Category Archives: Blog

My favourite player: David Rowson on Tigran Petrosian

The first of an occasional series in which Kingston members and friends of the club choose the player who has most inspired them. Illustration by Theo Esposito Bennett

One of the first chess books I ever owned was not really a book at all, but a very slim booklet, produced by the Soviet press, with minimal production values, which somehow found itself in a bookshop in London in 1969. It contained the games of the recently concluded world championship match. The contenders were the ninth champion, Tigran Petrosian, and his successor, Boris Spassky.

I understood few of the moves, but that added to the mysterious fascination of the event. If the play of these two masters had been at all comprehensible to me it would have meant that there was nothing exalted about it. Likewise, I felt somehow – or rather read somewhere – that Petrosian was himself a player of special mystery. The American chess writer Irving Chernev, in another of my early chess books (The Most Instructive Games of Chess ever Played), had encouraged this belief by his comment on the game Petrosian-Korchnoi, 1946: “Petrosian must have the spark of genius! How else could he, with a few mysterious moves, cause the quick collapse of so eminent a player as Korchnoi?” I wasn’t aware at the time that in 1946 Korchnoi was only 15 years old.

In 1946 Petrosian himself was only 16 or 17. His already exceptional talent had its roots in a very tough childhood, as described by the man himself in an interview in Life magazine in April 1969. According to this, his Armenian parents were illiterate and he was orphaned at a young age. Growing up in wartime Tbilisi, Georgia, he had to work as a road-sweeper to earn some roubles, or perhaps kopeks, to survive. This was clearly a formative experience.

“I started sweeping streets in the middle of winter,” Petrosian recalled, “and it was horrible. Of course, there were no machines then, and everything had to be done by hand. Some of the older men helped me out. I was a weak boy. And I was ashamed of being a street sweeper – that’s natural, I suppose. It wasn’t too bad in the early morning when the streets were empty, but when it got light and the crowds came out I really hated it.”

Petrosian was one of the golden generation of Soviet players who peaked in the 1960s. This also included Viktor Korchnoi, Mikhail Tal, Spassky and Efim Geller. All of them grew up in hard times: the second world war and the final years of Stalinism. To those of us who followed the chess of that era, each player seemed to have a distinct personality and style, but Petrosian’s style was probably the most singular.

One might speculate as to whether the experiences of his early years had an influence on this. With the kopeks saved from his road-sweeping he had bought Nimzowitsch’s My System, and he often afterwards stated how significant that positional chess manual had been for him. In his games there is usually an emphasis on the permanent features of the position – pawn structures, strong and weak squares, the long-term relative values of the pieces and so on. Curiously, like Mikhail Tal, Petrosian was known for his sacrifices, but, unlike Tal, Petrosian’s were often defensive, the most famous being his exchange sacrifices. Again, in contrast to Tal, Petrosian sacrificed material not to gain time but for long-term positional reasons.

As an example, here is the position after White’s 25th move in the game Reshevsky-Petrosian from the 1953 Candidates’ Tournament, Zurich:

However, with Petrosian it can sometimes be difficult to say whether a sacrifice like this is defensive or offensive. His game against Czech (and later German) grandmaster Vlastimil Hort from the 1970 European Team Championships is an example. Petrosian is Black and plays the Winawer Variation of the French Defence.

One reason Petrosian’s style attracted me was that commentors often referred to his deep understanding of the mysteries of positional chess. Of course, as a novice player, I was far from understanding even some basic aspects of the game, let alone its deep mysteries, but I was hopeful that studying Petrosian’s games might initiate me into some of these.

One aspect of his play which I could hope to find myself copying at my own undistinguished level was his pragmatism, in particular his readiness to make the moves required by the position even if they looked ugly or humbling. Petrosian seemed to be saying that it was OK to retreat a piece or to repeat a move if necessary. The following position in the fourth game of the world championship match against Mikhail Botvinnik in 1963 is an example of this.

In retrospect, I think another reason why I was drawn to Petrosian’s style of play was my misconception that if you were a master of strategy you didn’t need to worry so much about tactical details – and I was weak at tactics. In fact, as many commentators have noted, Petrosian was actually a superb tactician. You can’t base your game on strategy if the tactics are wrong.  In addition, it’s been pointed out that Petrosian’s image as a purely defensive player is false. He could also play attacking combinations and, according to Spassky, “It is to Petrosian’s advantage that his opponents never know when he is suddenly going to play like Mikhail Tal.”  

The 10th game from Spassky’s world championship match with Petrosian in 1966 must have been the kind of thing he had in mind. Petrosian has White against Spassky’s King’s Indian Defence.

Interestingly, Petrosian had perpetrated a very similar combination 10 years before on Vladimir Simagin (Petrosian-Simagin, Moscow Championship play-off 1956):

For more than a decade Petrosian fought his way through zonals, interzonals and candidates tournaments against his peers, until he finally qualified to play Botvinnik for the world title in 1963. He won this match convincingly 12.5-9.5. It might be said that he was fortunate that Botvinnik’s right to a return match had been abolished by Fide, but Petrosian proved he was a worthy champion by defending his title against Boris Spassky in 1966 with a score of 12.5-11.5. He lost to Spassky in 1969, but he remained one of the top players in the world until his death in 1984 at the early age of 55. He won the Soviet Chess Championship four times; the only players to record more wins were Botvinnik and Tal with six titles.

The ways in which Petrosian is sometimes described make it seem as if he inhabited a chess world of his own. This could be seen as implying either his limitations (he is often regarded as too cautious, with a very high percentage of draws) or as a sign of his unique understanding of the game. I have to accept that he did draw many games, but he also lost very few (his record playing for the Soviet Union in 10 Olympiads was +78, = 50, -1).

To conclude, in my view, playing through his best games can enrich any player’s understanding of chess’s infinite possibilities. This was brought home to me again recently when Kingston’s head of training, FM Julian Way, led an online discussion of the fifth game of the match with Botvinnik. It was a great choice;  there is so much to learn from it.

John Nunn becomes fellow of Oriel College, Oxford

John Nunn (left) with the Provost Lord Mendoza

Grandmaster John Nunn has been made an honorary fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, the highest award that a college can make. It symbolises recognition of the enormous contributions John has made to chess as well as his academic achievements. John can place this honour alongside that of honorary life vice-president of Kingston Chess Club. The college interviewed John Nunn last October, and he explained that the difference between playing chess as a young man and now is that once it was about improving and learning whereas now it is managed decline.

John played for Kingston Chess Club as a junior, winning the club championship in 1969 and 1970. He went up to Oxford in 1970 to read mathematics at the age of 15, the youngest undergraduate since 1520. He became a grandmaster and was awarded his doctorate in the same year, 1978, when he was aged 23.

John kindly returned to play for Kingston in the 2018 Alexander Cup final. He won his game in a narrow defeat to Surbiton. The previous time John had played for us was in 1974, a golden period for the club when it won both the Surrey Trophy and the Alexander Cup. The gap of 44 years in games played for the club must be a record. Kingston finally captured the coveted cup again in 2022.

John Foley

John Nunn early 1970s

Chris Briscoe v John Nunn, Alexander Cup Final, 2018

A grandmaster class in defence. Chris Briscoe goes all out in a kingside attack, but John Nunn has it covered.

John Nunn v Matthew Sadler, Lloyds Bank, 1993

John Nunn at his peak at brushing aside the 19-year-old Matthew Sadler, who went on to be one of England’s strongest grandmasters.

See also: Why I gave up chess because of John Nunn

Sultan Khan finally recognised as a grandmaster

John Foley

We are delighted that Mir Sultan Khan has been officially recognised with the title of international grandmaster. He played at the highest levels from when he arrived in England in 1928 to 1933, becoming British champion in 1929, 1932 and 1933, and was top board for England in three Olympiads. He returned to his native Punjab in Pakistan in 1933, leaving the international chess scene.

Image: GM Sultan Khan (right) playing against his patron Sir Umar Hayat Khan

The international grandmaster title was launched in 1950 by Fide, which granted the title to the leading players in the world who were still alive at that date. There was never any question regarding whether Sultan Khan deserved the title. He was regarded as one of the strongest players in the world during his playing years. He defeated José Raúl Capablanca, world champion from 1921 to 1927 (see game below), at the Hastings tournament in 1930/31. Capablanca described Sultan Khan as a genius.

In a meteoric career, Sultan Khan also beat Rubinstein, Marshall, Yates, Menchik, Colle, Thomas, Alexander, Tartakower, Flohr, Johner, Grob and Bernstein. The issue in 1950 was a practical one – Fide officials were unable to contact him. He had stayed in England as part of the household of his sponsor, Sir Umar Hayat Khan, who had also then returned to his home country.

The Pakistan Chess Federation lobbied Fide during 2023 and finally, on 2 February 2024, Sultan Khan received retrospective conferment of his honorary international grandmaster title during a ceremony with the president and prime minister of Pakistan in Islamabad.

Sultan Khan had been a member of Kingston Chess Club and played for Surrey for a period towards the end of his stay in London. The club pledged its support to the president of the Pakistan Chess Federation, Hanif Qureshi, when he visited London as part of the London Chess Conference in 2023.

Sultan Khan v J R Capablanca Hastings 1930/31

Enter the Dragon

There are two ways to respond to a defeat – cry about it or learn from it. The second method is generally better, as this instructive assessment by FM Julian Way of the Dragon Variation of the Sicilian Defence demonstrates

Julian Way in action in the recent Alexander Cup semi-final against Coulsdon. Photograph: John Saunders

I lost a rather insipid game against Jenith Wiratunga in a match against Maidenhead in December. The opening was the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence. After a few days licking my wounds, I resolved to investigate some classic games in this line and at least come out of the game with greater knowledge to compensate for my lost rating points and damaged ego.

The games which I found for this article offer three different approaches: in game 1 Bobby Fischer plays the Soltis variation of the Yugoslav Attack (9. Bc4) and crushes Bent Larsen after opening lines on the kingside; in game 2 Anatoly Karpov plays a nice endgame against Tony Miles which shows that White often has good chances when there is reduced material; in game 3 Nigel Short responds to Julian Hodgson’s early d5 break in the centre with convincing attacking play.

There are a lot more games to analyse, especially ones from contemporary grandmaster play, but I genuinely think my understanding has improved and I thank Jenith Wiratunga for the free chess lesson.  

Game 1: Robert Fischer v Bent Larsen (Portoroz, 1958)

Game 2: Anatoly Karpov v Tony Miles (London, 1982)

Game 3: Nigel Short v Julian Hodgson (Brighton, 1982)

Chess resolutions for 2024

Kingston members outline what they plan to do differently this year – and admit to whether they kept to the resolutions they made in 2023

Peter Lalić: In 2024, I will play the longest tournament games ever recorded. Photograph: John Saunders

Peter Lalić: In 2023, I achieved all of my New Year’s resolutions, except for one. Alas, I am not celebrating. I did quit 1. h3, but I pioneered dubious gambits instead. I did play faster, but I still suffered from time trouble. I did continue to study zero endgames, but I was tempted by some rook and bishop versus rook endgames that I spectated. I did win more games in the opening, but I also lost more. I did not become a Fide master. In fact, my Fide rating fell more than 100 elo points to a decade low of 2081. In 2024, I will play the longest tournament games ever recorded. I will never offer a draw.

Graeme Buckley: (1) Don’t get into time trouble. (2) Don’t take any notice whatsoever of the rating difference between you and your opponent, especially if your opponent is unknown to you.

David Maycock: I didn’t accomplish my main objective in 2023, which was gaining rating points. However, I did manage to study more chess than in 2022, which is good. I have set three objectives for 2024:

(1) Understand openings better. It is difficult to play an opening that is not part of your normal repertoire, but I nevertheless intend to venture into new lines and experiment more. This will enable me both to widen my repertoire and to gain a more general understanding of openings. There may be short-term pain, but in the interests of long-term gain.

(2) Develop my puzzle-solving skills. I need to be sharper, so will be solving more calculation problems. I strongly dislike calculation exercises, but I have to accept that they improve your general vision.

(3) Practise more blindfold chess. Not looking at the board has proved to be useful for some players, such as Vasyl Ivanchuk. Which is not to suggest that by the end of 2024 I will necessarily be playing like Ivanchuk.

David Maycock: I need to be sharper, so will be solving more calculation problems. Photograph: John Saunders

Gregor Smith: My 2023 resolutions were: (1) Reduce gambits with White. I seem to always play as Black, it’s about 80% of my league games, and when I rarely play as White, my opponents seem to always play the Scandinavian, so the success of this resolution is inconclusive. (2) Study more. I completed two Chessable courses and watched hundreds of videos. I’m happy with that. (3) Stop playing blitz into the early hours. tells me I played 1,941 games in 2023. That feels like a lot, but I did try to switch off at midnight and let Daniel Naroditsky’s dulcet YouTube tones put me to sleep instead. Semi-successful. This year, it’s time to try and gain confidence in endgames, where too often my lack of understanding of the fundamentals lets me down. 

Mike Healey: In 2023 I said that “as brain cells swiftly disappear” I would “find some openings which try to mask the decline”. I found some new openings, but they certainly didn’t mask the decline.

Mike Healey: I found some new openings, but they certainly didn’t mask my decline. Photograph: John Saunders

John Foley: Although I had no interest in improving my rating, it climbed 40 points at one point in 2023, putting me out of reach of the Surrey second team where I had been enjoying some victories. I continue to assert indifference to my rating and hope that the enjoyment of play is sufficient motivation.

The focus on chess in education has been fruitful. I ran the London Chess Conference in March with the support of Fide, the European Chess Union (ECU) and Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC). I hope to do so again in 2024 depending upon sponsors. I ran both a summer chess camp and a Christmas chess camp for children. I hope to extend this by adding an Easter chess camp. At these camps I teach not only chess but also strategy games such as Halma, Reversi and Slimetrail.

I have been regularly volunteering at Tudor Drive library in Kingston, where children drop in to play chess after school. The main challenge of the year ahead will be to establish the Kingston Chess Academy. This will be a local resource for youngsters to play and develop at chess. As president of Kingston Chess Club, I wish for the club to continue to thrive. I have been intimately involved in the evolution of the website using WordPress and in managing the membership system MemberMojo. I hope we are able to relaunch a club newsletter in the not too distant future.

John Foley: The main challenge for 2024 will be to set up the Kingston Chess Academy. Photograph: John Saunders

Peter Andrews: In 2023 I resolved to vary my openings when playing online blitz, so as to deceive prospective opponents who might prepare for me by looking through those games. In practice I played some different lines, some of them offbeat, against opponents below about 1950 and more often when I was White. That might give an opponent a bit more to look at, but hardly deception on the George Smiley scale. Those who have seen my recent blog (the game against Marcus Osborne) and the report of the Kingston B v Maidenhead B match will know that twice in recent months I have lost from good positions through missing the possibility of a backward diagonal move by my own queen. So for 2024 I must pay more attention to those.

Ed Mospan: My chess resolution for 2024 is to reach 1600 ECF in standard classical play. Hahaha!!

Ian Mason: To read one chess book (rather than observe it on the shelf); to learn the Caro-Kann; to improve my endgame play.

David Rowson: Until just now I’d largely forgotten what my 2023 resolutions were, which suggests how well I put them into practice. Looking at the blog from last year, I’m surprised to find that I did completely fulfil one of them – “As captain of Kingston’s first team, help our excellent squad to fulfil their potential by winning everything we can (ie the Surrey League and Thames Valley division 1)” – which was thanks to the great efforts of our first-team players. I also partially (very partially) fulfilled another – study the endgame – simply because I had to teach some endgame principles to a chess class I had at City Lit. I think it’s traditional to make the same resolutions every year, isn’t it, so I’ll go with that for 2024. More seriously, I’d like to show more toughness and concentration at crunch points in games, assuming that I’m aware when these arise.

David Rowson: I’d like to show more toughness and concentration at crunch points. Photograph: John Saunders

Stephen Moss: As Peter Lalić pointed out to me, I make the same resolution every year – to give up playing the horribly passive Nf6 Scandinavian. The one time I tried to played the Lalić gambit version of the Scandinavian I was crushed, so at the moment I have no idea what to play against 1. e4, which clearly in chess is a bit of a problem. (As Hein Donner said of e4: “I don’t like this move. And my opponents know it.”) So, can I resolve to learn the Sicilian, all 114 pages of it in Modern Chess Openings? Probably not.

I had a kind of epiphany at the 4NCL in November when I played a long game which I actually enjoyed and got a draw against psychologist and chess writer Barry Hymer, who is rated 1950-plus. I hadn’t enjoyed a game so much in years, and on the strength of it I agreed to resurrect the Rookie for a column in Chess Magazine. It will run monthly from February, so I resolve to try to play some chess that is worthy of including in it.

Julian Way: I will develop a new repertoire against the Sicilian Defence in 2024. Photograph: John Saunders

Julian Way: I find having structure in my life helpful and necessary, and would like more structure – set times for doing things, an ordered pattern of work, even more organised chess study – as I plan for 2024. That in itself should help my chess, but, as well as carrying on writing articles on great players for Chess Magazine and analysing their games, I will also think about a new chess project in the New Year – maybe developing a fresh repertoire v the Sicilian Defence.

Ljubica Lazarevic: Play some chess!

John Saunders: My chess resolution for 2024, as every year, is not to play any chess!

Alan Scrimgour: My resolution is to improve my calculation skills with daily practice. Having just read Peter Andrews’ excellent blog I was reminded of my many missed opportunities. I think I have played too many moves based on general principles and not on concrete analysis, probably linked also to not working hard enough at the board. So, more calculation practice and more focused effort at the board. Sorted.

Alan Scrimgour: More calculation practice and more focused effort at the board. Photograph: John Saunders

Jaden Mistry (aged 12): My chess resolution in 2023 was to improve my focus in the longer format of the game. My father, who taught me chess, told me I played as if I might miss my bus. That also meant he got little time to enjoy his Guinness at the Willoughby Arms. So how did I do? The average duration of my games in league matches increased as the season progressed. (So I ended up giving my father a bit more time to enjoy his Guinness while waiting for me to finish.) While my consistency in performance when playing for the club in third-team matches did not improve as much as I would have wanted, I did manage to score my first memorable win (on 20 March 2023).  My performance in the shorter format though, especially in blitz, improved more than in the classical format. I managed to spring some surprises by beating some giants in blitz tournaments organised locally by our club, and in the process win the Giantkiller prize twice in 2023.

My goal for 2024 is to improve my performance, especially in endgames. I want to study some advanced strategies, nail those tricky endgames, and improve my performance for the club. My aim is to improve my rating, which has slumped a bit in recent months, perhaps partly due to having to make the transition to secondary school life. Overall, I want to help my club shine in the divisions I currently play in. I hope to make 2024 the year we at KCC rule the chessboard together!

Jaden Mistry (in red hoodie) in action in a league match against Surbiton’s Colin Li. Photograph: Stephen Moss

Malcolm Mistry: Technically, I don’t play for the club and would rather call myself a chess dad and not a player. While I don’t mind an occasional game to get bruised and battered by my son Jaden, who I have been religiously accompanying to the club over the past two years, machine-learning algorithms and AI in chess have fascinated me most. I have vivid memories of Deep Blue in its early days in the mid- and late 1990s. My chess resolution for 2024 is to read up on the progress made by artificial intelligence in modern chess, and understand the anatomy of chess algorithms such as AlphaZero, developed by David Silver and colleagues. Should time permit from my regular academic and research life, I would like to write a review article documenting the historical timeline of the different machine algorithms and their performance against GMs.

Nick Grey: (1) Drink less when playing chess. Even soft drinks or water make me want to go to the loo, so no drinking will help me concentrate on chess. (2) Analyse my games. Spend twice as much time analysing afterwards as time spent playing is a good measure. Should improve my rating and my game. (3) Learn white and black closed openings and middle games. This should balance my games and stop me from being too aggressive with either colour. (4) Enjoy playing chess even if my individual results are bad.

Vladimir Li: In 2023 I fulfilled my main objective – returning to competitive chess. In 2024 I resolve to read five non-opening chess books, play at least one classical Fide-rated tournament, become a more well-rounded player and make fewer draws.

Vladimir Li: I will aim to become a more well-rounded player and make fewer draws. Photograph: John Saunders

Dieter McDougall: My resolution is to improve my visualisation to the point where I can play a blindfold game. My visualisation of the board isn’t great and it’s something I’ve wanted to be able to do for ages, so this year I need to make it a regular thing to practise.

David Shalom: I must curb my impulsivity.

Will Taylor: Rather predictably, I failed to achieve last year’s resolution to stop getting into time trouble. I won’t bother to make the same resolution again this year. This year’s resolution is to work less on openings and more on identifying and then resolving the problems which actually cost me most points (I’m pretty sure that’s not the opening). I’m interested in working with a sports psychologist, so I’ll look into that.

Will Taylor: I’m interested in working with a sports psychologist, so I’ll look into that. Photograph: John Saunders

David Bickerstaff: Over the past few months, I have been experiencing a growing sense of confidence in my understanding of positional ideas, middlegame strategies and practical endgames. However, I have recognised a deficiency in my knowledge of concrete theory, and thus my immediate goals revolve around addressing this gap. I have a five-point plan:

(1) I aim to develop a comprehensive opening repertoire, ensuring a thorough grasp of various strategies, ideas, common themes and resulting pawn structures. This will prevent me from constantly switching between different opening lines.

(2) I intend to expand my knowledge of theoretical endgames.

(3) I need to invest more effort in analysing my games, and plan to use database software to organise my analysis.

(4) Although I differ from most players in my lack of enthusiasm for puzzles, I understand the importance of sharpening my tactical skills. Therefore, I will commit to a daily plan that includes puzzle-solving, despite finding them somewhat tedious compared to playing actual games.

(5) I recognise the necessity of creating a study plan and adhering to it consistently.

Mark Sheridan: My resolution is to continue studying the endgame, as I did not get very far with it in 2023. I did buy a book, but seem to have forgotten how to download it into my brain.

Ergo Nobel: My resolution for 2024 is to learn to play an incredibly annoying variation of the Sicilian Defence. I want to annoy other players as much as it annoys me to play against it as White.

A colourful wall and doors in Palermo: Sicilian Defences will be ubiquitous in 2024. Photograph: Cristina Gottardi

Coming to terms with missed opportunities

In chess there are out-and-out blunders – bad moves that are obvious in retrospect. And there are missed opportunities – glorious (but hard-to-find) moves that elude you. Which are harder for a player to deal with?

Peter Andrews

Peter Andrews reflects on what might have been

What is the difference between a blunder and a missed opportunity? Do we feel differently about them? Are they a metaphor for life? Can our friends enjoy our creations even if they were only unearthed after the event? Or, if you prefer to avoid mental anguish over the Christmas season and would rather not address these philosophical questions, you could just enjoy some of my near-misses and see if you could have done better.

Blunders v missed opportunities

It is not unusual when analysing a game using an engine to find that the computer evaluation of one’s position falls sharply after a move, meaning that the move was a mistake. Sometimes the move was bad: it failed to deal with an obvious threat, lost a piece or compromised the position. We would call such a move a blunder – a player of our ability should have been able to see what was wrong and avoid it, and there were reasonable alternatives available. Probably we knew before we got there that the machine would disapprove of our choice.  

Sometimes the change in evaluation comes as a surprise and the reason is not obvious. Perhaps there was only one move which would have maintained the evaluation, and anything else was inferior. And perhaps that move was not one that a player of our ability would expect to find over the board, with all the usual pressures – time shortage, concern about the position in the match, and so on. In such a case we might refer to a missed opportunity.  

I recently drew with Frank Zurstiege in a Thames Valley League match against Hounslow but missed a lovely trick to convert my positional advantage into a winning endgame. The opportunity arose in this position:

That Hounslow game also contained a missed opportunity for my opponent in a king and pawn endgame, where a misguided pawn advance by me permitted an instant counter-strike that would have won the game for Black. Happily (for me at least) my opponent missed it and his opportunity was lost. In the next day or so, if I awoke at night, the possibility of having lost that game in such a manner made it difficult to nod off again. The missed opportunities on both sides in that game made me ponder other such moments in my 50-plus years of competitive chess.

The three examples below set a high bar in terms of both the significance of the opportunity and the degree of mental anguish which followed (though there is, as you will discover, a pleasurable coda to the third “missed” opportunity). All three games were against players higher rated than me, so winning would have been at least a worthwhile achievement and maybe one of those red-letter days to be enjoyed for the rest of one’s chess career. They might have given me the illusion that I could really play at the same level as these people, rather than approach it occasionally like an FA Cup upset. 

They all involved good play up to the point of the opportunity. Perhaps that is to be expected. If one is to have an opportunity against a player stronger than oneself, it is natural that one has to play above oneself. And they feature attractive play at the critical point. Combining these factors means that the opportunity will be rare – there may never again be another chance to beat that particular opponent or play that particular combination.

All that leads to a regret so palpable that it can resurface after over 40 years. It is an emotion slightly different from that of the memory of a blunder. It is a sadness at something unfulfilled, rather than embarrassment or humiliation – a little like being out in the nineties at cricket before one has made one’s maiden century. No surprise, no shame, but the chance of a lifetime forsaken. Fortunately, to the best of my recollection, none of the three examples below was costly for my team, so there is no guilt on top of the regret.

In each of these examples, I give a diagram showing the crucial position, to allow you to find what I missed before the winning move is shown, alongside some game context.  

Position 1: Brandon Kwan v Peter Andrews

This position was included in Chess magazine’s Find the Winning Move in October 2023. I was Black in this game, playing for the Bank of England, against Brandon Kwan of Barclays in the final of the City Chess Association‘s Major Cup on 17 May 2023. Barclays, perennial league winners, are the Manchester City of the CCA. Kwan is a little stronger than me, rated in the 2080s at the time of the game. I failed to find the brilliant win.

Why did I miss this? I had about six minutes to Brandon’s two, and the opportunity to win material and keep an advantage in an important game was so clear as to preclude spending precious time on looking for something else. Fundamentally, I did not see the mating net that Black could weave in mid-board. A shame after achieving such a crushing position as Black against a stronger opponent in only 23 moves. Because I won the game and the BoE won the match anyway, the regret is less sharp than it would have been, but mere competitive success pales alongside not having played the game that I might have done.

Position 2: Peter Andrews v Marcus Osborne

I was White against Marcus Osborne for Kingston B against South Norwood on 29 May 2023, less than two weeks after the Kwan game. Marcus is rated around 2250. I must have only a dozen or so wins against players over 2200 in my life, so it would have been one to remember. And it was an important match – avoiding a large defeat meant that Kingston B avoided relegation from Surrey League Division 2.  

I felt at the time, and Stockfish confirmed the next morning, that I had outplayed him up to this point, but time was short and I was not surprisingly worried that his passed d-pawn, supported by his queen, would promote near my king and mate me. I felt that 32. Rf7 was the right move, but if 32… d2 33. Bxg7+ Rxg7 I could not see how to win. The answer of course is 34. Qd8+ Rg8 35. Qf6+ mating, a backward diagonal queen move, notoriously hard to see. 

Having missed Rf7, I blundered in the time scramble and got mated. Fortunately we won the match anyway.

Position 3: Glenn Flear v Peter Andrews

Sometimes the lost opportunity is an illusion. In March 1981 I played the strongest opposition of my life. I played IM Paul Littlewood (and lost in 18 moves) in the National Club Championship on 8 March, GM John Nunn in the Oxford University college league on 12 March, and David Goodman, also in the college league, on Friday 13th. I lost both of those as well, unluckily against Nunn where I blundered away a draw just before the 30-move time control (that game was a candidate for this column too, but belongs in the blunder rather than the missed opportunity bucket). On the Saturday I was due to play for Oxfordshire against Surrey in a county match. In those days few university players played for Oxfordshire (whereas the Cambridgeshire county team more or less was the university plus some dons), so the county side was very weak and on this occasion I found myself, with some trepidation, on board 1 against Glenn Flear, already close to 2300 and on his way to becoming a GM. 

As I looked at the game for the first time since then, it was clear that the modest 37. Kh1 is a draw, although he might have missed it or been reluctant to concede it against a much weaker opponent. Writing this blog has finally exorcised that regret, as compensation for reliving more recent ones. Perhaps if you have an idle moment over the holiday season, putting your old games through an engine will similarly console you.

So what of the other questions with which I started? Are these missed opportunities over the chessboard a metaphor for life? I can think of a few occasions in my professional life when I should have said something in a meeting that I did not, which might have led to better career outcomes as well as better policy-making, and the odd occasion in my personal life. But those lost opportunities were mainly a failure of courage, whereas my first two examples above were really failures of imagination. Perhaps the last example leads to a saner conclusion: there are all sorts of alternative avenues which one might have tried, some of them superficially attractive, some of them pressed by those around you, but often they might not have made much difference; you end up with what you deserve.

And as for my last question: can one’s friends enjoy our creations even if they only come to light afterwards? That I leave to you.

Valuing the players in a chess team

It is time to modernise the way players are valued. Their contribution to the team’s performance should take into account the importance of the game given the margin of victory. I examine the recent Alexander Cup victory by Kingston

John Foley

This was the most successful season in our history. At our recent annual general meeting, the number of games played by each player was praised. Each person’s contribution over the season makes a difference. Traditionally there have been prizes awarded for the best performance over the season. At Kingston, we have trophy dedicated for that purpose – the elusive Silver Queen. However, this year we did not award the prize or pore over the game statistics, which was a welcome relief. Instead, we paid tribute to the effort made by our players. There were no defaults – we managed to get a full team out each match. This season we had 60 matches, double that of last season. Each match is a challenge in terms of assembling the team and travel logistics, quite apart from fretting about the chess itself.

We can reflect on what went well. Most of all, credit goes to the players. According to our club survey, most of our members are seeking to improve their chess. This is why we try to give each member as many games as possible. Even a draw can make a difference in a tight match. We want our players not only to perform well, but also to have a fighting spirit. No accepting draws to save some Elo points, but instead strive for a team victory. Several matches turned on just one game. If only there were a way to place a precise value on each player’s results, taking into account the importance of their game towards the overall result. Fortunately, there is a rigorous way of doing this – the Shapley value of a game.

Lloyd Shapley was a game theorist who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2012. His big idea was to find a way to unravel the contributions made by each member of a team towards a result. This problem could happen in many diverse contexts, for example sharing the cost of a taxi after a chess match where people travel home to different destinations, or indeed the cost of a celebratory meal.

Alexander Cup Team 2023
Alexander Cup winning team v Battersea, 14 April 2023 Photograph: John Saunders

To illustrate the Shapley concept, consider the relative contribution made by members of our victorious Alexander Cup team, captained by Ljubica Lazarevic. We got a bye in the first round and won all three matches from the quarter-final. To keep things simple, I include only the five players who played in each round. Others made sterling contributions – one person winning both the two games they played – but we cannot evaluate their contribution to a match in which they did not participate.

To keep personalities out of this, I shall call the players Albert, Bill, Colin, Dylan and Ethan, A, B, C, D, E. Their results were as follows:

The traditional way of valuing contributions is to conclude that players B and C performed best because they got the best percentage results. There are two issues with such a inference. Firstly, the higher the board, the stronger the opponent. Of course, this is also a problem with the traditional method. A mitigating factor is that the players are in strength order so, at least in well-matched teams, the ratings of the opposing players are correlated. A more practical consideration is that we want to keep our assessments amenable to simple calculations. If we wanted to be precise, and take into account the expected likelihood of winning based upon Elo ratings, then our calculations would become unwieldy. The second issue is that securing a result in a tight match is more important than winning a game in a match in which one team thrashes the other – the winning point is diluted. This is where we can use the Shapley approach.   

We start by considering all the possible combinations of the results of the players. With five players, there are 31 different combinations comprising five single results, 10 pairs, 10 triples, 5 quadruples and one quintuple. In each case, the test is if that combination of players’ results would have secured a victory. If you want to perform a similar calculation yourself, the combination listing for five players is set out at the foot of the column.

Against each combination you indicate whether it would have won the match. The results of the other five “irregular” players remain the same – they are not being evaluated. If a match could have been won, then all the players named in that combination are given a score of 1, otherwise zero. A drawn match can be ignored in the context of a knockout cup – we are only interest in results which contribute to a victory.

Having carried out the calculations, the rankings are as follows:

This shows quite a different picture from the traditional format. Perhaps the most notable difference is in relation to player D, who has been ranked equally with players B and C. This can be explained by what happened in the semi-final when player D only scored a draw and players B and C won their games. Our “irregular” players had racked up three points out of five games so that the five regular players needed to score 2.5 points. In fact, they won four games and drew one. Under this scenario, any combination involving results from only one or two players would be insufficient. However, if we look at combinations of three games, then whether we score 2.5 or 3 Kingston achieves victory. Hence, the contribution of Player B is worth the same as for players B and C. We can recognise D as equally deserving praise. 

Another aspect of the Shapley approach is that it is a fairer description of the relative contribution of each player. On the traditional approach, B and C are given all the plaudits. However, under systematic scrutiny we can see that the contribution of all the players is much closer: each player contributes around one-fifth to the success of the team, with relatively small differences, which places three players at 21%, with the other two players being slightly below 20%. This is surely more reflective of how the team members and captain felt about their relative contributions. 

Shapley values are different from Elo ratings. Both depend upon performance, but Shapley takes into account the state of the match, whereas Elo ratings only take into account the two players concerned.  Shapley is about co-operative teams, whereas Elo is about competing individuals.

Chess should start to rank team players according to game theory. Each chess league, as a service to their constituent clubs, could publish the Shapley rankings for each of the players. Other sports can follow. This is what happened with Elo ratings, which other sports such as football adopted after several decades.

England win silver at the World Team Championships, Astana 2019. Photograph: Maria Emelianova

Combination table for five players

My encounter with a GM

When you play a grandmaster, it’s win-win – unless you get completely blown off the board of course. But that wasn’t about to happen … Was it?

Gregor Smith

Following a last-minute whim, last Sunday I found myself sitting on the District Line travelling to the Kensington Rapidplay. After polishing off my Greggs sausage roll (pre-tournament fuel of the highest order) I decided to take a look at the tournament player list and size up the field. I noticed I was seeded exactly halfway – 30th out of 60 entrants. I gathered, depending on byes and no shows, that I was either going to be playing against the unrated junior at the bottom of the list (who is probably actually rated about 2000) or, against a GM. Thankfully, it was the latter.

GM Eldar Gasanov from Ukraine, a regular on the London rapid and blitz scene, currently rapidplay rated 2388, peaking at 2560 in 2019 when he participated in the World Rapid and Blitz Championship. Gasanov boasts some impressive recent scalps in’s flagship “Titled Tuesday” event, taking down Benjamin Bok, Ray Robson, David Paravyan and Shak Mamedyarov. He also managed a draw with Nigel Short back in 2008.

I had zero nerves, a refreshing change from every other time I sit down at a chess board. I was really excited and just hoped I wasn’t going to be first finished out of the 65 boards in the playing hall.

“Start White’s clock!” intoned the arbiter. My opponent, who did indeed have the white pieces (in case he needed that extra boost) wasn’t at the table. The arbiters said that after five minutes, you would be re-paired. For a minute I thought I wasn’t going to get my dream game, but thankfully 30 seconds later he arrived. Since my return to chess, I’ve noticed that all the good players are always late. Why is this!? Indolence, poor timekeeping, or some deep psychological strategy to unsettle their opponents by saying “Look, I know I can win even with a time disadvantage.”

Although his clock was ticking (20+5 time control), Gasanov wasn’t in a hurry, taking his time to get settled, de-layer, position his coffee and adjust his pieces – coolness personified. He accepted my slightly greasy (Greggs-inflected) handshake, and we were off…

Be warned, what follows is not a detailed and educational annotation of the game. I’m not sure I can offer that. But I hope to take you through what was going through my mind while trying to beat – well, at least survive against – a GM.

Light lasers, swizzle sticks and killer moves

Daaim Shabazz’s Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior may be short on great games, but it provides a compelling picture of a remarkable chess life

Michael Healey

Russian chess players use the somewhat untranslatable word творец [tvorets] to describe a particularly inspiring chess player. A tvorets prioritises elegance over rating points, values the quality of his games rather than his standing in the tournament. Above all a tvorets is someone who keeps the beauty of our game alive, inspiring us to follow in his footsteps. Emory Tate was most definitely a tvorets.” – GM Daniel Naroditsky 

Emory Andrew Tate Jr, aka “Dennis” aka “The Exclam kid” aka “Emory Mate” aka “Indomitable Warrior” aka “Tactical Assassin” aka “ET the Extraterrestrial”, tvorets, was an American IM, martial artist, intelligence officer, poet, father, drunk and general weaver of chess dreams. He claimed the only chess book he ever read was Vladimir Vukovic’s Art of Attack in Chess, and this is born out by the games we’ve been left. He distrusted computers and databases, but took the scalps of many grandmasters. He died in 2015 at the age of 56 after a heart attack playing chess. Opening theoreticians will be aware of his contribution, Alekhine’s Defence Tate variation, an early rook development: 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5 3. c4 Nb6 4. a4 a5 5. Ra3.

To the world at large, however, he is now more famous for producing Emory Tate III, aka Andrew Tate. He was the father of one of the most influential and controversial figures of our times. 

Tate the father ticks a lot of the “tortured genius” boxes. From a good family, ill-disciplined but brilliant in high school, he achieved a scholarship to Northwestern University in Illinois at 17, but dropped out both here and then at Alabama University. He joined the US air force and entered intelligence, picking up Russian in a record time of three weeks (one of his eight languages). While based in the UK he snuck away to Camden for blitz with Limey locals, among them IM Malcolm Pein (who shares his memories in the book and contributes an analysis of one game). He formed a family, took them back to America, separated from his wife (who returned to England), split acrimoniously from the air force, and continued his life as a chess player and teacher, taking cross-country buses to tournaments and living the life of an eccentric, very much at home among chess players. 

As an enjoyer of American writers focusing on this character type (Hubert Selby Jr, Charles Bukowski, John and Dan Fante), Tate very much appeals: the genius drunk living on the edge, circling the drain of life and finding beauty amidst the grime, loving and hurting everyone around him, exhilarated to suicidal from page to page. Reading through the book, the darker side is periodically hinted at: the paranoia and drinking, depression and resentments, critics and confrontations, not just involving Tate but fellow chess road warriors such as GM Aleksander Wojtkiewicz too. But we are mainly presented with the positives, chief among which are, of course, the games, such as this one against GM Leonid Yudasin in 1997.

Various Sicilians with both colours make up 20 of the book’s 35 full games, which give full rein to Tate’s penchant for sacrifices. He also shared my own desire for the holy move g5! (as did Fischer), as demonstrated in his win here against Alexander Beltre in 2001.

The main narrative thread is the paean to Tate, climaxing in a dramatic near miss of a GM norm in Curuçao 2007. Here, with White, he baffles GM Jan Gustafsson:

The question is presented: why was this man, a larger-than-life genius on and off the board, who played with such flair and scalped so many grandmasters (he claims about 80) not a grandmaster himself (he managed only – only! – IM)?  Along the way he is regularly compared to Tal and Alekhine (for their gamestyles and lifestyles) but also Fischer (showing more determination against Russians). “You’re afraid of success,” he was told. “You could be the first black grandmaster, but you’ll never become a grandmaster unless you get serious.” Serious? This was a man who ended up in positions like this, as Black against Glenn Bady (somehow, the game was eventually drawn):

The book’s tendency towards hero worship is a definite feature of American chess culture (try disparaging Fischer or Nakamura to any US player). The über-competitiveness and trash-talk also comes across (play chess online and stars and stripes tend to be a decent predictor of insults in the chat). We’re constantly told people’s scores and placings in open tournaments, using a strange match system of 7-2 rather than 7/9. There is only one game given from a team match, something truly bizarre compared with our own domination by league chess culture. Tate himself is constantly aggressive, trying to dominate on and off the board with words and pieces, often simultaneously. Everything is a fight, even with his friends. Here he is in action in 2013 against GM Artur Chibukhchian.

Tate clearly had a remarkable ability to impress himself on an audience, resulting in legions of fans on and offline. Not only his moves, but his general patter and joy were infectious, sprinkled with cheeky expressions. Apart from the eponymous “Triple exclam!!!” here are a few other Tate-isms:

Light laser: light-squared bishop
Swizzle sticks!: castling
Sweeper/sealer: a “tai-chi pawn move”
ROVER: Rook-up-and-over
Intruder alert! Intruder alert! (with klaxon)

After meeting in 2009, Tate formed a friendship with the American rapper RZA, legendary founder of the Wu-Tang Clan, probably bonding over chess, philosophy and martial arts. For the youth and aged among you, Wu-Tang were a disparate group of competitive street rappers who shared an appreciation for all the above. Indeed their debut album featured Da Mystery of Chessboxin.

When you look into the Clan, the sense is of a brotherhood of young black fatherless men, dropouts in and out of jail, becoming a mutually supporting family, going their own way and working together in an often predatory record business. They had built up their skills by travelling the New York boroughs competing against any contender in battle rhymes in front of an audience, before the best were selected for the Clan, with a famous promise from RZA that if they gave him five years of their lives, he’d take them to the top (he did). Did Tate wish he’d met RZA decades before, to focus him on that GM title?

This is something else that comes across strongly in the book – the plethora of references to a community of black chess players, not just in the US but across the world. “Tate’s Black Imperative”, “Rest in Power” and “The Black Bear School of Chess” mark out this especial American phenomenon. The need to support each other in the quest for rating, prizes and titles even led Daaim Shabazz in 2001 to create a website called The Chess Drum. Tate felt great solidarity with Pontus Carlsson of Sweden and Amon Simutowe of Zambia before he’d even met them. Back in America, future GM Maurice Ashley credited Tate for berating him into a switch from 1. c4 to 1. e4. When he plays other black players, another layer of meaning and importance is added:

I was lucky enough to play a few games with Simutowe, aka the “Zambezi Shark”, while he was at Oxford, sharing the spectators’ hysterics at various sound effects (the helicopter and Bruce Lee in particular). Were some of these adapted from the time he spent with Tate in the US?

One suspects this is the world Tate was happiest in – the fun, silly, competitive, adrenaline-fuelled buzz of blitz, a crowd of adoring spectators at hand. Yet his pride and ambition thirsted for achievement in classical chess, both in titles and prestige. He repeatedly brought up his five US Armed Forces Chess Championship titles. At one point he runs out of the tournament hall to celebrate a win over IM Georgi Orlov, noted for his expertise in the Black Knights’ Tango. “I beat the Tango guy!”, Tate shouts, determined to instantly demonstrate the game.

As the story comes to a conclusion, the tone becomes palpably darker. Tate himself was prone to a sense of foreboding about his end: “When you screw up the opening and the middlegame, then you’re going to have a bad endgame.”

A decade ago Simutowe put out a shortlist of his best games, intending to work on an autobiography. Sadly Tate did not compile his own games (he played in roughly a thousand classical tournaments, as well as rapids later in his career), so what remains are those collected and commented on by others (bar three taken from Tate’s lectures, with his own unique patter). There are also some tactical problems taken from his games but, quite frankly, there aren’t many jewels.

“I hope that for our younger students and our aspiring players, they will study my play and emulate my style,” said Tate in 2006. “I hope I’ll have a lasting influence. I understand that I’m creating a legacy per se, and I’m very aware of that. There is never a time when I play that I’m not aware of that.” So let this be a lesson to all of us: if you think you have games or positions which will be of interest to the wider world, get them organised and ready to go. Death always wins in the end.

I enjoyed the story of Tate and his world, more so than the actual games. It’s a wonderful tribute to the man that so many have contributed to this book in so many ways; Tate clearly touched many, many lives. We’ll leave the last words to his son, Andrew (Emory III): “The only thing that makes me feel better is knowing that he doesn’t know he’s dead. If he did, he would be furious!”

The boy who took on the golden-age greats

Larry Evans was just 16 when he wrote his first book – a self-published monograph on the great Vienna tournament of 1922. Some of the analysis is a little wayward, but it’s still a remarkable achievement

Michael Healey

This season I have been mainly losing to people younger than myself. Other people as well, but it’s the youngsters doing the most damage. In revenge, I felt the need to savage a book written by a teenager.

In 1948 Larry Evans, aged just 16, was already a strong player. In three years he would be US champion, then go on to become an IM, a GM, US champion a further four times, and a second to Bobby Fischer. He would also become one of the most celebrated chess columnists and writers, famously co-authoring Fischer’s My 60 Memorable Games (which I still have not read).

As part of his development, the teenager not only discovered the 1922 Vienna tournament‘s scores, but took it upon himself to annotate each of the 103 games, and then self-publish the result. At 16! As Evans later admitted, “Youth is so presumptuous!” Sixty-two years later, he was asked to review his first work for a new edition of Vienna 1922, with computer assistance, sadly dying before the result was published. Thus this is both Evans’ first and last book – an alpha and omega one might say.

Larry Evans, in his early thirties, in action at the Amsterdam Interzonal in 1964. Photograph: F N Broers

Vienna 1922 was a 15-player all-play-all tournament featuring a lot of big names, though lacking Capablanca and Lasker, who had contested the world championship the previous year. The field was as follows, with Chessmetrics December 1921 world ranking in brackets: Alekhine (3); Rubinstein (4); Tartakower (6); Tarrasch (7); Bogoljubow (10); Spielmann (11); Maroczy (12); Réti (13); Grünfeld (20); Sämisch (23). Bogoljubow and Rubinstein were perennial world championship contenders; Alekhine would succeed to the title in 1927. Some other names may also ring bells!

Completing the field were local bunnies Sándor Takács, Heinrich Wolf, Imre König, Hans Kmoch and Vladimir Vuković. Kmoch and Vuković went on to become better known as chess writers. Kmoch’s most notable book is Pawn Power in Chess, published in 1956, while Vuković produced two of the most famous chess books of all time – The Art of Attack in Chess (1963) and The Chess Sacrifice (1968). 

In Vienna 1922, Evans’s comments are pithy, but usually humorous and accurate in equal measure. Each round is given a succinct summary, and each game a brief prologue. So what happened? Here is the scoretable:

This was to be Rubinstein’s last great hurrah. He won five in a row between rounds 10 and 14, and went undefeated all tournament, but was clearly leading a charmed life in some games. Tartakower was a deserved second, hunted down after a start of 6.5/7. Third was … Wolf?! Indeed, Wolf led the tournament in round 10, only to receive 0 from the next two games. Though several games from this tournament made his own best games collection, Alekhine lost a whole three games, despite benefiting from a bye against Spielmann, who missed the last two rounds due to illness. It is quite clear that König and Kmoch suffered, even when their games were looking promising, and sought out draws whenever possible. Neither won a game. Maroczy had a very solid tournament, only losing one game. 

Whilst going through the book I realised the drama of the tournament wasn’t coming across very well, so I made my own progressive (if slightly messy) scoretable.

Here I discovered one issue with the book: several round summaries feature the wrong match pairings and results. The table I constructed demonstrated just how well Tarrasch had finished (six wins and two draws in the second half of the tournament). In round 10 he defeated Réti with a lovely king march.

34. Kh2 Nd6 35. Rg7+ Kh8 36. Rd7 Nb5 37. Kg3 Nxc3 38. Kf4 Nb5 39. Ke5 Re8 40. Kf6. Black resigns. The plan is Kf7 and Bg7#. If Rg8 Kf7 and the threat of Rd8 is game-ending.

The openings played are testament to their era and the influence of “hypermodern” ideas. Because these ideas were new, openings can look inaccurate or overindulgent to modern eyes. However, the differences in strength are also a factor. Weaker players strive for drawish lines; stronger players play some slightly fishy stuff. For this reason, many of the most entertaining games are those against König and Kmoch, whom everyone was clearly desperate to dispatch. This was how Rudolf Spielmann, with Black, did the job against Kmoch in round 4.

This was not the only game where I had cause to doubt the teenager/septuagenarian’s commentary. In round 9, Kmoch was again the victim of a crazed stronger player, Ernst Grünfeld:

As the tournament progressed I found myself really rooting for Kmoch, only to be disappointed each time. The summary before Vuković-Kmoch pretty much covered being a Kmoch fan (“Black hangs his queen!”). I genuinely bashed my head into the table. 

There were a number of blunders throughout – possibly because it was a long tournament, but more likely because back then they didn’t register thousands upon thousands of tactical puzzles and tomes of theory. They had to reason things out themselves, without a bank of patterns and tricks. Sometimes it’s utter nonsense, as in this game between Vuković and Spielmann.

The positional chess can be quite impressive though, as in the following game between poor old Kmoch and Siegbert Tarrasch.

Certainly, as a disciple of chaos myself, I didn’t really trust young Evans’s nous in the crazier positions. Which was a lesson in itself: given most chess books these days are written by grandmasters with supercomputers, it’s useful to be able to challenge what you’re being told, and sometimes find out you’re actually correct. Sometimes.

As you might expect from conversion of an old descriptive book without diagrams to algebraic with plentiful diagrams, there are regular typos; these don’t detract from the games though. In all seriousness, to achieve what he did in this work is quite astonishing. Evans the teenager found the time, determination and sheer cojones to analyse games from the top tier of chess a mere 26 years before – games by players who, he admits, were at that stage all stronger than he was. Not only did he contribute to chess scholarship in the process, but he protected chess legacy and brought obscure games to a wider audience:

“My main reason for writing in 1948,” Evans said, “was to preserve the games which were then largely unavailable except for a handful of collectors.” It is little wonder he went on to be so beloved by chessplayers in America, and around the world.