Friday, 20 August 2010

The Filipino lawyer for a woman who filed a paternity lawsuit claiming that Bobby Fischer was the father of her daughter, has criticized how tissue samples were obtained to perform the DNA tests. The test, which reportedly came back negative on Tuesday, was ordered by the Supreme Court of Iceland as part of a dispute over Fischer’s estate.

Bobby Fischer died in January 2008 at the age of 64 and left no will.

The lawyer, Samuel Estimo, also criticized the lawyer who represents the woman and daughter in Iceland, Thordur Bogason, saying that he had disclosed the results without the authorization of his clients, Marilyn Young and her daughter, Jinky.

 Bobby Fischer’s grave site in the cemetery of Laugardaelir Church in Iceland.

Mr. Estimo also said that Mr. Bogason had prematurely withdrawn the mother and daughter’s claim to the estate.

Mr. Estimo aired his criticisms and concerns about the case by forwarding a series of e-mail exchanges with Mr. Bogason to media organizations, including The New York Times, a day after the paternity test results were divulged.

In his e-mails, Mr. Estimo included a detailed description from Mr. Bogason of how the tissue samples were retrieved from Fischer’s grave in the cemetery of Laugardaelir Church in Iceland. Mr. Estimo included the description of the exhumation, though Mr. Bogason’s letter said that the manner in which it was done should be kept confidential.

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NH Chess Tournament: Rising stars v Experience

In the sixth round, The Experience team once again outscored the Rising stars, closing the distance to 15.5-14.5. Nakamura beat Ljubojevic to come within a half point of Rising Star leader, Giri. Gelfand continues to stamp his authority, this time beating Howell, and van Wely scored his first NH Chess win after sixteen tries.

In the fifth round of the NH Chess Tournament the Rising Stars and the Experience team split the points. Anish Giri’s win over Peter Heine Nielsen was compensated for by Boris Gelfand’s win over Hikaru Nakamura. Halfway through the event the Rising Stars lead 13½-11½.

The NH Chess Tournament takes place August 12-22 in hotel Krasnapolsky, in the heart of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As always, the tournament is a confrontation between a team of five young ‘Rising Stars’ and a team of five ‘Experienced’ grandmasters.

The two teams play a ‘Scheveningen’ tournament, which means that each player of one team plays against each of the players of the other team. They do so twice, once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces. The team that collects most points wins the tournament. The best player of the ‘Rising Stars’ team will be invited to the 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament in March 2011 in Nice, provided he or she scores over 50% in the NH Chess Tournament in Amsterdam.

All games in PGN
Official tournament site

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Reflections on the EGM

Dear Chessfriends,

My reflections on the recent EGM of the Club are obviously going to be a great deal shorter than those of Club members who managed to sit through the meeting to the end. But here we go.

I raised an important question at the start of the meeting regarding how the proposed Constitution had come to be be moved at this time. I had raised the same question with the Secretary in an e-mail when members were sent a copy of the proposed Constitution. I also asked for the identity of those moving the Constitution to be revealed, and also for a quick explanation of the rationale behind each section of the document. It seemed to me most important that members should have a chance to reflect on what was being proposed before the meeting. In fact we had been provided with a copy of the draft only after a request from Dave Hurley. I received no reply whatsoever to my requests.

Thus when Dave James revealed that the draft Constitution was in response to the behaviour of Dave Robertson, Steve Connor and myself, it became finally clear to me that the business afoot was a continuation of the dispute already provoked, not by the three of us, but rather by Dave James and his cronies.

So it was entirely appropriate that I stressed pertinent information relating to that dispute, including new information that had come to light as a result of the AGM. When Dave James made the explicit criticism of us, it meant that the discussion of the Constitution was doomed to be tarnished until the earlier dispute was resolved. I should stress that it was at the insistence of Dave James that the meeting, rather bizarrely, interrupted the unfinished business of the dispute (and its related dummy motion concerning to the election of webmaster) to discuss the proposed Constitution. It was also his accusation/explanation for the constitution coming up now that meant the dispute and its ramifications had to be dealt with first. Thus the repeated interruptions from the chair were inappropriate, as were many of those from the floor.

About the small contribution I was able to make, I would make the following points. The Secretary was correct to say that the evidence I produced regarding doctoring of proposed minutes looked very bad. He was correct to offer his resignation. This resignation should be accepted. His explanation that the situation arose through gross incompetence rather than design does not hold water in respect of the evidence produced, and indeed the further evidence I will publish if it is felt necessary. It is also inconceivable that the Secretary acted without input from at least the Chair of their committee since at no point did the Secretary take a leadership role in (their provoking of) the dispute. Thus, being prevented from doing first things first, I felt obliged to exempt myself from the remainder of the meeting.

I should say that if a constitution is regarded as useful, then Tom Bimpson's proposals do seem eminently reasonable and reflect a fair and appropriate way that club members can interact. This is in stark contrast to the original proposals. It does not require a psychologist to work out that these proposals were a continuation of the bellicose intentions of those involved in its production.

As luck would have it, we had a psychologist to hand anyway: Andrej's demolition of the "expulsion clause" did help to restore some sanity to the situation. Thereafter the club should be appreciative of Tom's efforts to introduce a calm and sensible working document.

One of my regrets at leaving early was that I did not have the opportunity to hear Dave James propose item 17, regarding disputes. "In the event of a dispute with a team from another club this will be taken up by the Captain with the Captain of the opposing team. In the event that this does not resolve the dispute it shall be pursued by the Secretary under advisement of the relevant Captain and the Committee."

It would have been particularly interesting to hear how, when I had an unresolved dispute as Atticus2 Captain and tried to assemble a meeting to discuss the issue, and hopefully obtain consensus on united action, that:

(a) no such meeting was ever forthcoming, and
(b) how Dave James's briefing of Club members against me - while not informing me of what he was doing - squares with this eminently reasonable section of the new Constitution.

The proposal of the original section 17 regarding threatening or abusive behaviour would also have been an interesting pitch. I'm sure that Dave James's crystal clear view that everything is Dave Robertson's fault would have come across forcefully. I am still available to go through the truth with anyone who is still in doubt.

With regards to the Constitution itself, may I just pose a few questions?

• Will the constitution stop a group within the committee calling a meeting, and taking action against an uninvited committee member; and indeed not inviting another elected committee member who is likely to oppose their view?

• Will the constitution prevent some committee members pretending to be a complete committee and then traducing some club members on a public forum?

The answer to both of these questions must be "no". Both these events happened during last season. The fact that the answer is "no" is not the fault of the Constitution because a Constitution cannot be expected to cover matters of such basic common decency.

• Another situation that falls outside the sphere of the reasonable is that of Dave James's stirring up club members with misinformation behind my back, referred to above. Naturally no constitution can be expected to cover such flawed and warped behaviour. But how does the Club respond? Does it feel this is appropriate behaviour?

• Will the constitution stop part of the committee invoking made-up powers; e.g telling the Webmaster that everything he publishes has to be agreed by the committee? The answer here is "yes"; (this also happened last season). Under section 18 "In the event of complaints about the content of the Atticus Chess Club website this will be dealt with by the the Webmaster under the advisement of the General Committee"; it is clear that the whole tenor of the Chair's communications with Steve Connor were grossly improper.

My main regret at leaving the EGM early is that I was unable to express my personal gratitude for the unstinting work in the service of Chess and Atticus of two of our members. First, I must honour the Club's finest son, Dave Robertson. It is no slight on Steve Connor that I designate him thus. Dave Robertson's selfless and tireless work on behalf of Chess and our City over many years, but particularly during 2006-2008, have been well documented. The pushing of Atticus into the 21st century with the provision of the fabulous Adelphi venue and the complete restocking of our boards and sets, all at no cost to the Club, is undoubtedly one of the two main reasons why Atticus is currently such a magnet for chess players.

In most other clubs Steve Connor would be the greatest servant of Chess in their history. He is currently webmaster for the British Championship site, the 4NCL site and the London Classic site. His professionalism and dynamism are respected by all sections of British Chess. The Atticus website under his care has undoubtedly been the other most significant reason for the recent growth of the Club, and has been admired far and wide for the whole of Steve's tenure.

I am ashamed to be a member of a Club that treats its greatest servants so badly, but proud to regard Dave and Steve as my friends. You may question my judgement. For it is true that I thought Dave James was a friend for well over 30 years. Reality has taken over only as I felt his stiletto between my shoulder blades. However in the case of Steve and Dave you need not concern yourself with my judgement; their record of unambiguous, straightforward exposition of the beauty and occasional deceit within our great game is the only testament they require together with the legacy of their many achievements within Chess.

John Carleton
July 27, 2010

After 38 years

Following an EGM on 19 July 2010, the club has split and been destroyed by a clique of spineless individuals calling themselves a committee.

Concerns for the welfare of remaining members should be of interest to all chess players.

For the record, I remain in full support of John Carleton, David Robertson and others who have taken a principled and courageous position regarding the dispute with Widnes over the last 18 months or so.

They are outstanding examples of kind, hard working, honourable people the like of which we rarely meet in our lives.

For 38 years they have given unstinting support to Atticus Chess Club.

The unforgivable and unprecedented public attack on them and other long-serving members published on the MCA website was a disgrace. The ‘Dossier’, produced by the 'committee', a further act of lies and malice, should be treated with contempt as should the individuals who attach their names to it; individuals morally bankrupt, prepared to betray their colleagues at the drop of a hat and possessing a breath-taking level of vindictiveness. They know who they are and when the truth unfolds, others will too.

My contribution as webmaster has been to support and promote chess for the benefit of the Club and the wider community. I have acted honourably and recognition for such action has been forthcoming. Only this ‘committee’ with their propaganda and paranoia could see it differently. But they ignore the truth because it’s no longer convenient.

Members not so easily hoodwinked will no doubt have their own worries and so they should because this ‘committee’ will now take the Club down some very dark and dreary pathways in the years ahead.

Fair Competition

Dear Chessfriends,

Herein I would like to consider two or three strands of Widnes' current practice, principally from season 2009-10, which are quite disturbing for those who support normal notions of transparency and fair play.

A) On paper Widnes 1 have the strongest squad in the MCA. Thus the performance against them is likely to be crucial for any side aspiring to win the championship. One reason, if not the major reason, why Aigburth won the championship this season was that they were not required to play a full strength Widnes 1 team in either of their matches against the former champions. This arose for two reasons:

i) Widnes and Aigburth postponed the game that was due to be played before Christmas until two weeks after the scheduled end of the Division 1 season. Their scheduled last game was also against each other so this meant both the last two games of the season for these highly rated teams were against each other. In my opinion, the league controller was distinctly naive in claiming: "It was only a quirk of fate that meant an early season match, postponed to the end of April, finally decided the outcome", a naivety you will appreciate as you read on; 

ii) shortly after they were thrashed 6½-1½ by Atticus 1, Widnes 1 with some five games left apparently realised that they had no realistic prospect of winning the league. For most teams the recognition of this state of affairs would not actually affect the teams they put out. But for Widnes there was an immediate drop in the calibre of the teams that they fielded. So far as the division as a whole went, these teams were quite strong. But if you were relying on them to get a result against Aigburth (or for that matter against Atticus 1, were there any games left against them), then you would be backing against the odds.

Let us just back these claims up with a few numbers. The average grades of the Widnes 1 players in each of their games against Atticus 1 were:

a) 179 [won 5-3 by Widnes]
b) 180 [won 6½-1½ by Atticus]

Against Aigburth they were:

a) 171 [won 4½-3½ by Aigburth]
b) 161 [! maybe that previous one had been too close, won 5-3 by Aigburth]

Clearly, Atticus 1 played in a much harder league than Aigburth - on the valid assumption that other teams would have fielded players of the same calibre against them. At no stage in the season did Widnes 1, even in their "we've given up" phase, play a team as weak as in the second Aigburth match.

It should not be thought that Widnes, in the later stages of the season, had given up trying to win any trophies. In the final of the John Ripley trophy, the team they fielded had an average grade of 185. They lost to Waterloo on handicap. We may assume that, had they been in contention for winning the league, Widnes would have produced markedly stronger teams than they actually did on their run-in. Obviously, it's easier to have a highly graded team over 6 boards than it is over 8. So let's just put the strength of the Widnes Cup-final team into the league context. Had the top 6 players in the Cup final played in the first game against Aigburth, then the bottom two boards, to ‘maintain’ the strength of the Widnes league team, would have each had to have been graded 129. In the ‘decider’, the two bottom boards would each have needed a grade of 89.....

Dave James, perhaps wishing to lay claim to the title of History's most magnanimous loser (currently held by Sir George Thomas), did not mention any of this in his end of season report to the Atticus AGM. Instead he concentrated on establishing that Aigburth deserved the title. "They beat us fair and square" (match played March 3rd, won 4½-3½ by Aigburth). True, Dave says, we did beat them earlier in the season (October 26th 6-2) but this was, Dave says, because Aigburth were not at full strength. Well actually, Dave, there is a view that your being missing for the crucial March game meant that we were not at full strength for that one! This report did require a little mental agility to deliver without implying that Atticus might feel badly done by. Dave did pretty well; most of the Club remain unaware that the season was anything other than totally normal. Perhaps the only blot on Dave's performance was forgetting to mention, until reminded to do so by a member of his audience, that Enayet Hossain scored 14/14 to win player of the year. Some acknowledgement from Aigburth that Atticus 1 did not have the rub of the green would have been appreciated.
B) Perhaps this is the most minor of the three concerns I intend to raise. It is ‘only’ a moral issue and thus very hard to deal with without resorting to notions of fair play. In the aforementioned Cup final Widnes brought in a professional chess player, Keith Arkell, to play on top board although he had not played in any other match for them over the course of the season. (Keith was paid by and played regularly last season for Widnes). Last time a "ringer" was brought in for a Cup final, there was fairly universal condemnation throughout the MCA...
C) In contrast to the last item, this section will examine Widnes activities both against the spirit of the MCA rules and also against the letter of the law. I would like to bring to your attention the way that Widnes Chess Club manage their resources vis-a-vis the League rules relating to listed players and related issues.

First, the relevant rules for the last couple of seasons should be summarised: for each team of 8 players, the Club concerned shall send a list of 7 players who will always be invited to play for that team and have indicated that they expect to be available for the majority of the games. Such listed players shall be ineligible to play in any lower team of that club during the season. If when 50% of the fixtures have been played a listed player has failed to play in at least 3 matches then the club will be expected to list an additional player unless it can convince the Controller that the player in question will complete his obligation. Any players, whether listed or not, shall not be eligible to play in any given team if they have played a total of four times during the season for a higher team or teams in matches where they have played on a board above the lowest listed player in that team or teams. Games played on boards below the lowest listed player do not count towards this total. Teams must play their boards in order of playing strength.

This last slightly contorted section was introduced a few years ago and replaced the long-standing: Any players, whether listed or not, shall not be eligible to play in any given team if they have played a total of five times in any higher team or teams during that season.

A key concept in the framing of the rule relating to listed players is the notion of players indicating "that they expect to be available for the majority of the games". My belief is that most people read this to mean that the player expects to be available for all or nearly all games (i.e. the vast majority of games). If the majority is taken to mean "more often than not", then that would be better described as "over half the games". The idea of the listed players is to establish regular players who cannot therefore play for lower teams. The other side of a similar coin relates to the number of games a non-listed player may play for a higher team: If a player plays 13/14 [say] for a first division team, is it right they should be playing for a lower team throughout the season? [or 12/14, or 11/14 or 9/14 or 8/14...?] .The old rule stated above made things clear: once you played 5 games for higher team[s] you could not be part of a lower team: if you play that many times for one higher team, it was recognised that you were part of that team. The present loose framing of the rules allows situations that are contra-common sense and contra-fair play.

Before looking at the detail of my assertions, let us look at some new "league" tables. These show, for each of the last two seasons, the % of games played by listed players out of those possible. I am very grateful to Division 1 controller Dave Whitby for passing me his end of season report which presents in a clear and straightforward way the information that I have used to prepare my statistics and make comments thereon.

Atticus 2 91.7%
Atticus 1 85.7 %
Aigburth 1 81.0%
Prescot 1 75.0%
Widnes 1 69.0 %
Widnes 2 67.9%
Wallasey A 64.3%

Atticus 1 93.9%
Formby 1 89.8%
Prescot 1 80.6%
Atticus 2 79.6%
Widnes 2 77.6%
Aigburth 1 71.4%
Wallasey A 67.3%
Widnes 1 58.2%

Thus, last season Widnes 1 listed players just "beat" an average of 8/14 [=57.1%] appearances which is in any case indefensible as a ‘majority’ in this context. Three out of the seven listed players did not play over a half of the possible games: Woodcock [4], M.Ellis [7] and Clissold [6]. I would suggest that R.Clissold should not be eligible to be a listed player since for the second year running, although listed, he failed to play a reasonable number of games (last year he played 4 out of 12 possible matches). Incidentally, the same also applies to E.H.Taylor of Wallasey [who played 5/12 and 4/14 although a listed player].

Some consideration may be given to N.Barnaby's position. This year he played 8/14 thereby achieving the hollow "majority"; last year he played 6/12 (also listed for each season). Three of the Widnes 1 team did play 13 games last season. They were R.A.James (listed); P.Coughlin who became listed only on the 12th March; and M.I.Connor who was never listed. Last season Connor, also without ever being listed, went one better and was the only player in Widnes 1 to play 100% of league matches. Thus to summarise: Widnes 1 played on average only 4.1 listed players per match making a total of 57 games. P Coughlin, M.I.Connor, S.Potter [8 games, listed for Widnes1 on 30th March], and M.French [9 games never became listed for Widnes 1] were between them not only clocking up 43 appearances for Widnes 1 but also spearheading the Widnes 3 challenge to win Division 2. This challenge faltered only at the tail end of the season, so (as with the John Ripley Cup final), justice was done. But we should not be relying on fortuitous outcomes when a team is disregarding the rules. It is in Division 2 that Widnes 1 gained the unfair benefit of ignoring the rules pertaining to listed players.

I have put my remarks in context by producing the above tables and you may feel that some of the other entries therein are a cause for alarm. I would recommend Dave Whitby's aforementioned reports (below) if you wish to investigate, and possibly flesh out your concerns.

The Executive committee of the MCA have, for next season, firmed up (or so it might appear) the rules relating to listed players. The part relating to ‘playing up’ now reads something to the effect of: A player who plays up can do so as many times as s/he likes provided s/he does not play above the lowest graded player of the higher team (irrespective of whether or not that lowest graded starred player is actually playing on the night). So far as the "playing up" that matters is concerned, i.e. the non-observance of league rules by Widnes, this regulation is irrelevant. It is actually very difficult to see what difference will be made to any practical situation. All it does do however is to to emphasise the dodgy principle that it is acceptable for a player to play all (or virtually all) of the games for each of more than one team within the MCA. One reason that Widnes have pursued their blatant disregard of the listed player rules is because of this laissez-faire arrangement. Principally though, rather than acquiescing in their non-observance of rules, the sanctions already in place should be enforced with, if necessary, a view to strengthening those sanctions rather than tinkering with the fine print of the regulations. The notion of fair competition is an idea worth fighting for.

John Carleton
July 2010

Related files:

David Whitby's 0910 reports
Season 0910
Player results 0910
Div 1 Player Statistics 0910
Div 1 Match results 0910

Click to read this document on the Atticus Forum