Thursday, December 24, 2015


Jon says:

It's the testudo again!

Take it slow over the holidays.

[More testudo]
[Testudo formation]

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iglesias and the dangers of chess

El PaĆ­s, 29 November 2015:

If you've followed the news in the last couple of days you'll probably have read a little bit, some of it possibly accurate, about Podemos, Pablo Iglesias and the results of last weekend's election. What you probably won't have read is that Iglesias's aim for Podemos is expressed in a phrase borrowed from chess.
Pablo Iglesias
reads the opening sentence
has built a good part of his project on the basis of a metaphor which he borrowed from chess.
The metaphor, which of course is not at all a metaphor in the game itself, is "ocupar la centralidad del tablero", which, as I'm sure you can work out, is "occupy the centre of the board". The phrase was apparently included in the founding statement of Podemos when it was set up only last year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Worst Move On The Board XXV

Guo-Kjartansson, London Chess Classic Open, round two, 5 December 2015.
Position after 51...Rb1-b2+.

From Chess Today 5508 by way of Angus French. White, outrated by several hundred Elo points, nevertheless has a draw when she wants it against her IM opponent, but naturally, with two pawns on the seventh, she wants more.

There's only one way to play for a win. Coincidentally, there's only one way to play for a loss...

[Worst move index]

Monday, December 21, 2015

Apparently Got Something to do with chess XII

They first meet as ten-year-old chess prodigies - both lonely, intent on winning, both wearing the symbol of the gold coiled serpent. They know the uses of pleasure, the secrets of pain, the impact of evil turned upon itself. They understand the deadly forces that grip the world in swift violence, and sudden death. But only one man may be the Grandmaster.

Or so it says here.

A better bet than Los Voraces 2019 as a self-given Chrimbo gift, perhaps.

... to do with chess Index

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cover version: The Pete Rugolo Orchestra

The Pete Rugolo Orchestra: Rugolo Plays Kenton (Capitol, 1958).

[Cover version index]
[Thanks to Stewart Reuben]

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Leonard Barden

Leonard Barden needs your help.
I have been lodging in a house in Sydenham, South London, for the past ten years. A few weeks ago my landlord told me that he was selling up due to mortgage problems and that I would have to leave by the end of this month, ie by 31 December.

I have been looking for somewhere else, but so far without success. I have been paying £100 a week, but most advertised rooms are much more expensive than that. Even more of a disadvantage is that nobody wants a tenant in his eighties. I have applied to Lewisham council, but it is unclear whether that will produce a result and even if it does the bureaucratic wheels grind slowly. I even tried the local chess club to see if anyone would put me up, but no luck.

Hence this approach to Forum members. My needs are rather modest, basically a table and chair to work, a place fairly close to public transport and shops as I don't have a car, within the area covered by a Freedom Pass and ideally within reasonable travel distance of London Bridge where I have to go at weekends. I can pay up to around £100 a week, and as an extra would be available for chess training games/analysis/coaching if desired, though this is entirely optional.

If anyone has a suggestion, please send me a pm or alternatively email me at Even an offer of a camp bed on somebody's floor for a few weeks might make the difference, although naturally I'd prefer the option of a longer period.
If you can help, please contact Leonard. If you can't, please distribute in the general direction of other people, in case they can.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Definitely Got Something to do with chess XII

The rules of "The Greatest Tournament in Chess History," the USD 20 million Sheldrake Memorial Tournament, a.k.a. Los Voraces 2019, are: no seconds, no agents, no computers, no entourages, no pagers, no power palms, no phone calls - no outside contact of any kind - as the fourteen greatest chess players in the world gather to compete for money and fame.

Or so it says here.

Anybody read this? I was wondering if it might make a reasonable Christmas present to myself.

... to do with chess Index

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hundreds of millions people

Chess is played by hundreds of millions people [sic] worldwide (according to Yougov, the British market research firm)
Not so much "according to YouGov", more "according to Dylan Loeb McClain", who made the claim writing the other day for AGON. (Or, if you prefer, for Ilya Merenzon.)

OK, it's not the full 605 million, but I'm going to include it in our series, because it's still a ludicrous estimate - and one just as specious, since, as regular readers know, it's not "according to YouGov" at all.

It's just another made-up, and not made up by them.

[Thanks to our informant]
[605 million index]

Monday, December 14, 2015

John Priestley

I remember John. I played him in my sixth ever rated game. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I joined Chelmsford Chess Club after the third of the Kasparov - Karpov matches - the one that started in London then moved to Leningrad - so it would have been late 1986 or perhaps early 1987.

Strange the details that you remember. It was the third round of the club championship. I was White and the game began

1 d4 Nf6, 2 c4 g6, 3 Nc3 Bg7, 4 e4 d6, 5 f3 0-0, 6 Bg5

as recommended by a certain Ray Keene in his Audio Chess publication A d4 c4 Repertoire for White. I was ready for ... Nc6 and ... c5. I also knew that ... e5 was a blunder.

John played 6 ... c6. That should have been an early lesson that opening manuals would be of limited use to me in my chess career because my opponents were not going to be playing the moves that the authors said they should. It took another quarter of a century for that particular penny to drop, though.

I lost the game of course. John was one of two players at the club who were head and shoulders above everybody else and he won easily. Afterwards, we shared a few words and he gave me some tips on how I could have improved my play. I remember him being generous with his time.

That was nearly 30 years ago. At the time I thought of John as an older man. In reality he was younger then than I am today.

I must have played 1,000 or more rated games of chess since the one I played with John. He was one of those who set me on my way.

On Saturday, I received this email from Robin Slade (somebody who was still at school when I knew him at Chelmsford Chess Club) ...

I’m sorry to have to tell you that it was announced in the Essex Chronicle this week that John Priestley has died. He was involved in the NECL from the very start and wrote a history of the league in 1986. Even before the league began in 1964 John was an active member of Chelmsford Chess Club. 
John gave up competitive chess many years ago. But he kept up an interest in the game and when I saw him periodically in the library knew more about the international chess scene than I did. He occasionally popped up at Chelmsford club and was the honorary President of the league for many years. 
Others are better placed to give a chess biography but he was a very strong player and drew with GM to-be Tony Miles at a Chelmsford Congress in the 1970s. He was the first person I played at Chelmsford and I remember him telling me not to worry because although he was Chairman he wasn’t the best player at the club. This did not turn out to be the most accurate summary of his strength he could have given an 11 year old. 
His funeral will be at Chelmsford Crematorium on Wednesday at 11.30am. Donations to Farleigh Hospice or floral tributes are welcome. He was 73. Please pass these details onto whoever either currently or previously in your club would like to know. 
Best Wishes

Friday, December 11, 2015

Played on Squares 7: Miss Strachey's Feeling For Snow

In the previous - also unplanned - episode 6 of this Played on Squares sequence we took the opportunity to examine the Social Chess Quarterly and the Empire Social Chess Club in the 1930s. This was a necessary prelude to our reacquaintance with Marjorie Strachey who, as far as our researches have taken us to date, was the only real chesser in the Bloomsbury Group (the theme of the series - though there isn't much Bloomsbury in these two supplementary episodes). Marjorie played in a few proper chess tournaments in the mid/late 1930s, and - as we discovered by accident in the British Library, just a few days after #5 was published - she claimed a serious chess scalp thenabouts. We'll get to this later.

Episode 6 ended with Arthur Firth, the Editor of the SCG, announcing in his magazine the closure (in July 1935) of the ESCC's rent-free clubroom at Whiteley's. So now we need to establish what happened next, and - while we are about it - just who was Arthur Firth. To get us on our way we will retrace our steps a little, and say a bit more about the Empire Social Chess Club - and someone who we have met before in another chess history context.

Hampstead CC - Champions of the London League A and B, 1911/12
Picture courtesy of Gordon Cadden 
The circled figure is Ernest Montgomery Jellie (1866-1949). You may remember him from this post on the Blog almost exactly a year ago to the day when we recounted his adventures with Hampstead CC.

EMJ was not an especially exceptional chess player in those late Edwardian years, but - as we were pleased to document - he was certainly a dedicated one, and had his moments at the board. He had his moments off it, too: for example fathering a son - the grandfather of my chess colleague Andrew Stone (a top board of Streatham and Brixton CC in the London League). It was because of this quirky coincidence across the decades that EMJ was featured twelve months ago.

It happens that in addition to the above-mentioned Hampstead CC, Andrew's great-grandfather was a member of the Empire Social Chess Club - as we'll show below. Thus he can be placed - circumstantially, at least - in chessic proximity to Marjorie Strachey. It was as an ESSC member, as you will have surmised, that Marjorie had her singular chess triumph. On account of this connection, Ernest Montgomery Jellie merits our attention once again.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Higher! Higher!

So, Polgar reckons 700 million? Kirsan can do better!

Any advance?

[605 million index]

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Whatever happened to the French Defence?

Ray's Times column for 17 November was about an iffy line of the Tarrasch French.

He's right, I think: even the UK's foremost French player has struggled in that line. I played it myself, once, in a club game in South Shields, and got away with it, but I doubt I'll give it another go. It was round about the turn of the millennium, when I was playing all sorts of nonsense - but still, I found I liked other versions of the French (the MacCutcheon, the ...Be7 Tarrasch) enough to keep on playing it, now and then, whenever I wanted a break from 1. e4 e5.

Not for the first time in my life, it seems that I was getting into something just when everybody else was getting out, because if there was a surge of enthusiasm for the French Defence, at about that time, the surge stopped surging when I joined it. We've not seen much of the French, at the highest level, in the past few years. At the highest level of all, we've not seen it since 1978.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Letter to the editor IV

The Times
8th December 1977

Disapproving of chess
From Mr Ian K. Maconochie

Sir, I read with surprise Bernard Levin’s statement in his article on chess (November 21) [sic – JB] that "it has never incurred ecclesiastical displeasure", as not long before the end of the sixteenth century Muslims, Roman Catholics, Jewish and Anglican religions had at one time or another forbidden the playing of the game.

Muslims have a reference to chess as being a form of idol worship in the Koran, though after the prophet Mohammed’s death the decision was altered on condition that no exchange of money or improper language took place.  Think of the situation of chess today if this were generally implemented!

Various ecclesiastical decrees, for example those by the Worcester Synod in 1240, and in France by the Provincial Council of Beziers in 1255 were made after an argument between the Bishop of Octia and the Bishop of Florence ended, with the result that the Bishop of Florence did penance for transgressing the Canon Law.

Knights Tempar up until the fifteenth century were forbidden to play chess, and from the rules of Apostolic Canon, at 1110 a monk in Eastern Church wrote that the penalty for playing was excommunication!

So if chess be the eighth deadliest sin, I stand condemned.

(Westgate-on-Sea, Kent)

From Mr A. Hepner

Sir, I asked a rabbi (himself a keen player) whether it was sinful to play chess on the Sabbath.  He said that the way I played it was a sin to play any day of the week!

(Hendon Chess Club)

38 years on now.  Does anybody know if these two guys are still around?

Friday, December 04, 2015

Opportunity not

Last word, unless it isn't, on that Stephen Moss article. Two points.

1. In the piece, writing of the English Chess Forum, Moss writes:
A brief examination of a discussion titled "The arbiter nexus" on the English Chess Forum provides a flavour of these decades-long battles; some of these men – and they are all men...
Moss quotes, or interviews, the following:

Nigel Davies
Danny Gormally
Nigel Short
Phil Ehr
Steve Giddins
Dominic Lawson
John Saunders

a. What do they all have in common?
b. This being so, why point the finger at the forum especially?

2. The piece is very critical of this "nexus", the people who voted to remove Phil Ehr and ECF officialdom generally. They're variously described as,
clueless...small-minded...bloody stupid...grossly immature, petty, pusillanimous.
However, at no point are their reasons for acting given, nor are any of the people criticised quoted in response, even though we know that other people were interviewed as well as those quoted.

The Guardian's Editorial Code includes the following clause.
Is there any reason why, on this occasion, there was no "obligation to allow the subject the opportunity to respond"?

[Grossly immature]
[The decline of the "The Decline of English Chess" article]
[Magic words]

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Two together

Ray's Times column, Tuesday 1 December:

What does the writer think "duet" means? Is Ray Cyrus Lakdawala in disguise?

[Ray Keene index]

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Oh no! It's another New in Chess mailing!

A treat indeed, I'm sure, certainly if it's as much of a treat as "Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam's brilliant essay", which only "did something that needed to be done" in the sense that without it, pages 12-27 would have been empty save for adverts. Still, hurrah for Dirk for facing "all the nasty issues". If only he had. It would have been a novelty to match anything in Informator.

But on to the treat.
We have just received a new book which enables us to once more embrace Bobby's marvellous chess.
Good-oh, but I have several books already that might assist me there. What's special about this one?
In his preface, author IM Cyrus Lakdawala...
Oh. Without the "good".

All right, people (in this instance Allard Hoogland, of the New In Chess Online Shop) have to do the job they're given, they can't just say "I assure you, we have ten thousand titles in stock that are better than this one".

So let's generously assume that Mr Hoogland knows that Cyrus Lakdawala is actually the worst chess writer currently practising (we assume Andres D Hortillosa has mercifully retired) and that the phrase "this book shows Lakdawala at his best" was judiciously selected and that it could mean "all of these..."

"....are even worse".