Archive for September 30th, 2015

Courtesy of Glynn’s Bookstore , G.H. Diggle’s Reminiscences of a Badmaster Vol I & II arrived via airmail last week. (Badmaster was a title awarded to Diggle by C.H.O’D. Alexander in a Christmas Card after Diggle lost a game in 7 moves). You can find more on O’ Donel Alexander here


I began reading it whilst keeping an eye on my daughter as she played in a nearby Kidzoona, yet another example of Japanese ingenuity, but had to stop reading pronto as I attracted far too many concerned stares from other waiting parents who perhaps wondered if I were a bit mad -I could not contain the ensuing paroxysms of hilarity!

Diggle writes satire with an abundance of both pause and panache, the likes of which I have never encountered before. He is immeasurably entertaining and has a style that is unmistakably his. Though he was not the strongest chess player of his time, I strongly suspect he is by far the most gifted writer ever to have graced the chess board in its long, long history.

Those from my home county Bedfordshire may wish to take note that Diggle once played for Bedfordshire (scroll down to 7223. for evidence ) and was acquainted with our leagues senior figures of the post-war period. Here’s an excerpt from the BM (Badmaster)

12. The BM’s finest hour

The Badmaster always regards the year 1945 as ‘his finest hour’. The war was just over -no one had been demobbed or seemed to be doing any work – plenty of chess was going on in London, and best of all there was no ‘grading’ and ‘grandmaster’ nonsense in those days, and chess impostors like the BM could put their name down for any tournament they liked. A huge ‘mixed bag’ of 128 players entered for the London championship; these were reduced by four ‘knockout’ rounds to eight; three well-known ‘seeded’ players were added, and the resulting eleven then played ‘American’ in the final. Believe it or not, the BM (through the vagaries of the draw) survived to be in the last eight; and for a glorious ten days he was in the news, competing with people like Sir George Thomas, Dr. Aitken, Dr. List, G.Wood and other experts.

The tournament was won by G.Wood (though not everyone had backed him to do so); the Badmaster came bottom of the poll (and here every forecast was right). But, as the argumentative boy in the scripture class pointed out in defence of ‘he that is least in the kingdom of heaven’ – ‘ANYHOW, HE GOT THERE!’ Moreover, to this day, the BM refuses to attribute the result to the superiority of his opponents, he lays the blame fairly and squarely, on harassment by the chess press, who frightened him out of his wits. Every round, they adopted the following horrible procedure. Headed by the bearded bohemian William Winter, they came nosing round after the first half-dozen moves to see what was cooking. Like those ungodly persecutors in the 59th psalm they ‘wandered up and down for meat.’ Then the great Winter, after glancing for an awful moment over the petrified BM’s shoulder, would instantly recoil with a hissing intake of the breathe, scribble some doomridden fragment in his notebook, and pass on to the next victim. Then the whole pack would troop off to a neighbouring bar. After they’d gone, the BM would recover his nerve and make some brilliant combination which only just lost, and which the Press ought to have been there to report to the World. But as soon as his game was in the last throws they would all come back. ‘And at evening’, to quote the psalmist once more ‘they will return, grin like a dog, and run about the city’. The experienced Winter always gazed at the ruin of the BM’s position with a lacklustre but logically satisfied eye, reminding one of Lear’s favourite limerick:-

‘There was once an old man with a beard

Who said ‘It is just as I feared!’


Diggle is to the right and at the front.

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