Mike Fox visits India while Richard James launches a new Web Site

Amazing discovery at Mahabalipuram

The groovier of your columnists spent Christmas at a Hindu wedding in Poonah and saw in the new millennium at Mahabalipuram, which, as you know, is just south of Madras, and which, as you also know, is famous for its temples hewn out of solid rock.

('Why is he telling us all this?' you ask. Patience, people, we shall get around to chess in a moment).

You know the form on these occasions: you hire a local guide, and he drones on about the statuary, while you try to look interested in the story of Hanuman's battle against the demon king, or whatever. Anyway, this time, proceedings are brought to an abrupt halt when we spot some familiar looking carvings in the stone floor of an ancient temple. 'Hey!' we interrupt our guide, 'that's amazing!'.

We are looking at a crude eight by eight grid, with diagonal lines drawn across what would be the black squares on a chess board. Since most of the stuff around us is eighth century or earlier, this is pretty sensational stuff. Our excitement spills over to a passing bunch of Canadian tourists who gather round as we point at the 'board' and rant on: 'Very important's got to be chess...only invented about a century before...may be the earliest example...astonishing that black and white squares are distinguished separately ...changes our whole view of the game's history...'

Suddenly, the flashbulbs start popping as they all jostle to get a record of our sensational find. We're feeling like Howard Carter when he peered into Tutenkhamen's tomb. We turn to our guide and ask 'Have you the faintest idea what the date of this might be?'

'Yes I have.' he says sweetly, 'It's late twentieth century. The villagers play here all the time'.

Short and sweet and deviant

For all of you who didn't rush out and buy a copy of David Pritchard's tremendous Encyclopedia of Chess Variants like we told you to, here's a second bite at the cherry. Just out is a slimmer, but equally fascinating work by the old master of deviancy: Popular Chess Variants (DB Pritchard, Batsford, 2000,).

Not only does David describe most of the better and better known variants, but this time he tells you how to win, with some sparkling examples. Here, as a taster, are some of them:

Losing Chess

Did you know that 1.e4 is an instant loss? Watch Grandmaster Bronstein demonstrate it:
1.e4?? d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qxg2 4.Bxg2 b6 5. Bxa8 Nc6 6.Bxc6 a5 7.Bxe8 Nf6 8.Bxf7 Be6 9.Bxe6 Nd7 10. Bxd7 e6 11.Bxe6 Rg8 12. Bxg8 g6 13.Bxh7 c5 14.Bxg6 a4 15.Nxa4 c4 16.Nxb6 Bc5 17. Nxc4 Bxf2. d4?? and d3?? are also 'mate in 17' as it were.

Progressive Chess

You know - white makes one move, black two, then white three, and so on. A check ends a player's move no matter how many moves he's made. Here's a common opening trap:

1. e4 2. e5 d5 3.Nh3 f3 Bb5+ (Black must get out of check immediately) 4.c6 Bg4 Bxf3 Bxd1 5.a4 Ra3 Rc3 Rxc6 Re6 mate! Neat eh?

And another, by the maestro himself:

D Pritchard v.Anon
1.d4 2.d6 Nf6 3.a4 Bg5 Bxf6 4. gxf6 Bf5 Kd7 Na6 5. e3 Qf3 Qxb7 d5 Bb5 mate.

Marseillais Chess

(As played by Alekhine and Reti in the twenties).

You get two moves instead of one; a check on the first move means you don't get a second; and you must get out of check on your first move. Here's a correspondence brevity won by doyen of endgame studies André Chéron:

1. Nf3 Nc3; b6 g6 2.b3 Bb2; Bb7 e5 3.Nxe5 Nd3?; Bxg2 Bxh1 4. Bg2 Bxh1; Qg5 Qg1 mate. David also gives a well known (but much longer) win by Alekhine.

So, if you want to whup those guys on the first team at any of the above, or at Extinction Chess or Avalanche Chess, or Knight Relay Chess or Shogi , or any of twenty terrific variants, this is the book to spend your Christmas gift vouchers on - a snip at £14.99. Go get it.

Chess Solutions

Colin Byford somewhere in Ireland e-mails us with the news that Santa gave his 8-year-old a 6-in-1 Compendium Game (Tomland Industries, Hong Kong). The picture on the front, of course, shows the board the wrong way round. The rules make interesting reading, for instance:
"The Black side moves first."
"Knight - 2 squares forward, backward or sideways, to be followed by 1 square diagonally. It can pass an occupied square."
Coincidentally, RJ had seen an identical set of rules the day before - 5-year-old Hal had brought along his magnetic pocket set (made in China) to a chess workshop over the Christmas holidays.
One of RJ's private pupils, a talented 7-year-old called Michael Boulton, has a House Martin chess set - the sort that is generally available in any high street. The rules call Rooks Castles, ignore the en passant rule (as Michael himself pointed out) and are unaware that you cannot castle through check.
A cartoon in the Funday Times (the kids bit of the Sunday Times) 9/1/00 featured a chess board with a black square in the right hand corner, and the bishops and knights the wrong way round.
Of course you, knowledgeable chess player that you must be, reading this magazine, will have no problem teaching your children to play chess. But think for a moment of your non-chess-playing neighbours. Little Johnny's school has just started a chess club. They've read somewhere that chess is good for you and decide they'd like him to play. What do they do? They go down to the High Street, buy a chess set, try to learn the moves from the rules that come with the set and start playing. And, as we've seen, the rules will probably be incomplete, ambiguous or just plain wrong. When Johnny goes along to the school chess club he'll probably end up rather confused and frustrated.
Since we started getting involved in school chess clubs we've seen this happening over and over again. It became clear to us that the long-term answer was the Internet. And so, over the Christmas holidays, RJ put up his first attempt at a web site called Chess Solutions.
The site will eventually contain a large amount of coaching material suitable for beginners and less experienced players, some designed for parents and children to use at home, some for use within school clubs, advice for parents and teachers, details of junior chess organisers, clubs and tournaments, recommendations for books, software and equipment, and anything else anyone else can think of. Anyone else who wishes to contribute to the site in any way will be very welcome.
We're also working on another site, provisionally called chessKids Academy, which will feature interactive lessons and quizzes for children.
You can reach all of this, along with the Richmond Junior Chess Club site, through our portal

Puzzled (1)

Graham White Christchurch has been reading the new Puzzled column in the Daily Express.
The very first column offered this puzzle:

Should White play Kg5, Kg4 or Kg3, the readers were asked.
The published solution was Kg3, leading to a draw after Kd2. However, as Graham points out, Black can win by playing Ke2! instead. We asked FRITZ, who promptly announced mate in 23 after any first move by White.

Puzzled (2)

We received an e-mail recently:
"Hello, we're trying to solve a puzzle and I think you can help us.

"'Won 34 out of 38, 14 in a row. Died on the 5th of April. Who?' It's someone playing in the thirties.

"Do you know the answer to the question? Please reply.

"Thanks in advance.

"Joris Wouters"

We couldn't think of an answer. We tried looking up famous players who died on 5 April, without success. Can anyone out there help?


Our request for non-chess sightings of Zugzwang elicited a reply from Chris Depasquale Australia:
"One example is in the book Backwards by Rob Grant (Viking 1996); a sequel to Red Dwarf. In that book one character, Admiral Tranter, must make a decision which will leave him unpopular with the people under his command, if he chooses one way, or with his superiors, if he chooses the other. On page 111 is the sentence:
"'True it would be another nail in his career's coffin - if there was room for another nail in there - but he was zugzwanged: whichever way he moved. he lost.'
"For the record, Tranter did what all good chess players do when they are zugzwanged: he resigned."

IAGOCOT 496431

Spotted in the Times (12/1/00), here's Graham Searjeant:
"To improve on the market, you have to out-think market forces. It is a game fit only for the finest chess player. Most of us confronted by such complexities, are likely to be check-mated in three or four moves. The skilled chess player may have to think dozens of moves ahead. Any interference with market forces sets off a chain of reactions, later to be blamed on speculation, perversity or loopholes. The game is worth playing. To win, it must be played selectively and well."
David Youston Canada submits an article by Hugh Winsor from the Toronto Globe & Mail (1/12/99):
"But another possible construction of recent events suggests the Liberals' national-unity initiatives are not as happenstance as they appear. Rather, they are part of a longer-term calculated sequence going back to the Supreme Court reference. Initially, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion took the lead - in chess terms, he has been a possibly expendable knight pursuing a blocking strategy. Each time Quebec moved, Mr Dion made a blocking move."
The chess analogy continued: "Eventually, however, to fully use the Supreme Court dictum that for a secessionist vote to be valid, it must be on a clear question carried by a clear majority, more power is needed. In chess terms, that means the king. In political terms, it means the Prime Minister and Parliament. You don't risk the king without a lot of calculation."
Winsor concluded: "Obviously the Quebec federal Liberals think their blocking will soon produce a checkmate."
A reply to this article appeared in the letters page two days later, from Kenneth C MacDonald:
"In comparing the Prime Minister's recent constitutional initiatives to the strategy of chess, ugh Winsor (Dec 1) indicates that, early in the game, he uses his 'expendable knights' as blockers, and then, later, relies on the offensive power of his king.
"I would like to challenge Mr Winsor to a chess match. There are not many people in the world who I can beat, but I think Mr Winsor may be one of them"

Chess in Iceland

From Alasdair Alexander Surbiton CC:
"Grimsey is known as the home of some of the most avid chess players in Iceland. Historically, many a poor performance at this sacred pastime resulted in the blunderer flinging himself into the sea. On Grimsey, a failure in chess was a failure in life. Enthusiasm for the game seems to have dampened in the past couple of generations, but everyone on the island knows the story of its rather unconventional American benefactor, Daniel Willard Fiske.

"During the late 1870s, Fiske, a millionaire journalist and chess champion, set himself up as the island's protector after hearing about its passion for the game. He sent badly needed firewood (as well as chess supplies!), financed the island's tiny library and bequeathed part of his estate to it without ever making a visit

"For the complete Fiske story, which is quite amusing, read Lawrence Millman's account of a visit to the island in his book Last Places- A Journey in the North. In the library at the community centre, you can still see a portrait of Fiske and some of his donations. His birthday is celebrated on 11 November.

"(Source: Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands (Lonely Planet Publications))
"Grimsey is an island off the North Coast of Iceland - surprisingly the only inhabited part of Iceland North of the Arctic Circle.
Also, Fiske does have quite a big entry in Hooper and Whyld."

Raindrops Keep Falling...

This and the next couple of items from BCM 1943, which we were browsing through while checking up the du Mont reference (see later).
From the great TR Dawson's Endings column (June): "Sorry I cannot read the note on NO. 564 as a large raindrop has washed it out!"

Girls' Challenge

From a report on the deciding game in the Senior Section of the Girls' Challenge Cup (May):
"Pat thought it necessary to give up her Queen for a Bishop on the 11th move. Barbara, who rather specialises in the use of her Queen, made 16 excellent moves in succession, and in spite of her opponent's ingenious defence ultimately won the game."


From du Mont's obituary of Victor Farkas, a former champion of Bratislava, who was killed while removing mines from the South coast (July):
"Victor Farkas, at the time of his death, was about to spend his leave, as he always did, in roaming some part of the country, this time Wales. For he loved England, as those he met in England loved him."

Chain Gang

Following on from Bacrot-Polgar last month, we look at games with pawn chains.

Julius du Mont was famous for doing it twice. Leonard Barden tells us he saw this game being played at Croydon Chess Club.

Julius du Mont - H Gosling
Croydon 1943
Catalan System
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d5 3.Bg2 c6 4.d4 e6 5.0–0 Bd6 6.Nbd2 0–0 7.c4 Nbd7 8.b3 Re8 9.Bb2 dxc4 10.Nxc4 Bc7 11.Nfe5 c5 12.f4 Rb8 13.Nxd7 Nxd7 14.e4 b5 15.Ne5 Nxe5 16.dxe5 Bb6 17.Qc2 b4 18.Rfd1 c4+ 19.Kh1 Qc7 20.Qxc4 Qxc4 21.bxc4 a5 22.Bd4 Bxd4 23.Rxd4 Ba6 24.c5 Red8 25.Rd6 Bb5 26.Rc1 a4 27.c6 Rbc8 28.c7 Rd7 29.Bf1 Rxd6 30.exd6 Bd7 31.e5

31...Ra8 32.Bb5 1–0

DuMont claimed in the BCM that this was, apart from his earlier game, the instance in recorded chess of a complete pawn chain. But he was unaware of this one, dating back 111 years. The winner's name appears in different sources as Samuel, Simon and Solomon. Gaige thinks Samuel is the most likely.

Samuel(?) Lipschütz - Eugene Delmar
New York (17) 1889
Caro-Kann Defence
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Bd3 Bg6 5.f4 e6 6.Nf3 c5 7.c3 Nc6 8.0–0 c4 9.Bc2 Nh6 10.Nbd2 b5 11.Re1 Be7 12.Nf1 Qb6 13.Ne3 Bxc2 14.Qxc2 g6 15.g4 0–0–0 16.f5 gxf5 17.gxf5 Rdg8+ 18.Kh1 Ng4 19.Nxg4 Rxg4 20.f6 Bf8 21.Be3 Rg6 22.Rg1 Qb7 23.h4 b4 24.h5 Rxg1+ 25.Rxg1 h6 26.Kh2 Qa6 27.Qb1 Qa5 28.Bd2 Qb5 29.Nh4 Qb6 30.Kh3 a5 31.Ng6 fxg6 32.hxg6 Qc7 33.g7

33...Rg8 34.Qh7 Qf7 35.gxf8Q+ Rxf8 36.Qxf7 Rxf7 37.Rg7 Rxg7 38.fxg7 Ne7 39.cxb4 axb4 40.Bxb4 Ng8 41.Kh4 Kd7 42.Kh5 Ke8 43.Kg6 h5 44.Be1 Ne7+ 45.Kf6 Kd7 46.Kf7 Nf5 47.g8Q Nh6+ 48.Kf8 Nxg8 49.Kxg8 Kc6 50.Kf7 Kb5 51.Kxe6 1–0

Next, an English contribution: a future IM against a future GM.

Angus Dunnington (2200) - Jonathan Levitt (2310)
Lloyds Bank op London (3) 1982
King's Indian Defence
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.0–0 0–0 5.c4 Nc6 6.d4 d6 7.Nc3 Rb8 8.h3 a6 9.e4 b5 10.e5 Nd7 11.Ng5 dxe5 12.Bxc6 exd4 13.Ne2 Ne5 14.Bg2 Nxc4 15.Ne4 f5 16.Nd2 Nb6 17.f4 c5 18.Nf3 Bb7 19.h4 Be4 20.Kh1 Qd5 21.Neg1 Rbd8 22.Bd2 Nc4 23.Qc1 e5 24.Ne2 Bxf3 25.Bxf3 e4 26.Bg2 Nb6 27.Ba5 Rb8 28.Bxb6 Rxb6 29.Qd2 c4 30.Rfd1 Rd8 31.a3 Rbd6 32.Qb4 Qe6 33.a4 Rb6 34.axb5 Rxb5 35.Qa3 Rb3 36.Qxa6 Qxa6 37.Rxa6 Rxb2 38.Nc3 Re8 39.Nd5 d3 40.Rc6 c3 41.Ne3 Reb8 42.Bf1 c2

43.Rc1 Rb1 44.R6xc2 dxc2 45.Rxc2 Bd4 0–1

Before Bacrot, the highest rated member of the Chain Gang was this guy:

Dariusz Klimaszewski (2275) - Jusefs Petkevich (2445)
Polish Team Championship 1991
Sicilian Defence
1.e4 c5 2.c3 b6 3.d4 e6 4.Nf3 Bb7 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.Qe2 Be7 7.0–0 d5 8.e5 Nfd7 9.Be3 Nc6 10.a3 c4 11.Bc2 b5 12.Nfd2 h5 13.f4 g6 14.Nf3 Nb6 15.Nbd2 Qd7 16.Bf2 Qd8 17.Qe1 h4 18.h3 a5 19.Nh2 b4 20.Ndf3 b3 21.Bd1 Na4 22.Rb1 Na7 23.Qe3 Nb5 24.Ng5 Naxc3 25.bxc3 Nxa3 26.Rb2 a4 27.Bg4 Bc8 28.Nhf3 Nb5 29.Bxh4 a3 30.Rbf2 a2


31.Ra1 Qa5 32.Nxf7 Rxh4 33.Nd6+ Bxd6 34.exd6 Rxg4 35.Qe5 Qa3 36.Qh8+ Kd7 37.Ne5+ Kxd6 38.Qd8+ 1–0

The winner of our next specimen is a frequent visitor to England.

Alex Cherniaev (2420) - Sean Colure
New York (3), 1993
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Qc7 4.0–0 e6 5.Re1 Nge7 6.c3 a6 7.Ba4 b5 8.Bc2 d5 9.a4 b4 10.d4 c4 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.e5 b3 13.Bb1 g6 14.Nf1 h6 15.h3 0–0–0 16.g4 Bg7 17.Ng3 Rdg8 18.Nh4 Kb8 19.Ng2 Bc8 20.f4 Bf8 21.Qf3 Qd8 22.Re2 Bd7 23.a5 Nc8 24.f5 gxf5 25.gxf5 Be7 26.f6 Bf8 27.Nh5 Kb7 28.Kh2 N8a7 29.Bf4 Nb5 30.Rd2 Nxa5 31.Ne3 Nc6 32.Ng4 a5 33.Qe3 Qa8 34.Nxh6 Bxh6 35.Bxh6 a4 36.Ng3 a3 37.Bg7 a2

38.Bxh8 axb1Q 39.Rxb1 Rxh8 40.Rg1 Rh4 41.Ne2 Qh8 42.Rg7 Qh5 43.Nf4 Qf5 44.Rf2 Be8 45.Qg3 Rh6 46.Rg8 Bd7 47.Qg7 Rh7 48.Qf8 Nc7 49.Rg7 Be8 50.Rxh7 Qxh7 51.Qg7 Qe4 52.Qg2 Qh7 53.Qg3 Nb5 54.Rd2 Qe4 55.Ne2 Nb8 56.h4 Nd7 57.Nf4 Nf8 58.Re2 Qf5 59.Qg5 Qb1 60.Nh5 Ng6 61.Ng3 Nxc3 62.bxc3 Qa1 63.h5 b2 64.hxg6 fxg6 65.f7 Bxf7 66.Qe7+ Ka6 67.Qd6+ Ka7 68.Qc7+ Ka6 69.Qc6+ Ka7 70.Rf2 1–0

Other pawn chain games we found on our database were: Robert Tibensky - Schilar Bratislava 1977, G Candan - D Izquierdo
Uruguayan championship 1988, Sandrine Castaing - Monique Ruck Petit Bordeaux 1991, Tibor Ladanyi (2145) - Daniel Boros (2325) Bela Papp Memorial 1995, D Milicevic - L Poitras 24th Keres Memorial Vancouver 1999

Be warned: we've just ordered 5 million chess games on 3 CDs. More information on this next time.