Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Predecessors VIII: Spassky-Bronstein 1960

When you ask the question "how does Ray Keene get away with it?" it's hard to come up with a better answer than "God only knows". But part of the explanation may be that Ray is a prodigious networker, who lives by doing favours for people whose ethics are often no better than his own and himself receiving favours in return. Four decades of networking builds up an awful lot of protection.

One minor character in this particular play has been CJ de Mooi, one-time President of the English Chess Federation, who, it will be remembered, by chess players at least, invited Ray to open the 2011 British Championships. This was strange for a number of reasons, not least that Ray has not been a member of the English Chess Federation for about twenty years. Not since the financial shenanigans that involved him claiming and receiving a substantial sum of money for duties he had not apparently performed.

Opening ceremony 2013: no sign of Ray

CJ, for his part, was no stranger to financial shenanigans, distinguishing himself at those same 2011 Championships by distributing thousands of pounds in cash without invoices, receipts, signatures or any other kind of record to show for it. He subsequently disappeared from active chess life, though not before persuading the ECF to pass him another wedge of money to send him to the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, on arriving at which event he resigned his post without having performed the duties for which he had received his money. He proceeded to enjoy a holiday and - no doubt - a good laugh at our literal expense.

Anyway, CJ was (and is) a small part of Ray's mutual backscratching network. Here's part of Ray's Times column for 4 June 2011, which otherwise annotates the game Spassky-Bronstein, Leningrad 1960, from the 37th USSR Championship.

Now had I but world enough and time, on top of ploughing through Ray's many plagiarisms and his extraordinary number of recycled columns, to look at a third dubious aspect of his Times journalism, I might write about his use of his column and his Twitter account to plug his friends and business associates. (One notes, for instance, his several dozen mentions of Julian Simpole.) But for now, we'll just observe with regret that Ray's support was insufficient to raise the profile of The Renata Road, beautifully crafted as it may have been, to a film you have actually heard of.

In more important "actually" news, the column for 4 June 2011 was one in which Ray actually mentioned the source from which his notes were taken.

Yes indeed! Ray does in fact do this from time to time, perhaps once for every seven or eight times that he does not. He does it here. There's no mistaking it. That's a mention for My Great Predecessors, which he has so often plagiarised. Here, he speaks its normally absent name.

So what, then, is it doing in this piece, appearing as it does in the Predecessors series and the Plagiarism Index?

The answer is that the notes from My Great Predecessors have been plagiarised all right. They've been plagiarised by Ray Keene all right.

Not in the Times, but in the Spectator. Twice.

Let's take a look.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sixty Memorable Annotations

20: Hsu - Nunn, Manila Olympiad 1992

24 Kh2

After Hsu's 24 Kh2, I understand why Alekhine sometimes 'improved' his games by substituting the brilliant finish he had foreseen for the mundane conclusion which actually occurred.

John Nunn, John Nunn's Best Games (Batsford 1995)

In truth Penarth was not a tremendously successful tournament for me. Away from the board I had a great time, but on it I never really got going.

Still, at least it ended well. A pleasing win, albeit it against a modestly-rated opponent. A game that had mostly been about positional pressure on the c-file until a sudden switch to a direct attack against the king right at the death.

Black to play his 41st move. He chose … Kf8 and then resigned as soon as he saw 42 Rdd7. Shame really. I’d been hoping to check out of the event with 41 … Kf6, 42 g4 e5, 43 g5+ Ke5, 44 f5 mate.

Not a brilliant finish exactly, but certainly a pretty one.

Twenty years earlier John Nunn had suffered more. If his offered queen had been taken he had a king hunt and mate in five planned. That his "spoilsport computer" later pointed out a mate with one move fewer doesn't diminish the brilliance of his conception one little bit.

Disappointing, then, this sort of thing. Annoying, perhaps. Entirely understandable that genius chessers get creative with the scores of their games when it comes to writing them up, even. And yet I wouldn't have it any other way.

When Hsu played 24 Kh2 and when my opponent tried 41 ... Kf8 there were games in progress. Sure they were very near to the end, but there was still chessing afoot. And if you're playing chess and you're not trying to make things awkward for your opponent what are you doing exactly?

Chess, even at the level at which I hack around, is a serious sport.  So you play 24 Kh2 and you play 41 ... Kf8. What you don't do is collude and play 24 Kxh4 or 41 ... Kf6. Yes, you'd get something more spectacular, but if that's what you want it would probably be best if you hang up your pawns, get yourself a subscription to Skysports and start watching WWF. Or go join a circus.

Sixty Memorable Annotations Index
Tournament Diaries Index

Monday, July 29, 2013

They're (not) Off

What might have been
Penarth 2013

So here we are again. The British Championships - the 100th edition no less - kicking off today. Amusing as I thought it would be to take yesterday's bonus post from EJH and reproduce it this morning, tomorrow and Wednesday, I have decided instead to write a little something myself to mark the occasion. Only a very little something, mind.

Actually I've been somewhat distracted in the run-up to this year's tournament. So much so, that until this weekend I was under the vague impression that Mickey Adams was going to be playing again. I see he's busy winning on the Black side of the Berlin Endgame in Dortmund, though - good lad - so I guess he won't be in Torquay after all.

No official #1 then, or Short, or McShane for that matter, and yet with the official site saying there'll be a baker's dozen of Grandmasters slugging it out it still promises to be a great event. At least this way it's not all a foregone conclusion and a race for second place.

Anyhoo, with the sort of up to the minute reporting of important chess events for which this blog is rightly famed, I'm now going to ignore the British for the next couple of days and focus instead on a minor player in a minor tournament from a fortnight ago. i.e. me at the South Wales International.

The chessers are coming

Chesswise not an awful lot went right for me in Penarth. Still, I did at least get a trio of rook endings there. Three from nine games is certainly not a shoddy percentage, although, as it happens, I might have had twice as many.

Three rook endings that happened - one win (round three), one loss (round six), one draw (round seven) - and three that didn't quite materialise. If anything, I found the three where the other pieces didn’t come off the board more interesting than those when they did. Well, a couple of them anyway.

Black to play
M. Brown v JMGB, round 2

The first non-event came as early as the second round. The computer’s preferred continuation is to exchange knights here with ... Nxg3. Clearly the c-pawn will queen very shortly afterwards, however, so although I was tempted to bump my stats up I decided that immediate resignation was more appropriate.

Black to play
Keith Arkell v JMGB, round 4

On to round 4 and my second ever tournament game against a Grandmaster. In this position I spent a fair bit of time considering a pawn sacrifice with … c5.

After 26 dxc5 Bxc5, 27 Nxd5 Qxd5, 28 Qxc5 Qxc5, 29 Rxc5 we'd reach the position at the head of today's blog: a rook ending with all the pawns on the same side of the board. The problem is that White’s rook ends the exchanges stationed on the fifth so the position is considerably more difficult to hold than the ones where you push your rook’s pawn forward two squares. I considered 29 … g6 but then White just maintains the clamp with 30 g4 and it all gets a little ticklish.

I’ll be looking at this ending in more detail next week. For now, suffice to say that in the end I rejected it because I felt the position I had was too good to trade down to something like this. That said, swapping off would have been an infinitely better choice than pissing the game away in one move which is what I actually did.

White to play
JMGB v Tarr, round 9

Finally we have the critical position from my last round game. I was really determined to win this one. I'd had a pretty miserable time of it over the previous couple of days so I really wanted to finish on a more positive note and drag my tournament back to something approaching respectability.

My initial feeling was that simply exchanging twice on c6 then chomping g6 would leave me a passed g-pawn up and him having to spend his next move defending the e-pawn. Originally I thought this should be a rather safe if not particularly incisive winning continuation, but I became concerned that after 37 Rxc6+ Rxc6, 38 Bxc6 Kxc6, 39 Rxg6 Black would simply defend the pawn with his king leaving himself with his rook in an ideal position to support the charge of the c-pawn down the board.

A pawn up I might be, but his rook (behind the pawn)  looked much better placed than mine (stuck in front). Aside from the active rook thing, though, when I took a closer look at the position, superbly located in the centre of the board as it was, I felt that my bishop simply had to be better than his knight and my rook on c1 has many more possibilities than his on b6.

So instead of exchanging down I took on g6 straightaway instead. Not long afterwards my bishop and queen’s rook joined a mating attack on my opponent’s king and I was very glad I’d kept them on the board. More on that tomorrow.

Rook and pawn Index
Tournament Diaries Index


Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Penrose is a Penrose is a Penrose is a Penrose is a Penrose

Below is Ray Keene's Times column for July 26 2013. It annotates the game he won against Jonathan Penrose in the year, 1971, that Ray first won the British Championship.

Understandably Ray is fond of this game: he annotates it often. He did so, for instance, in his Times column for July 23 2011.

He also did so in his Times column for April 17 2012.

Not to mention his Times column for July 24 2012.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bad book covers XXX

Chess For The Gifted And Busy, Alburt and Lawrence, Chess Information and Research Center, 2012

[More Alburt and Lawrence]
[Bad book covers index]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Less is more of the same

"Essentially paralysed with nothing constructive whatsoever he can undertake"

Times, 26 July 2010

Times, 20 July 2012

Res ipsa loquitur.

Still, just in case I give the impression of doing even less work on my blog posts than Ray does on his columns, let's also use this post to look forward to the hundredth British Chess Championships which kick off in Torquay on Monday. Normally we try to blog daily during the tournament, so if you're all very good, we'll see we what we can do.

We also hope to bring you some posts about the tenth South Wales International Open, in Penarth, in which two of your bloggers recently participated. The Penarth tournament was, as it happens, a qualifying tournament for the British Championship. Looking at the final standings....

Looking more closely...

Good Lord! That name in the middle appears to be mine. I seem to have actually qualified for the British Chess Championship. More of the same, it isn't.

Too late for me to arrange to play this year, but they tell me that I can defer my entry, and I've done precisely that. So in 2014, I'll be playing.


Enjoy the weekend. And enjoy the tournament.

[Ray copies Ray index] 
[Ray Keene index]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Predecessors VII: Reti-Bogoljubow 1924

Here's Ray Keene's Times column of 17 September 2011, which features the game Reti-Bogoljubow from the New York tournament of 1924. You have to scroll down a fair way to find the game, since it's tacked on to the end of an extended advertisement for his own excellence and a discussion of the inadequacies of one of his competitors.

There's not all that many notes, when you finally find them, and all of them are plagiarised. I'm sure you can guess where from.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rich in resources

Here's Ray Keene's column from the Times this morning. It annotates the game Hartston-Bellon from Palma 1975*.

A glance at Ray's column Following The Leader, which appeared in the Spectator in the issue for 31 October 1988, will locate the origin of his Times annotations, almost every word of which is taken from the 1988 article.

In particular the note to White's twenty-second move is exactly the same in both.
The pawn on e5 is important. It cuts the board in two and divides Black’s queenside forces from the defence of his king.
But it's not exceptional. In every case his Times notes from today's column could pass for the originals in broad daylight and with very little disguise.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Amateur Hour IV: One Small Step For a Blogger

White to play
JMGB v Heppel, Surrey League October 2011

I'm writing this before I go to Penarth, although by the time you read these words I'll have been back for a day or two. On the assumption that the journey home will leave me no time to write on Saturday, and that I'll be fancying a break from chess on Sunday, it seemed sensible to get something in the bank.

So it's back once more to my rook ending year thus far. I've had a bunch at Golders Green (AH: The Morrissey Question), not all of which have been entirely successful (AH: The One That Got Away), and I had a pleasing second session entirely devoted to rooks and pawns too (AH: The adjournment).

I've also spent some time recently looking back at the games I played prior to 2013. All this extra rook ending experience has rather changed how I see quite a few of them. The game from which the position at the head of today's blog is taken being a case in point.

"They're not taking the piss this time?"
Carlsen hears of his latest appearance on S&BCB's 'Rook & pawn Monday'

It was an otherwise rather forgettable Surrey League game played a couple of years back. I played Kh2, which must be OK, and drew fairly comfortably anyway. Still, If I ever have anything like this position again I'd push g2-g3 without thinking.

Just like Carlsen did against Short at the London Classic a few months after my game ...

... and just like he did against Grischuk a few years before.

It looks counter-intuitive to trap your king on the back rank, cutting it off from the defence of the pawn, but when you think about it, how can the other side take advantage? The only way to attack the pawn is with the rook, but that would allow the king back in the game so in truth there's nothing to worry about.

Sure, these 3v2 or 2v1 pawns on the same side rook endings should be drawn. Still, it's possible to get yourself into a pickle if you're not careful and one way to do that is to let yourself get a little cramped as the attacker advances. Better, then, to advance your pawn and grab some space when you can.

My Kh2 worked well enough in practice on that occasion, but it looks a little clumsy to my 2013 eyes. A small sign, maybe, that my understanding of these positions is moving in the right direction.

Rook and pawn Index

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Knightmare! Scenarios: 4. Just Rooks, Pawns and Kings

Black to play

Many players believe that Rook and Pawn end games are terribly boring affairs which nine times out of ten end in a draw.  I must admit that I was one  of these players until in a London League first team match - plodding along in an ending a pawn up and cursing whoever had invented rooks - I reached the following position ....
Alan Westwood

"Would you like to write one of the Knightmare! Scenarios articles?",  Martin asked me. Well yes I would, and it was always going to be this one. How could I resist an intro like that?

I don't know Alan Westwood, but assumed that if he was playing in the S&BCC London League I back when Knightmare! was being published he must have been pretty tasty. Angus and Robin confirmed that.  He would have been about 180 ECF strength, they told me. That's old money, of course, which feels like it means a little more than 180 does today. If only because guys like Alan didn't have engines (rubbish at rook endings admittedly), tablebases and the internet to help them along.

Rook plus four vs rook plus three - three vs three on the kingside, passed pawn on the queenside. An attempt to understand this kind of position coming to a Monday blog post near you soon (one thing I do know, though: it starts with something that every Newham schoolkid knows). In the meantime, enjoy a rook endgame, click on the scans below for an impressive amount of adjournment analysis and a superhuman effort with the page layout at a time when the hottest technology in the field was a typewriter.

Rook and pawn Index

Knightmare! Scenario #5 will appear in two weeks time.

Knightmare! Scenarios 1: Chess in a Time of Letraset
Knightmare! Scenarios 2: Alice in Blunderland
Knightmare! Scenarios 3: Village Folk
History Index