Archive for the ‘Nigel Short’ Category

No “Dunderheads,” the Chess Ethics Commission Rules

August 31, 2007

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.


The Grudge Game That Barely Was

July 28, 2007

For all the press-conference talk (and, admittedly, my own hyping) of the grudge chess game in Montreal between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky, the hoped-for confrontation was an uneventful draw, which was interesting only initially because Short trotted out a rare opening, the Ponziani, that has barely been played in high-level chess since the Late Cretaceous. Maybe he kept the gloves on because he was trying to recover his equilibrium from an otherwise terrible tournament.

As John Saunders, the editor of British Chess Magazine, blogged today:

“Which brings me to the main talking point of the Montreal event: the dismal showing of Nigel Short. He got off to an absolutely dreadful start, 0/4, which became ½/6 (thereby equalling his… start at the 1980 Phillips and Drew tournament when he was 14 years 10 months old). It is reported that he was suffering from dental problems, which is indeed unfortunate, though I’m also told that Alekhine had similar problems in the early stages of his world championship match against Capablanca, had six teeth pulled out and went on to become world champion.”

Saunders’ whole blog entry is worth reading. He has the following to say about the game that wasn’t:

“One cannot help wondering whether the dental problem was the only reason for Short’s debacle or whether yet another airing of his ancient grudge against Kamsky after round two may have been a contributory factor. The English grandmaster has an elephantine memory for slights and disputes from the past and his inability to keep a statesmanlike silence could perhaps be his Achilles heel in a tournament context. It was noticeable how he occasionally liked to dust off and rehash some old vendetta in one of his newspaper columns whenever there was a slow news week in chess. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes offensive, but he no longer has this conduit for his pent-up aggression. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened between the Kamskys and Short all those years ago, he should surely have channelled all the remaining aggro into their individual game in Montreal and let the pieces do the talking. And, if I might be permitted to patronise the former world championship finalist further on his selection of opening (just this one time – I promise it will never happen again): the Ponziani is not a good choice if you want to play for a win with White. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s not up to the job.”

Grudge Match Is Today

July 26, 2007

The grudge game between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky that I blogged about earlier is this afternoon in Montreal (rather than yesterday, as I mistakenly wrote initially). Short is having an awful tournament in Montreal. He’ll need to pull it all together to beat the higher-rated Kamsky.

Short made it clear in a press conference last week how happy he’d be to beat Kamsky today. In answer to a journalist’s question about how he’ll feel playing Kamsky, given their bitter match in the 1990s, Short said:

“What can I say? I have been playing chess for a very long time. My match against Gata Kamsky was by far the most unpleasant experience I ever had in my career. In essence Gata Kamsky won this match by cheating. His father threatened to kill me during the match. It was a very ugly incident. It had to be reported to the police. He (Rustam Kamsky) had to be pulled off me actually. So, quite frankly, I would rather not see him (Gata) But it’s not up to me, the organizers decide who is to participate. This is not my business. Gata Kamsky, if you talk to him now, I am sure you will find him to be a polite person. But it’s like someone who was part of a gangster group, and he would very much like to forget about these unpleasant parts of his past when he went everywhere with his father – who is nothing more than a thug. In other sports if you had a situation where a member of a delegation threatened to kill one of the players, and don’t forget Rustam Kamsky was a boxer, and, as far as I understand, had been in prison for such offenses, you would have an automatic disqualification, but for various reasons that didn’t happen. I am sure Gata Kamsky would like to forget about the influences of his father, but he benefited from it at the time. If I win this game it will give me more satisfaction than anything else.”

Let Me Dream: King’s Gambit the Movie

July 26, 2007

My over-active imagination has been fueled by a caller from Hollywood who inquired about film rights to my book.  And so I’ve come up with a fantasy cast for King’s Gambit the movie:

The Cast (in order of appearance)

Johnny Depp as Paul Morphy

Rosie O’Donnell as Morphy’s mother

James Gandolfini as my father (because Rodney Dangerfield, Jackie Gleason, John Belushi, and John Candy are unfortunately unavailable)

George Clooney as me

Angela Landsbury as Mrs. Perrutz (my kindly therapist when I was three)

Jake Gyllenhaal as Pascal Charbonneau

Natalie Portman as Irina Krush

David Blaine as David Blaine

Scarlett Johanssen as Jennifer Shahade

Reese Witherspoon as Susan Polgar

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Garry Kasparov

Jim Carey as Nigel Short

Ben Kingsley as Bruce Pandolfini

Anthony Hopkins as Claude Bloodggod

Mel Gibson (behaving like he did when he encountered the trooper) as Bobby Fischer

Grudge Game Tomorrow: Nigel Short v. Gata Kamsky

July 25, 2007

If I wasn’t in Costa Rica, I’d be heading to Quebec for a ringside seat for tomorrow’s grudge game between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky in the Montreal Chess International. In the mid 1990s, Short lost a world championship semi-finals match to Kamsky by the lopsided score of 5.5 to 1.5. Short said that the match was the worst experience in his long chess career because he was subjected to unfair and terrible psychological warfare waged by Kamsky and his father.

The Kamskys suggested that he was cheating. “Never before had anyone accused me of cheating,” Nigel told me. “And they were doing this after I lost. That would make me the the worst cheater in the history of chess.” And then there was the notorious death-threat: Short said that Kamsky’s father got in his face and threatened to kill him.

The toxic match reared its ugly head last October when Short and Kamsky got into an Internet spat (Mig Greengard has a nice post on this). The online scuffle ended with Kamsky threatening to take it offline: “I don’t want to talk about it, but if you want to do something about this, we can settle this like real men, outside. I’ll be waiting.”

At the press conference in Montreal, Short dragged out all the old dirty laundry in response to a journalist’s question. The tournament organizers were apparently not happy; Kamsky, however, was not in attendance.

You can watch the moves of their game live, although unfortunately not their behavior, at the tournament Web site.