The April Fool tradition has it roots in ancient Rome, where playing practical
jokes on friends was part of the celebrations of Hilaria (March 25). It evolved
into the current-day April 1st practice in 18th century Europe. In England you
were supposed to play your pranks during the first half of the day. The Scots
reserved 48 hours for it. In France the tradition is known as "April Fish",
in Spanish the "dia de los Santos Inocentes". The tradition came to
America with early Scottish, English, and French settlers, where it was mainly
about sending people on fool's errands.
On our news pages we have carried on this tradition, always publishing, punctually
on April 1st of each year, a fabricated story intended to entertain our readers.
A list of the stories can be found below.
However, in this year we have been forced to abandon this practice, having
received legal threats from a watchdog group calling itself "League for
Truth and Veracity" (LT&V) in case we continue to "wilfully and
knowingly publish false information that is aimed at maliciously misleading
readers and visitors to the ChessBase news portal."
The group, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has offices in Georgia, Kansas,
New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt and Moscow, objects to the "pagan origins
of the April Fool ritual". The plan of action appears to be to bring lawsuits
against big news outlets, while sending cease-and-desist letters to
private individuals who engage in practice by post, email or in some cases even
The cease-and-desist letters require the recipient to remit a legal fee of
$35.50 for clerical expenses incurred by LT&V. Although civil liberties
and free speech groups believe that the threatened legal action would have little
chance of success, many people will comply with the letters and remit the amount,
rather than risk a potentially expensive lawsuit. In the case of a big news
portal like www.chessbase.com the sums involved are much higher. The prospect
of extended litigation with LT&V has led us to abandon our traditional April
LT&V, it must be mentioned, has stated that the publication of intentionally
constructed false stories, or their circulation by post or email, on April 1st
is allowed under one condition. The story must carry the following disclaimer,
clearly visible and in the same font size as the body of the text:
We warn you that the above story (letter, message) may contain false
or spurious information, fabricated under the pagan tradition of the "April
Fool's" joke. It must not be taken seriously. We apologise for any inconvenience
this story (letter, message) may cause to the reader.
We have decided against publishing a fabricated story with the above disclaimer,
but advise our readers to use it in case they are intending to perpetrate an
April Fool's joke. Just copy and paste the text into your April Fool's message.
If you have already sent out such a message it is advisable to send a second
message to the same person, quoting the original message with the disclaimer
added ("We warn you that our previous message...).
So no more jokes without the mandatory disclaimer. LT&V informs us, however,
that "meta-pranks" are allowed without the disclaimer. But we are
not sure what "meta-pranks" could mean.
Previous ChessBase pranks criticised by LT&V
We warn our readers that the stories listed may contain false or spurious
information, fabricated under the pagan tradition of the "April Fool's"
joke. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Bareev beats Anand 2-0 in first round Kriegspiel
After the Blindfold and Rapid tournaments in Monaco, on April 1st 2005 the
Kriegspiel section started. The main point about this variant of chess is
that players only get to see their own pieces, not those of their opponents.
They also do not know what moves the other side has made, so they have to
guess where the opponent's pieces are. Only the referee knows exactly the
real position of both sets of pieces. GM Evgeny Bareev started with a stunning
2-0 victory over Vishy Anand. How
the prank was perpetrated.
Alexei Shirov during a Kriegspiel game
– an 'intelligent' approach to chess
On April 1st 2004 we announced that a new chess program named Kimo
was due for release. It worked with chess knowledge derived from 20,000 master
games, which had been extensively analysed by the program, which drew heuristic
conclusions on the principles of chess: the value of the pieces in different
positions, their strengths and weaknesses, attacking and defensive motifs,
etc. Although it examined just two positions per second (as opposed to millions
in a traditional brute force search) it was able to hold its own against the
world's strongest programs. The story was modified in the article Kimo
– the full truth.
bionic chess interface
On April 1st 2003 we reported that the Brutus FPGA hardware project that ChessBase
was engaged in had been taken up by the US National Science Foundation and
other US defence agencies who had been working on a project to interface the
brain directly with computer equipment. The scientists working on the project
decided that the hippocampus, a portion of the temporal lobe, was the ideal
location for a "bionic interface". There was a vigorous recation
from our readers ('Please
don't touch my hippothingy!').
Laboratory rat with a chess bionic interface
Fischer move: the retractor
On April 1st 2002 we reported that the reclusive ex-world champion
Bobby Fischer has introduced a number of important innovations into the
game. After the Fischer Clock and Fischer Random Chess he is now proposing
a further change, the "Fischer move". It was presented to FIDE
and will come up for a vote at the Executive Council meeting in Dubai. Reactions.