Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Important - New Thursday Evening Venue for Social Chess

From Thursday June 29th, the venue for our weekly social chess evenings will be:-

The Gauntlet
Caesar Road (virtually opposite the junction with Percy Road)

We will be meeting here from 7.30pm each Thursday throughout the year. (With the very odd exception!)

This website will be updated with the new details as soon as our Webmaster can find a few spare moments in his hectic and exciting life-style!

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Strange Outbreak of Giant Chess Pieces in Lisbon!

Portugal is not famous as a chess nation, but while casually strolling around Lisbon recently, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a series of giant chess pieces. Clearly the Portuguese' love for our game goes much deeper than anyone realised.

First up, was this splendid King. Not strictly in Lisbon, but only a short train ride away in the seaside resort of Cascais, where lurking in front of the inevitable Irish pub is this fine statue of Dom Pedro IV of Portugal, who confusingly was also Dom Pedro I of Brazil, giving us two kings for the price of one.

Not a man who would take kindly to being checkmated, I think!
Rather more dramatic, though, was this splendid pair of knights, seemingly leaping forwards onto strong outposts. They can be found in the gardens along the northern bank of the Tagus, opposite the Jeronimos Monastery in the Lisbon suburb of Belem.

Let's construct a mating net!
A couple of mighty horses like this could surely only have been inspired by the pair in the following game who, with plenty of help from the world's strongest player at the time, weaved a beautiful mating net.

And finally we finish with the most famous and beautiful of them all, the exquisite Torre de Belem, which is located just a couple of knight hops westwards from the statue of the two knights. This must surely be the world's finest ever Rook. I can well imagine it giving a back rank mate or two in its time.

All rook and pawn endings would definitely be drawn if the defender had a rook like this!
Now, in such a religious country as Portugal, you'd think I could have found a suitable Bishop or two wouldn't you? And for every Dom Pedro, there was always a Queen to keep him company. But clearly I wasn't paying enough attention at the crucial times, so I'm afraid that the collection ends there. Of course, I could put in some pawn pictures, but this is simply not that kind of blog!!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Answer Time

Well, I can't say that I have been overwhelmed by responses to the little brain teaser I posed just before I disappeared on holiday (see previous post), but as I write this stuff entirely for my own amusement, I'm not too bovvered.

I tried to play fair with everyone in the way I worded the puzzle, and the biggest clue should have been the way I only mentioned surnames. If I had listed Alexander Alekhine; Jose Raul Capablanca and so on, all the way down to Natalia Zhukova, then I would have been guilty of deliberately misleading you. Because my list did not include 9 chess players. Come on - how could it, when I guaranteed that Zhukova was the top rated? Above Alekhine and Capablanca?? No way, Jose (Raul)!

And those ratings!? Petrosian 67? Smyslov 82?? They were probably higher than that at the age of 5. But the ratings were a big clue. As for anyone remotely interested in sport, they might well have brought to mind something very different to chess.

My list was in fact made up of 9 race horses, 8 of whom ran on the Flat, plus one who only ever competed in National Hunt racing.  The average race horse is probably rated around 60 on the Flat, so that all bar Staunton were actually quite good. Of the various horses I have owned a small part of, just four have ever got a rating of over 80, but none have got to 90 (yet!).

And most definitely none have got to 115, which is the current rating of the 5 year old mare Zhukova, who is a quite outstanding racehorse. Zhukova is trained in Ireland by the great Dermot Weld (winner of 2 Melbourne Cups and the 2016 Epsom Derby for starters), and on her most recent start she won the Grade 1 Man O' War Stakes at Belmont Park in New York by five lengths (pictured below).

Zhukova first; the rest nowhere!
This took her record to 7 wins in 10 starts and prize money of over £360,000. It also means that if she never runs another race, she would still command a massive sales price (minimum £0.5 million, I would guess) as a prospective brood mare. Zhukova is a daughter of the champion Australian sire Fastnet Rock, who just happens to be the sire of one of my horses, Plymouth Sound, but unfortunately that is where any similarities end!

Apologies if you feel cheated or tricked, but many congratulations if you actually worked it out - that's what chess players do after all!

You can keep an eye open for Zhukova's next run, which is likely to be on July 2 at The Curragh, in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes. I'm sure we'll all be watching with interest.