Cancel Culture Takes a Swing at Chess
The events of this year keep exploring new reaches of insanity that none of us thought possible when we were stupidly saying “Happy New Year!” to each other. It’s March 121st, 2020 as I begin writing this and I’m exhausted just thinking about how much year is left. After reading about the “RAAAAAAAACISM” mob trying to cancel John Wayne I figured it couldn’t get much weirder.
Then I found out that chess is racist.
Or someone is seriously pondering whether chess is racist.
Australian Chess Federation committee member Dr Kevin Bonham has refuted suggestions the rule of white pieces moving first was racially motivated.
Dr Bonham spoke to ABC radio’s James Valentine on Wednesday afternoon after a man posted to social media his child’s query about why white always moves first in chess.
Controversy arose when the ABC proposed a radio discussion on the matter and on Tuesday sought an interview with John Adams, an economist who represented the Australian Chess Federation in 2015.
Mr Adams declined the interview offer and went into a Twitter rage saying the ABC had taken the view that chess was “racist”. He also referred them on to Dr Bonham.
Rational people don’t politicize everything or imbue games with racial overtones. I can’t help but think that people who do are just the most wretchedly miserable creatures on Earth. I used to give people like that the benefit of the doubt and assume I was merely witnessing media-fueled brief outbursts of awfulness. You get to know a few of them better, however, and you realize that they have turned being offended into a fetish.
Chess is a game that is thought to be almost 1500 years old that began in India and isn’t exactly steeped in antebellum American politics. The reasoning behind white moving first seems to have evolved over time and was for a long time not a hard and fast rule:
“In 19th century the player who had the right to go first could choose which colour they went first with, but analysts for some time had been publishing games as if white moved first whether this was actually true or not,” he wrote.
“Around the early 1880s a switch occurred in which tournament organisers followed the annotators and standardised white moving first.
“Some players including Löwenthal [a chess player in the 1800s] had been lobbying for this for some decades and saying this was established in London in the late 1850s.”
In fact, on many custom-made chess boards — which are fairly common — the colors of the pieces aren’t even black and white. Spoiler alert: they can be whatever color you want them to be.
They Won’t Quit With Just Calling Chess Racist
Yes, this may seem rather silly but we have all met the cancel culture woke scolds and are aware of how serious they are about their hunts for racism. Just wait until they decide that having a king and queen on a chess board is transphobic and the bishops and knights are sexist tools of the patriarchy. If I had typed any of that just a decade ago you’d have been convinced that I was just being my sarcastic self.
Now, you can be reasonably assured that some millennial woke scold is working on that hot take think piece this very moment.
I’m going to go grab one of my racist chess openings books off the shelf and study for a while because I love the game and refuse to let everything be ruined.
PJ Media Senior Columnist and Associate Editor Stephen Kruiser is the author of “Don’t Let the Hippies Shower” and “Straight Outta Feelings: Political Zen in the Age of Outrage,” both of which address serious subjects in a humorous way. Monday through Friday he edits PJ Media’s “Morning Briefing.” His columns appear twice a week.