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.

Friday 3 November 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Inward

On the outward leg of this Streatham Stroll West we got to St. Just, on the Penwith peninsular in Cornwall - almost as far as you can go before you fall off the end. Then there was a hiatus. But now we can press on.

The 1950s photograph of the "West Penwith Club" draughts team which instigated this excursion (here it is again, from Chess November 1950)...

...will now start us on the return leg. However, in best Magical Mystery Tour tradition we have a...mystery: the appellation given by Chess. "The West Penwith Club". Who were they?

Wednesday 1 November 2017

The Mummy

Peter Cushing has a position he wants to be looking at....

.... but he has other things on his mind, as The Mummy is about to crash through the window.

Spotted while watching telly on Halloween night. Dunno that it's really significant enough to be an actual chess scene, but at any rate Chess In The Cinema hasn't got it.

Has Basalla?

[Village of the Damned]

Sunday 29 October 2017

How hard would it have been to get this right?

The New York Post only had to look it up.

The only way to get it wrong would be to assume that because somebody has a Japanese-sounding name, they must be Japanese.

But why would you do that? Why would you do that in the USA? In New York?

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Me neither

What is this garbage please?

I mean what was Pandolfini thinking of here?

He could very easily not have told that story, simply on the grounds that just a few hours after someone's death, it's not necessary to tell stories against them. I could understand that. What I can't understand is why you would choose to tell this story under the impression it was a story in its subject's favour.

Because yes, it was a sexist remark. And no, it wasn't a compliment, even if Lombardy thought it was. It's a story that makes Lombardy look crass and ignorant. It achieves this, because he was being crass and ignorant.

I'm not at all unaware that older people are and were from an age different to ours. Of course. But why choose to tell a story that makes a man you knew look like a silly, sexist old man, if you're trying to make him look good? And if you have to explain away his sexism while you're doing it, is that helpful to any efforts to look squarely at sexism within chess?

Obviously it's not. So what was Pandolfini thinking of?

Monday 23 October 2017

Me too

What is this garbage please?

And what is this garbage too?

I don't know the identity of this clown. Come to that, I don't know of any examples of the "work for sex" which they claim is a "fact" in chess, and they don't offer any. But much more important than either, is the fact that when women have to work for sex, or have to put up with sexual harrassment in order to obtain or continue in work, that's not something that's to their advantage, that's something they hate and are afraid of.

I know this and so should everybody else. It's just not that hard to know.

I know, too, that there are people in chess who don't know that, who think it's funny, even, that women might have to work for sex. How widespread that kind of attitude is in our sport, I don't know.

Perhaps we should try and find out. Perhaps there's a reason why a simple question like this

gets the answer that it does.

Friday 20 October 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Backtrack

In the first leg of our westward Streatham Stroll we followed a wayward path, wandering around the far flung Penwith area of Cornwall, noting the parallel developments of draughts and chess during the nineteenth century. These perambulations around sites of special ludic interest, and/or in pursuit of a good story, involved a detour via Lincolnshire where we followed the misfortunes of Howard Staunton. He, too, deviated from the straight and narrow when trying his hand at draughts, playing for stakes with one of the strongest players in the land (the Cornishman Robert Martins). Howard returned to London a poorer, and perhaps a wiser, man.   

As is often the case when strolling in a foreign field, now and then you have to pause, back up, and do another take - especially if you weren't paying sufficient attention, or someone points out an oversight. This expedition turns out to be no exception. So, when others suggest you take a second look, you must take heed and go into reverse. Hence this unanticipated backtrack to where were were last episode.

Readers who have read the comments to that post, will be aware that two, or maybe even three, points require correction or clarification. This week's unscheduled episode is intended to do just that and to put matters right before we press on next time. Apologies for having been too precipitous previously, and for not having taken proper precautions when we stepped out into unexpectedly hazardous terrain: the world of draughts.

Monday 16 October 2017

Closing time

I'd like this to be good.

It's my favourite sporting event ever, the 1978 match. Not just my favourite chess match, my favourite anything match, and I'd like a film about it to live up to that status.

You can't judge a film by its trailer, but my impression is that I'm liable to be disappointed, and to explain why, I want to make reference to a book I like, which is Edmonds and Eidinow's Bobby Fischer Goes to War (Faber & Faber, 2004).

You might say that you know more, after reading a good book, than you did before you read it, and that's true of Edmonds and Eidinow. But it's also the case that a good book leaves you knowing less, that what you thought you knew turns out not to be so simple, and that's what I liked about it most. Fischer v Spassky has been sold to us as the one-man band against the system, the lone genius against the Soviet system: and truth by told, that's part of the story, that's a theme you couldn't properly leave out.

But Edmonds and Eidinow write such that your sympathies aren't divided quite so unequally by the end. By then you probably like Fischer less than Spassky, and more to the point you probably like Fischer's entourage a good deal less than you like Spassky's, never mind the political systems behind them. It's not the story you expected, but it's a truer one, and a more detailed one, and it doesn't stop you thinking that Fischer was a lone genius against the Soviet system nonetheless.

Of course when I say "you" I mean the general reading public, since if you're a chessplayer, you might well already have a more nuanced and complex view of that match than other people. But it's that public, as well as chessplayers like us, which was well-served by the Edmonds/Eidinow book.

Will the cinema-going public be equally well-served by Closing Gambit?

Monday 9 October 2017

International Man of Mystery

A curiosity indeed.

I did not know this.

I probably should have, and when I looked up the Black Friday case - and it's a doozy - it certainly rang bells. If I played poker, I'm sure the name Isai Scheinberg would have meant something to me. But as it is, it was only last week that I learned that one of our major chess tournaments is sponsored by a man who is wanted in the US, on very serious charges involving very large sums of money.

In fact I've been exceptionally slow on this, because Mr Scheinberg has been sponsoring the tournament, either directly or through his one-time company PokerStars, every year since 2014.

On the run

But if did not know this, a lot of other people probably did. And if they did, they presumably didn't think the charges against Mr Scheinberg were of any importance at all. Nothing in which the chess-watching public might be interested. Nothing that ought to preclude him from sponsoring a chess event.

Which is pretty revealing, as statements of values go.

Friday 6 October 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Outward

Back in 2012 we instigated the practice of strolling chess-wise around Streatham and its environs - and occasionally even further afield. This is of obvious interest to those who live hereabouts and are members of the local chess club, but as chess knows no boundaries our wayfaring may have a broader appeal. So please follow as we set off for another chessic forage, this time to pastures, places, and games anew.

After Streatham Strolls East sometime ago (we got as far as Brockley and its cemetery, a few miles away, only to be stopped dead in our tracks by Joseph Blackburne, who pops up again below, large as life), now we go West - though not as far as Canada, the destination of our last outing. No, this time we go only as far Cornwall; and although our principal quarry is chess, there's another board game that will detain us en route: one as unfathomable as our own...

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Demonstration board

Chess maintaining its middle-of-the-road image during the Catalonian strike yesterday.

Monday 25 September 2017

V šachu

Last month when I was playing chess in Prague I had a short draw on the final day, and hoped to do pretty much a full day's sightseeing. Alas, it started ratting down like nobody's business and after lunch I had no option but to retreat to my hotel room, where I nodded off while waiting for the rain to stop. When I woke up, out of habit I picked up the remote control and...

...Good God, is that chess on the telly?

It surely was.

I was so impressed I took a load of really poor-quality photographs.

Friday 22 September 2017

Les Chesseurs Britanniques de Paris: Part 7 Addendum bis

In a series beginning here we followed the fortunes of the short-lived British Chess Club of Paris. It has some surprises yet, and this episode provides an update.

The club sprang into life in 1926, meeting in café venues, more or less regularly, until the final pawn was pushed in 1939 on the eve of World War 2. Its membership fluctuated from an initial 15 or so, down to a low point when just a handful of dedicated souls kept the flame alive, and back up to around 30 towards the end. The club's most high-profile appearance was in 1931 in a cable match against the Manhattan Chess Club - alas they lost. In its glory days the club fielded teams in the Paris league, competing for the Coupe de Paris (of which more below). The BCCP was represented on the organising committee of the competition, as well as on the French National Chess Federation.

The BCCP's membership was a mélange of businessmen and diplomats posted in Paris, and resident Anglo-Francs. Les anglais visiting Paris for un bon moment were welcome. Some members can be spotted on the chess scene back in Blighty before or after the years of the BCCP, but others seem to be undocumented in all the usual places. In the previous series we compiled a partial list of members, sourced from occasional reports of the club's activities (see the Appendix below); and now, thanks to further research by Dominique Thimongier of Héritage des Echecs Français - to whom we once again express our gratitude - we can add more names, the first of which turned up in the French sporting daily L'Auto. 
Accessible via Gallica@BNF

As we go along we can also tap into some of the chess incident at the Coupe, on and off the board.

Tuesday 19 September 2017

So what?

I'll be rooting for Ding today. Partly because I like to support the underdog, but partly because this gets on my nerves.

Normally it's in rather bad taste to publicly criticise a sporting competitor's religious views, since they're not intrusive and they're not our business, but if a player's going to make a public claim that they won because God helped them win - so what made Fedoseev less worthy, are you a better person than he is? - that's the kind of circumstance that alters cases. Different things get up different noses, but this is the kind of thing that gets up mine.

As it happens, Wesley discussed this very question in a recent article for Christianity Today. What Wesley said is this:

which is all well and good but it doesn't go on to ask the obvious question as to whether, if God helps Wesley win chess games, that means it's God who makes other people have cancer, say, or die in car crashes. Think it through, man. Think about what it would mean if we applied it to the lives of other people. Is that like Daddy too? Is that like being punished by Daddy, because they've been bad?

Monday 18 September 2017

Now you don't

As it's the rest day, let's scroll back to Thursday for a moment, since something odd seems to have happened towards the end of the first Fedoseev-Rodshtein game - but nearly everybody seems to have missed it. It's something to do with this, though this doesn't tell you what it is., too, give us the facts, but not, in this particular instance, the story.

So what is the story?

Let Matt Fletcher tell us.

Hang on, what was that again? Black tried to reply to Rf8+ with ...Kg8?

How very odd. They're adjoining squares.

Let's look at the position. White checked on f8...

....and Black somehow moved his king like so...

under the impression that it was a legal square?

I think we'd better look at some footage.