In these days of social networking sites, one often gets one’s first news via Twitter. Thus it was that, this morning, I stumbled bleary-eyed out of bed, grabbed a coffee and sat down in front of the computer screen, to find out what is happening in the world. One of the first tweets I saw was the following by the ECF President, CJ de Mooi:

“I will be doing a nude photoshoot for this year’s Naked Charity issue of Gay Times – order your copy now!”

Er, excuse me?? Shome mishtake, shurely, as they say in Private Eye? Is it April 1st? Alas, no, it is September 21st. Am I in Amsterdam? Have I been on the wacky baccy? No, I am still safely ensconced in Rochester, and as much of a smoking virgin as ever. No, there is no mistake – the ECF President is planning to appear naked, in a homosexual magazine.

Now, I have discussed the issue of CJ de Mooi’s tenure of the ECF Presidency in a previous blog piece, Storm in a Tee-Shirt. He has been a remarkably active President, who has energised the federation in a way that none of his predecessors ever could.  No argument about that. But the trouble is, chess does not know where to draw the line. Such is the penury of the chess world that anyone who shows the slightest sign of putting, or bringing, money into chess, is likely to be received with a gratitude that knows no bounds.

The new ECF Director of Women’s Chess struts her stuff. (Photo:

One only has to look at FIDE to see that. For the past decade or more, it has been run by a President who is alleged to have rigged elections, arranged the murder of political opponents, and embezzled countless billions from his country’s government. He has reduced the chess world to a laughing stock by befriending dictators and boasting of his alien abduction experiences. He has also destroyed the quality of top-class chess, by speeding up time-limits so as to ruin endgame play, has defaulted players for not being sat at the board, arms folded and facing the front, when the bell goes for the start of the round, and has demanded that they stand around, peeing into plastic bottles, in the name of drug-testing. But none of this matters, it seems. Few in the chess world care a fig about all of these things, because he has put plenty of money into running the world chess championship. For 99% of the inhabitants of the chess world, that is all that matters. Dignity is  just something that happens to other people.

“That’s the worst-looking hanging pawn I’ve ever seen!” (Photo: minneapolis

And now we have a similar scenario unfolding in British chess. Having been such a breath of fresh air to begin with, CJ’s antics are becoming ever more outrageous. And, of course, that is the problem with the world of PR. In order to generate publicity, one’s stunts have to be more and more shocking. Each new series of Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing has to feature even more ludicrous and controversial events than the last, else it will fail to maintain its place in the tabloid headlines. Once one starts down the slippery slope of selling one’s soul for money and PR, there is no limit. As the wise old bird Lou Mannerheim says to young broker Bud Fox, in the film Wall Street, “You can’t get a little bit pregnant, son!”.

It has been interesting having a professional self-publicist as ECF President, but after two years, it is now important that the experiment is ended, while British chess still retains a vestige of self-respect.  If not, we can expect the game to be dragged down further and  further, as our PR-hungry President engages in ever more tawdry escapades, in order to boost his TV image as the D-list celebrity brainbox, the Tesco’s own-label cheap equivalent of Stephen Fry or Carol Vorderman.

 “Got a soul to sell? Top prices paid! Text “Faust” to 00666 or e-mail!”

British chess was once run by people of such class as Sir Stuart Milner-Barry. Now it’s run by someone, who boasts about appearing in a pornographic magazine, without so much as a doubled pawn to cover his embarrassment. The ECF urgently needs to recover some dignity, although I have little confidence that the numpties who run it will take any action to do so.

On second thoughts, perhaps it not dignity that the ECF needs. It’s Dignitas.

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