Monday, 20 February 2017

Will truth out?

Tim Harding asks a good question.

Now it's not as if it's a question that was never asked during Van Oosterom's lifetime, albeit not generally by the people who should have been asking it. And the proper convention is to not make too much fuss about the misdeeds, either alleged or proven, of the dead, so if Peter Doggers' notice said no more than this
many chess experts have suggested that the retired grandmaster Jeroen Piket, who finished his career to start working for Van Oosterom in Monaco, not only helped his boss in the company
I have no particular objection.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Dress Down Ray

Standards are slipping.


OK it was Friday but when a man of Ray's moral standing can't be bothered to dress smartly what hope is left?

I mean - how will the young people know who to copy?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Did Fred play?

I wouldn't mind seeing this film: I've been interested in its subject most of my life.


We knew Marx played a little (though I wouldn't be sure we can vouch for the veracity of this game) but what about Fred? Marx surely played with Liebknecht, but that's not Wilhelm in the picture - in either meaning of the term picture, since he's not listed in the cast. Our two chessplayers pictured are clearly August Diehl, playing Marx, and Stefan Konarske (below) who's down as playing Engels.

Playing a player?

I've never seen Engels' name linked with chess - there was a chessplaying Engels, but a different one - and it's the sort of thing I'd have expected to notice.

Alas, when trying to connect the two briefly yesterday evening, all I could find was a long article from 1890 in which, discussing the opinions of the largely-forgotten David Urquhart, Engels writes thus:
In order thus to reduce all modern history since the French Revolution to a diplomatic game of chess between Russia and Turkey, with the other European States for Russia’s chessmen, Urquhart had to set himself up as a sort of Eastern prophet who taught, instead of simple historic facts, a secret esoteric doctrine in a mysterious hyper-diplomatic language, full of allusions to facts not generally known, but hardly ever plainly stated.
And here's me thinking that clichéd Russia/chess comparisons dated from the period of the Soviet Union (and ever since). Apparently not.

So assuming that the image above is all it seems, is it a little bit of artistic licence on the part of Raoul Peck? Or did Marx struggle over the chessboard with Engels just as he did with Liebknecht? Did Fred play?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 2. Brixton, Benedict and Bar

This series, in several parts, is following the career - chess and otherwise - of Herbert Levi Jacobs (1863 - 1950), considered by his obituarist in the British Chess Magazine as, in his day, "one of England's strongest players". Incidentally, there was no mention at the time, that I could find, of his passing, in Chess - then, and since, the country's other monthly chess mag.

Part 1 documented the beginnings of his chess career in Croydon and Surrey. We now follow him north, both for his chess, and the first step in his Legal career. However, before we rush headlong towards the City, we need to mark Herbert's involvement in Brixton Chess Club. He is part - if a small one - of the S&BCC story, and thus of some interest hereabouts. However, first we back up a bit, before we plough on into the future.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Boo Hou


Much anguish and wagging of fingers at Hou Yifan's default-cum resignation in the last round at Gibraltar, and I can't say I'm all that impressed myself, not being hugely fond of players losing in that fashion. If you're going to default as a protest, perhaps it's better to formally default, since playing deliberately badly brings the game into disrepute.

More than that, if you're going to default as a protest, perhaps it's better to put out a formal statement explaining your actions, since it's hard to evaluate a protest when you don't know for sure what it's about.

So should she have done it? Very probably not. Should she have apologised to the organisers and arbiters, as she did to the fan? Very possibly. On the other hand, whataboutery is the spice of internet life, so I was wondering whether there had been any other incidents recently in which leading professionals had found themselves at loggerheads with organisers and arbiters.

Funnily enough this chap was the first who came to mind.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Postcards from Zafra

This is Casa Ruy López in Zafra, where I'm staying (the room above the sign)..


It is not in the same street as this...


...which in turn is not in the same street as this...


which says:
Ruy López de Segura, priest from Zafra, first-ever world chess champion in 1575 and famous writer on that noble game, was born and lived in this house.



[With thanks to Carlos Maza Gómez]

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Don't look now

I don't know if you caught this piece over the weekend, recounting a chance meeting over the weekend with a movie star whose surreptitious advice helps the honeymooning author to win a chess game against her husband.

According to her:
On one night, it was not looking good. Jason, who is much more of a strategist than me, had already claimed several of my pieces. Grinning at the prospect of another victory, he disappeared to the toilet while I considered my next move

At that moment, a shadow loomed over me, and a gravelly voice interrupted my glum thoughts of defeat. "You need to move that piece there," explained the voice. "And when you’ve done that, move this piece over here."
The gravelly voice turns out to belong to Donald Sutherland (The Dirty Dozen, Don't Look Now).

She continues:
the sight of Hawkeye Pierce from the film version of M*A*S*H giving me tips on how to win at chess rendered me practically speechless.
Now personally I think it would terrify the shit out of me, but that's because I've seen Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers.


Anyway it all ends happily
When Jason reappeared I casually moved my pieces as suggested, and within a few minutes victory was mine
which is unusual for a Donald Sutherland production.


Friday, 27 January 2017

Herbert Jacobs: 1. Beginning in Croydon

Not many chessers these days have heard of Herbert Levi Jacobs (16 June 1863 - 11 February 1950), unless, that is, you've read the small print on our blogs, where he has had an occasional mention. There are, admittedly, passing references to him in the biographies of others, but nobody, as far as I'm aware, has given him much of an airing on his own account. Which is a shame: first, because "for many years [he]...ranked as one of England's strongest chess-players"; and second, because for sometime in his long chess career (which included on the national stage) Herbert Jacobs played for Brixton CC, and as a youngster he lived in Streatham. So, after threatening,  back in 2014, to write about him, and again last year, your blogger - a current member of Streatham and Brixton Chess Club - his managed to pull his finger out: Jacobs' day has come - on this blog anyway. Herbert Levi Jacobs - This Is Your Life.

His was a long innings in which he played a good deal of competitive chess and made many friends on the circuit, all woven into a successful professional career at the Bar and in the Law. There was also a rather shorter, and less successful, venture into the bear-pit of politics. He had an intriguing marriage, too. So, given such a extensive and interesting life, and to make things manageable, this will be a series: the first posts will give, together with biographical details, some edited highlights of Jacobs at the board in Croydon, in Brixton and in the wider chess-world. Then we will concentrate on Jacobs away from the board; and a finally we will turn our attention to Mrs Herbert Jacobs (though she was better known otherwise).

Again there are the usual caveats: this will be a résumé, and though detailed, has no claims to the impeccable thoroughness in the manner of Harding, Rennette et al.  All errors, omissions, exaggerations, flights of fancy - signalled by "perhaps" or "maybe" - and other sundry indiscretions are the responsibility of your blogger. Just one other point: 24 of Jacobs' games are on-line here. I have also linked them where appropriate in the text, but have not reproduced these scores otherwise, unless particularly note-worthy. One the other hand I have given, here and there, the scores of a number of other games of his, which, as far as I am aware, have not been published on-line.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Seventies Rock



Thanks to the correspondent who alerted me to this: the pictures seem to show that Ray's lecture was well-attended and I only wish I could have been there myself. I do hope that the answer to this gentleman's question


is yes one way or the other.

Pending that opportunity, I don't know if anybody can tell us: did any of the people attending ask any useful questions? Like, for instance, "why did you lie to Viktor Korchnoi and break your contract with him in order to write an instant book of the match?"

Come on, Ray, it's been nearly forty years now. Isn't it time to confess?

Monday, 23 January 2017

Cheese and potatoes

Now that Donald Trump has managed to get himself inaugurated without being arrested - yet - who are this profoundly ignorant man's big supporters in the world of chess?

We'll pass over Peter Thiel, for the moment, who aside from being a Trump adviser is a notorious bully, a woman-hater - and who apart from having a FIDE rating of 2199 showed up at the world championship to make a ceremonial first move for Sergei Karjakin.

Big cheese though Thiel may be, in chess terms he's small potatoes when compared to Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Sinquefield Cup and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, co-sponsor of the Grand Chess Tour, and effective creator of the current US Olympiad team, gold medallists in Baku.

Also, a leading supporter of Donald Trump.

Rex Sinquefield (Stephanie S Cordle)

There's nothing obscure about this: Sinquefield is a known and notorious figure in Missouri and US politics, the biggest single political donor in his home state, his priorities including trying to abolish income tax and public education, but not including a great deal of respect for women and minorities. Or poorer people.

There's nothing obscure about this, unless you were only to read the chess press, which despite all its coverage of Mr Sinquefield's chess tournaments and chess philanthropy, has not been noticeably forthcoming about the less public-spirited applications of Mr Sinquefield's money. One wonders whether this will change, now that this money has helped elect the single most controversial and dangerous holder of the US Presidency in the history of that office.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Chess in Art: Again, With A Footnote

Without wanting to bang on too much about the chess-art, last week's post did suggest that there was a lot of it about. Take Barcelona, for example, right now:


We've seen that Dorothea Tanning photo-montage before, in London just a few years ago (and see here). But that Delauney is a new one - and it helpfully exemplifies a point made in last week's post about the board's chequered pattern serving as a contrast to plainer passages; and is a reminder that it is a motif from theatrical costume. This art website helpfully thumbnails some of the works in the Barcelona show in case it's not convenient for you to hop over there to catch it (by the 22nd January). You'll recognize a few more of them, including Metzinger's Soldier playing Chess from 1915/6, which we showed last week when discussing Chess Board Cubism (and I'd quite forgotten that you can also see it here).

In view of the passing of the great and influential Marxist art critic, writer, and occasional artist, John Berger (1926 - 2017), it was quite remiss of me not to have mentioned last time his particular perspective on Cubism. So I'd like to add a brief footnote about his views - and note a reference he made to chess.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Chess in Art: Chess Board Cubism

Already almost a week in, but still time to wish you a Happy New Year - and kick it off with some more chess in art. Looking around, there is no shortage of it: there are so many websites and blog posts now devoted it, including these. Not forgetting a stunning book.

Apparently all periods and schools of art have found inspiration in the game. For figurative artists it has offered a vehicle for any number of narratives: courtly dalliance, flagrant flirtation, existential gloom, apocalyptic warfare, geopolitical intrigue, political lampoon, and more. Non-figurative artists have looked to the motivation behind the moves, the geometry in the play, the rolling thought beneath, all of which make the game amenable to more conceptual or abstract expression - and a medium for those artists who, from the early decades of the last century, have been leaving representation behind.

This post will explore one such early twentieth century artistic "ism" at the outer limit of representation, whose label suggests a rectilinear affinity with a game played on squares: Cubism. It flourished and dissipated more or less a hundred years ago; although it still casts a long shadow. "Cubism"  has always intrigued me, especially as artists of this stripe created a good number of chess-themed works, almost since day one. Please see below.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Bored by the Xmas movies?

Why not watch a bunch of foreign-language chess films instead?

There's a chess bookshop, La Casa Del Ajedrez, in Madrid, I've never been there myself, but they send me emails, which is how I know that, as part of their twentieth anniversary celebrations, they're showing a series of chess films over Xmas.

On first looking at the list of films I thought I hadn't heard of any of them - which, given that most chess-related films are terrible, might not be to my disadvantage. In truth, having scratched my head a little harder, I can maybe vaguely remember one or two of them, though that would be "remember" as in having heard of them, not as in going so far as to watch them. But if and when you're bored by the Xmas movies, then most of them are embedded in this blog post. So you don't have to go all the way to Madrid 28004 to see them.

(Before I start, I haven't got, and haven't seen, Bob Basalla's Chess In The Movies, currently eight hundred nicker on Amazon, so if anybody's got it, or got eight hundred quid they want to give away, I'd be keen to hear what it says about any of these films.)

Their first movie in the series is Schachnovelle, from the novel by Stefan Zweig, which in the UK was released as Brainwashed.


Amusingly the poster for the UK release makes no apparent reference to chess, except for the phrase MASTER MINDS OF BRAIN WARFARE! which sounds like the sort of thing Ray would say. Mind you, he was still at school at the time - becoming fluent in German, as I recall, which would make it easier to follow the film, which is on YouTube only in the original.


However, you can have a four-minute taster with English subtitles, in which Alan Gifford, despite claiming to be a chessplayer, struggles to identify a name he is given as that of the world chess champion.


Claire Bloom is in it, though not, as far as I could see, in the clip and so is Curd (Curt) Jürgens.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Chess in Art: Tickling the Ivories

Seasonal Greetings, and a question: have you seen this before?

Mirror Case with a Couple Playing Chess, 1325-1350.
France, Paris, C14th. Ivory 10.20cm diam.
The Cleveland Museum of Art 

If you think you have, think again...

Friday, 16 December 2016

Monday, 12 December 2016

"Usually"


Steven Shapin in the London Review of Books (paywall) 1 December 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

A clever response

As we've seen this week, Ray plagiarised all his Times columns from Monday 24 October to Friday 28 October from the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003). So if you assumed he did the same on Saturday 29 October, you assume correctly, though it's not as thoroughgoing a robbery as the others. Here's how he introduced it.


However in this instance the annotations in My Great Predecessors don't actually kick off until just before Black's thirty-fourth move, so we'll join him there. (Whether the annotations prior to that are original - who knows.)


Here's how that appears on page 223 of My Great Predecessors.


Anticipated is the word.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Evergreen

After plagiarising his Times columns for Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 October, Ray, who is nothing else if not a creature of habit, was never likely to change course in midweek.

Here's how his column began for Wednesday 26:


And here's how it continues:


And here's how that move was annotated on page 28 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003):


The Evergreen Game, as I'm sure you knew.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

As today's game amply demonstrates

I trust you enjoyed Ray's plagiarised Times column from Monday October 24, featured on this blog yesterday. Here's the start of the column he produced for Tuesday October 25.


Here's how it goes on.


And here's White's ninth move annotated on page 18 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman 2003).


What a shameless old plagiarist the man is.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Guardian of supreme excellence in the game

I've not really had my eye on Ray for a while, for one reason or another, so it was only just yesterday morning that I came across his Times column for October 24. Here's how it starts.

 Here's how it goes on.


And here's the same move annotated on page 15 of the first volume of My Great Predecessors (Garry Kasparov, Everyman, 2003).

Ray's at it again.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Why Britain Won't Have Its Own World Champion

Because Mike Basman has to pay his taxes!

Ha ha no really...


More from Mike here ...

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

S Ingle mistake


Not-at-all-bad article by Sean Ingle on the Guardian website last weekend and it seems a shame to draw attention to a serious blooper in the piece. But of course I'm going to do it anyway.


Instead of the "encouraging" that closes the second sentence, Ingle should just have repeated the "wishful thinking" that ended the first one. Unless he's working from a previous completely unknown source, his figures are the ones that were debunked here three years ago - which were so made up, the story from which they derived turned out to be using itself as the source for the figure it quoted.

Monday, 28 November 2016

No possible legitimate purpose

What with all the excitement in New York, little attention has so far been paid to a really quite important development in chess politics which, as it happens, took place on the day of the opening ceremony. This coincided with the Court for Arbitration in Sport issuing their judgement in the case of FIDE v Ignatius Leong, who (along with Garry Kasparov) had been found guilty of breaching the FIDE Code of Ethics.

FIDE-politics-watchers will recall that this involved a secret agreement between Kasparov's camp and Mr Leong by which the Kasparov Chess Foundation paid the ASEAN Chess Academy (controlled by Mr Leong) a very large sum of money in return for his securing Asian votes for Kasparov in the then-upcoming FIDE Presidential election. This agreement was made public in the New York Times, controversy followed and so did the Ethic Commission hearing.

Leong was evidently displeased with the verdict, took it to CAS who subsequently pronounced their verdict. Their judgement was then published on FIDE's website, perhaps unsurprisingly since it is very favourable to FIDE's original verdict and very, very unfavourable to Ignatius Leong, and by extension, to Garry Kasparov.

I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing (there's a fair bit of verbiage towards the start, but it gets easier) but you may find, as I did, that paragraph 53 leaps out at you. The expression "he sold his vote" can have this effect.


He sold his vote. And to whom did he sell his vote?

Friday, 25 November 2016

Wot a Lot

Oh no! Another Man Ray chess set.

Pic by MS 
Though it is rather beautiful, just like another one here.

The specimen shown above was owned, until recently, by...

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The king stay the king

Potentially interesting show on BBC Radio Four at 11 this morning, or any time after 1130 if you want to listen on iPlayer.


Last time (to my knowledge) that Radio Four caught up with the king of chess was in 1999, or maybe very early 2000, when there was an item on a sports programme that I can't even remember the name of, or anything at all about it for sure, other than that I do at least remember listening to it (and the Newcastle kitchen where I heard it). I think Sarah Hurst and Jon Speelman might have been on it, but I'm afraid other people's memories will have to compensate for the failings of my own.

Anyway these days we no longer have to listen live, which is just as well as I'll be working when the show's on. Matter of fact I probably won't get to hear it until Saturday. So if anybody hears it before then and has anything to say about it, please do use the space below, and don't worry about spoilers.

I imagine Kirsan will survive whatever the programme has to say though. He might even survive a lot longer as king of chess than Magnus Carlsen will, and I'm not sure I would have said that a few months ago.

Monday, 21 November 2016

My eyes

I had no idea FiveThirtyEight were writing about Carlsen-Karjakin.

The latest piece (as I write) is called Are Computers Draining The Beauty Out Of Chess? and I am afraid my initial reaction was "no, you are", because the diagrams - particularly those heading the pieces - are some of the most garish, unfriendly efforts I've seen in quite a while, as well as unnecessarily confusing the eye of the reader by refusing to mark out the edge of the board.

The pink one is the worst.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Renowned

Just a reminder that the "renowned grandmaster" whose simultaneous display is advertised here by the English Chess Federation


is "renowned" in English chess circles for a number of unsavoury reasons, and one of them is - as I mentioned last time this occurred -
Ray Keene is not a member of the Federation. He has not been a member of the organisation for two decades. This is because he was obliged to leave the Federation when he was accused of defrauding that organisation of a sizeable sum of money.
As I also wrote:
Ray Keene has never made any proper explanation of his actions. Nor has he returned the money.
I'm all in favour of giving money and publicity to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Suppose we offer to donate the missing money to that very same charity whenever Ray gets round to coughing up?

And until that time arrives, suppose we tell the renowned plagiarist and spiv that he can get stuffed?