Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Chess

Today was a miserable day for me. First, I've been feeling pretty ill, and have had to drop out of the Monday night game at the Melbourne Chess Club this week. I've tried hard to keep playing, but last week, I developed a splitting headache through the game, and was completely washed out from just playing. As much as I love playing chess, when it is affecting my health, I'm not particularly happy doing it. Anyway, I've been to see my doctor, had some tests done and will get the results back this week, and will then see how I feel about continuing on Monday nights from next week.

Saying that, I've continued to work, even though the doctor has told me that I should rest and take time off. Thankfully my wife doesn't read my chess posts, or she'd be telling me off about this issue! Today, I had a relatively easy job of talking to strangers and playing all comers simultaneously in the CBD of Melbourne. I say relatively easy, though that wasn't strictly true. I was set up in an under cover outdoor corridor, which was cold and a bit damp. So while talking to people about chess is something that I can easily do, and playing simultaneously against people who don't regularly play chess is not a big challenge either, the weather conditions didn't do me any good today, and I felt pretty bad at times.

While I had some boards set up to play people, I set up a few positions to talk to people about. My work was part of The Festival of Steve in the CBD partly sponsored by ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. So I decided that a position or 2 from films would be a good talking point, and in fact it was. I ended up speaking more about James Bond than I spent playing chess! Yes, probably the most famous position from the movies was the Spassky-Bronstein inspired position from the Bond movie, From Russia With Love.

Imagine that there are no white pawns in the centre of the board and you have the position that featured in the bond film. The game was an amazing slugfest, well worth a look if you haven't seen it before.

I also like to show queen sacrifices, so I had one lined up from the book 200 Miniature Games of Chess by Julius du Mont. Du Mont was a concert pianist, but an average chess player, but he was an avid organiser and writer. He worked tirelessly for the British Chess federation and British Chess Magazine between the first and second world wars, and is probably best known in chess circles for his collaboration with Tartakower on the excellent 500 Master Games of Chess. In our digital age of information overload, these books might seem a bit odd, but compilations were great mines of information in the pre digital age, and I remember learning much from this volume when I worked through it.

This position was from the game Horwitz-Bledow, 2 of the stars of the German Pleiades group who really paved the way for the dominance of German chess in the second half of the nineteenth century. Bledow is one of the under rated players in chess history, and there is reason to believe that he was in the running for being considered the world's best in the 1840's. Anyway, the position above sees the cute 1..Nxe4! 2.Bxe7 Bxf2+ 3.Kg1 Ng3#

And finally a position to stump chess players, but which was the most interesting to most of those I spoke to.

This is the position that IM Jeremy Silman created for the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Harry is a black bishop on a3 that will give mate, while Ron Weasley is the g5 knight, and Hermione Granger the rook on f8. As black threatens Nh3 mate, Silman had white play 1.Qxd3, when he fashioned the finish 1..Rc3 2.Qxc3 Nh3+ 3.Qxh3 (oops, that's Ron Weasley out the game), 3..Bc5+ 4.Qe3 Bxc3# with Harry winning the game and getting revenge on the white queen. Much of this didn't actually get to the screen as the director's chose only to play a couple of moves, but the story behind it is quite interesting.

Other than the weather it was an enjoyable few hours talking to people about chess and spreading the word! But when I get back I look at the big, wide world of chess and see the field for the London Classic in December with no English player in it. It is an unbelievably good field of players, but it is very disappointing to see a tournament in England with no English elite players competing. There are other events in the festival, but with a bunch of 2650+ GM's and Adams still knocking around 2730, I would have expected London to offer a place to a home representative.

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