07 April 2015

Controversial Keene

Let's return to Chessgames.com and the Odd Lie, last seen in Wesley So & Kenneth Rogoff. At the time of my 'Odd Lie' post, the last 'Most Kibitzing' entry on CG.com's Chess Statistics page was Raymond Keene. The English GM has since dropped off the list and been replaced by The Biographer Bistro, where the first entry (June 2011) explains,

This forum is for discussing chess history, especially in the context of improving the biographies that appear on most of our player pages. We dubbed it a "bistro" to emphasize the relaxed environment. This is not an exclusive club for Chessgames biographers or "serious historians" only. Everybody is invited to stop by to discuss chess history, ask questions, share knowledge, or even joke around.

Although that would be a fitting subject for a post on this blog, today I'll limit myself to the page on Keene. It starts (November 2003),

GM Raymond Keene is now better known as an author and businessman, but he had a powerful positional style based on Nimzowitsch combined with a tactician's eye for combinations.

then quickly switches to Keene's controversial history. Why controversial? A recent Announcement from the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog offers a summary (but note its date before jumping to conclusions on its purport). While some of Keene's alleged 'transgressions' stretch back more than 30 years, many are more recent, and there is no mention in the S&B post of his most controversial actions -- his role in the 1993 Kasparov - Short PCA Title Match and its aftermath. Back to Keene's CG.com page, the not-so-gentle GM walks on stage in June 2004.

Hi and greetings from member ray keene. thank you to all those who have looked at and enjoyed my games both wins and losses. however - having been alerted to the existence of this wonderful site i must say that some readers give far too much credence to jealous rivals - failed chess businessmen looking for someone to blame - people to whom i have had on occasion to refuse a job and embittered players who have peformed less well than they wanted and prefer to blame anyone but themselves!

His presence explains the popularity of the kibitzing page. For the next 10+ years, Keene chats with both fans and detractors, bringing to mind Em. Lasker's famous dictum that 'a fighter is a target as well as a shot'. While the conversation meanders through many topics of little interest to the chess player, it occasionally stops to focus on some aspect of chess history where Keene played a role. Some examples from the 5% of the (occasionally edited) material that I had time to read:-

kpage=48: shirov definitely turned down a match with kasparov because he did not like the money. personally i think this was not the best move. many people wd seize the chance for a match v kasparov even if there were no prize fund at all. any way this was shirovs decision and once he turned it down kasparov - rightly or wrongly - regarded his obligations to shirov as completed. i can assure you that kasparov was not avoiding shirov - his lifetime score against him is massive and kasparov has never lost.

kpage=52: [Fischer: "Stein is completely lost"] keene - stein was indeed me [...] i was very happy with my position but then someone informed me that bobby fischer was watching my game and i became very nervous and offered a draw!

kpage=61: prof richard eales the author of the history of chess and former head of the history dept at the university of kent canterbury [...] and married to my sister dr jacqueline eales

Earlier I was reminded that Keene's sister played a larger role in chess than being married to the author of 'Chess: The History of a Game'.

kpage=1: For some time I have seen postings concerning the dispute between David Levy and Ray Keene. I have read these with interest, since as many readers will know, I was married to David for 17 years and I am Ray 's sister. [...] Dr Jacqueline Eales, formerly Dr Jacqueline Levy

How many dimensions does chess have? Not nearly as many as its history. Perhaps not even as many as GM Keene.

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