Thursday, 5 July 2018

Clean hands

Also ongoing over the past few weeks, Nigel's Presidential campaign, for which Nigel uses the Twitter hashtag #cleanhands4fide: Nigel has now been backed by the English Chess Federation...

...and also by your friend and mine, who was last seen, as far as that very same Federation is concerned, resigning after cheating it of a sum of money.

This is support Nigel is very happy to advertise.

I may have said something similar before, but still, what can you do about this kind of shamelessness but point it out? You either cry "clean hands" or you welcome the backing of a professional cheat and a thief.

"Clean hands"? Clean hands my arse. When Nigel Short says "clean hands", he means clean hands for everybody else.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

No woman no try

Well, I seem to have missed most of June - sorry about that. So what's been happening? Mostly this, which story - not so much the Telegraph piece as the story it reports - is causing quite a lot of fuss, and rightly so.

Not everybody is happy about this, as the Telegraph piece makes plain, and why should they be? On the face of it it's exactly the sort of thing that the ECF should be seeking not to do.

Especially when the face of it is Chris Fegan.

Chris Fegan may well have "over 40 years' experience playing and organising chess" but some other people's experience of him is that far from being "welcoming and inclusive" he's a thoroughly unpleasant bully. He's also, quite importantly, an employee of another board member, Malcolm Pein.

So we don't just get two women passed over, for a post you'd expect a woman to head the queue for, in favour of a man, but a man who's beholden to another board member. This is called "jobs for the boys" in more ways that one, and it's the sort of thing which shouldn't be happening.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Naked personal ambition

I'm a long way from being Malcolm's biggest admirer, but I did enjoy this.

I mean - how many events in Nigel's career haven't been about his own naked personal ambition?

Friday, 25 May 2018

Could this be any more embarrassing?

Or any more ludicrous?

Check out the latest Spectator to find the ECF's support for Nigel urged, in the name of "a clean-up of this organisation"

by a man whose whole career has been based on deceit and malpractice, and one who had to resign from the very organisation whose vote he's trying to influence because he obtained money from it under false pretences.

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Shereshevsky Gambit

I've been entertained, and a little puzzled, by a sideshow in the world of chess book publishing that's been taking place this month, following the appearance of this very striking review, by John Hartmann, which apparently also appears (though not in an identical version) in Chess Life.

It concerns the English edition, and hence translation, of Mikhail Shereshesky's The Shereshevsky Method To Improve In Chess: From Club Player to Master published earlier this year by New In Chess. (At least it is in part, and that is the part that I'm interested in here.)

As you can see from its Amazon page, it's been well-reviewed in other sources, but Hartmann spotted some oddities that other reviewers have not, and remarkable oddities they are too. I recommend you read his review before proceeding with my piece: when you do, you'll understand why he writes that
I was astounded by what I found in The Shereshevsky Method.
What astounded Hartmann so? In the first place, the fact that large sections of other people's books are used in the text, far beyond anything we would normally associate with legitimate quotation under the principle of fair use.

How large? Larger than anything I've ever seen before. For instance, the section quoted from John Nunn's well-known book Secrets of Practical Chess begins on page 245 of The Shereshevsky Method and continues through to page 251. That's a quotation six pages long. It's well over half the chapter (which, as Hartmann notes, is ironically entitled "Laziness").

Shereshevsky makes no bones about this. He says very clearly that this is from Secrets of Practical Chess, even gives the page number where you should start and adds
I decided to present Nunn's own version and not waste time looking for material in other similar sources.
Another way to put this would be "I decided not to waste time writing my own book when I could just import pages and pages of somebody else's".

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Monday, 14 May 2018

Celebrity endorsement

It's Tony Buzan!

Also Tony's mate of course.

Nothing from CJ de Mooi yet, but we'll let you know.

[EDIT TUESDAY: no CJ yet but we do have another crony].

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Not making plans for Nigel

There must be any number of reasons why this is an atrocious idea, but let's start off with these:

1. FIDE shouldn't have as its President the single most notorious misogynistic goon in the world of chess. It represents women as well as men and Nigel Short has spent his entire career treating women with an entire lack of respect.

2. FIDE shouldn't have as President somebody who thinks it is all right to bully chess officials and menace them.

3. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who is quite prepared to denigrate people on account of their racial origins ("Asiatic despot"), or to insult whole nationalities. This is a sport for everybody, and people who engage in racial or national jibes shouldn't be in positions of responsibility.

4. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who was quite prepared to take the world championship match away from that organisation when it suited him financially, and never mind the consequences for chess, FIDE or anybody else. It's not just the absurdity, it's the untrustworthiness. And it's not just the untrustworthiness, it's the absurdity.

5. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who misused his position as the ECF's FIDE Delegate to pursue specious court cases on behalf of his political ally while hiding the fact from ECF members. It's that untrustworthiness again.

6. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who has a history of being spectacularly obnoxious to people with whom he's fallen out, of which that notorious obituary is only one (and this another) of far too many examples.

7. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who make a fantastic amount of noise about misconduct but is silent as the grave where his mates are concerned. Or, come to that, somebody whose concerns about Kirsan weren't especially big until the money appeared to dry up. Being a crusader only when it suits you may impress the gullible or the cynical, but there's quite a lot of people in between.

I could go on, and no doubt I will, but that'll do for now. Nigel Short is an offensive, untrustworthy, self-centred and misogynistic bully whose standard mode of behaviour is the feud. I wouldn't put him in charge of a weekend tournament.

Monday, 16 April 2018

The women men don't see

I can't say I'm too impressed with this.

If you've not seen this, it may be that you're not a Gold Member of the English Chess Federation, and so you haven't had the letter from our two representatives about the Finance Council Meeting on 28 April. Yes, it sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Anyway, the excerpt above, which is taken from that letter, makes it plain that the proposal under discussion is a Bad Thing ("vague promises", "someone who is not an ECF member") and it should be opposed. Funnily enough, though, it doesn't tell the reader the one thing above all else that they need to know about Casual Chess and the one reason why it might be worth supporting: which is that it's
London's feminist, diverse, central chess cafe, run by female players.
How extraordinary, to leave that detail out.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Back in the USSR

We were talking history yesterday, and such is also the theme of today's post, which also arises out of a small complaint laid by Gata Kamsky against Garry Kasparov following Fabiano Caruana's Candidates victory: this particular one regarding whether or not the FIDE title matches, in the period when the title was was split, should be regarded as world championships.

Me, I'm ambivalent on the question, but (for example) Peter Svidler isn't, having been unambiguous on the matter during one of his Chess24 commentaries, and Gata Kamsky isn't too uncertain either.

I admit I too had forgotten about Kamsky's match, so I looked it up. I had a bit of an "excuse me?" moment when I did.

Excuse me? "Tiny Soviet republic?"

"In a Soviet satellite?" Excuse me?

The Soviet Union ceased to exist on 26 December 1991.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Taking us back

Just a little more on the self-serving and somewhat amnesiac nonsense from Garry we mentioned yesterday.

It happened to come to the attention of Gata Kamsky, who can remember what happened at Linares even if the perpetrator doesn't.

He could have also mentioned that there was a rather more recent occurrence of the same habit

which people might have made more of had it not been Nakamura on the receiving end.

Or, of course, if it hadn't been Kasparov doing the cheating.

Anyway, all this reminded me that when the Nakamura incident occurred, a commentor on here drew my attention to another incident involving Kasparov, one from thirty years ago that I couldn't remember hearing of before.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Two of a kind

This pair of jokers eh.

Just to recall that CJ de Mooi resigned from that post (his term having been characterised by a series of scandals) just after having been handed a sum of money to perform his duties abroad, and proceeded to have himself a holiday instead.

Ray of course resigned from the same organisation years ago after being accused of defrauding its members out of a similar sum of money.

Two old frauds. No wonder they get on.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Double take

Well I opened up my nice new copy of New In Chess on the rest day and what should I see but this very interesting piece about something Ilya Merenzon wrote in City AM back in January.

Yes, most interesting it was, particularly the way it mentions Merenzon's use of "unverified polling data" and "unverified medical research", themes that were perhaps just as interesting on the two occasions that the piece has been mentioned on this blog.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Set 'em up

I enjoyed watching two exciting games on Chess24 yesterday, but not half so much as I enjoyed the moment when, frustrated by a persistent screenfreeze, Jan and Peter were forced to get out an actual chess set in order to perform their analysis for their viewers.

I don't usually get the chance to listen to the commentary (work, or other things to do, or not being on my own) but if they're going to have to do this on a regular basis, with a set and pieces like it was still the Eighties or something

then I reckon I'll make the effort to follow it a little more.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Stolen Memories

You'd like to think that the merits of a cause could be judged by the quality of the buffoons who support it. It ain't so of course, and there are all kinds of clowns on every side of any given argument, but nevertheless I was pleased to see that FIDE's latest blundering proposal, to bully its members into giving professional incompetents AGON (or anybody else) an illegal monopoly on transmitting chess moves, has been supported by professional buffoon Steve Giddins.

Now, if I were Steve I wouldn't be using the word stolen, for a couple of reasons, one of which is that you can't steal what isn't anybody's property, and there's been enough court cases by now which have established what we already knew, that the moves of chess games are public information in the public domain. You can't steal them.

But there's another reason, which is that you can steal other things, which include the analysis of chess games, and the notes made to them. Or should we say purloin?

What do you reckon, Steve? I reckon there's people who can talk about stealing, and then there's people who are more-than-willing dogsbodies for an actual fraud and thief.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Variation in reverse

This is International Women's Day, which gives me a good reason to mention some recent research on women in chess that has got a little less publicity than one might have hoped: certainly less publicity than attended Nigel Short's successful efforts to make an arsehole of himself a while ago. That went worldwide: if the research received any wider public circulation than the Yorkshire Post I'm not aware of it. Hey ho.

Anyway, it was recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Here's what it looks like, and as you can see its title is Female Chess Players Outperform Expectations When Playing Men, which is something that should perhaps interest us on principle

but which is also, apparently, contrary to what some research had previously led people to believe. This is a question of stereotype threat - described in the paper as a situation
whereby an individual's awareness of a negative stereotype influences their performance
which in the particular case we are considered here, would involve women, playing against men and aware that they may be judged, as women, by the results, suffering in their peformance as a result of that awareness.

That is, if I understand it correctly. Don't rely on me - the actual paper is available here. Its author is Dr Tom Stafford of Sheffield University and his conclusion, from analysing the outcomes of a prodigious number of FIDE-rated games, is that not only does the effect appear not to exist in this particular context, but in fact a small effect in the other direction can be noted, that - as the title says - women appear to overperform when playing men.

Another way to put this is that men, considered as a group, may underperform slightly when playing women - to quote the paper again
one plausible mechanism is a degree of male under-performance rather than female overperformance. This coule be due to male underestimation of female opponents, misplaced chivalry or choking due [to] the ego-threat of being beaten by a woman.
Who knows? More research required, as ever. I should say I'm not in a position to judge the merits of the paper, having jacked in mathematics when I was sixteen. (Just on the paper's terminology, I'm not sure that "throw a game" is usually taken to mean what Dr Stafford uses it to mean, and at one point there's a confusion between "game" and "match" that has irritated me before. But these are not important points.)

Anyway, read the paper. (I'd print it out if I were you, it's almost impossible to read on a smartphone.) And after that we might try and put some thought into how we can try and address the absolutely execrable ratio between male and female chessplayers that exists in English chess.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"I played on my own, but I like playing on my own"

From Sid Lowe's account of the kidnap of Quini, the Spanish football legend who died this week.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Slim pickings

Well look who it isn't. I do hope he wrote his own speech.

There's less of Ray than there used to be: he's cut down on not cutting down. There's a lot of it about.

Still, any Ray is too much Ray, at least where turning up at chess events as if he was some kind of respected figure is concerned. He still gets a few of these gigs: there was Gibraltar a couple of years back (he also gets to give talks there) though it may be a long time before he gets to open the British again.

Course another way to look at this is that Ray has to get on a plane before he can be reasonably sure that he's arriving somewhere where he can stand up in front of a microphone without somebody asking him embarrassing questions. There's something sad about this, though at the same time far too petty to qualify as tragedy. I guess embarrassing is a good way to put it. A much-diminished figure would be another.

It's a cheap gag, but Ray's a cheap guy. Cheapens everything he touches, opening and closing speeches not excluded. I reckon they could find somebody else to do it: we're looking at a new Ray, but he's still the same old fraud.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Well this looks promising, doesn't it?

Still, we can but hope.


Friday, 9 February 2018

The merry merry month of May

Morning all. I've been away for a bit (business trip, incorporating another stay in Zafra, as it goes). Anyway I was waiting for a reply on an enquiry I made regarding the absolute nonsense that City AM allowed Ilya Merenzon to write last month

including some nonsense that's very familiar indeed.

Now whenever I come across this sort of stuff I have a commonsense reaction that it's not worth complaining about, since if the newspapers which publish articles like this cared about the contents, they wouldn't publish them in the first place. And yet I always have a counter-reaction

[But which one is giving me which suggestion?]

along the lines of come on, it only takes a couple of minutes, you never know your luck.

And so I always do.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Picture post

Take a look at this image. When you see it, what do you think? (It's a still from this video, which I saw here. Or see the final photo here.)

While you're thinking about this, let's talk about Gibraltar, a tournament I'd like to play one day. (I never have, partly because the timing's not convenient for work and partly because though I live in Spain, it's probably easier to get to Gibraltar from any given point in England than it is from my house.) Hell of a good tournament, and also one that makes much of its commitment to women in chess.

That's all good, and more than fair enough, and to the tournament's credit. Now let's go back to our image. An old guy surrounding himself with much younger women.

If you're anything like me, you might think that image wouldn't be happening if he wasn't the guy paying for it to happen.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Tal order

There was a series on the old blog, Bad Book Covers. I came across this yesterday, and had it been out back then, it would have been on it.

[Elk and Ruby, 2017. Published in Russian in 2016.]

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tell a knight from a bishop

I was working last week in a school not so very far from here and found an old chess book in a cupboard.

I nearly wrote odd rather than old, but it wasn't the oddest thing I found by any manner of means: still, I doubt too many British primary schools have copies of endgame textbooks on the shelves, and if they do, they might be a little more junior-friendly than Rey Ardid's work.

Come to that, you didn't have to be a junior to find it difficult to handle. I'd been looking at this position for a couple of minutes

before I realised that the White king is not in check and I was looking a position where a queen draws, not against two knights, but against two bishops.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Past and present

Jon Manley has something that raised an eyebrow, from Inside Chess in 1991.

Actually there's a fair few eyebrows you could let loose on this one, not least the ones that ask "where's Kasparov?", but I found myself looking less for the absences and more at the presences, of which there were a lot bearing the letters ENG, not least Mark Hebden at an intriguingly high world number thirteen. (Miles, at four, was in his USA-representing period.)

After him in the top fifty come Hodgson, Nunn, Speelman, Chandler, Norwood and Mestel. And then, in the right-hand column, the first English player to appear is....


Who's Saleo?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Chess and war

Goya's cycle The Disasters of War has been on display round my way. It's great, if not greatly cheerful - perhaps my favourite in the series, Yo Lo VĂ­ (I Saw It!) is a little unusual in that the atrocity is outside the frame of the picture.

I went more than once, my last visit yesterday morning, and on my way out I saw there was another exhibition in the building, and one advertised with a portrait of chessplayers. So here's Ricardo Delgado's Jugadores de Ajedrez.

As far as I know nobody was harmed in the making of this picture, and after a couple of hours of Goya, that's a start at any rate.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Merenzon and on and on

Would you believe that Ilya Merenzon has been telling enormous lies about chess again?

Course you would.

No, that's not one of them. It's cobblers, obviously, but not a lie as such.

This is a lie though.

This is a whole series of quite important and dangerous lies.

And this is more than one lie at once.

This is fair comment.

But of course it's worse than nonsense, it's a whole collection of very familiar lies.

I imagine we're going to be hearing them all year.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Back story

Sorry for the long radio silence. Hope you caught Martin on David Sala's Zweig. Fresh piece by me tomorrow. But here I am this morning on the London Review of Books blog.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Seeing Chess in BD

"In the course of a sea-voyage, Czentovic, world chess champion, finds himself playing an unknown: who beats him. This stranger had learnt chess, from a manual, during a long incarceration in Nazi prisons. The  novel, written in 1941, is testimony against dehumanisation wrought by the Nazis.  

The masterpiece by Stefan Zweig is raised to a new level by the talent of David Sala."