Wednesday 29 September 2010

K > K+K

Only in chess... K > K+K...

Difficult to know what to say about an organisation which is so out of touch with its constituents. At least, the more significant of its constituents. So, best to say nothing for the time being.

Khanky-Panky in Khanty-Manty?

I'm just blogging this because I wanted to be the first to use that headline. Anyone else using it now has to pay me a £10 royalty per use.

But I bet there is plenty of hanky-panky in Khanty today - the day of the vote to decide whether we want four more years of ET's best friend or four years of something slightly more grounded on planet earth. I confess I am not optimistic.

"Can You Hear Me, Maggie Carlsen?"

I've just stumbled upon the blog of top Norwegian GM Jon-Ludvig Hammer...
... and found it to be excellent. Of course, when I say "top Norwegian GM", I haven't forgotten the other young guy from that part of the world who sits atop the world rating list. Jon-Ludvig has some photos of a relaxed Magnus Carlsen wandering around Khanty-Mansiysk, playing cards with his team mates, etc.
Jon-Ludvig Hammer gives great blog.

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw Magnus's nickname amongst his Norwegian teammates. It's 'Maggie'. The rest of us chess writers have been busily 'bigging' him up, calling him 'Magnificent Magnus' and comparing his name to Charlemagne, etc, but to his Norwegian mates he's just plain 'Maggie'*. That is rather endearing.

These days, for British people and perhaps for others round the world, the name 'Maggie' instantly brings to mind our former prime minister. This in its turn triggered the thought of Mrs T's name being taken in vain in the context of a famous football match between Norway and England in 1981 when the Norwegian commentator ecstatically reeled off the names of famous English people (including Nelson, Churchill and Princess Diana) as he gloried in the Norwegian victory. The final salvo of Bjørge Lillelien's immortal taunt was "Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher - your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!" Now the boot is on the other foot: it is Norway that has the famous 'Maggie' and, only this week, their "boys" (including 'Maggie') took a "hell of a beating" from the English chess team. Has Mickey Adams finally laid the ghost of 1981? Can you hear me, Maggie Carlsen?

* Postscript: Before anyone gets too hung up on Magnus Carlsen's nickname being 'Maggie', Jon-Ludvig has just told me this is his own private name for Magnus! "I just like calling him that," says GM Hammer.

Friday 10 September 2010

Bent Larsen (1935-2010)

Some very sad news: the great Danish player Bent Larsen (4 iii 1935 - 9 ix 2010) is no more. In the second half of the 1960s his light shone as bright as Bobby Fischer, brighter at times, as these two vied to be considered the leading western challenger to the Soviet stranglehold on the world title. 

Larsen won no fewer than three interzonals, in 1964 (Amsterdam - where the photo was taken), 1967 (Sousse) and 1976 (Biel), and played on top board ahead of Fischer for the Rest of the World in the so-called 'Match of the Century' against the Soviet Union in 1970. 

He was also Fischer's rival as a chess writer, bringing out his hugely influential English language edition of 50 Selected Games around the time Fischer's legendary My Sixty Memorable Games was published. Larsen's aspirations to the world title were cut short when he suffered a calamitous 0-6 defeat to Fischer in the Candidates' semi-final in 1971, and with the subsequent rise of Anatoly Karpov, but he remained a top-flight grandmaster for many years and one whose fighting attitude to the game and opening ideas remain influential to this day. 

I remembered ordering his Larsen's 50 Selected Games of Chess 1948-69 and Fischer's Sixty Memorable Games at the same time and having them arrive in the same package. I can even tell you the day they arrived because I wrote it on the inside cover - 14 September 1970, forty years ago less four days. The simultaneous arrival of Fischer and Larsen on my doormat created a problem - which to read first? A real dilemma which I only half-solved by dipping into one and then sampling the other for an hour or two. As dilemmas go, it was a very happy one, of course. They remain two of my three favourite chess books of all time (the third being Donner's The King). Tonight I shall sit down in my favourite chair, with the well-loved, red dust-jacketed volume and fondly remind myself of the great man via his own words and moves. R.I.P.

Thursday 9 September 2010

When Garry Met Carol...

Carol: "Come on, Garry, you remember me, surely?" 
Garry: "No clues! I'm thinking... consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant, vowel... "

Carol Vorderman and Garry Kasparov at last night's chess shindig at Simpsons to support Anatoly Karpov's campaign to become FIDE (World Chess Federation) president. Carol was presenter of Channel Four's 1993 World Chess Championship TV coverage, when Kasparov met Short at the Savoy Hotel.