Yes, Virginia, there is humour in chess

10/19/2003 – GM David Norwood was confused. "On the ChessBase website there are not pages upon pages of dry annotations of the latest chess theory. The stories are fun and eminently readable." He got stuck on Plaskett's Puzzle and wrote his Telegraph column on the subject. Nigel Short and Malcolm Pein have also provided very readable articles.

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If you want news and gossip, on a weekly basis, the British Telegraph newspaper is a good address. It has three correspondents, GMs Nigel Short and David Norwood, as well as IM-journalist Malcolm Pein. The links given on this page lead to the full columns. Note that you have to register, free of charge, to read the columns. This entails giving an email address and a password for future logins.

David Norwood on a study that was a walk in the park for Mikhail Tal

18/10/2003 Many times in this column I have referred to ChessBase, the chess database that any serous player must use. ChessBase was developed in Germany and bears many characteristics of that nation. Apart from being brilliantly designed and precisely manufactured, it appeals to the hard-working and those who lack any sense of humour. The truth is that I've never really forgiven ChessBase for making chess serious, and no longer a game for chancers such as myself.

Of late though I've taken to visiting their website, www.chessbase.com, and rather shockingly it's failing to live up to its early reputation. There are not pages upon pages of dry annotations of the latest chess theory. It takes more than two clicks for me to become confused. The stories are fun and eminently readable. It clearly isn't being written by a German.

Having to write a column every week gives me an excellent excuse for wasting hours trawling chess sites on the internet. Some are better than other and I usually have to visit a dozen before finding a topic. Chessbase.com is quite the reverse. There is enough material to cover the next three months of columns, if I was feeling particularly lazy.

One article engrossed me for a good few hours before I admitted myself defeated. The title initially put me off – Jim Plaskett's Chess Puzzle. Not that I've got anything against Jimbo, it's just that I get quite enough of him on the Internet Chess Club. Jim had shown the following position to the players at the Brussels super-grandmaster tournament in 1987. All the masters were stumped, except for the great Mikhail Tal, who stared at it for ten minutes then went for a walk in a nearby park. He returned with the solution.


Nigel Short's column

19/10/2003: The miserable emaciated travesty of an English team that, as I write, languishes in the lower reaches of the European Championship score-table is a dire warning of what happens when lack of sponsorship allows mediocrity to prevail.

Of the members of this squad, only one, Jon Speelman, could be confident of a place in a full-strength side. But without Adams and myself, the two world-class players in this country, plus McShane, who is also rapidly approaching the same level, little, if anything, can be expected. Not that I believe that everyone in Britain will get the message; having recently endured public attacks of gross deceit and scurrility on another unrelated matter, I can see that the case for professionalism in chess is by no means fully accepted.

Until it is, we will continue to fall further behind more enlightened nations. On to happier tidings: the Samba Cup in Skanderborg, Denmark, where I am off to a reasonable start, is one of the strongest events ever to take place in this small country. Indeed, the Nordic region seems to be enjoying something of a chess renaissance at the moment, with Sweden, Iceland and even Greenland to the fore.

The organisers have produced a convivial atmosphere in picturesque wooded lakeside surroundings, with an Indian, an Uzbek and a Kazakh complementing the line-up of otherwise unemployed Europeans. Therefore, there is nothing to complain about, but much to be pleased with. The most spectacular win in the tournament so far belongs to Viorel Bologan.

Last week we saw the good-natured Moldovan having an off day against Svidler at the European Club Championship; it is only fair and just that we are now able to redress the balance somewhat.

We had a rare opportunity of watching Nigel produce his column on the free day in Skanderborg, Denmark. He actually writes the entire thing in the annotation window of ChessBase 8. He then cleverly copies the file to a 3.5 inch diskette and sends it from the press centre as a hotmail attachment to his editors in London.


Malcolm Pein's column

This is a daily column, unlike the other two, which appear once a week. Recent subjects by the IM and owner of the London Chess Centre:

  • 18/10/2003 Vassily Ivanchuk suffered a rare defeat and surrendered the lead of the first Samba tournament at Skanderborg in Denmark. Ivanchuk was defeated by Uzbek GM Rustam Kazimdzhanov who had hitherto been in bad form and was bottom of the tournament table.

  • 17/10/2003 There is an old Russian joke that goes: 'the best chess players are Russian Jews, then Russians and then Jews'. There used to be a grain of truth in it in the days of Mikhail Botvinnik and Mikhail Tal but the current crop of Russian players come from a much more diverse ethnic mix.

  • 16/10/2003 Nigel Short was the beneficiary of a strange tactical oversight by the Indian champion Krisnan Sasikiran and won their fifth round game with black in only twenty one moves at the 1st Samba tournament at Skanderborg in Denmark.

  • 15/10/2003 I have received a communication from Fide, not via mobile phone I might add to say that Ruslan Ponomariov was not stripped of his Fide championship title when his prevarication led to the cancellation of his title defence against Garry Kasparov.


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