In which I take stock, and decide to move on…
The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.
…Though that last smell could be me, of course.
And I feel… old. Well… middle aged, anyway.
I am, of course, properly middle-aged, and even older than my esteemed colleague and occasional adversary Dr H Gee of this parish, another gentleman given to occasional musing on the onward thundering of Time’s Winged Chariot.
And I feel that, as the world changes, I need to follow suit.
As the two or three regular readers of this blog will know, I don’t kid myself that I am Mister-Height-of-Popularity with my employer. I have had the same job title now for more than twenty-four years – which might be the explanation, or might be the consequence…. who knows. Anyway, what with the way things are going in the UK Universities (see also here), I have decided it is probably time to make some changes.
One is that this blog is re-locating. It will be moving to a new site (to be announced) where it will be known henceforth as:
“A scientist does pawn”
…Which brings me to my second announcement.
I will be taking voluntary redundancy from my job at the University, and devoting myself full-time to attempting to become a chess master in my sixth decade.
The two or three regulars of this blog will know that I had a Dark Past, many, many Winters ago, as a Teenage Chess Fiend.
Now, chess is typically considered a young man’s game, but I think I can show these young whippersnappers that us Old Farts are not totally past it.
And in any case, since I gave up chess at the age of eighteen, in chess years I am not even twenty yet.
Getting back to the current day job, in the present financial climate all the UK Universities are keen to shed grumbling old geezers, so terms are on offer. With a bit of luck, the settlement should give me at least a year hunched over my chess books and my computer before I actually have to think of some way of earning a living. Hopefully not too honest a one.
And if that is not enough, I can always send The Boss out to work full time. The kids will both be in full-time education (or nursery, at least) from this coming September, so I could even become a chess-studying house-husband.
So…. this blog, in its new guise and home, will henceforth be cataloguing my progress in my new career (or rather non-career) direction. Though it may digress back into science from time to time.
Meanwhile, as a taste of things to come, here is a chess game from my long-ago Geek Years. Enjoy – especially the two Steves. Or stop reading, if you are pawn-averse.
A Elliott – S Hughes
Oxford Inter-School League Match, Nov 1978
1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 Bb4
The Winawer variation of the French Defence (1…e6)
4. e5 c5
5. a3 Bc3: +
6. bc: Ne7
A typical starting position in the Winawer variation. 6 ..Ne7 allows Black to meet 7 Qg4 with castling King-side or perhaps with ..Ng6, if Black does not fancy the complications of 7. Qg4 Qc7 8. Qg7: Rg8 9. Qh7: cd: 10. Ne2 etc
Opting for something a bit less manic, but not without teeth
To prevent a later Ng5 if Black castles King-side
An important move. White is planning to develop the Queen’s Bishop on a3 to take advantage of Black’s weakness on the dark squares.
9. Bd3 Bd7
10. 0-0 c4
A committal move, closing the centre. This usually signifies that Black intends to castle Queen-side and try and launch a pawn storm against the White King with the g- and h-pawns. However, it would be better to keep the tension in the centre a while longer with …Nbc6 and 0-0-0.
11. Be2 Nbc6
12. Ba3 0-0-0
The position is now set, a typical type in this opening, with a fairly fixed pawn centre and the players castled on opposite sides. Black plans his King-side attack, while White will attack on the Queen side down the a- and (open) b-files and on the Black squares. The question in such positions is always – who will get there first?
Re-deploying the Knight toward the Queen-side. It also means Black cannot gain time by attacking the Knight with g5-g4
13. …g5 (diagram)
Starting the planned advance.
14. Qb1 !
This looks a bit of a cumbersome way to get the Queen into action, but appearances can be deceptive.
14. …Rdf8 ?!
Black changes his plan, now deciding to try and open the f-file with f6. It would almost certainly have been better to stick to his first idea with Rdg8, h5, g4, h4 etc
15. a5 f6
White’s a-pawn cannot be taken, and Black does not want to block it with a6 as this would leave the b6 square weak
Emphasising Black’s dark-squared weakness and also protecting the pawn on e5.
Intending Rfb1 with the threat of mate on b7
An ugly move, but it makes space for the Bishop to go to c6 and protect b7
18. Rfb1 Bc6
Forcing Black’s reply, which leaves b6 weak
19. …a6 (diagram)
But now White has a nice tactical shot:
20. Bc4:! fe:
Capturing the Bishop allows White’s Knight to c4, when the threats of Nb6+ or Nd6+ leave Black in dire straits, e.g. 20 …dc 21. Nc4: Nd5 22. Nd6+ Kd7 23 c4 or Nb7:
21. de: Nf5
The Bishop is still taboo
22. Bd3 Rf7
Deciding to remove Black’s only actively-placed minor piece
24. Bd6 Nd7 (diagram)
Probably worrying about Nb3-c5-b7, but White has another way to pry open Black’s position.
25. c4! g4
Trying for some counterplay with ..Qh4 and perhaps …Rh5
26. cd: Bd5:
Wanting to open the diagonal for the Bishop, with ideas like …Qh4 and if g3 …Qh3. – but Black is too late
27. Qc3+ Bc6
28. Ne4 Qh4 (diagram)
A desperate attempt to conjure up a threat, e,g, with ..Rh5, but allowing the decisive blow.
29. Rb7: ! Kb7:
30. Rb1+ Bb5
30…Ka7 Qc6: is no better
31. Rb5:+ !
A second rook sacrifices itself to remove a defender
32. Qc7+ Ka6
And Black resigned, not waiting for 33 Nc5+ Nc5: 34 Qb6 mate (diagram).