The Top 3 Chess Insults
The 2017 World Cup is one of the most important events of the year and a real feast for the true chess enthusiast. It is even covered by the mainstream media, which usually ignores chess. Unfortunately the media got interested in chess for the wrong reason as all the exciting games and unexpected results were overshadowed by an ugly incident.
I bet you've already read dozens of reports and opinions from both professional and non-professional chess players, so you know that the vast majority of them condemned the way GM Kovalev was treated.
Photo: Chess.com/Maria Emelianova.
Just a month ago, in this article I wrote:
There was a chess joke in my youth years that the best chess arbiter is the one who is invisible during a tournament. Indeed, if after such a tournament the players are not even aware who was a chief arbiter, it means that there were no unpleasant incidents or conflicts during the event.
Unfortunately, many people who follow the 2017 World Cup will forget the names of half of the participants, but I bet they will remember the names of the chief arbiter Tomasz Delega and the chief organizer GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili.
One of the most outrageous things in the whole scandal was the use of a racial slur. I don't recall any modern example of one grandmaster insulting another using a racial slur. As far as I know, the last time it happened was in 1941 when then world champion Alexander Alekhine wrote a series of articles for the Nazi-controlled newspaper Pariser Zeitung.
Of course chess players have been insulting each other for as long as the game of chess has been played. When I was a kid I read about a guy who had the stupidity to win a chess game vs. a king. The king promptly ordered to hang the poor soul. I guess hanging was the way to insult another person in medieval times. Fast forward to our time. Try to play chess on the Internet and in about a week (faster if you keep winning) you will see how the modern insults look.
If we don't count the late Bobby Fischer, who called Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov the "lowest dogs around" for allegedly playing prearranged matches, most top players never lowered themselves to swearing.
Look at the most recent example of GMs Simon Williams and Ben Finegold, who are set to play a long-anticipated grudge match here on Chess.com.
GM Finegold shot first: "Yeah, Simon Williams. He's like 1900 I think, or 1800."
GM Williams didn't wait long to respond: "I see that Ben Finegold has been slagging me off, never met the guy, but judging by his chess he shouldn't be throwing insults about." And then he added: "The only thing he would be a favorite in is an eating competition. He might even eat me."
While I am strongly against any insults, this funny exchange between Ben and Simon was cute to some extent! Not so cute, but nevertheless funny were the words of Viktor "The Terrible" Korchnoi after he lost a blitz game to Sofia Polgar.
Watch it starting from 0:30.
There are so many famous insults in the history of chess that it is absolutely impossible to collect all of them in just one article. So, I'll present you the best three. You might wonder what are "the best insults" -- how an insult can be a good thing? It is not! But I consider the best insult as sort of the lesser evil. Such an insult should be funny and not too offensive. This requirement disqualifies the majority of insults, since an insult is well...insulting!
For example, GM Korchnoi was a great master of wicked burns. The above-mentioned episode with Sofia Polgar could have been a contender for the top honor in our contest, but you cannot talk like this to a lady, so it is an instant disqualification!
Now, without further ado, let me introduce my top three chess insults.
#3: U.S. President Donald Trump
On October 10, 2016 during a rally in Ambridge, Penn., Donald Trump announced:
It's like you have to be a grand chess master. And we don't have any of them.
The timing of this statement was especially bad as just a month before that the U.S. team won the Chess Olympiad in Baku. I think we have close to 100 grandmasters in the U.S. if we count both male and female GMs. I am pretty sure that none of us was offended by this president's blunder. First of all the expression "grand chess master" sounds funny. Besides, the president acknowledges that "grand chess masters" are so smart and unique that they probably don't exist in the good old U.S. of A. Guess what, we do exist!
#2: Grandmaster Siegbert Tarrasch
Tarrasch was well known for his sharp barbs towards his collegues, but all of them pale compared to the following episode. In the middle of a game vs. Aron Nimzowitsch, Dr. Tarrasch loudly announced:
Never in my life have I had such a won game after 10 moves as I have now!
Here is the game:
The funniest part of the story is that Tarrasch didn't win the game. Moreover, he was really lucky to escape for a draw as he had a really bad position at one point!
#1: World Champion Garry Kasparov
Just like many other great players, Garry Kasparov always had this special talent to diss his collegues. He coined the notorious phrase "chess tourist" when he was talking about 2600+ players! And who would forget his complaint about getting poisoned by bad chess after his participation in one super-tournament!
Yet the following famous burn deserves to be the winner in this unusual contest. First of all it is probably the mildest of all Kasparov's insults. Also, the scandal in the 2017 World Cup was about GM Kovalev's shorts, which prompted the following tweet from GM Nigel Short:
My family isn't even there, but Shorts are still making headlines at the #fideworldcup— Nigel Short ( @nigelshortchess) September 10, 2017
So, here is our winner.
In 1993, before the start of the final candidate match, Garry Kasparov was asked to predict who his challenger would be, and how the match would go. Kasparov's answer was very laconic:
It will be Short, and it will be short.
It turns out that Kasparov was absolutely correct. Nigel Short won the match and become the challenger. Even though the Kasparov-Short match lasted 20 out of a planned 24 games, the final outcome was never in question after Kasparov scored 3.5 out of the first four games!
Kasparov was simply much stronger in all the elements of the game. Here is a good example:
I want to emphasize that insulting another person is absolutely unacceptable, especially during chess tournaments, as it demeans our royal game. Let's be respectful to each other and make such lists a thing of the past!