Chess on the Daily Show

Wow… so the Daily Show has picked up on this weird story that was in the NYTimes several days ago and misrepresented/blown it out of proportion. Adding insult to injury, they do a comedy routine with a board set up incorrectly.

Essentially, the controversy revolves around Rex Sinquefeld’s offer to pay Fabiano Caruana to switch federations and play under the American flag so that, ostensibly, we may win future olympiads. Both the New York Times article and this odd Daily Show piece neglect to mention that Fabiano, who currently plays under the Italian flag, grew up in New York City playing at the Marshall Chess Club and has dual citizenship. What’s more, he currently lives in Spain and does not even speak Italian particularly well- compared to his fluent English. What’s more, in the world of chess it is extremely common for players to switch federations, thus to anyone in the know the real curiosity is that this is being publicized as a controversy at all. Ours is an international game and talent isn’t restricted like in the NBA or NFL where contracts bind players to playing for certain teams for certain amounts of time. Players frequently move from one country to another and switch federations accordingly. What’s more, with the impressive investment in chess that is currently taking place in America -and in St. Louis in particular- it would be a very wise career move for any top chess player to relocate or at the very least switch federations to the United States. I for one support Rex in this gesture to attain more top talent to play under the U.S. Flag and hope that he is not discouraged by this strange NYTimes/Daily Show mischaracterization of his generous offer to raise the profile of American chess.

It has been noted by several observers that perhaps the article by Dylan Loeb Mclain, who is a left leaning NYTimes journalist, may have been motivated by politics as Rex Sinquefeld is an unabashed right-winger who makes an easy target for the likes of Dylan and his ilk. In any case, it would be nice to see a major chess news outlet like chessvibes or chessdom put this story into context so that it doesn’t seem like the U.S. is trying to buy top talent. Besides, if we were trying to buy top talent, why wouldn’t we buy Magnus? He is both a better player and more easily swayed by money. Who else do you see playing chess with corporate logos embroidered on their suit jackets?

Most embarrassing of all- the producers of the Daily Show set up the chess board incorrectly- this can be seen clearly at 4:39. It hurts my eyes to see the king and queen on the wrong color squares. If they’re making the argument that america should develop it’s own top talent, they could have at least shown a little respect for the game and set the board up correctly. In Russia, taxi drivers have an ELO of 2000. Until major american television shows take chess seriously enough to learn how to set up the board, it seems unlikely that we will produce a gold medal winning Olympiad team.