Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rhymes For The Times

Here are two chess poems for the festive season. Enjoy!
Chess Piece
Of all the pieces that I've played
    There's none like lovely Rita.
I love to play her opening
    No gambit could be neater.
She is positionally strong
    She knows the variations,
But most of all I like to see
    Her pretty combinations.
I tried to fork her one black night
    But I miscalculated;
She niftily unpinned herself
    And thus she got me mated.
                   [by Jedediah Barrow ]

The Game of the Pawn and the Queen
They may sing of the bat and the wicket,
    Or the raquet and net on the green,
But what are lawn tennis and cricket.
    To the game of the Pawn and the Queen!
The gun is a tyrant and slayer,
    The niblick* a joy for the few;
Give me chess with a chivalrous player,
    And a fig for what others may do! 
In summer when perfume of roses
    Blows in at a half-open door;
When the volume unwillingly closes,
    And talking is voted a bore;
Then oh for some leafy pavilion,
    Some bower the hot rays never drench,
With a friend deeply versed in Sicilian,
    And the intricate web of the French!
And in winter, when dismal and dreary
    The snow flakes fall thick in the street;
When newsboys limp haggard and weary,
    And policemen take nips on their beat;
Then whether it thaws or it freezes,
    For a nook by a warm-giving flame,
With the boxwood and ebony pieces,
    And a comrade adept at the game!
        [Anonymous, early 20th century]
*Niblick: an old-fashioned golf club for lofted shots, corresponding to a number eight or nine iron (Chambers).

The selections come from The Poetry of Chess edited and introduced by Andrew Waterman, Anvil Press 1981. With thanks for permission to publish Chess Piece from Gerard Benson (aka Jedediah Barrow), who says that he composed it some forty years ago, when out on a country walk. Gerard Benson selects Poems on the Underground. The Game of the Pawn and the Queen was first published in Chess Lovers' Calendar for 1911, and incorporated in The Yearbook of Chess in 1912 

Seasonal best wishes to all, from the Streatham & Brixton Chess Bloggers.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Total Perspective Vortex

Black to play

A rook endgame, as has been observed before, is an unsettling big place. A fact which, for the sake of a quiet life, most chessers tend to ignore.

Which is to say, they ignore rook endings as best they can. The rationalisation, 'rook endings are boring', is simply that. The reality is that there's just too much to take in.

In short: rook endings are chess's Total Perspective Vortex.

Such is my theory, anyhoo.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday puzzle

I saw this puzzle briefly over a cup of coffee in the bar of a near-deserted business hotel in an industrial park north of Zaragoza a few weeks ago.

It was in El Periódico de Aragón but the paper didn't seem to give any details as to the origin of the puzzle, so let me know via the comments box if you know it. But please, only post solutions and suggestions that you've worked out yourselves without computer aid!

White to play and draw.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Definitely Got Something to do with chess X

Sherlock is back on New Year's Day. Until then, Smullyan's book is not at all a bad way to pass the time.

... to do with chess Index

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dirty Little Secrets II

Previously we were looking at Position 1 in the Times Little Book Of Chess Plagiarism.

Let's have a little look at Position 2.

You think Ray might have stolen those notes from somewhere else?


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chess in Art Post of the Year

This gets my vote.

[Thanks to Angus for the reference]

Chess in Art Index

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Predecessors XIX: Lasker-Chigorin 1895

Just yesterday we were looking at Ray's Times notes to the game played between Lasker and Chigorin at Hastings in 1895, notes which appeared in his column for 3 January 2012 and then again on 24 December 2012 in a version that owed a great deal to the set already published.

Still, among the various notes copied out from the first column to the second, there were several which appeared in one column but not the other, giving the impression that Ray had, at least, done some original work on each.

Alas, it was not so. The fresh notes were not fresh and the copied notes had been copied already.

They were all plagiarised from Part One of My Great Predecessors, where they were annotated on pages 102-106.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

With his original manner

Well, Xmas is nearly upon us, and that means Hastings is nearly upon us. Among Hastings' many contributions to chess tradition is that it gives the Times correspondent something to write about over the holiday period, and on Xmas Eve last year, Santa, before setting out, might have glanced at Ray's notes to the game Lasker-Chigorin from the very first Hastings in 1895.

Here's the column from 24 December 2012.

I said it was a tradition. Ray annotated the same game the previous Xmas, on 3 January 2012.

Might these two columns have anything in common with one another?

Did Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer have a very shiny nose?

Monday, December 16, 2013


Revisiting the question of whether you should trust your machine when it comes to rook endgames.

This was supposed to be the 52nd. I miscounted though, and it turns out I got there last week. 52 rook and pawn posts in one calendar year, a rare - probably unique in my case - example of a new year's resolution fulfilled. I'm not sure that I actually expected to do it when I started, but here we are. Job done.

Anyhoo, today we've got London Chess Classic winner Hikaru Nakamura, Emms' Survival Guide helping us out of a hole and Chessbase embarrassing themselves.  On with the show.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Chess in Art Postscript: Don't

Last week, in Now You See It, Now You we failed to find Daumier's Chess Players at the RA's current exhibition of his work. This week we go to elsewhere to see what other chess paintings we don't find.

But first another of Nette Robinson's in yer face-offs.

© Nette Robinson
Unlike Magnus last time, Nakamura stares back. It is a nice example of you see what you don't get - he has fixed you with his bead, you just know it - even though he has put up the shutters on his peepers. You sit there behind the white pieces as they break through the picture frame and you might just catch your reflection.  

There is a stunning art-historical antecedent to this spectacle. I don't mean Easy Rider Peter Fonda, but Dame Elisabeth Frink's Goggle Man goon of 1969.

From here
Frink (1930-1993) got the idea from newspaper photos of the Moroccan Interior Minister, and all round charmer, the notorious General Mohammed Oufkir: definitely someone else you wouldn't want to meet over the chess board, especially if he treated you the same as his unfortunate political opponents (though he got his comeuppance, I'm pleased to say). Naka is obviously a much nicer chap than that - in spite of what he'd like do to you with his pieces.

But we digress. We're off to Tate Modern in search of the two Paul Klee (1879-1940) chess paintings that ejh show-cased in Chess in Art XIV. They have an exhibition Paul Klee: Making Visible. Will it live up to its billing chess-painting-wise? Will it be making visible his chess?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas is coming

What to get the chesser who has everything? How about a taxidermied mice chess set? Only $450 apparently.

Maybe it could next to the lamp you bought four years ago. Anyhoo, if you don't want to see the pictures, look away now.

via Morgan (dunno, maybe he has one)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dirty Little Secrets

Ray's got a new book out!

He was giving it away on Twitter...

...and now he's plugging it in his Times column.

Times, 10 December 2013.

Tell you what, it's worth a closer look.

Monday, December 09, 2013

A Blogger Goes Chessing in Hampstead: Play More

A review copy of the latest GingerGM DVD, Danny Gormally's Improve Your Practical Play, landed on my doormat just before I took myself off to Hampstead last month.  I'll do a proper write up in January (delay in part due to skimpy research at the time of agreeing to do a review leading me to believe that it was an hour or two long when in fact it's more like six and a half).  For now let's just say I really like the first piece of advice.

I've long thought that most amateurs simply don't play enough chess in tournament conditions to come anywhere near reaching their potential. Pleasing to see at least one other person has a similar view.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Chess in Art Postscript: Now You See It, Now You

There's a lot of fantastic art on show in London at the moment; so, as ever, your intrepid chess-in-art blogger has been on the prowl for a nice chess pic or two. Topical, in more ways than one, is this little gouache, a recent work by your actual chess playing artist (and jazzer) Nette Robinson; you can snap up the original, or a print, on line, or at the London Chess Classic

© Nette Robinson
He bows his head as if to receive the crown. I like the off-centredness; not just the shift to the right and the crop, but the crooked inspection. At the risk of a lèse-majesté: it is typical of King Magnus's sometimes jejune bad-boy awkwardness (see also under G-Star Raw). It is not here but on the board that he displays his real-majesté, and his poise.   

As for chess-art in the galleries, the Royal Academy was where my quest kicked off, not though with high hopes for the art of Australia expo in its principal exhibition space, and I say that with the greatest respect for our faithful readers down under (who clock up a welcome 1% of our page-views). My fears were justified. From the chess-art point of view it was, if I may put it like this: as dry as a dead dingo's donger. If there had been any it must've gone walkabout.

But, strewth, mates, no point in getting as cross as a frog in a sock (another little beaut of a trope from Oz, though this time rather unfortunate in view of what's upstairs at the RA, and it won't endear our antipodean friends to our French readers). Thus, the RA's other exhibition is Daumier, a Vision of Paris

It is in the Sackler Wing, and this blog goes there next. Maybe there we'll have richer chess-art pickings; maybe even an old favourite from ejh's Chess in Art sequence of five years ago. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Probably a mistake II

On Wednesday, we went through Ray's Spectator column of 14 April 2012, noting that it was plagiarised on a grand scale from Bill Hartston's notes in the old Batsford book Learn from The Grandmasters.

This wasn't the first time Ray had plagiarised those notes. It wasn't the first time he plagiarised them for the Spectator, as we can see if we look at the column he produced in the issue for 11 December 2004.

It's possible that the image is a little too small for this to be clear to the casual reader. So we'll look at the notes individually in a larger size.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Probably a mistake

You may have seen this recent addition to Edward Winter's article Copying. The article explains its provenance.

Amusing and ironic, you may have thought, that there should be legal threats concerning plagiarism on behalf of the newspaper which employs and protects Britian's most notorious plagiarist. But it is more amusing and ironic than you may have realised, since among the many people who Ray has plagiarised we can include Bill Hartston, the recipient of those very legal threats.

This particular act of plagiarism wasn't, however, carried out in the Times. Here is Ray's Spectator column for 14 April 2012, in which he annotated the game Hartston-Westerinen, Alicante 1973.

I say "annotated", but what I really mean is "purported to annotate", since the notes are actually Bill Hartston's, written for Learn from the Grandmasters, the same book which we featured a fortnight ago. Edited by Ray, this book was published by Batsford in 1975 and we display below the cover of the second edition, published in 1998.

Monday, December 02, 2013

A Blogger Goes Chessing in Hampstead: BORP? XXV

White to play

Two not entirely random rook endings.  The first is me playing White against Vincent Sagues (ECF 166; Elo 1904) from round three of last August's Hampstead Open. In the second I'm White against Ray Ilett (ECF 166; Elo 1885) from round four of the Hampstead u-2200 in October. And, yes, I did manage to win both.

66 f7+; 65 g7
Black resigns

I can't really be arsed to work out precisely how long it took to finally notch these two points, but I can tell you that the Sagues ending lasted 15 moves to Illet's 24 and, the time control including a thirty second increment each move, I ended up with more time than I started in both cases.  Not very long and not that much effort required.

So why bother?

This sort of thing is a complete waste of time

If you want to be the best, if you want to beat the rest,
actually having to win this sort of ending is exactly what you need.

Me? I'm red pill all the way.  Well, I am now. If I'd written this post last year, certainly back before I played a whole bunch of tournaments in the second half of 2011, my answer would probably have been different.

Anyhoo, enough about me. What about you?

Blue or Red Pill? Index
Rook and pawn Index

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Every Picture Tells a Story: Readers Digest

Number 23 in a never-ending story: this one by Martin Smith with borrowings from, and comment by, Richard Tillett.

Followers of our EPTAS saga – told here – may be wondering what, if anything, has happened since our last post a year ago; and new readers may be wondering what we are talking about anyway. To save the latter the trouble of wading through all 22 posts to date, and to provide a refresher for the former, there now follows the edited highlights, a digested read, during which we will explain how we have not been completely idle in the last twelve-month.  

In 2010 your intrepid bloggers Richard Tillett and Martin Smith were much taken with the reproduction of an early 19th century painting of six gents playing chess in Hereford, observed by a seventh.

Thomas Leeming's Portraits of the Gentlemen of the Hereford Chess Society
(version exhibited Royal Academy 1818; current whereabouts unknown)
The artist - one Thomas Leeming - was pretty obscure, and the players just as much so. But undeterred, and by fits and starts via several blind alleys, over two long years, we unearthed the full story, including three versions of the picture, a few other works by Leeming, one of them hanging in the unlikely environs of the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, and a web of social and business relations between these gents of Hereford who are the subject of the painting – some of whom, we discovered, were not quite as obscure as all that. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Dear Magnus: A Girl Who Stopped Playing

Dear Magnus is reproduced here with the permission of author/artist Fanou Lefebvre