Monday, 22 May 2017


Let me point you in the direction of a couple of items, one recent, one less so, the two of them connected. The first is the first ever posting on this blog, which touches on the journalism of Dirk Jan Ten Geuzendam. The second is a comment recently placed by Hylen on a posting from February.

This discussed the question of Jaap Van Oosterom's world correspondence chess titles, and who might have illicitly helped him win them. The comment draws our attention to a passage from the recent New In Chess eulogy to Van Oosterom

the author of which is Dirk Jan Ten Geuzendam.

The passage referred to is this one.

Let's take, for instance, this:
Needless to say, he used all the advice he could get.
What does this mean?

Friday, 19 May 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 9. Jacobs Crackers

I know, but I've been wanting to use that headline since the series started.

This episode is, once again, a little interlude while the next, on Herbert's political adventure, is in course of preparation. Talking of taking a break, I was over in France a couple of weeks ago, in Dieppe on the north coast, when I stumbled on a pretty decent bookshop. It had an impressive array of magazines, including something you wouldn't find on the shelves over here: a chess mag. There were five copies of the May edition of the excellent Europe Echecs. I bought one: 74pp; attractive layout; comprehensive news round-up (France, Europe, World) including a report on the 4NCL by Romain Edouard (of Guildford!) ("Le niveau est inférior à la Bundesliga ou la Liga"); interesting games with instructive analysis by French GMs and IMs; nice historical articles (Tal 25 years after his demise; AVRO 1938); a report of the Pro Chess League on the Internet ("La Révolution du jeu par équipe") and of a seminar on Echecs et Pensée Stratégique in Valence. Most of it is in guessable French; all for 6,95 Euros. Worth every penny.

You can't go to northern France, i.e Picardy or Normandy, without noticing how it is marked by the battles fought on its soil in two World Wars (1914-18, and 1939-45). Herbert Jacobs lived through both of them - albeit in London - and they are the reference points for this slender episode.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Couple of questions to the candidate

From that manifesto biog:

You sure about that Mike? I always thought you lost a tie-break match to Bill Hartston, who became Champion, no "joint" about it.

You sure about about that Mike? You introduced "about a million"? You "introduced" about a million?

Monday, 15 May 2017

Mike Basman in the House!

Good Lord!

It appears Mike Basman is standing for Parliament, in the Conservative/Liberal Democrat marginal of Kingston and Surbiton. Our VAT-averse International Master even has a manifesto. Or, indeed, a (Bas)Manifesto.

Mike's standing as an Independent (or in his own words, as a Alt-Conservative/Independent candidate) and not, as we might expect, for the Tax Evaders and Bankrupts Party. His manifesto is the kind of charmless sub-UKIPpery that you kind of expect if you've come across him, with a few extra eccentricities which do not move his platform any further towards the world of coherence.

Here's Mike, for instance, resolving our problems with climate change, which apparently come down to an "impasse".

Mike's understanding of the state of climate science is not exceeded by his knowledge of political life abroad

and this is an analogy which I think is supposed to explain certain relationships of power

but mostly explains that Mike doesn't know how to construct a coherent analogy. Really, who knows what Mike is raving about. Come to that, who has ever known?

Best of luck trying to wade your way through the manifesto, should you really wish to. If it has any practical function it might be to help dispel the idea that chessplayers are any smarter than the rest of us.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Back To The Seventies

You can read an interview on Medium in which the economist and one-time chess player Tyler Cowen talks to Garry Kasparov. (You can also listen to the interview if you prefer.) There's a good gag about pieces on Medium - "they're neither rare, nor well done" - but the chess bits at least are diverting enough, and though I don't care much for subject or interviewer, readers might be advised to ignore my opinions and look for themselves.

Naturally the questioning is mostly the usual patball, do-you-have-any-further-wisdom-to-add that Kasparov usually enjoys - not once in all the coverage of his new book have I see him asked whether he is really some kind of authority in the field of Artificial Intelligence, let alone whether he actually knows any more about American or Russian politics than any other clown with too many followers on Twitter.

Let it pass, it's no worse than the usual and rather more enlightening than most, provided you concentrate on the chess.

I thought I'd pick this nit though. Cowen and Kasparov have this exchange:

Not just close, Garry: in the rating list of January 1979 Timman was ranked joint fifth, with Polugaevsky.

A small and unimportant error, but at least it's Kasparov's field of expertise. I wonder how many experts in AI, or in US or Ukrainian/Russian politics, are queueing up to see what they can learn from Garry Kasparov?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 8. Madame Larkcom

This series on Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863-1950) ("one of the strongest chess players" in the country, at his peak) continues. We looked at Jacobs' chess in some detail in episodes 1 to 5, and 7, and we will return to it later, but in this one we stick with non-chess themes and continue to examine the significant other in Herbert's life. She emerged fully in episode 6: Charlotte Agnes Larkcom (1856-1931). We'll get back to Herbert and his brief political career in an upcoming episode.

At the end of episode 6 we left him, and his bride-to-be Agnes, just as they were displaying the tell-tale signs of suffragist sympathies. She was about to leave behind her brief celebrity in the field of chess problems (October 1886 is the last reference that I could find), in favour of a more sustained renown in another, and Herbert was about to get stuck into his career in the law. He was called to the bar in 1887, and was thus now secure in his chosen profession. It is maybe consequential that he and Agnes were married the following year: on 14 April 1888. Here they are again, in those photographs as close to the happy event as I have been able to find in publicly available sources (even though it inverts their relative ages).

Agnes aged 21 in 1877, and Herbert aged 32 in 1895
This is where this episode will start, but it will go well beyond, into the new century, in pursuit of Charlotte Agnes and her independent path.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Communist quiz

More from Ray.

Questions arising:
  1. The present women's world champion is Chinese, the fifth person of her nationality to hold that title. How did they manage to overcome the collectivist nature of their culture to achieve these heights?
  2. Can anybody think of any countries whose "communist tradition" failed to stop them doing rather well where world titles in chess were concerned?
  3. Why does this drivel get published?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Well I finally tracked down that Ray Keene interview from a couple of weeks ago, which is to say that somebody was kind enough to send me a copy of it. Unlike its subject, it's pretty thin, but there's a couple of points arising, shall we say, that might be worth looking at over the course of the next week or so.

In the meantime this load of old bosh stood out, not least because a few people posted it on Twitter:

Just leaving aside the manifest absurdity of thinking either Lennox Lewis or Henry Kissinger could be FIDE President, I wondered what "diplomatic skills" Ray was proposing that Kissinger might bring to the job.

Will he overthrow Kirsan in a coup and have his supporters tortured in a football stadium?

Will he have FIDE headquarters secretly and illegally bombed?

I think we should not be told.