Friday, 11 August 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 16. Finale

We started this extended investigation of the chess and life of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863-1950) at the end: with his obituary. In a pleasing symmetry we end it by going back to the beginning, and asking the question: how did he learn the game in the first place.

But, before we finally begin, here is a youthful picture of our subject that we have not used before, from an article in The Chess Monthly February 1895 (when he was 32), occasioned by his winning the City of London CC championship for the first time.

An accompanying biographical note suggests that Jacobs learnt his chess from...  

Friday, 4 August 2017

Holidays in the sun

This blog's on holiday!

Martin will be bringing you the final part of his Herbert Jacobs series, but as far as I'm concerned, it's see you later.

It's my one month a year for actually playing a bit of chess rather than writing about it, to the advantage of everybody except myself. So I'll be playing the Prague Summer Open (starts today, as it happens) and there'll be some Bank Holiday chess too. Back, hopefully, in the first week of September.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Not right said Fred

There's a piece on the death of Fred* Yates in the August issue of the British Chess Magazine.


Here's what Olimpiu has to say about it.

Do read the thread.

Here is the piece from Chessbase, which the BCM seem to have started by quoting, and ended by copying out in its entirety.

They interviewed Ray a few months ago. Did he give them any tips?

[* Thanks to Ilkley Chess in comments]

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Past and presents

On Monday we were discussing the thirteenth century role of Serjeant Warden-of-the-Chessmen, by which the Russell family kept their Dorset manor through the grace and favour of King Henry III.

I don't have vast amounts to add to what I wrote then, but after a bit of research (Googling henry iii chess) I did discover some useful information in a piece by Professor Nicholas Vincent published in The Growth Of Royal Government Under Henry III (Crook and Wilkinson, eds, Boydell and Brewer 2015)

entitled An Inventory of Gifts to King Henry III, 1234-5.

It so happens that, Professor Vincent tells us, we have a record of the gifts that were made to the King over a six month period covering both those years, and that this list includes some chess sets. A footnote quotes MAE Green, Lives of the Princesses of England from the Norman Conquest (London 1849-55) which says that the previous Christmas, the Prior of Jerusalem had sent Henry "a chess-table and chess-men, enshrined in a casket of ivory" while the records of which Vincent writes directly included "two gaming sets, with chess and other gaming pieces".

These were courtesy of the Prior of the Hospitallers and the Countess of Ponthieu: but, Vincent continues, "in due course both sets were presented to Isabella", the king's sister, who was married off to the Holy Roman Emperor. One hopes she found a couple of chess sets adequate compensation. Two sets fewer, anyway, for our man Russell to have to worry about.

To be honest, I don't have the information, or the period knowledge, to say or even guess whether Russell's duties were serious ones, a joke at his expense, or a whim dreamed up because no more serious duty to perform could be thought of. I don't know enough. But I was interested in Vincent's footnote which informed me that Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry's grandmother, was properly interested in the game

and doesn't have appeared to have offloaded her present at the first opportunity. Quite right too. And if the chess sets were anything like this one

you'd want someone to look after them properly - and count the pieces too.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dom and dumber

Dominic Lawson is at it again.

No sooner have the England women's cricket team had the effrontery to win the World Cup than Dominic Lawson arrives to tell us how rubbish they are, because that's the really most important and appropriate thing to say. You were thinking that this might change the way that women's sport is thought of? The President of the English Chess Federation is here to put you right.

Mail on Sunday

Daily Mail on Monday

Great effort Dom. It even comes with a Nigel Short-style scientific explanation for women being no good at this sort of thing:

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?

Friday, 30 June 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 12. Intermission Riff

After the extensive investigation of Herbert Jacobs' political engagement (here and here), the series takes a breather before we look at his legal career. However, before we leave behind the struggle for women's suffrage completely, the cartoon below is worth a look.  

(Click on any picture in this post to enlarge.)

There are several things to investigate - so we only need to note, in passing, the satisfactory depiction of the chess board: all 64 squares, all where they should be, though that "umpire" reference sounds a little odd to modern ears, but then maybe arbiters hadn't yet been invented.

So, who was "A Patriot" sheltering behind the nom de plume? And who were Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, the editors of "Votes For Women"? And - while we are about it - could Lloyd George really play chess?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

All academic

Thanks to the person who sent me this. I'm on a reading list!

The reading list appears in the second edition of Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks (Oxford University Press, 2017) by Andrew Gelman and Deborah Nolan.

I didn't know of Deborah, but I do know that Andrew is a chess player, and a reader of (and occasional commentor on) our old blog, from which the cited piece is taken. You'll probably have seen it a few times before, but hopefully it'll now be read by large numbers of Statistics students.

Maybe even all 605 million of them.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

One more for the road

I was idling through the BBC Sport page yesterday, not expecting to see much to interest my chessplaying side, when I came across the invitation:
Ready for another round of 200mph chess?
So I was bracing myself for another tenuous and wince-inducing comparison of another sport to ours, when...

...hang on... that who I think it is?

So it is. Very different shot, of course from another time and  fromthe other side of the the board, but so it is.

This weekend's Grand Prix is in Baku. And who's famous who's from Baku?

I'd drop the final caption, myself, but I was less interested in that than in what a strange photo it is (from 1995, I'm guessing) with Garry apparently watched from behind by a shadow-Garry.

It's a decent enough piece but you'd have tought they could have found a less weird photo - it's not like it's hard to find one of Garry, is it? These days he's everywhere, you just can't get away from him.

Anyway I hope those of you who are into this stuff enjoy the race and that the chap who went to my old school* wins the thing.

And I suppose we'd rather have a random mention of chess than not. Oscar Wilde, who much like Garry was Formula 1 class when it comes to vanity, said "there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about". The only thing worse than people talking about Garry Kasparov would be people not talking about Garry Kasparov.

[* well kind of - my school merged with another school and that's the one Lewis Hamilton went to]

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Do they mean us?

I'm not sure how chuffed I am at the Institute of Psychiatry associating chess with being "socially aloof", let alone "intelligent", but what I really want to know is...

...what have they done with the White king?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 11. Votes For Jacobs!

We have come across it several times in this extended exploration of the life and chess of Herbert Jacobs (1863-1950): his propensity to express himself in poetic form. He was at it again in 1910 (now age 47) with a piece presented carte de visite-style (reproduced below). It is in a file of material at the LSE Women's Library from the General Election of that year - the one when Herbert stood on a Women's Suffrage ticket.

With thanks to the LSE Women's Library

It is not clear whether the sentiment of the poem - "To the Old Year and the New" - was occasioned by the turn of 1909 into 1910 (looking forward hopefully), or of 1910 into 1911 (relieved to leave that one behind). Anyway, it's a nice photo of Herbert - which we will see used again in the General Election. As for 1910, was it annus mirabilis or annus horribilis? Find out below.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Share and enjoy

It's my birthday tomorrow, and because I am not just a good guy but generous with it, I am going to give you all a present. Same present for everybody, mind, so you'll have to share, but it's a nice one.

There you go.

It's a large pgn file of the collected games and annotations of Raymond Keene, all in one place for your comfort and convenience. It stretches from 1961, the first annotated game being an Old Indian Defence against John Sugden from that year, to 1988, the last one being from a little earlier, a King's Indian Attack essayed by Zarb.

I can't actually remember how I came across it first. I thought I had discovered it by accident when, in 2013, I was researching Ray's habits of reproducing his own notes, or other people's, on the sly - Googling a phrase must have produced, among the results, our pgn file. Not so, though, since checking my old emails I find I've been aware of it since 2010 having come across it by chance on this site, maintained by Philip Hughes. The site actually promises us a collection of Ray's games

and though I can't locate it now, it must have been there at some point. Whatever - here it is, and what an invaluable resource it is.

Of course you may have come across some of the material before, and more than once.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

He didn't win

A lot of people didn't win on Thursday.

But Mike Basman didn't win more than most.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Becoming clear

I don't think I've  got the answer to yesterday's question - where Ray's notes to Keene-Basman originate - but I do know that the notes from the fifty-year-old game are at least forty years old, since they appear in Ray's Batsford compilation, Becoming a Grandmaster.

Here (with thanks to Jonathan) is the original.

I say "the original", but while that takes us back to 1977 at least. the notes in all likelihood are from before that year, because though Becoming a Grandmaster is a very entertaining read, it's notoriously a read of material that had been previously published elsewhere (this being an example) not that Ray or Batsford bothered to tell that to the paying customer.

So the hunt continues - where did the notes come from? Maybe Ray or could tell us.