Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chess in Art Postscript : Keeping Two's Company Postscript

Commenting on last week's Chess in Art Postscript: Keeping Two's Company fellow blogger Tom Chivers hinted, with tongue in cheekiness, that this series appears to be making a bid for the World Record Longest-Ever-Postscript. You bet it is. We've long since overtaken my previous Personal Best (a P.S. to Santa, many, many years ago, detailing Christmas stocking expectations at length; at great, great length). I'm hoping that Tom, as S&BC Blog's Chief Statistician, will bang the gong when we hit the WR. In the meantime I'm also going to make an attempt, kicking off with this post, at the Longest-Ever-Postscript to a Postscript - start counting, please.

Last week the excited, not to say over-wrought, critical faculty of your Maybe-World-Record-Longest-Ever-Postscribe alleged that the Chess in Art works then displayed were afflicted by shortcomings in the composition department, and they could do themselves a favour by forgetting the meat and two veg. formula so many of them served up. On my plate was this entertaining piece by Giovanni Garinei, but I was obliged to pull my punch just hours before publishing as evidence emerged, from the mustier corners of my bookcase, that there was more to his picture than had been supposed. It had been cropped.

Are we missing something?

I'm pleased to say that I have since found, by accident, a postable image of the full picture, including the callow youth who had been so casually chopped off the Tableaux Échecs version:

Tocca a tè! (It's your move!) c1880

Giovanni Garinei b 1846

It is good to see the full complement of spectators, even if the older generation sets a poor example by giving the youngster the cold-shoulder; elders aren't always betters. However, on close inspection, the full picture is altogether rather curious: specifically, in the way it is framed. It has wandered a bit off-centre.

If it had been a photograph you'd think someone must have jogged the camera, and one would sympathise with any scissor-happy editor who might want to tidy it up, though not with Woodmansterne who, for one of their greeting cards, ruthlessly expurgated the young fella just to fit the remainder into a more conveniently square format.

So, looking at the full monty, questions spring to mind such as why Garinei excluded the back of the chap on the left (the one trying to find the move); and why he included the not very interesting strip of dark space to the right of the back wall. Why not get the whipper-snapper to move to the right, shift everyone else over too, and thus centre the group, left-back and all? And also, while we are on the subject, what happened to their feet?

It's not as though Garinei couldn't hit the bull's-eye if he wanted, as in this work in the same lop-sided jokey vein, though, I'm sorry to say, it has definitely nothing to do with chess.

Giovanni Garinei.

The Pipe Smoker (?)

Unless they are playing blindfold.

Unfortunately Signor Garinei isn't around to answer (or confirm his name - see Acknowledgements below). It's all a bit odd, leaving us with the intriguing possibility that even the second full-on chess image is itself already edited at the edge and maybe along the bottom. So for the moment we are left high and dry, but with the mouth-watering thought that there may be yet another untrimmed version (the original) waiting to be unearthed, and we might be able to do a future Postscript to the Postscript to the Postscript. We dream of a hat trick and maybe one more for the record book. Eat yer heart out, Mr. C.


The full Garinei image is on this Italian site, where they name him as Giovanni Galilei
and give the date of the painting as "c1880". "Galilei" is wrong (they are confusing him with the grandfather of the famous C16th astronomer). There are several other Garinei pictures on the web tracking his fortunes at auction. None has any obvious chess interest. If you want to get the full picture as a poster for your club room, at $39.99, try here.

Chess in Art Index

Friday, February 26, 2010

What happened next XIII

Wednesday's position came from the game Kumar-Tkachiev, Kolkata Grandmaster Open 2009, round three.

What happened next? The short answer is that Black lost on time, but for the longer answer you may take your pick from any number of sources (scroll to Links) though the Express India report is as good as any:
In an unusual incident at the ongoing Kolkata Open Grandmasters Chess Tournament on Thursday, a top-rated French player had to concede his game after he couldn't sit through his match against his opponent. Reason — he showed up drunk at the venue, slept through his moves several times over, and eventually had to be carried off.

Vladislav Tkachiev of France, who boasts of an ELO-rating of 2669, was declared 'timed run-out'— a rarity in international chess — when officials at the event decided he wasn’t in a condition to carry on against Tamil Nadu's Praveen Kumar. The Indian player walked away with a point.

The sight of a player falling over the chessboard, and eventually stumbling out of the venue, drew a fair number of giggles from the other players at the international championship at the Alekhine Chess Club in Gorky Sadan, but the organisers said action would be taken against Tkachiev.

Alekhine Chess Club official and tournament co-organiser Soumen Majumder told The Indian Express that the incident was bad advertisement for the tournament and that a meeting would be held to take action against the French player. "What happened is unfortunate. It's in bad taste. Once the event is over, we will hold a meeting and decide how to proceed against this player," he said.

Tkachiev's opponent Praveen Kumar didn't want to comment. "All I have to say is that I was given the point after the match, that's all," he said.

The match lasted over an hour, with the French player repeatedly dozing off while contemplating a move. Each time he fell asleep, players around would try to wake him up with a shake of the shoulder. Some even offered him water, and Tkachiev, having briefly refreshed himself at the change room while his opponent waited, dozed off again and eventually had to be carried off.
The flag, according to the game score, fell after White's eleventh move, not after his fifteenth as reported elsewhere. The game is given below: I've not seen it published before. Thanks are due to Mr Kenneth Sinha, Assistant Secretary of the Alekhine Chess Club, who located the score for me.

[What happened next index]

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What happened next? XIII

From an open tournament: Black to play. What happened next?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Black To Play and Win

Here's a nice little puzzle to get your little grey cells working this Monday. This position is from Healey-Stone, London League 2010, and was played on the board next to me. Black's next move puzzled me at first, and it certainly took me a minute or two to work out why it won. See if you can do better.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chess in Art Postscript: Keeping Two's Company

The Chess in Art Postscript: Two's Company looked at chess-in-art works that put a third party in the picture, which we continue to do in this post. But this time around the non-player takes an interest in the game, something they were too distracted, dismayed, or disinterested to do last time (except for a bit of rule bending in C16th Anon and Teneh-Tannenbaum, where they anticipated today's goings on).

In the piece below, from the same stable as Deutsch in Chess in Art XV, we can try and enter the Orientalist mind-set and spin a story for the scene.

Painted in 1859, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)

A walk-on extra pauses to sneak a look, his interest a bit more than passing. He knows the game, and can assess the position, but would refrain from suggesting a move - it would infringe the strict codes of this warrior caste. With so many scimitars at hand, and much dope taken, the consequences could be disproportionate to the misdemeanour; better therefore to bite one's lip lest a greater amount of blood be spilt.

This kind of reading (or perhaps something even more fanciful) of that kind of exotic concoction would have fascinated, titillated (the hareem springs naturally to the male mind) and scared the pants off the C19th chattering classes. Hermetic and unpredictable, in a culture both alluring and disturbing, those Arabian Johnnies seem to be playing chess, though not as the Victorians knew it, by Jingo.

Quite so. Although most Chess-in-Art references to the picture assert that they are playing chess, the Wallace Collection, which has the work, says that they are playing draughts.

So, what's their game?

Whichever; the point holds. In our own time, and our own sphere, it would be dead handy to be able to take a leaf from the Arabs' book and dispense summary justice to that particularly notorious offender against civilised etiquette: that odious bottom-feeder, the lowest form of chess life - the kibitzer; he who hangs around disposing unsolicited advice and self-aggrandising comment, always standing because not invited to sit; he who, unable to get a game of his own, messes officiously with other people's. Yes. Dead handy.

Kibitzing is a peculiarly, though not exclusively, chess phenomenon, and unless you are a serious player, frequently in the company of other chessers, it may be beyond your ken. Artists appear not to get it as there is no definitive depiction of a kibitzer feeding his wretched habit. It is painting waiting to happen, and though some head in the right direction....

Giovanni Garinei (1846-nd)

Gioco di scacchi

...they fall short, as above (a kibitzer, unlike this chap, lurks in a crowd, for audience and camouflage; here he confines his comment, politely and sotto voce, to a single friend, though the finger stab is a characteristic display - but see the note on Garinei at the end). No, I couldn't find a single painting that captures the downright bad manners, egoism and boorishness of the species. The nearest I could get was this:

By contrast there are many chess-in-art works where the third party is a welcome guest sitting down as one with the players. Last time Teneh-Tannenbaum was an example. This time we can go even further and witness a minor miracle:

Szymon Buchbinder (1853-1908)

Partia szachów c1890

In this community of kindred chess spirits a fusion, a socio-nuclear reaction, takes place in which the third party appears to become a third player and you can't tell who is making the move. Like Harry Lime, he has come in from the cold; deep third man is called in to silly mid-off; the third person singular conjugates to the first person plural. Thus, adding extra characters helps brew the visual spell and, if required, deliver a sleight of compositional hand. They enable the viewer to vicariously empathise with the chess action on the board, enhanced by the social by-play around it.

So sorry then to spoil the party. As we noted in Two's Company, too many artists adopt a formulaic, hackneyed, pictorial arrangement: the two players are put stolidly broadside on, invariably leaning forward, and make a space wherein the extras find their allotted place. See all three examples above. Alas, that's all three (almost; see again the note on Garinei below).

To show again that a more dramatic disposition is possible, as did Kirchner last time, have a look at this:

Sir William Orpen (1878-1931)

The Chess Players 1902

Compared with K's Expressionist strip-show this in an understated, and overdressed, gem; but just as dynamic for all that: a subtle rotation; a backward slump; a casual pose as the onlooker co-operates to frame the lady; a long view into the salon beyond where a chair echoes its counterpart in the foreground; the vases of blooms playing catch-me with the red pieces. All parties look at the board, and with eyes at maximum compositional range, their concentration fills the room with a psychic force. The door is open to let in a little air.

They say that the seated figure maybe the artist himself, aged 24. He has the red hair for it, though in the light of Orpen's commitment to Irish cultural nationalism, green would have been more emblematic. His career combined a line of nice little earners in Society portraiture, a series of astonishing, and not just for their frankness, nudes (shown as people, not meat), and First World War battlefield reportage revealing it as, and for what, it was: butchery.

He rounds things off nicely, showing again that more than two can make for congenial company and fine pictures at the chess board, so long as no-one distracts the players, though these Two's Company posts have revealed an unintended consequence, for me at least, along the way. They have stimulated observations on more than the formalities of composition, subject matter or style. They say something about the assumptions that may also get painted into a picture: dominant cultural givens applied by the artist's brush straight onto canvas, without engaging his (sic) brain. As well as artistic "isms" such as "Expressionism", "Impressionism" and so on, there may be others at work: "Racism", "Imperialism", "Sexism", and a few more besides.

Acknowledgements/sources etc:

Gérôme is in the Wallace Collection, London, as mentioned above, and they call it "The Draughts Players" dated 1859. The Tableaux Échecs site has the picture, but with the date 1898, and the title "Arnauds jouant aux échecs". Marek calls it "Jouers d'échecs", sourcing it to, yes, the Wallace Collection (he gets the date right).

Garinei seems a bit obscure, with little information on the web; the picture also comes from Tableaux Échecs. As luck would have it in the afternoon before posting I turned up a Christmas card I had been sent several years ago with the same Garinei image on the front - and on the back there is a thumbnail of the complete picture showing a fifth, much younger, man seated behind and to the right of the gent with the fez! The T. É. image (as in the blog above) is therefore cropped (whether wittingly or not). Dammit! Still, one more callow youth does not an audience make, so he remains a kibitzer manqué; but in the light of the Xmas card revelation Garinei can hardly be deemed a compositional hack. The card was published by Woodmansterne.

The exquisitely composed, and appropriately slimey, leech image is by Chris Schuster in

Buchbinder is in a private collection; picture also from T. É.

Orpen is in the Ashmolean. Thanks to Tom Chivers for bringing it to my attention.

Thanks to Jonathan B. for commenting last time that racism is a chess-in-art theme that deserves more investigation.

Chess in Art Index

Friday, February 19, 2010


If you've been with us since the start you may already know that what is now the Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog was once the Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Blog. We broke the formal affiliation a while ago but it's still the case that most of our bloggers - even EJH in distant Spain - have some kind of connection with the club. So even though we've dropped a C from our name from time to time we'll have something that relates primarily to S&BCC.

Today we have the announcement that thanks mainly to Richard Tillet (with our Art Correspondent Martin Smith in a supporting role) the club's website has been relaunched. Alongside information for prospective members, contact details and match results Richard intends a section for members' games. After some thought the first game to go up - it may even already be there by the time you read this - will be a fine hack in the King's Gambit by James Toon. James, who's recently rejoined the club after a few years' absence, has kindly agreed to annotate the game for us here.

Completing the circle
By James Toon

The first time I joined Streatham was in 1985. I was new to London and living near Clapham Common. I didn't know much about the club but it was at least within walking distance so I signed up. In those days the club met in a room above a pub somewhere in Brixton. Club nights were lively affairs although I can only remember a few names from that time.

I threw myself into league chess and turned out for Streatham in the London League, the Surrey League and the National Club. As I recall, the club was quite successful in that period, winning the National Club one year. I think Joe Gallagher and Mark Hebden may have turned out on occasion. It never occurred to me to ask whether they were paid for this. I had known a lot of very strong players at university and at that stage they were all students who happened to play chess to a very high standard rather than full-time chess professionals.

I played some weird stuff back in them days. Here's a game from 1987, when Streatham played Fulham in the National Club.

White: James Toon. Black: C Smith.

1. e4 e5, 2. f4
In "Chess for Tigers", Simon Webb says that the best way for Tigers to play against Rabbits is to take no chances and rely on your superior technique. Sound advice, but I've always preferred the direct approach.

2 … exf4 3. Nf3 g5 4. Bc4
The Romantic choice. 4. h4 g4 5. Ne5, the Kieseritsky Gambit, is the line recommended by theory, in so far as any King's Gambit line can be "recommended".

4 … g4
Rejecting 4 … Bg7, which is the safest move, Black sets out on a materialistic path which can only lead to ruin.

5. 0-0
The Muzio Gambit: White offers a piece for quick development. The first recorded game was in 1795, but the Italians were playing it nearly 200 years earlier. It may not be to modern tastes but White scores a respectable 57% from 200 games in my database.

5 … gxf3 6. Qxf3 Qf6 7. e5
There goes another pawn …

7 … Qxe5 8. Bxf7+
… and another piece. This is now the Double Muzio Gambit. It's more exciting than 1. Nf3

8 … Kxf7 9. d4
Inviting Black to take a third pawn. With check.

9 … Qxd4+ 10. Be3 Qf6 11. Bxf4

The basic position for this variation. What has White got for this huge investment of material? A big lead in development. And Black's king is exposed. In practice White has scored overwhelmingly from this position.

11 … d6

Black's best is thought to be 11 … Nc6 12. Nc3 Bc5+ 13. Kh1 d6 with chances to hold the position. There are several ways to go wrong, e.g.:
(1) 11 … Bc5+ 12. Kh1 d6 13. Qh5+ Qg6 14. Bxd6+ and White wins in all variations, e.g. 14 … Nf6 15. Rxf6+ Kxf6 16. Qe5+ Kf7 17. Qe7+ Kg8 18. Qg8 mate was P. Millican – Evil Uncle Ernie, offhand game, 1975.
(2) 11 … Ne7 12. Nc3 Bg7 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. Qxd5+ Qe6 15. Bh6+ also wins for White.

11 … d6 is not known to theory. It does nothing to help Black develop and, not surprisingly, White's attack proves too strong.

12. Nc3 Ne7 13. Nd5 Nxd5
This is usually a bad idea in this variation. Black could improve by 13 … Qf5 when White has nothing better than winning a rook by 14. Nxc7 Na6 15. Nxa8 and 16. Rae1 with a continuing attack.

14. Qxd5+ Ke8 15. Bg5 c6 16. Rae1+ Kd8
The alternative is 16 … Be6 but after 17. Qa5 b6 18. Bxf6 bxa5 19. Bxh8, White is still winning.

17. Bxf6 1–0
White wins back all that he sacrificed, and more. Interesting that the triumph of art is measured in materialistic terms.

It wouldn't be right to leave this game without acknowledging the enormous contribution made to the theory of the Double Muzio by the Oxford University player Peter Millican. Peter devoted hundreds of hours to analysing this line. I was one of several university friends of his who agreed to indulge his monomania, as he put it, by taking the black pieces in numerous blitz games. He published his analysis in 1989 in Correspondence Chess No.102.


Thanks to James for the notes and thanks to Richard and Martin for your work on the website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gomi Style

[Breaking News: Horizon BBC 2 tonight "What Makes a Genius?" looks like it could very well be the programme that features Simon Williams and Stuart Conquest playing chess whilst wired up to an EEG machine - but don't blame me if it isn't.]

"The worst conditions in which I have ever played chess" is a post I really should write one day. There's lots I could say about that evening on the 17th December 2007 but for now let's just limit the discussion to the fact that for the only time in 25 years of club and tournament chessing I was playing on a home made chess board.

Given the proposed title you can probably guess that it was not "home made" as in charmingly idiosyncratic, not "home made" as in produced with care and attention and not "home made" as in the opposite of soulless mass production but "home made" as in shit. Created from the cheapest chipboard you could imagine and some white stickers of the sort you might buy in a WH Smith's stationery department, I would estimate it took at most five minutes to construct or perhaps a bit less if the maker didn't stop for a slash break half-way through.

There were, if I recall correctly, three such boards in use that night. Quite why anybody would bother making even one is beyond me given that Malc's Chess Emporium will flog you a perfectly adequate Folding Chess Board for £6.95 or a Roll Up Chess Mat for £2.95 if the rigid variety is too rich for your wallet. Nevertheless it must be admitted that they were entirely at home in the dark, damp, cold conditions in which Hounslow Chess Club played their home games back then.

The HCC members - I recall they were welcoming and friendly in stark contrast to the dingy surroundings - may still prefer it that way for all I know. I certainly won't be returning to find out.

If only they'd made their chess sets Gomi Style.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chiv Chat

  • Adam Raoof is "writing a short guide to starting your own chess club for the ECF and would welcome your advice and experiences". You can email him to let him know yours, or alternatively let him know via the EC Forum. For my part, I'd say that if at first you don't appear very high up on google searches, start a blog to go with your club. In fact, start a blog anyway. Why not?

  • On the subject of chess clubs and the internet, check out Kingston Chess Club's website. It's really good: easy to use, plenty of interesting content, annotated games, articles, the works.

  • Via Ryan Emmett -and then moments later via a Philosopher- a petition for the much-needed reform of UK Libel Law. Go sign it now, before I prattle on at length in the next bullet point about how bad UK libel law is and you forget to do so.

  • It's bad. Really bad. London's full of libel-tourists, here to launch law suits left right and centre- whilst international crooks hunker down in these parts, safe from exposure by journalists under the protection of our laws. Run into a specialist libel law firm and you'll have to spend thousands of pounds on legal advice just to answer their letters, innocent or not; if guilty, you'd better hope you committed the libel in one of the American states that allow you to sue back for three times the amount, thanks to the status freedom of speech holds on the other side of the pond.

  • What's this got to do with chess? Tenuously, for one thing Simon Singh is behind the petition - and he wrote a nice review of the book The Mechanical Turk - The Chess Playing Machine That Fooled The World. For another, I have to say I'm amazed that there aren't libel law suits all over the place in the UK chess scene. Or is everyone watering down their opinions? If so, imagine what will be said if the laws are repealed.

  • Dutch chess player and writer Arne Moll certainly didn't pull his punches when he negatively reviewed Viktor Moskalenko’s Revolutionize Your Chess over at Chess Vibes; now GM Moskalenko has hit back. The arguments in the comments seem set to continue. For my part, I think reviewing chess improvement books is virtually impossible - since you have to follow the book's advice to do so fully, but any improvement from doing so would at a minimum take months to manifest itself.

  • Still, I suppose I managed to be a total grump way-back-when I had time for chess by (1) following the advice in Jonathan Rowson's books and subsequently actually improving my chess, and then (2) giving his books a pretty negative review anyway. I intend to soon sell off my chess books, those probably included; but I have to say, after reading Moskalenko's reply I'm actually tempted to buy his. Review copy anyone?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chess in Art Postscript: Two's Company

As I think we have remarked before, when you get right down to it, the chess-game-visual is simple: player; board + pieces; player. Meagre; but enough to provide rich pickings for any chess-in-artist. Add another person to the pictorial mix, a third party, and now the artist is in seventh heaven, if only because with the extra distraction (a bemused spectator, an old comrade, a doting youth, an exterminating angel - the cast list is endless) he/she doesn't have to bother too much with what's on the board. After all, it's only chess.

So, this post will look at threesomes where the Royal Game isn't only one in town, where some minds are on other things, where the chess is mere by-play. We had an inkling of this before in Chess in Art XV, where Delacroix's water-bearer got on with a chore more socially useful than the idle work-shy wood-pushers under her feet. By the way, the next Chess in Art Postscript will engage, by contrast, with extras who would rather concentrate on the moves - shirking, but true.

George Whiting Flagg (1816-1897)

The Chess-Players--Check Mate ca.1836

This charming 1830s domestic "genre piece" (as this sort of thing is confusingly called) has a dumb-struck servant as the third party, and she is black. 175 years on, the image unsettles in a way one imagines Flagg, the artist, didn't intend, and maybe wouldn't comprehend. There is a jarring contrast between the confidence of the young lady on the left, who faces down her opponent as if an equal, and the awe-struck deferential gaze of the servant, who steals a look from behind.

Another, more sympathetic, reading is suggested by Yves Marek in "Art, échecs and mat" in his chapter "Érotisme". For him the two women are united in their perception that the young man has lost the game; one maybe haughtily pleased with her victory; the other tenderly solicitous as to his predicament. But to me the interpersonal dynamics are played out on a taken-for-granted hierarchy of a slave-owning society in which we can be sure that the servant was never given the opportunity to learn the moves. The picture would sit better in a chapter on "Chess and Human Rights", which has yet to be written.

Putting such weighty issues aside for the moment, we might enjoy the threesomeness that runs through the picture: in the ensemble, on the tray, on the board (and with that sort of repetition he could escape with a draw).

Warming to the theme of hormone-fuelled dalliances, here is another folie à trois, where, lucky chap, he can take his pick.

Jacques Clément Wagrez (1846-1908)

Jouers d'échecs

Best regard this as another period piece and not get too hot and bothered that it indulges in casual sexism. Like a Flagg it is a sign of its time. Wagrez seems to have been a cross-channel cousin of the Pre-Raphaelites, who did so much to popularise, and seduce, such a flame-haired Syrène as presents her locks to us from the right. But she hasn't caught the fancy of our hero and, chacun à son goût, this gentilhomme prefers brunettes.

But all that cloying colour, and all that beatific loveliness...did they moon around like that all day...looking so pleased with each other...and themselves? Don't you get irritated by the triviality of it all! Give us a picture with some edge! And a composition that doesn't make the third party a mere middle man.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938)

Erich Heckel and Otto Mueller playing chess (1913)

Hello boys! Here we are again!

Now, this is the business. You don't get many chess paintings where manner grates against content so potently that it generates static: a back exposed in the foreground; a nude lounging along the top; enough assymetry to sink a ship; brush-work that scrapes the skin raw; colour so raucous it hurts. As the sparks fly, who's looking at the chess.

Not her! Yes, the lads are at it while they make the lady wait (poor show, chaps). But she's used to their ways and will make her feelings clear at a moment of her choosing. The Expressionists shed their artistic inhibitions as easily as their kit. Fine, so long as it doesn't strip down to male hegemony.

We can wind the clock back 400 years to find another exciting play with composition:

Marguerite d'Alençon et son frère François D'Angoulême jouant aux échecs.

From the book Échecs Amoureux, 16th Century.

All eyes are on the board, but ours are drawn to the mademoiselle and blinged-up brother François in consultation as she hazards a move. Their opponent, some hapless courtier, is sporting pre-Pre-Raphaelite tresses and, as likely as not, is desperate to lose lest he be banged up in the oubliette for lèse-majesté. The dog does what dogs do. It's a nicely crafted composition, giving the principals pole position, full focus, and plenty to do with their hands, though one wonders if brother and sister will set tongues wagging by sitting quite so close.

But there is some other crafty handiwork here, though not by the parties. It is a stroke of editorial wizardry (for which I wish I could claim credit, but alas that goes to the artist and some other ed.) which puts the whole thing in perspective:

The bigger picture

Feel a frisson, a jolt, as you double-take in the realisation that you weren't the only one spying on the intimate game.

And who is he? Chaperone? Father? Arbiter? Priest? Peeping Tom? And why the black look? Does he suspect a familial infelicity, or merely a blunder on the board? The privileged readers of the C16th Manuscript would have known immediately. At this remove we can only guess, and admire the coup de theâtre (even if it required a fourth party to pull it off).

Now, like François might with his dog, let's explore another neck of the woods prompted by this blog on which our own ejh commented. Whatever their historical specifics, all above works share a straight presumption as to sexual orientation. It is slapped on with the paint. So, to put the record un-straight, as it were, it would be nice to include a gay-inscribed Chess-in-Artwork.

This is contentious ground. There are issues here, not just for art, but for chess. How to deal with gender in the competitive game is hardly concluded; but, how to deal with sexual orientation in chess culture isn't even started. Some will say its an irrelevance; others may say chess is gay-blind only because it has its head in the sand and when was the last time you saw a photo in the chess press of a GM with their civil partner on their arm? Having said that, one could well understand anyone who wishes for a quiet life when visiting/playing in some of the world's more institutionally homophobic nations; it's their business. And some will say it's none of mine.

Now, I know you can't tell a person's sexuality from how they look. I know I could be accused of relying on streotypes, and at the risk of offending the artist, or the models, straights or gays, chessers or non-chessers, or FIDE, or all of them, here is a Chess-in-Artwork where one is not led to an automatic assumption of heterosexuality:

Yoel Teneh-Tannenbaum (1889-1973)

Men Playing Chess (1957)

Or maybe not. And does it matter? Anyway, I thought I'd run it up the Flagg pole of assumption and see if anyone salutes.

Whatever your orientation: straight, L., G., B., T., all, or none; I hope you get your satisfaction on February 14th.

Picture sources:

Flagg is from here.
Wagrez, Kirchner, C16th Anon and Teneh-Tannenbaum are from here.

Chess in Art Index

Friday, February 12, 2010

I was working in the lab late one night ...

Some years back I read an article in a chess magazine about a press conference Garry Kasparov was giving after some tournament or other. Apparently all was going well until some fellow several cans of Tennent's Super to the good/bad (depending on how you look at it) burst in and started asking all sorts of random things. The journo, as I recall, thought this outrageous and a great insult to the then world champ but it seemed to me that one of El Drunko's queries - something along the lines of "Why do you always play chess in silence? Wouldn't you rather have some music on?" - was a question the chess world should really have a think about.

Just imagine if Ashtead had music playing in the background during their club nights.

Wouldn't it make chess more fun for the players? Might the spectators be treated to the sight of S&BCC President Angus French doing the Monster Mash while waiting for his turn to move?

Alas I fear that while FIDE remain busy implementing their plan to fuck up chess through the introduction of as many stupid rules as they can possibly think of they will probably not have the time to act on this visionary proposal. Still we do at least have the collected videos of Peter Lalic to keep the flame alive.

Here's another pair of great chess/fab music combos from Peter. First a win with Black against Neil Davies of Surbiton

and second we see Peter chopping up his County u-180 captain Julian Shipley in fine style.

So thanks very much to Peter for allowing our little blog to include his vids. Keep up the good work fella - I hope you'll send us more in due course. In the meantime, who's with me for a march on the next Surrey League AGM to get background music made mandatory from the 2010/11 season onwards?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Exciting times here at the S&BC Blog – we’ve been sent stuff. Courtesy of Jacob Aagaard and Quality Chess we are two chess books better off than we once were, the newly released Attacking Manual 1 and Attacking Manual 2 having just dropped through our collective letter box. This is the closest thing to an income that I've had since last August.

I should admit that I start off predisposed to like my new goodies. I’m a big fan of Quality Chess' books and long standing S&BC blog readers may recall that I've previously a whole series of posts inspired by Mr. A’s older book Excelling at Chess [e.g. A Bad Move V, Why Study the Endgame? II, Why study the endgame?, Aagaard Revisited, Tick Tick Tick VI, Scorched Earth, Dirk Gently, Excelling at Chess - Again Again, Excelling at Chess - Again, Knowing What to Look For, What Might Have Been]. It only took the opening lines of ATM1’s introduction

My aim with this book and its companion volume is to teach you everything there is to know about attacking chess. Not a small aim and already by its very definition it is clear that failure in this project is guaranteed.

and I was enjoying his newest work too.

Aagaard wants his target audience (players in the elo 1700 to 2500 range which I suppose is pretty much anybody who'll be reading this) to learn the “general rules” of attacking play. If every decision we take at the board should be based on concrete analysis then which lines should we be calculating? ATM1 suggests, if I understand the argument correctly, that if we can grasp the principles of attacking chess we’ll have a much better chance of getting this question right. The rules are important, Aagaard claims,

not so much because they are relevant in all positions, but because they are relevant in all kinds of positions.

(emphasis in the original)

Well maybe, although I fancy I can hear the low rumbling of dissent beginning to emerge, not least from the EJH residence in Huesca, even as I type. Even Aagaard acknowledges his point of view is "unfashionable" to say the least.

Can ATM1 actually deliver? Enjoyable read or not, is Aagaard convincing when he claims these rules of attacking play exist? Does the book improve our understanding of the dynamic aspects of chess as he hopes? After reading it will our intuition guide our ability to select the right moves to analyse more effectively when we attack the enemy king?

How should I know? I haven’t read it yet. I suspect, however, that I'll be spending some time with it in the months to come.

Here's the first game Aagaard gives in the Introduction to ATM1. By pleasing coincidence it begins 1. b4 which was a favourite of the teenaged EJH as we discovered last Friday - the very day the books arrived.

You can download a PDF of ATM1's Introduction, including Aagaard's annotations to this game, here. While you do that I'd better get busy with the job application form I have in front of me. After all, man cannot live by chess books alone.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Chiv Chat

Carpets, pregnancy, a cartoon, the collected works of Ray Keene, the TV hit Lost, literature - all that and a tiny bit more features in today's Chiv Chat.
  • First, Dilbert. Ah, Dilbert. How you perk up the lives of daily office dwellers like myself with your droll, cynical humour. What possible excuse though could I find to share you with readers of our chess blog?

  • Just one brief mention of chess in passing. That'll do it.

  • Readers may recall that a while back my fellow blogger ejh queried just how many books Ray Keene has written. Soon after Ray Keene emailed me a bibliography based on his own collection, which I have now published here. Thanks to Ray for that, and apologies for the delay. As to why they aren't all in the British Library - Ray adds in some cases this was due to their being published abroad, in others perhaps simply because the publisher didn't get around to it.

  • Here's a question. Should chess blogger Elizabeth Vicary have a baby? Vote (!) and comment at her blog.

  • Evening courses abound everywhere in London. Why then aren't there more for chess? Any, even? A basic course for beginners, a refresher for those returning to the game - I'm sure such things could run regularly. But: what made Chivers think of this, you may well be asking. And the answer: learning about an evening course called "Enjoying Carpets". Enjoying Carpets, that's right. If you enjoy carpets, then imagine how exciting you'd find chess.

  • Fan of Lost? The advert for the new series has a chess theme. You can watch it here.

  • What about the Nabokov novel The Defence, a.k.a. The Luzhin Defense? I found it a rather uninspiring read myself - but I like this cover designed by John Gall far more:

  • On the subject of literature, ever wondered what would happen if famous novels came alive as . . . chess players? Me neither, but Cabinet Magazine has - and they've invented a computer programme to work out who would win if they played each other. You yourself can pit novel against novel here. Is this the most futile idea ever to have graced the internet? It makes me want to turn off my PC entirely, and quietly head off on my own to enjoy a carpet or two.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Chess in Art Postscript: Mirror Looking

The Chess in Art Postscript: Mirror Writing looked at Massimo Bontempelli's "The Chess Set in the Mirror" (first published in 1922 in Italian, but only translated into English in 2007) and Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass" (1872[1871]) which both have a mirror/chess theme, and which both are graced by bespoke illustrations.

Last time we focussed on the text, so now let's look at the two artists and their images: John Tenniel (1820-1914), Victorian gent. for TLG; and Sergio Tofano (1883-1973)(aka STO), Italian modiste for CSM. Their art was as different as their times, but with some surprising similarities.
Tenniel was a political cartoonist, and his illustrations were highly wrought. He was a picture maker, strong on characterisation, using allusion and reference to add weight. His images could really pack a Punch.
This is Tenniel's Alice meeting the White Knight. It is an illustration created for a context, but it could almost stand on its own (unlike the rather unsteady rider) as a comic art-work. What a picture as he readies himself to fall off again, concealing a self-deprecating in-joke: the incompetent chevalier is none other than John Tenniel himself.

Sir John Tenniel by Sir John Tenniel (1889) - appearing as himself.

National Portrait Gallery

One commentator, Jenny Uglow (2008), says that Tenniel was content to let people think that the joker on horse-back was a lampoon of ever, nothing is quite what it seems in the looking glass.JT could do scary, just look at the Jabberwocky (who/which has done sterling service from Salvator Rosa in the C17th, to Alien in the C20th) deemed to be too frightening for the frontispiece of TLG and so consigned to the bowels of the book. As a political cartoonist he could do character - if not assassination, then mugging - depicting the Mr Hyde lurking within the Dr Jekyll of a hapless victim. But could he do women, other that in mature matronly Red Queen mode? Don't his young ladies appear just a bit too much as Alice look-alikes (or vice-versa), as just so stereo as some of the other types he depicts?

The Lady Shows Alnaschar the Hidden Treasure.

John Tenniel, engraved by the Dalzial Brothers (1864) Tate Gallery.

On this evidence it seems that he couldn't tell the ladies apart, couldn't capture their "specificity", however sharp his pencil.

Compare STO, a signor for the signore I'll be bound. He swam in different waters from JT: the theatre, haute couture, advertising. His line was elegant and spare, dashing with casual grace and facility across the page.

"I began with the two Queens, one after the other."

Here, in a few deft flourishes, he captures the determined efforts of the lad to wrestle a piece from a reversed opening. A wrestler with attitude? Maybe. But character? Not so sure. Width, but not depth. And there's a suspicion that, like Tenniel, his rendering of young people was a touch generalised. Each is one of an undifferentiated kind. Here Boy's visage could be that of any kid on the block, and none.

He also plays Tenniel-style jokes in his CSM illustrations, such as making his burglar, his carpenter, etc., a bit self-portrait-like. They are well-endowed nasally, something he wasn't too precious to send up in himself. Like Tenniel he hung his self-caricature on his most prominent feature.


He even followed his nose in his self-portrait photographs where, now in his element of image management, we might expect him to ham it up:

There's no business like STO business

He dresses and poses like one of his cat-walk creatures, making a complete mannequin of himself. And speaking of mannequins, one appears in CSM to deliver this self-regarding observation "I am....the object upon which men and women attempt to model themselves, so that they too can appear to be [one]" (page 70). Reflect on that.

But he could also do serious, as in this stunning, economical, sly 1923 caricature of a well-known Italian politician:

Guess who.

That's right, it's Mussolini (five marks only) just as he was grasping totalitarian power. STO exquisitely implies the weasel eyes and bull-necked, bully-boy head-case. Regrettably one doesn't know enough about STO's own political inclinations, if he had any, to say whether he was on the outside of Il Duce's entourage pissing in, or on the inside pissing out (let's hope the former).

In. Out. A pleasingly thematic mirror metaphor with which to end. This post has wandered a bit far from its starting point, as both Alice and Boy did in their adventures. Try these books for the first time, or again, or on your young relations or aquaintances. In spite of their similarities they are a very different read. Compare, contrast and enjoy.


See Chess in Art Postscript: Mirror Writing for details of CSM and TLG.

This site has lots of detail on STO and his work, although it is in Italian.

Jenny Uglow's "Words and Pictures; Writers, Artists and a Peculiarly British Tradition" published in 2008 by Faber and Faber, London, has a section on Tenniel and Alice, and she refers to the Jabberwocky/Rosa connection. The Penguin centenary edition of TLG has very helpful "Note on Tenniel" by Hugh Haughton (1998).

Salvator Rosa's 1646 "Temptation of St. Anthony" is in the Museo de Villa Luca - Pinacotecca Rambaldi in Sanremo, Italy. Aliens can be found anywhere.

Chess in Art Index

Friday, February 05, 2010

My favourite moves X


The exclamation mark is for affection, but that is the nature of this series. Of all the possible ways of opening a chess game, it's the one I like the most.

Thinking chronologically, it was my fifth choice rather than my first: like, I should think, almost all beginners I opened with the e-pawn for the first few years of my chessplaying life. At some point I had a season or so with the d-pawn, and in my mid-teens, having read a short pamphlet by David Levy on the Sokolosky, I started playing 1.b4 for school and club. With, I should say, a great deal of success: nobody had seen it before and nobody knew what to do against it. Eventually, though, in a syndrome that was to repeat itself throughout my life, I decided that even if they didn't know how to combat it, I did, I could think of several good ways and I didn't want to have to worry about them.

It's a trade-off: theoretical strength versus personal familiarity. If you choose less well-known options, you have, eventually, to admit that there's a reason they're less familiar, and to ask yourself how much your personal experience with those options counterbalances that fact. That much is, I think, generally understood: perhaps less so, the feeling in the back of your mind, and the effect of that feeling, that you are not playing the best moves, that you will eventually be caught out, that you will have to change sooner or later.

Nothing is so demotivating to a process of work, or study, as the belief that your time will ultimately prove to have been wasted. I have more than once been in jobs where I have been sure, for one reason or another, that I was going to be made redundant, or be sacked. In those circumstances the capacity to do more than the minimum, more than just to turn up (as one turns up at the chessboard) and do one's routine work (as one plays a game of chess) is very much reduced. Can you really, as an amateur, make an obscure system one's own, believing that it is not really sound? One can read, and remember one's reading: but doesn't the capacity to do one's own work depend on at least the hope that that work will be of value for life?

So it was back to the e-pawn until I stopped playing OTB for a few years in my early Twenties. After my return to chess I played 1.e4 again for a few years, before feeling the need again for my own system, my own degree of control over the game. My repertoire with Black changed constantly, a victim of the equally irresolvable problem of how to play sound systems without allowing White a draw. With White, the questions were slightly different, and for a while I answered them with flank openings, playing 1.c4 and keeping my d-pawn away from d4 whenever I was able. I was happy with that, even if it was only the happiness of the ignorant, because, perhaps inevitably, after a few years, I found that only rarely was I happy against 1...e5, in which the main lines all looked comfortable for Black. Solution: play 1.Nf3 instead.

Then 1.d4 started creeping in, partly because I became aware that White seemed to have nothing against Slav set-ups unless he transposed into the Slav itself, and partly because my mental pendulum had swung again, away from personal experience and back towards theoretical strength. I found that 2.c4 was no longer well-thought-of as a reply to 1...d5. I noticed that my score against Hedgehogs was something like a single half-point from several encounters against players of very different strengths. In fact I found that once ...c5 was played Black seemed to have all sorts of ways to deprive White of advantage. For a while, I alternated the knight and the d-pawn. For a while I had a plan to play the knight against weaker players, against whom I had less need to try for an opening advantage, and the d-pawn against stronger players, against whom it was my best chance of winning.

Until last week. When I decided that I like the knight move. I just like it. It's my favourite of the five I've tried.

Aesthetically, it is my favourite. No pawns are committed. It hints, but it does not declare. It spoils nothing. Nothing is done that cannot be undone.

Which makes it the ideal move for somebody who cannot make their mind up. It is a move that has not yet made up its own. It is the decision of the indecisive. Perhaps, at the same time, we can think of it as the Fabian move. Perhaps. It's a "perhaps" sort of move. But for this week, at any rate, it's perhaps my favourite.

[My favourite moves index]

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Duffers' Delight II

I originally intended to write something about mobile phones today but after spending some of Monday evening with Simon Williams' new DVD I'm going to hold that post over for another day. Instead I'd like to offer you a double dose of Dutch Duffers' Delight.

I've been playing the Dutch for a couple of years now and up until this point whenever I've been reading books on the opening I've always skipped over the chapters devoted to 1. d4 f5, 2. anything other than c4 or g3. "I don't need to worry about that", I (smugly) thought, "I'm going to play ... e6 on move one and avoid this murky stuff". It was a strategy that served me well until I pitched up at the tournament that Simon organised to celebrate the launch of The Killer Dutch. It turned out that the theme wasn't just that every game had to be a Dutch but that they all had to start 1. d4 f5 and before long I was getting severely tonked on the Black side of a Staunton Gambit and thinking it might have been a good idea to have looked up some of these lines after all.

It seems I've been missing out. For a start there are variations like 1. d4, 2. Nf3, 3. d5 against my 1. ... e6 and 2. ... f5 move order which I should really have explored before. If nothing else I might have discovered a lot sooner that a dozen moves into an Olympiad game one of the finest chessers that England has ever produced once reached this position with White

Presumably Miles was hoping that Vaisser would piss himself laughing and then lose on time when he went off to change his trousers but sadly White's superb strategy proved only good enough for a draw. A for effort though.

Happily Psycho-Cowboy's DVD has something for Black that's even better than Tone's impression of a person who barely knows how the pieces move. After 1. d4 f5, 2. Bg5 the recommendation is 2. ... h6, 3. Bh4 g5 intending to answer 4. e4 not with ... Nf6 (which looks like, and possibly is, the only sensible move) but this:-

4. ... Rh7

- a move truly beyond symbols although I'd be tempted to award anyone who plays it a "!!" - one for balls and one for comedy value.

Williams himself played 4. ... Rh7 in a crucial last round game a few years back. A win would have left him sharing first place with Nigel Short but unfortunately the game did not go well.

'Debacle' is perhaps not an unwarranted description of this game although one guy on was minded to go further.


How could Williams play this crap, when the ("European Individual") championship was at stake?? (He was in the lead with 6 others at 6.5/9)

Was this fixed ?!?!? Or just ludicrously stupid ??

Well neither as it happens. On the DVD Simon shows that had he not forgotten his opening preparation he would have obtained a good position with just a single improvement. That's the thing with moves like ... Rh7 I suppose. The line between playing like a genius and playing like a beginner is fine and easy to cross - and you only need to mess up once and your doomed.

Clearly our internet friend is not keen on the rook manoeuvre and that's without seeing what Williams had planned in response to 5. Be2 instead of Gormally's Qh5+. I think he might actually have spontaneously combusted had this line appeared in front of his eyes although to be fair I rather doubt Siegbert "Herr principles" Tarrasch would have made much of it either. If 4. Ng5 in the Two Knights Defence is a "duffer's move" how to describe this:-

5. ... Kf7

Does anybody know the German for what the fuck?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Whatever Happened to Eric Holt?

White to play
Holt - Pritchard,
British Championship (11), 1971

It wasn't supposed to be like this. A single post on a Ray Keene curiosity before swiftly moving on to subjects new was my intention. There's far too much going on in the world of chess to stay overly long with Keene-Holt from Blackpool 1971. Or so I thought.

I got sucked in. It started with the idea that it might be worth taking a quick look at Eric Holt, just to see if he was in the habit of doing funny things like playing on two queens down against a man in the process of winning the British Championship. Half an hour's work at most was what I expected but I soon realised that I'd stumbled into a story of youthful promise, sudden disappearance, loss and (perhaps) rediscovery. I'm getting ahead of myself though. I'd better begin at the beginning.

A case for Inspector Keene?
photo via

When I started the search I didn't know a thing about Eric Holt other than that 128 move loss to Raymondo. The first thing I did was to look up his other results from Blackpool and it immediately became clear that his tournament was none too shabby. Aside from RDK he'd only lost to Jonathan Penrose and Bernard Cafferty finishing up 7th-10th with +5 =3 -3. Quite a result for a first British Championship and it looks even better when you consider his account includes wins against such names as Peter Markland (rated 2510 at the time), Craig Pritchett (who would go on to become an IM) and Evil Uncle Ernie (who would win the title the very next year).

Consulting the BCM (vol 91, #11) I learned from Ritson Morry that Holt was also that year's Scottish champion and I began to wonder how it was that I'd never heard of him before. I'm no chess historian but I knew, or at least knew of, most of the guys he'd been playing in Blackpool so why didn't I know the name Eric Holt?

My curiosity now aroused I decided to investigate a little further and it only took a briefest nosing around on chessbase to discover that Holt's result in Blackpool and Scottish title were no flukes. Prior to his appointment with RDK for that fateful game Holt had had done pretty well in a series of junior tournaments and by the company he was keeping, not to mention the points he was scoring, it seems no exaggeration to say that at the beginning of the 1970s he was one of the more promising juniors in Western Europe. Not of the very highest echelon, perhaps, but certainly good enough to be playing those who were.

Consider Eric Holt's results:-

  • Schilde under 18, 1969: Finished 8th-9th with +3 =2 -3, tournament won by Oleg Romanishin who was unbeaten with 6/8.

  • Glorney Cup in Glasgow, 1970: Scored +4 =1, also present were Robert Bellin (1.5/5), Chris Franklin (2.5/4), Michael Stean (3.5/4) and Tony Miles (4/4).

  • Zurich under 20, 1970: Finished 3rd-6th with +3 =7 -1, tournament won by Ljuobmir Ljubojevic on 7.5/11 (they drew).

  • European under 20 championship in Groningen, 1970: Qualified for the A-final with +3 =3 -1 (level with Zoltan Ribli amongst others) and went on to finish 10th (last in group) with +2 =1 -6, tournament headed by Ribli and Alexander Beliavsky*.

So Holt was there or thereabouts in a host of international junior events, made a very good showing at his British Championship debut and then … nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.

While many of his contemporaries went on to become well known players Eric Holt just disappeared completely. FIDE may still have him at 2230 but there's no evidence of any recent games and there's no E.Holt on the ECF grading list even if inactive players are included in the search. He may have been a successful junior player prior to Blackpool but I could find no trace of any subsequent chess career whatsoever. All my usual sources gave me were 51 games on chessbase that end with the last round of that British Championship 38 years ago.

I wonder what happened. Did he leave university and find himself in a job that didn't allow him any time for chess? Did he put away childish things, considering chess to be a good hobby for a schoolboy but no way for a grown-up to live their life? If so he'd have had a point but I've no way to tell that really was the reason. He could have done a Reggie Perrin for all I know.

Whatever. Eric may have gone, by this point I was thinking of him as 'Eric' and not 'Holt' or 'Eric Holt', but I still had those 51 games. What of them? What kind of player was he?

Naturally I was overjoyed to discover that he’d qualified for the A-final of the European under 20s with a brace of short IFEs,

1 e4 e6, 2 d4 d5, 3 exd5 exd5, 4 Bd3 Bd6, 5 c3 Ne7, 6 Nf3 Bf5, 7 O-O O-O,
8 Bxf5 Nxf5, 9 Qd3 Nh4, 10 Nbd2 Nd7, 11 Nxh4 Qxh4, 12 Nf3 Qh5,13 Bd2 draw

Holt-Ribli (!)
6th Qualifying Round, European u-20 Groningen 1970

1 e4 e6, 2 d4 d5, 3 exd5 exd5, 4 Bd3 Bd6, 5 Ne2 Ne7, 6 Bf4 Bf5,
7 O-O O-O. 8 Bxd6 Qxd6, 9 Ng3 Bxd3, 10 Qxd3 draw

7th Qualifying Round, European u-20 Groningen 1970

but fine specimens though they are, they are not representative of Eric’s play in general. Nine players made it to the A-final in Groningen by tieing for second place on 4.5/7 with the last two rounds in particular rather suggesting that a non-aggression pact had been negotiated by the would-be qualifiers. Eric almost never agreed quick draws**, indeed he didn't seem to like drawing at all, and usually played much more aggressively.

When he had the Black pieces the Modern Benoni seems to have been Eric's opening of choice. At the Glorney Cup, for example, he twice played 14 ... Qg5 in the line

which unfortunately doesn’t seem to work [I have a computer to tell me that but don't forget Eric played these games at a time before Elo ratings let alone databases and engines] but did earn him at least one point*** and does, I think, neatly illustrate Eric’s taste for complications.

With White, perhaps under Fischer's influence, Eric invariably developed his bishop to c4 when faced with the Sicilian. Evidently he liked to attack and would sacrifice whenever possible. To wit:-

My computer is less keen on Rxf7 in this next position but Eric played it anyway.

And how about this for a king hunt?

Eric's last game in the database is his win against Pritchard from the final round at Blackpool. The position before he played the decisive move is at the head of today’s blog. If you have to stop playing I suppose sacrifcing a knight whilst simultaneously leaving a rook en prise is not a bad way to check out.

photo from Chandler's Corner

Playing through Eric's games made me want to find out what happened to him more than ever. Googling “Eric Holt Chess” got me nearly 10,000 hits approximately 99.9% of which were entirely useless but one of the few that weren't was a link to a Chandler's Corner that mentions him in passing. Eric, a correspondent writes,

... gave up the game and disappeared and we all lost touch with him. A couple of years ago I got an email from him out of the blue which indicated that he'd emigrated to the US and now had a family there.

which was disappointing but does at least explain why I'd never heard the name before. "That's that", I thought, "I'll never track him down now" but then the search engine coughed up a link that showed last October, out of the blue, an Eric Holt of Tarrytown New York posted a review on amazon. Robert Snyder's Chess for Everyone: A Complete Guide for the Beginner is, this Eric Holt says, an

... excellent chess book for people of all ages, and is suitable for a complete beginner all the way to a player who is beginning to play competitively ... I have been looking for "a single, not-too-big book that my students can use. I have settled on this one. My group has all ages and levels.

That's got to be the same guy, right? He'd be getting on for sixty now and plugging "Eric Holt Tarrytown" into google brings up this photo

the right Eric?

photo from
"UTS is an interfaith seminary with both faculty and students
representing a wide range of religious traditions"

and it looks like this chap is about the right age. I know it's a long time on but does anybody recognise him? I certainly want it to be chesser Eric. I like the idea that he's still out there, if not playing the game any more then teaching it at least.

So there you have it. Eric Holt, a man who was once Scottish Champion; a man who once played Romanishin, Ljubojevic, Ribli, Beliavsky, Penrose and Keene; a man who may or may not be living in America teaching children to play chess.

I know we have a few American visitors from time to time. If anybody out there is from or near Tarrytown and knows whether this is the Eric Holt please do get in touch. There may be a lot in the chess world to write about but I don't feel like I'm done with him just yet. If nothing else I'd love to be able to drop him an email and say hi.

* The A-final game between Ribli and Beliavsky is missing from my database so I don't know who actually won this event

** Aside from the two in Groningen the only other one seem to be a 14-mover against Peter Clarke at Blackpool in round nine.

*** Chessbase says he won both games but would White, to play, really have given up in this position?

Could have lost on time I suppose.