Persona non grata
In 2007 I won the British Championship in my best ever performance. I was representing Scotland at the time. In 2008 I was ignored for a long time by the organisers (3-4 months) before eventually offered a dormitary room with toilet in the hall. At that time I had become a GM. About half of the cash prizes were going to English players only. As you can guess the tournament was organised by the ECF. In 2009 the ECF officially only gave conditions (those glorious dormitary rooms!?) to English players.
As a result no Scottish GM has played in the British since 2007. In 2004-2006 Jonathan Rowson won the British (and Keti a lot of the Women’s title).
What did the Scottish Federation do to fight for the players?
You got that right. ZIP-ZERO.
So when the Danish Championship was announced to be in Hillerod in 2010, I decided to change back. Not with the intention to play for the national team (I was eventually worn down, but that is another story), but to go back to Nordsjelland where I come from and represent my old club.
The reaction from the Scottish Federation was to ask for compensation for the fee for changing federation (which was not much, and which I paid half of back in 2005). I reminded them that I had donated £1000s to the federation through various events, only weeks prior to the Scottish Championship. They apologised. No hard feelings on that account, but it shows the line of thinking.
Jonathan Rowson no longer plays tournament chess, Keti went through an education and I am quitting tournament chess this year.
On the way out I managed to win the Scottish title. I could not win it in 2005 (8/9) because of lack of sufficient residency, even though the change of federation was already under way. I am very proud to be Scottish Champion (like everyone else in the office), I am a member for life of the Scottish Federation and I assume that my children will be members of the Scottish Federation.
You could mis-interpretate this as being anti-me or being narrow minded. I actually think it is anti-grandmasters. Over the years the GMs have found themselves under continuous attack in the Scottish Federation by people who do not understand just how much time and effort it has taken to reach this level. We are seen as an extension of the club champions, who for some mysterious reason is just a bit better than everyone else – not as hard-working serious sportsmen who have given up a big part of our working lives to reach this level.
Having said that, I do think a proposal of the “Scottish Champion have to be a member of FIDE through the Scottish Federation” makes sense. I do take it personally that it is proposed a week after I win the title, even though it is certainly not intended to be so. I do like the mind such an insular policy fits the narrow mindedness I have often found on the Scottish Federations noticeboard. But more importantly it simply does not make sense that the Scottish Champion does not represent Scotland.
Oh yeah, on the way home from the Scottish I misplaced the trophy. I am very sorry. I hope it was insured.
(I would have put this on the Federations Noticeboard, but none of us in the office can get on it).