Leonard Barden still going strong – at 87

by Frederic Friedel
10/25/2016 – He has been writing his weekly chess column in The Guardian uninterrupted for sixty-one years now, breaking all records for this area of publication. Leonard's observations on the contemporary chess scene are well written and meticulously researched, and each column contains a game and, very enticingly, an entertaining and instructive chess puzzle. Visit the Guardian chess page on Friday – you will never regret it.

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The Guardian chess column

By Leonard Barden

Leonard Barden's weekly Guardian chess column began in September 1955 and has continued since with no breaks for sixty-one years. It has broken the previous record for any columnist, held by English local columnist Tom Widdows, who wrote weekly in the Worcester News from October 1945 until April 2006, 60 years and 6 months. Leonard's other (daily!) column, in the Evening Standard, began in June 1956 and has continued every day since. It was in print until 30 July 2010 (54 years 1 month), and has since continued online – click on this link for some additional entertaining chess puzzles. So this daily column has been running for almost sixty years, easily overtaking the one written by George Koltanowski for the San Francisco Daily Chronicle, which lasted 51 years 9 months, until his death. Leonard's Evening Standard column is quite possibly the longest ever running daily column by a single journalist in any field of journalism.

Friday 21 October 2016

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa chases world grandmaster age record at 11

An 11-year-old Indian boy with a very long name is changing chess history. Already the youngest ever international master, the Chennai prodigy is likely to eclipse Sergey Karjakin’s long standing world record as the only pre-teen player to achieve the grandmaster title. His early career is outpacing both Russia’s Karjakin (GM at 12 years and seven months) and Norway’s reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen (GM at 13 years and four months), whose title match starts in New York on 11 November.

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa learned chess at five, and soon made remarkable progress. He won the world under-eight title in 2013, the under-10 in 2015, and is currently the No1 seed in the world under-12 at Batumi, Georgia. He outclasses his peers but it is his advance in global adult chess which has set new all-time peaks for age achievement.

His first international master result at Cannes, France, in February this year, was quickly followed by his second at Moscow Aeroflot in March, then his third and final norm at Bhubaneswar, India, in May, so qualifying him as an IM at ten years and nine months and breaking Karjakin’s world record by more than a year. [Editorial note: typically Leonard researched Praggu's exact age by contacting his father through friend, and even correcting our report, where we had initially given ten years and ten months]. And the way he did it hints at much more to come. He recovered from a 0.5/3 start in Moscow, while at both Cannes and Bhubaneswar he reached the IM score with a round to spare.

[Event "Czech Open 2016"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.07.29"] [Round "8.24"] [White "Praggnanandhaa, R."] [Black "Krejci, Jan"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A06"] [WhiteElo "2429"] [BlackElo "2504"] [PlyCount "103"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] 1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 c6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. d3 Nd7 5. O-O Ngf6 6. Qe1 e5 7. e4 dxe4 8. dxe4 Bxf3 9. Bxf3 Bc5 10. Nd2 O-O 11. Qe2 Re8 12. a4 a5 13. Bg2 Nf8 14. Nf3 Ng6 15. b3 Qc7 16. Bg5 Nd7 17. Rad1 h6 18. Bh3 Ndf8 19. Bc1 Rad8 20. Bb2 Ba7 21. Bf5 f6 22. Ba3 Qf7 23. Nd2 Ne6 24. Nc4 Nd4 25. Qg4 Nf8 26. Bxf8 Qxf8 27. Bg6 Re7 28. c3 Nxb3 29. Rxd8 Qxd8 30. Rd1 Qf8 31. Nd6 Nc5 32. Qe2 Rd7 33. Qc4+ Kh8 34. Nf7+ Qxf7 35. Bxf7 Rxd1+ 36. Kg2 Rd8 37. Bg6 Rb8 38. h4 b5 39. axb5 cxb5 40. Qf7 Bb6 41. Qe7 b4 42. cxb4 axb4 43. Qd6 Ba7 44. Qc7 Ra8 45. Bf7 b3 46. Bd5 b2 47. Bxa8 b1=Q 48. Qxa7 Nd3 {[%tqu "Can you spot White's mating attack?","", "",Bd5,"",10]} 49. Bd5 $1 Kh7 (49... -- {Threat} 50. Qa8+ Kh7 51. Qg8+ Kg6 52. Bf7#) 50. Qa8 h5 51. Bf7 $1 Ne1+ 52. Kh3 {and mates by Qg8/Qh8.} 1-0

Friday 14 October 2016

Isle of Man international open pushing for a place among the elite events

The Isle of Man has staged its annual international open for some 20 years but the 2016 version at Douglas was by far the strongest of the series. America’s trio of Olympiad gold medallists, all ranked in the world top 10, faced a tough field including the England No1, Michael Adams, China’s world woman champion, Hou Yifan, Hungary’s former world title challenger Peter Leko and Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov, who took the trophy. The Manxmen can now justifiably claim their event belongs in the major league of elite opens alongside Tradewise Gibraltar, Aeroflot Moscow and Qatar.

Fabiano Caruana tied with Eljanov and expressed disappointment that there was no speed play-off. But the 24-year-old US champion shared the prize money and, most important for him, gained a haul of rating points which made him the clear world No2, only 30 points behind Magnus Carlsen.

[Event "Millionaire Chess Open 2016"] [Site "Atlantic City, NJ"] [Date "2016.10.09"] [Round "7.2"] [White "Swiercz, Dariusz"] [Black "Mamedov, Rauf"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B09"] [WhiteElo "2636"] [BlackElo "2678"] [PlyCount "85"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [WhiteClock "0:25:24"] [BlackClock "0:00:10"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Bd3 Na6 7. O-O c5 8. d5 Nc7 9. a4 Bg4 10. h3 Bxf3 11. Rxf3 a6 12. a5 Nb5 13. Ne2 e6 14. dxe6 fxe6 15. f5 gxf5 16. exf5 e5 17. c4 Nd4 18. Nxd4 cxd4 19. Bg5 d5 20. cxd5 Qxd5 21. Qe2 Kh8 22. Bxf6 Bxf6 23. Be4 Qf7 24. Raa3 Rac8 25. Rab3 Rc7 26. Kh2 Bg5 27. Rb6 Qg7 28. g3 Be3 29. f6 Qd7 30. Rf1 Qa4 31. b4 Qd7 32. h4 Qf7 33. Rf5 Qb3 34. Rh5 Bg1+ 35. Kh3 d3 36. Qg4 Qa2 {[%tqu "Play ended 1.Qf5 Qh2+ 2.Kg4 Qe2+ 3.Kh2 Qh2+ with a draw. How could White have won? ","","",Qg7+,"",10,Qf5,"",0]} 37. Qg7+ (37. Qf5 Qh2+ 38. Kg4 Qe2+ 39. Kh3 Qh2+ 40. Kg4 Qe2+ 41. Kh3) 37... Rxg7 38. fxg7+ Kxg7 39. Rxb7+ Rf7 40. Rxh7+ Kg8 41. Rhxf7 Qxf7 42. Rxf7 Kxf7 43. Bxd3 {and White wins easily with his extra pawns.} 1/2-1/2

Friday 7 October 2016

Ian Nepomniachtchi triumphs at a Tal Memorial blighted by too many draws

Mikhail Tal was a tactical genius who aimed for decisive results but two-thirds of the games were drawn in this week’s Tal Memorial in Moscow, leading to criticism that too many of the elite grandmasters had conservative styles. The winner was Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi, another triumph for the golden birth year of 1990 which has already produced the world champion Magnus Carlsen, his challenger, Sergey Karjakin, and France’s recent world No2, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Tickets for next month’s world title match in New York, which starts on 11 November, are now on sale at the ticketing website Ticketfly and the organisers have made a bold attempt to attract an involved onsite audience. Spectators will have live commentary, access to the post-game press conference and blitz tournaments with grandmasters.

[Event "chess.com IoM Masters"] [Site "Douglas ENG"] [Date "2016.10.01"] [Round "1.17"] [White "Hou, Yifan"] [Black "Jackson, James P"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C95"] [WhiteElo "2649"] [BlackElo "2311"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2016.10.01"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 Re8 13. Nf1 Bf8 14. Ng3 g6 15. a4 c5 16. d5 c4 17. Bg5 Nc5 18. Qd2 Be7 19. Bh6 Nfd7 20. Nh2 bxa4 21. Ra2 a5 22. Rf1 Bc8 23. Kh1 Rb8 24. Be3 Qc7 25. Ng4 Nb6 26. Nh6+ Kg7 27. f4 Kxh6 28. fxe5+ Kg7 29. Qf2 Bf8 30. e6 fxe6 {[%tqu "How did the world woman champion (White, to play) win in style?","","",Nh5+,"",10]} 31. Nh5+ $1 gxh5 ({If} 31... Kg8 32. Nf6+ Kh8 33. Nxe8 {wins.}) 32. Bh6+ $1 Kxh6 ({Or} 32... Kg8 33. Qxf8+ Rxf8 34. Rxf8#) 33. Qf6# 1-0

Friday 30 September 2016

Mikhail Tal a creative genius despite short reign as world champion

Mikhail Tal, the “magician from Riga”, was world champion for one year but he has become one of the greatest legends, a true genius.

Tal had creative imagination in abundance, helped by a fantastic memory. As a five-year-old he went to his father’s medical lecture and repeated most of it when he got home. When I first saw him at the Munich Olympiad in 1958 he won several games by brilliant attacks, often with much clock time to spare, and spent most of the session away from his board touring the hall with a notebook looking for material for his nightly radio broadcasts.

He won the 1958 USSR championship, beating Boris Spassky in a final-round epic, then the world championship interzonal, then the candidates, then the world title against Mikhail Botvinnik in 1960. He was at his zenith that year in a USSR v West Germany match and at the Leipzig Olympiad, despite his final-round defeat by England’s Jonathan Penrose.

The chronic kidney ailment which dogged Tal for most of his life struck shortly before his return series with Botvinnik, who demanded a certificate from a Moscow doctor. The provocation worked. The sick Tal decided to play the match and was well beaten. I saw him again a month afterwards at the European team championship in Oberhausen and he still looked yellowish and ill.

He recovered quickly, won at Bled that summer and his long career included unbeaten runs of 95 games in 1973-74 and 86 games in 1972-73. These are records which have never been broken and it is quixotic that they should be held by a legend whose name is synonymous with risk. Every game, said Tal, was as inimitable and as invaluable as a poem.

Tal died early, at 55, weakened by ill-health, vodka and chain smoking. He loved speed chess and left his intensive care ward to play for the Moscow blitz title where he defeated Garry Kasparov, then world champion, and tied for second prize. A month later he was dead.

[Event "Moscow Tal Memorial 10th Blitz"] [Site "Moscow"] [Date "2016.09.25"] [Round "5"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Aronian, Levon"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D37"] [WhiteElo "2761"] [BlackElo "2795"] [PlyCount "92"] [EventDate "2016.09.25"] [EventType "tourn (blitz)"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] [EventCategory "21"] [SourceTitle "Mega2016 Update 53"] [Source "Chessbase"] [SourceDate "2016.10.08"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. Bf4 dxc4 6. e3 b5 7. Nxb5 Bb4+ 8. Nc3 Nd5 9. Rc1 Nxf4 10. exf4 Nb6 11. Bxc4 O-O 12. Be2 Nd5 13. g3 c5 14. O-O Bxc3 15. bxc3 Qa5 16. Qd2 Rd8 17. Rfd1 Bb7 18. c4 Nb4 19. Rb1 Be4 20. Rb2 Qa3 21. Rb3 Qxa2 22. Qxa2 Nxa2 23. dxc5 Rxd1+ 24. Bxd1 Rd8 25. Kg2 h6 26. Re3 Bc6 27. Bc2 Nb4 28. Be4 Bxe4 29. Rxe4 Rc8 30. Rd4 Rxc5 31. Rd8+ Kh7 32. Rd7 f6 33. Nd4 e5 34. Ne6 Rxc4 35. Rxg7+ Kh8 36. Rxa7 Nd3 37. Rd7 e4 38. Rd4 Rc2 39. Rxe4 Nxf2 40. Rd4 Ng4+ 41. Kf3 $4 (41. Kg1 Rc1+ {draws.}) {[%tqu "White, in check, went 1.Kf3 Nxh2+ 2.Ke4 and eventually won. What did both GMs overlook? ","","", f5,"",10,Nxh2+,"",0]} 41... f5 $1 (41... Nxh2+ 42. Ke4 Ng4 43. Kf5 h5 44. Kg6 Rc8 45. Nd8 Kg8 46. Kxh5 Ne3 47. Kg6 f5 48. Ne6 Re8 49. Ng7 Rf8 50. Nh5 Ng4 51. Rd5 Kh8 52. Kg5 Rg8+ 53. Kh4 Ne3 54. Rd3 Ng4 55. Rc3 Kh7 56. Rc5 Kg6 57. Rc6+ Kh7 58. Nf6+ Nxf6 59. Rxf6 Rg4+ 60. Kh3 Rg7 61. Rxf5) 42. Rd8+ Kh7 43. Rd7+ Kg6 44. Rg7+ Kf6 {and Black’s Rf2 mate can be stopped only by} 45. Rxg4 fxg4+ 46. Kxg4 Kxe6 {and White is a rook down.} 1-0

Do not fail to visit Leonard Barden's Guardian chess column for weekly entertaining chess news and puzzles.

About the author

Leonard William Barden (photo above by Linda Nylind for the Guardian) was born on August 20, 1929, in Croydon, London, the son of a dustman, and was educated at Whitgift School, South Croydon, and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Modern History.

Barden learned to play chess at age 13 while in a school shelter during a German air raid. Within a few years he became one of the country's leading juniors. In 1946 he won the British Junior Correspondence Chess Championship, and tied for first place in the London Boys' Championship. The following year he tied for first with Jonathan Penrose in the British Boys' Championship, but lost the playoff. Barden finished fourth at Hastings in 1951–52 and fourth in 1957–58.

In 1953 Barden won the individual British Lightning Championship (ten seconds a move), and in the following year tied for first in the British Championship. He did this again in 1958. He represented England in the Chess Olympiads of 1952 (playing fourth board, scoring 2 wins, 5 draws, and 4 losses), 1954 (playing first reserve, scoring 1 win, 2 draws, and 4 losses), 1960 (first reserve; 4 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses) and 1962 (first reserve; 7 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses).

In 1964 Barden gave up competitive chess to devote his time to chess journalism and writing books about the game. He has made invaluable contributions to English chess as a populariser, writer, organiser, fundraiser, and broadcaster. He was a regular contributor to the BBC's Network Three weekly radio chess programme from 1958 to 1963.

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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