Monday 15 August 2016

Plumbing the depths

Taking breakfast in the airport at Prague on Saturday, I flicked through the Financial Times and found nothing of much interest. Just as well I didn't see Friday's issue: this load of cobblers would have had me coughing up my scrambled egg.

Etan Ilfeld. I've come across this particular bullshit merchant before. He seems to have been on a run of late, with this nonsense being published last year and this one only in March. Well, while there's gullible editors, gullible hacks and for that matter gullible readers, there'll be no shortage of people queueing up to take advantage. But while I might not expect yer average freelance journalist to ask what kind of "standard chess game" lasts ten hours

or to be sceptical about their subject's claim to be a "chess master"

(maybe he is, but his FIDE rating card does not suggest so) you'd hope they might find the whole idea of "diving chess" risible, impossible to take seriously, since risible and impossible to take seriously it what it obviously is.

Or put it another way -  once you're going to take that seriously, you've more or less said that you don't care what's true and what's not, so why bother if the details are just as much bullshit as the substance?

So there's not much point in asking (but I will, anyway) why it is that when our bullshit merchant told the hack that "someone in Spain wants to start a league"

the answer wasn't on the lines of "Jimmy Hill".

Diving chess. Does it remind you of anything?

Course it does.

But whether it's better to award yourself a British title, or to come second in your own world championship

is something only the real connoisseur of bullshit can really tell us.


Unknown said...


Your criticism is brutal and unwarranted. I've been a USCF national chess master since 1998 and my current uscf rating is 2248. You can easily look this up on the USCF ratings list:,com_wrapper/Itemid,181/

In the states, I've played rated games with time controls that can extend indefinitely, which is why a 10 hour game is possible and has happened to me on several occasions. I may have been misquoted here, but the point was that an hour long Diving Chess game can be more exhausting than a 10 hour rated game.

And yes, someone did contact me about starting a league and I'm happy to forward that email to you if you don't believe me.

Chess Diving is a fun and challenging sport that is more about chess than Chess Boxing as body type and gender don't play a role (we even had a female competitor in this year's competition, Erika Orsagova, who beat several of the guys). Here's the video from Sunday's event where everyone had a great time, which is the entire point:
Diving Chess was invented for fun--not for profit and anyone is welcome to play it and make their own boards.

Also, why do you call me a bullshit merchant?

I hope you're man enough to apologize as your vitriol is completely uncalled for.

Etan Ilfeld

ejh said...

Hi Ethan.

1. I don't think many people consider achieving a National Master title makes the holder a chess master any more than becoming an ECF master in various categories does: you can call yourself one, but outside the particular country it carries no weight at all. Somebody can get a Master certificate for being graded 120 ECF but everybody else will laugh. I'm not a chess master and neither are you.

2. Ten hour games may be possible than as we both know they're incredibly unusual and not at all "standard", and any newspaper reader who was giving the opposite impression would be getting a false impression. You've played "several" of these? That's impressive, my longest in forty years of competitive chess is six and a half hours.

3. When your diving chess gimmick has a recognised governing body, a number of popular clubs, maybe a professional or two and - ha ha - a league, then get back to me and tell me it's a sport. As it stands it's not, any more than chessboxing is. It's bullshit.

It might be good publicity but it's bullshit all the same.

ejh said...

(Oh by all means forward that email - you can send it to I'll be very interested to see if it merits the serious consideration the FT piece suggests that it does.)

Unknown said...

1) I've forwarded you the email from Marcos (a FIDE trainer) regarding developing Diving Chess, and I don't appreciate being called a liar.
2) The 2200 USCF National Master is completely legit and is a life title. Your example of a 120 ECF is not a real master at all (it's called a Team Master) whereas the 200 ECF is a comparable and proper National Master ECF title (which incidentally, is very close to my ECF grade).
3) Lastly, the whole point of Diving Chess is to have fun. Why do you need to be so negative and cynical? Obviously, you're entitled to your own opinion regarding Diving Chess, but there's no need to slander me.

AngusF said...

Listening to the Robert Elms show on Radio London this morning and who comes on? Answer: Etan Ilfeld promoting the Mind Sports Olympiad.

ejh said...

It transpires that the Spanish email nowhere mentions a league and was sent by somebody with neither any power nor any finance to set one up. In Etan's hands this becomes a serious proposal to set up a league. And that's what bullshit is all about.

Ilkley Chess said...

Justin, you're not being fair on Etan. He's not just a master, he's an International Grandmaster - twice over.


Etan a strong chess player who took over the running of the MSO in 2010 and continues to this day. As well as this key role for the MSO's existence, he is also a successful games player and a critical element to USA's total medal tally

MSO Ranks:

MSO International Grandmaster Titles

Diving Chess

MSO International Master Titles

Chess 960
Exchange Chess Pairs

MSO Candidate Master Titles

Chess Blitz

ejh said...

Ha ha well spotted

Anonymous said...

You couldn't make it up Part 563

Etan Ilfeld is the new 'Chess Diving World Champion.' Jointly with Rajko Vujatovic.


ejh said...

Well I never

Unknown said...

An interesting journal paper may help your "World Champion" and "Grandmaster", viz

wherein he will find a learned study of BS.

A friend of mine has claimed a similar world title, alas it did not yet have a grandmaster title attached: World Shiraz Chess Championship: contestants are required to consume a glass of shiraz before making each move.

The DOP of the blitz title event reported that there was some wastage of clocks.

Peter Jamieson, Sydney

ejh said...

Thanks for that. I'd not seen it though I know the Frankfurt piece!