I may have to edit this post. Accessing a computer at this time of night normally comes back to bite me, I probably won't be able to see too well tomorrow.
Kevin Thurlow wrote:
There is a little story associated with the first photo of Bob in this tribute. I obtained it some years ago by scanning an old issue of Patzer
magazine. Having done so I obtained the permission of Bob, George Szaszvari (the magazine editor) and J Gakovic (the photographer). I believe I still have George's email renouncing all rights to the picture , the other permissions were verbal. I casually mentioned to someone at Athenaeum Chess Club that I had scanned Bob's photo. By the time this off the cuff comment had completed its circuit and returned to me, I was told that Bob was having a cancer scan! Bob did have health problems from time to time, as many will know; but this was bizarre.
I mentioned in a previous post that I was disappointed with the ChessCafé article on Bob: I still am. Let's look at it paragraph by paragraph.
In the first (!) paragraph one reads:
"Robert G. Wade OBE, FIDE" ,
Evidently the author has read on http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5045
the following "Incidentally, Bob's middle name was Grant, not Graham. I know it is given as Graham in some sources but he told me it was Grant."
It is given in the fifth eulogy on that page.
Actually no, it was Graham, you can see an image of his passport onhttp://www.middlesexchess.org.uk/Photos ... 201946.jpg
Bob's interlocutor either misheard, or fell for a joke, Bob had a playful sense of humour. I once teased Bob by deliberately offering the alternative spelling "Graeme", he patiently corrected me.
It really is not difficult to check out this sort of thing.
Let's turn to the second paragraph:
"In 1964, when I first met him, he was one of only four international masters in Britain (and no grandmasters) and he was the only one who tried to make a living from chess. (The other IMs were Jonathan Penrose, Cenek Kottnauer, and C. H. O’D. Alexander, who all had ‘normal’ jobs.)"
What about Harry Golombek?
"running chess classes at the workers’ educational establishment Morley College in Lambeth"
This is true, however, given that it has been wrongly stated elsewhere that Bob instituted them, it would have been better to have mentioned that Bob and Les Blackstock took over from Daniel Castello.
"Greek millionaires", some were even wealthier than that, it would have been useful to have mentioned "shipping" in the description. Indeed, one of them very generously sponsored the centenary tournament (held after one hundred and one
years) of the Athenaeum Chess Club (source the tournament bulletin). He also donated seven sets, valued at seventeen pounds, seven shillings and one pence, there were other donors too (source the 1968-69 accounts. The donations totalled seventy-nine pounds, two shillings and one pence). On the subject of sources where is the evidence that any lessons given by Bob constituted an important part of his income?
What I do know, from a reliable source, is that Bob cajoled the wealthier members of the club to sponsor a tournament; indeed the previously mentioned but unnamed by me Greek shipping tycoon was one of the organisers of the 1970 A Y Green tournament (source: letters dated 25th March 1970 and 31st March to Bob and sundry letters enclosing entry fees).
"Wade also helped Bobby Fischer prepare for his 1971 Candidates matches and especially the Spassky match by compiling a huge secret dossier of his opponent’s games."
Why not also mention that Fischer was upset at "The Games of Robert J. Fischer" jointly written with Kevin O'Connell, because it made it easier for Spassky's team to prepare before the 1972 match?
In the paragraph below the score of the endgame in Bob's draw against Fischer one reads: "I generally played about board six, partly because of the distractions of captaincy. After Bob on top board,Ron Harris and Keith Richardson (then busy winning the bronze medal in the seventh correspondence world championship) and another Batsford author, Les Blackstock, and usually Kevin O’Connell, as well as some unsung heroes such as a busy barrister who could be relied on for points around board nine."
Board six looks about right, not too low, assuming this list is accurate. For instance Les Blackstock had a grade of 208 in 1974 and Kevin O'Connell 197. The author's grade was not higher. The "busy barrister" was probably Steven Walsh. Why not say so? Max Fuller was a member of Athenaeum at around this time, if he played in that season (something I do not know at this point in time) then he would most certainly have played on a high board.
Under the heading "Bob’s early career" Tim Harding has written: "Bob’s achievements in chess were all the more remarkable because he grew up in wartime in one of the world’s most remote countries which had very little chess tradition, namely New Zealand. "
Simple arithmetic, to wit 1939 less 1921 gives eighteen years for Bob's age when the British Commonwealth entered the war. The reader is invited to decide for himself whether that means Bob "grew up in wartime". Bob was seriously ill during the war, spending a large part of it in a sanatorium. Perhaps Tim Harding was alluding to the febrile atmosphere of the 1930s; the Spanish Civil War, the invasion of Abyssinia, the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss and so on, but why not say so?
In the paragraph following the game Wade-Bennett there is: "This led to him persuading Sarapu to choose New Zealand instead of Australia as his place of resettlement (later becoming an IM) so it could be said that Bob organised his own replacement." Yes, but why not underline that this was an instance of Bob's kindness in trying to help others, at no benefit to himself?
The next paragraph, however, is an instance of lazy journalism at its worst. It seems to be a compendium of Internet rumours and wrongly remembered facts (sic). "At least in his youth, Bob also looked towards Moscow for his political views." One can see what Tim Harding is insinuating here, a cheap shot designed to appeal to an American audience, if he had done his homework he would be aware of the following:
'As for poor R. G. Wade, I don’t think he is a Communist, even though he now has a column in the Daily Worker. He is suffering the usual unfortunate fate of the fellow who tries to remain “in with everybody”!'
- BH Wood in Chess
, vol. 18, no. 209, February 1953, pp. 88–89.
BH Wood knew Bob well, better than Tim Harding in Bob's "youth", obviously. Bob and Barry Wood had worked together in FIDE, for instance.
"Dear Mr. Wood,
"The letter of Mr. G. G. Ferguson, vice-president of Chess Federation of Canada, to the Canadian Chess Chat, which you reproduce in February’s CHESS, is based on completely wrong facts. First it is wrongly assumed that I am a Communist or fellow-traveller."
- RG Wade in a letter to Chess
, vol. 18, no. 211, April 1953, p. 132.
The complete letter can be found at http://www.middlesexchess.org.uk/notes.htm#Note_9
Tim Harding writes:
"Around 1950, when the first FIDE titles were being awarded, there was much argument about who should get what on the basis of pre-war achievements. Bob strongly opposed the award of a title to Fedor Bohatirchuk who had been involved as a non-combatant..."
"strongly opposed" ? Tim Harding should read Bob's letter to Chess
in the link above. Specifically: "Ragozin, representing the U.S.S.R., objected to the granting of the title, pointing out that Bohatyrchuk was regarded as a traitor to his country and to the war-time allies. That is one side of the case. Personally I think that it is irrelevant and outside the jurisdiction of an international organisation concerned with chess. If Bohatyrchuk had a clear claim to the title of international master, the Soviet Union’s objections would have to be overruled. There cannot be the least doubt that Bohatyrchuk is far stronger than many who have been granted the title of international master."
From Canadian Chess Chat
, October 1952, pp 22-3:
"There were distinct hints of trouble over Canada's nomination of Bohatyrchuk for the title of international master. There is no issue on the question of his strength, but his actual international results are not impressive due to his not being a prize-winner in events that were colossally strong like Moscow, 1925, when the top players were Bogoljubow, Lasker and Capablanca. However, there is an underlying political issue as the U.S.S.R. regard Bohatirchuk as a renegade. It must be realized that a vote on the issue as to whether Bohatyrchuk is to be granted the title will resolve itself as follows:- against - all the Stalinist Communist countries plus those of the countries who are (a) unwilling to offend personal friends who are delegates from the above Communist countries, and (b) genuinely uncertain about the merits of the case, either politically or on strength as a chess player. It is quite impossible to have an objective discussion on this question. Your Federation must decide whether to split the F.I.D.E., without probable gain of principle, I personally judge him worthy of the title on the grounds of strength and do not wish to consider any political question. I would be in a minority."
Tim Harding concludes his paragraph on Bohatirchuk thus: "You can read some of the correspondence about this in chess magazines of the time." Well quite, perhaps he should take cognizance of his own advice!
It is a pity that no-one, as far as I am aware, has ever been allowed to read the FIDE minutes from that time.
Possibly Tim Harding has read the following, it can be found in Canadian Chess Chat
, December 1952, pp 10-12.
'The so-called “report” of the meandering Mr. Wade, which appeared in the October issue of Chess Chat, afforded this reader once again a renewed amusement at the continued antics of this chess mountebank. The latest instance of this, his chiding of the C.F.C. for nominating Doctor Bohatyrchuk for the title of International Master, is another example of that supercilious impertinence he consistently displays towards the C.F.C. – and also of the never failing sycophancy of his attitude par con-contra towards his friends, those "delegates" who represent the Communist countries - (the words are his own) whom he "does not wish to offend." In the manner of the dear old lady who reproaches the small boy who spoke out of turn, he tells us that "there were distinct hints of trouble" at the F.I.D.E. meeting as a result of our temerity in making this nomination, he also tells us that the evasion of a decision this year on this matter by the F.I.D.E., was due apparently to a fear of "splitting" the F.I.D.E. by displeasing the gas-house gang boys, the U.S.S.R. delegates and their more or less amiable stooges. He tells us that to vote for the nomination would have left him in a "minority" – as though there were never any virtues in minorities. Of course it is obvious that there would never be any danger of Wade being in a non-Communist minority in any case, especially in such an instance as this, where the Big Boys decided to make a propaganda issue "a la Russe” out of a simple matter.
'Wade somewhat clumsily admits that it would be impossible to get "an objective discussion” on the Bohatyrchuk matter, because although there is “no issue on the question of his strength," there IS an underlying political issue, viz., that the Russians regard Bohatirchuk as a "renegade.” Well, it may have been underlying, but Wade very maladroitly brought the dirty mess to the surface in as unconscious a manner as a circus buffoon. Wade's remark that Bohatyrchuk’s "actual international results are not impressive, due to his not being a prize-winner in events that were colossally strong, like Moscow, 1925,” is as piffling and fatuous a statement as even he could make. Was this the criterion applied to those who were granted the title sought for Bohatyrchuk? We know better. Mr. Wade turns to us and asks us, “Is it worth fighting?" He talks of OUR "having to decide whether to split the F.I.D.E. without probable gain of principle." Well, back in the days when I was the age of Wade, we were taught that principles were above expediency, and especially so in the case of a ruthless and vindictive bully. It is to be noted that nowhere does the ineffable Wade tell his “friends" from Moscow et al, that their actions are in danger of "splitting the F.I.D.E.” It is the old story of every international congress in which the Russians have taken part in the past twenty years at least, in any field of international operations whatever, there must be two sets of ethics, two sets of rules, and one almighty veto either in fact or in effect.
'Mr. Wade remarks to us pontifically enough, “One may view one’s participation as a member of the F.I.D.E. from a national viewpoint. The working of the F.I.D.E. must be based on an international viewpoint.” What a pity he could not have had the courage to tell the Communist delegates that in the F.I.D.E. meeting! Of course, we know why, and for what purpose, he neglected to do so, and saved up the superfluous advice just for us.
'Now, if all this means anything at all, it means that the Russians are abusing the F.I.D.E. for propaganda purposes, in the same manner they have every other international organization in which they have been given a place. There are hints of trouble, "because the Russians regard Bohatyrchuk as a renegade.” The myopic Mr. Wade does not apparently see here the "national viewpoint" which should be over-ruled by the “international viewpoint," neither would he have the courage or the moral fortitude to stand in the imagined minority he dreads so much, and tell the Russians they were endangering the F.I.D.E.
'Mr. Wade at some meetings of the F.I.D.E. has probably been the only English speaking delegate from the Commonwealth countries as distinct from England. His presence there and his peripatetic driftings over Europe give him the opportunity to be the perfect stooge for the Communist propagandists in the chess world. Is it surprising that the person who made the original notice of motion in the F.I.D.E. to deprive Canada of her zonal standing, was none other than this same R. G. Wade? Such a move comes with much more subtle effect from a stooge than from an outright antagonist. But Mr. Wade’s true intentions do not escape us in Canada. The time has come to tell Mr. Wade that he has tried for too long to deliver his little pills with the sugar-coating of international news of chess; that we are weary of his wares, and that he should find another outlet to peddle his particular kind of fish in. Doubtless he will wish to show his gratitude for the smirks of encouragement he gets from those whose puppet he has been and doubtless will be – let him find another channel in which to squirm. Canadian chess players as a whole do not like him more than he likes us, and we know where he stands so far as we are concerned.
'No matter how we may evaluate the chess ability of the Russians, we know how to evaluate also their petty vendetta declared against one of our own members, whose only crime appears to have been his refusal to live under a Russian Soviet rule of political gangsterism – that ideal state which makes even its chess masters political propagandists – owns them body and soul.
'There is the place Mr. Wade would find that idealistic subsidisation of the chess master that I know from his own conversation he propounds. Let him, who dies a thousand deaths every time anybody expresses an unkind thought about the Communist chess propagandists, take his courage in both hands, and go there. Russian culture would make another conquest and thoroughly deserve it. '
'G. G. Ferguson'
Note the ad hominem nature of the letter.
Now an extract from a letter in Canadian Chess Chat, August-September 1953,
pp 25: "In my opinion Mr. Wade, who loves to hear his own voice, is a very small man and very insignificant man." Anyone who knew Bob would instantly know that this characterisation was completely wrong, it was extremely unfair. The letter was written by Bernard Freedman, a former president of the Chess Federation of Canada, a F.I.D.E. Vice-President and Sec.-Director of the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association.
It should not be overlooked that this was taking place during the hysteria engendered by the Senator from Wisconsin, a gentlemen who would display an unopened brief case and assert it contained proof of communist conspiracy! Somehow McCarthy never did produce any evidence in public, but he destroyed lives. Some of the more extreme of right-wing North Americans look upon English Tories as communists!
Bob was naive in some of his dealings. To give an instance he tried to help chess players resettle after the war, to escape from the desolation in Europe. An approach on behalf of Paul Schmidt resulted in the following letter from B Freedman, it was dated 13 January 1951:
"Re. Paul Schmidt
"I received your letter of December 21st and am truly surprised at the contents. We in Canada do not appreciate anyone running down our Country and praising to the sky Communistic Countries and Systems.
"It is everyone’s right to have their own personal political views. It does, however, not make sense to me that you would recommend or help to recommend someone to enter Canada.
"I am afraid that the Canadian Immigration Authorities who are very strict on that subject would not endorse anybody who has the slightest inclination to Communism.
"There are many deserving people in Europe who would really appreciate an opportunity of coming to free Democratic Countries like Canada and the U.S.A.
Whatever Freedman's views on Bob, he should not have let them trump the question of Paul Schmidt emigrating to Canada. Conditions were desperate in Germany after the war. Freedman should have put personal prejudice aside.
Following the game against Tolush Tim Harding writes:
"In the 1950s and 1960s Bob was virtually the only western chess master willing to travel behind the ‘iron curtain’ to play in tournaments or act as paid arbiter. In 1963 and 1964 he went to Castro’s Cuba to compete in the early Capablanca Memorials, and he also played in the much stronger 1965 event. It was on these visits that he met the Argentinian-born revolutionary Che Guevara, with whom he contested numerous blitz games. "
Some would read this as proof (sic) of Bob's "communism": a non sequitur. That Bob played against Guevara is well known, what Bob told me was that Castro was glad to see the back of Guevara. Not a profound statement, a fact that I, along with many others, already knew. But, and I repeat myself, not evidence of communism. There are many who shout that Bob was a communist, unfortunately, what we have is a classic instance of mud sticking. There is no evidence to support this canard, Bob, for instance, was never a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. As he said at one of his eighteeth birthday parties, he wanted people to "think chess" - his one true love.
It is a pity that a couple of hours of that oxymoron "Internet research", faulty recollections and some well known games suffices for someone who played a considerable role in getting Tim Harding's books published.