Archive for October 10th, 2015

Firstly, complete with a style full of comedic cynicism that yours truly is quite jealous of, some advice on how to handle reading material from the Badmaster himself now follows.

(G.H.Diggle: Chess Characters – Reminiscences of a Badmaster).

  1. Bulging Bookshelves

Britain is, as never before, teeming with new chess works the purchase and study of which (the more sanguine reviewers imply) will rapidly ‘people this Isle with grandmasters’.

Speaking as an embittered local Bad Master of 50 years’ standing, we have our doubts. If no man by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature, can a chess player do so by steeping himself in ‘bookish theoric’? He may keep what chess he has in good running order – he may even pick up a few spare parts – but he will still be saddled with his original brainbox. The great Deschapelles, we are told, never looked at a chess book; Paul Morphy looked at very few; and those of us whose bookshelves bulge with semi-digested works, ‘without which no chess lover’s library could possible be complete’, are tempted to think, in our sombre moments, that left on our own we might have achieved fame -as it is, we shall die as we have lived, befuddled by the verbosity of pedantic humbugs.

Our own nasty suspicions of chess literature were first aroused in 1945, when the enterprising officials of the Lud-Eagle Chess Club arranged for a number of consultation games to be played there in public by the leading players then in London. On hearing what was afoot, we hied us to the Lud-Eagle in a state of delighted anticipation – here was a chance of actually overhearing the experts planning aloud – we expected not only an intellectual but a philological treat, for we naturally supposed that their consultations would be couched in the same mystic language in which they are depicted by 20th century annotators as thinking things out when playing on their own. Thus we hoped to hear, as we hovered ecstatically on the fringe of the crowd, such fragments as – ‘From the strategical point of view, Dr X, I am inclined to agree that P-KR3 is positionally indispensable; but a feeling of psychological malaise pervades me as though something more dynamic were called for; and incidentally (though I am loath to distract a man of your calibre with mere tactical trivialities) we must first liquidate the technical obstuction of our King being in check!’

But alas, all we did in fact hear was a series of muffled banalities such as ‘the snag is. the rook’s pinned’, ‘if we swap off, the Knight pops in’, and once (most deplorable of all) ‘you swore blind we could hold the bally pawn!’

We came away shaking our hoary head -and we are shaking it still.

July 1974

Secondly, on a more optimistic note, the most thoughtful and practical chess book I have ever read is the Scottish GM Rowson’s The Seven Deadly Chess SinsThe seven deadly chess sins_ChessGamesShop_d48a56f4061683349164399fd168430dRowson is not just a grandmaster, more importantly he is educated with a Ph.D in Philosophy at Oxford. He is one of the few writers in chess that can improve your game as the primary subject of the book is the psychological states people play chess in -well worth a read.

Read Full Post »