Friday, 7 November 2008

Chess on Mastermind

Mark Hannon, a Welsh player of around 2000 strength, wrote to tell me recently that he is to be one of the four contestants of an episode of Mastermind going out on BBC2 on 7 November 2008 (Friday) at 8.00 PM. His specialist subject is "Bobby Fischer - Life and Career". Good luck with that, Mark.

The fact that Mark wrote to tell me about is perhaps an indicator that he did well, but I wouldn't guarantee it. I recall that a previous chessplayer contestant on the show in 2005 also tipped me off about his participation despite the fact that he had bombed horribly answering questions on the history of the world chess championship. But then so would most of us with some of the completely daft questions he was asked. For example, "in how many moves did Spassky beat Petrosian in game 19 of the 1969 championship?" - and I cannot think of a reply to that which isn't either rude or obscene. The number of moves played in a game of chess is an utter irrelevance - the equivalent of asking a football specialist how many throw-ins there were in the 1966 World Cup final. I would be hard pushed to tell you the number of moves played in any game of chess, either one of my own or a famous one such as Morphy versus the Duke of Brunswick, though I could probably give an approximation in many cases. Of course it is a big clue that the question setter knows little of chess and in compiling questions has simply looked up a few facts on Wikipedia.

Should Mark get one of these ludicrous "how many moves" questions I can see me getting very hot under the collar watching tonight's show. But fate has taken a hand to ensure that I don't burst a blood vessel. It so happens that my TV set will be inaccessible tonight as the sitting room floorboards are being treated for woodworm today and we won't be able to enter it for 24 hours. Probably just as well...


  1. Morphy v Brunswick & Isouard was 17 moves, trivia fans. :)

  2. Yes, I can remember the moves of the game but I don't think I could have counted how many of them there were sufficiently quickly to answer a question in the Mastermind chair.

  3. How many moves was game 2 of the 72 match, would have been a reasonable question.

  4. The same as Reuben v Miles, Birmingham 1975...

  5. EJH - I just checked ChessBase ZeroBase and that game was actually Miles v Reuben, Luton 1975.

    'How many moves' questions remind me of the Emperor in 'Amadeus' who thought that Mozart's new piece had 'too many notes'.

  6. Ah, thanks for that, I was intending to use that game (if game it be) a little down the line, so it's good to get it right.

    It occurs to me that we all claim the number of moves doesn't matter, but we'd all of us rather resign after thirty than after ten...

  7. In truth I sourced the number of moves in Reuben-Miles from R James' and M Fox's 'Even More Complete Chess Addict' (p178), where it gives the score as "1. Draw".

    I've just found it in BCM (April 1975) as follows:

    [start] 2nd Luton Congress - The Second Luton Chess Congress, held at the recreation Centre over February 7-8-9 [1975], attracted 328 competitors. Prize money totalled £1,000 plus trophies and special prizes. The event was sponsored by the Luton Recreation Services Dept. who granted free use of the centre and facilities plus a generous underwriting allowance. The prizes were presented by GM Lajos Portisch.
    The organizers were dissatisfied with the way in which some players made sure of their prize money: ‘The first prizes in the Open and Major were decided in a most unsporting fashion. In the Open, Miles and Reuben agreed to a draw without playing a single move. This incident ... was almost infectiously copied in the Major where Smith and Lobo managed four trembling moves before the thought of record prize money for a sub-170 tournament got the better of them and a draw was agreed.’
    Results, all tournaments were 6-round Swisses, were as follows: Luton Open Championship: 1. AJ.Miles 5½; 2-5. M.J. Basman, S.Reuben. D.E.Rumens. D.Wright 5. Grading prizes were awarded to (I71-180) D.J. Stone. M.K. Jones. N.P.Alexander. and (U-170) S.K.Fishburne. Major - 1-3. B.D. Smith. A.J. Bagley. R.C.Lobo 5½. Minor - 1. El Mekkawi (Egypt) 6; 2. M.Krawczynski 5½.

    The Wikipedia entry for Tony Miles doesn't tally with this as it seems to say that the arbiter scored it as zero-zero. The quotation marks in the BCM News in Brief entry seem to indicate what was given in a press release but is unattributed.

  8. Sorry, I'm confusing things now - I mean Miles-Reuben. At least I think I do. The BCM doesn't mention who was who though Miles' name is mentioned first. I'll ask Stewart...