Thursday, 20 July 2017

What sort of person?

This is jerk behaviour, isn't it?

The bloke's been dead for maybe twenty-four hours and Nigel Short is picking a fight with him already.

Now as it happens, I wasn't a great admirer of Andrew Paulson. Nor I am of the school of thought that says that when a controversial figure passes away, that's a reason for forgetting all the doubts you had about them.

But at the same time there is such a thing as respect for the dead (and in this case, dead from cancer, well before his time) and pursuing feuds with them while the body is still warm is a distance outside the bounds of decency.

I'm sure there are people, who, if they said it was nothing personal, they were just trying to keep some truths in the public eye, you could probably believe them.

But Nigel Short ain't one of them. Because Nigel's got form on this subject. Unpleasantness about the dead as well as the living is what Nigel does. With Nigel, it's always personal. It's always a feud.

So when Nigel says this....

...he maybe wants to say it looking in a mirror, because one day people will be remembering what kind of a person he was.

I'm in no hurry to read Nigel's obituary. But when it's written, I hope it's by somebody who's less of a lousy human being than he is.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Black, white and yellow

This season Oxford United have a new manager.

Why do you care, you may ask.

Well I might assume you spend part of any given day thinking about Oxford United - I certainly do - but should that not actually be the case, you might nevertheless like to take a look at this.

We'll maybe overlook the Iron Maiden, but what's this about chess and real ale? Or to cut to the chase, what's this about chess?

It transpires that next to football, Pep Clotet's favourite sport is...ours.

Well never mind what "some people" think. What do they know?

What we know is that Pep Clotet likes real ale, playing guitar and chess.

We have a friend in high places. And going higher.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

They boast

I'm a member of a Facebook group called British Chess News, which by and large I recommend, albeit not everything I see there can entirely be recommended. That thought was prompted by this posting yesterday, which came as a surprise to me and not a pleasant one.

? Jon might never have heard of CCF

but a lot of other people have. Indeed we last heard from them (or rather, didn't hear from them) only a week or so ago. And although some things about CCF certainly are very unusual, some of them are not at all welcome.

But here's Scott Freeman to tell us about them.

Scott was number two to the club's chairman and centre manager for many years. So who could be better informed?

As Jon suggests:

- but not, perhaps too little.

That's too little all right. Is there anything else unusual about the club, Scott? Or about some of its members, past and present?

Friday, 14 July 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 13. Barrister

We started this exploration of the life and chess of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863-1950) with his obituary. In it his sparring-partner chess-wise and professionally, E. G. Sergeant, noted that Herbert was still practising at the Inner Temple even at the end of his life. As documents from their Archive show, he was formally called to the Bar in 1887, thus embarking on nearly 60 years of professional service. I have not located any pictures of Herbert in wig and gown, but this one from around 1900 shows him looking like he means business. It is the one held by the Jewish Museum referring to his "busy pursuit of a lawyer's profession."

This episode, and the next, will provide edited highlights from Jacobs' long, varied, and colourful legal career - they may also provide some illuminating vignettes of Victorian and Edwardian society. The episodes may turn out to be of particular interest if they reveal whether he put his knowledge and skill at the disposal of his chess colleagues (if ever they found themselves in hot water): ditto the Suffrage movement, which he supported so vigorously up to the outbreak of World War One. This research relies almost exclusively on cases reported in the regional press and accessible via the British Newspaper Archive. As a consequence it cannot claim to be comprehensive of his professional practice: a sample derived from contemporaneous newspaper reportage risks skewing towards the unusual, the amusing, and the salacious (for which readers of this post may be exceedingly grateful).    

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Village of the really damned

I was watching Village Of The Damned this afternoon, the 1960 movie adapted, reasonably closely, from John Wyndham's novel The Midwich Cuckoos.

I'm sure you've seen the film and remember the spooky blond children of alien origin whose shared psychic powers not only scare other people, but are used by the children to kill.

One man is induced to crash his car into a wall after nearly hitting one of the children on the street

while another, his brother, is forced to shoot himself with his own shotgun, having come after the children for revenge.

However, there's one particular moment in the film when we are given a more subtle and yet perhaps more powerful hint as to how evil, and indeed how alien, these children really are.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

By any other name

Pity's sake.

Apparently Garry's a "star of science writing" now.


I mean he's co-written a book in that general field, but that makes him a star?

Let's see how brightly he shines compared to the other lights in the sky.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Now you don't

Here's a funny thing. Just the other day I was flicking through some recent minutes of English Chess Federation board meetings, and in the ones for April I was surprised to come across this.

and specifically this little bit.

"CCF update"? What's that about, I wondered.

CCF, readers will recall, is the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship, subsidary of the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship, the religious cult in Surrey whose one-time leader was sent to prison for violent attacks on women and children.

Naturally, given the nature of religious cults, and given the possibility that senior members of that cult may have known about Curtis's actions or of allegations against him, this raises the question arose as to whether their chess organisation should continue to host events with children, or have its activities advertised by the English Chess Federation.

Meanwhile CCF, which is of course run by very long-term associates of Curtis, showed no signs of wishing to discuss what anybody had or had not known.

Anyway, as I'll be discussing below, I had no idea that any communication between CCF and the ECF was still going on, and so I sent an email to a director of the ECF just to ask what this "update" was about.

The response surprised me even more. The minutes themselves have now been updated.

They now look like this.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Do they mean us? II

From a Guardian piece about the Teaching Excellence Framework. Not for the first time we may find ourselves asking: what on earth has any of this to do with chess?

I mean yes I know it's a metaphor, but are they really saying we can't understand "playing a game" as a metaphor unless someone shows us a chessboard illustrating it?

Friday, 30 June 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 12. Intermission Riff

After the extensive investigation of Herbert Jacobs' political engagement (here and here), the series takes a breather before we look at his legal career. However, before we leave behind the struggle for women's suffrage completely, the cartoon below is worth a look.  

(Click on any picture in this post to enlarge.)

There are several things to investigate - so we only need to note, in passing, the satisfactory depiction of the chess board: all 64 squares, all where they should be, though that "umpire" reference sounds a little odd to modern ears, but then maybe arbiters hadn't yet been invented.

So, who was "A Patriot" sheltering behind the nom de plume? And who were Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, the editors of "Votes For Women"? And - while we are about it - could Lloyd George really play chess?

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

All academic

Thanks to the person who sent me this. I'm on a reading list!

The reading list appears in the second edition of Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks (Oxford University Press, 2017) by Andrew Gelman and Deborah Nolan.

I didn't know of Deborah, but I do know that Andrew is a chess player, and a reader of (and occasional commentor on) our old blog, from which the cited piece is taken. You'll probably have seen it a few times before, but hopefully it'll now be read by large numbers of Statistics students.

Maybe even all 605 million of them.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

One more for the road

I was idling through the BBC Sport page yesterday, not expecting to see much to interest my chessplaying side, when I came across the invitation:
Ready for another round of 200mph chess?
So I was bracing myself for another tenuous and wince-inducing comparison of another sport to ours, when...

...hang on... that who I think it is?

So it is. Very different shot, of course from another time and  fromthe other side of the the board, but so it is.

This weekend's Grand Prix is in Baku. And who's famous who's from Baku?

I'd drop the final caption, myself, but I was less interested in that than in what a strange photo it is (from 1995, I'm guessing) with Garry apparently watched from behind by a shadow-Garry.

It's a decent enough piece but you'd have tought they could have found a less weird photo - it's not like it's hard to find one of Garry, is it? These days he's everywhere, you just can't get away from him.

Anyway I hope those of you who are into this stuff enjoy the race and that the chap who went to my old school* wins the thing.

And I suppose we'd rather have a random mention of chess than not. Oscar Wilde, who much like Garry was Formula 1 class when it comes to vanity, said "there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about". The only thing worse than people talking about Garry Kasparov would be people not talking about Garry Kasparov.

[* well kind of - my school merged with another school and that's the one Lewis Hamilton went to]

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Do they mean us?

I'm not sure how chuffed I am at the Institute of Psychiatry associating chess with being "socially aloof", let alone "intelligent", but what I really want to know is...

...what have they done with the White king?

Friday, 16 June 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 11. Votes For Jacobs!

We have come across it several times in this extended exploration of the life and chess of Herbert Jacobs (1863-1950): his propensity to express himself in poetic form. He was at it again in 1910 (now age 47) with a piece presented carte de visite-style (reproduced below). It is in a file of material at the LSE Women's Library from the General Election of that year - the one when Herbert stood on a Women's Suffrage ticket.

With thanks to the LSE Women's Library

It is not clear whether the sentiment of the poem - "To the Old Year and the New" - was occasioned by the turn of 1909 into 1910 (looking forward hopefully), or of 1910 into 1911 (relieved to leave that one behind). Anyway, it's a nice photo of Herbert - which we will see used again in the General Election. As for 1910, was it annus mirabilis or annus horribilis? Find out below.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Share and enjoy

It's my birthday tomorrow, and because I am not just a good guy but generous with it, I am going to give you all a present. Same present for everybody, mind, so you'll have to share, but it's a nice one.

There you go.

It's a large pgn file of the collected games and annotations of Raymond Keene, all in one place for your comfort and convenience. It stretches from 1961, the first annotated game being an Old Indian Defence against John Sugden from that year, to 1988, the last one being from a little earlier, a King's Indian Attack essayed by Zarb.

I can't actually remember how I came across it first. I thought I had discovered it by accident when, in 2013, I was researching Ray's habits of reproducing his own notes, or other people's, on the sly - Googling a phrase must have produced, among the results, our pgn file. Not so, though, since checking my old emails I find I've been aware of it since 2010 having come across it by chance on this site, maintained by Philip Hughes. The site actually promises us a collection of Ray's games

and though I can't locate it now, it must have been there at some point. Whatever - here it is, and what an invaluable resource it is.

Of course you may have come across some of the material before, and more than once.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

He didn't win

A lot of people didn't win on Thursday.

But Mike Basman didn't win more than most.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Becoming clear

I don't think I've  got the answer to yesterday's question - where Ray's notes to Keene-Basman originate - but I do know that the notes from the fifty-year-old game are at least forty years old, since they appear in Ray's Batsford compilation, Becoming a Grandmaster.

Here (with thanks to Jonathan) is the original.

I say "the original", but while that takes us back to 1977 at least. the notes in all likelihood are from before that year, because though Becoming a Grandmaster is a very entertaining read, it's notoriously a read of material that had been previously published elsewhere (this being an example) not that Ray or Batsford bothered to tell that to the paying customer.

So the hunt continues - where did the notes come from? Maybe Ray or could tell us.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

A curious blend

General election day in the UK and Mike Basman has been setting out his views on the NHS: apparently it represents "a culture which pushes drugs relentlessly onto the populace", whatever he may think that means. Don't worry Mike, if the Tories win the NHS will be doing a lot less of that and everything else in the future.

Mike will have gained a boost from being the subject of Ray's widely-read Spectator column for June 3:

Given that Ray's political associates are normally titled members of the barking right, Mike Basman might be an improvement.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

An imperfect match

And after John Naughton reviewing Kasparov in the Observer, here's Chuck Culpepper writing about Wesley So in the Washington Post.

No sign of that note-taking business, either.

Monday, 5 June 2017

More of the same

To go with yesterday's piece, here's something from John Naughton's Guardian/Observer* review of Garry Kasparov's new book.

Donner said of Prins that he "cannot tell a knight from a bishop". I wonder - would a book about tennis be reviewed by somebody who didn't know the difference between a game and a match?

[* Guardian website, but as it appeared on a Sunday I'm assuming it was the Observer in print.]

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The same treatment

How long does it take you to see what's very wrong with this?

The answer, if you're a chess player, is no time at all.

If you're not a chess player (which is a few of our readers, though probably not many) the answer is that Capablanca did not win the world championship "every year from 1921 until 1927", because there was no world championship every year from 1921 until 1927. Between those years no world championship matches took place. It is not and was not an annual event.

This is not an easy thing to get wrong - if you're a chess player, if you know anything about chess. Even if you do not, it is an easy thing to look up.

but it is not an easy thing to get wrong.

I mean it is like saying that Brazil won the World Cup every year between 1970 and 1974. Or that Barack Obama won the Presidency every year between 2008 and 2016. You would never say either of those things, because you would know - if you knew anything - that these were not annual events. And anybody who did say those things could expect to be laughed at.

But not Brin-Jonathan Butler, who gets to write a magazine article about Capablanca, among the most famous of world chess champions, without apparently knowing the most elementary facts about the world chess championship.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 10. Votes For Women!

In 1907 a new organisation joined the campaign for votes for women: the Men's League for Women's Suffrage (MLWS), and its first chairman was the 54 year-old Herbert Jacobs (1863-1950), the subject of this extended series (it started here), which is covering all aspects of his life - chess and otherwise - in some detail. But before we go any further, a reminder: I am not a professional historian who might have made a specialised study of the fight for women's suffrage in the late 19th/early 20th Centuries. Please bear that in mind when reading this and the following episode (indeed, for the series as a whole) which, apart from any other deficiency, barely scratch the surface of suffrage history.    

According to the Men's League's first Annual Report in 1908, it was inaugurated at a meeting on the 2 March 1907 in Jacobs' office at 1, Harcourt Chambers in the Inner Temple. Three years later he was standing for parliament on a women's suffrage platform. This episode will begin to tell the story of Jacobs' political career, and we'll start at the beginning....

Monday, 29 May 2017


What's this?

Well of course I know what it is, it's the Twitter account of International Master and financial-misconduct-suspect-about-town Silvio Danailov. I don't see it very often, having been blocked by Silvio some years back.

What I mean is, what's this?

Why has Silvio Danailov got more than fifty thousand followers on Twitter? And how?

It's not unusual for ridiculous numbers to be bandied about in chess and this strikes me as another one. Are there really fifty thousand people who want to follow Silvio Danailov? What would they be following him for?

I mean even Kirsan only has five thousand or so.

All right, that's a Russian-language account; his English-language one has never taken off, in an unusual instance of him failing to come through on his promises.

So perhaps there's a huge audience for seeing chess administrators of dubious reputation make a lot of noise on Twitter - in English if not in Russian. Or, for that matter, Turkish.

Or perhaps there isn't.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Where's the rest?

I wanted to get back, just one more time, to that BCM interview with Ray we looked at a couple of times previously, headed chess is in danger of becoming a superior crossword puzzle.

Now, as it happens, if you want to access Ray's daily Times* column online, you can't really get away from the crossword, since you have to go from the front page

where we would click on Today's sections. and then to Puzzles

- I thought we were looking for a chess column, but it seems to be classified under Puzzles -

and there's our crosswords! Scroll down, and down...

and there it is, almost at the very bottom. There's only Bridge between our man and Show Less

but it is at least a chess column.

Bit of a comedown when we're talking about a newspaper which used to have chess on the front page

but no big deal. A chess column is still a chess column wherever they put it.

But what I want to know is, where have they put all Ray's other columns?

Where's the rest of him gone?