BBC's Across the Board: Sol Campbell

by Albert Silver
10/31/2014 – Sol Campbell is one of England's great defensive footballers, having a key role in all the teams he played for, and is the first to represent England on the pitch at six consecutive international tournaments. In 2002, after the World Cup, he was the only England player to be named in the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team. And he regularly plays chess.

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As a reminder to the readers and listeners, the format of the show is this: On the radio they play a quick rapid game during which Lawson interviews his guest on both chess and other matters. In the first season only one of the personalities was actually a chess player, Hou Yifan, while the others were all noted figures in their fields and all are chess aficionados. The shows are edited, and also bring in GM Daniel King to the commentary booth as he provides a little insight on the flow of the game and his feel for the position.

Sol Campbell
October 30 - 12:04 PM
Sol Campbell is a noted former football player in England, and is asked whether his decision to transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Arsenal was a chess player's move.

Sulzeer Jeremiah "Sol" Campbell, was born in Jamaica in 1974 and is a former England international footballer. A central defender, he played for Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Notts County and Newcastle United.

In his five years and 195 appearances at Arsenal he won two Premier League winners medals and two FA Cup winners medals, encompassing the 2001–02 league and FA Cup double, and being part of the team that became known as The Invincibles for their undefeated 2003–04 Premier League campaign.

In the 2006 UEFA finals, Sol Campbell scored Arsenals's only goal in their 2-1 defeat against Barcelona 

Dominic Lawson - You are a great defensive footballer. You were the kingpin of the defense of all the teams you played for. Are you a defensive chess player?

Sol Campbell - I used to play chess because it was a game for me to stretch my mind, concentration levels, also zoning out. You can play a game for a couple of hours and zone out completely, so … People used to kind of almost, when I used to say I play chess, look at me in a strange way, but now, some of the clubs now are implementing board games, chess, for the 16-17 year-olds for concentration levels. And also it is very strategic to be abe to think about your moves ahead of the game. If you can study certain movements in certain positions then obviously it’s going to help you in the long run because you could be one-on-one, you could be in a certain scenario, you could be overrun, you could be with two players versus three, so it’s options.

Dominic Lawson plays self-taught chess player Sol Campbell (warm thanks to BBC producer
David Edmonds for sharing it)

But also, you prepare in your mind, you see the patterns. Before a big game, you’re actually seeing the patterns of what you think might develop on the field, how you will respond to a particular stage of it.

Yes, in the game, the ball could be 60 yards away (Ed: about 54-55 meters), and through experience, and mindwise, you can kind of guess where roughly they are trying to get to, so you kind of position yourself, but also position people around you to be in better positions so that when the ball does go to that position, you’re ready for it.

Sol Campbell vs Dominic Lawson

[Event "BBC Radio 4 - Across the Board"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.10.30"] [Round "?"] [White "Campbell, Sol"] [Black "Lawson, Dominic"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A34"] [PlyCount "42"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Nc6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. h4 Be7 7. Be3 a6 8. g3 Ng4 9. Bg5 O-O 10. a4 b6 11. Bh3 Nge5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. O-O Bxg5 14. hxg5 Qxg5 15. Qc1 Qxc1 16. Raxc1 Rd8 17. Rcd1 Bb7 18. Rfe1 Nd4 19. Rb1 Nf3+ 20. Kg2 Nxe1+ 21. Rxe1 Rxd3 0-1

One of the things that came out in your book was that you suffered homophobic abuse. Even though you had plenty of glamorous girlfriends, people would say you were gay, and I got the impression from the book that one reason why they said this was because you played chess that somehow that was not what a real bloke should be doing.

Sol Campbell's official biography came out this year

The trouble is you’ve got guy writing about footballers, and they’ve got the blueprint of 1970, and the football world now is totally different. Totally different. Yes, you still have guys who are probably drinking on a Saturday, Sunday, and when they wake, whatever. Of course you’re going to have those guys, but football has moved on. There’s people doing all sorts of different things and they enjoy a different outlook.

The shows can be listened to live, or later at the website

To listen to the full broadcast, visit the BBC Radio 4 website where all episodes are archived.



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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