Friday, February 27, 2015

Streatham Strolls to Canada

The series Streatham Strolls offered a virtual tour of the chess history of our locality. It was not exactly "psycho-geography", but after setting out from the Streatham/Tooting/Balham borderlands we found ourselves in some unexpected places, conjuring up some unanticipated heros of chess-times past.

One was Samuel Tinsley (1847-1903), conscientious Victorian chesser, journalist and church-goer, who, as a Lewisham-man, lived but five miles to the east of our patch.

Samuel Tinsley
as portrayed in the account of the 1895 Hastings tournament.  
Back in 2012 his grave had only just been identified by the Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries after some curiosity about its whereabouts. Upon its (re)discovery we strolled east, hot-foot, to investigate.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

But not yet

Chess is to be made a compulsory subject in Spanish schools.

Or rather, "Chess is to be made a compulsory subject in Spanish schools",  as Stephen Moss told us in a Guardian article last week, linking to a piece does indeed make that claim:
chess is to become a compulsory subject for Spanish schoolchildren.
Another authority advancing the same proposition is the World's Worst Chess Correspondent, whose Times column for February 11 declared that
the Spanish Parliament is predicted to vote through measures which will make chess lessons compulsory in all Spanish primary schools.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#31: Benjamin - Korchnoi, Jerusalem 1986

The game was adjourned here (remember adjournments, anyone?) and I sealed 57 Kd1.
... now I seemed to hold: 57 ... Kd3 58 Ke1 e2 59 g5 fxg5 60 g4 Ke3 leads to a real stalemate, while 60 ... Ke4 61 Kxe2 Kf4 62 Kf2 Kxg4 63 Kg2 gains White the opposition and draws. 
I knew this couldn’t be correct. Korchnoi had played too quickly and confidently and the position didn’t look like it should be a draw. Before leaving the table, Korchnoi looked at me and said, 'I know something about triangles.' I was lost in more ways than one, because I still didn’t see the win. Fortunately Dmitry Gurevich, who was 'classically trained' in the endgame (i.e. he grew up in the Soviet Union) showed me the potential finale ... 
I ran after Korchnoi and resigned, apologising profusely for my ignorance. Quite perplexed, Korchnoi told me, 'It is the ABCs of chess!'
Joel Benjamin, (Liquidation on the chess board, New in Chess 2015)

If you’re reading this then - like me - you’ve probably been playing tournament and/or club chess for quite a while. Decades, most likely. I’ll venture to suggest that - like me - you’ll have spent a few quid on chess books and DVDs along the way.

The ABCs of chess, though? We don’t have them.

Sure, like Larsen we know about opposition and the square. We might be familiar with that mutual zugzwang position ...

... that crops up quite often in king and pawn endgames (in that rather fiendish puzzle from Aagaard’s Grandmaster Preparation: Endgame Play that we had a few weeks ago, for example). I dare say we 'know' about triangulation too. We almost certainly do. Well, know of it.

We don’t know this stuff, though. Not really. Not like we know our actual ABCs.

We’re not fluent in chess. So while we might - with a bit of effort - be able to work out precisely why it’s time for White to resign at move 57 in Benjamin - Korchnoi, we’re not likely to know for sure that ... Rb1 would win at move 47.

47 ... Rb1

So heading for that position would be a bit of a risk which in turn means that we can’t play those late middlegame/early endgame positions properly.

Black to play

And that is why, despite all the time, effort and money we put in we are nevertheless, to a greater or lesser extent, no bloody good at chess at all.

King and Pawn Index

Review copy of Liquidation on the Chess Board supplied by New in Chess 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Newly Discovered Interest II

Oh yeah, there was also this. The photo in New In Chess is, I think, this one (or one very similar).

Now when you see Boris Johnson in a photo like that, what do you see? Do you see what Boris and the promoter want you to see? Or do you remember, for example, this, or this, or this?

So perhaps Boris and chess are a good fit after all. If only because in chess, as in the career of Boris Johnson, you can get away with anything provided nobody asks any awkward questions when the time comes to ask them.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Newly Discovered Interest In Chess

Boris Johnson, a keen chess player.

Such is the claim in the latest New In Chess. Evidence for the contention in the caption is welcomed*. But not, especially, anticipated.

[* Of course Boris used to be Ray's editor while Ray was recycling old material at the Spectator, but I don't think that really counts.]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New plagiarist, old plagiarist

So Rupert Murdoch does sack plagiarists then.

I wonder who's the chess columnist for The Australian?

[Ray Keene index]
[Ray Keene plagiarism index]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

10 Types of Chesser II

Lefties and Righties.

In the good old days even the elite GMs mostly stuck to one side of the board or the other.  1 e4 or 1 d4, that was the question. I’m not sure exactly when it happened - perhaps Leko adopting some queen’s pawn openings in 2003 marks the turning point - but some time between now and the turn of  century things changed.

Kasparov was a rarity. He might well play anything against anyone (6 x 1 e4, 3 x 1 d4 against Short in '93; 6 x 1 e4 in 8 games against Anand in ’95 but only trying 1 d4 and 1 Nf3 in his first couple of Whites; 5 x 1 e4, 2 x 1 c4, 1 x 1 d4 against Kramnik in 2000).

His opponents openings in the same matches? 10 x 1 e4; 9 x 1 e4; 6 x 1 d4, 1 x 1 Nf3 respectively. That’s typical of how it was back then. Today the top guys are much more likely to mix it up.

For today I’m pretending that this doesn’t exist

What about us, though? Ordinary club and tournament chessers. We tend to stick to one or the other. Sure, there are the guys who like the Flank Openings, but broadly speaking* we tend to be either king’s pawn or queen’s pawn. Even those of us who - like me - often start 1 Nf3.

My question is not why. It’s fairly obvious why.

Being ready for everything as White would be a massive task. I’m not entirely convinced that it would impact on the results of our games that much actually. It certainly feels like it would, though, and that’s reason enough to stick to one or the other.

No, my question is not why but how. How we come to make the choices that we do.

I play 1 Nf3 and 1 d4 now because I like it that way. Why did I start playing it though? Why did I stick with it. Was it arbitrary? Chance? Honestly, I don’t know.

When I switched from 1 e4 the motivation was lack of desire to take on the various branches of the Sicilian. Today we might add the Petroff or Berlin as reasons to make the change. There’s certainly a tonne of theory for all of those, but more so than the KID, Grunfeld, Nimzo-Indian? The argument doesn’t seem convincing.

So 1 e4 or 1 d4. Which are you? More importantly, how did you end up that way? Answers other than habit are particularly welcome.

* although not entirely. The S&BCB arts correspondent did once utterly batter my French Defence after switching from his customary opening move.