Last night the new season of Survivor premiered, and once again we have a contestant claiming to be a chess player. Some of you might remember a guy named Marty a few years back who claimed to be a grandmaster. Then I went and checked and there are no grandmasters named Marty.
This time we have a contestant named Spencer who claims that he won the World Open in 2010. My first reaction was, “WTF? This again?” You can’t win the World Open without being at least an IM or something, and once again I’m pretty sure there aren’t any IM’s or GM’s named Spencer. On the other hand, the claim was pretty specific. He said the 2010 World Open, and most non-chess players wouldn’t even know that anything called the World Open exists. Also, he had no reason to lie. Marty made his bogus claim because he was trying to impress his tribemates, but in this case Spencer was talking to the camera and introducing himself. There were no other tribemates around and nothing to gain from lying.
I finally figured out that Spencer must have won a class prize at the World Open. Of course it wouldn’t make good television for him to say, “I won first prize in my rating class at the World Open.” Maybe he even said that and the producers told him, “No, you have to tell the camera that you won the World Open. Nobody is going to understand what winning first prize in your rating class means.”
Just to make sure, I checked this morning and yes, it’s true. Spencer Bledsoe tied for first in the Class A division of the World Open in 2010. He’s still active in chess, and in fact he played just last week in the U.S. Amateur Team Championship (North)! I wonder if he enjoyed his last week of not being a celebrity? Or maybe did he tell people that they would see him on Survivor real soon?
He seems like a pretty likeable guy, and as a real live chess player of course I’m going to root for him. The only thing I didn’t like was when he called himself a “genius.” I think that pretty much all chess players know that being an expert doesn’t make you a genius. But again, who knows, maybe the producers told him, “Give us a little trash talk.”
Speaking of trash talk, there’s one other thing I’m just delighted about. The second person eliminated in last night’s episode — who was, as I’m sure anyone who watched it will attest, eliminated in spectacularly stupid fashion — was a professional poker player! I’m always glad to see chess players defeat poker players.