Friday 24 March 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 5. A Load of Old Cablers

....And so to continue this account of the life and chess of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863 - 1950). After following Jacobs' Congress career (episode 4) over a span of four decades we now follow another chess thread that occupied him on and off for barely more than one - chess by cable. The thirteen Cable Matches between Team GB and Team USA (as we might call them these days) ran from 1896 to 1911, though we shouldn't forget a precursor in 1895 between the British CC and Manhattan CC. Jacobs played in seven of the main series: his first in 1897, his last in 1909, by which time he was competing in the British Championships on until 1923, which is where we got to last episode (this series is a bit cavalier with chronology, so apologies if we now seem to be going backwards).

The name Sir George "Tit-Bits" Newnes (1851 - 1910) figures much in contemporaneous accounts of the cable matches. He was an enthusiastic supporter and sponsor. We have encountered him before in our blogging: he was a chum of the unavoidable "Adonis" Donisthorpe, with whom he went on a Boy's Own-style adventure as recounted here. It was Newnes who provided the trophy for the main run of cable contests, and when he died in 1910 the matches fizzled out a year later when GB finally claimed ownership of his trophy with a third successive win.

Sir George and his trophies. 
Tit-bits evolved into a pin-up mag. 

The Cable Matches have been well documented in two excellent booklets by A.J. Gillam, to which this episode is indebted. They are of invaluable help in reproducing material from the contemporaneous chess press on this side of the pond - most especially The Field . There is also a more accessible Wiki article here that gives all the players and results over the years (and see the Appendix below for a summary) - the matches are also mentioned in Harding's Blackburne as Joseph played in eleven of them. So, in this blog episode we don't need to go into comprehensive detail, and we will try instead to concentrate on Herbert's efforts (though, inevitably, we may be distracted). We can also draw on American sources - principally The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - these days available on-line. Occasionally we get a revealing contrast in the respective reportage from each side. And there will be pictures.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

More fool you

What kind of tomfoolery is this?

One answer might be that it's an awfully familiar form of tomfoolery. It's been a while, sure, since I've come across a prominent piece about the chessboxing circus on the telly, something that the BBC used to do all the time: still, programme researchers are presumably as gullible now as they ever have been, otherwise Tim Woolgar wouldn't have been able to get away with this stuff for a decade.

What's Tim Farron doing, though, going along with this? Why is the leader of the Liberal Democrats promoting an event whose major purpose is to give publicity to a leading member of a far-right organisation?

Friday 10 March 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 4. Congress Man

Episode 1 of this account of the life and chess of Herbert Jacobs (1863 - 1950) - in his time one of England's strongest players (said his obituary) - showed him making his mark on local chess in Croydon. Episode 2 followed him to Brixton, and episode 3 took him to the top of the mighty City of London Chess Club ten years later. He had by this time also got himself a job, and a wife. What follows in this series is organised more by theme than chronology - though the distinction is rather porous and now and then they will cross-reference. This episode follows a Congress thread, and will help give an insight into the strengths and weaknesses of Jacobs' chess. It includes games of some weight, and less. The episode begins by going back in time so as then to progress into the future and the 1920s; by the end of it you will also have a good idea of how Herbert cut a dash in front of the camera.