Wednesday, December 24, 2014

All wrapped up


And that's just about it for the year. They're awkward to write, end-of-year posts, with their round-ups-of-the-year, their ironic asides and their holiday wishes at the end. (Still, if I'm finding this effort awkward, I wouldn't fancy the King of Spain's job.)

Suffice to say that in my view the worst chess news of the year was Kirsan Ilyumzhinov winning his election and the best news was Garry Kasparov losing his. And that was the year for you. Everything was just as bad at the end of it as it was at the beginning. Either that, or it was worse.

We'll be back with more cheerfulness in the New Year, albeit with a little less of it than before, since we've found our schedule a little too onerous, with the current staffing levels, to keep up. So for next year we'll be doing a minimum three postings a week, where we've previously been doing a minimum four. (It was either that, or more obvious fillers like this piece.)

No Xmas puzzles, either: we couldn't think of any that your computers wouldn't be able to solve for you. It's all cuts these days.

Back around the sixth.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Well aware of this game

It was Xmas 1990 and a bumper chess column at the Spectator. Those were the days. Back then Ray even used to say so when he was quoting from Kasparov.

Well he tried to, anyway. (Where's the closing quotation mark?) You have to expect some slackness in magazine offices in the run-up to Xmas and with Ray's column running over two pages, there was a lot of space to fill.

Three games to enjoy - and while the notes for two of them were less than extensive, even the king of getting-away-with-it couldn't get away with doing all three in such truncated style. So what to do? Where, during the Xmas season, could such a busy man find the time to annotate a game properly?

Aha! Ray had it. Why find the time, when one can just find the notes instead?

Why not just use the notes from a game which had caught his eye earlier in the year? Specifically, in the issue for 10 March 1990.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#29: Spassky - Fischer World Championship Match (17) Reykjavik 1972

21 ... Qe5

 A normal exchange sacrifice ....
Botterill & Keene (The Pirc Defence, Batsford 1973)

It seems appropriate to leave the year as I began it (SMA#26): a quote from RDK working with a fellow author which carries the implication of ISEs as standard thinking. Something that you simply understand. Or not, as the case may be.

For I’m not at all convinced that my grasp of exchange sacrifices has improved that much during 2014. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been fun and all that. I can at least say that I’m probably better at recognising the potential for an ISE now than I was before. Looking at a whole bunch of these 'normal' exchange sacrifices will do that after all. For example ...

Rook takes knight on bishop three
Keene - Toth, Rome 1979
Keene - Brown, Master Game series 7 & Hartston - Basman, Hastings 1973/74
Emms - Williams, 4NCL 1999Kramnik - Karjakin, Candidates’ 2014 (this was a bishop rather than a knight)
Kramnik - Illescas, Linares 1994

Getting rid of a fianchettoed bishop
Anand - Topalov, World Championship Match (7) 2010
Karpov - Malaniuk, Soviet Championship 1988
Reshevsky - Kotov, Zurich 1953
Seirawan - Kozul, Wijk 1991
Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (21) 1990

Getting rid of the opposite number of a fianchettoed bishop
Karpov - Azmaiparashvili, Sovet Championship 1983
Panov - Simagin, Moscow 1943
Horton - Zhou, British Championship 2014
Caro - Keene, Camaguey 1974
Fletcher - JMGB, Chess180 Challenge 2014
Cardoso - Keene, Nice Olympiad 1974
Quinones - Keene, Camaguey 1974
JMGB - Harris, London League 2014

Getting rid ... after the fianchettoed bishop has been exchanged
Kasparov - Speelman, TV Speed Chess 1989

Rook takes bishop on king three
Karpov - Andersson, Milan 1975
Benko - Keres, Los Angeles 1963 (this was a knight rather than a bishop)
Keene - Polak, Erlangen 1969
Caruana - Gelfand, Baku Grand Prix 2014

Giving up an exchange to dominate a colour-complex
Kasparov - Shirov, Horgen 1994
Kasparov - Short, TV Speed Chess 1987

Am I any better at actually doing ISEs, though? I rather doubt it. I could say that exchange sacrifices are just too hard, that they require too much calculation and too much understanding. Although if I did so I’d be hoping that nobody noticed that what I really meant was that they required too much effort. Or too much time, perhaps. I ran short of that commodity for quite a few different reasons this year (one of them being the Chess and Dementia series which began in May).

Not to worry. There’ll be another year along in a minute. And there are so many more areas of the game that I have yet to fail to grasp properly that it seems a little pointless to be overly bothered about this specific one.

And on that somewhat underwhelming note it’s time for me - JMGB - to say goodbye to ISEs and indeed blogging in 2014 as well. I'll see you again in January.

Merry Christmas and all that.

TISE Index

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A quick summary may be helpful

Or, "Chutzpah".

Ray's Times column yesterday

A quick summary of some of his other columns

[Ray Keene index]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chess in Art Postscript: Cardinal Points

There's a festive tinge to this post: red. Though not the red of this...

...nor of this...

...nice though they are, and very Christmassy.

It is a red that seasoned readers of the blog may remember, and others might enjoy for the first time.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My chess moment of 2014

I actually missed my chess moment of 2014, appropriately enough.

I was supporting Anand, of course. I say "of course" not because it's obvious that anybody should want to support him, but because it's the sort of thing I do. I've been in the habit of supporting the underdog for more than forty-years. Forty-one, in fact: I'm pretty sure I can date it exactly, to 5 May 1973.

As underdogs go, Anand might not be genuine, proper Second Division* like Sunderland were in 1973, but you can only take the underdogs that are put in front of you and he was quite the underdog all the same. Besides, Anand was 44 at the time of the match, Carlsen was 23 and I am 49. My criteria are not all exactly as they were in 1973.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Blue or Red Pill? XXXI

Black to play
Briggs v JMGB, London League 15.12.2014

You don’t normally think on the first move. I don’t, at least.

Most of us who spend our time playing League or Tournament chess have been playing quite a while. and we know the openings that we like to play. What we do as White; how we respond to 1 e4, 1 d4 or any other of White’s 20 legal first moves that aren’t simply junk. Our choices - for the most part determined by taste more than any objective assessment - are usually settled long before we sit down at the board.

So why did I think for three minutes when I’ve been playing 1 ... f5 in answer to 1 Nf3 for a few months shy of seven years now? I suspect the fact that this was my last London League game of 2014 had something to do with it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Endgame ISEs

35 ... Reg3
Kasimdzhanov - Topalov, San Luis (13) 2005

Since we have reached the 15th of December with my ISE post count for 2014 standing at just 46 (including today’s) I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to hit my target of 52 exchange sac posts in one calendar year. Such is life, but while this series limps to a finish I can at least add one more exchange sacrifice type to my collection: the Endgame ISE.

It’s San Luis 2005 and just like Anand with his ... Rb4 against Carlsen (Stamp Collecting; SMA#28), Veselin Topalov is about to decide the destination of a World Champion title by giving up a rook for a minor piece. This time, though, fortune will favour the brave.

Just saying

Joining FIDE’s World Championship tournament at round 13 we find Toppy needing just half a point to secure the championship with a game to spare. The only problem is he's a pawn down and under pressure against Kasimdzhanov. The Bulgarian has an ISE up his sleeve, though, and perhaps that’s just as well. Without it he might never have won the big prize.

Questions to answer on this one:
  • Did Kasim really completely miss the idea as Gershon and Nor suggest?
  • Why does Black nudge White's rook to the d-file on move 34 rather than just sacrifice straight away?
  • What happens if White defends with 39 Rg1, the move most club chessers would probably play?

I don’t have much for you in terms of answers, I’m afraid. If you want anything better than 'perhaps Black makes the rook go to d2 so he can answer Kg1 with Re5' you’re going to have to consult the book of the tournament or work it out for yourselves.

Anyhoo, the game continued on and only a few moves later Black was better. "White’s position is suddenly critical", G&N say. "His only chance is to return the exchange ...." In the final position Topalov could easily have played on, but he doesn’t need to.

That’s ISEs for you. They give World Championships. They take them away.

2014 ISE Count: 75
TISE Index

Topalov via

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Worst Move On The Board XIX

Nettleton-Orgler, London Chess Classic FIDE Open, round four, 11 December 2014.
Position after 28. Rf1-c1.

Easy one to find, this one. Mind you, easy one to miss as well.

[Thanks to Tim Dickinson and Jack Rudd]
[Worst move index]

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Apparently Got Something To Do With Chess But Possibly Not All That Much

I'm living a life I couldn't even have dreamed of a few years ago. I'm married to Bobby Polgar now (you know, the famous chess champion who just happens to be the man I love!). And we've got this beautiful house with a view of Puget Sound.

But lately something's been worrying Bobby. When I asked, he said he was "protecting his queen" - and I got the oddest feeling he wasn't talking about chess but about me. He wouldn't say anything else.


[thanks to Angus]
[ do with chess index]

Friday, December 12, 2014

In energetic fashion

Here's a chunk of Ray's Times column for today. If it doesn't already look familiar to you, it will very shortly.

It is not entirely unlike the column he wrote for the same newspaper for 15 December 2010*

which itself bears certain similarities to the column for 29 November 2011

and contributed a little bit to the column for March 16 2013.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The square and the tortoise

Chess24 on the Super Rapidplay:

It's the testudo!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Clock watching

Of course it's a sport - Short, N (attr.)
Reading what Jonathan wrote on Monday about the drama in chess, and the ways in which it can be communicated to a wider, non-chess audience, I remembered a conversation I had right back in 1993, after the first game in the 1993 Kasparov-Short match. The question is on my mind every time there's a tournament on the internet: I find it so exciting to watch, especially so when there are multiple games to follow and multiple reversals of fortune to go with them.

Anyway, game one. As everybody who was watching will remember, this game ended in dramatic circumstances when, having withstood an awful lot of Kasparov pressure, Nigel appeared to have gained the upper hand...only to lose on time when making his thirty-ninth move.

It's not, as far as I can see, on YouTube. But I remember the excitement and confusion nonetheless.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Ray Could Commentate: He’s Done it Again!

[Author’s Note:- 
Sochi, Game 6. That was the one with the drama of that incredible double blunder. The games that came next, though - the incredibly long one and the incredibly short one - did rather demonstrate that chess is not exactly suited to generating specific moments of excitement.
If the very nature of the game is against us in PR terms then what we have to do, I believe, is sell a different narrative. Shift the story from the individual game to the match. Explain how a short apparently uneventful draw can build the tension rather than dissipate it.
Anyhoo, that’s a post for another day. In the meantime, here’s another one of those rare moments when chess commentary really nails it.
As a bonus item, there’s an ISE to view in the videos.
2014 ISE Count: 74
TISE Index

Here’s the thing: if you combine struggling to hold a job down for longer than ten minutes with a quarter of a century in the labour market you end up doing a lot of different things of money. Which is how it came to pass that I once made what an optimist might describe as my living as a stage magician. That, in turn. is how I came to know of a magician called Doc Eason. Specifically, it’s how I came to learn of his motto:

They don’t remember what you did. They remember how you made them feel.

It turned out that was a pretty important thing for a working magician to know. The relevance for today, is that is also the secret to giving chess - and chess broadcasts - a wider appeal and making the game a real spectator sport.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The knight before

Ansell-Basman, London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay, round four.

I saw this position on Facebook this morning: Simon played the unfortunate 1. Rc5?? here and Basman went on to play Giri in the next round. I spent some time - rather longer than the forty seconds Simon had had available - trying to work out if 1. Rxe6+ would have done the job (there are of course other potentially strong moves) and after calculating several moves and concluding that I just didn't know, consulted the computer.

It turns out that the answer is clear and I had missed something early on.

So does 1. Rxe6+ win or draw? Why - and what do you think I missed?

[Thanks to Simon]

Saturday, December 06, 2014

County Counting: 5. In the Jellie Mould

In the previous post in this series we picked over the Surrey County Match Books (1884-1967) for unexpected players from Middlesex, one of Surrey's perennial opponents, and we spotted an E. Lasker and an H.G.Wells. Unexpected they may have been - but at least they sounded familiar, whether or not the latter was in fact the well-known author (on board 31 for Middlesex on the 24th January 1920). Lasker and Wells each appeared only once in the Match Books. 

Now let's turn our attention to a Middlesex Man who by contrast will be unfamiliar - almost certainly - to readers of this blog. And he appears almost 20 times. To find our subject we'll look again at the page where last time we discovered the unlikely H.G.Wells.

There he is. On board 16.  E.M.Jellie. He crops up in Middlesex v Surrey matches from 1910 through to 1936. But who is he, and why should we be interested? There two reasons that come to mind.

One is that he turns out to be an exemplary specimen of an ordinary decent chesser, the sort often overlooked in histories of the game. He and other enthusiasts like him, then and now, are the body-chessic upon which the chess bug spawns and beneficently multiplies. Stir E.M.Jellie together with the rest and you get the thriving chess culture that we all know: the one that germinates the few blessed enough to rise to the top.

And the second reason?

Friday, December 05, 2014

Nice work if you can get it III

Last comment on that Lawson piece. Just to note that even when he's trying not to -

- poor old Dominic really just can't help being patronising to women.

[Dominic Lawson index]

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Nice work if you can get it II

Another gobbet from Dominic Lawson's New In Chess article, part of which we looked at yesterday.

Now Dom and Nige go a long way back. It was Dom who pointed Nige in the direction of Ray Keene in 1993 and who wrote an admiring book about Nige during the world championship match that followed. Dom was subsequently editor of the Sunday Telegraph, during which time Nige was his chess correspondent.

Well, in a meritocracy it's important for friends to help one another out and I'm glad to say they've stuck at it to the present day, since Dom didn't become ECF President without Nige putting in a word on his behalf - and shortly afterwards, Dom pops up writing one of his will-this-do efforts for the chess magazine in which Nige has a column, putting in one admiring word for his old friend and another for the editor.

All very cozy and, to be fair, nothing out of the ordinary for the world of chess (or even the wider world we live in). But with all this mutual back-scratching and seeing our old mates all right, is it any wonder that journalism in chess is so tenth-rate - and so complacent about it?

[Dominic Lawson index]
[Nigel Short index]

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Nice work if you can get it

Dominic Lawson had a will-this-do piece in the last New In Chess. Here's a gobbet.

Uh huh. Well, that looks all very reasonable, doesn't it?

Or maybe it doesn't.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#28: Carlsen - Anand, World Championship Match (11) Sochi 2014

27 ... Rb4

" ... that’s probably a move you’d like to make in blitz."

Fabiano Caruana,

A week’s a long time in chess. One challenger goes down - if not entirely out (A Career Bookended by ISEs) - and thoughts immediately turn to the next one. If you were a betting chesser and had to commit your cash now the man who made the 'blitz move' comment about Anand’s game 11 exchange sacrifice would be a popular guy to back in the "Who takes on Carlsen in 2016" market.

Be that as it may, we’ve still got some afters from Sochi to get through. Specifically, the similarities between Anand’s disastrous move and an ISE punted by Alekhine in a game played almost a century ago that has become a staple in the ISE text books.