Coronavirus, Chess, FIDE & other Nonsense
How are you today? Great, I hope! As the coronavirus spreads its tentacles to the farthest reaches of the world, I trust that you are taking the necessary precautions.
It will be a long war, and costly. Some experts estimate that the worse case scenario could see as many as 50,000,000 people die before the pandemic (it IS already a pandemic regardless of what the WHO wimpers) runs its course…or before a vaccination is found. That is scary stuff!
Extraordinary FIDE Congress begins in UAE
Throwing caution to the wind, Dvorkovich and the rest of the FIDE leadership have convinced hundreds of FIDE delegates to risk attending an ‘extraordinary’ congress in the UAE between the 26th of February and the 1st of March. The FIDE presidential board meeting took place today, and I understand the assembly meets tomorrow.
Look, Ma! No Masks!
I have written extensively here on this blog for several weeks of the wisdom of holding an entirely unnecessary FIDE meeting at this point and time (FIDE has its usual Olympiad Congress later this year) while the coronavirus remains an unknown risk.
According to the official numbers of the UAE government (and I have no reason to doubt them), the country has a total of 13 confirmed cases of the virus, a number that has remained constant for almost a week now.
However, not everyone in the Gulf region agrees with these numbers. An Iranian newspaper speculates that the real numbers paint a very different picture:
Hopefully these numbers are just disinformation from the Iranian government, clearly not a friend of the UAE. But even if that is the case, why would the FIDE leadership risk holding the meeting? Dozens of much more high profile conferences and meetings have been cancelled under existing conditions that are far less worrisome than what the FIDE congress finds itself this week.
Today, Friday 28, a coronavirus outbreak at several Abu Dhabi hotels has forced the authorities to quarantine two hotels. Information is a bit sketchy, but this might give an indication:
Overnight the UAE government increased the number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 19, up six from the day before. With 2 Italian bikers being confirmed this morning (and the two hotels being quarantined) this brings the # to 21 confirmed coronavirus in the UAE. While information is sketchy, likely hundreds of hotel guests will be now be tested, and should panic set in, then the UAE could be put on a no fly list.
This could make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the FIDE delegates to return home without undergoing a mandatory 14 day quarantine. Or worse. I will keep the readers up to date on this development in coming hours.
What is an Olympic Gold Medal worth today?
Estonian born grandmaster Jaan Ehlvest, age 57, needs little introduction to my readers. Once rated #5 in the world, member of the gold medal winning USSR team in 1988 and victor of more tournaments than I can remember.
Today I read with some sadness news about how quickly the Estonian government wants to forget about its ‘glorious’ partnership with the USSR… (LINK)
Of course this story is about wanting to forget its past. Rather than pay a paltry 1,397 euros a month as a pension to Jaan that every Estonian gold medal winner has the right to receive, the government tries to argue that chess is not really part of the Olympic movement. Are you listening, FIDE?
I first met Sam Shankland in the Barcelona Sants tournament back in September of 2012. Clearly very talented, I got the distinct impression — right or wrong — that Sam thought that he was something special. Of course, I just wrote it off to him being American: all American’s think that they are special.
I suppose, thinking seriously about it for a moment, it is a necessary requirement to believe in yourself before you head off and take on the world. In this sense Sam was moving in the right direction.
In the years since Sam has achieved some very impressive results. He got his rating over 2700 in 2018, played on a number of really strong USA teams at the Olympics — and won a couple of gold medals in the process –, won the 2018 US Championship, won the Capablanca Memorial in 2018, etc.
Unfortunately, Sam then hit the wall and entered into a year long crisis (2019), losing about 50 elo points in the process. The world, it seemed, was not ready to recognize that Sam was special.
Sam realized that he could not make any more progress without first getting the right invitations to tournaments with the world’s leading players.
Which of course, he did not receive. Only really special people get those invitations. Apparently.
I am not certain why Sam thought that the chess world was a fair place…IN ANY CASE, I recommend my readers to read about Sam’s insights into his rise to the top and then fall from grace HERE. (Many thanks to my fellow blogger Michael Bacon for pointing this out to me!).
Today, no doubt, a wiser Sam realizes that the chess world is not a hierarchy. It is an autocracy, where the people in power make the rules and choose who plays and who does not play…where privilege, money and/or knowing the right people takes precedence over talent. Hands down.
You can not do it by yourself, Sam. Being special is something that other people decide for you.
To be continued