GM Nigel Short's article recounts benefits of slavery

England's GM Nigel Short is a phenomenal chess talent. Having once competed for the World Championship against none other than GM Garry Kasparov, he is currently rated 2701 which places him #17 among the world's top players. Short  is famous for his creative, but swash-buckling style of play and is influential in chess circles.

Given the confused state of international chess, one can blame the excessive political and personal interests as culprits for the endless problems. While chess players have been known to have a myriad of political and social opinions, Short's recent comments extolling the benefits of slaved labor were as repugnant as its practice. In the November 23rd issue of 
The Telegraph (arts section), Short wrote:

GM Nigel Short

GM Nigel Short

"Pharaonic Egypt and Periclean Athens were great civilisations built on the firm foundation of slavery. Regrettably, bondage - of at least that variety - has gone out of fashion these days, and even indentured labour is considered to be somewhat morally repugnant. But I ask you, how is one supposed to produce monumental architecture and think philosophically if one also has to do the shopping, clean the house and mow the lawn? A bit of home help certainly does not come amiss - a point ignored by those myopic 19th-century Christian abolitionists. Most of the higher things in life require total dedication."

While one may also argue that Short's knowledge of history is flawed, there is no doubt that his comments were void of all human decency. To this very day, there are Western economists who hold these theories to heart and praise the exploitation of cheap labor as good marginal utility of time and resources. This was the concept behind colonialism and the use of slave labor. Even today, billion-dollar corporations are the subject of criticism when using marginalized labor in the form of  "sweat shops."

Using the  analogy of "computer slavery," Short asserts how much more efficient one can be if the dirty work of chess can be given to a computer program such as Fritz or Shredder.

"I can abuse him, give him the most humiliating and degrading tasks, and he sets about them uncomplainingly."

Using inanimate computers to perform chess tasks is certainly not analogous to using human slaves which are forced to work long hours, under horrendous conditions,
without pay, emotionally-broken, whipped and even mutilated if they complained. Poor analogy, and if a metaphor, certainly distasteful. The damage of slavery has been devastating historically, socially, culturally and economically to all who have been victimized. This is particularly true concerning people of African descent (who still suffer from the lingering effects from centuries of the slave trade). Certainly, many civilizations have used slave labor, but to praise a concept which has contributed to the most brutal treatment of humans is certainly a point of view that should be condemned with the utmost alacrity and precision.

~ Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Editor's Note: GM Nigel Short sent a statement to The Chess Drum (12 December 2004) in relation to his original article. His response can be read in its entirety here.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 2 December 2003