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'll...it'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, Go...now 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) ...
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.
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.