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|A look at TWIC's history using the resources available on the Web.|
(June 2004) Among the many fantastic web sites devoted to chess -- ChessCafe.com and ChessBase.com are two of the biggest and best -- one site has undoubtedly had more impact on Internet chess than any of the rest. We're talking about The Week in Chess, published by Mark Crowther and known as TWIC by its many fans. It sometimes seems that every single English language chess web site, not to mention many non-English language chess sites, has a link to TWIC's main page.
Since Crowther is about to produce the 500th weekly edition of his TWIC Magazine, let's look at TWIC's history using the archive resources available on the Web. (See the link box at the bottom of this article for links to the resources that we've been able to identify.)
Like many would-be Internauts and Webheads, Crowther started his career by posting to the Internet newsgroups. The earliest post we've been able to locate (see the link box again) is on rec.games.chess (rgc), dated 1993-04-03, titled 'MELODY AMBER GAMES + MECKING QUERY', and starts, 'WANTED - Games and results from the South American Zonal involving Henrique Mecking.'.
Another early post was dated 1993-04-06 and titled 'Kasparov/Short/Keene'. A bit of background : A month and a half earlier, Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short had announced their intention to play their forthcoming World Championship match outside the jurisdiction of FIDE, an event which, after a few heady years, eventually sent world chess sponsorship into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. This was the seminal event leading to the creation of the PCA (Professional Chess Association) and the WCC (World Chess Council); to the fall of FIDE President Florencio Campomanes and the rise of his successor Kirsan Ilyumzhinov; and to the involvement of Braingames, Einstein, and, most recently, Dannemann.
Crowther's post, an editorial on the wisdom of the split, discussed the role of Raymond Keene and Dominic Lawson, and concluded, 'I think that Short has been badly misled by the advice that he has been given by these two people.' Prophetic words, indeed! Was Crowther's interest in chess news and chess politics a direct result of the World Championship schism? If so, we can add TWIC to the long list of consequences stemming from the Kasparov/Short split. Not really expecting a response, we sent Crowther an email asking 'if that split was what aroused your interest in chess news'.
Whatever the reason in 1993, within a few weeks Crowther was posting regular articles on important chess events and on chess politics. This continued for almost a year and a half. On 17 September 1994, rgc readers were greeted with the following post.
TWIC was born! The first issue covered the PCA Candidates Semi-Final matches, Tilburg, and the Credit Suisse Masters in Horgen. Mixed in with the tournament news it included 56 games in PGN format and 'some chess problems in old Soviet chess bulletins'. The second issue of TWIC appeared a week later. It announced the 'contents page', a feature which has continued ever since, and included 22 games.
A few weeks later, Crowther started a Web page for TWIC.
In November 1993, ten months before the introduction of TWIC, Crowther switched to the then little-used PGN (Portable Game Notation) standard for transmitting game scores. His early adoption of the standard may have been the single most compelling reason for its eventual universal use. For TWIC no.13 the PGN game scores were consolidated into a single 'GAMES SECTION' at the end of the news and for TWIC no.93 they were segregated into a separate file.
Crowther continued to post on rgc through TWIC no.53. Other rgc regulars posted through TWIC no.95, when TWIC began to appear on a Web server only. This coincided with the following 'Important Announcement'.
The email address was the same that continues to be displayed today on the TWIC masthead, while the web address was well known as the home of GM Yasser Seirawan's Inside Chess Online. The arrangement with IC continued for one year.
Crowther continued to produce TWIC for a few months. Finally, TWIC found a new home at The London Chess Centre.
It has lived there ever since.
One of the endearing qualities of TWIC is Mark Crowther's continuing struggle with the English language. A recent notice on the TWIC main page blamed a rare late issue on 'major computer traumers today'. Click open any issue of TWIC and you're likely to find similar Crowtherisms.
In A Question of Credibility, the first of his Chess Lore columns (August 1997) for ChessCafe.com, the acerbic chess historian Edward Winter commented sarcastically on Crowther's 'expertise and eloquence' and 'ineffable prose'. He then dismissed him as representative of 'the weak in chess'. Oof!
Crowther handles these criticisms like the pro that he is. In August 1999, a frequent rgc critic of Crowther who called himself Adamski said, 'In my opinion, Crowther's intro piece to the 250th edition of TWIC is nothing but the latest in a long series of crimes against the English language.' Crowther calmly replied, 'Yes, sometimes (especially at midnight) my writing isn't as good as it should be. I couldn't have compiled 250 TWICs without sticking to deadlines. The magazine comes out before I go to bed on Monday, sometimes I'm not happy with elements of it, and would have liked more time, but that's life.' Adamski has long since disappeared from rgc, while Crowther has produced another 250 issues of TWIC.
Crowther has also taken hard knocks for his chess politics. Although his views have always seemed level-headed and balanced to us, his top position in chess reporting makes him a lightning rod for the less restrained. One particularly mean-spirited critic was GM Valery Salov of the World Players' Council (WPC).
Salov wrote in an Open Letter to Mark Crowther, although 'you complain about the current status of the World Championship title, let me remind you of the fact that the journalists themselves are definitely the only ones to be blamed for it. The problems the chess world is now confronted with, were created, cultivated and fostered by the journalists for a number of years to come. [...] I suggest the journalists desist from their destructive policy of belying FIDE, its President and new democratic format of the World Championship and make steps in bridging up the gap of unilateral misunderstanding of the members of our Council and present FIDE leadership.' (16 January 2001).
While most journalists would have consigned this to the circular file without giving it a second thought, Crowther 'thought long and hard about publishing this letter', then published it in TWIC no.324, adding, 'I respect freedom of speech, I do not respect freedom for abuse'. Salov has since gone the way of Adamski, and the WPC has been supplanted by the more balanced Association of Chess Professionals (APC).
Oh, yes! About our question whether the Kasparov/Short split from FIDE had anything to do with his interest in chess news, we received a reply from Crowther almost immediately after sending the email.
So, there you have it. Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. We join the entire chess world in congratulating Mark Crowther on the 500th edition of The Week in Chess. We look forward to the next 500 issues, or however many Crowther sees fit to publish, and we hope that he and his unparalleled circle of chess correspondents will continue to keep the rest of us informed about what happens every week in chess.