Nigel Short is back – in the Guardian

9/13/2005 – Just six weeks ago we reported that the conservative Sunday Telegraph had axed their star chess correspondent in favour of a second poker column. We received a lot of despairing feedback from readers and fans. So here's the good news: Nigel Short is back, this time working for a liberal newspaper, which will be carrying more chess than ever before.

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For ten years Nigel Short has served the Sunday Telegraph, delivering one of the most provocative and entertaining chess columns in the world. In July he was given notice by Britain's oldest (right-wing) newspapers, after it was sold for £665 million to the billionaire Barclay brothers. It happened under the new editorial leadership of Sarah Sands, who is apparently not the greatest chess fan. In a rueful final episode of his column Nigel told the story.

Now the good news: Nigel Short has been snapped up by the liberal Guardian, which is showing an unprecedented commitment to chess. Take a look at their chess section and the proud announcement: "Today, Nigel Short, Britain's most successful player ever, starts a new career as this paper's chess columnist." The page holds links to multiple chess columns, by Leonard Barden and GM Jon Speelman, as well as by Guardian journalist Stephen Moss, who has done numerous chess stories in the past.

Nigel's first task is to try and transform Moss – who admits to being 'truly hopeless' – into a half-decent player. The story is told by Steven Moss, who visited Nigel in his summer residence in Greece. Moss gives us some background of the new Guardian columnist:

The life of a professional chess player is an arduous one. Actually, it is: a continuous round of cheap hotels and cut-throat tournaments for not much prize money. Like the game itself, it's a constant battle for survival. But Short has been lucky. He has earned enough in a 20-plus-year career to buy a flat in Athens – he has a Greek wife and two children – and this hideaway in the Peloponnese. He has been lucky because he is good: once rated third in the world, he challenged Garry Kasparov for the world championship in 1993 in a match, played in London, that briefly got chess on to live national television.

For the past ten years, [Short] has written an incisive column on chess for the Sunday Telegraph, and from today he brings his sharp mind, and even sharper opinions, to the Guardian, where he will write a weekly column and occasional longer articles on the characters who populate chess's fascinating world.

Not that everyone, hitherto, has quite appreciated the appeal. Chess as an international sport gets tucked away in tiny paragraphs in the press; the world's leading players. Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov, Peter Leko and Judit Polgar remain nothing more than exotic names. Until the all-too-mortal nature of the struggle over the chessboard is communicated, chess will continue to be jammed, in tiny print, between bowls and darts. That will be Short's demanding job to make chess come alive.

Nigel's first task is to try to teach Sephen Moss, who has have been playing chess for almost 40 years, without much success, how to play well. Emanuel Lasker once said that he could turn a novice into an expert in 100 hours of lessons. "Lasker never attempted to put his theory into practice," Moss writes, "Short will. He will play the role of one of those kung fu masters; I will be his willing pupil. Let's hope no one gets hurt." How the lessons go will be documented in a weekly column called "The Rookie" and will appear each Tuesday.

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Feedback from our readers

These letters were received after our article on the sacking of Nigel Short appeared on the ChessBase news page on July 28, 2005. We also received numerous personal messages which we passed on to Nigel but will not publish here. He thanks everyone for the good wishes and warm feelings they have shown towards him. Currently Nigel is in Moscow attending the Golden Blitz tournament.

Graham, Philips, Ely, UK
I would greatly appreciate if you could find some way of enabling this message to reach Nigel Short, but if not hopefully it will mean something to someone. I personally have greatly enjoyed Nigel's chess column for many years, it is rare that one can bring such eloquent language and beautiful dry wit to a newspaper column, and to lose one of the only remaining chess columns in British newspapers is a great tragedy. Thank you Nigel for giving a whole load of entertainment for so long, your column will be sorely missed.

John Finley, Austin, TX USA
Losing Nigel Short's weekly chess column would be a terrible shame. I'll certainly not bother with the DT if Nigel no longer writes for it.

Sherlock McNab, Columbia, SC USA
It was most disappointing to learn that Nigel Short's newspaper column has been cancelled. I would hope that some other publication will pick him up as a writer.

Archie Hart, Warrington, Cheshire, UK
I have cancelled my order for the Sunday Telegraph forthwith, Mr Short's chess column was the first feature I read. I know I am a chess enthusiast, but the action of a member of the "monsterous regimen of women" now at large in the British press is disgraceful to someone who has delivered a "quality product" for so long. A plague on the houses of Ms Sands and the Barclay Bros. It is a great pain that eliminates a voice (written) in the world of the chess. Lamentably people exist who think that between the dices and the chess there are no differences. That makes the money.

Mark Neuwirth, Brooklyn, New York
You're kidding right? This was the reason I read your newspaper.

Jason Lehfeldt, Sacramento, California, USA
I am dismayed with the Telegraph's recent decision to terminate the regular chess column by Nigel Short. It is difficult for me to express in strong enough terms how preposterous this decision is. In a sea of mediocre chess literature, rarely has there been a more honest or entertaining chess writer than Mr. Short. I am satisfied the editorial staff is fully unaware of quality of Mr. Short's column, or how fortunate the Telegraph was to have enjoyed his contributions over the past years. I have read that a second poker column will replace Mr. Short's writing on chess in future editions of the Telegraph. Undoubtedly, this decision is based on market analysis prepared by some group of smarmy accountants. How unfortunate that the new Telegraph ownership is more interested in the market than providing original quality content.

Lawrence Day, Toronto, Canada
Replacing a skill column, chess, with a luck column, poker, is not progress. Please reconsider.

William Lockwood, France
Disgraceful and very very sad. Nigel's column was a must-read. I thought he had siimply taken some well-earned vacation since it's very rare that his column is not available. I hope Nigel retains his rights to the material and considers publishing these columns in book format. They provide a wealth of insight and entertainment.

Fernando Vieira, Entroncamento
I´m very disappointed with the exclusion of GM Nigel Short from ST new plans. I was a regular reader and I sincerely hope he will find a new place to give us his excellent (even if I have a different opinion from him) comments and selected games! Thank you Mr. Short!

Vladimir Skokov, Russia
We need Nigel, return his column!

Luis, Argentina
Dear Telegraph, I am not a reader of your newspaper. Though I admitted your decision to rage the job to mr. Nigel Short atonish me and shows to the world and to inteligent world that its comunication medium lost bottom and makes shipcreak. For your benefit changes the decision.

Robert Muskath, London, England
I am simply awestruck at the news! It beggars belief that what in my opinion was one of the very best - perhaps THE best - chess columns in the world has been axed. That the chop was apparently administered by the newspaper's new proprietors without prior notice or subsequent explanation to its loyal readership adds insult to injury.

My switch several years ago from The Sunday Times to The Sunday Telegraph was due almost wholly to the Nigel Short column. My chief reason for staying with The Telegraph was also down to Nigel. Although the paper has much else to commend it, I doubt I will remain a regular reader in the absence of my favourite column. It was always a pleasure to read Nigel's expert annotations and draw from his deep understanding of the game and of the characters who play it at the highest level. The wit and irreverence he deployed were invariably entertaining. Reading his column over coffee on Sunday mornings was one of the highlights of my weekends. I have often sent copies of the column to friends around the world; they, too, have derived much satisfaction from Nigel's insight.

I feel depressed, even personally affronted, by the decision of the newspaper's new leadership to deprive me of the simple pleasure of savouring a chess column I had come to regard as an immutable fixture. Doubtless, many others also keenly feel a sense of loss: Nigel is highly respected not only in this country but internationally - and certainly in my hometown of Budapest, Hungary - as both a player and columnist. I have seen quotes from Nigel's Telegraph column in the leading Hungarian chess magazine.

While I have nothing against poker, and indeed was once a serious player, surely space can be found to reinstate Nigel's column. I have long held the view that one of the yardsticks by which one may measure the height of a society's civilisation is the quality of chess coverage afforded by its newspapers. Sadly, Great Britain has lost something of its leading status in the world press. As a deputy judge I have many interests outside chess, but I regard the termination of Nigel's column as a highly significant move.

I would urge those now at the helm of The Sunday Telegraph to reverse their decision. I have never before written such a letter; that I have been moved to do so on this occasion demonstrates the depth of my feeling on the subject. I do hope that with input from ChessBase and its other supporters, The Sunday Telegraph will soon be restored to its former position as the UK's greatest newspaper.

Michelle, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Dear Sarah Sands: Whoever you are, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not knowing who Nigel Short is, what his stature in both British Chess and World Chess is! Shame on you! There has never been an English player as strong as Nigel Short. He has tremendous fan support both in Britain and around the world. He has contributed an enormous amount to the growth and development of Chess. Nigel Short, for your information, is the only player in Enlish Chess history who has come remotely close to winning the World Chess crown. He defeated probably one of the strongest former World Champions - Anatoly Karpov - in a very interesting Candidate's match. It's unbelievable to me that anyone would be such a ninny as to think that POKER - and even a REDUNDANT poker column, is considered more important than what this rare and very gifted individual has to bring to millions of Chess fans around the world who love his column!

Chiedu Maduekwe, London UK
Hmm! He wrote an extremely provocative self-confession to an adulterous relationship with Tony Miles ex-wife in an article marking the great man's obituary and also some other articles expressing views open to misinterpretation as they seemed to be a bit on the far right. I always wondered how he managed to combine right wing views with liberal behaviour. I am not surprised some people watching in the wings got fed up.

Takaedza Chipanga, Zimbabwe
I am very sad Nigel Short was axed. I hope Mr Short soon finds another contract with a different paper if The Sunday Telegraph cannot retain him.I enjoyed the irony and diction generally.Its not everytime that a supergrandmaster writes a chess column ,most of the time we have to endure substandard reports from columnists who know next to nothing about real chess. I wish Mr Short well.

Kenneth Calitri, Mahwah, NJ USA
The sacking of Nigel Short, England's greatest player ever and a most enjoyable enginmatic writer, is an insult to the English public and chess world at large. Spurning centuries of chess history, tradition and culture can only be considered short-sighted. In England, the travails and triumphs of sportsman are greatly revered - win or lose - whether it be foreigners or their own. There is no greater mind challenge between two human beings than in chess. I am an avid chess player for 30 years and as much as I love playing No Limit Texas Hold'em - I say surely there must be room in this great paper for the greatest game mankind has ever created.

Manolis Tazartes, Athens, Greece
It is with great disappointment that I learned that Mr. Short's Sunday Column would be discontinued. Apart from the game selection and notes, his column offered to readers useful insight on the developments of modern chess. I hope many other readers share my view and that, in the not too distant future, Mr. Short's chess column will reappear in your newspaper.

Nima Aryan, Vancouver
In a world where the desire for instant gratification seems to rule, no wonder that chess has been replaced by poker!

Miquel Castells, Barcelona (Catalonia)
Is very sad to see that chess is less considerate by the media day after day. I was subscribed to Telegraph newsletter to read Nigel's columns. Now, I have no reason to follow my free subscription.

Floyd Boudreaux jr, Hanover, Md, USA
The unfortunate and, perhaps, not well thought out decision to drop Nigel Short's chess column is a sad revelation for countless thousands of chess fans around the world. Mr. Short's always entertaining and intellectual style of writing as well as a very well annotated chess game was always something I looked forward to. He as most people know is an international grandmaster and has long been among the game's elite and a former world championship contender. I remember several years ago, The New York Times took the fateful decision to drop the erudite GM Robert Byrne's chess column and both its cultural content and readership went down as a result. I hope you will strongly consider reinstating GM Short's column; thus bringing back more variety, style and intellectualism to the Telegraph, as well as happiness to Mr. Short's many fans.

Nathan Thomas, Southampton UK
Why did you axe Nigel Short's chess column... it was the only reason I bought the Telegraph?? Oh well it'll have to be the Times from now on.

Henrik Mortensen, Copenhagen - Denmark
It´s a pity that Nigel Shorts chess column is gone for good...

Mike Coultas, Melbourne
One of the saddest moments in chess history. Thankfully, there are quality players in chess who have other crafts. I looked forward so much to Nigel's sardonic and wry approach to life. His views amplified much of the world we live in. What a great pity.

Evis Perdikou, Glasgow
The Sunday Telegraph is a sh*t newspaper full of right wing crap. The only thing I read when I bought it was Nigel Shorts chess column as he has a bit of character about him. The half price vouchers, for a newspaper that cannot sell, that came through my letterbox this morning will go straight in the bin.

Jonathan Rowson, London, UK
The only reason I ever bought or even looked at the Sunday Telegraph was to read Nigel Short's chess column, and I suspect I am not alone. Whatever the subject, Nigel's weekly column was consistenly amusing as well as provocative(sometimes outrageously so) and instructive(as you would expect from a Grandmaster of his class and experience). I suspect the new editor may not be aware of how popular chess is these days, and that most of the people who enjoy reading the column are not particularly active players, but rather those who are intrigued by the game and enjoy looking at a diagram and trying to figure out what is going on. A few years ago, a survey found that more homes in the UK had chess sets than cricket bats. This quaint finding might simply reflect the fact that chess sets are cheaper and easier to store in the house, but it also hints at an untapped interest in the game and provides context for the fact the internet has harnessed the diffuse but widespread interest in the game. People who previously wanted to play but didn't find time to consistently go to the weekly meeing of a club can now play at any time of the day or night by going online. This means that there are more people(and no doubt many sunday telegraph readers!) taking an active interest in the game than ever before, even if they are not active players outside of their own homes. Axing this column was a collosal mistake! It was widely read, enjoyed, and talked about; not only by thousands of casual readers in the UK, but by chess fans all over the world. The Sunday Telegraph no longer holds any charm for this reader. If you bring back Nigel's column, you will bring back readers like me, and many, many more.

Perry Hlungwani, South Africa
Why kill such a wonderful game for another poker column?

Phil Miles, Saltburn by the Sea
This is sad news indeed. It was the only reason for buying the Sunday Telegraph; its only redeeming feature; its only distinguishing aspect. I thought that perhaps Nigel had taken a well earned holiday. I shall miss his wisdom, his insight, the interesting background inside information and his candid views. This is sad news indeed.

Helal Ahmed, Oldham
I am saddened to learn about the dismissal of Nigel Short from his post at the Daily Telegraph. As a chess fan it was his article that i always sought out every week. The style and ironic humour along with Nigel's added perspective into the game made it very gripping and entertaining as a article piece. There are many chess writers that write in the papers however they lack in the main inagination (i.e Raymond Keene) and are frankly to put it old school. In conclusion i would like to add that Nigel was a interesting personality and his mastery of english and unique use of it was impressive and his loss will be felt amongst chess fans worldwide.



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