Razzle Dazzle

Tournament reports make me sad. They follow the same old tired format and frankly I’ve had enough. This one comes without a single annotated game or pre-match photo. Your mileage may vary.

The Southend Easter Congress promised to be a seaside special and we were duly greeted by torrential rain. I’d journeyed with Muswell Hill teammate Simon ‘The Increment’ Wilks. We also had the pleasure [sic] of Jerry’s company and, on occasion, his support. Although whether he was there to watch the chess unfold or to marvel at the longest pier in the world was in some doubt.

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For the serious player a congress provides an unrivalled opportunity to get lost in the game. The format (and weather) didn’t leave us much option with two 90 min + 30s/move games per day. This allowed for deep prep before the morning round and next to no prep each afternoon. It was a pleasant cross between posh 4NCL chess and local pub league fare. I took home several new opening ideas plus a mixed bag of results.

Analogue Chess in a Digital World

Tournament logistics aren’t as well suited to those with a more casual interest. At Southend the congress office displayed a live feed from the top 3 boards. As far as I’m aware, a new initiative for this year which seemed to attract a steady audience. But here we run into a fundamental problem: the real action is not on show because it’s happening inside the players’ heads. There is scope to present a spectacle for the layman without descending into being crass, however it requires exceptional commentators and tools to appeal to casual and serious chess enthusiasts alike.

The potential chess fan has the internet. With it comes an enticing array of alternatives to visiting local tournaments. You could follow the world’s elite from home with Chess24 or the ChessBrahs’ entertaining, astute commentary from the recent Candidates tournament. Or watch chess.com lead the way into the e-Sports market. Their Pro Chess League finals were held in San Francisco last weekend and streamed to over 23k peak viewers. Sadly, the UK blitz scene wasn’t represented with our London teams finishing 6th and 8th in their pool. It’s tough for analogue chess to compete with all that.

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To remain relevant in the face of digital chess, weekend congresses have to adapt. To be clear, it’s not my intention to single Southend out. The live feed addition alone puts it streets ahead of the competition. But we feel that the face-to-face chess world needs heaps more active promotion. A dash of razzle dazzle will help move away from its same old tired format. Ready to step up?

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(editors note – This article originally published on 14th April 2018 on Makepeace with Chess. Republished with kind permission from the author)


Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris is a part-time member of Downend and Fishponds and formerly played for Bristol University. He is now based in London where he co-founded Makepeace With Chess.

How can British chess clubs benefit from the 2018 world championship?

The 2018 candidates tournament is over and what a thrill it was.  The chess world is unanimous in its praise of all eight players approach to the tournament that decided who would face the world champion Magnus Carlsen, in November. Fabiano Caruana has emerged as the challenger and there is sure to be an increased interest in chess in the United States as a result.  With America braced to experience a chess boom, the Bristol Chess Times asks how British clubs could benefit from the world championship match being held in London?

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Fabiano Caruana photographed moments after he sealed his place as the World Championship Challenger (editors note – I cannot find the image credit for the photographer, if anyone knows please contact me)

It is fair to say that the Carlsen – Caruana match of 2018 is likely to be one of the most highly anticipated chess clashes in recent memory. This is down to their respective abilities and styles but also due to the various stories the western media can spin on it. For example, “First American to compete for world crown since Bobby Fischer” the headlines have been crying since Caruana sealed his final victory on Tuesday (poor old Gata Kamsky…) . So with the world media eagerly casting its gaze upon London in November, how can British chess clubs capitalise?

Its been eighteen years since the chess world championship match was last held in the UK and 25 years since a British born candidate battled for the crown.  Last year I wrote several impassioned pieces to the Bristol chess community (and wider UK chess scene) about embracing digital technology to help promote and grow chess clubs.  As part of my call to arms I pointed out that the Bristol & District Chess League experienced a massive boom in membership in 1993, the year of the Kasparov vs. Short match.  League membership over 1993 / 94 was an astonishing 635 league members (from 450ish in 1992) and indeed the numbers remained above 500 until 1998 (today it hovers around the 300 mark). Admittedly, the league did not see an equivalent boom for the London held Kramnik vs. Kasparov so perhaps the lack of home grown talent didn’t pull in local interest?

But its fair to say that in 2018 and in an age of ubiquitous connectivity the amount of online searches and general public interest in our ancient game is likely to increase again in the run up to and during the championship.  Those clubs that are prepared to ride this wave of renewed interest will reap the rewards in terms of membership so lets look at some ideas for British clubs cashing in on world championship fever.

World Championship Fan Parks & Events

If football can have fan parks I fail to see why chess players can’t hire a room in a pub and stream the delights of Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler (editors note – other streaming services are available).

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The double act of Jan and Peter would make a great Chess Fan park when pumped through speakers on a large screen in the back of pub!

I constantly hear British players bemoan the lack of Chess on the TV and sometimes wonder if they have ever heard of the internet? The quality of streamed chess from major providers such as chess.com and chess24 really is very high (lets not talk about the official world chess coverage) and I love the idea of opening up the club house or hiring a room with some boards where the club members of all strengths and abilities can get together and watch the highlight of the chess calendar together.  Imagine running some fun blitz events around the sides where passing members of the public could stop and ask questions about chess and how they can get involved.

 

Social Media and mobile friendly websites

At the risk of banging a very worn down drum, if your club hasn’t updated its website with clear contact details and at the very least set up a Facebook and Twitter account then now is the time to get on it.  You have 8 months before the world championship begins and all that lovely juicy online search traffic starts Googling “chess club in my local area“. If you don’t believe me that this has an effect then talk to either Horfield chess club or North Bristol chess club in the Bristol league who have both seen growth in excess of 25% this season since starting online promotions.

Hold open nights for beginners

How many times are you sat blitzing in a pub with a mate when someone walking past, stops and wistful looks down at the board?  You all know the type of person I mean.  They pause for what they think is a few seconds and are still stood gazing minutes later.  They often depart by saying “I used to love chess at school” or something similar.  Its these people who, come the world championship, suddenly spark up the courage of their convictions again to contact a club.  Lets make it easy for them shall we?

Why not start publicising events and welcome evenings in conjunction with the world championship games?  “In celebration of the Chess World Championship we welcome all beginners free of charge to a our club on Tuesday” etc etc. Perhaps the games are again screened in the background and some stronger players are on hand to welcome and provide some light coaching.

Conclusion

Above are just three ideas that a proactive chess club could embrace to help make the most of the world championship match.  Carlsen vs. Caruana promises to be one to remember and will certainly help alter the public perception of chess with two young players, raised in the age of powerful chess computers and the internet, battling it out for the ultimate prize. Its not often that such a clash occurs on our shores and I feel it would be a real shame if British chess clubs did not grab this golden opportunity to (re)invigorate themselves.

Finally, if you like any of the ideas above or are planning any other activities with your local club then i’d love to hear about it.  As a community if we share ideas then we can ensure that clubs across the country benefit and help one another when the World Championship rolls around.

We have 8 months.  The work starts now.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Three times Carlsen took down the Berlin Defence in the World Chess Championship

The World Championship Candidates 2018 starts today in Berlin.  The winner travels to London to face Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championship 2018.  I am sure the British chess community must be very excited to have the world crown decided on our fair isles and I am sure lots of South West based players will be traveling to watch the match in November. To celebrate the start of the candidates, The Bristol Chess Times decided to take a look at the dreaded Berlin defence in an attempt to offer some hope to amateur players with the white pieces!

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A strong field of Super-GMs will compete in the Candidates in Berlin but who will make it all the way to London?

The Berlin Defence wouldn’t have the nickname the “Berlin Wall” if it wasn’t rock solid.  Whilst it has been thoroughly examined at the highest circles of chess what is a budding club player to do with the white pieces against such a solid road block? Don’t get me wrong.  Despite being an ambitious amateur, I am not arrogant enough to believe that I can crack the Berlin wall myself!

Instead, and to honour the build up to the world championship in London, I decided to showcase three examples of white victories in the Berlin from the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen, in his last two world championship finals.

My hope is that by looking at these games this post will inspire our readership to both remember to get a ticket for the finals in London but also have faith that the Berlin wall can fall (even if you have to be Magnus Carlson to do it!).

Enjoy!

World Championship 2014: Game 2

Carlsen drew blood as early as Game 2 in Sochi by adopting a quiet closed approach to the Berlin with an early d3.  He started a kingside attack but it was his control of the e file and battery of heavy pieces that eventually allowed him to crash through.

World Championship 2014: Game 11

Alternatively in the game that sealed Carlsen’s defence of his title, he chose well known lines of the open variation where the queens come off early and white (apparently) has a slight edge with superior pawns. Carlsen won the exchange and a pawn but Anand had dangerous united and passed a and b pawns on the 6th rank.  However, the white king was in time and Carlsen prevailed against the Berlin in a crucial game.

World Championship 2016: Game 10

A marathon game that I believe (editors note – source needed) holds the record for the second longest game in the history of the World Chess Championships (after game 5 of Korchnoi vs. Karpov, 1978).  Carlsen needed to win to level the match and was rapidly running out of whites.  Another quiet and closed choice vs. the Berlin led to a long endgame struggle but Carlsen’s incredible technique eventually ground down Karjakin’s defence.  If this is what it takes to defeat the Berlin then no wonder amateur players struggle!

 


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Interactive games, updates and next steps for Bristol Chess Times

Its been 8 months and 54 articles since we relaunched Bristol Chess Times in July 2017.  The engagement so far has been great and in previous articles I have spoken about the various statistics that are helping push forward the growth of both the league and our wider chess community.  Today I wanted to talk about some recent changes I am making to help take Bristol Chess Times to the next level.

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Interactive Game Analysis

The biggest change that I have introduced this weekend is the ability to play through games and perform analysis on diagrams within the site.  I gave a hint at this functionality yesterday on our Game of the Month article but today I wanted to showcase the wider functionality we have added.  When we talk about interesting games and positions in the Bristol Chess Times we can now:

  • Play through the whole game, including highlighting of last moves with arrows;
  • Include interesting variations within the body of the game analysis
  • Provide built in diagrams next to comments with target squares highlighted and also threats indicated with the use of arrows.
  • Indicate which colour to play by a small circle on the right hand side of the board.

All in all, we hope you can see that this change takes the Bristol Chess Times games analysis to the next level.  To demonstrate the new functionality I have used a lovely game from Waleed Khan (of North Bristol Chess Club) that was submitted for Game of the Month in February.

Waleed’s home analysis below showcases all the new functionality we can now provide and I hope gets players excited about submitting their games for future articles.

About Page

I have also updated the About page on the Bristol Chess Times to give credit to all the contributors and columnists who have made it a success thus far.  Each person who has contributed, no matter how many times, is now listed and I hope over time this will grow to show the range and depth of our chess community. Only by going out and seeking fresh opinions, games and insights will we continue to keep Bristol Chess Times blossoming.

My thanks to every contribution thus far but also a call out to anyone who wants to provide a voice to their opinion in the amateur chess scene. Get involved!

Next Steps

Hopefully you can see the positive changes occurring on the Bristol Chess Times and I hope that you continue to read and enjoy our efforts!  Moving forward we really want to get a more diverse range of contributors involved from all clubs and backgrounds.

Thus far we have only had contributions from four of the 16 clubs in the Bristol & District Chess League so it would be great to receive some thoughts from some of the smaller clubs especially.

But looking ahead, we also recognise that we want to receive thoughts from the wider chess community across the UK.  British League Chess is a wonderful creature and the life of the amateur club player so sorely under represented in most chess media.  If you are a reader and fan of the Bristol Chess Times but do not live in the South West of England then thats ok! Tell us what you want to read about.  What you are looking for and we will do our best to provide informative engaging content for all!

Finally, If you have made it this far in the article then it just leaves me to say a final thank you for your support.  Even if you do not want to write for us then you can still support the Bristol Chess Times by sharing, liking or retweeting as many of our articles as you can. Every small piece of promotion really does make a difference.

Until next time!


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

February 2018: League Review and Game of the Month

We are now approaching the business end of the league season with only two months to go and most teams having only five games remaining.  For many title contenders it was the month they turned the screw on their peers, remaining focused on the top prizes.

Division 1

Horfield A have led for the majority of the season as they chase a first league title in 17 years, but a large chasing pack of five teams has been keeping them nervous throughout.  However, February turned out to be the month when daylight finally appeared at the top.  Despite several close matches, Horfield A continued to grind out the victories whilst the chasing pack slipped up and dropped valuable points with draws and losses to teams lower down the division.  As the month of February closes Horfield A find themselves five points clear (with a very healthy Game Points score).  Its not over but the statisticians amongst our readers will point to a strong likelihood of a Horfield title.

At the bottom of the table both Clifton B and Clevedon picked up some points to close the gap on South Bristol A and maybe even Downend B.  With games in hand, we could be seeing an intriguing 3 or 4 way relegation battle pushing on to the very end of the season.

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Division 2

In division 2, South Bristol B continued to hold onto top spot throughout the month but its much closer with Horfield C one point behind.  The self styled “noisy neighbours” of the Bristol & District League, North Bristol, briefly applied some pressure at the top but it would appear the games played column will be their enemy this season.  With everyone around them having games in hand, it will be hard to stay in the top three.

At the bottom of the league Downend D are unfortunately adrift but Cabot A are still within touching distance of safety.

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Division 3

Yate A finally lost their 100% record, conceding top spot to Keynsham A.  The rest of the division are a long way behind although Clifton C have mysteriously only played 8 games giving them a whopping 3 games in hand. That makes the division slightly harder to call but its fair to say its likely to be a three horse race into the final stretch of the season.

At the bottom of the division, Hanham A, Downend E and Cabot B will be glad that there is no relegation from Division 3 as they have all struggled thus far.

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Division 4

North Bristol B have plenty to shout about in Division 4 as they are joint top with 20pts but with a healthy three games in hand which should be enough to see them claim top spot. In what is an incredibly tight run in its very hard to call who will finish where from third to 10th with still lots of games in the largest division in the Bristol & District Chess League.

There always has to be one team propping up the league and unfortunately at the moment that dubious honour goes to Harambee.

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League KO Cup and Minor League KO Cup

The semi finals for both cup competitions also took place in February.  This time out, it was Horfield’s turn to taste defeat in both cups, losing to Downend and Clevedon respectively.

The final match ups for the last pieces of silverware in the season is as follows:

Minor KO Cup Final: Downend vs. Clevedon

KO Cup Final: Downend vs. Bath / South Bristol (editors note – final semi result pending at time of writing)

Game of the Month

Our Game of the Month for February comes courtesy of Candidate Master Lynda Smith of Thornbury Chess Club. Lynda actually submitted two examples of lovely attacking chess but we have opted for her lovely attacking prowess on the Black side of a Sicilian from the East Devon Congress .  Lynda’s attack starts as early as move 8 with the h-pawn thrust.  Its fitting that the game is ultimately decided on the h-file 19 moves later, demonstrating the successful culmination of a long term plan.

Congratulations to Lynda and our other winners of previous Games of the Month.  We will be compiling all our winners together at the end of the season for a final Game of the Season as well as some prizes.  Until then, enjoy playing through Lynda’s game below.

Finally, regular readers will notice that we have made some edits to the Bristol Chess Times. Most notably we have added the ability to play through games on the site (as demonstrated in Lynda’s game above).  Please do let us know what you think as we are particularly pleased to be adding this really useful functionality to the website.  I will be writing an update soon on the coming changes to the site and how more members of the amateur chess community can get involved with the Bristol Chess Times.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

The Beast from the East Opening

So the “Beast from the East” arctic blast has struck the UK and in typical British fashion everything has ground to a halt, including the 71st Bristol Chess Championship Congress this weekend (we will reschedule).  With a lot of chess players in the South West (and across the country) suddenly finding themselves with some spare time I thought I would write an article trying to find an opening worthy of the name “The Beast from the East”.  An opening that slows everything down, is boring and generally leaves you feeling cold.  But then I thought I have written enough articles about the London System lately (ba-dum tush!) so lets actually try to find something new!

A quick search online reveals a number of openings with suitable frosty titles such as “The Baltic Defence” (1.d4 d5 2. c4 Bf5), “The Finnish Variation of the Caro Kann” (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 h6), The Icelandic Gambit (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.c4 e6!?), multiple Moscow variations and my personal favourite the so called “Siberian Trap” in the Smith Morra Gambit” (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Ng4! 9.h3?? (or 9.Bb3??) Nd4!)

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The Siberian Trap variation of the Smith Morra Gambit is just plain nasty!

Finally after digging a little deeper I did actually find the “Arctic Defence” to the Reti which starts with the dubious 1. Nf3 f6?!

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The Arctic Defence does indeed leave me feeling cold towards Black’s chances.

I found one humorous game in the chess.com forums (thank you for posting ZBicyclist in 2010) between two amateur players that highlights some flaws with this approach and ends with Black being checkmated with a pawn on move 11, hmmm.

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The Arctic was quickly conquered in this game. Ouch!

Unimpressed with the “Arctic Defence” what can we do to find an opening suitable for the title The Beast from the East?  I started to think that it would have the following characteristics:

  • It would ruin everyones plans.
  • It would be very slow.
  • It would land and then just sit there.

With my criteria set, I started looking for something remotely playable that adhered to the above rules and had some reasonable statistics with it.  Ladies and Gentlemen! I give you my candidate for “The Beast from the East” Opening:

1.d4 a6 2. e4 d6 3. Nf3 h6 (frosty!) 4. Nc3 Nd7 5. Bc4 e6 6. 0-0

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The Beast from the East Opening

‘The Beast from the East” creeps in with little opportunity for fast travel but white must be careful not to skid on the Black Ice (see what i did there?!) of the incoming 6…b5 and 7…c5 as the cold Queenside front pushes forward.

Is this opening as good as its powerful name suggests?  Or is it just a minor inconvenience that will be forgotten by the end of the weekend?  I leave it up to you to decide.

In the mean time.  Wrap up warm, chuck another log on the fire and lets get the boards up.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Chessplayers of the world unite

You do not have to scale the mountain alone.

You sit at the board, you shake hands and you move the pieces. From the moment a game begins you alone must take full responsibility for its outcome. Chess could hardly be a more individual pursuit. Despite this there is undoubtedly a chess community. Why?

Camaraderie can be observed as soon as competitive play concludes. Players exhume the game and examine what might have been. Recent adversaries lay down their arms and teach each other new tricks. The post-mortem is definitely one of my favourite chess quirks. As a junior I failed to recognise the value of this ritual and would decline to analyse when I had lost. Judging from recent tournaments I was not alone in this defective thinking!

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In 1978 and again in 1981 the chess world saw battles between two wildly conflicting characters. Victor Korchnoi, child of the siege of Leningrad, defector from communist Russia, fighter against the system, playing Anatoly Karpov, poster boy of the Russian regime, communist ideologue, a beneficiary of all that communism had to offer and a star chess player. The two could hardly bear to shake hands with each other. Yet after play they spent time together in animated discussion over the game. When asked why, Korchnoi famously replied, “he is the only other person in the world who understands chess the way I do”.

This is why a chess community exists. From the perspective of individual success it makes little sense to share information with your potential opponents. Poker players do not do this. If chess were simply about winning we would instead carefully guard every scrap of information. There would be no books, training videos or coaches. In this world the perfect chess player would be a selfish lone wolf.

Now think about who you know in chess. In any cohort of chessplayers almost all the people you spend your time with will be within about 25 ECF of your grade (or maybe 187.5 Elo). Sure, you will know a few stronger or weaker players, but you probably find you spend little time discussing the game with them. Plenty of strong or weak players are friendly enough to approach but in reality you hardly speak to them at all.

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Strong players recognise instinctively the importance of stratified community. They have built their own training networks comprising of similarly motivated players and coaches, selected consciously or unconsciously, to give a support network of exactly the right strength. Next time you play a game, and indeed every time you play a game, take a good look at your opponent and think about the network. Remember his face and speak to him next time you meet. Some will fit in, others won’t. But those who do will end up being your valuable allies.

Chess is the way we have all chosen to engage with the world and the presence of others helps to give meaning to our journey. I have long ago stopped trying to explain why I spend time on chess to those who don’t. I used to be met with creative variations of “what’s the point?” and never really had a satisfactory answer. Nowadays, I think it is a broader question of networking, support, interest and motivation. Chessplayers have a value system that underpins chess which goes way beyond boosting rating.

Although we each have to develop our own system, we do not have to do it on our own.

Many thanks to Jerry Humphreys for supplying the Korchnoi anecdote and his extensive notes.

(editors note – This article originally published on 19th February 2018 on Makepeace with Chess.  Republished with kind permission from the author)


Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris is a part-time member of Downend and Fishponds and formerly played for Bristol University. He is now based in London where he co-founded Makepeace With Chess.

Bristol’s Forgotten World Chess Champion

She was “the leading lady player of the world” (1) and “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (2) in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The pinnacle of her career was winning the first international women’s chess tournament in 1897, but she lived a life of genteel poverty and died almost forgotten.

 

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Mary Rudge

Mary Rudge was born in Leominster on the 6th February 1842 to Henry and Eliza Rudge (3). Henry was a surgeon and “very fond of chess and played a fairly strong game, though he never took part in public chess. He taught the moves to his elder daughters, and they in turn taught Miss Mary”(4). Leominster was a small town and could not have provided much in the way of serious competition, so it is unsurprising that the first record of Mary playing chess is in a correspondence tournament in 1872 (5). The first mention of over the board competition is in August 1874 when Mary played in Class II at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association, at Birmingham (6).

Two months later Dr Rudge died, leaving Mary, 32, and her sister, Caroline, 41, to fend for themselves. Both women were unmarried and they went to live with their brother Henry in Bristol. Henry was 37, also unmarried, and had been a curate at St John Evangelist, Whiteladies Road, Clifton since 1870 (7).

Mary started playing chess seriously and, for her, the move to Bristol was particularly fortuitous. Bristol had a long chess history; the Bristol Chess Club was formed in 1829 or 1830 and is thought to be the first English club outside London. More importantly for this story, in 1872, the new Bristol and Clifton Chess Club Association voted to admit women:

“During the year the vice-president proposed that ladies should be admitted to the Club as associates, at an annual subscription of 5s.,which was agreed to. We believe that no members of the softer sex were admitted as subscribers, by any chess club in this country, prior to this date.” (8).

Although Burt’s claim is very doubtful – there are examples going back to the eighteenth century (9) – Mary had ended up in a place that was going to give her the opportunity to play competitive chess.

The first mention of Mary in Bristol is in 1875 when she played Blackburne – who gave a blindfold simultaneous display against ten opponents. The following year she played in another blindfold simultaneous display given by Zukertort (10). At this stage Mary had not made much of an impact on the chess world. When John Burt wrote his history of the Bristol Chess Club in 1883, Mary was considered worth just two very brief mentions. If she had been recognized as a leading woman player at this time then Burt would surely have recorded it.

The arrival of Henry’s sisters must have caused a major upheaval in his life and, in particular, a need for new accommodation. Before 1876, Henry does not appear in the residents’ lists. In 1876-77, he was living at Walmer Villa, 48 Wellington Park, Clifton. This house may have been owned by St John’s, because when he moved to become curate of another church, St Thomas, Bristol, in 1878, he also moved house to 8 Burlington Buildings (now Burlington Road) Clifton. Perhaps Henry’s new post at St Thomas still did not bring in enough money because the Rudges had a new plan. The following year they took over the new Luccombe House Preparatory School on Redland Green; Henry became the schoolmaster and we can assume his sisters helped with the teaching (11). The school was described as providing “’high class education for boys, 7-11. Efficient masters providing a thorough grounding for public schools.” (12). The venture may have started successfully because Henry gave up his curate’s post in 1881, but by 1885 things were going wrong. In January, the school was advertising for pupils (13), but by August it seems the school closed and the Rudges left (14).

Henry moved to become curate at North Meols (15), near Southport, but Mary stayed in Bristol. What happened immediately after the school closure is not clear – Mary did not appear in two matches that autumn that she would normally have played in (16). But she eventually reappeared on the chess scene and this time she quickly began to make a real impact. This is all the more remarkable as she was already 45 years old. On 12th March 1887 she played on board six for Bristol against Bath at the Imperial Hotel, Bristol, and she got a draw against a Mr W E Hill. At the beginning of 1888, Rudge played and won on board six for Bristol & Clifton against City Chess & Draughts Club (17), and then drew with Blackburne in a simultaneous display on 1st March (18). The following year Mary must have really made the men sit up and take notice as she won the challenge cup of Bristol & Clifton Chess Club (19). However, the very same month (June 1889), Mary was in dire financial straits.

‘Our readers will be sorry to hear that Miss M. Rudge, of Clifton, is at present in very depressed pecuniary circumstances; so much so that she has felt obliged (though most reluctantly) to give her consent to an appeal being made on her behalf. We are sure English chessplayers will not allow one of their best lady players to remain in actual, though it is to be hoped only temporary, want, and contributions for its relief, however small, will be thankfully received by the Rev. C.E. Ranken, St Ronan’s, Malvern, and acknowledged by him privately to the donors.’ (20)

Perhaps the school venture had wiped out any funds or legacy that had once existed. Mary was reduced to relying on a form of charity, as she became a companion to various ladies. The most important of these ladies was Mrs FF Rowland, who lived at Clontarf, near Dublin, and also Kingstown. Frideswide Rowland was a significant figure in late nineteenth-century chess, both as a problemist and, with her husband, Thomas B Rowland, as a chess journalist and writer of chess books. And so Mary started alternating between living in Bristol and Ireland.

By September 1889, Mary was living in Clontarf where, possibly inspired by Mrs Rowland, she composed and published a chess problem (in the Clontarf Parochial Magazine) (21). She also gave a simultaneous display – she won all six games (22) – and it is possible that she was the first woman in the world to perform a ‘simul’. By November Mary was being hailed as “the leading lady player in the world”(23).

Meanwhile, brother Henry was still in Lancashire. By 1889 he had moved a short distance to Church Town, Southport (24). The same year he succeeded in getting a new post, as Curate and then Rector of St Mary, Newent, Gloucestershire (25). It appears that Mary decided not, or was not invited, to move to Newent. In any case, Henry was destined not to enjoy his new post for long; he died in September 1891.

Over the next few years, Mary took part in various competitions, playing for Bristol & Clifton, (26) and for Gloucestershire, (27) and also moving to Dublin for several months at a time. She won the Ladies’ Challenge Cup in Cambridge in 1890 and was third in Class II. By now, the British Chess Magazine could describe Mary as “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (28).

In 1896, Mary won Class II at the Southern Counties’ tournament, at the Imperial Hotel. Mr Stevenson tied for first place, with a score of 61⁄2. The latter beat Mary in their game, then waived his right to play off, giving Mary the first prize of £5 (29).

The following year, 1897, the first international women’s chess tournament was held at the Ladies’ Club in London. Twenty players entered. Two rounds per day were played, with a time limit of twenty moves in one hour. Some expressed concern that the event would be too taxing for the ladies.

It is likely that Mary was urged to enter and her supporters may have raised money to enable her to stay for a couple of weeks in London. If so, it was worthwhile as Mary sailed through the event undefeated with eighteen wins and one draw.

“Miss Mary Rudge, of Clifton, won her games in the eighteenth and final rounds of the International Chess Tournament, played in London, at the Ladies’ Chess Club, on Saturday. Miss Rudge came out as first prize winner of £60, her full score being 181⁄2 points.”(30) 

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The first women International Tournament, London 1897.  Mary is top centre

The British Chess Magazine commented her play was marked by a lack of risk taking and published only highlights of her games, but they did confirm the status of the event:

“Rudge in capital form, … displayed those qualities of steadiness and tenacity for which she is renowned. … Her play was marked throughout by care, exactitude and patience. Someone said of her, ‘She doesn’t seem to care so much to win a game as to make her opponent lose it.’ She risked nothing, she never indulged in fireworks for the purpose of startling the gallery; if she got a Pawn she kept it and won, if she got a piece she kept it and won, if she got a “grip” she kept it and won, if she got a winning position she kept it and won. Not that she always outplayed her opponents in the openings, or even in the mid-games, for the reverse was sometimes the case; but risking nothing she always managed to hold her game together, and then in the end her experience as a tournament player and her skill in end positions came in with powerful effect.’”

“Miss Mary Rudge has for long enjoyed the reputation of being the strongest lady chessplayer in the world, and the fact that she has carried off the first prize in the present tournament, thereby becoming entitled to style herself lady chess champion of the world, is very satisfactory to her many friends.”(31)

At the age of 55, Mary had reached the pinnacle of her career. It is certain that the £60 prize money was also very welcome. Afterwards it was back to the more mundane life of playing in Bristol and Dublin.

In 1898 Mary played against the men’s world champion, Emanuel Lasker, in a simultaneous display at the Imperial Hotel. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available (32) and Mary’s was one of those unfinished. Mrs Rowland described how Lasker had been winning but made a mistake. He graciously conceded defeat in this game when it was unfinished at the call of time because he would be lost with best play (33). She continued to play for Bristol and for Gloucestershire.(34) The following year, Mary was playing in Dublin “with great success”(35).

Mary’s health deteriorated sometime in the next few years. Her sister Caroline died in 1900 leaving her on her own. In 1912, there was a new appeal for funds. The Cork Weekly News published the following announcement by Mrs F.F. Rowland:

‘Miss Mary Rudge is the daughter of the late Dr Rudge, and after his death she resided with her brother, who kept a school, but since his decease she is quite unprovided for, her sisters are also dead, and she is without any income of any kind. She lived as companion with various ladies, and was for some years resident with Mrs Rowland, both at Clontarf and Kingstown. Whilst at Clontarf, she played in the Clontarf team in the Armstrong Cup matches, and proved a tough opponent, drawing with J. Howard Parnell and winning many a fine game. She was also engaged at the DBC to teach and play in the afternoons. At the Ladies’ International Congress, London, she took first prize (£60), making the fine score of 191⁄2 in 20, the maximum [181⁄2 from 19, in fact]. Miss Rudge held the Champion Cup of the Bristol Chess Club, prior to Messrs H.J. Cole and F.U. Beamish. Miss Rudge is now quite helpless from rheumatism and is seeking admission into a home or (if possible) the Dublin Hospital for Incurables. A fund is being collected for present expenses, pending her admission, and chessplayers are asked to help – either by influence or money. Donations may be sent to Mrs Rowland, 3 Loretto Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, or to Mrs Talboys, 20 Southfield Park, Cotham, Bristol.’(36)

The next few years must have been very difficult indeed. In 1918, Mary attempted to solve her financial problems when a cousin, James Barrett, died intestate. Mary claimed to be sole next of kin, but another Barrett claimed to be the grandson of the deceased’s uncle and hence sole heir (37). Mary’s claim appears to have failed (38).

Mary moved, at some point, to Truro and then to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham. She died in Guys Hospital, London, on 22 November 1919. The British Chess Magazine accorded her just three lines:

“As we go to press we learn with great sorrow of the death, at Streatham last month, of Miss Mary Rudge, winner of the International Ladies’ Tournament in 1897.” (39)

So how good a player was Mary Rudge? Although she was considered the best woman player in the world it is doubtful that she was all that strong. A reasonable indicator of her strength is that she played around boards 4 to 8 for both Bristol & Clifton and for Gloucestershire, and that she played in the second strongest section (Class II) of tournaments at regional and national level. So, relative to her male contemporaries, she was not as strong as a top female player of today, but this is not to belittle her achievements. She played chess at a time when women were not encouraged to play, in fact often positively discouraged. She also started at a late age for a chess player and had her greatest success at 55. In contrast, when the first official women’s world championship tournament was held, it was a 21 year old, Vera Menchik, who was victorious. By coincidence, the tournament was also in London, almost exactly thirty years after Mary’s triumph, and Vera won by a similar score: ten wins, one draw, no losses.

Mary deserves to be better recognised and remembered as a pioneer of women’s chess. A blue plaque in Bristol would be a good start, but we need to find a building to place it on. Her only definite address in Bristol, Luccombe House, no longer exists (40). Perhaps a good alternative would be the Imperial Hotel where she played on many occasions, and the venue for her near-win against Lasker. The Hotel is now named Canynge Hall and it is the home of the University of Bristol’s Department of Social Medicine.

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Imperial Hotel – now Canynge Hall 

References

  • 1 Colombia Chess Chronicle, 1 November 1889, pp 92-93, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281
  • 2 British Chess Magazine (BCM), 1890, p264.
  • 3 General Register Office, reference March 1842 Leominster XXVI/194. The date of birth is often given, erroneously, as 1845.
  • 4 BCM, 1897, p289.
  • 5 Personal e-mail from C.P.Ravilious, saying Tim Harding has record of Mary playing in the first correspondence tournament of The Amateur Chess Magazine (Ed James T.C.Chatto) which began in the summer of 1872.
  • 6 Burt J, The Bristol Chess Club, 1883.
  • 7 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889. 
  • 8 Burt, J, op cit.
  • 9 BCM, 2004, p666.
  • 10 ibid.
  • 11 1881 Census, RG11, 2504 / 23, 39.
  • 12 Web site: bristolinformation.co.uk/schools/
  • 13 Clifton Chronicle & Directory (CCD),
  • 14 January 1885. 14 CCD, Rev H Rudge is listed at Luccombe House up to 12 August 1885, but no one is listed at that address for the rest of the year.
  • 15 Clergy List for 1886.
  • 16 CCD, 18 November 1885. The two matches were an internal club match over twelve boards and an 8-board match against Oxford University.
  • 17 CCD, 18 January 1888.
  • 18 BCM, 1888, pp186-7. 
  • 19 CCD, 5 June 1889.
  • 20 BCM, 1889, p231.
  • 21 CCD, 11 September 1889.
  • 22 CCD, 30 October 1889.
  • 23 Colombia Chess Chronicle, op cit.
  • 24 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889.
  • 25 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1890.
  • 26 BCM, 1894, p48; BCM, 1895, pp 17, 68, 511.
  • 27 BCM 1895, p220.
  • 28 BCM, 1890, p264. 
  • 29 BCM, 1896, p389.
  • 30 CCD, 7 July 1897. 
  • 31 BCM, 1897, p285-296.
  • 32 CCD, 30 November 1898, gives the story of Lasker not finishing but does not mention Mary by name.
  • 33 Weekly Irish Times, 14 January 1899.
  • 34 BCM, 1898, p200.
  • 35 BCM, 1899, p454. 
  • 36 Source: American Chess Bulletin, May 1912, page 112, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 37 London Gazette, 2 August 1918.
  • 38 London Gazette, 8 November 1918.
  • 39 British Chess Magazine, 1920, p13, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 40 Personal e-mail from G Nichols, 17 January 2004.

 


johnrichardsblogJohn Richards

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

The 71st Bristol Chess Championships: March 2nd to 4th 2018

In the thriving Bristol chess scene we typically have four weekend congresses a year (in line with the four seasons). What a lot of people don’t realise is that the Spring congress is also the occurrence of the Bristol Championships when the highest placed Bristol & District League player can claim the crown of Bristol Champion.  The championships are 71 years old this year so the Bristol Chess Times decided to find out more.

 

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The perennial Congress question: “Do I take the Friday night bye?”. Perhaps the hardest task facing the 2018 Bristol Champion

On the weekend of March 2nd-4th the 71st Bristol Chess Championships takes place at the Sixth Form Centre at Bristol Grammar School in the heart of Bristol. Grandmaster Keith Arkell (2411) is already signed up as is Bristol based International Master Chris Beaumont (2259).  In addition, Downend’s Attila Reznak (2280) adds to a strong field in the Open.  The Open carries Prize money of £260 for first, £130 for second and £65 for third.

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CEO of UK startup Chessable, David Kramaley will also be in attendance.

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The university will also be contributing a number of strong contenders

However, the beauty of the Bristol Championships is that its not just about who wins the Open.  A Major section (U160 ECF) and Minor section (U120 ECF) also enable two further champions to be crowned (which also carries first place prise money of £180 and £140 respectively).

It should be pointed out that anyone can enter the Bristol Championships (and are encouraged to from other leagues, counties and cities!) but the titles of Bristol Champion in the Open, Major and Minor categories are only awarded to the highest placed Bristol & District league players.  This makes the Bristol Championships an excellent choice for any league players who want a cracking weekend of competition, with a shot at winning something but might be unnerved by the presence of all those titled players!

Here are the last five years of Bristol Champions:

Open

  • 2016/17 – Carl Bicknell
  • 2015/16 – Stephen Meek
  • 2014/15 – Richard Savory
  • 2013/14 – James Cobb
  • 2012/13 – David Buckley

Major

  • 2016/17 – Andrew Borkowski
  • 2015/16 – James Hennefeld
  • 2014/15 – Alan Papier
  • 2013/14 – Alex Rossiter
  • 2012/13 – Harvey Atkinson

Minor

  • 2016/17 – Grant Daly
  • 2015/16 – Jason Blaxill
  • 2014/15 – Kevin Langmaid
  • 2013/14 – Richard Porter
  • 2012/13 – Alastair Marsten

The Bristol Congress Website contains the full Hall of Fame of Bristol Champions going back to the inaugural competition in 1947/48! In a subsequent article I fully intend to explore the history of Chess in Bristol.

All three champions receive trophies but even if you can’t win one (because you are not a Bristol & District league player), the congress still promises to offer an excellent weekend of chess in the centre of one of the UK’s best cities just as Spring starts to break and the sun starts to shine (editors note – ok I’m bias, I know).  Whats not to like?!

Here is a PDF download to the entry form:

71stBristolChampionshipsCongress (PDF)

Alternatively, contact Igor Doklestic (Congress Secretary) on chessinbristol@gmail.com.

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Igor Doklestic, the Bristol & District Chess League Congress Secretary and all around top bloke!


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

An Anti-London System based on Chigorin’s Defence: Part 2

A few weeks a go I published an article highlighting the idea of fighting the London System using principles derived from Chigorin’s Defence.  Given the prevalence of the London system in amateur circles and its reputation for being stodgy, I wanted to try to showcase a line that was more tactical and open in nature. The article proved very popular and promoted a lot of conversation, particularly around the 4. Nc3 lines.  Today we revisit this line to update our analysis and build upon this blossoming approach to fighting the London.

First of all, if you haven’t read my first article on this anti-London system then I strongly recommend that you do as it introduces the wider system and the four major lines of 4. Nf3, 4. e3, 4. cxd or 4.Nc3 and their respective merits. The rest of this article will not make much sense otherwise…

It was the 4. Nc3 lines that caused the most conversation online. IM Frendzas from Greece rightly questioned and then found a much superior line in the Nc3 variation that I had overlooked in the first article.  Lets take a look.

1.d4 d5 2. Bf4 Bf5 3. c4 Nc6 4. Nc3 e5?! 5. cxd5 Nb4

AL1

IM Frendzas puts our initial choice of 5…Nb4 in jeopardy

Previously I had suggested 6. e4 for white with a messy position but IM Frendzas found a nice alternative leading to a clear advantage for white, 6. Bxe5!

AL2a

“Go ahead, I don’t care about the c2 square!”

At first it seems astonishing that white can play this and voluntarily leave his king in the centre but as we will see, whites king is more than safe and ends up running to the queenside.

6…Nc2+ 7. Kd2 Nxa1 8. e4!

AL3

Black has won a rook and forced whites king to the centre yet unbelievably is in an inferior position

As IM Frendzas points out:

  • white has two pawns and a massive centre for the rook;
  • The knight on a1 is ultimately doomed;
  • The white king can run to the queenside (probably being the one to gobble the a1 knight)
  • Black is sorely lacking good squares to develop his pieces too.

Having debated the merits of the above position (the computer agrees too, giving an evaluation of between +0.7 and +0.9 for white) its hard to find much pleasure in the position for Black, no matter how great it initially looks.  The initial recommendation of 5…Nb4 doesn’t seem to be holding up  in the Nc3 lines so we need to find an alternative if our anti-London system is to survive past its infancy.

Line #4a – 4. Nc3 e5 5. cxd5

Having looked extensively at 5…Nb4 its too good for white.  Our subsequent discussions and analysis shows that the best line for black in this variation is likely to involve accepting weak pawns with the interesting move 5…exf4

AL4

Black accepts weak pawns to remove whites annoying black squared bishop

This leads to the almost forced line of 6. dxc6 bxc6 7. Qd2 Bd6 8. g3!

AL5

Black retains the bishop pair and has a clear plan of development

The position is unusual (something we wanted to achieve in our anti-London philosophy) and whites black squared bishop is no more.  The computer evaluation of this position gives us +0.3 so it would seem to give a playable position for black.

Conclusion

So our anti-London Chigorin system is still alive and kicking albeit with a necessary re-evaluation of the tricky Nc3 lines.  My thanks to everyone who has commented and contributed thus far but especially to IM Frendzas for his insight and analysis. So what is next?

Well despite almost all theory and top masters agreeing that after 2…Nf5 whites best response is 3.c4, I have still received a lot of comments from London players wanting to stick to their system with c3, e3 and the traditional London structure.  It seems that a third article may be required to look at blacks options in the event of the player of the white pieces proving particularly reticent to push the c pawn two squares.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.