In the year declared by FIDE as the Year of the Women in Chess, one woman, who heads the Virgin Islands Chess Federation, suffers insults, unproven accusations, and public dissemination of her personal information from the (now former) FIDE officer.
After reading Nigel Short’s claims (shared within the text) and his daily dose of tweets, we decided to call Margaret Murphy and hear the other side of the story. The interview is below:
Q: Ten days ago we had the news that Nigel Short, the FIDE Vice President, resigned from his position. The first initial thought was that resignation was in relation with FIDE’s response to Russian aggression against Ukraine, where Short was against the wording of FIDE statements. But then it was pointed that there was also a case in Ethics Commission related to your federation US Virgin Islands. And actually, just a few days ago, FIDE Ethics commission sanctioned Short with a three months ban from acting as a FIDE official. This sanction is suspended, but anyway he resigned from his position. What is in your opinion the real reason for Nigel Short’s resignation?
A: I don’t really know. All I know is that he resigned online, on Twitter, on the same day that the decision of the Ethics Appeal Chamber was reached. I have asked why his information is still on the FIDE Council webpage. Why is he still listed as the FIDE Vice President? And even though he resigned supposedly on June 21st. And when I questioned this I was told that he didn’t admit the formal written resignation. So I didn’t know if he’d even formally resigned. Only much later, from 4th July, his name was removed from the FIDE directory.
Q: FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich issued a statement on Short’s resignation. He thanked Short for his service, praised him a lot….
A: Absolutely. And again though, it’s a technicality. But you know how the attorneys are. The technicality is a technicality. You have to deal with the rules of FIDE, that says you have to submit a written resignation. Even if President Dvorkovich acknowledged it, just because it’s on the internet – it doesn’t mean it’s true. Since then, on July 3rd, Arkady informed me via text that “Nigel resigned officially”.
Q: Can you take us back to where it all started? How did Nigel Short actually get involved with your federation and its internal affairs?
A: This has been going on since August of last year. And that’s the biggest question – How did Nigel Short get involved with my federation? I mean, first I had received a complaint from a FIDE legal advisor, Aleksandr Martynov. And it was a complaint issued against my federation and he sent that to me on August 25th I believe. He didn’t mention where the original complaint came from. I refused to answer it until I saw the original complaint.
(ED note: We reviewed both Martynov’s and Widmer’s letters)
Then I realized that the complaint came from Ms Gail Widmer, a woman who hasn’t been active in our federation for 15 years. And she wrote the complaint to the (FIDE) President on August 13th. So they waited till August 25 to rewrite it and send it to me. And the original complaint was a dissertation about me, about how badly I run the federation, it’s not democratic, and it was on four pages.
But it was interesting that the letter by Widmer wasn’t identical to the complaint I have received from Martynov. And I questioned this. I wrote to FIDE and said these two complaints are not the same. The information in the first one is not the same as the information in the second one. Michael Smith, the former USVICF Secretary was mentioned in the Martynov complaint but was not mentioned in the original letter from Widmer. Her original complaint does not mention Michael Smith. This proves that Martynov was not sharing all the communications that he had regarding Gail Widmer’s comments. I asked for all communications but did not receive them.
Martynov also mentions that Ernest Thyberg appears to be my brother and “what if any is his connection to chess”. Widmer’s complaint says nothing about Ernest Thyberg. So I don’t know what happened. I think it’s safe to assume that someone provided Martynov with this additional information… perhaps Widmer, Dempsey or Short. Martynov also questioned the legality of two Olympiad players Bansal and Conhoff regarding their residency in the USVI. How would Martynov know this?
There are other discrepancies that Martynov seemed to state many more accusations than Widmer. I didn’t know what I was supposed to answer – the first one or the second one? They demanded that I answer everything. They demanded that I answer both of them. I said okay, so I started a dissertation that I went on for months, and months and months.
And then how do I know that Nigel got involved? I just found out recently, and I don’t know if it was Nigel, but it could be that Ms Widmer also wrote a letter eventually to the US Virgin Islands senators. And it’s interesting that in her letter she makes note that somebody in the higher office in FIDE, from the FIDE government, contacted her husband, John Dempsey, who played for our team, and that person encouraged Dempsey to file a complaint against me personally.
Q: The decision of the Ethics Appeal Chamber mentions on line 49.2 that “There is some evidence to suspect that Mr Short was in contact with representatives of the rival Association even before their letters to FIDE of 13 August 2021.”
A: I am trying to find out right now about that. This was what I had to assume considering the chronological order of events that happened. He had to have been in touch with them before because of all the planning that was involved. I mean, I don’t have any proof of that. I am not accusing him of that. But everything points to that – all the circumstantial evidence points to the fact that this was planned. It wasn’t impromptu. I didn’t find out about it myself.
Nigel was in the British Virgin Islands, and he was coming from Tortola BVI over to Saint Thomas first (ed.note, one of USVI islands), then to Saint Croix. Because he was going to meet members of Widmer/Dempsey Association, and not the members of the recognized USVI chess federation.
And I get a call from the office of the former Secretary General of the USVI Olympic Committee and she says “Margaret, what’s going on?”, I said: “Well, what’s going on?”, she said “Some lady called and she wants us to pick this guy up at the ferry dock and have a meeting and greeting for him.” I said who’s the guy, and she said Nigel Short. I said was the lady Gail Widmer? She said yes.
So you see, I didn’t know anything about this. But the Olympic Committee, we as the recognized chess federation are the members of the Olympic Committee, had the courtesy to call and say “What’s going on?”. I was referred to the current Secretary General of the Olympic Committee who I called and he said: “We don’t get involved. This association isn’t anything to the Olympic Committee. You are the official federation, so we’re not going to pick Nigel Short up.”
And Nigel Short went to Saint Thomas and he wrote very libelous articles in the papers. He also did a hour-long radio broadcast. So for that short time he was in the islands, he did release three major publication type things.
I now recall that I found out a few days before he arrived in the US Virgin Islands by way of John Demsey’s posts on FB announcing Nigel’s upcoming visit to the association. Also, of interest is that I sent many emails to the FIDE Council asking them to stop Nigel’s visit. The only answer that I received in response was an email from Martynov on October 25 praising Short’s visit to USVI that began on October 26, 2021.
Q: Then the situation quickly escalated, and you started getting pressure from FIDE about your federation’s internal organization, about your statutes, about elections. Can you briefly tell us what was actually going on?
I don’t know. And in my opinion, I said that at the FIDE Council too, I don’t think this has anything to do with my federation constitution. I don’t think that this has anything to do with my electoral procedures. And I said to them, okay the constitution hasn’t been amended since 2015, we have no problems updating it. But I know for a fact that when Nigel visited the British Virgin Islands, they didn’t even have a constitution.
Q: The British Virgin Islands chess federation was probably run by Carol Jarecki, who sadly recently passed away, and now there could be some lagging behind?
A: They never had a constitution. It’s a very small, it’s a tiny tiny federation, in the BVI, so they probably didn’t ever need to write a constitution. So the fact that the British VI didn’t even have a constitution and Short is fervently questioning our constitution, seems a little ridiculous. And Bermuda hasn’t had elections in 40 years! Because nobody wants to take the responsibility of managing the chess federation, it’s a volunteer job. And I said to them when they questioned our constitution, I said alright, fine, let’s rewrite it. I immediately started working on it with Roberto Rivello. Roberto was great. Roberto gave me all the help.
Q: Roberto Rivello is the Chairman of the FIDE Constitutional Commission.
A: Correct. When I went to the VI Olympic Committee and told them what’s going on, The President of the VIOC suggested I contact the USVI Volleyball Federation President. That perhaps their constitution would be useful. We decided to use this template and change the wording to suit the Chess Federation. They also offered us, free of charge, an attorney who works for the Olympic Committee. She helped us write up the new constitution.
We had the attorney, Rivello and VIOC helping us. So we involved everybody and we took advice from everybody. When the VIOC said we’d like to see these things done, we said okay, we did them. Rivello said how about this, this and this, we did that. So that issue should’ve been just closed. I don’t know why it carried on, I have no idea. Rivello was happy with it in the end, and finally on March 22nd I did receive a letter from Dana Reizniece-Ozola, FIDE Managing Director, that they were happy with the constitution.
But then they’ve been questioning the electoral procedure, why I’ve been the President for, whatever it is, 27 years I guess now. I said well, one of the simpler answers is that nobody ever wanted to run the office. We had elections, with continuous open offices. So I have to beg people, “Please would you help us, we are in need of officers”.
But very important, these people who have complaints, from the parallel association, they never made an attempt to run for office in the USVI chess federation. They were never denied a membership, ever. And note that their original complaint to FIDE was to replace the federation. Not to join the federation. They asked FIDE to replace the federation with their association. So, they didn’t want to cooperate with us from the beginning.
Q: You were actually cooperating with FIDE and the Olympic Committee to improve the statutes and your procedures, and as you said in March your federation was confirmed by FIDE as the official federation of the VI. But in recent days, when Short resigned, he continued to publish a large number of tweets, and he continues to attack yourself and your federation. Do you think this is personal? Does Nigel hold any grudge against you?
A: No. I will send you an article that was written by a local Virgin Islands newspaper reporter in St. Thomas to be published in the Virgin Islands that Nigel called from the World Seniors Chess Championship in Italy. The reporter then called me to check what was actually happening. The article states that the “real reasons of Grandmaster stepping down from FIDE on June 22nd are that people pushing pawns around in Saint Croix”.
In my opinion, the very important question was, not only why did Nigel get involved, but is he or is he not a FIDE Vice President right now. If he is a FIDE Vice President why hasn’t the violation of probation taken effect? I have since learned that the Ethics is waiting due to the fact that Nigel has 21 days from the date of the announcement of the appeal decision to appeal to the CAS. Therefore, he has until July 12th.
We have started a second case against Nigel in the Ethics Commission regarding his recent behavior that will be heard after July 12.
Q: But he is also publishing your personal details, like your voting status.
A: I mean, personally, I don’t care. Honestly, so what? And he published my age too. So what? I am telling people I am 71 years old. He published a loan that I have a business in both places. Because I have a summer house in New Hampshire. I have a real estate license now that I am retired from teaching after 30 years. I have a real estate license in the Virgin Islands, I have a real estate license in New Hampshire, and I have a real estate license in the State of Maine. So when we have a pandemic, whichever place you were in at that time, and you are an independent business person, you can apply for that loan that he published. What is the big deal?
The insults bother me most really. He is insulting in the last tweet that he put with the family tree on it. The caricatures, especially the one of the secretary. He has made many insulting comments about all the officers of the USVICF. For the secretary he calls him massage therapist and dog sitter. Okay, so what’s funny with that? Nothing. The guy is a massage therapist and he is a dog sitter, too. Again, why? And then, he has a shirt for my brother. What an awesome brother he is. My brother is the 72-year-old that got attacked by Nigel because he wanted to know what a 72-year-old is doing playing the first FIDE rated tournament. Why would you ask a 72-year-old something like that?
– Let’s take a step back. I remember your interview from 2015, where you said you stay for 7 months in a year on the Islands, and the rest of the year you spend in the United States. Is this still the case, did anything change?
Let’s figure it out. I got to Saint Croix on October 1st 2021, and I left it now on May 14th. Close to eight months. Now I am in New Hampshire. But this… I mean. I started teaching in Saint Croix in 1992, and I have never spent summer in Saint Croix. Lot of the people leave Saint Croix over the summer simply because it’s too hot. So it’s much more quiet in the Islands in summer time.
Is Nigel Short holding a grudge against Margaret Murphy because “they had an intense verbal altercation about Nigel’s comment that men were “hardwired” to be better chess players than women”?
It is not the first time that Nigel Short acts are shaming an institution affiliated to FIDE. It is also not the first time that he is targeting an individual with a series of malicious postings.
Can the FIDE President praise a person that has just been sanctioned by the FIDE Ethics Commission?
Will the FIDE Ethics Commission activate the suspended ban?
What is the role of FIDE legal advisor Aleksandr Martynov in pressuring the chess federations?
Stay tuned to find out.