Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ray Could Play XI

White to play
Caro - Keene, Camaguey 1974

It’s always a pleasure to see the cream of British Chess getting down to business at the board. Shame I’m referring to the Olympiad and not the British Championships, worthy winners though Hawkins and Howell were (BORP? XXXI), but such is life.

The Top Guns won’t play in the national championships unless it’s an attractive proposition for them and the English Chess Federation aren't currently in a position to make it so. That’s just the way it is. A depressing fact, yes, but a self-evident one.

Given that, it was rather surprising to hear Andrew Martin single out the leading female players and criticise them for not turning up in Aberystwyth (A Meeting with the CEO). When Phil Ehr was asked about the British Women’s Championship (congratulations to Amy Hoare, by the way), Martin chipped in with

It makes it quite difficult for female players to put a case, you know, for the advancement of women’s chess in this country if they don’t actually play in their own national championship.

Sexist double standard? Well not if he also suggested - in the commentary room or elsewhere - that Adams, Short, McShane, Jones et al’s failure to play in the British Championships meant it was hard for them to make a case for the advancement of chess in England.

Readers are invited to submit such examples to our comments box. Don’t bother pointing out that the former S&BCCer could have boosted the number of IMs playing in Aberystwyth by 20% if he’d left the comfort of the commentary room and pushed a few pawns himself though. I’m saving that for another post.

Amy Hoare is the Champ

When it comes to chessers coming to the realisation that the British Chess Championship is too small for them, our old friend Ray Keene was, as with much else, ahead of his time. He won the thing in 1971, handed over his title to Notorious Kiddie Fiddler Brian Eley the following summer and then only bothered once more and that was in Torquay a decade later. I imagine the appeal of British seaside towns starts to lessen when you're used to trips to Cuba and the like.

White to play

Anyhoo, Caro - Keene. There was no ISE in this game from RDK’s successful tournament in Camaguey 40 years ago, but his play was justified by the possibility of one. Here Ray has just retreated with 18 ... Qd8 and Caro replied with 19 Nd4. White could have grabbed the pawn instead although then, 

19 Nxa7 Qa5+, 20 b4 Qxa7, 21 bxc5 Qa5+, 22 Qd2 Rxc5, 23 Bxc5 Qxc5

leaves Black "... with more than sufficient positional compensation for the slight material investment" according to the man himself. You can find his notes to the game here.

2014 ISE Count: 51
ISE Index


Jonathan B said...

After this post was written, but before it was published, Andrew Martin had some more to say over at the ECF Forum.

Anonymous said...

The problem dates back to the mid 1980s. Back then and for a good many years after that, the top female players were good enough to fight it out on equal terms in the British Championship. That also offered the potential advantages of title Norms.

Whilst this has its points for aspiring players, it meant that a "segregated" tournament for women as for the British Seniors was no longer possible. For a female player in the 120 to 160 range to play in the British Championship proper is a daunting prospect, even if they were allowed to qualify by some favouritism rule. Playing amongst themselves would be a more appealing option, even if a relative shark was liable to win the tournament with 10/11 or equivalent.

Jonathan B said...

Playing amongst themselves would be a more appealing option

Although not for everybody. E.g. see Fanou Lefebvre’s "Dear Magnus ... A Girl Who Stopped Playing"

I’m not sure I see any ideal solutions, but clearly if you want a solution you have to ask the chessers concerned what they want. What you don’t do is blame them for not turning up.