Tuesday 31 January 2017

Don't look now

I don't know if you caught this piece over the weekend, recounting a chance meeting over the weekend with a movie star whose surreptitious advice helps the honeymooning author to win a chess game against her husband.

According to her:
On one night, it was not looking good. Jason, who is much more of a strategist than me, had already claimed several of my pieces. Grinning at the prospect of another victory, he disappeared to the toilet while I considered my next move

At that moment, a shadow loomed over me, and a gravelly voice interrupted my glum thoughts of defeat. "You need to move that piece there," explained the voice. "And when you’ve done that, move this piece over here."
The gravelly voice turns out to belong to Donald Sutherland (The Dirty Dozen, Don't Look Now).

She continues:
the sight of Hawkeye Pierce from the film version of M*A*S*H giving me tips on how to win at chess rendered me practically speechless.
Now personally I think it would terrify the shit out of me, but that's because I've seen Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers.

Anyway it all ends happily
When Jason reappeared I casually moved my pieces as suggested, and within a few minutes victory was mine
which is unusual for a Donald Sutherland production.

Friday 27 January 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 1. Beginning in Croydon

Not many chessers these days have heard of Herbert Levi Jacobs (16 June 1863 - 11 February 1950), unless, that is, you've read the small print on our blogs, where he has had an occasional mention. There are, admittedly, passing references to him in the biographies of others, but nobody, as far as I'm aware, has given him much of an airing on his own account. Which is a shame: first, because "for many years [he]...ranked as one of England's strongest chess-players"; and second, because for sometime in his long chess career (which included on the national stage) Herbert Jacobs played for Brixton CC, and as a youngster he lived in Streatham. So, after threatening,  back in 2014, to write about him, and again last year, your blogger - a current member of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club - his managed to pull his finger out: Jacobs' day has come - on this blog anyway. Herbert Levi Jacobs - This Is Your Life.

His was a long innings in which he played a good deal of competitive chess and made many friends on the circuit, all woven into a successful professional career at the Bar and in the Law. There was also a rather shorter, and less successful, venture into the bear-pit of politics. He had an intriguing marriage, too. So, given such a extensive and interesting life, and to make things manageable, this will be a series: the first posts will give, together with biographical details, some edited highlights of Jacobs at the board in Croydon, in Brixton and in the wider chess-world. Then we will concentrate on Jacobs away from the board; and a finally we will turn our attention to Mrs Herbert Jacobs (though she was better known otherwise).

Again there are the usual caveats: this will be a résumé, and though detailed, has no claims to the impeccable thoroughness in the manner of Harding, Rennette et al.  All errors, omissions, exaggerations, flights of fancy - signalled by "perhaps" or "maybe" - and other sundry indiscretions are the responsibility of your blogger. Just one other point: 24 of Jacobs' games are on-line here. I have also linked them where appropriate in the text, but have not reproduced these scores otherwise, unless particularly note-worthy. One the other hand I have given, here and there, the scores of a number of other games of his, which, as far as I am aware, have not been published on-line.

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Seventies Rock

Thanks to the correspondent who alerted me to this: the pictures seem to show that Ray's lecture was well-attended and I only wish I could have been there myself. I do hope that the answer to this gentleman's question

is yes one way or the other.

Pending that opportunity, I don't know if anybody can tell us: did any of the people attending ask any useful questions? Like, for instance, "why did you lie to Viktor Korchnoi and break your contract with him in order to write an instant book of the match?"

Come on, Ray, it's been nearly forty years now. Isn't it time to confess?

Monday 23 January 2017

Cheese and potatoes

Now that Donald Trump has managed to get himself inaugurated without being arrested - yet - who are this profoundly ignorant man's big supporters in the world of chess?

We'll pass over Peter Thiel, for the moment, who aside from being a Trump adviser is a notorious bully, a woman-hater - and who apart from having a FIDE rating of 2199 showed up at the world championship to make a ceremonial first move for Sergei Karjakin.

Big cheese though Thiel may be, in chess terms he's small potatoes when compared to Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Sinquefield Cup and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, co-sponsor of the Grand Chess Tour, and effective creator of the current US Olympiad team, gold medallists in Baku.

Also, a leading supporter of Donald Trump.

Rex Sinquefield (Stephanie S Cordle)

There's nothing obscure about this: Sinquefield is a known and notorious figure in Missouri and US politics, the biggest single political donor in his home state, his priorities including trying to abolish income tax and public education, but not including a great deal of respect for women and minorities. Or poorer people.

There's nothing obscure about this, unless you were only to read the chess press, which despite all its coverage of Mr Sinquefield's chess tournaments and chess philanthropy, has not been noticeably forthcoming about the less public-spirited applications of Mr Sinquefield's money. One wonders whether this will change, now that this money has helped elect the single most controversial and dangerous holder of the US Presidency in the history of that office.

Friday 13 January 2017

Chess in Art: Again, With A Footnote

Without wanting to bang on too much about the chess-art, last week's post did suggest that there was a lot of it about. Take Barcelona, for example, right now:

We've seen that Dorothea Tanning photo-montage before, in London just a few years ago (and see here). But that Delauney is a new one - and it helpfully exemplifies a point made in last week's post about the board's chequered pattern serving as a contrast to plainer passages; and is a reminder that it is a motif from theatrical costume. This art website helpfully thumbnails some of the works in the Barcelona show in case it's not convenient for you to hop over there to catch it (by the 22nd January). You'll recognize a few more of them, including Metzinger's Soldier playing Chess from 1915/6, which we showed last week when discussing Chess Board Cubism (and I'd quite forgotten that you can also see it here).

In view of the passing of the great and influential Marxist art critic, writer, and occasional artist, John Berger (1926 - 2017), it was quite remiss of me not to have mentioned last time his particular perspective on Cubism. So I'd like to add a brief footnote about his views - and note a reference he made to chess.

Friday 6 January 2017

Chess in Art: Chess Board Cubism

Already almost a week in, but still time to wish you a Happy New Year - and kick it off with some more chess in art. Looking around, there is no shortage of it: there are so many websites and blog posts now devoted it, including these. Not forgetting a stunning book.

Apparently all periods and schools of art have found inspiration in the game. For figurative artists it has offered a vehicle for any number of narratives: courtly dalliance, flagrant flirtation, existential gloom, apocalyptic warfare, geopolitical intrigue, political lampoon, and more. Non-figurative artists have looked to the motivation behind the moves, the geometry in the play, the rolling thought beneath, all of which make the game amenable to more conceptual or abstract expression - and a medium for those artists who, from the early decades of the last century, have been leaving representation behind.

This post will explore one such early twentieth century artistic "ism" at the outer limit of representation, whose label suggests a rectilinear affinity with a game played on squares: Cubism. It flourished and dissipated more or less a hundred years ago; although it still casts a long shadow. "Cubism"  has always intrigued me, especially as artists of this stripe created a good number of chess-themed works, almost since day one. Please see below.