Tuesday 26 June 2012

Rededication of Johannes Zukertort's Grave, 26 June 2012

On 26 June the grave of Johannes Zukertort (1842-1888) was rededicated in London's Brompton Cemetery. Polish-born Johannes Zukertort was one of the world's leading players in the 1870s and 1880s. His most significant success was his victory at the 1883 London tournament, well ahead of the world's best players of the time, including Wilhelm Steinitz. He later contested what has become accepted as the first official world chess championship match in 1886 against Steinitz which he finally lost after an early lead.

GM Stuart Conquest delivers a few words on Zukertort at the newly-restored grave.

Zukertort settled in London in the early 1870s and died there aged 46 in 1888. Brompton Cemetery is one of London's most elegant Victorian graveyards and the horizontal stone placed over Zukertort's grave would have been quite a distinguished one for its time. However, over the course of time it had sunken lower and lower, and been covered by grass, although (as Stuart Conquest explained in his speech) it had been periodically rediscovered by people from the chess world and tidied up. The exact location of the grave was known to the cemetery administrators and it had also been identified some years ago by the Polish Heritage Society, who were understandably proud of their high-achieving fellow countryman who had been laid to rest in London and they had started planning for the grave's restoration.

Quite independently, former British Chess Champion and GM Stuart Conquest came to know about the grave about a year ago when spending some time in London and seeing Zukertort's name in a list of notable people buried in the cemetery. He was shown the grassy plot in the graveyard under which Zukertort lay and took it upon himself, with the blessing of the cemetery authorities, to uncover the original gravestone which lay a few centimetres below the grass.

Thus, after a few sessions of grandmasterly digging, the stone showing Zukertort's birth and death details was once more above ground and visible. In due course Stuart and Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki, Chairman of the Polish Heritage Society, became known to each other and they collaborated on a scheme to put up a more suitable upright stone to honour the memory of a chess legend. Today, 26 June 2012, saw the culmination of their splendid efforts with the rededication of the grave, now resplendent with a beautiful new headstone. 31 people from the world of chess and from the Polish community in Britain gathered at the newly-restored grave to pay homage to one of the 19th century's greatest players with a moving religious ceremony and excellent speeches from Marek and Stuart. The religious rites were conducted by the Rt. Rev. Walter Jagucki, Bishop Emeritus of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain, and Father Wladyslaw Wyszowacki, Rector of the Polish Catholic parish of Balham in south-west London.

It was heart-warming occasion and blessed by probably the best weather of the English summer so far. A huge debt of gratitude is owed to Stuart Conquest, the Polish Heritage Society, the staff of Brompton Cemetery and everybody who helped fund and support this fitting memorial to a great chessplayer.

The new gravestone

Johannes Zukertort (1842-88)

Photos by Ray Morris-Hill
Article written by GM Stuart Conquest for Chess Magazine in 2011 (ChessBase Website)
Video of GM Stuart Conquest interviewed by GM Daniel King re Zukertort project
Report of Zukertort Grave Rededication (ChessVibes)
Graves of Notable Chessplayers (Ken Whyld Association Website)
Video of Zukertort Grave, Pre-Restoration (MrChessClassics, YouTube)
Article on the Zukertort grave restoration project (Steve Giddins)
Johannes Zukertort on Wikipedia
Polish Heritage Society

Thursday 29 March 2012

4NCL Hit by Petrol Crisis?

There's a 4NCL (British Team League) weekend coming up and Britain is in the grip of a petrol crisis (either that or it's a government ruse to take our minds off their half-witted budget measures, pensions rip-offs, NHS destruction and general mismanagement of the country).

Organiser of top-level chess events in Liverpool, Prof. David Robertson, wrote on his Facebook page: "Isn't there a sizeable risk that those who reach Hinckley Island on Saturday will be trapped there forever? Didn't Sartre write 'Huis Clos' with this in mind?"

A frightening thought. As Sartre might have written in similar circumstances, "l'enfer, c'est les autres joueurs d'echecs"...

Thursday 15 March 2012

Chess Links

Note that the old bcmchess.co.uk domain now points to www.chess.co.uk

If anyone is missing the chess links page, note that it can be found in two places;

One is at the main chess.co.uk site here: www.chess.co.uk/links.html

And also at my personal website, here: www.saund.co.uk/chesslinks.html

Tuesday 31 January 2012

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, Round 8

After beating Judit Polgar yesterday, Women's World Champion Hou Yifan of China followed it up by taking another 2700 rated scalp this afternoon. Amazing stuff! The game was very complicated, but she played some very enterprising, risk-taking chess. There was a definite touch of the Mikhail Tal about it.

That said, the Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem seemed to be at least drawing the game when he played the incomprehensible 37...Bc5??, taking this all-important defensive piece off the long diagonal when 37...Rf7 was the obvious move. I guess he was in time trouble. Hou Yifan took her chance with aplomb and she could well be sharing the lead tonight when the other games finish.

Monday 30 January 2012

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess, Round 7 - 30 Jan 2012

An historic moment at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival as the world's greatest ever woman player Judit Polgar sits down to play women's world champion Hou Yifan for the first time. Latest: Hou Yifan won the game - see the score below. Judit seemed well below par but Hou Yifan took her chance brilliantly.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, Round 3

Nigel Short loves Gibraltar. He has won here a couple of times and the worst he has done is finishing second equal. Last year he had a phenomenal result on the Rock, finishing second to Ivanchuk (who scored an even more phenomenal success).

In round three he was paired with the world no.14. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Nigel played the Azerbaijani super-GM at the 2008 Dresden Olympiad and gave him a good drubbing. One imagines that Mamedyarov would have been thirsting for revenge today. Instead, he received another good drubbing! Resignation at the end is slightly premature, if only because many spectators might not have understood why, but there is little doubt that Nigel would have finished the job.

Comments below are based on Nigel Short's comments after the game.

Official Live Games: http://www.livestream.com/gibchess2012

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, Round 10: Aronian Shows The Way

Levon Aronian is in seemingly irresistible form in Wijk aan Zee at the moment and he leads the field by a full point with three rounds remaining. His tenth round win with Black against home player Anish Giri had a little bit of everything. Some sharp and enterprising opening theory (courtesy of an Armenian colleague), an exchange sacrifice (inspired, no doubt, by his great Armenian predecessor Tigran Petrosian), confident, patient middlegame technique, topped off with an improbably beautiful knight sacrifice to set up mate.

It seems a long time ago now that we were talking about the possibility of Magnus Carlsen overtaking Garry Kasparov's record rating of 2851 in Wijk. The way Levon Aronian is playing, there is probably a slightly better chance of Levon Aronian overtaking Carlsen at the top of the present rating list by the end of the tournament.

Levon Aronian (photo Fred Lucas)

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, Round 10: Missed Opportunity

An amusing finale from this afternoon's games at Wijk aan Zee...

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, Round 9

Here's an amazing finish from the Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee tournament, round 9, 24 January 2012. If you cut to move 47, you will see that Anish Giri (Black) is under pressure in the key position. But he then allows the exchange to a king and pawn endgame. Always a risky decision, of course, but at first it looks like he can hold. However, it turns out to be a blunder as Vasily Ivanchuk finds a very precise line to force a win. Very instructive!

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival Commentary

Live commentary is now underway at the 2012 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival in the Caleta Hotel.

Currently GMs Simon Williams and Stuart Conquest are commenting live on play.

Link to live commentary: http://www.livestream.com/gibchess2012

Monday 23 January 2012

Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival

The Tradewise 10th Gibraltar Chess Festival starts on Monday 23 January 2012, with the Masters tournament getting underway on the Tuesday.

The photo shows Women's World Chess Champion of Hou Yifan making the now traditional visit to the Rock Apes on the day before the tournament proper starts.

This year's competition is the biggest and best in the tournament's history to date. It features a staggering eleven players rated 2700 or higher, headed by former winner Peter Svidler, Shak Mamedyarov, Michael Adams, Zoltan Almasi, Alexei Shirov and Le Quang Liem, plus the absolute cream of the world's top women players competing together in an open tournament for the first time - Judit Polgar, Hou Yifan, Humpy Koneru, Nadezhda Kosintseva, Nana Dzagnidze, etc. For good measure it features two former world championship finalists, Nigel Short and Viktor Korchnoi.

Official website: http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/index.htm
Live Games: http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/live_games_masters.htm
Live Commentary: http://www.livestream.com/gibchess2012