Monday, 23 January 2017

Cheese and potatoes

Now that Donald Trump has managed to get himself inaugurated without being arrested - yet - who are this profoundly ignorant man's big supporters in the world of chess?

We'll pass over Peter Thiel, for the moment, who aside from being a Trump adviser is a notorious bully, a woman-hater - and who apart from having a FIDE rating of 2199 showed up at the world championship to make a ceremonial first move for Sergei Karjakin.

Big cheese though Thiel may be, in chess terms he's small potatoes when compared to Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Sinquefield Cup and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, co-sponsor of the Grand Chess Tour, and effective creator of the current US Olympiad team, gold medallists in Baku.

Also, a leading supporter of Donald Trump.

Rex Sinquefield (Stephanie S Cordle)

There's nothing obscure about this: Sinquefield is a known and notorious figure in Missouri and US politics, the biggest single political donor in his home state, his priorities including trying to abolish income tax and public education, but not including a great deal of respect for women and minorities. Or poorer people.

There's nothing obscure about this, unless you were only to read the chess press, which despite all its coverage of Mr Sinquefield's chess tournaments and chess philanthropy, has not been noticeably forthcoming about the less public-spirited applications of Mr Sinquefield's money. One wonders whether this will change, now that this money has helped elect the single most controversial and dangerous holder of the US Presidency in the history of that office.

Maybe Garry Kasparov might have something to say on the subject: it is not as if the loudest political voice in chess (whose Twitter account, often denouncing Donald Trump, has been much-retweeted since the election) has no connection to the loudest pro-Trump voice in chess.

Indeed of the three organisers of the Grand Chess Tour, one is controlled by Rex Sinquefield and one is the Kasparov Chess Foundation. Kasparov is a commentator on the Grand Chess Tour. It was Sinquefield who offered the ten million dollars with which Kasparov tried to swing the FIDE Presidential election at the last minute. Sinquefield and Kasparov are business colleagues. But in chess, they are also political associates.

Garry with Sinquefield and some other guy (Austin Fuller)

Now given how much Kasparov has to say about the business and political connections of people who are opposed to him in FIDE, I wonder whether he will have something to say about people like Rex Sinquefield who are sponsors and supporters of another unsavoury and dubiously-elected President.

One hopes so. One hopes too that he will be asked about Sinquefield by the chess press. However in neither case is it possible to flavour one's hope with a great deal of expectation.

In truth I can think of no occasion when Garry Kasparov has faced a difficult interviewer. I'm not sure I can even recall him facing a difficult question. One consequence of this is that this manifestly contradictory man never has to account for any of his manifest contradictions.

"Why, Garry" - as he is never asked - "do you have such a taste for fantastically rich men with far-right politics that you seem not to notice?"

I mentioned Peter Thiel, PayPal founder and Trump enthusiast, above. Garry and Peter used to be best of friends. (Peter Thiel, who has fought for freedom of the press is, in retrospect, a particularly good line.) Here's Garry and Peter chatting away a few years ago.

In fact they were supposed to have a book coming out in 2012. It never happened, for reasons which are obscure to me. They would be less obscure if he said what they were. He might be more likely to say what they were if anybody asked him. If they have, it has eluded me.

Garry with Peter Thiel

I've not heard anything about Thiel from Kasparov recently. Perhaps they fell out. Perhaps it was over politics.

But who knows, eh? Just one of many Kasparov alliances that have come with fanfare and then disappeared to virtual silence. That's how it goes with Garry. He's always benefitted from the combination of a credulous public and an insufficiently curious media.

And so of course has Donald Trump.

Sinquefield and Short


Mark Weeks said...

You don't really expect American chess players to bite the hand that feeds them, do you? Kasparov was on the BBC's Hard Talk a few years ago (2015?). Faced with tougher questions than usual, he didn't perform very well. IMHO, of course.

ejh said...

I didn't know that. I'd have liked to have seen it.

Re: your rhetorical question - no, of course not, but I wish I did.

David R said...

Good post! Much I never knew