Posts Tagged ‘chess’

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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The only game I have where Luton’s William Ward annotates his own play is the following from the 1908 Anglo – American cable match.20160215_150848 20160215_150928

Here is the game if you don’t like descriptive notation.


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Here’s the local reportage of Blackburne’s visit to Luton. Please click on all images for an enlarged view



An advertisement.


Waller Street, where the action took place (no longer there).



A second advertisement.


Boxing in the baths.



I have to say, this makes for a cracking read.

Luton, probably 1906

Luton town centre probably 1906



Reportage from south of London.



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I have found an image of the ‘living game of chess’ played to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Wardown Park, Luton. It is described in detail in the following post (

Here it is, you may click on the image for a better view.


Second row, second image from the left.


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Many extra-planetary invaders these days are trans-morphs -creatures that have the ability to change their shape to resemble other life forms. The chilling fact is that they could be living and playing amongst us right now. The man sitting next to you on the bus, the lady in front of you in the post office queue, your opponent in your last county match…any of these could be an extra-terrestrial being waiting for the signal to launch an all-out attack on planet earth.

But we can spot them. Like the body snatchers with their stiff little finger, aliens always make a small mistake that reveals their true identity. Why not take my fun quiz to discover whether your team captain is planning an annihilation of the earth instead of how to win the league?

1) You visit your team captain’s home and see him hanging out his washing. What is the predominant colour of his clothes?

a) Beige.

b) Fawn.

c) Silver, sparkling with unearthly iridescent hues.

2) You see your team captain in Marks and Spencers buying a pair of trousers. How many legs are there on the trousers he is taking to the till?

a) 2.

b) 2.

c) More than 2.

3) You go into the barbers for a haircut and see your team captain in the chair next to you. How would you describe the shape of his head?

a)  Normal.

b) Very slightly elongated or squashed.

c) Mekon-shaped with an aerial sticking out of the top.

4) You pop out one Sunday morning to fetch the papers and see your team captain washing his car. What type of car is it?

a)  A small, economical hatchback.

b) An executive saloon car.

c) A hovering silver disc, with a perspex dome. With an aerial sticking out of the top.

5) You are chatting with your team captain before an important league match against Bedford when he mentions that he is going away for the weekend to visit his mum. Where does he say she lives?

a) Clophill.

b) Flitwick.

c) In the forth quadrant of a galaxy far, far away.

How did UFO do?

Score 1 point for every (a that you answered, 2 points for each (b, and three points for every c).

5-10. Relax your team captain is a fully paid up of the human race an earthling through and through.

10-14 Don’t panic. He’s probably not an ET. But even if he is, chances are he comes in peace to our planet.

15  Oh dear! Your team captain is definitely an alien hellbent on crushing mankind as if we were no more than insects. The survival of our earth is now in your hands alone. You must act NOW. Your team captain must be killed before he has the chance to carry out his evil plans. Sneak into his cellar when he is at the shops and you will probably find a glowing orb that is the source of all his power. Smash it with something you find in the cellar, remembering to shield your eyes when it explodes. When he gets back from the shops, he will have aged at a fantastic rate and will be having difficulty breathing. He may hold out his hand and ask you for help. Although you will feel pity on him, you must be resolute. Remember the millions who will die if you show him any mercy. Simply stand back and watch as he turns into a spangly cloud of gas, and then turn to look up at the stars with a pensive expression.

A picture from Luton V Bedford 1995, Bedofrdshire league.

A picture from Luton V Bedford 1995, Bedfordshire league. Not sure which of the Ledger brothers that is to the left there.

I am indebted to Viz for the inspiration behind the post.


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It’s 2am. Your neighbour knocks on your door to play chess then a S.W.A.T team shows up! Only in America.

Click on the link below.


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Have you got what it takes to be a FIDE Arbiter in the modern game? Could you hold your nerve and conduct yourself with diplomacy during the fierce heat of competitive chess? Just answer the following ten questions based upon some typical tournament incidents.

Inspired by The Complete Chess Addict & Viz’s ‘You are the ref!‘ *, and my own, warped, sense of humour.

* Viz is a British comic famed for its toilet & off the wall humour, and being not as funny as it used to be ( ). This post is, essentially, a homage to Viz.

1) You are walking past one of the top boards at a tournament. The players have just reached the first time control and entered a rook ending when you suddenly notice that one player has got 36 pawns on the board. What do you do?

A) Declare the game drawn and ask to inspect the scoresheets.

B) Briefly avert the attention of the players and quickly remove most of the pawns.

C) Return to your chair and aimlessly shuffle some scoresheets about.

2) An unrated player has just beaten a strong IM. As he passes you the scoresheets he can no longer contain his excitement and puts his hands down your trousers. What do you do?

A) Punch him in the face.

B) Smile and ask him for his phone number.

C) Naturally flustered, you submit the result as a loss before you notice your mistake.

3) You are an arbiter at an open tournament. A crackpot with strong political views has entered it and bombarded the tournament website with tales of torture by U.S soldiers. Several top Grandmasters approach you claiming they were ambushed in the toilet by him and had to endure anti-American tirades, delivered in a musical Swedish accent of all things. What do you do?

A) Begin the following round with a reminder to all that its uncool to ambush Grandmasters at any time.

B) Have the player removed from the tournament at once.

C) Refer the matter to the chief arbiter and let him decide before returning to your station to continue watching gore videos on line.

4) You are an Arbiter at the final of the 1991 British County Championships. The plucky Bedfordshire team have made it through to the finals for the first time. Their reserve that day (yours truly) is seen tampering with the thermostat of a dodgy tea urn in the cafeteria. Unaware of the danger, members of the opposition start up casual conversation around the rapidly overheating urn, unable to resist the allure of some cheap biscuits. Suddenly it explodes, they run off into the toilets badly scalded, and screaming. Bedfordshire now has an unfair advantage. * What do you do?

A) Reduce the team sizes accordingly to compensate for this unfortunate incident.

B) Stop play and point out the culprit to the victims when they have recovered in hope of a good punch up.

C) Marvel at the ingenuity of the gamesmanship on hand and say nothing about it.

* Back then I was too innocent to conjure up such naughtiness.

5) You are an arbiter at a major tournament. There is a restaurant next to the playing hall. Inside it a large group of Grandmasters have had one bottle of wine too many with their meal, and much to the frustration of those still at the board, begin performing the conga. What do you do?

A) Stop play and have the offenders ejected by security.

B) Stare blankly and sharpen some pencils.

C) Join in at the front and steer the drunken GMs into the playing hall.

6) A spectator at a tournament you are involved with has caused offence by performing gigantic burps whilst walking around and watching the games. It is pointed out to you that he is deaf and does not realize the nature of his crime. What do you do?

A) Draw an artistic cartoon showing him what he is doing.

B) Search for someone who can explain in sign language.

C) Sellotape a piece of paper saying ‘Punch Me’ to his back without him noticing.

7) * You are an Arbiter at an Olympiad, and once again the English team has flattered to deceive. After a promising start they have faded away with a series of erratic results. A rumor begins to circulate amongst the press that a member of the English chess team has been seen several times in a shady area downtown, purchasing large quantities of cocaine. It is alleged that the English are playing their matches ‘coked-up’, hence their inexplicable performances. You dismiss the rumor as being daft and think no more of it, however, shortly before play late in the tournament, you enter the gents in order to have a massive piss and notice four individuals all within one cubicle. Naturally you wonder what is going on and knock on the door. Seconds later the door opens and the entire English team walk out as if nothing has happened. Shortly after you casually walk over during the start of play and notice to your horror that all members are wearing dark sunglasses and sniffing. What do you do?

*Based upon some facebook banter long, long ago and nothing more.

A) Nothing. You remember that the British are such a peculiar bunch that entering toilet cubicals in groups of four is simply a cultural norm over there.

B) Ask the team captain whether the players have developed colds, suggesting that appropriate medication can be administered, should that be the case.

C) Contact FIDE immediately for advice concerning its anti-doping policy.

8) It’s the 1930’s, the world champion Alekhine has upset his opponent by putting his cats on the board prior to play. You are a big admirer of the world champion. What do you do? (The Complete Chess Addict, page 155)

A) Resolve the situation by allowing a bunch of rabid Rottweilers to run amuck in the playing hall.

B) Kindly ask the world champion if he could pose for a picture whilst reassuring him there’s nothing in the rule book about cats being on the board.

C) Ignore the entire thing, take a handsome cab to the corn exchange to watch ‘What the Buttler Saw!’ a silent but sordid adventure in which a cleaner flashes an ankle whilst polishing a grandfather clock.

9)  You are at a function with the FIDE top brass and a bunch of senior politicians to tackle the problem of cheating in chess. Since the tournament in Cork, Ireland where a toilet door was kicked in and a participant beaten up, there have been waves of copycat attacks across the globe. The situation is getting out of hand. You are asked for a proposal to discourage cheating from chess altogether. What do you suggest?

A) Pressurize smart phone manufactures to remove all chess applications and block all future development of them.

B) Insist that playing hall doors must be locked at all times during play (except in case of fire), and that players may borrow colostomy bags should they need to defecate.

C) Insist that any player caught cheating in chess have their name taken down and placed on the sex offenders register.

10) With the zero tolerance rule being seen as the latest in a string of unpopular FIDE directives, a big tournament in the Netherlands has gone badly wrong. In response to several high-profile exclusions from the tournament when a malfunctioning lift caused participants to be seconds late, the playing hall is completely empty for the next round. Later that day, a huge mob of  angry chess players has gathered in the streets outside and begun setting parked cars on fire. You are in a nearby McDonalds when all of a sudden bricks and petrol bombs come flying through the restaurant windows to the chanting of ‘KIRSEN OUT, KIRSEN OUT’: a riot has broken out. You ordered a Big Mac Meal and have only eaten half of your burger,  and what’s worse, you haven’t even touched the fries yet. What do you do?

1) Stay and finish your meal. After all, you paid for it.

2) Leave the fries and join in the rioting as you have had enough of FIDE too.

3) Report the incident to FIDE at once.

Score card.

1 A=5   B=1   C=3

2 A=1   B=3   C=5

3 A=3   B=1   C=5

4 A=5   B=3   C=1

5 A=1   B=5   C=3

6 A=3   B=5   C=1

7 A=1   B=3   C=5

8 A=5   B=3   C=1

9 A=5   B= 3  C=1

10 A=3   B=1   C=5

Your score:


Stick to playing chess.


You can keep your cool and think clearly but further development is required. Consider entering FIDE training sessions and remember to buy a dull suit that will allow you to fade into the background at all times.


There’s no doubting the fact that you are arbiter material, and what greater goal in life could there be? Contact FIDE at once and show them what they are missing out on.


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A joke

I’ve decided not to review all the fifty-something publications I acquired last year as I once thought I would, but will instead review those publications that are worthy of attention, and take excerpts from others with notable content. This brings me to what was my companion whilst playing truant at school: The Complete Chess Addict, Mike Fox and Richard James. I adored this publication when I was young and took it everywhere I went. Reading it again, some 25 years on is a different experience of course, and if I were to review the text, I would only end up repeating myself by saying things like the dominant form of history in chess is oration. Paper brings profit, which is why we now have collections of tales in printed form, of which: The Complete Chess Addict is one. If you only want entertainment, you would struggle to beat it, here’s a proof, a chess joke:

Two scientists, one at the north pole, the other at the south pole, were engaged in a game of correspondence chess. Every four months one or the other would receive a move, borne by a sledge drawn by a dog across the ice. The game had been in progress for several years and a critical position had been reached in the early middle-game of a Sicilian Defence Poisoned Pawn Variation. North, playing black, was eagerly awaiting south’s next move. But after four months he had heard nothing. The fifth month elapsed, then the sixth month. Still no sign of a move. The days, weeks and months passed, and the tension was increasing daily. Then, one day, after nine months, he heard the distant sounds of the husky’s paws and the runners of the sledge crunching the ice. Soon it came into view, and eventually reached him. With hands trembling and heart pounding, he reached for the envelope containing South’s next move. The suspense was unbearable. Finally, he managed to open the envelope and read the message inside: J’adoube’


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The Bedfordshire League was where I began playing competitive chess, my first rated game being February 11th 1988 whilst in my last year at school. For those who don’t know, Bedfordshire is the smallest of the home counties in south-east England; it is mostly flat farmland with a few main roads connecting its villages and towns. Conversely, our chess league was also small, rarely going beyond two divisions but bolstered in strength by the addition of Milton Keynes/Open University, Northampton and briefly Rushden, all of whom sought a stronger league to play in than their own. Their addition added greater rivalry within the league without causing any real harm, helping the county teams achieve unprecedented levels of success during the 90’s.

League chess in Beds was always an evening affair, with games starting around 7.30-8pm. Journeys for away games offered short drives, often with little of interest to see and an uninspiring venue at the end. Some clubs were notoriously difficult to find enabling them to pick up points by default occasionally; Cranfield, for example, could only be accessed by narrow country lanes with few signposts, finding it in the dark was very tough indeed; Milton Keynes won the league many times, not because they had the strongest team, but because navigating your way through that city is actually much tougher than chess itself, meaning that most visiting players were usually both late and mentally exhausted upon arrival.

Bedfordshire had a small but strong league, and in many respects, it was no different to many others around the country. I played in nine consecutive seasons, and what little incident there was, is well remembered to this day. I thought I would reflect upon some fonder memories and the distinct lack of impact they had.

Sheepdog mauls chess computer

In late November 89, I drove with a friend to March, Norfolk, in search of a Novag chess computer which he wanted to purchase. Not long after, the expensive machine became an object of affection for the family sheepdog Sam, who mauled it one evening. The pieces had all been heavily chewed, some beyond recognition. It was funny to see a chewed chess set with teeth marks and chunks taken out of them. It was as if they had suffered defeat even before the game had begun. The ill-fated machine was then ‘borrowed’ but never returned by another club member some years later.

Rogue milk bottle angers A-Team players

A milk bottle escaped from a bag of shopping in the Luton A-team captain’s car once and, unbeknownst to him, hid itself under the driver’s seat. Some weeks later a stench arose. In a match to Milton Keynes, team members complained incessantly and asked for windows to be left open. It was finally discovered after the smell became unbearable.

3 Player gets beaten up in the snow

Ah, the legacy of the seventies, you can’t knock it. We had a player at our club, I won’t say his name because that’s not fair, we’ll use his initials MD instead. I liked him even though many did not. Whilst playing for Vauxhall, when Luton was able to operate its own league, he brought his electric guitar to the chess club to play some heavy metal one winter evening. Unfortunately this didn’t go down too well and a fight soon broke out featuring Dave Considine. My friend Mick informs me that it carried on out into the snow. MD slipped and got punched in the jaw, after some rolling around they both returned to play some chess, without an encore.

4  Suicidal Newbie almost causes punch up at AGM 

There was a player who joined the Open University named Gerrard Ashby. He was rated around 200 and a thoroughly unpleasant man. The league AGM was usually held at our club, which was where the then president Ken Liddle played. Ashby came along once and called the president a wanker during the AGM. Ken quickly stood up and asked him to step outside. The offer was declined but it set the tone for the meeting which was full of arguments. I only saw Mr.Ashby once after that, he was sporting a horrendous black eye for yet more foul language. Not long after that he killed himself.

5 Engine blows up after stunning county victory

Bedfordshire first made a name for itself nationally when the second team beat Warwickshire in the Minor Counties Final at Aston University in July 91. I was sub that day and didn’t play, as we strengthened the team with a host of 180s. The journey back was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I traveled up in Olly’s light blue Skoda, back in the day when Skoda’s were cheap and nasty. After the match, we had real difficulty getting out of the car park and then got completely lost in Birmingham. Once on the motorway things went more smoothly until the engine blew up and filled the car with black smoke. The windows were quickly opened as we rolled to stop on the junction just before Milton Keynes. No real damage done except to the engine, which had a big hole in it. We were picked up by the side of the motorway and taken home by the driver’s father.

6 Open-top bus blasts out music during play

Towards the end of the season 93-94 we played Norfolk in the King Edward VIII hall, Newmarket. It was a sunny afternoon and all the venue windows were open where we played, overlooking the main road on the first floor.  Well into our match with Norfolk a carnival suddenly rolled into town. An open-topped bus stopped outside the hall, giving a live radio dj a direct view of our match, which he began reporting on the radio with great amusement. A brass band then began playing, accompanied by a group of female dancers, also looking into our venue with amusement as the window frames vibrated from the deafening base. This went on for far too long, causing many of the older players to get out of their chair and walk off into the tea room in disgust.

7 Raj loses in four moves!

One of the Luton players once started drinking cans of Guinness on the way to a match. He wasn’t bad, about 160, but lost in four moves due to drunkenness at the board. If memory serves me correctly he left a bishop en prise and resigned.

8 Offensive t-shirt results in life-time ban

A totally ridiculous incident occurred one summer afternoon in Luton when a new member got himself banned for life over his T-shirt. The manager of the social club we played in objected to the message on the back of the shirt, which was obscene. It was suggested, politely, that he should turn the shirt inside out, as it was a family club and would cause offence. Some people, however, are incapable of accepting criticism. Rather than do as asked, a crazy half hour arose with the new member repeatedly storming in and out of the building, asking why it was a problem and confronting club officials. At one point he stormed up to the club president looking like he was about to hit him and called him a c**t, resulting in a ban from the social club for life. Fortunately, he had arrived early and most members did not witness the incident. The person in question was aptly named Steven King. I will never forget him for the aforementioned incident and the fact that all his post-game analysis involved the word hassle, ‘He was hassling my rook, so I hassled his king’, and so on…he was about as bad as it got over the board.

9 Player thrown through windscreen during chess club car crash

I’ve talked about it before and I didn’t witness it. It happened in the 80s. Ivan Mitchell’s name for the victim was piss-head Pat, a man I did meet a few times, and whom the author can confirm, lived up to his name. Once, after leaving the chess club, the taxi he took crashed, throwing him through the windscreen into a bush. Pat had no recollection of the event, it was the police who informed him the next day. It sounds apocryphal but was confirmed by several other members.

10 Game lost due to call of nature

One of our more recent players (again he shall remain unnamed) had the ability to cause mild controversy every time he came to the club. He is, unfortunately, one of those people who can’t control themselves and speaks too loudly all the time. Much of what he says confuses those who know him, let alone visiting team members. I always remember him repeatedly asking average club players if they could show him how to beat Karpov!! One evening during a blitz tournament he lost a game (not too uncommon) and tried to stop the clock because he needed to go to the toilet. He then tried to cancel the game because he was unable to concentrate due to the call of nature. He was deadly serious about it. An hour must have passed before we heard the end of it. The following week, he was still unable to stop talking about it. When his opponent from the previous week turned up, he demanded justice: a best of three, which then went to a best of five, and then a best of seven. Sadly he wouldn’t listen to the advice of others, that trying to win on time in blitz by playing entirely random moves isn’t an effective strategy.

11 Loudmouth American gets thrashed by junior

There is an American military base in Bedfordshire. Once in a while we would get personnel from it coming to the club. One evening an over-sized soldier came with a smart case containing numerous neatly packed sets and clocks. He talked a great game and initially refused point blank to play our best junior, who would indicate to us just how good he was. I remember watching events unfold with interest. Within the hour the American packed up all his equipment and promptly left. He lost 6 games in quick succession and never returned. Typical yank, I thought.

12 Dubious tea urn causes speedy exit from makeshift cafe during county match

In truth this happened a number of times as county matches tend to seek the same venue. When Bedfordshire first started using the Turner Hall in Newmarket, it had a tea urn that had a problem with its thermostat and teetered on the edge of explosion at times. And what in chess could be worse than traveling across flat countryside, playing out a dull draw in quiet country town, wandering off for a quick cuppa in the endgame, being badly scalded by an exploding tea urn, and then unable to secure the draw! Nothing right? The one occasion I remember this happening was during a casual chat amongst team members, suddenly interrupted by a violent rattling of the tea urn with boiling water spilling over the top, custard creams were laid aside in favour of a hasty exit.

13 Drunken playing session and heavy cigars lead to urinating up walls and puke going everywhere

Another late night session, this time in the Summer of 93 took place at my friends detached house on the town’s most expensive road, involving Ivan Mitchell. Much alcohol was consumed and a box of heavy cigars came out. At the end of the evening, a drunk Ivan decided not to water the flowers but to water the walls twice, finishing the evening off by puking everywhere in the host’s car whilst being driven home. Nice!

14 Relative newcomers encounter air bombs 

Once in November 92, several matches were being held at Luton chess club, one of which involved Milton Keynes C team. From memory, Milton Keynes had many new players in their team that season. The week before I had agreed with the team captain to let air bombs off in the car park close to the playing hall to see if I could unsettle the opposition, as he knew I had a love of fireworks and had previously suggested it for a laugh. This then happened and a number of heads went up and started looking around to see what was going on a friend told me. During a quick couple of pints in the bar afterwards, no one mentioned the air bombs before setting off in the dark. Alas, a couple of loud bangs weren’t enough to unsettle our opponents, making it the only occasion where such measures were employed.

15 Embarrassing incident over the board

There was a gentleman who played for Leighton Buzzard whose name I forget, he was always rated around 150 (1900) in strength, in his late 50’s, grey-haired, always wore a suit and was very polite, I believe he mentioned once that he worked in the city. The first time I played him was in the very early nineties when Leighton Buzzard had those hideous boards with yellow and black squares, and pieces that were slightly too large to fit on them, and as if that wasn’t bad enough, we had to play in some school on the other side of town, or Linslade as its also known. I’ll never forget the incident during the early middle-game where my impeccably mannered opponent accidentally belched and farted simultaneously with such force that everyone in the room must have heard it. He was quite embarrassed and sincerely apologetic even though, out of courtesy, no one acknowledged what happened….I found it funny.

16 Stand off between karate club and chess club emerges over doors not being closed properly

This happened in 85/86, so I didn’t witness it but was told about it several times. The first venue I played in was a horrible church hall which we shared with a karate club, and had to cross through their hall to get to our equipment. I noticed that there were still signs on all the doors asking you to close them some two years on. Sometimes there were even instructions how to do this. The reason being that many doors slammed loudly and upset the more sensitive karate club members. Once, during a league match, a member from the karate club entered our room, slammed the door as loudly as he could three times and shouted ‘THERE, SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT’. Unsurprisingly, no one got out of their seat and confronted him.

17 From Gambit gets author’s head smashed open

On March 6th 1993. I got a lift into London to buy a book on the From Gambit in Foyle’s. Unfortunately I hadn’t slept much the night before, and whilst ascending an escalator, stretched my back over the rail out of tiredness. I didn’t see the metal and glass display cabinet further up, wrecking it beyond repair with my head by accident. There was quite a lot of blood, out of disorientation and fatigue I then left the book behind on the tube.

18 Acts of extreme violence deny school champion a regular playing partner

I cannot write about my experience of chess at school without mentioning my old friend Jalil who provided stern opposition, enabling me to gain valuable practice as I began playing for my home town. I befriended him instantly when he joined our school as he spoke no English, and when he saw me go up on stage to collect my trophies for winning the school championship and league, he wanted to play at every opportunity. Fortunately we had both been kicked out of almost every class in school already, thus had plenty of opportunity. Sadly, Jalil got himself expelled. He came from a family of martial artists and was a black belt in Karate at 15, he was also very hot tempered. A series of events occurred which finally gained him expulsion. First, he threw a typewriter at another pupil’s head, then in English (we called this class Cards, as everyone played blackjack at the back of class instead of study) the day after Luton won the league cup, a riot occurred in our class, during which he ripped the legs off a table and started whacking another boy round the back and the head with them, then finally he got expelled for beating the games teacher up. Some years later I met up with Jalil again, and true to form we played some chess (this time in his Kebab shop). I was already a county player by then, and he was a 2nd dan in a number of martial arts. He wasn’t a bad chess player and helped me use my time in school more effectively.

19 Under real pressure, the author performed at his very best.

I am not and never will be a great chess player due to a distinct lack of talent, and an inability to retain concentration sufficiently. However, this doesn’t mean that there are moments of which I am not proud. When I assumed the role of B Team Captain, my first task was to stave off relegation. It came down to the last game of the season, at home to Leighton Buzzard B, and more importantly my game. Though my opponent was some 200 FIDE points above me, I was so fired up that he was blown out of the water within 25 moves. I kept my team up, something I remained very proud of for a long time. Whilst playing for our A-team a few years later, I also saved it from relegation by winning the final game of the season’s final match, against Bedford A. It’s true that beating someone with a FIDE rating of around 2000 is nothing exceptional but it was the manner in which it occurred. I played with immense passion.

20 County player takes corners faster than Mansell!

It’s MD again, this time with myself in the back of a car that is running late for a county match against Norfolk, held in the equidistant Newmarket. Mr. Mirza, our driver, decided that we wouldn’t be late and started driving like Mansell, we swerved through some bends on the outskirts of the town so fast that we crossed into an oncoming lane and could have caused a serious accident. MD, who had suffered a nervous breakdown in his youth was a fragile character. He became panicked by the excessive speed, and held onto a handgrip tightly. I remember this because I had to inure hours of monotone analysis, suddenly cut short after he was thrown across the backseat whilst entering a sharp dipping bend, prompting a nervy fixation of the road ahead. It was one of those rare occasions where apparent danger came as a godsend.

21 Player pranked by late night playing session

Poor old Roman, sadly no longer with us. I will be forever indebted to his kindness when, as a junior, he showed me how to play the c3 Sicilian. So it is with a little sadness that I remember a late night session between him, my friend Damon and myself in late 89. He went to bed just before midnight but we kept playing until beyond 4 am. It was a slow Sunday morning in late Autumn, Roman awoke at 8am, and being a guest he could have taken offence at having to wait until 4pm before my friend and I finally awoke and went downstairs. Being a gentleman however, he did not and was even able to greet us with a smile.

22 Crafty pensioner retracts move during game.

In the Summer of 93 I was playing in our club quickplay championship and got up to go to the bar. Looking at my position from afar, I saw my opponent play his move. Upon a second glance some minutes later I also saw him retract the move and play something else. I didn’t mind at all because I was clearly ahead and he was one of the weaker club players. I went on to win and said nothing about it. If anything, I found it quite amusing.

23 Super GM downs Bedfordshire’s finest.

The best player Bedfordshire ever produced is GM Jim Plaskett. Since he has not participated in our league since he was a child for various reasons best known to himself, the accolade of our greatest ever player should go to GM Andy Ledger. I first saw him in action at the Hitchin Open in 89, where he came up against a certain Michael Adams. Andy was way ahead in material, a knight if memory serves me correctly but was under pressure both on the board and on the clock. I remember how it had welled up in his face, knowing that with calm play he would surely beat GM Adams. Sadly for us, a clever tactic ending in a back rank mate put paid to Andy’s efforts.

24 Duff joke fails to amuse team members.

In late September 89, a friendly match between Luton and Hitchin was arranged. Most A-team members went in the same car, finding the venue with ease. Upon entering, Mr D’Cruz mentioned that he could no longer wear one of his T-shirts as it had turned pink courtesy of being washed with an unknown red garment. I quipped that he should wash it with something white in order to restore its colour, which er, didn’t go down so well.

25 Atonal renditions of arcane Nirvana tracks irritates opponent during blitz game. 

Like just about everyone else on the planet, I fell in love with Nirvana when they made it into the big time. Many of Bleach’s later tracks became nice little numbers to sing and hum along to during blitz. Upon reproducing the line ‘Don’t have nothing for you’ in the track Sifting, my polite opponent promptly retorted with annoyance that he didn’t want anything thanks, perhaps referring to the position rather than the track… it made me chuckle anyway.

26 Nutter causes incident in library

There was a nutter in town for a few years who was a bit of a chess fan I believe. He was of African appearance, wore dark glasses and was walked around town in a step-by-step manner, like a slow motion military march or something. He was once spotted trying to rub the top of his head on a leaf of a tree, with a bishop placed horizontally between his nose and mouth. On another occasion I saw him with a bishop inside his mouth, the base protruding outwards. He entered the library in the town center once, spent about two minutes walking up the stairs and then stood directly behind someone reading a book. When the reader turned round to see what was going on, our local nutter kicked him in the shin hard, though not too hard. Given that he wore dark glasses and was twice the size of the man he kicked, this was obviously very intimidating, and I don’t believe I have ever seen someone’s face go red so fast. Nothing happened for a few seconds, the nutter just stood there without moving before continuing to walk around the library in his own distinctive way. The assaulted, now looking very confused, made a hasty exit.

27 Author becomes saddened after learning that a playing partner is to move to Wales.

My first two playing partners when I joined Luton were Peter Whone, and his friend Richard. It took me 6 weeks to beat Peter. Even though it happened 27 years ago, I still remember the game. A few months after that, his friend Richard, who I had also managed to beat by then, mentioned that he was moving to Wales, and said he had only come to say goodbye. I was not yet 16 and felt a raw sadness from his farewell. I cannot be sure that I managed to stop myself from crying though I think that’s how it went. In the early nineties, Richard returned to pay us a visit, it was lovely to see him again. I spotted him the second he came through the door.

28 Changes in league structures causes objections by Bedford players

Chess had a bit of a boom after the Short-Kasparov match in 1993. Our club suddenly had 62 members, and other clubs had swelled in size. The league went to 4 divisions and Luton had 9 teams, the last being Luton I. This caused an imbalance in division 4 which consisted of nothing but teams from Luton and one team from Bedford. At the end of the season an objection was raised by Bedford that they spent half the season playing in Luton. Not everyone saw this as an objection.

29 The author is nearly knocked off his bicycle en route to the chess club and killed!

When I was 17 I couldn’t stop listening to thrash metal. Even when I cycled, I had it on the walkman and often warmed up for a chess match by listening to it. This had disastrous consequences once as I was cycling en route to my chess club and didn’t hear a car behind me. It hit me quite hard and knocked me off my bike. I managed to wheel it the rest of the way there and explained what had happened. This was a critical mistake as many members were too absorbed in their games to listen.

30 Unpopular player throws birthday party…it goes as expected

Bob Harnett was an odd fellow. A deeply unhappy soul who on his day could and did beat the odd GM here and there. He once had a birthday party and invited a number of players from the various chess clubs he played at. He could have held it in a telephone box as only 4 people turned up, and two of those only went out of sympathy. I think a few cheap cans of lager were drunk whilst the tv was on and there were a few blitz games, that was about it.

That is about eventful is it got. Chess is generally a serene affair with little of note, there is nothing else I can think of that is noteworthy. In future blogs I will attempt to write about the mundane, which believe it or not, is usually of greater interest. Until then… .


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The beauty of a move lies not in its appearance but in the thought behind it.  –  Aaron Nimzowitsch

And so too with literature. Occasionally in chess literature we stumble upon a book based upon a concept that appears so self-evidently sound, it demands that we take a deeper look. When I then saw a plethora of rave reviews for the aforementioned text, I was powerless to resist locating it on amazon, and then as if like a robot, began punching in the numbers on the credit card, salivating in stupor, awaiting its delivery with…something or other.

More seriously, I intend to marginally break rank here. I don’t write for anyone or anything other than the joy of writing, which gives me a greater level of freedom than those within literary circles within chess. Some thoughts on that: book reviews tend to suffer from time pressure and lack of interest, and more importantly a lack of freedom. It is in the interests of a titled player not to be too critical of a text published by the company which employs him. Some criticism is both necessary and acceptable as long as the bar is raised accordingly. By this I mean an average book becomes a good book, a good book becomes a great book, and a terrible book becomes a bad book. A lack of time is more pernicious than may first appear. Personally I like to take my time to think more deeply about certain issues, as the answer isn’t always apparent. Sometimes we don’t know for sure how we feel about something until we’ve had a good night’s sleep. Of course, being rubbish at chess means that my understanding of the game is much less than titled opposition, but having invested my entire life into education, having always been an avid reader and lover of writing per se entitles me to an opinion, one which I believe is informed enough to express. In previous posts I durstn’t refer to a text without quoting from it, as I didn’t want to drag the culture of chess literature into the gutter -as its never been there before honest!-but this time it has to be that way. More importantly, I will keep this brief as the text allows me to do this.

The text in question has clearly had a lot of thought put into the construction of it, although some explanation upon how the ‘modern’ era is defined would have been nice. Is there any reason why the author chooses 1993 as a starting date I wonder? The games are chronologically ordered and fascinating without being exceptional due to  the primary purpose of the text being instruction. The quality of the annotation and commentary is consistently high, which makes reading the book an absolute pleasure. Furthermore, Stohl does a good job of choosing lesser known games, and making them, as the title says, instructive. Some of them cannot be found on-line, even though the players are well-known.

A solid effort by Stohl and well-worth buying. He should be very proud of himself. My suggestion for an active reading process with this book is to play through each game carefully, then spend time thinking about how the game is instructive in the context of the modern game. It’s not as easy to do as you might think.


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