Saturday, November 18, 2006

Burnie Chess Club Responds

A couple of days ago, we told you about a strange condition of entry used at the Burnie Shines Weekender held in Tasmania. There just had to be a reason for such a radical rule. We fired off an email to Phil Donnelly to find out more. Below is his response and we have his permission to cite verbatim.

Yes I agree the condition of entry would seem a bit odd if you didn’t know the reason for it which you obviously don’t.

We have a local self-professed chess expert and self-appointed scribe down here in Tasmania who has, in the past, written Chess reports that in my view, while being largely factually accurate, have included some subjective comments and/or omitted some relevant facts. In one particular event in Burnie a report was written that, again in my view, cast the Burnie Club and in particular one of its members (not me), in an unfavourable light. Again in my view needlessly negative and subjectively judgmental reporting of a Chess event is something that should be discouraged as it is likely to bring Chess into disrepute.

I put a proposal to the BCC that we should avoid this happening again by making it one of the conditions of entry to the Burnie Shines event that the Club reserved reporting rights to the event. This was accepted OK by the members.

In the event no entrant made any reference to or complaint (sic) about the restriction with the sole exception of the local scribe referred to above. He indicated on a public bulletin board sometime before the event that he was not unhappy with this condition. He also turned up to compete in the event at the last moment.

The event went off well and I reported it in the positive and favorable light that it merited. I also prepared the report that appeared in the local newspaper.

We're almost 100% certain that Mr Donnelly's "self-appointed scribe" is none other than Dr Kevin Bonham - Tasmanian Chess Association secretary, ACF senior selection coordinator and a regular guest to TCG.

We await Kevin's response and it would also be nice to get our hands on that report which apparently cast the Burnie CC and one of its members in an "unfavourable light".


Shaun Press said...

Years ago I when I was editing "Australian Chess Forum" I ran an editorial concerning FIDE's attempts at controlling the covereage of its events by enforcing copyright over the game scores. The editorial was a prediciton of the future of chess magazines if the plan came to pass. It was titled "The future of chess?" and consisted of a blank page.
Is this the sort of coverage that the Burnie Chess Club is after for its tournaments as well? Will tournament reports only be published after being approved by the "authorities"? Will grain harvests in the Ukraine be on track for another record yield?

Kevin Bonham said...

1. I completely agree with Amiel's supposition that the condition was aimed specifically at me.

2. The creation of such a condition was unnecessary since after Phil's reaction to my previous tournament report (see below) I had no intention of reporting on the tournament in the ACF Newsletter or on the TCA website. Phil could have checked this with me (if he could bring himself to actually communicate); instead he came up with a condition that was needlessly restrictive. For instance it means that Tony Sturges cannot place tournament results in the Mercury without the BCC's permission, and that I cannot annotate my games from the event online without permission, unless I do not say which event they are from. A consequence of this is that the BCC's tournament report lacks several key games that I would gladly supply and annotate for no charge without this ridiculous condition or if its application to me was revoked.

3. Ironically Phil's tournament report contains a glaring error of fact concerning one of my games, but because of the tournament condition I cannot say what that is publicly without the BCC's permission, and furthermore I am not permitted to contact Phil in any way so there is no way I can advise him of what it is. This again shows how Phil's tendency for applying clumsy solutions to problems without thinking through the potential downfalls of these solutions, just creates more problems!

4. The previous tournament report Phil objects to is here: . The comment about another player to which Phil takes such vicarious offence refers to a game in which an adult offered a draw to a junior he outrated by over 750 points, on about move 18 of a position with a great amount of play left in it, in which the adult was in no significant danger and probably better. I called this "a soft-ish middlegame draw". I am aware that Phil Donnelly may consider this comment more negative than a Tassie Liberal policy launch and tantamount to all-out nuclear war against the city of Burnie, but anyone else can see that such a comment is reasonable (whatever the reasons for the softish draw in question) and Phil is simply being silly and overprotective.

5. Phil is also selective and in my view gutless in his explanation of his reasons for disliking my Tasmanian Championships report. He omits to mention that he has also (at far greater length) taken exception to my claim that he "messed up the opening" against Dowden. Those who, like both Dowden and me, are very experienced in the ...Qc7 Winawer, can judge for themselves whether (after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Qg4 f5 8.Qh5+ g6), 9.Qh4? has any great merit even as an unsound unbalancing attempt, or would be likely to be played deliberately against a much higher rated player by someone knowing that 9.Qd1 is correct. Suffice to say chessbase has 245 games with 9.Qd1 (Spassky, Benjamin, two Polgars, Kamsky, Macieja, Sutovsky et al) and only four with 9.Qh4 (three white losses and a draw and the move not played by anyone of note) so my comment, in lieu of exhaustive analysis, was quite in order.

6. Concerns about "subjectively judgemental reporting ... likely to bring Chess [why this ridiculous capitalisation?] into disrepute" are nonsense since this is in fact what a great deal of chess tournament reporting consists of with very few cases of findings of disrepute being made as a result. Those who do have such findings made against them are usually those who severely disrupt tournaments or who are excessively abusive and unfactual in their approach to chess politics.

7. Phil states that he put a proposal to the BCC. I want details here Phil - who specifically did you put this condition to for BCC approval, and did you inform them all of the specific reason why that condition was there and specifically mention I was the sole target of it? I propose (and have discussed the matter with some other BCC members) that this condition, buried in the fine print, was "approved" without all those approving it being fully aware of the background.

8. Phil claims I indicated that I was "not unhappy" with his condition. This is a complete misrepresentation since my actual comment on chesschat was "While I am on that subject, Phil, there was no need for the tournament conditions for your upcoming weekender to limit the extent to which entrants could report on the tournament. Following your previous reaction I was more than happy to let you do all the "reporting" work for the ACF newsletter or TCA or BCC websites on any tournament run by you in future!" Saying that a condition is unnecessary is not the same as being "not unhappy" with it in my universe. I cannot vouch for Phil's.

9. Phil notes that I "turned up to compete in the event at the last moment." This is true although but for work commitments *and* the condition in question I would have made a decision to enter and done so much earlier. My entry does not mean I approved of the condition - just that I was willing to agree to abide by it in order to play in the event.

10. Phil's tournament condition has brought far more (in my view unjustified - see below) discredit on the BCC than anything I would say about any event in reporting the event itself ever could. Already on chesschat two posters from elsewhere in Australia have ridiculed the condition and a candidate for the presidency of another state association notes (in a personal capacity of course) "
Sounds like a great reason not to play in Burnie events." Well, Phil, your attempt to avoid criticism has been a stunning success now, hasn't it?

11. Above all, I do not wish anything I say here to reflect negatively on the Burnie Chess Club. The Burnie Club is (and has been since well before Phil was involved) a fantastic little club with an unusually strong player base both junior and senior for a city of such a small size. I have great respect and regard for all of its members except one. It has run many excellent events which I have reported on at length with no complaints from Phil. While Phil's energy and enthusiasm for running chess events is commendable, his propensity for solutions that are not merely outside the box but completely off the planet (eg his proposal for adjudication in the Tasmanian Championships 2006) continues to do the Club of which he is so, often needlessly, protective no favours whatsoever.

Disclaimer: This post represents the views of the author only, and not necessarily those of any organisation.

Anonymous said...

"Chess reports that in my view, while being largely factually accurate, have included some subjective comments and/or omitted some relevant facts." LOL, consider yourself lucky you haven't had to read Cordover's bulletins! Subjective chess report writers ... a common problem in chess. Phil's solution to the problem seems precious and counterproductive.

Matthew Sweeney said...

KB: Phil is also selective and in my view gutless in his explanation of his reasons for disliking my Tasmanian Championships report.

MS: You are the gutless one. You claim to be liberarian, you claim to be a free speacher. If you had an iota of moral fortitude, you would have NOT entered the event. You would have written a report and posted it. You put your-wanna-play-chess-self first, and put your ethical standards second.

There are people who you can stand shoulder to shoulder with, because you can rely on them to do to the honourable thing when push comes to shove. You are not one of them.

Anonymous said...

A response from Phil Donnelly.
I would suggest that the sole purpose of this otherwise pointless exercise has been to rake up some news for Amiel’s web page.
The TCA was made aware of the reasons that I was not happy with the report by Bonham. I repeat that there was no issue raised by anyone prior to or at the weekend regarding this reporting restriction.
I don’t like restrictions on people’s personal liberty and I agree with Shawn’s comment as a general rule, but I suggest that this case was exceptional. As Club President it is incumbent on me to protect the Club’s reputation. Now that we appear to have his agreement I would hope that there would be no further need for this sort of restriction.

As always Bonham’s reply is typically long-winded and issue clouding. I’ll make just a few comments on it here. 1st there was no attempt by me to omit anything. I had actually forgotten about his judgmental statement that I had messed up an opening. But now that you have reminded me… Who are you to make public subjective comment regarding anyone’s chess game? Your chess rating is sub-2000 ergo you are just another chess mug like all the other amateurs in Tas. (with the exception of Tony Dowden). The Burnie Shines tournament is not Linares and you are not GM Kevin Krapdov. Wake up to yourself mate!
This is not the Doberl Cup with a field of masters. Two of the entrant’s at the Burnie event had never recorded a chess game before. No one outside of Tassie is interested in your “Key games” and the interest in Tassie would be limited. I personally hate playing over your games – they lack imagination.!
But OK if you do insist on pontificating indiscriminately then I remind you your quote;
“Concerns about "subjectively judgemental reporting ... likely to bring Chess …. into disrepute are nonsense since this is in fact what a great deal of chess tournament reporting consists of ……"
And I remind you of a statement that I made on the ChessChat forum which was from memory something like;
“At an incident in an event in Hobart KB as arbiter reduced a small boy to tears. In my opinion he (Bonham) had over-reacted in dealing with the situation”
What’s the difference mate? I was reporting what I saw and expressed an opinion on it.
(Sorry I can’t provide the exact quotation I have no access to the site due to being banned for “defamation”.) Seems like 1 law for Bonham and one for everyone else.

Lastly I note that I have been called “gutless” in Bonham’s response yet again he implies cowardice on my part ie more defamation.

Anonymous, I can’t comment on your remark about David Cordover’s reporting of Chess events but I can say this. Mr. Cordover was initially responsible for the upsurge in Junior Chess in Tas. and still plays an important role in that regard. I have a lot of time for him because he has something to contribute, unlike our local No 1 Chess Mug.

Kevin Bonham said...

Hmmm, so much for Phil writing on ACCF, "it would be probably best if I do not make any further comment on the matter on your blog." Didn't take him long to change his mind about that one!

Phil claims there was no issue raised regarding the restriction - this has been debunked by my point 8, and in any case is spurious because I was in no position to raise objections with Phil directly, he having asked me not to contact him. Even chesschat wasn't an option in the weeks leading up to the event - he had got himself banned a few weeks out and appeared not to be reading.

Phil seems to think having a rating marginally below 2000 (and it will be even closer to that figure on the next list) somehow disqualifies me from commenting on the merit of an opening move. In these days where everyone who wants it has instant access to databases of grandmaster play, openings texts written by experts and superGM strength analytical tools such a view is outdated. It also happens that I have been playing 6...Qc7 for eleven years, and have played it 22 times in rated games (+15=3-4 with two of the losses to FMs). That comes out to a performance rating over 2000, and with the black pieces at that, so perhaps I have a little more clue about this line than some average marginally-sub-2000 who never plays it at all. So if Phil wishes to skip the unsound ad hominem attacks and debate the actual merits of my comments on his opening he will find me more than ready!

Phil claims my games lack imagination. It is true that I don't share his predeliction for frequently unsound coffee-house attacking, but this is not the view he held of me when he wrote of my game against Mihelcic (Tasmanian Championships 2000) that I had "outplayed Milan with aggressive and imaginative ideas", and I suspect I could find other examples to show that this view Phil claims to have of my play has blown in in the last several months along with various other negative revisions. In any case I have formally requested Phil's permission in his capacity as tournament director to publish my games from this event annotated - this request has been made on Chesschat. Publishing them would refute a serious factual error about one of them, so if Phil does not grant this permission I will know he does not care much if reporting of his event is not entirely factual.

Phil asks the difference between my subjective comments in my tournament reports and the rubbish he was suspended for chesschat from involving groundless claims that I made a junior cry at a tournament (in a game in which I had at one stage, as required by the Laws of Chess, penalised both players). There are many differences. Firstly my claim that Phil played a dud move can hardly harm his professional standing, and he has offered nothing but failed ad hominem attacks to refute it. Phil's rubbish about the previous incident, however, could potentially affect my reputation in one of my income sidelines (junior tournament direction and coaching, from which I now earn thousands of dollars per year). Phil completely refused to acknowledge any possible merit in alternative causes for the incident when they were put to him (such as that the arguments with the opponent may have caused the crying - or simply losing the game may have been a factor). Phil didn't even have basic facts of the incident (like what kind of draw claim was involved) straight in his initial nonsense about it - I had to help him out with his memory of it! There is thus a massive difference between subjective opinions about the merit of a move or draw offer and unsubstantiated hostile unfactual assertions about a person's competence as an arbiter.

Finally I am happy to accept Phil's word that he simply forgot that complaints about my assessment of his move had formed a large part of his objection to my tournament report a mere eight months ago. On that basis I retract "gutless" and instead note that Phil's memory for the motives displayed in his own rants is clearly not 100% reliable. In future he should check the contents of his past scribblings before attempting to characterise them in public. In any case we are now agreed on the fact that a part of Phil's objection to my report was that it criticised his play - his objection was never solely (and in my view never mainly) about defending others. In fact of Phil's objections to my tournament report, well over half by wordcount related either to my comments on Phil's game or my alleged failure to adequately flatter a tournament that Phil had just directed.

Being banned from chesschat does not prevent Phil from reading material there (you can still read chesschat as a guest), and furthermore his suspension expires within hours as I post - however the statements he is trying to quote have probably been deleted anyway. Clearly having said he wasn't intending to respond to me here he is now in some hurry to do so!

Lastly if Phil is so concerned about the reputation of his Club he needs to consider whether the #1 person it needs protecting from is himself! His various eccentric tournament conditions (both implemented and proposed) have done the Club's image in Australian chess circles far more harm than anything I have ever said, as demonstrated by numerous comments criticising them on chesschat. All he has from me is my agreement not to report on events that occurred at one (1) tournament I entered - at least until or unless the condition in question is relaxed or revoked. He should be now realising this was far more trouble than it was worth.

Matthew Sweeney drops in with the usual cheap shots. A libertarian (I assume he means this and not librarian) could quite readily accept that organisers of a tournament are entitled to set conditions, and could still choose to enter under such conditions, since libertarian views on free speech concern the extent to which *government* restricts it. The right of private organisations to restrict the free speech of those voluntarily joining them is in fact a consequence of, not an impediment to, libertarianism. I discussed this at length at
- too bad Matthew through his own unwise choices is not currently at liberty to join in that debate!

Matthew suggests I should have refused to enter but then reported on the event instead. Quite aside from the pointless travel costs, such an action would presumably have got me thrown out of the venue. But if he is suggesting my decision to play despite the condition showed a certain lack of moral strictness, I concur, and confess that had I not considered myself likely to make a net profit from the weekend, I would not have entered this particular tournament! :)

Anonymous said...

Doesnt Kevin sometimes work for Cordover in Tasmania?

Kevin Bonham said...

Anonymous (post 7) - yes, that's right; I've enjoyed working on several Chess Kids interschool events around the state over the last year as a freelance contractor, including remote locations such as Nubeena and Strahan and arbiting at the Chess Kids state finals (probably the biggest chess event ever staged in Tasmania - 148 players!)

David's excellent marketing and recruiting skills and enthusiasm for the events are of course the central causes of their success, but my modest role in them is ironic in view of the comments at the end of Phil's post. (I didn't initially respond to his claim that I have nothing to contribute as I had enough other junk to deal with and saw no risk of any sentient being taking it seriously.)

PS: very silly typo in my previous post; "for chesschat from" should of course read "from chesschat for".