Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tribute act

Jonathan was talking about Walter Browne on Monday. Ray's written about him a few times recently, including a Times column two weeks ago today.

It includes notes "based on", to use Ray's phrase, notes by Browne himself.

"Based on", they certainly are.

Especially if "based on" means "borrowing somebody else's text and changing round a few words here and there".

Monday, July 27, 2015

Fighting to the end

Black to play
Ljubojevic - Browne, Amsterdam 1972

My first encounter with Browne came in 1983 at the players’ meeting before a televised tournament in Bath. The organisers explained that due to the strict time limit (2 hours for all moves), players were expected to act as gentlemen and and not try to win dead equal positions on time. “Can you define gentleman?” shot back Walter, peeved that his desire to win from any position might be curbed. 

By the time you read this I’ll be about halfway through the tournament in Sitges. To put mildly, I do not expect to be amongst the leaders by this point.

There’s a lot written about how the differences between the sort of people who do end up leading the field in European Opens and people like me who do not. They are better of chess, of course, but how are they better?

One of the things to which amateur chessers could pay much more attention should we genuinely wish to improve, is that the strongest players simply try harder. I’m sure we can all think of an exception to the rule, but by an large the higher the elo, the harder they are to beat and the longer they try to win.

As Jacob Aagaard put it in his essay Danes Eat Fish for Breakfast - part of Quality Chess’s Grandmaster versus Amateur collection,

Probably the most important attribute for a grandmaster is his tenacity. If he wants to win a game, he will fight until there are only kings left on the board, Even if he has a bad day and spoils the advantage in the opening and fails to make progress from his slight advantage in the middlegame, he will press on until there is no hope left. This is partly because grandmasters are stubborn, a quality which is invaluable in the hunt for the title, and partly because they know that this attitude brings result more often than their amateur opponents expect.

Danny Gormally has something similar to say in Play Like the Pros.

Black to play and win

Walter Browne was famous - or do I mean notorious - for his will to win. He might have wanted to  secure a full point from any position, as Rogers put it, but today’s is one that got away. Clearly Browne would have found the solution had he been looking for it. He must have already mentally given up the game as drawn. It’s not, though. Not even for a gentleman.

Anyhoo, whether I’m successful or not in playing and playing until I get a Sitges king and pawn endgame I’ll let you know next week.

King and pawn Index

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Daddendum 3

Couldn't resist running with this. 

Last Tuesday, in his comment on Daddendum 2 (which was a postscript to Daddendum the Friday before - itself a late addition to the Asylum series), Matt Fletcher wondered whether The Child in Dadd's painting looked like Russian Ukrainian (oops; my unfortunate error; sorry - see comments) GM Ruslan Ponomariov. 


That was after Mr Hogg reckoned that The Governess (for want of a better moniker) had something of the Karpov about him/her. 

 The Governess in 1857                           The Karpov in 1974

And who am I to disagree.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess XIII

"Abu Taubah took pictures of his cat and of the food he liked"

But why had Taubah (Arabic for "repentance") chosen the path of jihad as a response to injustice? And weren't Isis committing injustices too? Soon I would question him about this. But first, I wanted to know about his past. 
Half in jest, I probed him based on what I knew about the profiles of some jihadis: "Let me guess… in your pre-Islam life, you were in a gang of some sort, took drugs and went to jail?" He replied with "no comment". 
He was only prepared to reveal that his past was "bad" and that he looked on the bright side now: "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade." 
Taubah gradually began to open up more, telling me he went to university in the UK, enjoyed Muay Thai, playing chess and once had a dog. He said his family didn't understand him, but he loved them and missed them - the Nigerian side (he never knew the Irish side). 
In Syria, he cooked meals with his friends, adopted a cat and liked the "halal partying" on Eid, which meant "eating food and having fun with the ikhwan [brothers]". Taubah even learned to speak Arabic by mixing with the other fighters. He told me there were many foreign fighters living with their families in Raqqa, where it was "easier not to sin". 
Despite his online persona, I wasn't sure if Taubah actually engaged in combat. When I asked what job he did for Isis, he vaguely told me: "We work for Allah in the day and rest at night." He said he couldn't reveal details for security reasons, nor did he want to jeopardise his family in any way. But I wondered if his withholding information might also have been because he planned to return home. 
As well as bombarding me with jihadi literature, Taubah also asked questions like "how many countries have you travelled to?" and "what's the most horrific thing you've seen?" 

... to do with chess Index 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess XII

Recon Marines will proudly tell you that if you look up their official Military Occupational Speciality in a Marine Corp manual, their job title is listed as "Reconnaissance Man." Theirs is one of the few remaining fields in the military closed to women. For many, becoming a Recon Marine represents one of the last all-male adventures left in America. Among them, few virtues are celebrated more than being hard - having stronger muscles, being a better fighter, being more able to withstand pain and privation. They refer to extra comforts - foam sleeping pads, sweaters, even cold medicine as "snivel gear," and relentlessly mock those who bring it as pussies.

Nor do the men have any CD or DVD players, Game Boys or any similar entertainment devices. They were forbidden to bring such distracting items to the Middle East. They are young Americans unplugged. Their only entertainment is talking, reading and playing cards or chess. There’s a chess board set up in the centre of the tent, where a company tournament has been going on for six weeks now.

At night they fight constantly. They judo-flip each other headfirst into the plywood floor of the tent. They strong-arm their buddies not headlocks and punch bruises not each other’s ribs. They lie in wait for one another in the shadows and leap out swinging Ka-Bar knives, flecking their buddies’ rib cages with little nicks from the knife tips, or dragging their blades lightly across a victim’s throat, playfully simulating a clean kill. They do it to keep each other in shape; they do it for fun; they do it to establish dominance.

... to do with chess Index

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daddendum 2

Just a quick postscript to Daddendum.

Regular S&B Chess Blog reader and fellow chess-art iconographer David Roberts has just been in touch. Using his skills in digital picture recovery (something he does in the course of his professional work), David has built on the traces of colour in the Tate's reproduction of The Child's Problem and re-created for us how it may have looked originally.

Before, and...

...after David's manipulation 
As Dadd expert Nick Tromans (see Daddendum), to whom we showed the enhancement, aptly remarked: "Sad to see what we are missing."

Stunning. Thanks David.

In view of the comments below, please see Daddendum 3

Asylum Index    

Monday, July 20, 2015

Build Up Your King and Pawn Endings

White to play
Position 4.8 from Artur Yusupov’s Build Up Your Chess: The Fundamentals

Hooray for me. Last week I was able to pick up a book aimed at sub-1500 chessers and solve at a glance every puzzle the author set in a chapter on king and pawn endings. Yes I am genuinely chuffed about that.

The book in questions was Yusupov’s Build Up Your Chess: The Fundamentals. The first in a 9-volume course, it is - according to our friend Artur - aimed at people with elos several hundred points less than mine. To which I can only say, "Bloody hell, are you having a laugh, Art?" Easy it is not.

If I’d have started out with this book and course when I was a beginner I’d be master standard by now at least. Or I would have quit chess forever after a couple of weeks. One or the other.

The truth is, I didn’t even actually get all the puzzles straightaway either There was one - you can find it at the head of today's blog - that took me a few minutes.

I did get there in the end, but this is the first of three books aimed at people I’m supposed to be much better than already. What are the last three aimed at people with much higher elos than mine going to be like? Maybe one day I’ll find out. For now, I’m happy enough to have nailed all the puzzles in chapter 4 of book one. 

King and pawn Index