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Poor World Champions (31.10.2015.)

Making a living was very hard work for a chess professional throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, whether they be World Champion or journeyman grandmaster. Writing was hard work for little return and prize money was generally pitiful. One way of securing some quick funds was to organise country-wide tours, squeezing in as many simultaneous displays as possible, and no-one considered themselves to be above it.

World Champion (1886-’94) Steinitz, for example, had a phenomenal work ethic but still died penniless. His successor Emanuel Lasker (1894 – 1921) spent years of his life simply going from town to town playing anyone who would pay a small amount for the privilege of crossing swords with the champion in a simultaneous display. In 1898 his UK tour took in Cheltenham, Bristol, Plymouth and Falmouth. A decade later, his next tour took in Cheltenham, Gloucester, Cirencester, Bristol and Totnes.

Succeeding World Champions, Capablanca (1921–’26) and Alekhine (1926–’45) both took on world tours, taking on between 20 and 40 opponents at each stop-over.

Usually they all found it politic to offer a draw to some young schoolboy or pretty lady, or even lose a game to the local organiser, knowing this would be good publicity. Sure enough, the Chess Editor of the day would generally publish only the games of the local winners. The downside of this practice was that a modern day collection of their simultaneous games, mainly culled from newspaper archives, makes them look full-time losers. Take this example from his visit to Totnes Grammar School on 5th March 1908, against James Eccles Dimond Moysey, a 25 yr old farmer from Dartington. To be fair he was later described by Mieses as one of the foremost English amateurs, though this might have been overstating it a bit.

White: E. Lasker. Black: J. E. D. Moysey.

Falkbeer Counter Gambit [C32]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 d5 3.exd5 e4 4.d4 Nf6 5.c4 c6 6.dxc6 Nxc6 7.d5 If 7.Be3 Ng4 7…Bc5 8.Nc3 If 8.dxc6 Bf2+ 9.Ke2 Bg4+ 10.Nf3 exf3+ 11.gxf3 Bxf3+ winning the queen. 8…Qb6 9.Nh3 If 9.Na4 Bf2+ 10.Kd2 Qd4+ and White must lose his queen to either 11.Ke2 Bg4+ or 11.Kc2 Nb4+  9…Bxh3 10.gxh3 Bf2+ 11.Ke2 e3 This blocks his own queen and bishop, and loses his knight. 11…Bh4 threatening Qf2 mate, seems at first sight a strong continuation, for if 12.Be3 Qxb2+ 13.Bd2 Nd4+ 14.Ke3 Nc2+ and Black wins. 12.dxc6 Qc5 threatening Qh5+ 13.Bg2 Rd8 14.Qa4 0–0 15.Qb5 Qd4 16.Rd1 Qxf4 17.cxb7 Qxh2 18.Qc6 Nh5 19.Bxe3 Bxe3 20.Rxd8 Rxd8 21.Kxe3?? (see diagram)

An unfortunate oversight. Black now announced a mate in 4, although it can actually be done in 3 moves. Can you work it out?

Local farmer (B) to play and beat the World Champion.


In last week’s position, Alekhine won in style with the forcing sequence1.Rxf7+ Rxf7 2.Bxg6+ Kxg6 3.Qd3+ Kg5 4.Bc1+ Rf4 5.Qf5 mate.

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