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pax
18-11-2004, 09:00 AM
I was fairly surprised to read (Dr) Michael Baron's rant about the Olympiad in the ACF newsletter.

Apparently we shouldn't be applauding the team for a great performance.



Secondly, let’s try being objective. Our teams have done well, but on reading the "glorifying" reports that the bulletin was publishing about Australian performance in Spain one could get an impression that Australia was placed somewhere among the leaders. Everyone was playing well, things were going brilliantly....But every time I was checking the scores from the Olympiad Website Australia appeared to be "slightly" behind not only Ukraine but even Russia, Armenia and Israel.


The performance must be seen in context, of course. The context of a team and a sport which recieves zero federal funding, and little recognition in the wider community. The context of geagraphy which makes it near impossible for a player living in Australia to get regular top level competition. The context of a team containing two GMs in a field where 33 teams have four or more.

In that context, I think a performance of =29 is bloody excellent, and deserves every praise it recieved.

If I might make a soccer analogy. Suppose Australia qualify for the 2006 World Cup, and then get eliminated in the first phase after a win and a draw. Do you think there would be anything but praise for such a performance? That sort of performance would be considered a revolution for a team that has spent a long time languishing in the bottom half of the top hundred teams in the world. Will Michael Baron complain that we didn't even make the knockout phase? That we weren't anywhere near as good as Brazil? That we "only" made it into the top 32?

Michael rightly points out that chess in this country is woefully funded. He doesn't, however, have any constructive suggestions on how that situation might be amended. Many of the volunteer administrators in this country have worked very hard to find chess funding and sponsorship for teams and tournaments, sometimes with success, sometimes without. How much work has Michael Baron done in lobbying the government to get chess recognised as a sport, or to find major sponsors for Olympiad teams?

Australian soccer is never going to reach the heights of Brazilian soccer. Similarly, Australian chess will never reach the heights of Ukrainian chess. That shouldn't stop us from being proud of our success in context, or from continue working to improve. Be proud, Australia, we just qualified for the World Cup!

(Dr) Jonathan Paxman

DoroPhil
18-11-2004, 09:34 AM
What does (Dr) stand for? I presume Dr = Doctor, but (Dr) ?

pax
18-11-2004, 09:49 AM
What does (Dr) stand for? I presume Dr = Doctor, but (Dr) ?

It means "I really don't like to mention it, but I've got a PhD, and I really thought you should know, because it really gives my comments so much more authority don't you think?" :hmm:

Ian Rout
18-11-2004, 10:30 AM
Up to a point some of what (Dr) Baron says has merit. For instance lack of government support is a handicap. And it's hard to put an overly positive spin on the women's team finishing several places below their seeding. As I said in another thread I think this has more to do with other countries progressing rather than Australia going backward - look at the composition of some teams ranked in the 20s. Sure we can draw some lessons and ask some questions (e.g. why do we not have a single 2300+ woman when the sixth reserve for the open team was at that level), but it's not fair to suggest it was a disaster.

On the other hand if we are to follow the exhortation to be objective then we have to say that the performance of the open team is, to say the least, very good (we could go for "outstanding" if we weren't concerned at having our objectivity called into question) - for example, finishing on the same score as England and winning individual matches with Romania and Denmark, all of who have a much better developed chess culture and geographic advantages. Of course it is not quite up to Ukraine or Russia, but nor is it comparable to Erik the Eel.

If it's just an exhortation not to to get carried away, and to remind everyone that it's possible to do better next time, then that's fair enough. But overall I think the comments are a bit of an over-reaction to a report that was designed to lean a little to the cheering-up side of the ledger, much like reports in analogous bulletins all over the world.

Garvinator
18-11-2004, 10:44 AM
Sure we can draw some lessons and ask some questions (e.g. why do we not have a single 2300+ woman when the sixth reserve for the open team was at that level), but it's not fair to suggest it was a disaster.
inactivity and lack of women players would be the main reason.

Recherché
18-11-2004, 11:22 AM
inactivity and lack of women players would be the main reason.

Well, yes, but perhaps we should be asking why we have so few (even compared to other countries) women playing chess. Australia is usually ahead of most if not all of the world when it comes to the participation rates and relative performance of our women.

Chess really needs an image change in this country. A pretty good job has been done of promoting chess to juniors (well, mostly their parents) in recent times, why isn't there an equally big push to recruit more women into the game?

Garvinator
18-11-2004, 11:26 AM
Well, yes, but perhaps we should be asking why we have so few (even compared to other countries) women playing chess. Australia is usually ahead of most if not all of the world when it comes to the participation rates and relative performance of our women.

Chess really needs an image change in this country. A pretty good job has been done of promoting chess to juniors (well, mostly their parents) in recent times, why isn't there an equally big push to recruit more women into the game?
i see a need for a new thread on women's participation rates already. It has been discussed a few times before on these bb's.

Recherché
18-11-2004, 12:01 PM
i see a need for a new thread on women's participation rates already

Does that imply you'll shortly be creating one, or are you trying to encourage someone else to step up to the plate?

Garvinator
18-11-2004, 12:26 PM
Does that imply you'll shortly be creating one, or are you trying to encourage someone else to step up to the plate?
if someone wants to create one, feel free, but I dont think Ill be participating in the discussion much, so someone else can do it ;)

antichrist
18-11-2004, 06:23 PM
Originally Posted by Michael Baron
Secondly, let’s try being objective. Our teams have done well, but on reading the "glorifying" reports that the bulletin was publishing about Australian performance in Spain one could get an impression that Australia was placed somewhere among the leaders. Everyone was playing well, things were going brilliantly....But every time I was checking the scores from the Olympiad Website Australia appeared to be "slightly" behind not only Ukraine but even Russia, Armenia and Israel

Of course we will be behind Israel, it has terrific players due to its European heritage. Jewish players were tops while we were still in shorts. Haven't you read their chess history in one of the books.

firegoat7
19-11-2004, 12:00 PM
Hello,

I thought I would contribute to this debate by asking Why shoot the messenger?

pax begins with...


Michael rightly points out that chess in this country is woefully funded. He doesn't, however, have any constructive suggestions on how that situation might be amended. Many of the volunteer administrators in this country have worked very hard to find chess funding and sponsorship for teams and tournaments, sometimes with success, sometimes without. How much work has Michael Baron done in lobbying the government to get chess recognised as a sport, or to find major sponsors for Olympiad teams?


Let us debunk this incoherent mess.

1-yes chess is woefully underfunded (we all agree).

2-Michael's article was a critic of Oz chess. There why does it have to be constructive in that context? Surely anybody has the right to criticise some aspect of Australian chess and don't we learn more about ourselves as a community if we reflect on these concerns? (Furthermore- you use the term -CONTEXT- Pax. Why then, does Michael have to volunteer before offering a critique?)

3- In regards to his work for Oz chess,Michael Baron has previously chipped in his services for Australian Chess. He has made some effort to donate his time for community good, however, it seems ludicrous to suggest that he ought to be involved in lobbying for Olympiad team funding if he does not want to. Just as it is equally ludicrous to criticise him for having an opinion without voluntering.

Cheers FG7

Garvinator
19-11-2004, 12:06 PM
Firegoat7,

Are you going to stay around and keep watching the bb for replies to this topic. I dont want to reply to your post and then have you not reply in return. That would be a waste of effort on both our parts :(

pax
19-11-2004, 12:12 PM
FG7:

I didn't suggest that MB should be involved in Olympiad fundraising, merely that his criticism of the lack of funding is pointless without any suggestion on how to rectify the matter. If all chess players took the Baron approach of not going because it wasn't 100% paid for, then Australia wouldn't have *any* international representatives at all (and neither would 80% of countries currently represented at the Olympiad).

Criticising Australian Chess without being constrictive simply damages the sport, by offending the people who volunteer their time and money, and the players who invest their own money and time into representing their country.

PHAT
22-11-2004, 09:58 AM
[MB] Criticising Australian Chess without being constructive simply damages the sport, by ...

Show us the way. Tell us your "constructive" way forward. Any plan is better than no plan.

[You may have already done so. If so, just cut and paste.]

pax
22-11-2004, 11:56 AM
Show us the way. Tell us your "constructive" way forward. Any plan is better than no plan.

[You may have already done so. If so, just cut and paste.]

Are you talking to me?

Sorry, but I'm not the one laying into Australian chess.

PHAT
22-11-2004, 01:30 PM
Are you talking to me?

Sorry, but I'm not the one laying into Australian chess.

Beause?
1. Apathy
2. Think it is pretty bloody good as it is.
3. Didn't know it was in need of work.

Rincewind
22-11-2004, 01:40 PM
Beause?
1. Apathy
2. Think it is pretty bloody good as it is.
3. Didn't know it was in need of work.

If people see something is wrong, it is because they have an idea as to how it may be better. To criticise and supply these alternatives and arguments is what most people call "constructive criticism".

What Pax was criticising was the lack of constructive comments in Dr Baron's letter. If you like he was providing contructive criticism of Dr Baron's comments. Effectively: "When you criticise, be constructive".

You seem to be arguing that Pax shouldn't say anything if he doesn't have anything constructive to say. But he did have something constructive to say, just not about chess in that particular post.

Cat
23-11-2004, 05:43 AM
If people see something is wrong, it is because they have an idea as to how it may be better. To criticise and supply these alternatives and arguments is what most people call "constructive criticism".

What Pax was criticising was the lack of constructive comments in Dr Baron's letter. If you like he was providing contructive criticism of Dr Baron's comments. Effectively: "When you criticise, be constructive".

You seem to be arguing that Pax shouldn't say anything if he doesn't have anything constructive to say. But he did have something constructive to say, just not about chess in that particular post.


I reckon Dr Baron probably thought he was being constructive, but he allowed his frustration to muddy his message. To me he was attempting to shake Australian Chess out of it's sleeping sickness, that at a time when individuals representing our country are performing out of their skins, the failings in the structures that exist to support our performers could not have been more plainly obvious. It was a day of shame for Australian Chess that a team of outstanding individuals were essentially strangers in their own land, so little was the interest and financial support. If that doesn't amount to failure, then our expectations have indeed fallen very low.

And what Dr Baron was saying is that it doesn't have to be this way, the failure of support was not inevitable and we should all ask ourselves what has gone so wrong. Surely this must be a time for sanguine reflection, if we don't learn the lessons from this it will be our high water mark. And if we want to look for sporting analogies, maybe we can look to Sri Lanka as evidence that change is indeed cricket.

What are our goals, what are our targets, what do we consider to be achievable, are we registering those achievements and setting new targets?Who was responsible for liasing with the press at home, how well have they worked those links, is our system functioning? What is the point of the structure if it cannot even to begin to meet the most fundamental needs of our most valuable assets (players)?

What are the elements that promote chess, what are the barriers and impediments? Where can we go to get expert advise, can we listen to that advise with open hearts? Can we maintain state structures when there is a dire lack of resources at all levels? Are these state structures a burdensome luxury or can they be effective? Should our limited resources be pooled and targeted more effectively to needs?

Where is our vision, what is the dream that we can sell? Where can we get funding? Where are the fertile fields that can make this thing grow?

Maybe the ACF have already asked those kinds of questions, but if so it isn't particularly obvious. Let's stop taking pot shots at the messenger and lets face the music.

pax
23-11-2004, 08:56 AM
I'd just like to point out one indicator of good things in Australian chess.

Every single top player wants to represent Australia. Look at the list of applicants for thie year's Olympiad:

IM Zong-Yuan Zhao, FM Greg Canfell, Nick Speck, IM Alex Wohl, IM Gary Lane, FM Tim Reilly, GM Darryl Johansen, IM David Smerdon, IM John-Paul Wallace, GM Ian Rogers, IM Leonid Sandler, IM Stephen Solomon.

IM, WIM Irina Berezina, WFM Slavica Sarai, Ingela Eriksson, WIM Laura Moylan, WIM Biljana Dekic, WIM Anastasia Sorokina, WIM Arianne Caoili.

Outside of inactive players, that list contains practically every top player with a chance of being selected.

Considering the lack of funding, and the general difficulty for professional chess players to make ends meet that is nothing short of amazing.

My worry about unjustified criticism being thrown at the team is that it will erode the good will and desire to play for Australia. More general unconstructive criticism tends to stick to the volunteer administrators that keep chess running in this country.

Constructive debate on how to improve the situation for Australian chess is welcome. Lets just try to do so without pissing off the players and volunteers who put a lot of their own time and money into Australian chess.