Friday, January 31, 2014

Popular front

Well, hasn't the last week and a half been fun? Ever since Dylan Loeb McClain lobbed his hand grenade into the FIDE Presidential race, we've been entertained by an almost daily cycle of leaks and accusations of foul play.

Now you may think that what we are seeing resembles less a contest to see who can attract most votes than one to see who can buy them, but I say shame on you for such a cynical approach. Why not see it instead as a contest to see who's got the most front?

Front as in nerve. Front as in balls.

Here's three leading contenders from the end-of-January madness. Which of these has the most front?

  • Morten Sand

  • Because it takes a lot of front to have your team make secret agreements with a notorious individual, complain when they are made known and then claim that you yourself are publishing them because of your commitment to the principle of transparency.

  • Nigel Short

  • Because it takes a lot of front, in a controversy about transparency, to boast about bringing a legal case when that case was deliberately hidden, at the time, from the members of the organisation in whose name it was taken.

  • Andrew Paulson

  • Because it takes a lot of front to send other parties' confidential agreements to journalists, and then, when your own confidential agreements are sent to journalists, to shriek that the law has been broken while threatening some people with lawyers and others with expulsion from their posts.

More front than Brighton, all of them. But who's got the most?

[Andrew Paulson index]
[Nigel Short index]

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ray at 66

[Would you believe it? The world of chess riven by scandal and controversy and our old friend is nothing to do with it. Just goes to show the point being made in the second paragraph below...]

Ray Keene is sixty-six today. Happy birthday, Ray. Though it's not been the best year of his sixty-six.

It's worth reflecting on what a much-diminished figure Ray is now. Here is a man who was twice a British Champion, a world championship second, an organiser of world championship matches. In the Eighties, when he collected an OBE, he all but controlled British chess and aspired to control world chess as well. At one time a noted and witty chess writer, at another the leading figure in the leading English chess publisher when that was a title worth the holding. For many years a powerful figure, one accustomed to summoning expensive lawyers to threaten anybody who drew attention to the less glorious aspects of his business practices.

But what's left of all that now? His chess columns - if they are his - are publicly mocked, as much for their laughable quality as their pitiful plagiarism. His books go largely unread, recycled trash published by his friends or the likes of Sam Sloan, or plagiarised trash the subject of humiliating press coverage. His publishing ambitions are reduced to Hardinge Simpole reprints and the risible use of sockpuppets to promote his books on Amazon.

What of the tournaments, the largesse and patronage he was once able to command? Even the Simpson's events seem to have disappeared. The OBE and the social ambitions that came with it are reduced to lunch with aristocratic cranks and using the House of Lords for a charity scam. The dodgy friends and cronies are a constant source of amusment.

He is still, of course, at the Times and Spectator. But only as a caricature of his former self.

A caricature of his former self

Monday, January 27, 2014

Back in the Day: TISE confusion

White to play
Keene - Browne, BBC The Master Game Series 7

Exchange sacrifices are messy. That's kind of the point, I suppose. The trade of a concrete advantage (material) for something that is much harder to evaluate in the expectation - or hope - that you get the better end of the deal.

Study rook endgames, particularly when you focus on rook and a single pawn against a rook, and you can get a definite and absolute answer. You look at the position, have a think and come up with a move. Then you Nalimov it and find out whether you are RIGHT or WRONG.

Exchange sacs are a completely different story. We - at least, players of my standard - are pretty much on our own with them. I'm confused, dear reader. To demonstrate precisely how and why I'll enlist the help of three guys who were amongst the best chessers in the land back When we were Kings.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

From a Penguin to a Swan

Wikipedia informs us that the Australian current affairs programme Today Tonight is a less than entirely reliable source.

We therefore urge our readers to ignore this item

about Ray's new* friend His Serene Highness Prince Marek Stefan Jan Kasperski.
Besides, I'm sure Ray wasn't fooled. He's the conman, not the conned.

[*PS His old friend Prince Mohsin Ali Khan can be spotted in a photo in the clip.]

[Ray Keene index]

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Blogger Goes Chessing in Hampstead: BORP? XXVI

4 g2-g4

Menadue - JMGB, Penarth 2012
Jaunooby - JMGB, Hampstead 2013

Analyse your games.

Everybody knows that you're supposed to do it. Gormally devotes an entire section of Improve Your Practical Play to an investigation of how he came to lose against Martin Brown at the Sheffield 2011 British Championships. Nobody actually does it, though, do they? Well Matt Fletcher does - see Learn from the Amateurs - but nobody else.

Or is it just me who's a lazy arse?

Either way, when 4 g4 turned up on my board at Hampstead last year I was no better prepared to respond that when I'd first faced it in Penarth more than a year earlier.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Give me another word for it

In the third round of the Wijk Aan Zee B group, on 13 January, Jobava-Zhao opened 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bf4.

What's this called?

I don't think I'd ever seen it at master level before (though I find that Jobava also played it against Malakhov in Warsaw last month, a game Chess Today subscribers will find in issue 4787). Matter of fact I don't think I've seen it in a club or tournament game - or even when I used to play on Yahoo chess.

I'm sure I saw it played when I was a junior, but only when we found out you could actually start a game 1.d4 d5 instead of 1.e4 e5 so we played, in the mirror, the kingside sequence with which we were most familiar, but on the queenside instead.

You find out that it isn't as simple as that at about the same time you start learning that there are different openings with different names, and whatever book you learn them from, you're doing well if you find out a name for what Jobava played against Malakhov and Xhao.

On Chessbase Alejandro Ramírez offered us "a random opening", which is not entirely helpful, though no less helpful than Nunn's Chess Openings, which after 1.d4 Nf6 gives 2.Nc3 d5!= and never mind what White does next.

So what is it? I don't think it's a Veresov because that involves White playing 3.Bg5. It might be a London System but I doubt it: that normally begins with 2.Nf3, the b1-knight not necessarily going to c3. You could reach our position via 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 (pop quiz: is 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 playable?) but is that a London System anyway, or just a stop on the road towards it?

Older books used to get out of this by calling things "Irregular Opening" or "Queen's Pawn Game" (another pop quiz: is there such a thing as a "King's Pawn Game"?) but it seems strange to have, apparently, no name for a position after White's third move arising from such a natural sequence of moves. Or is there one?

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Blogger Goes Chessing in Hampstead: Close but no ISE

Author's note:
Hampstead was at Golders Green this weekend.  More on that later in the month. In the meantime, here's something from 2013.

7 Ne5
JMGB - Ali Zarrar, Hampstead u2200 October 2013

I don't have many examples of exchange sacrifices from my own games that I can include in my year of exchange sacs. Neither I nor my opponents have shown much inclination to give up a rook for a knight or a bishop. It's part of the reason for doing this series, I suppose.

I did come closeish at the Hampstead u2200 back in October. One of those games when a couple of amateur hacks blundering about in the dark manage to (very nearly) reproduce the opening moves of a game played in a World Championship match. An infinite number of monkeys and all that.

Close, but no ISE as it turned out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Definitely Got Nothing to do with chess II


We were the kings and queens of promise
We were the victims of ourselves
Maybe the children of a lesser God
Between Heaven and Hell.

Does rather sound like playing in a chess tournament to me.

... to do with Chess Index

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tempting fate

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

I was reading Jonathan's piece from Wednesday and, as one often does on seeing a passage from Ray's oeuvre

I had a little look in Google to see if it might have appeared anywhere else.

Much to my surprise, it turned up on, where the notes are given, in all probability correctly, as being Ray's.

Oddly, though, there is no mention

of the book from whence it comes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sixty Memorable Annotations

#25: Keene - Toth, Rome 1979

15 … Bg4

Tempting fate, inasmuch as White is presented with a typical exchange sacrifice opportunity.

Ray Keene & Shaun Talbut (How to Play the Nimzo-Indian 2nd edition, Batsford 1986)

A rather typical Ray annotation there. He never was one for densely packed variations. And yet, because rather than despite the economy of words, our scribe is telling us something rather important.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dirty Little Secrets in Private Eye

The Little Book Of Chess Plagiarism has been in Private Eye.

Here's the opening paragraph.

issue 1357, page 28

What a good question! Perhaps Harper Collins might care to answer it.

In the meantime, why not buy a copy and read the whole piece? And enjoy some of the links below.

[Thanks to Richard James]

[Private Eye in November]
[Ray's Private Eye catalogue]

[Ray Keene plagiarism index]
[Ray Keene index]

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lots To Do With Chess, After All

You might remember this:

Jonathan B blogged the cover back in October suggesting, in his headline, that it had apparently got something to do with chess. One commentator, Paul C, took the trouble to check out a free chapter on Amazon remarking that it "seems a serious work, but clearly for philosophers rather than chess players." Curiosity now aroused I went one step further and - click - bought it, hoping to investigate whether that "apparently" should have been a "really". 

Friday, January 10, 2014

False notes III

Yesterday we saw that notes attributed on to Ray...

...but in fact plagiarised from My Great Predecessors (UPDATE 13 January: the plagiarised annotations now seem to have been removed) are identical in almost every respect to those that appeared in the Spectator for 15 September 2007.

Now let's assume that didn't know either of those two things, since they mention neither. This raises the question - how would they not know?

The only way they would not know, is if they didn't ask. If they, as it were, just took delivery of a huge consignment of annotated games, without asking where the notes came from.

Which would be a remarkable thing to do, would it not? I mean where Ray Keene is concerned?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

False notes II

Yesterday we were looking at the notes to a Botvinnik-Euwe game from 1948 and discovering that while the site attributes* them to International Grandmaster Raymond Keene...

...they are in fact plagiarised from the second volume of My Great Predecessors.

If you looked through the notes, you'll have seen an afterword, which is a little puzzling, in so far as it refers to "at this very moment" and "next year".

This is explained in the comments.

Or rather, it's partially explained in the comments. A rather fuller explanation can be found by looking at the chess column in the Spectator for 15 September 2007

in which the afterword from appears.

As indeed does everything else - including the incorrect "breath", rather than "breathe", which error, as was noted yesterday, Ray simply copied along with the rest.

Not that you'd know it was copied, since do not tell us that these notes are from the Spectator.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

False notes

Everybody knows, right? It's a site with a lot of chess games.

A lot of annotated chess games, come to that. For instance, there's a load here annotated by everybody's favourite chess columnist.

Including this one. Botvinnik-Euwe, world championship 1948, presented to us complete with...

...notes by International Grandmaster Raymond Keene.

Or so it says. He is, of course. They're not, of course.

Let's take a look at the introduction:

"He considered the following to be his best game." And so he did. It says so here, for instance.

Where's here?

Which is where you'll find all the other notes, on pages 161 to 163.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

The twelve rook and pawns of Christmas: Solutions (part two)

Today it ends. The second and final part of the solutions to the twelve rook and pawns of Christmas.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The twelve rook and pawns of Christmas: Solutions (part one)

Today, the answers. The first six answers, anyway.

Once Justin had left me in charge of the Christmas Quiz for 2013 it was always going to be about rook endings. My criteria for inclusion: positions that had caught my attention for some reason or other while I was writing the rook and pawn series and which also conformed to the fairly obvious 'hidden' theme. Quite a lot of them were posts that I didn't have time to write. Others, like the very first one, were spin-offs from material that did actually get published.

Anyhoo, on with the show. Rook and pawns of Chrimbo one to six will be covered today, seven to twelve tomorrow.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Wednesday, January 01, 2014