Thursday, 4 July 2019


This blog is in hibernation until such time as its author rediscovers some enthusiasm for it.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Monkey's Paw

I never - until yesterday - knew that The Monkey's Paw

begins with a chess game.

No wonder they came to no good.

[Also see]

Monday, 20 May 2019

Jimmy Riddle

I don't read the British Chess Magazine, since it's full of trash, but I do know people who do, and so I happen to know that for some reason, it has devoted eleven pages of its latest issue to a review of a review.

The review in the first instance (which you've probably seen already) is Olimpiu Urcan's piece discussing Ray and Byron's book on the Caruana-Carlsen match (which you probably haven't). But you might recall that this review was the ostensible reason for Chess and Bridge Magazine ceasing to stock the book.

The review in the second instance is a review of Olimpiu's review.

The BCM is considerably closer to Ray, right now, than is its rival, and the review's appearance, and the book's disappearance from Chess and Bridge, are very much connected.

The review is by Jimmy Adams, and it is a load of old balls from start to finish, including, in just one sentence above, the claim that Olimpiu's website is - see the difference, Jimmy? - and a grim inability to actually spell the name of the chap he's criticising, which is Olimpiu, not Olympiu, a misspelling that appears at least twenty times. To be fair Jimmy says more than once that he doesn't go looking for "typos and mistakes" and Lord, that surely is the truth.

I'm not going to give the piece much more attention than it deserves - although if you've read this far, I probably have already - not least because I doubt Jimmy believes very much else of what he wrote. The point of rebutting charges in which the prosecution don't believe in the first place has always eluded me, and this particular indictment is written in a style reminiscent of Bart Simpson

except we might describe Jimmy Adams' version as "there's nothing wrong with this - well only a little - well maybe more, but who cares anyway". Jimmy doesn't, that's for sure.

There's an old saying about not going mud-wrestling with a pig, as there is a newer one about not feeding the trolls. When Jimmy Adams, who has been writing about chess for many years, pretends not to know what's wrong with a writer publishing the same material in several places without saying where it's appeared before - of course he knows. So why bother arguing? It'd constitute getting oneself dirty while the pig enjoys it. That said, this little passage is worth a moment of our time.

I know you don't believe what you're writing, Jimmy, but what are you actually writing here? Chess Notes contains 'essentially "cut and paste"'? In what sense? In some sense comparable to Ray's prodigious recycling of his old material? In some other sense? What, Jimmy, are you talking about?

We don't know, and neither does he. At very least, he doesn't care whether what he's saying makes any sense or not, and that's not an argument, nor an advocate, that you can engage with. What else can you make of this?

There's no evidence for it, but it "may very well be true". Alas, Jimmy doesn't go on to explain why, because, pffft, anything may be as true as anything else, if I only choose to say so.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Think again

On this blog's predecessor, we used to maintain a regular feature called Bad Book Covers, trying to identify the best of the worst in our particular field.

I've not really been keeping up since, but looking back, the last item in the series was from Thinkers Publishing, and its Thinkers Publishing whose eyewatering efforts have been drawn to my attention again recently.

Take for instance Improve Your Practical Play in the Middlegame, by Alexey Dreev, published last year. What is that disembodied hand? Why is it trying to put the pawn's eye out? Is that king some kind of ghost? Who drew this? Who thought it was a good idea?

Talking of disembodied, this is Edouard's My Magic Years With Topalov, due later this month, but what are those heads doing on the cover? Who did this to them? Will they ever be at rest?

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

About Schmidt

Over the last few days, I've found quite a lot of adverts popping up for this book on my smartphone.

Matter of fact, it popped up three times during the course of one single article.

Naturally I was curious to look up the book, since £6.99 is pretty cheap for a chess book these days. Or any day in the last, what, couple of decades? (By contrast, this one, due out later this year, will set you back £19.99, and that's not bad at all by today's prices.)

So what are we getting for our money?

You may well ask, since the blurb is unsure even what opening we are discussing

which may undermine our confidence that the games have been "carefully selected".

Friday, 29 March 2019


It was my wife's birthday on Sunday, and as we were due to be working in Madrid in the coming week, we went up a day early, had lunch in a couple of bars near the Rastro and then had a walk round the Manzanares, beginning at the abandoned Vicente Calderón

dead football stadium

and spotting, to our surprise, some turtles on the way.

live turtles

As we were going to the pictures in the evening, we left the riverbank to go over up the hill that takes you to the area, just off the Plaza de España, where there are several cinemas, and just before we reached the railway bridge

we had a second surprise. By the side of the road, a small group of people had set up a homemade chessboard, with a set of plastic pieces.

So I did what you would have done, which was to wander up to the players in the hope - rewarded, as it happens - of being invited to play a game.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Is this really a good way to promote women's chess? II

Well said.

It would be good to see less of this kind of tat in the future.

And, for that matter, this.

Monday, 18 March 2019


There's a Twitter account I follow and a Tweet last week happened to catch my eye.

If you have the sound on you might have recognised Baba O'Riley and you might even recognise the meme, though I confess I find this example a particuarly obscure rendering. But never mind that -

- what's this?

It's this.

I've never come across that cover before.

I've never come across the position before either, though I've been close once or twice.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Three out of four

I logged on relatively early on Thursday for the last round of the World Team Championship, I guess an hour or so in, which is relatively early when it's kicked off at seven in the morning, Anyway I checked Chessbomb for early results and I could see that there were three of them, all in the Azerbaijan v Egypt match.

Naiditsch-Amin on board one had already finished early in a popular repetition

as indeed had Adly-Mamedov on board two, in another popular repetition

one so popular, in fact, that you could also see it on board four, in Hesham-Safarli.

Guseinov and Fawzy still seemed to be playing on board three, so I took a look, expecting to see another draw unfold before my very eyes.

Not a bit of it.

In fact I'm not totally sure whether it was before or after Black's twelfth when I looked in, but it's not of any importance, since the game was pretty much up already

and had been for a couple of moves.

So what's going on there then?

Friday, 15 March 2019

Chess in Art Revisits 3. Dorothea Tanning

This Revisit is to Tate Modern for the splendid retrospective of Dorothea Tanning (1910 - 2012) who passed away just a few years ago, but not before we had the chance - back in 2010 - to wish her 'Happy Birthday' on the occasion of her 100th. The exhibition runs until June 9th, so plenty of time to catch it. She has been insufficiently appreciated, perhaps, on this side of the pond, yet offers many treats - if you like her sort of thing.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019


Oh really?

One wonders which instances of players "sometimes" yelling Zugzwang Robert Macfarlane has in mind.

[Vaguely relevant]

Friday, 8 March 2019

Chess in Art Revisits 2. Tom Hackney

For the second of these Chess in Art Revisits, we catch up with Tom Hackney, about whom we have blogged frequently during his Chess in Art career (since 2012 in fact; see full list appended below). Back in January Tom was exhibiting at the London Art Fair, where we had a chance for a chat.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Follow by

I was saying just yesterday that carelessness is a Ray characteristic. There's a million examples to choose from, but here's a nice one from his Spectator column from the last issue but one, in which Ray annotates the game Artemiev v Nakamura from Gibraltar.

Better put, in which the game Artemiev v Nakamura from Gibraltar is annotated.

Not that Ray is pretending it's all his own work.

Based on? They surely are.

Gibraltar bulletin

After a couple of early notes of Ray's own making, most of what follows from move 21 onwards is straightforward copying out.

Ray in the Spectator

Well, that's what Ray does, it's what he's been doing for forty years. I particularly like this example, though, because, the Gibraltar bulletin being prepared for publication quite quickly, it contains, understandably enough, a couple of obvious errors. (Happens here all the time.)

But - and I do love this - although Ray is happy to change a word here and there just to make it look like he's doing some original work, he's left the errors entirely intact.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Examining the examiner

Coming back to Ray's fake charity, the Brain Trust, and its accounts, I mentioned before that up to year ending 31 March 2016 the accounts were examined by the accountancy firm Blick Rothenburg, but not subsequently.

This might help explain a couple of things, one of which1 might be the deterioration in quality of the 2017 accounts in particular, perhaps best illustrated by the fantastic upside-down, back-to-front page that appears there, giving the impression that whoever submitted them didn't really know what they were doing.

Other examples, of various kinds, include the section numbers skipping from 14 to 16, missing out 15

the retention of an x where there ought to be a specific figure

and a failure of arithmetic (it's £90,333).

Or from the latest accounts, year ending 31 March 2018, there's an inability to get the name right of one of the grant-receiving entities

and getting the wrong date for Eric Schiller's death (it was 3 November). Really you'd think they'd get that right.

But this kind of carelessness is of course a Ray characteristic. It might also be the sort of thing a professional would put right before approving and submitting the accounts. So why deprive yourself of their useful services? One possible reason might be the difference in remuneration due to the Independent Examiner, which hopped up to four grand in Blick Rothenburg's last year

and then hopped down.

Another possible reason might be that the new Independent Examiner, David Massey, doesn't just come cheap, but doesn't appear either to be independent, or to do any examination. Why would you care that all the major grants go to Ray's old friends and business partners, when you're one of them?