Wed, 24 Jun, 2020

White first: Former chess rep slams ABC for racism discussion

White first: Former chess rep slams ABC for racism discussion

Former Australian chess representative John Adams has lashed out at the ABC as the public broadcaster’s radio show prepares a segment to discuss whether the popular board game is racist.

Adams said he received a phone call from a Sydney-based ABC radio producer seeking his comment for James Valentine’s Wednesday afternoon program.

The economist was asked whether the game was racist because white always moves first.

“They are seeking comment from a chess official as to whether the rules of chess need to be altered!” Adams wrote on Twitter.

“With all the drama resulting from COVID-19, I am amazed that the ABC is broadcasting on irrelevant topics!”

He told the Daily Telegraph: “They said with everything going on, they wanted to have a conversation about white going first - and the racial context of whether white should go first.

“People are struggling with the economy, with their health, with the lockdown. They don’t want their money wasted on bulls**t.”

Chess expert Kevin Bonham, who is a part of the Australian Chess Federation council, said the rule is not as influential in the lower levels of the game.

“The funny thing is that at social to even lower club level, having white or black makes zero difference to average results,” Bonham said.

“The advantage starts kicking in around middling club level and becomes stronger at the highest levels.”

The rule that white moves first became a convention in the late 1800s.

White has been widely believed to have an inherent advantage, although some chess players dispute this view.

In 2019, grandmasters Magnus Carlsen and Anish Giri played against the rule to make the player with the black pieces begin as a part of the United Nations’ campaign for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Move For Equality said the rule was not established based on prejudice.

“This campaign is merely a symbolic gesture to highlight what happens when you step away from the board, where a fair world is not a reality for many, and the dream of having perfect equality between races and people is still far from coming true.”