Monday, October 31, 2011

Duffers' Delight V

Knights on the rim are Morgan's

Knights on the rim ... you know the rest. Grim. Or dim. Grim and dim.

Well not for my friend and fellow blogger Morgan Daniels they're not. For Morgan, whatever Siegbert Tarrasch might tell him, developing knights towards the centre of the board is naught but some kind of middle-class affectation. For Morgan, sticking them on the edge isn't so much a possibility as it's a requirement. Once I saw him open with 1 P-KN3, 2 B-N2, 3 N-KR3 and then follow up with 4 P-QB3. I asked him why and he replied, "So I can play N-QR3 and N-QB2, of course". Obviously.

My own attitude, I'm afraid, is somewhat more bourgeois. Increasingly so, in fact.

During the 2007/08 season I played both my knights to bishop three less than half the time (18 of 40 games), but by 2010/11 the figure had jumped to 78% (27/35). In the games I've played so far this season it's up again (82%; 31/38) and that's not the end of it. These days, of the knights that I don't develop to their traditional squares I'm only playing about one in eight to rook three which is about half my rate for the last four years as a whole. Guess who's going to be first against the wall come the revolution.

Potty mouth Major Rawls probably would call me fuck face

If the way Morgan and I like to play chess is ever going to come together it's going to be in Mike Basman's old pet line of the Leningrad Dutch.  The Basmaniac system, you see, manages to combine my love for defences against queen's pawn openings which are based on an early ... f7-f5 and Morgan's creative use of his knights

1 d4 f5, 2 g3 g6, 3 Bg2 Bg7, 4 Nf3 c6, 5 O-O Nh6, 6 c4 d6, 7 Nc3 O-O

Black gets a standard Leningrad set-up save for the king's knight which has gone exploring. It looks strange - well, it looks strange to me; I doubt Morgan would bat an eye - but according to Basman,

There are many ideas behind [putting the knight on h6]. Firstly, it does not block the bishop's diagonal, nor the KR's line, after castling. Secondly, the black squares of the K-side have weakened; a knight on f7 can defend h6 and g5. Thirdly, sometimes White plays P-Q5 and Black answers ... P-K4; in this case, a knight on f7 can defend d6.

It's not just the king's knight, either. Basman usually followed-up by playing his queen's knight out to the edge too. After 8 e4 for example,

Webb-Basman, British Championship 1973

or 8 Qc2.

Keene-Basman, Hastings 1973/74

Interestingly Raymondo - a leading theorist at the time, lest we forget - achieved nothing more than a short draw despite having months between the British Championships and Hastings to come up with something against Basman's system. A couple of years later Keene even adopted it himself when desperately seeking his final GM norm at a tournament in Spain.

Basman's Leningrad might just be another of his ropey openings, but it's one of his better ideas and RDK's failure to dent it, not to mention his subsequent patronage, is surely some kind of endorsement.  That's what has tempted me to give it a punt myself, I suppose, although I've never quite managed to persuade myself to do it.  I guess, when all is said and done, it's simply more Morgan's kind of thing than mine: he's got the creativity gene that you need to play this kind of stuff and I haven't.


Last Halloween, we covered Korchnoi's tale of playing a game of chess with the long-dead Geza Maroczy. This year's ghost story is an encounter between Morgan and Tarrasch.

I've often imagined it: the erstwhile German chesser hanging around at Golden Lane, keeping an eye on the games. He's bound to be there. He's got an eternity to fill, after all, so he's going to take his entertainment wherever he can find it.

Sooner or later Tarrasch is going to find himself at Morgan's board. It's inevitable and when it finally comes to pass our man will feel the old master's presence at his shoulder and will turn, nodding towards his knights as he does so, and whisper,

You see these Siegbert? You see 'em? These are for you.

Basman quote taken from The Leningrad Dutch, Tim Harding (Batsford, 1976)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Literary Reference : A Long Lunch

This was all slightly disappointing, from a man who once would willingly have grabbed what sleep he could on a filthy mattress in the back of a van as it cruised down the M1 at four in the morning. So I asked about the game, Mornington Crescent. Ah, he said, people always asked about that. "I say to them, you wouldn't expect me to explain the rules of chess in the interval at a jazz concert, would you? Well, Mornington Crescent is much more complicated than chess."

It had been invented when the programme had a producer whom they didn't greatly like. They had been having a few drinks in one of their hotel rooms, and had heard him coming down the corridor. "Quick," somebody said, "let's invent a game which he won't understand." Which they did.


Quite a number of reporters either made their names in Northern Ireland, or went to work there at some stage in a celebrated career. Max Hastings and John Sergeant are among the best known. Tim Jones worked for The Times and was a fine chess player as well as a resourceful reporter. His main problem as a chess player was finding anyone sufficiently challenging to play against. His boredom had resulted in some damage at the critic Bernard Levin's flat while he was playing him in the paper's chess tournament. In the tedium of waiting for Levin to play he took to rocking back and forth on a valuable Chippendale chair. Levin was, apparently, gracious about its broken leg.

Tim had been present at the early riots in Londonderry and was called back to give evidence to the Scarman Tribunal, held in the city itself. He had been told that his session would begin on a Monday afternoon, so he refrained from drinking. He wasn't called that day, so he abstained the next day too. By Wednesday lunchtime he was giving up hope, so had a generous and restorative lunch. When he had to give evidence that afternoon, things did not go entirely to plan. At one point the brief for the tribunal asked him if he could confirm that he had seen a rioter throw a brick - here he pointed at a map - at this location here, which had hit a soldier standing at that location there.

Tim agreed.

"Are you aware, Mr Jones, that that is a distance of one mile?"

Simon Hoggart, A Long Lunch: My Stories And I'm Sticking To Them, John Murray, 2010, p.102-3, p.119-20.

[A Literary Reference index]
[Thanks to Tom]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Bad book covers XXII

Back to Basics: Strategy, Beim, Russell Enterprises, 2011

[Bad book covers index]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Untitled simul post

The Nigel Short simul tour comes to an end in Gatwick tomorrow afternoon. It's obviously been a hugely popular event - 177 games played in the first leg, 51 games played as of Sunday in the second - and a great success. In fact, the only bad word that anybody has had to say about the tour itself comes from the star of the show:-

The little brat kept offering me draws by thrusting out his arm, which induced great mirth from his Dad as my displeasure increased ... Afterwards two parents quietly informed me that they were almost certain that his father had been communicating moves to him from a hand-held computer.
Nigel Short: New in Chess 2011, #3

Receiving multiple, frequently inappropriate, draw offers is part and parcel of chessing with munchkins, but silicon-assisted cheating is an entirely different kettle of pawns. Fortunately, Short makes clear that the incident was very much a one off with the vast majority of his opponents being impeccably behaved.

Come on then, I'll take you all on
Photograph from ChessVibes

It's good to see the 'big event' simul making a comeback. The 1970s was the Golden Age for such things, just as it was for just about everything else to do with chess, and thirty years ago a succession of leading Soviet Grandmasters made their way to London to take on the cream of the British juniors.

At the top of today's blog we see CHESS reporting the Karpov's simul in 1977 (this, by the way, is the one that made it all the way to the front page of The Times - see WwwK XVI). Let's take a closer look at who Anatoly was playing ...

... and, while we're at it, who was there taking on Spassky a couple of years later?

Good to see Boris putting his back into it. Anyhoo, if you were at any of this year's simuls and took photographs, please keep hold of them. The S&BC Blog might be needing copies when we publish Untitled simul post II circa 2045.

An extra date has been added to the tour. Nigel Short will be at Drunken Knights' London HQ - The Plough in Museum Street - tonight from 7pm. I gather all boards have been filled, but spectators are welcome so do go if you find yourself in town and at a loose end. I wouldn't mind popping along myself, although, in the circumstances, probably best that I give this one a miss.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I don't call you f**k Face ....

Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:58pm

Note to Jonathan Bryant:
My name is Nigel Short and not Nosher. I don't call you f**k Face but, if I did, I expect you would find it insulting. Please show a modicum of respect.

Offence. There seems to be an awful lot of it about these days. Last week's big event, the Ricky Gervais shitstorm - rather reminiscent of kafuffles involving Frankie Boyle and Jimmy Carr, I thought - has already been replaced by the news that Hitler really hated being called a NAZI. (Yes, really.)

As you see, your humble scribe has also been busy causing offence. I’m not sure quite how I managed it, to be honest, but the Gervais business was all about a word beginning with 'm' and mine and Adolf’s start with 'n', so perhaps these things run in alphabetical order.

Doesn't like the N-word

Doug Stanthope, a comedian known for his especially acerbic style, once wrote that nobody has the right to be offended. I don't agree with this. Not in general and not here.

It's entirely reasonable that Short is offended by Nosher if he chooses to be. It makes no difference whatsoever that his response was rather over the top and neither is it of any consequence that he has his own extensive history of not showing respect to those around him.

In contrast to Stanthope, in the world according to me people have every right to be offended and while I also feel that everybody else has a corresponding right not to give a damn, in this particular case I do care. It bothers me that Short took umbrage at my use of his nickname not despite but because I had no idea he didn't like it. As Robin Ince puts it in an excellent article on Ricky Gervais' use of the word 'mong',

I do not mind offending people. I’d just like to think that if they cornered me in the bar I could explain the reason I was offensive before they punched me.

Well, now I know. I think it's a great shame that Short hates his moniker, but that's the way it is. From this day forth, then, TheChessPlayerFormerlyKnownAsNosher it shall be.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Every Picture Tells A Story: The End, Part 2

Blog 20. We finish with a joint effort by Martin Smith and Richard Tillett.

It is a year (almost to the day) since our first Every Picture Tells a Story blog appeared and now it is time to sign off this series. However, our work continues – there are articles to write and a talk to give next March to the Hereford local history society, and more research to pursue.

We thought we would finish with the man at the centre of our story, the little-known artist Thomas Leeming, who painted himself as the standing figure in his picture of the gentlemen chess players of Hereford.

The artist…
Five days after Leeming’s death on 24 May 1822, at the age of around 33, a short anonymous obituary appeared in the Hereford Journal, which we discovered at Hereford Library on one of our visits to the city. It remains the only commentary that we have been able to find about him, either by a contemporary or by a later writer, and it tells us much about his painting, the range of his work, and his standing as an artist at the time of his death.

The author of the obituary was almost certainly Edwin Goode Wright, the proprietor of the Hereford Journal and one of the chess gents in the picture. He was an admirer of Leeming’s talents and may have commissioned what we think is the first version of the picture (the one held at Hereford Museum and Art Gallery). We think he also commissioned the portrait of “Mrs E G Wright” that Leeming exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821.

… and his obituarist?

Leeming was, the obituary tells us, “an artist of great natural talent, which he had improved by study, and matured by practice, and as a miniature painter, he would probably in a few years, have been at the head of his profession; if his life had been prolonged”. Hmmm. “Great natural talent” perhaps but the few miniatures we have tracked down, though competent, fall a long way short of the exceptionally high standards set by the best London portrait miniaturists of the time. We doubt he would ever have bridged the gap.

“The productions of his pencil were remarkable not only for their striking resemblance, but for their delicacy of finish, and expression of character, which so few artists attain.” Sadly, as far as we are aware, no drawings of his survive.

“He also excelled in portrait and landscape painting in oil and watercolours, and has left numerous records of his genius, which bear flattering testimony to his skills and taste.” We have found only one, rather average, landscape and one, considerably better, full-size portrait (the one of John Grosvenor discussed in blog 19). We’ve not found any watercolours, unless you include a modest wash sketch held in the collection at the Hereford Museum and Art Gallery.

“As a copyist, he was perhaps excelled by few in England.” That may well be true. He certainly did a splendid job with his copy of Valdés Leal’s Christ Carrying His Cross (blog 10) and we would love to track down the copy of Raphael’s School of Athens which, according to the obituary, was unsold at the time of his death.

Here, then, was an artist of talent who was, to quote the obituary again, still “arriving at that perfection”. In his short career he maybe spread himself too thinly: working in London, Hereford and Oxford; running a London house and, from 1817, supporting a wife and family; with poor health to contend with in his last years. The odds were stacked against him in a cut-throat market where miniaturists were two-a-penny, and without high-end clientele you were likely to struggle. His style was resolutely traditional, which may have suited his middle-of-the-road customers but failed to impress the London elite. Perhaps, as his obituarist implies, he was robbed of the time necessary to achieve his full potential. But even with twenty or thirty years more – such contemporaries as Lawrence, Constable and Turner lived into their sixties - we are not sure that his reputation would have blossomed, nor that posterity would have judged him more kindly.

And what of Thomas Leeming the man? The final sentence of the obituary is all that we know of his personality, but it tells us much:

“He also possessed a talent for music, and was warmly esteemed and respected by an extensive circle of friends in different parts of the Kingdom, to whom his excellent heart, gentlemanly conduct, and unpresuming manner, had greatly endeared him.”

A fine fellow then, who gave us what we think ranks among the finest and most significant chess pictures of its – or indeed any – time with its lively portraiture, skilful composition and ordering of the characters, fidelity to the facts of chess, and evidential value to the history of the game.

We end our series with the version he painted for the Royal Academy exhibition of 1818.

Every Picture Tells A Story Index
Chess in Art Index

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Occupy Wall Street keeps itself occupied

Zuccotti Park, New York City, Friday 15 October

[With thanks to bat020 on the spot]
[Occupy Wall Street]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This is the end X

Philidor 1777

I met up with Angus at I Love Coffee on Streatham High Road again last Friday afternoon. It’s become a bit of a regular fixture. A drink (tea for me – I don’t love coffee), perhaps a custard tart and two or three hours of studying endgame positions.

This week’s topic was queen versus rook. Has anybody out there had this in a real game? I found it absurdly difficult. Sure, there's only a king and a single piece each, but they're the most mobile pieces on an open board so there are still dozens of options each move. Finding the right path - even in what pass for the simplest positions - is next to impossible at first.

Where to begin with this ending? How to do a Svidler and go from this,

to this?

Curiously, de la Villa doesn't include queen against rook in his otherwise very good 100 Endgames You Must Know.  Your choice is Nunn's comprehensive, but tough to digest, Secrets of Pawnless Endings or something less dense, but infinitely more accessible, like Nick Pert's Killer Endings (review part I, II). For those just starting out, by the way, my suggestion would be the latter and move on to the former as and when the need arises.

Angus and I started, as is usually recommended, with the Philidor position - the set-up you see at the head of today's blog. Black to move loses so White's first task is to work out how to triangulate in order to return to the same position except with Black to play. The second step is to calculate the win, either delivering mate or winning the rook, against all of Black's tries. Most of them are rather straightforward - for example, against 1 ... Rb2 or 1 ... Rg7 White has an immediate fork with 2 Qd4+ - but some are pretty tough, especially if you haven't looked at this sort of position before. 1 ... Rf7, 1 ... Rh7, 1 ... Rb3 and 1 ... Rb1: they're the moves that are the hardest to break down.

Angus and I got there in the end and then moved on to some harder positions although nothing like Gelfand - Svidler (mate in 22 from the starting position; mate in 14 at the point Gelffie claimed a draw under the fifty-move rule) or Svidler - Howell (mate in 15 from the starting position). It was hard work, and I don't know what the chances are of either of us ever getting this ending in a rated game, but we improved my chess knowledge a little bit which can't be a bad thing.

Tea, custard tarts and a little bit of chess learning. What's not to like?

TITE Index

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Interesting French Exchange XV

[Back to a spot of chess today. Normal service will be resumed in due course, no doubt - JMGB]

Montag's hands picked up the Bible. He saw what his hands had done and looked surprised.

'Would you like to own this?'

Faber said, 'I'd give my right arm.'

Montag stood there and waited for the next thing to happen. His hands, by themselves, like two men working together, began to rip the pages from the book. The hands tore the fly-leaf and then the first and then the second page.

'Idiot, what're you doing!' Faber sprang up, as if he had been struck. He fell against Montag. Montag warded him off and let his hands continue.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I waited more than a quarter of a century to read Fahrenheit 451. I did Lord of the Flies for O level, but I had friends in another class who got Ray Bradbury's novel instead. My teenage self thought it sounded interesting and made a mental note to get hold of a copy when I had a moment ... and I finally bought one a couple of weeks ago.

The day after I finished the book the latest copy of CHESS plopped through my letter box. I opened it up to find Keith Arkell talking about his game with Jack Rudd at the recent Jessie Gilbert celebration tournament in Coulsden. Keith tells of how he'd intended to play 3 Nc3 after 1 Nf3 Nf6, 2 c4 e6, but had accidentally pushed his queen's pawn instead.

My hand just kind of automatically played 3 d4

he says.

Montag doesn't seem to have been a chesser. I wonder if Ray Bradbury is/was. Be their owners GM or amateur hacker, chesser hands seem to do their own thing on a regular basis. It's certainly happened to me several times, most recently at last month's Sunningdale Open when in this position

I tried to play 27 ... Bg4 with the thought in the back of my mind that I'd always be able to defend the bish with ... h7-h5 should the need arise at some point in the future. My hands had other ideas, though, and it was only as one of them was pressing the clock that they let me know that they'd pushed the pawn and left the bishop back on d7.

Not that letting our hands take over once in a while is necessarily a bad thing. Recently our friend Richard James was netchessing and found that his desired 2 d3 against his opponent's French Defence was corrected by his hands to 2 d4. Consequence one: an accidental IFE. Consequence two: a FIDE Master spanked.

Modest Mr J will tell you that a three minute game on the internet doesn't mean that much, but beating a titled player - regardless of the format - is more than your present writer has ever managed. Perhaps I should start things off and then, like Montag, let my hands continue? They seem to want to get involved so maybe I should just let them get on with it.

TIFE Index

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Frideswide And Reggie's Charming

Back at the beginning of September we added Robert Coombes to the list of noteworthy Broadmoor chessers: Richard Dadd, Edward Oxford, and Reginald Saunderson. And a few days ago I hinted we'd reprise Reginald Saunderson, so here goes (we’ll add a new name or two next time).

But before we go any further we’ll take a short detour and visit Dublin and its environs. We can get an unexpected insight into Broadmoor chess from this unlikely vantage point, and we will do so in the company of the redoubtable Mrs Thomas Rowland (1843 [or 1851, see note] -1919).

It’s a fair bet you’ve never heard of her (nor I, till quite recently). She deserves better, being, as she was, a capable though not top-flight player and most obviously a woman in the world of late 19th and early 20th century Anglo-Irish chess.

Née Frideswide Fanny Beechey, her grandfather was the Royal Academician Sir William Beechey (1753-1839) who your two Thomas Leeming sleuths once briefly suspected was TL's mentor, and you can see the stylistic similarity here and here, perhaps.

But you may wonder how Sir William found time to paint at all, given he was so busy fathering 21 children - 21! One of them, Richard Brydges Beechey (he too was to become an artist), was Frideswide's father. Sir William sired five children by his first wife, and with his second Richard came out as number 9 - though by then Sir W. had probably lost count.

The artistic touch was with Frideswide as well; she did floral watercolours. She was also Irish women’s chess champion, a problemista of considerable talent….

…..and a serial chess columnist.

Just look at her form: she had a hand (or two) in columns in the Mail and Warder, Cork Weekly News, Irish Figaro, Irish Fireside, Kingstown Monthly, Kingstown Society, The Visitor, and The Irish Times. That’s as well as writing a couple of problem books - the delightfully titled "Chess Blossoms" (1883), depicted above, and "Chess Fruits" (1884) - and a biography cum game collection of W.H.K. Pollock (1889), and more.

From 1905 to 1914 she also edited, sometimes jointly with her husband, a slim chess magazine "The Four-Leaved Shamrock" whereby she kept up her pretty line in botanically inclined titles.

The Four-Leaved Shamrock displays its USP

In those days before partition the whole of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and Dún Laoghaire, a few miles to the south of Dublin, was patriotically known as the above-mentioned “Kingstown” (reverting back in 1921 to the Gaelic); it had an active chess scene centred on the Rowlands. In the summer of 1911, to capture the national mood, they loyally produced a souvenir cover to celebrate the coronation of George V.

You can see that it featured a specially composed problem with a regal arrangement of the pieces. I'll leave you to find the key move, though it will inspire none but the most rabid monarchist to grab the bunting, rush into the street and party.

The King's Crown by T.R.D.
White to play and mate in two moves

So to get to the Broadmoor connection: here are the first two paragraphs of a piece written by Mrs Rowland herself in the June 1911 number. From its base near Dublin The Four-Leaved Shamrock found its way into some surprising corners.


Passing a new agency a few days ago I was arrested by a poster with the heading of BROADMOOR, and my thoughts wandered back to the year 1903, when a match England v Ireland was being organised, and the chess paper having got inside the precincts of Broadmoor, many of the inmates enthusiastically entered the lists - some on the English side and some on the Irish. The first win was scored to "Broadmoor", and his opponent was a champion of an English county, and this is how he won. Broadmoor was white and he started 1 PK4, and sent a number of conditional moves, to which the champion unwaringly agreed. Then came the second instalment with more conditional moves, also agreed to. Alas too late the champion discovered that his game was hopeless, and resigned on the 25th move!!
Very good problems were sent to me occasionally, and one of the Irish inmates was so keen on correspondence play that he carried on 71 games simultaneously, very few, if any, of his opponents being aware of his detention. He was a bright, pleasant correspondent and a strong player, and for a couple of years sent me each season tin boxes of beautiful strawberries by post. But the excitement of too much chess proved fatal to its continuance. Suddenly all communication ceased, and I afterwards heard that the management had to curtail the play, for on dull damp days when they could not get out, the chess proved too exciting and the results were not satisfactory.


Mrs Rowland reminisced?

And who could that “bright, pleasant correspondent” have been, that strawberry charmer who played wittily on the lady's "Chess Fruits", that obsessive poor-weather chesser who tested the Asylum's regime to the limit?

How about another wager: it was Reginald Treherne-Bassett Saunderson, whose last taste of freedom was in Dublin’s fair city itself, where he fled after his murderous episode in 1894.

And just a last curiosity from the 1903 England - Ireland correspondence match (in which Frideswide, on board 48, beat the Reverend Robert Bee - she reports the detail in her Irish Times column of 7 May 1904) which owed everything to the Rowlands' organising zeal. Board 25 for Ireland was one Charles Heaviside (who beat an Arthur Schoinberg). Whether or not he was the brother of the scientist Oliver is unclear, but he is interesting in his own right for also being an inmate: of Richmond District Asylum, Dublin.

Acknowledgment and notes
Again, thanks to Dr Tim Harding for his generous leads on The Four-Leaved Shamrock and Broadmoor. He also provided the Heaviside detail. See his page for Irish chess mags. etc.
The British Library has an almost complete set of TFLS.
For more on the Rowlands see this excellent blog, from which the second Frideswide photo comes (if indeed it is she). There are two different dates on the web for her birth. While it seems indelicate to probe such a matter concerning a lady, if a proper historian could put us right it would be appreciated.
As usual, all the inevitable errors are my responsibility.

Here is the last part of Mrs Rowland's June 1911 article.
"The articles in "Answers" are exceedingly interesting, and perhaps later on the writer may tell us something about "Chess at Broadmoor." He says, "Probably in no other institution of its kind in the world does one meet with such interesting characters as in Broadmoor." Here is an extract from the second instalment: "The man with the snow white beard and hair is not yet fifty, but for the last ten years he has been an inmate of this institution, winning the respect of all with whom he comes in contact. He is detained during the Sovereign's pleasure because in a fit of madness he shot his aunt. He has a comfortable income, writes regularly for many of the high-class magazines, and even the editors do not know that the brilliant contributions they receive from this man are penned in Broadmoor."
How To Beat Your Dadd At Chess
Dadd, Oxford. Saunderson. Who's next?

Note added 9 July 2012. Dr Harding confirms that Mrs. Rowland's birthdate was March 18 1845, as Richard James states in the first comment below. He also confirms that it is she in the pictures above.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Great Chessboxing Swindle: on course for official recognition

[As mentioned in the comments box on Tuesday, I was interested to read the claim in Tim Woolgar's statement as candidate for the post of ECF Marketing Director that

we (i.e. chessboxing - ejh) are on course for official recognition by Sport England within the next six months.

Having looked into this in the course of writing this post last month, I thought I'd reproduce here, for the public record, the email exchange I had with Sport England on the subject.]

From: Justin Horton
Sent: 07 September 2011 15:19
Subject: Enquiry

Dear Sport England

Sorry to bother you.

I'm a chess writer and I had have an enquiry which I'd be grateful to have answered. Is this the right email address to which I should send it?

All the best

Justin Horton

Huesca province, Spain

To: Justin Horton
Sent: Thursday, 8 September 2011, 9:16
Subject: RE: Enquiry

Good morning

Many thanks for your email- can you please advise the nature of the enquiry- I will then be able to advise accordingly

Kind regards


From: Justin Horton
Sent: 08 September 2011 10:23
Subject: Re: Enquiry

Dear Kathy

Thanks very much for your reply.

All I wanted to know was whether or not Sport England have received a pre-application (or indeed a full application) for recognition on behalf of chessboxing.

All the best

Justin Horton

From: Richard Clarkson (
To: Justin Horton
Sent: Thursday, 8 September 2011, 15:36
Subject: FW: Enquiry

Dear Justin

Thanks for your email which Kathy O’Neill has passed to me for reply. I can confirm that Sport England has not received any recognition applications in respect of chessboxing.


Richard Clarkson
NGB and Sport Directorate

[Chessboxing index]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Some questions for the ECF AGM

It's the English Chess Federation AGM on Saturday. It seems that they've got themselves a pretty full agenda, but in the event that they find themselves with some dead time to fill perhaps they could discuss some of the issues that arise from the subjects of our recent series of posts  (This is not a blogpost; Nor is this; Carelessness?). For a start, here are three questions the answers to which I would be rather interested to hear.

Accounts were promised but not delivered for both the Staunton Memorial Dinner and the first Nigel Short simul tour. The amount of money raised for the British Championships by the former was originally said to be £7000+ and later revised to £1500 while the figure for the latter was originally given as £1500 and later revised to £500, then £0 before finally being called a "significant" amount.

Q. Is the ECF confident that it knows the origins of the money that paid for Sheffield 2011?

I believe it is reasonably common knowledge that one particular person has said that he was not offered conditions for Sheffield because he wasn't liked. I've no idea if this is true or not, but the claim together with this post:-

Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:39 am

... I'm sure everyone will understand that where I choose to spend my own money should remain confidential.

got me wondering.

Q. Was the basis for awarding conditions for Sheffield agreed within the ECF beforehand? Is anybody other than CJ even aware what the criteria were?

The Staunton Memorial Dinner and the Nigel Short simul tour were both said to be private ventures. This despite the fact that the invitation for the Dinner began,

English Chess Federation President, CJ de Mooi, cordially invites you to ...

and that the contact email address was given as "". Similarly, the Nosher tour was announced in the EC Forum's "ECF Matters" section on the 6th October 2010 but was not declared to be a "private initiative" until 29th January 2011. The second tour (which I assume is also a private affair, although there is nothing to say so), is also being run via the presidential email address.

Q. Should the ECF be more forthright in ensuring that clearer boundaries are drawn between its officials' private business and public roles?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


[Firstly, a reminder that This is not a blog post and Nor is this have previously appeared on our pages.
Secondly, all the images below are clickable, should you fancy a closer look.
Finally, on with the post ...]

Thu Jul 08, 2010 7:30pm 2010

... I provided some of the initial funds myself [For the 2010 Staunton Memorial Dinner - JMGB] and am handling all the finances personally...these will be available for public scrutiny when the event is over ....

Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:47pm 2010

The accounts will be published and no-one is being paid a penny.

Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:14pm 2010

... I will publish full accounts as promised when all the money has come in ....

Tue Sep 14, 2010 11:43am 2010

I'm just writing up the final accounts now so will publish those in the next couple of days ....

Tue Sep 14, 2010 4:07pm 2010

The final totals raised (minus all deductions which will be detailed in the accounts) ....

Would it surprise you to learn that, although the thread lasts another three pages, the accounts do not appear?

Would it surprise you to learn that the initial "very rough breakdown" of money raised ...

Thu Sep 09, 2010 11:14pm 2010

Karpov campaign - £15,000
ECF Women's Chess - £700
National Bullying Helpline - £700
Child Care charity (from sale of donated boards) - £900
British Championships - £7500

(my emphasis - JMGB)

... later became ....

Tue Sep 14, 2010 4:07pm 2010

Karpov 2010 - £4216.07 (although it also received a private donation of $10,000 on the night)
National Bullying Helpline - £720.42
Child Care Charity - £1200
British Chess Championship 2011 - £7000

(My emphasis - JMGB)

... (fair enough, probably just a rounding error), and later still was said to be ...

Tue Jul 12, 2011 10:17 am 2011

The income I was able to secure [for the British Championship - JMGB] was -

£1500 - Staunton Memorial Dinner
£15000 - Sponsorship
£1000 - JRT
£16835 - Donation

(My emphasis - JMGB)

...? £1,500 is certainly a 'significant contribution'...

Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:17pm 2011

... (both the Staunton Dinner and Nigel tour made significant contributions to both the Championships and charity)

... but it's only about 21% as significant as £7,000.

Perhaps the £5,500 difference between the figures quoted was actually a donation and appears as such in the 12/07/11 post, although ...

Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:39am 2011

The British Championships this year received 2 donations - one of £250 from a private benefactor and one of £16585 from me.

... perhaps not. Maybe instead it's included in the July 12th 2011 'sponsorship' figure, but, if it is, why does the September 9th 2010 post say,

I am confident of attracting at least 1 major sponsor as several people spoke to me indicating willingness to provide assistance.

after stating the amount generated for the British Championships at the Staunton Dinner was £7,500? Doesn't that suggest that the sponsorship being sought was 'in addition to' rather than 'part of' the money said to have been raised?

Promising financial records and not delivering them?  Inconsistencies in the figures given for money said to have been raised? I'm not sure what Lady Bracknell would have made of all this, but it seems to me that while to do either of this things once might be unfortunate, to do both of them twice is rather beyond carelessness.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Great Chessboxing Swindle: a spiv too far

As you get older, I often remark, it becomes harder and harder to tell the difference between satire and reality. This is an experience I have with increasing frequency, but rarely more intensely than when I heard, through the good offices of our comments box some weeks ago, that Tim Woolgar was a candidate for the post of Director of Marketing for the English Chess Federation.

I got this chess federation off a bloke I know in London

He is, indeed, the only candidate, which prompts the thought that some posts would be better left unfilled if a suitable candidate can't be found, and the further thought that a less suitable candidate than Mr Woolgar might be hard to identify. I mean Tim Woolgar? Really?

Put the cost of the beer bitches on my tab, Dave

I suppose there would be some grounds for preferring a candidate who had some interest in chess as such, rather than someone whose sole interest in our game has been that it comprises part of the freak show which he organises for a living. But in the absence of any actual chessplaying candidate, it's not an absolute disqualification. How it's a qualification, though, I'm not quite sure. Perhaps he wishes to revamp the British Championships so that the games are accompanied by singers, hula-hoop girls and what are tastefully referred to as "beer bitches". Nice. Will Tim be promoting women's chess as well? Still, I suppose Mike Tindall and his mates might turn up.

This time next year, Rodney, we'll be in the Olympics

But why not, you say, appoint a man who has made such a success of chessboxing? Because, as this blog is occasionally obliged to observe, he hasn't. The major success of chessboxing has been in convincing so many gullible people in the media that has been a success, such that one part-time club and one or two shows a year (were there any at all in 2010?) has been reported as if it were a success story of Abba-type proportions. Thing is, the whole point of hype is that the hype is supposed to become reality. But here's Tim - after all this hype and all this time - still with his one part-time club and his one or two shows a year. So what's he got to offer us?

There's a cynical view that somebody who's convinced so many hacks that a Potemkin house is, in fact, a palace, might be just the man to market a niche product like ours: and who could object to a cynical view of marketing? But though it's a cynical view, it's not a very bright one, and there's at least two very good reasons why. The first is that given above, which is that hype which doesn't actually work isn't, in the end, very good hype. The second, which I'll expand upon below, is that if you have someone work for you whose skill is not in telling the truth, you can't be sure it isn't you he's going to fib to.

Did anybody say "total crap"?

This is a guy who makes things up. All the time. He holds a title he invented himself and a rating he invented himself: he invents titles and ratings all the time. He's going to try and get his freak show into the Olympics - and then, he isn't. He's applied to Sport England for recognition - except he hasn't. A well-known International Master is going to come to the club to try out chessboxing - except he isn't. His event - according to his sidekick - achieves "global media coverage on countless national TV networks". Except it obviously hasn't. And so on. This isn't an occasional inaccuracy or a slight tendency to exaggeration. It's a permanent policy of making things up in order to promote his private interests.

Is that what you want in a Director of Marketing? Is this somebody you can trust, do you think, to act in a proper way, and to do so in the interests of chess rather than his own? Is he going to use the role to publicise his own events? If he said he wouldn't, why would you believe him? How far can you believe anything that comes from somebody with such a casual attitude to facts?

You can call chessboxing tawdry, or you can call it a joke. You could call this appointment, if it occurs, tawdry, or you could call it a joke.

Or you could just not appoint this ludicrous individual.

I know, from long experience, that English chess can be a spivvy kind of world. A spivvy world in very many ways. But Tim Woolgar? That would really be a spiv too far.

[Thanks to Angus]
[Chessboxing index]

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not the Wimbledon Variation

I’m as much in the dark as the chesser on the next board as to how openings get to be called what they do: “Spanish”, “Alekhine”, “Modern”, “Orang-Utan” and the like. It is not about the derivation, mind you, which is usually pretty obvious. My question is: who decides?

Not always the inventor of the opening or variation it seems. For better or worse Eugene Colman wanted to call his discovery in the Two Knights Defence the “Wimbledon Variation” (as he wrote in a letter to the British Chess Magazine in 1952).

Hot stuff: Colman's 8...Rb8
Tomorrow is the anniversary of Colman's birth on the 11th October 1878. It is an opportunity to mark, quite rightly, his dedication to chess, his distinguished career in the Colonial Service, and his exemplary conduct in Japanese internment camps during WW2. But his generous and self-effacing suggestion that 8..Rb8 be christened “the Wimbledon Variation” is a bit puzzling. The assertion that this bustling London suburb at the end of the District Line, with its frantic rush-hour station, was the "birthplace" (as he said in the letter) of the variation is stretching it a bit; because he cooked it up when he was in Singapore. So, perhaps Colman was ingeniously hinting that his swashbuckling defence was, like Wimbledon, the end of the line - but, for White, whose play was now destined to hit the buffers.

E.E.Colman at home in Wimbledon in 1953
Although he may have hoped to see his uncompromising gambit indexed in the opening manuals between the Wilkes-Barre and the Winawer, it has come to be known eponymously as the Colman variation. Btw, and as another mark of the man's qualities, it is said that he wanted his fellow internee*, and 8..Rb8 analyst, Dr.Yeoh Bok Choon's name conjoined to it - alas, in vain; although this post allows us to commemorate Dr. Yeoh's contribution, too.

Thus Colman found himself, against his better judgement, as the sole author of the variation and in the good company of other British amateurs whose singular names appear in the openings vocabulary (as spoken in these islands, anyway) e.g. Dilworth, Gledhill, Reynolds, Rice*, etc. Rather it were so, some will say, than we had the Manchester, the Harrogate, or the wherever-they-hailed-from, Variations.

Eugene Ernest* Colman himself was by origin a South West Londoner, coming back to Wimbledon after the second world war, and passing away in Roehampton in 1964. This local interest makes him especially fascinating to your Streatham blogger, and one could contemplate a Colman theme tour of his various addresses among the Victorian villas of Wimbledon, hopping on the train for a couple of stops (as Colman would have done) to take in Tooting Bec Golf Club where he was a member (the course has long been concreted over for housing, but is remembered today in “Links Road S.W.17”), returning finally via Haydons Road station to pay respects at Gap Road Cemetery, his last resting place, where he lies, by curious coincidence, not far from H. E. Bird who was also interred there in 1908 .

Olimpiu Urcan’s widely reviewed, well-received, and absorbing book Surviving Changi. E. E. Colman: A Chess Biography tells the whole story, including of Colman’s time at Cambridge, and his years of enlightened public service in Malaya and Singapore, where at the age of 64 and surely looking forward to retirement, he was interned for three years by the invading Japanese in conditions of great privation, and worse, with the inevitable toll on his health. He organised chess among the fellow internees, and with them analysed this "new defence", unleashing it on hapless opponents in the London and Surrey leagues in the post-war years. This is the "first official recorded game with 8..Rb8" says Olimpiu. Colman's opponent didn't get as far as the buffers - he'd barely left the platform.

There’s no doubting his chess strength, developed though a long association with the game, and I was tickled to notice the happenstance that back in 1903 Colman played on board 42 alongside would-be Ripper and Broadmoor patient Reginald Saunderson (remember him), on board 122, in the Northern v Southern Counties correspondence match (though given Reginald's situation, “alongside” may be another stretch too far).

Given in the B.C.M. 1903 p 344
Olimpiu Urcan’s book comprehensively sets out Eugene Colman’s known chess games (many of them annotated) and activities, including the evolution of his variation. We also learn about his post-war contribution to Surrey and Wimbledon chess, where he conscientiously served his county and his club on and off the board.

There may be more about Colman to be recovered and told, and Olimpiu is working on a revised second edition, with corrections and additional material. He would welcome missing games and personal information; and any reminiscences of the man (though that must now be from a diminishing number) to supplement that of the indefatigable Trevor Brugger, the current Secretary of Wimbledon Chess Club, who knew Colman when he, Trevor, joined as a junior. If you can help please contact Olimpiu on

Something that cries out to be found is the 2 missing scores from Colman’s 3 game mini-match against Frank Marshall in April 1911 - a hundred years ago. Here, to finish off this post, and in Colman’s honour, is the one surviving game, and fittingly it is the one in which E.E.C. fought off and beat his illustrious opponent.

*denotes: see Comments
Full details of Olimpiu Urcan's book are Surviving Changi. E. E. Colman: A Chess Biography 2007, published by the Singapore Heritage Society. ISBN 978-981-05-7922-7.
Thanks to Olimpiu for his help with this post, in which all the major historical facts, and both the game scores, are indebted to his book. The minor Saunderson (to whom we shall shortly return) and Bird connections, and any errors, are down to me.
The portrait photograph was kindly provided by Olimpiu, and comes originally from Bruce Hayden's appreciation of Colman in Chess Review May 1953.