Chess And Political Correctness

Chess And Political Correctness

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The world has gone crazy!

Did I just say it aloud? I am sorry; I used to better control what I say. In fact it was something you would learn from your early childhood in the former Soviet Union.

As the very popular rock group Nautilus Pompilius used to sing at that time, there are certain words you use in your kitchen and certain words you use on the street. Doublespeak was a norm and every Soviet citizen learned this essential skill in kindergarten.

Unfortunately, a much bigger problem was to control your thoughts! I vividly remember a minor slip that could have cost me dearly.

I was a 14-year old schoolboy doing our weekly politinformation in front of our class. I already explained what politinformation was and its ultimate importance in this article.

At the end of my presentation, copying the TV evening news, I innocently said: "Here is the latest sports news. In the first game of their semifinal Candidates' match, GM Garry Kasparov lost to GM Viktor Korchnoi."

I hadn't even realized right away what I had done. Only when I was called to the meeting of our komsomol cell at the end of the week it finally occurred to me that something was wrong. The secretary of the cell raised the question if I was ideologically mature enough to be a komsomol member. 

"What have I done?" I asked. 

It was obvious already that I was in trouble, but I still didn't know what exactly was my mistake.

"You said that a Soviet grandmaster, Kasparov, lost to Korchnoi," our secretary said as he shook his head in disgust.

"But that's what really happened, it's true." I knew that it was a very weak argument, but that was the only argument I had!

"Yes." The secretary was talking very slowly to emphasize the crime I had committed. "But your voice sounded too happy about that!"

Korchnoi vs Serper via Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, I was indeed guilty as charged! As readers of this article know, I was always rooting for Viktor the Terrible.  And now, thanks to Korchnoi I was in a big trouble!

I knew that if they really kicked me from the komsomol organization, I could kiss goodbye my whole chess career as well as college or university.

(For those readers who've never heard about the Soviet komsomol, it was a youth organization you would enter at seventh grade. Then you would have to pay the symbolic dues and attend the meetings of your cell. If by some reason a kid was kicked out of komsomol or worse yet refused to enter this organization, he would immediately become a second-class citizen with all the consequences.)

So I used all my skills to convince the members of our cell that if my voice indeed sounded happy, it was absolutely unintentional and maybe had something to do with an unrelated event. Long story short, I just got a reprimand, which was basically a slap on the wrist. 

Today I would remember this story with a smile if I didn't experience a strange deja vu. Again I need to turn on my inner censor on a daily basis. There is no powerful Communist Party anymore and I live in a totally different country. And yet, there is something that has the power to force me to think before I make even a basic statement.

This power is political correctness.

When I wrote this article, I never expected the criticism I would get just for calling a lady "beautiful."

 Mariya Muzychuk. | Photo Liu Yupeng.

I always thought that it was supposed to be a compliment, so I laughingly showed the article and the comments to a person who works in a huge, multinational corporation. He was not amused. He said that if he said to a woman she looks beautiful at his workplace, then he could be severely punished or even fired for such an offense.

Welcome to the warped world of political correctness! It is really sad that many people have to concentrate all their efforts on being politically correct instead of trying to develop their best qualities and really make a difference. 

It is not easy to pass the roadblocks of political correctness, but maybe you can do it if you are creative enough. For example, when I need to deliver something that political correctness would frown upon, I use the phrase "As they would say in the former Soviet Union..."

For example, "In the former Soviet Union they would call it two fools" (see this article to understand what I am referring to).

It seems like my students don't mind. Just in 2016, they won the North American, continental and world championships in their age groups (and I am talking only about girls now!).

They don't call it "sexism" when I explain them what I wrote in the above-mentioned article "Women in Chess"; instead they learn how to win their games. Sometimes they even push the maxim "be aggressive!" to the extreme:

When after the game Naomi showed me her move 10. g4, I was like, "Whoa, hold your horses, young lady! You might want to at least finish your development before you attack!"

"Will do," answered Naomi.

Here is her game against the leader, who was 1.5 points ahead of her:

"Yeah, that's much better," I couldn't help but smile. We have been working with Naomi since she was six years old and I know very well that she learns fast! This is her first world title, but I am sure that there is more in store for her!

Yes, the new generation learns fast. I analyzed with a first-grader a game he won. It was a true blunder-fest where the opponents competed every single move to see who could blunder more material.  

I explained to the boy that he won only because his opponent was not a strong player. "You shouldn't call a person 'not a strong player,'" the kid corrected me. "Instead you should say 'a less-experienced player.'"

"Attaboy," I thought, "that's about time you should learn the modern doublespeak!"

You see, the komsomol organization is a thing of the past, which is good, of course. But from the other side, the komsomol secretary taught me a valuable lesson when I was 14, the lesson which probably saved my behind later in life.

Now think about this poor first-grader who has already learned to avoid the phrase "not a strong player" while talking about a guy who blunders every single move. No doubt he will learn how to avoid the word "beautiful" talking about Jessica Alba. 

But who is going to teach the poor kid to control his thoughts? Who will tell him that when he talks the doublespeak, his voice shouldn't sound too happy?

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