Olympiad Coverage in the New York Times

by admin on September 14, 2016

Here’s the good news: the New York Times had an article about the U.S. gold medal in the 2016 Chess Olympiad.

Here’s the bad news: the New York Times had an article about the U.S. gold medal in the 2016 Chess Olympiad.

What do I mean? Well, first read the article, “U.S. Wins Gold at Chess Olympiad With Help of Imported Talent,” here.

It took me three Facebook posts, but I finally figured out why this article bugs me so much. It takes an issue that Internet trolls were talking about — the idea that America allegedly “bought” its championship — and makes it into the primary focus of the article. Not a word about the games themselves, or about how dramatic the final round was, or the crazy whiplash effect when it first appeared the U.S. had lost on tiebreaks and then it turned out they had won. Nothing about the valiant second-place team, Ukraine, which had a performance that would have won any previous Olympiad but did not win this one. Nothing about the fact that many chess masters have been coming to the U.S. for many years, and they do it without anybody paying for them or guaranteeing them spots on the national team. They do it because of the opportunities to play in big tournaments. Yes, some make bigger money than they would have back home, but they earn it by finishing in first place in our tournaments. It’s not just given to them.

Frankly, that is something that makes America different from most other countries. We are a nation of immigrants. Always have been and (assuming Donald Trump doesn’t get his way) always will be.

There are a couple things that I want to praise the author, Dylan Loeb McClain, for. First, he explained the facts about the one person who could be considered “bought,” in some sense of the word. That would be Fabiano Caruana, our first board. McClain explains that Rex Sinquefield, the wealthy chess patron, played a very active role (including providing financial help) in persuading Caruana to come back to America. This was interesting and I appreciate the fact that McClain went to the trouble of interviewing Sinquefield.

But to call Caruana “imported talent” is just ludicrous. He’s a native-born American citizen, who started playing chess as a kid in the U.S. He has every right to play for the U.S. team.

As for the other so-called “imported talent,” Wesley So, he wasn’t imported. That implies the existence of an importer. So chose of his own accord to come to the U.S. and nobody paid for him to do it. That’s the other good thing McClain does in the article — he points out that Sinquefield had nothing to do with So’s decision, only Caruana’s.

The other three players — Hikaru Nakamura, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson — have spent essentially their whole lives here, and they are not the least bit imported or foreign.

In fact, one thing that’s kind of interesting about the U.S. national team this year is that it had no one of Russian or Soviet descent. That is amazing, and I don’t know when is the last time it happened. If you had told me 20 years ago that the U.S. would win a chess Olympiad, I would have said for sure that it would only happen by virtue of “our Russians beating their Russians.” That would be completely all right with me — we are a country of immigrants, and “our Russians” are completely American after they take a vow of citizenship. Nevertheless, it is amazing to me that we have won a gold medal with essentially home grown talent, plus one person born and raised in the Philippines. It speaks to the vast changes going on in chess over the last generation or two, making chess a more worldwide game.

Why didn’t McClain write about that?

The whole business about “buying” a title just did not deserve the kind of attention he gave it. As I said, it’s what the trolls are talking about. McClain did mention a tweet by Magnus Carlsen, who is not an Internet troll, but it was also completely clear that Carlsen was joking.

I hope that the New York Times will give McClain a chance to write at greater length about the U.S. team’s triumph and the many other stories at this year’s Olympiad, including showing us some of the crucial positions on the chessboard!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Todd Bryant September 16, 2016 at 6:38 am

Yeah, I definitely hear what you are saying.

I still got a big laugh out of this, though: https://twitter.com/MagnusCarlsen/status/775704509062455296

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