Monday, August 7, 2017

Chess on Stamps: Ourania(?) and Burundi(!)

Credit: micronation wiki

One side-issue of this blog is chess on stamps, as can be seen on the list of topics on the right. This time the stamps have nothing to do with Jews in particular, but they are a truly weird incident.

The "Kingdom of Ourania" issued a stamp celebrating the secret chess champion of the world, the man with the highest chess rating ever -- Stan Vaughan. This stamp is above.

Vaughan is, of course, no real chess champion. The above claims about his feats are true only according to himself; in reality, he is a crank who believes himself the "real" successor to Bobby Fischer, a claim accepted by nobody but himself, among other reasons because his actual chess level is at best that of a good amateur.

Nor is the kingdom of Ourania (which apparently claims for itself a sizable chunk of Antarctica, as per its web site) a real nation. If you haven't heard of this kingdom, it's because it's one of those fake nations created by cranks for various reasons - especially to avoid taxes, declare themselves "sovereign", make themselves kings and lords, demand diplomatic immunity, and so on (in fairness, sometimes the "declaration of nationhood" is tongue-in-cheek, as the link notes). Ourania is no more a nation than Vaughan is world champion.

Cranks giving each others fake honors, in this case a fake stamp of a fake nation honoring a fake chess master, would not merit a post about chess stamps all by itself, even if it surely is the weirdest chess stamp ever -- because it is not a genuine stamp. But the truly absurd thing here is that the Vaughan-featuring Ourania "stamp" is actually based on a real stamp.

Somehow, Stan Vaughan was chosen by Burundi to be featured as one of four 'chess masters' on a set of stamps it issued (picture from this link), together with those of the genuine chess champions Emanuel LaskerPaul Morphy, and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Credit: 'Chess for all Ages' blog

How this had happened, I cannot imagine. There are cases of relatively weak or unknown players, such as Willi Schlage, on stamps (in his case Mali). There are also cases of players, such as Ray Keene, accepting dubious or outright fake honors. But at least in those cases the players are or were genuine masters, if not necessarily world-championship class. Vaughan's Burundi stamp is surely the only case where a fake master is given a genuine chess honor of this sort.


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