Archive for March, 2016

Well, my on-line friends, upon this outstretched morning I am stuck for something to do, having been marooned 1600 meters up the volcanic island of Java in the former colony of the Dutch East Indies (which btw produces some fantastic Jasmine Tea). Me My colleagues have buggered off¬†gone to Singapore for the weekend and have inadvertently condemned me to a luxurious weekend of gentle mountain breezes and solitude…given the lofty nature of my current position and its ensuing perspective, I must now look down into the endless, atemporal valleys of digitized chess misdemeanors… .

Here’s a glimpse of the American GM Maurice Ashley (possibly the nicest guy in the entire chess world) and his defeat of a Washington Square hustler, who could learn a great deal from his opponent on how to conduct himself over the board, and more importantly, away from it. I have to say, even though I have watched many videos concerning the New York chess hustlers over the years, that sub-culture of chess is completely alien to me, and quite frankly, not particularly pleasant to watch. Hence, we can take great pleasure in the defeat of our trash-talking annoying twat interlocutor… .

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Vladimir Kramnik tells us of the benefits of chess with some practical advice for parents. Whilst listening, I do believe I agreed with every single word he said.



Before… .


After… .

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…tsk…another boring evening of studying chess history beckons ūüė¶




Images courtesy of MemoryChess (on facebook) who acknowledges Leslie McAllister as the photographer

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Kasparyan 3

I don’t know how to describe Kasparyan’s talent as all words seem superfluous…perhaps it is best to study what he left us with instead. The problem below has a beautiful final position, so you won’t be disappointed if you solve it (and it’s not that hard by his standards as many moves are easy to find). There is a link below showing the final position if you need it.


It’s white to play and win in 9 (hint: the Bishop needs to change the diagonal it is on first of all).

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Most of us can remember objectionable matches from yesteryear where playing conditions were, shall we say, less than perfect? For me it was a drafty church hall in a geriatric village named Warboys near Peterborough one winter morning long, long ago. But no matter how terrible the worst of the very worst playing venues may have been for you, I doubt whether they can compete with the conditions on offer for those playing in Russia just after the revolution.

Courtesy of Tony’s Bookstore¬†¬†I’m reading Ilyin-Genevsky’s¬†‘Notes of a Soviet Master’. For those who don’t know who he is, Ilyin-Genevsky is generally accepted by historians as an instrumental figure in the promotion of chess after the revolution and is described by some as an unsung hero of his generation. As was common for his time, his life was tragic but untypically long for a soldier; he joined the army on May 15th, 1915 and soon after was gassed by the ‘Germano-Austrian’ forces¬†near Warsaw, then within two months he was severely shell-shocked on the front-line by a mortar near the village of¬†Peski, in the Kholmaskaya Guberinya region. He was paralyzed in the legs and arms, had lost his sense of feeling, hearing and memory: even though he was already a strong chess player at the time, during his lengthy treatment, he had to be taught how to play chess once more. Upon his relocation to Moscow after his recovery he went in search of chess players. His long city-walks were often in vain but in uncovering the clandestine Moscow chess circle, he then wrote an account of the conditions he had to play in on July 10th 1919.

15. The Match with N. D Grigoriyev and Moscow Competitions

…it is interesting to dwell on the mundane circumstances of our match. The games were usually played in the evening, and once it began to go dark, we had serious difficulties. Due to the general destruction of that time, the electricity came on and faded quite arbitrarily. Sometimes the owner of the flat, Berman, happened to have some poor quality candles. In that case, the trouble was mitigated. When there were no candles at all, Grigoriyev and I moved over to the window ledge and then on to the stairs where there was a large window. When the light through this window failed, we were in a real mess. In such cases we had almost to play blindfold since the board and pieces could hardly be made out due to the darkness. I can remember, for example, one such case. During one game, it became so dark that we could distinguish nothing at all. Fortunately Berman happened to have a box of matches (a very valuable thing in those days) and he magnanimously sacrificed them for our benefit. We arranged matters in this fashion: when it was one player’s turn to think, the other player would light a match and hold it between his fingers until one of his fingers was almost burned (after all, every small speck of light was so valuable to us). When the match had burned out, darkness prevailed until the next match could be struck. It was under such circumstances that we had this curious mishap. ‘Check to the king,’ announced Grigoriyev to me. ‘Excuse me, Nikolai Dmitriyevich,’ was my answer, ‘but your king is already in check.’ In fact I had given check with my last move, which he had missed due to his excitement and the darkness. Hence the winning combination which he had been relying on proved impractical and the game ended in a draw a few moves later.

…my best success of this period was the share of first place with Grigoriyev and Grekov in a Moscow tournament for first category players. It is interesting to point out under what difficult conditions we had to play in at that time. Berman’s flat was not heated due to the lack of firewood, and in the winter the temperature inside the flat was several degrees below freezing. We had to play in our outdoor coats and galoshes (rubber boots) but even this did not keep out the cold. The players’ noses, hands, and particularly, feet started freezing, so they had to dance the polka-mazurka with their feet under the table in order not to get stiff with cold while thinking about their next move. Yet our love of chess was so great that nobody complained, and we just sat there quietly night after night enjoying the tournament games.


Ilyin-Genevsky (of Geneva where he studied -so his name implies). Taken in 1927 apparently.


Warboys. A cold, lifeless village where, after refusing a second draw offer, I once misplayed a rook ending whilst playing for Bedfordshire.

And these gentlemen certainly thought they had it tough!

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Dennis Victor Mardle is commonly found in Tom Sweby’s long running chess column in¬†The Luton News. It’s hardly surprising since they both come from the same town, played in the same team and that Mardle, a true Lutonian, was by far the strongest of his generation from Bedfordshire. With the probable exception of William Ward, whose identity is less straightforward, he is still the strongest player Luton has produced to date.

Feb 19th 1970 2

The Luton News Feb 19th 1970

I managed to find one of Mardle’s tournament successes here¬† (please scroll down to 1959). I have to say Mardle’s crushing defeat of British champion Wade (whose unwillingness to resign is rather embarrassing quite frankly) was a sure sign of his strength.


Wade – Mardle after 48. …f4+ Just how many connected passed pawns does it take for your opponent to resign gracefully?

I note that the tournament is listed at the 7th Bognor Open and in the zipped file as the Stevenson Memorial. My more senior fellow county players will recognize that as the eponymous R. Stevenson of Kent, since The Stevenson Cup, hosted Bedfordshire a number of times over the years. (see: 

Stevenson had, most unfortunately, great tragedy in his personal life. His first wife Agnes, four times British Ladies’ Champion in the 1920s was tragically killed when she flew to Poland to play in the Women’s World Championship in 1935 when she walked into a propeller after the plane had landed. His second wife, former world champion Vera Menchik died nine years later in London after a V1 Rocket hit her home at the end of WW2.

Mardle was not so fortunate in life as well. He received a C.B.E for his relentless work on Polio in 1988. During one of many visits to Kenilworth Road, Luton to watch his beloved team play, he drank from a cracked cup and therewith contracted the disease himself…I wonder if his exploits over the board in Bognor 1959 were inspired by his beloved football team’s cup run that month and those preceding?


Debilitating disease aside, I suspect Dennis would have been somewhere amongst that crowd after Luton returned home as losing finalists of the 1959 FA Cup. 31 years on, your author stood below the ‘Saxone’ sign welcoming the England Football Team after they returned home from Italia 90.


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