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?

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Letters and words

It says here that Allan Simmons, one of Britain's leading Scrabble players has been banned for three years, accused of cheating.

Which is particularly interesting, seeing as Simmons is
a regular columnist writing about Scrabble for The Times newspaper.
So what has that newspaper done about it?

Stone me:

Well I can only conclude that putting back letters is a serious offence in the eyes of the Times, but stealing words is not.

Eh Ray?

Friday, 10 November 2017

A game like that

If you're a football fan, you've probably seen this clip before.

If you've not, it's from a celebrated documentary called Orient: Club For A Fiver, which follows Leyton Orient football club through part of their disastrous 1994/5 season (not quite as bad as last season, mind).

The unfortunate John Sitton was manager for the period covered by the show, of which the clip above is the best-known passage: having difficulty coping with the impossible task he had been given, Sitton (and it wasn't the only time) loses it with his players and offers a couple of them out, two against one. However, also of interest for our present purposes is the moment near the start of the clip when, unusually for a half-time team talk, Sitton takes the opportunity to sack the experienced Terry Howard, right there and then.

The documentary effectively finished Sitton's short-lived career, the bloke having made a public fool of himself. Over the two decades since, a certain amount of sympathy for his fate has developed - you can for instance read a defence of him (with which I don't necessarily agree) here - not because he's perceived as having behaved properly, but because few people who know football think he was particularly bad by the general standard of football managers.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. To get to the point, the reason the Sitton speech suddenly occurred to me last Monday was that I was so unimpressed by Luke McShane's abject performance against Ference Berkes, I wanted John Sitton to pop up midway through the game and sack him on the spot.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Garry and Barry

You'll recognise the guy on the left of this photograph. You might not recognise the guy on the right, but Garry does and that's why they're shaking hands.

His name is Grover Norquist.

They met a couple of weeks ago at the Goldwater Institute, named for the subject of Garry's speech, Barry Goldwater. Garry sets out this reasons for admiring him here.

That's an interesting summary, which, either because Garry doesn't know, or doesn't care, leaves out that Goldwater was an fierce opponent of federal attempts to desegregate, at a time when segregation and the effort to end it was a central issue in American politics. Goldwater's strategy (one employed by the Republican Party ever since) was to rely on racism in the South and elsewhere. If Garry Kasparov doesn't know that, maybe somebody should tell him.

Goldwater lost badly in the 1964 Presidential election, not least because he was viewed as a fanatic who had every chance of bringing about a nuclear war, of which this early attack ad is a famous reminder.

I'm guessing that Kasparov is more aware of this aspect of Goldwater's politics, and has no problem with it.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Studies fail to repay scrutiny

Tens of thousands of them.

So claims popular chess bullshitter Susan Polgar.

A likely story.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Inward

On the outward leg of this Streatham Stroll West we got to St. Just, on the Penwith peninsular in Cornwall - almost as far as you can go before you fall off the end. Then there was a hiatus. But now we can press on.

The 1950s photograph of the "West Penwith Club" draughts team which instigated this excursion (here it is again, from Chess November 1950)...

...will now start us on the return leg. However, in best Magical Mystery Tour tradition we have a...mystery: the appellation given by Chess. "The West Penwith Club". Who were they?

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Mummy

Peter Cushing has a position he wants to be looking at....

.... but he has other things on his mind, as The Mummy is about to crash through the window.

Spotted while watching telly on Halloween night. Dunno that it's really significant enough to be an actual chess scene, but at any rate Chess In The Cinema hasn't got it.

Has Basalla?

[Village of the Damned]

Sunday, 29 October 2017

How hard would it have been to get this right?

The New York Post only had to look it up.

The only way to get it wrong would be to assume that because somebody has a Japanese-sounding name, they must be Japanese.

But why would you do that? Why would you do that in the USA? In New York?

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Me neither

What is this garbage please?

I mean what was Pandolfini thinking of here?

He could very easily not have told that story, simply on the grounds that just a few hours after someone's death, it's not necessary to tell stories against them. I could understand that. What I can't understand is why you would choose to tell this story under the impression it was a story in its subject's favour.

Because yes, it was a sexist remark. And no, it wasn't a compliment, even if Lombardy thought it was. It's a story that makes Lombardy look crass and ignorant. It achieves this, because he was being crass and ignorant.

I'm not at all unaware that older people are and were from an age different to ours. Of course. But why choose to tell a story that makes a man you knew look like a silly, sexist old man, if you're trying to make him look good? And if you have to explain away his sexism while you're doing it, is that helpful to any efforts to look squarely at sexism within chess?

Obviously it's not. So what was Pandolfini thinking of?

Monday, 23 October 2017

Me too

What is this garbage please?

And what is this garbage too?

I don't know the identity of this clown. Come to that, I don't know of any examples of the "work for sex" which they claim is a "fact" in chess, and they don't offer any. But much more important than either, is the fact that when women have to work for sex, or have to put up with sexual harrassment in order to obtain or continue in work, that's not something that's to their advantage, that's something they hate and are afraid of.

I know this and so should everybody else. It's just not that hard to know.

I know, too, that there are people in chess who don't know that, who think it's funny, even, that women might have to work for sex. How widespread that kind of attitude is in our sport, I don't know.

Perhaps we should try and find out. Perhaps there's a reason why a simple question like this

gets the answer that it does.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Backtrack

In the first leg of our westward Streatham Stroll we followed a wayward path, wandering around the far flung Penwith area of Cornwall, noting the parallel developments of draughts and chess during the nineteenth century. These perambulations around sites of special ludic interest, and/or in pursuit of a good story, involved a detour via Lincolnshire where we followed the misfortunes of Howard Staunton. He, too, deviated from the straight and narrow when trying his hand at draughts, playing for stakes with one of the strongest players in the land (the Cornishman Robert Martins). Howard returned to London a poorer, and perhaps a wiser, man.   

As is often the case when strolling in a foreign field, now and then you have to pause, back up, and do another take - especially if you weren't paying sufficient attention, or someone points out an oversight. This expedition turns out to be no exception. So, when others suggest you take a second look, you must take heed and go into reverse. Hence this unanticipated backtrack to where were were last episode.

Readers who have read the comments to that post, will be aware that two, or maybe even three, points require correction or clarification. This week's unscheduled episode is intended to do just that and to put matters right before we press on next time. Apologies for having been too precipitous previously, and for not having taken proper precautions when we stepped out into unexpectedly hazardous terrain: the world of draughts.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Closing time

I'd like this to be good.

It's my favourite sporting event ever, the 1978 match. Not just my favourite chess match, my favourite anything match, and I'd like a film about it to live up to that status.

You can't judge a film by its trailer, but my impression is that I'm liable to be disappointed, and to explain why, I want to make reference to a book I like, which is Edmonds and Eidinow's Bobby Fischer Goes to War (Faber & Faber, 2004).

You might say that you know more, after reading a good book, than you did before you read it, and that's true of Edmonds and Eidinow. But it's also the case that a good book leaves you knowing less, that what you thought you knew turns out not to be so simple, and that's what I liked about it most. Fischer v Spassky has been sold to us as the one-man band against the system, the lone genius against the Soviet system: and truth by told, that's part of the story, that's a theme you couldn't properly leave out.

But Edmonds and Eidinow write such that your sympathies aren't divided quite so unequally by the end. By then you probably like Fischer less than Spassky, and more to the point you probably like Fischer's entourage a good deal less than you like Spassky's, never mind the political systems behind them. It's not the story you expected, but it's a truer one, and a more detailed one, and it doesn't stop you thinking that Fischer was a lone genius against the Soviet system nonetheless.

Of course when I say "you" I mean the general reading public, since if you're a chessplayer, you might well already have a more nuanced and complex view of that match than other people. But it's that public, as well as chessplayers like us, which was well-served by the Edmonds/Eidinow book.

Will the cinema-going public be equally well-served by Closing Gambit?

Monday, 9 October 2017

International Man of Mystery

A curiosity indeed.

I did not know this.

I probably should have, and when I looked up the Black Friday case - and it's a doozy - it certainly rang bells. If I played poker, I'm sure the name Isai Scheinberg would have meant something to me. But as it is, it was only last week that I learned that one of our major chess tournaments is sponsored by a man who is wanted in the US, on very serious charges involving very large sums of money.

In fact I've been exceptionally slow on this, because Mr Scheinberg has been sponsoring the tournament, either directly or through his one-time company PokerStars, every year since 2014.

On the run

But if did not know this, a lot of other people probably did. And if they did, they presumably didn't think the charges against Mr Scheinberg were of any importance at all. Nothing in which the chess-watching public might be interested. Nothing that ought to preclude him from sponsoring a chess event.

Which is pretty revealing, as statements of values go.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Streatham Strolls West: Outward

Back in 2012 we instigated the practice of strolling chess-wise around Streatham and its environs - and occasionally even further afield. This is of obvious interest to those who live hereabouts and are members of the local chess club, but as chess knows no boundaries our wayfaring may have a broader appeal. So please follow as we set off for another chessic forage, this time to pastures, places, and games anew.

After Streatham Strolls East sometime ago (we got as far as Brockley and its cemetery, a few miles away, only to be stopped dead in our tracks by Joseph Blackburne, who pops up again below, large as life), now we go West - though not as far as Canada, the destination of our last outing. No, this time we go only as far Cornwall; and although our principal quarry is chess, there's another board game that will detain us en route: one as unfathomable as our own...

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Demonstration board

Chess maintaining its middle-of-the-road image during the Catalonian strike yesterday.

Monday, 25 September 2017

V šachu

Last month when I was playing chess in Prague I had a short draw on the final day, and hoped to do pretty much a full day's sightseeing. Alas, it started ratting down like nobody's business and after lunch I had no option but to retreat to my hotel room, where I nodded off while waiting for the rain to stop. When I woke up, out of habit I picked up the remote control and...

...Good God, is that chess on the telly?

It surely was.

I was so impressed I took a load of really poor-quality photographs.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Les Chesseurs Britanniques de Paris: Part 7 Addendum bis

In a series beginning here we followed the fortunes of the short-lived British Chess Club of Paris. It has some surprises yet, and this episode provides an update.

The club sprang into life in 1926, meeting in café venues, more or less regularly, until the final pawn was pushed in 1939 on the eve of World War 2. Its membership fluctuated from an initial 15 or so, down to a low point when just a handful of dedicated souls kept the flame alive, and back up to around 30 towards the end. The club's most high-profile appearance was in 1931 in a cable match against the Manhattan Chess Club - alas they lost. In its glory days the club fielded teams in the Paris league, competing for the Coupe de Paris (of which more below). The BCCP was represented on the organising committee of the competition, as well as on the French National Chess Federation.

The BCCP's membership was a mélange of businessmen and diplomats posted in Paris, and resident Anglo-Francs. Les anglais visiting Paris for un bon moment were welcome. Some members can be spotted on the chess scene back in Blighty before or after the years of the BCCP, but others seem to be undocumented in all the usual places. In the previous series we compiled a partial list of members, sourced from occasional reports of the club's activities (see the Appendix below); and now, thanks to further research by Dominique Thimongier of Héritage des Echecs Français - to whom we once again express our gratitude - we can add more names, the first of which turned up in the French sporting daily L'Auto. 
Accessible via Gallica@BNF

As we go along we can also tap into some of the chess incident at the Coupe, on and off the board.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

So what?

I'll be rooting for Ding today. Partly because I like to support the underdog, but partly because this gets on my nerves.

Normally it's in rather bad taste to publicly criticise a sporting competitor's religious views, since they're not intrusive and they're not our business, but if a player's going to make a public claim that they won because God helped them win - so what made Fedoseev less worthy, are you a better person than he is? - that's the kind of circumstance that alters cases. Different things get up different noses, but this is the kind of thing that gets up mine.

As it happens, Wesley discussed this very question in a recent article for Christianity Today. What Wesley said is this:

which is all well and good but it doesn't go on to ask the obvious question as to whether, if God helps Wesley win chess games, that means it's God who makes other people have cancer, say, or die in car crashes. Think it through, man. Think about what it would mean if we applied it to the lives of other people. Is that like Daddy too? Is that like being punished by Daddy, because they've been bad?

Monday, 18 September 2017

Now you don't

As it's the rest day, let's scroll back to Thursday for a moment, since something odd seems to have happened towards the end of the first Fedoseev-Rodshtein game - but nearly everybody seems to have missed it. It's something to do with this, though this doesn't tell you what it is.

Chess.com, too, give us the facts, but not, in this particular instance, the story.

So what is the story?

Let Matt Fletcher tell us.

Hang on, what was that again? Black tried to reply to Rf8+ with ...Kg8?

How very odd. They're adjoining squares.

Let's look at the position. White checked on f8...

....and Black somehow moved his king like so...

under the impression that it was a legal square?

I think we'd better look at some footage.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Slurs and shorts

Anyway, Azmai.

I'm sure people have read everything there is to be read about this already (not that that selection of links is exhaustive) and anybody who wants to sign the petition against Azmai has probably already done so. My name's there, as it happens.

Still, I'm as sure as you are that no harm will come to Azmai as a result of his conduct in Tbilisi. I'm also sure that what ought to happen is that he ought to lose his official posts, and that one of the reasons why he should do so is that any official who engages in ethnic slurs should lose their post.

Regarding which, some observations.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Broadcast news

Let's put back any thoughts on Azmai for another day or two (he'll wait - he's a patient man) since the venue for the Candidates Tournament was announced yesterday, fitting in nicely with the FIDE World Cup that's in progress at the moment. Still no news on where the World Championship will be, mind, but at least we do know that Magnus Carlsen's challenger will be decided in March next year, and in Berlin. Which is nice.

Less nice, when you scroll down through the waffle in the press release, is this short paragraph.

First thing is, that's broadcast not broadcasted. Second thing is - what does this actually mean?

Monday, 11 September 2017

Unattractive approach

We'll get on to shorts, racial slurs and all the rest in a short while (hopefully tomorrow) but in the meantime, I wouldn't want us to entirely overlook this less-than-meritorious moment in Peter Doggers' round report for Saturday.

Should it really be necessary to point out that two of the world's leading grandmasters might like to discuss the world's leading woman player without reference to what they think of her appearance? Or that if they don't, it isn't really "witty"?

[Also see]

Friday, 8 September 2017

Hackney Hits A Hundred

It's been some time since we caught up with Tom Hackney - who has a very particular take on chess in art. We have discussed his work several times over the years (see full set of links at the end), and so it's a pleasure to pre-view his new exhibition, opening today at 57W57 Arts in New York, and re-view one that has recently closed in London (blast, I missed it).

Tom paints the games of Marcel Duchamp, who as you know was a pretty decent chess player between the wars, and was of course the artist responsible for the urinal. Duchamp could be said to have invented "conceptual art", though his preferred term was "non retinal". Chess appeared in his art, as you might expect; until, as he claimed later, he gave up art for chess. Many learned treatises have been written about Marcel, and some of them deal at length with his chess/art/life mix. You can get a flavour of it from our earlier blogs herehere, and here.

Back in 2009 Tom started out on a long and demanding journey: to reproduce all of Duchamp's chess games as works of art, and he did so nailing his own "conceptual art" colours to the mast - although for all that, his work has a compelling "retinal" impact. Beyond that their hidden depth - the "conceptual" aspect of his art - resides in the chess-thought that underpins the moves and their implied geometry, the symbolic notation of the game, and the unseen procedure that transforms all that into an artwork.

If you are lucky enough to understand chess, then you might read off something of the game from what you see. If you are not, then it's the thought that counts: ultimately, you don't need to play chess to get it. Here is an early effort of Tom's, one that we have seen before.

Chess Painting No. 2
(Duchamp vs. Crépeaux, Nice, 1925)

You can see what Tom has done: the tracks of the moves are painted across an 8x8 grid in black (and opaque) or white (and translucent), one on top of another in the sequence of game, abruptly or gradually obscuring the traces of earlier manoeuvres. If no move crosses a square (as here at h2, h3 and h4), then it remains as raw, unpainted, canvas.

Notice that Tom's rendering of the Duchamp v Crépeaux game was "Number 2" in his output. So where has he got to now, so many years later?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Duel

So I was saying yesterday about how I was playing through an online game on a giant chess set in a campsite near Rouen.

Anyway, after the game ended abruptly and I was looking to kill a little more time, I started flicking through the contents of a bookcase and much to my surprise, I came across this.

Funny, it looks like they're using the same set as the people in the B&O Play photograph.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Travel sets

We're back!

Couple of days later than I'd planned, to be honest, but it was a particularly knackering journey back home on Saturday, including several hours at Stansted Airport, perhaps my least favourite place on Earth - though while running the gauntlet of the duty free shops, which go on for about the length of the Streatham High Road, I did spot this advert.

So who are B&O Play and what do they want from us? They're Bang & Olufsen of Leeds and as far as I can see they want us to play chess while listening to one of their devices, thereby no doubt ruining both experiences.

I've got a chess set like that though, which I bought at the end of Charles Bridge in Prague, albeit not this year but 1997. Leaving Prague after playing chess this year, I passed this set at the airport

tantalisingly out of reach, downstairs from Departures where I was headed. So where is it, Arrivals? Is there somewhere for your guests to wait when their plane's arrived and you need to finish your game?

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]