Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Grass Arena VII

John Healy v Leo Shea
Hastings Chess Club Rapidplay 2009
White to play

Back at the end of February I wrote a little ode to Allen Stanford that included a passage from The Grass Arena describing John Healy's introduction to our favourite game.

Regular S&BC(C as was then) Blog watchers will perhaps recall we'd previously published a series of puzzles based on Healy's games. For the most part these were thirty years or more old ...

1975 - TGA
1976 - TGA II
1980 - TGA III and TGA V (although note the contribution to the comments box that suggests the date for this one may be inaccurate)

... but in the middle of the series was an endgame position (TGA IV) that appeared to come from a club match in 1997. The conclusion of Healy's book, originally published in 1988, suggests he'd given up the game. Was 1997 a typo or had he come back to the fold?

It seems very possible that Healy was indeed playing in the late 90s because - aside from our own Arts Correspondent's encounters with him (see comments box to TGA and TGA V) - Healy, it turns out, is still an active player today.

Many thanks to Jon Manley for sending us the position at the head of today's post. In the traditional fashion it's White to play and win ... although speculation as to how White's rook ended up on c4 is also welcome.

We hope to have more on John Healy soon. I may yet even get around to writing something about the chess content of The Grass Arena as I'd planned some time ago.

As noted in the original posts, TGAs II-V were taken from


ejh said...

1.Ne7+ Kh8 2.Nxd6 cxd6 3.Qxh7+ Kxh7 4.Rh4 mate

Jonathan B said...


I'm particularly fond of this mating pattern since I once managed to play it myself (my rook was on the fifth rank though)- the first and only time I was able to announce mate like they did in the olden days.

Incidentally, when looking at the position I though 1. Nxd6 and 2. Ne7+. Does that still work? I don't see a reason why not.

ejh said...


Anonymous said...

2.Ne7+ still works

Jonathan B said...

I thought Ne7+ still works after ... Qxb2 as well

ejh said...

Good Lord, so it does. Hey ho.

Mark Leonard said...

Surely it's ...Qxc4 rather than ...Qxb2?

Martin Smith said...

Prompted by your posts, Jonathan, I got round to TGA last month. Quite a tough read (a comment on the substance, not the style). The unseen parallel universe on the streets that John Healy documents is not somewhere I'd ever want to be. Sobering. Recommended.

Jonathan B said...


After 1. Nexd6 Qxc4 perhaps you've missed 2. Nxc4

and anyway couldn't Black play ... Qxc4 after 1. Ne7+ Kh8, 2. Nxd6

... in which case the move orders are still in effect the same thing?

Anonymous said...

All looks a bit contrived to me - as if the position was recreated from memory.

What was black's last move?


Anonymous said...

... speculation as to how White's rook ended up on c4 is also welcome.

Actually, I was wondering what was black's last move, seeing as either ...Qxc4 or ...Bxc4 or ...Qxb2 must have been available. If it was ...O-O that explains why not ...Qxc4 (Nxd6+), but surely ...Qxb2 instead?

Jonathan B said...

*Richard & Anonymous*

I don't know about what led up to the diagram position - I'll ask our informant.

Meanwhile, if anybody who was at the event in question happens to wander by it would be great if they could shed some light on the matter.

an ordinary chessplayer said...

*Richard & Anonymous* (?)

Richard's comments are always better than mine. And quicker. Although the moderation means that I posted without seeing his.

Time to momentarily remove the cloak of invisibility: "an ordinary chessplayer" is FIDE id 2006090. Hi there, S&BC-ers. The pseudonym, given to me by Harold Dondis and Patrick Wolff, is my attempt to hide from Google.

ejh said...

I assume there's a story there? (In Dondis/Wolff, not the attempt to hide from Google...)

Jonathan B said...

Jon Manley reports that John Healy has acknowledged the position was "misremembered".

No further details I'm afraid.