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 meĆ° 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


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!