Friday, 13 January 2017

Chess in Art: Again, With A Footnote

Without wanting to bang on too much about the chess-art, last week's post did suggest that there was a lot of it about. Take Barcelona, for example, right now:

We've seen that Dorothea Tanning photo-montage before, in London just a few years ago (and see here). But that Delauney is a new one - and it helpfully exemplifies a point made in last week's post about the board's chequered pattern serving as a contrast to plainer passages; and is a reminder that it is a motif from theatrical costume. This art website helpfully thumbnails some of the works in the Barcelona show in case it's not convenient for you to hop over there to catch it (by the 22nd January). You'll recognize a few more of them, including Metzinger's Soldier playing Chess from 1915/6, which we showed last week when discussing Chess Board Cubism (and I'd quite forgotten that you can also see it here).

In view of the passing of the great and influential Marxist art critic, writer, and occasional artist, John Berger (1926 - 2017), it was quite remiss of me not to have mentioned last time his particular perspective on Cubism. So I'd like to add a brief footnote about his views - and note a reference he made to chess.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Chess in Art: Chess Board Cubism

Already almost a week in, but still time to wish you a Happy New Year - and kick it off with some more chess in art. Looking around, there is no shortage of it: there are so many websites and blog posts now devoted it, including these. Not forgetting a stunning book.

Apparently all periods and schools of art have found inspiration in the game. For figurative artists it has offered a vehicle for any number of narratives: courtly dalliance, flagrant flirtation, existential gloom, apocalyptic warfare, geopolitical intrigue, political lampoon, and more. Non-figurative artists have looked to the motivation behind the moves, the geometry in the play, the rolling thought beneath, all of which make the game amenable to more conceptual or abstract expression - and a medium for those artists who, from the early decades of the last century, have been leaving representation behind.

This post will explore one such early twentieth century artistic "ism" at the outer limit of representation, whose label suggests a rectilinear affinity with a game played on squares: Cubism. It flourished and dissipated more or less a hundred years ago; although it still casts a long shadow. "Cubism"  has always intrigued me, especially as artists of this stripe created a good number of chess-themed works, almost since day one. Please see below.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Bored by the Xmas movies?

Why not watch a bunch of foreign-language chess films instead?

There's a chess bookshop, La Casa Del Ajedrez, in Madrid, I've never been there myself, but they send me emails, which is how I know that, as part of their twentieth anniversary celebrations, they're showing a series of chess films over Xmas.

On first looking at the list of films I thought I hadn't heard of any of them - which, given that most chess-related films are terrible, might not be to my disadvantage. In truth, having scratched my head a little harder, I can maybe vaguely remember one or two of them, though that would be "remember" as in having heard of them, not as in going so far as to watch them. But if and when you're bored by the Xmas movies, then most of them are embedded in this blog post. So you don't have to go all the way to Madrid 28004 to see them.

(Before I start, I haven't got, and haven't seen, Bob Basalla's Chess In The Movies, currently eight hundred nicker on Amazon, so if anybody's got it, or got eight hundred quid they want to give away, I'd be keen to hear what it says about any of these films.)

Their first movie in the series is Schachnovelle, from the novel by Stefan Zweig, which in the UK was released as Brainwashed.

Amusingly the poster for the UK release makes no apparent reference to chess, except for the phrase MASTER MINDS OF BRAIN WARFARE! which sounds like the sort of thing Ray would say. Mind you, he was still at school at the time - becoming fluent in German, as I recall, which would make it easier to follow the film, which is on YouTube only in the original.

However, you can have a four-minute taster with English subtitles, in which Alan Gifford, despite claiming to be a chessplayer, struggles to identify a name he is given as that of the world chess champion.

Claire Bloom is in it, though not, as far as I could see, in the clip and so is Curd (Curt) Jürgens.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Chess in Art: Tickling the Ivories

Seasonal Greetings, and a question: have you seen this before?

Mirror Case with a Couple Playing Chess, 1325-1350.
France, Paris, C14th. Ivory 10.20cm diam.
The Cleveland Museum of Art 

If you think you have, think again...

Friday, 16 December 2016

Monday, 12 December 2016


Steven Shapin in the London Review of Books (paywall) 1 December 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

A clever response

As we've seen this week, Ray plagiarised all his Times columns from Monday 24 October to Friday 28 October from the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003). So if you assumed he did the same on Saturday 29 October, you assume correctly, though it's not as thoroughgoing a robbery as the others. Here's how he introduced it.

However in this instance the annotations in My Great Predecessors don't actually kick off until just before Black's thirty-fourth move, so we'll join him there. (Whether the annotations prior to that are original - who knows.)

Here's how that appears on page 223 of My Great Predecessors.

Anticipated is the word.

Thursday, 8 December 2016


After plagiarising his Times columns for Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October, Ray, who is nothing else if not a creature of habit, was never likely to change course in midweek.

Here's how his column began for Wednesday 26:

And here's how it continues:

And here's how that move was annotated on page 28 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003):

The Evergreen Game, as I'm sure you knew.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

As today's game amply demonstrates

I trust you enjoyed Ray's plagiarised Times column from Monday October 24, featured on this blog yesterday. Here's the start of the column he produced for Tuesday October 25.

Here's how it goes on.

And here's White's ninth move annotated on page 18 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003).

What a shameless old plagiarist the man is.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Guardian of supreme excellence in the game

I've not really had my eye on Ray for a while, for one reason or another, so it was only just yesterday morning that I came across his Times column for October 24. Here's how it starts.

 Here's how it goes on.

And here's the same move annotated on page 15 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman, 2003).

Ray's at it again.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Why Britain Won't Have Its Own World Champion

Because Mike Basman has to pay his taxes!

Ha ha no really...

More from Mike here ...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

S Ingle mistake

Not-at-all-bad article by Sean Ingle on the Guardian website last weekend and it seems a shame to draw attention to a serious blooper in the piece. But of course I'm going to do it anyway.

Instead of the "encouraging" that closes the second sentence, Ingle should just have repeated the "wishful thinking" that ended the first one. Unless he's working from a previous completely unknown source, his figures are the ones that were debunked here three years ago - which were so made up, the story from which they derived turned out to be using itself as the source for the figure it quoted.

Monday, 28 November 2016

No possible legitimate purpose

What with all the excitement in New York, little attention has so far been paid to a really quite important development in chess politics which, as it happens, took place on the day of the opening ceremony. This coincided with the Court for Arbitration in Sport issuing their judgement in the case of FIDE v Ignatius Leong, who (along with Garry Kasparov) had been found guilty of breaching the FIDE Code of Ethics.

FIDE-politics-watchers will recall that this involved a secret agreement between Kasparov's camp and Mr Leong by which the Kasparov Chess Foundation paid the ASEAN Chess Academy (controlled by Mr Leong) a very large sum of money in return for his securing Asian votes for Kasparov in the then-upcoming FIDE Presidential election. This agreement was made public in the New York Times, controversy followed and so did the Ethic Commission hearing.

Leong was evidently displeased with the verdict, took it to CAS who subsequently pronounced their verdict. Their judgement was then published on FIDE's website, perhaps unsurprisingly since it is very favourable to FIDE's original verdict and very, very unfavourable to Ignatius Leong, and by extension, to Garry Kasparov.

I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing (there's a fair bit of verbiage towards the start, but it gets easier) but you may find, as I did, that paragraph 53 leaps out at you. The expression "he sold his vote" can have this effect.

He sold his vote. And to whom did he sell his vote?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Wot a Lot

Oh no! Another Man Ray chess set.

Pic by MS 
Though it is rather beautiful, just like another one here.

The specimen shown above was owned, until recently, by...

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The king stay the king

Potentially interesting show on BBC Radio Four at 11 this morning, or any time after 1130 if you want to listen on iPlayer.

Last time (to my knowledge) that Radio Four caught up with the king of chess was in 1999, or maybe very early 2000, when there was an item on a sports programme that I can't even remember the name of, or anything at all about it for sure, other than that I do at least remember listening to it (and the Newcastle kitchen where I heard it). I think Sarah Hurst and Jon Speelman might have been on it, but I'm afraid other people's memories will have to compensate for the failings of my own.

Anyway these days we no longer have to listen live, which is just as well as I'll be working when the show's on. Matter of fact I probably won't get to hear it until Saturday. So if anybody hears it before then and has anything to say about it, please do use the space below, and don't worry about spoilers.

I imagine Kirsan will survive whatever the programme has to say though. He might even survive a lot longer as king of chess than Magnus Carlsen will, and I'm not sure I would have said that a few months ago.

Monday, 21 November 2016

My eyes

I had no idea FiveThirtyEight were writing about Carlsen-Karjakin.

The latest piece (as I write) is called Are Computers Draining The Beauty Out Of Chess? and I am afraid my initial reaction was "no, you are", because the diagrams - particularly those heading the pieces - are some of the most garish, unfriendly efforts I've seen in quite a while, as well as unnecessarily confusing the eye of the reader by refusing to mark out the edge of the board.

The pink one is the worst.

Saturday, 19 November 2016


Just a reminder that the "renowned grandmaster" whose simultaneous display is advertised here by the English Chess Federation

is "renowned" in English chess circles for a number of unsavoury reasons, and one of them is - as I mentioned last time this occurred -
Ray Keene is not a member of the Federation. He has not been a member of the organisation for two decades. This is because he was obliged to leave the Federation when he was accused of defrauding that organisation of a sizeable sum of money.
As I also wrote:
Ray Keene has never made any proper explanation of his actions. Nor has he returned the money.
I'm all in favour of giving money and publicity to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Suppose we offer to donate the missing money to that very same charity whenever Ray gets round to coughing up?

And until that time arrives, suppose we tell the renowned plagiarist and spiv that he can get stuffed?

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Serious injury or death may occur

Further to Sunday's posting concerning Nigel Short's repeated comments to an arbiter that he was lucky not to suffer physical violence at Nigel's hands, my thanks to Sean O'Keefe for drawing my attention to this tweet from September.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Lucky not to have been physically assaulted

I was flicking through New In Chess at half-time in this afternoon's match and the clip above happened to catch my eye. Here's some of the same passage, in Nigel's piece itself (it's from his notes to his game against Li Chao rather than his Short Stories feature).

So far, so very Nigel, with insults over the place. He likes to dish it out, does Nigel, but call him Nosher and you'll see how good he is at taking it. Still, "ginger-haired moron" is small beer by Nigel's standards. There's worse to come.

Here's the rest of it.

He can count himself lucky not to have been physically assaulted.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Ricardo Lisias

Ricardo Lisias - born in São Paulo in 1975, obtained a PhD from São Paulo University, then went teaching - "is regarded as one of Brazil's main voices in recent literature" (it says here). He has published short stories (two collections) and several novels.

One of his stories, Evo Morales, features chess in an informed way. It is a disquieting tale, cleverly told - in the voice of a top-class chess-player. It was published originally in Portuguese, and in an excellent English translation in Granta - where, however, you have to subscribe to read it. Another translation, a valiant effort if considerably more clunky, may be found online, and I have reproduced it after the break.

Granta does allow you free access to an autobiographical note by Lisias entitled "My Chess Teacher" which has some interesting observations based on his youthful - and ultimately frustrated - chess career. This must be his FIDE record.

[With thanks to Angus French]

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Falta de credibilidad redux

Readers may recall that just last week this blog reported on - and took issue with - a fierce attack by Leontxo García, chess correspondent of El País, on a study carried out by the Education Endowment Foundation on the Chess in Primary Schools programme. Among other unfavourable comments, he said that the Foundation
should never have designed the study with such an absence of rigour - it should have suspended it, or altered it, on seeing how it was turning out and never should have published it, on the grounds of its complete lack of credibility.
As I said at the time, I am far from sure that Sr Garcia is quite the right person to be talking about rigour in academic studies or their interpretation. But that ad hominem aside, would it not be interesting to seek the opinion of the Dr Kevan Collins who is head of the EEF, and is among the individuals to be criticised by García in El País?

Perhaps it would. So I did.
To: Dr Kevan Collins
31 October 2016

Dear Dr Collins

Sorry to bother you. My name's Justin Horton and I'm a chess blogger. I am writing about the recent Education Endowment Foundation study into the Chess in Schools and Commuities project.

I wonder if you were aware that this study (and your comments on it) has recently been attacked, in quite aggressive terms, in the leading Spanish newspaper El País for, among other things, an alleged "lack of rigour" and "lack of credibility". A link (in Spanish) is here. I don't know if you read Spanish, but I would be interested in your comments!


Justin Horton

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Raymond Deane: the answers

Yesterday we were looking at Gerald Mangan's caricature of Raymond Deane and asking what was happening on the part of the board that the caricature was obscuring

and what well-known game the position was taken from.

Noting that neither king was castled, that if there was a pawn on d5 we'd be able to see it and assuming that Black would be further behind in development than seemed likely if the f8-bishop was still on that square, I surmised that the bishop was on e7, the queen was on d8 and the d-pawn had gone to d5 and then been exchanged. Also d4 seemed likely for a white pawn and while the other one could be on e4, e3 seemed likelier as otherwise Nxe4 would work. This would give us this....

which, as it turns out, is correct!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Raymond Deane

The contemporary Irish composer Raymond Deane mentioned the other day, on social media, that he'd updated his website. Taking a look, I was surprised to see him depicted on a chessboard, baton in hand atop a giant knight - though not totally surprised, since I knew he had an interest in the game.

Naturally I assume that readers are squinting at the point to try and work out what's going on with the squares that are obscured. But assuming Raymond is on f3 and noting that the Black dark-squared bishop can't be seen, the kings are uncastled and if there was a pawn on d5 we'd be able to see it, I think you have a decent chance of reconstructing the position. So:

QUESTION ONE: What do you think the correct position is?

While I was writing this entry, Raymond told me that he thought the position was from a well-known game, but he couldn't remember which one. Having worked out what I thought was a likely correct position, I consulted a database (or more accurately, had a friend look at one) and I think I can identify the game in question. (While it's not first-rank famous, it is a game once annotated by Irving Chernev.) So:

QUESTION TWO: From what game do you think the position is taken?

No doubt somebody with (or without) the help of a database will post the answers in comments, but see if you can guess them without looking. Answers later this week.

[Thanks to Raymond]
[Thanks also to Angus]
[Also potentially of interest] 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Hundreds of millions online

Hey, what a surprise! As mentioned in comments yesterday, the Financial Times have been talking to Ilya Merenzon.

And what has Ilya Merenzon told them?

Same nonsense Ilya Merenzon usually tells people.

Except this time, the hundreds of millions of us are online.

How does he get away with it?

I guess he gets away with it because the journalists he talks to don't know any better. (Though you'd think they ought to ask themselves, you know, hundreds of millions? Really?)

But shouldn't writers for the Financial Times know better? Isn't knowing better what the Financial Times is for?

Apparently not. It's not the first time.

[Thanks to Matt Fletcher]

Friday, 4 November 2016

Going Back to Bedlam

We have blogged on and off about chess in the asylum ever since Richard Dadd's watercolour painting The Child's Problem appeared at Tate Britain back in 2011. It stimulated an unexpectedly fruitful line of enquiry into a number of inmates/patients who played the game in Bedlam (the London asylum that gave the care of the mentally ill a bad name), and later Broadmoor (its successor incorporating a high security psychiatric hospital).

So, our roll-call of Bedlam/Broadmoor chessers included Richard Dadd himself (celebrated artist and parricide), Edward Oxford (regicide-fantasist), Reginald Saunderson (murderer) and also Robert Coombes, the "Wicked Boy" who murdered his mother but redeemed himself, after release, in the trenches of WW1 (the subject of Kate Summerscale's recent book). We also tracked the story of organised chess among patients in Broadmoor: not only their in-house tournaments and the chess column in the house magazine, but also matches against local clubs - about which we had first-hand accounts from a couple of chessers (still at large) who went over to Crowthorne (40 or so miles west of London) in the 1960/70s to play chess at the hospital - and enjoy the excellent refreshments.

More recently we clocked a reappearance of The Child's Problem in an exhibition dedicated to Richard Dadd, and we were delighted to publish this imagined restoration (by blog reader David Roberts) of the work to its former glory, possibly.

All in all a rich vein to dig. So, when this exhibition...

Running until 15 January 2017

...opened at the Wellcome Institute in London, naturally your blogger hot-footed over, hoping for another opportunity to savour The Problem. Sadly it wasn't on display (although there was another of Dadd's works): nevertheless, this thought-provoking show offered many other fascinating exhibits, including two with a chess flavour - one familiar, the other less so.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Falta de credibilidad

Leontxo García is displeased!

What's he displeased about? Well if you can read Spanish, you don't need me to tell you, but if you can't, it consists of an extended assault on a study by the Education Endowment Foundation, relating to chess in schools as well as the reporting of that study in the Daily Telegraph.

If that sounds like surprisingly old news, that's because it is: the study was published months ago (you may have seen Richard James' comment in August) and the offending Telegraph piece appeared in the middle of July.

Friday, 28 October 2016

So. Farewell Then...

...Phil Chess (27 March 1921 - 18 October 2016) co-founder of Chess Records.

Mr Chess, with Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Bo Diddley.
Michael Ochs Archives

Memorable sounds. Memorable name. Easily confused with Chess Records.

Guardian obit here