Thursday, July 31, 2014


Somehow it feels more like Jonathan Hawkins won it than David Howell. I’m not sure why. It just does.

Perhaps it’s something to do with Hawkins leading from first to last. Or the fact that he was unbeaten over the 11 games. Then again, if you compare their respective fields he 'only' played 4GMs, 3IMs and an FM as opposed to 4GMs, 4IMs and an FM and Howell also won more games. That should count for something. Although so should having the slightly higher TPR and the fact that he would have won on a Sum of Progressive Scores tie-break if it comes to that.

Is it just that Howell ending up on top is Same Old Same Old whereas for Hawkins it’s all new? Is it a sense that Hawkins deserves it more? The latter is not something I share - I’ve never really understood what people mean when they say stuff like that - and yet it feels more like a victory for him that the other guy who shared first place nonetheless.

Which makes no sense. Whatsoever.

It was Hawkins’ tournament

8.5 points is 8.5 points: everything else is meaningless

BORP? Index

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

History Boy

Well done Paul McKeown (of Athenaeum CC here in London) for his erudite talk on Monday evening at the City Lit on the de la Bourdonnais-McDonnell match of 1834.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cleaner than handshakes

Important news before British Championship competitors shake hands today:
Scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales have shown that a shake transfers more bacteria than other forms of hand-on-hand action.

They are calling for the widespread adoption of the fist bump instead.
Public Health England whimsically suggested a Victorian-age bow or curtsey would be even safer.
In the light of the news, championship organisers have asked competitors who expect to begin games with a handshake to arrive at their boards ten minutes earlier than normal in order to allow time to wash their hands afterwards.

Now wash your hands

[Image: © Mark Crowther]

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aberystwyth ISEs

Black to play
Howell - Williams, British Championship (4) 2014

Normally we’d be half way through at this point. This year we’re already approaching the closing stretch. Better get the ISEs in quick while I’ve still got a chance.

S&BCB’s own Justin Horton was paired against Yang-Fan Zhou in the first round. A tough welcome back to chess for EJH that. It’s a measure of Zhou's strength that you can consider his +4 =2 -1 and  current share of 4th place as under-performing. I’d actually thought he was a decent outside bet to win the Championship this year and if that’s not going to happen, well, I’d still back him to become England’s next Grandmaster.

Anyhoo, on move 21,

Black to play
Horton - Zhou, British Championship (1) 2014

Black played ... Nxb6 allowing White to win the exchange. I can’t say that I expected it, but after 22 Bxb6 Rxb6, 23 axb6 Qxb6, 24 Na2 e4, 25 fxe4 Nxe4, 26 Qf4 f5 Black’s bishop, queen and centralised knight looked rather impressive to me.

White to play

Howell - Williams was a rather different kettle of ISEs. A total mess from start to finish.

A great win for the Ginger GM, but Howell won his next three on the bounce. If he beats Hawkins today he might even be back in the lead - if only jointly - by the time you read this.

2014 ISE Count: 50
TISE Index

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The bubonic plagiarist

Private Eye, issue 1371, 27 July 2014, page 7.


[Thanks to Richard James and Pablo Byrne]

[Ray Keene plagiarism index]
[Ray Keene index]

Friday, July 25, 2014

Miss Easy Tactics! with Justin XVIII

[Our pedagogical series in which we look at a portion of a game I played recently in which some obvious tactic was overlooked. Readers are invited to practice their skill by seeing if they can spot what was missed.]

Fathallah-Horton, British Championhip (Aberystwyth) 2014. Round six. Position after 29. Nd3xc5.

Play now continued 29...dxc5 30. Bxc5 Rd8 31. Qc1 Bxc5+ 32. Rxc5 and eventually Black held on for a draw at move 45.

But in the above sequence, what did both players miss?

[Miss Easy Tactics! index]

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Harman In My Head

Slate's Ben Rothenberg reports:

What's this about?
The gift shop at Wimbledon, which rests above the subterranean Wimbledon museum, sells towels, polo shirts, and even strawberry-shaped earrings. The shop also sells a yearbook, known as the Official Wimbledon Annual. The 2013 annual, a compendium of photos and writings from that year's tournament, featured a cover shot of Andy Murray kissing the championship trophy.
We need to know this why?
By the end of this year's tournament, which was contested from June 23 to July 6, the 2013 annual had been removed from the Wimbledon bookshelves. It has also been removed from Wimbledon’s online shop. The book should have disappeared from circulation long before that. Months earlier, as first reported today in the UK magazine Private Eye (the article is not currently available online), Wimbledon employees had learned that the author, Neil Harman, had plagiarized large swaths of the 2013 book.
And who is Mr Harman?
Harman, a correspondent for the Times of London, is a pre-eminent figure in the tennis press.
A correspondent for the Times of London.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DG XI: 'Doctor' Gillian McKeith

If you want to know how bad things are, you have to take a look at "Doctor’* Gillian McKeith. More precisely, you have to take a look at Doctor Ben Goldacre taking a look at 'Doctor'* Gillian McKeith.

... the form of McKeith’s pseudo-academic work is superficially correct ... but the substance is lacking.
Ben Goldacre, Bad Science, Harper Perennial (2009)

And this is the problem: when chessers write about chess and dementia it isn’t even that good.

A couple of weeks ago - DG IX: Guioco Piano - I mentioned that I’d recently stumbled across the existence of FIDE’s Social Action Chess Commission and a SACC report which included a section on chess and dementia. While the involvement of Doctor Robert Friedland, a bona fide researcher in the field, was welcome news, much less a cause for celebration was the way FIDE chose to report  the good Doctor’s work. 

The tragedy of FIDE’s Social Action Committee report is not so much that it plumbs the depths of standards reached by a pretend 'Doctor' off the tellybox. It’s that the report actually represents a step forward by the usual standards of our 'community'.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jarmany In My Head

Horton-Jarmany, round 3, British Championship (Aberystwyth) 2014
Position after 27...Rf8-h8. White to play and to be disturbed.

I'm on nought out of three. I'm not happy. I messed up a super game: I'm not at all happy. But in fact I'm much unhappier than that.

White is winning, in the above position. (You might like to check that, because it's pertinent. It's not the whole point of the story, but it's pertinent.) He's winning, but he has just four to five minutes, plus thirty-second increments, to play the next fifteen moves. He has lost the thread a little - hence the time shortage - and has already missed at least one of the clear wins which he has used his time up looking for. But he is still winning.

But while he is thinking, his opponent suddenly addresses him: "you still have to keep score even if there's less than five minutes". This is, as most readers will know, completely against the rules, since it is forbidden to talk to an opponent. [Edit: but see comments.]

It is, moreover, particularly wrong to talk to an opponent when it is his move. And more than particularly wrong to talk to him while he is in time trouble.

Monday, July 21, 2014

They’re Already Off

Black to play
Wade - Keene, British Championships 1971

And here we go. Or rather, there we went.

It was four years ago that I started writing about the format of the British Chess Championship [Bigger and Better?Wagging the Dog]. A year later [Mummy’s Little Prince and the Sheffield Rest Day] I wrote of the schedule - 11 round swiss, Monday to Saturday in week 1, Sunday rest day, Monday to Friday in week two - and how it had remained unchanged for several decades.

Well for this year, at least, things are different. OK, they’re different only so that there won’t be a clash with the Olympiad, but they’re different nonetheless. We can but hope that the enforced change  might open a few minds with regard to what might be possible hereafter.

Anyhoo, when I think about ISEs from past British Championships one by You Know Who from Blackpool immediately springs to mind. We’ve had it on the blog before, but that was four years ago, - RCP VII being published a few days after my thoughts on the poor state of the contemporary championship tournament - and defensive sacrifices have been few and far between so far in this series.

If nothing else, I’m sure Ray would appreciate the recycling of old material.

2014 ISE Count: 48
TISE Index

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brixton Byways: 8. Uncommon People

This Brixton Byways series continues, but with the focus shifted three miles away from Brixton to Streatham as we are now researching the origins of the Streatham half of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club - we have gone, temporarily, Streatham Sideways.

As we saw in the last episode, in 1886 the British Chess Magazine reported a body setting up as Streatham CC; but judging from the Streatham News in October 1893 another outfit was the one that really had lift off and could claim the name, and it had been launched in all likelihood in 1891. The News looked back on this club's successful season just gone of sixteen matches, and an internal club tournament of 120 games.

Who were the principal officers of this dynamic outfit? The standout, and uncommon, name is that of the Club President, Edward John Vavasour Earle, and we are going to have a good look at him next, even though it make this post more of a study of social types than chess games. We will also give William Morris Esq., Hon Sec., a brief once-over (no, not that William Morris, unfortunately). If we may say so, and if our readers will entertain the expression, Mr. Morris of the Streatham Chess Club had a rather chequered career.   

Friday, July 18, 2014

The last time

Black to play and kiss goodbye to two hundred nicker

Three hours after this piece publishes I should be boarding a train in Sheffield, to take me to Birmingham, where I'll change trains for for Aberystwyth and the 2014 British Chess Championship.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DG X: Making a Difference

Today I’m going to offer the chess world two rules that will improve the quality of debate about our game and dementia by several orders of magnitude.

  1. Writers and publishers: don’t cite 'research’ or 'science’ or 'evidence’ without providing a full reference to that research;
  2. Readers: dismiss out of hand anything and anyone that breaks Rule One.

To see how much of a difference it would make, I’m going to take a look at two pieces of writing. One, a manual used by staff in the NHS working with people who have been diagnosed with dementia; the other, an article which appeared on Chessbase.

The subject of both concerns the provision of cognitively stimulating exercises. In the circumstances, inviting readers to guess which one of the two is of negligible value seems a little out of place.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ray Saves the Day

When you need a helping hand, chessically speaking, who are you going to call? Why, the chess correspondent of The Times of course.

I gather RDK has been covering exchange sacs over the last week or so.  ... Rxc3s in Sicilians, ... Rxf3s , Gazza’s Rxb7 against Shirov to name but a few. I was just about to get around to that last one, funnily enough.

White to play
Kasparov - Shirov, Horgen 1994

My favourite from Ray’s bunch is Benko - Keres, Los Angeles 1963. An ISE and a rook ending. What’s not to like?

2014 ISE Count: 49
TISE Index

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jazz Up Your Openings

This week we have been mostly listening to Jonathan Finlayson and Sicilian Defense on their recent album Moment and the Message...

by Pi Recordings
...well, a couple of weeks ago the background tracks for an exceedingly agréable fortnight's holiday in Brittany.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Print source

There's something of a kerfuffle been going on involving the difficulties some countries are experiencing in getting their competitors to Tromsø for the Olympiad.

In response the FIDE President has written an open letter to the Prime Minister of Norway. (Excerpt above.)

The Olympiad organisers have sent a response. (Excerpt below.)

As stated above, in spite (of) their goodwill, they are unable to solve the problem.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Haldane Half

You'll recall that the weekend before last, Jonathan Rowson gave a simultaneous display in order to raise funds for Brandelhow Primary School in Putney. One of his opponents was Streatham and Brixton veteran Robin Haldane, inventor of the Haldane Hack.

Here's the game, which notes based on those Robin was kind enough to send us. Kind enough, and brave enough to do without computer assistance! All my additions are of the more cowardly sort.

White: Jonathan Rowson
Black: Robin Haldane

1. e4

Robin: "I was happy when White opened with the Ruy Lopez as I thought there would be more chance of a tactical game than if he had started 1. c4, 1. d4 or 1. Nf3."

1...e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Bxc6

Robin: "6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Qe1 is a line that Les Pickett recommended in the 1970s in a long defunct magazine called Chessman Quarterly. It looks innocuous but forces Black on the defensive."

6...dxc6 7. Qe1 Nd7 8. b3 O-O 9. Bb2 Bd6 10. d3 Qe7 11. Nbd2 b5 12. a4 Bb7

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

DG IX: Giuoco Piano

It’s been a little while, so I’m going to restart the chess and dementia posts with a quick recap of what’s been going on since DG VIII: Celebrity. There’s been a fair bit, as it turns out and that’s not counting the proper dementia news that appeared in the press yesterday.

I’ve got three things today. Something (potentially) encouraging from FIDE, something from Chess Cafe that can be filed under 'More of the Usual Bollocks' and a little something that Richard James brought to my attention which is not entirely unconnected with the reason for the hiatus in the Doctor Garry series.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A bit previous

I found this interesting interview on Susan Polgar's website.

Not a phrase you'll often read on this website, but the interested party in this instance was none other than Leonard Barden and the interview, with Willy Iclicki, is indeed interesting, for a few reasons.

One of them is that despite having been billed on July 4 as an exclusive interview

precisely the same exclusive interview seems to have appeared on Chessdom on July 3.

Miraculously the Polgar version contains the same typing error as its Chessdom predecessor (note the missing full stop above and below)

and yet the Polgar site neglects to mention where it pinched the interview from.

But talking about dubious practice in the chess world, the subject of the exclusive interview is the ECU elections, in which Iclicki is a member of Zurab Azmaiparashvili's team.

Monday, July 07, 2014

ISEs: From the Books IV

Black to play
Spassky - Petrosian (11), World Championship 1969

I was so fascinated by Petrosian’s art in this area that in a rather short time I started sacrificing exchanges whenever I had the chance. My Olympiad team-mates met my new habit with pronounced skepticism, in spite of my excellent results both in practical play and analysis. Some of them considered it nothing more than an eccentricity, though an excusable one, given my youth.
Mihail Marin, Learn from the Legends(Quality Chess, 2006)

Up until now, I’ve usual mentioned Marin’s Learn from the Legends in connection with its first chapter: Rubinstein’s Rook Endings. Today’s ISE comes from his chapter on Petrosian.

Mr P must be the most famous of all ISE-ists.  There’s his ... Re6 at Zurich, of course, and we had him in this series not so long ago (Psychological Caution). I seriously doubt whether it would be possible to find anything written on ISEs in the last forty years that doesn’t mention Petrosian’s name. Marin has a whole chapter dedicated to him.

I’d pick out Petrosian - Nunn from Hastings in the late 70s ...

16 b3

...  but I’m trying to give fianchetto ISEs a rest. So instead today we’ve got a game from Petrosian’s rematch with Spassky. Plenty of time to think about this ISE. It’s on for a long long time.

2014 ISE Count: 47
TISE Index

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Brixton Byways: 7. Streatham News!

So far in Brixton Byways (adding, in parenthesis and in case anyone is reaching for the wrong end of the stick, that this is an unofficial history and is not commissioned by, written on behalf of, or is representing, Streatham and Brixton Chess Club - though the author is a member of the club - thus, as always with posts on the independent S&B Chess Blog, the authorial buck stops with the author himself) we have been dogging the footsteps of Brixton CC, one half of the modern-day Streatham and Brixton partnership forged in 1946. As we have seen the Brixton CC half goes back to the 1870s; but a separate Streatham club was established in 1918 just as WW1 finished.

Yes, the ancestor of the today's club, that which brought the Streatham bit to the party, was a creature of the C20th: a verity that has entered into S&BCC folklore, recounted by the godfathers of the club when telling, re-telling and embellishing, the legends of the misty past to the young pretenders, who in their turn recount it to the next generation...why it even said so in the local newspaper:
As reproduced in Knightmare! in 1977
There. "Founded in 1918."

But how wrong we may have all been.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Settling old accounts

New In Chess 2014#4, page 9.

The latter above intrigued me when I read it in the last New In Chess - and not just me, either, judging from a comment on the blog last week. I've asked before but not yet had any response. So does anybody have any clue what this is about?

[Nigel Short index]

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ins and outs

Simon Barnes has been sacked! It's a shame: he was the favourite sports correspondent of at least one contributor to this blog.

There's some controversy over his dismissal, but whatever the ins and outs of Barnes' disappearance from the Times, the reader of this blog is bound to ask - how come somebody like Barnes gets sacked while somebody like our favourite chess correspondent doesn't?

A Tweet suggests:

[Ray Keene index]