Saturday, May 31, 2014

Morphyc Resonance

Funny business this blogging. You get what you think is a clever idea for a headline - and then have to go and find the story to hang on it (hoping all the while that no one else had got there first). Anyway, this time patience has been rewarded - a likely candidate turned up: John Townsend's recent volume Historical notes on some chess players...

...just as it plainly says on the cover.

It is the fruits of research by a chess historian of enviable doggedness and diligence; one who doesn't overly rely on re-cycled, ready-made factoids, secondary-sourced from contemporaneous chess mags of the day. He is thus definitely not (to plant a shamelessly self-serving plug...of sorts) in the manner of your blogger, for example in Brixton Byways. John, by contrast, scrapes back to bed-rock, to solid foundations, to brute facts exposed by scrupulous examination of primary data, even if at the outer limits of documentation. Genealogical research is his métier - it must be in the blood.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What's this than?

Here's a tatty old headline. It's from Susan Polgar's blog.

There's more to it, though, than just a careless, casual, misspelling. It's careless all right. But the reason it's happened is anything but casual.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Doctor Garry III: Dogs That Don't Bark

NEJM: Don’t mention the chess

Verghese. Joe Verghese. It only takes the briefest of internet searches combining 'chess' and 'dementia' to find the name.

Dr Verghese was the lead author of a journal article which is routinely cited amongst chessers on the internet. Leontxo Garcia recently called it "the best study" on the thesis that chess could, "prevent or delay Alzheimer’s". I don’t claim to be a "great expert", as Kasparov dubbed Garcia in that nonsense "many studies" tweet of his (Doctor Garry is In), but I have been looking into the subject for a couple of years off and on, and I’ve yet to discover anything better the research undertaken by Verghese and his colleagues either.

The New England Journal of Medicine
'Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly
2003 (348: 2508-2516)
Joe Verghese et al

If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing for free online. It’s here.

If you do, you’ll notice that there’s a problem. Actually, for an academic study which is supposed to be the proof that playing chess has a beneficial impact on your chances of avoiding dementia, it’s a very bizarre problem indeed.

Verghese’s article doesn’t actually mention chess. At all.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#27: Reshevsky - Kotov, Zurich 1953

22 Nxd4
"The triumph of good development and precise play.
With an extra pawn and the better position, the rest is a matter of technique."

Miguel Najdorf, Zurich 1953 (Russell Enterprises Inc)

And so we reach the end of my little trilogy of posts (On Plans and Advice for Beginners; BORP? XXX) on an exchange sacrifice that never happened. Reshevsky didn't play it, Najdorf doesn’t mention it as a possibility in Zurich 1953 and neither does Bronstein in Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953.

Was 22 Rxd4 not worth thinking about at all?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Definitely Got Nothing to do with chess II

Yesterday’s Daily Express:

de nos jours, indeed. Daily Express Bullshit to the left of us, Chess Bullshit to the right of us ... I suggest you ignore them both and take a stroll down Martin’s latest Brixton Byways instead.

... to do with chess Index

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Brixton Byways: 4. Regular Bricks

We are pressing on with our chronicle of a chess foretold, trying to make sense of the inexorable unfolding of S&BCC here in south west London in the late C19th. We set out with the successful Endeavour of the early 1870s which, by twists and turns, emerged finally as Brixton Chess Club in the early 1880s. In this episode we will push on through its second decade. It may be for some, I regret to say, a little remote from our modern everyday chess experience, but it is about the period when local club chess as we now know it took shape; for any who prefer a piece of the action this post does offer a couple of little games, one of which was said to be "replete with instructive points".

Friday, May 23, 2014


Mirror Mirror on the wall. Who is the most 180 of us all?

Well, me of course. Clearly.

And yet, as unlikely as it would seem to any reasonable person, a pretender to my title appears to have emerged. I won’t stand for it.

As you read these words my ECF grade is 181. That is a fact. A few good Hampstead tournaments in succession combined with adequate London League form enabling me to cross the magic 180 barrier for the first time ever.

Not everybody was so 'lucky’ (read: skillful). Take Matt Fletcher, for example. His current grade is a paltry 179. This, too, is a fact and the difference between his grade and mine demonstrates rather clearly not just my advantage at the chessboard, but also that I am the superior human being, I feel.

Here’s the thing, though. Through a statistical quirk - a below par performance at Hampstead in February* followed by a failure to capitalise on one or two very favourable positions in some club games - I’ll be dropping below the 180 line when the next list comes out. So I’ll be back to the 170s for a few months. Honestly, who cares?. Form and class and all that.

I really wouldn’t mind, but our Mr Fletcher seems somehow to have fluked enough wins to take him into the 180s this time around. An equally temporary outcome, no doubt, but unaccountably he seems to be labouring under the delusion that that this statistical blip somehow makes him 'more 180' than me.

I know. Completely ridiculous.


As a man of honour I will not and cannot stand for this insolence. The gauntlet has been thrown and I will pick it up. You can be certain of that.

A match? Yes there will be a match. A duel some would call it.

It will take place this summer. The only question that remains to be settled is the terms of play. A meeting to finalise matters will be held on neutral ground in early June. An arbiter has been appointed and will be present

I promise, my dear readers, to report back in due course.

To Mr Fletcher, however, I have just two more words to say.

Check and mate.

* I don’t want to make a big thing about it, but my pet gibbon suffered an anxiety attack on the morning of the first round which naturally meant I was rather distracted intellectually and emotionally throughout the weekend. And ill. I had a terrible cold. And if memory serves, I’d forgotten my lucky pen too. You try playing a decent game of chess under those conditions. Frankly, I’d be well within my rights to contact the ECF and have those games annulled. Not the two that I won. They were fair. The other two. It’s quite absurd that those other games should count, though. But, like I say, I wouldn’t dream of making an issue of it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

John's Immortalised Game

Not often these days that an S&B player makes it to a national chess column, so here we proudly present Dave Ledger (Hackney 1) v John Carlin (Streatham 1) from Division 1, London League, played 30 January 2012, immortalised in the Sunday Telegraph 18 May 2014 - and here's the photo to prove it.

Column copyright: Sunday Telegraph.
Telegraph daily chess column here
Photo by J. Carlin!
Ok, so the news travelled slowly (although the score did the rounds in S&BCC circles at the time), but has now reached the outside world, and many thanks to Malcolm Pein for featuring the game, and for agreeing to let us reproduce his column, with his notes. You get a bonus "Worst Move On the Board", too.

Game player after the break:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Doctor Garry II: de nos jours

This week - the 18th to the 24th May - is Dementia Awareness Week. You will know this from the numerous zero references to the event emanating from The Times’ chess correspondent’s twitter account.

Ironic that. At times it seems like we're getting one chesser or another using twitter to tell us something about dementia every other day, but the week when there’s an actual organised attempt to push the issue into the nation’s consciousness we get nothing at all. I just can’t understand it. It’s almost as if the provision  of information about dementia isn’t the primary purpose of those tweets at all.

Anyhoo, Dementia Awareness Week is as good a time as any to begin a series on what chessers have said about dementia over the past couple of years. Garry Kasparov’s recent missive being just the latest rather than the first of it’s kind, I feel that coverage of the issue (coverage of the coverage of the issue, I suppose we could say) is not just timely but long overdue.

The Times’ chess correspondent has spouted dubious nonsense in this area several times, Susan Polgar has republished a piss-weak article on the subject and almost exactly a year ago an execrable piece appeared on the Chessbase and FIDE websites. And now Gazza’s stuck in his grossly misleading oar.

Truly, the idea that we might use knights and bishops as an intervention to tackle dementia has become the bollocks de nos chessical jours*.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The last 1 e4

Twenty years ago today, in a club championship game in Oxford, I played my last 1 e4.

You can see the game below: it was entertaining enough to play, as I recall. (I've not put it through a program, for no better reason than that I don't actually have a working program at the moment. If I did have one, I suspect it'd show me a better reason.)

I don't think I intended it to be the last when I played it, unlike my last Sicilian, but it was. "Last" in the sense of over-the-board, freely-chosen: I've played it since in correspondence theme tournaments, where you have to play both sides whether you like it or not. But since that day twenty years ago I've never sat on the White side of the board and touched the e-pawn first.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

That alternative reality again...

...where plagiarism is taken seriously...

[Thanks to Pablo Byrne]
[Ray Keene index]

Saturday, May 17, 2014

All our yesterdays

CJ is distressed!

What word is that, CJ?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Party Political Broadcast

With thanks to Angus

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Doctor Garry is In

Ah, the old "Claiming of 'Many Studies' Without Troubling Oneself To Actually Cite Any" Gambit ...

Not sure who that EJHChess bloke is. Anyhoo let’s stick to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for today, if for no other reason than until recently I had a professional interest in the field. Those of you unable to wait for the 'great expert' to vouchsafe to Garry his wisdom might like to take a peek at the search results returned for "chess" on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Monday, May 12, 2014

On Plans and Advice for Beginners

I’m back musing on the difficulties of calculating exchange sacs today. It’s the same one as last week, but a few moves earlier in the combination.

The theme this week is chopping and changing. Specifically, the benefits thereof.

Everybody knows the piece of beginner advice that tells you that it’s better to play with a plan, even a bad one, than drift from move to move without any consistent objective in mind. I frequently have the very opposite problem when trying to calculating lines, though. I miss moves precisely because I don’t change tack in mid-combo.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Brixton Byways: 3. Onwards And Upwards

In the first two episodes of this chronicle (here and here) of Brixton's chess times past we investigated the fortunes of the Endeavour Club (the ancient forerunner of S&BCC) in the decade of the 1870s up to the tragedy that befell Ernest Peyer (the club's secretary) and his young wife Ellen in 1875/6. This sad business happened to coincide with the closure of the City of London Chess Magazine in early 76, William Norwood Potter having already stepped down as its editor one issue before curtains.

The lady succumbed in childbirth, Endeavour lost an able secretary, and the club a vocal supporter ("Endeavour CC always merits our attention" wrote Potter): a double and triple whammy after which it is difficult to know whether, in the few years following, the club disappeared altogether, or was merely lost to view. However Leonard Rees, who was shortly to become the first Secretary of the Surrey County Chess Association, made a significant remark in a letter to the Croydon Guardian in July 1883 - and reproduced in The Chess Player's Chronicle in August. He said, when proposing a Surrey Chess Association (with italics added): "holding a prominent position among the town clubs of Surrey, [is] the "Endeavour" of North Brixton, established on a new basis in 1879....".

Whether it collapsed, or was just forgotten, or even a bit of both, we can, after the renaissance of 79, pick up the Endeavour trail again in the early 1880s; and in this episode, with two games near the end, we will follow it into the middle of that decade. Before we do, however, we need to go east a bit, to Endeavour's next door neighbour, where we will find a suggestive clue as to what might have happened to the men of Endeavour in the dark years of 76 through to the post-79 revival.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Sloan alone

16 March 2014
Dear Mr Sloan

Sorry to bother you. I understand from the review in the British Chess Magazine that you are the publisher of Ray Keene's recent book about the Anand-Carlsen world championship match.

Would it be possible to ask you a couple of questions about this?

All the best


Yes. I am the publisher. You may ask your questions.

Sam Sloan

Thanks very much.

I noticed, in the book, a declaration that the notes to the games in the match itself are "substantially based" on notes that Mr Keene had previously had published in the Times newspaper.

However, I also noticed that the notes to a number of other games in the book were also substantially based on notes previously published, in a variety of places. I could, however, find no declaration to that effect. Was there any such statement that I missed?



Thursday, May 08, 2014

Play it again, Sam

Good Lord, that book is published by Sam Sloan. Your life as a credible author really is over when he gets to publish you.
So a friend of mine wrote about this recently-published volume. He wasn't wrong.

Of course Ray can still occasionally get a gig with a reputable publisher, but as they necessarily become disreputable as a result of employing him, perhaps there's a case for cutting to the chase and sticking with the less reputable ones.

I hadn't really intended to write about this book, solely because I have no intention of shelling out any cash to buy it, but a comment on the English Chess Forum piqued my curiosity, or to put it another way, seemed keen to do my job for me.

He's not wrong, either.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Worst Move On The Board XIX

Suárez García-Rudd, 4NCL, round nine, Hackney v Bristol 1, 3 May 2014. Position after 36...Rc6-g6+.

White's in check, but he has several ways to get out of it and they all win.

All but one.

[Thanks to Jack Rudd, surprisingly enough]
[Worst move index]

Monday, May 05, 2014


White to play

I don’t know about your first impressions of this position, but mine were,"Well I don’t see a mate yet, but surely Black must be in trouble here." White is down an exchange, but Black’s pieces are sleeping in their beds. Black has a mate in one on, but White has the move. Black’s king is trapped against the ropes, but … but nothing.

Surely this must be good enough for White?

If you check this with your engine, or your own brain if you’re so inclined, you’ll see that 1. Qxh7+ and 1 h4+ both lead to mate. In 11 and 8 moves respectively according to HIARCS. In a game you wouldn’t know that, though, would you?

Is 'surely this must be good enough' good enough?

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Probably Got Nothing to do with chess XIII

My name is Katherine Parr. 
I'm 31 years old and already twice widowed. 
I'm in love with a man I can't have, and am about to wed a man no-one would want - for my husband-to-be is none other than Henry VIII, who has already beheaded two wives, cast aside two more, and watched one die in childbirth.

Or so it says here.

... to do with chess Index

Friday, May 02, 2014

Assuming wrongly

Here's a Tweet I saw earlier this week, after Ray retweeted it.

It's by Daniel Freeman. Who is Daniel Freeman?

Daniel Freeman runs So not unnaturally he wants to say thank you to Ray for some commentary Ray has provided for that site. And here is that very commentary.

What's wrong with this?

Just about everything.