Friday, August 31, 2012

Cycling recycling

Cycling is big in Astana, as witness the professional racing team bearing the same name that takes part in the Tour de France and other big races. "The Astana team of a few years back is exemplary for how things are done in Kazakhstan," said the country's strongest grandmaster Murtas Kazhgaleyev. "They had Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden all together in one team! When we do things, we want to do it the best way possible".
Thus writes Peter Doggers on page 50 (or page 48 if you believe the contents pages) of the current New In Chess, in his piece Sasha & Seryozha up to speed about the 2012 Rapid and Blitz World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan.

As it happens I read Peter's article just a few days after Alexandr Vinokourov won gold in the men's Olympic road race, after which triumph his past as a doper, while riding for the team, Astana, who are eulogised above, was the subject of a certain amount of discussion.

Perhaps it was that which caused me, on reading the passage in New In Chess, to think that something about it wasn't quite right. Or, in truth, that almost nothing about it was quite right.

I don't know if Peter glanced at Astana's Wikipedia page before he chose to make Kazhgaleyev's optimistic claims the subject of his next-to-opening paragraph. Wikipedia is not of course to be considered reliable at all times and in all respects: but with respect to Astana, it might be a touch more reliable than an unverified Murtas Kazhgaleyev.

A verified Murtas Kazhgalayev

For the record, it's true that Astana did, indeed, have these four cyclists (and other very fine riders too) together in their team, during which period Alberto Contador won the 2009 Tour De France. How long did it last? It lasted, to be generous, for one season.

There were a number of reasons for this. One was that Contador, who had joined Astana only the year before, wasn't delighted to have Armstrong on board: and once Armstrong was, they didn't get on. Even while they were winning the Tour, it was announced that the team would break up: in fact practically the whole team left. If this was "the best way possible" to do things, it wasn't obviously so to all the riders.

Contador and Armstrong: there was a lot of needle

It didn't take the Armstrong-Contador conflict to make that point. The riders spent much of the first half of 2009 not being properly paid, to the extent that they rode part of the Giro d'Italia with several sponsors' logos obscured on their shirts, these being sponsors who hadn't paid money they were contracted to pay. It may be that not paying your employees properly is "how things are done in Kazakhstan", but it is not, to my mind, "the best way possible" to do things. Possibly the thesis could be tested, by failing to pay Murtas Kazhgalayev. Or Peter Doggers.

The Guardian helps Peter out

Astana had been barred from the 2008 Tour de France following positive dope tests in 2007 for a large proportion of their riders, a less-than-exemplary approach to the sport and one that brought Vinokourov a two-year suspension - the reason why he was missing from Kazhgalayev's list. It's true that everybody involved was sacked (though the team weren't so disenchanted with Vinokourov that they didn't bring him back as soon as they could) but it's also true that most of their replacements were people who previously or subsequently have found themselves in similar trouble. Armstrong is presently suspended from cycling as a result of doping allegations. So is Contador, whose 2010 Tour de France title has been stripped from him. Nor was his 2009 ride free from suspicion.

How would you sum that up? You could sum it up by saying that Astana had one season with a group of top riders and in that season, they won the Tour de France. You could, if you wanted to leave out most of the important bits. Or you could sum it up by saying that a team with a long record of cheating hired some top riders and other staff, nearly all of them with chequered records, then failed to pay them properly, suffered a number of internal disputes and shortly saw the team, for several reasons, break up almost as soon as it had been assembled.

Still, there's probably worse things written about Kazakhstan

Would I describe that as "exemplary"? Probably not. Or "the best way possible"? Not likely. At any rate it looks to me like a rather less perfect experience than Mr Kazhgaleyev would have us believe.

But you know, if somebody made that claim to me in the first place, I hope I'd check it out, before recycling it to readers, just in case it didn't stand up to scrutiny.

Anything else, it seems to me, would be less than exemplary.

[Astana image via Taringa]
[Kazhgalayev image via Echesspedia]

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Back-Ali Dealings

This book currently adorns my bathroom.

This man, Ali Nihat Yazici, hasn't read it.

Following a whole heap of controversy before the tournament, not least the Arbiters Scandal, it appeared that the Olympiad had started smoothly, albeit 15 minutes late due to security issues.

However, this then appeared. I look forward to being banned from Turkish chess events. In fact, having had a go at Ilyumzhinov on Monday, don't be surprised if I wash up at Putney Bridge before the week is up.

I have enormous respect for journalists, especially those who aren't afraid to take risks to do the right thing. Chess journalism seems to be a thankless task, combining a low readership with a battle against some of the most tyrannical figures in any sport today. 

I'm not a chess journalist, merely a soapbox pundit. I don't get paid to write, and nor should I. However, people like Evgeny Surov, who challenge the tyranny, deserve to. They deserve to be able to report freely and without fear of reprisals. 

Consider recent events; the Pussy Riot trial and conviction, the Todd Akin 'misspeak', the South African miners' massacre. I invite Ali to peer over the border into Syria and, you know, get some fucking perspective.

Because, guess what, chess isn't important. Not at all.

Photo: The Chess Drum

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chess Is Like... The Economy?

From Wednesday's Guardian:

"Fluctuating exchange rates are a game of chess that any company will find difficult to control"

It's tempting to simply shake our heads, leave it there, and walk on. However, let's give David Caddle - for it was he - a chance. What could he mean?

1. Exchanges in chess aren't always equal

Quite true. I gave Simon Barnes a similar benefit of the doubt in an earlier instalment

2. Chess is run by people whose primary interest is money

Enough said

While I doubt Kirsan is out every lunchtime with his FIDE cronies drinking gin and eating churros, his disregard for the integrity of his activities is lamentable.

3. Chess can be damn complicated

Yes. I would suggest that chess is able to discombobulate the average person as much as the markets can.

4. In chess, even the best players choose the wrong strategy

Chess similes in a sporting context tend to mean little, but are otherwise harmless. If anything, trivialising the economy in this way highlights just how much the fortunes of billions are affected by the decisions of a few. 

Take care when comparing things to chess. I might just overanalyse the crap out of them.

Chess Is Like... Index

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Streatham Strolls In The Country Continued

We started this Streatham Stroll In The Country last week (there were three Strolls before that: 1, 2 and 3). Now it is Streatham Strolls In The Country Continued.

We are still on the train from Victoria, heading south to a destination further down the post. To pass the time en route we have been discussing the chessic inclinations of the four subjects picked on by Lytton Strachey for his radical biographical suite Eminent Victorians (which Tim Harding elaborated on as the title for his “Eminent Victorian Chess Players”) in the hope that we might find some Eminent Victorians Who Also Played A Bit Of Chess.

We’d better get on with it as we’ll arriving shortly, and will then be off on a country ramble.

We've dealt with one of Strachey’s victims: Cardinal Manning. The Cardinal elicited a “he schemed like a chess player” jibe from his passed-over critics in the Catholic Church, but there was no evidence that he actually played. Maybe we’ll have more luck with the others: General Gordon of Khartoum, Florence Nightingale, and Dr Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby school, with whom we will start today.
The Doctor produced copious correspondence, and copious though it may be only two chess references does it yield. The first is in a letter of February 1824, four years before Arnold's fateful appointment as Headmaster of the prestigious public school Rugby. He says:
"..My pupils all come up into the drawing-room a little before tea, and stay for some time, some reading, others talking, playing chess or backgammon, looking at pictures, &c. – a great improvement if it lasts;…"
So here he is, at the age of 32, supervising some pupil down-time in an obscure minor public school, and it seems improbable, wouldn't you agree, that someone of Dr Arnold’s driven conscientiousness would put himself in a position where he would be unable correct his pupils’ halting efforts at the board, and (ahem) beat them should the need arise. But nevertheless, if Dr. Arnold was able to play, we’ve not caught him actually pushing a pawn.

Six years later the challenge of running Rugby fires him up, and in this letter his Messianic world view frames his vision:
"..the work here is more and more engrossing continually; but I like it better and better; it has all the interest of a great game of chess with living creatures for pawns and pieces, and your adversary, in plain English, the Devil; truly he plays a very tough game, and is very hard to beat, if I ever do beat him. It is quite surprising to see the wickedness of young boys; or would be surprising if I had had not had my own school experience and a good deal since to enlighten me. "
This is the Chess Metaphor writ large and served up with a helping of fire and brimstone. It is chess as morality play: Black versus White; Good against Evil; Dr. Arnold and the Devil contesting the souls of boys. But could he actually play? Alas, again the evidence is but slim and circumstantial.

And Gordon of Khartoum? In brief, there was no sign (from my quick inspection) in his own writings that the General found the time, or had the inclination, to chess, what with his religious fugues, scribbling frenzies, and brandy 'n soda befuddlements. But what about Wilfrid Scawen Blunt who wrote a memoir in 1911, Gordon at Khartoum ? Maybe he could help.

Blunt was a poet (a minor talent, it is said) and a writer, with the means at his disposal to indulge his interests in the fine arts, travel, anti-imperialist politics (for Egyptian autonomy and Irish independence), thorough-bred horses, and (energetic chap) the ladies. His idealism drove his activism – he enjoyed a brief spell in gaol for his Irish adventures - just like his 20th Century namesake Anthony Blunt (also a connoisseur of the arts, and a spy) who, according to his biographer, was related to Wilfrid.

Blunt, W. (1840-1922), his memoir, and Blunt, A. (1907-1983)

In order to stop British meddling in Egypt, Blunt W. lobbied the sinister sounding “Fourth Party” (the Tories' very own enemy within), one of whom was Lord Randolph Churchill MP, father of Winston, chess player and habitué of Simpson’s. Blunt wrote:
"…I met him to discuss the situation at some rooms in the Strand where a chess tournament was going on. Chess was one of his few hobbies and he asked me to meet him there…”
Well! Simpson’s as a den of intrigue and machination: very House of Cards, and apart from its demise as a "chess resort" it seems that nothing much has changed.

Sadly this takes us no further forward in the matter of General Gordon and chess, but it has lead us to Lord Randolph Churchill MP (1849 - 1895) who indeed did play; and in fact a quite a bit more than a bit: he was sometime vice-president of the British Chess Association.

Here is a link to a casual game he lost to Steinitz. So, instead of General Gordon, Lord Randolph Churchill MP will do very well as an Eminent Victorian Who Really Could Play Chess.

And talking of MPs, let’s turn to the final EV, Miss Florence Nightingale. Strachey relates how she dragged the blustering British military establishment out of the Stone Age to provide decent care and treatment for its wounded and battle-scarred soldiers - in her later years from the redoubt of a darkened room. She never married, though she wasn't without her suitors; and that included a proposal of marriage when she was 20, in 1840, from Marmaduke Wyvill (1815-1896), later to become both an MP (in 1847) and, according to Staunton, "one of the finest players in England". He was runner up to Anderssen in the 1851 London Tournament, and had a pawn formation named after him (pawns on c3, c4 and d4 or 5, and no b pawn - by coincidence it turns up in the Steinitz-Churchill game linked above). Altogether remarkable.

If at 20 Florence had accepted him, and knew the moves, we might have got what we were looking for. As it was she declined, went into nursing, and the rest is history. And that, I'm afraid to say, is the closest we can get any of the four EVs to a proper chess player.

Right. We’ve arrived. Here we are in Lewes. No time to hang about. It’s a three to four mile stroll following The Saturday Walkers Club Walk # 24: Lewes to Saltdean, and this is the route.

When we get to Rodmell we'll visit Monk’s House which Leonard and Virginia Woolf, two leading lights in the tangled Bloomsbury Group, used as their country retreat from 1911 to 1969.

And of course Lytton Strachey, a fully paid-up Bloomsberry, often came to stay. Rodmell is now owned by the National Trust, and it has a delightful garden looking out over the South Downs.

In the garden there is a summer house where Leonard installed a writing desk.

The National Trust uses it to display old photographs of eminent visitors taken at the time. Let's take a look.Yes, that's a picture showing Lytton Strachey playing chess - with his sister Marjorie in 1931:

And so we come, at last, to a conclusion: although there is next to no hard evidence that any of Lytton Strachey’s four eminent Victorians played chess, he could himself; and so it is he who merits the claim of Eminent Victorian Who Could Also Play A Bit Of Chess. Well, Eminent Edwardian anyway.

Let's give him a proper place in chess history and go back and add him to Streatham Strolls 2, because Lytton Strachey, biographer and critic, was born, on March 1st 1880, in Stowell House, 46, Clapham Common South Side (still standing in 1947, but now gone).

Next time: Streatham Strolls East.

Acknowledgements and sources
Details of Tim Harding's EVCP and Strachey's EV are in earlier Strolls.
Flo Nightingale from here; Cardinal Manning from here; General Gordon from here; Dr Arnold from here.
Dr. Arnold Correspondence is downloadable here.
Wilfrid Blunt from here; his Gordon at Khartoum (1911) is online here; Anthony Blunt from here; See Miranda Carter Anthony Blunt, His Lives, MacMillan (2001) for the "Blunts are related" point; Randolph Churchill pic is from Wikipedia. There is more on his chess here. O.C.Müller also reminisces, in BCM of 1932, about Churchill and other politicos in Simpson's Divan.
The proposal story is given by Mark Bostridge in Florence Nightingale The Woman and Her Legend ( (Penguin Group 2008). Wyvil (and her other romantic interests) is in a display at the Florence Nightingale Museum (with thanks to Natalie Cohen, Collections Assistant, for her help). I picked the story up initially from here.
See Kmoch on the Wyvill formation. 'Wyvill is the finest' is given by Keene and Coles in their 1975 book on Staunton, but not referenced.
Monks House is from Rodmell village; the garden is from here ; summer house from here; Lytton and Marjorie playing chess from here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Definitely Got Something to do with chess IX

The story links an unlikely cast of historical characters, from Napoleon, Beethoven and Poe to the pioneers of the computer age, and provides an accessible way of examining the complex relationship between magic, man, mind and machine ....

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Apparently Got Something to do with chess VIII

"The Imagery of Chess Revisited" recovers a celebrated and extraordinary moment in art history: the 1944-45 exhibition "The Imagery of Chess," held at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York City. The exhibit was a legend in its own time and has been considered a singular event in the history of art exhibitions ever since.

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Probably Got Nothing to do with chess XII

... to do with chess Index

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Apparently Got Something to do with chess VII

When we play the ancient and noble game of chess, we grapple with ideas about honesty, deceitfulness, bravery, fear, aggression, beauty, and creativity, which echo (or allow us to depart from) the attitudes we take in our daily lives. Chess is an activity in which we deploy almost all our available cognitive resources; therefore, it makes an ideal laboratory for investigation into the workings of the mind. Indeed, research into artificial intelligence (AI) has used chess as a model for intelligent behavior since the 1950s.

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Monday, August 20, 2012

Definitely Got Something to do with chess VIII

In Vienna in 1770 Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen unveils his astonishing invention: the Mechanical Turk, an unbeatable chess-playing machine. But von Kempelen is no mechanical genius. Rather, he's a conman, as Tibor, the dwarf locked inside the device, will attest.

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Streatham Strolls In The Country

Streatham Strolls 1, 2 and 3 explored the chess history of our South London neighbourhood, and it was Tim Harding’s Eminent Victorian Chess Players that showed us the way. On the path we found the heavy footprint of five of his Victorian chessers and also, here and there, the lighter mark of various contemporaries.

As for today: Streatham Strolls In The Country, so please come suitably kitted out, with an umbrella just in case, and meet at Victoria Station (where else?), and to get there by tube, use the Victoria Line, natch.

Victoria Sandwich

This stroll is not in Streatham, or even about Streatham, and though we will refer to EVCPs, it will be our inspiration rather than our guide - so you could leave your copy at home. I’ll explain everything during our hour-long train ride, except where our mystery destination is: you'll find that out when we get there next week.

But we need to scope the terrain before we arrive, and we will take our lead from another volume, the one that was the source for Tim Harding’s playful title: Lytton Strachey’s 1918 four biographical studies presented ensemble in Eminent Victorians.

Strachey (1880 – 1932) says that he chose his gang of four “by simple motives of convenience and of art”; his method is to creep up on his subjects unawares, to "row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from those far depths, to be examined with careful curiosity."

Of the creatures under his microscope Florence Nightingale and General Gordon of Khartoum are still household names, but we struggle, 150 years or so after the events, to recognise the other two: Cardinal Manning (1808–1892), and Dr Arnold (1795 – 1842).

To get to know them let's go back to the 19th Century when organised religion was more entrenched in the corridors of power than today and held sway across all classes. Round here, for example, every Victorian neighbourhood had its own church as standard, and some of them are massive. This airship hangar is in my next street - they wanted it even bigger but ran out of money.

On Sunday mornings it would've been rammed. And Sunday evenings as well.

Henry Manning was a cadaverous figure, and a C of E heavy-hitter (he was Archdeacon of Chichester). He was also High Church and Rome-leaning. In 1851 he followed the logic of his dogma and finally converted to Catholicism. After crossing the floor, and with allies close to the Pope, Manning wasted no time in trampling on some big and incumbent toes in the domestic Catholic church, to manoeuvre his way to become Lord Archbishop of Westminster, and to wield considerable clout in the land - there being, by then, next to no official religious discrimination.

Of course, he had his detractors within his new church and without, and Strachey skewered Manning's scheming piety in the first chapter of EV, not sparing either the complacency and laxity in the established Church of England which the holier-than-thou Cardinal had deserted.

In EVCP Tim Harding also describes the distractions that waylaid the C of E clergy, in particular those chess-playing “Fighting Reverends” of whom, along with Arthur Boland Skipworth (Chapter 5), there were the likes of the Revs. George MacDonnell, John “b6” Owen, Charles Rankin and William Wayte – and many more. And here is Lytton Strachey enjoying himself at the expense of them and their ilk (and it is his dotted pause in the first sentence):
“For many generations the Church of England had slept the sleep of the…comfortable. The sullen murmurings of dissent, the loud battle-cry of Revolution, had hardly disturbed her slumbers. Portly divines subscribed with a sigh or a smile to the Thirty-nine Articles, sank quietly into easy livings, rode gaily to hounds of a morning as gentlemen should, and, as gentlemen should, carried their two bottles of an evening. To be in the Church was in fact simply to pursue one of those professions which Nature and Society had decided were proper to gentlemen and gentlemen alone. The fervours of piety, the zeal of Apostolic charity, the enthusiasm of self-renunciation – these things were all very well in their way – and in their place; but their place certainly was not the Church of England.”
After Manning, a quick look at Dr. Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby public school who, in order to mould the boys into model Victorians, imposed therein a regime of rigorous Greek and Latin, regular doses of organised sport (including rugby presumably), and compulsory sermons twice a day (weekdays included), enforced by his ruthless Praetorian Guard: the prefects of the Upper Sixth. He, too, was God-ridden, but of a miserabilist Daily Mail-ish stripe.

The other two of Strachey’s four EVs: Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), the Lady of the Lamp; and General Gordon (1833 – 1885) are much more familiar, the latter from portrayals of his vainglorious and manipulated heroism, including the film with Charlton Heston taking the spear. Both, F and G, as with Manning and Arnold, were deformed by rampant religiosity (the real target of Strachey's exposé), though both their popular reputations have survived Strachey’s savaging. But in none of the four was it the purpose of his dissection to reveal any latent germ of virtue.
Now - before you ask where this is all heading - with the preliminaries disposed of, we can turn to the simple question that forms the theme of this and the next post, which to readers of the S&BCBlog is surely blindingly obvious, but which Lytton Strachey signally failed to ask: could his four eminent Victorians - Cardinal Manning, Dr Arnold, Florence and the General - also play chess?

And, to pursue the point: if so, might that not merit a mention, a small reference, if not in EV itself, or in EVCPs, then in a paragraph somewhere or the other, in some learned journal, perhaps as a footnote, headed Eminent Victorians Who Also Played A Bit Of Chess?

There now follows my initial conclusions.

First let's look at Cardinal Manning. With high hopes, I might add, as in the chess-in-art world Cardinals resting from their clerical duties in flagrante with the Royal Game are, like their Anglican counterparts Skipworth et al, two a penny. Witness the first of ejh’s Chess in Art series from June 2008, where they appear en masse and more plumped-up than the skeletal Cardy M.

José Gallegos y Arnosa (1857-1917)
La Partida de Ajedrez
[Private Collection]

In Eminent Victorians Strachey relates how the exasperated home-turf Catholics (they who had borne the weight of centuries of discrimination and persecution and who, every November 5th since 1605, were obliged to look on, shtum, at the annual roasting, in effigy, of a Papist fanatic - allegedly) complained thus about Harry-cum-lately-Manning, now installed in the precincts of Catholic HQ at Westminster Cathedral, although on an inferior rank and plotting his progress to the eighth: "‘I hate that man,’ one of the Old Catholics exclaimed; ‘he is such a forward piece.’"

'...forward piece...'?! On page 64 of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics Edition?

It's a chess reference. Here, from E.S.Purcell’s 1896 Life of Cardinal Manning is the passage upon which Strachey relied:

“Speaking of Manning in these early days of his Catholic life...a man of...outspoken stamp, the President of Ushaw [the long established Catholic training college for the priesthood, MS], said: 'I hate that man; he is such a forward piece.'
"To liken Manning to a pawn on the ecclesiastical chess-board, pushing his way through hostile lines to the goal of his desires was, if a rude, not altogether an inaccurate description… of the newly appointed Provost of the Chapter of Westminster. When this sarcasm reached Manning's open ears, as everything of the kind...did...his reply was: 'Poor man...does he suppose in his foolishness...that on becoming a Catholic I should sit in an easy chair and fold my hands all the rest of my life.'"
In his diary Manning let the cat out of the bag confiding that he was “conscious of a desire to be in such a position as...[he] had in times past…” Manning had ambitions, of cathedral-size dimensions.

Without, I hope, offending anyone, I ask: would you slip into the confessional and unburden your deepest and darkest indiscretions and peccadillos to such a man? (Not in a month of Sundays, you wouldn't.) Or, more to the point: play chess with him?

But in fact I could find no concrete reference to Manning blessing the sixty-four squares with his holy presence. So, sadly, we’ll have to settle for him as a peg upon which was hung that nicely turned example of It’s A Game Of Chess Out There, dressed, as it is, in Holy Orders, topped with a biretta, and deemed, quaintly, to be “rude”. As far as I can tell otherwise: he didn't actually play.

I hope that has helped pass the time on the journey thus far, and apologies to ejh as we seem to have strayed into some kind of Literary Reference. We are not there yet, but will arrive at our destination next week, when we’ll complete this Streatham Strolls In The Country.

Acknowledgements, sources etc
EVCPs was published by McFarland this year; £32.50 from Chess and Bridge.
The text of Eminent Victorians (1918) is online in various places including here. It is also available as a Penguin Twentieth Century Classic published in 1986. The text of Purcell's 1896 Life of Cardinal Manning is here. The cover of the OUP edition of EV, with Vanessa Bell's 1913 portrait of Strachey, is used in the illustration above.
Dr. Arnold pic is from here, Cardinal Manning from here
Victoria line is from here, Queen Victoria from here, and Victoria Station from here,
For Florence Nightingale and picture of her statue in Waterloo Place, London see here. George Joy's painting General Gordon's Last Stand (1885) is currently in the Leeds City Art Gallery, according to Wikipedia (from whence came the image).
Mike Fox and Richard James's It's A Game Of Chess Out There is referenced, and explained in the comments, here. See Wednesday's post for another recent example.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The unfortunate flounce of Andrew Farthing

I've been on the internet for, let's see, about fourteen years now. Yes, ha ha ha, after fourteen years I ought to get some sleep. It does seem like that sometimes: fourteen years without a break. So, carry on reading after the break. Ha ha ha again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chess Is Like... Sailing?

From that Caissic authority, Shirley Robertson.

"Ben [Ainslie] is the best in the world at executing in a medal-race scenario. He's a world champion match-racer, so he knows all the moves, all the tactics. Match-racing is about quick thinking, planning three steps ahead. It's like a game of chess. Jonas's speed has been impressive this week but it's a small course and he won't get a chance to stretch his legs." 

BBC Sport Website, 04/08/2012 

Too many mixed metaphors sunk this ship

She's not the only one at it.

Chess Is Like... Index

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#11: Errattta

Were White to play, he would immediately draw after 1 Kg3 and 2 h3.

Jesus de la Villa, 100 Endgames You Must Know (2nd Edition: New in Chess, 2009)

Mistakes. We all make them. No biggie. What matters is what comes next. How to put things right? That's the question.

Correcting a mistake is very obviously A Good Thing, but all you achieve is the sorting out of one problem. Fixing the process that lead to things going pear-shaped, on the other hand, makes it possible to avoid an infinite number of future headaches.

The ECF's summary time-line for the FIDE legals means we now have more known knowns and is therefore something to be welcomed. Questions are still being asked, however, not only for the simple reason that there are still questions to be asked - 'how did Kasparov come to believe that the ECF President had given him "oral authority" to proceed?' is not the least important of them - but also because the statement doesn't address key structural issues around how the Federation does or does not hold its officials to account. There's no reason why it should have done, no doubt it was never intended to, still it is to be hoped that the ECF will see their report as a starting point from which they can start drawing some larger circles.

All this talk of making things good reminds me that I'm indebted to EJH for bringing the New in Chess Errata page to my attention. They certainly deserve credit for it although, at the same time, I do wonder about the process that allows a publishing house to produce quite so many books that drop quite so many clangers.

If you write anything at any level then typos, homophones and other types of silly error will be a problem. That it's as true for me as it is for anybody else is proved by Seani, our invisible blogger, kindly pointing out mistakes in both of my two most recent posts. Since my words appear on the internet, however, I at least have the advantage of being able to fix things as I go along.

Where bloggers are disadvantaged, and rightly so, is that our writing generates no income. If it did, though, I would use some of it to pay somebody to proofread for me. I gather that some chess publishers have decided that they either can't or won't employ people to check their books any more. That doesn't seem to be the case at New in Chess and yet even very good books, de la Villa's 100 Endgames You Must Know for example, are published full of mistakes.

NiC have two corrections listed for de la Villa's book. The position at the head of today's blog is not one of them. I was on a train heading home from Ipswich when I first saw it. I remember reading what JdlV said, thinking "Really?" and pulling a pencil from my pocket to scribble a few notes in the margin.

Clearly after 1 Kg3 Kg5 (what else?), 2 h3 gxh3, 3 Kxh3 Kf4, 4 Kg2 Ke3, 5 Kf1 Kxd3, 6 Ke1 Kc2 Black wins easily. White can draw after 1 Kg3 Kg5 as it happens, but certainly not by pushing his h-pawn.

If it was just this one mistake I probably wouldn't bother to mention it, but reading the book I found 19 in all. Credit to New in Chess for encouraging people to let them know when they find mistakes, then, but let's also hope that at some point they'll have a think about how it is that so many appear in the first place. Any processes that they have in place to stop this sort of thing happening are clearly not working.

Anyhoo, I'm off to email Before I go, let me ask you for a favour. If you happen to spot something amiss in today's or any other post please do let me know. Not errattta, that was my little joke, but anything else and I'll be very glad to hear from you.

Sixty Memorable Annotations Index

100 Endgames You Must Know (2nd Edition)
Jesus de la Villa (New in Chess, 2009)


1. Page 63
Position 4.7
“2” is printed on g6 and e7.

The number should be “1”. As stated on the following page, “… the stronger side’s king must be one step away from the two key squares ….”

2. Page 73

The first of three diagrams
“Draw, no matter who moves. Underpromotion to a knight. With the rook on h1, White wins (just count).”

Counting or otherwise, White only wins if s/he has the move. Black to move draws with 1 … c3!

3. Page 94
Position after 4 Bh6!
“… victory comes easily, since White cannot offer the bishop exchange without obstructing his pawn ….”

The note should read “ … since White can offer ….”

4. Page 109
“When the two pawns are on the 5th rank or further up, if the defending side reaches the right defensive set-up, the ending is drawn.”

De la Villa shows on page 105/106 that two pawns on the sixth rank is usually won. The text should read, “… on the 5th rank or further back …”

5. Page 112

Diagram given as Position 9.1

It should be labelled as Position 9.10

6. Page 127
Section heading
“Section 2. Pawn on the 5th rank or less”

Should read, “… on the 5th rank or further

7. Page 134

Note to 1 Kd6+!, second to last sentence.
After the variation 1 Ra1? Rb7+!, 2 Kd8 Rb8+!, 3 Kc7 Rb2 the text reads, “The pawn needs one tempo to reach the 7th rank, so the black rook seizes the opportunity to recover distant effectiveness and save the game, as we will see in Ending 54.”

This should read, “ … recover distant effectiveness and save the game, as we saw in Ending 54.” (This is a note to Ending 58. Ending 54 is examined on page 127/128).

8. Page 145
Note to 5 … Kg4 =
“White has to allow … Kf5 or suffer checks from the black rook.”

… Kf5 is illegal (White pawn on e4). The note should read, “ … allow … Kf4 or ….” [I know this looks like it's wrong too, but if you have the book you'll know what I mean - JMGB].

9. Page 154
Note to 2 … Rg4!
“Dvoretsky considers 2 … Rg1?! losing, on account of 3 Kc6! … but in this line 3 … Rc8! holds.”

3 … Rc8 would draw, but is obviously illegal. The note should read, “… in this line 3 … Kc8! holds.”

10. Page 159
Middle Diagram of the first set of three
The label reads “White wins” and the following text runs, “If you check the winning method studied for the first position and the variation commented on the 7th move ….”

There is no variation on the 7th move, the text should read, “ … and the variation commented on the 6th move ….” (assuming you want to leave the text as it is).

The diagram label should read “White to move wins, Black to move draws” (…Rg1+! =)

11. Page 160
First Diagram
The position is labelled as a “draw”.

The label should read, “White to move wins, Black to move draws”. (… Rg1+! =).

12. Page 160
Third Diagram
The position is labelled as a “draw”

The label should read “White wins whoever is to move”.

13. Page 160
The fourth sentence of the text following the diagrams

“This resource does not work in the second position, as White can simply answer 2 f5, ignoring the threat on his h-pawn.”

This should read, “… simply answer 3 f5 ….”

14. Page 160
The final sentence of the same passage reads, “If the h-pawn has not reached the 5th rank, the defence works again.”

This clearly refers to the third diagram, incorrectly labelled as a draw (see 12, above).

In fact from the third diagram after 1 … Rg1+, 2 Kf6 Rh1, White has four moves that win. It is true, however, that 2 … Rg4 would draw for Black. Nevertheless, 2 Kf5 wins for White.

15. Page 167
Text after 10 … Rb2+=
“We can observe that, if the second white pawn was on the h-file, White could not win either. Not even if White had doubled pawns on the h-file. In those cases, the pawn stuck on the 7th rank could be on any other file.”

The context implies that only in the case of an h-pawn can the pawn on the 7th rank be “on any other file.” In fact this is also true with a g-pawn as in the game. [NB: it is not possible to check a 6-piece Tablebase as to whether Black can draw with doubled pawns on the g-file too. I wouldn’t take my word for it either way]

16. Page 168
Note to 6 Kf4
“As soon as White pushes the a-pawn one step further, the black rook will be transferred to the rear of the pawn and we will reach Ending 76.”

Infinite loop! This is Ending 76. The text should read, “ … will reach Ending 75.”

17. Page 170
Analysis to 5 … Ka6!
5 … Kb8, 6 Kc6 Kc8 7 b7+ Kb8 8 Kc5! is given followed by, “… 8 b5 looks logical and would lead to an easy win in the case of a central or bishop’s pawn, but not here: 8 … Ka7 and anyway White has to give up the more advanced pawn, because 9 Kc7?? is stalemate.”

This is true enough, but 8 … Ka7, 9 b8=Q Kxb8, 10 Kb6 is a trivial win for a knight’s pawn too, as shown by de la Villa himself on page 34. In fact, 8 b5 leads to mate in 16 compared to mate in 20 for the suggested 8 Kc5.

18. Page 174
Text (referring to Position 12.6 on page 173) reads, “Were White to play, he would immediately draw after 1 Kg3 and 2 h3.”

In fact, after 1 Kg3 Kg5 (the only plausible move), 2 h3 gxh3 Black wins (mate in 17) although 2 Kf2 does draw. As given, the text would only really make sense if it was something like, "Give White two moves and he would immediately draw after 1 Kg3 and 2 h3."

19. Page 201

Heading: “Pawn majority on one wing, doubled pawn on the other”

This should read “ … doubled pawns on the same side.”