It's that time of year when my subscription for New In Chess is up for renewal, a matter which in my mind is always linked with the question "can I stand much more Nigel Short?" which, to Nigel's credit I suppose, I have always so far answered with a yes.
I'm not sure the answer would be the same if the question I asked was "can I stand both Nigel Short and Dominic Lawson?", since Nigel's columns have other virtues to make up for his studied obnoxiousness and half-digested English, and even the obnoxiousness has a certain illustrative purpose to it. It adds character, even if the character is someone you'd cross a city to avoid.
Lawson just bores me though. I'm sorry about that: I just find him mediocre. The last time he wrote in New In Chess it was a long, dull piece about how the world of chess was in mortal danger because we're using computer evaluations when watching chess live, an article which was a rather greater threat to my interest in chess than the phenomenon of which it warned. If he's written again, before the piece in the latest issue, I've missed it - which would be an easy thing to do - but I've now seen the four pages he's produced on the three seasons of his radio show, Across the Board, about which I've previously written twice. One thing I can't deny - he's done well to get in so many episodes of a show which, by his own account, may not have interested a single person in the game of chess.
Yes, it's ejh being negative again. It was chess on the radio, on Britain's leading station, with famous people on the show, what is he complaining about this time? Could you do any better, ejh?
Probably not. But, see, just because I couldn't do any better doesn't mean the show was any good. You'd have the same problem if I tried to make a bedside cabinet. The chess wasn't very interesting, partly because the games were such mismatches (generally and unavoidably in Lawson's favour) and the interviews weren't particularly illuminating, not least because if you want to have either your interviewer or your subject have their mind on the job, you wouldn't interpose a game of chess. Would you?
Nobody ever spoke well of the snooker, or the interviews, in A Frame With Davis, something the snooker champion might have explained to Lawson when they met, and who remembers anything of A Round With Alliss, which the snooker programme, for some reason, hoped to emulate?
I understand what Danny King's commentaries were supposed to achieve - to give some impression of what was happening in a game where we were not being given the score - but they didn't achieve it. I don't think anything in the programme achieved anything. It didn't even manage to produce much enthusiasm among chessplayers, and God knows we're not too choosy when it comes to publicity for our much-overlooked game.
Yes, but ejh, you don't like Dominic Lawson much, do you? Well, no I don't, I don't like his opinions, I don't like his connections and I don't think he'd be anything without those connections. But never mind what I think, since while my opinions may be the point of this particular piece, they weren't the point of this particular programme. What did the public think? What did the reviewers think? Did anybody who writes about radio, about media, or about culture, ever say "Across the Board is on this week, you musn't miss it"?
Not to my knowledge - and if there's a hole in my knowledge I'd be glad to have it filled, since while I don't go much for Lawson I do have time for his producer, David Edmonds, whose book (with John Eidinow) on Reykjavik I liked a lot. Besides, it was chess on the radio, and I'd like to be positive about it. And people do work hard on radio programmes, and I'd like to say that the work they did paid off.
But really, I can't. Because it wasn't very good.
[Dominic Lawson index]