Monday, December 31, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Friday, December 28, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation, and in what game might it have occurred?

Monday, December 24, 2012

The twelve puzzles of Xmas 2012/13

Position from a variation which did not take place.

What was the variation and in what game might it have occurred?

As in previous years, we're going to be running a series of Xmas puzzles, starting tomorrow, one puzzle on each of the twelve days of Xmas. However, in a change of format from previous years, we are not, this year, going to ask you to solve any problems or studies.

What we are going to show you is twelve positions that could have occurred in real-life games, but did not: variations which were not played and which would, had they occurred, have resulted in a different result to the game.

The position above is an example. Rf3-h3 mate would have been the culmination of a variation that Black could have played, but did not - and Black failed to win the game.

But what game was it - and what was the variation that went unplayed? The answer can be found at the bottom of the column.

The Streatham and Brixton Chess Blog takes this opportunity to wish all its readers a Happy New Year and trusts that they enjoy the festive season. Whatever happens - do be sure to have a good time with your friends.

Here's to good friends!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cover version: Zalai / Bartók

Antal Zalai and József Balog, Bartók: Complete Works for Violin.
Volume 1: Early works and transcriptions (Brilliant Classics, 2011)

Antal Zalai and Valery Oistrakh, Bartók: Complete Works for Violin.
Volume 2: Sonata for solo violin, 44 Duos for two violins (Brilliant Classics, 2012)

[Cover version index]
[Thanks to Richard James]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What happened next XIX

Playing for two results?

In the position I left you with on Monday, GM Jon Levitt has just played 40... Qa1+ against IM David Howell in round 8 of the 2005 Staunton Memorial. 

The full game, which won the brilliancy prize, can be found here with notes by the mad green monkey himself. His annotations are remarkably similar to those provided by Levitt in the original article that appeared in the November 2005 issue of CHESS. You do have to wonder whether Ray knew what "going 'all-in'" was a reference to. Anyway, over to Jon.

"After playing 40... Qa1+ I said (or possibly mumbled) 'That's move 40'. Despite the lack of similarity in the sound of 'would you like a draw[?]' and 'that's move 40' my opponent somehow imagined that he had heard me offering a draw! 

He stopped the clock and put out his hand. Naturally I assumed he had determined the position was lost and was resigning. We shook hands and wrote down different results on our score sheets.

We soon realised that we were shaking hands but not agreeing on the result. David played 41. Kb4 and the game continued as if nothing had happened."

Four years later, I was white against Levitt in a London League match. He extended his arm and, thinking he was busted and resigning, I aimed to meet it halfway. But not before he played pawn to b3, the only move. He offered a draw as he played it and, seeing me offering my hand, presumed I was accepting. I reeled in shock and apologetically mumbled "Sorry, I thought you were resigning" before accepting a couple of minutes later. 

These things are more common than you think.

What happened next Index

Monday, December 17, 2012

What happened next? XIX

London, 2005. Black has just played 40... Qa1+. Time control reached.

What happened next?

What happened next? Index

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mr Rosenbaum's Chess Picture. Part 8: Mr Rosenbaum

We are at the last episode of our investigation into Anthony Rosenbaum's painting of 1880, and we are going to meet the artist himself, and put him on the record. Definitively. He turns out to have been a figure of some minor celebrity in the Victorian chess world. And some minor controversy, too.  

First though, and for the last time, let's have another look at his tableau, in all its glory... 

© National Portrait Gallery.
 For identification see here or here.  
...and now let's have a close look at Mr Rosenbaum; at his self-portrait to begin with - it works better in black and white.

As we are at the end of the series, it would be kind of appropriate to start our examination of Rosenbaum with his: on the 26th April 1888 in the Hospital for Paralysis in Regent's Park. The National Probate Calendar said he was "formerly of 87 Guilford Street but late of 39 Bernard Street, Russell Square" and his personal estate was £132.11s.6d - maybe £13K now (which is, maybe, not a lot). 

There were two obituaries, possibly both by Leopold Hoffer (no 23 in the key in episode 5, sixth from the right in tier 2). The first to appear was in the chess column of The Field on 5 May 1888 and is shorter. It provides a useful summary of the main features of his life, and we'll use that as a guide. The other was in The Chess-Monthly in June 1888, and is reproduced, for the record, in Appendix A below.

The Field starts by noting that he had been "an esteemed member of St. George's and British Chess Clubs".  The Chess Monthly obit., perhaps written for a more specialist chess readership, added that he had been "connected with English chess for over twenty years"; and that would get us back to the late 1860s. This second obit. mentions additionally the ticklish matter of the West End Chess Club, of which Rosenbaum had been secretary, but let's put that on the back-burner for the moment.   

Prior to all this, the earliest trace of Rosenbaum that I have found is the 1851 census record mentioned in episode 1. He was then living in Kingston-upon-Hull, already age 22, having been born in Hamburg. There was a direct steam-ship line between the two ports as the first leg of an emigration route to North America. Perhaps that's where his ambitions ultimately lay, but he decided to test the waters in England first. He already saw himself as an artist, though the no-nonsense Census enumerator put him down as "a painter". He appeared to be lodging, with other German tenants, at an address that, according to the Hull local history people, no longer exists. Interestingly, our chess history colleagues in Yorkshire say that Hull had a chess club as early as 1842, and that the Yorkshire County Association met in Hull in 1852. So, if Rosenbaum was looking for a game downtown in 1851, he might have been able to find one (for more on early provincial chess clubs see here and here).          

I can't find him in any other census until 1881 when, described now as an "artist", he was a lodger at 9 Howland Street, St Pancras, where one of the other tenants was given the same profession. Rosenbaum was unmarried, and was put down (slightly inconsistently) as now age 50.  

As for his over-the-board chess, it seems to have been almost exclusively as a casual, social player, maybe in internal club competitions, but not in open-entry tournaments. I can find no mention of any competition results for him in the chess press. The earliest mention otherwise that I have found is in the Illustrated London News of 18 July 1974, when Johannes Zuckertort gave a blindfold simul against "ten strong amateurs" at the CLCC. "After a late sitting all the games were adjourned"; so at least AR didn't disgrace himself and have to take an early bath, though he did eventually lose (JZ +5; =4; -1 to Mr Coburn, who appears in Rosenbaum's pic behind Steinitz and Hoffer). This is the same year that, according to The Chess-Monthly reporting later in 1880, he started the first version of his chess painting intended as a prize for a tournament of the City of London Club, so he was associated with that club as well, and must have been well established in London by then.  

There is another mention of him, on 9th August 1875 in the Morning Post's report of one Mr Gastineau's (he was a prominent office-holder in the City of London CC) annual "garden parties for chess players" at his "residence in the pleasant suburb of Peckham" when "the 'beneficial' sun smiled upon a gallery of some forty chess players...several interesting games were played notably one between Messrs. Chappell and Down in consultation against Dr Ballard and Mr Rosenbaum...". The result is not given. This photo from Sergeant shows the 1873 party, before they'd thought of saying "cheese". Mine host is bearded and seated in the centre, with Steinitz on his right, and an uncommonly youthful looking, and tall, Blackburne towering to his left.
From Sergeant (1934)
BTW the elegant young gent on the far right is not identified by Sergeant, but I wonder if anyone shares my speculation that it might be a 26 year old Wordsworth Donisthorpe (who we examined last week) posing with a familiar cigar - not, though, the Devon Chess Association, who have already made a pitch for Carslake Winter-Wood (1849-1924); and, looking again, maybe 'The Adonis' was more generously endowed chin-wise, hirsute or no.   

Back to AR's chess, alas invariably on the losing end. For example the Chess Player's Chronicle, for October 1878, reports that "Mr. Gumpel's 'Mephisto' is now installed at the Westminster Aquarium...among those who have yielded to Mephisto's prowess...are Col. Minchin, A. Rosenbaum, and A. Burn of Liverpool." But the same issue tempers the disappointment of defeat with the promise of a decent dinner. 
"The undermentioned gentlemen having arranged to give a complimentary dinner to Dr. J.H.Zukertort, winner of the first prize in the International Paris Tournament, sincerely trust they may have the benefit of your support... [names of 15 gents, including]... A.Rosenbaum... The dinner will take pace at 7.p.m. on the 14th November, at the Criterion Restaurant, and tickets £1 1s each may be obtained of C.G.Gumpel... Dr.W.R.Ballard jun... J.I.Minchin... A. Rosenbaum, 12 Percy-street, Bedford-square. An early application for tickets is requested." 
Rosenbaum was in good form at the nosh-up itself, The Chess Players Chronicle reporting that he "proposed very humorously" a toast to the Chess Clubs of England - with some intentional irony perhaps with the West End Chess Club debacle fresh in the memory. 

It is telling, by the way, that the various London addresses, Percy Street for example, that have turned up for Rosenbaum are all in, or around, the central Fitzrovia-cum-Bloomsbury district, a mixed area of lodgings, tenements and workshops, with a shifting, diverse population including impoverished and itinerant artists, all cheek by jowl with elegant Georgian Squares. It would appear that Rosenbaum couldn't afford upmarket Mayfair in the style of the Ballards, nor the new middle class suburbs favoured by Blackburne, Tinsley, Gastineau and friends.          

Schmoozing at the centre of the chess confraternity is what he seemed to do best, as a facilitator rather than a player. This role, on the organisational side of the chess world of the time, would bring him his finest hour in 1883. Let's note the excellent chess-company he kept: for example partnering H. E. Bird in an informal Four-handed Chess Match at the British Chess Association meeting in June 1885 in which games were played on "ingeniously contrived" tables (said The Standard, 24 June; HEB & AR lost); and joining our old friends Newnes and Donisthorpe inter alia at yet another banquet, at the BCA in December 1887 (Morning Post 5 December).

On his chess exploits your Google searches may turn up this game losing to Tarrasch in 1883, but its more likely to be H.O.Rosenbaum, another German, and older, I would guess. Related? Who knows, I wouldn't know where to start to find out; and anyway it's not an uncommon name.

You might also discover Rosenbaum's chess problems, at which, the obit. says, "he enjoyed a wide reputation as a composer of more than average originality". MESON has a half a dozen of them, published mainly in The Chess-Monthly - at a time when (as we've noted before) chess problem-ing was maybe more popular, exalted, and contested in the chess community than now.

Here is one of Rosenbaum's efforts. 
Rosenbaum, Anthony
The Chess Monthly October 1879
Mate in 2.
I'll leave you to work it out, and to judge whether he had "more than average originality", or whether the obituary was, in eulogy-mode, observing the normal courtesies, and not speaking ill etc (solution immediately after the text jump, should you need it).

The obituary then refers to Rosenbaum "as an artist of the well-known oil painting representing a numerous group of eminent chess players" - which may well flatter some of the 47, chess-wise - and brings us on to AR's other artistic output. Here your blogger admits defeat. I have scoured the artistic sources for reference to him, but found nothing: Royal Academy listings, National Art Library and its extensive resources including Art Auction websites. I have contacted the major, and historic, London art dealer Agnew's, which opened in London the 1860s. Zilch. 

There is but one reference in the chess literature of the day to his art: in Minchin's account of the 1883 International London Tournament, where (said The Chess-Monthly obit) AR "took an active part as one of the organisers...the success of which was, in no small degree, due to his energetic efforts as the Director of Play..." and, according to Minchin:  
"for a period of two months Mr. Rosenbaum abandoned his own avocation as an artist, and was compelled in consequence to give up one valuable commission for a portrait..."           
As far as his artistic achievements are concerned, that is it. Perhaps a reader has a Rosenbaum portrait of a far-off relative on the wall, or more likely, in the attic. 

Talking art for a moment, here is a another confirmed image of Rosenbaum, top right in these portrait character sketches in the Illustrated London News of May 5 1883 

via Wilson A Picture History of Chess (1981) 
Click to enlarge
Compare this, crop for crop, with Rosenbaum's self-portrait.  

Rosenbaum in 1883 (left), and 1880 or earlier (right)
The 1883 Corbould character-sketch is of Rosenbaum a few years older than would have been in the 1880 painting.  Indeed, the painted self-portrait could be a few years younger still, perhaps even before his illness some time in the 1870s. This might explain the suggestion of older gauntness and hair loss in the sketch. But what it doesn't explain is the difference in the profile of his hooter, his conk, or in this context, his schnozzle. Was Corbould, on the left, exaggerating, and defaulting to conventional representation of the Jewish countenance, or was Rosenbaum, on the right, giving himself a nose job so as to assimilate to supposed local acceptability? Either way: it's a nice case study of in-group, out-group stereotyping.      

Rosenbaum's role in the 1883 International Tournament in London, won by Zukertort ahead of Steinitz, Blackburne et al, seemed to seal his reputation. Bird was complimentary in a speech at the tournament banquet, and James Minchin wrote that his "intervention...secured the Victoria Hall in the a moderate rental...which afforded ample accommodation..." for players and "the large body of spectators" alike,  and he carried out "all the arrangements connected with the fitting up of the Hall and the superintendence of the play", moreover his influence secured unprecedented coverage for the Tournament in the press (C-M obit); to which we should add his devoted attention to the needs of the international cast of players, both at the board, and off it. He himself made the Times, on the 23 May 1883, when it reported that "there will be no play today, as Mr Rosenbaum will take the foreign competitors to Epsom to witness the Derby". 

Minchin gave this account:
"Mr Rosenbaum invited all the competitors in the Major Tournament to witness the Derby in true English fashion. Two breaks conveyed the whole party, who were sumptuously entertained by their host and had the rare opportunity of witnessing a genuine English holiday...For a short period of the drive to Epsom [Baron Kolisch] and Herr Winawer contested a game of Chess without boards and men, and though as Chess it was not of a very high order, it is worth preservation from the singularity of the circumstances in which is was conducted."  
And here it is:

"One must not look for very correct Chess under the circumstances" observes the annotation in the tournament book, which also gives the competition games (conducted under rather more conventional arrangements) and the menu for the spectacular eight course (in this blog series we have come to expect nothing less) banquet on the 19th May, and the fine speeches that went on into the small hours. Mr Minchin proposed the toast to the Director of Play, Anthony Rosenbaum, which waxes in eloquent praise. He refers to the Director of Play's "parental solicitude" as to the welfare of the Chess-players, who could thus "enjoy themselves in aristocratic fashion, and to be as drunk as lords". "Mr. Rosenbaum was an artist, and had an artist's failings as well as virtues, which partook in a degree of the female nature." Rosenbaum deflects all this with decorous modesty (as befits his inner lady, I suppose). See the full speeches in Appendix B. They don't make them like that any more.

Now. The dark side.

What are we to make of this: the closing lines of Rosenbaum's obituary, the longer more detailed one, in The Chess-Monthly in June 1888?
"If proof of his worth were needed, it would be forthcoming in the fact that he was singled out, in connection with many other leading English players and amateurs, for an unjustifiable attack in certain quarters. Mr. Rosenbaum would not condescend to reply ; but in justice to his memory, we may state that these attacks have produced the contrary effect that were intended to produce - viz., indignation and contempt of the source from which they emanated."    
"Singled out...for an unjustifiable attack"?

Well, for starters, there's the matter of Rosenbaum's apparent plagiarism of a chess problem composition by "J.B. of Bridport". Yes, the Victorian problem world was, as we've observed before, a can of worms, and in this letter to The Chess-Monthly in 1879/80 he is making for himself a little wriggle room: 
"It appears that my two-move problem in your October number is almost an exact copy of one...of the late J.B., of Bridport. I feel assured that [no-one] will accuse me of a flagrant act of piracy, and find, ipso facto but a curious coincidence."
He goes on to say, to paraphrase, if he'd wanted to steal someone else's idea he'd have disguised it better.   And anyway "was the problem good enough for th[e] purpose" of enhancing his own reputation? - which was a point rather inelegantly made, and thankfully John Brown of Bridport was not around to read it, having been dead since 1863. AR had had nothing published for two years now, he said, because he "had long relinquished the idea that [he] should ever produce anything beyond mediocrity", though he was now encouraged to try again as one of his own efforts succeeded in emulating the "master": the late JB of Bridport. Well, fair enough, and one readily concedes that a man has to defend his reputation and all that; but maybe "protest" and "too much" are thoughts difficult to suppress.

What do you think? Just coincidence? Rosenbaum had put the King on b5.
JB of Bridport
Illustrated London News 1863
Mate in 2 

But then, these things do happen. Even a hundred-odd years later.

Belic, Milovan
Scacco! 1995
Mate in 2
With thanks to MESON 
But if the "unjustifiable attack" wasn't about this alleged misdemeanor, vigorously denied, did then some people still harbour resentment over the West End Club affair that kicked-off in 1875, coming to a messy end two years later. This was the well-intentioned, but disruptive, breakaway from the City of London Club, from which the latter took some time to recover, with St. George's subsequently eclipsing the wounded beast. Rosenbaum was the Secretary of the new outfit which, when obliged to wind up, could boast a run of successful events and competitions (as listed in The Chess-Monthly of March 1880).

This episode is recounted in detail by Sergeant, who is quoted by Richard Forster and Tim Harding. The obit. in The Chess-Monthly credits the brief "flourishing condition" of the West End Chess Club to Rosenbaum's management, and by the same token its subsequent difficulties were consequent on his illness of "several months' duration" (perhaps an episode of the same "severe illness over several years" that interfered  with his painting project), which is all very flattering of his role, as an obituary would be. Flattering, because back in March 1880 The Chess Monthly had said that the reason for the collapse of the West End CC was "the difficulty of finding suitable quarters after the sudden and unexpected change in the proprietorship of the house" in 1877, which downgrades AR's significance a touch (though of course the two factors may have played in to one another). Either way one could, I suppose, say that the eventual failure of the Club was due to circumstances beyond Rosenbuam's control.

In October 1880, the West End CC affair still rankled: as witness the reference in The Chess-Monthly's report of the unveiling of the tableau: the "unfortunate state of disunion in metropolitan Chess circles" was how it put it. But, whatever Rosenbaum's role was in the West End CC's success and demise, would people have still been banging on about it at the time of Rosenbaum's death, ten years or so later?

Enter the Westminster Chess Club and its partisan and opinionated mouth-piece The Westminster Papers which had the knives out for the West End CC almost from the start, criticizing it for "extorting...high fees"  for tournament players and spectators alike, and singling out the apparently graceless Steinitz, "the Bohemian", for particular venom ("he has pursued chess so ardently he has neglected most of the branches of polite learning which are said to lend charm to social intercourse"), and innuendo concerning his supposed self-interested influence in the management of the club.  Rosenbaum, the West End's Secretary, and also of foreign origin, was in their sights too. In October 1877 it let rip: the West End Club, it said, may have started with "prospects of success" but now:
"... there appeared marked signs of debility... it succumbed...under the process of "bleeding". Before the club was three months old, the "honorary" secretary received a "testimonial", and many "simultaneous" displays exacted a penalty from the members in proportion to their means, or as the vagabond gossip of the time had it, their meanness."         
Note the liberal application of quotation marks to suggest double-dealing and implying a sleight of hand-in-the-till, with the Secretary, Rosenbaum, "singled out".

Would some kind of honorarium have been unusual? The Westminster Papers seemed to think so and, in such a swamp of insinuation, mud sticks. And what about this - and please forgive another long quote -  this time in Minchin's own voice in his 1883 tournament book, with my emphasis:
"...Mr Rosenbaum...was appointed  Director of Play, and the whole responsibility as regards the expenditure to be incurred and the admittance of the public at a rate fixed by the Committee was entrusted to this gentleman, on condition that, after meeting certain necessary items of outlay, he should receive 50 per cent. of the net proceeds taken from the public. It was with no view of personal gain that Mr. Rosenbaum entered into this arrangement. He wished to be able to show some hospitality to the foreign players from the funds at the Committee's disposal in a manner which could not have been carried out by the Committee, and it was doubtful to the last whether he would be reimbursed the amount which he spent in this manner. I think it due to Mr Rosenbaum to make this public statement, as much misrepresentation of his motives has occurred."          
And indeed the accounts show a payment of £111 19s 1d as a "50 per cent claim" by A. Rosenbaum. He had, by the way, contributed a £5.00 subscription to the tournament as a member of St. George's Chess Club.
The Victorian splendour of The Criterion (est 1874) today, 
and as it would have been then. 
So: no smoke without fire? Twice the charge was made; and twice we read trenchant rebuttals, albeit from gentlemen who were his close associates. Had Rosenbaum been exploiting the opportunities that arose from these apparently unpaid positions to supplement the precarious income from his painting? Or, had he found himself duly rewarded after bearing some financial risk (as with the unpredictable tournament entrance fees, and  hospitality paid from his own pocket). Was it above board, was it close to the wind, or was it perhaps under the counter? Or, from another perspective and in a more sinister vein, was he the target of that antagonism towards foreigners, with an undercurrent of anti-semitism, endemic in some Victorian circles?

So. By way of conclusion.

Concerning Mr Rosenbaum: we have questions rather than answers; and we're not really sure what he looked like. It is nice to put him on the record as otherwise he may well have been forgotten chess-wise since he didn't make a mark as a player, and only scrapes in by virtue of his problem compositions. It is as an organiser that he will be remembered, if at all. One can't escape the suspicion that he may have been a bit of a chess groupie, tolerated around the elite of chess heavyweights and associated high-rolling patrons and philanthropists, but maybe never quite "one of us".

Whatever  his significance, or reputation, was in the world of chess, there is another question that has yet to get an answer: what happened to the rest of his art? OK, he was just a middle ranking jobbing portraitist, at a time when photography was making his craft in many ways redundant, but could there be some of his work still in existence...studies of some of the 47 chess gents, perhaps? It would be fascinating to turn something up.      

As the National Portrait Gallery Archive says: the picture is important as an historical document. Its back story brings into focus one particular social stratum: the (male) metropolitan middle class, for many of whom chess appeared to be a vehicle for, or an adjunct to, their gentlemanly social intercourse, and their business interests. It is a partial picture, but a revealing one, and I hope that you have found it worthwhile to follow this extended examination of what seems to be Rosenbaum's sole surviving painting.

For more on Rosenbaum himself see episodes 9 and 10.
For all the posts in this series follow the links at the end of episode 1, or go to our  History Index;  
Also, more generally see our  Chess in Art Index. 

Acknowledgements etc.
Once again thanks to Paul Timson, and Richard James for digging out material from their libraries, and to Olimpiu Urcan for the lead. Thanks also to Stephen and Diana Evans. 

The National Portrait Gallery has the painting. 

Forster, R. (2004)  Amos Burn: A Chess Biography
Harding, T. (2012) Eminent Victorian Chess Players
Minchin, J.I. (1884) Games played in the London International Chess Tournament, 1883. Edited by J. I. Minchin, with the assistance of the English Masters Zukertort, Steinitz, Mason and Bird.
Sergeant, P.W. (1934) A Century of British Chess.
Treuherez, J. (1993) Victorian Painting. Pub: Thames and Hudson. 
Wilson, F. A (1981) A Picture History of  Chess.  

Problem solution, and Appendices, after the jump.

Friday, December 14, 2012

What happened next XVIII / The Worst Move on The Board XIV

Wednesday's position comes from the game Morph-Gillespie, transmitted by the BBC on 1 May 1981 in the series The Amazing Adventures of Morph.

Morph played 1.Ne3+ (regrettably the complete game score is not available)

and Gillespie then responded with the worst move on the board.

Morph then delivered checkmate - and what happened next is that Morph dreamed he rescued Delilah from some dragons and a wicked knight. Or maybe it was a king.

[Thanks to Richard]
[Worst move index]
[What happened next index]

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What happened next? XVIII

Position broadcast on television, 1981. White to play. What happened next?

[What happened next? index]

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sixty Memorable Annotations

Author's note:
Yes, yes, I know. Maggie is going to be the highest-rated chesser in history. Nobody gives a hoot about a blogger having a rubbish year.

I don't care, I'm going to write about it anyway.

#14: Korchnoi-Spassky (7), Belgrade 1977

11 b4

This move, suggested by Hort, was specially prepared by Korchnoi before this match. The plan is to cramp Black's queen side pawns.

Ray Keene, Korchnoi vs Spassky: Chess Crisis (Allen & Unwin 1978)

A couple of weeks ago (Looking forward, looking back) I mentioned that this hasn't been the best of years for me, chessically speaking. I haven't been able to devote either the time or the energy that I could last year, so I suppose it's not surprising that I haven't been enjoying it as much.

Still, even amongst all the filth, I've had a few happy moments.  Probably the high-point of my year relates to Korchnoi's 11 b4, a move he wheeled out in the seventh game of his match against Spassky (WwwK XXIII) precisely 35 years ago today.  I'd been waiting an eternity to play it myself and finally this year I got a chance to do so ... not once but twice.

Match preparation 70s style

Chesswise, 2012 has been a complete contrast to last year. I've hardly played - barely 30 games all told compared to the 70-odd I got through in the second half of 2011 alone - and even when I have got to push a few pawns it's usually been with a complete lack of oomph.

Last year I'd never have dreamt of accepting a draw in this position,

Wimping out as Black

let alone offering one. For a while now, though, my main objective on sitting down at the board has not been to win, or even to avoid losing, but simply to get on the bus home asap.

I suppose doesn't help when you spend two hours building up a big advantage like this one

Screwing up as White

only to play Be2??, chucking a pawn away for nothing to a fork that you'd already seen. What's the Informator symbol for FFS?

Short draws and points thrown away. That pretty much sums up my club chess in 2012. Frankly, it's all been a bit of a chore: like jogging when you clearly don't want to.

Your humble scribe and Angus French failing to solve the Penarth Pier Problem

Tournaments, on the other hand, have been a lot of fun. There were only two this year - Penarth in July and Twyford in August - but I thoroughly enjoyed them both.

True, in Wales I got splattered once or twice. However, I also got to play a Grandmaster for the first time, got my first draw against a FIDE Master and bookended the tournament with wins on the Black side of the Classical Dutch.

As for Twyford, it was my second visit to the August Bank Holiday tournament there and, as things turned out, it was also the second time that I scored +2=2-2. This time around, though, I was facing much stronger opposition so 50% was a rather satisfying outcome. It wasn't my score per se that was so pleasing, however. Mostly, it was the way I got my points.

I've been playing the White side of the Queen's Gambit Declined since Paignton at the start of the 2009/10 season. My interest in the opening, combined with the fact that I was just starting to write a series of articles about chess in the 1970s meant that I got pretty familiar with game 7 of the 77/78 Korchnoi-Spassky Candidates' final. b2-b4 is a pretty well-known idea now - although Kasparov and Karpov usually played it with Be2 instead of Rc1 - but back in the day it seems to have been regarded as pretty fresh and rather unusual. In any event, it led to a spectacular clash - a game which Vik's young English seconds felt was his "best creative achievement" of the entire match.

I'd always intended to follow in Korchnoi's footsteps and punt 11 b4 as soon as I got the chance, but what do you know? No bugger would play the Tartakower against me. My first experiment with the White side of the Queen's Gambit came on the 7th September, 2009. Time passed - two years, eleven months and eighteen days to be precise. I played 151 games in 72 of which I had White and in 12 of those I faced the Queen's Gambit. All that time and all those games, and not one single Tartakower.

Oi, Baldy.  I waited three years for you to show up

Finally, in the second round at Twyford, Phil Stimpson did the decent thing. Needless to say, by that time I had nothing but a hazy memory of how Korchnoi-Spassky had proceeded, but I got to play 11 b4 at least, and I even went on to win the game.

I was delighted, of course, but my pleasure at finally getting to play Korchnoi's move was also tinged with sadness. When I got home I calculated that at my current rate it was likely to be around 2019 before I'd have the chance to give it another go. That's after Blade Runner is supposed to have happened!

Which just goes to show, you never know when opportunity is going to present itself. The next morning, perhaps 12 hours later, Tim Rogers (the same Tim Rogers against whom I'd had a total 'mare at Imperial College) went down the very same line. After fourteen moves

the position was identical to my round 2 game except that this time Black had played ... c6 instead of ... a6. This is a much better set-up, I think, although as it happens Tim ended up resigning 32 moves earlier than Phil did.

A three year wait and then two opportunities to play 11 b4 in less than a day and two victories! I can't say that they were the most accurately played games in the world, but still, two wins is two wins!

Finding a photograph of loads of buses turning up together is harder than you'd think

Well that's chess life I suppose. You wait an age for an opening to turn up and then two come along at once.

It was pleasing, of course, and back-to-back wins against opposition rated in the high 170s don't come along for me too often, although I'm not sure these two games make up for a dozen or more horrible ones that I played in club chess.  That's our game, isn't it? It doesn't seeem to matter how badly things are going, there's always something to keep us coming back for more.

2013 is just around the corner and my working life is becoming more manageable.  Time to draw a line under my club chess in 2012 and move on.
Penarth Pier via EJH
Tartakower is everywhere
Joggers can be found in a late 70s BCM

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Mr Rosenbaum's Chess Picture. Part 7: Adonis

We have been rooting around in the nooks and crannies of Anthony Rosenbaum’s chess picture and, as we've gone along, we've noted its public appearances. Here is another one:

From Matthews British Chess (1948) 
Find out who everybody is here.
Now we turn to look at a man whose time has come, in this series anyway: Wordsworth Donisthorpe (1847-1914) - about whom, with the generous help of others, there is much to tell, which for the chessers of the period outside the first rank is perhaps unusual, but he was no shrinking violet and so left a heavy footprint in the historical record, of unusual breadth and depth to boot. He is sitting, and reading, in the bottom right-hand corner. 

A thoroughly researched account of his adventures by Stephen Herbert and Mo Hearn Industry, Liberty, and a Vision (1998) has brought much to light, and in particular does full justice to him as an inventor. It also mentions his chess. For other important chess data see Batgirl's helpful blog here, and there's a mention in Tim Harding's Victorian Chessers book.

With this episode, as with all of them, the usual caveats apply: all misrepresentation, misinterpretation and narrative overexcitability are the responsibility of the author.  

To begin with let's remind ourselves of how Rosenbaum painted him. Here's a man who ploughed his own furrow, and dressed for the part. Not, though, in cloth cap and clogs. He is Wordsworth Donisthorpe à la mode, a dedicated follower of fashion.  
Because I'm Wordsworth it.
He was nicknamed "Adonis" (according to Sergeant) and in Rosenbaum's painting we can see why. It plays to WD's borderline bumptiousness by putting him down-stage left (see the full-colour tableau in earlier episodes via this link), where prima donna-ish he affects disinterest in the proceedings. We can take it as read that, of all Rosenbaum’s mini-portraits, this one was done from life – Donisthorpe would, methinks, have settled for nothing less. Rosenbaum, by the way, is back row, second from right.

Chess-wise he was strong, if not quite in the top flight. Initially he had been a "pawn and two" player, according to an appreciation in The Chess-Monthly of December 1890, but latterly "an amateur of the 1st class", and with Bird's (balding, seated behind the board top-left) commendation. In wider chess matters he was a full-blooded mover and shaker, taking a role in club governance (British Chess Club Vice-President, for example, in 1885), voicing opinions on proper national arrangements (e.g. a revitalised British Chess Association, of which he was a founding Council member the same year), and tournament administration (he was on the Management Committee of the 1883 London International). In the Saturday Review of 1893 he proposed a rule amendment to permit the king to be captured, thereby eliminating stalemate and as a by-product reducing the number of draws (see Batgirl). It has yet to catch on.    
By the time of the unveiling of Rosenbaum’s picture in 1880 Wordsworth (his mother claimed to be the great-niece of the poet) he had already made his mark. Back in 1876 he'd applied for a patent for an “apparatus for taking and exhibiting photographs”- moving ones - and in that year he'd published his first political tract  The Principle of Plutocracy which “ investigates the law of value…and the source of wealth”. This was after his studies at Cambridge where he got a First in spite of indulging his passion for billiards, at which he was “first for the cue” in 1868 - in that respect, the Adonis was a kind of Victorian Steve Davis.  

A kind of 20th Century Wordsworth Donisthorpe. 
WD was called to the Bar in 1875, and “never did anything since” as he put it. He belonged to the “leisured class”, was “a gentlemen of independent means”, and “…devoted his leisure to the solution of various social problems” as The Chess Monthly put it - though it might have said, more accurately, "attempted solution" as his brand of extreme Individualism also hasn't yet carried the day.     

His many talents include his wit and banter - even at the board apparently - which survives in his copious writing. A chess-related example would be his “poetical alphabet” which, said The Chess-Monthly of January 1895, "rightly or wrongly, is attributed to the gifted pen of the genial philosopher Wordsworth Donisthorpe" and for legal reasons was not formally acknowledged as by him, indeed one stanza was retracted for fear of litigation. The "poem" lampoons several of his fellow British Chess Club members, and the three who are in Rosenbaum’s picture are given below. Although you are a contemporary reader, and are not easy to shock, be warned: these extracts are really rather tame. 

On the green-baize skills of the editor of The Chess Monthly, at board two, left of Steinitz: 
"H stands for Hoffer. At chess he gives odds; / But to see him play billiards’ a sight for the gods ;"

On the classically educated, white-haired gent who stands behind the front board:
"W for Woodgate, a walking Thesaurus. / His English is grand – but his Greek tends to bore us ;"

And, as if to put up a smokescreen as to authorship, he writes this about himself:
"D stands for Donisthorpe ; some folks complain / That he oftener wins with his tongue than his brain ;" 

Well, he said it; although he did have genuine chess success, for example when he tied with the Rev MacDonnell (bearded, two left of Bird) in the 1897 London Tournament secondary competition for participants with qualifications in “Art, Science, or Literature”. Professor John Ruskin, vice-president of the BCA, was a patron of the tournament and a selection of his works made up the prize. The cerebral side of Donisthorpe might have been pleased to add the great man’s voluminous tomes to his library as he was a fan of sorts: in "The Claims of Labour" (1880) he concurs with Ruskin's denunciation, delivered "with force and ability", of the destruction of individual craft and skill by industrial machinery. Before we move on here is another example of WD's wit, manifest this time at the board. In this little bit of nonsense the coup de grâce cannot fail to make you smile.

Something else to raise a smile is this wonderful cartoon by Harry Furniss published in Punch in 1885:
   Click on to enlarge
All the usual suspects are there (see Appendix), including Donisthorpe cadging a light, perhaps even the cigar, from W. D. Duffy, over on the left-hand side.  The fellow seated in front of them, reading his own Chess column in The Field, is Leopold Hoffer. Sorry about the blurriness of this crop:  

Donisthorpe is described by G. A. MacDonnell in his commentary on the cartoon as "a pillar of fire...for he is a guide as well as support...of the Grand Chess Divan", and as for Hoffer, MacDonnell injudiciously applied the word "racy" to his writing. Hoffer may not have been amused as it was edited out later (see Appendix for detail).

As for his politics, you get the flavour of Donisthope’s "small state" (as we'd say today), "let-be" (as he said then) persuasion from this statement of aims of his Liberty and Property Defence League, of which he was the President:  
"[The League] opposes all attempts to introduce the State as a competitor or regulator into the various departments of social activity and industry which would otherwise be spontaneously and adequately conducted by private enterprise.” 
That came from a League pamphlet (1888) "against teetotal tyranny" written by Isidor "Mephisto" Gunsberg, no less, opposing the Temperance movement’s “Local Option” proposal for community rights to ban the local sale of alcohol. It is a pretty dry read, and one suspects the hand of Donisthorpe in this attempt to froth it up: why stop at booze - he asks rhetorically - why not also ban “meat [as it is] very generally abused by Englishmen, causing a great national evil [of] indigestion, a far more serious evil, in our opinion, than intemperance”.

Chesser James Mason (in profile, middle row, first left of page break) also brought home the bacon thanks to WD's good offices (per Tim Harding) and, what with his “The Claims of Labour” finding a publisher in Samuel Tinsley & Co. a few years earlier, chess connections were evidently proving mutually advantageous, as we suspected in episode 3.

Gunsberg's 1888 pamphlet, & Donisthorpe's published by 
Tinsley (front row, right of waiter) in 1880.
(apologies for the BL watermark) 
Wordsworth wrote copiously, and lectured and debated far and wide. George Bernard Shaw heard him and commended his courage for venturing into the lions' den down at the Fabians, although GBS took issue with most everything Donsithorpe said, even aiming this low blow: that many League supporters had deserted WD (finding him rather strong meat, perhaps?) so as to set up their own "Individualist Clubs, which, by a curious freak of evolution, turned into chess clubs..."   

His thinking and interests evolved from political economy to encompass social philosophy and we find him as the President of the Legitimation League in the 1890s. It/he argued, in respect of  family life, that the status of illegitimacy visited on children born out of wedlock was a misconceived notion - as you might say - and was unacceptable. Not that he was advocating anything other than monogamy, married or otherwise: it was "the highest and best state of sexual relationship". Yet he was reluctant to condemn multiple partnering ("let-be!"). "Perhaps the epicure is right in approving oysters and chablis..."  - WD's lubricious trope for monogamy - but " may be that the coster really prefers whelks and porter, and it would be quixotic to reprove him for indulging his 'low' and 'beastly' appetite...". Chew on that.
"What's for luncheon?"
The Adonis around 1910. 
It was the challenge of capturing, and then projecting, a moving image that had occupied him (till the money ran out), and together with his cousin William Carr Crofts he built the Kinesigraph.  William's brother was Royal Academician Ernest Crofts who specialised in military subjects – Civil War scenes, battles versus the French, and the like. He gave us another painting of the Adonis strutting his stuff, this time modelling a gay Hussar. 
The Advance Guard.
Ernest Crofts RA (1847-1911)
Image from the Witts Library.
"Crofts grafi bel Kanbide men prelam" as Donisthorpe might have said. 

But it was with cousin William that (sometime in, or close to, 1890) Donisthorpe set up their Kinesigraph...
A recent reconstruction
 of Donisthorpe and Crofts'
 Kinesigraph of 1889/90. a vacant office at 1, Northumberland Avenue overlooking Trafalgar Square and recorded the passing traffic - then the benchmark test of a successful moving image. Remarkably the film survives – or at least ten frames of it does: and you can see it here (in the first three seconds of this clip, before the open-top bus arrives).   

Stephen Herbert conjectures that there may have been, in part, a hidden agenda in photographing this particular scene – traditionally the site, in the heart of London less than a mile from Parliament, where freedom of speech and expression is exercised en masse in demonstrations and assemblies. Donisthorpe might have intended to use it in his lectures to show the very place where ordinary decent citizens found that their right freely to walk the pavement, and go about their daily business, monstrously trampled by whelk-chomping trade unionists led by John Burns and other bolshie Scots. WD's collaborator, W. C. Crofts, had written a broadside against the "Socialism of the Street in England" in 1888. The reality was however (according to Mr Herbert) that projection proved even more problematic than the initial recording. Raising funds for further development, even with Sir George Newnes' assistance, proved too much of a challenge.

That's Sir George Newnes who made an appearance in episode 5. He was, for 20 years in total, the Liberal M.P., for Newmarket and, later, Swansea; chair of both the British and City of London Chess Clubs; "reportedly the best chess player in the House of Commons" (according to G. A. MacDonnell); and publisher, from 1881, of the popular weekly, jauntily titled "Tit-Bits", from which he made his fortune.
Tit-Bits in 1906, offering a cure for the abuse of meat.  
Just a couple of further examples of Donisthorpe's active mind always at work, demonstrating an unstinting zeal to smooth the inner rumblings of the body politic.  He devised a new language (Esperanto-style) based on Latin: "Uropa", for which he wrote an instructional exposition, the introduction to which betrays a little, rather atypical, self-doubt. 
"All are requested to read through the following chapters [that's all 28 of them - MS], without mental protest [his emphasis - MS] till the end is reached. Then, but not before, let them pour forth their pent-up fury over its apparent shortcomings and defects." 
Look again at that example of "Uropa" in the caption to the gay Hussar above, though it is not a phrase which, in translation, has the quotidian utility of  "What's for luncheon?". "Crofts grafi bel Kanbidem men Waterloo prelam" in Uropa-speak translates, so Donisthorpe assures us, as "Crofts paints a fine canvas representing the Battle of Waterloo". Uropa didn't catch on, either.

Nor, as a lubricant to free trade, did his proposed new system of weights and measures. Though actually that's only half right, as we (here in the UK) are moving, if only half-heartedly, towards a universal decimal base such as he advocated. Perhaps, for those times, Donisthorpe made a tactical mistake in proposing a system that was associated with things French, something his novel nomenclature based on cod Olde English didn't quite disguise. After "Jot" (that's a millimetre), he has "Quil" and "Hand", but then "Mete", which was a bit of a giveaway. In money matters our man did, however, catch the eye of H.G.Wells, who was minded to adopt WD's "Lion" as the principal denomination in the decimal currency of his Wellsian Utopia.  

Donisthorpe's final adventure was a kind of Eight Men in a Boat cruise around the Mediterranean with Newnes and sundry other chaps. It was written up as "Down The Stream of Civilization", and even has a literary reference chess game in the dialogue on the first page: "...looking up from the chess-board, on which he was struggling with a rather nasty attack..." ("Then give him some Beecham's", they cried?). Here he is (on our left), aka "Jus - a Literary Failure", waiting to splice the mainbrace with some fellow hearties. Newnes, "The Commodore", is on the far right, and it was he who published the yarn in 1898.

Wordsworth Donisthorpe. Larger than life. You couldn't make him up, and he is a natural for dramatisation on stage or screen. Stephen Herbert has done just that with a performance, music and film production at the Museum of Moving Image, and at the British Silents Festival in Nottingham. My own fantasy - recently alluded to in the blogosphere by a certain lady - is for a theatre piece in which Wordsworth, wit, chesser, politico, and undoubted charmer, meets the admirable Louise Matilda Fagan, and regards it as his masculine obligation to flirt (their age difference being just three years). We encountered her in episode 4, you will recall. She was a Fabian, and a more than decent player. Her father is in the bottom left-hand corner.

Admittedly Louise was abroad (Irish husband serving in India) for some of the time, but when in London visiting papa and her brother, and taking time off from campaigning for women's rights etc, don’t you think Wordsworth would have manoeuvred so as to engage her in a game? This would have been his pretext to impress her with his badinage and witty repartee, providing the dialogue for my projected comedy of manners. He would gambit a libertarian tease. She would rebuff him with suffragette ease. All in Donisthorpian rhyming couplets. 

So, Wordsworth Donisthorpe: what a character, who, in spite of his shortcomings (i.e. his politics IMHO), adds colour to the assembly of Rosenbaum's worthy gents. Possessed of "intellect and energy" - as Stephen Herbert puts it - who developed "a most powerful concept, that of reproducing filmed movement...which, when finally realised by others would revolutionise communications throughout the twentieth century." If we add to this his contibutions in those other fields of enquiry touched on above we see an exceptionally fertile brain at work, even if his efforts are now largely forgotten today.      

Next week, for the conclusion of this series, we meet Anthony Rosenbaum; the artist himself.                        

Acknowledgments etc
Published by the The Projection Boxbut now out of print.
Read the full "poetical alphabet" in Winter's Chess Note 5662 and in A. M. Fox's reminiscences of the British Chess Club in BCM February 1941. 
Thanks again to Stephen Herbert and Mo Hearns. Their most recent research shows that WD had applied for a patent as early as 1868  when he was still  at Cambridge. See here.
And thanks, yet again, to Paul Timson and Richard James for their help; and also to Tim Harding's Eminent Victorian Chess Players (2012) for Donisthorpe related info.
G.B.Shaw (1889)  Mr Donisthorpe's Individualism 
H. G. Wells (1905)  A Modern Utopia  
Donisthorpe's many writings are easily Googled, and Batgirl lists them, too. He has an entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.

See all episodes, previous and subsequent, in this Rosenbaum series via our History Index. 

Appendix follows after the jump