Persona non grata

In 2007 I won the British Championship in my best ever performance. I was representing Scotland at the time. In 2008 I was ignored for a long time by the organisers (3-4 months) before eventually offered a dormitary room with toilet in the hall. At that time I had become a GM. About half of the cash prizes were going to English players only. As you can guess the tournament was organised by the ECF. In 2009 the ECF officially only gave conditions (those glorious dormitary rooms!?) to English players.

As a result no Scottish GM has played in the British since 2007. In 2004-2006 Jonathan Rowson won the British (and Keti a lot of the Women’s title).

What did the Scottish Federation do to fight for the players?

You got that right. ZIP-ZERO.

So when the Danish Championship was announced to be in Hillerod in 2010, I decided to change back. Not with the intention to play for the national team (I was eventually worn down, but that is another story), but to go back to Nordsjelland where I come from and represent my old club.

The reaction from the Scottish Federation was to ask for compensation for the fee for changing federation (which was not much, and which I paid half of back in 2005). I reminded them that I had donated £1000s to the federation through various events, only weeks prior to the Scottish Championship. They apologised. No hard feelings on that account, but it shows the line of thinking.

Jonathan Rowson no longer plays tournament chess, Keti went through an education and I am quitting tournament chess this year.

On the way out I managed to win the Scottish title. I could not win it in 2005 (8/9) because of lack of sufficient residency, even though the change of federation was already under way. I am very proud to be Scottish Champion (like everyone else in the office), I am a member for life of the Scottish Federation and I assume that my children will be members of the Scottish Federation.

You could mis-interpretate this as being anti-me or being narrow minded. I actually think it is anti-grandmasters. Over the years the GMs have found themselves under continuous attack in the Scottish Federation by people who do not understand just how much time and effort it has taken to reach this level. We are seen as an extension of the club champions, who for some mysterious reason is just a bit better than everyone else – not as hard-working serious sportsmen who have given up a big part of our working lives to reach this level.

Having said that, I do think a proposal of the “Scottish Champion have to be a member of FIDE through the Scottish Federation” makes sense. I do take it personally that it is proposed a week after I win the title, even though it is certainly not intended to be so. I do like the mind such an insular policy fits the narrow mindedness I have often found on the Scottish Federations noticeboard. But more importantly it simply does not make sense that the Scottish Champion does not represent Scotland.

Oh yeah, on the way home from the Scottish I misplaced the trophy. I am very sorry. I hope it was insured.

(I would have put this on the Federations Noticeboard, but none of us in the office can get on it).


14 thoughts on “Persona non grata”

  1. An interesting and informative posting.

    > We are seen as an extension of the club champions, who for some mysterious
    > reason is just a bit better than everyone else – not as hard-working serious
    > sportsmen who have given up a big part of our working lives to reach this level.

    That rings true for so many sports. I’m intrigued to see what sort of responses you receive. Congratulations again.

  2. Jacob Aagaard

    By the way the tie-break system was in my opinion unfair as well. It was who scored most points over their expected score. Clearly, if you have the same amount of points you will have played against roughly the same level of opposition (with some variation, but with a few exceptions, this is the case) – which means that to some extend you have chosen to award it to the lower rated player.

    In what world view does this make sense? In one where Grandmasters (generally the higher rated players) are spoiled brats who should give more of themselves for free.

    When I heard this on the last day I was truly shocked, but I have to say that I am not surprised that this was decided by the federation at the annual assembly. I think they found that it somehow made the playing field a bit more even and helping out the little guy. A championship is fought on an even basis if at all – it is not fair to “positive discriminate” in a competition; while it might be so in real life (but there are some negative aspects to this as well).

  3. I think that a tie break system should never be used. What the US often does is use a tie-break system, and have the top 2 play off with higher seed by tiebreaks getting color choice (see system below). I think that should be extended. Use the “Modified Median” system, which is take the sum of all the scores that your opponents scored and scrap the lowest score (or if you had a bye, you scrap the bye) with the second tie break being to include that lowest score.

    So if Jacob scored 4/5 and I scored 4/5, you look at the scores of each of our 5 opponents, eliminating the lowest, and add up.

    This, however, should strictly be used for SEEDING purposes. What you do then is let’s say you have a 6-way tie for first. The top 2 by tiebreaks get a “bye” (7-way tie, top 1 gets a bye, 5 way tie, top 3 get a bye, etc), 3 plays 6, 4 plays 5, the higher seed gets choice of color. White gets 6 minutes, Black gets 5 minutes, Black gets draw odds.

    Then the lowest winner of those plays the 1, the highest winner plays the 2, 1 and 2 choose color, same rules, White gets an extra minute, Black gets draw odds. Winner of each of those plays each other with again, the higher seed by tie-breaks getting choice of color.

    This is the absolute best way to break a tie in an open tournament. The same can not be said for a World Championship match, and I think it was absolutely stupid to have 4 quick games decide world champion! Go back to 24 games and ties go to the current title holder.

  4. Jacob Aagaard

    Ties should go to challenger, I always say. But never mind. The worst tie-break system is definitely one where some have an advantage for no other reason than the organisers wanted to give them one…

  5. Gee, maybe the real standard to determine a champion, is to select the person with the most glue on the hands, so that the trophy does not get lost.

  6. Jacob,

    An interesting post although I suspect there was more to your decision to switch back to DEN than you are letting on. For example, I am sure the Danish chess federation would have let you play as a guest in the Danish Championship in the same way as Chess Scotland allowed you to play in the Scottish Championship while you were still DEN registered.

    Given your post do you feel that Chess Scotland should seek to terminate the agreement under which the ECF organise the British Championships on behalf of all the UK nations?
    This would then free the ECF to run English Championships. Stewart Reuben may or may not be correct that there is still value in running a British Championship instead of an English Championship but if the ECF are running a British Championship then it should be a British Championship in appearance as well as in fact.

  7. Jacob Aagaard

    @Ian Jamieson
    No, There is no way they would allow it; it is closed.

    With the British, CC could have shown support. I don’t hold it against them, but i don’t owe them anything.

  8. @Jacob Aagaard


    I agree you don’t owe them anything especially considering your work for Scottish chess (if nothing else the seminars by visiting GMs which you organised)

    I actually had slightly more of a problem if I remember correctly when you played in the Danish championships while you were completing your residency requirement to switch to SCO registered but that’s in the past.

  9. Jacob Aagaard

    @Ian Jamieson
    Yes, this was a special case though. The reason was that we only enquired about changing federation. I wanted to apply after the Danish so that I could play both this and Turino. But they just processed it! So the Danish Federation gave me a special dispensation for this reason only, saving me to have to battle with FIDE officials in Kalmykia. So there were no chances for repeats later on.

  10. To the quality chess team.

    I know in September Grandmaster Repertoire 11 – Beating 1.d4 Sidelines by Boris Avrukh will be published. Also, I guess another Avrukh Grandmaster Repertoire for Black about English, offbeat, rare etc openings will be published later (by the way, can you give us an idea about the time, please?) but what about a something against the Catalan for Black, and without forget its possible transpositions by Reti, English and even other move orders? For …e6 players (1. …d5 or 1. …Nf6) it’s an important subject. If it is in no Grandmaster Repertoires this will be a big hole…

    Thank you by advance for your answer. 🙂

  11. alberto cammurria

    it is very true that most people don’t appreciate how much it takes to become a Grandmaster in chess. the amount of work and training that goes into it is just the same as it is in most of the more popular sports but this goes unrecognized for the most part by the majority of people. this can probably be traced back to it being a mental as opposed to physical sport. GM’s look just like everyone else!!! they don’t have bulging/perfectly toned muscular bodies or anything. if only there would suddenly exist a mysterious of halo of light around a person’s head when they become GM, this problem would be solved in my opinion.

    I have learned that there are very many misconceptions about chess and this is indeed one of them; most people and even most players up to 2000-2100 have very little appreciation/respect for what separates them from the GMs in regards to chess. there are many ~2000-2100s who are so extremely arrogant it makes ones head spin a little. no respect these days. a country club player wouldn’t dare disrespect andy murray the way some of these expert level players act towards his chessic counterparts.

  12. Abramov Anjuhin

    @ Lars Schandorff: Playing 1.d4 – A Grandmaster Guide – The Indian Defences

    When will it be available in Niggemann Germany store?

    As White I have hardcovers of Grandmaster Repertoire 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5, and Grandmaster Guide: Playing 1.d4 – The Queen’s Gambit, 2nd edition.

    Hopefully I’ll be well armed with many options available, do you agree Jacob?

    Spasiba 🙂

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