I awoke this morning to the very sad news that Andrew Law, stalwart of Wood Green chess club since the 1980s, died peacefully in his sleep yesterday, aged 62. I did not really know Andrew very well, but saw him many times at the Lloyds Bank Masters and, in later years, the 4NCL He was a talented player, with at least one IM norm to his name, and never an easy prospect as an opponent, even to strong GMs. From my observations, clock trouble was his biggest handicap, as he would take considerable amounts of time to find the absolutely best move, if he was convinced that his opponent's play deserved punishment. Away from the chessboard, I had the impression that he was a rather quiet, somewhat diffident and shy man, but highly intelligent and greatly loved by his friends.
Photo: Cathy Rogers / Chessbase
My condolences go to Andrew's friends and family.
To finish, a smart win against another strong English player of the day:
It is immediately obvious that the knight on h8 is likely to be the key piece, since otherwise it is doing nothing. A mate on f7 or g6 looks tempting. Any westward move of the Rg6 would set up the threat of 2.Ng6X, but now the trouble starts. 1.Ra6? fails to 1...Bb6!, cutting off the rook's control of the 6th rank (1.Rb6? fails to the same defence - 1...Bxb6). 1.Rc6? gets round that problem, but blocks the diagonal of the Bb7, so now Black has 1...d3, when 2.Qb2 is no longer mate, because of the flight on e4. Finally, 1.Rgf6? avoids all these issues, but allows the subtle 1...Bf5!
So the other option is to try retreating the Rf8 down the f-file, so as to set up mate by 2.Nf7X. Here, too, however, there are a serious of missteps. 1.Rff6? runs into 1...Be6, whilst 1.Rf3? is met by the spectacular 1...Qd5!, since White no longer has the queen capture on d5. 1.Rf2? blocks the WQ's access to b2, thus allowing 1...d3.
That only leaves 1.Rf1!, which is indeed the key. White thus has to avoid falling for one of the six tries, any of which would cost the solver 5 points in the British Solving Championship. As mentioned before this was one of three twomovers, to be solved in just 20 minutes, so on average, the competitors had just under seven minutes to find their way through this thicket of false trails. Did you manage it?
Stewart Reuben is in The Gambia. Thought you'd like to know. How do I know? Because the Little I Am has hijacked a Forum thread about computers in schools, to tell us all. His offerings include such gems as the following:
I'm in The Gambia. I don't know whether ANY school has even one computer. The Gambian CF has one now because I brought an old one of mine as a present.
My book contains quite a lot of relevant information for inexperienced organisers/arbiters/players. But I was still surprised by 0-0 for 0.5-0,5.
Amusingly today I told them not to pack away the sets after they finished. Although it was the last playing day, I knew they might make too much noisy packing up during play. Of course 'helpfully' they ignored this. One person packed away a set where the players were still in play. That happened once in the British before my taking charge. Fortunately I was able to play through the game scores. So no harm was done.
Who says we in the West don't do enough to help the Third World?
"As Dr Livingstone said when he first met me, 'Stewart Reuben I presume?'"
On Saturday, I visited the splendid surroundings of Eton College, which played host to the Winton Capital British Chess Solving Championship. The annual event saw some 35 competitors engage in a strenuous afternoon's intellectual exercise, solving an array of chess problems and endgame studies. Despite the presence of the reigning world solving champion (Piotr Murdzia of Poland) and two former world champions (John Nunn and Jonathan Mestel), it was OTB GM Colin McNab who took outright first place, his second successive win in the British Championship.
Quite the biggest shock of the afternoon was seeing Jonathan Mestel, minus a single hair anywhere above his neck! Ever since he emerged on the British chess scene at the age of 15, in 1973, Jonathan has been famous for his long hair and beard, but is now totally hairless, due to a medical condition. I am glad to be able to report that it is nothing serious, as Jonathan himself was quick to reassure everyone. Despite the unaccustomed draughts of cold air around his head, his brain is still as formidable as ever - only an uncharacteristic clerical error on one of the threemovers cost him clear second place - he wrote down the key as Rg1, instead of the intended Rg8, and since Rg1 was actually a legal move, he had to be docked all 5 points on that problem.
Here is one of the twomovers from the event. In problem parlance, a "try" is a White first move, which fails only to a single black defence. Tries are thus especially pernicious red herrings in solving events, which can easily trap the unwary, especially when the solvers have only 20 minutes for three twomovers, as is the case in the British. This twomover by Segers has more tries than an All Blacks' training session, so see if you can dodge the false trails and find the correct key move. Solution on Tuesday.
Slightly later than promised, the solution to the above puzzle:
Anand played 28.Bd6!, which basically wins material. The difficulty of this tactic lies not in seeing the move itself, but in appreciating why it is so good. After 28...Qxd6 29.Qxc4+ Kh8, it does not appear that White has achieved anything much. But now comes the sting in the tail: Anand had realised that after 30. Ra2!, Black has no time to save the bishop on a3, which White will just attack again next move and win. The unfortunate line-up of black pieces on d6 and f8 prevents him clearing a square in time down the a3-f8 diagonal. Fridman instead tried 28...b5, but after 29. Rxe6 bxa4 30. Bxf8, Anand duly converted his extra exchange.
It is a hard tactic to spot, I think because one does not usually think of bishops as vulnerable on the edge of the board. Everyone knows that a knight is a potential problem when on the edge, but the long-range bishop does not usually have any such issues.
I hardly ever comment directly on other blog postings, least of all the Bedlam Brigade's insane ramblings, but I feel an exception should be made for yesterday's effort, entitled An Impromptu Meeting. In fact, I will go even further and take the risk of cross-contamination, by giving a link - you can find it here.
This was written by one Phil Makepeace, one of their newer columnists, and one about whom little seems to be known. Indeed, as someone once unkindly said of a former TV presenter, young Phil seems to have risen without trace. Most of his blog offerings have concentrated on his own past failures as a player. He certainly does not seem to suffer from a surfeit of creative fecundity - lacking anything else to say, he was reduced to filling up one recent column by asking readers to contribute "amusing" anagrams of chessplayers' names, a rather transparent device which did, however, have the advantage of allowing him to fill up another column, with a selection of the truly side-splitting responses he received.
Not Phil Makepeace. Honest.
Anyway, for the benefit of those of you who cannot be bothered to read his effort of yesterday, the gist is as follows: he was called up a few days ago and asked to attend a presentation regarding a chess-based mobile phone app. It seems our Phil is regarded -apparently, not just by himself - as an expert on such matters. He duly went along, and was fed and watered with appropriate quantities of alcohol, as is the wont on such occasions, in return for offering his inestimable opinion on the app concerned. His host was Andrew Paulson, head of Agon, the man responsible for running FIDE's world championship cycle, who has grand plans to revolutionise the presentation of chess throughout the world.
Usually, on such occasions, one turns up, has a few glasses of wine, expresses one's view, then politely excuses oneself and returns home, especially if one is not desperately impressed with the product concerned. But not our Phil, however. Flushed with self-importance from having been invited in the first place, he evidently felt a burning need to inform the rest of the world, so he has now chosen to bite the hand that fed him, by writing an embittered piece about his host. Paulson, we are informed, is "a man with a Messiah complex, who speaks only in personal pronouns". He doesn't have "a damn (sic) clue" about the field he is involved in (unlike Phil himself - "I know my shit", he proudly informs us), but "disgorges revolutionary personal theories about it". He is also "discourteous" (though probably not so discourteous as to accept someone's hospitality at a private function and then write a public blog, telling the world what an asshole they are).
Not Phil Makepeace. Honest
Quite a litany of abuse, about a man who has done nothing more than invite one over for a few free glasses of wine and a plate of peanuts. One wonders what Paulson can have done to deserve such censure. It seems that he failed to give little Phil "proper answers", something which our fearless app-developer-turned-consumer-watchdog-turned-investigative-reporter was not taking lying down. "...I went into full Paxman mode", he informs us. I can only hope Mr Paulson has been able to access appropriate counselling, to help him overcome the trauma he must have suffered, at being subjected to the full intellectual rigour of forensic questioning from little Phil.
Of course, the inaptly-named Makepeace offers no evidence to back up his claims. Most experienced journalists would produce a few quotes, to substantiate allegations that a person "speaks only in personal pronouns", for example. They would probably also take the precaution of not making themselves a laughing stock, by using a veritably Reubenesque 14 perpendicular pronouns in their own three short final paragraphs. But self-awareness seems not to be Phil's strongpoint. "I am a chess player, a pundit and a chess consumer. I am both the target market and the commentator", he rages. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Light", I half expected him to add.
Not Phil Makepeace. Honest
Young Phil is clearly a man to watch. In his final sentence, he invites "everybody to be wary with me". Almost right - just change "with" to "of", and I'd have to agree.
Your "erudite" author (as described in this week's Spectator magazine!) is off to London for the day, but before I depart, here is a neat tactic that I saw recently. It is from Anand's win against Daniel Fridman at last week's Baden Baden tournament, which saw the world champion win his first classical tournament for some 18 months or more.
Black has just unwisely moved his knight from a5 to c4, and was now floored with a hard-to-spot tactic.
The scandal over horsemeat in the food chain took a surprise turn last night, when a new suspect was named as the mastermind behind the fraud. According to the well-known North London blogger Mr CITC Horton, the person responsible is the notorious Gotham City chess grandmaster, Raymond "The Penguin" Keene.
"It is obvious to anyone with two eyes that Ray Keene is responsible for this situation", Mr Horton told a news conference last night. "He was forced to arrange for horsemeat to be substituted for beef, because he had himself eaten the world's entire supplies of beef, during repeated lunches at Simpsons-in-the-Strand.". Mr Horton went on to accuse Keene of having diverted the few remaining supplies of beef in Europe to his friend Mr Tim Woolgar, "...who fed them to competitors at his infamous chess-boxing promotions!", claimed Horton.
(At this point, the press conference was ended, when Mr Horton, not for the first time in his life, was carried from the room by several men wearing white coats).
Shergar is 38.
Ray Keene, pictured here shortly after returning from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, where he is believed to have arranged a meteor strike
Yesterday afternoon, I finished my latest book translation and sent the draft off to the publisher. The book deals with the 2.f4 Sicilian, and was great fun to work on, because there were a lot of fine games. The 2.f4 system has lost much of its popularity in recent years, but as this book shows, it can still pack a punch.
In a coincidence of near-Plaskettian proportions, this morning I awoke to discover from Facebook that today is the 55th birthday of Mark Hebden, the High Priest of 2.f4. Although David Rumens was the first English player of note to employ the line regularly (actually via the Grand Prix Attack move-order 1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4), it was Mark who really became the main man in the variation, and moulded it into a weapon not just for destroying club level opposition in weekenders, but even for disposing of Grandmasters. Together with his King's Gambit, Mark and his 2.f4's cut swathes through British chess in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Although it is now over 20 years since Mark switched to 1.d4 and introduced the chess world to the delights of the Barry System, he still remains a player whose games are indispensable to anyone interested in the 2.f4 Sicilian. Still a very active player and a permanent fixture at almost all major British chess events, Mark's contribution to the chess scene in this country over the past 35 years is impossible to over-estimate. I, for one, will raise a glass to him this evening. Have a good one, Mark!
To finish, a reminder of just what his 2.f4 could do to unprepared opponents. The fine American GM John Fedorowicz is really given the treatment here, as Mark carries out the classic white plan: double the black c-pawns and tie him down to the defence of c5. In the final position, Black resigns with equal material and only one pair of minor pieces off the board, yet he is totally and utterly helpless:
Followers of Chessbase.com will be aware that my two favourite female chessplayers, the shameless Kosintseva sisters, have hit the headlines in Russian chess, for less than desirable reasons. The full story can be found here, but in brief, they have refused to play on the Russian team for the forthcoming world team championships, because they object to the choice of GM Sergey Rublevsky as captain, citing "psychological incompatibility". They played on the team that won gold in the Istanbul Olympiad last autumn, under Rublevsky's captaincy, but clearly, something happened out there, which put them off playing for him again. Speculation is now rife that the sisters may switch federations, although that would be a very big step for both, as they would probably lose access to their long-time personal trainer, Yuri Dokhoyan.
Obviously, only those close to the Russian Olympiad team can know the full story, but funnily enough, I was not entirely surprised when the news broke. I have never met Sergey Rublevsky, but I recall when I lived in Moscow, that a Russian chess friend, by no means the sort who was habitually critical of people, went out of way one time to tell me that Rublevsky had a fearful reputation for being very rough, outspoken, aggressive, no-nonsense, etc. More recently, another GM friend, who is acquainted with him, described him to me as "a bit of a redneck". Rublevsky himself has admitted that, during the Olympiad, a critical moment was reached, when the team lost first place, and he had to take measures to "shake them up". Whatever he said or did worked, as they went on to take gold, but the delicate sensibilities of the sisters seem to have found it all too much. One only has to look at some of the photos in the Chessbase report, taken at the Olympiad prize-giving, to see that something was badly wrong - the sisters' body language screams decibels. The other players, however, (Kosteniuk, Pogonina and Gunina) seem much less disturbed.
"We are one family - and the rest of the team are another!". The Russian Olympiad team celebrates gold. L to R: Naer, Rublevsky, Kosteniuk, Riazantsev, Gunina, Pogonina, and the Shameless Sisters. (photo: Chessnews.ru)
For me, though, the most interesting thing about the whole affair has been the reaction of the average Russian chess fan, on the bulletin boards of sites such as Chessnews.ru. The hostility towards the sisters has been considerable. That may be surprising, except for one thing. As this blog has exposed in the past, the sisters have quite shamelessly been pre-arranging games between themselves for years, in major international tournaments, without a syllable of criticism from anyone else, yet now, their names are suddenly mud, because they won't play for the Russian team! It speaks volumes about the warped moral sense of the chess world. In fact, it speaks even louder than the Shameless Sisters' post-Olympiad body language...