Monday, March 31, 2014

An ISE by any other name

Black to play and sacrifice the exchange (or not)
Topalov v Karjakin, Candidates’ (11) 2014

Well done Vishy. I’m not sure many people were thinking a fortnight ago that he’d come out of the Candidates’ on top of the pile. I certainly wasn’t. Aside from that, precisely how many World Champions have lost their title in a match and then fought their way back to another? Karpov, yes, but I’m pretty sure he’s the only one.

So what if all he’s done is earn himself an appointment to receive a hefty kick in the nuts from Our Magnus. It’s still an exceptional achievement all the same.

Anyhoo, back to the ISEs. This week we use the Candidates to ask: what exactly is an ISE?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Streatham Library Rapidplay: Sunday April 13th.

Streatham and Brixton Chess Club will be running a rapidplay tournament on Sunday 13th April - venue Streatham Library - to coincide with the opening of Lambeth's newly renovated community hub in Streatham. All welcome.

Full details, including how to enter, are on the tournament website here (but you cannot enter via the S&BChess Blog).

Summary information is:
  • Six rounds (each 30 minutes on your clock): first round at 10.30 am. 
  • Entry fee £15.00 
  • Two sections: Open and under 140. 
  • Prizes! 
Rapidplay here! Sunday 13 April. Better weather guaranteed. 
(Pic by Angus French) 
The last time - back in 1986 - that S&BCC organised a tournament it was also a rapidplay. It was held at the White Lion pub (just across the road from the Library), which at some time in the distant past was the club's regular venue.

Friday, March 28, 2014


White to play
JMGB v J. Briggs, London League 19.03.2014

To play 12 Bg5 or not to play 12 Bg5? That is today's question.

Comfort zones. That is today’s theme.

A pair of rook endings. That is today’s bonus.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The latest New In Chess features a long and interesting article by Nigel Short, in which he discusses his theory that Andrew Paulson is a dubious individual whose relationship to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov may have led (among other things) to FIDE being defrauded of a sum of money. It also recounts his struggle to have this information published in the Sunday Times.

All very readable stuff. However, the following passage inevitably attracted my attention:

Now, suppose you wished to write an article claiming that a chess federation had potentially been defrauded of a sum of money on account of its President's relationship with a dubious individual - and relating your efforts to have this published in the Sunday Times.

Would you, regardless of the excellence of your breakfast, go out of your way to draw the reader's attention to your relationship with a dubious individual who was obliged to resign from a chess federation following allegations that he had defrauded that federation of a sum of money - allegations published in the Sunday Times?

[Andrew Paulson index]
[Ray Keene index]
[Nigel Short index]

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Long time AGON

The bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.
Apocalypse Now

The thing about the Andrew Paulson Affair is, you can't tell where the deception stops and the self-deception starts. It's not even that you can't tell the story from the cover story. You can't even see for sure which is supposed to be which.

Last week, for instance, this column was about Malcolm Pein's incomprehensible claim that he had ceased to support Paulson because of information that he had already had in his possesssion when he backed him.

Similarly, what are we to make of the process by which Andrew Paulson is removed for reasons that - we are assured - are nothing to do with ECU or FIDE politics, and then the deal by which he is persuaded to resign is threatened with reversal because he would be backing the wrong candidates in ECU and FIDE politics?

Vietnam? In English chess, you couldn't keep above the bullshit if you'd fallen into a vat of Red Bull when you were a baby.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Collector’s Item

White to play
Kramnik - Karjakin, Candidates (2) 2014

I wonder if yesterday we saw the end of Kramnik's career as a credible challenger for World Championship. Still five rounds to go, of course, so too early to completely write him off, but a point and a half is an awful lot of ground to make up. Even for a man at the top of his game you’d think that a big ask and Vlad is very much not that right now.

If that is it for Kramnik in terms of playing at the very highest level it was kind of him to check out with a rook ending. Another case study for 'active rook is often a decisive advantage' folder you might say. Mind you being multiple pawns up probably helped Karjakin a bit too.

Anyhoo, rook endings are last year’s obsession. Let’s get on with the ISEs.

Today’s, courtesy of Kramnik - Karjakin from the first cycle, is an unusual twist on a standard theme. It also reminds me to ask a question that’s been puzzling me for a while.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess XIa

Andrew O’Hagan Ghosting
London Review of Books,  vol 36 #5

One of Julian’s techniques, again borrowed from the spymasters he purports to find criminal, is to tape conversations with friends and colleagues and then use them to ‘prove’ duplicity. My interviews with him were recorded contemporaneously, either on tape or in notes, and I had tapes running and notepads in my hand all the time I was with him. But his use of private recordings with Canongate seemed to me a new low. As for me, the statement that I ‘supported him’, that I was his friend etc, was out of order. He was using me. It was against my consistent wish that I not be dragged into the middle of this dispute. But in this dispute Julian considered everybody but himself a pawn. He was the king we were all obliged to protect. The fact was I supported Julian where I could, but I often couldn’t, and he knew it. I tried to give him as much encouragement as I could, seeing his point of view and all that, and I continued to do so, but my arguments with his were all in the open. The morning after Julian’s press release, Jamie wanted me to refute Julian’s claims and I said that he was just doing the same thing as Julian. I would tell my own version when the time was right but my role in this was to be silent. Did any of them understand that?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess XI

Andrew O’Hagan Ghosting
London Review of Books vol 36 #5

The National Theatre of Scotland’s adaption of my book The Missing had opened in Glasgow that week. After the curtain one night, Jamie met me in the theatre bar. he said he wanted me to get the first copy of the book. Holding it, I realised I felt nothing. I didn’t feel it was by me and the ghost’s prerogative, to live a half-life in a house that wasn’t mine, was all I had. 
‘We should seek maximum publicity and maximum debunking,’ Julian said the next day, ‘and I think both things can be done at the same time.’ 
‘How?’ I said. 
‘By making as much publicity as possible, the book will sell. This is good. And by showing that the publishers jumped early, when we were working on the first draft, we can question the book’s authority.  We will choose five inaccuracies in the book and thereby invalidate its integrity. We will say you oppose the book ...’ 
‘Hold on,’ I said. ‘I’m not comfortable with that. I am not willing to be a pawn in this. The book was at an early stage and you didn’t make changes. This is a matter between you and them and it won’t work to tell people I simply disapprove. It is not of any account whether I approve or not. I did my work, and Canongate will say, rightly, that you did not.’ 
‘That doesn’t matter. Readers won’t care about that. The thing to communicate is that we were on a journey that was interrupted.’ He said he was writing a press release and would sent it to me. An email came via the London Review, from the Wall Street Journal, asking me to speak about what had happened. The Sunday Times magazine left a message to say I could have the cover to say whatever I wanted to say. During the evening, Julian, through his Twitter account, sent a bizarre message about truth being stranger than fiction, linking his followers to the book’s Amazon page. Later that night he sent a ‘statement’ - i.e. a rant - to the Associated Press. Jamie Byng was staying in the spare room of the Glasgow flat and I could hear him up in the night responding to texts and messages. In the morning, he told me he had been seeking the advice of Liz Sich at Colman Getty, the PR firm. He was white with rage about the allegations of misconduct directed at him by Julian in his statement.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Wells Wells Wells

Don't know if you remember this piece. Written a few weeks before Ray's vast stash of plagiarism came to light, it introduced the concept of Raygiarism.
What is Raygiarism? Raygiarism is:
  • annotating a chess game by borrowing somebody else's notes unacknowledged and wholesale
  • changing round the phraseology to make it look original at first glance.

But, because you are Ray Keene, it is also:

  • not bothering to do it thoroughly, such that some original phrases still remain.
The piece was basically about the similarity between the annotations that appeared to a game between Ray and the late Ian Wells in CHESS for July 1980

- notes which were based on Wells' own -

and those which appeared in the same magazine for June 1991, under the name Raymond Keene. This new column, by contrast, made no mention that the notes had originated with Wells.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Malcolm in a muddle

Over the next few weeks I'm going to test your patience with more pieces about the ECF crisis and the resignation of Andrew Paulson.

To kick off, this one is about Malcolm Pein's editorial from the current issue of CHESS, regarding which we present some excerpts and some questions.

First, let's look at this section, which states that Paulson lost Malcolm's confidence as a result of Malcolm learning of the AGON/FIDE agreement.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Azmai Could Play

Black to play
Karpov - Azmaiparashvili, USSR Championship 1983

Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Candidate for the Presidency of the European Chess Union; in the news a bit of late because the erstwhile ECF President wants to be his running mate; taker-backer of moves; one time second to the biggest of chess cheeses and, whatever else might be said about him, somebody who once knew his way around a chess board.

Today’s post combines Azmai, things that aren’t there and another trip to a 1980s Soviet Chess Championship. Back to Back in the USSR if you will.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Every Picture Tells A Story:...And A Great Leap Forward

Number 25 - a joint effort by Martin Smith and Richard Tillett - in a story which may (or may not) have reached its conclusion.

Last week we explained that we had received an unexpected, but very welcome, invitation to go and see Thomas Leeming’s painting of the Gents of Hereford that we knew had been sold at Sotheby’s in 1991. It was the one that we had been searching for over four long years.

We have referred to it variously as “the Greenlees version” (because Ian Greenlees had owned it in the 80s), “the Praz version” (because Professor Mario Praz had featured in his book on period interior decoration – it was this that had sparked our interest in the painting) and most recently we thought of it as “the missing version” (because…). This is the painting that we think Thomas Leeming exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818: the one with the man in a red jacket; the one without a dog.

The phone call came after we went back a step and asked Sotheby’s to help once more in contacting the 1991 purchaser, and just as we were about to abandon all hope of success: result! The owner kindly responded to our open letter. Now we were off again in hot pursuit, but not this time westward and Hereford Ho! but now north to the Midlands. One step back…and now a great leap forward. After a quiet period in our Leeming sleuthing it felt just like the old days.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Probablemente no tiene que ver con el ajedrez

En definitiva, somos peones de un tablero de ajedrez. No nos podemos detener, nuestro destino es seguir hacia delante.

When all is said and done, we're all pawns on a chessboard. We cannot hold back: it's our fate to keep going forward. (Epigraph.)

[Thanks to Ruth]

 [ do with chess index]

Thursday, March 13, 2014


While I'm complaining about trivia....

....what is this?

I mean, specifically, this?

Ah, heh, how embarrassing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


We've been complaining about too-low grades on S&B recently.

Here, by contrast, is a player with a grade that's far too high.

When I were a lad, players of 200* and above were supposed to be good. It was as late as 1984 before I ever beat one. Alan Trangmar was graded 202 and I was nearly four weeks past my nineteenth birthday.

I don't think Alan played very well - well of course he didn't, he lost to me - but even so, it felt like a real accomplishment and I'd waited a long time to achieve it.

Now I am invited to believe that it's the same accomplishment if somebody beats me. I doubt it. I doubt it's really something worth waiting years for.

Now I know that:
  • a lot of ECF ratings got boosted a few years ago for perfectly good reasons ; and
  • my rating is not actually based on very many games, seeing as I live abroad now. (Matter of fact it'd be higher still if I hadn't lost the last game I played.)
Nevertheless it's still bizarre to see 200+ next to my name. I don't believe I'm playing my best chess at the age of forty-eight. Still less, my best chess by a distance.

Point is, though, 200+ used to be - or seemed to be - some kind of gold standard, something that told you "the bearer of this grade is a really strong player". Which I am not and never will be. And just as my problem with the FIDE Master title is that I've beaten seven or eight of them, and a "Master" ought to be somebody I can't beat seven or eight times -so it seems to me that the qualification for reaching 200+ ought to be that the likes of me don't do it.

[* Of course all this will be incomprehensible to readers who don't know the English rating system. Just take it that 200+ used to be really good.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

Back in the USSR

[Far too much going on to devote any time to the latest AP/ECF manoeuvres. I dare say we’ll get around to it in due course - JMGB]

White to play
Karpov - Malaniuk, Soviet Championship 1988

I wasn’t going to do another one of these Leningrad exchange sac posts, but I stumbled across this game and the temptation was just too great. Not only is there a rather pleasing mirror image of Kasparov - Speelman from last week - again giving up material to get rid of a strong bishop, this time for attacking rather than defensive purposes - but it also gives us a chance to have a little think about the nature of calculation and Andrew Gelman’s contribution to the comments box seven days ago.

All of that, and as a bonus we also get one of those mysteries when a chesser infinitely stronger than you plays down a line that looks very obviously bad for no readily apparent reason.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Every Picture Tells A Story: One Step Back...

Number 24 in a saga without end. This one mainly by Martin Smith, with minor tweaking by Richard Tillett.

Followers of our Every Picture Tells A Story story may remember the update back in November last year. There was, in truth, not much to report Thomas Leeming-wise (he, the painter of the Chess Gents of Hereford, in its several versions back in the early 1800s), but with Richard's help we had some fun at expense of the outlandish "Reverend" William Hollings whose passing had been documented back in 1820 in an evocative obituary in the Hereford Journal. Thomas had in fact painted the not-so-Reverend gentleman in the little watercolour below, setting him against the background of his happy hunting ground, the cathedral city of Hereford.
Thomas Leeming's watercolour of the Reverend William Hollings (c 1819)
Courtesy of the Hereford Museum and Art Gallery ©
Such was the flimsy pretext for episode 23 and we were quietly smug at having squeezed another blog out of Leeming et al., But that, we thought, was that: we couldn't imagine that there might be yet more to say.

But there is. And much sooner than we - and perhaps you - might have expected. We are now able to bring EPTAS to the dramatic and splendid crescendo played out below. We won't, however, call this the finale as you never know what else may turn up, a lesson we have learned well in our four year quest in pursuit of the Gents.

Friday, March 07, 2014

A cheat at chess


Is Ray going this year? He doesn't actually say so, but unless I mistake myself, he's usually among the attendees.

Now I appreciate that the Varsity Match (first played 1873) is an even older British chess tradition than turning a blind eye to Ray Keene's record of corruption and misconduct (first played 1978, as far as I'm aware) but are we really going to continue to combine the two?

Given that this is a chess match between Britain's two most prominent academic institutions, is it really appropriate to associate the event with Britain's single most prolific journalistic plagiarist? Any single act of plagiarism could and should threaten an academic career with immediate termination. Ray Keene has well in excess of a hundred of these acts to his name. So if Ray is turning up this year, why would he be welcome?

I'm not a great admirer of the Varsity Match, it's true. Ray's longstanding association with the event doesn't make me any fonder. Like his journalism, that association is shabby and disreputable. Like his journalism, that association should cease.

[Thanks to Pablo Byrne]

[Ray Keene index]

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


A couple of quotes from ELO DWP?:-

In the days when the ratings were cut off at 2000, a player of a 2100 standard couldn't play a rated game against a player of 1800 standard. Once you extend that range, rated games become possible, but the 2100 player maintains their rating provided they make the necessary expected score.

Yes. Well, they do if the player of 1800 standard actually has a rating of 1800.

... it is obvious that they cannot all be under performing.

There are a lot of ways that sentence could be interpreted. Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Hampstead. I’ll show you proof that, in one sense at least, they can.

Monday, March 03, 2014

When Bishops Are Too Strong

Black to play
Kasparov - Speelman TV Rapidplay, 1989

I didn’t plan it, but my year of ISEs has become rather Dutch themed. Last week’s exploration of Rxh5 in the Leningrad following on as it does from Feller-Williams, 2009 (SMA#26) at the beginning of the month. Mind you, see also the very first ISE (the famous Shirov-Bareev 1990 interzonal game), ISE V (Houska-Rendle, Sheffield 2011) and Ray Could Play VI as well for that matter.

A little curious it should work out this way. OK, I've played the Dutch for years, so it’s no surprise that a couple of exchange sacs crop up in A Collection of Dutch Bits and Bobs. Most of these others have been Leningrads, though, the only main line of the opening which I’ve never played in a serious game.

Anyhoo, here’s one more.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Just Barely Got Something to do with chess X

Neal Ascherson: A Plan and a Man
London Review of Books vol 36 #4

Once London governments accepted that self-government and ultimate independence were inevitable, it became crucial to make certain that the new state - especially one as formidably rich in export produce as Malaya - remained stable and friendly. Hale, on decolonisation: ‘The points was to somehow ensure that the way the empire was wound up served the interests of the departing power. the new owners of Britain’s overseas properties had to be the right sort of people.’ But nothing could be ensured in Malaya unless the two main communities found a way to live together. 
The pieces of this deadlocked chess game were scattered by the Japanese conquest and occupation of Malaya and the rest of South East Asia in 1942. The arrogant white colonialists, the ‘master race’, were seen to be utterly humiliated. Malay nationalists disliked the invaders, but often accepted invitations to collaborate, taking seriously hints that the power which had chased out their colonial masters would soon offer them independence. Nothing of the kind materialised. Instead, in 1943, the Japanese ceded Malaya’s four northern provinces to Thailand, temporarily leaving the peninsula with a non-Malay majority. But when it became obvious that Japan was going to lose the war, the Malay politicians were too weak and too divided to do what Aung San and Ne Win did in Burma: change sides, and launch armed resistance against the Japanese.

... to do with chess Index