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Sideways/Radio 4

Yesterday Matthew Syed presented a programme on the chess player Jonathan Nunn.

He was something of a prodigy as a mathematician – he was the youngest person to gain admission to Oxford since Cardinal Wolsey.

He switched to chess and, although excellent, he was never world grandmaster class.

The computer played an increasingly crucial role in chess training and analysis and because of his indifference to this development he fell behind the younger talents like David Howell.

Matthew Syed was a table tennis champion but at peaked at 33.

He then developed a second career as an outstanding journalist.

His theme was achievement.

Nunn was a prodigy but did not train on.

In his sixties he began to win senior tournaments so very late in life achieved chess success.

I was a talented chess player at school, winning my prep school championship aged 6.

I was in my senior school team and picked for county junior team.

However, I soon released that I would never be more than a capable club player.

I was heartened therefore that Syed’s conclusion was not whether you win the game, but how you win it.

I still enjoy chess over the internet and with the usual old person’s fear of dementia exercise my brain with chess puzzles.

These tend to be formulaic involving a Queen Sacrifice but occasionally a puzzle will be set to identify a crucial tactical move.

Prodigy or not – grandmaster or not – whatever your level, the most important thing is to enjoy your chess, as I do.

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About Jakub Celakovsky

An irregular club player without pretensions to greatness, Jakub Celakovsky is a student of chess and has contributed articles to many publications on the subject over the years. He came to Britain with his parents in 1981 and runs a pub on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, where he lives with his wife and two children. More Posts