The executives of chess have the unanimous opinion that a top GM should appear “suited up” at the chessboard (get suited or get booted!). And absolutely not in shorts. But who appeared in shorts for the first time? None other than the current FIDE vice-president Nigel Short
In 1987, an interzonal tournament was held in Subotica Yugoslavia. To mention a only a few, former world champions Mikhal Tal and Vassily Smyslov were also playing, besides Nigel, only 22 years old in those days. The Hungarian Gyula Sax took first place on Sonnenborger Berger, but both Nigel and Jonathan Speelman ended on 10,5 points and they all went through to the candidate matches. The behaviour of the other Hungarian, Zoltan Ribli, was quite remarkable. It was bloody hot and sticky in Subotica, so Short appeared in shorts. Ribli told chief arbiter Milos Petronic, that he refused to play against Short in shorts, but in the end he did not survive Short’s Najdorf variation. Ribli also refused to play a tiebreak against Tal. The very friendly Milos solved everything smoothly.
Back up to date, at the FIDE World Cup in Tiblisi Georgia 2017 something completely different happened. The Canadian GM Anton Kovyalev beat Vishy Anand in the 2nd round (see diagram).
When I look at the pawn on b7, it reminds me of a Chuck Berry song: No particular place to go¨ and it will never become a ¨Little Queenie¨ It must have been very hot over there, both are dressed for summer, Anton even in shorts. In the third round Anton had to face the GM Maxim Rhodstein, and was still wearing the same shorts. Only then chief arbiter Mr Delega asked the Canadian to wear something different.
That advice went unheeded, so Zurab Azmaiparishvili decided to step in, being the organizer and member of the appeals committee. However, subtlety is not his strong suit: he says to Anton: “You are dressed like a gipsy” Were Zurab and the Greek, Makrapoulos, not also members of the appeals committee during the “toiletgate” match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselein Topalov? Certainly, and commentator Nigel Short stated, somewhere in a far away hotel, that they did little else than collect their fees and expenses money. At least in Tiblisi Zurab was doing something. But telling a player this in this way 10 minutes before the game?? Not exactly good for the concentration! And what role did the fact, that Anton was due to face world champion Magnus Carlsen in the next round play? To confront Magnus with such a shabby opponent, apparently completely impossible! Levon Aronian, who went on to win the first prize of $ 120,000, was spotted in T-shirt and jeans. But Levon is a big shot, and they do not dare disturb a player of that stature. Anyway, Anton left the tournament, completely upset.
In the commentary box Ivan Sokolov was accompanied by WGM Keti Tsatsalashvil, (gender balance is the norm these days). Let us hear what Ivan had to say about the matter: “I was always strongly supportive of the dress code. Why? Because if you are dressed like a street musician, you should expect to be paid like one. If you play chess for eight-nine days and get paid for example $15,000, you should be dressed accordingly.”
Now I know a street musician, who likes to perform in shorts: Eric Clapton. Estimated fortune $20m. Playing for eight-nine days, $15k is a tiny tip for Eric. He doesn’t even open his guitar case for that.
Jacques Jambon will produce an image column on a daily basis during the Chess Festival, where text and pictures will give you a surprising vision of the chess world, in his own words and through the eyes of a person who has seen it all (and may make you feel the same). He does not sit on the fence, run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. He manages to combine a romantic style with an eye for the painful truth about that twilight world, where grandmasters and patzers meet. Jambon is not only a chessplayer but also erstwhile reporter for the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (a northern newspaper), anarchistic enemy of the state, goal- and, barkeeper, poet,-fashion icon, (the list goes on).
Important to know: the reflections of Ham are not automatically shared by the tournament organization. The organizers tried their very best to contact the photographers and ask permission for using their pictures. If necessary, please contact us.