The notion that somehow the ancient pastime of chess is inherently racist due to the rule of white pieces moving first has been broached on an Australian taxpayer-funded national radio network.
The controversy arose when the national broadcaster ABC proposed a radio slot on the matter Tuesday and sought an interview with John Adams, an economist who represented the Australian Chess Federation in 2015.
Adams declined, but then went on social media alleging the ABC had taken the position chess was “racist.”
“The ABC have taken the view that chess is RACIST given that white always go first,” he said.
Adams further explained the ABC was looking for a chess offical to comment on whether the rules should be altered.
“Trust the taxpayer funded national broadcaster to apply ideological Marxist frameworks to anything & everything in Australia,” he added.
the rules of chess need to be altered!
Trust the taxpayer funded national broadcaster to apply ideological Marxist frameworks to anything & everything in Australia!
With all the drama resulting from COVID-19, I am amazed that the ABC is broadcasting on irrelevant topics!
— John Adams (@adamseconomics) June 23, 2020
Adams later told a different radio host the argument has been circulating in chess circles for years.
“All of this stuff is completely ridiculous,” he said on Radio 2GB.
“We’ve got bigger issues that are facing Australia and I don’t want the ABC talking about this sort of nonsense.”
When the segment finally went to air on Wednesday, host James Valentine quickly made clear approaching Adams was to have a discussion, not brand chess as “racist.”
His guest, Australian Chess Federation committee member Dr Kevin Bonham, took the opportunity to refute suggestions the rule of white pieces moving first was racially motivated.
Dr Bonham explained there were many reasons why it is standardised to have one colour move first in a game of chess.
“There are benefits to standardising it, in terms of things like publishing diagrams of the chess board, because when you [play with the board the other way around – when you play with black moving first, it effectively mirror-images which way round you have your pieces,” Dr Bonham explained.
He said there is no evidence to suggest the notion of having white move first was racially motivated.
“The pieces themselves don’t represent racial teams, they just represent the sort of combatants in a battle wearing different coloured uniforms if you want.”
Bonham also confirmed if you are playing chess casually, there is no reason why black can’t move first, a point acknowledged by other news outlets:
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) June 24, 2020