Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Chess in the Attic 1980: Tony Miles and the Dragon

Ljubojevic vs Tony Miles, Malta Chess Olympiad 1980, New Statesman ArticleI was up in the attic (again!) looking for an old chess scoresheet when I came across a treasure I thought was lost: a 1980 Tony Miles column from the New Statesman, "The Maltese Dragon".

The column gave a detailed analysis of his game with the Sicilian Dragon against Ljubomir Ljubojevic at the Malta Olympiad. I've wanted to blog about this article for a while. It made a huge impression on me at the time and has always stuck in my mind; I was delighted to discover I still had it.

As a schoolboy, I was amazed by the complexity of the game and of the host of variations that Miles seemed to glibly trot-out (in pre-Fritz days). It was a bit like being in the first year and seeing a sixth former's maths book full of calculus: "I'd never be able to do that". Actually, thinking back to my maths A-level grade perhaps I never was able to do that.

Without the Internet, getting hold of the latest chess games in 1980 was a treat. Miles's column in the New Stateman (a 'socialist' weekly that my enlightened Independent School took in the Library) and Michael Stean's column in the Observer were favourites.

Here are the basic moves in pgn. The game is excellent in itself, but for full effect you need to read Miles notes and commentary. Let me know if you'd like a large format scan.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic - Tony Miles, Malta 1980
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.h4 Rc8 11.Bb3 h5 12.O-O-O Ne5 13.Bg5 Rc5 14.f4 Nc4 15.Qd3 b5 16.e5 Ng4 17.Ne4 Rc8 18.exd6 f6 19.Rhe1 exd6 20.Nxd6 Kh7 21.f5 Nxd6 22.fxg6 Kh8 23.Bf4 Ne5 24.Bxe5 fxe5 25.Nf3 e4 26.Qxd6 exf3 27.Re7 Bg4 28.Qe5 Qxd1+ 29.Kxd1 fxg2 30.Kd2 Rfd8+ 31.Bd5 Rxd5+ 0-1

You can also play through the game online.

Miles and Ljubojevic played some fantastic games, including another Dragon in 1986 to which Robert Byrne gave a tennis 'derived' commentary in the New York Times. They also hold the record for the longest number of moves a piece has been left en-prise. Unfortunately, Tony, England's first Grandmaster, died prematurely after some troubled years. Ljubomir, the "foremost player of risky moves" according to Jim Loy, now lives in Spain but keeps on attacking.


Ray said...

Hi again Roger,

What a find! That is way cool, and I am happy for you.

Roger said, "Let me know if you'd like a large format scan."

Sure, that would be a treat. I am always interested in things of this nature.

I'll talk to you later.


Ryan Emmett said...

That's quite an attic you've got there! :)

Mine's just full of junk!!!

Roger Coathup said...

Ryan: I've moved most of the chess stuff downstairs now, but I'm sure there are still a few gems up there!

peter said...

And I don't even have an attack!!

peter said...

Oops. Attic, attack, o well, they all make us happy.

Roger Coathup said...


large format is now available: click on the photo in the article, and it will take you to the photo in a Picasa web album.

You can zoom in on the photo by clicking the magnifying glass (top right), and the text is surprisingly clear.

Best regards,


Chess Tales uses Picasa, part of Google Pack, for photos and images:

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