Thursday, October 31, 2013

Predecessors XV: Petrosian-Botvinnik 1963

Last week we looked at the plagiarised Times column that Ray produced for 8 June, which was followed by similarly plagiarised columns on 10, 11 and 12 June. Today it's the column for 7 June which interests us.

As with the 8 June column, this one was plagiarised from My Great Predecessors, Part Three.

This particular game appears on pages 59 to 64.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

For Ever Trevor

We in Streatham and Brixton Chess Cub were delighted to hear, on or around October 3rd, that the unstinting and unassuming Trevor Brugger, the Secretary of next door neighbours Wimbledon CC,...

...was to be awarded the English Chess Federation President's Award 2013. We found out from the agenda papers for the ECF meeting on 13th October, as you can read here.

We were delighted because S&BCC are frequent visitors to Wimbledon (and vice versa) for local derbies in the Surrey League, and also because some of us play for Wimbledon in the Thames Valley League (in which S&B itself doesn't field a team). Thus many of us have known Trevor for as long as we can remember, and are admiring of his service to Club and County over 40-odd years.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guess who's coming to dinner?

So, who's the most celebrated diner in English chess been dining with recently?

Well, that didn't take long.

Gaius Maecenas was both immensely rich and a patron of the arts (fact fans: the Spanish term for a patron of the arts is mecenas) and I've not seen any evidence that Mr Paulson meets either description, but let us not detain ourselves too much with the foolishness of Ray and turn to the foolishness of dealing with Ray instead. Supping with that particular devil is not - is it? - a sign of a particularly wise, principled or promising President.

Moreover, it's perhaps surprising that somebody who described Ray as "toxic" shortly before being elected to a post is dining with him shortly after.

Of course, we don't know exactly what Ray and Mr Paulson talked about. So it is, one supposes, possible that Mr Paulson did his research beforehand and - having ascertained the reasons why Ray is not a member of Mr Paulson's organisation -

spoke to Ray along the lines that as he was responsible for the subs of Federation members, he and they would very much appreciate hearing
  • when Ray proposed to repay the money
  • when Ray proposed to provide a written explanation and apology.
Possibly Mr Paulson went on to say that until the many serious questions about Ray's business methods were answered, not least the current scandal, then Ray was not, unfortunately, a gentleman with whom the ECF could be expected to work.

We can, one assumes, be confident that something along those lines occurred since we know from Mr Paulson's election address that operating ethically is important to him. Indeed, he wants the ECF to represent nothing less than a "moral vanguard".

Which rather rules out any connection with Ray Keene. Doesn't it, Mr Paulson?

- - - - -

UPDATE: thanks to Richard James for sending us this apt clue from today's Guardian crossword.

[Thanks to Pablo Byrne]
[The Penguin Files]
[Andrew Paulson index]
[Ray Keene index]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sixty Memorable Annotations

Yes, the Big Match is just around the corner. Just time to squeeze in another rook ending from Torquay before we start our build up to Maggie against Vish.

#24: Alekhine - Reti, Vienna 1922

Black to play

... before studying rook endings the reader should acquaint himself with the principles of pawn endings ....

Levenfish & Smyslov, Rook Endings (Batsford 1971)

Begin at the beginning they say. Sometimes that's easier said than done.

Starting points are often ... before. That 'modern chess begins before the first move' (according to RDK*) and twentieth century history begins in 1871 (according to my O level teacher) are two of my favourite examples of the phenomenon.

And rook endings? Well, before Lessons Number One and Two, before Principle Number One even, there's the Introduction.

Alekhine - Reti is the very first diagram in The Book. Levenfish and Smyslov then spend a couple of pages apparently doing their best to convince their readers that they're not ready for rook endings yet before coming pretty close to saying outright that we (or am I thinking I?) really ought to bugger off and come back later.

Rightly so, probably.

The more I look at rook endings the more I see the need to acquire an ability to distinguish between those positions where you'd want to trade the rooks and those where it would be the very last thing you should do. Speelman-Sokolov, Brussels 1988 (SMA #15RRE IV) is one example. Gordon - Fernandez from Torquay 2013 is another.

White to play

So here we are in the fourth round of the British Championships. A second GM versus IM rook ending for White in a row, as it happens, Gordon having disposed of Gary Lane the day before.

Anyhoo, Black's just played ... Rb6-d6. What is White to do? One idea is swap on g6 - it leaves White with a passed pawn and a weakness to attack - and if Black recaptures with the king there's the possibility of a little tactic.

37 hxg6+ Kxg6, 38 Re6+ Rxe6, 39 f5+ Kf6, 40 fxe6 Kxe6. It's certainly pleasing to the eye and all that, but is it any good? Not, I suspect, a difficult judgement call for a GM. Not so easy for the rest of us. Not for me, anyway.

You either kill the game stone dead or you hand Black a draw on a plate. There's nothing in between. Better make the right choice then.

Back to Alekhine-Reti. Can Black swap rooks or not?  I'm far from sure the question would even have occurred to me had I not known I was supposed to be thinking about it.

Reti made the right choice. Not surprising, I suppose, given that he composed that study.

So he was a genius, what about the rest of us? Is knowing that you can trade down to a pawn ending and not lose the product of a brilliant mind or simply an acquaintance with the principles of pawn endings? I suppose the only way to find out is to learn some K&P theory myself. It is the beginning, after all.

Rook and pawn Index
Sixty Memorable Annotations Index

* I have a very strong memory of RDK saying this. Or at least writing it. I just can't remember where. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Apparently Got Something to do with chess X

When 12 philosophers weigh in on one of the world's oldest and most beloved pastimes, the results are often surprising.

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Worst Move On The Board XVIII

Wall-Riley, 4NCL rapidplay, round two, 5 October 2013. Position after 25...Rf8xf6.

It'd be fair to say that this example is a bit more crude than the last we saw in the series.

Crude, but effective.

[Thanks to Jack Rudd, again]
[Worst move index]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Predecessors XIV: Spassky-Petrosian 1969

Over the last three weeks we've seen the plagiarised columns that Ray produced for the Times on June 10, June 11 and June 12.

This may have led readers to expect June 13's column to be the subject of the next in the series and you will in fact find it in today's piece, albeit towards the end. But we'll begin by going back, rather than forward (as the politicians say) to the start of the week - or, depending on how you look at it, the end of the previous week - and see who and what was plagiarised in Ray's column for Saturday 8 June, which annotated the fifth game of the 1969 world championship match between Boris Spassky and Tigran Petrosian.

This one, as you'll already have worked out from the title, was plagiarised from My Great Predecessors - in this instance, part three of that work

where it may be found on pages 285-290.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Game for a laugh

Readers may have seen the piece on Magnus Carlsen that appeared in Sunday's Observer. If so, they may have found their own brows furrowing when they came across the following passage.

What was that again?

The piece is far from being the worst ever written about chess, but I wonder - would the Observer publish a long piece about tennis written by somebody who didn't know the difference between a game and a match?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#23: Muldavanski - Pipkov, Bulgaria 1963


The interesting part is that White is not lost yet. By Rg8+ he still has an opportunity to save the game but in a more difficult way ... If you do not know the easy way, do not expect anything better the hard way.
[After another six moves] White resigned. He should not regret the loss of a half-point, since he did not deserve it anyway.  

Nikolay Minev, A Practical Guide to Rook Endgames (Russell Enterprises, 2004)

After a brief detour last week (Bring Your Good Times) we're back on the rook endings and the rather brutal message that comes right at the beginning of Minev's book. Today's theme: the question, 'what do we deserve?'

The move before our Bulgarians reached the diagram at the head of today's blog White could have played Ra3 with a straightforward draw but went to a8 instead. Black responded by moving his king to g3 threatening mate and suddenly White found himself in trouble.

As it was in Bulgaria 50 years ago, so it was in Torquay back in the summer. The pieces are all on different squares, but thematically the situation is identical to the Stephens - Balaji game which we've had on the blog a couple of times in recent few weeks (RRE: Principle Number One; BORP? XX).

Today we've got another example of a misplayed ending from the British Championships. Another two accomplished chessers who both have ratings much higher than mine and another result that could have been different with just a little bit of study.

We're going to see White lose a game that he could have saved. Does he deserve Minev's scolding, then? Should we regret the lost half-point if it happened to us? I think we shouldn't. 'We didn't deserve it' is a brutal conclusion to come to, but winning and losing is brutal, isn't it?

White to play

This is Collier-Anderson, from round 6 at Torquay. A couple of moves before White correctly exchanged his knight for a bishop to reach this position which is most definitely drawn with correct play. Unfortunately he's just about to throw the game away.

90 Rh4+?? Kf3, 91 Rh5 Re3+

White to play

Oh dear. After ... Re3+, though, the game is all but over. White's king moves and then Black will push his pawn over the halfway line - which is significant because it means White won't ever be able to get checking distance from the front. There certainly ain't none from the side so there's nothing to stop Black reaching Lucena and collecting his point. Which, as it happens, is exactly how the game finished.

Possibly White missed the check, expecting instead 92 ... f4 (??), 93 Rh3+ Kg4, 94 Kxe4 Kxh3, 95 Kxf4. Easily done. Especially when you're down to increments and have already been playing for hours - as our man Collier probably was.

White was unlucky, then? Minev wouldn't think so. Nor, I feel, should we.

Aside from the fact that the position at move 90 is a theoretical ending (the 59th of de la Villa's 100 You Must Know), had White been thinking about checking distance he wouldn't have been trying to harass Black from the side in the first place. Instead he'd have noticed the three squares between his rook and his opponent's pawn and tried to make 90 Rf1+ work.

Check it with Nalimov and you'll find that in fact checking from the front is the only move that draws. Hard to find if you're on your own. Considerably less of a struggle if you've got some theory behind you.

Failing to consider the importance of checking distance at The Minev chess school

The usual disclaimers apply. Collier is no muppet. He finished the tournament on 4/10 (not playing in last round) and with a grade of 180 he must be in the top 5% of all chess players in the country. He was playing somebody rated 25 points above him and nearly got a draw.

Even so.

It's a harsh conclusion, but, whatever the specific circumstances happen to be, if we end up losing a game through lack of elementary rook endgame knowledge - or lack of ability to employ that knowledge when push has come to shove - then Minev's right.  We don't deserve the half-point in the first place.

Rook and pawn Index
Sixty Memorable Annotations Index


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hackney Seen Again in Clerkenwell

This post continues some reflections on Tom Hackney's exhibition Tremors that was shown recently at the Breese Little Gallery in Clerkenwell. We let you know that it was on here, and began to look at it a fortnight ago here.
Gallery view of Tom Hackney's exhibition (now closed) at Breese Little. 
Last time we pored over one particular theme in the exhibition: chess grids. We began with one of Tom's 8x8 paintings - by now familiar - of a Duchamp game. Inflation set in, 8x8=64 units became 48x48=2304, and the additional detail enabled us to see a complete game as if reading its score. You would think that the artist might have taken a well-earned breather after so much hyper-tessellation. But far from it; Tom has squared up to a new theme, and with a second wind has produced the evocative piece below. It is shown below as large as possible within the blog frame to enhance its impact and its feeling of distance and dislocation from its subject matter. You can also now see, just, that the individual cells are hand-painted.

  © Tom Hackney 
Not the moves of a game, but two out-of-focus players and their set. The work must surely display the "Tremor" of the show's title, either as camera shake or as atmosphere (a word that Tom has used), but we'll come back to the raison d'être of the picture after first examining its methodological foundations. But we should tread carefully as we know from our encounters with Tom Hackney that in his work appearance, method, theory, and history are all interconnected, and it is unwise to de-couple any one aspect from the others. But with that in mind let's briefly trace some antecedents in this recent work of Tom's, and do a kind of potted Who Do You Think You Art?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Plus ça change

One knows from experience that any campaign involving Garry Kasparov will be accompanied by a quantity of nonsense in the media, and where better place to start than your favourite chess columnist and mine, who wrote about it in his Spectator column for 12 October.

Skipping over the alien-abduction business (though if I were a climate change sceptic I'd be a little more careful about drawing attention to other people's ludicrous beliefs) we are presented with this account of Ray's ill-starred 1986 campaign for world domination:

That's not the entire story: it leaves out, for instance, the ending. To refresh our memories, let us dig out Ex Acton Ad Astra:
Keene was a gifted pragmatist and well versed in the darker political arts, but he had hooked up with an even more adept practitioner. The world champion was vital to the Lucena/Keene campaign's hopes of swaying the third-world vote, but at the very last minute Kasparov informed them that they no longer had his support. By implication Kasparov was saying that he was prepared to let Campomanes win, even though he had spent nearly two years since the termination of the 84–85 match condemning Campomanes at every opportunity.

Keene and his supporters did not understand Kasparov’s motive at the time, but with hindsight it appeared that he wanted Campomanes in situ to increase support for the breakaway Grand Masters' Association, which would be launched the following year. In his public utterances Keene kept quiet about Kasparov's role in his campaign’s debacle, choosing instead to blame Lucena and others. With large royalties in the offing from a second edition of BCO, Kasparov’s treachery had to be accepted.
Treachery eh? Well, one thing to be said about backstabbers is that they do at least understand one another, so in 1993 Garry and Ray were working together again like nothing had happened. As they were again in 2000. But never, one notices, for very long.

They're still close, though. Matter of fact they're so close you can barely tell them apart.

[Thanks to Pablo Byrne]
[Ray Keene index]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nomination capers

One insufficiently-noted aspect of the ECF elections is that while the candidate for one post, Phil Ehr, was nominated for his post by Roger Edwards, he himself nominated the candidate who was running against Roger Edwards for another post.

I can't offhand recall any other example of such a thing occurring. Can readers provide either any other examples? Or any explanation of this apparently extraordinary situation?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The time for decisive action is approaching

We've seen Ray's Times plagiarisms from 10 June and 11 June 2013. What, you have no doubt been wondering, did he do for the twelfth?

He did the eighth game of the 1987 world championship match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.

This set of notes was plagiarised (as was this set) from the third part of Garry Kasparov On Modern Chess which was published by Everyman in 2009.

In that work it appears on pages 322-329.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

An apology to Roger Edwards

Dear Roger

Hello. I don't think we've ever met, although we spoke briefly on the phone in July. Anyway, I'm a member of the English Chess Federation, of which organisation you were President until last Saturday's election. I didn't have a vote in that election (some people had lots of votes, but we'll get on to that another time) so in the absence of a vote I'll offer you an apology instead.

I'd like to apologise to you for the ludicrous decision of our organisation to vote for your opponent, one of the worst electoral decisions I can recall.

It's not as if you'd done anything wrong in the first place: I've heard no complaints. There was no case for getting rid of you and the case you made for staying was eminently sensible and level-headed. It's hard enough to understand why anybody should have been standing against you: almost impossible to understand how you actually lost.

It's almost beyond impossible to understand how you lost to a ludicrous candidate whose connection to English chess does not extend to ever having played a competitive game of chess in England. Still less this particular one, given that he's one who rarely makes a claim that stands up to any scrutiny.

Our electorate, Roger, had a choice between trustworthiness and untrustworthiness. They chose untrustworthiness by a margin of three to two.

But don't blame yourself, Roger. It's not quite impossible to understand. The thing is, they knew this. They voted for untrustworthiness. They voted for it because that was what they wanted.

For years, much of English chess has wanted nothing more than some fantasy-figure, a Mystery Man With Money - or the claim of money - on whom they can project their own fantasies of English chess transformed. It doesn't matter what the Mystery Man actually says. It doesn't matter what he's said in the past, or what he says now, or whether what he says changes every time he says it. It doesn't matter if he actually believes it or if they actually believe it. They're voting for what they want to believe, and what chance has the sensible and thoughtful against that?

In the general run of things two out of three people don't really care what's true and what isn't - and chessplayers are no exception. So don't blame yourself, Roger. You never had a chance. Friedrich Schiller could have told you that.

Anyway, I, for one, appreciated a year without a clown in charge. Not so much fun, for sure. Nothing to blog about. But now we're cursed to live in interesting times again.

I'm sorry about that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bring Your Good Times

Viva el Presidente.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cover version encore: Kings of Convenience

Kings Of Convenience, Declaration of Dependence (EMI, 2009)

[Riot on an Empty Street]
[Thanks to Luke]
[Cover version index]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Up to this point an exact replica

On Wednesday we were discussing Ray's plagiarism of the notes made by various commentators on the thirty-second game of the 1984/5 world championship match, a match that Ray attended (or some of it, anyway). This visit resulted, not long after the match's end, in a book, published by Batsford in 1985. I have a copy, the cover of which you may see, ineptly reproduced, below.

Talking of inept reproductions, here's another one, showing the notes to the thirty-second game, which appeared on pages 100-103.

It's a reproduction in more senses than one, since if, after reading the above, you take a look at the chess column in the Spectator for 22 December 1984, you'll find a lot of it very familiar.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Makes a pitiful impression

Last week's plagiarism, from Ray's Times column of 10 June 2013, was a long way from being Ray's best work in the field. As if to make up for it, he came up with a much better effort the following day, when annotating the thirty-second game of the first world championship match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov.

Here's his Times column for 11 June 2013.

Below is the second volume, published by Everyman in 2009, in the series Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess

in which the same game, with the notes that Ray plagiarised, appears on pages 176-183.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Let's All Meet Up ...

Monday, October 07, 2013

Random Rook Endings: Principle Number One

... in the end it all comes down to ensuring adequate checking distance. 
John Nunn, Secrets of Practical Chess

It was Tarrasch's idea. To put these two diagrams side by side, I mean. I first saw them like this in Emms' Survival Guide and at some time in between those two authors published their books Keres (and no doubt many others) did it too.

'Checking distance'; 'checking room'; 'distance effectiveness'. Call it what you will, it's probably the single most important principle of rook and pawn against rook endings there is. And, yes, I am including 'rook behind the pawn' when I say that.

Checking distance is important in theory and often determines the outcome of games in practice. As we'll see, it was Black's lack of understanding of the concept that cost him a win in the Stephens - Balaji ending from the British Championship which we looked at last week.


Rooks are long range pieces. I've read that in a million different places. What it seems to mean when there's only one pawn left on the board is that it's usually best to keep your rook as far away from the enemy king as possible. Then you can still throw in your checks as and when necessary, but you're far enough away that the king can't harass you in return.

So where's the line? At what point does 'far away' become 'far enough'? Turns out it's three squares.

Take a look at the diagrams at the head of today's blog and assume it's Black to move. In the one on the left White can't stop the checks unless he takes his king to the queenside which will leave Black free to eat the pawn. In the one on the right, though, White's king will gain a tempo which is just enough to be able to force his pawn to the queening square or win the rook.

It's not just a side-to-side thing either. It's up and down as well. Open up The Book and you'll see Levenfish and Smyslov's introduction includes these two diagrams. Actually they have them without the black king on the board which rather emphasises the point that, once again, with enough room the black rook can stop the pawn by itself.

So much of the theory of how to play rook and pawn against rook positions rests on checking distance it's almost impossible to overstate its importance. Not Philidor maybe, but practically everything else. The short-side defenceLucena (both winning it and getting there), Ending 57. All these 'fundamentals'  are built on a foundation of checking distance. By extension, all the more complex positions that can be reduced to the theoretical ones must be too.

Black to play

And so, after the theory, we finally reach the practical. Stephens - Balaji, British Championships 2013 (3). Black is about to play 78 ... Rc1. In one sense there's nothing wrong with this move - Black's still winning after all - but we're trying to queen that pawn aren't we so why not just 78 ... d3?

Check Nalimov and you'll see that after the move played in the game mate is only three moves further away than after the pawn move that I'm suggesting as an improvement. To focus on the number, though, is rather missing the point. There are only two squares between White's rook and Black's king so we know it doesn't have checking room. It can't hurt us. So if there's no need to block a check why bring the rook to the c-file at all?

Balaji's move isn't some kind of chessicle snake that will send him backwards a few moves. Rather, with ... Rc1 he's taking himself off on the wrong track altogether. One that will eventually take him over the line from 'win' to 'draw', but not before he misses one last just chance to get back on the right road.

Black to play

Move 81.  Black's about to play ... Kc3, but why? We know that White's rook isn't far enough away so why not get Black's rook doing something more useful. ...Rc8, ...Re8 and Black's win is straightforward. ... Kc3 still wins - just - but it gives Black a chance to go wrong and he soon did.

It could have been different. For the Stephens - Balaji endgame, just like a lot of others, the result came down to checking distance.

Rook and pawn Index