13 August 2013

'Got to Find Me a Chess Blog!'

If writing is a solitary activity, blogging can be even more solitary, especially when no one is interested in what you write. The most solitary chess blogging topic must be the Chess Journalists of America (CJA). I can count the number of other blogs following that august group on my other thumb. Why august? That's the month they jump into action and announce their annual awards.

This year I was alerted to the awards announcement by Marsh Towers: CJA - Best Book of 2013.

"Best Book (paper-printed only) -- Winner: Amateur to IM by Jonathan Hawkins, nominated by Mongoose Press" • As the editor of this best-selling chess book I must declare an interest but it doesn't prevent me from congratulating Jonathan and Mongoose Press on this fine achievement.

That pretty much sums up the CJA awards process. Members nominate their own work and only people with a particular interest in that work pay any attention to the award. The list of all 2013 awards can be found on the Prize List for 2013 CJA Awards. Besides the annual book award, I'm interested in the journalist award, the art award, and the blog award.

The 'Chess Journalist of the Year' for 2013 went to Jamaal Abdul-Alim, 'nominated by Chess Life'. If you read Chess Life (CL), you've undoubtedly noticed his excellent articles, of which the most recent I could find was a book review of 'Fighting Chess with Hiikaru Nakamura', in the April 2013 issue.

As for the art award: 'Best Chess Art -- Winner: Rhino Chess by Frankie Butler, April 2013 Chess Life'. That's the same issue I mentioned above. I couldn't find a rhino picture, but I did find a hippo with a King on its nose, pictured to the left. Is this the winning work? If so, it was used to illustrate an article titled 'The Bill Wright Saint Louis Open APRIL 12-14 : A Saint Louis Tradition' by Mike Wilmering.

Maybe I've seen too much outstanding chess art on the web, because the photo doesn't strike any chords in me. Another art nominee -- the cover of the July 2012 CL showing members of the acclaimed IS 318 team holding giant chess pieces -- did even less for me. It must have been a substandard year for chess art.

The article on the Saint Louis Open was mainly about tourism in St. Louis, the current center of gravity for U.S. chess. The caption for the 'rhino' photo said,

The Saint Louis Zoo is one of the few free zoos in the nation and has been named #1 zoo by Zagat Survey's U.S. Family Travel Guide in association with Parenting magazine. The Zoo annually attracts three million visitors, who can see more than 19,000 wild animals.

On to the blog award. The last winner in the last group of categories ('The following categories are open only to online journalist [sic] and their websites. ELECTRONIC MEDIA:'), 'Best Chess Blog' went to Chess Book Reviews, by John Hartmann, whose blog's first post is dated January 2013: About this blog, and this reviewer. The next two posts were about the Amateur to IM book that won the CJA book award. Coincidence? Probably, but I'm not sure. The procedure for choosing the blog winner was explained in one of a series of posts about this year's U.S. Open, Rd 7: The Good Fight.

Frank Niro and Jeffrey Rolland [sic] have been playing a 12 game match across America, with this game the last in the series. The game was in its death throes when I was taking these pictures, so I got a chance to talk to them both and exchange information. Frank’s ears perked up when I mentioned the existence of this blog, and he scribbled down the URL. Sometimes chance meetings lead to good things. [...]

I also attended the Chess Journalists of America meeting in the afternoon session. I, of course, am only an amateur ‘journalist,’ but because of the increased blurring in information services between print and electronic media, and because I also write for the Nebraska state chess magazine, I thought I should check them out. Dan Lucas and Jen Shahade from Chess Life and Chess Life Online joined Nero [sic], Rolland and Al Lawrence at the head of the room, and the meeting served as a dual CJA and Publications Committee meeting.

CJA awards were handed out at the end of the meeting; much to my surprise and great embarrassment, this blog was named the Best Chess Blog. Apparently Nero [ahem] and Rolland had read the blog in its entirety during the few hours between our meeting and this meeting, and deemed it worthy of the award.

Indeed, there were no blogs listed on the July list of 2013 CJA Awards - Entries Received. Perhaps it would be better to eliminate the category completely.

There is more about Niro/Nero and Roland/Rolland on the home page of the CJA website...

11 April 2013: Interim President and Vice-President Approved by Board • Past Interim President Al Lawrence invited Frank Niro to serve as the new Interim CJA President and Jeff Roland to serve as the new Interim CJA Vice-President.

...along with links to bios of the two CJA officers. They have their work cut out for them. After the awards, the flagship publication of the CJA is The Chess Journalist, 'published quarterly'. The last issue was dated 'Fall 2011', and that issue appeared at some time in 2012. The origins of the woes besetting the group go back a few years. I won't repeat them now, but they can be found by following the link trail I set down in last year's post on the awards, 2012's Best Chess Blog, Chess Journalist, Chess Art.

It's easy to take potshots at a struggling organization, but I'm being sincere when I offer congratulations to all of the 2013 CJA award winners.


Hank Anzis said...

Hi Mark, There have been three issues of The Chess Journalist published since that last one listed on the web site. I have not received one since the 2012 Fall-Winter double issue. I don't know if any more were printed since then.

Michael Goeller said...

I used to nominate myself for the blog award, and would win, but I realized the whole award process is just so haphazard. The truly best in every category are rarely nominated, so the competition is not particularly "fierce." I thought I would nominate some of my true opponents, but you have to pay for each nomination, so that is rather discouraging. Not blogging much these days, I hardly thought it right to nominate myself. But there are generally lots of worthwhile blogs out there that would be better than most of the past winners.

I'm glad they have a blog award. I'm one who lobbied for it when I was a member. It is good that those who support chess with their blogs get some recognition -- since they generally don't get anything else beyond the satisfaction of sharing their ideas. But there has to be a better system for nominating people so that truly deserving nominees in each category get chosen.

I think what they need is for every member of the CJA to have 5 free nominees -- which could include nominating themselves in one category (you should have to pay to nominate yourself in four others) -- and perhaps then each would nominate at least 4 worthy publications.

Mark Weeks said...

For a reaction to my post from 'Chess Book Reviews', the winner of the 2013 blog award, see...

Eighty percent of success is showing up

...'I was a little surprised at the speed with which the backlash came.' Surprised that someone cares enough to comment?

BTW, the two comments preceding this one are from previous winners of the CJA blog award. - Mark