Monday 28 January 2019

Is this really a good way to promote women's chess?

I doubt it

especially since the Opening Ceremony involved parading round a Miss Gibraltar

once again.

So maybe this observation from last year will do for this year too:
...let's go back to our image. An old guy surrounding himself with much younger women.

If you're anything like me, you might think that image wouldn't be happening if he wasn't the guy paying for it to happen.
No matter how much money he's spraying about, Brian Callaghan is a sleazy old man.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Brain operation

If you haven't seen it yet, here's my email to Ray, as yet unanswered, in Kingpin.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Mechanical reproduction

Roger was kind enough to comment on last Monday's post, on the apparent discovery by Chess and Bridge that the Times chess correspondent produces rubbishy books in which material is copied and pasted from previous work and their subsequent decision to cease to stock his latest effort.

The question came up as to whether any of Ray's other stuff is still on the shelves there. I'm about a thousand kilometres away and not in a position to check, but Roger employed the shop's handy search function, and, apart from the volume at the centre of the present controversy, located
a couple of old books on Staunton and the Deep Blue match.
I've nothing against the Staunton, which I've not seen, but it's from several decades ago and for all I know is a fine effort, since Ray used to be capable of that back then. As for the Deep Blue book

I hadn't seen it either, but by chance, the US publisher has put the entire thing online, so I played around with the notes to see if and where - all right, where - they had been published prior to appearing in the book.

This isn't as much fun as it used to be, since The Spectator's archive has now disappeared behind a paywall, so you only get a brief look at the original column. You can't screenprint the notes and put them next to the reused versions any more. Nevertheless, the Google searches tell their own story.

Man Versus Machine

What happens when you Google

and both this and the following excerpt are from the notes to first game.

You'll find others if you look.

Monday 21 January 2019

Three years ago Today...

...since the Today Programme ran an interview with Nigel Short about a ban on chess that hadn't happened.

(And within a couple of years, he'd be playing there himself.)

Tuesday 15 January 2019

No way Ray

Well this is amusing.

But also a little curious.

Good, Ray's book got the push. Great news. Excellent.

Still, one wonders - what did Chess and Bridge think the book was going to be like? Did they think there was any chance in the world that it was going to be anything other than a cut-and-paste job?

Course they didn't. They knew what Ray is like because everybody knows what Ray is like. They must have known, before they received the book towards the end of 2018, that it was going to be precisely the sort of thing than which "our customers deserve better" halfway through January of 2019.

So - unless the proprietor, having previously thought Ray was some kind of reputable character, suddenly read Olimpiu's review and it opened the doors of perception - what's brought this on now?

Monday 14 January 2019

Delayed awareness

There's an odd little thing that I'm not too fond of tucked away in the latest ECF monthly email.

It's on a Word document in an ECF email, so if you're a member you may have seen it already. Actually, if you're not a member you may also have seen it already, since you can read the whole thing here in a link from 2015.

Why the ECF are treating us to "an interesting article from John Foley around the definition of chess as a sport" is left unexplained, but it may be connected to a short line in the (less than interesting) piece which says
There is an emerging awareness of the effectiveness of chess in delaying the onset of Alzheimers.
Should that look familiar, it may be because Jonathan wrote about it back in 2015, specifically here and here. Do read, or re-read his pieces, but to cut a couple of longer stories short, there is not "an emerging awareness of the effectiveness of chess in delaying the onset of Alzheimers" because there is no apparent evidence that it does.

Why are we talking about this again? I'm guessing it may be connected to a recent press release from the Health and Social Care Secretary on the subject of dementia.

I confess my heart sank on seeing the press release, not because it says anything that's wrong as such, but because it brings up the subject of "memory and thinking games" and of chess specifically, and experience leads me to believe that whenever chess and dementia are linked, people start saying things I'm not sure they ought to. The press release came out on Wednesday 5 December: this was Saturday 8.

And this was Tuesday 11.

The key line in the report might be this:
No studies have shown that brain training prevents dementia.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Barry remorse

Why did nobody tell me about this major publishing event?

Who's Barry Martin? He's a minor figure in the history of British art over the past half-century but a relatively major figure in the history of Ray Keene's circle of friends and cronies. He also has an interest in chess, and this combination - Ray, art and chess - is nicely illustrated by this book cover from a decade or so back.

Apparently Barry writes a chess column in his local paper. I say "apparently" not because I doubt its existence, but because I doubt its relevance, given that the only person I have ever seen refer to this column is Ray himself. Fitting, then, that Ray and Barry should continue their collaboration with a book compiled from Barry's columns, of which Ray himself is the only known reader. It is available in all good bookshops, says the ad. I think I need to say "apparently" again.

There's an introduction by your friend and mine, promising that
On the back cover, we see Barry in play against a vital link to the chess art traditions of the past, his opponent being Marcel Duchamp’s widow, Mme Teeny Duchamp herself
which judging by what I can see on Amazon, may not be a promise fulfilled.

Among the other tendentious claims made by our normally reliable guide is that Barry
has also gained a world chess ranking. In Duchamp's time, such ratings had not been invented, so Barry is the only artist on the planet who has achieved this accolade.
Your suggestions are invited for candidates who would disprove this assertion. So, indeed is your assistance in demonstrating that Barry possesses such a thing, since I can't locate one. (Maybe he had one in the past. No doubt he did, for if this is not about living in the past, what is?)

Ray also tells us:
the theme of chess, of course, is a prominent thread throughout his oeuvre, ranging from the biodegradable potato chess set
I would genuinely like to know more about this set - I've come across it mentioned before, and wanted to write about it
through portraits distributed by The Times of Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short.
Well well, it's Nigel again. That's right about the portrait, mind, and Nigel crops up at the artist's launch - Chess stars flock to Barry Martin's book launch, it says here.

Nigel in company

Funny, it seems these days that every time you come across one of Nigel or Ray, you come across the other too.

Monday 7 January 2019

Dive bomb

What nonsense is this?

It's not new nonsense, that's for sure: see for instance this piece from August 2016 (and indeed this one from April 2012) which I wrote after coming across a similar nonsense in the Financial Times, allowing Etan Ilfeld to repeat various implausible claims such as this.

Remarkably I am yet to come across the results from the Spanish league in the sports papers here. Perhaps I could catch them on breakfast television.

Mr Ilfeld has been operating this particular hoax for seven years now. Obviously its existence as a genuine, functioning sport is nil. As a genuine, functioning way of getting Mr Ilfeld's name in the media it has performed a little better: the notes to his Wikipedia entry list the Telegraph and Toronto Star among the marks, along with Chess Life and the Financial Times as above.

Also Chessbase, who have always been prepared to write up any old rubbish, and scrolling down their 2016 piece I was delighted to find an old friend

from the similar chessboxing hoax.

Friday 4 January 2019

Broadmoor Chess - A Feast of Stephens

A bit late for Boxing Day this post may be....but even further back in the mists of time, on the Streatham and Brixton Chess Blog, we examined the chess played by the patients of Broadmoor high-security hospital at Crowthorne, west of London - though it would be more accurate to say that we examined the patients who played the chess, rather than the play itself. It all started with Richard Dadd, Victorian artist and patricide, who painted - in 1857 - a puzzling chess-themed picture 'The Child's Problem'. We've shown it before, we analysed it at length in several posts, and here it is again...
This is how the now-faded picture may have looked originally,
as suggested by reader David Roberts.

The series continued with other Broadmoor chessers: Edward Oxford (who took a pot-shot at Queen Victoria - or did he? See Postscript below), Reginald Saunderson (a Jack the Ripper might-have-been) and Robert Coombes (the "Wicked Boy" of Kate Summerscale's excellent recent book). It is especially pleasing to see that another of our subjects, problemist Walter Stephens (1857-1947) - he shot his wife while he was 'sodden with drink' - has come to the attention of Bob Jones, who adds to the Stephens story in a fascinating article in the January 2019 issue of Chess magazine. It now becomes the tale of two Stephens....but we'll not be a spoiler in relation to the other one: for that you really should get hold of Chess.

Walter Stephens of Clapham Park (hence our particular local interest) was to become a dedicated problemista at some time after confinement 'at his Majesty's pleasure' in Broadmoor in 1905. He became a competent solver winning, for example, in January 1926, the Grantham Journal's 19th Solving Tourney, and his own compositions were published widely in the newspaper chess columns and the BCM - often declaring himself as W. Stephens of 'Crowthorne' or 'Broadmoor'. Irked by the lack of recognition of the good work done at the hospital he had complained in a letter to the Daily Telegraph in July 1922 (alongside two of his problems) about "the piffle" that had been written about the place.

Now more has come to light about Broadmoor Stephens, thanks on the one hand to a piece of serendipidy that befell Bob, and on the other to some local newspaper reports that befell me.