Monday, 24 September 2018

Tangled web we weave

I'm glad to say that Ray's found time out from launching his new website (packed, as you'd expected, with dubious and fraudulent claims) to weigh in on the matter of the English Chess Federation choosing not to back Nigel Short for FIDE President.

Now it's not like anybody who thinks Ray's opinion matters should have their opinions taken seriously themselves, but having had his own outrage echoed by three or four other goons, Ray feels able to declare:

Hey ho. Ray's not actually a member of the ECF of course, what with the little matter of defrauding us of a few hundred quid back in the day. Possibly he should run another twitter poll about whether he should pay us back that money before he has anything else to say on the subject.

He could also get Nigel Short, one of the two Likes on that tweet, to say whether he thinks cheating chess federations out of the members' money is the sort of conduct he hopes to encourage in FIDE.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Side order

So, on Friday I was wondering why Garry Kasparov was keeping quiet about the Short-Dvorkovich rapprochement, given that Garry's two main proccupations, about which he is usually anything but quiet, are chess, and Russian political influence.

Here's what Malcolm Pein reckons.

Do I believe that? Well it's plausible, kind of, but thing is, does Garry Kasparov strike anybody as the kind of person to stay dumbfounded for very long?

Certainly not the "dumb" part, I'd have said.

Besides, there's also the question of his sidekick, who's not much less voluble than his boss, and generally on the same subjects. But he doesn't seem to have had any more to say on Short-Dvorkovich than Garry. That's odd enough - but this, to my mind, is odder.

I don't even necessarily disagree with all of that - that's not what I find odd about it. It's that if you look at Mig's Twitter account, it is, like Garry's, wall-to-wall Russia-and-Putin.

What's wrong with that? Nothing, except that suddenly, when it comes to FIDE politics, in which the former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia is involved - somebody much closer to Vladimir Putin than Kirsan, somebody previously described as being "in the Kremlin chain of command" - the story is Makro. Makro, and nothing but.

As I said on Friday, I don't want to make large assumptions about what people think based on what they haven't said, but still - assuming Garry and Mig really are "dumbfounded", I wonder if they will rediscover their voices any time soon?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Friday, 14 September 2018

Quiet game

It just occurred to me the other day that it was odd we've heard so little from Garry Kasparov during this campaign, particularly since the alliance between Arkady Dvorkovich and Nigel Short became apparent, what with one of these being Kasparov's friend (these days) and ally and the other being someone that Kasparov has referred to as
an agent of the Russian government.
Hang on, let me correct myself, it was actually Nigel who said that, a very long time ago in the middle of June. Still, a couple of days before, Kasparov himself was quoted thus:

Back then, Dvorkovich was an agent of Russian soft power, Nigel was against him and so was Kasparov, and everything was clear to us. Now, it's not so clear, and while we are hearing plenty from Nigel on the subject, none of it particularly easy to swallow, all seems quiet on the Kasparov front.

Which is his perfect right, of course, and I'm not much of a one for drawing many conclusions from what people don't say, as opposed to what they do.

But it's just a little curious, given that Garry's known interests include

(a) Vladimir Putin ; and
(b) the leadership of the chess world

and do not include

(c) keeping his opinions to himself on any subject, let alone (a) and (b).

So it seems to me that it would be at least potentially illuminating if any chess journalists were to ask him whether he has any thoughts on the matter of the FIDE Presidential contest, on Arkady Dvorkovich's proximity to Russian political power or on Nigel Short's proximity to Arkady Dvorkovich.

Garry's playing chess (sort of) in St Louis this week. Is there anybody who is in a position to ask him, while he's there?

Thursday, 13 September 2018


A couple of days ago I was idly browsing chess books on Amazon and wondered what they had on the Queen's Gambit Declined, which I play, on the White side, extremely badly. I used the search term QGD, which is a mistake if you're looking for chess books (as, for different reasons, is QGA). But although it gets you no books, QGD will get you some kind of chess. This kind.

Yes, yes, the right-hand square, but who names a song after the Queen's Gambit Declined anyway? It might be (if I recall correctly) the only opening Kasparov and his team didn't think they could prove an advantage against, but as that doesn't seem to be the particular angle that the song is taking, I wrote to the artist to ask.

He replied:
I was learning a bit of chess and I thought QGD (for Queen's Gambit Declined) would be a cool song title. The song is kind of based around the idea of not taking something offered to you at face value - which I think is the point of QGD in chess - it's better for black in the long run to not accept the proffered pawn. I'm not amazing at chess though, so hopefully I didn't get that wrong.
Well don't worry mate, none of us are, and wrong is what we get it most of the time.

Anyway, I mostly divide my musical time between various periods of classical music and various iterations of folk, so I might not be quite the audience for this particular number. Play it, though, via the link above, and see what you think.

But this is still my favourite.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Scanners live in vain

What's happening at New In Chess? Last year they forgot the difference between a rook and a bishop. Earlier this year they forgot to ask permission to use other publishers' work (preferring instead to re-translate it back to English instead). Now it seems they've forgotten how to use a scanner.

I got one of their emails yesterday - almost always a welcome sight, except when it concerns a book by Cyrus Lakdawala. This one is written by Jerzy Konikowski and Robert Ullrich, is about the King's Indian Attack and is the latest (the third, I think) in the Properly Played series.

Well you say "properly played", but if we click on the link in the email and on the New In Chess page that appears we click on Sample Pages, we get this.

Several pages of this.


All right, maybe they haven't forgotten how to use their scanner, maybe it's broken or something. As it happens mine is pretty rickety and I often prefer to give it a miss. Mind you, I'm just an amateur with a blog rather than a professional publisher and I can't think of another professional publisher who presents their publications like that. (What do I know? I'm a bookseller and a qualified librarian. I've spent the last twenty years looking at publishers' websites.) Are New In Chess really going to do this?

The rooks-and-bishops fiasco raised my eyebrows. The Shereshevsy fiasco made my jaw drop. The scanner fiasco?

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Body talk

Position after 38. Qb2-d4??

I'm in the Czech Republic, playing in the Prague Summer Open: I won in the first round last night, not without a large slice of good fortune. The game itself was not very good (visible here if you must).

Having wasted tempi on a grand scale as well as advantages of material and position, I then bucked up, turned down a draw offer I had no objective reason to refuse and played some good moves before arriving at the following position, in which I am winning after White's 38th, prior to which I was no worse.

Anyway it's a funny thing, but after she played her thirty-eighth, which wasn't the move I expected and after which I had about ninety seconds on the clock (thirty second increments, time control and an extra half-hour at move forty) although I have an easy win I am not totally sure I would have seen it. But there was something strange about her reaction just after she played her move - something so small that I can't even be sure it was there, but maybe was a slight hesitation, a slight uncertainty, something that seemed to say oh - have I missed something?.

So I looked for something and took no time at all to find it. But, you know, maybe a poker face gets her a draw.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Greek gift?

Max Dlugy, Naka's Magic, New In Chess 2018/5, p. 82

But isn't a Greek Gift the bishop sacrifice with check?

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Old tricks

It does?

Tell me more.

There's a lot to tell, but to cut a longish story short, it turns out that Mark Horton (no relation) who is a long-time bridge professional and journalist, has been padding out his articles for years by borrowing other people's material - some of it from Wikipedia, some of it not - without permission.

Or to cut a shortish story shorter, Mark Horton is a plagiarist. Not, quite, a plagiarist of Ray Keene proportions, but a pretty busy plagiarist nonetheless. Michael Clark, the author of the piece linked to above, has done quite a lot of work collating quite a number of examples, and when you have the time - and you'll want quite a bit of it - I'd recommend checking them out.

But what's this got to do with chess?

Our man used to be a chess player. And a chess author.

Thursday, 19 July 2018


If you were watching football around the start of the Nineties there's a good chance you'll remember James Richardson

who was the presenter of the popular Channel Four show James Has Breakfast In Italian Caf├ęs And You Don't, officially known as Football Italia. You'll maybe also remember its theme.

James is still commenting on football - and if he is not as prominent as he was twenty-five years ago, then again neither is English chess - and among his current projects is The Totally Football Show, a podcast which has just finished a series of shows discussing the World Cup.

Here's the most recent.

If you listen to it from the start, after just a few seconds you'll hear a voice shouting "Unbelievable! Unbelievable this!" in a way which is reminiscent, to me at least, of the background shouting that accompanied the Football Italia theme. I've only listened to the first and last in the series: but I understand you can hear the same thing on all the shows.

But what's that got to do with anything? What's it got to do with chess?

Listen again, and see if you recognise who it is. (But don't take too long, because either you remember this one, or you don't. I didn't.)

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

No prizes

Online piece in the Telegraph about the FIDE election. Hurrah! That looks interesting...

...until it turns out to be one of their Premium pieces, which means that unless you're registered it fades out after a couple of paragraphs.

What a cliffhanger!

Do you know, I registered just to find out who it was.

And what a disappointment. Unfortunately, although the piece continues
These include hosting FIDE delegates on junkets at the World Cup and Russian embassies directly contacting chess federations to sway votes
it doesn't actually go so far as to give any specific allegations or name any actual names. No prizes for guessing? No prizes for journalism, either.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Clean hands

Also ongoing over the past few weeks, Nigel's Presidential campaign, for which Nigel uses the Twitter hashtag #cleanhands4fide: Nigel has now been backed by the English Chess Federation...

...and also by your friend and mine, who was last seen, as far as that very same Federation is concerned, resigning after cheating it of a sum of money.

This is support Nigel is very happy to advertise.

I may have said something similar before, but still, what can you do about this kind of shamelessness but point it out? You either cry "clean hands" or you welcome the backing of a professional cheat and a thief.

"Clean hands"? Clean hands my arse. When Nigel Short says "clean hands", he means clean hands for everybody else.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

No woman no try

Well, I seem to have missed most of June - sorry about that. So what's been happening? Mostly this, which story - not so much the Telegraph piece as the story it reports - is causing quite a lot of fuss, and rightly so.

Not everybody is happy about this, as the Telegraph piece makes plain, and why should they be? On the face of it it's exactly the sort of thing that the ECF should be seeking not to do.

Especially when the face of it is Chris Fegan.

Chris Fegan may well have "over 40 years' experience playing and organising chess" but some other people's experience of him is that far from being "welcoming and inclusive" he's a thoroughly unpleasant bully. He's also, quite importantly, an employee of another board member, Malcolm Pein.

So we don't just get two women passed over, for a post you'd expect a woman to head the queue for, in favour of a man, but a man who's beholden to another board member. This is called "jobs for the boys" in more ways that one, and it's the sort of thing which shouldn't be happening.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Naked personal ambition

I'm a long way from being Malcolm's biggest admirer, but I did enjoy this.

I mean - how many events in Nigel's career haven't been about his own naked personal ambition?

Friday, 25 May 2018

Could this be any more embarrassing?

Or any more ludicrous?

Check out the latest Spectator to find the ECF's support for Nigel urged, in the name of "a clean-up of this organisation"

by a man whose whole career has been based on deceit and malpractice, and one who had to resign from the very organisation whose vote he's trying to influence because he obtained money from it under false pretences.

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Shereshevsky Gambit

I've been entertained, and a little puzzled, by a sideshow in the world of chess book publishing that's been taking place this month, following the appearance of this very striking review, by John Hartmann, which apparently also appears (though not in an identical version) in Chess Life.

It concerns the English edition, and hence translation, of Mikhail Shereshesky's The Shereshevsky Method To Improve In Chess: From Club Player to Master published earlier this year by New In Chess. (At least it is in part, and that is the part that I'm interested in here.)

As you can see from its Amazon page, it's been well-reviewed in other sources, but Hartmann spotted some oddities that other reviewers have not, and remarkable oddities they are too. I recommend you read his review before proceeding with my piece: when you do, you'll understand why he writes that
I was astounded by what I found in The Shereshevsky Method.
What astounded Hartmann so? In the first place, the fact that large sections of other people's books are used in the text, far beyond anything we would normally associate with legitimate quotation under the principle of fair use.

How large? Larger than anything I've ever seen before. For instance, the section quoted from John Nunn's well-known book Secrets of Practical Chess begins on page 245 of The Shereshevsky Method and continues through to page 251. That's a quotation six pages long. It's well over half the chapter (which, as Hartmann notes, is ironically entitled "Laziness").

Shereshevsky makes no bones about this. He says very clearly that this is from Secrets of Practical Chess, even gives the page number where you should start and adds
I decided to present Nunn's own version and not waste time looking for material in other similar sources.
Another way to put this would be "I decided not to waste time writing my own book when I could just import pages and pages of somebody else's".

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Monday, 14 May 2018

Celebrity endorsement

It's Tony Buzan!

Also Tony's mate of course.

Nothing from CJ de Mooi yet, but we'll let you know.

[EDIT TUESDAY: no CJ yet but we do have another crony].

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Not making plans for Nigel

There must be any number of reasons why this is an atrocious idea, but let's start off with these:

1. FIDE shouldn't have as its President the single most notorious misogynistic goon in the world of chess. It represents women as well as men and Nigel Short has spent his entire career treating women with an entire lack of respect.

2. FIDE shouldn't have as President somebody who thinks it is all right to bully chess officials and menace them.

3. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who is quite prepared to denigrate people on account of their racial origins ("Asiatic despot"), or to insult whole nationalities. This is a sport for everybody, and people who engage in racial or national jibes shouldn't be in positions of responsibility.

4. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who was quite prepared to take the world championship match away from that organisation when it suited him financially, and never mind the consequences for chess, FIDE or anybody else. It's not just the absurdity, it's the untrustworthiness. And it's not just the untrustworthiness, it's the absurdity.

5. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who misused his position as the ECF's FIDE Delegate to pursue specious court cases on behalf of his political ally while hiding the fact from ECF members. It's that untrustworthiness again.

6. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who has a history of being spectacularly obnoxious to people with whom he's fallen out, of which that notorious obituary is only one (and this another) of far too many examples.

7. FIDE shouldn't have as its President somebody who make a fantastic amount of noise about misconduct but is silent as the grave where his mates are concerned. Or, come to that, somebody whose concerns about Kirsan weren't especially big until the money appeared to dry up. Being a crusader only when it suits you may impress the gullible or the cynical, but there's quite a lot of people in between.

I could go on, and no doubt I will, but that'll do for now. Nigel Short is an offensive, untrustworthy, self-centred and misogynistic bully whose standard mode of behaviour is the feud. I wouldn't put him in charge of a weekend tournament.

Monday, 16 April 2018

The women men don't see

I can't say I'm too impressed with this.

If you've not seen this, it may be that you're not a Gold Member of the English Chess Federation, and so you haven't had the letter from our two representatives about the Finance Council Meeting on 28 April. Yes, it sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Anyway, the excerpt above, which is taken from that letter, makes it plain that the proposal under discussion is a Bad Thing ("vague promises", "someone who is not an ECF member") and it should be opposed. Funnily enough, though, it doesn't tell the reader the one thing above all else that they need to know about Casual Chess and the one reason why it might be worth supporting: which is that it's
London's feminist, diverse, central chess cafe, run by female players.
How extraordinary, to leave that detail out.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Back in the USSR

We were talking history yesterday, and such is also the theme of today's post, which also arises out of a small complaint laid by Gata Kamsky against Garry Kasparov following Fabiano Caruana's Candidates victory: this particular one regarding whether or not the FIDE title matches, in the period when the title was was split, should be regarded as world championships.

Me, I'm ambivalent on the question, but (for example) Peter Svidler isn't, having been unambiguous on the matter during one of his Chess24 commentaries, and Gata Kamsky isn't too uncertain either.

I admit I too had forgotten about Kamsky's match, so I looked it up. I had a bit of an "excuse me?" moment when I did.

Excuse me? "Tiny Soviet republic?"

"In a Soviet satellite?" Excuse me?

The Soviet Union ceased to exist on 26 December 1991.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Taking us back

Just a little more on the self-serving and somewhat amnesiac nonsense from Garry we mentioned yesterday.

It happened to come to the attention of Gata Kamsky, who can remember what happened at Linares even if the perpetrator doesn't.

He could have also mentioned that there was a rather more recent occurrence of the same habit

which people might have made more of had it not been Nakamura on the receiving end.

Or, of course, if it hadn't been Kasparov doing the cheating.

Anyway, all this reminded me that when the Nakamura incident occurred, a commentor on here drew my attention to another incident involving Kasparov, one from thirty years ago that I couldn't remember hearing of before.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Two of a kind

This pair of jokers eh.

Just to recall that CJ de Mooi resigned from that post (his term having been characterised by a series of scandals) just after having been handed a sum of money to perform his duties abroad, and proceeded to have himself a holiday instead.

Ray of course resigned from the same organisation years ago after being accused of defrauding its members out of a similar sum of money.

Two old frauds. No wonder they get on.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Double take

Well I opened up my nice new copy of New In Chess on the rest day and what should I see but this very interesting piece about something Ilya Merenzon wrote in City AM back in January.

Yes, most interesting it was, particularly the way it mentions Merenzon's use of "unverified polling data" and "unverified medical research", themes that were perhaps just as interesting on the two occasions that the piece has been mentioned on this blog.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Set 'em up

I enjoyed watching two exciting games on Chess24 yesterday, but not half so much as I enjoyed the moment when, frustrated by a persistent screenfreeze, Jan and Peter were forced to get out an actual chess set in order to perform their analysis for their viewers.

I don't usually get the chance to listen to the commentary (work, or other things to do, or not being on my own) but if they're going to have to do this on a regular basis, with a set and pieces like it was still the Eighties or something

then I reckon I'll make the effort to follow it a little more.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Stolen Memories

You'd like to think that the merits of a cause could be judged by the quality of the buffoons who support it. It ain't so of course, and there are all kinds of clowns on every side of any given argument, but nevertheless I was pleased to see that FIDE's latest blundering proposal, to bully its members into giving professional incompetents AGON (or anybody else) an illegal monopoly on transmitting chess moves, has been supported by professional buffoon Steve Giddins.

Now, if I were Steve I wouldn't be using the word stolen, for a couple of reasons, one of which is that you can't steal what isn't anybody's property, and there's been enough court cases by now which have established what we already knew, that the moves of chess games are public information in the public domain. You can't steal them.

But there's another reason, which is that you can steal other things, which include the analysis of chess games, and the notes made to them. Or should we say purloin?

What do you reckon, Steve? I reckon there's people who can talk about stealing, and then there's people who are more-than-willing dogsbodies for an actual fraud and thief.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Variation in reverse

This is International Women's Day, which gives me a good reason to mention some recent research on women in chess that has got a little less publicity than one might have hoped: certainly less publicity than attended Nigel Short's successful efforts to make an arsehole of himself a while ago. That went worldwide: if the research received any wider public circulation than the Yorkshire Post I'm not aware of it. Hey ho.

Anyway, it was recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Here's what it looks like, and as you can see its title is Female Chess Players Outperform Expectations When Playing Men, which is something that should perhaps interest us on principle

but which is also, apparently, contrary to what some research had previously led people to believe. This is a question of stereotype threat - described in the paper as a situation
whereby an individual's awareness of a negative stereotype influences their performance
which in the particular case we are considered here, would involve women, playing against men and aware that they may be judged, as women, by the results, suffering in their peformance as a result of that awareness.

That is, if I understand it correctly. Don't rely on me - the actual paper is available here. Its author is Dr Tom Stafford of Sheffield University and his conclusion, from analysing the outcomes of a prodigious number of FIDE-rated games, is that not only does the effect appear not to exist in this particular context, but in fact a small effect in the other direction can be noted, that - as the title says - women appear to overperform when playing men.

Another way to put this is that men, considered as a group, may underperform slightly when playing women - to quote the paper again
one plausible mechanism is a degree of male under-performance rather than female overperformance. This coule be due to male underestimation of female opponents, misplaced chivalry or choking due [to] the ego-threat of being beaten by a woman.
Who knows? More research required, as ever. I should say I'm not in a position to judge the merits of the paper, having jacked in mathematics when I was sixteen. (Just on the paper's terminology, I'm not sure that "throw a game" is usually taken to mean what Dr Stafford uses it to mean, and at one point there's a confusion between "game" and "match" that has irritated me before. But these are not important points.)

Anyway, read the paper. (I'd print it out if I were you, it's almost impossible to read on a smartphone.) And after that we might try and put some thought into how we can try and address the absolutely execrable ratio between male and female chessplayers that exists in English chess.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"I played on my own, but I like playing on my own"

From Sid Lowe's account of the kidnap of Quini, the Spanish football legend who died this week.