Friday 24 June 2016

Hackney Seen in St.Louis, Etc.

[This post by Martin Smith]

To borrow a phrase: this is not an orange...

I encountered said not orange some weeks ago at Tate Britain when looking for some chess-art here:

We have talked before on the blog about Conceptual Art, most notably in our discussions of Tom Hackney's work (of which more below), not to mention that of Marcel Duchamp (who pretty much invented the genre when he went "non-retinal"). So, I felt optimistic and ready for the fray...

Friday 17 June 2016

3. Mrs. Fagan's Game Resumed

[This post by Martin Smith]

We are reconstructing the life and chess of Louisa Matilda Fagan (1850-1931). Not that we are the first to do so: Batgirl here, and Francesco Gibellato via here (but in Italian) have done their bit: although (I think it is safe to say) not in as much detail either chess-wise (to which this and the previous episode of this series are devoted), or biographically (which we will get on to next time).

Last episode we left Mrs Fagan at the end of 1897 (and now 47) as she crested the wave of her chess success, which she would surf for several years yet - though the detail becomes more sketchy. Her first tournament outing in 1898 was at Craigside in January - described by the BCM in the manner of a tourist brochure: "play took place in the Craigside Hydro, which is situated in a picturesque spot on the slopes of Little Orme's Head at Llandudno."
"A picturesque spot." We have passed this way before.  
Mrs Fagan's result in the Second Class Tournament was hardly a triumph: she finished 6th/9 with a score of 3.5, which included a loss to her Ladies CC colleague Miss Finn; and she fared no better in a separate handicap tournament where she received "Pawn and Two" against the top seeds - finishing on 50% and 6th/11 (BCM). By way of explanation for the disappointing performance the BCM added that "would probably have done better but for the indigestion during the final stages of the contest." Perhaps she had been under the weather all week.  

Mrs Fagan and Miss Finn returned to Craigside the following year, and were again unsuccessful in a field of ten (Belfast Newsletter 12 January) - though there are no reports of tummy trouble that year. Undaunted the duo was back yet again in 1901 with Mrs Fagan managing second place at her third attempt (6/8) and Miss Finn third (5/8) (Sheffield Daily Telegraph 7 January). But whatever their uneven results: overall "the annual tournament at Craigside affords a happy meeting place for a number of strong amateur players..." observed Gunsberg in a column in the Penny Illustrated Paper (26 January 1901), and accordingly the ladies might have found company, as well as tea and sympathy, in the salons of the Hydro.

Mrs Fagan competed elsewhere, of course, and below we will continue to follow her tournament fortunes before coming back, lower down, to her other chess activities.   

Tuesday 14 June 2016

I'm Forever Blowing Blitz Games

You thought Magnus Carlsen was a Real Madrid fan? Maybe so, but this is a West Ham song.

Turns out Magnus had a ticket for the opening match of Euro 2016 (a game your correspondent missed due to being on a working holiday in Menorca, which may account for the recent absence of posts) and had taken the trouble to pick up a song in honour of the Irons' international midfielder, who repaid the world champion's faith in him by hitting a top-notch winner a few minutes before the end.

Presumably as Magnus was singing the English-language original rather than the French version he must have picked it up off the good people who follow West Ham rather than learning it in Paris.

Anyway the clip was first shown on Norwegian television, so the total number of YouTube hits is not by any means the total number of people who have seen it, but even so, it's odd that this entertaining clip of the most famous player in chess had, in two days on YouTube, been seen by only 495 people

by the time I wrote this entry (a little after the Ireland-Sweden game finished, since you ask).

Well, not really odd. Just odd if you think, like Nigel Short, that chess
is played by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
You'd have thought some of those hundreds of millions would be more interested.

Friday 10 June 2016

Robert Coombes' Comeback

[This post by Martin Smith]

Back in 2011 - it seems so long ago - we told the story of Robert Coombes, aged 13, who, in 1895, murdered his mother. After an Old Bailey trial he was sent to Broadmoor - popularly known as a Lunatic Asylum - where he learnt to play chess, as it said in his hospital notes. In 1904 he appeared in The Irish Times listed as playing in a correspondence match for England against Ireland - and winning. His fellow inmate (or "patient", as you should prefer) Reginald Saunderson (also inside for murder) played for Ireland (and lost). We told Reginald's tale here.  

From the Weekly Irish Times, Saturday 7 May 1904

At the time it was enough that our Blog should follow Robert, and his acquisition of the chess bug, up to his release in 1912 (now age 30 and after he had been inside for 17 years). Beyond that his trail appeared to go cold in spite of your blogger's half-hearted effort to follow it further. I assumed that he had perished in World War 1.

Sunday 5 June 2016

A few million Short

Interesting couple of articles in the Guardian on Friday about Kirsan, FIDE, the Panama Papers and the generally murky business relationships that this involves. It's worth a little bit of your time to look at them.

Well mostly it is, until it gets round to giving Nigel Short's opinion. Funny how often this happens.

What has English chess's Mr Motormouth to say this time?

The game is played by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
This blog looks forward, neither in hope nor in expectation, to hearing what evidence Nigel has for this claim, which looks just a little too much like a claim we've seen too many times before.

Friday 3 June 2016

Champions of Europe

Curious letter in the Times Literary Supplement this week in which a selection of European sporting, intellectual and media celebrities - Raymond Blanc, Alfred Brendel, Costa-Gavras, GĂ©rard Houllier and so on - urged the British electorate to vote not to leave the European Community on June 23.1

There's a couple of interesting names on the list, from our point of view.

As the claims of both camps are coming under intense scrutiny from the other, I wonder....would everybody agree with this one?

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1 A view, for the record, with which the author of this blog strongly concurs.

Thursday 2 June 2016

But what is a synonym for chessboard?

Dr Roget's Economic Chess-Board is for sale.

At £390 it's probably not quite as inexpensive

as it once was...

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Thanks to Richard James.