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Inner Game, The Paperback – June 30, 2008
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- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Paperback : 264 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1843821370
- ISBN-13 : 978-1843821373
- Product Dimensions : 5.51 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Hardinge Simpole (June 30, 2008)
- Language: : English
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
My main issue, one which anybody considering purchasing this should be aware of, is that it’s patently obvious from reading the first few pages alone that the author is far too close to Short to be able to give even a poor impression of objectivity. Lawson admits as much right from the off, explaining his friendship with Short and proclaiming “good friends deserve support”. I can’t really give Lawson credit for this apparent candour though because you’d have to read the book in a coal mine in order to miss the fact that Lawson rather likes Saint Nige and really doesn’t like “Gazza”. Right from the off the book reads like a hagiography of a man who was probably one of the most unremarkable players to challenge for the World Championship for 100 years whilst simultaneously reading as a hatchet job on a guy regarded almost unanimously as in the top 3 chess players in history.
As an example of this blatant partiality, Short laments that he wasn’t provided with the kind of chess education as Kasparov whilst he was a young man, whilst simultaneously “feeling sorry” for Kasparov because the latter wasn’t interested in “pop music and girls” at the time Short was. The narrative paints Kasparov as having every advantage Short didn’t have, yet the simple observation that if Short had spent less time on girls and pop music, maybe he’d have been a little bit better at chess seems to have eluded the author. Sadly Lawson doesn’t tell us how much Short might’ve fancied growing up in Communist Azerbaijan in the ‘60’s either.
Another example comes with Short’s remarking that another Grandmaster, now former world champion and (relevantly) Short’s mate Vishwanathan Anand was “vastly more” talented than Kasparov. Now, that’s Short’s opinion, to which he’s entitled and he is certainly under no obligation to be entirely objective with his opinions. However the author doesn’t point out that such an opinion would be challenged by a large number of chess players, scholars and historians.
Perhaps the most egregious example comes in chapter 2 where Lawson breezily mentions that Short had developed a tendency to make borderline antisemitic utterances - such as labelling Kasparov’s (who is the son of a Jew) favourite opening as “Jewish” perjoratively - completely without criticism and moreover asserting this as being down to the influence of his then coach Boris Spassky, a man belonging to a “race...[of] thorough going antisemites”. As an aside, there are occasions where the language employed by Lawson grates against the sensibilities of a modern reader. “Slitty eyes” to describe a person from Japan anyone? I’m wary of judging people who grew up in a different, less politically correct era, but it’s still the kind of thing that cropped up throughout the book and made an impression on me.
By contrast “Monomaniacal”, lacking in “emotional hinterland” and even “psychotic” are terms used to describe Kasparov within the first 25 pages alone, bearing in mind that the author freely admits to not actually knowing the subject of his denigration in any depth and also bearing in mind that the primary source of his knowledge of Kasparov comes from Short, who also didn’t know Kasparov personally and whom the book makes entirely clear really doesn’t like Garry (or at least he didn’t: Kasparov and Short’s relationship appears to have become more cordial over the years).
The bias doesn’t though just stop at the contrasting characters of the two Grandmasters, it even extends to Lawson’s reporting of the actual match. He concludes that whilst Short was smashed in the first nine games, he “held his own” in the final eleven (in fact Short still lost that eleven) with a rather triumphant tone. This strikes me as like celebrating your football team getting battered 6-1 because at half time the score was 4-0.
I genuinely read the book with increasing frustration when it became clear the author was going to paint one protagonist in a completely unquestioningly flattering light whilst painting the other - as far as I can tell a rather single-minded, possibly somewhat selfish genius who has never committed a crime nor done anything much worse than stare at opponents rather aggressively across the board - as a borderline mentally ill, chess-crazed “scum-bag”. The result is that my attitude towards the main subject of the book was entirely the reverse of what I’m sure was intended: I viewed Short (and actually, by extension, Lawson) as a petty, rather small man overcome by jealousy of a player whose talent and renown towered so far above his own that I rather doubt Kasparov viewed their encounters over the years as amounting to anything approaching a “rivalry” - a word which after all implies something close to parity between combatants. It’s perfectly possible Short is neither a petty nor a small man - though some of his public utterances in recent years do make you wonder about his character - but you wouldn’t know it purely from reading this. I think Lawson has done Short a disservice with this book. Not only that, Lawson seems keen to characterise himself as a shameless toady.
The shame is that, as indicated in my first line, this remains a fascinating book and chunks of it appear to be devoid of Lawson’s blatant cheerleading. I read the whole thing in fairly short order and was riveted in parts. The problem is that I couldn’t read any of it without wondering what was fact and what was fiction conjured up as a result of Lawson’s Short fetish, which somewhat tainted the experience. My summary of the book is that it is as a whole a reflection of the great British sporting tendency of lionising, indulging and excusing the inadequate, plucky loser whilst simultaneously demonising, denigrating and diminishing the true champion.
So whilst I can say that I was engaged by and at times engrossed in this book, I can’t recommend that anybody pay money for it unless you a) like to be annoyed, b) have no regard for objectivity or c) are a subscribing member of the Nigel Short Fan Club.