Saturday, July 06, 2013

Knightmare! Scenarios: 3. Village Folk

After an introduction to Knightmare! (part 1), and a taste of some of its eccentricities (part 2), this episode in our fortnightly series looks back over the passage of time since the late 70s to some of the personalities associated with the magazine. But we do so with a measure of sadness as we will pay tribute to two who are no longer with us (and apologies if we unwittingly refer without proper acknowledgement - here or in other posts - to others who may also have fallen by the wayside). 

First we celebrate the contribution of Val Singleton (partner of Mike Singleton) to the Knightmare! enterprise: herder of cats, cracker of whip, custodian of deadlines, mistress of guillotine; all done, as recalled by those who knew her, with unforgettable charm and efficiency.  

Val was not a chess player but nonetheless threw herself into Knightmare!, and even found time to put pen to paper to bring a bit of poetry to the party, which she did with telling modesty preferring to write in Knightmare No. 3 under the nom de plume of "a Village Person". Now, let's be honest: Streatham in the London Borough of Lambeth would have struggled, even in the late 70's, to pass itself off as a rural idyll, a corner of Olde Englande, a village; and the current building of a megastore adjacent to its only bit of green space has definitively punctured any lingering pretensions. So what could Val have meant?         

All becomes clear when you clock that one of Streatham's regular opponents was the London Central Y.M.C.A., permitting a riff on a song that went like this (popular at the time and apparently still so, even today) :


And now that you have the metre for her ditty, give or take a skip here and there, declaim ye this... 
It's fun to play at the...
                          by a Village Person
We went to the Y.M.C.A.
On an August Thursday
For we'd arranged then to play
A team from the Y.M.C.A. 
It was a twenty board match
And we took a determined batch
From the S & B patch
And some spectators to watch
(we''s spelt the same!)
Streatham - don't you dare arrive late
I say Streatham - our friendly rivals can't wait
And oh Streatham - you must all get checkmate
Ready, they've started. 
Streatham - what's this...Povah has lost?!
I say Streatham - and six more to our cost
Ah, but Streatham's lower boards are the MOST
And we might - could - yes - HAVE - won it!
So it's thanks to the Y.M.C.A.
For arranging this friendly affray
It was so nearly your day
But we won at the Y.M.C.A.!!    
"Strea'tum" subbing for "young man"...genius! So a big thanks to Val; the Village People will never be the same again. 

And was that a twenty board club match? Those were the days. The score card read thus - and British chessers will recognise many names on both sides.  
Another unassuming lady-behind-the-scenes, signing herself  "a Chess Widow", who also endeavoured to raise the cultural tone of Knightmare! was Jan Kent (partner of Martyn Kent, on board 18 above). She contributed "A Knight at the Opera" to issue No 3, enumerating chess operas, of course, a chess themed dessert (served in 1528 by Cardinal Wolsey to the French Ambassador), and an Agatha Christie whodunnit "A Big Four", in Chapter 11 of which ("A Chess Problem") a murder most foul is committed as the victim played 3. Bb5 in the Spanish: a crucial chess detail, and a clue not lost on Hercule Poirot lui-même. Hastings and Inspector Japp, on the other hand, couldn't tell a Ruy Lopez from a rice pudding.  

As for some of the many characters who, to a greater or lesser degree, played for Streatham and contributed to Knightmare! here is a sample of them today as mature specimens... 

    A.                         B.                                 C.                          D.                      E.                       F.

...which provides the opportunity for a little challenge: match them to their younger selves as they were in their Knightmare! years in the strip below. Award yourself bonus points if you can name them, and double if you can pair the two cousins.         

    1.                        2.                            3.                           4.                         5.                       6.
As for a clue: all but one (D) played in the match against the YMCA, and the brilliant portrait sketches were knocked-off by Chris Jones, who says that the talent was in the genes handed down by his father, also an artist. Chris went to Camberwell School of Art and has spent many years since Knightmare! in graphic design. The drawings were each done in about half an hour from photos taken at club nights. The answers will be found in the Appendix, with the full set of sketches and photographs, after the jump.   

On board 16 in the YMCA match (played in 1979) was 15 year old Daniel Feinstein, to whom we pay the second posthumous tribute in this post. He was an active and enthusiastic junior, already playing in that same year in the Surrey County U-15 and U-18 teams. His vigorous style provided the case studies for an article by Simon Gillam "The Perils of Passive Play" in Knightmare! No 3; but the following example of his enterprise comes from Round 1 of the 1979 club championship, reported also by Simon, which was played over two Sundays-plus-Monday-evenings in June. This was memorable not only for Julian Hodgson's ultimate victory (he was already a 204 Junior), but for Round 4, and its "early start on Sunday [which] proved too much for Nigel Povah, who lost by default when he slept in." An ungodly 9.00 am start, and a proper Knightmare! for Nigel; but he stirred himself and eventually finished second, one point behind the winner, pocketing a handsome £10 as runner-up.  

Here is the game, where, as White, Daniel was happy to hack away in the Open Sicilian (the notes below appear to be by Simon Gillam) ...

 ...and he favoured the dynamic Modern Benoni as Black, not flinching at Taimanov's still feared 8. Bb5+ as in this exciting game where the opponents combine defence and attack, at the same time and the same place. Daniel plays a nice Queen sacrifice, bringing hope and succour to eternally optimistic Benoni warriors everywhere.

Daniel was still actively involved in the late 80s when he was the main man organising the Club's Open Quick Play Tournament in 1986, sponsored by the local paper, which attracted 100 or so entries. Its one and only edition was won by GM Murray Chandler.

Alas, Daniel's public chess activity seemed to have declined - maybe he played on-line? - and in the 2000s we saw him just once a year, but without fail, at the club AGM where he was free with suggestions, helpful and sometimes otherwise, as to how the club might do better. By then his real interests must have lain elsewhere - although it was difficult to know for sure as, in his evident wish for privacy, he withheld even his phone number. 

Daniel Feinstein in 2008. 
It was a sad shock for us in S&BCC to discover in 2010 that he had died back in 2009, aged only 45. It was even more shocking to discover that Daniel had another life, unknown to us, and that this apparently had been his overriding passion and preoccupation for some years. It was as the legendary "Mr Knowledge" -  as he was known at Arsenal F.C. - where he was an obsessive supporter and walking encyclopedia of Arsenalania. He was, we learnt, a familiar sight on the terraces at Highbury, as a respectful thread on the supporters' blog shows. It reveals also bemusement at his mild eccentricity and self-abnegating privacy in a mirror-image of our perspective. There was no mention of his once all-consuming chess, nor was there in a valedictory piece in the Islington Tribune of 4 September 2009, nor in the notice with which he was honoured in the Arsenal programme for their match v Portsmouth on 22 August 2009.        

Daniel seemed to have lived his life in watertight compartments, and its a shame for the club that the one marked "Chess - OTB" fell into disuse. 

Which prompts a rumination on the social strangeness of our game: you lock mental horns with some other person for maybe several hours in an over-crowded personal space, mess with their ego (and they with yours) - and you learn absolutely nothing else about them, and possibly (and regrettably) care even less.

In the next episode, in a couple of weeks, Jonathan B will revisit a Knightmare! ending.

For this episode, thanks go especially to Chris Jones, Roger Emerson, Angus French, Richard Tillett, and as ever Mike Singleton.

Knightmare! Scenarios: 1. Chess in a Time of Letraset.
Knightmare! Scenarios: 2. Alice in Blunderland.
History Index

Sketch and Photograph Appendix below, after the break

The pairings are A4 Ken Coates; B6 Robin Haldane; C1 Chris Jones; D2 John Piggott; E5 Nigel Povah; F3 Mike Singleton. Chris Jones and Robin Haldane are cousins.

                                        "Opposite"                                                                            "Overleaf"                                                                                                                                


Anonymous said...

Very interesting piece Martin. RIP Danny. Far too young- very sad. I must have caught the end of his Streatham apperances. No idea when (1995?) or how many times I played in the same side. May have only been a couple actually. I remember him wearing an Arsenal scarf and also being refused entry by reception when we played in some City offices (anyone remember what venue this could have been?). Think he objected to either signing the visitors book or some detail attached to it. Not sure what the result was given as. I also recall a Pinner junior Jason Kirk beating him in the British Under 14 announcing "resign time Feinstein". The mind boggles at what the reaction to this must have been. Jason Kirk himself was a lively, albeit very different character.
Anyway reading the Arsenal blog, he does seem very recognisable to chess players that came across him. It was great that he was given such a good write up by the Arsenal fans.
What is it with Streatham and their members being ever-present at Middlesex based football teams matches btw?


Anonymous said...

Daniel may be one of the only players ever to have lost a game by j'adoubing too many times. I recall this happened against Battersea (I guess it must have been) in the Alexander Cup and the matter went to the league committee who ruled in Battersea's favour. Perhaps it was a sign of his nervous disposition - that is what happens when you watch Arsenal ! - Joe S

Jon D'Souza-Eva said...

I played Danny just the once. We adjourned when I was a couple of pawns up in a queen and pawn ending, tricky but definitely winnable. On resumption a week or so later I blundered on my second move to a skewer leaving me a queen for two pawns down! He was very nice about it and didn't crow too much! As the game had finished several hours sooner than expected we went for a quick drink round the corner where he told me he earned his living writing questions for Trivial Persuit.


PJM said...


Jason coached me as a junior when we were both living in Bucks. After a spell in France, he's now moved back to the UK with his family. I'm delighted to confirm he's just as lively a character now - see for his business...

He's not playing an awful lot, though his son Ezra is one of England's brightest young talents.

Anonymous said...

I arrived here randomly after typing in the name of Daniel Feinstein and finding posts on the English Chess forum referring to him in the past tense.

I met Daniel for the first time at the Lloyds Bank tournament in 1981. I was introduced to him by Leonard Barden after I had asked him if he knew of a chess club in my area.

I went on to join Streatham and went on to play for the club for more than 10 years.

Daniel was always lively and opinionated, and as the article rightly states, a fanatical Arsenal supporter.

He was never short of a word of advice to developing players and his advice that I develop endings before openings proved to be valuable on sever occasions.

Daniel ran the London League fist team for several years and was famed for his jousts with the legendary Gary Dormand.

Gary was a talented player but also a rampant socialite. Daniel respected his talent but was constantly frustrated by Gary's failure to appear at matches.

He once list Gary by name as one of a list of reasons that would not be accepted for not turning up for matches!

Ironically when I inherited the Captaincy of the Streatham's National Club Major team in 1989-1990 from Robin Haldane (I think), I picked Daniel and his first recommendation was that I seek out Gary Dormand!

Reluctantly I took this advice, and it turned out to be a successful decision.

Daniel and Gary remained unbeaten and the Club won Both the Major and Open plates in the 1989 National club tournament.

The finals day in Derby was the last time I saw Daniel.

To date the period some of the players who played in the 'Cup Run' included.

Daniel Feinstein
Trevor Dunmore
Nigel Smith
Gary Dormand
Angus French
Peter Lauper
Bob Faint
Maurice Benadt
and me (John Estick)

Other abiding memories of him include his numerous blitz games (complete with his own running commentary).

Finally there was his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Arsenal.

From profiles of future stars to assorted trvia Daniel knew it all and didn't mind sharing.

I briefly tried to resurrect Knightmare in the mid 1980's inspired by some back issues I found in the Club Cupboard.

I managed about three issues before work commitments got the best of me and I not only gave up the editorship, but significantly reduced my chess activity.

I think there may be a few pictures of the National Club day and a copy or two of the club magazine hiding somewhere, If I can dig them out, I would be happy to send them to the editor.

John Estick

AngusF said...

Hello John,

Good to hear from you and read your reminisces.

I remember Gary Dormant – and his bondage trousers.

I also remember going with you and a few others – I think Jeremy and Nigel Smith but it could also have been one or more of Robin, Tim Upton or Colm Prendergast - to Guernsey and you taking rather weighty hand luggage onto the plane!

Might you still be in Streatham - or close by? If yes, why not pop into the White Lion on a Wednesday afternoon (where the Streatham Library Chess Group is currently meeting)?

I trust you’re still playing the Alekhine.


Martin Smith said...

Great reminiscences John. Thanks.
If you dig out any more Streatham memorabilia, and/or you want to get in touch with us outwith the comments box, you can email the blog via - or pop in to the White Lion as Angus suggests.