Thursday 27 December 2018

Ace Of Wands

Now here's frustrating.

While I was researching yesterday's piece - or trying to - I came across this link, via one set of search terms or another, I forget what.

Just because I thought I might as well, I put chess into its search box, and flicked through to one of the references. And this is what I found.
Ace of Wands concerned Tarot, who was a master magician and telepathic super sleuth, who would use his gifts in order to fought evil criminals, such as Madam Midnight and Mr. Stabs...

...a diamond gives its name to the final second season story, "The Eye of Ra". It is a diamond reputed to have magical powers, one of which is the ability to turn people into chalk statuettes. A wheelchair bound chess-master Ceribraun (Oscar Quitak) wants to obtain the diamond. He tries to force Tarot to steal it for him by kidnapping Mr. Sweet and making it appear he has been turned to chalk. His statuette is then knocked over and smashed by accident causing Tarot to think Mr. Sweet has been killed. Lulli, as well as Mr. Sweet, finds herself a prisoner of Ceribraun and his servant, Fredericks, and in trying to rescue her, Tarot finds himself on Ceribraun's giant robotic chess board being crushed by two huge chesspieces.
This sounds fantastic, you are saying. Show us some pictures, you are saying.

Alas, there are none to show.

They were wiped. Well, the first two series of the show were wiped, and our episode was the final segment of the second series. "This story no longer exists."

Even that's not quite true: three parts of it can be found on YouTube, but in audio form only. (I've not listened to them.) But no footage, apparently, nor any publicity shots, photos taken on set, nothing to show us our wheelchair-bound chess master, or our hero under threat from gigantic robotic chess pieces.

I'd never heard of Ace of Wands. I was a touch young for it, being six when these shows were broadcast, though I do remember a little of The Tomorrow People, which seems in some senses to have replaced it. (If any comparison can be made with Doctor Who, I saw my first episodes of that show in January 1972, just a few months later.)

Too late, too late. There's a few web pages available about the show, but they all say essentially the same thing, that while the third series is available, the first two are (almost entirely) lost to us forever.

Oscar Quitak is still with us: for all I know, he might have some old photos, but as he's in his nineties and lives on Ibiza, I don't think I'll be troubling him to ask. His other credits, coincidentally, include the 1983 ITV series Chessgame.

I don't reckon there's any chess in it.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

A second look

You might recall this piece from early last year, in which I was, ah, sceptically non-committal about a Guardian story involving Donald Sutherland, not previously known to me as a chess enthusiast, intervening in a game between two newlyweds to point out a win in what appeared to be a hopelessly lost position.

It may be that I scoffed too soon. I'm indebted to Mike in comments for finding an interview with Paul Darrow, most famous for playing Avon in Blake's Seven and, as such, no stranger to hopelessly lost positions.

What does Darrow have to tell us? It transpires that he was once in a series called The Odd Man - during which time he played chess with another member of the cast - none other than our man Donald Sutherland. How did it go?

Not well for Darrow.

So not only does Sutherland play - at least, he did in 1963, and in 2006 - but maybe he can play a little bit better than the average near-beginner.

Still, this leaves us with the mystery of why it is that I have been able to find so little on Donald Sutherland's interest in the game, given that normally, if a celebrity so much as looks at a chessboard, we hear how much of a chess fan they are for years afterwards.

I got excited by this, for a moment, but there's no more to it than Donald saying "the chess game begins", and it's a metaphorical game that he's referring to.

This is more to the point: Donald says
...diplomacy is diplomacy, but...Henry Kissinger once described it as a chess game. It's not a chess game. Chess is war. Diplomacy is supposed to be dealing.
which I think is the sort of thing that somebody interested in chess might say.

But beyond that, I'm really struggling.

Kiefer, on the other hand, no problem.

Monday 10 December 2018

600 million reasons not to read Ray's new book

I'm sure you weren't going to touch it anyway, but I'm also sure you'll be as pleased as I was to learn from Olimpiu's review that everybody's favourite chess fraud has been happy - again - to repeat everybody's favourite fraudulent chess statistic.
chess can now boast 11 million games played online, worldwide every day; 600 million active chess players and no fewer than one billion smart phones in use with chess apps!
Well, he's happy to repeat, full stop.

As Olimpiu observes, Ray's said this already, in Synapsia, the magazine of his fraudulent Brain Trust charity:

and he said it again in the Spectator in September, sans the billion smart phones.

I've not seen the book, but according to Olimpiu this whole section (World Chess Comes to London) is copied out word-for-word from the Synapsia article.

Of course it is, it's what he does: but I hope on this occasion he found time for publication to check his dates.

Monday 3 December 2018

Seventh impressions

Alex Spencer, a schoolteacher and member of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club, went to the Carlsen v Caruana match, the first such event he's attended. Thanks very much to him for permission to reproduce them here. - ejh
World Chess Championship 2018
Game 7
Sunday 18th November

Magnus Carlsen (white) v Fabiano Caruana (black)

These are just a collection of my thoughts as I sat staring at both players through the double layer of protective glass for 3 and a half hours.

Apologies in advance to the chess experts. I’m writing this to be less about the chess and more about my observations on the players and the whole experience of staring at two people non-stop for so long.

Notes on Magnus Carlsen (opening thoughts)
  • 27. Norwegian.
  • World number 1.
  • Thought by some to be the best chess player ever.
  • One shirt button undone.
  • Bit of a bum chin (only a little bit).
  • Bit of hair gel.
  • Muscular, sporty physique.
  • Looks like a Norwegian footballer. Maybe a right midfielder for Southampton who has had 6 months out with a bad knee injury and is struggling to get back his peak fitness.
  • Light pink shirt.
  • Black suit.
  • Brown belt.
  • Black shoes.
  • ‘PLAY MAGNUS’ sponsor on his upper right arm jacket.
  • ‘Simonsen Vogtwiig’ (SP?) on his right breast pocket. Another sponsor?
  • Magnus takes his jacket off after move 12. Oh no! What about the sponsor… It’s OK. He hangs the jacket on the back of his chair so the sponsor is showing. And his shirt has the same sponsors in the same locations so now it’s double sponsor time.
  • [Has he done that because he’s stressed? Hot? Surely not thinking about the double sponsorship.]
  • Studying his face, he looks like a boy on the first day of a big secondary school. A boy who was the smartest kid in primary school. By far. A boy who was worried he wouldn’t be the smartest kid anymore. But he’s halfway through his first day and he now knows he’s still the smartest kid.
  • Magnus sits normally. Then with his left leg tucked under his right leg. (Like my girlfriend sits). Then 3 moves later with his right leg over his left leg. (Like I sit if I’m pretending to be mature).
  • Magnus goes to make a move but pulls his hand away. It’s good to see that the best still have so much doubt and indecision.
  • He plays with a taken pawn in his hand through a lot of his thinking.
  • I imagine if he was a poker player he’d be constantly manipulating the chips between fingers in quick, regular patterns.
  • Looks unimpressed by … 12 Qe7.

Notes on Fabiano Caruana (opening thoughts)
  • Glasses.
  • No hair gel.
  • Short, curly, fluffy dark hair.
  • Light blue shirt. It looks like a block of light blue. But then it’s actually a tiny check of light green and white. A nice shirt but not a sleek shirt.
  • Navy suit. No sponsor
  • [I noticed much later during the press conference that he has a SLC logo on his blazer breast pocket. St. Louis Chess Club]. But no sponsor as such.
  • Looks like the kid at school who is not massively popular but happy with his lot.
  • He’d be the best at science. Because science is about how hard you work.
  • But is he actually immensely talented? It’s hard to tell because he works so hard.
  • Sits ‘normally’ throughout. Both feet flat on the ground. Often on the edge of his seat with his elbows on the table. Alert. Very alert.
  • Is this the most efficient way to sit? More oxygen to your brain? Why is Magnus clogging all his oxygen supplies with his demi-yoga pose?
  • Clean shaven like Magnus. But Magnus looks like he’s shaven. Fabi looks like he doesn’t have to shave.
  • Caruana looks like a cross between Screech from Saved by the Bell and Mark Zuckerberg. But shorter than both of them. And more steely than both of them. And smarter. Fabi is growing on me the more I look at him. I wanted him to be the guy who put up a good fight and got beat. But there’s a nice confidence to his manner. He knows everyone’s here to see Magnus. But that’s ok. That’s how it’s always been.
  • 26 years young.
  • They’ve both been playing chess round the world since they were tiny but whereas Carlsen seems to carry that around with him, Fabi looks like he’s just hitting his stride.
  • Both players seem to relax their posture when the other one steps outside (presumably to go to the toilet) Or maybe to eat. I didn’t see either player eat. Maybe they’re not allowed to eat. Is it like exams? You can drink water but no eating? One of their games lasted 7 hours. You’d want at least a banana.

Sunday 2 December 2018

605 million reasons not to believe what you read in Wired

Jonathan draws our attention to this piece from Wired a few days ago, in which the author, as well as being perhaps the only person on the planet who thinks that Spassky beat Fischer

(an error which to their credit they have now corrected)

also appears to believe that the planet contains many hundreds of millions more chess players than is intrinsically likely.

Maybe she was unwise enough to read Dylan Loeb McClain - or, more likely, and even more unwise, to believe what Ilya Merenzon told her.