Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Worst Move On The Board VI

Tringov v Gheorghiu, Bulgaria v Romania 1971, the position featured in our What Happened Next? series on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tringov must have been nine moves short of the time control then in force - surely he can't have been in time-trouble? Not in a game he believed was fixed for him to win.

Either way the move he found a move was even worse than 48.Kc1, and indeed worse than any other move he could have played. But at the same time, a move of sufficient quality to rate with any other in our series. Well done.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Insults from the Ether

What do the adverts on chess sites tell you about chess players? According to chess blogger tanc(happyhippo), that "chess players are a pretty sad, lonely bunch"! That's because his favourite chess site has recently been advertising what looks like a mail-order Russian bride website. Mm . . .

But perhaps he shouldn't feel so insulted. These adverts, like many on the web, appear to be automatically generated according to the words used at the site itself, and it is hardly a surprise that the word "Russian" would have come up frequently.

Although, I know how he feels. A feature of google reader - something I use extensively and recommend to anyone who keeps up with more than one website - is to recommend websites to its users that it 'thinks' they might like, based on comparing what they read online to what other people read online with similar interests. I normally get recommendations for chess, of course, also for news, politics, sometimes sports and other games, sometimes cartoons and comedy sites, that kind of thing. But recently my mouth fell open as the reader recommended London Geek Dinner to me - "Where geeks in London come out to play".

I'm not a geek!, I told myself. Right? I'm cool, right; heck, I'm funny, right? Right? Yes? No? Oh yeah? Wanna hear a joke? How about my favourite joke? Here goes:
There are only 10 types of people in this world.
Those who understand binary, and those who don't.
Nothing geeky about that, right?

Mm... If only there was a site for over-sensitive people in London - "Where over-sensitive people accidentally offend one another" - google reader would be recommending that to me now instead. After all, I recently found myself feeling insulted for not being chessy enough whilst reading Yakov Neishtadt's excellent (especially for £1) book Test Your Tactical Ability, Chapter 12 of which is called "Do you know the Classics?"

Of course I know the Classics, I told myself, expecting to wheel off a 23...Qg3!! here, something Evergreen there, and somewhere in the mix throwing away a pair of bishops for a pair of kingside pawns. But in fact, the first three classic tactics were completely new to me, and many of the following, too. Here is one I particularly liked, where it's white to play and win:

Now there's a kind of beauty to outlast the debatable delights of any mail-order marriage.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What might have been?

Last Sunday I asked,

Who, in 2001, wrote:-

"Anand, by the way, did not have a strong tournament, and it is quite well known that he is not a very patient person. In his youth he played very quickly, living only on his enormous talent. He never became the great player he could have been, and I predict he will not be"

My question appears to have generated a fair amount of reaction, see for example Dennis Monokroussos' blog The Chess Mind, but as far as I know only 'Stig' - presumably not Top Gear's anonymous racing driver- has identified the author. Well Tom got the answer too but since he went on to talk himself out of it there's no cigar for T.C.

It's time to reveal our mystery scribe as Jacob Aagaard who was writing in Excelling at Chess (Everyman Chess, 2001). Aagaard is now British Champion (and a one-time commenter on our humble blog) but back then he was a relative no-mark at 2360 elo.

To be honest, I hadn't intended the post as anything other than a cheap shot of the "let's make fun of a guy for whom the passage of time has not been kind" variety. Inspired by Richard's comment to the original post I re-read Aagaard's words and I began to wonder ... might he be right? Even now? Even if Anand does go on to beat Kramnik has he become the player he could have been?

Is Anand the strongest player in the world today? I suppose we'll see when he plays Kramnik, but perhaps a more pertinent question is how he rates in historical terms - a Tarrasch or a Keres perhaps rather than a Lasker or a Botvinnik? At best a Tal? Even if you think he deserves to be higher up the ladder would you say he's fulfilled his potential?

Is this all a little unfair to Anand? Maybe so but making fun of Aagaard was definitely somewhat harsh. If nothing else Excelling at Chess at least has something to say which is more a lot of chess books can claim. I'll be coming back to Aagaard's book over the next couple of weeks - and while normally I usually get distracted and wander away to other things, this time I definitely mean it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What happened next III

Tringov - Gheorghiu, Bulgaria v Romania match 1971.

Our narrator is David Levy in Chess, May 1979.
In 1971 in the Romania-Bulgaria eliminator for a place in the finals of the European Chammpionship, on top board...[Gheorghiu]...had to play two games against the Bulgarian grand master Tringov.

Before the match Gheorghiu told Tringov that he was tired....and would like to agree on two draws. Tringov is an amenable person and consented to the deal. After a few moves of the first game however, Gheorghiu had a rather pleasant position so leaned over to Tringov and said that he thought it would look strange if the game was drawn, so why not do things a different way - Gheorghiu could win the first game and Tringov the second. Since Tringov's position was none too happy he was hardly in a state to argue, so the first game duly ended in a win for Tringov. The next game started according to plan, with Tringov getting a fine position from the opening, then a bigger advantage, then a winning advantage, and then....a few moves after the time control had been passed they reached the following position, in which Tringov was White:

Now Tringov could win easily with 47.Kc3!*but instead he played 47.a6 whereupon Gheorghiu could not resist 47...Nb4+ 48.Kc3?? and now 48...Na2 mate. Because he had turned the tables in this game Gheorghiu had scored 2-0 instead of 1-1 and as a result Romania scraped into the European Finals instead of Bulgaria. Tringov was furious but what could he do?
[* I have changed the original descriptive into algebraic - ejh]

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What happened next? III

Position after Black's 46th move.

What happened next?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Club News, Update!

Is it raining all over your Bank Holiday Monday, too? Well, at least we have some good club news to spread a bit of sunshine around. Because two Mondays ago, Streatham and Brixton Chess Club won the Eastman Plate, and by the tightest of margins: 5½ to 4½ against an Insurance side who outgraded us on most boards. Congratulations to all who played, and especially to Chris "Captain Miracle" Morgan, whose sides just can't stop winning.

But that's not all. Congratulations are also due to our First Team in the Croydon League. Robin's opponent from the match against Crystal Palace resigned before resumption, which means we won that match and thus finish top of the table overall to win the Croydon Shield, ahead of Cousldon by half a point. Meanwhile in Divisions 2 and 3 of the Croydon League both of our teams finished an impressive joint second. Also second this year are our team in the Stoneleigh Trophy, and Captain Robin Haldane writes that his team "hope to do better next year and that we can join QPR in winning the title."

(Personally, I think that winning the FA Cup is the finest ambition a football club can have...)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Puzzle

Excelling at Chess Predictions

A different kind of puzzle this week.

Who, in 2001, wrote:-

"Anand, by the way, did not have a strong tournament, and it is quite well known that he is not a very patient person. In his youth he played very quickly, living only on his enormous talent. He never became the great player he could have been, and I predict he will not be"

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bad book covers III

Secrets of Opening Surprises, New in Chess.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A New Evil? A New Good?

Let's agree that both the PlayChess server and the ChessClub server have two fundamental but surprisingly useful flaws: One, that you have to pay to really get the most out of them. Two, that you have to download software to use them. The latter flaw makes them unlikely candidates to destroy your desk-job, to leave you staring into your computer screen until the early hours, as life bubbles on all around the city without you, as you play out just one last 1+0, before finally getting down to that report due yesterday, that you tell yourself you're really about to do, this time... Meanwhile, the former flaw creates a prosaic boundary many flinch at crossing, for reasons of personal finance, pride, self-image, priorities, whatever. Thus we can find it within ourselves to resist these two perfect dealers of the stuff our addiction is made, to deny ourselves their unending rollercoaster ride of adrenaline and dejection, mixed with lectures and live coverage, ending with a migraine. FICS - free but otherwise similar - has a distinctive second flaw: the general absence of any strong players there to play blitz chess. So, we can stay mostly safe from the evil that all three might bring to our lives, and their flaws for our addictions are revealed as really gifts to our sanity.

Now, imagine a chess website, free to use, requiring no software, capable of the same kind of chess, smoothly running blitz, that kind of thing, and strong players to boot; imagine the danger to our daily life. On which note, allow me to introduce: ChessCube, which I've been trying out this week. First of all, the positives. The interface is attractive, the playing board smooth, there are extra features like chat-rooms, and all the normal things you'd expect, like choice of time-limits, take-back requests, pre-moves, that kind of thing. There are also strong enough players to decimate me. (For comparison, when I used to play on Playchess or Chessclub, my rating would typically bobble just a bit under 2300.) Although, there are several downsides, too. Chesscube is still in beta, and sometimes it really shows. Occasionally you will be disconnected without reason, sometimes various features freeze, and for a while every time I accepted a rematch, my opponent and I switched colours - but did not switch clocks! And whilst there are strong players, there aren't that many, yet...

So, there you go. You've been warned. Use with care. And in moments of particular weakness, recall the words of HG Wells:
The passion for playing chess is one of the most unaccountable in the world. It slaps the theory of natural selection in the face. It is the most absorbing of occupations. The least satisfying of desires. A nameless excrescence upon life. It annihilates a man. You have, let us say, a promising politician, a rising artist that you wish to destroy. Dagger or bomb are archaic and unreliable - but teach him, inoculate him with chess.
(On the other hand, if you are feeling bored out of your mind, your finger twitching over your mouse as if a trigger, recall that Soren Kierkegaard wrote: "boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings." And human-beings created chess to cure boredom, to keep us from evil. At least, that's what I've been telling myself.)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

That Will Have Somebody's Eye Out

Never let it be said that we don't bring you the big chess stories here at the S&BCC blog. Today, ladies and gentleman, it is our happy duty to report that the political campaigner formerly known as the World Chess Champion recently had a speech interrupted by a flying plastic phallus.

Where can I get me one of those?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What happened next II

Matulovic-Bilek, Sousse Interzonal 1967, position after Black's move 37...Qc3-c6.

White now played either 38.Bf3?? or 38.Kg1, depending on how you look at it.

Graham Clayton on Chessville explains:
Matulovic played 33.Bf3??* and before Bilek could play 33...Rxf3 Matulovic put the Bishop back on e2 and played 33.Kg1.
He explains:
[Matulovic claimed] that he was merely adjusting the pieces on the board (J'adoube). His opponent, Hungarian GM Istvan Bilek complained to the tournament director, but no action was taken. The game ended in a draw. After this incident, Matulovic was given the unflattering nickname of "J'adoubovic".
Playthrough Matulovic-Bilek

[* = Clayton has the move numbering wrong here, but the account of events is, I believe, otherwise accurate - ejh]

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What happened next? II

Position after Black's 37th move.

What happened next?

Monday, May 19, 2008

AVRO 1938; Player Portrait Photographs

I found these photographs in a dusty old pamphlet published by the BCM containing the moves of the great AVRO 1938 chess tournament, and frankly, I also found them to be rather splendid. I published one previously here, asking readers to guess what kind of player was pictured, but I felt interest was not particularly high in answering that question - so I thought that instead I'd post the whole lot here and now. Enjoy, and as ever you can click each photograph to see an enlarged version.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday puzzle

White to play and mate in two moves.

(Langstaff, 1922)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Modern Life is Rubbish

Part 968: FA Cup Finals and chess adjournments

Nothing, no matter how permanent it may seem, lasts for ever.

Take the FA Cup for example. These days the big clubs can barely bother their arses to field their reserves for cup ties let alone full strength sides. It's not like, picking a year entirely at random, 1976 say, when The Cup Final (the capitalisation being appropriate back then) was very much the pinnacle of the season.

Francis Benali wishes the players
and supporters of Portsmouth Football Club
all the best for today's game

In those days, of course, the cup final was probably the only game you could see live on TV all year - World Cups and the odd appearance of an English club in a European final being the exceptions. It's not easy to get worked up about it today when there are any number of games shown in their entirety every weekend. As hard as it is for my generation to believe, the FA Cup just isn't important anymore.

If the cup final has already drifted into irrelevance then it seems chess adjournments are going the same way. Over recent weeks there's been a debate as to whether or not quick-play finishes should become the default option in the London League and I think it was Justin who suggested that regardless of the outcome of the current discussion the change was probably inevitable in the long run.

It certainly seems to be the case that in this computer age adjournments are more and more likely to be be seen as a 'bad thing' but it was not ever thus. Polugayevsky's book Grandmaster Preparation (Pergamon Press, 1981) contains a lengthy chapter devoted entirely to adjournments during which he makes clear his belief that the analysis of adjourned positions is essential for the development of a strong chess player. Even back then, however, the old Russian was bemoaning was the increasing pace of chess life,

"... in recent years international tournaments have been run more and more frequently on a severe schedule, whereby between the main session and the adjournment session one and a half hours to two hours are allotted 'for everything': eating, relaxation and analysis. It hardly needs to be said that frequently one doesn't even have time to remember about the first two components...."

I wonder how he'd find the modern game circa 2008 as compared to that of thirty years ago.

She'll grow up never knowing chess games used to have adjournments
and that the FA Cup was once considered worth winning

So perhaps we must bow to the inevitable and prepare ourselves to bid farewell to the chess adjournment. In the meantime we can at least remind ourselves that it was once thought fundamental to the game. In my favourite example from his book Polugayevsky writes of the many hours of adjournment analysis he devoted to a curious queen against two bishops ending. Once he returned to the board his work allowed him to spend just a couple of minutes on the 24 moves it took to wrap up the game.

Polugayevsky-Geller, Skopje 1968

White sealed 42. f5

Yes indeed. However rubbish modern life might get books will always be there to take us back to a time when things were fab. Well, books and YouTube.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Top Cat

Close friends already got to call him T.C. but now along with everybody else, they also get to call Tom Chivers 'Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Champion 2008'.

Last week we left things at the halfway stage with Tom in third place behind Alexey and Angus who were both on a perfect 3/3.

Two games later he was in the lead and facing a last round showdown with 2007 champion Robin Haldane. On board 2 Adam survived Angus' Haldane Hack to reach 5 out of 6 which left Tom needing to win with Black to avoid a play-off for the title.

Fittingly, the top board clash was the final game to finish and the tournament ended with Robin, artist to the last, weaving a mating net around his own king as Tom's pawns marched down the board.

The final table:
1. Tom C - 5.5
2. Adam W - 5
3. Robin H, Martin S, Angus F - 4
6. Dean L, Chris M, Jonathan B - 3.5
9. Alexey S, Jan K, Mohsin N - 3
12. Barry B, Zornitza C - 2.5
14. Mel R, Vad L - 2
16. Sam E, Allan B - 1.5
18. Marc P - 0

Tom C - one year's free membership (club champion)
Chris M - one year's free membership (highest scorer from 2nd half of the draw)

This year we also had a number of prizes donated by Andy Thake. Dean won the chess computer for being the highest placed library club player with a very creditable score of 3.5,

with Adam, Martin, Angus, Jan, Mohsin, Zornitza and Mark picking up books from the Thake collection.

So it was Chivers wot won it. Perhaps it was not so surprising - the club championship capping a remarkable year for him. Aside from victory in the mid-season rapidplay (with a perfect 6/6 no less) Tom has out-performed an already respectable grade by some 20 to 25 points in club matches this season. The secret of his success? I couldn't possibly say, although those searching for a clue might want to check the video at 1:13.

Anyway, well done Tom, well done everybody who took part, and thanks once again to Vad for the taking the pictures - just click on them to see the full-size versions - and Angus for organising the whole thing. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Vad - photographer and leader of the Tour de France

Bugger - forgot the trophy

Oh no - there it is

The present author, and several of his chins, at work

Angus and Alexey

Lots of chess

Marc, Alan and Zornitza

Red Star Streatham

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A cure for hiccups

Some time ago my girlfriend, much to my hidden amusement, developed hiccups. Much to my unhidden amusement, she announced that she was going to terminate them using the "eggbox technique". So, right there, in the middle of the kitchen, she closed her eyes, let her hand dangle in front of her as if it were about to pick up an imaginary egg, then picked up that imaginary egg and deposited it in an imaginary box.

She then picked up another imaginary egg and placed it in the imaginary space adjacent to the original imaginary egg, and so on until the imaginary box was full. After that she took the imaginary eggs, one by one, out of the imaginary box and started arranging them in a second imaginary box: until she stopped and announced that her hiccups had gone. Which, indeed, they had. I was impressed.

She thereupon proposed that the next time I develop hiccups, I might care to do the same. I might, I said - but then again, I might not. Because it's silly. But I wondered if instead, if I'm going to move my hand about in front of my face for long enough to distract a bout of hiccups, I might as well play a game of chess - which wouldn't be silly at all - rather than act as warehouse man for a couple of dozen non-existent eggs.

Why not? I shouldn't say so, but I've sometimes used chess as a cure - or not - for insomnia. I got the idea from Snoopy, who once sent himself to sleep by playing an imaginary round of golf at Pebble Beach: he fell asleep during the second hole. Some people count sheep: I've tried to play a game of chess in my head with the same idea in mind.

I never understood how counting sheep was supposed to work. I mean I understand the concept of sheep, and I think I've mastered counting - but I didn't understand why it was supposed to send you to sleep. Whether it was supposed to make you forget what was bothering you, or whether you would establish a rhythm that would lull you to sleep...I don't know.

Anyway, it doesn't seem to work: not the counting, not the chess. I usually start off e4, e5, knight f3, knight c6 and take myself through a Ruy Lopez...but either I lose track, half-asleep as I am, and forget what move I was on, or I run out of moves towards move twenty of a Breyer variation. Or I start running through a current correspondence game in my head, and that's the last chance for hours that I get of any sleep.

You can see how it might be a way to sleep, or be a aid to concentration, but not how it could be both. Clear your mind, then fill it with one thing: years ago, I learned a little transcendental meditation and when I think about it now, my mantra was supposed to do just that. I could, I suppose, try and meditate my way out of hiccups. But I still think I'd prefer to try a nice game of chess. If eggs can outlast hiccups then a game of chess might do the same.

Provided it's the right game, a logical game so one remembers how it goes, without having to recall any complicated tactics. Not too long to remember, but not too short either lest the resignation come before the hiccups have departed. A favourite game. A game I've seen many times before, making it easier to commit to memory and easier to recall.

I thought about it and came up with the sixth game of the Fischer-Spassky match from 1972. The one in which Fischer took the lead, the one in which he opened 1.c4 and played the first Queen's Gambit, as White, of his career. It doesn't hurt that I often begin with a flank opening move and transpose into the opening of the game: for this reason, the moves seem natural to me.

There are forty-one of them, or eighty-one half-moves: at the time, they took, as far as I know, five hours to play. How long should I make them last? As long as it takes, I suppose, but what would be the ideal balance between playing them too fast, and getting through the game before I have banished the hiccups - or on the other hand, leaving too big a space between the moves and thus risking the interruption, by hiccups or by anything else, of my concentration?

I'm not sure. I'll have to memorise it first: and practice. See how it goes. Shall I lay the pieces out before I start, or take them, too, just like the eggs, out of their imaginary box? Shall I walk, like an imaginary Fischer, onto an imaginary stage? And shall I punch, for both players, an imaginary clock?

Hand stretched out: let us begin. Fischer opened 1.c4: Spassky answered, 1...e6. Fischer played the king's knight, 2.Nf3: Spassky played the queen's pawn, 2...d5. Fischer likewise, 3.d4: Spassky also played his king's knight, 3...Nf6. And so it proceeds: like a mantra, like the progression of sheep, smoothly and logically, unbroken, without the irruption of thought or of hiccups.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hack and counterattack at the 4NCL

Here's a couple of good efforts from the last weekend of the 4NCL. Contrasting efforts too, and unsurprisingly, given that the winners were Robin Haldane in one game and the present writer in another. Robin's game was his nth win with the Haldane Hack: mine, my fifth win against a FIDE Master.

A couple of diagrams. The first shows Robin's game after Black's 13...Qe7-f8:

it's the sort of position where you start counting the pieces to see how much Robin's sacrificed so far - and then, when you find the answer's "none", you wait to see how much longer before Black resigns. "Not long", as it happened.

Robin does attack, I do defence: here's the position after White's 25.Kg1-h1.

All White's pieces are steaming over to support the pawns' assault on the Black king: more than half of Black's pieces are far away and there's a forest of their own pawns blocking the way between them and the battlefield.

You'd think they'd never get back in time. But they did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Nigel Davies emails

Over the weekend, GM Nigel Davies emailed us about the post Echo Echo and in particular a comment on it. We removed the comment and then published Nigel's email here, and we also emailed Nigel back offering him the chance to respond more fully via the blog about the matters raised. He kindly sent me the following email back for this purpose (which he also reproduced on his own site here):

Thanks for removing those comments, I was left no choice but to defend myself. I see that a lot of the negative stuff is still up there and I do have something to say about this.

I've probably bought more chess books than your entire club put together, including some by the most damned authors out there. And it's never occurred to me to try and do any kind of nitpicking hatchet job on them.

Why? The way I see it, books are just about the best value out there, you can gain insights into just about anything for the price of a few pints. And even the supposedly 'worst' authors (which ain't me or Glenn Flear btw) usually have something interesting to say.

As an example, I started playing the Kan Sicilian after using a book on this opening that got really slated by the reviewers. It gave me an idea about the lines after which I started playing around with the thing with a board and pieces. It never occurred to me that I should be spoonfed or that this book should be perfect in every way. It saved me heaps of time in getting to grips with the thing and provided a starting point for my own thoughts.

Maybe the question you should be asking is why people are so negative about books. I believe the that the answer may be the key to why they're not better players.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Club News, Update!

A few bits and pieces of club news. London League Division 1 has reached its conclusion, with Streatham narrowly overcoming a closely-matched Mushrooms 1 side in the adjournments of our final match of the season to finish in the top-half of the table with a respectable 6½ match points. Congratulations go to Wood Green, title-holders once again - although unlike last season they missed out on a perfect 11/11 thanks to this surprise loss to Drunken Knights.

Meanwhile, will we win the Croydon League Division I this year, or not? Our match from the end of April against Crystal Palace stands 2-1 to us with one game adjourned, and it's in our hands. A win or draw in the adjournment would mean we would indeed take the Trophy. A loss, though, and then our fate would then depend on Coulsdon I, who could the title on game points with a 3 or 4 point victory in their final match...

Finally, don't forget that the Club Championship concludes tomorrow at our Woodfield Grove venue starting 7.30pm. A half-way report can be found here, and an added attraction will be the continuing one-off sale of Andy Thake's old books for the bargain price of £1 each.

See you there!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nigel Davies' email to the S&BCC blog

From: Nigel Davies [ email address withheld - JB ]
Date: Sat, May 10, 2008 at 5:44 PM
Subject: Libelous comment on your blog

"To Streatham and Brixton Chess Club

There is a libelous article on your blog of which the
following comment is the clearly actionable:

"[ Text removed - JB ]"

This has no basis whatsoever (the supposed 'evidence'
is just ridiculous) and is damaging to me personally
and professionally. To avoid legal action I suggest
you remove the entire post immediately.

I will be writing to your blog host separately.


Nigel Davies"

The comment to which Mr. Davies takes exception, which was not written by a S&BCC blog contributor nor even a S&BCC member, has been removed.

The article and the remaining comments can be seen here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Miss Easy Tactics! with Justin IX

[Our pedagogical series in which we look at a portion of a game I played the previous weekend in which some obvious tactic is overlooked. Readers are invited to practice their skill by seeing if they can spot what was missed.]

If you want to know how bad you are, ask your computer. On arriving home from my weekend in England at the 4NCL I ran my games through the computer - and I do not much like what it has told me.

My final round game from the Monday, against a FIDE Master, should appear some time next week, for no better reason than I won it: I actually played all right, if "thinking you are losing when in fact you are not" can be so described. My Saturday game was agreed drawn in a position Rybka rates as a pawn and a half better for my opponent: I suspected as much when I offered it. But Sunday....

...well, I already knew I played so badly that I apologised to my opponent, the next morning, for having won the game. I knew that there was a dismal series of dismal errors, first by myself and then by my opponent, beginning roughly around my 20th and proceeding a little beyond his 30th (30...Nb2, for instance, wins very easily). There were more errors than I imagined, both within that passage of play, and without.: but that was, at least, in time trouble (fourteen minutes for my last fifteen moves, three for my last ten) and at least I knew already that I'd played quite badly at the time.

But what happened after the time control, which came when the following position had been reached, is beyond all belief - and beyond all understanding. It wasn't just missed by both players with an hour on the clock: it was missed in the post-mortem afterwards. It was not, however, missed by the computer. Had my opponent seen it, it might have beaten all previous contenders for the most completely won position I had ever failed to win.

Horton-Bonafont, 4NCL division 4, round ten, Guildford A&DC IV v AMCA Dragons, board two. Position after Black's last move 40...Qe7xd8.

Play now proceeded 41.Qc8 Rb2+ 42.Kf1 Qf6 43.f4 Qf5 44.Qd8=Q and the c8-queen now covers the squares f5 and h3 - which point, had it been grasped two moves earlier, would have led White to play 42.Kh3! rather than worry about 42...Qf6 or 42...Qg5.

As it is, seeing White's 44th, Black resigned. But what did both players miss during this sequence?

Miss Easy Tactics! index

Friday, May 09, 2008

Once more at the ECF, again

As you almost certainly know, the English Chess Federation (ECF) have been in the spotlight recently, due to a sudden rash of resignations from their board. What you might not know - and I certainly didn't, until I found out by accident after reading news of the resignations - is that the ECF also runs a Forum, and a Forum with a lot of potential too, it seems to me:
  • The forum is not censoriously moderated - even controversial posts, critical of the ECF, are allowed - and the moderators are responsive to suggestions from the Forum too
  • Real names are the norm, an excellent policy which cuts down trolls, especially because those whom loiter behind pseudonyms will always carry less weight in their posts
  • Already some interesting people are posting, including several well-known titled players and some (although not all ECF) officials
  • There is a separate forum for ECF Matters and another for General Chat, so the heated, topical stuff can be separated out from everything else chess players like to talk about
A smattering of sample posts: IM Andrew Martin's argument that games adjourned or adjudicated should not be submitted for grading; in the ECF Matters forum, the thread called ECF Matters; a humdinger of a dispute between Charles W. Wood and John Saunders that starts out of the blue here; and on the lighter side, When is it bad manners to play silly openings? But there's much more besides. The Index is here, where you'll also find a button to register yourself to post. The only downside I can think of is that there is no facility to post chess diagrams, and there is no play-through board available with which to post games, although one is promised for the future.

What do you think?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Club Champion 2008: Half-way Report

The Streatham and Brixton Chess Club Championship 2008 has reached its half-way point, and has already witnessed much excitement and several surprises. Top-seed Robin Haldane has dropped a whole-point having been mated improbably in the third round by Angus French, who along with Alexey Shumay leads the field with a perfect 3/3 - whilst the second-seed and present writer alone follows them on 2½/3. Only half a point behind a group of five players have 2/3 from the field of 20, all also chasing the first prize of a year’s free membership. The same prize goes to the highest-finishing player from the second half of the draw, whilst a chess computer goes to the highest-finishing player from Streatham Chess Club, and there are other book prizes too. The final three rounds take place Tuesday 13th May from 7.30pm.

Here's my drawn game from the second round against Barry Blackburn: an exciting battle where my opponent might have played on for a win at the end, had he not been so short of time, and another Interesting French Exchange. 17...Ne4! is particularly noteworthy decision, obtaining black the initiative for a pawn, as is the thumping 29...Rxg2+!, a move white had entirely missed.

Finally, thanks go to Vad for the excellent photographs, which I recommend you click on in order to see full-size versions.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Flash Club Championship update: Robin, last year's champion, and Tom, winner of the mid-season rapidplay, have both already dropped points. Only Angus and Alexey have made it to 3/3. Tom will bring you a full report on the first day's play - hopefully glossing over my rather woeful contribution to the entertainment - tomorrow.

In the meantime, allow me to point you in the direction of Justin's post on Sunday - a fantastic problem by Reti. It's well worth a look if you haven't seen it yet.

It reminded me of this ...

"In the restaurant he opined that Richard Reti had been an over-rated player, repeating Alekhine's despicable theories about the treacherous game in which both bishops are fianchettoed. I might have drawn his attention to his game against Filip but this didn't occur to me at the time. I restricted myself to observing that Reti had been a an endgame composer of genius, which he accepted."

Later the same author refers to a letter his subject had written to a third party:

"He tells him that he is studying old opening manuals and then concludes: 'They don't waste time on the Catalan, Reti, King's Indian Reversed and other rotten openings.'"

So, who is being described here?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Club Championship

If you've been paying attention to your emails from Angus you'll know that the club championship starts tonight. Aside from the sheer fun of it, prizes this year will include a chess computer and a host of books donated by Andy Thake.

The tournament is open to club members - never to late to join us :-) - and won't cost you a bean. Turn up by 7:15pm if you wish to enter although Angus would prefer if you contacted him to let him know beforehand.

The tournament format as the same as previous events:-

  1. 6 round tournament
  2. 25 minutes/player/game
  3. Played on 6 May and 13 May with three rounds on each day starting at 7.30pm, 8.30pm and 9.30pm
  4. Swiss pairings - players will be paired with others on the same or a similar score; all players are guaranteed 6 games
  5. Results will be submitted to the English Chess Federation for rapidplay grading (to obtain a rapidplay grade, you need to have played a minimum of 9 graded games in the last three seasons including one in the current season)
  6. First prize – a year’s free membership; highest-finishing player from the second half of the draw – a year’s free membership. Additional prizes as donated by Andy Thake
  7. AF will organise (and his decisions will be final!)

So who are the favourites? Robin is our reigning champion and Tom won the mid-season rapidplay back in January. Martin is always there or thereabouts and Angus consistently manages somehow to overcome the handicap of organising these events to put in a strong showing. I don't know if Adam and Carsten are returning this year, they lost out to Robin last time only after a play-off, but the tournament will be tougher if they do. Then of course there's the competition to remove the second free subscription from Chris' hands while the library players will be battling to be the one to perform way above expectations. I say 'one' but past experience suggests several of them will.

Your humble scribe's own ambitions do not extend to winning the event. I'll consider the tournament a success if I:

(a) manage to avoid my usual drubbing at the hands of Barry Blackburn,


(b) get the opportunity to test myself in battle against a certain fellow blog writer who shamefully bottled out of a couple of games with me in the Surrey Invidiual this year.

However it turns out it will be fun. I hope to see you there.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Andy Thake

Newer members of the club won't recognise the name but old timers will recall Andy as a longstanding club regular who moved out to Singapore a few years back.

With no immediate plans to return to Blighty, Andy has generously agreed to donate his chess equipment to the club.

We've decided to auction off Andy's books at a bargain price of £1 each with the money to go to club funds. The books will be available at the club over the next couple of Tuesday's. There are some real gems here - and several I'd buy myself if I didn't already have a copy.

In addition to the sale, top 5 places at this year's club championship will win a book of their choice from the collection.

Here's the list (and it's not exhaustive - there's more I haven't had time to include)

Bent Larsen’s Good Move Guide, Oxford University Press 1982
The Even More Complete Chess Addict, Fox and James Faber and Faber 1993
God knows what this book is but it appears to be about the Alekhine (written in Russian) 1987
The Most Amazing Chess Moves of All time, Emms, Gambit 2000
Attacking with 1. e4, Emms, Everyman 2001
Test Your Positional Play, Bellin & Ponzetto, Batsford 1985
An Opening Repertoire for White, Keen, Batsford 1984
New Ideas in the Alekhine Defence, Burgess, Batsford 1996
The Complete Alekhine, Burgess, Batsford 1995
My System (21st Century Edition), Nimzowitsch, Hays Publishing 1991
Logical Chess: Move by Move Batsford 1998
Pandolfini’s Endgame Course, Simon & Schuster 1988
Secrets of Spectacular Chess, Levitt & Friedgood, Batsford 1995
Kasparov’s Opening Repertoire, Shamkovich & Schiller, Batsford 1990
The Contemporary Anti-Dutch, Andrew Martin Tournament Chess, 1990
Test Your Endgame Ability, Livshits & Speelman, Batsford 1992
Attack with Julian Hodgson vol. 1, Hodgson Enterprises 1996 [ signed ]
Attack with Julian Hodgson vol. 2, Hodgson Enterprises 1997
101 Tips to Improve Your Chess, Kosten, Batsford 1996
A Killer Chess Opening Repertoire, Summerscale, Everyman 1998
The Final Countdown, Hajenius & van Riemsdijk, Cadogan Chess1997
100 Instructive Games of Alekhine, Reinfeld, Dover 1959
Endgame Play, Chris Ward, Batsford 1996
Think Like a Grandmaster, Kotov, Batsford 1978
Chess Explorations, Winter, Cadogan Chess1998
The Mammoth Book of the World’s Greatest Chess games, Burgess, Nunn and Emms, Robinson 1998
A Contemporary Approach to the middlegame, Suetin, Batsford 1976 [ Hardback ]
The Killer Grob, Basman, Pergamon 1991
Essential Chess Endings Explained Move by Move (vol. 1 – revised 2nd Edition), Silman Chess Digest 1992
Winning Endgame Technique, Beliavsky & Mikhalchishin, Batsford 1995
Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953, Bronstein, Dover 1979
Trompowski Opening and Torre Attack, Bellin, Batsford 1983
How to Play the Torre Attack, Schiller, Chess Digest, 1991
The Test of Time, Garry Kasparov, Pergamon Press, 1986
The Leningrad Dutch, Ehlvest, Batsford 1993
The Master Game Book Two, James & Hartston BBC 1981

Andy's chess computer - a Mephisto Nigel Short - will be given as a prize for the highest placed library player/non regular club member at the forthcoming club championship.

Donated to the club for use in home matches.

Sundry chess magazines to be given away free to anybody who wants them. Also free - a few tapes from Mike Basman's Audio Chess series.

Who wants these? They're yours for nothing ...

The Macho Grob - Mike Basman (2x c90 cassettes)
Global Opening - Mike Basman (2x c90 cassettes)
Polish Defence - Mike Basman (1x c90 cassette)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday puzzle

White to play and draw.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Bad book covers II

David Bronstein, El Maestro De La Improvisación, Chessy, 2007.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Again with the ECF

Last Tuesday we posted a short article concerning the recent resignations at the ECF. It sparked off a fair few comments (24 and counting) and if you haven't seen it yet it's well worth having a look with direct or indirect contributions from three of the central players - Martin Regan, Claire Summerscale and particularly Peter Sowray who was kind enough to offer to respond to any points raised in the discussion.

Here's a thought from me to take us into the bank holiday weekend ...

Peter Sowray

"... the Council meeting was poorly attended … I think I counted about 20."

I don't see how any organisation of any kind can make decisions with these kind of numbers - and it was poorly attended? I dread to think how many people would have been in the room had they all turned up.

No wonder things aren't moving forward.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Worst Move On The Board V

Matanovic v Sarapu, Sousse Interzonal 1967, round thirteen, position after 36...Rf8-h8.

This is a very fine effort indeed: there are all sorts of ways to put the white queen en prise and more than one way to allow a mate in two. Yet Alexander Matanovic, playing the New Zealander Ortvin Sarapu, managed, despite time pressure, to find the absolute worst move on the board.

Readers are invited to find it themselves and to guess the move that followed. After that they can look at the game - and try and guess how Sarapu failed to win from there. I haven't the foggiest.

Worst Move index