Ida Eddis Foster’s letters in Kingpin

Counsel for the Defence

First published in Kingpin 15 (Summer 1989)

Dear Sir,

So Kingpin is ganging up with the anti-Keene brigade. I hope the backhander from Campo was worth it. You won’t dare publish this letter, but I am representative of several readers who will trust in Ray’s integrity whatever you and other subversives dredge up. He is a gentleman committed to making chess in Britain (i.e. England) as popular as snooker. Who else could have achieved so much publicity for the game in Private Eye?

First his play was criticized, often by non-masters totally ignorant of how much mental effort goes into a ten-move draw. Then Korchnoi made the uncalled for disclosure that by writing a book on the 1978 world championship match Ray violated his contract. I still boil with rage at how Jean Stean used CHESS to accuse Ray of hatching ‘a premeditated and deliberate plan to deceive’, but the way Ray kept his counsel was a marvel to behold.

Now his critics say that as a writer he is superficial, biased and error-prone and hasn’t done a decent book for a dozen years. In fact he has penned countless masterpieces, such as his autobiographical work, The Moscow Challenge. Ray’s ‘instant’ world championship books (actually a misnomer – they must take days to write) are terrific for those of us less interested in proper annotations than in seeing Campomanes get clobbered. Some find his output lazy and poorly researched, but do we want our GMs to read books or to write them? You can’t have it both ways.

Blind to Ray’s profundity, the muck-rakers (and not an OBE among them) quibble about technicalities and point out scores of paltry factual errors. Ray isn’t a historian or a bibliophile, he’s a Grandmaster (who won his title the patriotic way, playing for his country) and a professional writer with a reputation to nurse. As such, he quite properly rejects demands for embarrassing corrections or apologies. One or two of these know-alls have taken to whining direct to magazine editors and publishers, but Ray has cunningly assured his employers that there’s nothing to rectify. Sorry, but ends justify means.

There are grumbles about the chess books of Batsford, Ray’s company, being short for the money. As an ecologist with limited spare time, I consider one hundred pages perfectly adequate for any Batsford book. Ray’s Dynamic Chess Openings exhausted its subject in eighty-eight. Inferior authors would have padded the book, but Ray just moved on to a new one. Anybody who wants longer or better books at the same price has only to look elsewhere, though I could name several Batsford volumes which have been researched, and I am told that one recent title was proof-read.

Then these acrimonious disparagers start jeering at the ‘Keene Mafia’, as if there weren’t other figures in the chess world who receive political and press support from their wife, sister, two brothers-in-law and a guild of friends, co-authors and house-guests. If most of Ray’s unit get plenty of book contracts (not just with Batsford) it is because they are chess literature’s natural nerve centre. Messrs Goodman, Levy, Schiller and Tisdall are scholarship personified, though my own favourite is Spanier, whom many suspect of being a hybrid reincarnation of Morphy and Murray.

I am sick and tired of the way Ray’s enemies drag him, on their own terms, into slanging matches. Nobody wants chess politics unless it’s anti-FIDE, and Ray is accountable to no-one. He isn’t always at his best in a war of words, being a shade economical with the truth and tending to tie himself up in the occasional knot, but he knows that most readers won’t examine the issues in depth. He is a man of the broad sweep.

They even attack his writing style. How low can you get? Since Ray’s out to publicize and popularize chess, he is justified in calling average games ‘wonderfully imaginative’ and ‘amazingly ingenious’ if that beefs up an otherwise dull article or gratifies a sponsor. Since sponsors thrive on the oxygen of flattery, a lick of whitewash can do wonders. Ray knows how to maintain excitement by claiming that some non-event is the greatest happening since 1851 or 1948, and his reportage is beguiling. ‘Many people feel that . . .’ and ‘it is widely believed that . . .’ are standard tabloid journalism synonyms for ‘My partisan hunch is that . . .’ but the fault-finders are too entrenched in their ivory towers to understand how ordinary people like Ray think and act. Who wants proof or evidence? Ray’s word is good enough for me.

You have to be pretty naive to expect Ray to print stories that go against what he’s trying to achieve (for chess – he never gives himself a thought). There is no earthly reason for him to report objectively, whatever that means, the activities of people he dislikes or to mention them at all if there is nothing negative to say. You can hardly ask him to give Campomanes a fair press after that disappointing election campaign, although Ray has since revealed that the defeat was largely the fault of Lucena and the voting federations. On a happier note, I still enjoy a quiet snigger at the way his Times reports a couple of years ago flattened some rival London tournament organized by another foreign-sounding foe, Aly Amin, and am delighted with Ray’s unswerving support for Garry at this difficult time. True enough, Ray has occasionally omitted, for three or four weeks at a stretch, to use his Spectator column to political effect, but he always bounces back eventually.

I fear that the chess press may be breaking ranks. Public criticism of Ray is on the increase, though the BCM remains sound. Everyone used to accept that the interests of British chess and the interests of Ray were synonymous. Remember how the BCF generously made David Goodman editor of Newsflash, enabling him to do his bit in the run-up to the FIDE elections? All in all, it was St. Leonards-on-Sea’s finest hour. What’s good for British (i.e. English) chess is good for world chess, and we can still hope to make the game as popular here as snooker, something Campomanes has never tried to achieve for the Philippines. Only with Ray – first at the BCF and then, following his resignation on an issue of principle, at the English Chess Association – is this a serious prospect. Far from being a liability, Ray is a pivot, and a great one. As soon as the ECA has replied to all the allegations of misrepresentation, we can set about getting FIDE transferred to London, the chess capital of the world, if possible in Fitzhardinge Street offices shared with the European Chess Union, the Grandmasters’ Association and Andrew Page Associates Ltd. Then we’ll teach the chess world a thing or two about democracy.

Kingpin should help by launching an appeal for funds, and I am pleased to set the ball rolling with the enclosed donation of five Tunisian dinars.

Yours faithfully,

Ida Eddis Foster,


First published in Kingpin 21 (Autumn 1993)

21Dear Sirs,

As the fan whose defence of Ray Keene you grudgingly printed four years ago, I can barely describe my distress at the escalating press attacks on him. Evidently I must again take up the cudgels on his behalf.

A decade back, when isolated sticklers started humiliating Ray with unending revelations about petty errors and misrepresentations, he was usually indifferent to a fault and quickly discovered that denials merely gave further ammunition to his assailants. But now, even former sympathizers are starting anti-Keene sections. Some of them avoid mentioning him by name, just criticizing imprecision, self-interest and hype in general, but the intended target fools nobody.

Ray’s writing is under particularly heavy fire, but why? Does he honestly write junk? Here is a man who told CHESS that he could do a book in a weekend, and other authors are clearly embarrassed that Ray, nothing if not a perfectionist, is writing books faster than they can review them. He also disclosed that he is ‘not good at attention to detail’, but he will never sanction any form of carelessness by himself. I speak as someone with a similar regard for accuracy, as I am sure readers of Kingpawn will realize. I also resent the constant emphasis on Batsford’s ostensible defects. Can you imagine how different the company’s output would be if the sterling Ray wasn’t there?

Some boors are saying that Ray isn’t a writer at all, but just an opportunistic propagandist. The truth is that after stepping down as CHESS columnist to give others a chance, Ray made a career move to the BCM; it was shortlived, surprisingly so in view of the obvious compatibility of the two. And now the BCM has the nerve to slam Ray for ‘reinterpreting chess history’ and ‘Pravda-style’ writing. Well, they would know, wouldn’t they? There is no excuse for the BCM publishing a photo of him (going to huge lengths to find an unflattering one) with the caption, ‘Would you buy a second-hand World Championship from this man?’. Can this be the same BCM that defended Ray’s interests so splendidly when the BCF owned it and Ray was a guiding light of the Federation? Ray hasn’t changed a jot since then, so the BCM must have, though only temporarily, I imagine. Ray has only to issue a few odd threats, and the BCM will soon change colour.

For now, Ray is standing aloof from chess magazines, apart from that cyclostyled one in which he revealed he would be absolutely lost without Divinsky’s Batsford Encyclopedia. It is easy to imagine how chess editors feel about no longer having his contributions. Luckily he still writes his customary Spectator column, and of late his everyday coverage in the Times has been particularly notable for its enormity. Why shouldn’t Ray present the bare scores of Kasparov-Short games as ‘Collector’s Items’, take factual short-cuts or indulge in his unique Campo-baiting. There is nothing you can teach Ray about accuracy, honesty and fairness.

The London match will be quite a spectacle, for Ray knows how to put on a show of merit. Some claim the PCA won’t attract any Grandmasters, but I’m sure a good few will be taken in and that after the match Ray will continue to lead them on. But he still needs more efficient helpers. He may be looking slightly harried just now, but remember he has the support of big noises like Evans, Parr, Divinsky, Levy, etc. It’s not Ray’s fault that the more they write, the less credible they are considered; a vicious circle indeed.

The match will allure the paying public, for Ray can always be banked upon for a sell-out. People discuss what Ray takes out of chess, but what about the quiet way he puts money in? In 1991, he returned to the BCF some of his fee for the 1986 match, and did so most discreetly. His involvement in obliging causes is such that the total funds collected for one were just short of £600.

Everyone should donate generously, and Ray is invariably prepared to help himself. Thus does he merit sneers about the ‘Ray Keene Benefit Match’ and speculation about whether he will pip Nige at the post as Britain’s first chess millionaire? If the set-up can bring him a few bob and a bit of publicity and power, that’s his business and he deserves everything he gets. He nearly made it big two or three years ago with that chess murder mystery, and how we all sympathized when, in a Spanish magazine interview, he bemoaned the not-guilty verdict. As he pointed out, he could have become a millionaire with a book on the case if only things had gone the other way.

The Times match marks Ray’s political comeback with a vengeance. Aggression is called for, and I, for one, will be thrilled if there are more scintillating quips like the old one about an American FIDE delegate who, Ray suggested, just wanted ‘to be clapped by African delegates’ and his equally incisive description of US chess administration: ‘It does not attract the brightest and the best. So you are going to get people who are basically the dregs. And you got ’em.’ How lightly Ray wears his Dulwich and Cambridge background.

Desperate to change the subject, Inside Chess has now had the effrontery to contend that Ray plagiarized material for The Complete Book of Gambits. When Ray patiently explained that it was an unfortunate oversight because an intended credit had inadvertently become detached from the manuscript, he was – would you believe it? – all but accused of lying. Ray did actually apologize, and such compunction is rare. He was, as ever, prepared to make it up.

Despite my gloom at how beleaguered Ray has now turned out, the game isn’t necessarily up. He clearly needs help, and special thanks are due to Buswell for damning the Garry-Nige match in a way so advantageous to Ray’s cause. Ray can still win over a few waverers with offers of employment at the Savoy. But we could do with less of Karpov and his snide comments about Ray, like the recent one in New in Chess, ‘Everything he is involved in is based on personal interests’. And did the magazine really have to tell the world that The Times has set ‘a new standard for one-sided, prejudiced and wilfully misleading reporting’?

The whole thing looks to me like a machination and I’m fed up with certain stories about Ray gaining currency. I am confident, though, that he will remain as good as his word and, above all, continue to look after himself.

Yours truly,

Ida Eddis Foster,


First published in Kingpin 32 (Spring 2000)


Dear Sirs,

Ray Keene and David Levy used to be as thick as thieves, and if Squealevy has any qualms about Ray’s character he should have said so years ago. But we all know that Ray couldn’t be more honest and truthful if he tried.

Yours faithfully,

Ida Eddis Foster,

Ida Woos the French

First published in Kingpin 39 (Spring 2007)


Dear Mr Mandelson,

Many moons ago you reluctantly published in Kingpawn two letters from me hauling over the coals all those unpatriotic whingers. It was a painful period, in terms of both British chess and my bunions, and not one donation was received to the appeal I launched in your issue 15.

I really thought I was done with chess for good, but on a recent cheap-day-return to Calais to replenish my sideboard I came across, and nearly bought, the magazine Echecs-Europe at a corner news-stand run by a bit of a hunk named Pierre-Henri who is 32 and now divorced. He was sport­ing an oversized, heavily-patterned brown pullover, so naturally the conversation turned to chess, and he expressed the utmost sympathy and concern when I gave him the low-down on my frustration at the opportunities blown in Britain for making chess as popular as snooker.

Over a croque-monsieur and a glass or trois of château house red I was thrilled when Pierre-Henri and I had the same rush of blood nearly simultane­ously. The brainwave is this: let Britain’s loss be France’s gain. There and then I resolved that back in Rochester I’d set about doing something great for French chess. So I shot off a concrete proposal to Echecs-Europe (by expensive registered post), and my excitement was so indescribable that I can barely describe it.

But it’s now been three months and I’m browned off with the waiting for a reply. So enclosed is a copy of my letter to the French magazine. I need it published in Kingpawn, in full and unedited, so that we can get this thing shifting.

Yours sincerely,

Ida Eddis Foster,

P.S. I trust that publication by you will entitle me to a free issue.

A Echecs-Europe

Cher Monsieur Editeur,

Laissez moi m’introduire. Mon nom est Ida Eddis Foster et je suis de Rochester dans Angleterre. Les joueurs Anglais sont familiers avec moi parce que j’ai eu deux lettres imprimé dans Kingpawn, une publication Anglaise qui vient dehors une fois dans une lune bleu.

Je suis écrivant à vous pour faire une proposition qui est dans notre intérêt mutual pour faire les échecs dans France comme populaire comme snooker. Pour votre convénience, cette lettre est dans Français.

Aucune offense, mais votre pays peut apprendre trémendeusement de mon pays, où nous avons expériencé une explosion des échecs. Dans France quoi vous avez besoin de est un miracle-travailleur qui peut tourner les choses autour, et ceci est où je viens dans. J’ai la très personne pour vous: un gen­tleman Britannique qui peut, donné moitié une chance, organiser pour vous un tournament avec deux jours de notice, et pendant le il peut écrire un livre sur le et piles d’articles aussi sur n’importe quoi. Il écrit ses livres dans aucun temps plat, comme si il y avait aucun demain, et, modeste à une faute, dit qu’il n’est pas bon à ­attention à détail. Sa rapidité est usuellement récognisé même par les faute-trouveurs (dans ma vue, ils sont une douche de psycho-sentiers) qui asser­tent falsement qu’il est un copie-chat, qu’il ne peut pas écrire pour toffee et que c’est argent pour vieux corde. Et sur le sujet de ses articles, j’ai eu un cerveau-vague: en addition, vous pouvez imprimer des translations dans France des colonnes jour­naliers de ce gentleman. Si vous prenez un bouch­ers, vous ne pouvez pas aider non voyant que, comme une règle, ses colonnes donnent sacs de par­ties practiquement sans notes, fraîche hors d’un database, et, conséquentement, translater les colonnes sera un morceau de gâteau.

Intéressé? Je pensais vous seriez.

Pour maintenant je dois appeler ce gentleman ‘X’ parce que par et large il déserve anonymité et je n’ai pas été en touche avec lui pour le temps étant. Mais quand il obtient vent de mon idée je juste sais il sera rarant à aller. Dans ma opinion, toutes les choses il fait il manage à achever avec des couleurs volants. Il est long dans la dent comme politicien des échecs et est connu par les autorités. Marquez mes mots, la Fédération Français ne trouvera jamais quelqu’un à le matcher, non pas dans un mois de dimanches.

Je sais quoi vous êtes pensant. Si X est si bon que tout cela, pourquoi dans le monde il n’est pas avec la Fédération Britannique? En fait actuel, il était dedans. Et quoi un spectacle quand il était plein de haricots. Mais pas tout le monde avait le même haut opinion sur lui comme lui et je, non pas par une longue craie. Les gens l’ont attaqué tout jour long, complaignant autour de lui dix-neuf à la douzaine. Pourquoi l’enfer allaient-ils sur et sur au sujet de lui? Pourquoi, pour l’amour d’Ada? Il est facile à le critiquer jusque les vaches viennent à la maison, mais quoi bon fait cela? Mon estomac tourne quand je pense de comment gens ont lu l’acte de riot à ce énorme héro de mien qui a fameusement déclaré que ouverture et honesté est toujours la meilleur police. Sur cela le moins dit le meilleur. Il était un géant dans une Fédération de pigmés. C’était comme craie et fromage.

Plus tard sur, c’était touche et va si X accepte à soldater sur. Il était sur ses dernières jambes, et il vient comme aucune surprise qu’il a decide éventuellement à l’appeler un jour avec la Fédération Britannique. C’était une nuit-jument. Il a oragé hors, exclamant aux officiels, ‘Mettez cela dans votre pipe et fumez le’. Compréhensiblement, il, le plus mild de hommes, a fait sa noisette. J’étais très destressée. Il a frappé le toit et déclaré il est fini avec la Fédération Britannique pour bon, et il ne va jamais dos sur son mot. Quand tout est dit et fait, il a travaillé colossalement sans donner une single pensée à quoi était dans le pour lui lui-même. Cela colle hors un mile. Mais quoi a la Fédération Britannique fait pour lui dans retour? Non une saucisse. Ces bureaucrates sont un vrai gaspillage d’espace, et comme pour moi je ne les donnerais pas le temps de jour. Il me conduisent bananes.

La ‘BCF’ (qui est debout pour British Chess Federation) a bien et véridiquement soufflé sa opportunité pour faire les échecs comme populaire comme snooker. Prochain, les grandes perruques de la BCF ont dit que comme loin comme ils étaient concerné, c’était un cas de bon riddance. Facile vient, facile va. Puis ils ont donné X quoi-pour, et bénir mes boutons s’ils n’ont pas commencé de quibbler sur chaque ceci et cela. Le plus grand os de contention était financiel, et il ne serait de aucune aide si je vais dans les détails ici. Il tout bouille bas au fait qu’ils ont pensé que X avait idées dessus sa gare et n’était pas reliable. Ils l’ont donné un vraiment dur temps avec tout leur huffant et puffant. Pauvre vieux X. Je n’aurais pas aimé d’être dans son lieu pour tout le thé dans Chine, mais il n’a pas flinché dans le visage de tous ces difficultés locales qui pilaient haut. Quelques gens ont pensé que son oie était cuisiné, et notablement après des critiques devastatantes sont venu épais et rapide dans Oeil Privé, mais il a juré aveugle que rien dans les était vrai et il a justifiablement échappé de ce wicket collant par le peau de ses dents. Mais puis des hordes de écriveurs ont sauté sur le bande-wagon, gingembrement à premier mais subséquentement allant à ville avec listes de cents de misdémeanours purportément perpetrétés par lui. Ils ont ruthmoinsment fait un repas de tous les court-venants de X. Fumée sacrée. Comment atrocieux, si vous me demandez, et particulièrement comme X n’est jamais lui-même jugemental sur autres. Mon mot, quoi avec tout il est allé par, il est au-delà moi comment il a gardé calme.

Il ne peut pas l’aider s’il a obvieusement une pomme frite sur sa épaule et monte occasionnelle­ment sur son haut cheval. Mais s’il a une imparfection significante elle est son auto-effacement. Il est trop facile-allant et il a possiblement pas sufficientement stressé qu’il avait résigné de la BCF sur une issue de principe. Inexplicablement, aujourd’hui il peut expliquer sa vie-histoire patientement jusqu’il est bleu dans le visage et cela semble à tomber sur oreilles sourdes. Je suis à une perte pour savoir pourquoi sur terre ses mots ne coupent pas beaucoup de glace avec ces Thomases doutants, mais si mes compatriés insistent sur montrant X deux doigts, trop mauvais pour eux.

Pour mon argent il peut être la salvation des échecs dans France. Si la Fédération Français des Echecs ne joue pas balle, X simplement organisera dans France son propre fédération nationale rivale, appelé quelque chose similaire. Pour couper une longue histoire courte, il est temps à acter. X a clairement aucune fin de temps gratuit sur ses mains juste maintenant. Avant-main, il était comme occupé comme une abeille, mais les choses ont calmé bas. Il dépense ses jours sur un webpage plein de gaz-sacs où les aveugles mènent les aveugles et où il répond à questions sur lui demandées par des commenceurs (sur occasion, une touche grovellants) et réfère répétément à ses potbouilleurs qu’il a été écrivant pour années de âne. Quelques disent que cela est un gros lot de bon pour lui et un peu indignifié. Donc maintenant il est haut temps pour réelle action. Envoyez à moi 1,000 euros (j’accepte PayPal) pour mes hors de poche dépenses, et je vous granterai mes services sur une basis de consultation. Dans moins que aucun temps je fixerai tous les arrangements avec X. Peut-être vous pensez c’est un peu sur le cher coté mais je suis déjà mettant dans beaucoup de travail dur sur ce projet. Je traverse le Channel fréquentement pour mes varieux besoins et j’ai même investé dans un plat à Calais.

De course, argent n’est pas le soit-tout et le fin-tout. Périr la pensée. La chose qui matières est que avec X les échecs peut exploder dans France. Tous nous Anglais seront regardant en avant à cela pour nos cousins galliques. Mais, et c’est un grand mais, si vous supposez que X vient bon marché vous avez une autre pensée venant. N’offrez pas pois-noisettes. Il sera nécessitant un budget suitable pour couvrir dîners, luncheonnes (un repas carré, matin, midi et nuit, est compulsoire), voyages, taxis, hospitalité, et coûts de bureau et tout ce jazz à Londres, sans parlant de expenditure extra pour ses usuels aideurs. Coupez-moi dans pour 15% (ou, à une pincée, 14%) et nous serons dans business. Juste comme X, je ne suis pas une à souffler ma propre trompette, mais si je suis dans sur l’action il y a aucun problème nous ne pouvons pas lécher.

Si vous ne voulez pas venir sur bord, cela est votre funéraille. Vient enfer ou eau haute, je suis déterminée de faire quoi il prend pour que cette schème succède. J’espère à recevoir promptement les 1,000 euros comme un bas-paiement, après quoi je peux mettre les roues dans motion. Je suis banquant sur vous.

Je dois fermer maintenant pour attraper la poste.

Votre sincèrement,

Ida Eddis Foster (Madame),

P.S. Non oubliez à m’envoyer une copie libre de l’issue de Echecs-Europe dans quoi cette lettre est imprimé.

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