Monday, December 01, 2008

A Trip and a Game, Down Memory Lane

Once upon a time, London was the envy of the Western chess world. Her clubs were bursting with fresh opening ideas and future Grandmasters; her leagues, blessed with illustrious names traveling in to play top board and teach us all a lesson.

Streatham and Brixton Chess Club has its own surplus of proud boasts from those glory days. The names of GMs Julian Hodgson and Glenn Flear adorn our club trophy, but the list of our famous ex-members hardly stops there. And today we take you back to the late 1960s when a certain Raymond Keene - not yet Grandmaster, not yet prolific writer, not yet elite organizer, not yet OBE - was Streatham & Brixton Chess Club's very own board one.

And what a board one he was. Still in his teens and studying at college, over three consecutive seasons in the 1960s Ray tells me that he scored +13 =5 -1 for us under the captaincy of Richard Boxall, an entirely enviable record that includes 1½/2 against ten-times British Champion Jonathan Penrose. And very kindly, Ray has also sent us his victory over Penrose to share with readers of the blog, permitting us to reproduce his annotations as well.

Here it is. Enjoy this instructive game of historical interest:

I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd like to thank Ray ever so for that special treat. And indeed if you wish to do so yourself, Ray can be easily contacted via his Chessgames page, the site where his annotations featured above also previously appeared. Or if you'd like to find out more about Ray, his home page is here.

Will our club ever see such a board one again? There really is only one Raymond Keene, so the answer has to be no - unless Ray comes out of London League retirement, that is. You never know!


Anonymous said...

That's nice of him, especially as there has been the(ahem)odd thing or two on here that he could have got hacked off about. Never knew he played for Streatham, although was aware of some of the other illustrious names (even tried to get one of them, Hodgson back for us!). I think Ray Keene's role in helping the English chess explosion has been somewhat overlooked/downgraded. He really was quite an original strong player when he was going for his GM title. Maybe it is his own fault that history does not look back on his achievements as favourably as it should have. I don't know. Creatively he seems to have mirrored David Bowie in timescale both starting up the late 60s and going into rapid decline in the 1980s (through inactivity on Ray's part- DB should have arguably acted in the same fashion). Wonder what Ray's chess equivalent of the Laughing Gnome was?
Ray's inactivity does seem to have been an early example of what is quite a long list of strong British GM retirees. Hodgson, Watson (well he beat me for "fun" last year!), Sadler, McShane, Stean and I'm sure others. Understandable in many ways- once you get the GM title, you may have little to aim for. Also you are likely to be highly intelligent and this intelligence can probably be put to much more profitable use, outside the world of playing chess.

ejh said...

RDKOBE (as he was not then) wrote a very intersting book about his early years called Becoming A Grandmaster - I borrowed it a number of times from Stevenage Central Library when I was a kid. I recall an exchange he reported between himself and Jim Slater where Ray had said he wanted to stay at college for a while because he wished to complete his thesis on German literature: Slater's response was to the effect of "what use is German literature?" and Ray's response to that response was to consider the question not worth answering. It's hard to imagine he'd even understand the question now.

I don't think it was inactivity that caused Ray's creative decline - rather, it was hyperactivity. Of the wrong kind.

Jonathan B said...

g3 against the KID. Got to love it.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with g3 against the KID???


ejh said...

Nothing. It's my single most successful opening and I recommended it not long ago to Jonathan.

Jonathan B said...

Actually it must have been nearly a year ago now Justin ... and I've been doing very nicely with it.

I've used it to draw with a 182 ECF - one of my best ever results - and have never lost with it. I did once lose to George Salimbini with an early g3 but he played into a Grunfeld set-up

Jonathan B said...

Incidentally, before taking up the g3 KID I played Nf3 c4 and b4 - as recommended by both Davies and Dunnington in their books on the Reti.

I scored appallingly badly with it. I think it might have been something like +0 =2 -4. Certainly my grading performance was practically into minus figures.

Now playing against Black setups based on ... Nf6 and ... g6 is one of my most successful openings as White.