Thursday, 20 September 2007

King's Gambit: second competition winner

The winner of our second competition for a copy of King's Gambit by Paul Hoffman is:

... Hsin Jen from Singapore.

Congratulations to Hsin Jen, and commiserations to the other entrants. I'll try and recover our review copy and run a third competition!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Competition 2: win another copy of King's Gambit

This is your second chance to win a copy of Paul Hoffman's


Simply answer this question:

Which chess playing artist would Paul invite to a dinner party?

Check out the concluding part of our podcast interview for a rather generous hint!

Answers by Wednesday to chesstales AT 21thoughts DOT com. The winner will be drawn at random from the correct replies. Please remember to include your address in the email.

King's Gambit competition winner

With the help of a glamorous assistant and her lucky 50p pieces, we randomly selected a winner for the competition to win a copy of Paul Hoffman's "King's Gambit: A Son, A Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game".

The answer was the Sicilian Dragon.

Despite, having correct entries from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Kentucky, Singapore and India, our winner (based on the sequence of tossed coins) comes from Alnwick (just 30 miles up the road and home to delectable duchesses) . So, congratulations to Rob McEwan, and commiserations and thanks for entering to everyone else.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Chess World Championship bulletins

Mexico 2007 Campeonato mundial de ajedrez, chess world championship

I've managed the source the daily bulletins direct from Mexico (gracias a Santiago) for the Chess World Championship.

They're very comprehensive, but you'll need to read Spanish:

Boletin 1

Boletin 2

King's Gambit: the review

We've had a week of the "King's Gambit: A Son, A Father and the World's Most Dangerous Game" here on Chess Tales.

When the book came through, I arranged for our contributor Martin Seeber to take a look and share his thoughts:

"We’re going to write a review said Roger, a review about a book from America. A book about chess from the land of Bobby Fischer. America.

When you read it you’ll realise that its not like other books.

Since I was a child I have loved to listen to stories and tell them too. Well Paul Hoffman you’re a great storyteller and a clever biographer. And the story, well its chess and that’s our favourite. Like a set of beautiful short tales, all interwoven together, Kasparov storming out in defeat, Karpov trying to deny his losses, genius and madness, coaches and pupils, almost undercover in Moscow, simultaneous exhibitions, epic battles between the two Ks. It’s a wonderful game so good you want to keep it all for yourself and to quite honest Mr Hoffman’s done such a brilliant job that a few more millions will join the global chess community.

I felt very touched by his references to his own game development, only one player can be world champion but many of us take part and many of us dream of being better than we are. I am sure Paul is being modest for if he played like he writes he would be cheered out of the chess hall.

Sharing your life and intimate thoughts with others is the key to any art and Paul has let us in to his personal world. My father is 82 and still has a big role in my life but I’d find it difficult to tell thousands of people about our thoughts. Paul Hoffman’s book is filled with courage and insight.

The game of chess is as modern as the latest computer and as ancient as civilization. Play it with friends, inside, outside , as a sport, pull up your chair on a winter’s night, sit on your dad’s knee, show your granddaughter the moves, imagine it all the young and the old, handicapped who play without disability, and there in the great chess libraries around the world there’s a book to inspire us all and on its cover we can read the name Paul Hoffman. Okay Paul I’m taking the King bishop’s pawn and of course without hesitation the book." Martin Seeber

Our first competition to win a copy finishes today (so hurry up with your entries). We'll have a second competition starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Competition: win a copy of King's Gambit

This is your first chance to win a copy of Paul Hoffman's


Simply answer this question:

Which 'fire-breathing' opening did Gary Kasparov use to take the lead in his 1995 World Championship match with Viswanathan Anand?

Answers by Saturday to chesstales AT 21thoughts DOT com. The winner will be drawn at random from the correct replies. Please remember to include your address in the email.

Look out for further chances to win a copy later this week on Chess Tales.

Paul Hoffman interview

I was really fortunate last week to grab a 'transatlantic' interview with best-selling author Paul Hoffman about his latest book,

" King's Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World's Most Dangerous Game ".

The interview is our first podcast on Chess Tales:

Part 1: on chess anecdotes (1.8MB .mp3)
Part 2: on Lautier, Kramnik and playing Kasparov (1.5MB .mp3)
Part 3: chess head-banging and stage-diving! (900KB .mp3)

Look out tomorrow for parts 4-7.

Paul's book is released today. We'll be publishing a review tomorrow, and running competitions throughout the week to win copies, so keep your eyes peeled.

You should also check out Paul's blog.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Why I play chess: part 3

An essay by Emma Pierson, part 3

<< Click here for Part 2

Emma Pierson

Stereotypes are alluring because they let us be lazy–you don't need to bother to understand someone, with all their complexities and nuances, but can rely on a preconception. It didn't matter that I played piano and basketball, that I wrote essays to understand the world and dreamed of being a writer, that I empathized so deeply with people I couldn't even watch scary movies–all the quirks that make me who I am were ignored. Instead, I was a chess geek, as boring and black and white as the game that was my supposed obsession. Stereotyping someone is like reading a summary of a poem–you're missing the point, for while you may understand it well enough to pretend you've actually read it, you won't get the beauty, the uniqueness, that makes it worth reading it the first place.

The social stigma surrounding chess hits women particularly hard. Only four percent of chess players are female; when I asked girls who still play chess the reason for this lack of participation, all of them cited the social stigma surrounding chess. Girls are more confined by stereotypes than boys, something I still struggle with. After vowing fierce opposition to all social trends in junior high, I moved to a new high school and slowly reconciled my chess playing with my social life. I realized that, as foolish as social trends may be, it is necessary to conform somewhat to fulfill people's expectations–it may be too hot to wear clothes in the summer, but we still don't go naked.

my friends accept me for who I am–a girl with an eccentric habit but to whom they can still relate.

Thus, I compromise–I go to dances, I gossip about boys, but I also fly across the country to play in national tournaments–and my friends accept me for who I am–a girl with an eccentric habit but to whom they can still relate. The stigma around chess still bothers me, although I laugh about it when questioned. I was walking alongside a highway with some friends when one commented, "That car just honked at you."

"No one would honk at me," I said cynically, "I play chess." The words were bitter, but my tone was not. While I have no illusions about chess's sex appeal, I have gradually realized that people worth knowing will accept that I'm a chess player–I went out with a boy who was willing to play chess with me at three in the morning.

Still, I live in two worlds–one where I can discuss the intricacies of the Danish Gambit and the second where I can discuss the intricacies of dating–but the worlds do not intersect. And while I feel at home in both, they sometimes come into conflict. I once skipped a team tournament to attend a friend's sweet sixteen. When I finally arrived at the tournament, still wearing the dress from the party, I endured the ridicule (some joking, some serious) of everyone from the parents of my teammates to the employees at the tournament. "You skipped a chess tournament," they would say incredulously, "for a birthday party?" As incredible as it seemed to them, I'm sure my other friends would have been equally shocked had I skipped the birthday party instead. What's a girl to do?

It is ironic that chess, the game rejected by social boundaries, is the game that overcomes them.

And the stereotypes come not only from outside the chess world but from inside it as well–many boys find it hard to believe that a girl is as good as they are. I actually enjoy lower expectations; my reaction to the "glass ceiling" has always been to crash through it. There are few things more beautiful than the expression of an overconfident teenage boy–after I beat him. Once I win their respect, however, most boys I play are friendly and–at least over a chess board–outgoing. Most of the time I almost forget the gender distinction exists; for me, it is easier to be accepted inside the chess world than outside it.

It is ironic that chess, the game rejected by social boundaries, is the game that overcomes them. But it is also fitting: for chess players, who must be brave or oblivious enough not to care about social boundaries, create an environment where they dissolve. The nature of the game itself–the equality at the beginning of the game and the fact that the same rules apply to everyone–also overcomes differences.

I once played a game against an old Norwegian man with a reputation as a formidable chess player. He was a longtime friend of my grandparents; I was around ten at the time and had the sense I was upholding our family honor. I defended my position carefully and managed to force a draw; afterwards, as we analyzed the game together, he explained the nuances of the position to me in fluent, accented English. We played again the following day; overconfident from my previous success, I attacked recklessly. He defended patiently, then exploited the weaknesses I had created; soon, I was forced to resign. Again we analyzed the game; as we shared our thoughts of the past few hours, we began to see beneath the silent facade that social boundaries build. Though we were from different lands and generations, we found a link in chess.

I never saw him again. A week later, I asked my mother why he had come to visit.

"He came to say goodbye, honey," she told me softly. "He's got terminal cancer."

I turned away, standing quite still as it sunk in. Then I fled up the stairs, barely able to see through my tears. I did not understand how I had grown to care about this man so deeply over the course of two chess games. Only later would I see how chess had forged a bond between us: through cooperating to understand its infinite possibilities, we had grown to understand each other.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Why I play chess: part 2

An essay by Emma Pierson, part 2

<< Click here for Part 1

Emma Pierson

A chess game is, in a way, very similar to a human life. Chess games are stories: brief, reckless, and dramatic, or long, slow, and careful. A chess game passes through distinct stages, from opening to endgame. To succeed at chess, you must plan in both the short and long term. Finally, chess, like life, is a mystery: there are four hundred ways for white to play the first move and black to respond, and from there the possibilities branch out to form a tree whose scale is far beyond our comprehension–there are more ways for a chess game to go than there are atoms in the universe. A chess game is a microcosm of life, decades of joy and tragedy condensed into a few hours.

...if chess is a version of life, it is only an idealized, simplified one, where everyone starts equal, the rules are known, and you really can see things in black and white.

Perhaps the attraction is that, if chess is a version of life, it is only an idealized, simplified one, where everyone starts equal, the rules are known, and you really can see things in black and white. Chess is simple enough that computers can be programmed to play it well. This is because the decisions in chess can be made using only logic; in contrast, life decisions rely much more on emotion. While you can decide to attack on the kingside through analytical thinking, it is impossible to determine analytically whether you are in love. The second major difference is that chess, unlike life, is completely individual; players must confront their difficulties without any assistance, and the only human they interact with–their opponent–is trying to destroy them. It would be impossible to withdraw into yourself and live a happy life without speaking to another person; but in a chess game, people sit in silence for hours, struggling to overcome their problems alone.

The similarities between chess and life would attract anyone–and are what inspire people like David Mehler to teach chess in schools. But the differences make chess players rare. People who enjoy chess are generally analytical, using logic rather than emotion; they also problem solve independently.

But the game itself is not the only attraction–for chess has a social aspect as well. There's a wonderful camaraderie among chess players, which probably comes from the shared experience of spending hours hunched in contemplation of a few plastic figures. I can spend hours playing blitz with people I barely know, enjoying the banter and friendly competition as much as the game itself.

There's a strange intimacy about two opponents at a chessboard; both are utterly absorbed in a world they have created together, oblivious to outsiders; for the few hours they sit across from one another, each is the most important person in the other's life.

A chess game also provides an unusual way to interact with people. In no other social setting could you sit across from someone for hours without saying a word, but since silence in tournaments is mandatory, ignoring your opponent is not rude but compulsory. Chess, in theory, is devoid of human interaction, a conflict of minds where the only communication occurs through the movement of pieces–but this is not the case. There's a strange intimacy about two opponents at a chessboard; both are utterly absorbed in a world they have created together, oblivious to outsiders; for the few hours they sit across from one another, each is the most important person in the other's life. At the same time, however, a sharp dichotomy is apparent; for white's goals are opposite black's, and the former's triumph means the latter's despair. The intimacy seems paradoxical contrasted with such opposite goals; but when I play chess, I focus as much on my opponent as on the board. For me, it is easier to interact with someone while playing chess: because of the silence imposed in tournaments, interaction feels sincere rather than compulsory. A smile, a shrug, a whispered comment–rather than social necessities, in a chess game these are genuinely friendly, because the expectations are reversed–silence, rather than conversation, is demanded. I suspect this freedom, to withdraw into one's own mind for hours at a time, without any pressure to interact with others, draws many to chess. A chess game is a risk free way to interact with someone without the potential awkwardness of conversation–which provides unusual opportunities.

Sophie Seeber chess  eyes

I once sat down at a board, shook my opponent's hand, and moved my king's pawn forward to begin the game; in the pauses between moves, I found I was studying his face more intently than usual. By the sixth move I realized, with a combination of horror and amusement, that I had a crush on him. (A long chess game, incidently, is ideal for developing a crush on someone; during the long pauses between moves, it's easy to stare baldly at your opponent without notice, because they are studying the board. Unfortunately, from a romantic point of view, the majority of my opponents seem to be depressingly un-crushworthy.)

Though he was lower-ranked than I was, I soon found myself losing because I was focusing more on his eyes than on the position. It was a happy, dreamy nonchalance; I was completely uncompetitive, content to lose slowly if it meant I could stare at him for another hour or two. Then, very suddenly, rationality triumphed over hormones. I realized that I didn't even know my opponent's name and would probably never see him again, but if I lost this game because of the color of his corneas (green) I would regret it for the rest of my life. Furious at myself, I resolved to salvage the mess I had made. When I played the move that won his queen, he stared in disbelief, perhaps shocked that his idiotic opponent of an hour before had suddenly improved so dramatically. He eventually ran out of time, which was fine with me: I had both won the game and gotten to stare at him for four hours. In what other social setting could you do that?

The attraction to chess, then, has two main parts: the game itself and the social setting. But what explains why so few play chess? While the attractions of the game are unusual, there is a third factor which makes chess players so rare: the social stigma.

I'm not going to explore the reasons behind the stigma that surrounds chess, because it would be like trying to justify any baseless prejudice. A more interesting question is why people continue to play in spite of it. There were two reasons I didn't stop playing chess in spite of the stigma: at first I didn't realize it existed; and by the time I did, I didn't care.

I viewed myself as a hero, quixotically fighting not to fit in; my classmates probably viewed me as a dork.

I'm not sure when I realized chess wasn't a normal activity for a kid; I had always seen it as something like basketball. When I was in fifth grade, I endured the mockery of my classmates for months for stubbornly insisting that chess was a sport. In seventh grade, I would spend my break playing speed chess with a friend while a popular boy tried to break our clock by stepping on it. I was always oblivious of social trends, partly because of my parents' insistence on not having a TV, partly because of my personality. Even when I was, however, I struggled not to conform. I refused to go shopping, although part of me wanted to have pretty clothes; I refused to wear jeans, although I liked their color and texture. I was fiercely contemptuous of the popular kids in my grade–I felt superior to them because I refused to follow their trends, even though part of me desperately wanted to fit in. When I watched One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at the end of middle school, I wept for half an hour, empathizing with McMurphy's struggle not to conform, to resist the Combine. I viewed myself as a hero, quixotically fighting not to fit in; my classmates probably viewed me as a dork. >>

Look out for part 3 tomorrow on Chess Tales.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Why I play chess: part 1

An essay by Emma Pierson, part 1

Emma Pierson

It is getting late. I am sitting across the table from a guy, our knees not quite touching. Around us, the room has gradually emptied and now we are alone. Our eyes meet for half a second; he looks away. I continue to study his face, searching for clues. He seems composed; my hands are shaking. I watch intently as he meets my eyes again and reaches slowly towards me.

As my energy has ebbed, however, my antipathy has grown; at this point, my need for food is compensated for by my desire to destroy my opponent.

Then he moves his rook two squares to the right and taps the clock, starting my timer counting down. I cup my chin in my hands, trying to overcome my exhaustion. We have been playing for four hours, and I have not eaten dinner; my headache has faded to a mental numbness. As my energy has ebbed, however, my antipathy has grown; at this point, my need for food is compensated for by my desire to destroy my opponent. I contemplate hideous chessboard revenges–first, I'll skewer him, then I'll fork his rooks; I'll finish him off with a vicious zugzwang. He resigns half an hour later, to my relief, and I feel my anger fading. No longer my opponent, he now seems likeable once more. As we pick up the pieces, I remember what it's so easy to forget–it's only a game.

My grandfather taught me to play chess when I was seven. We played at a local French café; I learned the rules over baguettes and crepes with strawberries and whipped cream. We must have made a strange sight, a seven year old and a seventy year old, his expression of fierce concentration mirrored on my pudgy face. We became regulars, arriving at 9:00 each Sunday and lingering for hours; slowly, I began to grasp the tactics and gain an intuitive sense of the game, though it would be years before I could beat him. On occasion, the owner of the café would comment on our game, asking who was winning. "She's a killer," my grandfather would say proudly, shaking his head and grinning.

I have played reverends and accused felons, football players and math prodigies, the young and the dying and everyone in between.

By the time I was nine, my interest had grown to the point that my parents were searching for other players. A man who taught at the U.S. Chess Center in D.C. destroyed me. Realizing my position was hopeless, I offered him a draw. He looked at me sternly. "That's poor sportsmanship," he said. Chagrined, I turned to go, but he stopped me at the door. "Who taught you to play?" he asked.

"My grandfather," I replied.

"Tell him that he did a good job," he said.

That summer I went to a camp at the Chess Center; in the years that followed, I have been there more times than I can count. The Chess Center was founded by David Mehler, a chess expert, polymath and Harvard dropout, in a crusade to improve children's lives through chess. His theory–substantiated by scientific evidence–is that chess improves concentration, memory, and general academic ability. Mr. Mehler is brilliant and caustic; he mocks adults and children alike. Although he can be a patient and subtle teacher, he swiftly rewards stupidity or arrogance with biting sarcasm. If I am playing when he enters the room, I will try to avoid moving until he has left, for fear of his reaction to a mistake. He does not tolerate troublemakers in his domain; pushups are doled out as punishment for mischief, and he even stuffed one miscreant into a trash can. ("Don't do it after lunch," he advised the boy, "It'll be full then and I'll stick you in upside-down.") His demeanor seems at odds with the philanthropy of his actions. The Chess Center is a non-profit organization housed in a basement, apparently kept alive through donations or bankrolled by Mr. Mehler. Whatever the reason for his crusade to save the world through chess, profit was certainly not one of them. Mr. Mehler's personality epitomizes the qualities that I find so often in chess players. The layers of sarcasm and introversion, the eccentricities and prickliness, often disguise a person well worth knowing.

There is no such thing as a typical chess player; I have played reverends and accused felons, football players and math prodigies, the young and the dying and everyone in between. In spite of this diversity, there are commonalities that draw us to the game.

Look out for part 2 tomorrow on Chess Tales.

Meet Emma Pierson

Emma Pierson Chess Player and Great Writer

Meet Emma Pierson:

I am 16 years old and have been playing chess since I was 7. I love words, competitions of all kinds, being outside, and sarcasm. My friends think I'm cynical; I think I'm idealistic. I live in Virginia, USA; I love our country but not our president.

Emma's a very decent chess player, and an excellent writer. Two weeks ago she sent me an essay she'd written:

I recently wrote an essay about my experiences playing chess -- not just about the game itself, but about the unusual social environment it creates, and why it does not attract more girls.

We are going to serialise it in 3 parts, starting today, on Chess Tales.

Monday, 3 September 2007

China in Liverpool

chinese flag
Martin Seeber writes for Chess Tales:

Talking to Charlie Storey last week he mentioned his forthcoming chess campaign in Liverpool in the major open (good luck CS) , where he will chase an IM norm.

The games last all week but the top billing goes to the England-China international match. Wor(our) team are led by Adams and Short who outgrade their Chinese opponents, however further down the line-ups the Chinese are strong. The women are also playing with Jovanka Houska representing us. It will be fascinating to see the games, especially the style of the top Chinese players.

I have a Chinese friend called Keith who I met at my daughter's swimming lesson. He was playing a little boy who showed alot of talent for his age. The third week they played I went up to Keith to tell him I was impressed with his pupil but as he was just learning English he thought I wanted a game. So we met at a local pub played chess and talked about the world. He showed me how to play Chinese chess, but he killed me as I couldn't always remember the pieces as they were in Chinese characters.

Whatever happens in the match everybody wins from an event like this.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Looking forward

Apologies that the output on Chess Tales has been fairly sparse during August, but we are going to finish the month on a real high.

We have a great chess essay from a young woman player in the States, which with her permission, we'll serialise next week. We'll then follow that up with a review of a very exciting and novel (excuse the pun) chess book, that's due to be published in September. We've even got some copies that we'll be giving away as competition prizes.

The ever popular Friday Chess Puzzle will be up and running again throughout September and beyond, which, of course, will be accompanied by our usual eclectic mix of tournament coverage, opening reviews, great games, and trips to the chess attic.

Up, up and away!

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

One step forward, Two steps back

Martin Seeber writes for chess tales:

My daughter Sophie played in her last UK chess challenge competition over the weekend in Leamington Spa. She has competed every year since she was 9. This year she had qualified for the Terafinal, a champion of champions event, in which children from all ages do battle for a £2,000 prize.

Her progress in the event was very up and down. In round 1 she played an u9 boy, it was a Queen's Gambit Declined and he was swinging his feet together in excitement. The game started and in the opening he lost a pawn. It was then that he suddenly got up from his chair and announced that he had to go out for a breath of fresh air. He came back and Sophie tore away his centre pawns. Good start I thought.

She then played Philip Makepiece in round 2, he was one of the favourites. Sophie was on the black side of a Sicilian and they castled on opposite sides, when that happens its like Blitzkrieg (lightning war) as both sides rush in. Sophie pushed a pawn into c4 but as Philip had a pawn on c3 we thought it was best to advance the b pawn down to b4 so it could change with its white rival. The battle went on for nearly two hours before Sophie's king, breathless couldn't quite match Philip's. Philip's prize was to sit on board one for the next game. For Sophie a step back.

Round three a Queen's Indian and a promising position faded away. We couldn't work out what had happened. She had an attack but black defended and she didn't really want to talk about it. So we went to this bar in Coventry to have tea and she cheered up a bit. I had a stella and I cheered up a bit. Overnight we woke at 4 in the morning and we started talking about the game and then we are calling out move sequences for better attacks, suddenly white is winning with a beautiful temporary sac, that's right leave the bishop on f6 and run the h-pawn. Then she says Dad where is his other minor piece? I dunno I said. Is on f8 ? No the rooks there. You changed it off for your Knight on f3. Ah christ that means you haven't a knight for the mating attack. Forget it I said play your pieces back and across to the centre. Yes that's it, put the telly off we are going back to sleep.

Next day I had a great chat with Dominic Rabbitte's dad. He is telling me about Golf and he talks about a titanic match between Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. One's up, then its equal and so on. Finally Player downs a wonder put to win it and then he is champion and he is interviewed. Gary explain's his approach to sport. 'I seem to get luckier the more I practise.'

Sophie practices a bit but then there's the waitressing, boyfriending, A-levelling. Then she's back with a big smile. 15 moves dad, mate dad. Well done, in the back of the net Soph. That's when coach here probably made a mistake to point out that as the leading girls had all lost, she needed two more points and there was a chance of tieing for first. Dad don't go there she said.

She was playing really well. She spotted that her opponent had opened her kingside with h6-g5. Normally we all know to try and bust it open with h4. But Sophie came up with a really deep idea she would fasten down the weakness first with g4, then her knight could travel in to f5 from e2-g3. Desperate, the girl counter-attacked, rook e2 check. Sophie needs to block with her rook and the games soon over for black but she moves the king up one. 10 moves later and it all falls apart with the black rook stabbing the white king in the back.

I said Sophie never leave a rook in there like that. You wouldn't leave a rat in your house you'd get it out of there. Then I thought is this my last chess lesson with my daughter?

I stood out in the rain and looked through the windows to try to see some of her last game. She looked tired and kept playing with her hair. Maybe an hour later she had capitulated. 2/6 and we're disappointed, but what a gutsy

Friday, 17 August 2007

World Blind Championships: call for help!

Dave Clayton is desperate for someone to input games at the World Blind Championships in Durham, his inputter fell ill. Can anyone help?
Anyone who can manipulate Chessbase or Fritz please contact dave a.s.a.p. at:

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Attack the Najdorf way

Martin Seeber writes for Chess Tales:

The world has changed.

When you play chess or anything else, the result seems everything. This is crazy its much nicer when we think about the quality of the game and the fun of it all. I told my students about Pele the footballer and that when I was their age they beamed his image across the world on the new satellites. He was very creative and always looking to produce new moves, pushing back the boundaries of the sport. In one game he let the ball cross the box as the keeper came out, he dummied to let the ball run across him and the poor keeper who was left stranded, he ran around the back of him to collect the ball and fired it back towards the net and he didn't score but the result was visually jaw dropping.

Okay so how is this connected to chess? Well I took one chess book on my holidays to Italy and it was Najdorf's life and games by Batsford. I recognised the name when I got the book but what really attracted me was the fact that he came from a different age and he wasn't a world champion. Because to me the game is brilliant because its for all of us.

Najdorf helped develop that interesting opening, the Sicilian defense. Bobby whats his name he played it and Garry that Russian guy who liked to attack used it a bit and even I bought a book on it when I was seventeen. I also knew Najdorf liked tactics and attacks. The book tells how he was left stranded in Argentina as Poland was blitzkrig by the Germans. His family disappeared, he was left with chess.

Sitting in the Italian sun playing through some of the games I thought this guy was amazing.

My daughter Sophie who has played for England this year was sitting beside me and I said look at this game. First there was one sac, then another I then told her that Tal reckoned that two sacs usually sorted the problem and finished off the defense, then came sac three at that stage I said to my daughter who is a very defensive player what will Najdorf do next and she looked at the board and then she said he'll have to sack the knight to win dad. She was right and I burst into laughter 4 sacs to win- magic. Pele! Najdorf!

Martin Seeber

Saturday, 4 August 2007

'Friday' Chess Puzzle 17

Our latest Friday Chess Puzzle...

Ok, I know it's Saturday; my children have been playing in a football tournament this week, which has kept me away from the computer.

... is from Brighton 1983. Nunn won the all-play-all event, with Watson and Short tying for second place. Short was brutal against the overseas opposition, scoring 5 out of 5, but struggled against his fellow brits.

In this position he has the Black pieces, and has just played the seemingly crushing ...Qa3. Can you see how Hodgson, playing White, finished him off?

Answers to Chess Tales. I'll post the solution next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Local successes at the British Championships

It's good to see some of our local North East players getting off to great starts at the British Championships:

David Eggleston began by holding Grandmaster David Howell to a draw in round 1, whilst Charlie Storey was beating a 2400+ opponent, but pride of place goes to Graeme Oswald. Graeme defeated Grandmaster Glenn Flear in a long battle in round 3, and co-leads the event with an incredibly impressive 3 out of 3. Fingers crossed that he can keep his run going.

You can follow the event (patchily) on the BCF website.

Friday chess puzzle 16: the solution

van Scheltinga vs Stahlberg, Chess 1950

Last week's Friday chess puzzle from Van Scheltinga vs Stahlberg, Amsterdam 1950, generated a lot of interest.

White has just played Bd5, apparently catching Black's knight on e6 in a pair of deadly pins, but Stahlberg found a forced win for Black:

Most of you spotted the first couple of moves without problem:

1 ... Rxd5; 2 Rxd5 Qb7

and then after 3 Qg2, Black doesn't play 3 ... Nf4?? which loses to 4 Rd8!, but instead wins by a lovely queen manouevre:

3 Qg2 Qb1+; 4 Qg1 Qe4+; 5 Qg2 Qxg2+; 6 Kxg2 Nf4+ winning the rook, and Black emerges a piece up.

Congratulations to Paul Devisser, Chris Wardle, and 'averageplayer', amongst others.

Monday, 30 July 2007

British Chess Championship

The British Chess Championships gets underway in Great Yarmouth today. Top seed is defending champion Jonathan Rowson, who at 2599 outgrades the next highest competitor by some 50 points.

Unfortunately, I won't be taking up my qualifying place this year. So, my next event is likely to be either the Isle of Man or an event in Mallorca that caught my eye on IM Georgios Souleidis's blog.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 16

This week's Friday chess puzzle is from Van Scheltinga vs Stahlberg, Amsterdam 1950.

White has just played Bd5, apparently catching Black's knight on e6 in a pair of deadly pins.

Unfortunately for Van Scheltinga, appearances can be deceptive.

Can you see how Stahlberg, one of the strongest players in the world at the time, turned the tables, and forced a win for Black from this position?

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

La question people du mercredi

Philippe Dornbusch has another excellent picture teaser,
La question people du mercredi, on his Chess and Strategy blog... I'm struggling this week, can you name the film?

Friday chess puzzle 15: the solution

This Friday's Chess puzzle was a miniature in which Black delivered the final blow after just 8 moves.

It was Leonhardt playing Black against 'an amateur', and I asked you to find the winning move after

1 e4 e5; 2 d4 ed; 3 Qxd4 Nc6; 4 Qe3 Nf6; 5 Bc4 Ne5; 6 Bb3 Bb4+; 7 c3 Bc5 (see diagram); 8 Qg3?

Congratulations to Ryan Emmett, Paul Dargan, Chris Wardle, all of whom spotted the winner:

8 ... Bxf2+!!

and whether White recaptures with king or queen, there is a knight fork (e4 or d3) winning the queen to follow.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 15

This week's Friday Chess puzzle is from Leipzig in 1903. It's Leonhardt playing Black against 'an amateur'.

One of the first things we learn as chess players is not to develop our queens too early. This game is a fine case in point:

1 e4 e5; 2 d4 ed; 3 Qxd4 Nc6; 4 Qe3 Nf6; 5 Bc4 Ne5; 6 Bb3 Bb4+; 7 c3 Bc5

reaching the position above. White cannot capture the bishop, so instead played 8 Qg3 and attacked the exposed knight on e5.

Can you see how Black forced an immediate win after 8 Qg3?

Answers to Chess Tales. I'll publish the solution next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 14: the solution

Friday chess puzzle 14

Last week's chess puzzle was from 1893 and Tarrasch's match with Tchigorin.

From the position above (after 20 moves), Tarrasch found the following mating finish:

21 Rxf6!! Kxf6; 22 Bg5+ Kg7; 23 Qh6+ Kg8; 24 Rf1 Rf8 (... Rb7 holds off the mate, at the cost of the rook); 25 Bf6 Qxf6; 26 Rxf6 resigns (the threat is 27 Rxg6+ hg; 28 Qxg6 mate)

Congratulations to Chris Wardle, Karlheinz Vogel and Paul Dargan, all of whom found the initial move.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Nimzo Indian strategic dream

Apologies that there have been no posts for a couple of days. I ended up in hospital on Sunday, but a raging temperature, two saline drips, and some awful headaches later, I'm finally starting to recover (I hope!).

Two weeks ago, I showed you one of my best games, where Black ventured an unusual move order in the Nimzo Indian to try and establish a strong knight on c4, but the idea was torn apart by immediate energetic play from White.

The game below, a strategic dream for any Nimzo Indian player, shows how strong the Black knights can become, especially if White plays negatively. It was played at Carlsbad in 1929 by the great Aron Nimzowitsch (who the defence was named after). White's play is insipid at best, but Nimzowitsch's handling of the Black side is exemplary:

Mattison - Aron Nimzowitsch, Carlsbad 1929
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 d6 6. Qc2 Qe7 7. Ba3 c5 8.g3 b6 9. Bg2 Bb7 10. O-O O-O 11. Nh4 Bxg2 12. Kxg2 Qb7+ 13. Kg1 Qa6 14. Qb3 Nc6 15. Rfd1 Na5 16. Qb5 Qxb5 17. cxb5 Nc4

Mattison - Nimzowitsch Carlsbad Chess 1929

18. Bc1 a6 19. bxa6 Rxa6 20. dxc5 bxc5 21. Ng2 Nd5 22. Rd3 Rfa8 23. e4 Ne5 0-1

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 13: the solution

Boris Spassky v Marszalek, Chess 1958

Somewhat overdue, but here's the solution to our 13th Friday chess puzzle (8 days ago)

It was Boris Spassky about to win against Marszalek, and there were two questions:

1. Which move did Boris, White, play (it forces mate in 5)?

A lot of you spotted the winner 1. Qh6! ... so, congratulations!

2. Does anyone know Mr Marszalek's first name?

Two of you also made a great effort on this one. Winand Simons and Christophe Kriegstumpf (aka. the Haymarket Sage) both suggested Rafal, although after some further research the Sage then suggested it might actually be Josef.

Any further suggestions on this one welcome.

Don't forget to check out yesterday's Friday Chess Puzzle as well.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Friday chess puzzle 14

Friday chess puzzle 14

Our chess puzzle this week is from 1893 and Tarrasch's match with Tchigorin.

Tchigorin played a couple of poor moves in the opening (... Bb4 and ... Ba5), allowing Tarrasch to tear into his position.

Having reached the position above after 20 moves, Tarrasch found a very energetic way to finish off his opponent, can you find the move?

Answers to Chess Tales. I'll publish the solution next Wednesday.

As the game is so impressive, I thought I would give you the first 20 moves as well:

Tarrasch - Tchigorin, Match 1893
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4 6. Nd5 Ba5 7. O-O b5 8. Bb3 d6 9. d3 Bg4 10. c3 Ne7 11. Nxe5!! dxe5 12. Nxf6+ gxf6 13. Qxg4 Ng6 14. Bd5 Rb8 15. f4 c6 16. Bxc6+ Ke7 17. Bd5 b4 18. fxe5 Qb6+ 19. Kh1 Nxe5 20. Qh5 Ng6...

Apologies for the lateness of today's post. I was in a tribunal all day; I won the case, but it was a long day.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Revisiting the French

Spassky Korchnoi 1977
Position after 10 ... f6

Paul Dargan and I were discussing openings the other day, and briefly exchanged a few thoughts on French Defence.

The French has a reputation as a solid but un-adventurous defence, and I must admit that when I played it as a junior the games typically fitted that description. I would win by exchanging off pieces down the c-file and gradually exploiting weaknesses in White's pawn structure. As my opponents got better and this simplistic approach stopped working, I dropped the French from my repertoire and sought adventure in the Sicilian.

However, in reality, the French, and in particular the Winawer variation, can lead to some very dynamic and unbalanced positions where wild attacks rage. This game played in 1977 Candidates final match is a perfect illustration.

Boris Spassky - Viktor Korchnoi, Game 4, Candidates 1977
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e5 c5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 Ne7 7. a4 Bd7 8. Nf3 Qa5 9. Bd2 Nbc6 10. Be2 f6

Here's where the fun really begins. Black had been getting into difficulties with 10 ... c4, so in the mid 70's Korchnoi started adopting the double edged 10 ... f6.

11. c4 Qc7 12. exf6 gxf6 13. cxd5 Nxd5 14. c3 O-O-O 15. O-O Rhg8 16. Re1 e5 17. c4 Bh3

Spassky Korchnoi 1977

18. Bf1 Nb6 19. d5 Nxc4! 20. dxc6 Qxc6 21. g3 Bxf1 22. Rxf1 e4 23. Qb3 Qd5 24. Rac1 Nxd2

Here, 24... Ne5 looks strong and is Fritz's recommendation. After 25. Rxc5+ Qxc5 26. Rc1 Nxf3+ 27. Kg2 Qxc1 28. Bxc1, Fritz considers Black is better, although both Keene and Timman consider White's co-ordinated Queen and Bishop give him the upper hand.

25. Nxd2 Qxd2 26. Rxc5+ Kb8 27. Rb1 Rg7 28. Rb5 Rdd7 29. Qe6 e3 30. fxe3 Rge7 31. Qg8+ Rd8 32. Qb3 Rdd7 33. Qg8+ Rd8 34. Qb3 1/2 - 1/2

Check out Jan Timman's excellent 'Art of Chess Analysis'for a thorough study of this game.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

La question people du mercredi

blonde chess WGM

Phil Dornbusch's latest picture quiz La question people du mercredi is available on Chess & Strategy.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Great sleep; great chess

I've talked in the past about how important physical fitness can be for top level chess. Of course a good diet goes hand in hand with this, but for me the most crucial immediate factor can be how well I've slept the night before. My plummeting Internet blitz rating after a bad night bears testimony to this.

This is particularly on my mind because one of my current Internet projects is for a new healthcare company whose products include a range of mattresses for sports people. The mattresses have a special polymer core that improves sleep and recovery amongst other things, and are attracting interest in Premier League football and with elite athletes.

I'm wondering how long it will be before our elite chess Grandmasters start to demand healthcare as part of their tournament conditions.

The only bad thing about this project is that it's not leaving me anytime for the blitz chess, which is probably all well and good considering the amount of sleep I've not been getting!

Monday, 9 July 2007

In the chess blogosphere

Inna Iasman at the Paris Championships

I've begun work on a really interesting web project, so time to write today has been a little scarce.

I have had chance to peruse the chess blogosphere though, and found some stories of interest:

International Master Georgios Souleidos always presents instructive chess analysis, and today is no exception as he examines a pair of good knight vs. bad bishop endings, including a Karpov win against Kasparov, and a lovely knight sacrifice of his own to leave 2 passed pawns that overpower the bishop.

Over on Chess Vibes, Peter Dogger is continuing to report on his 'grand tour', whilst Philippe Dornbusch's Chess & Strategy has coverage of Anand's victory in Leon, and is keeping a close eye on the Paris International Championships. I have fond memories of playing in Paris, so will be following the stories with interest.

Finally, my friends in Buenos Aires at Solo Ajedrez are way too busy watching the Copa America to be writing about chess at the moment: apparently, it was 4-0 against Peru last time out with goals for Riquelme (2), the fantastic Mascherano, and Messi.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Book of the week

Can you spare a couple of hours a day for a week?

Then our next Chess Tales 'book of the week' might be just the thing for you. It's the latest offering from International Master Gary Lane.

Gary is a profilic author, famous for his opening repertoire works and chess help columns. He also beat yours truly in an indecently small number of moves (but I won't hold that against him).

His new book, "Improve your chess in 7 days", is a break from the opening treatises and, judging from the title, is the perfect chess book for our modern hectic lifestyles.

From the synopsis, it's:

"... packed with practical tips, hints on how to improve, learn from the champions and find out how to beat them - in just a week. With one short chapter for each day of the week, the book is ideal for social chess players and includes a sprinkling of chess cartoons to keep you smiling as you read: Day 1 - So You Want to be Good? Day 2 - Understanding the Openings; Day 3 - Strategy versus Tactics; Day 4 - Creating the Attack; Day 5 - Avoiding Blunders; Day 6 - Mastering the Ending; and, Day 7 - The Art of Swindling. With comments and advice after each move, this is as clear a guide to improving your chess as you will ever need."

It's currently on offer (30% off) on Amazon:

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Speelman's Best Games

On Friday I confessed to being rather ignorant with regard to Jon Speelman's games. Fortunately, it seems there are plenty of people out there who are not, and that not only does he play fascinating chess, but he also writes tremendously.

When I posted my list of 'must have books' over on Chess Forums, a number of readers were quick to suggest that Speelman's work Best Chess Games, 1970-80 should be on the there

"Speelman's book is great, it 'tells you a story': when playing through his games, you feel as you were really there, living the drama." Chamaco, Chess Forums

It seems his seductive style extends to his own games' collection, Jon Speelman's Best Games, as well:

"This book is hugely instructive from the practical player's point of view, because it gives insights into how chess games are really decided at the highest level. None of your crystal-clear strategic crushes here, consistent from first move to last. Speelman is breathtakingly candid about his thought processes and the sometimes apparently random factors that make the difference. A study of his games is bound to make anyone's play more resilient and resourceful - as well as being great fun and, occasionally, awe-inspiring." TD Welsh, Amazon Review

Friday, 6 July 2007

Echecs gourmands

WGM Natalia Zhukova
WGM Natalia Zhukova. Photo: Fred Lucas, Momentoo

Last week, I introduced a couple of alternative chess sets.

Now Natalia Zhukova is advising on a novel set as part of the coaching regime. I suspect her "echecs gourmands" has a shorter lifespan: Le conseil de Natalia pour ce week-end

Friday chess puzzle 13

Boris Spassky v Marszalek, Chess 1958

Our position today is from the World Students' Team Championship 1958, and future World Champion Boris Spassky about to win against Marszalek.

There are two questions:

1. Which move did Boris, White, play (it forces mate in 5)?


2. Does anyone know Mr Marszalek's first name?

Send your solutions to Chess Tales. I'll publish the answer next Wednesday.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Speelman's Schliemann

Position after 12 ... Qh3

I have to admit I wanted to shout it to the rooftops the other day when I found out about Jon Speelman's coverage of my game against Colin Crouch (My head's subsequently reduced a little in size, although give it a while longer before normality returns). After all, Jon's one of England's greatest players, he qualifed twice for the Candidates matches, and as I posted previously on Chess Tales, he was once ranked number 4 in the world.

Despite this, I also have to admit to a shocking lack of knowledge of his games and results. One game that I do remember well though was in his Candidates 1/4 final match with Jan Timman in 1989. If my memory serves me right, it was the final game and Jon needed a win with the Black pieces to force the match into a play-off.

His choice of opening for the game was the Schliemann Defence (1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5!?), one of the wildest lines Black can adopt against the Ruy Lopez. Originating in the 1840's, and truly at home with the romantic gambit play of the 19th Century, it's certainly not something you'd have expected to see in a modern Candidates Match.

Play went down one of the main lines, where White hopes to prove that Black's queen is offside and to gradually pick off the weak Black pawns. As compensation Black has active play for his pieces, and as happened in the game, the Queen can actually prove to be well posted to support an attack.

I was so impressed with the game line, that I twice foresook my Sicilian and adopted it as a surprise weapon. The results were good: a win and a draw against strong opposition.

Jan Timman - Jon Speelman, Candidates 1/4 Final 1989
1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6; 3 Bb5 f5; 4 Nc3 fe; 5 Nxe4 d5; 6 Nxe5 de; 7 Nxc6 Qg5; 8 Qe2 Nf6; 9 f4 Qxf4; 10 Ne5+ c6; 11 d4 Qh4+; 12 g3 Qh3 (see diagram); 13 Bc4 Be6; 14 Bg5 0-0-0; 15 0-0-0 Bd6; 16 Nf7 Bxf7; 17 Bxf7 Rhf8; 18 Bc4 Rde8; 19 d5 c5; 20 Rhf1 Kb8; 21 Bf4 Rd8; 22 Bg5 a6; 23 Bxf6 gf; 24 Qxe4 Qxh2; 25 Rh1 Qxg3; 26 Rxh7 Rfe8; 27 Qf5 b5; 28 Bf1 Re1; 29 Qh5 Qf4+; 30 Kb1 Qxf1 0-1

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

What chance the British?

I had renowned chess tactician Charlie Storey on the phone earlier, asking if I would be interested in sharing an apartment with Danny Gormally and himself at the British Championships.

Having previously decided not to play, I'd taken on an exciting Internet contract, but if Charlie can find somewhere decent to stay I might be tempted to change my mind (and work my socks off to get the contract out before the tournament starts).

I'll keep you updated.

Friday chess puzzle 12: the solution

Lukin Shirov Chess Daugavpils 1989

Last week's chess puzzle proved rather difficult.

It was Alexei Shirov on the wrong end of a super move from Lukin at Daugavpils 1989.

The move that Lukin found was the 'bayonet thrust' 1 g6!! creating a very pretty picture with the 5 pawns adjacent to each other.

The main threat now is simply to play 2 Bxe6 winning. Black has no good defence, for example:

1 ... hg; 2 Bxe6 fe; 2 Rxf8+ Kxf8; 30 h7


1 ... gh; 2 Bxh6

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A best game

Coathup v Crouch Durham Chess 2000
Position after 15 Bg5!

Yesterday, I put out an appeal to find the game score for one of my best chess performances. Big thanks are due to Paul Runnacles, who not only found the score, but also an article by Grandmaster Jon Speelman about the game. I didn't know it had been covered nationally, so Paul's discovery was a real treat.

I was going to annotate the game for you, a thematic Nimzo Indian Saemisch Variation where Black tried an unusual sequence to counter White's standard plans, but instead will give Jon Speelman's analysis and a little background to the game.

It was played in the final round of the Durham Open 2000, and I had the White pieces against International Master Colin Crouch. Colin led the event, but a win would allow me to catch him. To be honest, I shouldn't have been in the running: I'd lost badly in round 1, won in 2, and had a draw with Alan Grant (a 2240 player) in round 3. Amazingly, despite my 50% score I received a full point bye in round 4 (it was a very small field) to set up the encounter with Colin Crouch. I'll let Jon Speelman pick up the story:

The decisive action took place in the last round when Coathup, who is only rated 2130, unexpectedly defeated Crouch in the game below: while Grant won against Yugoslav Dusan Zdjelar, to share the spoils.

In a Nimzo-Indian, White's mobile pawn centre gave him some advantage after a dozen moves but Crouch's 12...h5 and 13...h4 and 14...g6, while thematic, simply didn't work and after 15.Bg5! Black is very close to, if not entirely, lost.

If 15...dxe4 16.fxe4 gxf5 17.e5 Nxe5 (17...Qd5 18.Bxf6 Qxg2 19.0- 0-0 is a better try but still foul for Black) 18.Qe2! White wins a piece. 19.g4! ripped open the kingside after which the admirably calm 22.Rh5 and 23.Qxf5 removed a vital pawn.

With 25.Bg5!, Coathup got the bishop out of the way prior to advancing the f pawn. An impressively smooth and unharried performance against an opponent who is not only a grandmaster but also rated nearly 300 points more than the winner.

Grandmaster Jon Speelman, The Independent, 20 April 2000

Thanks Jon!

Roger Coathup - Colin Crouch, Durham Open 2000
1 d4 Nf6; 2 c4 e6; 3 Nc3 Bb4; 4 a3 Bxc3+; 5 bc d5; 6 cd ed; 7 e3 Nc6

An unusual move. Normally Black plays c7-c5 to pressure the White centre, but Crouch had an interesting plan in mind to swap off the light squared bishops and manouevre this knight via a5 to a strong point on c4.

8 Bd3 Bg4; 9 f3 Bh5; 10 Ne2 Bg6; 11 Ng3 Bxd3; 12 Qxd3 h5; 13 e4!

For me this was the key move in the game. Black's play, albeit at the cost of several tempi, has all been directing at stopping it. If White doesn't play e4 now, Black will follow up with h4 driving back the g3 knight, and move the c6 knight to c4 dominating White's bishop. 13 e4 needed a lot of calculation though, in particular envisaging 15 Bg5 and analysing the variations (as given by Speelman) that follow.

13 ... h4; 14 Nf5 g6; 15 Bg5! (see diagram above) gf; 16 e5 Qd7; 17 Bxf6 Rh7; 18 Kf2 Qe6; 19 g4!

Coathup v Crouch Durham Chess 2000

19 ... hg+; 20 hg Rxh1; 21 Rxh1 Kd7; 22 Rh5 a6; 23 Qxf5 Qxf5; 24 Rxf5 b5; 25 Bg5! Ke8; 26 Rf6 Na5; 27 Rh6 Kd7; 28 Rh7 Ke6; 29 g4 Na5; 30 f4 Nxa3; 31 f5+ 1-0

This was my maiden Open Tournament first place at standard time limits.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Botvinnik book update

Mikhail Botvinnik Chess Player

The autographed book by Mikhail Botvinnik finished on eBay on Sunday evening.

It was a popular auction with some frantic bidding in the last 20 minutes that doubled the final price to £77.

I'm really pleased with the way it went: I've had the pleasure of having Botvinnik's autograph on my bookshelf for a year, and made a decent profit on the deal. Whilst, the buyer has managed to pick up a wonderful book at what is still a very good price. I'm also reassured to know that the book is going to a 'good chess home' and to a real fan of Botvinnik.

This week I'm going to auction one of the most unusual but nonetheless fascinating chess books ever published. I'll tell you more later, but for now I'll give you a clue: the book, written by one of the strongest players of the 20th Century, only contains one game of chess. Can you guess which book it is?

Game score appeal!

I was going to annotate one of my best games for you, a win against International Master Colin Crouch from the Durham Open in 2000. Unfortunately, I've misplaced the game score.

I've scanned online, but am struggling to find it. If anyone knows where I can pick up the pgn, please let me know.

British Championships deadline

The deadline for my entry to the British Chess Championships is drawing near and it's starting to look increasingly likely that I won't play.

The tournament is 2 weeks long in a distant seaside town (Great Yarmouth) in the height of the summer holidays; finding accommodation is proving very difficult. I'd love to play in the event, but want to be comfortable. I don't want to be cooped up in a small B&B for so long.

The ideal would be a cottage with Internet connection, but, even if one were available, the accommodation combined with the high entry fee would take the cost to take part in the tournament to over £1500 (US $3000). That's just way too much.

The Scottish Championships, 9 rounds in Edinburgh in July, looks far more enticing. Failing that, it will be the Isle of Man at the end of September and the chance to battle against some big names.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Chess in the Attic: Tilburg 1989

Starting at the age of 16 with a victory by 2 clear points in Banja Luka from a field that included Petrosian, Andersson, Adorjan and Browne, Garry Kasparov's chess career delivered a never ending string of spectacular tournament performances.

When I was in the attic last week, flicking through some old copies of the German magazine Schach Report, I came across the tournament report for his victory at Tilburg 1989:

Tilburg Chess 1989
The statistics are incredible, in this 8 player double round event Garry Kasparov only conceded 4 draws, winning the event by 3.5 points from Viktor Korchnoi. The field wasn't weak either, along with the two leaders there was Vassily Ivanchuk, Lubomir Ljubojevic, Candidates Gyula Sax, Johann Hjartarson, and Simen Agdestein, and the dangerous local Grandmaster Jeroen Piket.

The event is memorable not just for the margin of victory, nor for the destructive power of Garry Kasparov (many of the games were won in 30 moves or less), but also for the fact that this is the event that propelled Garry Kasparov past Bobby Fischer's ELO rating record of 2780.

We've already covered his superb King's Indian victory over Jeroen Piket at Tilburg, so instead let's look at his quick dismissal of Norwegian Grandmaster and sometime international footballer Simen Agdestein.

Simen Agdestein - Garry Kasparov, Tilburg 1989
1 c4 g6; 2 Nc3 c5; 3 g3 Bg7; 4 Bg2 Nc6; 5 e3 d6; 6 Nge2 Nf6; 7 0-0 0-0; 8 d3 Bd7; 9 h3 a6; 10 b3 Rb8; 11 Bb2 b5; 12 Qd2 Nb4!?; 13 Rfd1 Re8; 14 e4?! Nc6; 15 Nd5 e5; 16 Kh2 h5; 17 f4 bc; 18 dc Nd5; 19 Qd5? Nd4!; 20 Nd4 cd; 21 Qd6 h4!; 22 g4 Bf8; 23 Qa6 Re6; 24 Qa7 Ra8 0-1

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Alternative sets

I love stylish chess sets, and am now thinking about an interior design scheme to accomodate a couple of great sets that I discovered on a trawl of the Internet this afternoon.

The first, a Sandstone chess set, 'Nature Does Battle', created by Balinese artist Daniel Wijaya, has the pieces inset onto sandstone pebbles. It's small but exquisite.

Sandstone pebble chess set

The second, the Auto part chess set, 'Rustic Warriors', is part of a series by Mexican artist Armando Ramirez. It's a completely different beast made from recycled car and machinery parts: it boasts a 5.7 inch king and weighs in at over 20lbs.

Autopart chess set

They are both available online from, a store run in conjunction with National Geographic, that sources its products direct from artisans around the globe. They have a large number of different sets and if you hurry are offering a $10 discount to new customers, quote discount code: NOVICA243.

Chess on Second Life

BNP Paribas chess website

My attention was caught by a brief notice this week on Phil Dornbusch's blog about Chess on Second Life.

For those of you who don't know, I suspect most, Second Life is a virtual world on the Internet where people can live, as the name suggests, a second life. You can shop, build a house, start a business, go on holiday, and now it seems even follow chess.

Rosetta Stone Language Software
I talk about Second Life when I speak to businesses about future directions for the Internet, and it usually meets with either guffaws or embarrassed faces in the audience. The potential is interesting though, there are several million members, you can make and lose money (it has it's own 'convertible' currency), some big business have a presence, and, apparently, Sweden is even going to open an embassy on the site.

The chess coverage, if my French is upto scratch, is the final of the French women's team championship and is being relayed online from a 3D reconstruction of the Palais du Luxembourg.

The French Chess Federation (FFE) has sponsorship from the BNP Paribas banking corporation. Their excellent chess website has details of the championship along with other news, and a host of excellently presented material for discovering and learning the game. How many other Federations can boast as clean an interface? All that remains is to learn how to read French!

Friday, 29 June 2007

Ein Gruß aus Dortmund

In the blogosphere: International Master Georgios Souleidis has an on-the-spot report, Ein Gruß aus Dortmund, from the Dortmund chess festival. Check out his notes to a masterly positional crush by Kramnik (Carlsen was the victim in a Catalan) and an interesting ending between Anand and Naijditsch.

Friday chess puzzle 12

Lukin Shirov Chess Daugavpils 1989

Our chess puzzle this week sees Alexei Shirov on the wrong end of a super move. It's from Lukin - Shirov, Daugavpils 1989. White can gain a clear advantage by 1 hg, but instead Lukin played an even stronger move that forces a much greater advantage, can you spot it?

Send your answers to roger AT 21thoughts DOT com. I'll publish the solution on Wednesday.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Botvinnik's autograph

championship chess Botvinnik

I've just listed an exceptionally rare book on eBay: a first (english) edition of Mikhail Botvinnk's Championship Chess.

It's Botvinnik's first book and he reportedly spent 3 years writing it. It covers the 1941 match-tournament for the championship of the USSR: the 3 years' dedication is evident in the depth of his annotations to the games.

I'd intended to list the copy a while ago; I'd spent a lot on it, but knew its value. However, as I prepared the listing I noticed there was a 'scribble' on one of the inner pages below a dedication to his brother who'd been killed in the Battle of Leningrad.

At first I thought the 'scribble' was a previous owner testing his biro, but then it struck me: maybe my rare book was actually signed by Botvinnik. Thankfully, the Internet quickly gave me the answer, and sure enough my 'scribble' matched the few examples of Botvinnik's signature that are available. My rare book suddenly became exceptional.

As for the tournament itself, Botvinnik won the six player (4 games against each opponent) event from a magnificent field of Keres, Smyslov, Bondarevsky, Boleslavsky and Lilienthal.

championship chess Botvinnik

Here's a sparkling brevity from the 8th round:

I Boleslavsky - A Lilienthal, 12th USSR Ch. Leningrad / Moscow 1941

1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 d5; 3 Nxe5 Qe7; 4 d4 f6; 5 Nd3 de; 6 Nf4 Qf7; 7 Nd2! Bf5; 8 g4 Bg6; 9 Bc4 Qd7; 10 Qe2 Qxd4; 11 Ne6 Qb6; 12 Nxe4 Nd7; 13 Bf4 Ne5; 14 0-0-0 Bf7; 15 N4g5 fg; 16 Bxe5 Bxe6; 17 Bxc7!! 1-0


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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.