(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 in the upper right corner 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.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 1 - Mark Crowther 17/09/94
This will be the first in what will hopefully be a weekly
round up of the events in chess. I've decided to scale down
my contributions during the week as next year will probably
be a hard one for me at work. Instead I'll save all the material
I get and post it as a single column at the weekend. This will
probably give me the opportunity to put more comment into what
I post and allow me to increase the accuracy. I will continue
to post the Tilburg 1994 tournament day by day but I'll leave to
others the daily reporting of events after that. (I'll obviously
cover these events in my weekly posting, but perhaps it is time
others did some day to day reporting)
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.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 2 - 24.09.94 Mark Crowther
I'd like to thank those who produced encouraging comments to the
first issue of THE WEEK IN CHESS. I have introduced a contents
page, which seems like a very good idea. Although a certain amount
of reposting of material is inevitable I've yet to decide whether
to collect together the games and postings of all signifiant games
of the week or not.
A few weeks later, Crowther started a Web page for TWIC.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 7 - 29.10.94 Mark Crowther
Last Sunday on a whim I decided to set up my own www page. A gratifyingly
large number of people have already accessed this page. The main feature
will be the back issues of TWIC. The address is:
I noticed last week that some systems read ~mdcrowth as %mdcrowth.
ie instead of a tilda, a dollars sign. So you need a sideways wavy
line to access my site if you have a problem with this address.
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 WEEK IN CHESS 95 - 12/08/96 Mark Crowther
TWIC 95 will be the last Week in Chess available at this site. I resigned
from my job at the University here and I will leave next week.
After nearly two years of compiling TWIC and over three years of producing
results on the internet I will be joining Thoth which is part of
Grandmaster Technologies Incorporated providing chess content for their
I plan to extend and develop TWIC with the time available now that I can
work full time. There will be more updates on major tournaments and
developments as part as the Strategic Games Network. This is a major opportunity
for me and I hope that the results will be fantastic. I hope the result
will be a considerable improvement in my coverage of chess on the internet.
Once the plans are a little clearer I will announce where my new material
will be available. I will be interested in games and news stories and
if you have anything that you think might be of interest my new E-Mail
address will be:
I would like to take the opportunity of thanking all the contributers who
have helped me by sending stories, articles and news over the 95 issues of THE WEEK
IN CHESS so far and I hope that you enjoyed them.
Detailed plans as to the changes in TWIC have not been settled but I envisage
TWIC 96 being available next week, probably at the
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.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 147 - 1st September 1997 by Mark Crowther
As some of you may have read on the main pages of twic The Week in Chess is
an independent production. Grandmaster Technologies has had a
reorganisation and I no longer produce the magazine for them. My thanks to
them for their support over the last year and their continued support in
allowing me to remain on their www server as long as I need to. This does
mean that I am looking for work, either chess, library or internet related.
The Week in Chess will continue in one way or another whether part or full
time. I spent some of the weekend looking at some options. I hope I can
continue and get long term financial stability but time will tell.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 148 - 8th September 1997 by Mark Crowther
As I mentioned last week The Week in Chess is now an independent
production. My thanks to all those who wrote in appreciation, too many to
reply to individually but it is nice to hear from the readers. I am hopeful
of work connected with chess news within the next few weeks, my priority
has to be to make a living however.
Crowther continued to produce TWIC for a few months.
Finally, TWIC found a new home at The London Chess Centre.
THE WEEK IN CHESS 161 - 8th December 1997 by Mark Crowther
regular readers will know TWIC has been without a sponsor for a couple of
months and much of this week has been taken up finding a new sponsor for
the magazine. Today I made an agreement with Malcolm Pein the Director of
Chess and Bridge Ltd. to sponsor TWIC. This will involve twic moving to a
new address http://www.chesscenter.com which will occur at the earliest
possible opportunity. A precise address (with subdirectory) will be
available on the move and if readers with links to twic can alter their
pages as soon as the move is made I would be very grateful.
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.
I started collecting chess information from newspapers and getting magazines
such as Schach Magazin 64 and Die Schachwoche in the early 1990s. I had
access to newspapers like Yugoslav daily Politika which had a brilliant
chess column. The Candidates matches in Sarajevo (hence Politika) was
probably the big start for collecting newspaper news.
I first heard of the internet during the Fischer-Spassky II match when a friend
on mine got the moves from the internet. I finally got online during the 1993
Linares tournament. I found I was a little more informed than most and started
posting then. I already was well known enough for Eric Schiller to get me a
press pass for the Short - Kasparov match. I posted little pieces I collected to
the internet for over a year.
I then decided that I would post just once a week with all the info I'd collected.
I was sent other material by chess journalists who liked what I
posted and things spiralled very quickly from there.
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.