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A Christmas Theme (23.12.2017.) 965

Sixteen players took part in last weekend’s Cornish Christmas RapidPlay in Tuckingmill. They all won a prize of some sort, but the main ones were 1st Colin Sellwood (Camborne) on 4½/5. 2nd= were David Saqui and Jan Rodrigo (both Penwith) on 4/5. Tom Oates (Camborne) won the junior prize with 3.

The January issue of Chess magazine, which will be out early, effectively as a Christmas issue, will include the story of how R. D. Blackmore, world famous author of Laura Doone, came to invite William Steinitz, future World Chess Champion, round to his house for Christmas dinner. It’s an unlikely but fascinating story, yet true.

The traditional post-Christmas chess feast is the venerable Hastings Congress. Here is a game from the Challengers Section of the 1965 Hastings event, taken from the British Chess Magazine and introduced by their reporter, Owen Hindle.

“It seems incredible that A. R. B. Thomas has been playing at Hastings for over 40 years. His style is as lively as ever, particularly in his pet lines against the Sicilian. Play through this game, you will enjoy it!”

ARB had spent 40 years teaching at Blundell’s School in Tiverton, which Blackmore had attended as a pupil, and if, by this time, he had reached the stage of Grand Old Man of chess, Mike Basman was, by contrast, an 18 year old tyro, destined to become an IM with a penchant for exotic openings. He was born Mikayel Basmadijan of Armenian parentage, and his babysitter was a young Cleo Laine, who usually managed to sing him to sleep.

White: Andrew Thomas. Black: M. Basman.

1.e4 c5 2.c3 The c3 Sicilian, which has since become even more popular. 2…Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.cxd4 d6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Nc3 Nxc3 8.bxc3 dxe5 9.d5 Now White is asking the first serious question. 9…e4 Basman was never one to be cowed and chooses to counter-attack. 10.dxc6 Qxd1+ 11.Kxd1 exf3 12.Bb5 One threat is met, to be replaced by another. 12…Kd8 13.Bf4 Bg4 14.Kc2 Bf5+ 15.Kb2 Kc8 16.Rhd1 g5 17.Rd8+! 1–0 After 17…Kxd8 18.cxb7 there are several mating combinations in 5 or 6 moves. Work them through when you get a chance.

Last week’s position was a case of “Give something to win something”. That is, 1.Qg8=Q+! forcing 1…RxQ  losing the queen but unpinning the bishop which can now play 2.Be5+ Rg7 3.BxR+ KxB allowing White to get his queen back with 4.Ph8=Q+ Kf7 and 5.Nxd4 denies Black any series of checks.

Edith Baird née Winter-Wood (1859-1924) was adept at constructing all sorts of chess problems, including ones in which the pieces took the form of letters of the alphabet. One Christmas she published this 2-mover in the Illustrated London News with the title Noël Fantaisie: can you see how the pieces form the initials NF? And she added this quotation from The Merchant of Venice:- “Fair thoughts and happy hours attend on you,” as valid a seasonal wish now as then.

White to mate in 2