Is The Chess Drum a Racist Website?
Over the years, I have gotten tons of e-mail from chess players all over the world. The Chess Drum has been visited in nearly 200 countries and territories and has peaked at about 200,000 visitors monthly, a lot for a niche site. Most of the traffic outside of its American base is in Europe… Germany having the most traffic. The site is well-respected worldwide.
Daaim Shabazz of ‘The Chess Drum’ with Ted Lampkin of ‘The Chess Connection’ on December 16th, 2001 at the Grand Opening of the Sidney Samole World Chess Hall of Fame in Miami, Florida
I once got an e-mail from a chap in England (in 2001) who stated that The Chess Drum was a racist site and mocked that I would not be able to find much information on Black chess. Well, nearly 6000 pages later, The Chess Drum is still beating and continues to show accomplishments by an obscure segment of the chess community.
Since The Chess Drum was focusing on the Black segment of the chess-playing community, then it must be racist. I’ve heard this “reverse psychology” used many times in America (e.g., anything “all-Black” is racist), but let’s check the logic before accusing me of being Bull Conner.
“I find your site very offensive and racist, and I think a lot of other people do also. But most of all, your site saddens me enormously. Is this what you understand by putting into practice Martin’s Luther’s teachings? I’m shocked. You’re doing just the opposite.”
~ IM Javier Gil, chessnia.com ~
There are hundreds of websites on the Internet on every conceivable topic known to man and woman. There are sites whose emphasis may be ethnic, gender-based, age-related; there are sites on topics such as nationality, religion, race or any multitude of social parameters. All of these sites seek to understand or highlight a particular dynamic relevant to that specific interest. Nothing dishonorable about this. The Brit ended his statement by saying the site was nice and that it was racist “in a good way.” Is that a compliment?
IM Javier Gil
The worst accusation of racism directed toward The Chess Drum was by International Master Javier Gil (who lives in Australia). He took umbrage to post a disparaging and misleading statement on his website, Chessnia.com. Back in June, I had an exchange with Gil. I first visited this site in 2001 and remember writing him to ask if he would consider changing the fluorescent blue background of his site. He had interesting content, but it was very difficult to read for a long period of time. I got no answer or acknowledgement and did not visit the site very often.
Recently I was pleasantly surprised to click on Chessnia.com from my link page and saw that he had made visual improvements. My feelings were dampened when I visited his link page and found the following review of The Chess Drum:
Puzzled by this mischaracterization, I e-mailed Mr. Gil to clarify the site’s purpose and provided him a sketch of the site’s universal reach. He responded by restating that the site is racist and he was embarrassed by it. He went on about how the chess world doesn’t see race, skin color doesn’t matter when viewing chess games and that we are “GENS UNA SUMAS” (one family).
Of course, I responded once again to clarify, but I didn’t hear back. So… I decided to pen an essay on this topic. Only one other time have I been openly castigated for having a “racist” site. I realize that there are some “haters” out there and it is expected. Nevertheless, The Chess Drum is here to stay and its focus will remain on people of the African Diaspora. I will never apologize for this.
The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Angola’s Catarino Domingos
at the 2004 Chess Olympiad in Mallorca, Spain.
Photo by The Chess Drum
He states that the site creates boundaries between the races and focuses on skin color! When I saw the remark I contacted him and explained to him the purpose of The Chess Drum. I also mentioned the wide audience and the diverse countries visiting frequently. I have contact from chess communities from Malaysia, France, Mauritius, Jamaica, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, Liberia, and a quick Google on The Chess Drum will reveal its reach and variety of content. Based on his comments, it is doubtful that he has browsed through the site.
In his response, Gil claimed to be “embarrassed” by the site and claimed that the chess community is one family (GEN UNA SUMUS) and a harmonious unit… blah, blah, blah. Here is his full response:
From: Javier Gil
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:11 AM
Subject: The Chess Drum (Chessnia’s Bulletin Board)
Regardless of what your purpose is, the fact remains that your site doesn’t destroy boundaries, it creates new ones in a sport which has always been known for its universality regardless of age, race, physical appearence or any other feature which is used to devide people in other human activities. GENS UNA SUMUS, we are one family.
The fact that you segregate people based on the color of their skn is truly embarrasing. Our sport has always characterized itself for its principles of equality. Our minds have no color. Our ideas are not black or white. ¨The beauty of our combinations can not be classified according to our race. The depth of our thinking is color blind… what I feel when I see a wonderful idea on a chess board has nothing to do with skins, it has to do with beauty itself, it has to do with what human beings are capable of creating with just a bunch of plastic chess pieces…
I find your site very offensive and racist, and I think a lot of other people do also. But most of all, your site saddens me enormously. Is this what you understand by putting into practice Martin’s Luther’s teachings? I’m shocked. You’re doing just the opposite.
Your comparison with my country links doesn’t stand to logic: those links are there to help people find information on chess in their given area and have nothing to do with race.
As for removing the link to your site, there’s no link, just a comment, and I believe I have the liberty to express my opinion and inform other people that such a site does exist.
One of the most beautiful moments of my career was one of the first world Junior Championships that I played in. There were players from all countries and continents and nobody made any distintion. Everyone talked to each other, well-known masters could be found sharing moments and jokes with players of all standards and nationalities. We were happy to share and learn from the experiences of others. It was like a little dream come true in our small chess universe…
I understand your willingness to do something about the problems which affect the community of black chess players, but if I expected someone to do something about it, I assure you that it would be the complete opposite of what you’re doing.
Regards, Javier Gil.
In his letter, Mr. Gil tries to make building a respectable chess site analogous to something negative by his mischaracterizations. He also took liberty to judge and insult other chess websites on his link page. Racism is defined by Webster as “the belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.” While these issues can be (and have been) debated ad infinitum by scholars and pundits, nowhere on The Chess Drum are those arguments made.
The Chess Drum
The fact remains… The Chess Drum is a chess site covering a veritable niche. Where could you possibly find any information about Black players before 2001? Why is this important? Because there are thousands of players in this segment who felt (and still feel) isolated from the general community. There are also racist notions that Blacks are not intelligent enough to play at high levels. On the racist stormfront.org, one Google hit on a Chess Drum page ended a foolish argument on whether a Black person could actually be a chess Grandmaster.
Currently, the chess community lacks universality and it harbors notions that only a specific segment have made noteworthy contributions in its honor. There are so many wonderful stories being missed because many websites focus on the same 15-20 players and the same 5-10 tournaments. That is why there are so many chess sites highlighting specific social factors (e.g., gender, religion, ethnicity, nationality).
Certainly, there are those who see The Chess Drum as the bane of harmony and unity because of its focus. A few people quietly shun its presence, but the vast majority will see the site for what it is… a site with unique content while extolling the beauty of chess. If one cannot see this and instead see it only as an exclusion of others, then they should do a check on their own racial insensitivity.
When Gil stated that my vision was against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his teachings, he showed his naiveté. While Dr. King was an honorable man, my inspiration for The Chess Drum did not come from his philosophy or teachings. Gil’s statement proved that he was misinformed about the plight of Black people and relegated it to a single (albeit important) point of history. It’s strange how quickly people invoke Dr. King’s name as if he were the only Black icon to make a contribution in the fight for social justice.
rac·ism (ra’siz’um) n. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
Dr. King was preceded by powerful Pan-Africanists such as Sylvester Williams, Hon. Marcus Garvey, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Hon. Elijah Muhammad, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. These men all came before Dr. King and laid important groundwork for Pan-African principles. It is the principle of Pan-Africanism that is the inspiration for The Chess Drum. The website remains dedicated as a vehicle for inspiring people of African descent and informing the general chess community.
The overarching theme is that chess is a universal activity in which Black people are an integral part. To have a sport where only two segments (Europe and North America) remain the focus negates the broad appeal of chess. This situation contributes to the failure of attracting sponsorship for chess development. If the true face of chess was shown, then sponsorship may grow in developing countries.
Gil’s last statement,
“I understand your willingness to do something about the problems which affect the community of black chess players, but if I expected someone to do something about it, I assure you that it would be the complete opposite of what you’re doing.”
In my response, I asked Mr. Gil what he would suggest as a solution and got no answer. The reality is those who cannot see the need to highlight Black chess accomplishments, harbor racial insensitivities they would not admit to. Sites like The Chess Drum say more about the success of chess and its universality than anything else.
Oftentimes, I get e-mail from around the world telling me they had no idea Blacks were involved in chess at such a level. Many are appreciative and move forward to provide tips. In the past, I have gotten tips from random enthusiasts telling me about people such as Rogelio Ortega, Pontus Carlssonand Benjamin Bujisho. These players would not normally see the light of day, but at The Chess Drum, they get the recognition they deserve.
Perhaps Mr. Gil is perfectly fine with a magazine or website having a 95-100% focus on Europe and North America (like his own), but not a website with a similar emphasis on Pan-African chess. He stated in the letter that he wanted people to know such a site exists, yet he refused to include the link. What’s the point? One wonders the real reason why Mr. Gil refused to provide a link to The Chess Drum. Is he afraid to let people determine the truth for themselves? Perhaps Mr. Gil has some racial insensitivities of his own.
Indeed a very sensitive issue, but I share the same sentiments and convictions like Daaim, that our dear Mr Gil have his own issues to deal with before making false allegations.
The chess drum is one of a kind and a catalyst for the Afro-chess community all over the world .
Let the game of chess be a vehicle to breakdown walls and build a community that is equitable to all.
Lets keep the beat going, one drummer at a time.
That’s hilarious. After I read this post I went back and glanced over a bunch of posts I had read this past week or so. And I was like, “you know, I guess there are a lot of posts about Africa…hm, yes, Maurice Ashley does in fact appear to be a black dude…” I never would have noticed had you not said anything.
He is aiming his fury at the main site, https://www.thechessdrum.net/. It is doubtful that he has seen this blog since it has only been up for two weeks.
Is Mr. Gil claiming that because the Chess Drum reports on Black chess players (not exclusively), it is racist? How would he classify sites that have little or no coverage of chess players who happen to be Black, or ignore chess activity in countries that happen to have large or predominately Black populations? It is ironic that he tries to use the FIDE slogan, Gens Una Sumas, to criticize Mr. Shabazz, an award winning chess journalist, who is acknowledged as a leader in expanding the awareness of the activities of the entire worldwide chess community.
OK, I see what you’re saying. Oh well, you can’t please everybody. Mr. Gil thinks what Mr. Gil thinks. Personally, I think you’ve got a great thing going here, and I support you in letting go of unwarranted criticism.
Clearly Javier Gil’s argument is fallacious. The ten participants in the 2007 U.S. Women’s Championship were born in the following countries: England, Lithuania, 4 in Ukraine, 2 in Mongolia, and 2 in Armenia. To conclude that this tournament is biased against women born in the U.S. would be equally invalid.
Hey, Daaim! To be sure, you’re gonna get some negative feedback about the Chess Drum, but don’t let that make you defensive, or discouraged! You are doing a wonderful job with the site, and I believe that you are making a positive impact on the game of chess and it’s players! What I admire most is the fact that you are volunteering your time and other valuable resources to bring us the site! If a site has a focus besides chess, then all well and good, so long as it doesn’t tear people down! Media, like chess itself, comes at you from many different angles, so why not a greatly neglected people group, like the African Diaspora? We have chess sites of all kinds, and yours is very good, so BRAVO, dude, and keep it coming…
Thanks for the kind words.
I’ve gotten only two comments like his in six years. One was of the Britisher and this one. However, Javier Gil posted these comments in order to purposely defame and belittle the website. That provoked action. It is very strange since if one looks at his site (chessnia.com), one would sees a decidedly Eurocentric website. 😕
Race is still a sensitive topic to the “majority” in America and many do not want to be reminded that Blacks are still struggling for inclusion and choose to create their own entities. Many see these entities (e.g., Black colleges, Black organizations, Black magazines) as a failure of the system to be responsive to the concerns that were (and still) prevalent in the era of social activism. There is always the question of relevance.
However, the chess world now knows that Blacks are bringing something to the table and we are seeing a bit more attention being given to our chess contributions. Now my goal is to reach the non-chess public.
Back to Javier…
Javier has apparently lived most of his life in places without a significant presence of Black people. Thus, he may not have an understanding of these social issues. When I hear people characterize the chess world as some harmonious fantasyland, then I know that person either is out of touch with reality, or is incredibly naive.
I was a bit surprise to see that you took some time to respond in such length against an obvious racist attack. Your site is accessible to anyone. Its main purpose, obviously, is to inform the black community about what black chess players are accomplishing in chess. It does not encourage or support race superiority in any way. Your site has encouraged many African American youngsters to get involve in an intellectual activity. That in itself is significant, to say the least. Unfortunately, when you try to help in that fashion, you will always have people like Gil who will come out of the woodwork and unjustly start swinging. Never mind that kind of obstacle, keep moving forward. We love the spirit behind your work!
Daaim has done a yeoman job of running a website as a celebration of chess and the many people who play the game. True, this site helps to give voice to many players who were among the “Voice of the Voiceless,” seldom seen or heard elsewhere on the web or magazines. But there is more here than meets the eye. One needs to see beyond the black and white squares, to coin a phrase, and see the harmony of the whole. This website celebrates truth.
This celebration and dedication has allowed Diaam to welcome players the world over beyond color, ethnicity, culture, and nationality. Few other chess sites can claim such a feat!
To be a racist in my eyes is to exclude others on the basis of skins, ethnicity, and etc. I have found the chessdrum.net to be just the opposite of any such exclusion. This site celebrates not only chess players in the Diaspora but much, much, more!
It celebrates the best of what chess can be.
I salute you!
Harlem, New York
Some people have a way of getting tangled in a mess by coming up with a statement of a principle and then applying it in all seriousness very superficially and literally. They lose sight of the human context. I have feeling that IM Gils might be well-meaning but has fallen for such a trap.
I have gladly added Chess Drum to list of chess sites I keep track of
(Chessbase, Susan Polgar’s blog, Mig’s site, as well as Chessvibes, when they are at a tournament site). I am not of Afrian diaspora, but do find many articles in the site interesting. I sometimes find interviews of or reports mentioning Indian players ( I do watch out for those). I read with interest the stories of chess scene in Jamaica.
Just because the Polgar blog emphasizes women’s chess (among other things) does not make “anti-men”. I don’t think I become racist by keeping track of how Indian players do. I think to become racist, as in usual parlance, there has to be a certain degree of malicious intent. This site has none.
Keep up the good work.
Thank you Guest 2!
One reason I feature stories on the rise of India and interview Indian players is because of the inspiration that can be drawn from these success stories. Viswanathan Anand has certainly done so much to capture the imagination of people of African descent. He has done more to inspire chess excellence in developing countries than anyone in history. I was even asked why I did not include Anand on my list of Black Grandmasters!! 🙂 In ten years, India will be a top five chess nation and the case of chess development in India will be the focus of intense study and scrutiny.
I will say that while international chess is pro-European, the rising tides of India and China (#3 world ranking) both point to methods that are working outside of the resource-rich Europe. I have long argued that current websites and magazines do not show the true universality of chess and focus primarily on Europe and European players. This reinforces notions of superiority in intellectual pursuits. At a recent tournament, I was told that an African fellow stated the reason Blacks are not excelling in chess… “we simply aren’t smart enough.”
When I was an up-and-coming player, there was little known about Black players and I was once questioned (by a white player) why there were so few Black masters. That inspired me to find out and I begin to find a wealth of information that had been hidden for decades. Over the life of The Chess Drum, other sites have begun to understand that there are chess contributions that are newsworthy from Africa, the Caribbean, Black America and with the entire African Diaspora. This site was long overdue and provides a voice and hope to those who have long been ignored.
RIDICULOUS!!! How ridiculous of Javier Gil to even suggest that “thechessdrum” separates the chess community? Obviously, he has not read all the positive, uplifting & encouraging information about black chess players. When I read various chess websites or chess magazines there is very little or NO information toward black chess players. So I applaud thechessdrum and its efforts to give recognition to players who ordinarily would never get any… I’ve also never read any information on thechessdrum that depicts another culture of chess players in a negative light. Chessdrum just keep doing what you do and don’t let anyone discourage you from reporting positive things about black chess players… That’s how you bring more people into the chess community. Not by ignoring them!
We have met indirectly via a third party unofficailly. I am the father of one the players from Detroit Duffield school’s Chess Team, Sherman Redden Jr. I work along side of Kevin Fite with the students of Duffield and am the Executive Director of the newly incorporated Detroit City Chess Club. I have recently, as in the last eight months, become familiar with your site and have been extremely impressed and blessed by it’s content. I am a great proponent of highlighting the achievments of our people because I know that if we don’t no one else will nor do they care too. Individuals like Mr. Gil are always looking for ways to discredit and to cast aspersions upon anything and anyone that they are not able to excersize some measure of control. I have not found that you are exclusive of anyone. So to you Dr. Shabazz I say, keep doing what you do. Enlightenment by way of education is a beautiful thing. I look forward to a direct meeting with you in the near future.
Mr. Fite, Mr. Redden!
Thanks for inspiring a generation of our youth! It gives me something to write about! 😀
I was moved to write my own post about this.
I hope you don’t mind too much DS!
IM Javier Gil responded to the above post at The Closet Grandmaster blog. I then followed with a response of my own. None of this is to win a debate more than it is the principle of the matter. Here’s Gil’s post followed by mine:
Quoting Amiel: “Mr Gil, mate, I’m sure you’ve got this one terribly wrong. Chill dude!”.
Well, GOD himself has spoken, so if he says I’m terribly wrong, then, despite his long and convincing arguments (a bit of irony there), I will not challenge his verdict. 🙂
I wish Daaim would warn people when he emailed them first though, you know, something along the lines: “Whatever you say in this message, I can use against you in anyway I like”.
He published selected extracts from a private message which I sent to him. Personally, I would never do that without asking permission first. It worked quite well for him because we’re even talking about it here. Fine, that’s his style.
I can not take back any of the things which I said because that’s what I honestly believe. A world where the differences between human beings who play chess are only stablished by their intellectial capacity and not the color of their skin.
You have your own interpretation, that’s Ok. But let me live with mine. 🙂
Firstly, I gave you as much warning as you gave me when you posted those remarks on your website in March. None. Secondly, you did not contact me to personally ask me what the purpose of the site was and went forth to post disparaging remarks about The Chess Drum (and other sites). Thirdly, after our initial exchange, you never responded to my follow-up e-mail and all I was left with was your initial letter. Fourthly, should you be so arrogant to believe that I should ask you permission after you have disparaged The Chess Drum since March 2007? Dream on.
In addition, I posted the ENTIRE e-mail (not excerpts) in my essay so readers can get a context of the venom you spewed about a respectable site. Over the years, the site has won a broadbase of readers worldwide and your attempts to paint it negatively (and other chess sites) was insulting and moreover in bad taste. You apparently did no research before forming your opinion and/or the mere thought of a Black-oriented site repulsed you… you even said this! You need to examine your own racial sensitivity.
Ironically Javier, your comments would be considered racist in most places because it shows that you disregard the celebration of chess by a particular ethnic segment. If you do not like the site that is fine, but do not poison the minds of others. The least you can do is give readers a chance to judge for themselves! The essay I wrote was in defense of The Chess Drum and will be there for all to read and make their own judgement since you deprived them of a chance.
Finally, The Chess Drum shows that people of African descent are part and parcel of the chess community and have made (are making) noteworthy contributions. Answer this question… how else would we know about these contributions and accomplishments? It is important to show the universal nature of chess since most of the most popular websites focus primarily on Europe and secondarily, North America.
Whether by accident or intention, even your own chessnia.com focuses primarily on Europe and European players… and that is your prerogative. However, The Chess Drum focuses on a segment that has received little (if any) attention. The more segments we cover, the more we show that chess is accessible to a variety of people. This is an ultimate promotion of chess and the universal goodwill that it conveys.
Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum
LOL this is pathetic. I believe every player from an “uniracial” society should cease his Web activity in order to avoid racial allegations. Also, Susan Polgar’s blog should be shut up since it promotes women’s chess and thus sets boundaries between men and women.
I wonder whether I should close my site as it is devoted solely to team chess. Those who prefer individual tournaments might feel offended.
Wojtek /who is no black at all/
PS Mr Gil might not be aware that millions of Africans ain’t black. I never saw white&Arab Africans excluded from Drum news.
Telling our Own Story
People from Chicago who know me know that I’m a book junkie. I’m one of those people who have thousands of chess books. I love the beauty of the game and on a good day I might play at the expert level.
My next largest collection of books are books concerning people and places related to the African Diaspora. I don’t throw many books away. I was always thrilled with the libraries that I saw in the old Sherlock Holmes movies and I vowed to have my own library one day.
I love to find old chess books… lately I’ve been looking for old dictionaries. They are probably the closest I’ll get to a time machine. They take you back to what people were thinking in and at a particular time. For example, if you find a dictionary old enough it will define a computer as a person who adds and calculates.
Several years ago, I was able to find an eight volume series of books titled, General History of Africa. They were published by the University of California Press and funded by UNESCO. I was intrigued by these books when I first heard they were going to be published in a Chicago Tribune newspaper article, here it was mention that the West, including the USA, objected to UNESCO funding the project.
I believe there was a similar reaction to Ali Mazuri documentary and book titled, The Africans: A Triple Heritage. It was originally scheduled for main screen television but was forced to be only shown on PBS. Kudos to PBS I believe the helped with the funding. It may have made it to main screen television later.
So the message of this long letter is everyone should tell their own story, especially if no one else does, and we (humanity) can learn from them all.
The General History of Africa project entailed African scholars, some trained at home and other universities all across the world (including the West), researching, writing and telling the history of Africa from the African point of view all the way back to the prehistory myths and legends. I was so excited to finally track down and purchase the volumes that I remarked to one of my co-workers that as I was reading the volumes, I discovered that Prehistory Africans had their own version of how the earth, oceans, and land was created and I had never heard of any of them.
I had heard the European version of the 7-day Creation and the blowing of life/breath into dirt, but didn’t realize that prehistory African also had their interpretation too. Whether I believe in these myths or facts is not important. What’s important is that I never knew or heard of them! And yes I do take responsibility for my own ignorance.
My European co-worker told me I shouldn’t be surprised because they are going to explain the world from their point of view and if others didn’t know their own legends and myths then that’s not his fault. He said rest assured he is going to know his and not apologize for them. Please note that this coworker is not a racist and he treats everybody fairly.
So the message of this long letter is everyone should tell their own story, especially if no one else does, and we (humanity) can learn from them all. Remember… I got my library idea from Sherlock Holmes shows.
I have chess books on The Great Jewish Chess Champions and other books only on Spanish chess players and European chess players. These are great books and not racist at all.
Some people have a tantrum and a hissy fit whenever they see anything titled “African-American” or of the “African Diaspora,” but they have no problem with the following name or service.
When the ASIAN AMERICAN BANK opened, it provided services and products that targeted the Chinese American community – including bilingual staff…started a Chinatown-based bank in Boston catering to the needs of Chinese immigrants.
It is not racist and neither is everything titled African or of the African Diaspora either.
He who controls my mind controls my entire life.
Well, it is an interesting debate.
It seems that Chessdrum has a preference, bias, choice towards Black players wherever they live, assuming they are part of an African diaspora. I don’t see any problem with that. It does provide an interesting focus and counterbalance among the mass of chess sites out there. I am sure Dr Shabazz would be happy to report on big successes out of Papua New Guinea.
But I wonder if Dr. Shabazz considers white South Africans to be legitimate ‘Africans’? Wasn’t there a 16 year old boy who became IM or something like that? And their diaspora may be harder to track, but might have some interesting chess stories.
The Chess Drum is certainly interested in stories in Papua New Guinea (PNG). 🙂 I saw some of the PNG members at the past two Chess Olympiad tournaments. In graduate school, I studied some of the history of the indigenous people of the region (e.g., Fiji, Papua New Guinea) and it is very intriguing. Despite knowledge of the aborigines in Australia, most people do not realize that there is a major presence of Black people in other parts of the Pacific. I understand that there are social problems amongst the Black segment in PNG, but hopefully The Chess Drum can help inspire there as well.
While I will not engage in a protracted debate on ethnicity and genetics, I believe it is understood by most in the general chess community what is meant by “African” and/or “Black.” Indigenous Africans (and their descendants) have unique historical circumstances that need to be remedied politically, socially, culturally, morally, and intellectually… worldwide. The Chess Drum is a microcosm of this “African Personality” and serves this constituency. However, the site also exposes its audience to other chess events in the general community. The good thing about all this is the entire world can (and does) benefit from the content… no one is excluded from reading. Even white supremacists have read the site!
Notwithstanding, one may debate the specificity of the above terms, but at this point there is a general understanding that the site highlights accomplishments of Black players around the world.
I abandoned competitive chess after becoming the first player of African descent to win my state’s championship ( the “egalitarian” state of South Carolina) in 1990 and only returned when I happened upon the Chess Drum. At 60 years old I’ve become inspired anew and I’m very grateful to the Drum’s impetus. And I would never have personally met and entertained in my home Emory Tate, the man behind the genius.
Patrick Neal, have you read ” Sunrise to Power,” a Time-Life publication re: the ascendency of the Egyptians? There is a very intriguing photo of what appears to be a very ancient chess set and board discovered in a pyramid, if memory serves me correctly. This book was published ca. 1970s. This would seem to cast doubt on the Indian origin of chess, although the author emphactically states that ” this is not a chess set.” I suppose my eyes were lying.
I have seen the board that you mentioned. There were many forms of chess besides the form that was brought to Europe by the Moors (via Persia and India) and later adapted and popularized by the Europeans. I remember seeing a “chess set” in the Egyptian Museum of Ancient Antiquities in Cairo, Egypt. The set is also displayed at the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame Museum in Miami, USA. The game is called “Senet” and was played with dice.
There certainly were many forms of chess and in some parts of the world chess was merely synonymous with “board game.” Here is also a picture of Algerian Moors playing what appears to be a form of chess. The caption of this picture read in French, “Algers-Negres jouant aux échecs,” which is roughly translated as “Algiers: Moors (Blacks) playing Chess.”
I suppose we can take some pride in our heritage in “chess,” but many of us (Black and otherwise) do not know this history because it is not covered anywhere. It is a history that has been buried beneath the sands of time. That is why we need communicative vehicles to uncover these wonderful stories which would otherwise not see the light of day. Being prideful of one’s history and accomplishments never means that it is done to the exclusion of others. To quote Patrick Neal again…
Daaim, you have done a fantastic job of showing why your site and blog are important. I have read many articles on the African influnece on chess, the European, the Islamic, Christian and Judaic impact on chess…It is important that we all see that humanity has a hand in the growth of the game.
One of my favorite books in the Immortal Game. In that book David Shenk outlines the contributions of all people to chess. He has sections on almostr every race and faith. As an African American, I was invigotated and inspired by these sections about other people. I did not close my head or heart to the accomplishments of others in chess. Only a darkhearted person could do that.
The person who mentioned Polgars blog makes a good point. Her blog has totally reframed my mind on women (I’m a recovering sexist). But she, Jennifer Shahade and many other women are important to know about. I don’t feel like I’m dealing with reverse sexism because Polgar highlights womens impact on chess.
So, it is with The Chess Drum! Black people, othe minorites and women for many years have been written out of certain segments of history. Your site and blog highlight the impact of Black people who play the game across the globe. Who could be mad at that?
Your site is not racist on any level. Only a shallow, ignorant and potentially bigoted fool could think so. Brush off the haters and keep doing what you do!! Because of the dignity, respect and love you have for the game and Black people, The Chess Drum has inspired many across the world. I’m one of them.
Cofounder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation
I find this argument amusing. Everywhere you get a “slant”!!!
let us not fool ourselves. I recall getting american coverage of the Olympics and guess what it highlighted the american acheivements. I watched the Canadian coverage and again highlighting canadians was expected. In some cases the event winner was like an afterthought. I browse many websites related to chess and I don’t think you can get reports on the Jamaican or Cameron national chess championships on them. Correct me if Mr. Chessnia has it up on his. Is it true then that some sites report only some of the chess world news? How do they pick their content? Why are panafrican events seemingly excluded? Are they racist you might ask ???
I find this website far from exclusionist or biased or in any way supporting the “superiority” of any racial group( I believe that is part of the definition as well). I think this is all silly really. This site does not exclude it merely focuses. There are pictures and articles here on others as well.
I appreciate that you can not just let it go away because the “racist” accusation is a very very serious one.
Where is his proof by the way?
Interesting discussion. It’s obviously not a racist site as I have viewed articles about Nigel Short, Josh Waitzkin (sp?), etc., however, there does remain the fact that African peoples have suffered through the years due to the effects of European colonization and greed. Do black people remain underdogs in certain realms of achievement as a result of the lingering effects of slavery, racism, and other socioeconomic pressures? I believe so. Therefore organizations such as Black Student Unions or web sites such as the Chessdrum are justified whereas a website called Aryanchess would obviously be in very poor taste.
It’s very similar to the argument regarding affirmative action in the United States.
Keep up the good work!!!
“The Chess Drum” is one of the best chess websites I have even read! Hard to understand people who construes your website as a “racist” one- maybe they are neurotic or the like 💡
Go on, and greetings from Argentina! 😀
Keep up the good work Daaim……………….
You can please SOME of the people some of the time, but you can’t please ALL the people all the time.
This website has historical value to it now. It has opened roads that I (African-American ) had never seen until you got this website up and running. I have played many players of all different backgrounds and although I would see blacks at tournaments, it wasn’t until I started reading your site did I realize that a LOT of players here in the US and abroad were just simply overlooked ( or ignored ). Either way, your site fills a need and is very interesting.
I’ll be getting back into tournaments soon and maybe I’ll meet you and some of the readers over the chessboard. Peace
I just discovered this thread a couple of days ago and find Gil’s position hard to understand and very surprising. In fact, the first thing I did was check the date of Daaim’s original post to see it was dated April first. 🙂 Of course this site is focused on black issues in chess, but how is that different from a site that focuses on other groups such as scholastic chess, or chess in a particular country? As a white chess player, I’ve always enjoyed visiting this site and never found anything remotely devisive here. Gil’s position was so difficult to fathom that we started a thread about it over in Chessville’s forum at https://forums.delphiforums.com/chessville/messages/?msg=4587.1
Any comments there would be welcome.
I was turned on to this site by Ian Wilkinson of Jamaica several years ago. I’m a white chessplayer who was born in Jamaica but is now an American citizen. At first, I wondered a little about the seemingly-narrow focus of The Chess Drum, but I soon became aware that this is a truly wonderful site. The focus is on black players, but Daaim has a very inclusive mentality and posts links to major chess results whether they involve black people or not. How can you call this site racist when it is loaded with positive and inclusive articles, stories, links, etc. The overwhelming message is of brotherhood and positive achievement for peoples of all colors, imo.
On a personal note, I love the way that Daaim highlights the unsung achievements of people like my friend, Ian Wilkinson. These people need to be recognized! I’ll always be marching to the beat of the chess drum. Keep up the great work, Daaim!
Absolutely ridiculous. Mr. Gill makes a specious argument, partly remittable at best, very likely brought about, in my opinion, by his own personal standing on non-Caucasian races and his animosity thereof.
I am a white person living in South Africa and I often visit this website as there is not a Blacks Only sign. There is also some good chess here and there is no other sites that reports on African players (players from the world I live in). You are not taking anything away from white people and only contribute something to Africa. Children in Africa also needs role models and the Chessdrum can provide just that. I only wish that more children in South Africa could access the internet. Chess is a wonderful way to keep the children of the street here and I wish they could promote it more. I can tell you that I hate the term racism as it is thrown too much around in South Africa by both blacks and whites – and it contributes to nothing.
I’m not sure what Javier Gil is talking about, but if the site were poorly done I’m sure he wouldn’t have the same objection. I suppose he feels that we are supposed to be one happy family (“gens una sumas”) as he mentioned in his letter. Of course, players of African descent (and their activities) have been ignored for decades. Before The Chess Drum, there was little documented evidence that Black people played. At least in a chess sense, that notion has been laid to rest.
Gil fails to note that most chess websites (including his) focus almost entirely on European/American events and players. He never addresses this point. There are so many sensational stories being missed. What other chess website (in the world) will have stories on players from Mauritius, Martinique, South Africa, Egypt, Jamaica, Trinidad, China, Belize, Brazil, Sweden and many others? The Chess Drum has news you cannot get anywhere else.
Daaim, way to take the left side of your foot and put it on the right side of his face. P-K4, MATE! Did he really think that such an unsubstantiated attack was going to go unobserved? He shot one over your bow for whatever reason, and instead of waiting for him to push pawn you picked the board up and tossed it right back at him letting him know that this game was not meant to be played like that. Way to defend home field. We must protect this house!
For this to be a Racist website would mean that you would have to be a racist. people who know you probably giggled at the racist website comment. That’s all it derserves. a giggle. Gotta go, I think I hear the Drum beating.
Reminds me when I was in University in Europe, the University had an African-Caribbean Society and a lot of people questioned its motives. Some argued by forming such a club integration was very much discouraged whilst some thought it gave students confidence etc and helped the members who often hailed from disadvantaged communities. I see all the hallmarks of such a debate on this topic.
When I attended University in Europe some time ago, there used to be an African & Caribbean Society in school. Some argued it helped minorities integrate, some thought it was divisive, some thought it boosted confidence of the members etc. I see the same situation here.
Its the same debate, different topic
same issue different people
Same Ship, different drugs
One thing is for certain…
without such sites we would have a very narrow view of chess. My criticism has been that the top chess magazines and websites focus primarily on Europe and the same handful of tournaments and players. How will chess grow if widespread appeal is not shown? Taking a page from your book Darren… some say The Chess Drum integrates 😐 some say it is divisive 😡 some say it boosts confidence 😀 I say, “so be it!”
I’ll never forget the controversy years back when The Chess Drum was up for “Best General Website” award from a chess journalist organization. There were three candidates and one of them dropped out. The judges chose a personal site over The Chess Drum. I heard that the judges felt The Drum was divisive and not inclusive. The Chief Judge was very, very upset at the choice, but of course it had to stick.
Chess is a universal game… what difference does site’s emphasis make? There are no filters or subscriptions for this site and anyone can enjoy it. If not, there are many other sites. Just know that the focus is the African Diaspora here. I if you accept that uniqueness, then there is plenty of exciting chess coverage here!
Thank you for an excellent web site. IM Gil’s comments are in poor taste. As you note, he is from a largely white population and may not be able to appreciate some of the racial issues in other parts of the world. Having said that, can there be something positive to take from his comments?
Maybe he chose his words poorly and what he really wants to feel more welcomed at this website. It is exciting to read and hear about the accomplishments of many strong black players, from Maurice Ashley previously, to players like IM Tate and GM Amon Simutowe recently. It is also nice to see that you feature stories on strong players of many races, including Indian players and some excellent stories about Hikaru Nakamura as well. I have enjoyed seeing a great mix of people and personalities at the national tournaments that I have attended (Minnesota, Vegas, Connecticut). I know that your website has played a role in introducing many talented minds to the game of chess, as well as helped further their development.
I can’t help but wonder if IM Gil’s comments were poorly chosen words with an underlying request, simply to make this website more welcoming and accessible for players of all racial backgrounds. All the while, maintaining the core principals of the website, specifically highlighting the events and accomplishments of the black chess-playing community.
Thank you sir. It’s rare I’d get a comment like that, but I only discovered his sentiments when I visited his website. What he is missing is that this is a chess site… if he likes chess he should be able to enjoy the site. If not, then he has racial insensitivities that he may not have known about.
Who is the First Black Grandmaster ? Its clear racist like gil can aswer this question, however if you ask him about his own kind his ignorance will be exposed, he simply doesnt know but they keep superficial statistics on us. Why? Brother Shabazz this is Exactly why it is my duty as an Ultramodern Practioner to point out inconsistencies in their eurocentric thought patterns even if it is coming from Kasparov, Actually if it wasnt for this site the world in general wouldnt know we have our own Black Chess Science, and the Black people of the world wouldnt be aware of this accomplishment in the particular whom it is designed for. When you go to one of their sites all you read is how great one of them are so we wil see.
Australia, a country with a unique historical hatred of its dark-skinned indegenous people–the Aboriginal population was systematically killed from an estimated one million in 1788 to about 30,000 in the 1930s, their life expectancy is 20 years lower than whites, infant mortality rates are four times higher, and in the north and north-west, trachoma and leprosy have been rife. Add this toxic social disdain to the high rates of Aboriginal arrests and imprisonment, and especially, of Aboriginal deaths in police custody, another depressing major issue– in 1988 Aborigines accounted for 15% of the prison population and 21% of deaths in custody. So atrocious is its human rights pretensions, that by 2007, the government employed new sanctions to “protect” Aboriginals, known as the ‘Northern Territory Intervention’, which granted additional power to the sovereign to undermine public law, diminish equality, and limit aboriginal rights. According to Dr Ross Kidd, an outspoken specialist in Aboriginal rights and affairs, the government legislated to control every aspect of the life of any person of Aboriginal descent targeted for state ‘care’. This included where they lived, who they could marry, and [who attained] guardianship of their children. The Anglo Saxon yardstick and bureaucratic control over indigenous communities is further exemplified in the case of Mabo v Queensland (1988), it found that the Crown owns all of Australia’s land, which itself is a feudal concept, dismissing the preconception that individuals can hold entitlement, rekindling ambivalence and strengthened concerns that Aboriginal land would be cleared for mining, pastoral, waste disposal or tourism projects.
And none of what was just said is the tip of the iceburg, so you can imagine my surprise when at the last tournament I went to, I overheard 2 young white males talking in the skittles room, and one had just come back from Australia, I couldn’t resist, “did you hang out with any of the aboriginals?,” he shot back, “no, not even Austalians hang out with Aboriginals,” his condor suprise me, but I could feel he meant this as an oberservation. So I unleashed a small tirade that swept the room into quiet as I talked about their history and how uniquely bleak this group of people, with an unbroken 40,000 yr timeline of life on earth have repaciously been treated. The hypocrite status of international values is well written on the intellectual wall of one of the most impressive documents of this century, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which although non-binding, four nations with significant indigenous populations voted against the declaration: the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Point being, not that IM Gil’s comments are important, but atypical of the mindset from which he speaks, and should he be interested in championing the colonialistic fetish for dehumanizing others, I would like to advise him of contributions he can make to cleaning the moral stance inside his own nationalistic backyard, that far exceed such a lackluster and jeuvenile act, as depriving chessplayers of a link to thechessdrum.com, but it just goes to prove, “All phenomena are real in some sense, unreal in some sense, meaningless in some sense, real and meaningless in some sense, unreal and meaningless in some sense, and real and unreal and meaningless in some sense. “
I appreciate your lengthy, educational posting. I am familiar with the plight of the Aboriginals and I hope to one day meet these honorable people. I have high regard for their persistence and struggle. We all can learn something from this history. Many of the issues are reminiscent of the struggles endured by my ancestors centuries ago and we still suffer from the lingering effects. I hope people are not fooled by the Obama presidency. It was a great accomplishment, but there is still much inequity and racial discrimination here.
I found Gil’s comments on his website, chessnia.com. He did not personally e-mail me with these concerns. When I read his notes about The Chess Drum, it is the first time I had heard the site declared racist, but there is that sentiment some quarters of the U.S. While many will recognize the journalistic efforts and the content, some will mention the narrowness of the site. However, The Chess Drum is far more diverse than most chess websites I’ve seen. That is the irony. The Drum covers a wide variety of chess with a special emphasis on places that we often ignore. Professional chess is also covered.
Gil’s comments point to a shortcoming that we often see in this world. If something does not put the dominant countries (America and Europe) in the center, then it is somewhat parochial. When I wrote him a letter pointing out that his own site only focuses on a very narrow segment (European), he then featured a story on Simutowe’s 3rd norm as if to make some attempt at diversity. It was quite feeble. Nevertheless. The Chess Drum is a chess site. If a person likes chess, then it is a site for them. If that person happens to see a problem with the site’s focus on players of African descent, it reveals more about racial attitudes of that individual than the website itself.
This site is no more racist than the New York Time or CBS. When my European related friends or other European related non-friends use “Black people”, in my presence I always make sure to have them clarify what they mean in their reference. Often it is not what most AA think. I always remind them that Black is more than the opposite of white and more than the European concept of bad. I tell them that Black implies the relationship to Africa, a country they had been taught to appreciate in the past for human traffacking and now for its precious metal and resources. When their focus is shifted to what they know of African history they realized their anti-black comments are based on (prejudgement) non-logical thought. There is a lot to be learned by all from this site.
The purpose of this site is to inform. Those who say the site is racist perhaps do not believe that Blacks are worthy enough to be presented in such a light. If this were a ragtag website of a few pages of poor quality, Javier Gil probably would not have even recognized the site. There are no such comments about sites that focus almost exclusively on a specific chess segment.
There are websites on Jewish chess, women’s chess, blind chess, European chess, Asian Chess and others, yet Gil does not speak of these. Gil has no understanding or appreciation whatsoever of Black people and their contributions made in chess. I’m not blaming him because there was no knowledge being presented. No one had made any efforts to promote the idea that chess is a universal activity.
As I have mentioned before, white supremacists have been to The Chess Drum only to have their twisted ideas of Black inferiority refuted. I have not had to say anything to them. Gil said ideas have no color. He’s right. That is why The Chess Drum presents the ideas of people of African descent since there has been no other efforts to present it. The point is to include these ideas into overall chess history where they had been previously ignored.