Michael Basman v Peter Lalić

Bird Rapidplay, Kingston, 14 February 2022

This game was played when Mike Basman visited Kingston Chess Club to give a talk on the Victorian chess player Henry Bird. He pointed out that Bird (who gave his name to the Bird’s Opening 1.f4) played a variety of unconventional openings but rarely the eponymous opening. In order to recreate the same spirit of unconventionality, Mike devised a format that evening whereby the first move for Black and for White was randomised. It was on this basis that the opening moves for his game against Peter Lalić were determined. Ironically, given that both Mike and Peter play unconventional openings, it is perfectly possible that they would have played the same opening as occurred in the game even if they had not been constrained to do so.

The Old Indian Attack is characterised by 1. d3 and 2.Nf3, so White is holding back from occupying the centre with pawns. The opening was first essayed in competitions during the 1850s and was popularised by Aron Nimzovich at the turn of the 20th Century. Nimzovich’s seminal Chess Praxis was Mike’s favourite book. (Mike preferred the simplified spelling of the Riga master’s name.)

We would have forgotten these games but a couple of months later Mike unexpectedly produced a booklet on Henry Bird which included a brief overview of the master as well as the games from the Kingston Bird Tournament. I reproduce his annotations below. We are grateful for having received this publication which draws parallels between the lives of Bird and Basman. Mike Basman died on 26 October 2022.

John Foley

Peter Lalić and Mike Basman playing Chinese chess in Epsom