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County player Henry Elkins reflects on chess

Many reading Neil Rosen’s reference to Humphrey Bogart may not know that the Hollywood legend was a most capable chess player who even invented his own opening.  i do not know of any contemporary film stars who play the game but sportsmen Ossie Ardiles and Steve Davis are enthusatic and more than competent. There is a famous chess sequence in the Thomas Crown Affair and the Neil Rosen tribute to Vladek Sheybal showed a picture of the actor in a chess tournament in From Russia With Love

In the world of literature Stefan Zweig wrote a book called Chess Story on a chess grandmaster as did Vladimir Nabokov (the Luzhin Defence) both worth reading . Gary Kasparov who has political aspirations has written books on chess that go well beyond the subject comparable to Mike Brearley masterly reflections on captaincy.

Chess had never really captured the headlines since Fischer beat Spassky in Reyjavik in 1973. Fischer had the guts to take on the Soviet system intended to maintain their hegemony. His persistent complaining of the conditions which resulted in the game played in a room away from the audience did much to break then will of Spassky. Sadly Fischer never went on to dominate and ended up a pariah. On a famous chess web site a guy in Japan was beating up all and sundry and was thought to be Fischer. He was finally invited to Reykjavik by his bodyguard firn the Spassky game.

Personally i think Gary Kasparov a world champion for 20 years was the better player. he once beat the German national team in a simultaneous display. The greatest ” simul” ever played was by the Argentine Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf. Najdorf was born in Poland and played in rtheir celebrated pre war team which also included Tartakower who did not have a drop of Polish blood and could not even speak the language. Just before the invasion of Poland Najdorf found himself marooned in Buenos Aires. he wished to do something to let his family know he was alright so he challenged the 50 best players in Buenos Aires to a simul in  which he stayed blindfold in a room and held every move and position in his head. He  won 43 games which made the front page so his family knew he was safe.

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About Henry Elkins

A keen researcher of family ancestors, Henry will be reporting on the centenary of World War One. More Posts