Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Who would you say is the ballsiest man alive?

May I respectfully nominate Phillippe Petit? He must have nadgers the size of space hoppers. 35 years ago he decided to run a wire between the towers of the World Trade Centre and do a tight-rope act 110 floors off the ground. I saw Man On Wire, the story of that little caper, last Sunday and I have to say it's a great film ...

... but anyhoo, let's get back to chess and return once more to the British Championship.

In the fifth round, as you may have seen in the comments to this thread, Jack Rudd turned down a draw against Boggie Lalic on move 29. He had the chance of a half point against a Grand Master rated 200 points higher than himself but rather than bank it he played on for the win against a guy whose last defeat in the tournament came at the hands of Julian Hodgson in 1999. OK, Jack got beaten in the end but at least he died with his boots on.

There have been all too many examples of the bigger cheeses not showing quite the same spirit. It's easy to criticise from the sidelines of course but sometimes it seems that several of the guys who are close to the top of the pile don't actually want to win the thing.

On the other hand, it can't be easy playing eleven games in a row with one solitary rest day in the middle. Perhaps a quick draw here and there helps to save energy for later rounds? Ultimately, it's hard to argue with the fact that with four rounds to play it's the Bogster who's wearing the yellow jersey.

Short draws then ... indicative of a lack of balls amongst some of the leading challengers or a legitimate tournament strategy.

The choice is yours.


ejh said...

I take the view that it's competitive sport played by professionals, and that in those circumstances, people are going to take the route which they think will maximise their chances. And dying with one's boots on is not likely to appeal either to someone whose living depends on their results, or indeed to somebody who's trying to remain in contention for the title (which is why I think your line about "don't actually want to win the thing" is some way off the mark).

If we don't like that, then we have to work out a way of dealing with it that discourages quick draws without damaging the fabric of the game - this being not at all an easy thing to do. It's possible that the Sofia rules are a good thing and should be more widely implemented: and it's also possible that in competitive sport in general, defence does tend to have a slight edge over attack, that this is unavoidable and that if we pretend otherwise we're largely fooling ourselves.

ejh said...

On a completely different and off-topic subject, the latest London Review of Books arrived in my buzón recently and one of the letters is from a Neville Twitchell. Is that the same gentleman as works (or worked) in the BCM Chess Shop?

Morgan Daniels said...

Petit is a chess player, you know. There was an interview with him in the Sunday Times Magazine (yes, I know) years ago which showed him arsing about with a set in his back garden. Dark square in the left hand corner and everything.

ejh said...

Talking of balls-ups rather than balls, do we think Simon Knott missed Bd7?

Jonathan B said...

Petit is a chess player, you know.

I didn't but he's now confirmed as my absolute hero.

ejh said...

Is Venkat doing well here?