Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

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O.G. Urcan
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Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by O.G. Urcan » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:18 pm

The thread on the recent Varsity match has developed into discussing why chess magazines have not informed their readers about Raymond Keene's plagiarism, and I'd like to suggest a new thread not only for that case but also for the more general question of why scandals involving chess literature are so rarely covered, or even mentioned.

Anyone who looks at Edward Winter's "Archives" page (http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/archives.html) will find many cases which have been ignored elsewhere:

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/indian.html

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/defirmian.html

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/kaspartov.html

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/copying.html

http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/coles.html.

I suppose British magazine editors could always try arguing that some of the scandals are from distant lands. The destruction of a Capablanca book by de Firmian concerns a US publication. The "Kaspartov" scam is a book in Spanish. The Coles piracy affair was by a Canadian publisher. But much of the copying and plagiarism concerns cases far closer to home.

In the whole field of scandals in chess literature, how do magazine editors decide what to tell, or not to tell, their readers? And do they even consider that plagiarism is serious? Or that the cases are unproven? Or simply inconvenient to discuss?

Looking forward to the discussion, and many thanks.

Olimpiu G. Urcan

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Mar 11, 2014 1:39 pm

O.G. Urcan wrote: In the whole field of scandals in chess literature, how do magazine editors decide what to tell, or not to tell, their readers?
In the other thread, John Saunders gives a fairly lengthy statement trying to explain the editor's dilemma. But is it too difficult to observe that the Times Chess Correspondent has been in Private Eye (again), or for a book review to note that much of the content is "repeats"?

Perhaps I could draw people's attention to a thread at chesspub.com . This is about what constitutes a novelty in the Kings Gambit, the problem being that with relatively few games, suggestions in magazines remain untested over the board. So there was an implied complaint that a recent book had used analysis from a magazine without crediting the author.

http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/Y ... 1393974487

The particular observation that caught my eye was this one.
chesspub (Stefan Buecker) wrote:I've discussed the question with a lawyer with experience in the field of copyright laws. He had already had a client who seriously thought about suing a chess company, and the core of the quarrel was closely chess-related. This lawyer explained that in any serious court case on something so specific, the court would have to rely on the assessment of independent experts. So if someone dares to sue a UK chess publisher, who would be considered an expert? Nobody knows for sure, but I guess there is a chance that the court would choose Raymond Keene.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:03 pm

Carl, we need a face-palm emoticon...

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Carl Hibbard
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Carl Hibbard » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:13 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Carl, we need a face-palm emoticon...
:roll:
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

Jonathan Rogers
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Tue Mar 11, 2014 2:54 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
O.G. Urcan wrote: In the whole field of scandals in chess literature, how do magazine editors decide what to tell, or not to tell, their readers?
In the other thread, John Saunders gives a fairly lengthy statement trying to explain the editor's dilemma. But is it too difficult to observe that the Times Chess Correspondent has been in Private Eye (again), or for a book review to note that much of the content is "repeats"?

Perhaps I could draw people's attention to a thread at chesspub.com . This is about what constitutes a novelty in the Kings Gambit, the problem being that with relatively few games, suggestions in magazines remain untested over the board. So there was an implied complaint that a recent book had used analysis from a magazine without crediting the author.

http://www.chesspub.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/Y ... 1393974487

The particular observation that caught my eye was this one.
chesspub (Stefan Buecker) wrote:I've discussed the question with a lawyer with experience in the field of copyright laws. He had already had a client who seriously thought about suing a chess company, and the core of the quarrel was closely chess-related. This lawyer explained that in any serious court case on something so specific, the court would have to rely on the assessment of independent experts. So if someone dares to sue a UK chess publisher, who would be considered an expert? Nobody knows for sure, but I guess there is a chance that the court would choose Raymond Keene.
In England the parties can choose their own expert witnesses, if needed at all. Without knowing what the specific issue was in the case Stefan refers to, it is obviously impossible to say whether expert assistance would be regarded as necessary in the same case in England, but judges do like to handle cases themselves if they can and there is a quintessentially English dislike of the prospect of "trial by expert".

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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Tue Mar 11, 2014 3:08 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
O.G. Urcan wrote: In the whole field of scandals in chess literature, how do magazine editors decide what to tell, or not to tell, their readers?
In the other thread, John Saunders gives a fairly lengthy statement trying to explain the editor's dilemma. But is it too difficult to observe that the Times Chess Correspondent has been in Private Eye (again), or for a book review to note that much of the content is "repeats"?

That does seem very low risk, doesn't it; I wonder whether the response of an editor might be "well, probably so, but it's easy for kibitizers to suggest that someone else should sacrifice his pieces"

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John Saunders
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by John Saunders » Tue Mar 11, 2014 5:26 pm

Presumably an editor producing a one-line reference to scandal would then be criticised for giving it cursory or inadequate coverage. The first piece of advice I was given by my predecessor at BCM was "if you think you can do this job without being damned, then you're a fool." He got that right. You're damned when you do and damned when you don't. I developed a fairly thick skin eventually (though another thread provides evidence that it has got thinner again since I retired).

Incidentally, on another point mentioned above, I believe I may have alluded to a lack of original material in certain authors' books from time to time when penning book reviews. (yes, including that one - I don't recall him minding unduly.) I recall one overseas GM whose book I had panned ringing up the shop and demanding to be given my home phone number in order to remonstrate with me directly. The shop manager refused to comply (I shall ever be in his debt). In fact, the very first phone call I ever fielded on my first day as BCM editor contained the words "legal action" uttered in a less than friendly manner by my interlocutor. Happily, m'learned friend was not called upon, and said person and I are now on amicable terms.

Perhaps it's time I wrote a James Herriot-style memoir, though "It Shouldn't Happen To a Chess Magazine Editor" seems an insufficiently snappy title.
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JustinHorton
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Mar 11, 2014 5:54 pm

From the other thread.
John Saunders wrote:These allegations are almost like Jarndyce and Jarndyce - they go back 30+ years


They don't. Indeed when I started publishing them, they went back a few weeks. The Times Little Book Of Chess Secrets came out several months after I started writing about plagiarism. And the articles concerned are overwhelmingly from the past two or three years.

What does go back thirty years is the unwillingness of the chess media to deal with their protagonist.
John Saunders wrote:Before the internet, Kingpin was the appropriate place for such material to go if it had to go anywhere


"If it had to go anywhere"? Does anybody else find this a surprising phrase?
John Saunders wrote:but after a while it became rather repetitive. A lot of people used to comment on this to me. It hasn't led to Kingpin thriving, has it? As far as I can see, its sporadic publication has dried up completely


Is the suggestion here that writing about chess scandal turns off the public and damaged Kingpin by reducing its audience? if so, I'm absolutely sure it's a specious suggestion.

For the record, every time we write about chess scandal, our hit count goes up.
John Saunders wrote:Chess mags can't waste time and resource seeking legal advice about whether something can be written or not. Bloggers can perhaps afford to be a bit braver (particularly when they live abroad) and they don't have to worry about the commercial imperative.


There is a small amount of truth in this, but not much and not enough. Bloggers have no more financial resources than do magazines. I live abroad, for what that's worth but my colleagues do not and nor does Jon Manley of Kingpin. Of course magazines have to worry about libel, but no more than bloggers do.

Now if magazines simply take the view "we won't deal with controversy, because we're scared" then they can do that, but of course that will have a deleterious effect on the standard of their journalism. Especially if this is their habit over decades.

But of course the complaint against the chess press isn't that they don't write about Ray Keene and plagiarism every week for six months. (Peter Farr's point here is well made.) It's that this stuff is invisible, or practically invisible. Which is bizarre. It's as if, say, the MPs' expenses scandal from a few years back had only appeared on the internet and all the newspapers had ignored it.

And it's not just Ray. The various CJ scandals were invisible too.

Nobody's expecting CHESS or the BCM to be Woodward and Bernstein. But when

(a) they have a long record of ignoring scandal ; AND
(b) when these scandals are written about elsewhere without attracting writs ; AND
(c) when those scandals are written about they attract a good deal of public interest

then what is one to say?

Obviously the chess press could do much better. Obviously they don't. And obviously, whatever the complexities of the matter, it's not because the alternative to saying nothing is "witch hunts and kangaroo courts".
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:14 pm

JustinHorton wrote: They don't. Indeed when I started publishing them, they went back a few weeks. .
I don't think the story was especially new. There had been the Donaldson case and the suspicion that much material was recycled had been around for years. Perhaps what is new is identifying the extent to which it applies to the newspaper and magazine columns and the extent to which the commentary appears to have previously featured in books by other authors. I'm guessing there's some newly available search tool which makes searching for previous near identical columns much easier.

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:18 pm

I respect John's position and fully see where he is coming from, but in the end agree with Justin. Ignoring elephants in the room - whether with penguin-like characteristics, those of quiz show panellists, or indeed alien-visited oriental despots - rarely works out well in the longer run.
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:21 pm

Roger - there had been Donaldson in 1991 (I think) and Winter/Spectator in 2008. Two examples in seventeen years: but not dozens and dozens of columns in a relatively short period. There's no comparison (serious though the earlier examples were).

(Imagine, say, somebody being caught speeding twice in seventeen years. Now imagine them being caught over a hundred times in three years. I think we'd think it was an offence of a whole different order of magnitude, even though we already knew of what the driver was capable. Or pick your own comparison!)
Last edited by JustinHorton on Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:25 pm

JustinHorton wrote:there had been Donaldson in 1991 (I think) and Winter/Spectator in 2008.
Has it actually been tested that all the columns between 1991 and 2008 were totally original? I seem to think that late December and early January always marked material about Hastings and the July/August period, the British Championships.

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JustinHorton
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:29 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
JustinHorton wrote:there had been Donaldson in 1991 (I think) and Winter/Spectator in 2008.
Has it actually been tested that all the columns between 1991 and 2008 were totally original? I seem to think that late December and early January always marked material about Hastings and the July/August period, the British Championships.
Oh, it's been tested and it isn't. Lots of stuff is recycled and you may see some of these over the period to come if you look in the right places!

But it's practically all recycling rather than plagiarism. It's my view that being allowed to get away with the first on a grand scale led eventually to the other on a similar scale.
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John Saunders
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by John Saunders » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:33 pm

It could be explained by different audiences. Perhaps your blog readers are titillated by juicy scandal, which they get free from you and your buddies. Readers of printed magazines prefer to get value for money in the shape of quality articles and features prepared by titled players, regular columns and good quality photos, etc. They may be turned off by chess politics. In fact, there is no 'may' about it: we know this to be true. CHESS Magazine commissioned a readers' survey in its February issue and Malcolm revealed in his March editorial that paying subscribers readers really didn't want chess politics. (As it happens, they got some chess politics anyway in March - two pages on the Paulson affair.)
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Re: Chess magazines' coverage of chess literature scandals

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:36 pm

John Saunders wrote:It could be explained by different audiences. Perhaps your blog readers are titillated by juicy scandal)
I don't think anybody is "titillated" by plagiarism.
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