Daniel King – A Summer Simul in Hanwell

7/22/2013 – The fourteenth day of July 2013 proved to be scorching hot, but this did not deter chess enthusiasts in Oxfordshire, England, from appearing for a body and mind battle against chess GM and trainer Daniel King. According to organiser Carl Portman, in such events it is critical to avoid "taciturn introverts" and invite a gregarious grandmaster, willing to engage with the players.

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Daniel King – A Summer Simul in Hanwell

Report by Carl Portman

It is not enough to get just any old grandmaster to give a simultaneous exhibition. Experience has taught me that engaging the right GM is crucial. One does not require taciturn introverts. What you need is a gregarious soul, willing to engage with players at club level; someone who will talk openly about chess and the broader issues of life.  Danny can do this as well as play the guitar and other instruments so competently that he can be found gigging in pubs and clubs when he is not making DVD’s for ChessBase or writing articles for magazines. He is also a rare animal amongst GM’s in that he actually drives a car! He’s seen a bit of life has Danny and I always saw him as the perfect (gentle)man for the job.

A relaxed Danny King

It was with great pleasure then that the little English village of Hanwell in Banbury welcomed Grandmaster Daniel King for a twenty-board simultaneous exhibition. The fourteenth day of July 2013 proved to be a scorching hot one, but this never distracted the protagonists from the task at hand – fighting chess. Then again, as I write this, the cyclists are on their second run up the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour de France – a cruel physical effort. Danny was about to engage in a quantum intellectual effort, thus it was a day for both body and mind.

Several villagers gave of their time to help on the day, serving tea and several varieties of delightful homemade cakes including jam sponge, coffee, flapjacks and scones which were all eagerly devoured. The locals were fascinated with ‘this chess thing’, and one lady likened the afternoon’s events to a ballet which was well orchestrated as the games developed in step pieces and moves. I found this analogy to be rather quaint. In terms of playing strength we did have an ECF grade 223 on top board but this rapidly dropped to include county players and club players. Danny played a ‘collective’ grade of 2595 so a good old battle was in the offing.

This then was grass roots chess akin to bringing a Premiership football team to your local park. Everyone in the chess world knows who Danny is and many club players have purchased the ChessBase DVDs or read his various chess columns to improve their own game. This is not to forget the excellent live commentary that he provides from various tournaments online.

Danny looks on in awe at Carl Portman’s jacket

I described him in my opening welcome as the epitome of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ school of thought, explaining that when fellow grandmasters are losing their heads with all the myriad possibilities at the board Danny will often retort ‘let’s not get carried away; let’s check that again’ which gives us amateurs more time to understand what the heck is going on.

Just before arrival at the village hall, we popped to my house to catch a few minutes of the first Test (cricket) as England were beating Australia, but only just. Both Danny and I were somewhat disappointed to leave it at such a crucial time near the end, to go to the venue, but such is life. So keen though was he to get the final result that he did not mind being interrupted during the simul with a ‘thumbs up’ from a spectator to signify an England win.

I have long since liked the idea of a junior making the (symbolic) first move for a player, as they do at Malcolm Pein's London Chess Classic. It was with this in mind that I asked Aleks Skwirzynski (AKA Wing Commander Aleks) from the village, and a keen chess player, to play Danny’s first move which would either be accepted or rejected. Aleks approached the board and confidently pushed the d-pawn two squares. Danny very kindly accepted it saying “Well it isn’t what I might usually play, but what the heck, I’ll play it”. Young Aleks was delighted!

I last engaged Danny in a simul way back in 1993, just after he had appeared as a commentator with Carol Vorderman on television for the Short-Kasparov PCA world championship match. Though this has spanned two centuries now, he looks even younger than he did back then! It really is quite remarkable considering both he and I share the same birthday next time around and we’ll both be able to go on holidays that others don’t qualify for!

Is Danny giving the photographer a message to go away?

As the games began Danny bounded energetically from board to board, and my photographer friend, who had never been to a chess event, was stunned at the speed, believing that he would have had time to snap each player shaking hands with the Grandmaster. He soon learned that GM’s move quickly at the start of a simul and that chess does not have to be a slow game!

These are wonderful social occasions where players can relax, eat cake and play a celebrity. Even as he kills off the hopes and dreams of people, hoping for a positive result, they still enjoy the event; they still appreciate the skill and expertise of the grandmaster inexorably nailing shut most of the coffin lids of the black positions around the room. He is an enemy at the board but he also teaches us that simple chess can be the most effective. Use central pawns, develop minor pieces quickly, castle early and develop your plan. Danny makes the pieces dance in harmony, never seeming to waste a move, attacking at just the right moment, only when he is prepared. Yes, this is highly inventive and enjoyable stuff – I for one wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.

The games began at 2.15pm and by 5.20pm there were still eleven boards playing. This is testimony to the spirited fight that every single player put up. Of course it was not lost on me that Danny could be a victim of his own success. Club players have improved enormously over the last few years as a result of studying his ChessBase DVDs and are nowadays becoming harder to beat.

In the name of Caissa – what have I done?

At the time of writing I only have two games – my own and that from Marcus Harvey. I hope Marcus and Danny forgive me publishing my own on this occasion. I won’t publish Marcus’s secrets!

[Event "Hanwell Simultaneous"] [Site "Kiev UKR"] [Date "2013.07.14"] [Round "?"] [White "King, Daniel"] [Black "Portman, Carl"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "C14"] [PlyCount "84"] [EventDate "2013.06.15"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "UKR"] [EventCategory "17"] [SourceDate "2013.07.22"] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e5 Nfd7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7 7. f4 c5 8. Nf3 Nc6 9. dxc5 Nxc5 10. Qd2 a6 11. a3 b5 12. b4 Nd7 13. Bd3 Bb7 14. Ne2 g6 15. Ned4 Nb6 16. Qf2 Nxd4 17. Qxd4 Qc7 18. O-O Na4 19. Rae1 Qb6 20. Qxb6 Nxb6 21. Nd4 Nc4 22. Ra1 Nb6 23. g3 Rc8 24. Kf2 Na4 25. Ke3 Bc6 26. h3 Bd7 27. Nb3 Ke7 28. Kd4 Rc7 29. g4 Rcc8 30. Rf2 h5 31. Rg1 hxg4 32. hxg4 Rh4 33. Nc5 Nxc5 34. bxc5 Kd8 35. Be2 Kc7 36. Bf3 Rch8 37. Rfg2 Rh3 38. Rg3 Rxg3 39. Rxg3 Rh2 40. Bg2 Rh4 41. c3 Kc6 42. Bh3 Bc8 1/2-1/2

Here is the full player list for the record.

In fairness, Danny dropped a piece in one game, but his opponent, Paul Rowan (pictured above with hand on head), who has played competitively in the past and is much stronger than ‘ungraded’ still had to play good moves to pick up that point.  Marcus Harvey at 223 is very strong, and Danny took his inclusion in the line-up with good grace. Both Nick Burrows and I were pleased with draws and Maria Mate – the only female competitor – was the last game to finish and she put up a most admirable fight.

Maria mate – fighting to the very end

Other competitors went down valiantly but everyone had a good time and the informality of the occasion was a refreshing change from some of the rather stiff and choreographed events at the highest levels.

I wish to sincerely thank ChessBase, Chess and Bridge in London, Gambit Publications, and New in Chess for kindly donating some very desirable prizes, including books, DVDs and magazines, which were all were presented by Danny. Steffen Giehring, Malcolm Pein, Richard Palliser, Allard Hoogland, and Murray Chandler were simply brilliant. They don’t have to do it, but their support for events like this makes a world of difference. I also want to thank everyone who helped on the day and before it. These events can only happen with the support of other people, something that was not lost on Danny. He acknowledged that the players could have chosen other pursuits that day, from tending the garden, to watching cricket/cycling. Yet all twenty players turned up, which says a lot for chess – and in my view about Danny.

Finally I must pay a special tribute to my wife Susan for her unstinting support for all my mad chess ideas. I refuse to give up however until I either meet or secure one Anatoly Karpov for a simul; thus until that day happens I will still chase the dream…

About the author

Carl Portman, British Chess Federation County Master, Shropshire County Champion 1998, Bicester Chess Club Champion 2005, 2006, 2007.

I learned to play chess when I was twelve years old. I was at school, it was lunchtime and the rain was driving down outside making football impossible. I decided to check out (pun intended) the nerds in the chess club. It was going to be boring but there was nothing else to do. I opened the door... And so it was that I opened a new door to the rest of my life.

Chess players generally become more confident, have enhanced self-esteem and are more able to organise their thinking and behaviour. It teaches responsibility too, after all we don't get to take moves back in life so it's important to try to make the right decisions for the right reasons. Chess is a fun social activity that helps bring youngsters together and break down potential barriers. An example of this is when a youngster aged nine plays a person aged ninety. In other sports there would be barriers to this encounter (physical fitness, etc.) but here it's the exercise of the brain that anyone can do, all of their lives. Quite simply…chess is a gift for life.

I am available to give simultaneous displays at schools. I am prepared to play up to 30 players at once. I am also available to teach chess to groups or individuals as necessary. Chess is the game of kings and the king of games. It is proven to be key to improving thinking and decision making.

Other articles by Carl Portman


You can buy Daniel King Power Play 19 - Attack with 1.e4 Vol.2 in the ChessBase Shop here.

There are plenty of Daniel King Power Play DVDs here.


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