John and LaVaun
2021 World Chess Championship
Games 6, 7 and 8
Alexandra Botez’s comments ignite some flames on social media!
We had several memorable moments in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Game 6 was a record-breaking marathon–the longest chess game ever played in a championship match.
Game 6 was 136 moves, 7 hours and 45 minutes long, spanning two days, starting at 4:30 PM Friday and ending at 12:15 AM Saturday with a win for reigning World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.
Norway’s Magnus Carlsen defended his title against the challenger, Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, in a 14-game Classical Chess match. The match lasted only 11 games, with Magnus winning four games and drawing 7 games.
A Conversation with Maurice Ashley
Maurice Ashley was the master of ceremonies, host and commentator for NBC Sports at the 2021 World Chess Championship in Dubai.
Maurice and John visiting
Maurice Ashley is a 55-year-old Jamaican-American chess Grandmaster (GM), author and commentator. In 1999, he earned the GM title, making him the first Black person to do so.
At 12 years old, Maurice arrived in the USA. In our conversation, I confirmed that, yes, it’s true–his family was so poor in Jamaica that his mother could not afford shoes for him and he walked to school barefoot. I also confirmed that Maurice has taught chess in the K-12 public school system in the USA.
Maurice Ashley’s Wisdom:
“African-continent GMs (White) do exist; but, according to the system of racial classification, I am the first Black GM in history…it matters, and doesn’t matter, all at the same time.” – Maurice Ashley
A Visit with Two World Chess Champions
Vishy, John and Anna
Vishy Anand and Anna Muzychuk broadcast all the games live at the World Chess Championship in Dubai. During their breaks, they were accessible, engaging, and conversational.
Anna Muzychuk is a Ukrainian chess Grandmaster. She is the two-time Women’s World Blitz Champion–in 2014 and 2016, and the Women’s World Rapid Champion in 2016.
In 2017 Anna finished second in the Classical Women’s World Chess Championship. In July 2012, Anna became the fourth woman–after Judit Polgar, Humpy Koneru and Hou Yifan–to cross the 2600 rating mark.
Vishy Anand is an Indian chess Grandmaster and the fifteenth undisputed World Chess Champion. He became India’s first Grandmaster in 1988, and is one of the few players to have surpassed a rating of 2800, a feat he first achieved in 2006.
Anand won the World Chess Championship five times. He became the undisputed World Chess Champion in 2007, and defended his title in 2008, 2010, and 2012.
In 2013, he lost the title to challenger Magnus Carlsen, and after winning the Candidates Tournament the next year in 2014, he lost the World Chess Championship rematch to Carlsen in 2014.
A Moment of Controversy
Andrea (left) & Alexandra (right)
The 2021 World Chess Championship was not without a moment of political controversy. Alexandra Botez, born September 24, 1995, is an American-Canadian chess player and a social media commentator, a Twitch streamer, and a YouTuber along with her younger sister Andrea.
Alexandra is popular, lively, talkative, charismatic and fun. Many of her viral videos show Alexandra “trash talkin'” with chess hustlers at famous parks and chess clubs throughout the USA and the world.
Alexandra is also a Woman International Chess Federation Master (2013) and a Stanford University graduate.
Alexandra Botez has publicly detailed her encounters with sexism and misogyny in tournament chess and has advocated for greater gender diversity. As a prominent female chess figure, she won election to the Board of Directors of the Susan Polgar Foundation, a nonprofit aiming to break down gender barriers in the game through scholarships and prizes.
Alexandra relaxing on the porch.
Alexandra began streaming online chess content in 2016 while she was a student at Stanford. She now manages the BotezLive Twitch and BotezLive YouTube channels with her younger sister Andrea, and they have more than 1,000,000 followers. ONE MILLION!
While streaming live at BotezLive Twitch from Dubai, a “troll” commented that Alexandra and Andrea–by contracting with AT&T to broadcast the championship match–supported the “modern day slavery” that the UAE allegedly endorses.
Alexandra reacted, and flippantly replied to the troll something along the lines that she found it ironic that someone from a country built on real slavery would engage in elitist virtue signaling attempting to shame the Botez sisters for their AT&T contract to broadcast live the World Chess Championship from Dubai.
Alexandra said she could not comment further while under contract with AT&T at the match, but would respond more deliberately and address the issue when she arrived back in the USA after the match.
Modern Day Slavery
Alexandra & Andrea ready to broadcast.
As early as January 2019, media articles addressed alleged “modern day slavery” in the UAE. The articles alleged migrants from impoverished, rural communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and so forth replied to advertisements “recruiting” them to work in the UAE for low wages, long hours and simple room and board–for a price!
Apparently, the recruiters paid for migrants’ passports, visas, travel expenses, and dormitory-style barracks and food once they arrived in the UAE. Upon arrival in the UAE, the migrants–having signed a contract–submitted their passports, then usually worked one or two years to repay the “debt” and regain their passports.
Now in 2022, most soon-to-be migrants in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines are aware of the conditions and circumstances they will encounter in the UAE. Nevertheless, they choose to sign the contracts, make the journey, and submit their passports, because conditions in their countries of origin are so impoverished.
Some participants in the discussion compared the migrants’ decision to come to the UAE to the millions of people-of-color migrants who leave their countries to enter what some critics alleged is the “colonial, racist USA built on slavery.”
Nevertheless, the migrants make the journey to the alleged “colonial, racist USA” because the conditions for them are better in the USA than in their impoverished and sometimes corrupt countries of origin.
Alexandra Trash Talkin’!
Alexandra did apologize, calling her comments a “half-baked” reaction during a chat with a troll while streaming live online. Her “half-baked” observations allowed the ignorant to claim Alexandra’s comments somehow defended the USA’s history of slavery as well as defending Dubai’s alleged present-day use of so-called “modern day slavery.”
Alexandra Botez had responded, “I’m sorry, but what was the USA built on? Like, the UAE may have been built on this a little later…” before being cut off by her younger sister who attempted to change the subject, calling the topic too “political” for the AT&T sponsored stream.
Alexandra later clarified her comment a little bit, saying, “Here is all I am trying to say. We are in Dubai, so we won’t say anything in particular about this country. The only thing that bothers me is when people from first-world or developed countries sh*t on developing countries for doing the same things that those developed countries did in the first place. That is a little bit of ignorance.”
The sisters warned against taking the sound byte out of context, saying it’s a longer discussion that they will have when they are at home.
However, their apology and clarification did not do much good to prevent the onslaught of online criticism.
The Long Path
“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”
As in Chess so in Life
Magnus Carlsen shocked at Nepomniachtchi’s blunder in Game 9.
Magnus Carlsen’s record-setting 7-hour-and-45-minute 136-move marathon victory in Game 6 is symbolic of life and history’s progress marching toward winning human rights and freedom for all–including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The game is similar to the battle for human rights–including the freedom of speech–in that the game was fraught with skirmishes, setbacks, small victories, imbalances, more setbacks but where finally the champion of freedom and chess, Magnus Carlsen, marshalled his forces and triumphed in the endgame.
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