Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (88)

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8/12/2012 – ‘Unspecific accusations of dishonesty concerning chess players will result in an international news story. Specific proof of dishonesty concerning chess writers will result in international silence.’ The Editor of Chess Notes made that observation in an article here last year. Now, he ponders why so many people keep quiet even when the facts are clear-cut in some truly shocking cases.

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Chess Explorations (88)

By Edward Winter

In January 2011, at the height of yet another alleged cheating scandal which was supposedly ‘rocking the chess world’, we commented in a Chess Explorations article:

‘Unspecific accusations of dishonesty concerning chess players will result in an international news story. Specific proof of dishonesty concerning chess writers will result in international silence.’

Since then, nothing has changed, of course. For instance, in December 2011 (C.N. 7427) a correspondent, Rick Kennedy (Columbus, OH, USA), pointed out cases of plagiarism in Paul Morphy: Confederate Spy by Stan Vaughan (Milwaukee, 2010).

At random we opened the book on page 133 and found that whole chunks of text had been lifted from the website Exploring Toledo. It was by no means an isolated instance.

But does the chess world care what appears in print? There was certainly no outcry over, for example, the action of a Spanish publisher (Ediciones Altosa of Madrid) which duped the public by bringing out a beginners’ book with authorship ascribed to ‘Garry Kaspartov’. The volume had nothing whatsoever to do with Kasparov, but was simply exploiting his name.

See The Garry Kaspartov Scam.

Nor was disgust expressed over the Canadian publisher Coles, whose practices included reproducing Capablanca’s Chess Fundamentals with a change of title to Chess Strategy and ascribing authorship to the fictitious ‘Frank Eagan’.

See A Publishing Scandal.

As mentioned in C.N. 7743, excessive copying is rife in the chess world, but outrage about such behaviour is not. A case that has caused no ripples of any kind was set out in C.N. 7237, concerning Alles über Schach by Michael Ehn and Hugo Kastner (Hanover, 2010).

As regards outright plagiarism, our article Copying was able to mention only one case, in the early 1990s, where proper redress was achieved (a financial settlement of $3,000 to John Donaldson after Raymond Keene had plagiarized his openings analysis in The Complete Book of Gambits). Even after the settlement, however, virtually all magazine editors and journalists kept obligingly quiet about the matter.

The requisite lessons were thus not learned, and in 2008 it was our turn to be Raymond Keene’s victim, in the Guinness World Records affair. (An account is also to be found in ‘It’s Only Chess’ by Justin Horton, published in the Autumn 2009 issue of Kingpin.)

But what exactly can, or should, the victim of plagiarism do? For our part, on 11 October 2008 we sent the following letter by registered post and e-mail to the then editor of The Spectator (London), Matthew d’Ancona:

‘Dear Mr d’Ancona,

May I advise you that over one third of the chess article by Mr Raymond Keene published on page 64 of The Spectator, 7 June 2008 was simply copied, word for word, from what I wrote some two years ago.

The following links to my Chess Notes webpage provide the facts:

At no stage have I given permission for my writing to appear under Mr Keene’s name.

Thank you very much in advance for informing me of your proposal for settling this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Edward Winter.’

No reply of any kind was received, and we concluded that the only way of dealing with plagiarists and other reprobates is to give their conduct maximum repeated public exposure. Hence the present article, and there will be more.

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All ChessBase articles by Edward Winter

Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over 7,750 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989). In 2011 a paperback edition was issued.

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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