Saturday, August 10, 2013

Knightmare! Scenarios: 6. The End is High

All good things must come to an end: the British Seniors at Torquay for example. It trumped the Championship with a last round climax featuring my old school chum Paul Timson in a head to head for first place with David Friedgood. They drew after a hard battle to be joined in a four-way tie on 5.5/7 by Graham Chesters and none other than some time Knightmare!ista Roger Emerson. Congratulations to them all. Nigel Povah was in the chasing pack on 4.5.

For Knightmare! back in 1979 it was the last round too, three strikes and out - the result of a combination of exhaustion and a need for change says Nigel (by email); "Many of us had other things going on in our lives." There was, however, no hint in the third issue that it would be, as it turned out, the last. Nor, incidentally, were any expectations raised that there might be another: a number 4. It just didn't happen. Nothing.

Will the Knightmare! ever end?
As it is the last of these Knightmare! Scenarios as well, we will finish with a potpourri of bits and pieces which, taken together with previous episodes (linked below), demonstrate that Knightmare! really was an all-round effort, not just in terms of content, but authors too: all chess strengths, and all ages did their bit, and it even had a bevy of "foreign correspondents". Moreover, as Mike Singleton has commented to your blogger, some who put pen to paper surprised their colleagues, and more especially themselves, with an unexpected talent on the page: butterflies emerged from their chrysalids, as we have seen in this series. All in all, Knightmare! like S&BCC itself, had strength in depth - or to put it a better way: its depth was its strength. The snippets below, and in earlier Scenarios, are only the part of it, and apologies to those authors who haven't been included or mentioned in the series.

Knightmare! was S&BCC's house magazine, as we noted in Scenario 1, and so was conscious of the Club's origins and history. In issue no.1 Cliff Williams, President of the BCF (as it then was), and member for over twenty years, gave an overview back to the 1880s based on past minute books. Cliff's summary has proved invaluable to contemporary students of the history of our intermittently illustrious club: that's all two of us - the other being Richard Tillett (who delves also into the beginnings of organised chess). The minute books have, unfortunately, since gone walkies and so if anyone reading this could leave them for us in the dead-letter box, no questions asked, we'd be very grateful.

The press cutting below, from the years soon after WW2, was shown with others in a collage of Streatham and Brixton CC's past and not-so-present, and it reports on the exploits of an even earlier, immediate post-WW1, generation: more dreadnoughts than dreadlocks.

Mr Colliver also got a mention in the BCM of 1919, which added more details to the above showing that he was one of four who drew with Capa at his 35 board simul organised by Surrey CCA in Thornton Heath (three miles down the A23). Capa also lost three, after four and a half hours play. Carus Colliver died in 1954, and his son Norman followed him in 1974, and as we have some local addresses for them more digging beckons to the club's archeologists; there may even a game score out there, somewhere, of his victory over Yates in 1927.

On the world stage there were reports in issue no.2 about chess in two of the four corners of the globe. "New Zealand International" Bob Smith, a "small, mustachioed, leprechaun-like ex-patriot S&B player", reported ("S&B Scores in Kiwiland") on his tournament triumph down-under in a four-way tie including the 15 times New Zealand champion, and their Zonal and Olympiad rep. Bob picked up $100 dollars: "small beer on the English circuit" but worth a few pints "here in Godzone". He well understood that the cost of a round in the old country was a serious matter having been with S&BCC for a few months when a chess tourist in Europe. In a "Kiwi's eye view" (issue no.1) he had taken the opportunity to share some bemused observations of an anthropological nature: that Streatham played in a pub, for example - "unheard of in New Zealand" - and that it had "no constitution, no standard time for committee meetings...[which also]...would be regarded with horror."

A Kiwi observes.
(from here)
Update for readers in Kiwiland: Streatham & Brixton has since adopted antipodean practices; play is in a pub no longer, and meetings now run with godzonely correctitude (cause and effect, or not).  

Also in issue no.2, recently-joined member David Randall, styling himself a "former International Chess player", reflected on his two-year stint teaching in a girl's high school in Kingston, Jamaica where, after "recovering from jet lag, culture shock and...Appleton Rum", he had enough time over, and brain cells, for a game of chess. After a year's qualifying residence he found himself in the Jamaican national team visiting Cuba and playing Guyana in a four-cornered tournament (with Cuba, holding back on GMs, fielding two teams). Jamaica finished last (perhaps too much rum, after all). There now follows, with David's notes, an all too familiar Yugoslav crunch in the Sicilian by an Englishman representing Jamaica against Guyana in Cuba. It's the sort of thing that Robin Haldane had demonstrated in his analysis of the Yugoslav Dragon in Knightmare! 1, and has been playing ever since with Streatham and Brixton (and elsewhere) - Robin is one of the few Knightmare! originals still with the club 35 years later. Good on you, Robin (he is pictured in episode 3).

For another international perspective you could turn to Bernadette Higgins' "Russian Revelations" in issue no.3 based on three visits to the Soviet Union. She described what perhaps was common knowledge: that over there it was both a mass participation and a spectator sport where "demonstration boards have to be set up on the pavement outside" for the overflow. She also comments on what perhaps wasn't: that it was "virtually impossible to obtain any decent chess books at all" and "if one wants to smoke [in a Soviet chess club] there is a special room provided...which is very unpleasant - when you open the door...". I'll spare you Bernadette's depiction of the gruesome scene inside: unnecessary if you have ever experienced the playing room at St. Bride's Institute (the then venue of the London Chess League) in full fug before the smoking ban.  

There's another St. Bride's reference in P.J.N. Howorth's "Reminiscences...." (issue no.2, in 1978) - written for the benefit of "a younger generation", which of course the Knightmare!istas then were. He cast his mind back to the occasion in 1967 when "ex-Streatham player Raymond Keene" (as we sometimes, on this Blog, have to pinch ourselves to remember) "first beat 10-times British champion Jonathan Penrose in a R+P endgame - 4 Ps v 3Ps on the same side of the board." Mr Howorth tells that he was especially impressed another time by Ray's demonstration of an opening "improvement overlooked by all the experts" which Ray had originated by his own efforts - whatever, that is, his journalistic practice appears to be many years later. Check this out, too, for another historic Keene victory.

Mr Howorth (a kind of semi-detached Streatham member at Charlton CC) also recalled 1963 when he encountered OTB "one of the most universally feared and detested opponents - a brilliant schoolboy": still the case today, if not more so as they get younger by the minute (though seriously: thumbs up to junior chess). On that occasion it was William R. Hartston. Mr. H recalls that Bill's "How to Cheat at Chess" recommended a judiciously contrived doctor's bleep as a way of extricating oneself from a hopeless position - and then generously allows that Bill "had probably forgotten" the occasion when he had himself fallen victim to the same tactic perpetrated by a trainee junior Doctor - why, by Mr Howorth, no less.

Talking of dodgy gamesmanship, Dave Edmonds revealed (in no.3) an arsenal of ruses in "How to Win if you are 4'11"" with a game by way of demonstration of Number 4 in his list of recommendations: "On move three pick up the piece you want to move, but without letting go, put it to the wrong square. Then place is back on its original square and think for another two minutes before playing the right move."  By the way, Ray Kearsley, Dave's fall-guy below, who missed the tactic (we've all been there), is still going strong at Wimbledon CC.

Going back to Joe S.'s comment to episode 3, I wonder if Daniel Feinstein's serial "j'adoube" infraction might not have been a mangled misapplication of an Edmonds 4. On the other hand, Danny was nearer 5'10", so would surely have been above such a thing.

One final item gives your blogger great personal pleasure as it features another veteran of the Knightmare! years who is still active in S&BCC today, Martin Cowley. He plays for us regularly in the London League, and many may also have encountered him representing UNATS in the Civil Service League, or behind the counter in the Chess and Bridge shop in Baker Street. Here he is commenting on a Benko (when it was perhaps less charted territory than now) which Martin is still playing today - for which your Blogger can vouch from personal experience in this year's S&B Club championship: that's 35 years of unbroken  loyalty to opening, as well as to club. In the game Martin plays the gambit with serious intent against a higher rated opponent, although the game was "only" a draw. Well-played Martin, and long may you continue.

And so the Knightmare! adventure was over. They quit while they were ahead. Mike Singleton's final review of the passing year (in what turned out to be his valedictory "Introduction") listed two S&BCC teams coming first and second in the Surrey League; winning second place in the London League ("after a close and thrilling season"); victory in both Leagues' associated knockout competitions, maxing out in the British Postal Chess League; a string of impressive individual results in London junior championships; and even success on the international stage for Streatham players with Julian Hodgson and Daniel King selected for England in the World U-16 Team Championships, and Nigel Povah for the full England team to play Denmark (as well as winning the Charlton Open and coming 5th in the British).

We started this series with Nigel, the moving force behind S&BCC's successes in the 70's, and Mike, with his steady hand on the Knightmare! tiller - and so mention of them again makes this a good place to stop.

Thanks again for assistance with this series from the original Knightmare! dreamers.

All three issues of Knightmare! are uploaded on the club history page of the Streatham and Brixton Chess Club website.

Postscript added 15 December 2013.
Many thanks to commentators to this post and earlier ones, especially to No. 3 Village Folk with reminiscences of Daniel Feinstein. And there's a particular thanks to add, as of today's date, to Trevor Bates, currently of Ealing CC. Prior to a 30-year sabbatical from chess Trevor played for Coulsdon & Purley CC. Back then in the 1970s he played against Streatham in the Surrey League (including several games against Steve White mentioned in episode 2). Trevor is a long-time keen collector of chess books and at some stage he acquired the three Knightmare! volumes which he has, just last week, very kindly presented to the club - thus filling a woeful gap in its archive. So, on behalf of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club: thanks Trevor, we very much appreciate your generosity.

Knightmare! Scenarios:
1. Chess in a Time of Letraset
2. Alice in Blunderland
3. Village Folk
4. Just Rooks, Pawns and Kings
5. Pelikan Crossing

History Index      


ejh said...

Better is 6.Nxb5 Ba6 7. Nc3 although even then Black has gained a tempo over the main lines stemming from 5. bxa6

He hasn't, though.

Jonathan B said...

I really enjoyed reading this series.

It reminds me that this very blog might have been called Knightmare, but I couldn't get the URL. I didn't understand why ... until I found out there'd been a Children's TV series of that name and a fan of that had already nabbed the name for internet purposes.

AngusF said...

I very much enjoyed the series too. Thank you Martin.

A couple of small points:
- The Streatham Library chess group will, from next Wednesday, have residence (albeit temporary, while the Library is refurbished) at the same White Lion pub.
- I remember Daniel Feinstein wondering whether 4'11" Dave Edmonds is David Edmonds who co-authored (with John Eidinow) Bobby Fischer Goes To War?

ejh said...

It is indeed the same. Is Mr Kearsley still playing?

Jonathan B said...

Ray's 'category A' on the most recent ECF Grading list.

Martin Smith said...

The Secretary of Wimbledon CC has just now confirmed to me that, although still a member, Ray hasn't played for the club for a couple of seasons, but prefers (as his grading record shows) to play these days in tournaments.