Before we delve into the main subject of this post, chess politics, let´s go for a quick walk down memory lane. When I was little, I had two beautiful children´s etiquette books, illustrated by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are), called What Do You Do, Dear? and What Do You Say, Dear?
They had questions like ¨You are in the library reading a book, when suddenly you are lassoed by Bad-Nose Bill. ¨I got you,¨ he says ¨and I´m taking you to my ranch, pronto. Now get moving.¨ What do you do, dear?¨ (answer: walk quietly through the library)
¨ You are picking dandelions and columbines outside the castle. Suddenly a fierce dragon appears and blows red smoke at you, but just then a brave knight gallops up and cuts off the dragon´s head. What do you say, dear?¨ (answer: ¨Thank you very much¨)
With that in our minds, I would like to discuss two current issues in chess politics. The first is the FIDE elections. It seems to me that Ilyumzhinov is a psychopath. As evidence, I offer this article in the respectable English newspaper, the Guardian, his Wiki page, which is obviously written by a flunkie (¨He now owns a private jet and six Rolls Royces; he has a black limousine in Moscow, but prefers his white one at home¨), the Wiki leaks page on the murder of journalist Larisa Yudina, (update: Arne Moll of Chessvibes writes more about this here) his absolutely hilarious autobiography The President´s Crown of Thorns, downloadable from FIDE (my favorite chapter title: ¨It Only Takes Two Weeks to Have a Man Killed¨) and th e fact that he insists he was abducted by aliens. Because he is so obviously insane and evil, it boggles my mind that news websites, like Chessbase, seem to care about impartiality (take a ****ing stand, cmon).
That aside, I am super confused as to why anyone in their right mind, Karpov in particular, can support the ¨One Country, One Vote¨ idea. Why exactly should Russia, with 203 GMs, 467 IMs, and 1959 titled players, have the same political influence as, say, Sao Tome and Principle, the Soloman Islands or Palau, which have no titled players of any kind. (For an amusing list of FIDE federations that have a vote, click here.) Many/most of these countries don´t even have functional real government, forget chess federations. It´s complete insanity. The only possible rationale that I can see for giving tiny countries this kind of political power is that it´s easy to buy their votes. (Niels Lauritsen makes the a similar point here. )
I dearly hope he is saying this only to get elected, but Karpov insists he is all for One Nation, One Vote too:
¨Our policy will be one of enhanced regional empowerment, based on the philosophy that those closest to the situation are best aware of the challenges and opportunities they face. Regional leaders should be provided with greater autonomy and resources. Resources must be provided consistently rather than once every four years on the eve of FIDE elections. Past practices contaminate the electoral process. For this reason we support ‘one federation, one vote’ as an important ingredient in the democratic practices of FIDE and as a guarantee that small and developing federations have a voice.¨
What am I missing?
The second chess politics issue I wish to discuss with you is the Washington State elementary ratings controversy. For the last couple years at Elementary Nationals, almost all of the K-5 and K-3 Under sections have been won by Stevenson Elementary from Washington State. (to see for yourself, click here*, and then click on team standings and K-5 Under 900, K-3 Under 800, and K-3 unrated. Then do the same for last year´s supernationals standings). This school is setting some serious records, winning sections by incredible margins of 5, 5.5 points. (To their credit, they also won the K-3 open section this year.)
They aren´t quite cheating, but it´s really close. The NY Times tells the story well. Basically, they just don´t use USCF ratings, so their kids are massively under-rated and they clean up the trophies.
Of course, you could argue that under sections are absurd in the first place, and even more so when they involve children, whose ratings tend to change more rapidly than adults. But they´re nice for the majority of children (and people in general) and with that in mind, I do think something should be done. Other teams will either stop coming to nationals (a real economic problem for the USCF) or (even worse) they will also start cheating/playing the system.
The question is, what to do? The obvious solution is something like what Goichburg does with FIDE ratings, to either come up with a formula, or to simply assign the Washington State kids minimum ratings, but that leaves a lot to the discretion of TDs, and it´s nice to have clarity/tranparency/rule of law. It´s strangely hard to concieve of an idea that is both systematic and easy to administer, harder than with adults, because the kids are different each year, and they aren´t themselves intentionally doing anything wrong.
What would you do, dear?
*I accidentally had this linked to 2008 for the first 5 days, so if you clicked on it and thought ¨huh?¨ then try again. :)