Friday, October 30, 2015

Played on Squares 5: Strachey

In this final episode of our investigation into chess in Bloomsbury (sparked by the BBC TV docudrama Life in Squares) we turn for our subject to a well-known name at the heart of the Bloomsbury project: Strachey. After earlier episodes examining men (John Neville Keynes, Roger Fry, and Leonard Woolf), this time it is refreshing to be able to ignore the seemingly inevitable Lytton and focus on a woman: his sister Marjorie (1882-1962 - but see comments box). As we follow her story we will encounter two more feisty female characters who are also of considerable interest, each in their own right.

Marjorie Colville Strachey is rather under-represented in Bloomsbury literature. The fullest account of her wandering, and maybe ultimately unfulfilled, life is given in Barbara Caine's remarkable in Bombay to Bloomsbury: A biography of the Strachey Family (2005), to which this blog is indebted. Yet, even Professor Caine omits all reference - bar one - to Marjorie's chess. If there is a Bloomsbury biography that merits further research it is Marjorie Strachey's: not because of any contributions to the public good, or works of genius, of which hers would count only as minor, but because she was a rich amalgam of talent, flamboyance, attention-seeking and vulnerability - and she played chess.          

Followers of the S&B Blog have already encountered Marjorie - probably, like me, without realising it. She was playing chess when we met her before, in the photograph below; and this picture is in fact the solitary chess reference in Barbara Caine's book, and even that passes without textual comment.

Marjorie and Lytton Strachey
Monk's House Album 1930s
Now held by Harvard University
On the previous occasion when we saw the photo, we had come down to Monk's House in Rodmell (about which we heard so much in the last episode) because of Lytton, famous for his radical biographies. We didn't give Marjorie a second thought. We didn't imagine that it was she who was the one who could really play. Now, on the S&B Chess Blog, her time has come. But not before going back a bit to someone else who we have also met before on the blog, someone who will point us toward Marjorie, and give us some interesting images on the way.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

DG XXXVI: The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence versus Joe Verghese

Today’s post is going to involve a trip back to the future.

It’s a post in which we’ll see that when it comes to claims about the impact of playing chess on dementia, the age of the people playing the chess matters. By the time I’m done, I’ll  have suggested a path that the English Chess Federation - DG XXVII: The ECF vs Mrs Sally WilliamsDG XXVIII: The ECF vs The Daily ExpressDG XXXI: "many scientists", many claimsDG XXXII: Election Day - might follow if it's serious about being involved in the chess and dementia business.

First, though, we have a conundrum to solve.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Chess has changed

In contemporary chess there exists a polarity between the movement towards deep investigation of theoretical lines, based on forced tactical variations and a quest for unusual, untheoretical ideas (often a revival of forgotten lines from the past) capable of generating positions which are not susceptible to clearly defined analysis.

The other day Vladimir Kramnik played a game as White which began 1 d4 Nf6, 2 Nf3 e6, 3 Bf4. The day before he'd met his old enemy Veselin Topalov and their encounter kicked off with 1 d4 Nf6, 2 Nf3 e6, 3 e3.

That’s how it goes with top-level international chess these days. Sometimes it’s three-dozen moves of theory (after a Marshall, a King’s Indian or whatever), but sometimes it’s a London System or a Colle or some other 120 ECF chesser's favourite.

Chess has changed, indeed.

I’m not sure exactly when it started. When did the world’s best chessers start playing - in terms of style if not specific openings - like they were playing an away match at Ashtead in one of the middling divisions of the Surrey League? With the benefit of hindsight, Vlad’s adoption of the Berlin in 2000 does rather look like a harbinger of much more than the end of the Gazza era, but one event that really does stand out for me is the Anand - Gelfand World Championship of 2012. Commonly held to be dull as shite in terms of what happened over the board, the match is nevertheless a significant milestone in the development of contemporary chess opening play.

For most of my chess life (i.e. from the mid-80s onwards), if you played the Grunfeld or the Sveshnikov Sicilian as Black it was because you were trying to secure a full point. You were prepared to take risks in the sharp, unbalanced positions that resulted. In 2012, though, Gelfand didn’t adopt these defences because he wanted to win games. He wanted to kill them dead.

What Boris wanted - or so it seemed to me, at least - was to play as little chess at the board as possible when he was Black. He wanted to get positions that he (and his seconds and their computers) had analysed out to something defendable for Black or, failing that, force Anand to play something that left some play on the board but which was theoretically harmless. With that match strategy he needed forcing variations, and what better than the Grunfeld and the Sveshnikov?

Anand had one 'proper' go at each of Gelfand’s defences. An Exchange Grunfeld in game 1 (albeit down the relative sideline of 8 Bb5+) and an Open Sicilian in game 5. After achieving bugger all with traditional methods he resorted to f3 set-ups against the Grunfeld (game 3, game 8) and the Bb5 system against Boris' Sicilian (game 10, game 12).

As we now know, Anand would come out ahead in the end. That probably had more to do with Gelfand tossing in his queen for no readily apparent reason in game 8 and blowing a winning rook ending in the play-offs than it was the result of choice of match strategy per se. Still, if the idea that playing what had previously been considered to be second(ish) rate openings might be the practical way to go wasn't firmly established before the match, it had certainly become so.

And then of course there’s Magnus. The Norwegian lad who learned that he could - mostly - get away with any old rubbish even against top 10 opponents. The Stonewall Dutch against Anand at GRENKE in February, for example.

So now as well as the long forcing variations we also have 'untheoretical ideas' and the 'revival of forgotten lines’. Forgotten, at least, at the very top level.

I’m sure Gustafsson’s right. Chess is different now.

That quote at the top of today’s blog, though? It’s the first paragraph of Ray’s "The Openings in modern theory and practice", a book published thirty-five years ago.

What’s the German for plus ca change?

Boris via Chess-News
Vishy via Deccan Chronicle

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

DG XXXV: The ECF vs the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

What is this guideline about?

The aim is to delay the onset of dementia, disability and frailty, increasing the amount of time that people can be independent, healthy and active in later life (successful ageing) by:

  • helping people stop smoking, be more active, reduce alcohol consumption, improve their diet and, if necessary, lose weight and maintain a healthy weight
  • reducing the incidence of other non-communicable chronic conditions that can contribute to onset of dementia, disability and frailty
  • increasing people's resilience, for example by improving their social and emotional wellbeing.
Dementia, disability and frailty in later life – mid-life approaches to delay or prevent onset [NG16], National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 20 October 2015, page 4

That’s fairly clear I think. No mention of chess. No mention of mind sports. No mention, even, of cognitively stimulating activities.

What are the NICE recommendations for what those of us in "mid-life" (defined as aged 40 to 64 in the guidelines) can do to help minimise our risk of developing dementia in later life or to delay its onset? They are as you see above.

The agenda - DG XXVII: The ECF vs Mrs Sally WiliamsDG XXVIII: The ECF vs The Daily ExpressDG XXXI: "many scientists", many claims; DG XXXII: Election Day - that the English Chess Federation has been pushing of late? It simply doesn’t feature. At all.

But why?

Chess Not Found

How to account for the discrepancy between the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s conclusions and those statements from the ECF?

There is an emerging awareness of the effectiveness of chess in delaying the onset of Alzheimers (sic)
John Foley (see DG XXVII)

Although further studies are required for definitive proof, many scientists believe that mind sports activity, such as chess, may delay the onset of Alzheimers (sic)
Mike Gunn and Phil Ehr (see DG XXXII)

I can think of two possibilities.


we consider the ECF’s statements to be ill-considered and under-researched (where they were researched at all).


we explore the possibility that NICE is merely masquerading as a public health body with a remit to provide "national guidance and advice to improve health and social care". Are they actually a front organisation for the shadowy nexus that turned two-thirds of the ECF officials cited above into former ECF officials? Like the International Longevity Centre, perhaps, which published a report in July 2014 - Preventing Dementia: a provocation - that also failed to bother with chess, mind sports or cognitively stimulating activities.

Not sure which one it is. Best be vigilant and keep an eye out for that nexus just in case.

Chess and Dementia Index

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Worst Move On The Board XXIV

No fewer than three for you today!

Stetsko-Dolzhikova, Bossa Nova v Oslo Schakselskap, European Club Cup, 24 October 2015.
Position after 72. Qc3-c4+.

I don't think there's any way of winning this for Black, but there's at least one way of trying to win. Also one way of losing, which happens to be the same way...

Bartholomew-Huschenbeth, Banter Blitz, 24 October 2015, position after 34. Rc8-c5+.

With this one, there might be some ways to lose slowly, but there's definitely one way to lose quickly. Spectacularly quickly.

Anon-David Blower, 2015.

I don't have full details for this, which is from the English Chess Forum, but before you click, take the trouble to find the one, and only one, way White has of not winning this. It's not so hard to work out. Harder perhaps to work out that everything else keeps the win on the board. Or to work out how White missed this.

[Thanks to Matt Fletcher, and Jack Rudd]
[Worst move index]

Friday, October 23, 2015

Chess goes to the Movies: Spectre

Well it has got some chess in it. I doubt Spectre will be as good as the (no chess at all) Sicario, though.

Chess Goes to the Movies Index

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Who'd have thought it?

I've been trying to trace the origin of the 605 million chessplayers nonsense, recently regurgitated by Adam Palin in the Financial Times. Have a go yourself: you can Google search for useful terms such as 605, million and chess and see how you get on. Or try 600 since the 605 appears to be a cunning variant on a slightly older, equally specious claim.

Andrew Paulson started putting the more, ah, exact figure about in 2012 although his claim was that it was neither new, or his originally:
that 605 million number is actually the number that FIDE gave to the International Olympic Committee several years ago.
This claim is echoed in a 2013 piece in the Christian Science Monitor in which one Lisa Suhay writes:
The Chess in the Olympics Campaign says that there are at least 605 to 700 million people worldwide who play chess — that's more than the entire population of US, Russia, Mexico, and Japan combined, or 8.6 percent of all humans inhabiting the Earth.
You might think that the second part of the sentence would give you reason to be sceptical about the first part, but then again you might be a more sceptical individual than Ms Suhay, whose CV reveals her to have authored "an audio tape on the power of storytelling with Dr. Deepak Chopra". That's the Dr Deepak Chopra featured here and described here as a peddler of "scientifically-sounding psychobabble".

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

So farewell then

So farewell then
Phil Ehr
The man who came out of nowhere
And lost an election to Nobody.
Perhaps the Strategic Advisor
Didn't have a very good strategy
And gave even worse advice.

EJ Horton (age 50 1/2)

Monday, October 19, 2015


So the Late/Afternoon/Early Evening of the Long Knives has been and gone. One lot of people for whom we weren't allowed to vote has been replaced - a few gaps not withstanding - by another lot of people for whom we were not allowed to vote. Shall we give a heartfelt Yay For ECF Democracy! and get on with our lives?

Jump to 1 hour 37 minutes for the bit that’s relevant to us today

Back to chess and dementia it is. Enough with the absence of evidence - DG XXXII: Election Day; DG XXXI: 'many scientists’, many claims - for the moment. Let’s talk about a positive development for a change: the announcement during the Sinquefield Cup live stream back in August that Rex Sinquefield is sponsoring a research proposal

to look at the effects of chess and its ability to forestall Alzheimer’s and dementia.*

A person closely associated with x is funding a study to find out whether x has a particular health benefit? Do we have a conflict of interest here? Yes, obviously. Is it a problem? No, not necessarily.

It all depends on whether / how you handle your conflicting interests - DG XXVI: Disclosure. To borrow once again from Tracey Brown’s Sense About Science lecture,

… it doesn’t matter that people who want to promote evidence have motives. It doesn’t matter until those things - evidence and motives - pull in opposite directions …
see DG XXX: The Ugly Truth or DG XXXII: Election Day for the full speech

There are many interesting questions that spring to mind about this research proposal. What exactly is the hypothesis? How exactly will they test it? What long will the project run? How will they report the results?

What there isn’t, I feel, is any reason at all to assume that the conflicts of interest involved won’t be handled appropriately. No reason to think that the Sinquefield research project isn’t a hugely positive development.

Despite Rex’s statement from May 2013?

“I love chess because it’s so beautiful,” he says. “It’s stimulating and so demanding. And the fact that it is one of four things that stave of dementia — chess, bridge, foreign language, and playing music – it’s good for me, too!”

No, precisely because of it.

Evidence is always better than unsubstantiated assertion. Even when that assertion comes from a billionaire who funds stuff that we quite like.

Chess and Dementia Index

* I’m grateful to Paul Cooksey (via the possibly not much longer for this world ECF Forum) and Phille from in the comments box on DG XXVI: Disclosure for bringing this to my attention.
I was reminded that I hadn’t yet mentioned the Sinquefield project by Paul’s mention of it on the second ECF Forum chess and dementia thread.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Worst Move On The Board XXIII

Domínguez Pérez-Perunovic, World Blitz Championship, round ten, 13 October 2015.
Position after 64. Qa7-e3+.

Good effort on Perunovic's part. Having already in the same position chosen to retreat the king to f7, he rejects the opportunity to take the draw by repetition, not to mention more than one win (including the one that would start with ...Kf7) and picks out The Worst Move On The Board instead.

See - and for that matter, hear - him do it here. (Blitz Day 1: Rounds 1-11, start at 5:05:56.)

[Thanks to John Cox]
[Worst move index]

Saturday, October 17, 2015

DG XXXII: Election Day

Except yours because you haven’t got one

Election day. That day when we get to decide what kind of national chess federation the English Chess Federation is going to be.

I say "decide". 10,000 members notwithstanding, it seems that only a few dozen people will actually get to vote today. "Discover" would be the better word, I suppose.

Whoever gets to cast a ballot, whatever they decide, one thing that I’m pretty certain won’t be discussed at Euston Square this afternoon is the claims that the ECF has been making of late regarding chess and dementia (see DG XXVII The ECF vs Mrs Sally Williams,  DG XXVIII: The ECF vs The Daily Express and just this week DG XXXI: "many scientists", many claims)A niche subject, perhaps, and yet one which tells us a lot about how the English Chess Federation operates as a collective body, I think.

What kind of ECF do we want? One that accepts, as per Tracey Brown’s recent Sense about Science Lecture (DG XXX: The Ugly Truth), that

some decisions that have to be taken on the basis of uncertain, unsatisfying and conflicting evidence.

perhaps? One that avoids

The temptation is to simplify [or] flatten out the uncertainties [and does not] stay silent while others do that …


Or will we opt for a federation consisting of

people who don’t care about the evidence [and who] say what they like.


It’s a straight choice and I"m afraid I’m going to have get all fundamentalist on yo asses and say outright that there is no middle ground here. You’re either for evidence-based decision making and honesty about uncertainty and the need for caveats, or you're for unsubstantiated assertion and bombastic claims - whether that's because you promote them yourself or because you "stay silent while others do so" doesn’t really matter.

That’s the choice for the ECF today. It’s not one that our - yes, it’s still ours even though we don’t get to vote - national body will make actively. It will do so passively, by quietly sleepwalking along the path of bullshit.

The only question is what do the rest of us do about it from tomorrow.

Chess and Dementia Index

Friday, October 16, 2015

Played on Squares 4: Woolf

So far this account of chess and the Bloomsbury Group has looked (in episode 1) at a proper chesser who played seriously at university and who appeared to continue to do so for the rest of his life: John Neville Keynes, Maynard's father. In episodes 2 and 3, we looked at Roger Fry who also took his chess rather seriously, albeit at a less exalted level than Keynes Senior. In fact, so seriously did Fry take his chess that he felt it necessary to cheat to win. Perhaps we could call him an improper chesser.

Now, in episode 4, we move on to examine the chess life and times of Leonard Woolf (1880-1969).

Bust by Charlotte Hewer at Monk's House
From here
Although the evidence for his chess playing is regrettably slight, there is, nevertheless, a telling anecdote from 1921 that shows that he had a golden opportunity to make a breakthrough chess-wise: not though, it should be said, into the dizzying heights, but at a rather more modest level.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Stenden joke

What's everybody's favourite fraud up to today?

Yes, it's Buzan bullshit time again.

There's our man in the hexagon on the left.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Anderton emerges

As the English Chess Federation holds its AGM on Saturday, this might be an appropriate time to ruminate on the long service given to that organisation by David Anderton, as president, national team captain, FIDE DElegate, long-term pro bono legal adviser and so on. A tribute from Stewart Reuben is here and I am sure readers would echo his sentiments. His services will undoubtedly be missed.

Stewart adds:

I am surprised that Stewart has forgotten the actions performed by Anderton after the financial fiasco of the 1986 world championship match: as the classic account reminds us

and according to Mohammed Amin's recollection:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DG XXXI: "many scientists", many claims

DCMS consultation: “A new strategy for sport”:
Response from the English Chess Federation 
Improved individual health 
b) Although further studies are required for definitive proof, many scientists believe that mind sports activity, such as chess, may delay the onset of Alzheimers (sic)
ECF Annual General Meeting 17 October 2015

And we’re back. Last night - less than 12 hours or so after DG XXX: The Ugly Truth was published - I was sent an email which contained a link to Mike Gunn’s "Report from Sport and Recreation Alliance Representative". A report for the forthcoming ECF AGM, that is.

When I queried the English Chess Federation’s first claim about chess and dementia - see DG XXVII: The ECF vs Mrs Sally Williams; DG XXVIII: The ECF vs The Daily Express - the response was that statements made were just the author's - i.e. John Foley's - "own view". Further,

No current ECF Council or Board policy statement asserts any benefit of chess whatsoever

I have to say, I never found that position convincing, but anyhoo, Mike Gunn’s report obviously changes everything. The appendix is dated 2nd October 2015 and is attributed to Phil Ehr and Mike Gunn, "On behalf of the English Chess Federation".

So, I ask Phil, Mike and the English Chess Federation as a whole,

What evidence do you have to support the claim that, "... many scientists believe that mind sports activity, such as chess, may delay the onset of Alzheimers (sic)"?


Who are these "many scientists"?

How do you know that they believe what you say they believe?

You say that "... further studies are required for definitive proof ...." which implies that studies already exist which support your claim. Can you supply specific references to these studies?

Sense About Science
Ask for Evidence

Chess and Dementia Index

Monday, October 12, 2015

DG XXX: The Ugly Truth

This year’s Sense about Science lecture focuses on the need encourage accountability in the deployment of evidence in public life. Tracey Brown looks at how the truth can be an amorphous concept in science, with scientists more likely to hedge claims with caveats whilst more bombastic statements are made in other disciplines. 
[Sense about Science] wants to encourage the research community to trust the public with the uncertainty in their work. To support scrutiny and the asking of searching questions. To create a culture where organisations outside of science feel obliged to explain their reasoning in the light of evidence.
The Guardian: Science Weekly Podcast

The English Chess Federation - DG XXVII: The ECF vs Mrs Sally WilliamsDG XXVIII: The ECF vs The Daily Express - elections will be held this coming Saturday. A good time to stop and have a think about accountability, perhaps.

Here are a few snippets of Tracey Brown’s Sense about Science lecture at the British Library a week or two ago. Have a read. See if you think the podcast might have something to do with chess and decide whether for yourselves whether it’s worth a visit to the Guardian’s website and 40 minutes of your time.

I’m talking about critical scrutiny. Questioning new and old wisdom. Challenging misrepresentations or oversimplification. Not going along with a partial picture.  
Sometimes, though, unjustified claims about what is true are not what we would call lies, not when lawyers are around anyway, but an obscuring of the truth with innuendo and misleading statements - which we find no less wrong.  
The truth is hard. It can be socially awkward. It can be legally awkward.  
There’s another reason that diminishes the appetite for truthfulness and that’s liking the outcome … people often stay silent about facts and figures where their pet projects and their social convictions are concerned. 

… it doesn’t matter that people who want to promote evidence have motives. It doesn’t matter until those things - evidence and motives - pull in opposite directions … we’re sucked into the Good Lie. Promoting or just going along with dubious evidence for the sake of a social good. Staying silent because talking about the gaps and flaws would mess up a message you like. 

If we want the bodies that influence life to be accountable for the evidence they use - to reckon with reality rather than to make it up to suit themselves - then the only way to achieve that is through public scrutiny not private words.
Politicians, public bodies, companies, NGOs, news organisations will only feel obliged to explain their reasoning and refer to evidence if that’s what they think is expected of them, not just by researchers but by citizens, voters, customers, supporters and readers. 

The demand for evidence is part of creating public accountability in those authorities. 

Where there’s no scrutiny there’s no accountability. 

There are some decisions that have to be taken on the basis of uncertain, unsatisfying and conflicting evidence. This is the ugly truth and we should face it honestly ….

Chess and Dementia Index

Sunday, October 11, 2015

No consolation

Steve is annoyed. Oh very dear.

He is annoyed at Stewart Reuben.

What letter? This one.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Palin in comparison

On Wednesday the Financial Times ran a number of pieces on chess, one of them, by Adam Palin, being on the search for business sponsorship.

It starts OK.

Next bit's a little worrying though, with that much-abused YouGov survey getting a mention.

So it's no great surprise when....oh dear.

Chess also attracts an estimated 600m regular players worldwide
No it doesn't.

How many? I wouldn't bet on "hundreds of millions" either. Not everybody agrees with me.

Congratulations to Malcolm for his second appearance in this series.

[Thanks to Jon Manley]
[605 million index]

Friday, October 09, 2015

War Game 8 (and Some More Dzama)

Saint Louis may not be on your doorstep, but you can get a decent look at the Saint Louis Chess Campus exhibition Battle on the Board: Chess during World War II (on show until January 17 2016) on-line here.

The comprehensive curator's note and overview, with an introduction by IM John Donaldson, is linked aboveThis how they describe the exhibition: "it includes prisoner of war chess sets from the collections of the National Museum of the Marine Corps and National Museum of the United States Air Force, archival material from the John G. White Chess Collection at the Cleveland Public Library, and highlights from the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame." 

But the exhibition is not just about chess sets. It is also about the role of the game in maintaining the morale of American WW2 combatants (and others) on the battlefield, in R&R, and in POW camps. It is a nice complement to our own series War Game (accessible via our History Index).    

They are also showing another exhibition of Marcel Dzama's chess themed art: until 18 October 2015 (we checked out a show of Dzama's chess art in London in 2013). There are fulsome notes about Dzama and his exhibition on the Chess Campus website.

If you should come to this post after the close of the exhibitions you should find the notes in their exhibition archive.

History Index

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

How the Horses move*

As I recall, the first time I ever heard Horses was in Angus French's car on the way back from a Surrey League match years ago, and it was Angus who sent me Saturday's New York Times interview with Patti Smith, which contains a surprising amount of chess.

This is because her biography M Train, which was due out yesterday, apparently contains not one but two references to meetings with Bobby Fischer.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Apparently Got Something to do with chess XI

You will come across such delights as the artificial duck that ate, drank and quacked; the tax on bachelors; early attempts at ballooning; the clever cat; horse-racing by machinery; leeches; powdering the hair; early steam carriages. And of course the baboon playing chess with an Emperor.

Or so it says here.

In entirely unrelated news, I know one thing each about the chessers who made it to the final of the World Cup.

... to do with chess Index

Sunday, October 04, 2015

"Chess game murder"

A chess game murder, apparently.

Or just a chess murder, on your mobile.

This murder? Apparently there was "a row over a game of chess".

So what happened? The players quarrelled over touch-move? En passant? The castling rules?

Friday, October 02, 2015

Played on Squares 3: Fry, part 2

This series on Bloomsbury and chess (sparked by the BBC docudrama Life in Squares) began with Keynes, and we are now in the middle of an investigation of the most well-documented Bloomsberry chesser: Roger Fry. When we have finished with him we'll look at some others in later posts; some surprises are in store. Chess readers are asked to indulge the series in so far as it has been written with a non-chess audience also in mind.

Roger Fry Self Portrait (1930)
From here
As for Roger Fry, a revered and much loved Bloomsberry, we went to some lengths in the last episode to establish just how much he played, especially from his late forties when we get the first reference in the Bloomsbury literature to his chess. Strictly speaking there is an earlier mention by Virginia Woolf of the game in her tactful biography Roger Fry published in 1940 just a few years after his death in 1934. Writing about his childhood she refers to a chess club in Highgate, and chess books on the shelves of a learned visitor to their house (RF p.18) - but I don't think they prove that he played as a child, let alone reveal any precocious talent for the game.

Concerning his adult life, though, there are accounts, as we saw in the last episode, from Virginia Woolf, Clive Bell and Frances Partridge that add up to a picture of a chess enthusiast ready and willing to spring a game of chess on his hapless friends. But was he able? Just how good at the game was he; and what are we to make of those accounts of him cheating?

That is what this episode will concern itself with; that and the suggestion that he used chess as a vehicle for demonstrating his theories of aesthetics - i.e. what it is in a work of art that we respond to. Given your blogger's particular fascination with chess in art this sounds just too good to be true. Accordingly, we feel obliged to investigate.