AS MANY OF you surely know by now, the European Chess Union has established dress-code rules for chess players.
(Okay, some of you don't know - you don't follow chess and you don't think it's a sport. Well, friends, at a minimum, it's "mental sport." And, as far as I'm concerned, Bobby Fischer was every bit the athlete that Michael Jordan was; both were hyper-competitive and ruthless in their pursuits, plus Fischer was a better trash talker.)
Before we detail the dress code - apparently, the bust line has become a problem - as a former non-grandmaster, let me emphatically state my opinion in this sartorial area:
Chess needs a dress code like Switzerland needs a navy.
Poker needs a dress code. At the moment, all the twentysomething savants favor shades, baseball caps and hoodies, usually adorned in black. Card rooms these days look like funeral homes, with chips.
Golf needs a dress code. At the Masters, Ian Poulter was wearing plaid pants and yellow shoes; it looked as if Walt Disney had thrown up on him. Who dresses these guys, Grace Jones?
Tennis needs a dress code. When I turn on the TV and see Serena Williams, I'm not sure if I'm watching the French Open or "Project Runway."
Bowling? Actually, those fellas look fine to me.
(Granted, I'm the last guy in the world who knows anything about fashion. At least I have an excuse: I dress in the dark and, for personal safety, I do not have any mirrors in my home.)
I last played serious chess in college; I appeared to be behind from the beginning of every match. What chance did I have, anyway? Those jokers were all perfecting Moscow Variations of their Sicilian Defense while, frankly, I was only in the sport for the ladies.
Nowadays, it seems, the ladies are the problem.
The new dress code covers both sexes, but women appear to the object of the regulators' desires.
Stunningly, plunging necklines are out - only two buttons may be opened on women's blouses.
Which raises the question: Could a comely female distract a weak-minded male with some strategic cleavage? I guess so. Heck, most men get distracted by the smell of bacon.
But Sava Stoisavljevic, general secretary of the European Chess Union, told the German website ChessBase that the new rules had nothing to do with protecting men from themselves; rather, they resulted from spectator comments on female competitors' outfits.
She also said that limits on short skirts might be forthcoming.
(If these rules had been effect in the early 1980s, my first marriage never happens.)
Under the new order, sunglasses and neckties are allowed, hats and jeans with holes are not. High heels are in, flip flops are out.
And the ECU encourages sports coats for men, which would be fine by me. I have a closetful of blazers; in fact, I've slept in a Harris Tweed for years.
In short, Stoisavljevic wants the game to maintain its modesty.
(This likely will thwart Spike TV's upcoming plans for "Strip Chess.")
The ECU rules require "a pulled-together, harmonious, complete look with colors, fabrics, shoes and accessories, for both men and women." What, suddenly this is Goldman Sachs?
(Actually, that might be a poor reference - I'm not sure there are any women at Goldman Sachs.)
Stoisavljevic says these rules will restore a sense of decorum; to be honest, I didn't think chess was being run over by Carrot Top and Lady Gaga.
Anyhow, players not properly attired will get a verbal warning, then a second written warning. After this, a breach in the dress code will send you into the park for your next match.
So far, the chess community has fallen in line; no one's shown up looking like a Chippendale.
Me? I've gravitated back to my sporting roots: Checkers! We wear what we want.
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