Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Surrey state of affairs

To recap: Howard Curtis, a prominent figure in chess for many years, has been convicted on several counts of sexual assault and child cruelty, carried out while he was leader of what the prosecutor described as a "religious cult". The religious organisation, while distancing themselves from their former leader, are not able to say specifically how they have changed since his departure and have refused to say whether anybody inside the organisation had heard anything about his activities prior to his arrest.

Now to introduce what follows, suppose we imagine you, as a local chessplayer, discussing the affair with a friend. Suppose we imagine the conversation going a little like this...

YOU: Tell you something, there's been a religious cult involved in Surrey chess for many years. Evangelical sort of thing, does missionary work in Russia.

FRIEND: Really? That sounds unusual. Tell me more.

YOU: Lots of tournaments and matches are held on its premises, adults, juniors, you name it.

FRIEND: Uh-huh. What are they like? Do you get on with them?

YOU: Not always. Matter of fact there's been lots of disputes. They were always threatening other officials with lawsuits and the like.

FRIEND: Well, up to you, but that doesn't sound like the sort of people I'd be happy to work with. Anything happening with them right now?

YOU: Funny you should ask. Their head was arrested for sexual assault. Apparently he'd been spanking female members of his congregation and claiming it would cure their depression. Said they'd consented to it.

FRIEND: Blimey. Did it go to court?

YOU: Verdict just last week. He's been found guilty of sexual assault and child cruelty. Sentencing next month. He's going to go to prison.

FRIEND: I'm not surprised. What are you going to do about it now?

YOU: Nothing.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A correspondence with CCF

If you smack somebody it could free an evil spirit

- Howard Curtis
If you've read Monday's posting, about the convicted abuser Howard Curtis, one time head of both Coulsdon Christian Fellowship and Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, you'll have gathered that I'm not greatly fond of either organisation, in so far as I think they're actually worth distinguishing (which is not very far).

I think it might be important to consider Howard Curtis not just as an individual, but in his role as somebody who headed a religious organisation - one referred to in court, by the `prosecutor, as a "cult". He was able to act as he did because he was head of that religious cult, a cult which played and retains a prominent role in Surrey chess. So it seems appropriate to ask some questions of that organisation.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The disturbing story of Howard Curtis

Last week Howard Curtis was convicted at Croydon Crown Court of a number of offences of sexual assault against women and two offences of child cruelty. The sexual assaults took place at various times over a long period, between 2007 and 2013: one of the child cruelty offences took place much further back, between 1986 and 1989. Mr Curtis will be sentenced next month and will go to prison.

The prosecutor, says the Mail, told the jury that Mr Curtis
ran the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship in south London as a cult.
If you're not familiar with Howard Curtis, you might have been surprised, on clicking on the link above, to see him pictured playing chess. The photo comes from a 2012 local news story

in which we learn that Howard Curtis didn't just run the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship. He ran the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship as well: a very busy club with "decades" of chess behind it, played by both adults and juniors.

Mr Curtis expresses his enthusiasm for children playing chess:

but perhaps it would not be too churlish to observe that according to the court, Mr Curtis has not always been the best judge of what is "good for children".

Sunday, 27 March 2016

A small contribution to Science

My attention was drawn by Angus French to this online endgame quiz, created by Berenike Waubert de Puiseau, Dipl.-Psych and Professor Dr Jochen Musch at the Institute of Experimental Psychology at the Heinrich Heine University of Dusseldorf. So now I'll draw your attention to it in turn.

Some of it is easy, some of it you'll likely have seen before, some of it is a bit harder. (I found it so, anyway, scoring a little less than I was comfortable with.)

At the end you give your Elo rating, if you have one, and a few other details - they explain briefly the purpose of the survey, and you even get the answers to the questions.

So give it a go: it's a long weekend and I'm sure you have half an hour spare to make a small contribution to Science.

And no closing the browser window prematurely when you think you've got too many wrong!

(Thanks also to Dr Chris Brooke, Oliver Rivers and Dr Vanda Wilcox.)

Friday, 25 March 2016

Hackney Seen in New York

Just a short post until we get used to the new arrangements...and I'll lose no time in acknowledging Justin's generosity in allowing me to indulge in the occasional Friday post on Lost On Time.

Back in the other place we spent a good few posts - fruitfully, as I hope you will agree - ruminating on the intriguing chess art of Tom Hackney, inspired as it is by the art and chess of Marcel Duchamp. Often we have had the benefit, and the pleasure, of talking to Tom himself; and we have been tracking his chess-in-art career from the early days in, well, Hackney, via an exhibition in Clerkenwell, and inclusion in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 2012. Most recently he has been showing a wider canvas of works in Munich, Limerick and Vienna. Now he has reached New York, with a solo exhibition of 18 Duchamp chess game paintings at the prestigious Francis Naumann Gallery in New York.

The Francis Naumann Gallery is a temple of Duchampian art, with Mr Naumann himself, eminent gallerist and connoisseur, its benevolent high-priest. You can read the exhibition prospectus here - and Tom's own website carries this:

Sadly, we in the UK won't get a chance to see the exhibition - but our readers in the US will have a double opportunity as it will move on to the Saint Louis World Chess Hall of Fame from May 19 to September 11 2016. Back here we will have to make do with the thumbnails given in the list of works online at the Francis Naumann Gallery website. But I would urge our American friends to get along to the shows if they can - there is no substitute for seeing Tom's works (indeed any work of art) in the flesh: the crystalline form, the precision of production, the seduction of surface...and that's without exploring what lies beneath in the conceptual under-storey to the Duchamp chess-game series.  

But here at home we can do something else: we can talk directly to the artist himself - so watch out for a further post, with what I hope will be Tom's reflections on his American adventure.

Streatham and Brixton Chess Blog Chess in Art Index          

Monday, 21 March 2016

Nothing ventured

INTERVIEWER: Lev, what happened out there? Did Nakamura really say "J'adoube"?
Yes, yes he did. He tried to get away with it. I just couldn't believe it.

INTERVIEWER: Lev, what happened out there? Did Nakamura really say "J'adoube"?
To be honest I really don't know. I thought he did at the time but we were both tired and I really can't be sure.

INTERVIEWER: Lev, what happened out there? Did Nakamura really say "J'adoube"?
You know - I just don't want to talk about. It's gone, I won the game. Let's just talk about chess.
One of these things should have happened on Thursday night. As far as I'm aware, none of them did.