a lesser extent any directorship has to consider the extent to which they will become an autocratic ruler. If they are only answerable to the ECF Board and sometimes not even then, that should be known before they are elected. If they are going to be answerable only to the other Board members and the formal ECF Council meetings twice a year, that should be known as well. If they want to claim more openness, than they have to demonstrate how they will achieve this. The EC Forum can act as the on-line equivalent of a press conference, where a representative of an organisation tries to put his own or the organisation's position to those who would like greater clarification. I seem to recall a past board promising greater communication, which fell away when their visions were criticised as being nightmares. They flounced as well, from the ECF Board.

ejh said...


I find it hard to believe ejh really thinks his opinion is uncontroversial.

I don't, but then again I haven't said I think so.

What I thought was missing from that article was an understanding of what the CEO's role is

In that article, maybe. I don't necessarily agree. The thing is, the arguments on the chess forum derived from situations where Andrew Farthing's role as CEO was the point, and where I do think I understood what it was, or what it should have been.

I think it should, for instance, have been to prevent the organisation being used in other people's poltical manouevres without the organisation's members knowing or understanding what was going on. I think there was a failure there.

I also think that there was a failure to properly deal with the extraordinary failures regarding CJ's disbursement of money at Sheffield. You may disagree with me in this, but that's your privilege. I think that pretty much the first duty of any organisation is to make sure its money is properly accounted for. This didn't happen at the time, and it didn't happen subsequently. (The report on the failure was welcome, but that's a different thing to actually accounting for the money.) I thought this was entirely inadequate, and said so. I don't believe the CEO got to the bottom of it - manifestly he did not - and I think I am well justified in saying that he should have. I think this was very wrong. It would have been wrong of me not to say so.

ejh said...

when winning the debate has become more important to me that the substance, I think I should back off

Well, I think this is misplaced. I've not pursued the question of the still-unaccounted-for money - I mean it's not as if there have been a string of posts on here about it, and I'm quite capable of doing such a thing when I think it's necessary. I wrote one post on here about it, and on the chess forum I've scarcely mentioned it.

But the important thing wasn't "winning" any debate. It was finding out what happened, and for that reason you can't really stop asking until it's clear you aren't going to get any more answers.

Which was true of the Sheffield money - as far as I could see, that was it as far as ever getting more information was concerned. So, enough. But with the CAS shenanigans, the thing was that the flounce occurred right in the middle of the discussion. Nobody was "winning", that wasn't the point. The situation remained (and remains) murky. There was still plenty of "substance" to go.

What can you do? I mean what do you think our role is? As far as I'm concerned, one function of blogs is to ask questions. Difficult questions. And if anybody doesn't like that, then I have every intention of ignoring them, because I should. Otherwise you never ask anything worth asking or get any answers worth hearing.

All that shouldn't need saying, in my view. It's basic. I'd turn it on its head and ask - when you're telling people they should leave off with the questions, what on earth do you think you're up to? Who appointed you?

Isn't actually the point at which any debate gets called off likely to be the point at which the questions get uncomfortable? So how do we interpret that? Do we interpret "uncomfortable" emotionally, and say it's getting rough, let's stop it? I can see the point in that. But I think that as long as the questions are put reasonably rather than aggressively, all that's likely to happen is that the questions get called off just when they're getting interesting and useful.

Which is what happened, in my view.

surely the CEO of the ECF gets to be bigger than the ECForum? If he says it's a considered decision, we have to respect that; don't we?

I'm not even sure what this means. Of course nobody is obliged to post on that forum, a point I seem to recall making very clearly.

So what does "respect that" mean?

John Cox said...

Yeah, my comment has disappeared as well.

Which was - I'm well aware that 'flounce' is not an original term of derision, but it's still a term of derision as opposed to a simple factual description, and arguably an unfair and uncalled for one.

ejh said...

I am perturbed.

When a comment goes thorugh "Publish Your Comment" here, an email is sent to our address, which means a copy would exist of it even if the comment itself were to be deleted.

But we've not had any to this thread, since yesterday afternoon, other than those than have been published.

Which bothers me.

Still, like I say, copy and paste.

John Cox said...

I shouldn't worry - I suspect operator error.

Paul C said...

So, ignoring some interesting side issues; ejh and I are at odds on the question of questions.

It is indeed possible to meet each new answer with a question as ejh has observed. The trouble is not all questions, not all difficult questions, are good questions. The two reports the ECF produced on Sheffield Finance and the CAS timeline answered the important questions. We know what the ECF did with its money, we know who made a hash of its distribution. We know if anyone exceeded their powers in the CAS case. We know on what basis the board took its decision. These are the serious questions.

Asking who exactly got paid what at Sheffield, how many times has CJ met Garry or Ray, and so on, are not serious questions for the ECF to answer. There’s always confidentiality around financial matters, and rightly so. Every elected person has reasons for standing, be they principled or self serving. These questions are at best pointless, interesting sure; but in an unprincipled, tabloid way.

Still if asking pointless questions was only a waste of time. I wouldn’t be so critical. But when ejh says questions have not been answered, anyone not familiar with the detail would assume that means important questions. Since factual answers have been given, that raises an implication of wrong doing, or even dishonesty. One simply can’t imply that about people without proof, and implying it without saying directly it is little better than a direct accusation.

I get that ejh thinks there is still something to seek out. His suggestion that AF must have run away from the debate when the questions got to difficult is consistent with that view. But I think it is wrong. AF showed no signs being under increasing pressure. He showed signs of increasing exasperation, but that is more in keeping with the idea he thought the questions pointless and irrelevant than difficult.

The idea that the ongoing series of questions has had a positive outcome, that the ECF is now more open, is doubtful. The reports produced were, if anything, overkill for the level of allegations. A deliberate attempt to demonstrate openness by a CEO who felt that was worth a lot of time and effort. He lost patience with this approach when it wasn’t recognised. I can empathise; why bother to do a good job if you are going to be criticised for it as if it was a bad job anyway? Indeed why bother with the job at all.

I’m contending a good job was done. The CEOs job is to get all these things done, and he did. Given the circumstances he was working in, if you’ve any similar experience, you have to tip your hat. However, the CEO doesn’t have complete control of policy; he has to respect the wishes of the Board and the Council they represent. If they vote for a CAS action he has to get it done in the best way available; and he did, protecting the ECF from undue risk. Ejh seems to be criticising him though a simplistic lens of “he was the boss”. It makes me doubt his experience of management. So does the failure to recognise that the important question on CAS is whether CJ committed to ECF to action. That he was pursuing this goal independently is neither surprising nor relevant. Board members don’t have to go around holding hands. In my experience they often are often pursing different, even incompatible goals. What is important is whether they stay within their authority, and whether the board approves their actions.

So that is just my view. It is worth no more or less than ejh’s. But AF’s view counts for more simply because he has walked a mile in the ECF CEO’s shoes. Responding to his comments by saying “I don’t buy that” isn’t fair or honourable. If you thinking questioning authority is an important value, fine. But straight forwardly dismissing the reasons AF gave for his actions crosses a line, it is an accusation of deceit. He deserved to be treated with more respect.

Paul C said...

Another update fail? This can wait for another time and another place.

I wrote something yesterday about the difference between good questions, such as those answered by the ECF document, and bad ones, which create the impression of scandal where there is none.

I thought Andrew left in exasperation at being asked pointless questions, not because he was under pressure from difficult ones.

Martin Smith said...

Sorry Paul C in lag in publishing those. ejh is on the road on business and I'm not sure when he might engage.

It's me stepping in to Moderate...

Anonymous said...

Nigel Short in his report on his role as ECF Delegate to FIDE has confirmed that the ECF were approached by Kasparov as to whether the ECF would go along with a legal action in CAS about Vice Presidents. Had the ECF CEO been prepared to admit this straightforward proposition a lot of questioning would not have been necessary.

There are issues on the margin as to who GK approached, but he might have assumed, incorrectly perhaps, that the President was empowered to act on the ECF's behalf.

Anonymous said...

Whether it's really worth raking over this isn't clear, but the statement by the then prospective CEO in October 2010 could be worth rereading in the context of this thread.

So a prospective CEO starts with the intention of openness and ends with retreating into silence. Is there something about English chess which makes it ungovernable? Actually I think there is. Unlike physical sports, it is possible in chess to retain skills to an advanced age. So it is rather less possible to push players around because they push back.


ejh said...

Asking who exactly got paid what at Sheffield, how many times has CJ met Garry or Ray, and so on

Just out of interest Paul, where and by whom have these questions been asked? I certainly don't remember asking either. Not that my nearing-my-fifties memory is a failsafe guide.

I'll try and get on to the rest when I have some time on Saturday (if indeed I do).

ejh said...

(I think, on reflection, that I'd like an answer to the question above before I move on to anything else. If that'd be OK.)

Paul C said...

I've given up

ejh said...

Probably just as well, as your "making things up" privileges are not likely to be indfinitely extended.

Paul C said...

Could you be specific about which things I've made up?

I'd like to have the opportunity to refute any allegation of dishonesty on my part.

ejh said...

We'll start with my question from last Saturday. Given an answer to that I'll reply to the question you were asking and then perhaps we'll deal with some other unsubstantiated allegations upthread.

Paul C said...

I don't really think it is fair that I should be required to jump through hoops to continue the conversation. I already responded to the point on 22nd Sep in order to continue the discussion, and now I am being set another precondition.

Honestly I think if this debate was in good faith, you would respond to the point I made about bad questions, by saying what good questions are still unanswered. But it seems clear that you do not want to discuss what I see as the substance of the debate and are instead trying to shut it down. Perhaps I am indeed obviously wrong and just not seeing it. Either way, we are wasting our time.

It rankles to be accused of dishonesty (again; I recall you accused me of lying on the ecforum too). But I guess that goes to my point that I think you've been too quick to attribute base motives to those who disagree with you.

Anyway, on the assumption this is by now largely a private conversation, I'll again try to walk away. Anyone else reading the conversation can probably assume I disagree with your response.

ejh said...

Shorter Paul C: "I am happy to make allegations, but when I am aked to substantiate them, I cry 'not fair!' and refuse."

If you were debating in good faith, you would back up claims that you make, or withdraw them. This comments box is not an open house.

Paul C said...

It is extremely hard to debate with someone who is moderating your comments without feeling bullied. But I don’t really know how to take the duality of “you’ve not substantiated” and “this is not an open house”. I thought about starting a thread on the ecforum as neutral ground, but it doesn’t seem fair to inflict this on a wider audience, and especially Carl.

Anyway “I don't think Paul's points are important”, or “I've already addressed them”, I could walk away from. But the suggestion I was just making things up is harder to ignore. I would like to end this discussion; I don’t think it is a good use of my time. I hoped at the start to influence what is written on this blog, because I think it does harm, but clearly I cannot. So I am now really just responding to the point I am making unsubstantiated claims.

I find it hard to accept that you don’t see any evidence for the points I am making. There are whole blog posts devoted to speculation about these things. Anyway. the first few quotes that I see pursuing questions relating to how sponsorship was paid, and the relationship between CJ and Keene and CJ and Kasparov are below.

“How much of this controversial £12,600 has been accounted for? For how much of it have CJ de Mooi and the ECF been able to provide receipts and invoices?”

“(...) one thinks of CJ, who couldn't be more obviously a puppet if he tied strings to his limbs and had Ray Keene pull on them.”

“Did CJ really think up this one on his own? We know that he was in contact with Garry Kasparov - this is mentioned in the entry of January 13. So did Kasparov put him up this? Or, to put it another way, did Kasparov alone put him up to this?”

ejh said...

None of that asks

"who exactly got paid what at Sheffield"


"how many times has CJ met Garry or Ray".

Does it?

ejh said...

(For the record, it would be appreciated if Paul's next comment either substantiates his claim or withdraws it. If it does neither then I am minded to close comments on this thread.)

Paul C said...

They weren't attributed as quotes; but I do think the implication is the same.

The receipts are payments to players.

The nature of CJ's relationship with these people is being speculated about as relevant to the CAS decision, despite the decision having been made by the board, not CJ.

ejh said...

Manifestly not good enough. Next time you wish to make claims on here, please supply supporting quotes.

This correspondence is closed.