Saturday, 17 March 2018

Stolen Memories

You'd like to think that the merits of a cause could be judged by the quality of the buffoons who support it. It ain't so of course, and there are all kinds of clowns on every side of any given argument, but nevertheless I was pleased to see that FIDE's latest blundering proposal, to bully its members into giving professional incompetents AGON (or anybody else) an illegal monopoly on transmitting chess moves, has been supported by professional buffoon Steve Giddins.

Now, if I were Steve I wouldn't be using the word stolen, for a couple of reasons, one of which is that you can't steal what isn't anybody's property, and there's been enough court cases by now which have established what we already knew, that the moves of chess games are public information in the public domain. You can't steal them.

But there's another reason, which is that you can steal other things, which include the analysis of chess games, and the notes made to them. Or should we say purloin?

What do you reckon, Steve? I reckon there's people who can talk about stealing, and then there's people who are more-than-willing dogsbodies for an actual fraud and thief.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Variation in reverse

This is International Women's Day, which gives me a good reason to mention some recent research on women in chess that has got a little less publicity than one might have hoped: certainly less publicity than attended Nigel Short's successful efforts to make an arsehole of himself a while ago. That went worldwide: if the research received any wider public circulation than the Yorkshire Post I'm not aware of it. Hey ho.

Anyway, it was recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Here's what it looks like, and as you can see its title is Female Chess Players Outperform Expectations When Playing Men, which is something that should perhaps interest us on principle

but which is also, apparently, contrary to what some research had previously led people to believe. This is a question of stereotype threat - described in the paper as a situation
whereby an individual's awareness of a negative stereotype influences their performance
which in the particular case we are considered here, would involve women, playing against men and aware that they may be judged, as women, by the results, suffering in their peformance as a result of that awareness.

That is, if I understand it correctly. Don't rely on me - the actual paper is available here. Its author is Dr Tom Stafford of Sheffield University and his conclusion, from analysing the outcomes of a prodigious number of FIDE-rated games, is that not only does the effect appear not to exist in this particular context, but in fact a small effect in the other direction can be noted, that - as the title says - women appear to overperform when playing men.

Another way to put this is that men, considered as a group, may underperform slightly when playing women - to quote the paper again
one plausible mechanism is a degree of male under-performance rather than female overperformance. This coule be due to male underestimation of female opponents, misplaced chivalry or choking due [to] the ego-threat of being beaten by a woman.
Who knows? More research required, as ever. I should say I'm not in a position to judge the merits of the paper, having jacked in mathematics when I was sixteen. (Just on the paper's terminology, I'm not sure that "throw a game" is usually taken to mean what Dr Stafford uses it to mean, and at one point there's a confusion between "game" and "match" that has irritated me before. But these are not important points.)

Anyway, read the paper. (I'd print it out if I were you, it's almost impossible to read on a smartphone.) And after that we might try and put some thought into how we can try and address the absolutely execrable ratio between male and female chessplayers that exists in English chess.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"I played on my own, but I like playing on my own"

From Sid Lowe's account of the kidnap of Quini, the Spanish football legend who died this week.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Slim pickings

Well look who it isn't. I do hope he wrote his own speech.

There's less of Ray than there used to be: he's cut down on not cutting down. There's a lot of it about.

Still, any Ray is too much Ray, at least where turning up at chess events as if he was some kind of respected figure is concerned. He still gets a few of these gigs: there was Gibraltar a couple of years back (he also gets to give talks there) though it may be a long time before he gets to open the British again.

Course another way to look at this is that Ray has to get on a plane before he can be reasonably sure that he's arriving somewhere where he can stand up in front of a microphone without somebody asking him embarrassing questions. There's something sad about this, though at the same time far too petty to qualify as tragedy. I guess embarrassing is a good way to put it. A much-diminished figure would be another.

It's a cheap gag, but Ray's a cheap guy. Cheapens everything he touches, opening and closing speeches not excluded. I reckon they could find somebody else to do it: we're looking at a new Ray, but he's still the same old fraud.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Well this looks promising, doesn't it?

Still, we can but hope.


Friday, 9 February 2018

The merry merry month of May

Morning all. I've been away for a bit (business trip, incorporating another stay in Zafra, as it goes). Anyway I was waiting for a reply on an enquiry I made regarding the absolute nonsense that City AM allowed Ilya Merenzon to write last month

including some nonsense that's very familiar indeed.

Now whenever I come across this sort of stuff I have a commonsense reaction that it's not worth complaining about, since if the newspapers which publish articles like this cared about the contents, they wouldn't publish them in the first place. And yet I always have a counter-reaction

[But which one is giving me which suggestion?]

along the lines of come on, it only takes a couple of minutes, you never know your luck.

And so I always do.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Picture post

Take a look at this image. When you see it, what do you think? (It's a still from this video, which I saw here. Or see the final photo here.)

While you're thinking about this, let's talk about Gibraltar, a tournament I'd like to play one day. (I never have, partly because the timing's not convenient for work and partly because though I live in Spain, it's probably easier to get to Gibraltar from any given point in England than it is from my house.) Hell of a good tournament, and also one that makes much of its commitment to women in chess.

That's all good, and more than fair enough, and to the tournament's credit. Now 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.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Tal order

There was a series on the old blog, Bad Book Covers. I came across this yesterday, and had it been out back then, it would have been on it.

[Elk and Ruby, 2017. Published in Russian in 2016.]

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Tell a knight from a bishop

I was working last week in a school not so very far from here and found an old chess book in a cupboard.

I nearly wrote odd rather than old, but it wasn't the oddest thing I found by any manner of means: still, I doubt too many British primary schools have copies of endgame textbooks on the shelves, and if they do, they might be a little more junior-friendly than Rey Ardid's work.

Come to that, you didn't have to be a junior to find it difficult to handle. I'd been looking at this position for a couple of minutes

before I realised that the White king is not in check and I was looking a position where a queen draws, not against two knights, but against two bishops.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Past and present

Jon Manley has something that raised an eyebrow, from Inside Chess in 1991.

Actually there's a fair few eyebrows you could let loose on this one, not least the ones that ask "where's Kasparov?", but I found myself looking less for the absences and more at the presences, of which there were a lot bearing the letters ENG, not least Mark Hebden at an intriguingly high world number thirteen. (Miles, at four, was in his USA-representing period.)

After him in the top fifty come Hodgson, Nunn, Speelman, Chandler, Norwood and Mestel. And then, in the right-hand column, the first English player to appear is....


Who's Saleo?

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Chess and war

Goya's cycle The Disasters of War has been on display round my way. It's great, if not greatly cheerful - perhaps my favourite in the series, Yo Lo VĂ­ (I Saw It!) is a little unusual in that the atrocity is outside the frame of the picture.

I went more than once, my last visit yesterday morning, and on my way out I saw there was another exhibition in the building, and one advertised with a portrait of chessplayers. So here's Ricardo Delgado's Jugadores de Ajedrez.

As far as I know nobody was harmed in the making of this picture, and after a couple of hours of Goya, that's a start at any rate.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Merenzon and on and on

Would you believe that Ilya Merenzon has been telling enormous lies about chess again?

Course you would.

No, that's not one of them. It's cobblers, obviously, but not a lie as such.

This is a lie though.

This is a whole series of quite important and dangerous lies.

And this is more than one lie at once.

This is fair comment.

But of course it's worse than nonsense, it's a whole collection of very familiar lies.

I imagine we're going to be hearing them all year.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Back story

Sorry for the long radio silence. Hope you caught Martin on David Sala's Zweig. Fresh piece by me tomorrow. But here I am this morning on the London Review of Books blog.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Seeing Chess in BD

"In the course of a sea-voyage, Czentovic, world chess champion, finds himself playing an unknown: who beats him. This stranger had learnt chess, from a manual, during a long incarceration in Nazi prisons. The  novel, written in 1941, is testimony against dehumanisation wrought by the Nazis.  

The masterpiece by Stefan Zweig is raised to a new level by the talent of David Sala." 

Friday, 15 December 2017

Dali 0 - 1 Duchamp

There's just time left to catch the Dali/Duchamp exhibition at the Royal Academy - but hurry, it closes on January 3rd.

The exhibition explores the "surprising" (says the RA) personal and artistic relationship between the two artists during their roughly synchronous lives: Duchamp 1887 to 1968; Dali 1904 to 1989. Duchamp fans won't be disappointed in what they find. I can't speak for Dali fans.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Another blast from the past

From the latest Private Eye:

[Thanks to Michael]
[Ray Keene plagiarism index]

Friday, 8 December 2017

Blast from the past

Well this seems to have have attracted a fair bit of attention

but this is the bit that caught my eye.

Good Lord, it's Dharshan Kumaran, who was nearly British Chess Champion: he lost a play-off to Michael Hennigan in Dundee in 1993, the first year I ever went to the championships. I'm not 100% sure I'd come across his name since that kind of time, until he turned up as one of Demis's team just this week, though had I been paying attention I'd have noticed this a few years back.

No Wikipedia page though, even though his achievement included not just the grandmaster title

but world championships at under sixteen level

and under twelve.

Actually that's not quite right: he does have a page in Russian and another in Polish. But not in English.

I don't know who in the chess community tends to put together these things (it isn't me) but if two world championships and the grandmaster title isn't enough, he might, on top of that, be changing our world.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Here we go again II

"An expected worldwide audience of 1.5 billion."

This is bollocks, of course, and Mark Blunden of the Standard ought to know this. But why not just repeat whatever the organisers have put in front of you?

There'll be more of this, I'm sure. Much nore.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Les Chesseurs Britanniques de Paris: Part 8 Initial Confusion. Final Conclusion?

In the course of several episodes (of a series beginning here) we have been trying to reconstruct the life, and maybe something of the times, of the British Chess Club of Paris. It provided a chess umbrella for les anglaises of various stripes hanging out in the City of Light: ex-pats, businessmen, diplomats, drop-ins (perhaps even spies). It made its impact on Parisian chess-life from 1926 to 1938/9.

In the course of telling the story we have been building up a list of BCCP members. All this with the considerable, and generous, help of Dominique Thimognier, who runs the brilliant Heritage des Echecs Francais website, to whom much thanks. In the previous episode we were able to add a Mr Wechsler to our list: he played in a match in early 1929 when the BCCP took on Fou du Roi. Mr Wechsler was accorded the honour of playing on Board 1 on that occasion, suggesting that the team managers had some respect for his strength (though he lost). We gave a brief thumb-nail sketch of Mr. Wechsler, taking him to have been T.M.Wechsler who was active in Kentish chess in the late 1920s to the 40s. In this episode we will say more about him, and his chess-playing brother. And his chess-playing father.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Here we go again

This is obviously false.
So is this.
And this.

But this is obviously true.

EDIT: also of course these goons would have closer to six million followers than six thousand.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Kasparov Studies

Ever worried about nature versus nature? Fret no more. Garry's on it.

Precisely what Garry thinks is meant by "proving", we are not told, nor do we get to find out which studies achieved this proof. Still, for all I know, the relevant information is all in Garry's book: regrettably I have inherited an insufficient degree of work ethic and can't be arsed to find out for myself.

Would it be worth it? This isn't Garry's first foray into the world of studies and what they prove.

How did that one go?


Or this one (thanks to Jonathan for reminding me).

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Good, but not true

Not such a good piece in the Guardian last Friday, an interview with notorious sacked-by-Google engineer James Damore. Why being sacked for insulting your co-workers merits worldwide publicity and a Guardian interview several months on is a question I'll not be trying to answer on a chess blog: our subject of interest today is this paragraph

which is curious both for what it says and what it doesn't say.

The what-it-doesn't-say curiosity is that Damore has previously made some large claims for his chessplaying abilities that don't stand up, notably that he achieved the title of FIDE Master. As this claim was patently false, when challenged on it he was obliged to make more unikely claims

for instance that he had held a FIDE rating of 2205 - most unlikely for a player for whom there appear to be no extant games - and that he hadn't "maintained my FIDE membership", which doesn't even make sense since there is no such thing for individuals.

Monday, 20 November 2017

True, but not good

Decent piece in the Telegraph yesterday: an interview with Tania Sachdev by Alex Preston. Lots to like - and a little not to. Like this:

Now it's not the first time we've come across comments about sexist comments, and how they can drive women and girls out of the game. Which is odd, because according to the President of the English Chess Federation
There is no such thing as sexism in chess.
None at all, Dominic. None at all.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Home Again!

This expedition, conducted under the banner of chess, has taken us (in previous episodes here, here and here) to Cornwall to investigate the parallel universe of draughts - a once thriving tradition in that remote region. We found, in a number of places, that the paths of the two pursuits crossed, and indeed - and not surprisingly - there were many practitioners of both diversions. We are now hot on the heels of one such of Cornish extraction, who ended up where we started - back here in Streatham. He was Carus Colliver (1862-1954). We introduced him last time. He seems to have been a serial draughts/chesser, devoting himself to draughts first (and achieving some prestige in the game), before moving on to chess after World War I. In that respect he differs from parallel practitioners such as Pillsbury (who we met last time), and someone who we will meet at the end of this episode: a member of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club of more recent vintage.

Thanks to Colliver's "Family History and Reminiscences", which he dictated in 1945, we can admire his many sporting achievements - in many diverse disciplines beyond the board. These were reviewed in the previous episode, when we also discussed his draughts-manship: now we turn attention to his chess, beginning with the account dictated by the man himself.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Rock festival

Doing anything special this coming weekend? Why not go to the Gibraltar Literary Festival?

They've got some interesting speakers. Or perhaps I mean some interesting choices, as speakers.

Like this one for instance.

You recognise him even without the name, of course, though if the publicity photo was still the same one they were originally using, you probably wouldn't recognise him even with it.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


The new BCM is out! Hey, that looks like an interesting article.

This is the one. Let's have a look...


Sorry, when I said "interesting" I meant "the sort of bilge we've seen far too many times before".

Why does the BCM still exist, when it's full of trash?