Sunday, November 30, 2014


There's a piece on Magnus Carlsen in the Financial Times, by Adam Thomson.

You may need to register. If you think it's worth it.

I guess the surprising thing would be if it didn't say something like that. Because of course Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov are all, like, completely weird.

In truth it's not all heard-it-all-before. At least, I'd never heard this one before.

Obsession? "Within a couple of years of learning to talk"? Really?

Ho hum. Is there nobody who can do better than this?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hundreds of millions

According to David Edmonds on the BBC:

No it didn't.

[605 million index]

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Career Bookended by ISEs

White to play
Anand - Kasparov,  World Championship Match (9), New York 1995

 ... the press corps wasted no time asking Anand about his future plans. 

The first question centered on any possible plans to leave top-level chess ... 

Anand thought for two seconds, leaned into the microphone and said "no," whereupon those in attendance clapped for his answer.

So defeated he might have been, but Anand will not be retiring. Presumably this is to the surprise and disappointment of no one. Nobody except perhaps Garry Kasparov, that is. Gazza, Vishy once noted, " ... has been trying to make me retire since 2011" (e.g.)

To be honest, it’s not really clear to me why the the question of jacking it in even arises. OK, he might struggle to compete at the very highest levels in the future, but as gigs go, Former World Champion is a likely to be a reasonably lucrative and relatively undemanding one, isn’t it? Tournament invitations are hardly likely to be in short supply, after all.

27 Rd5
Anand - Kasparov, New York (9) 1995

As for Anand’s World Championship career, let us not forget that while it has probably ended with a dodgy ISE (Stamp Collecting), it began in earnest with a rather good one. In New York, nearly twenty years ago, Vishy exchange sacced his way to going one up against Mr Kasparov himself.

White’s Rd5 is a type of ISE that I’ve come across a few times this year, but haven’t got around to covering in this series until now. It boils down to this: you put a rook in the centre of the board (d5 seems to be the most common square) where it can be taken by a minor piece but in return you will get a couple of dangerous mobile pawns.

Of Back’s 27 ... Nxd5 in response, Anand would say,

An inexplicable move. Black should just wait and make some useful moves on the kingside ... Now White just has to push his pawns.
New In Chess, 1995/7

Perhaps there was no love lost between them even then.

Anyhoo, as it happens the pawns didn’t roll much further, although that’s only because the game didn’t last very much longer. Pretty soon it was 1-0 to Anand and Kasparov was behind in a World Championship match for the first time for eight years.

2014 ISE Count: 73
TISE Index

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Historical enquiry

Now the world championship match is over, and we can get back to more important matters like the internal politics of the English Chess Federation and what's happening on the Forum, I was struck by this short comment a couple of weeks ago, referring to the ECF's Chess Executive Officer.

Phil was reelected democratically.
Hmm, "democratically". Interesting use of the word. Let's have a think about that.

It's been some time since I did my undergraduate degree in Modern History, so I will need some help from readers in answering the following question.

How far back in history would we have to go before we could fairly say that the electoral system of the United Kingdom* was less democratic than that of the present-day ECF?

[* provided your date of choice is after the Acts of Union, which it may or may not be.]

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Isolated instances

It was a particular surprise to see this position on the board after White's move nine in game four.

Not because the opening was such a surprise (what would be, nowadays?) but because you don't see so many isolated queen's pawns on d5 nowadays. You see them enough on d4 for White (there was one in the very next game) but I don't recall seeing that kind of structure on the other side of the board very often recently. In world championship games, even less.

Now I don't have the sort of memory that can pluck games and structures from the matches of recent decades - if I had, I'd be more than blogging about them - nor do I have the sort of computer program that will do the job for me. (Nor would I understand it if I did*.) But the the last time I remember Black deliberately heading for these structures in world championship matches was as long ago as 1984, when Garry Kasparov thought it was a good idea to play the Tarrasch against Anatoly Karpov. It was such a good idea he tried it twice.

If he'd tried a third time he might never have become world champion.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Stamp Collecting

27 ... Rb4
Carlsen - Anand, Sochi World Championship 2014 (11)

A correspondent - see the comments to Twofer - recently suggested that the ISE series has become 'more like stamp collecting than chess'. I have to say this is not at all an inaccurate or unreasonable position to take. Things are certainly rather different now than they were when we started back on January 15th.

I didn't intend it to become the sole aim, but one thing I did always want to do with these posts was to attempt to categorise the various kinds of exchange sacrifices that we find in chess. The fianchettoed bishop ISE, the Rook-Takes-Knight-on-Bishop-Three ISE, the Rook-Takes-Bishop-on-King-Three ISE ... etc etc. One sub-type that I was definitely planning to include at some point was the Deliberate-Attempt-to-Complicate ISE. An exchange sacrifice that might or might not be the best move, but which is played with the specific idea of generating unclear, even random, positions in the hope that the opponent will go astray.

Is that a fair label for Vishy's 27th move, yesterday? Or would a Not-Quite-as-Good-as-That-One-Alekhine-Did ISE* be more appropriate? Or, in the cold light of day, must we simply call it a Tossing-Away-a-World-Championship-Match kind of exchange sacrifice?

2014 ISE Count: 72
TISE Index

* More on That-One-That-Alekhine-Did next week.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

County Counting: 4. Well, Well, Well

The Surrey County Chess Association Match Books, which we have been investigating in this series (linked at the end of this post), are first and foremost a record of Surrey County matches over the long decades from 1884 to 1967. They provide an unrivaled, and unbroken, documentation of Surrey's players over the period. We can follow an individual's career as they start out on the lower boards, climb through the ranks, and then sink back down the order as their powers decline. There are many such stalwarts of Surrey who did their county proud over decades - and in some future post in the series we will give them their due.

But the Match Books also draw our attention to their opponents (always to be found in the right hand column). Thus, Surrey regularly and repeatedly played other counties around London, or in the Southern Counties Chess Union (formed in 1892) - although others from farther afield also figure. Sussex was the Auld Enemy in county chess terms and was the first one to be joined in battle by the SCCA on 19 January 1884. Middlesex was first engaged on 25 January 1908 - 24 years later.  Surrey has played both counties ever since, but it is the Men of Middlesex who will feature in today's post.

Many of the individual names in the Match Books would pass unremarked - especially if they appear only once or twice - unless there was a personal or club connection to the reader. But there are others who, even when they appear on the odd occasion, would be instantly recognisable to all: like the chap winning on board 2 for Middlesex on the 25th April 1914 - his sole appearance against Surrey.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Buffalo Soldier

Disclaimer: post will probably only make sense to viewers of the later hours of chess24’s coverage of game7

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

600 million again

Guess what Leontxo reckons? Or at least, what he reckoned on Saturday.

Yes, it's that 600 million figure again!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Saving Energy

With thanks to Matt F 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sochi ISEs: Game 6

Black to play
Carlsen - Anand, World Championship (6) 2014

It’s not going to be the thing that most people remember about game 6 from Sochi, I admit, but along with all the drama, there was an ISE possibility late on Saturday afternoon. Talking of which, the exchange of blunders on move 26 inspired one of the best bits of chess commentary that I’ve ever seen.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Les Ēchiquiers de Paris

Went to Paris for a few days last month. Stayed in the 20th near the Place de la Nation where you can see this rococo romp.
Pic by Siren-com on WikiCommons, with thanks. 
But it's quite possible to avoid it - isolated as it is in the middle of a ferocious roundabout - and otherwise it's a great district to stroll round. Unlike some of the more uptight areas of la Métropole it is reminiscent of Streatham or Brixton: un peu untidy, alive with a multicultural buzz, and with some big surprises (Père-Lachaise Cemetery, for example), and a small one.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pro choice

This is Houdini 4 PRO.

It is, apparently, "the world's strongest chess engine running on the ChessBase Interface".

This is how it is referred to by Nigel Short.

Nigel Short is 49.

[Thanks to Pablo Byrne]
[More Nigel/prostitution hilarity]
[Nigel Short index]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vishy Feels Happeee

Sochi in a nutshell:-

Contrary to popular opinion (and mine), Anand turns out not to be dead yet after all. He’ll probably end up on the cart in the end anyway, but so what? You’ve still got to admire the guy’s spirit.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Match of ISEs and a Piece of History

White to play
Karpov - Kasparov, World Championship Match (Lyon) 1990 Game 21

White to play. Any guesses as to what Karpov’s move was and why it might be of historic significance?

Clue: I can guarantee you that we won’t be seeing the like in Sochi.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

County Counting: 3. Striking Matches

When, in the previous episode of County Counting, we were following Isidor Gunsberg's surprising appearances for Surrey County in 1920 and 1921 (as recorded in the County Association's Match Books), we stumbled on a claim for the World Record largest-ever chess match: Kent v Surrey, Saturday 16 April 1921, played at the Central Hall, Westminster. It was detailed in a cutting lodged in the back endpapers of the first volume, and lists all 400 (near enough) players.  

Unusually, the cutting gives the club affiliation of many of the players. And at this point readers from Surrey and Kent will doubtless want to skip ahead (the match list is reproduced in full in an Appendix below, after the break), and begin crawling over the aforementioned cutting in the hope of spotting lost ancestors, ancient clubbers, and/or other skeletons outed from their cupboards.    

But - if you wouldn't mind waiting a minute - I was going to add that (a) the world record only lasted until September in the same year when a 400 board colossus cut April's 200 board effort down to size, and (b) it almost didn't happen anyway - its "fate...trembled in the balance up to the eleventh hour".  

Friday, November 07, 2014

Kilts and haggis

France represents everything I detest most in life. Your country's only useful products are porn films.

- Nigel Short*, 1983
"Short", Julian Barnes wrote in 1994, "has a history of graceless behaviour". That was twenty years ago: he has had twenty more years of graceless behaviour since, the most recent manifestation of which I'm aware being his latest column in New in Chess, in which he proves that he can be as just as boorish about the Scottish nation in 2014 as he was about the French in 1983.

The content is not more original than the title*.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


White to play
Kasparov - Karpov, World Championship Match (Lyon) Game 14

I had a complaint that I was pushing it a bit when claiming two ISEs for last week’s post (A Pair of ISEs or An Exchange of Exchanges). Caring not a jot for the fact that Kasparov only had one legal move when he did his, I’m going to claim another two for the price of one today as well.

Black to play

2014 ISE Count: 63
TISE Index

Monday, November 03, 2014

How Dominic Lawson helps the English Chess Federation address sexism

LAWSON: On the other hand, Demis, you are married and your wife might have ideas about something that you might want to buy even if you - you're too busy. Hasn't she made any suggestions?
HASSABIS: Well no, she's a scientist too and she does Alzheimer's research, so she's mostly wrapped up in her own research as well.
Across the Board, BBC Radio Four 31 October 2014. (9:43)

[Also see]
[Dominic Lawson index]

[Thanks to Louise Raw]

Saturday, November 01, 2014

What Did Duchamp Ever Do For Us?

As promised, here is a follow-up to the mention, a couple of weeks ago, of the "What Marcel Duchamp Taught Me" exhibition - it is on until the 5th November at the Fine Art Society so you might still catch it. There is also a little comment on the Duchamp exhibition currently on in Paris.

But before we get on to that: Tom Hackney has an exhibition about to open in Manchester; details on his website here. You'll remember Tom from our various posts on his artworks based on the chess games of Duchamp. We'll come back to his exhibition in a future post - but for now: what did Marcel do for us?