What were you doing a year ago today? That’s not a question anybody can usually answer with any accuracy, but, I can tell you exactly what I was up to on 30th May, 2011.
As it happens, I was winning a chess tournament. That’s the sort of thing that we remember, isn't it? Especially if our previous congress victory – the only other one, if truth be told – had come ten years, six months and twenty-seven days earlier.
Anyhoo, for reasons that I'll leave for another day, the 2011 Sunningdale Major and the issue of luck in chess have always been bound together for me. Most recently, it was the seven games I played at that event that first came to mind when I read Ed Smith's book on luck in sport.
If Smith doesn't quite get it, at least he has the excuse of not being especially familiar with chess. What of the rest of us? The more I think about it the more it seems to me that what chessers typically refer to as 'luck' is nothing of the sort whilst the times that chance has a truly significant impact on our chess usually sneak past without any comment at all.
Consider the game below, played a year ago yesterday morning. By move 25 White had achieved no less dominating a position than Comrade Botters got against Szilagyi, but Black not only escaped, he actually went on to win. Is that luck?
What about if I tell you that the eventual winner of the game was your humble scribe and White was the guy who would eventually finish the tournament in second place just half a point behind me? Does that change your mind?
I'll leave you those questions to ponder, but personally I don't consider luck to have anything to do with the result here. I was fortunate at Sunningdale, in all manner of ways, but it seems to me that my fourth-round game is just what we call 'playing chess'.
Chess, luck and Sunningdale. I will tell you about it one day. For now though I intend to rest on my laurel and enjoy the memory. It's going to be quite a while, after all, before it happens again.