Mike Fox samples Blackpool's Raunchiest Nite Spot; Richard James takes up tennis

Calling all Losers

Is no game safe from the computer juggernauts? Those of you who seek relaxation from the stresses of the modern game with a quiet session of losing chess will be depressed to know that even this innocent pastime has not escaped. Several programs exist (including one on Zillion', the terrific multi-game program we reviewed only last millennium), but most interesting is that recently developed by US computer wizard Ben Nye. It's called ASCP, and what makes it interesting is that it contains a database for all four piece endings in Losing Chess. Talk about recherché. Nice one Ben. We read all about this in the latest number of Variant Chess, which contains - wait for it - a page of fascinating analysis on that well known Losing Chess ending, bishop versus three knights. (RJ: ' I say, isn't this all getting a bit obscure for our readers?' MF: 'Not at all; as usual you underestimate them, Richard.'). It's generally a win (or put it another way, a loss) for the bish. If you would like to know more about computerised Losing Chess endings, and you speak French, visit Fabrice Liardet's web page: La page d'échecs de Fabrice Liardet (RJ: 'You're on a different planet, you are'. Places green baize cloth over MF's head and moves on to next item.)

Calling all Simians

Seen on a poster advertising the Disney Channel: 'Play chess against apes!'. We don't think this is a reference to our good friends on the Warley Quinborne first team; but apart from that, we're in the dark. Can anyone enlighten us?

Blackpool's Raunchiest Nite Spot

Speaking as we were about losing chess, you should have seen our performance at the Blackpool congress (says MF). After a sparkling first round win, it read thusly: zero zero zero zero. This column's worst tournament performance of all time. We'll come to the alibis in a moment, but first we ought to mention what a terrific job Dave Clayton, Ken McMahon and the rest of the team do in organising this huge (467 players) event. Next year is Blackpool's 25th Anniversary Tournament, and if you fancy playing chess in one of the most splendid venues in Britain - plus a chance to imbibe lungfuls of that famous ozone - book the second weekend in March right now. A surprise winner was S. Mannion (Cathcart), who tied with D. Gormally (Hackney) ahead of such luminaries as Messrs. Lalic, Hebden, Davies, Arkell and Summerscale.

It is probable that Mr. Mannion didn't stay at the same boarding house as we did. Our room overlooked one of the busiest junctions in Blackpool, so we spent most of the night with our elbows over our ears trying to cut out the sound of HGV's revving up at the lights. Plus: our hostelry was in the same building as 'Too Hot To Handle' which, as you probably know, features topless table dancers and advertises itself as 'Blackpool's Raunchiest Nite Spot'. At 3 am, just as the traffic noises and the disco beat were dying down, the revellers leaving 'Too Hot to Handle' decided to gather outside our bedroom window and sing Angel of the Morning, rather less tunefully than Dionne Warwick used to. In the light of all this, we think that our W1 L4 score was pretty terrific. Next year we shall stay at one of the 10,000 quieter boarding houses Blackpool has to offer. (PS one redeeming feature: a couple of the topless table dancers came down to breakfast with us on the Saturday. No, they didn't play chess. We asked.)

This Happy Breed

Psychologists Peter Clough and David Sewell of Hull University have been researching the mood of games playing students (don't ask us why). They claim to have discovered that people who play active sports (squash, rugby, weight training) are not as happy afterwards as the ones who indulge in sedentary sports (chess, bridge, tiddlywinks). According to their findings, the active mob's happiness was related to how well they performed; whereas the couch potatoes (they claim) were happy just to participate, no matter how well they performed (Sunday Times 5th March).

This strikes us (particularly the one who came back from Blackpool and kicked the cat) as complete balderdash.


We accidentally managed to acquire a programme from the recent Hastings Congress. According to the list of winners, C.H.O'D Alexander won in 1920, a remarkable performance as he was only 11 years old at the time.

Next time, try F.D. Yates instead. Out of curiosity we checked the rest of the winners. Firstly, the 1919 Victory Tournament (won by Capablanca) was not included - why? 1926 was a 3-way tie between Colle, Marshall and Takacs - Takacs is missing. 1934, again Flohr is missing from the 3-way tie with Euwe and Sir George Thomas. In 1952 there was a 4-way tie between Golombek, Medina, Penrose and Yanofsky (whose recent death we were sorry to hear about). Yanofsky is missing, having moved across a column to 1974. They got the 4-way tie right in 1967, but for S. Suetin read A. Suetin. In 1974 Hort won outright, not in a tie with Yanofsky, who was playing 22 years earlier. Poor Hort has also been deprived of his share of the spoils with Bronstein and Uhlmann in 1975. Speelman's name is missing from the multiple tie with Chandler, Lputian and Larsen in 1986.

Advantage Kasparov

Garry Kasparov recently took on Boris Becker in a game (chess, not tennis) over the internet via GK's new web site (

Boris, allegedly a serious chess aficionado, said "I find chess very similar to tennis. The common denominator is the geometry".

Boris optimistically went for Scholar's Mate with 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 (a serous chess aficionado?). No such luck. We haven't seen the moves yet but here's the final position.


Looking at this, Boris would be well advised not to give up the day job.

Still on the subject of tennis, information from New in Chess (1/2000) that had us dusting down our tennis racquet: Anna Kournikova has taken up chess in order to help her think ahead and get a better grip on her play. What price a chess match between Anna and Boris?

Sweet FA

Someone at the Football Association with a sense of humour arranged appropriate combinations of officials for the matches taking place on 1 April. For the Division 3 match between Mansfield Town and Barnet they chose Messrs Knight, Castle and King. (And the match itself was just one letter away from a chess coincidence: Barry Barnes has compiled and recently published in three volumes the collected works of one of the greatest of all 2-move composers, Comins Mansfield.)

We also noticed that the Peterborough United, in their thrilling Division 3 promotion match against Rotherham United the previous week, included Castle and Knight in their team. One of their substitutes was called French.

Benny has a Dream

Continuing this month's sporting theme, Benny Andersson, of ABBA and Chess, the musical, fame, has two-year-old racehorses in training with John Dunlop called Smyslov and Steinitz. As usual, we'll keep you informed of their progress.

Oh! Vygod!

Aidan Woodger has, like us, been reading Andy Soltis's excellent new book, Soviet Chess. A reference to Vygodchikov on p116 might go some way to clearing up the mystery of his alleged handicap game against Yudovich.

Mikhail Yudovich (spelled Udovich by Soltis) and Sergei Belavenets, known as the Smolensk twins, had been close friends since meeting in a school match in 1925. Over the next few years they studied with Belavenets's uncle, Konstantin Vygodchikov. (We eventually found him in Gaige, as Vigodchikov.) So, if the game was indeed played, it must have been in, or soon after, 1925, not 1935.

We'd welcome some advice from any Russian speaker on how we should spell these names. Soltis uses, for example, Mikhail Udovich but Yefim Geller, whereas Gaige prefers Mikhail Yudovich and Efim Geller. Should we prefer Sergei and Alexei, or Sergey and Alexey? Help!

Soviet Chess

Soltis's book is clearly one of the most important to have been published in recent years. Soltis has attempted, by and large successfully, to strike a balance between solid history and anecdote, between games and text.. If you're the sort of reader who, on seeing a game, wonders who the players were, what did they look like, what did they do when they weren't playing chess, you'll enjoy, as we did, the pen portraits, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, of the players and personalities of the era.

In attempting to appeal to a chess-playing readership Soltis has sometimes skimmed over the politics: the definitive book on that aspect of the era has yet to be written. We'd have liked more on junior chess, and the world of chess composition is barely touched on, but within the space available Soltis has done an excellent job. Weighing in at 450 large format pages, sumptuously presented as always from McFarland, Soviet Chess is well worth a place on any chess player's bookshelf.

One of the most important figures in the development of Soviet Chess was the much-feared Nikolai Krilenko (spelled Krylenko by Soltis). Krilenko was the Russian Federation's chief public prosecutor and organiser of the political show trials between 1929 and 1931. He had played chess against Lenin (losing his temper when he lost) and other leading Communists, and was largely responsible for the Soviet government's campaign to promote chess. He also found time to play, although never progressing above first category strength. Here's one of his games.

Nikolai Krilenko - Serebriakov

Moscow 1935

Queen's Gambit Declined

1.d4 d5 2.Nd2 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.Ngf3 e6 5.e3 Be7 6.Bd3 Nbd7 7.b3 0–0 8.0–0 Qc7 9.Bb2 Bd6 10.c5 Be7 11.Re1 e5 12.dxe5 Ng4 13.e6 fxe6 14.h3 Ngf6 15.Ng5 Nxc5 16.Bxf6 Rxf6 17.Bxh7+ Kf8 18.Qh5 Bd6 19.Bg6 Ke7 20.Qh7 Rxg6 21.Qxg6 Kf8 22.Nh7+ Ke7 23.Qxg7+ 1-0

Good Health

Last month's feature on Edward Winter's Kings, Commoners and Knaves, raised the question of who first said that he never beat a healthy opponent. Surely it was Amos Burn, in a retirement speech towards the end of his career, writes Mike Cook Ipswich, who recalls seeing it in Reinfeld's The Treasury of Chess Lore.

Yes, this is mentioned in KC&K, originating in an (unsubstantiated) assertion by B.H. Wood in his 1949 Illustrated London News column, and reprinted by Reinfeld. Any confirmation of the attribution to Burn would be appreciated.

By the way, we're still looking for other Burn witticisms, in particular that he really did write (or say) "He who combinates is lost".

Cannon Fire

John Cannon Horsham writes to tell us he has just played his 350th county game over a period of 50 years. 20 for Northumberland between 1951 and 1956, and, following National Service, 330 for Sussex, from 1959 to 2000. Is this, he asks, a record?

Here's John's 350th game.

KW Clow - LJ Cannon

Sussex U175 v Essex U175 2000

Petroff Defence

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Nxe5 d6 5.Nf3 d5 6.Bd3 Be7 7.0–0 Nc6 8.Re1 Bg4 9.c3 f5 10.Nbd2 0–0 11.Qc2 Qd6 12.Ne5 Nxe5 13.dxe5 Qg6 14.Nf1 Bf3 15.g3 f4 16.Nd2 fxg3 17.hxg3 Bc5 18.Nf1 Qh5 0–1


A magazine we mention too little in these pages is The Problemist, the organ of the British Chess Problem Society. In the current issue, Sir Jeremy Morse contributes an article on the little-known problemist D.H. Hersom, who was active in the 1930s. Sir Jeremy was reminded, when he used one of Hersom's problems in a talk last year, that nothing was known about the problemist save that he was British. The BCPS Librarian, John Beasley, discovered that he was living in Barking, East London, in 1942. The electoral roll confirmed that Donald Henry Herson was at that address in 1939. Sir Jeremy then visited the Family Records Centre, where he discovered that Herson had been born in Ilford on 11/1/1914 and married in Bath in 1947, when he was living in Bishop Aukland. He found a Mr John Herson in the Durham telephone directory, who informed Sir Jeremy, to his immense delight, that his father was alive and well and still interested in chess problems. A nice story.

In this problem, you must add a Black King to reach a position where White can mate in one move. If you need a clue, look at the year of publication.

D.H. Hersom

BCF Ty 1937


Membership of the British Chess Problem Society, which includes a subscription to The Problemist, is £18, or £15 for your first year. Write to the Treasurer, Tony Lewis, 16 Cranford Close, Woodmancote, Cheltenham, Glos. GL52 4QA. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in any form of chess composition. If you enjoy Hugh Courtney's Christmas Quizzes or the Problem and Study columns this is the magazine for you.


Place the Black King on g6 (not e8, which would be an illegal position). This problem was submitted to a composing tourney to celebrate the coronation of Edward VIII. After the tourney announcement he abdicated to be replaced by George VI. Hence the solution to the problem, not Ke8 but Kg6!