Monday, July 26, 2010

Driven to bad behaviour

Brazil is in 'mourning'. First there was Barricello. Now Massa has joined the pantheon of fallen idols. Still - we should not commit the sin of worshipping at the feet of idols of any description should we? Let me clarify why Brazil is up in arms with an extract from the Daily Express, thus:

"‘DIRTY, thieving cheats’ are words echoing around Formula One after Ferrari dragged the sport into disrepute at the German Grand Prix here. Fernando Alonso’s victory appeared to be ordered via a coded radio message, with Felipe Massa slowing down a lap later to let his team-mate pass and go on to win. The Italian team were fined $100,000 immediately, but there will be further sanctions as the matter was referred to the FIA World Motorsport Council.".

The two naughty boys were certainly given a good 'spanking' in the post-race press conference, thus, from the Daily Telegraph:


"The duo attempted to explain away what had unfolded, but failed to convince the sceptical press, and they clearly cut no ice with the stewards later given their fine. Eddie Jordan, the BBC pundit, said that it was "unlawful", before adding: "It is cheating and the two cars should be excluded."

Here are a few of the questions they were bombarded with and their unconvincing replies.

* Via a coded message it appears we've witnessed a clear case of team orders being handed out. To Fernando, do you feel embarrassed about taking such a win, and to Felipe do you feel angry about having to give up such a win?
Massa: "For sure, you always want to win. That's always what we're working for. For sure we don't have team orders, so we just need to do the race that we can and if you see that you cannot do the race that you can, you need to think about the team. I think that's the most important thing."
Alonso: "Yeah, same. What's important is the team result, so I'm happy."

*The reality is, though, you couldn't beat him on the track, so you had to get the team to do it for you.
Alonso: "If that's your opinion."

*He had to give you this win, didn't he, Fernando?
Alonso: "No."

*Fernando, why can't you just be honest with us for once and just admit this win was handed to you on a plate today?
Alonso: "I was competitive on Friday, first position. I finished second in qualifying by 12 centimetres, I heard yesterday. Today I think we scored the fastest lap of the race, so overall I don't think I was very slow this weekend."

*Felipe, Rubens (Barrichello) damaged his image a lot in Brazil when he did what you did today. Until now you had the support of the country. Aren't you worried that now after you did what Rubens did you have deeply damaged your image in Brazil?
Massa: "For sure not. I'm very professional and I've showed in my career how professional I am. You are professional as well, you work for a company. I believe you are doing what you have to do, so I'm professional and today I showed how professional I am. That's it."


And so to the point of my post. Massa refers to professional behaviour in terms of conformity to the terms of his contract. But you then have to ask - If he was not sure what he might be asked to do, why did he take the job? Oh, money again, I see. Not just sufficient money for him and his family to live on - but 'loadsamoney'.

We might also ask about how it is that so many 'professionals kick the football upstairs rather than take responsibility for their actions? This includes the soldiers tainted by the 'events' in the Guantanamo Bay prison who exonerated themselves by saying that they 'only acted under orders'. You could argue that torturing people was not in the contract - so they were placed in a situation that could not have been foreseen. This argument has a certain amount of force. Do we not always invest a certain amount of trust in the organisation that we are about to be employed by? And are we not entitled so to do?

Principled Behaviour and 'A Step Too Far'

I think we are all entitled to have certain expections of professional people, whether they be solicitors (translation - lawyers), bankers, teachers whatever. Unfortunately they are all subject to pressures diverse, likewise the organisations that employ them. So let's put ourselves on the spot, let's see how well we do when we, ourselves, are in a tricky situation.

For the purposes of the exercise let's suppose that you are not Ferrari or the CIA - but a 'higher authority for chess'. Your responsibilty? Teaching the rules of chess to a nine year-old. Here is what 'Tim D' asked on Yahoo Answers:

"I'm a fairly experienced player, and my 9-year-old son is just learning the game. I'm not sure what I should do when I play him. Should I purposely make mistakes and help him to learn how to identify and respond to my mistakes? Or should I just play my game, and teach him why I make each move and what my strategy was?".

'Old Cynic' responded by saying "playing properly is the best way, don't insult someone's intelligence by allowing them to win. But a 9 year old may be different. A child can get annoyed if they don't taste victory at least some of the time, so maybe you could mix it up. Slip an occasional hung piece and see if he takes it.".

In this situation there is a real dilemma of course. Being honest and playing honestly on the one hand - but thereby taking the risk of putting the youngster off the game for good and all. This is all very different from the real life dilemmas experienced by the professionals mentioned above - but I would say that we ALL need to live life with the aim of high-principled behaviour, inasmuch as our own personal limitations allow us. Surely this includes the concept of helping others (as I discuss in a post in my blog at Toad Tryouts).

I rather like Deena's ''answer. She talks about her Daddy teaching her chess, so I assume she's a youngster too (they rightly talk about words of wisdom from the mouth of a child). One of her suggestions is to "make some mistakes and talk through them on how you could've made a better move". Precisely so! If we use our 'smarts' we can often circumnavigate all sorts of problems (such as those experienced by Massa et al?).

Here's my take. First suggestion is to explain the scenario to the child - perhaps a game which is for teaching purposes only. In this case you would carefully explain that you will be allowed to suggest a few candidate moves for the child to think about and to either choose from - or come up with another of their own. We often forget to explain situations clearly to children (and dogs too, incidentally!) in advance. It sometimes seems as if we don't talk to them at all these days but that's another story.

"This is what we are going to do now - is that OK with you? How about we have a game where we are not bothered about winning. Or a game where we try to explain to the other person the moves we are thinking about?". This might well elicit a negative response - which probably means you have neglected to explain WHY you have made the suggestion (you should have said that you want him/her to become a good chessplayer or some such).

Ann Wamack

I think that one of the best answers given to Tim D's question was given by Ann Wamack (a freelance writer for 'Chess Right' which offers traditional and decorative chess sets, as well as chess boards and other chess equipment for sale), thus:


"In my experience, the important factor is going to be whether or not the boy has fun playing chess. If he gets all stressed out every time you two play, he isn't going to remember whether or not he won. The important thing is going to be that he remembered having fun with it. Strategies and moves come with experience. So play often, and keep the emphasis on fun, sportsmanship, and bonding. The strategies and analysis will come in their own time."


You may be interested in one of the reasons she provides for taking up the game in one of her articles, thus:


"The benefits of playing chess are not confined to school age children. In this Information Age, we are all bombarded continuously with incoming information of all types from many sources, some more credible than others. Data that used to take substantial commitments of time and specialized skill to dig out is now available in a fraction of a second from an Internet search on a home computer. The ability to analyze and manage multiple considerations is a skill that can make the difference between responding with agility to new situations and becoming paralyzed with information overload. These torrents of information, whether the subject is managing your business or monitoring family health options, must be met with critical thinking to sort out the useful information from the spurious. Then, the new data needs to be adapted into our current plan, as appropriate. Nowhere are these skills (critical thinking, analysis, managing multiple considerations, adapting to new data, decision making, and planning / thinking ahead) better honed than from engaging in regular games of chess."


Less than saint-like behaviour

Here is Paul Hoffman's confession of an isolated instance of the type of pressure that results in less than saint-like behaviour. His book "King's Gambit" (from which this extract is taken) is one of the best 'chess reads' around and the extract here shows how is prepared, in exemplary manner, to bare his soul for our edification.



I do feel a little ungracious in presenting this particular page when I have his whole book to choose from! As I say, the one thing that shines through in all his writing is Hoffman's honesty and integrity. It can usefully be contrasted with the unseemly comments of certain racing drivers as illustrated above.

More bad behaviour (and an interesting blog to discover) is on display in my post 'A Chess Journey'.

Protected by Copyscape Online Plagiarism Test

  © Blogger templates Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP