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From the Archives...
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The Miles Report by Tony Miles
Chateau Tone, Outer Milesia, June 2000
Well, it seems to be the season for open letters, and as I can't quite decide who to write to, I will settle for myself. At least the recipient won't be too offended that way.
Anyway, two open letters have been brought to my attention recently. One is serious, and rather worrying. The other I am unable to find anything other than hysterically funny.
The serious one is written by Yasser Seirawan to FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, calling in no uncertain terms for his resignation, and those of all his FIDE team. In the course of a couple of pages he manages to describe FIDE, its policies, and officers, as impotent, a laughing stock, serial incompetence, clownish, tawdry, hare-brained, out of touch, ridiculous, knuckle-headed, horrendous, incapable, isolated from reality, disastrous and disorganized!!
One gets the feeling that he opened the thesaurus at the relevant page and finished the letter when he ran out of abusive terms.
So what has got our Yaz so hot under the collar? Well, largely it is the FIDE manifesto which I discussed in this column a few months ago, plus little oversights like the bouncing cheques from the World Championship in Las Vegas (as far as I know they stopped bouncing eventually), and the announcement of Tehran as the site for the World Championship final this year, which seems to have been the last straw. The choice of venue has left Seirawan "barely able to contain" his "rage."
Personally I do not share this sentiment. As one who enjoys exploring the world I would welcome the opportunity to visit Iran. If anyone thinks that by doing so I would be supporting the Iranian regime, then anyone who has played a few Olympiads over the last twenty years or so would be approving of the systems of Russia, the Philippines, Israel, Dubai, and Kalmykia... to name but a few. Frankly, if anyone thinks I unreservedly support the policies of the British government because I live in England, they are mistaken. I do though appreciate the freedom to disapprove.
To anyone who advocates the official purist capitalist Western free world school of morality I would make a couple of topical points.
For many years the USA has avoided trading with China, because of China's poor record on human rights. This approach is now apparently changing. In the U.S. a couple of weeks ago I was amazed to see, repeatedly, a TV advert explaining the change of policy. It said simply: There are a lot of people in China. We can make heaps of money selling things to them. Lets trade with China. For some reason it didn't conclude "Stuff human rights." I can't think why.
Democracy. The most important tenet of a civilised society. Until, that is, some Austrians inadvertently elect a few Neo-Nazis. Then we boycott the pariahs until they elect someone we approve of.
I do not favour ostracizing countries because of their political systems or leadership. It creates more problems than it solves.
Regarding the manifesto, I agree totally with Yasser that it is completely out of touch. It appears to have been prepared by someone with little or no knowledge of the chess world, presumably Mr. Tarasov. However, I still have some sympathy for the motivation. The problem seems to be that there is no general agreement on what "we" want. The next FIDE General Assembly must surely decide and approve in detail how it wishes to move forward and then back whoever is left running the show to get on with it.
To take just one aspect. In England, for some time, there has been a big push to get chess recognised as a sport. Why? Because then the government will give it some money. In the last few years the initiatives of Messrs. Campomanes and Ilyumzhinov have got the International Olympic Committee to do just that. Great! Great? Well apparently not clearly. Several eminent players have started muttering that they will not tolerate the indignity of the necessary drug tests! There have ever been murmurs about starting a (nother!) rival federation.
Well, personally, I can't recall many multimillionaire athletes complaining , and once you have been poked about by a few dozen doctors , the odd urine sample doesn't really seem much to bother about. But while we are here, let me fly off at a couple more tangents.
Firstly the tests are supposed to be for performance enhancing drugs aren't they? Well, as far as I know there aren't any such things for chess.
Secondly, I don't really want to have a big fight with the IOC, but I don't personally see where the line should be drawn on what is acceptable. Steroids? Aspirin? A sleeping pill the night before the event? Coffee?
In most athletic events, it's just a matter of who has the best research chemists to stay the right side of this wonderful line. My own view is that the most reasonable and practical approach is to allow anything. If people want to kill themselves for a gold medal, let them. Chemical advances, like morals vary from place to place.
One of the random ailments I have suffered from over the course of my career is a pounding/irregular heartbeat. It has never been terribly serious, but occasionally annoying. Once in Sweden a bright doctor had the foresight to ask me if there were any banned drugs in chess as he wanted to prescribe beta blockers. As there weren't it was not a problem. But what if there was a conflict? Choose between one's health and the tournament??
Another, slightly more amusing (in hindsight) time in China, I had the same problem. Reading Chinese prescriptions is not my forte, so I just accepted the doctors advice. Next game I noticed that my powers of calculation were not what they had been. I think I can safely conclude that there is not a lot to be said for playing chess while on Valium.
Well, enough of serious matters. The second open letter that came to my attention was written by David Levy to his brother-in-law Ray Keene. It first appeared on the Internet, and has since been published in New In Chess, but rather oddly has been pretty much totally ignored by the English chess press. It is well worth reading in its entirety, for which I refer you to NIC issue 3 of this year, but here are a few of the highlights:
"We have known each other for 37 years. We have collaborated in various commercial ventures for 30 of those years. We have organized two world chess championships together... three Mind Sports Olympiads... We have written more than a dozen books together. Over the years I have stood by you loyally, giving you moral support when others attacked your reputation. We have shared many birthdays together. You are the uncle of my children and I of your son. Yet all of this means nothing to you when you see a possibility based on selfish greed. Have you really reached a point in your life when nothing is more important than making money, not caring how you make it or who you hurt in the process."
Well, as far as I am aware the answer to this question is yes, and a long time ago. I recall it being suggested to Ray some years ago that he had sold his soul to the devil. He actually quite liked that idea, and probably considers that the devil paid way over the going rate.
Anyway Levy goes on to explain that the Mind Sports team spent some time trying to stage a world championship match. But then Mondo and another member of the organisation, Don Morris, decided to hijack the idea and set up a company of their own to stage it. Ok... so that's life. If you don't want to be stabbed in the back you should be aware of who is standing behind you. However, Keene and Morris had such great belief in their idea that they didn't bother to finance their company personally, but "borrowed" (the inverted commas, quotation marks, are Levy's) 50,000 pounds from the Mind Sports account!
"And why not? After all, the bank statements are sent only to your house and no-one else in the company sees them because we all trust you." [One feels the past tense would be more appropriate here.] "You were our hero" !!!
As the months passed Keene and his co-conspirator kept their plan secret, and when details did begin to leak out simply denied everything. Eventually tho...
"...you realized that it would only be a matter of time before your "loan" of 50,000 pounds of the company's money was discovered. So, on March 8th you, Raymond, deposited 50,000 pounds in the company's bank account... Putting things right? But it isn't quite that simple. What do you and Don claim you were doing with the company's money borrowing it? If so, you have both committed an offense under section 330 of the Companies Act, for which the penalty is a fine, or imprisonment, or both! And if you were not borrowing the money, how would you describe its removal from the company's account? An accident? An act of God? Presumably the police will be able to tell us."
"So what happens Raymond? How can you ever look any of us in the eye ? How can you possibly expect forgiveness from those ex- friends and partners who you have so neatly stabbed in the back? And how do I tell my children that their only uncle, who they both revere, has behaved in this way?"
"You say that your new company will make you and Don into multi-millionaires very quickly. Will it be worth the price?"
Go on Ray! Slip him a quick million! That'll shut him up. Surely its worth it. No-one else would ever revere you, not at any price! And money doesn't improve the quality of a prison cell much anyway.
Well, it seems that this letter had a happy outcome at least. The Kasparov-Kramnik match seems to be going ahead, with the support of the Mind Sports group. Press conferences , though, are conducted in the absence of Messrs. Keene and Levy...
For FIDE though it is hard to envisage such a simple solution.
Dear me... dear me...
Yours ever, Tone
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