Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Good, but not true

Not such a good piece in the Guardian last Friday, an interview with notorious sacked-by-Google engineer James Damore. Why being sacked for insulting your co-workers merits worldwide publicity and a Guardian interview several months on is a question I'll not be trying to answer on a chess blog: our subject of interest today is this paragraph


which is curious both for what it says and what it doesn't say.

The what-it-doesn't-say curiosity is that Damore has previously made some large claims for his chessplaying abilities that don't stand up, notably that he achieved the title of FIDE Master. As this claim was patently false, when challenged on it he was obliged to make more unikely claims


for instance that he had held a FIDE rating of 2205 - most unlikely for a player for whom there appear to be no extant games - and that he hadn't "maintained my FIDE membership", which doesn't even make sense since there is no such thing for individuals.

After this nonsense - ably taken apart by Greg Shahade in August - I didn't expect to see any further reference to James Damore's stellar chess career.

Well to be honest, I wasn't expecting to see any more of James Damore either, but here he is, in the Guardian, which is happy to retail claims like
He also discovered chess. Within a year he was able to compete in four games of chess simultaneously while wearing a blindfold.
This is not easy to believe, for at least three reasons:

1. it's a very hard thing to do ;
2. you'd have thought he might have mentioned such a feat before now ;
3. the man telling you this is a proven liar.

So you'd maybe expect the interviewer to ask for some evidence to back up the story before retailing it as fact.

Did he? I've no reason to think so. At least, I've asked the chap, on Twitter and by email, and if I ever get a reply I'll let you know.

Pending that, isn't Greg's question:
Can We Stop Listening To Liars Please?
rather a good one?

8 comments:

Dani said...

About the blindfold part - I don't know chess at all so at first I was like, oh really... Now that you mention, let me please ask: Is it a thing to play chess blindfolded? Is it possible? Don't you have to see what's on the board?

ejh said...

Yes it's real, and some people are spectacularly good at it. In fact all players play without sight of the board to some extent (for instance when calculating, since you can't move the pieces and you can even argue that the board and pieces are just a convenience.

It's not easy playing without them though and I would want solid witness evidence before believing that any relatively weak club player had managed four games at once, let alone somebody with a track record of dishonesty in this field and others.

Jack Rudd said...

I can manage one easily; I might be able to do two. I'd need a lot of practice before I could do as many as four.

Matt Fletcher said...

I'm a better player than Damore (though not as good as he claims to be) and I reckon I could play one blindfold game with a little bit of practice. My club-mate who's of similar strength to me claims to be able to play two, and I have no particular reason to disbelieve him.

Four is not completely impossible for someone at that level, with practice and a very good memory (note that he didn't say he won them), but as the piece says you'd definitely want to see evidence before you believed him.

But it doesn't matter, right? It's only chess...

Martin Smith said...

For a bit more blindfold see the note about Rawle Allicock at the end of this recent post.

Ilkley Chess said...

Tim Harding has made the point that 19th Century amateurs could play more than one game at a time without sight of the board. Here's one of four games played by Camille Moriau - who was a strong club player who specialised in holding blindfold simuls - he won the other three.

[Event "Blindfold Simul (4 Boards)"]
[Site "Hornsey Chess Club"]
[Date "1893.05.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Camille Moriau"]
[Black "Dr. Harris"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D00"]
[Opening "Blackmar gambit"]

1. d4 d5 2. e4 dxe4 3. f3 Nf6 4. Bc4 Nc6 5. c3 a6 6. Bg5 exf3 7. Nxf3 Bg4 8. Qb3
e6 9. Nbd2 Na5 10. Qa4+ Nc6 11. Ne5 b5 12. Bxb5 axb5 13. Qxb5 Qd5 14. Qxd5 Nxd5
15. Nxg4 Be7 16. Bxe7 Ncxe7 17. Kf2 Nf4 18. Nc4 O-O 19. Kf3 Neg6 20. a4 h5 21.
Nf2 f6 22. Rhe1 Rae8 23. a5 e5 24. a6 Nh4+ 25. Kg3 Nf5+ 26. Kf3 {Illustrated
London News - Saturday 27 May 1893} 1/2-1/2

Ilkley Chess said...

Also, how many clubs today could put on such an event as described below:


On Saturday evening at Oliphant's, Ludgate-circus, under the auspices of the Chess Bohemians, a novel exhibition of blindfold chess, which attracted a large attendance, was brought to a highly successful termination. Mr. A. Curnock on this occasion elected to contest six games simultaneously, without sight of the board, each of his opponents also playing blindfold, a feat which has never before been attempted. Mr. A Curnock was opposed by the following well-known players : — Messrs. C. Moriau, J. E. Imbrey, E. B. Schwann, T. W. Newman, H. C. Hill, and Cyril Schulz. From this strong team Mr. Curnock succeeded in securing the excellent score of five drawn games and one loss, the latter by adjudication. Mr. A Curnock has thus not only maintained, but greatly increased his already high reputation as a blindfold performer, and it is noteworthy that at not one of the boards was any error made to mar the beauty of the play, every game being of really excellent character. The encounters on board one (Mr. C. Moriau). and on board two (Mr. J. E. Imbrey) proved of special interest. The Chess Bohemians are to be congratulated on having so successfully introduced this novelty, and a similar exhibition by Mr. C. Moriau on May 19 will be looked forward to with interest.

Morning Post - Monday 23 April 1894

Anonymous said...

I understand Illinois officials have described his claims of having a FIDE title to be without foundation. Given that, I'm not sure why we should bother to discuss the rest.

-thebleuweasel -rose are red, weasels are blue, he's a liar, and so are you