The Silence of the Lambs

Время публикации: 11.05.2015 23:55 | Последнее обновление: 12.05.2015 17:30

Several years ago, a female chess player from a former Soviet republic, now an independent state, told me that she had won the national championship for women. I congratulated her and asked what her prize was. For first place in the women's national championship, with a big chess tradition, she was given ... an umbrella. When I asked her if she really had had to take part, given such blatant disrespect for the championship from the organizers, I received the answer: "It is prestigious!"

When the rain comes, at the exits from the underground stations in European cities (probably already in Russia too), poorly dressed men offer umbrellas for sale for 2-3 euros. I do not understand, what is so prestigious about working for many years to raise the standard of one's chess skill, spending ten days' hard work at the national championships, and finally winning in a fierce fight against one rivals, to be rewarded with an umbrella. And why do I remember this? Here's why.

In a few days in St. Petersburg, the Russian championship in rapid chess and blitz starts. The prize fund of the national championship in blitz is 90,000 rubles. This represents about a month's salary for a subway driver. In rapid chess the prize fund is 350,000 rubles. This represents about a month's salary for the chief of the medium-sized Moscow bank or a highly professional Moscow sales manager of tourist trips. None of the participants receive any conditions, and almost everyone has to pay an entry fee and all their own expenses for the trip and their stay in St. Petersburg.

Not wishing to offend those who have invested time and effort in the organization of these events, I will nonetheless give my assessment - for the championships of Russia, the country with the greatest chess traditions, a country where billionaires appear like mushrooms after the rain, a country where the President finds time to visit a match for the world chess crown, such prize funds in the national championships are, to put it mildly, more than modest.

Recently, a major political analyst compared the relationship between the current Russian elite and the people with the treatment of cows - it is desirable that they stand quietly in their stalls, give milk, breed and do not butt anyone. And in order to avoid butting, the cows need to be placated sometimes, and their conditions improved now and then in some small way.

The other day I was surprised to read that I am a "prominent fighter for the interests of the players." In fact, I publish about once every two years an article on the topic of chess, but if just such a rare chess and social activity gains me in the eyes of a number of my colleagues the reputation of "a prominent fighter for the interests of the players," then you can draw your own conclusions about how much the vast majority of players fight for their rights in general.

Well, I suddenly find myself to be "a prominent fighter".

Colleagues, when the cattle show resentment and remember their horns, their conditions get improved. With regard to this situation, I think that chess players should express their attitude to such prizes in the Russian championships with some sort of collective letter or even a boycott of the event. For if the people responsible for the financing of the championships decide that the behavior of the players resembles not cattle with horns, but meek and silent lambs, then it will not be long before the first prize in the Russian Blitz Championship is an umbrella.
Plus, of course, "great prestige."


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