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Friday, April 25, 2008

Hoop Magazine "Discovers" Connections Between Basketball and Chess

"On the chess board lies and hypocrisy do not survive long. The creative combination lays bare the presumption of a lie; the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite."--Dr. Emanuel Lasker, World Chess Champion from 1894-1921

Basketball, chess and writing are three of my biggest passions. One major way that writing differs from the other two is that in basketball and chess there is an immediate reward for having superior talent, preparation and focus: you win the game. Success in writing, at least from a commercial standpoint, is affected by a lot of subjective factors, as is true in many art forms; that is why Van Gogh died poor but his canvases sell for tens of millions of dollars now. Basketball players and chess players can impose their will and their talent regardless of outside circumstances but artists do not always have such opportunities; critics can say whatever they want to about Kobe Bryant or Garry Kasparov but those critics have no impact on what happens between the lines of a basketball court or on the 64 squares of a chess board.

I recently read an article that quotes Indiana Pacers Coach Jim O'Brien talking about how important it is to control the middle in both basketball and chess. O'Brien also said that pro basketball is much more complex than college basketball, just like chess is more complex than checkers. Do those ideas sound familiar? They should; I wrote about them here:

Chess and Basketball

I also explored the connections between chess and basketball in two posts:

Basketball, Chess and Boxing

Basketball, Chess and Boxing, Part II

The problem is that I was not encountering the O'Brien quotes by re-reading my Chess Life Online article. No, a writer for Hoop Magazine decided that he liked my ideas so much that he would adapt them a little and then claim them as his own (in the May-June 2008 issue of Hoop). I contacted Hoop editor Ming Wong to see if the writer had even bothered to interview O'Brien at all or if he had simply reworded the quotes from my original exclusive one on one interview with O'Brien. Wong insisted that the writer did speak to O'Brien but Wong also admitted that the writer got the idea to do so from reading my article; that is obvious, since if you Google "Jim O'Brien and chess" the top three listings all relate to my CLO article.

What Hoop did is pretty slick--if the writer never bothered to ask O'Brien the same questions I already had asked him then it would be obvious that they plagiarized my work; so instead the writer obtained his "new" quotes by revisiting the same territory through which I'd already blazed a trail. Hoop uses more footnotes and parenthetical items than any other basketball magazine but somehow they neglected to mention my article or provide a link to it--what is known as a "hat tip" in blogging circles but could also simply be called common courtesy.

I'd be ashamed to just rip off someone's idea and try to pass it off as my own but obviously not everyone feels the same way. I suggested to Wong that Hoop should correct this oversight in its next issue by acknowledging that the author was influenced by my article but I have yet to hear back from him. That's just the lovely way this business works: in the past month I've dealt with a blogger making a derogatory post about me because I politely suggested that he correct inaccuracies in a post he made about a conference call that he did not bother to tape record and now I open a national magazine to find out that my original work formed the uncredited basis for one of their articles.

Unfortunately, I can't post up or checkmate people who lack professionalism, courtesy and grace; all I can do is continue to produce quality work.

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posted by David Friedman @ 8:42 AM


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At Friday, April 25, 2008 5:38:00 PM, Anonymous outsider said...

I have been reading your blog for a few months and i admit that i have become addicted to it. You are doing quite a good job but some others aren't that good and take your work without references,huh? These people are everywhere.

I'm a teaching assistant at a math. department and whenever i read homeworks or take-home exams, i see that some students have written almost the same thing in every assignment and that some others have copied a passage from a book or a website without giving any references? What should i do with these people?

Sorry if i bothered you with being a little off-topic. I will keep reading your blog frequently.

By the way, replace chess (which i used to play years ago) by mathematics and then we have the same three biggest pleasures. Hopefully i will become an expert in mathematics like you being one in chess:)

At Saturday, April 26, 2008 6:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I would say that any student who submits work that is not original should get a failing grade but I assume that your school has guidelines in place to deal with such matters.

That Mathworld site (the link attached to your name) is really cool. I don't have formal mathematics training but I have always enjoyed numbers and I have a layman's interest in the subject. There is a strong connection between math and chess; a Master who I knew years ago told me that anyone who can count can become a Master. That is an exaggeration but his point was that chess mastery involves being able to calculate certain numerical and geometrical relationships (how many times certain squares are defended, how to coordinate the movements of one's forces, etc.).


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