Friday, 1 August 2003

Archive: UNCUT! 23

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Column 23
August 2003

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Dear Readers,

Chess often goes nap over the Summer months, but this time there has been plenty going on at all levels. Recent events have proved to be a bit of a mixed bag, hence the title….

The Good

Norman Stephenson – British Champion!

For a few years now, Norman has been ‘threatening’ to enter the Senior Championship. I think we all knew he was capable of winning it, and he has proved us all right!

He shared first place with David Anderton and George Dickson on 5/7 (21 played). Norman was unbeaten; he won three games and drew the rest.Unusually, his three wins all came from the Black pieces (he scores well with both colours but is normally a particularly ‘big hitter’ with White).

Here’s a couple of snippets from the champion’s games.

Norman Stephenson v J. Toothill, J
Round 4

White looks to be on the verge of victory in the following position. The Black Knight is cut off behind enemy lines and seems to be about to die for no compensation. However, Black was able to muddy the waters with the following sequence….

24...Qc7 25.Bxd3 Qxc3 26.Bxf5 Qxa1 27.Qd2 g6 28.Bd7 …and in this unclear position, the players agreed to a draw ½–½ White still appears to stand better, but perhaps the change in circumstances, which saw the position pass from ‘easy win’ to ‘murky complications’, influenced the decision.

David Anderton v Norman Stephenson

This is a critical encounter from round 5. Black is in real trouble and faces the sort of problems all exponents of the Dutch Defence will be familiar with. Yes, the Dutch is a good fighting opening, but there are times when it just seems to go horribly wrong, all on its own. Black’s King position resembles Custer’s Last Stand. The White Bishops are beautifully active and the heavy pieces are in very strong positions. Yet there are always chances….

Just a few moves later, White played Bd3-c4, reaching this position, and Norman must have breathed a huge sigh of relief as he played Bc8!, trapping the White Queen, and winning the game.

Following this amazing reversal of fortune, Norman coasted to his final tally with a couple of speedy draws but David Anderton was able to catch him up with two wins from his last two games.

Well done, Norman! Now you’ve got to set your sites on retaining the title at next year’s championship!

It has to be said that the internet coverage of this year’s British Championship was woefully inadequate. Only the top four boards of the main section had (very) occasional updates and the rest of the games merely had the results up by the next morning. Several days later, the game scores of were finally posted for download. I’m not doubting that the people in charge worked very hard to get even that amount of information posted, but for the national championship I think we have every right to expect something more comprehensive.


From the postbag….

‘Dear Sean,

I really can’t face going back to school in September. Ever since chess club last term, when I won the tournament following a dubious ruling, I have the feeling that everyone hates me. The teachers hate me, the kids hate me, the dinner ladies hate me and the cleaners hate me. Oh, I don’t want to go back to school! What can I do?’

Mike Hunt
(School address withheld)

Sorry Mike, you’ll have to go back to school. After all, you’re the Headmaster!

The Bad

The following is quoted from the BCM website, as part of a tribute to the great Grandmaster of chess history. Visit for the full tribute.

† Ken Whyld (1926-2003)
"What terrible news about Ken Whyld. I first met him in the pressroom at the London Candidates Matches (Karpov-Yusupov and Speelman Timman) and then several times at big London-based matches after that. Being new to such behind the scenes press activity, I was a bit dazed to be in such tremendous chess company but Ken made a special effort to befriend me and put me at ease. At the subsequent events he was always very friendly and always greeted me warmly. Shortly after our first couple of meetings, he wrote to me with some information about two old tournaments based in Redcar, close to where live. He turned over his entire findings to me and I was able to collate them and produce a bulletin for our local players. I managed to turn up a 'new' newspaper reference to the tournament in one of our county library archives, which Ken was delighted with. Since then, we kept in touch through many letters and e-mails, the most recent of which was just a couple of weeks ago. He always answered promptly and very instructively. Ken's modesty kept his name very low-profile, often tucked away in the small print of books to which he made massive contributions. There is no doubt that the loss of this perfect gentleman and grandmaster of chess history will leave a huge gap in the lives of his friends and in chess itself. He was a wonderful and irreplaceable man. I can't believe he's gone." Sean Marsh, Yarm

The Ugly

According to a shining wit in the forum of this very site, this article should be renamed ‘I am great feature’.

Well, apart from the fact that this suggested title displays a grasp of grammar not seen since JFK’s infamous ‘I am a jelly doughnut’ speech, it does seem to miss a rather fundamental point of the column. It is not now, and has never been intended to be, the mouthpiece of the Cleveland Chess Association, the British Chess Federation or anyone else. It is, always has been and always will be, my own personal thoughts on whatever takes my fancy.

So what was the point of the suggestion, I wonder?

Despite the best efforts of some, the forum has once again descended into a three-handed game of attention seeking. This can take many forms, such as…

· Claiming ‘I won’t be back’ - but returning more times than The Terminator.

· Making outrageous claims and statements and having the cheek to add names of respectable chess players as corroboration.

· Turning a simple announcement into a battle of wits to see who can squeeze the last drop of attention from a particular thread.

· Making sure the forum is not a fit place to post in and then appearing bemused and amazed that nobody posts there any more.

…and many more, of course. It’s hard to tell who’s ‘Braindead’ and who’s not. The forum once again makes us the laughing stock of the chess world. Have you ever tried entering a debate in the forum? You soon find out that some play by one set of ‘rules’ and expect others to play by another set altogether.

I know for a fact that I am not the only local player who is fed up with the juvenile rantings of the forum. Lines have been crossed, and bridges have been burned, far too often. This should end now. To make the forum workable and enjoyable, the membership needs to be critically reviewed and certain threads need to be deleted. As it stands at the moment, local chess is being brought into disrepute.

It is said that if you give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they will, at some point, come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Give the thickest chimp character from the old PG Tips adverts a couple of minutes with a blunt pencil and no access to a dictionary and you will no doubt end up with something resembling the majority of quotes from the forum. Or at least as unintentionally hilarious. Yes, if you thought the classic line ‘Can you ride tandem?’ was one of the funniest things you’ve ever heard, you really should check out the forum.

And finally…..

Here’s a curious position from my last round game at the Middlesbrough Congress.
Sean Marsh v Chris Ross

White is winning, and indeed Black resigned at this point, but the funny thing is that the main threat is Bxf8, capturing a Knight which does not defend any of the key squares and has no remotely good move for itself. Yet it’s demise is crucial in the variation 29 … a5 30 Bxf8 Rxf8 31 e7 Rg8 32 e8=Q! when the overloaded state of the Black Queen ensures the loss of a Rook. I don’t think I’ve ever known the threatened capture of such a useless piece to carry such weight.