CHESS

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODFASHION -

THE WORLD Cham­pi­onship starts in less than a fort­night and Viswanathan Anand and Mag­nus Carlsen are busy look­ing for ways to out­fox each other in the open­ings. In his last match in 2012 against Boris Gelfand of Is­rael, Anand al­most lost be­cause his prepa­ra­tion was not quite up to scratch.

In re­search­ing this ar­ti­cle, I took a look at Mikhail Botvin­nik’s games in many World Cham­pi­onship matches. Botvin­nik was World Cham­pion on and off from 1948 to 1963.

I took one open­ing, the CaroKann de­fence, as an ex­am­ple. Botvin­nik caught Vass­ily Smyslov off-guard in his re­turn match in 1958, win­ning the first three games of the 24-game match, two with black us­ing the Caro Kann. Smyslov did not quite re­cover from that set­back and Botvin­nik pre­pared for his next op­po­nent, Mikhail Tal. Botvin­nik lost the first match in 1961, but in the re­turn en­counter he was ready and met Tal’s ad­vanced vari­a­tion — 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 with 3. … c5, a move that to­day’s com­puter-aided re­search would find some­what un­sound.

■■■ Chess is go­ing home. The game was born in the East and in case you hadn’t no­ticed, the World Cham­pion, Viswanathan Anand, is In­dian while the Women’s World Cham­pion is Hou Yi­fan of China.

Now Wes­ley So of the Philip­pines has won the an­nual Hoogeveen tour­na­ment in the Nether­lands. This shift back from its “tem­po­rary so­journ in the West” be­gan in the 1930s when Mir Sultan Kahn won two Bri­tish cham­pi­onships and a mem­o­rable game against the great José Ca­pablanca.

■■■

This is an ap­par­ently true story from France. An en­trant in a tour­na­ment ar­rived be­fore his op­po­nent and found that he was black in round one. He seated him­self at the board fac­ing the white pieces. His op­po­nent ar­rived and said “Please move to the other side of the board as I am play­ing white.”

Our hero said: “Why should I? I am a prob­lemist and when I com­pose or solve a chess prob­lem, I al­ways am play­ing up the board.”

He is quite right – take a look at the prob­lem we pub­lish to­day, it would look equally valid up­side down. The Amer­i­can prob­lem com­poser was once asked whether this po­si­tion wasn’t im­pos­si­ble, to which Loyd replied: “This po­si­tion is pos­si­ble be­cause the pieces are where I put them.

“If I was sit­ting on the other side of the board, I would keep on mak­ing il­le­gal moves. My op­po­nent is quite used to play­ing the black pieces, so why should he ob­ject to sit­ting fac­ing the black pieces?”

The ar­biter was sum­moned and or­dered our hero to change sides, to which he replied: “Show me the rule which ap­plies to your re­quest.”

● Send your news and com­ments to thechess­nik@gmail.com

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