The pulse-racing equivalent of a sword duel

7/7/2003 – Chess played a strategic part in Albert Morris's chequered Army career, like the time when in British Somaliland he unsuccessfully attempted to introduce feuding tribal chiefs to the subtle clashes of chess warfare. His article in The Scotsman is rich in stories, puns and witticisms, and tells about how the British Education Secretary is encouraging children to play chess to improve their academic skills. Excerpts and links are here...

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Opening up young minds to the
thrust and parry of a mental duel

Here are some exerpts from chess article in The Scotsman.

When describing his own playing style the author gets very playful with his use of words: "By my Schlieffen Plan blitzkrieg opening and Magi-not-Line-type defence, I may not have been expert at changing step on the march but when it came to displaying the ambit of my gambits, outmanoeuvring bishops and toppling castles, I reckoned I was a nice mover in the imperial game and among the best lightweight, chessboard warriors between the White Nile and the Limpopo."

On the opinion the Somali tribals formed about the game he introduced to them: "...their views resembled that of Bernard Shaw who said that chess was, 'a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time'."

On world chess champion Jose Raul Capablanca: "The dapper Cuban... would often stroll the streets of New Orleans staring fixedly at women or shouting, cryptically, from his house veranda that he would plant the banner of Castile on the walls of Madrid. When he lost to Seigbert Tarrasch in 1914, it was rumoured that had sprung to the chessboard from the bed of a Russian grand duke’s mistress (mate in one knight)."

On Alexander Alekhine: "The Russian world champion, hatchet-faced, blond giant, when playing, would work his ears into indescribable shapes to frighten opponents, would shift uneasily as if sitting on an anthill and when he lost a game, would hurl his king across the room and sometimes smash furniture."

On the game in general: "Chess is the pulse-racing, mind-stretching equivalent of a sword duel, with thrusts and parries, sometimes rapier-darting, sometimes sabre-like slashing. It can lead to many surprises like one I had on a cruise ship. When playing against myself on deck, a lad of about ten summers asked for a game. Loftily - one should encourage the young – I agreed and after two hours’ mind-grinding play, I lost. He was, I discovered, an English state primary school’s chess champion."

Here is the full article in The Scotsman.


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