Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Punch Drunk - Day 9 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

If it had been a boxing match the ref would have stepped in and stopped the contest a few days ago. Because its chess, though, we were all allowed to go on taking heavy punches to the head until finally, after 9 consecutive days of ferocious mental effort - at least for those of us playing in a team with no reserve - the World Seniors' Team Championships came to an end.

In my case, though, it was about 10 minutes too late, as I managed to lose a totally drawn rook and pawn ending against a very strong IM that would have clinched an excellent 2-2 draw for 50+ England 2 v Germany 2 and secured a final placing well above our 21st seeding. Instead we finished ….. 21st! It would also have got me a lifetime best ELO rating, but unfortunately my brain just went into complete meltdown after more than 5 hours of at times desperate defence. A great shame to finish on such a downer, but a +1 score over 9 gruelling rounds was still just about OK.

Andy sensibly took a relatively quick draw as his 65+ England 2 team finished 2-2 against Sachsen Anhalt, which nevertheless put them into 24th position against a seeding of 25th. Andy also finished at a quite respectable +1 for 9 rounds.

Meanwhile, Bernard was hard at work against a 1614 rated opponent called Adolf in the 50+ wooden spoon deciding match. Despite facing his weakest opponent of the entire tournament, brain fatigue had also clearly got to him as well, as he lost. Fortunately, though, his team mates made up for this calamity and secured a narrow 2.5-1.5 win that boosted England 4 to 60th - an impressive 4 places above their start ranking. However, it has to be admitted that these ELO ratings do seem to be rather accurate given how close each of our teams performed relative to their seeding.

England 1 get their silver medals in the 50+ section. From extreme left to right, GMs Arkell, Hebden, Plaskett, Emms and Speelman. To the right are the bronze medal winning Lasker Chess Foundation team. The great Arthur Yusupov is the one with the impressive beard. He is a "big unit" in all senses!
And that was also true at the top of the tournaments, where number 1 seeds USA (50+) and Russia (65+) both emerged victorious. USA came from behind in the last round to pip our brave England 1 boys, who went down 2.5-1.5 to Germany 1. England 1 were second (seeded 4th) for an excellent result.

The 65+ medal podium. Russia (back row) line up (l-r), GMs Pushkov, Sveshnikov, Rashkovsky, Balashov and IM Zhelnin
The England 1 65+ team finished with a 2-2 draw against St Petersburg to end in 5th position, one place higher than their seeding, but the stars of the show were Russia who won all 9 matches to leave the St Petersburg and Germany 2 teams well adrift in silver and bronze positions.

England 1 65+ team collect their 5th prize. Left to right, Roger Emerson, FM Steve Berry, FM Tony Stebbings, IM Robert Bellin and IM Nigel Povah.
Success of sorts for the 50+ England Women's team, as they picked up Bronze medals behind Russia and Germany - though there were only 5 teams eligible for the prizes!

The 50+ Ladies medal podium. Russia (Gold, back row); Germany 1 (Silver, left front) and England (Bronze, right front). The England team is (right to left) WGM Sheila Jackson, WFM Petra Nunn, WIM Ingrid Lauterbach and Helen Frostick.
Still, that was rather more than in the 65+ tournament, where there was only one women's team. So the new 65+ Ladies World Team Champions are …….. Mongolia!!

And so the KCC Radebeul adventure is over and, despite an at times frustrating journey back via Frankfurt, we are all safely home. For Andy and me today has largely consisted of doing virtually nothing, I imagine, but for poor old Bernard it was straight back into the vicious commercial jungle that is the Kenilworth accountancy world. Its a hard life being a capitalist. Still. another day, another dollar!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Will This Thing Never End? Day 8 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

For those of us having to play every day, this is now beginning to resemble an endurance test rather than a chess tournament. Especially as the temperature is once again somewhere in the stratosphere. Somehow my personal dynamo just about had enough energy to propel me to another win this morning - my first with Black. It was a close run thing, and my play was far from  perfect (no surprise there, of course) but my Algerian opponent mistakenly swapped off into a bishops of the same colour ending in which his pawns were sitting ducks. Even my technique was up to the task. England 2 won the match 3-1 and find ourselves on Table 6 in the final round, where we have a very tough pairing against Germany 2. Don't expect too much in this match!

Bernard's search for his first win goes on after a doughty burgher from Ittersbach (where??) refused to play the good host, but a solid draw continues his surprisingly resilient performance - five draws from seven games is definitely not to be sneezed at, given he'd only played one game in the previous 5 years or so! A drawn match for his England 4 team leaves them in 65th= position, and tomorrow they have a wooden spoon showdown against 67th placed SG Priestewitz/Riesa. (Again, where????) To the winner the glory, to the loser, a shed load of abuse from their friends!

Four quick draws may be on the cards for Andy's 65+ England 2 team tomorrow, when they face Sachsen Anhalt in  a relatively low key final round. Today Andy drew after being much better early on, but the team edged home 2.5-1.5 against another German team, Stortebeker. (No, I have no idea where that is, either.)

At the sharp end of the tournaments, England 1 played themselves in to first place in the 50+ section with a 4-0 thrashing of Shachfreunde Leipzig 1, while co-leaders Lasker Schachstiftung GK were going down 3.5-0.5 to the USA. So England 1 take a 1 match point lead over the USA into the final round, but have by far the tougher pairing - number 2 seeds, Germany 1, while the USA face Canada. A draw for England will probably see the Gold medal decided on game points, which will favour the USA. We need Germany 1 to play like their hapless footie team at the World Cup!

In the 65+ tournament, Russia notched up their 8th consecutive win over Germany 1 today and are already champions. Sveshnikov - Hort was a heavyweight encounter between two former super-GMs, which Sveshnikov made look almost easy. He is still one hell of a player. England 1 kept their hopes alive with a narrow victory, but probably need to win again tomorrow against St Petersburg to get a medal.

Not too much to report on the cultural front, but I did have the pleasure of chatting to GM John Emms at breakfast this morning, and can vouch for the fact that he is a very pleasant chap indeed. If you want to hob-nob with such stars, though, you have to get up early. I am in the restaurant for breakfast at about 7.15 everyday, well before the likes of Messrs Rogers and Baruch are ever sighted. You know what they say, the early bird gets to chat to the GM!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Turning up the Heat - Day 7 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

Yesterday was cold and wet, but today its like an oven here - and one turned up to Gas Mark 10, to boot. Still, the air conditioning in the playing hall is holding up nicely, and a pleasant ambient temperature helped me play my best game so far this morning against a 2200 from Leipzig Chessfriends 1. Unfortunately, none of my team mates was able to replicate my win, and we went down 2.5-1.5 after a heroic defence on Board 4 came up just short. Our opponents reward for beating us is to take on joint leaders England 1 on Table 2 tomorrow. Meanwhile my team, England 2, has an exotic pairing against Algeria, when I will have my fourth chance to win a game with the black pieces.

Bernard played a solid game for England 4 in their match against German club team TSG Markkleeberg 2, with his draw helping the team to a 2-2 tie, their best result so far - with the possible exception  of the 4-0 bye in an earlier round! This stemmed the bleeding from two consecutive losses for Bernard, but time is running out for that elusive first win - just 2 rounds to go, and more German club opposition up tomorrow.

Andy's England 2 65+ team got well beaten 3-1 by a strong German team (yes, there are a few of them around!) Stiftung BSW/DBAG 1. Any (intelligent) suggestions as to what all those initials stand for would be much appreciated. Yet another German team awaits in the morning.

At the business end of the pairings, both England 1 teams won, with the 50+ boys giving Canada a 4-0 spanking (despite resting Jon Speelman) to remain joint leaders. With fierce rivals Lasker Schach-Stiftung GK facing the very strong USA team tomorrow, there is every chance that England may be able to take a lead into the final round. In the 65+ section, England 1 are still in with a medal chance, having seen off the challenge of Eppingen 3-1 today. Russia won again, though, to maintain their 100% record, and are nailed-on certainties for Gold.

Not much in the way of high culture to report today, but Bernard and I did indulge in a pleasant narrow gauge steam train ride to the nearby town of Moritzburg. Not a lot to see there - except for this!

Schloss Moritzburg - just your average German palace!
Still, it has to be said the coffee and cake consumed in the village was exceedingly pleasant. This is a very civilised country, indeed.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

When the Going Gets Tough.... Day 6 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

So here we all are in Radebeul, still putting in a hard shift in the service of our country.

Bernard putting in a hard shift in the service of his country, together with our friendly waitress at the Boxenstop Bar, before the World Cup semi-final. 

Occasionally this hard shift sometimes takes place at the chess board, though not always with the desired results. Since my last report, we've each played three games and between us we've chalked up exactly 50%. However, while I have been Mr Average with two draws, Andy has gone slightly berserk and scored consecutive wins. So if you are any good at maths you will be ahead of me in knowing that Bernard's impressive start is now nothing but a distant memory. Add in the footie defeat and he's not such a happy bunny as he was earlier in the week. In fact we've just come back from visiting the former Stasi and NKVD Prison Museum in Dresden, which was most appropriate for his current mood. I aim to point him at food and drink this evening though, and I reckon that will do the trick.

I have had two roller coaster games in the last two days. Against Germany Women 2 I got a rather poor opening, but my opponent then went mad and sacrificed a piece to open up my king. I thought it was unsound, and indeed it was. But after finding the first few moves to refute it, I then made a terrible oversight and promptly lost the piece back and was staring at a virtual forced mate. Thankfully the crunch move was not played, and with my opponent losing the thread completely I went from 2 pawns down to 1 pawn up. The dreaded opposite bishops then intervened to deprive me of a most undeserved win!

Today was less blunderful, but equally tense, as I eventually drew against a German IM, whose rating has fallen by nearly 200 points since his 2435 peak. I stood firm under growing pressure and then cheapoed my way to an extra pawn from nowhere at the time control. However, I then missed a tactical shot (spotted by Andy, curse him!) which would have netted a second pawn and given me winning chances. Instead I lost my extra pawn and was staring at an ending of two bishops against my two knights, in which there was only one passed pawn - and I didn't have it. And it was a long way from my king! I tried to set up a blockade with my knights, but instead of testing whether this would hold, my opponent swapped off one knight and tried to combine a king invasion with the threat to trap my knight. Thankfully, though, the knight always had just one square and I was able to hold a very hard earned draw (and secure a drawn match).

I can't tell you anything of Andy's or Bernard's games except the result. They might as well have been taking place in another room. (Which in Andy's case they were!)

What I can tell you is that England 1 are currently joint first in the 50+ section with a German club team. As this German club team has Arthur Yusupov on Board 2, you can tell they are a tad stronger than Olton A! Canada, Austria and the USA are one point behind. All still to play for over the next three rounds. In the 65+ section, the gold medal has probably been decided, as Russia have a two point lead and have already beaten their nearest rivals. A pairing with Germany 3 tomorrow probably doesn't have them quaking in their boots!

To finish, some art. Or at least what passes for art in this part of the world. There is a rather startling statue in our hotel grounds, which I have to pass every time I leave my room. I can assure readers that no KCC member posed for this!

A fine figure of a man! Personally I prefer The Three Graces. 
But if this statue is a tad unsettling, let's end with one of the greatest paintings in the world, which is on display in the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden.  Don't say these reports don't bring you a bit of culture as well as some chess!

The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael (including two very cheesed off cherubs).
Message to Bernard C - this is what a proper painting looks like!!



Tuesday, 10 July 2018

That Really Hurt - Day 4 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

I am writing this in a darkened room in a state of some distress, after an agonizing loss by me cost England 2 victory in our match against Post SV Ulm - and yes that is the Ulm Post Office/Mail Sports Club. Pretty strong those Ulm posties, I can tell you. It was an epic game where I chanced my arm in the opening; got away with it; and after finally equalizing (or so I think, the silicon beast has not yet been unleashed to shatter my illusions), I then seemed to gain the advantage in a rook and same bishop ending. My opponent had connected passed g and h pawns, and I had connected passed d and e pawns. Regrettably the outside pawns won the day after around 5 hours of suffering. So only 2-2 in our match, where my loss was balanced by a crushing win for us on top board.

Andy's day was much less eventful, as he drew against 87 year old (!!) IM Edwin Bhend of Switzerland in 12 moves - or was it 12 minutes? Possibly both. This is a man who once beat Tal (with Black!), drew with Fischer and played in 12 Olympiads for Switzerland. Andy has done none of these things, but he used his 20 years advantage remorselessly to get a draw. The England 2 o-65s drew the match 2-2 thanks to 4 draws against higher rated opposition. But Andy's was by far the quickest, so at least KCC has something to be proud of today. Tomorrow Andy's team play against Leipzig Chess Friends, which is a nice name for a club, don't you think? Kenilworth Chess Friends, anybody?!

Meanwhile Bernard has kept his 50% score by taking another day off. In fact his entire England 4 team took the day off as they had the bye. The 4-0 win they got for this has propelled them up the table and, rumour has it, Bernard is actually going to have to play a game of chess tomorrow rather than go shopping (!) - which is what he has done today.

In the massive Board 1 encounters for the two England 1 teams, there was good news and bad news today. The o-50 boys upset the top seeded USA team thanks to a solitary win by John Emms on Board 2 over Joel Benjamin. Jon Speelman very nearly beat Shabalov with Black, so this was a pretty emphatic win even if the margin was ultimately the smallest possible. Not such good news in the o-65s, where unsurprisingly England went down to number 1 seeds and defending champions Russia. A win for Nigel Povah on Board 3 was more than offset by losses on Boards 1 and 4, for a narrow defeat.

That's a pretty comprehensive round up of today's action, only made possible by the fact that its raining (bet you can't say the same!) and I've decided to have a rest from sightseeing and take it easy this afternoon. But of course, I still have to report on last night's Blitz tournament, where it seems I had too little faith in our brave boys. Despite playing atrociously to begin with (including a loss to Shveshnikov, who he didn't even recognise!), Andy recovered in  the last few rounds to end on 4.5/9 (52nd place). When you sink low enough in the tournament, you will eventually get some friendly pairings. Like this!



Bernard defied all my expectations by scoring an excellent 4/9 for 61st place and got to play a couple of titled players. He was generally playing much tougher opposition than Andy, but while he may lack in recent standard play practice, he is the veteran of a zillion Thursday evening blitz games. Just goes to prove - you can take the man out of The Gauntlet, but you can't take The Gauntlet out of the man!

A few minutes later, Bernard had his first ever international victory!

A few minutes after this, Andy had another loss to add to his tally!

The overall event was won jointly by Keith Arkell and a Leipzig Chess Friend with 8/9. 5 GMs, 5 IMs and oodles of FMs took part in a total field of exactly 100.

The crucial top board Round 9 encounter between Keith Arkell and Jim Plaskett about to start. Meanwhile a Leipzig Chess Friend adjusts the pieces on Board 2, and Mark Hebden looks longingly towards the bar on Board 4!









Monday, 9 July 2018

Three Happy Campers - Day 3 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

Today, anyway - yesterday, not so much!

I was pitched in at the deep end in Round 2 when England 2 got paired against England 1. While two of my team mates secured excellent draws with the White pieces against GMs Speelman and Hebden, England 1 were simply too strong on the boards where they had White. I was well beaten by Jim Plaskett on Board 2. After my opening went slightly wrong I tried to liberate my position with a tactical pawn break, but not for the first time my calculation contained a hole, and the GM went straight for it, winning an exchange and then cleverly giving it back almost immediately to nullify my activity. He planted a monster bishop on e5 and I simply ran out of time trying to find a way to neutralise his passed a pawn while also defending my very vulnerable king.

Andy also contrived to lose (even more quickly than me) against the splendidly named Swede, Bengt Hammar. As Andy's team are still marooned in the annexe, at least I was spared having to witness any of his debacle.

Which leads us on to our reluctant hero Bernard, who followed up his highly creditable opening draw with another against a near-2000 rated German in Round 2. Regrettably it didn't do his team any good, and England 4 remained on nil points. Which is where they stayed today, as an implosion in Round 3 saw them transform a winning match position into a third consecutive loss, this time against Finnish opposition. But our man maintained his 50% record by ……… being rested. Consequently he was very happy at being allowed a late breakfast and a leisurely morning, while Andy and I put ourselves through the mill. As we will have to do every day, since neither of our teams has a reserve!

But sometimes the effort is rewarded, and Andy chalked up his first win by despatching his German opponent, though apparently not without some inevitable alarms and travails. England 2 (over-65s) duly chalked up a 3-1 win, and my team, England 2 (over-50s) did exactly the same against Liechtenstein.  My game was rather dubious in the opening, but once I got into the middle game I started to outplay my opponent as a strong passed d pawn and control of the e-file saw Black pushed back into an untidy and unstable heap. It was only a matter of time before something fell off and a d7 pawn fork of rook and queen eventually did the business.

So it was three happy campers who took the tram up to the old town for a leisurely lunch. Only one KCC player drank beer - can you possibly guess who?!

Bernard has another day off tomorrow, as his hapless bunch have the bye - doubtless another late breakfast beckons in the morning - which is guaranteed to send them shooting up the table come Wednesday's round, when our man is scheduled to play on Board 2. Whereas Andy and I have tough opposition to worry about tomorrow - me against a strong German team from Ulm, and Andy against mighty Switzerland. It will be a big day in both the over-50 and over-65 sections tomorrow, as England 1 have been drawn against the top seeds (USA and Russia, respectively) for a couple of mouth-watering showdowns. But probably England 1 v Croatia 1 on Wednesday is even more important!

While I have been writing this report up, Bernard and Andy, for reasons known only to themselves, have signed up for a 9 round Blitz tournament, and should have finished round 1 by now. Lucky them - only 8 more to go! I almost got talked into playing, but came to my senses just in time. I have not seen who has entered this event, but with a Euro250 first prize, I expect a few penurious GMs will be looking to supplement their modest incomes. Consequently I am predicting scores of 3.5/9 for Andy and 2.5/9 for Bernard. I hope I've underestimated their Blitz prowess - but only time will tell. I guess it will be my job to rebuild their egos (and maybe their ELOs) after what I expect to be an inevitable pummelling. Just another area of responsibility for the Club Organiser!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

And They're Off!

So here I am again, in Radebeul near Dresden , for the 2018 World Seniors Team Championship. Two years after my debut, I am once again playing for England 2 in the over-50s championship - though despite my incompetence I have somehow risen to Board 2 - but this time around things are very different. Because I have been joined by both Bernard R and Andy B, in a three pronged attack on the World title. Andy finds himself playing for England 2 in the O-65s section, while Bernard is in the England 4 team in the O-50s.

Play got under way at 16.00 today (the same time as England v Sweden kicked off over here), and after all 3 of us were thrown into the heat of the Round 1 battle, the KCC contingent ended the day undefeated, with at least two of us highly chuffed by our performances.

The less chuffed Andy B finished first. I saw nothing of his game as he had been consigned to the annexe where all but the top 6 or 7 over-65s matches had been consigned. Faced with a London System as Black, Andy managed to blunder a pawn relatively quickly - at which point his opponent (from the German club team Freibauer Niedersachsen) promptly offered a draw. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Andy wisely accepted.

Next to finish was Bernard. Quite what he's doing here is a matter for some discussion, as we all know he's only played one serious game in the last six years and - to put it mildly - that hadn't gone well. Today, though, he was inspired, and played very sensibly against a 2114 rated opponent from Dresden, and was never worse. Indeed, he agreed a draw from what was probably a position of strength. An excellent performance, which doubtless owed much to the pre-match beer he felt obliged to consume at lunchtime!

And so to me, as always the last to finish, but when the game ends in mate it isn't such a hardship. Having almost 200 points advantage over my Finnish opponent, I fairly quickly and easily built up a big advantage on the white side of a 3 Bb5+ Sicilian. But with the win in sight, I faltered and allowed an exchange which should have led to an immediate draw. However, the quality of the play from both players then deteriorated markedly, and after a few rather nervous moments, my opponent kindly self-destructed in spectacular fashion to allow me to force mate with queen and knight.

We have celebrated in appropriate fashion tonight at a truly excellent pub, which has so far not been discovered by anyone else at the tournament! Its not haute cuisine, more substantial grub, and we'll be back there again tomorrow evening. It has the added advantage of being right next to a narrow gauge steam railway. And when I say right next, I mean right next!

Bernard relives his train-spotting youth! Luckily we have remembered to look both ways when leaving this pub.

I may not be so up-beat with my next report, as I already know that I am playing GM Jim Plaskett tomorrow, when England 2 go head to head with England 1. Bernard is up against a 2000 rated player from the German club team Horst-Emscher 1931, while Andy is playing ….someone! The draw is not yet up for the really oldies section.

I know that the results are only half the story - you really want to know the celeb gossip. Well, on that point I can tell you that yesterday we shared a taxi from Dresden Airport with Jon Speelman (of course we let him have the front seat!) while less creditably Bernard almost trod on legendary GM Vlastimil Hort. As he has a bad foot (Hort not Bernard!) that could have caused an international incident, but thankfully actual contact was avoided by an inch or so. Yesterday evening we found ourselves dining in an Italian restaurant where we were definitely not sitting at the strongest table - GMs Speelman, Emms, Plaskett, Hebden, Benjamin and Kudrin just edged us.

Most important of all, though, Bernard has proved himself an absolute star on the linguistic front - Anglo-German relations are consequently much better at our level than between May and Merkel. Long may it continue!


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Taking a Week Off

Because of an unfortunate clash with the England v Belgium World Cup match on Thursday June 28th, there will be no club meeting at The Gauntlet on that night. Normal service should be resumed the following week on July 5th - at least the World Cup won't get in the way, as its a blank day in the schedule. For those of you frustrated or disturbed by the loss of your weekly chess fix, and who are not interested in football, you need to calm down, relax and enjoy the break. This should help you chill out for a few hours.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Game of the Month, June 2018

Alright, alright! I know its been a long time since the last Game of the Month, but this feature has exacting standards, and just any old rubbish will not do. But when a victory by a (future) KCC member over a (future) GM falls into my hands, I just know that the wait has been worthwhile.

In this encounter, we are transported back to a simpler time, some 35 (!!) years ago, when Kenilworth's invisible man, Andy Baruch, was actually an active chess player who was more than a bit useful. Here he takes on a young whipper-snapper in the shape of a 15 year old David Norwood, who would get his IM title just 2 years later and his GM title a further 4 years after that (age 21). In this battle between Innocence and Experience, though, its the old codger who comes out decisively on top.



A small selection of further games by Andy from his golden years has come into my possession, so I think you can reasonably assume that some other big names will be biting the dust on these pages in the not too distant future. Sigh, if only he could still do it today!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Worst AGM EVER!

Brexit, Trump and then just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, along comes the 2018 Leamington League AGM. Any thoughts you had of turning up on September the whenever to play another season under the rules and conditions that you are used to can go straight out the window.

First, the AGM voted to adopt a registration system to try and stop sharp/questionable practices in the selection of stronger players in weaker teams, or of ringers being brought in to strengthen teams at the end of the season. Laudable aims both, but potentially at a considerable cost in terms of selection flexibility and yet more work for club and league volunteers alike. I do not doubt for a second that the same result could have been achieved by less onerous methods. Watch this space to see how this develops, since the actual rules of the registration system are yet to be finalised, but rest assured there will doubtless be issues for us and every other club as a consequence.

But that was by no means the low point of the evening, since in the space of about 10 minutes the proposal from Banbury to change the League's time limit to 90 minutes for the entire game, with no intermediate time control, was tabled, discussed and voted through. No substantive argument was made in favour by the proposers and when I spoke against the change and asked about the reason for the proposal, the only answer given - and I kid you not - was that some people at Banbury found it difficult to set the clocks. (I have played with digital clocks at Banbury for at least two seasons, and the clocks were set correctly every time on all boards - but hey, what do I know?) Rob Reynolds of Olton  said a few words against the proposal and then Dave Thomas, one of England's most senior Arbiters, also spoke and recommended that the proposed change should not be approved. As far as I recall, no-one spoke in favour, though there were a couple of oblique references to some apparently well-known Birmingham League incidents - of minimal/dubious relevance as far as I could tell.

So then we voted. And quite bizarrely the AGM was in favour of a new time limit for which not one coherent argument had been advanced. Utterly mystifying. A time limit I have never heard a single complaint about is replaced on an apparently perverse whim. If I have in any way misrepresented the Banbury proposal or the discussion on the subject that took place, I am happy to be corrected, but the above is certainly my honest recollection. Ben, Mike J and Dave were all in attendance, and they can put me right if necessary.

Anyway, I'm bloody depressed, and to make matters worse, I now have to immerse myself in the accursed registration system proposals and find out what that does to my rapidly diminishing sanity. Happy days.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Pilgrimage - Part 5, Postscript

The story of my pilgrimage has basically already concluded, but never one to report in four articles what can be strung out to five, there are still a couple of loose ends for me to wrap up:-


1 Suggestions for Further Reading

Only a day or so ago I discovered the existence of a book called "Bobby Fischer Comes Home", written by Icelandic GM (and leading player in the establishment of the Bobby Fischer Center in Selfoss) Helgi Olafsson.   Before I went to Iceland, I really should not only have known about this, but also read it. Still, it's never too late, so the book is hopefully winging its way to me even as I write. I am expecting both a rattling good read and a few tears before bedtime. How could this ultimately be anything other than very sad?

But there is an even sadder book out there. Bobby's greatest friend and supporter in his final years in Iceland was Gardar Sverrison. In 2015 he published a book entitled, "Bobby Fischer's Final Years." Or more accurately, "Yfir farinn veg með Bobby Fischer", because the book is not available in English - even though there is a full translation in existence. This translation needs to be published - and soon!  A flavour of the book - and its a quite disturbing and distressing flavour in truth - can be found in a long extract that was published on the Chessbase site on January 17th, 2018 - exactly ten years after Fischer's death. It's harrowing stuff, but compulsory reading and can be found here.


2 Some More Photos

There is one specific image of Bobby which carries - possibly unintentionally - enormous symbolic power. You can see it in the Chessbase article referenced above, and it also adorns the cover of Helgi Olafsson's book. I reproduce it here, duly acknowledged as far as possible, and hopefully not exposing myself to copyright issues, but it is so integral to my own interpretation of Bobby's story that I can't resist.

Main photographer unknown. The inset portrait is by Einar S Einarsson.

The location of this shot is the Thingvellir National Park, about 45 minutes drive outside Reykjavik, and a must see tourist stop on the Golden Circle itinerary undertaken by virtually every visitor to Iceland. As well as being the original site (in around 930) of (one of?) the world's oldest parliament, the Althing, this area is of enormous geological significance. (Bad news for me as I failed my Geology O Level!) It is here that Iceland is split by the Mid Atlantic Rift, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are gradually moving apart - fortunately at only 2.5 cms a year. As Bobby walked down the gorge, the rock face on his left was formed by the edge of the North American tectonic plate. Reykjavik lies firmly to the west of the Rift, so that for the last few years of his life, Bobby was actually back in North America, although only in a geological sense. The image is full of symbolism - a man caught between two continents/worlds; a man geologically home in North America , but politically forever stranded in Iceland; and a man turning his back once and for all on the rest of the world.

I wouldn't be the pathetic wannabe you know me to be, if I hadn't stood in almost exactly the same place as Bobby, albeit looking the other way!

Does Donald know you can walk up a path from Eurasia into North America. Build a wall, quick!!

But the final image of this account shouldn't be of me. And it shouldn't be of the altogether reclusive and diminished Bobby of his later years. Let's remember him in his prime.


Bobby as we need to remember him - a Chess God
(This autographed photo hangs on the wall of the Bobby Fischer Center, Selfoss)


3 Another Game

And so the journey really does end here, but I can't go without one more game. This must surely be one of the greatest fighting games of chess ever played.* It is truly epic, particularly in the late middlegame/endgame phases where both men play out of their skin, Fischer trying to win, and Spassky trying to save the game. While a modern engine is remorseless in its identification of some mistakes, this hardly diminishes the drama or lessens one's respect and admiration for the two players. In the end, Fischer's incessant pressure, fuelled by an incredible will to win, forces Spassky into a tragic blunder when he was within touching distance of a draw. This was indeed a game that Fischer deserved to win, but Spassky surely deserved to draw.  

Monday, 21 May 2018

A new taxonomy for the Blog!

As another chess season draws to a close we (the club organiser and webmaster) have found some time away from playing chess and enjoying the sunny weather to introduce a taxonomy to the club blog.

This exciting new feature is called 'Blog Categories' and one of these categories (otherwise called 'labels' by Google Blogger) can now be found at the end of each blog article. If you click on the category it will take you to a new blog page listing all the articles under that category, enabling you to browse at your leisure and read all the related articles.

The blog categories currently include:
  • Match Reports - Leamington League
  • Match Reports - Coventry League
  • Club Information
  • Tournament Reports
  • Quizzes
  • Game of the Month
  • Obituaries
  • Interesting Stuff
Also, if you scroll down the home page you can find the 'Blog Categories' listed under the ‘Follow by email’ box in the right hand column. The order they’re shown in is based on the total number of blog posts in each category.

So, now's the time to catch up on your KCC blog reading in preparation for the new season...

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Silverware!

More KCC successes to report, with Ben and myself both recently claiming LDCL individual honours.

Ben won the League Individual Open KO Cup, beating Peter Drury of Stratford 2-0 in the final, after earlier 1-0 wins over Andy Johnson (Daventry) and Paul Rowan (Banbury).  This is the first Kenilworth triumph in the League's most prestigious individual event since Carl was victorious in 2007. (I won three times (once shared) in 2008/09/10, but am ashamed to say I was playing for Leamington at the time, despite being a Kenilworth resident. What was I thinking of??)

My success came in the League Individual Quickplay Championship (5 mins Blitz) , held at Solihull on April 25th. I scored 8.5/9, winning by a point from Rob Reynolds of Olton, with Mark Cundy (also Olton, and the man who spoiled my 100%) in third. I'm pleased to report that my score included 7/7 against Solihull players. A conspicuous absentee, for the second season running, was perennial champion Phil Holt.

We had a very good turn out of KCC members on the evening with Roy, Ben, Bernard R (continuing his unexpected chess renaissance!), Dave and Mike J all in attendance, and mostly scoring very well. In a disturbing echo of Ben's success, my victory was the first by a Kenilworth player since 2008 when Carl (he was good once upon a time, obviously!!) picked up the trophy. (I won in 2010 when - sorry if this is getting repetitive - I was playing for Leamington.) If we go back far enough, Bernard R apparently won this event back in the late 80s!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Things That Really Annoy Me - Number 1 in a Probably Never-Ending Series

One thing (amongst many, I must admit) that really bugs me is how, in depictions of chess - whether on TV, in films, in adverts or in art - the board nearly always seems to be the wrong way around. Despite it being a 50/50 call, they seem to get it wrong far more often than they get it right.

And strolling around the Accademia gallery in Venice last week, I bumped into another example. It turns out that this is not a new phenomenon - they've been getting it wrong for hundreds of years.

Black seems to be winning - but the female arbiter is about to intervene and tell them to start again because they've got the board the WRONG WAY ROUND!!
On this evidence, I don't think the Venetian School would stand much chance of passing its Ofsted!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The Great Comeback Goes Belly-up!

It was a sight few of us ever thought we would see again, but last night at the Abbey Club, Bernard (R not C!) once again sat down as part of a Kenilworth Chess Club team - for the first time in six years!! For the sceptics amongst you, here is the photographic proof.

You are not dreaming - this really happened!

The stage was set and the tension in the air was palpable. Would this be a triumph along the lines of the impossible return of Buffalo Springfield?



Or, dare we dream, on a par with the unbelievable comeback of Sprinter Sacre to win the Champion Chase for a second time in 2016?



Regrettably the answer was to be no in both cases! The rustiness was evident as Bernard fell under a vicious kingside attack from Ken Mycock. Temporarily Bernard was a rook up, but a piece had to be returned, and with some pawns for the exchange, Black soon won the ending. Now we just have to hope that Bernard's return does not follow the same path as Bjorn Borg, who after an 8 year break, returned to tennis and lost 12 matches in a row before retiring a second time!

Still, sad as Bernard's loss was, the rest of the team did the business to clinch a 2.5-1.5 win over Shirley A and so secure a third place finish in the league. I finished first after a strange game against Jonathan Dale. He played some very provocative moves in the opening, and I was duly provoked to sacrifice a piece completely unsoundly. He didn't take the piece immediately but instead attacked my queen, but I could ignore this and save my piece in the process. I won a pawn, but Black had some play for this when he made a terrible oversight and lost a piece. Then an exchange. Then a few more pawns. After 15 rather unnecessary moves he resigned.

Andrew then put us two up with a hard fought win on Board 1 against Phil Purcell. After a Slav of some variety White had powerful centre pawns, but Black had two passed pawns on b4 and a5. White launched what looked like a strong attack on the Black king, but Andrew defended well and somewhere along the line simply took a piece to win the game.

Meanwhile Mike had completely outplayed Gordon Christie with Black to reach a winning position, but then went wrong and ended up in an opposite bishop ending a pawn up. There was an unedifying period of completely meaningless shuffling of the kings and bishops in a position that was so drawn I would have fancied my chances of holding it against Stockfish. About two moves short of coming into 50 move rule territory, Mike finally agreed to the draw and the match was won.

So a happy ending to the season, even if Bernard's "Impossible Dream" return proved to be just that!

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Kingmakers for a night

Finally there, the final game of the season. However this isn't any old game, it an opportunity.

Banbury had to win to keep their promotion hopes on track. With fourth place almost certain, the only motivating factor for us was the possibility of denting Banbury C title hopes along with Banbury B from a few weeks previous.

Dave was the first to finish playing Nathan Manley with the black pieces with a Sicilian defence. Unfortunately Nathan was having a bad day at the office and lost an exchange too easily. With a second loss of an exchange looming, he resigned.

Phil had the white pieces against Arthur Hibbitt. Following the opening exchanges in a Benoni, black accidently lost a piece leaving Phil to win.

The games on the top two boards were very tense and long. Ben was playing a London system against Dan Rowan. A complex middle game gave both sides opportunity but an ending was eventually reached with both sides very short of time. When the dust finally settled, Ben was two pawns down in a bishop ending but sides were down to their last minute. Dan won the ending with ten seconds to spare.

Mike was playing Paul Rowan. Some unusually over ambitious opening play left Mike with a difficult middle game. When the ending was reached he was two pawns down but had active pieces. However, cometh the moment cometh the Mike. Sixty moves of complex technical play left Mike with a bishop ending a pawn down that black felt that he couldn't make any more progress. Draw agreed.

So that was it, a final victory for Kenilworth on the final game. I resisted the temptation to grab the union jack flag from the side (Banbury play at a Rafa venue) and put it around myself and run around the club room on the grounds of poor taste and inappropriate behaviour.

Banbury thanked us for ruining both the B and C team's promotion chances. I couldn't help thinking that they were missing the point. We love Banbury we love going there, we love playing them and we like to be in the same division as them!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Olton 1 Rest of the World 7

Strange goings on at Olton on Tuesday night, as the home team's all conquering A team, already confirmed as this season's league champions, went down 0.5-3.5 to a by no means full strength Shirley A, while the now relegated Olton B were losing by the same score to a strong Kenilworth A team.

In fact we very nearly racked up the first 4-0 score of the season in Division 1, as Carl was winning for most of the evening against Richard Reynolds on Board 4, but somehow let Richard survive to a rook ending where he was only one pawn down. Endgame doyen Andy Baruch pronounced the position won for Carl, but, despite trying for what seemed like a hundred moves (involving multiple repetitions!), he went for the wrong pawn push and it was only a draw.

Earlier there had been wins for Andy, Andrew and myself to secure the match victory. Andy finished first on Board 1 against Gary Hope. I didn't see much of the action, but he assured me it was a good game which featured a well judged piece sac. Certainly the final position was nice, as despite still being a piece down, he pushed a pawn to the seventh rank and next move it was going to the eighth to win the game.

I should have been first to finish, but after arriving at a completely won position by move 15, I was continually thwarted by Rob Wallman's sturdy defence when it looked for all the world as though I was winning at least an exchange. My advantage had all but disappeared when he blundered a pawn in my time trouble, and he then compounded the problem by saddling himself with a weak pawn on e6. In a heavy piece and opposite bishops position, I was able to work my way into his kingside along the dark squares while his bishop was tied down to defending the e6 weakness. Although I missed a couple of quicker wins at the end, the position was too overwhelming to mess up and Rob resigned when faced with unstoppable mate.

Then Andrew clinched the match with a hard fought victory with the Black pieces over Rob Reynolds on Board 2. Despite it happening inches away from me, I still missed most of the game, only being aware that after a careful opening Andrew was starting to turn the screw and pressurise the White position. When my game finally finished it was clear that Andrew was completely winning, having a rook against a knight and - even more importantly - an unstoppable h pawn.

Our win removed any chance Olton B had of avoiding the drop in their first season back in Division 1. It appears as though they will be replaced by Rugby A, who should buy our B team a drink or two for their terrific win over Banbury C on the very same night, which has put Rugby in pole position. And they also owe our C team a few drinks for a recent shock win over Banbury B, who were also strong promotion candidates.

The A team now quickly moves on to our final match of the season next week against Shirley, which will decide whether we finish third or fourth (big deal!). Stay tuned for a match report which, I can already assure you, will reveal a Kenilworth team selection bombshell!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

2018 LDCL Blitz Tournament

This year's LDCL Blitz tournament takes place at Solihull's Chess Club venue, The Blossomfield Club, The Wardens, Widney Lane, Solihull, B91 3JY, on Wednesday 25th April, starting at 7:30pm.

Hopefully a number of KCC members will feel moved to take part. Myself, Ben and Mike J tend to be regulars, while Dave has also been known to put in the occasional appearance. Those with a very long memory will recall that Carl is a former winner (2008!).

Entry is £1 per person, all monies collected will be returned in prizes.
There will be 9 rounds at 5 minutes per game, paired on the Swiss system.
Prizes will be awarded in the Open and Minor sections, grading limit for the minor will depend on entries. If there are enough entrants there will be 3 sections - Open, Under 140, and Under 100, as last year.

Entrants should arrive before 7:30 in order to ensure a prompt start. (And to have any chance of finding a space in the car-park!)

Friday, 13 April 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Pilgrimage - Part 4, the Church and the Grave

According to Google Maps, it would take 25 minutes to walk the 2 kilometres from the Bobby Fischer Center to Laugardaelakirkja, but as Mrs Club Organiser and myself were both a bit under the weather, and as it was about zero degrees with a bitingly cold wind, we opted for the three minute car ride instead. (Actually it took about 5 minutes, as I managed to take a wrong turn, which looks totally impossible unless you enlarge the map!)



The arrow straight approach road - more of a lane really - is across flat, open country, though snow capped mountains frame the scene to the north. Passing a turn off to Selfoss Golf Club (easily avoided, even by me) you shortly arrive at the small cluster of buildings that make up the settlement - not even a village - of Laugardaelir. There are a couple of houses, a big farmstead surrounded by an unappealing collection of large, run-down, barns and sheds, and a tiny, modern, white church with a  small graveyard. This is not where you would expect to find the final resting place of the 11th World Chess Champion.



The Church itself is very picturesque, and once inside it is warm, light and airy. But you have to wonder where it gets its congregation from, as it feels as though you are in the middle of nowhere.


The main part of the graveyard is to the side of the church, but Fischer's grave lies alone, immediately inside the front gate to the churchyard, hard up against the wall. While the view to the church is appealing, the view beyond the headstone is anything but - a giant agricultural skip and general dilapidation, which even the brief appearance of the charming Mrs Club Organiser in the video below can do little to dispel. An ironic continuation in death of the tragic struggle of Bobby's life and character, perhaps - the two extremes of beauty/truth and ugliness/falsehood fighting to have the final word?


The grave is marked by a very simple headstone. I stand there feeling incredibly sad that such a supreme talent should have ended up here, after what - despite its glorious triumphs - was largely a wasted and ruined life. He cheated himself of so many possibilities, and he cheated the world of so much uncreated beauty on the chessboard. That it should come to this. That he should end up here.

RIP Bobby
I feel that my words are not doing justice to the moment. Even to myself I can't express the range of emotions that came flooding over me in this deserted, bleak, bone-achingly cold graveyard. How can you even begin to reconcile this emptiness with the awesome beauty and majesty of his great games? Games like this one, for instance?


But luckily the thirteenth world chess champion was moved to rather greater eloquence on his visit to Laugardaelakirkja, and thankfully the words were captured for posterity.



Many years ago I stood by the tomb of Paul Morphy on a swelteringly hot day in New Orleans. He was called "the pride and sorrow of chess", but no-one could have known that another American would eventually come along to lay even greater claim to that description. In 2018 I stood by the grave of Robert James Fischer on a freezing cold day in the Icelandic countryside. Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy. But death will always eventually deliver checkmate.

The pilgrimage ends.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Almost there (for some)!

It's April and so must nearly be the end of the season. Not so this year. The snow in December and January means that there is a backlog of games in Div2 and these delayed fixtures may stretch into May.

Fortunately for the B team, we had been lucky with the winter weather and this was just a scheduled end of season fixture with the aim of not haemorrhaging any more points. Our opponents, Deventry, were also mid table and presumably had much the same objective.

First to finish was Dave playing white against Abbie Stevens. As per the reverse fixture, Dave has a good position out of the opening. However this time a speculative king side sacrifice by black failed to generate sufficient play and once the queens were exchanged the ending was winnable.

Mike's game against Andy Foulds was a complicated affair. However, after a flurry of moves up to the time control, a draw was agreed.

Phil had black against Andy Johnson. During a complicated middle game position, white allowed black to generate a powerful passed d pawn. Unfortunately in trying to win this pawn, white left his queen en-pris.

Ben's game resulted in a long rook and bishop against rook and knight ending. White pawn structure left black with an advntage but a draw was agreed at the time control.

So there it was 3-1 to Kenilworth with one game to go against promotion seeking Banbury C.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Pilgrimage - Part 3, the Museum

Arriving in Selfoss from Reykjavik, you cross over the Olfusa River and take an immediate left turn at the roundabout to continue on the N1 Icelandic Ring Road towards Vik. This is Austurvegur, and you are looking for number 21. After a couple of hundred yards, immediately opposite the impressive Landsbankinn building, you cross the road and park. You have arrived at The Bobby Fischer Center.

The Bobby Fischer Center, Selfoss
The Museum is open for three hours a day in the summer months, between mid-May and mid-September, but this is February, so I (plus a reluctant Mrs Club Organiser) am being admitted by special request at 11.00 for a private viewing, thanks to a very nice lady, Aldis, who is a member of the Center's Executive Board.  We are early - there can be no question of missing this appointment! - and right on time Aldis arrives to let us into the Museum. The entrance is on the north side of the building at the western end, where some steps, a door and another flight of stairs lead to the first floor which the Centre shares with the Selfoss Chess Club. How inspirational a venue this must be! Below are a couple of shops selling who knows what (I think one was a florist), but business was not exactly brisk while we waited!

The Stairway to Heaven

The Museum is - apparently - one of only three in the world devoted to an individual chess player, the others being for Max Euwe (Holland) and Emmanuel Lasker (Germany).

So nearly there.......
The Museum is very light and spacious, and contains a surprisingly large amount of memorabilia relating to Bobby's chess career - especially the 1972 World Championship Match, of course - and his later Iceland years from 2005. There are photos, magazine covers, newspaper articles, cartoons, original and facsimile score sheets for Fischer games, coins, medals and much more. A TV monitor plays an old BBC documentary about Bobby, that I have to confess I was not aware of. And Aldis gives a very interesting and informative presentation of Bobby's life, and especially about his later years and the founding of the Centre.

Inside the Bobby Fischer Center
The centrepiece (should that be centerpiece?) is a replica of the chess table on which the 1972 match was played. The original is in the National Museum of Iceland, but regrettably is not on display. (Which explains why I did not visit the National Museum of Iceland.) The table was signed by both the players after the Match, and the curators are concerned that these will fade if displayed. You might think this was not an insuperable problem, but I couldn't possibly comment!

The most poignant exhibit is also the most banal. Five very second-hand paperbacks that Bobby ordered at Bokin, but which he never lived to collect.




And then, after just over an hour, its over. I could have stayed all day, but both Aldis and Mrs Club Organiser had other things to do. I don't suppose I will ever be in Selfoss again, so that was a once in a lifetime experience. What a massive vote of thanks is owed by chess fans the world over to a few determined people who founded, developed and now run this amazing place. I imagine the Chess Hall of Fame in Saint Louis is ten times glitzier, but I'm sorry Rex, I find it hard to imagine that it could begin to compare with the profundity of the Selfoss experience. And I doubt it could compete in the T shirt stakes!

Coming soon to a Thursday evening at The Gauntlet
So there you have it. A whole Museum devoted to Bobby, in a small town of less than 7,000 people in the Icelandic interior. But why there? Why Selfoss? A place he never visited, and with which he had no connections.* The answer, of course, is because this is where Bobby Fischer is buried. So I'm warning you now, to get your handkerchiefs ready. Because the next stage in my pilgrimage is to the grave site, ánd if you think I've been maudlin and sentimental already, you ain't seen nothing yet.

But first another of our lesser known Fischer games. And what could it possibly be, except for the game on the T shirt!!



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Pilgrimage - Part 2, the Bookshop and the Chair

On the corner of Klapparstigur and Hverfisgata in downtown Reykjavik, is Bokin, a second hand bookstore.

Anyone speak Icelandic?
When I visited, it was a Sunday, so not surprisingly it was closed, but no matter. Because its not so much what is inside the shop that is important, but what used to be there. And anyway, most of the books are in Icelandic which would have made browsing rather pointless. (Did you know that there are more books published in Icelandic per capita native speaker than any other language in the world? Well, on those long, dark winter days there's not a lot else to do, is there? Which might also explain why Iceland has more Grandmasters per capita than any other country in the world.)


Spot the difference!
And it's also not so much the front door that matters here, either, since the significance, at least for us Fischer pilgrims, is around the corner behind the glass frontage along Hverfisgata. Bobby Fischer was a frequent visitor to Bokin after his return to Iceland in 2005, spending many hours sitting in a quiet area at the back of the shop, where he could both watch the world go by and keep an eye out for any journalist (or pilgrim?) who might threaten his privacy.  It is even said, though I cannot vouch for its truth, that he used Bokin as a kind of PO Box, having his mail delivered here.

A chess set now sits poignantly on a table where Fischer whiled away the hours - but he wasn't sitting on that chair!
But something vital is missing, and for the final piece of this part of the jigsaw, we need to travel about 35 miles away to the small town of Selfoss. I say small, as the population is only around 7,000, but even so it is the fourth largest town/city in Iceland outside the Reykjavik area (behind Akureyri, Keflavik and Akranes). (And its chess club has a Grandmaster, six times Icelandic Champion Helgi Olafsson.) But what it lacks in size, Selfoss makes up for in other ways, as there is nowhere else on earth where you can get closer to Bobby Fischer. And at the Bobby Fischer Center one of the museum exhibits is the very chair in which Bobby used to sit at Bokin!


Bobby sat here!
Eagle-eyed observers can see the chair in its original location at Bokin in the photograph on the wall behind. Where its also noticeable that there was no table and no chess set in evidence.


And so did the Club Organiser! Although he seems to have made the chair disappear!!
Is it sad and pathetic to invest so much emotional significance in a chair? Probably, but I'm a sentimental old codger at heart, so I'm not going to apologise. And as artefacts go, this one certainly brought a lump to the throat, despite its simplicity, even banality. To be this close to Bobby, though, is no everyday experience.

The next instalment of my pilgrimage will present a fuller appreciation of the Bobby Fischer Center (not my spelling - and he was American after all!), but it must first be time for another of Bobby's lesser known masterpieces.



Sunday, 1 April 2018

Bobby Fischer; a Personal Piligrimage - Part 1, Introduction

Interviewer: What is Fischer?
Bobby Fischer: It is my name.
Interviewer: Could you describe that name?
Bobby Fischer: Just a name with seven letters.
(Sarajevo, 1970, quoted in "Chess Meets of the Century" by Dimitrije Bjelica)

But surely the most magical and profound seven letters in the history of chess. For those of us who came to serious chess in the late 1960s or early 1970s, there could only ever be one chess hero. Robert James Fischer; born Chicago, March 9th, 1943; US Champion eight times (every time he played), starting at the age of 14 and finishing at just 23, and including the 1963-64 event when he scored 11/11. Along a rocky road lasting just over a decade he took on, virtually single handedly, the might of the Soviet chess machine, finally becoming World Champion in Iceland in 1972 in the Match of the Century against Boris Spassky. Chess was never so important; never so popular; never so sexy.

But it wasn't easy being a Bobby fan. The frustrations at all the false starts and turns along the road to the world title were as nothing compared to the disappointment that was to follow. Because Bobby virtually disappeared. He grew more and more reclusive; more and more demanding; and less and less the stuff of hero worship.  He played again just once, a sanction busting, sensational, but ultimately irrelevant rematch against Spassky in Yugoslavia. He won easily, but I have to confess, I can't recall a single game from the match. He was now a peripheral figure. In still later years the decline continued, and he became a virtual global pariah due to his virulent anti-semitism, and anti-US sentiments. In 2005 he was rescued from a Japanese jail (on the verge of extradition to the US) by the country of Iceland, the very place where he had bestrode the world like a Colossus in 1972, and died there on January 17th, 2008. He was (how could it be anything else?) 64 years old.

But the chess, the chess! I can't find it in myself to excuse what he did and said after 1972, but his games up till then were just so awesome, and his journey so astounding and thrilling, that he will forever be my greatest chess hero. And while I wouldn't have wanted to invite him to dinner, I will forever be a fan. With games like this (only the third most famous against either of the Byrne brothers!) who wouldn't be?





So what is a an ageing and ambivalent Fischer fanboy to do? How to bring together the extremely varied emotions and memories that those seven letters evoke, and - hopefully - achieve some kind of personal clarity? Well, sitting on my backside in Kenilworth was certainly not going to deliver this kind of result, so I decided to go on a journey; a search; a pilgrimage to try and somehow connect with Fischer's life - and his death. Now to my knowledge (highly imperfect, so don't quote me!) Bobby Fischer only came to Britain once in his life, when he took part in a consultation game for BBC Radio in 1961. (He partnered Leonard Barden against Jonathan Penrose and Phil's late brother in law, Peter Clarke.) So any pilgrimage has to look further afield. The US would be possible, but besides the apartment in Brooklyn where he grew up (Apartment Q, 560 Lincoln Place), Bobby's life was either peripatetic or secretive, so there isn't really anywhere else that might help in my quest. And besides, it's all too long ago and too humdrum. What we need is somewhere visceral; somewhere dramatic; somewhere with more recent associations. There is, in fact, only one place on earth to go if you want to get close to Bobby.

And so - to Iceland!

It doesn't get much more visceral and dramatic than this!

Where the pilgrimage will shortly land in Part Two.