Hello. I don't think we've ever met, although we spoke briefly on the phone in July. Anyway, I'm a member of the English Chess Federation, of which organisation you were President until last Saturday's election. I didn't have a vote in that election (some people had lots of votes, but we'll get on to that another time) so in the absence of a vote I'll offer you an apology instead.
I'd like to apologise to you for the ludicrous decision of our organisation to vote for your opponent, one of the worst electoral decisions I can recall.
It's not as if you'd done anything wrong in the first place: I've heard no complaints. There was no case for getting rid of you and the case you made for staying was eminently sensible and level-headed. It's hard enough to understand why anybody should have been standing against you: almost impossible to understand how you actually lost.
It's almost beyond impossible to understand how you lost to a ludicrous candidate whose connection to English chess does not extend to ever having played a competitive game of chess in England. Still less this particular one, given that he's one who rarely makes a claim that stands up to any scrutiny.
Our electorate, Roger, had a choice between trustworthiness and untrustworthiness. They chose untrustworthiness by a margin of three to two.
But don't blame yourself, Roger. It's not quite impossible to understand. The thing is, they knew this. They voted for untrustworthiness. They voted for it because that was what they wanted.
For years, much of English chess has wanted nothing more than some fantasy-figure, a Mystery Man With Money - or the claim of money - on whom they can project their own fantasies of English chess transformed. It doesn't matter what the Mystery Man actually says. It doesn't matter what he's said in the past, or what he says now, or whether what he says changes every time he says it. It doesn't matter if he actually believes it or if they actually believe it. They're voting for what they want to believe, and what chance has the sensible and thoughtful against that?
In the general run of things two out of three people don't really care what's true and what isn't - and chessplayers are no exception. So don't blame yourself, Roger. You never had a chance. Friedrich Schiller could have told you that.
Anyway, I, for one, appreciated a year without a clown in charge. Not so much fun, for sure. Nothing to blog about. But now we're cursed to live in interesting times again.
I'm sorry about that.
Even as a Paulson sceptic myself, this comes across as nonsensical. I mean, Roger basically failed to campaign at all. No one was ringing up Council delegates on his behalf - but they all received a number of calls from Paulson and Ehr. Contrary to what you say, he might have a chance if he had any kind of team behind him; and the reason why he doesn't, it seems to me, is that no one affords him credibility at all. A half-plausible candidate could certainly have kept Paulson out.
Justin, you said that Roger did nothing to deserve losing. That is not really something we would normally say of a candidate who fails to campaign in a contested election, is it?
I recently raised with him the complete lack of support shown by the ECF to our top Club teams who represent the ECF in the European Club Cup - since the ECF does not even pay the entry fee any more. After losing my email and needing to be sent it again, he replied that he would look into it, but he wasn't actually aware that the ECF had been sending any teams to this since the 1990s. We have in fact continued to send two or three every year(!). I never heard anything more.
I think this episode is generally typical and explains to me why he had no campaign team at all, and why some people felt ready to take a chance on Paulson. As you know, I am a Paulson sceptic too, but let's see the picture as it really was for this election. Those who wanted to urge caution over Paulson were really limited by not being able to say anything positive about the alternative.
Not really, Jonathan, because although Roger didn't campaign, that in itself didn't oblige anybody to vote for Paulson: nor did anything Roger didn't say prevent people reading what Paulson did say.
If Roger had been a particularly poor candidate I'd have expected to have heard lots of complaints against him during his period of office, complaints against ECF officials not being particularly rare. I didn't, and I draw my own conclusions from that.
(I mean I think people were always going to vote for the bullshitter. I'd have liked Roger to campaign more than he did, but I've no reason to believe it would have changed the result. Sometimes, electorates have their stupid heads on, and this, I think, was an instance.
I also don't see that Roger could have anticipated what he was up against. This kind of election campaign doesn't usually happen in the ECF. Nor is it usual for people with no experience at all in English chess to pop up at the last minute with political-style organised campaigns, telephone canvassing and all. I didn't see it coming, you didn't see it coming and nor did Roger.)
Again, no Justin. You and I didn't see Paulson coming but it seems as though AP spoke to Roger about the Presidency some time before the rest of us knew about it. In any event, Roger still did nothing in the four weeks or so at his disposal. No phone calls or canvassing even though everyone knew that Paulson was doing it.
Granted, Council has always been worryingly partial to people with no English chess track record. But we don't know for sure that Paulson would have beaten anyone. A generally more plausible candidate than RE might have seen Paulson off. Even RE still mustered over 100 votes.
it seems as though AP spoke to Roger about the Presidency some time before the rest of us knew about it
Yeah, but it's a long way from that to anticpating the kind of campaign that actually occurred.
explains to me why he had no campaign team at all
Roger didn't have many allies on the ECF Board: tbat's no secret. But he wasn't required to have nay. He wasn't a politican, with a support team: he was just somebody who was trying to clear up a previous mess and do some positive things. Which he did. As I say, if he did badly, where was the discontent? Where were the calls for his head?
As for "taking a chance" on Paulson - here's a question. At which point do you think it became obvious, to anybody who cared to look, that Paulson didn't care whether what he said was believeable?
I'd offer, perhaps, the point at which he claimed that he hadn't wanted large crowds at the Candidates - although you could pick from a number of alternatives. And I think that once you're up against that sort of thing, the candidate to whom the normal rules of credibility don't apply - then what can you do?
(In a way it's a bit like demonstrating the attachment to unethical practice of a certain journalist. After a certain point, one really has to conclude that it's not that the point hasn't been proven convincingly enough. It's that too many people aren't interested either way.)
I’m a bit puzzled by all this ranting, Justin. From what I can see, in the last few years we’ve had five great tournaments in the UK, which is more than the ECF have achieved in the last 25 years and more, I suspect, than the present lot would achieve if left to govern for a thousand years.
It also seems to me that CSC has been quite a lot more successful than the ECF’s scheme to get chess into schools. I know little about either, but common consensus seems to be that the latter was a fiasco while the former is certainly doing fine at the only school I do know anything about.
It’s pretty understandable why people would vote for someone connected with the team which has delivered the above rather than those long associated with an organisation which can’t even find a way to resolve the pathetic decades-long squabbles in Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
But what really puzzles me is all this conspiracy-theory stuff. I don’t get it. Let’s lose the dark hints. Can’t you just explain for the benefit of all (naturally bearing in mind the libel laws) precisely, or even roughly, how you think AP is going to seek his own advantage at the expense of the rest of us?
Well, I agree with much of that, of course - you already know my views on AP. Where we disagree is whether there was really no chance of persuading others.
Perhaps not; but perhaps so. I believe that many who voted for him did/do regard AP as a "chance either way", and so the most effective way would not have been to continue to talk ONLY about the risks of electing AP, but to have also included SOME positive points about RE, and that could simply not be done. (I would have done that if I could have done, but really from my own personal experience, I couldn't).
John. I'm not aware that Roger Edwards is connected with the chess-sets fiasco or that Paulson organised or is connected with Chess for Schools. Given that, I'm genuinely unsure what your point is. (Ditto "conspiracy theory" - absolutely no idea what you're driving at. Help me out here.)
Jonathan. I believe that many who voted for him did/do regard AP as a "chance either way". I think this is only so if people were thinking of Imaginary Paulson, as opposed to the real, genuine Paulson whose statements and actions they'd had plenty of opportunity to scrutinise.
It's one of the lessons one draws from a decade and a half on the internet. One can argue against an argument. One can debate the meaning of facts. But one can't do much against the tendency of people to be interested in neither.
In my earlier post, I was agreeing with Justin, not John.
When John says
"It’s pretty understandable why people would vote for someone connected with the team which has delivered the above"
then it is my turn to be puzzled. What is AP's connection with the undoubted success that is CSC, or with the three LCC events which presumably comprise some of the mentioned five big events in the UK?
As to the two which AGON organised here, one did not admit spectators and the other tried to overcharge so much that very few attended, and only at the end when the price went down. So to what end should ECF members celebrate these achievements?
Is RE not a long-standing ECF apparatchik? That’s the impression one gets. (the Council at least, if not the Board)
I know AP isn’t involved in CSC, but Malc is, and he’s known to be an associate of AP, no?
As to conspiracies, I rather had the impression you think AP has some agenda he’s not telling us. But if you don’t, fine. You just think he wants to raise the profile and competence of English international chess, and don’t think he’ll succeed. And/or that he’ll ignore the county championship, or not devote sufficient attention to the details of the membership scheme, or sufficient energy to ending the Yorkshire squabble (whatever that is; personally I’d be happy with a policy of putting all Yorkshire chess administrators into a sack and dropping it into the North Sea, but perhaps that’s a little beyond the ECF’s purview).
Personally I think the evidence is that AP has a great deal more chance than RE of achieving things for English international chess, and as I care about that and I don’t care about the county championship, the membership scheme or Yorkshire, I’m delighted by this result.
Jonathan, to be honest I’m tired with this carping about the Candidates. I attended twice and had a great time, and there seemed to be a number of other people there also having a great time. I forget what the price was, but I’m damned sure it was less than 90 minutes’ entertainment at the Emirates. There was an excellent live commentary, gripping play and it was the best sporting day out I had last year. If you didn’t go along, more fool you.
I also watched on the internet live boards and there was a perfectly acceptable display and commentary, not particularly ground-breaking but very enjoyable. Sure, the marketing hype wasn’t lived up to, but it never is.
The point is that ECF members had the chance to see the greatest players of the age playing live, in London, when it really mattered. That hadn’t happened for a generation. Achieving, or at least facilitating, that ought to be the primary goal of national English chess administration. I sense that it’s AP’s, and I don’t sense that it’s RE’s, to put it mildly.
I understand AP isn’t formally involved in CSC and LCC, of course, but come on – what’s his connection to them?! You can’t be so naïve as that.
>So to what end should ECF members celebrate these achievements?
Come on, Jonathan. Seriously. This is pathetic. To what end should ECF members celebrate chess history being made in London?!
The conspiracy theory issue is as to why it was necessary to capture the organisation as President in order to get the marketing and promotion rights. If Agon or some other shell had come to the ECF with the same proposition as it appeared to have made to FIDE, namely give or sell us the rights and we'll do the rest, would this have been accepted? It would have been likely if the offer had been made in October 2012. Had it been made in October 2013, perhaps it wouldn't, given the silence from Agon over the last six months.
But anyone becoming President of the ECF inherits the old issues, such as the one man veto on GMCCA's membership of the NCCU and the reluctance of local Yorkshire leagues to be part of the English chess scene.
For that matter, they inherit the recently created ones, such as the extent, if any, of support for teams directly or indirectly representing England in international events.
This blog's favourite columnist was enthusiastic about the new Board appointment, mentioning friends (in plural) that he'd known for fifty years. One would be the International Director who was Oxford captain when Ray was a Cambridge undergraduate, but who is the other?
What do we think are the odds on said columnist being invited to Aberystwyth to open or close the 2014 Championships?
You just think he wants to raise the profile and competence of English international chess
I actually don't have a clue what Paulson's agenda is, other than that it involves raising the profile of Andrew Paulson. I do have some idea of the disconnect between what he says on one day and what he says on the next, and I have a well-informed view that such people are a liability.
Achieving, or at least facilitating, that ought to be the primary goal of national English chess administration.
Well, not really, no. Putting English chess in a healthier state would be my conception (a very hard thing to do, in my view) and I don't see what that has to do with hosting the Candidates in London. I'm all in favour of the Candidates being in my home town, it's a good thing in itself, but I don't see how it substantially contributes to the goal I personally identify.
>I actually don't have a clue what Paulson's agenda is, other than that it involves raising the profile of Andrew Paulson.
Oh, OK. So you do have a conspiracy theory, It's just that you don't like it being called a conspiracy theory, and you can't articulate what it actually is.
> I do have some idea of the disconnect between what he says on one day and what he says on the next.
Well, obviously he's full of what one might term marketing bullshit, which both you and I probably recoil from but which seems to be surprisingly effective in live. But it seems to me to be more or less the same marketing bullshit every time.
OK, well if you don't see how hosting the Candidates in London contributes to putting English chess in a healthier state, then I'm afraid there's no point in our carrying this discussion further.
Fair enough. But just saying "if you don't see it then I won't explain" doesn't advance us very much. No offence intended, and it's your privilege.
So you do have a conspiracy theory, It's just that you don't like it being called a conspiracy theory
No, I don't have a conspiracy theory. I have if anything the opposite of a conspiracy theory. Rather than having lots of damning detail, I have a damning absence of detail. And rather than purporting to understand what's really happening, I understand what's happening but am (with apologies to Roger) still very unclear why.
obviously he's full of what one might term marketing bullshit
More than that, though. It's bullshit as a habit.
(I should say - obviously I'm aware of arguments that holding major tournaments in the UK raises the prfile of chess, for example. Sure. But I'm entitled to ask questions like "how much, in practice?" and "what if anything is the effect of that?". Do prestige events have a long-term effect on the status of a sport in a country, on participation rates and so on? Possibly they do, and in some instances certinly so. But I'd like to see the case argued, with examples and a discussion as to the applicability of such examples.)
John, calm down. Yes, if AP is closely connected with CSC, let's hear the details, and let's not assume that he is that closely connected with Malcolm Pein, who himself saw a huge caveat to AP's candidacy.
Of course it's great that the Candidates came to London, but the event came here because Aronian could not have played in Azerbaijan, and it was the Azeris who themselves sponsored the move to London. It is not as though AP lobbied for the event to come here from the start in order to promote English chess - indeed he has said that he actually wanted to keep the crowds away!
Neither AGON event in London is comparable with the LCC, and the latter is very much MP's baby. Now, we'd all agree that MP would make a great president, but I think that you and others seem to conflate the aims and achievements of MP and AP rather easily.
>I should say - obviously I'm aware of arguments that holding major tournaments in the UK raises the prfile of chess, for example. Sure. But I'm entitled to ask questions like "how much, in practice?" and "what if anything is the effect of that?".
Fine. Ask them. But don't say things like 'I don't see how holding the Candidates in London contributes to putting English chess in a healthier state', when obviously two posts later you do see it, otherwise I'll start thinking you're just another Andrew Paulson type.
I'm not interested in arguing the case. I felt inspired personally and that's good enough for me. It's one of those things that seems to me bleeding obvious; if naysayers want to say it doesn't give English chess a boost I think it's up to them to make the case against, that is when they've finished whining about the internet display boards having stripes down the side, or whatever it was that was exercising some of the commentators so greatly.
In any event, on a rather less parochial level, *someone* has to organise Candidates events. On a global level, clearly it's essential. Saying 'the ECF shouldn't be interested because it doesn't affect how Bumfluff and Stumbler get on in the Rutshire District League' doesn't accord with my conceptions of how the ECF or the world should operate.
obviously two posts later you do see it
I see the case. It doesn't follow that I agree with the case. (In the specific example, I don't. I'm prepared to be persuaded, but at present that's not the case.) Being aware of an argument is not, I think, evidence of being persuaded by same.
As to you, Roger, that's more like it. Vague hints of some dastardly plot. 'Necessary to capture the Presidency', forsooth. But then you tail off a bit. You think Agon are now going to make enormous amounts of money at our expense out of marketing English chess, is that it? Or what is it, exactly?
I can help you with what the ECF's policy on the issues should be on the issues you raise, too.
> such as the one man veto on GMCCA's membership of the NCCU and the reluctance of local Yorkshire leagues to be part of the English chess scene.
Anyone who's ever run a playgroup knows the answer to this one - ignore them both until they grow up.
> such as the extent, if any, of support for teams directly or indirectly representing England in international events.
Fund junior chess rather than adult amateurs.
I don't think there would have been complaints about the presentation at the Candidates, if it hadn't been for the hype about a new standard of presentation.
If you make as your selling pitch, the presentation of chess as a spectator experience, isn't it sensible to get the elementary basics right? This would include actually allowing spectators (the Grand Prix) and having a website promoting the event ( Candidates until FIDE stepped in).
Not all ECF voting representatives follow International chess. Those who don't wouldn't have known AP or anything about him. A briefing given to one was that AP had never played serious chess in England, but had made extravagant promises to FIDE to get the rights to the Candidates, Grand Prix and World Championship matches. This had culminated in a successful Candidates tournament but the AP's organisation and AP himself disappeared from public view until reappearing in the ECF election.
>Now, we'd all agree that MP would make a great president,
Well, except the ECF Council, of course.
>"Putting English chess in a healthier state ......and I don't see what that has to do with hosting the Candidates in London"
>"I see the case."
>"I do have some idea of the disconnect between what he says on one day and what he says on the next"
AP's motivations remain unclear to me at least. Perhaps he believes his own propaganda on the number of world chess players, including 6 million in Britain and thus the potential profits to be made. Perhaps he believes that British politicians will jump at his command and tell the Sports Council that chess is now a sport.
But with his reputation in FIDE, on the face of it, having disappeared, he needs an official sounding post for unspecified projects in India and Africa.
It remains to be seen and something the remainder of the ECF Board need to be vigilant about, is whether on balance he is putting money into English chess or taking it out. The Chess Sets in Schools project, for example, took money out, by virtue of the additional employee costs incurred by the ECF in trying to make it work in the relative absence of any chess sets to be delivered.
Three days into his Presidency, nothing much has changed apart from considerable dissent as witnessed by the number of the comments.
Fair enough, John, you make a case on the evidence you produce. But perhaps you'll permit me to observe that had I expected anybody to take a inflexible view of the very flexible English verb "to see", I would probably have used "agree" (or some similar term) in the first of your two instances.
the event came here because Aronian could not have played in Azerbaijan, and it was the Azeris who themselves sponsored the move to London. It is not as though AP lobbied for the event to come here from the start in order to promote English chess
This is the sort of distinction between Real Andrew Paulson and Imaginary Andrew Paulson which is made less than it ought to be.
MP had been in discussions with FIDE about holding the World Championship between Anand and X in London ( where X was later Gelfand). So the idea of holding an event in London was on the table well before AP was on the scene. The London Chess Classic had both world class players and considerable spectator interest in year or two before the Candidates, so I doubt it would have taken much additional marketing to get a full house. For that matter, Ray Keene's Staunton events were apt to claim to be the strongest in London for xx years and with the Simpson's setting, prototypes for the Grand Prix.
I'd like to say something in favour of Bumfluff and Stumbler. Now these people may well be parochial, bull-headed and all sorts of other things, but in the first place, if they are ECF members then they are actually the people paying for the thing, and in the second place, it's not at all unreasonable for the Rutshire District League to be their priority, given that they play in it and all. (Similarly, when I was last a regular club player in England, my priorities tended to be the Surrey and London Leagues.) I actually doubt that Bumfluff and Stumbler are hostile to the idea of high-profile events taking place in England - matter of fact you'll probably see them in the audience (except at Simpsons of course). But plodders though they be, they may be a litle wary of anybody who gives them the impression that they don't mattter and that the chess they play is not of any importance.
The thing about S&B, as I see them, is that they don’t actually need the ECF to do very much at all. What they depend on is the enthusiasm of local organisers, and they like the grading system. But outside that, nada.
It’s for this reason that I always treat rhetoric about how what the ECF needs to do is to encourage the ‘grass roots’ with deep suspicion. So far as I can see there’s not a hell of a lot it either can or should do to achieve that. It needs to concentrate on its national role, where it can achieve something, or could do if it didn’t have the Council to contend with and if anyone with any initiative didn’t run a mile when confronted with the appalling prospect of, for example, sitting through endless meetings talking about the Yorkshire problem, or canvassing votes from the likes of…..well, let’s not mention names.
The fact that someone who obviously has ability and energy is prepared to get involved with the ECF ought to be cause for celebration, not the reverse.
The thing about S&B, as I see them, is that they don’t actually need the ECF to do very much at all.
No, but the ECF needs them.
(Also, bear in mind that when you and I were juniors and lots of chess was going on, somebody had to organise it and very often, it was Bumfluff and Stumbler.)
someone who obviously has ability and energy
I am sure that either of us could compose a long list of people who had ability and energy in spades and yet should never have been allowed near anybody or anything.
I've mentioned before that many of my views on the chess world are based on extensive experience in the not-so-dissimilar world of football, in whih all sorts of people with ability (and/or money) and energy (and/or capacity for bullshit) are welcomed into organisations while doubters are shouted down. The result is quite often a hole in the ground where a football club's balance sheet used to be, and not rarely a hole in the ground where the club itself used to be.
Having seen this syndrome far too often, I practice scepticism as a quasi-religious duty. And rarely have I seem somebody who makes my Secpticism-O-Meter flash all shades of red more than Andrew Paulson does.
(Anyway, thanks to all for contributions, especially those which do not coincide with my viewpoint. Do carry on, but I think that's my internet finished for the day....)
I imagine that there have been worse electoral decisions in the history of the ECF. The election of Paulson and Woolgar seem to be on the same level. The election statement read like a bag of hot air in training for a GCSE. Clearly, and it has to be said, if RE was unable to beat that, then he was not all that clever himself. Thinking of which, remember that wikipedia edit?
It is unfortunately true that had RE stood aside, that "none of the above" is likely to have done just as well. A significant minority would agree with the bag of hot air comment. Unlike FIDE, the ECF does have annual elections and voting representatives who are relatively impervious to inducements.
Purely as someone who is an outsider (in multiple senses) but who finds this compelling viewing and fascinating (like a soap opera), let me contribute by alerting readers and bloggers to Nigel Short's take on all this in an interview with WGM Maria Manakova in Jakarta Indonesia:
Thanks for that - there may be some use made of it in a posting to come....
Thinking of which, remember that wikipedia edit?
I don't. What are you thinking of?
The wiki comment refers to this posting by a now retired blogger. In a previous life, he was notoriously outspoken and would no doubt have joined with the bag of wind opinion. Having breakfast with certain people seems to change your world view.
Thanks. Curiously, I was just the other day wondering who was reponsible for the winning candidate's entry....
Wahey. Teabagging ahoy!
Or, more strictly, the remarkable athletic feat of auto-bagging.
Anyway, the main point is that Shaun Wright-Phillips apparently went to Haberdasher’s Aske. Who’d’ve thought it?
Democracy's fine until the "wrong" candidate wins?
Interesting definition of democracy you have there, Anonymous.
Ejh wrote: “Anyway, thanks to all for contributions, especially those which do not coincide with my viewpoint. Do carry on...”
Tempting! But since I wrote to a few Council members asking them to make the decision he describes as ludicrous, maybe simpler to just say I disagree with the article. So instead a couple points, attempting to be vaguely constructive:
Firstly I think Bumfluff and Stumbler opposed the modernisation of weekend tournaments in the 70s and the 4NCL in the 90s. I like to think of myself as a progressive, so I don’t think it inconsistent to believe these people occasionally need a nudge in the right direction, while still valuing their contribution.
Secondly, interesting as Andrew Paulson is as a character, I think this election was more about Phil Ehr. CEO matters a lot more than President.
these people occasionally need a nudge in the right direction
I'm sure this is true. I'm not sure that the person to do it is somebody who knows nothing about either weekend tournaments or the 4NCL. And I am sure that this matters if bundling up English chess into a single saleable package is the centrepeice of your manifesto.
But that's a real Andrew Paulson/Imaginary Andrew Paulson distinction.
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