No “Dunderheads,” the Chess Ethics Commission Rules

British grandmaster Nigel Short used the word “dunderhead” to characterize two high-ranking officials of the world chess federation. One of them, a chess federation VP, took offense and complained to the federation’s ethics commission. This week the commission chastised Short for his use of the word but upheld his right to criticize the official.

In essence, the commission ruled that chess officials are allowed to be dunderheads but no one is allowed to point that out. When The New York Times reached Short for his reaction, he said that he’d no longer call the VP a dunderhead. “I’ll stick to the facts,” Short said. “I’ll call him a cheat who is unfit for office.”

The ethics commission ruling inspired me to research the origin of the word dunderhead, which means a stupid or muddle-headed person. According to the word-origins section of, “‘dunder‘ was the dregs or over-flowed froth of fermenting wine, originally from Spanish ‘redundar’, to overflow or froth over.” Other Web sites suggest a Dutch origin, from donder (thunder), the idea being that your thinking would be impaired if a thunderclap went off next to your head. Can anyone add to this etymological discussion?

BTW, on the same day as the Short ruling, the FIDE ethics gurus reprimanded Veselin Topalov and his manager for insinuating that defending champion Vladimir Kramnik was cheating on the toilet because they said he had gone to the restroom a suspicious 50 times. The commission warned Topalov that if he engages in such psychological warfare again, he could be banned from chess for a year. So Topalov hasn’t been punished at all; the federation could at least have asked him to write dunderhead 500 times. He’s gotten away with dragging the 2006 World Championship into the toilet. The Short and Topalov rulings can be found on the world chess federation Website.

One Response to “No “Dunderheads,” the Chess Ethics Commission Rules”

  1. roger green Says:

    I play a weekly friendly game with a neighbour and lately it has become a chore to play. I have played chess for about 65 years and have always played for fun. I love the game regardless of the outcome because my father told me that if you play any game or sport, you should be willing to shake the hand of the victor and tell him “well done ” good game and next time it might be different. My neighbour, who had a fair knowledge of the game when we started to play, NEVER GIVES UP. Even though I would have a material difference and a much better position, he still thinks he should continue to play because he feels he can still win. In freindly games, such as this, I told him that he should resign at a certain point because the only way he can win is if I commit a blunder and in friendly games he should resign. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION. THANK YOU. P.B.

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