A Short swing through Atlanta

by Davide Nastasio
4/17/2019 – In the beginning of March 2019, FIDE Vice-President GM Nigel Short, came to Atlanta for a brief visit to his daughter. Unfortunately his daughter had a big movie project in Greece, so he found himself stranded in Atlanta! But there was a happy ending: thanks to the Atlanta Chess community, he had a warm welcome in the Peach state. Kudos to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta (from now on abbreviated as CCSCATL) it was possible to organize a lecture, and a simul in record time! DAVIDE NASTASIO was there.

Greatest Hits Vol. 1 Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Nigel Short takes us on an electrifying journey through a very rich chess career, which saw him beat no less than twelve world champions. His experience in tournaments and matches all over the world – Short has visited a total of 89 countries – can be seen in the narratives that precede the games which he annotates with humour and instructive insights.


A Nigel Short interview

In preparation for the interview, I watched all episodes of Law & Order UK, to learn the typical English expressions like: "Fancy a cuppa" (translated in "Colonies English": Do you want a cup of tea?) or "Squid" (translation: Cockney slang for Quid [£1] — the British Pound) and of course I began to interject "mate" every other word, and listen to "God Save the Queen" (in chess it should be the King but let's leave it at that...) as a mantra during my daily walk with the snoring dog who lives with me.

(Insert gratuitous UK imagery here)

Apart from the light humour, I believe it's important to give voice to a newly FIDE elected official, who is doing a huge tour in order to expand the number of FIDE member countries, and of course to reinforce chess in all communities.

Watch the interview

Or, if you prefer, I've summarised some of the highlights below.

Nigel Short at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta

The newly minted FIDE Vice-President in the interview tell us how important his role is in changing things. He recalled how things went kind of astray in the 80s under Campomanes' Presidency. He admits Campomanes was a cunning politician, with good qualities, but he would bend the rules a little too much for his taste.

Short recounts the many positive developments in this short period since the last FIDE Congress, pointing to term limits as one example. One can no longer be FIDE President for a decade, as there is a maximum of two terms. Another is the abolition of proxies for voting purposes. And of course one of the biggest recent change is that FIDE has taken back control of the Candidates tournament and the World Championship match. This will bring enormous benefits to the actual World Champion, the future challenger, but most of all to the spectators who Short expects will see the improvements in the next cycle. 

Posing with Matt Thomas, chess-boxing world champion (85-90 Kg category)

Of course the Vice-President mentions also the efforts, and the long-term goal, of making chess part of the Olympics (it was recently rejected for 2020), in order to give some countries access to funds which will help to improve chess. And then of course there are the cuts to the commissions, in order to save money. FIDE is also trying to cut the fees paid, which could in turn increase the number of tournaments.

But in just six months there have been some massive practical improvements. The FIDE administration touts its ability to honour the motto: "Gens Una Sumus" by organising the World Rapid and Blitz championship, to give participants from all countries a chance to play.

Short tackled the question if women's titles should be abolished, and eventually a new "Expert" title added (before FIDE Master, for those players able to reach the rating of 2000). He is not in favour of having separate titles, because in his opinion they create confusion, often when a woman is called Grandmaster she is "only" a WGM which is quite a different level of play, and in his opinion encourages women to aim too low. Short feels there is clear discrimination against men, because we have a World Championship (open to all) and a Women's World Championship, but we don't have a Men's World championship. Short is more specific, offering examples of other sports which have dealt with similar issues. In his opinion — and he tries to remain neutral on this topic — one can have or men and women all together, or separate, but not both. This is definitely an issue which could be voted on democratically.

On the question of social and financial security for aging chess players, unfortunately it is not a top priority, and in Short's opinion one should be able to make a good living throughout their professional lives.

Asked to comment on emerging talents in India and China, and what is FIDE doing for helping emerging talents elsewhere, such as in Africa, Short who has been to Africa, mentioned many problems faced by chess players in Africa, like travelling costs, and a general lack of tournaments. FIDE historically has done poorly in Africa, in fact Short mentioned the Kasparov chess foundation having done more. This needs to be addressed, and they are trying to use some funds and resources for helping Africa. 

Los tres amigos! Many titled players came to see GM Short lecture, here we have from the left IM Perdomo, center GM Finegold, and on the Right GM Zapata

Another question should peak the curiosity of chess books collectors: Will we ever see a collection of games annotated by Short? He was quite vague about it, not promising anything in the near future. Instead, pivoting to the question of rating limits for a simul, like the ones imposed by Kasparov who does not like to have anyone over a 2000 rating let alone a Master, Nigel was quite more opinionated, saying it's a disgrace if someone believes himself to be one of the greatest players of all times, but is afraid of a 2200-rated player. He continued mentioning he just came from a simul where one of his opponents was an IM (2400), and he won all the games. He also added that to put an artificially low rating for a simul is no fun, it is like swatting flies. Unfortunately the interview was cut short, because Short needed to give a lecture

Chess players were taking seats, before the lecture

After the interview GM Short gave a lecture commenting the following game:


His impressive skill showed through. Every great player has a deep understanding of the game, and he posed questions to the audience in critical moments of the game, and also noted other games he played in the same opening, and how different opponents interpreted the same critical moments. But most of all he made the game come alive in front of our eyes, building up the tension of finding the right move or plan.

Varun Gadi, playing Nigel Short at the Simul

Then we had the simul, with a cap to 25 players. The simul began around 7 pm and finished a little after 11 pm. GM Short had White in all games, and opened with 1.e4 in some and with 1.c4 in others (for God and the Queen?). Here the few games I was able to gather thanks also to the help of IM Perdomo.


Short vs Cox and Perdomo with Orin Hudson

Left: GM Short playing Doug Cox
Right: IM Perdomo with Orrin Hudson who created a non-profit for teaching kids life lessons using chess

The importance of the event goes beyond a chess lecture, since we can find thousands of them on the internet, or a simul, which is also nothing new — if I'm not mistaken Fischer played something like 4000 simul games in one year. The real importance of the event is the chess players and chess community coming together like a family, to meet one of their own. Many players came out just to spend time at the chess club or see a player they only knew from games in books and never had the chance to meet in real life, to exchange few words, or share ideas as occurred during the lecture.

All of this was possible thanks to the vision of Karen Boyd, who opened the CCSCATL a couple of years ago. She began her chess journey thanks to her children, especially one of them, Archer, who is a passionate player.

Karen Boyd, and her son Archer

Without Karen's great imagination, and her will to overcome bureaucratic and daily management problems, we wouldn't have a place to host GM Short in Atlanta, and definitely not a space for a simul and a lecture on a big screen!

Chess boards and clocks are easily available, but also more menial things like a pen or a pencil to write down a game on nice scoresheets. And of course the coffee is always hot and ready to keep us fighting over the board for long hours. We all take these things for granted, but without someone working hard to provide them, we simply wouldn't have them. To play on a real chess board, face-to-face, and not only online, is an experience everyone should have in chess. The CCSCATL last year organised more than 100 events/tournaments, giving a chance for chess players of all ages to practice our beloved sport. GM Ben Finegold also gives lectures and lessons at the CCSCATL, making Georgia chess more rich thanks to his long-time career and chess mastery. Let's hope to see GM Short back in Atlanta soon!

Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Nigel Short takes us on an electrifying journey through a very rich chess career, which saw him beat no less than twelve world champions. His experience in tournaments and matches all over the world – Short has visited a total of 89 countries – can be seen in the narratives that precede the games which he annotates with humour and instructive insights.

For those who don't know Nigel Short, his two-volume Greatest Hits video series it is essential viewing. Short recalls important points of his career through games and entertaining anecdotes which will keep everyone interested till the end.

In general, Short's career has been quite successful, right from the beginning, when he beat Viktor Kortchnoi and Tigran Petrosian in simuls, up to the thorny road to the World Championship besting other challengers: Anatoly Karpov and Jan Timman, to fight for the top crown against Gerry Kasparov.

Here are the two games just mentioned, in which a young teenager, beats a former world champion, Petrosian, and Viktor the terrible!


Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."