Richard says ...
A few months ago at the urging of my good friend Harry Hoskins, I signed up to chess.com.
For those of you not in the know, it is a free chess site where you can play people from all over the world in blitz or longer forms of the game.
And very surprised I was to find a load of St Johnites already on the site.
Off-hand, there is Harry himself, Gerry, Nathan the Riddler, Sebastian, Welsh Dave, Simon, Brian and Charlie.
Well, I got smashed up left, right and centre in the first few months, especially by Gerry (2 wins 8 losses) and was a lowly1200 player. But slowly I learned the nuances and ropes and now I find it has taught me a lot.... 'specially in strategy, build-up and evaluating positions, and technique.
What you lose is over the board fun and looking into the opponents' eyes and time trouble, nerves and I suppose the "poker"element of chess which I have always enjoyed immensely. What you gain is the ability to attack, defend and consolidate at your own pace. In a way it is chess in its purest form.
What about cheating and using a chess computer you may ask?
Well, I don't know how or why they found out, but a couple of days ago I got some mail from the guy that runs chess.com and it said that I had been awarded some extra rating points as my opponent had been found guilty of cheating and subsequently banned from the site. It did surprise me a bit. I mean, what is the point? Is there any glory to be found in cheating in such games?
Of course it is rated, though I don't know how it compares to over-the board ratings.
I have now climbed to the 1600 rankings along with Harry (1650) and Simon whilst Nathan,(1570) Gerry (1545) and Welsh Dave are in the 1500 bracket.
I have twenty games on the go at the same time and generally make a couple of moves for each game every day.
I have recently challenged my arch fiend Gerry again and we have a couple of games on the go at the moment.
I asked Simon a couple of weeks ago if it had improved him as a player and his quick and emphatic answer was "No".
Simon, myself, Welsh Dave, Gerry and Harry are also part of The Norfolk Knights team and we recently thumped, or are thumping a team of Scots something like 11-4. Each guy plays two games once as black and once as white. Draws have been unusually low. We are also playing Suffolk in the league and Sussex under 1600 in a cup. At the moment we are tied with Sussex and are leading Suffolk. The pride of Norfolk is at stake.
The standard varies; there are some 1800 players I have played and also 1200 guys.
Give it a go... maybe we can field our own St John's team one day. I propose Harry as skipper.
My sister even joined up the other day.
A Tale of Two Clocks
Last night I was playing Rod Mills in my final Championship game. Being old codgers, nay old farts, perhaps even Luddites who couldn't fathom out the digital clock we decided to use the old style analog one and so I took one out of the cupboard. It was crap and didn't work at all. Bah humbug! I finally found one which did and we commenced playing.
The next few sentences will find you highly amused, pissed-off or incredulous, but my friends, it really did happen. Rod will concur.
Three quarters of the way through the game I was up by Fritz to the tune of 1.43 and though materially equal (six pawns, a knight and rook apiece) I had the stranglehold on the all important seventh rank and Rod was bottled up and forced to defend mostly.
Now, I looked at the clock and it showed me having thirty minutes left.... and yet I had the strongest feeling that my hand wasn't moving and I had been on thirty minutes for a good three minutes. Rod thought so too. I then looked at Rod's time and he only had two and a half minutes and his clock was moving quickly towards the dreaded flag.
Thinking, the last thing I wanted was to win on time in this cruel, broken clocked world and especially against a proven gentleman, I thought about many things, such as the canaries promotion prospect, is Trump an alien from a dying planet and is there life on Mars, but mostly thinking about crap, broken clocks which started and stopped on a whimsical whim. It's true... they did... later I rewound it and it worked perfectly for four minutes, but then gave up the ghost and became bereft of tock, it was an ex-clock, it had gone to join the big clock in the sky.
I mused and then offered Rod the draw which he took with the eagerness of a beaver damning up the river Wensum. He couldn't understand why. I then explained my reasoning to the incredulous Rod, and then he dropped the bombshell.
He hadn't two and a half minutes left, but one hour two and a half minutes!!!!!!
It was bizarre.. I had just looked at my time then his and put two and two together in a split-second of warped time Downingesque lunacy and it came out as thirty nine!! Well, I laughed, I chuckled, I guffawed, but then cursed myself for an idiot, but cursed analog chess clocks even more so. In the immortal words of one Smokey Robinson "Outside I'm masquerading... inside,my heart is breaking!"
Later, in the Gerrymobile, Gerry told me they were at least twenty five years old when he bought them from Delboy in a club sometime in the Tudor ages.
My point is that.... we should immediately throw away any broken down old analog clocks in case it happens to a couple of guys playing more important league chess. I mean, imagine for example, what would have happened if let's take err... err... A dangerous opponent... Please.... take him.... if his opponents clock had stopped and his hadn't... and he had been winning.
It doesn't bear thinking about.
AS for me, I am now going to bite the bullet and learn how to set those damned digital clocks from now on.
Gerry, I need lessons.... please!
Let’s Go Chess-boxing!
Four intrepid St Johns Chess Club members went to watch the Chess-boxing on Saturday night. It was held in The Open (the old Barclay’s bank on Bank Plain in Norwich) with its impressive, ornate high ceilings offset by a slightly tacky modern interior.
The place was almost full and a raucous atmosphere soon began to build up. It seemed the vast majority of the audience were of the boxing persuasion with only a few being chess aficionados. We were all surprised by the large number of women there, expecting it to be an almost entirely male audience, and could only assume they were girlfriends or wives dragged along against their will. One of them turned out to be a very vocal supportive mother of one of the boxers.
The format was quite simple and easy to follow. Each bout would commence with the combatants playing three minute’s worth of chess whilst seated in the boxing ring, with the chess board connected to a large screen for the benefit of the audience. There was a commentator who explained all the moves and offered hints, but only the spectators could hear him, the players were wearing headphones with loud music blaring out. Each session at the chess board was followed by a round of boxing. The winner was declared by knock out, checkmate, retirement of opponent, or by one’s opponent running out of time on the chess clock (seven and a half minutes total on each clock).
We watched four bouts and whilst there no knock-outs (one guy retired on his stool, unable to continue, despite being a move or two away from a win on the chessboard) there were three checkmates; indeed the final one was actually a thing of beauty; a checkmate by the knight rather than the taking of the queen which most of us were expecting.
It soon became obvious that apart from the opening pair who played a fine game of chess, boxing was the stronger suit and we saw errors made on the chessboard which would have shamed a beginner. Mind you, even beginners don’t usually have to find moves after being punched senseless for three minutes! We had ringside seats and could smell the sweat, see the blood and revel in the atmosphere. The punches landed with sickening thuds and the welts on the fighters showed up red and angry. Yes, these eight guys mostly boxed better than they played chess, but after having your head pummelled, your senses scrambled and gone haywire and then having to play decent chess moves in front of a baying crowd, it was really not that surprising. As that famous philosopher Mike Tyson once said; ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth!’
One of the tactics seemed to be that, if about to lose at the chessboard, a fighter would go all out for a knock-out punch in the boxing round, and some of the action was very fierce indeed, though a boxer sitting next to us explained that they wear gloves designed to lessen the impact of the blows (either heavier or lighter than normal boxing gloves, I’m not sure which) and that most chess-boxing bouts were decided over the chess board.
We were all impressed by the boxers’ show of good sportsmanship. They treated victory and defeat with grace and humility and it was a lesson to all the strutting peacocks of the boxing world.
All of the combatants were given nicknames like “Crazy Arms” - the guy was a six foot seven inch beanpole with the long reach of his crazy arms able to keep his aggressive opponent at bay for the duration of the boxing bout, but not able to withstand the checkmate on the chessboard - “Hurt-Locker” and “Bomber Harris” who was in fact a slender seventeen year old making his first appearance in chess-boxing and hailing from Norfolk. In fact three of the guys were Norfolk born, and all got a stirring reception.
We thought it appropriate to give ourselves monikers too for the evening, and so Richard ‘The Real Deal’ Downing, Gerry ‘Pacemaker’ Clayton, Crumpton ‘Bone-crusher’ Clarke and Brian ‘Hit the Canvas’ Cunningham were duly christened.
Just for Rocky-style authenticity, a stunningly attractive young lady in very short hot-pants paraded around the ring before each round holding up the number of the round.
So, did we enjoy it? Not half! - though doubtless chess-boxing would not be everybody’s cup of tea. Indeed, we all felt it was much more entertaining and better organised than we expected. The only points which could have been improved upon were that the electronic links between the chess board, the computer and the big screen broke down on three separate occasions during the evening, causing some lack of continuity, and the background music which was of the loud, boom-boom rap style variety, didn’t suit our more ‘mature’ musical tastes, although actually they did play Jimmy Hendrix’s Voodoo Child which seemed just right for the event.
We left musing on what other chess related sports could be included. How about Chess-Mud Wrestling for example?
Richard ‘The Real Deal’ reports that when he got home, his Dalmatian Oswald gave him a playful head-butt, smashing his lip open and giving him a mouthful of blood and a deep boxer-type gash on his top lip, which is definitely taking this whole boxing thing too far!
Article by ‘The Real Deal’ Downing and ‘Hit the Canvas’ Cunningham
Photos by ‘Bone-crusher’ Clarke
A Chess Story by Richard
.A Story From Richard
This was related to me by the famous Cuban Grandmaster Jose Capablanca shortly before his death.
It was the Moscow tournament of 1928. On a dark, bitterly cold evening with snow swirling around outside their hotel, Capablanca, Lasker and Alekhine sat drinking in Capablanca's luxurious suite, and talking about such things as chess, chess, chess and the Canaries Premier league chances for that season ..
A knock at the door and Capablanca's manservant opened the door to allow a bedraggledold Russian entrance.
"And what can we do for you?" asked the Cuban, offering the freezing Russian a glass of hot, buttered rum and a fine Havana cigar.
"It's what I can do for you," replied the Russian.
"And what would that be?" scoffed Alekhine.
"I am a rank amateur player and have never taken part in any tournaments, but have made
an in depth study of chess openings for the past thirty two years.If you would allow me the honour of playing white, I will show you a variation of the
Ruy Lopex opening in which it is impossible for white to lose and not only that, but each game will last no more than 45 moves."
"Zat ist impossible," answered Lasker. "Zat goes against all the fundamental principles of the game of this vunderful game of chess!"
"Then shall we say a little wager of one hundred pounds sterling?"
'”Agreed," said Lasker,and the pieces were set up.
44 moves later and Lasker tipped over his king, shaking his head and pulling out a wad of notes from his pocket.
"Vot has happened?" he moaned. "My perfect defence has gone up in smoke."
"And you?" the mysterious Russian nodded to Alekhine. "Would you like to try?"
“The stakes?”sneered Alekhine.
"How about your Persian cat, named Chess?"said the Russian, pointing to the cat sitting and purring on Alekhine's lap. The cat who was to achieve immortality by having Blofeld from Goldfinger petting a similar cat many years later was blissfully unaware that he was to be bartered.
"And your illicit and highly controversial collection of Japanese pom or is that pawn?" added the Russian.
Alekhine swore, but shook hands with the Russian and they sat down to play.
44 moves later and Alekhine burst into tears.
"You can always get another cat," Lasker consoled him.
"No, it's the Japanese pom collection …irreplaceable," wept Alekhine.
And now it was Capablanca's turn. "The wager?" smiled the Cuban.
"Your collection of fine wines and cigars and a years free membership to the St John's Chess Club," said the Russian.
"Done," said Capablanca, and they sat down to play on the Cuban's exquisitely carved antique chess set. 44 moves later and the Cuban's hand
reached out to the Russian. "A draw by perpetual check is the best I can do," he conceded with grace.
I asked Capablanca what happened to the Russian after defeating the three most famous chess players of their time. The Cuban paused and lit a cigar before blowing a ring of blue smoke into the air.
"We shot the bastard,"he said.
famous chess quotes
"I'll be black." - Arnold Swarzeneger aka The Terminator
"Chess has improved me as a human being." - Atilla the Hun 358 AD
"The loss of my childhood was the price for becoming the youngest world champion in history." Kasparov
"Up to this point white has been following well-known analysis. But now he makes a fatal error: he begins to use his own head." - Tarrasch
"I wish I could someday play like Richard." - Gerry Clayton
"I'd give my left arm to be ambidextrous." - Alekhine
What sounds like a brass band and plays the green,green grass of home?
Trombones - Bobby Fisher.
"Up until this point the game had been even..so I decided to sacrifice my opponent's pieces."...Tartokower.