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ECF Book of the Year?

User Rating: / 23
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 02 October 2013
By GM Daniel Gormally

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Arkell and the Hawk, unfair to miss out?

I'm always a bit wary of "awards" as in Oscars, book awards etc. They tend to be less a subjective process and more a case of mates rewarding mates.

I once finished second in the British chess federation player of the year award. I must admit, I wasn't even aware I was nominated. The chances of my coming close to winning such an award now, are roughly equivalent to Al-Shabaab winning the Noble peace prize.

There is also an ECF "book of the year award".

I must admit I was disappointed to hear that my friends Keith Arkell and Jonathan Hawkins were not nominated for their excellent books, respectively Keith's autobiography "Arkell's Odyssey",  and Hawkins' equally superb "Amateur to I.M." both of which were debut books. Disappointed, but hardly surprised.
GM Keith Arkell

You have to wonder how far these two books got in the selection process and whether they were even considered at all. Doubtless I will never get the answer to this question, as I'd be very surprised if anyone on the selection committee bothered to read this blog. It isn't written by one of their old-school chums, or by someone privately educated, so in their eyes, isn't worth reading.

It's true you could argue that if I was on the selection committee, I'd be just as biased in nominating those two books. But it's very unlikely I'd ever be on such a committee, as I tend to be hotheaded and say what I think, and also wasn't educated at Eton or Harrow, rather hampering my inclusion yet further.

Of those on the actual final list, the only one I've actually read is Judit Polgar's "How I beat Fischer's record" which admittedly is a superb book, as I'm sure are the rest of the books on the list. That's not the point I'm trying to make, the point is that it's highly unlikely that people like Hawkins or Arkell (or least of all myself) would ever make it on to such a list. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid here?
IM Jonathan Hawkins

It's telling that "Amateur to I.M." already won the chess journalists of America award for best book, but didn't even get on the final nomination list in Hawkins' own country. What an absolute joke. I guess it shows that America thankfully is free of the kind of class prejudice that is still rampant in this washed-up land. (The book has also made it to the top-10 of the ACP list -

GM Daniel Gormally is open for chess lessons. You can contact him using this This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Comments (7)
1. Written by Peter on 13:01 02 2013 .
I tend to believe that many experts indeed vote for their mates & award those people who are influential and can potentially serve as valuable connections. 
However, there is also an issue of stereotypes and branding. For example, let's consider an imaginary situation. Four authors have released new books. They are Kasparov, Polgar J., Gormally and Arkell. Regardless of the quality of the books, who of them do you think are more likely to make it to Stage 2 of any voting procedure (two candidates proceed, two are eliminated)?  
I believe it has less to do with being private schooled or not and more to do with the strict hierarchy in the minds of the chess community members, where any 2700 is "better" than any "2600" and so on. Even in areas that are not directly related to being a good player, e.g., in chess writing.
2. Written by Nigel Short on 13:43 02 2013 .
Yes, Danny Gormally is being paranoid, but there is nothing new there. I have glanced through a copy of Keith Arkell's book and, although I intend to procure a copy myself (and I don't buy utter crap), I wouldn't consider it a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. I suspect Jonathan Hawkins omission is more serious. Unfortunately I haven't seen the tome myself, but I have only heard good things about it. Oh, by the way, I am privately educated, which I hope still entitles me to express an opinion...
3. Written by Keith Arkell on 23:26 02 2013 .
No comment, on the grounds that 
4. Written by Natalia's FAN on 14:58 04 2013 .
Nobody is "entitled" to abuse, attack personally or treat anyone like **** on internet. This aint like jr. High skeeewL :cry 
But its internet; so... yeah.  
I could be wrong. 
Its all good, Life can be boring sometimes... ^_^ 
Have a nice day/night! 0_x
5. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 17:22 07 2013 .
Nigel Short's curmudgeonly prattle against a book which he even admits to not having read is exactly the attitude which Danny Gormally is complaining about.  
Let us instead turn our attention more profitably to the glowing tributes of those who have actually bothered to read 'Arkell's Odyssey' - Keith's extraordinarily delightful and gripping autobiography. Check out the glowing reviews on Amazon UK, or on the English Chess Forum. Or reviews in the English Chess magazines by respected contributers such as Andrew Farthing and Gary Lane. 
It is only a pity that the book hasn't been circulated better overseas. It appears that, for example, 'Chessbase', 'New in Chess' and 'Chess Caf' are oblivious to it's existence.
6. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 22:54 30 2014 .
Arkell's book is crap anyway. Why aren't i in it?
7. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 01:12 30 2015 .
Please can someone remove the above comment(number 6). It was written by a certain Matthew Wilson, in bad taste, knowing that miss Blackburn and myself had a difficult and unresolved falling out a few years earlier. 
Please also remove this comment, of course! 

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