Monday 31 July 2017

Counting the King's chessmen

Putting away the sets and pieces is a thankless task, yes? Not always. Around nine hundred years ago it was a task which allowed the Russell family to hold the Manor of Kingston Russell - the service being performed for the King, the King in this instance being Henry III.

I owe this information to, among other sources, The Gentleman's Magazine for 1840

which in the course of that year published a review touching on the matter of Serjeanty.

What is Serjeanty? It's a feudal concept by which land was held in return for the performance by the tenant of a particular service, and our reviewer lists a number of the more interesting ones.

Most interesting to us, of course, is the Serjeant Warden-of-the-Chessmen.

Friday 28 July 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 15. Down the Line

But what's this got to do with Herbert Jacobs?

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Annanother one

Thanks to our reader Adam Ponting for spotting the latest manifestation of the 600 million myth, brought to us less than a week ago by IM Anna Rudolf on Banter Blitz.

Fast forward to about 59:36 or click here to hear Anna telling us:
You know that there are six hundred million people playing chess. Six hundred million.
Unfortunately though, Anna, we don't know that, because as everybody should know by now, there aren't.

Friday 21 July 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 14. Still at the Bar

In this episode we are continuing to follow Herbert Jacobs' legal career by looking at cases of his reported in the press. However, before we pick up again from 1914 a little backtracking to the previous episode is necessary consequent upon digging up some more reports from the first years of Jacobs career. Contrary to what was suggested in episode 13, the British Newspaper Archive shows Jacobs as early as 1887 (he was formally called to the Bar in January of that year), so it seems that he didn't have to wait until 1889 for his press debut. In 1887 Jacobs was still only at the very start of his career, and so rather junior, and he was mentioned only as second fiddle to more senior Counsel.

The first case that turned up during this additional ferreting was a contract of employment (as we would know it these days) dispute in November 1887 (London Evening Standard 18 Nov). Jacobs was on the winning side, and the wronged employee won his damages. The second was a rather dry bankruptcy case where the Jacobs team was engaged in formal proceedings to condemn some unfortunate soul to financial oblivion (Huddersfield Chronicle 8 Dec 1888). The third case (Bristol Mercury 7 Dec 1889, and countless others) was altogether more shocking, as it was about extortion from, and abuse (including possible rape and impregnation) of, a domestic worker - a Miss McShane -  and speaks of the dark side behind the veneer of late Victorian respectability. She was mercilessly taken advantage of, and yet the case was heard in the London Sheriff's Court merely for the assessment of damages. The miserable defendants (he, an organist in the local church, his wife and their son) didn't defend themselves and were obliged to pay retributions, though hardly punitive, and it is not obvious that criminal charges were ever brought; but at least Herbert helped her obtain a measure of justice.
Now let's pick things up again in 1914, the year when war broke out.

Thursday 20 July 2017

What sort of person?

This is jerk behaviour, isn't it?

The bloke's been dead for maybe twenty-four hours and Nigel Short is picking a fight with him already.

Now as it happens, I wasn't a great admirer of Andrew Paulson. Nor I am of the school of thought that says that when a controversial figure passes away, that's a reason for forgetting all the doubts you had about them.

But at the same time there is such a thing as respect for the dead (and in this case, dead from cancer, well before his time) and pursuing feuds with them while the body is still warm is a distance outside the bounds of decency.

I'm sure there are people, who, if they said it was nothing personal, they were just trying to keep some truths in the public eye, you could probably believe them.

But Nigel Short ain't one of them. Because Nigel's got form on this subject. Unpleasantness about the dead as well as the living is what Nigel does. With Nigel, it's always personal. It's always a feud.

So when Nigel says this....

...he maybe wants to say it looking in a mirror, because one day people will be remembering what kind of a person he was.

I'm in no hurry to read Nigel's obituary. But when it's written, I hope it's by somebody who's less of a lousy human being than he is.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Black, white and yellow

This season Oxford United have a new manager.

Why do you care, you may ask.

Well I might assume you spend part of any given day thinking about Oxford United - I certainly do - but should that not actually be the case, you might nevertheless like to take a look at this.

We'll maybe overlook the Iron Maiden, but what's this about chess and real ale? Or to cut to the chase, what's this about chess?

It transpires that next to football, Pep Clotet's favourite sport is...ours.

Well never mind what "some people" think. What do they know?

What we know is that Pep Clotet likes real ale, playing guitar and chess.

We have a friend in high places. And going higher.

Saturday 15 July 2017

They boast

I'm a member of a Facebook group called British Chess News, which by and large I recommend, albeit not everything I see there can entirely be recommended. That thought was prompted by this posting yesterday, which came as a surprise to me and not a pleasant one.

? Jon might never have heard of CCF

but a lot of other people have. Indeed we last heard from them (or rather, didn't hear from them) only a week or so ago. And although some things about CCF certainly are very unusual, some of them are not at all welcome.

But here's Scott Freeman to tell us about them.

Scott was number two to the club's chairman and centre manager for many years. So who could be better informed?

As Jon suggests:

- but not, perhaps too little.

That's too little all right. Is there anything else unusual about the club, Scott? Or about some of its members, past and present?

Friday 14 July 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 13. Barrister

We started this exploration of the life and chess of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863-1950) with his obituary. In it his sparring-partner chess-wise and professionally, E. G. Sergeant, noted that Herbert was still practising at the Inner Temple even at the end of his life. As documents from their Archive show, he was formally called to the Bar in 1887, thus embarking on nearly 60 years of professional service. I have not located any pictures of Herbert in wig and gown, but this one from around 1900 shows him looking like he means business. It is the one held by the Jewish Museum referring to his "busy pursuit of a lawyer's profession."

This episode, and the next, will provide edited highlights from Jacobs' long, varied, and colourful legal career - they may also provide some illuminating vignettes of Victorian and Edwardian society. The episodes may turn out to be of particular interest if they reveal whether he put his knowledge and skill at the disposal of his chess colleagues (if ever they found themselves in hot water): ditto the Suffrage movement, which he supported so vigorously up to the outbreak of World War One. This research relies almost exclusively on cases reported in the regional press and accessible via the British Newspaper Archive. As a consequence it cannot claim to be comprehensive of his professional practice: a sample derived from contemporaneous newspaper reportage risks skewing towards the unusual, the amusing, and the salacious (for which readers of this post may be exceedingly grateful).    

Thursday 13 July 2017

Village of the really damned

I was watching Village Of The Damned this afternoon, the 1960 movie adapted, reasonably closely, from John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos.

I'm sure you've seen the film and remember the spooky blond children of alien origin whose shared psychic powers not only scare other people, but are used by the children to kill.

One man is induced to crash his car into a wall after nearly hitting one of the children on the street

while another, his brother, is forced to shoot himself with his own shotgun, having come after the children for revenge.

However, there's one particular moment in the film when we are given a more subtle and yet perhaps more powerful hint as to how evil, and indeed how alien, these children really are.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

By any other name

Pity's sake.

Apparently Garry's a "star of science writing" now.


I mean he's co-written a book in that general field, but that makes him a star?

Let's see how brightly he shines compared to the other lights in the sky.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Now you don't

Here's a funny thing. Just the other day I was flicking through some recent minutes of English Chess Federation board meetings, and in the ones for April I was surprised to come across this.

and specifically this little bit.

"CCF update"? What's that about, I wondered.

CCF, readers will recall, is the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, subsidary of the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, the religious cult in Surrey whose one-time leader was sent to prison for violent attacks on women and children.

Naturally, given the nature of religious cults, and given the possibility that senior members of that cult may have known about Curtis's actions or of allegations against him, this raises the question arose as to whether their chess organisation should continue to host events with children, or have its activities advertised by the English Chess Federation.

Meanwhile CCF, which is of course run by very long-term associates of Curtis, showed no signs of wishing to discuss what anybody had or had not known.

Anyway, as I'll be discussing below, I had no idea that any communication between CCF and the ECF was still going on, and so I sent an email to a director of the ECF just to ask what this "update" was about.

The response surprised me even more. The minutes themselves have now been updated.

They now look like this.

Monday 3 July 2017

Do they mean us? II

From a Guardian piece about the Teaching Excellence Framework. Not for the first time we may find ourselves asking: what on earth has any of this to do with chess?

I mean yes I know it's a metaphor, but are they really saying we can't understand "playing a game" as a metaphor unless someone shows us a chessboard illustrating it?