Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jack’s Back

Our Friend Jack Rudd - Back When We Were Beautiful; Jack’s Sacs - returns to write another post for us today.  Welcome back Jack. 

For The First Time In Forever
- IM Jack Rudd

Sometimes, you have a pattern you need to break. And you don't realize it until you break it by accident.

By any standards, July-October 2013 was a disastrous set of months for my chess, culminating in a tournament at Crawley where I lost 30 rating points. This would normally be my cue to try to win them all back at the London Chess Classic and Hastings, and fail again, and set off another chain of depressive thoughts that would send me off to another unsuccessful tournament.

Instead, two things happened to break the chain. One is that I ended up arbiting at the Classic rather than playing, because I needed a norm from an all-play-all for my International Arbiter title. The other is that my girlfriend, Olivia Netshagen, invited me to spend Christmas and New Year with her and her family in Sweden.

(Olivia with her mother and sisters. L to R: Oleana, Kristina, Olivia, Ellen)

This proved to be an excellent decision, and not just because it meant I got to spend time with Olivia. It gave me the break from high-level play that I needed so that I could return to the game on my own terms and with my head clearer. A couple of lower-level tournaments - the Gibraltar Challengers and the Exeter Open, both of which I scored 4/5 in - served me well for the next few months, but the real test was how I would do on my return to norm-tournament play in the Easter international at Sunningdale.

At first glance, the answer seemed to be "not very well", as I blundered early on and lost to a 1900-rated player in round one. And if I'd still been in the frame of mind I'd been in in October, this would no doubt have triggered another disastrous tournament.

But then, in rounds 2 and 3, I played these two games:

And it became apparent that my form was coming back to me: I'd kept control nicely in round 2, and negotiated a tricky endgame in round 3. And from then on, I played like I know I can play, and rounded things off with this nice win against a much higher rated player to finish on 6/9 and a gain of 18 rating points:

It was a good tournament for me. But I don't think it would have been had I not stumbled randomly on the strategy of not playing my usual December tournaments; the pattern needed to be broken to get me into the right frame of mind again. I may not make it to grandmaster; I may never be that good. But for the first time in forever, I'm feeling like I could.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Our Chief Weapon is Surprise

This week I’m taking a break from exchange sacking and celebrating an anniversary instead. It was three years ago yesterday that I first played a Berlin Endgame in a serious game.

At 7:00pm on the 27th April 2011 I started the game that would become my first proper Berlin. By around 7:05 the queens had come off and it can’t have been much after 7:10 that we arrived here ...

Black to call it a day?

... at which point my opponent offered me a draw.

As it happened, I wanted to play that night and if my opponent didn’t that was all the better. So play on we did and I won a rather pleasant game. Without me doing anything in particular the position became equal and then preferable for Black, then clearly advantageous for me and, eventually, won.

It was exactly the sort of game that would inspire you to do it again. The type that would make you think that Once wasn’t enough. So play it again I did. Or at least I have tried to.

I’ve played about 160 graded games since that first Berlin. How often do you think that I’ve been able to punt The Wall since that first time?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Brixton Byways: 2. Peyers You Go

The first episode of this fortnightly history of Streatham and Brixton Chess Clubs explained that our earliest antecedent was the Endeavour Club of Brixton, emerging around 1870-ish in a boom period for London (i.e."metropolitan") chess clubs.

Of the many clubs mentioned last time most were conventionally named after locality or venue. But a few took a different tack: "Ibis" -  aka the Prudential Clerks Society - for example. The Society started out, so the Pru's official history says, with rowing (hence the wading bird thing). Cricket, and chess, arrived later. Endeavour and Ibis often played each other and were pretty evenly matched: for example, Endeavour losing 4 v 6 in 1874, but winning 7 v 5 the following year.      

Sadly not Endeavour HQ,
but the Prudential Insurance Company in Holborn,
home of Ibis - in 1879.
 The building is still there.
 (From here)
Any connection of the Brixton club with the Christian Endeavour movement seems doubtful, as far as I can see, as the latter only got off the ground, in Britain anyway, a decade later - but the club's name is clearly intended to be boldly aspirational, as befits the zeitgeist.

Endeavour HQ, at 138 Brixton Road, was at the northern end of the Brixton district, and as we investigate who was involved in the club, and who played for it, we will see (where identification is possible in the censuses) that they tended to live in north Brixton and its hinterland: Stockwell, Vauxhall, South Lambeth (that's Lambeth, looking across the Thames to Parliament, where - in the 1930s - the locals supposedly went about "Doing the Lambeth Walk"), Kennington and Camberwell.

Friday, April 25, 2014


There's something about Times editorials that gets on my wick.

Here's a recent example.

Probably not. Still, it's practically a statement of common sense compared to the procession of fatuous claims that follows.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Psychological Caution

Black to play

Exchange sac-wise, I’ve been in a bit of a slough of despond recently. A couple of days after last week’s post BORP? XXIX - I stumbled across a quote from Petrosian. I’m not sure if it helped or made things worse.

I repeat, that the first and main difficulty in making a positional exchange sacrifice is a psychological caution: after all, you have to give up a rook for a minor piece. The second difficulty is that the exchange is given up when this is not forced by circumstances. Therefore you must anticipate beforehand, in good time, how events will develop and take the necessary measures.

Tigran Petrosian

I don’t know where Petrosian said this. Or even if he said for that matter.

I came across it at  You can email them to find out the sources of their little nuggets of wisdom if you want, but I’m not sure I can be bothered in this case. I’m happy to take CQ at their word. I mean, everybody knows Petrosian is Mr Exchange-Sac. Everybody knows he did ... Re6 at Zurich sixty years ago.

Frankly, were it to turn out that the 'Boorish Armenian Peasant' - (c) the ECF’s ECU delegate - didn’t actually say what say he did I would regard that as more his fault than theirs. It is, after all, exactly what you imagine Petrosian should have said.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How to annotate a chess game, you morons

with International Master Colin Crouch
(renowned author of many Everyman books).

I Gurevich v C Crouch, Hastings 1992/3

You morons aren't going to understand anything about this game.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Probably Got Nothing to do with chess XII

Exchanges sacs will return on Wednesday. In the meantime, here’s something that could help you kill a few hours should you find yourself with a lot of time on your hands this Bank Holiday.

... to do with chess Index
(With thanks to Morgan)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Our first Streatham Library Rapidplay: Great venue, great day, and more to come (we hope).

Richard Tillett reports.

Last Sunday was the day of the Streatham Library Rapidplay, the first such event that Streatham & Brixton Chess Club has held for 28 years.

‘Round 1 will be starting shortly, please take your places…’
Martin wrote about the 1986 event here, and two stalwarts of our club who were there on that day turned up on Sunday – Robin Haldane to play in the Open and Angus French to take charge of proceedings as tournament controller. Alongside Angus was a 6-strong team of S&B helpers - Shez, Paul, Barry, Martin, David and yours truly. Together we comprised an awesome management team… or that’s what we reckon anyway.

And what a lovely day it was. The sun shone, there were lots of smiles, and nothing went wrong. Except maybe the weather was a bit too glorious – we think it may have kept some last minute entries away and as a result there were some empty places.

Perhaps the star of the show was the venue itself, the newly refurbished Mark Bennett Streatham Centre at Streatham Library. It’s a terrific venue for chess - spacious, high ceilinged and well lit. There’s a small kitchen for serving drinks and snacks, and between rounds players can relax in the garden at the back of the hall. Moreover the venue is easy to reach with two overground stations and a constant stream of buses plying their trade along Streatham High Road.

So we don’t intend to wait another 28 years before we do this again. ‘Streatham Library Rapidplays’ has a certain ring to it and we now wondering whether we could make this a regular event in the London tournament schedule.
First prize in the Open section went to S&B member Nick Fordham
(on the right receiving his prize from Angus) with 5/6.
Sebastian Ponulak took the Under 140 with an impressive 6/6
The Streatham Library Rapidplay results page is here and there are more pictures of the event here

We would like to thank Streatham Library and Lambeth Council for their support, and the Surrey County Chess Association for generously lending us chess sets, boards and clocks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ray in Romford

Tsk. Too late! We missed the show. Still, don't miss the video!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The page of innocence?

Ask and ye shall receive.

Towards the end of February, I asked Silvio Danailov about Andrew Paulson's allegation that Danailov had spent time in prison.

In March I asked Ali Yazici, who had also been putting the allegation about, what evidence he had to support it. He referred me to a mysterious "Lucy", which turned out to be a pet name for Danailov himself.

So this month, I asked again, not coincidentally on a day when I knew that "Lucy" happened to be visiting London.

As a result, I have been passed the documents that you can read lower down this entry.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blue or Red Pill? XXIX

Black to play
Rizvi - JMGB, Surrey League 2010

Well that’s 13 posts in already. 25% of the way through the project is perhaps not a bad time to review progress made so far. In truth, I’m having a bit of a crisis of confidence and am not hugely convinced that I’m making much progress.

Actually I’m wondering if players of my strength should even be trying to get a handle on this exchange sacrificing business.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brixton Byways: 1. Earnest Endeavours

Eighteen months or so ago we strolled around Streatham, Brixton and thereabouts plotting its chess history. Now we return to the task in this post and ensuing series, but this time with a specific focus: the history of the Brixton half of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club. And to be more specific still: its history during its first few decades, from its inception to the end of the 19th Century. Yes, the 19th. It's a narrow focus, and it will be an intensive investigation.

Not that we'll completely neglect the origins of the Streatham half. New evidence about this has only recently emerged, and the accepted wisdom down at the Club  - viz. that Streatham CC appeared only after the First World War, and amalgamated with Brixton CC just after the Second - now needs drastic revision. We'll get on to that in a few weeks time, so watch this space.

In this account of the early history of Brixton CC (and the Streatham bit too, when we get to it) we are not trying (as we did in Streatham Strolls) to document the many well-known chess-historical figures who were "blow-ins" passing through the area, or who, while living hereabouts, played their chess in the main elsewhere (probably in one of the big city clubs) and perhaps at a more exalted level (e.g. Isidor Gunsberg, Henry Bird). We will be looking here at local talent, our home grown variety: Brixtonians brought up and chessed, maybe within the purview of the Town Hall (though it wasn't built until 1906) and who loyally supported their local club through the thick and the thin.
Edwardian Brixton - now with Town Hall (from here)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jail time

Meanwhile, back at chess politics, poisonous though they be - what is the truth about Silvio Danailov and the prison term he's alleged to have served?

Readers will recall Andrew Paulson's remarkable statement written to justify his campaign for the seupty Presidency of the European Chess Union. It was notable for a series of attacks, of varying degrees of reasonableness, on Nigel Short and a similar series of defences, of varying degrees of unreasonableness, of Zurab Azmaiparashvili. But it also included two serious and important allegations against Silvio Danailov.

If these did not stand out to everybody, this is in part down to Paulson himself, who neither knows a good allegation from a bad one*, nor is a particular master of the art of précis. Nevertheless, they caught other eyes than mine and not long afterwards an interview appeared on Chessdom repeating the allegations.

The interview, a very interesting one too, went through the second of these allegations, the alleged soliciting of a bribe, in some detail, right down to the cuisine in the restaurant on a corner of the Plaza de España in Madrid where Danailov and Paulson had a meeting. (I am familiar with the Plaza de España, but not, alas, the restaurant.) We awaited more information about the first allegation, the prison sentence.

Since then, however, there has been only silence on the matter. Which is particularly odd, since the Chessdom piece was titled "Part 1" and more was promised shortly.

Following weeks? We've had six of them so far.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Those who do not learn from history

Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
Let us suppose, for an optimistic moment, that we take an opportunity presented by the departure of Andrew Paulsen, whatever we think of that departure and the process by which it was reached.

We're not going to, of course, but let us suppose it anyway.

Suppose we recognise that there are some serious problems of political and organisational culture within the English Chess Federation. Suppose we understand that the disasters of the past thirty months or so haven't been accidental, but have arisen out of the structure, the priorities and the modes of behaviour which have developed within that organisation. Suppose we accept that we need to identify them in order to change them.

Wouldn't that be a thing?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Secrets and lies

It's been, what, just a couple of months since the coup against Andrew Paulson at the English Chess Federation and I don't suppose there's been two more tawdry, disreputable, disgraceful months in the entire history of the organisation.

We've had conspiracy, we've had claims of conspiracy. We've had back-stabbing, we've had elected officials removed without elections. We've had claims, we've had counter-claims. And it all adds up to two tawdry, disreputable, disgraceful months. I could also say poisonous. I could also say a lot of other things.

My personal Disgust-O-Meter long since went into the red zone. Conspiracy and deceit tend to have that effect on me.

Anyway, the latest ridiculous event in this lamentable series, at the date of writing, is the resignation of the Non-Executive Director Sean Hewitt. What has led to Mr Hewitt resigning, when normally he is more concerned with bringing about the resignation of other people? Frankly any reader who hasn't followed this saga is suffering from a particularly happy form of ignorance. But, very very briefly - and yet in more detail than it merits - it revolves around this document, produced by Phil Ehr, so-far-surviving CEO of the ECF.

Tell you what though, I'll leave it until after the fold. And if I were you I wouldn't bother with it. The sun is shining. You're better off going for a walk instead.

It's raining, you say? You're better off going for a walk instead.

It's snowing, there's a force nine gale and there are swarms of giant vampire bats blotting out the sky? You're better off going for a walk instead.

Monday, April 07, 2014

ISE Monday: Vlad takes on f6

White to play
Kramnik - Illescas, Linares 1994

I’m carrying on with a couple of recent themes today: rook takes piece on bishop three (Collector’s Item) and what counts as an ISE (An ISE by Any Other Name).

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Probably Got Nothing to do with chess XII

Adam Cassidy is twenty-six and a low level employee at a high-tech corporation who hates his job ....

or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Friday, April 04, 2014

Welcome Back My Friends ...

So 2013

from Alex Baburin’s excellent Chess Today

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Chess By Chocolate

Streatham and Brixton Chessers were out in force last Saturday setting out their stall at the gala re-opening of Streatham Library/Community hub after its refurb. It is where we will be running the Streatham Library Rapidplay on Sunday 13th April - open to all!

Here we are in the thick of it ...

...with much tea taken in the foreground thanks to the Women's Institute's coffee and cake stand - perilously close to our larger-than-life chess set (an accident waiting to happen) ...

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Taking the MiQ

Times chess column March 20

You might get the impression from the above that when it hasn't been a free day, the Times chess column has been following the Candidates Tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk. Little could be further from the truth.

Ray hasn't been keeping up at all. He didn't annotate a single game from the tournament until his column on March 24, which was the rest day after the ninth round. He annotated Anand-Aronian, from round one.

Indeed it wasn't until the day after the fourteen-round tournament finished that Ray got as far as Mamedyarov-Andreikin from round four. Can this really be the man who was the acknowledged master of the instant tournament book?

So what's been distracting Ray from doing his day job properly? The answer is, the MiQ Leadership Program.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

War games

Anybody spotted the chess revival that was supposed to take place after Magnus Carlsen won the title last year? Me neither, but perhaps we were looking in the wrong direction. One Anand blunder in his long endgame in the penultimate round Candidates and we might have had our revivial after all.

We all know that the reason chess took off after Spassky-Fischer was the politics, yes? The Cold War on the chessboard, international politics in minature, that sort of thing? We do?

It doesn't seem to have attracted much comment, but the guy who came second in the Candidates

comes from Crimea. You may also recall that not too long ago he changed his nationality from Ukranian to Russian.

Now that would have spiced it up nicely, wouldn't it? You want contemporary geopolitics on the 64 squares, you might have had it.

Of course Carlsen's not the latterday Cold Warrior you'd want in the opposite chair, but you could always elect a Reaganite as FIDE President in time to oversee the match. And watch everything go BOOM.