Endgame: New York's Peter Roberts on Short's essay
In the aftermath of Nigel Short's essay, there is a lesson to be learned… the perspective from which you articulate an issue depends on the history on which you stand. There are many famous allegories and anecdotes which illustrate this point. Aesop's Man and Lion story comes to mind.
ChessBase's Frederic Friedel, has reported that no negative replies came across his desk. Perhaps every chess person who read the article thought it was a harmless metaphorical reference to slavery, or perhaps wanted to avoid a sensitive contemporary topic. Given the responses sent to The Chess Drum (primarily from people of African descent), it is obvious that there was some offense taken.
Peter Roberts of New York wrote two emotional responses… an excerpt of the second is included below and the accompanying link to the entire text is included below.
"I work several blocks away from the old African burial site for slaves in lower Manhattan and I am now one block away from what used to be the World Trade Center. Both these past and present atrocities are my constant companions as I go back and forth to work, to lunch, or where have you. As I walk, I glaze at the respective holes in the ground, both old and new and I wonder how many of those lost souls had the choice of free will, be they slaves in the 1800's or workers in the steel "monumental architecture" on 9/11. What I am attacking in the Short article is a parasitic mind set that is timeless as it is dangerous. It doesn't matter whether we are talking about a living being or a computer chip; it doesn't matter if he is extolling the virtue of slavery or the current exploits of the newest generations of computers. At the core, Short is extolling an exploitive life style that at best is leechlike: Short writes: "I have found a helper who answers almost all my needs! He doesn't eat and he doesn't sleep and is therefore very economical. I can abuse him, give him the most humiliating and degrading tasks, and he sets about uncomplainingly." Yes, the computer is the perfect mechanical slave but at what price? Where is the titanic struggle of Capablanca versus Alekhine, man to man? When Alekhine beat Capablanca if he had the aid of computers and a large team of seconds, could he still be viewed as one of history's best? The answers are not easy."