Zambia's Ncube responds to Short's article

In an interesting  turn of events, Lewis Ncube has addressed charges from GM Nigel Short's article in the Guardian Unlimited. What has clearly been a  series of misunderstandings, Ncube hopes to bring clarity to the issues raised in the articles run both in The Guardian Unlimited and Ncube has accepted a position to run on the Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's "Chess Fidelity" ticket while Short is backing Bessel Kok's "Right Move" party.  This battle has gotten a bit turbulent, but hopefully will not damage the spirit of the electoral process. The following letter was reprinted with permission of Lewis Ncube.


The article by Nigel Short on his visit to Zambia produced in the Guardian on Thursday March 30, 2006 and re-produced on under the title Nigel Short-Inside Africa would make for a good backdrop to an interesting African fiction adventure movie if it weren't so serious in its implications for the image of Zambia or indeed the African continent.


Nigel Short's assertion that there was a military presence at the Chess Federation of Zambia General Assembly on Saturday March 18, 2006 either to ensure order or to intimidate voters can only be described as an attempt to discredit my candidature for the position of FIDE Vice President. On the other hand it could also be an attempt to attack the governance record of my country in view of our Minister of Sport's recently announced statement confirming the Government's full backing for my candidature. Indeed it could be an attempt to achieve both objectives in Nigel's continuing campaigning strategy on behalf of the Right Move camp in which the African leg appears founded on rumour and mud slinging.

The number of delegates to the General Assembly was around 64. In addition to these delegates there were almost a similar number of chess players and enthusiasts who had found their way to the venue for various reasons related to the campaigning for various positions or to simply witness the event.

Prior to the start of the meeting the Returning Officer from the Ministry of Sport Youth and Child Development noticed that the scene was getting a bit rowdy and boisterous. She decided to request for a few police officers from the nearest police station to control the gathering. The Officer-in-Charge at the police station sent FOUR police officers who were not armed (indeed not even with police batons).

Three police officers were deployed outside the hall with one inside. Their duty was to ensure that the meeting proceeded with minimum disturbance.

On the other hand there were two delegates representing the army chess club known as Green Buffaloes Chess Club and another two from Red Arrows Chess Club, the Air force sponsored club. All these four delegates were in civilian clothes and therefore indistinguishable from the rest of the delegates.

Nigel's phantom army claims therefore need to be viewed in the context of his desire to discredit any individual or country that does not share his declared mission for whatever reason. It seems that if you do not agree with him you are fair game for any fabricated attack. With this background one begins to wonder how much of his pronouncements during his trip around Commonwealth and African countries were based on fantasy.


In the article Nigel suggests that I was quietly instructed to step down as President. The truth is that my term of office had already come to an end and I did not seek re-election. My decision not to seek an additional term was made last year prior to the African Individual Championships and Nigel is fully aware as I mentioned this to him when we started talking about his intended visit to Zambia.

In his article Nigel indicates that HE was unwittingly the catalyst to these elections and that he was strongly encouraged to postpone his visit so as not to bolster my popularity.

Bearing in mind that he had only been communicating with me regarding his visit, until a week or so before the elections one wonders as to the accuracy of this reporting. Furthermore, what popularity would be gained when I was not even a candidate at these elections? If he is referring to my tenure in office; Zambians are not so fickle as to judge the achievements of my executive's tenure in office by a three day visit of a British Grandmaster. Our record in office will be judged on far more than the visit of GM Nigel Short.

To say that the elections were repeatedly postponed by the incumbent is again further misinformation. The General Assembly (and elections) which was deferred to facilitate Zambia's hosting of the 2005 African Individual Championship had the initial date set during a Federal Executive Meeting held on Sunday January 15, 2006. One of the requirements set by the FEC was that all affiliated Zones should regularize their tenure of office before the elections of the motherbody.A week before the scheduled General Assembly one of the zones advised that they had not been able to form a quorum at their zonal Annual General Meeting. They therefore requested that consideration be given to postponing the Federation's General Assembly to enable them re-convene to meet the terms set during the referred Federal Executive Committee meeting. This request was duly granted after consultation.

This was the only postponement.


During Nigel Short's visit he made the most of maligning the current FIDE executive members with allegations which bordered on slander. It is difficult to believe that this is the strategy designed by the Right Move for their campaign in Africa. The allegations are made in a sort of "whispering campaign" with a mixture of innuendo and insinuation. I would have thought that the Right Move sympathizers would have concentrated on proposed developmental strategies to empower African and other developing country Federations.

I also believe that the choice of Nigel Short to cover Africa and other developing countries on behalf of the Right Move speaks volumes about how this area ranks in their programme.

A couple of incidents in 2002 and 2003 tend to hint at the inner thoughts of Nigel Short.

In 2002 Nigel joined a boycott of the British Championship by some of England's top players on account of "Too many Indians" being allowed entry to this event. The 2002 Championship, won by R.B. Ramesh was subsequently mockingly referred to as "an Indian takeaway".

The following year the boycott continued with Nigel Short again being part of it.

In the election year of 2006, Nigel then proceeds to tour Commonwealth countries (including Africa) to present himself as one with a Vision. One can't help but wonder about this racial insensitivity; or doesn't it really matter when you are seeking votes.

In November 2003 Nigel penned an article in which he appeared to justify the benefits of slavery in relation to the use of computers in chess. Though he later attempted to clarify the article, during discussions on his visit to Zambia he remained unrepentant about the insensitivity of the article. In a world where some countries have made the denial of the existence of the Holocaust a criminal offence, surely supposedly enlightened people like Nigel should understand the sensitivity attached to the horrors of slavery and not make the practice a part of what he terms as "tongue in cheek" reference.

Once again, in election year, the morality of sending Nigel Short to seek votes from areas which suffered greatly at the hands of the Slave Trade is called into question.


It is my fervent hope that as we get into the home stretch of the campaign, issues will be the order of discussion as opposed to personalities. The rising political temperature does not bode well for the future of chess. Going by the on-going rhetoric, the possibilities of a schism in world chess politics is something we should all be wary of and try to avoid.

The fact that Lewis Ncube and Nigel Short are on opposing camps should not be a licence to fabricate scenarios that aim to tarnish one another irrespective of the consequences.

Let us devote our campaign time on realistic and achievable goals, without misinformation.


Posted by The Chess Drum: 12 April 2006