Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Well this looks promising, doesn't it?

Still, we can but hope.


Friday, 9 February 2018

The merry merry month of May

Morning all. I've been away for a bit (business trip, incorporating another stay in Zafra, as it goes). Anyway I was waiting for a reply on an enquiry I made regarding the absolute nonsense that City AM allowed Ilya Merenzon to write last month

including some nonsense that's very familiar indeed.

Now whenever I come across this sort of stuff I have a commonsense reaction that it's not worth complaining about, since if the newspapers which publish articles like this cared about the contents, they wouldn't publish them in the first place. And yet I always have a counter-reaction

[But which one is giving me which suggestion?]

along the lines of come on, it only takes a couple of minutes, you never know your luck.

And so I always do.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Picture post

Take a look at this image. When you see it, what do you think? (It's a still from this video, which I saw here. Or see the final photo here.)

While you're thinking about this, let's talk about Gibraltar, a tournament I'd like to play one day. (I never have, partly because the timing's not convenient for work and partly because though I live in Spain, it's probably easier to get to Gibraltar from any given point in England than it is from my house.) Hell of a good tournament, and also one that makes much of its commitment to women in chess.

That's all good, and more than fair enough, and to the tournament's credit. Now let's go back to our image. An old guy surrounding himself with much younger women.

If you're anything like me, you might think that image wouldn't be happening if he wasn't the guy paying for it to happen.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Tal order

There was a series on the old blog, Bad Book Covers. I came across this yesterday, and had it been out back then, it would have been on it.

[Elk and Ruby, 2017. Published in Russian in 2016.]

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tell a knight from a bishop

I was working last week in a school not so very far from here and found an old chess book in a cupboard.

I nearly wrote odd rather than old, but it wasn't the oddest thing I found by any manner of means: still, I doubt too many British primary schools have copies of endgame textbooks on the shelves, and if they do, they might be a little more junior-friendly than Rey Ardid's work.

Come to that, you didn't have to be a junior to find it difficult to handle. I'd been looking at this position for a couple of minutes

before I realised that the White king is not in check and I was looking a position where a queen draws, not against two knights, but against two bishops.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Past and present

Jon Manley has something that raised an eyebrow, from Inside Chess in 1991.

Actually there's a fair few eyebrows you could let loose on this one, not least the ones that ask "where's Kasparov?", but I found myself looking less for the absences and more at the presences, of which there were a lot bearing the letters ENG, not least Mark Hebden at an intriguingly high world number thirteen. (Miles, at four, was in his USA-representing period.)

After him in the top fifty come Hodgson, Nunn, Speelman, Chandler, Norwood and Mestel. And then, in the right-hand column, the first English player to appear is....


Who's Saleo?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Chess and war

Goya's cycle The Disasters of War has been on display round my way. It's great, if not greatly cheerful - perhaps my favourite in the series, Yo Lo VĂ­ (I Saw It!) is a little unusual in that the atrocity is outside the frame of the picture.

I went more than once, my last visit yesterday morning, and on my way out I saw there was another exhibition in the building, and one advertised with a portrait of chessplayers. So here's Ricardo Delgado's Jugadores de Ajedrez.

As far as I know nobody was harmed in the making of this picture, and after a couple of hours of Goya, that's a start at any rate.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Merenzon and on and on

Would you believe that Ilya Merenzon has been telling enormous lies about chess again?

Course you would.

No, that's not one of them. It's cobblers, obviously, but not a lie as such.

This is a lie though.

This is a whole series of quite important and dangerous lies.

And this is more than one lie at once.

This is fair comment.

But of course it's worse than nonsense, it's a whole collection of very familiar lies.

I imagine we're going to be hearing them all year.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Back story

Sorry for the long radio silence. Hope you caught Martin on David Sala's Zweig. Fresh piece by me tomorrow. But here I am this morning on the London Review of Books blog.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Seeing Chess in BD

"In the course of a sea-voyage, Czentovic, world chess champion, finds himself playing an unknown: who beats him. This stranger had learnt chess, from a manual, during a long incarceration in Nazi prisons. The  novel, written in 1941, is testimony against dehumanisation wrought by the Nazis.  

The masterpiece by Stefan Zweig is raised to a new level by the talent of David Sala." 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Dali 0 - 1 Duchamp

There's just time left to catch the Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the Royal Academy - but hurry, it closes on January 3rd.

The exhibition explores the "surprising" (says the RA) personal and artistic relationship between the two artists during their roughly synchronous lives: Duchamp 1887 to 1968; Dali 1904 to 1989. Duchamp fans won't be disappointed in what they find. I can't speak for Dali fans.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Another blast from the past

From the latest Private Eye:

[Thanks to Michael]
[Ray Keene plagiarism index]

Friday, 8 December 2017

Blast from the past

Well this seems to have have attracted a fair bit of attention

but this is the bit that caught my eye.

Good Lord, it's Dharshan Kumaran, who was nearly British Chess Champion: he lost a play-off to Michael Hennigan in Dundee in 1993, the first year I ever went to the championships. I'm not 100% sure I'd come across his name since that kind of time, until he turned up as one of Demis's team just this week, though had I been paying attention I'd have noticed this a few years back.

No Wikipedia page though, even though his achievement included not just the grandmaster title

but world championships at under sixteen level

and under twelve.

Actually that's not quite right: he does have a page in Russian and another in Polish. But not in English.

I don't know who in the chess community tends to put together these things (it isn't me) but if two world championships and the grandmaster title isn't enough, he might, on top of that, be changing our world.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Here we go again II

"An expected worldwide audience of 1.5 billion."

This is bollocks, of course, and Mark Blunden of the Standard ought to know this. But why not just repeat whatever the organisers have put in front of you?

There'll be more of this, I'm sure. Much nore.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Les Chesseurs Britanniques de Paris: Part 8 Initial Confusion. Final Conclusion?

In the course of several episodes (of a series beginning here) we have been trying to reconstruct the life, and maybe something of the times, of the British Chess Club of Paris. It provided a chess umbrella for les anglaises of various stripes hanging out in the City of Light: ex-pats, businessmen, diplomats, drop-ins (perhaps even spies). It made its impact on Parisian chess-life from 1926 to 1938/9.

In the course of telling the story we have been building up a list of BCCP members. All this with the considerable, and generous, help of Dominique Thimognier, who runs the brilliant Heritage des Echecs Francais website, to whom much thanks. In the previous episode we were able to add a Mr Wechsler to our list: he played in a match in early 1929 when the BCCP took on Fou du Roi. Mr Wechsler was accorded the honour of playing on Board 1 on that occasion, suggesting that the team managers had some respect for his strength (though he lost). We gave a brief thumb-nail sketch of Mr. Wechsler, taking him to have been T.M.Wechsler who was active in Kentish chess in the late 1920s to the 40s. In this episode we will say more about him, and his chess-playing brother. And his chess-playing father.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Here we go again

This is obviously false.
So is this.
And this.

But this is obviously true.

EDIT: also of course these goons would have closer to six million followers than six thousand.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Kasparov Studies

Ever worried about nature versus nature? Fret no more. Garry's on it.

Precisely what Garry thinks is meant by "proving", we are not told, nor do we get to find out which studies achieved this proof. Still, for all I know, the relevant information is all in Garry's book: regrettably I have inherited an insufficient degree of work ethic and can't be arsed to find out for myself.

Would it be worth it? This isn't Garry's first foray into the world of studies and what they prove.

How did that one go?


Or this one (thanks to Jonathan for reminding me).

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Good, but not true

Not such a good piece in the Guardian last Friday, an interview with notorious sacked-by-Google engineer James Damore. Why being sacked for insulting your co-workers merits worldwide publicity and a Guardian interview several months on is a question I'll not be trying to answer on a chess blog: our subject of interest today is this paragraph

which is curious both for what it says and what it doesn't say.

The what-it-doesn't-say curiosity is that Damore has previously made some large claims for his chessplaying abilities that don't stand up, notably that he achieved the title of FIDE Master. As this claim was patently false, when challenged on it he was obliged to make more unikely claims

for instance that he had held a FIDE rating of 2205 - most unlikely for a player for whom there appear to be no extant games - and that he hadn't "maintained my FIDE membership", which doesn't even make sense since there is no such thing for individuals.

Monday, 20 November 2017

True, but not good

Decent piece in the Telegraph yesterday: an interview with Tania Sachdev by Alex Preston. Lots to like - and a little not to. Like this:

Now it's not the first time we've come across comments about sexist comments, and how they can drive women and girls out of the game. Which is odd, because according to the President of the English Chess Federation
There is no such thing as sexism in chess.
None at all, Dominic. None at all.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Home Again!

This expedition, conducted under the banner of chess, has taken us (in previous episodes here, here and here) to Cornwall to investigate the parallel universe of draughts - a once thriving tradition in that remote region. We found, in a number of places, that the paths of the two pursuits crossed, and indeed - and not surprisingly - there were many practitioners of both diversions. We are now hot on the heels of one such of Cornish extraction, who ended up where we started - back here in Streatham. He was Carus Colliver (1862-1954). We introduced him last time. He seems to have been a serial draughts/chesser, devoting himself to draughts first (and achieving some prestige in the game), before moving on to chess after World War I. In that respect he differs from parallel practitioners such as Pillsbury (who we met last time), and someone who we will meet at the end of this episode: a member of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club of more recent vintage.

Thanks to Colliver's "Family History and Reminiscences", which he dictated in 1945, we can admire his many sporting achievements - in many diverse disciplines beyond the board. These were reviewed in the previous episode, when we also discussed his draughts-manship: now we turn attention to his chess, beginning with the account dictated by the man himself.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Rock festival

Doing anything special this coming weekend? Why not go to the Gibraltar Literary Festival?

They've got some interesting speakers. Or perhaps I mean some interesting choices, as speakers.

Like this one for instance.

You recognise him even without the name, of course, though if the publicity photo was still the same one they were originally using, you probably wouldn't recognise him even with it.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


The new BCM is out! Hey, that looks like an interesting article.

This is the one. Let's have a look...


Sorry, when I said "interesting" I meant "the sort of bilge we've seen far too many times before".

Why does the BCM still exist, when it's full of trash?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Letters and words

It says here that Allan Simmons, one of Britain's leading Scrabble players has been banned for three years, accused of cheating.

Which is particularly interesting, seeing as Simmons is
a regular columnist writing about Scrabble for The Times newspaper.
So what has that newspaper done about it?

Stone me:

Well I can only conclude that putting back letters is a serious offence in the eyes of the Times, but stealing words is not.

Eh Ray?

Friday, 10 November 2017

A game like that

If you're a football fan, you've probably seen this clip before.

If you've not, it's from a celebrated documentary called Orient: Club For A Fiver, which follows Leyton Orient football club through part of their disastrous 1994/5 season (not quite as bad as last season, mind).

The unfortunate John Sitton was manager for the period covered by the show, of which the clip above is the best-known passage: having difficulty coping with the impossible task he had been given, Sitton (and it wasn't the only time) loses it with his players and offers a couple of them out, two against one. However, also of interest for our present purposes is the moment near the start of the clip when, unusually for a half-time team talk, Sitton takes the opportunity to sack the experienced Terry Howard, right there and then.

The documentary effectively finished Sitton's short-lived career, the bloke having made a public fool of himself. Over the two decades since, a certain amount of sympathy for his fate has developed - you can for instance read a defence of him (with which I don't necessarily agree) here - not because he's perceived as having behaved properly, but because few people who know football think he was particularly bad by the general standard of football managers.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. To get to the point, the reason the Sitton speech suddenly occurred to me last Monday was that I was so unimpressed by Luke McShane's abject performance against Ference Berkes, I wanted John Sitton to pop up midway through the game and sack him on the spot.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Garry and Barry

You'll recognise the guy on the left of this photograph. You might not recognise the guy on the right, but Garry does and that's why they're shaking hands.

His name is Grover Norquist.

They met a couple of weeks ago at the Goldwater Institute, named for the subject of Garry's speech, Barry Goldwater. Garry sets out this reasons for admiring him here.

That's an interesting summary, which, either because Garry doesn't know, or doesn't care, leaves out that Goldwater was an fierce opponent of federal attempts to desegregate, at a time when segregation and the effort to end it was a central issue in American politics. Goldwater's strategy (one employed by the Republican Party ever since) was to rely on racism in the South and elsewhere. If Garry Kasparov doesn't know that, maybe somebody should tell him.

Goldwater lost badly in the 1964 Presidential election, not least because he was viewed as a fanatic who had every chance of bringing about a nuclear war, of which this early attack ad is a famous reminder.

I'm guessing that Kasparov is more aware of this aspect of Goldwater's politics, and has no problem with it.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Studies fail to repay scrutiny

Tens of thousands of them.

So claims popular chess bullshitter Susan Polgar.

A likely story.