A Matter of Choice: I Chose to Take the Short Article Personally
Brother Daaim,

Nigel Short's article in Telegraphchess filed: 23/11/03 was a snub. He snubbed me; he snubbed my ancestors, my culture, and my ethnicity. More than this he snubbed what for me is a matter of basic human principle: the idea of free-will.  This is the same principle that led my father to fight in  a war that was not his own and is leading many misguided young Americans to fight in another war which is not their own. The idea of free-will and personal choice, to be right or wrong, does not belong to privilege few but to us all.  It is this matter of choice that forces us to consider the consequences of our actions and thereby the results to others and to the collective general will we all belong to. Yet the principle I speak of is more than a common shared compassion of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  This principle I speak of, by its nature, is more then just the evading of bad consequences to ourselves and to others. This principle is personal choice, the very thing that slavery takes away. So no matter how big the monuments that are built for prestige or the philosophies that are made for prosperity without personal choice and free-will there is nothing.  Nigel Short has made his choice to affront this principle and I have made my choice to defend it.  Like on the chess board, the issue is black and white.

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 use 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.

Does the results so justify the means that enhanced training to win has killed the game for what it meant to be: a struggle between two minds, excluding silicon chips.  Get the edge, use your personal computer slave, it doesn't mind.  At the core of all this is the fostering of a relationship between givers/slaves and takers/masters.  This relationship is old even though the exploitive means are new.  Win at any expense.  We see this same battle for bottom-line result in football, baseball, and basketball where hormone enhanced muscle mass is the latest fad to get that winning edge. But when Nigel Short chose to relate extol the virtue of computers by stepping on historical wounds, this is where I take offense.

Brother Daaim, you and I, like all others, are judged and measured by our words and in the manner we chose to say them.  Like others, we are responsible for what we chose to utter forth to the world.  And when we do, we have to take responsibility for what we say, in the manner we say them, and yes--who we offended.  Nigel Short is no different.  He has the right to write what he chose and we have the right to respond to his words of insult where they are found.

Short's intentions may have been to extol the virtue of using computers to the chess world but the manner he say it was offensive to me and countless others.  If I had written an article and proclaim that German bombers shelled London asunder to a smothering ruin of rubbles with the same precision of modern day computer programs in the search of finding forcing tactics on the chessboard and I added," Why can't we bring back the good old days of the Nazi Blitz Attack," I would be assailed that my choice of words were wrong and asked did I know the folks that I offended.  And rightly so,  but I can state here and now that my father fought in World War II Europe while still facing discrimination and segregation at home in the USA. If I had written such a thing, I would have insulted the many innocents that died in Europe and the memories of my father and those fathers of colors who fought and died for a war that was not their own.  So I want to make it clear why I am responding to Short's choice of words.

 It doesn't matter what Nigel Short intentions were when he wrote the article his choice of words was wrong.  I once read that, "The act of evil breeds others to follow, young sins in its own likeness."  By being silent and going along with the program, look what the image of Black America has become in the last decade: where anyone can utter the unsightly remark of, "Why can't we all get along?" and joke that another brother or sister has died or been beaten down on the streets.   Going along and not checking small wrongs, simply encourages bigger wrongs to follow.

If we are to take Short's words for granted and thus be silent, then we must take for granted our very liberties, sense of justice, and fair play. These are very notions that chess can sometimes teach us after a tough win or lost, with or without the latest computer aid.  I have no other agenda then to set things right.  Born in the South Bronx and raised in Harlem, insults, no matter from whom, do not pass lightly.   I am helping to check Short now before he thinks it is "OK" to write another article where there is little response to the words he chose and the images he makes.  It is time to stop worrying about what is politically correct and what is not. It time to stop worrying about being excused of being thin skinned or having hidden agendas.  It has to be made clear to Mr. Nigel Short and to the world at large, that we didn't write these words, Short did!   If others say that we are knit-picking a simple matter or just taking words out of their content, then they have not walked a mile in our shoes.  An insult is an insult.  I Chose to Take the Short Article Personally.

Peter Roberts
Harlem, New York