Nigel Short axed, future world champion survives

7/28/2005 – For ten years Nigel Short has written one of the most provocative and entertaining chess columns in the world – in the Sunday Telegraph. Now the newspaper, under new ownership, has sacked their star columnist. In the "final episode" Nigel tells us how he recently almost changed the path of chess history.

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In late June The Daily Telegraph, one of Britain's oldest (right-wing) newspapers was sold for £665 million to the billionaire Barclay brothers, Sir David and Frederick, who already own the London Ritz and a number of newspapers in Scotland. Initially this had no repercussions for the Sunday paper's chess column of Nigel Short, who was in fact assured by the editor, Dominic Lawson, that he was certain to be retained. Lawson is an old friend and chess enthusiast, who wrote a book with Nigel on his 1993 match against Garry Kasparov.

But then Lawson himself got fired and replaced by his deputy editor, Sarah Sands, who was put in charge of "reviewing the style and content of the Sunday Telegraph and its supplements." Apparently Ms Sands is not a great chess fan, since the Nigel Short column was soon terminated. "I got axed," said Nigel, and noted ruefully that his column had been replaced by a second poker column. If you think that the decision of the Telegraph editorial board was unwise you can write to stletters@telegraph.co.uk. Or send us your opinion:

Feedback on the termination of Nigel Short's column in the Sunday Telegraph

The "final episode" of Nigel's column in the Telegraph appeared on July 10th and is still available to read in the newspaper's archives. It describes a harrowing car crash which almost changed the course of chess history. Pictures are supplied by us below. But let Nigel first tell the story in his own words...

The following are excerpts from the final Sunday Telegraph column by Nigel Short. The link at the bottom leads you to the full story, each of which contains a game annotated by the author. Note that you have to register, free of charge, to read the full columns. This entails giving an email address and a password for future logins.

In May, while driving back from Messinia to Athens after celebrating the Orthodox Easter, my car was struck by an oncoming vehicle which had skidded uncontrollably off a wet bend. The force of the impact knocked both vehicles off the road. My car was a write-off, but fortunately the 15-year-old Ukrainian boy who had been in the front seat suffered only minor cuts. His mother and I clambered out unscathed. A couple of days later this boy, Sergey Karjakin, began an elite junior chess tournament in Kirishi, Russia. After a shaky start (not surprising, given his recent trauma) he cruised to a comfortable victory.


The wrecked car, minutes after the accident (Photo: Tatiana Karjakina)

After the accident I spoke to my friend, grandmaster Stelios Halkias from Thessaloniki. I said that I had almost changed the path of chess history by allowing the future World Champion to be killed while in my care. “Ha, ha, ha – he is not that good,” came the reply. Stelios ought to have remembered that Nemesis is a Greek goddess. Sure enough, a few weeks later he was soundly thrashed when he met Karjakin in the second round of the European Championship in Warsaw, Poland. Indeed Karjakin got off to a brilliant start, storming into the lead, but was pegged back by three late losses (curiously all to fellow countrymen). None the less his performance sufficed for a third-placed finish – very impressive and bodes well for the future.

Karjakin first rose to international prominence as the 11-year-old (!) analyst of Ruslan Ponomariov. The following year he became the youngest grandmaster in history – although frankly I consider such records, which are open to manipulation, have little intrinsic worth these days. I would much rather believe the evidence of my own eyes, and I can tell you, after working with him for a fortnight, that he is mightily talented. You’d better watch out.

The following game against the “veteran” Teimour Radjabov (aged 18), had a important bearing on the final standings. The Azeri has not exactly trod water since defeating Kasparov with Black as a 15-year-old, but has been relatively subdued of late. In a rather peculiar interview a while ago, Radjabov alleged that the great Russian had been hampering his progress. One presumes, now that Kasparov has retired, he will be free to sweep all before him. Anyway, despite this defeat, he came back strongly to finish in second place, behind Dieter Liviu-Nisipeanu of Romania.


The crash

When we heard about the car crash and the peril it had put a future world champion into we contacted Sergey Karjakin and his family to ask for pictures of their stay in Greece. The disconcertingly youthful mother of the lad, Tatiana Karjakina, spent an evening transmitting her pictures to us from Ukraine, using a painfully slow Internet connection. We thank you for this extraordinary effort, Tanya!


Tatiana and Sergey Karjakin (in Hamburg last year)


On Mount Lykavitos, in the centre of Athens (where Nigel primarily resides) at the start of a serious chess working session


Details of the construction work on the Parthenon – 2,500 years and they are still not finished!


The treasures of Greece – and of the chess world!


The six famous karyatids (left of centre) of the Erechtheum on the Acropolis


The Pentelic marble masonry provides a convenient place for repose

The view from just outside Nigel’s village of Iameia, Messinia, across the bay to Mount Taygettos, in Mani. Here Nigel has a dacha, or olive farm, as he prefers to call it, and it is where he and Sergey spent a few weeks in May working on chess.

Incidentally, Tanya drew our attention to a strange appearance in the previous picture. We bring you the section in the original resolution.

And enlarged and enhanced for greater clarity. We think it is a gull, which would be hardly surprising in this kind of environment. Tanya, on the other hand, does not rule out the possibility of an alien spacecraft. We leave you to decide: is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a UFO?


Nigel and Sergey on "Karjakin beach", which was favored by the Ukraine chess wonder, in spite of its rather remote location.


With Nigel's son Nicholas Darwin


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