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Why They Call It Dope

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Chess has been elevated to a medal sport at the Asian Games for the first time. The event takes place in Doha, Qatar starting on December 1. The official chess section is here. The format is curious: "The 15th Asian Games features a mixed team competition played over nine matches in two different formats: classical (with a time limit of 90 minutes for each player's moves, and 30 seconds added after every move) and rapid (where the limit is 25 minutes with a 10 second addition). The three-person team comprises two males and one female player."

Kasimdzhanov, Sasikiran, and Bu Xiangzhi are the biggest names on the list of participants. This is as close as chess has come to making it to the Olympics. The IOC dismissed chess and other mind sports from the possibility of becoming official Olympic sports, but there are hopes there might be an exhibition chess event in Beijing 2008 thanks to Chinese successes. There haven't been any so-called demonstration sports since 1996, although the martial art wushu is being granted a semi-official status in Beijing. [Alexei Shirov reminds in the comments that the IOC allowed Kirsan to stage an Anand-Shirov rapid match at the Olympic village in Sydney in 2000. Shirov says that at the time he and Ilyumzhinov took it for granted then that chess would soon make it in as an Olympic sport.]

As with all participants, chessplayers are subject to drug testing at the Asian Games. While this has made the mainstream press as "news of the weird," it comes with the territory and there's no real reason chessplayers should be exempt. While there hasn't been any conclusive proof that any banned substance improves chess play, if you're going to be a part of the main event you have to play by the rules. It's a little silly on the face of it, but certainly endurance and alertness are factors in chess and there are plenty of substances that enhance those things. (Though that doesn't necessarily mean they improve chess performance.) Banning coffee would cripple half the field in the morning rounds of US opens, for example...

Nigel Short comments on testing chess players ("Rubbish!") and other comments in this news item.


Yeah, they should be tested. I can just see the players trying to score some opium to get loaded on before each round begins. Although the play would be of a quiet nature, there would be some fantasy involved...but I digress.

Yeah but the paranoid anti-drug testing clowns who claimed Kindergarteners are going to be drug tested in USCF rated play are now going to come out in force again.

When I played Anand in Sydney in 2000 both me and Ilyumzhinov thought that the inclusion of chess was more or less granted. But then the head of the Olympic Committee was changed and everything proved to be in vain...

Actually, caffeine and alchohol are monitored or prohibited substances, as shown on the WADA Prohibited Substances List:


"In-Competition Prohibited Substances"
page 17. ALCOHOL
Alcohol (ethanol) is prohibited in-competition only, in the following sports. Detection will be conducted by analysis of breath and/or blood. The doping violation threshold for each Federation is reported in parenthesis:
•Aeronautic (FAI) (0.20 g/L)
•Archery (FITA, IPC) (0.10 g/L)
•Automobile (FIA) (0.10 g/L)
•Billiards (WCBS) (0.20 g/L)
•Boules (CMSB,IPC bowls) (0.10 g/L)
•Karate (WKF) (0.10 g/L)
•Modern Pentathlon (UIPM) (0.10 g/L)
for disciplines involving shooting
•Motorcycling (FIM) (0.10 g/L)
•Powerboating (UIM)
Caffeine is currently "monitored for patterns of mis-use" but standards are not yet set. The potential for mis-use is recognized (caffeine is a stimulant), and the possibility of setting a limit has been explored.

for caffeine see:


I remember that the Times sports writer Simon Barnes had what I consider to be an excellent test for whether a sport deserved to be included in the Olympics. Simply, if the Olympic Games were the pinnacle of achievement in that sport, then it deserved to be an Olympic sport; if not (e.g., football, tennis, et al.), then it shouldn't.

Regardless of where one stands on the issue of chess as an Olympic sport, does anyone get the sense that the Oympics would represent the pinnacle of achievement in chess?

interesting "test" Theorist, the answer is no, chess as an olympic sport is an 11 rounds marathon tournament of athletics held at Corus.

making up lists of forbidden substances and then testing doping in chess is as futile as regarding dangerous and banning reading books of logic by the members of the gymnastics teams

but it makes for a pretension

The pinnacle of Team Chess is ...

the Chess Olympics !

Russian Silhouettes by Genna Sosonko makes it clear that Mikhail Tal could not have passed the WADA drug testing regime. Hardly an elementary school player.

When I was in college a few of my friends were interested in the subject of "nootropic" drugs that supposedly could decrease memory loss and increase cognitive function in patients with various disorders (e.g. Alzheimer's disease.) It's popularly hoped that they'd make people of ordinary mental ability even smarter. Whether any of these hopes are true, I doubt, but I wouldn't be surprised if some chess players out there have tried doping up on (say) piracetam, which is quite legal.

I did once play a guy I knew in college when he was stoned out of his mind. He was convinced it helped him focus. He beat me but then he was considerably better than me anyway.

Don't remember where I read it, but IM Lawrence Day once said he played a tournament (some open?) stoned. "It was quite a disaster, result-wise."

Theorist, I do believe Simon Barnes must have pinched that test off me, since I've been expounding it at dinner parties for years. Of course it's the right one: out go tennis, football and all that nonsense.

Why anyone would want chess in the Olympics is quite beyond me. Maybe GM Shirov can tell us. If people want to represent their country in team competitions for free, all they need to do is not demand payment for the Olympiads. I don't see many top GMs doing that.

Charley, I can believe it. I never tried to play chess stoned but I did once try tutoring organic chemistry after toking up. It was...dismal. I eventually begged off, claiming that I was ill.

I've also played some online games drunk but...the less said about that, the better >_<

Interesting, rdh. I know I got this from Barnes many years ago too -- probably a decade or so, I imagine. Still, I'm more impressed that you move in the same dinner party circles as Simon Barnes...

Oh, I don't, Theorist. But they say everyone knows someone who knows someone who in six steps knows the President, don't they? I never believed that until a woman on a bridge team I was playing on told me she'd been one of Bill Clinton's many paramours while he was a Rhodes scholar.

When I first played in local chess tournaments in the late '70s, there were lots of "characters" in the local scene, some of whom had led a hard life, or were addicts of various kinds, or downtrodden souls for whom chess was their one bright refuge. Some of these players dressed poorly, smelled bad, arrived at the board obviously drunk or stoned, and proceeded to play beautiful chess. Recently I noted at a tournament that many of the characters are gone, replaced by kids and their parents. The old lost souls still play chess, but not on the USCF scene anymore.


Yep, chess should be an olympic sport, along with craps, poker, backgammon, dominoes, go, 3-card monte, monopoly, boggle, parchese and solitaire.

Why is the average chessplayer so stupidly lacking in objectivity, so incredibly detached from reality?

No wonder chess tournaments look like homeless conventions...

I've always thought the Olympics should eliminate all sports which determine winners by awarding "style" points. The medalists should be the ones who finish first, jump the highest, win the game, etc. So chess yes; figure skating, no.

victor, I agree with you. Meanwhile, after russians made that "girls jump the trampoline" stuff into olympics, winning several medals, I think...well, chess would be much more interesting.
Although I think this "2 men 1 woman" format is absoltely weird.

FIDE is never going to make it to the Olympics. We are being denied the right to play in the world chess championship. The FIDE President has personally refused to allow us to play. FIDE is run by the Russian MOB and I am getting DEATH THREATS. We are taking action against Kirsan Ilyunzhinov, the FIDE President, and his criminal friends in the Russian Mob.

Marcus Roberts
Charleston Chess Association, Inc.
Saint Christopher and Nevis
The West Indies
Permanent Delegate of Saint Chirophter and Nevis to FIDE


I wouldn't worry. If Kirsan and the Russian mob start liquidating the people most threatening to them it'll be a long, long time before they get to you.

Forgive my first-world ignorance, but in my atlas I can't find Saint Chirophter. Is it anywhere near Neptune?

Many of you have the old ideal of the Olympics as primarily an athletic competition, and anything sufficiently like track and field should get in. However, at least since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the Olympic Games are a commercial venture. Thus sports having a large TV audience (gymnastics, figure skating, tennis) or potentially large stadium ticket prices get in. Alas, chess on TV has never lived up to its high potential, but that's another thread...


Saint Christopher and Nevis, formerly (and still often) referred to by the nickname Saint Kitts, is located in the Leeward Islands, West Indes, Caribbean Sea, SE of the tip of Florida.

Look around 17N 63W

Unforgiveably pompous and arrogant, Greg Koster. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Marcus Roberts writes:
"We are being denied the right to play in the World Chess Championship."

Anyone know of the top-class player from the West Indies that is being denied the right to play in the WCC 2007 in Mexico or in the Candidates Matches? Who is this fantastical prodigy?

Perhaps you could elaborate, Mr. Roberts and enlighten us all as to under what circumstances you were 'denied your right'.

Perhaps you meant you felt descriminated against because you lack a sufficiently skilled representative from your country to participate and are now crying in this 'politically correct' vain in hopes to muscle FIDE to change it's rules for your lack of talent in your player pool....Perhaps.

I'm sure it's descrimination, but is it unjustified descrimination?

Hmmmm.....I wonder.....

Theorist, Koster doesnt understand the word pompous. Am sure he would have an opinion about its spelling though..

Mark, I think Marcus’ point is that St Kitts want to become a member of FIDE and for some reason FIDE won’t let them, rather than anything directly to do with the WC.


Marcus walked in here savagely misspelling the name of his own country AND announcing that a tiny chess organization on a tiny Caribbean island is a target of the Russian mob.

I couldn't help it. I HAD to pull his chain.

It's not a savage misspelling of his own country. It's a savage example of your ignorance. This has been explained to you already.


I know the location of St. Kitts.

I also believe

1) the idea that the Russian mob has put a hit on St. Kitts is preposterous and

2) a chess official posting in a public forum and looking to be taken seriously probably shouldn't misspell his own country Christopher---Chirophter.

I don't doubt that my post, poking fun at these two points, was too obscure for anyone but my own ignorant self.

Anand wanted to play for India in the rapid section but was told that players had to take part in both -rapid & classical.


What drugs would you guys ban if you were putting on a chess olympics? Any restrictions on caffeine, nicotine and alcohol? After all, those are all chemicals that can severely affect one's ability to play?

Methylphenidate, more commonly known as Ritalin. Drug of choice on college campuses if you need big help with your concentration and alertness. Of course college students have other drugs they turn to when the goal is rest & relaxation!

>Methylphenidate, more comminly know as Ritalin

this is a weaker (softened) derivate of amphetamine(benzedrine, or also known as "speed" on the street)

I would rather prescribe than ban it. It is known to alter the assesment of risks/benefits calcuations and to increase aggresivity.
I know at lest two top players who would make the chess community happier if they were to accept to take it.

I suggest we ban milk.

another one to try and see what happens would be LSD, we may rename it "the fischer-random experience"

LSD: In a previous life; been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Now days, when it applies to chess...got milk.

Using drugs to cheat in chess is as using computers to cheat during an athletic performance. They should be banned.

The ability to spell one's own country does contribute to verisimilitude.
(Go ahead, stone me for using a word you have to look up. I'm tired and really don't care.)

in the interest of your petty (and in the case of Koster horrible-'savagely') jokes, you are conveniently ignoring the fact that he spelled his country correctly, and then clearly made a typo down below...what is wrong with you guys?

I offer my apologies. You are right, ross. By way of mitigation, I can only again say that I was/am very tired. If you suggest that I should not post in that condition, I will agree immediately! Noted, and - I hope - remembered.


Good point. Charley and I have been threatened by the St. Kitts mob. There'll be no more jokes from either of us, ssrol.

It's amazing that Shirov thought chess was close to inclusion in the Olympics when he played in Sydney in 2000. The Shirov-Anand exhibition was shunted off to the Athletes' Village (at a time when no athletes were around) in order to devalue the event as much as possible. The chess organisers had planned to hold the match in the city centre but were told that there was too much chance that it would distract the press from the Olympics.
Shirov must have thought it was at least a little strange to be playing Anand in a deserted Athletes' Village and with no press or television present - just a few chess-related spectators and FIDE officials including Iljumzhinov.

Saturday Night Live's take on the chess drug issue: they're testing for any drugs that make you so high you think chess is a sport. ;)

There are many drugs both naturally occurring and synthetic that can improve mental concentration and physical stamina and therefore could potentially assist any mental or physical task. Whilst I respect Nigel Short as erudite and a world class chessplayer his knowledge of pharmacology appears abyssmal. Alexander Shulgin's work immediately springs to mind. Nigel and others interested in updating their knowledge base could do worse than googling him. Or better still look up his scholarly publications.


In the chess world, researching a topic before you write about it is considered "cheating."

greg, touché!

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