Friday, November 17, 2006

Eraclides versus the Masters ~ Part 3 Not Slam-Dunked by Craig Laird

Hi Pilgrims,

In 1994 and 1995 my partner Vivien and I went on chess holidays to Norfolk Island. At that time and for a while after, the Norfolk Island Chess Club used to host a chess tournament every year for players rated below 1600. It was aimed at attracting average players from the mainland of Oz who would like to combine a holiday package tour with some chess competition.

It was absolutely terrific, but we could only afford to go for two years, 1994 and 1995. You flew out of Sydney and the accomodation, tours and ‘chess-fun’ was organised for you.

Vivien I am sorry to say, does not play chess, (she is chessically challenged) although she understands what a wonderful game it is, with its rich history (which I have bored her with) and colourful personalities (like me). We had a wonderful time touring the island and learning about its history. Made friends, dined out, basically had a ball. As this is a chess blog, I shall stick to the royal game, although I want you to realize that a chess tournament, accompanied by glorious sights, conversation, fine food, and wine, is a jolly good thing.

International Master Terrey Shaw and FIDE Master Craig Laird were the chess organisers. They gave lectures, organised competitions such as problem solving, and gave simultaneous exhibitions. There were two tournaments: A lightning event (five minutes on each clock; all play all) and a major tournament (normal time). In 1994 I came second in the lightning and the major tourney and I was referred to as ‘George the Second’. In 1995 I won the lightning but still came second in the major event. Everybody received some kind of prize at the tournament dinner, however humble their performance.

In the future I will post some games from these events.

What was of the greatest benefit, were the lectures and tutoring from Terrey and Craig. You could spend months pouring over a chess manual and not gain the insights which one lesson from these teachers can give you. It demonstrates the importance of a good teacher, who can point out the essentials in the learning process.

For instance, in the final round of the major in 1994 I had a winnable ending and only needed a draw. But being the lummox that I am, I lost the game. Terrey and Craig pointed out to me in an impromptu lesson the next day, that I needed to have retained the white squared Bishop which guarded the white squares. Instead I exchanged it and lost in a Rook ending. As they showed me, in the position I had, the squares without pawns on them needed guarding, so my opponents Rook could not penetrate, while my Rook supported the advance of my pawns.

The way they showed me what to do has stayed with me and my endgame play has actually improved. I am no Capablanca or Rubinstein but I am not a bunny in the ending any more, just in the other phases of the game.

Craig gave simuls in 1994 and in 1995. He had played overseas and regularly competed in Australian and State Championships. Both he and Terrey had a droll sense of humour and neither of them had any tickets on themselves among us ordinary players. Terrey had a regular chess column for many years in the The Bulletin - a major news and current affairs magazine in Oz. The low-brows who then ran the magazine saw fit to cancel his column and this was very upsetting to himself and chess fans.

A chess column, as everyone with a scintilla of intelligence knows, is the bench mark for quality in a magazine. I stopped buying the magazine and told as many people as I could. Terrey Shaw passed away sometime later, succumbing to a long illness. I still remember him and the advice he had given me and others. When I ignore his teachings, as I do because I am a fool sometimes, I can imagine him shaking his head while I admonish myself.

His advice, if followed, would eliminate the most obvious errors players like me commit. I shall tell you about his teaching in a future posting.

The point of the Norfolk Island tournaments was to have fun, play some good chess, and improve your standard of play. I played in the simuls in both 1994 (lost via an inexcusable blunder - inexcusable even for me!) and 1995. Please note: Simultaneous exhibitions are difficult for Master level players, even against ordinary players. They hate to lose or even draw. Pride is on the line and they also have to think hard and quickly while we try and outfox them.

The game below is from 1995, and I think I played rather well. I was true to my style (of course I have one!) and had Craig worried for quite a while.

Craig Laird (FM) VERSUS George Eraclides (Definitely not FM)

Simultaneous Exhibition at Norfolk Island, 1995

Catalan/Pirc/Kings Indian Hybrid - in other words, irregular

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 g6
3. g3 Bg7
4. Bg2 0-0
5. 0-0 d6
6. Re1 c5?!

Black is trying to play a King’s Indian and White is aiming at a Catalan set up without c4. This is a simul and a few kitchen-sinks are going to be thrown into the mix. I think Laird can play 7. dxc5 because Qa5 8. cxd6 Rd8 doesn’t really do anything much, and 7...dxc5 is passive. But he had a full board of games to worry about and tries to play it cool, hoping to avoid complications. But he is playing Eraclides - the man who can’t even spell complictoains.

7. d5?!

I think he should have either taken the Pawn or played Nc3. Note, that unlike other annotators, I capitalize the ‘P’ in Pawn, out of respect for all life forms, however pathetically humble they are. Craig was also playing quickly, coming around to the boards as fast as he could - a trick of simul players to get us ordinaries to make a blunder or a significant positional concession. Ettiquette dictates that you move as soon as the Master player is in front of your board. Sometimes players are allowed to think a little longer, but in terms of the spirit of the simul, it’s like passing wind during prayers at a requiem mass.

7 .................Bg4!?

This Bishop is often hard to develop in the King’s Indian, so exchanging it for White’s well placed Knight can be a good idea. Note that by playing d5, Craig has blocked the diagonal of his g2 Bishop and opened the diagonal of my own warrior-priest.

8. Nc3 Qd7!?

It may be thought that Nfd7 or Nbd7 would me more normal but I am hatching a little scheme, or if you prefer scheming a little hatch. Besides the complications which arise, Black threatens Bh3 and restrains h3.

9. e4?!

Not sure about this. Logical given White’s sixth move and the difficulty Black will have of getting a Knight to fill the hole at e5, but he self-pins his Queen and further progress in the centre is slowed down.

9 ...............Na6!
10. Bg5

If he plays a4 to prevent Black’s next move, he leaves a gaping hole for the Knight at b4. If he plays a3, Black builds up his Queen side initiative anyway. White’s position is already looking a bit porous and I was relatively satisfied with the way things were going. King’s Indian formations seem to suit my style.

10 ............b5
11. Qd3 c4!
12. Qf1 Bxf3

I need to take the Knight before White has a chance to move it into d4.

13. Bxf3 Nc5

Apart from the risky and silly 6...c5 I have played reasonably well, and now have a promising position. That’s the King’s Indian for you, it’s either very good or very bad - no grey areas.

14. a4 b4!?

Black could play 14...a6, which is safer, sounder, and giving better long term prospects. For instance 15. axb5 axb5 and Black tries Qb7, h6, and possibly Nfd7. If I was a Wiz in the King’s Indian, like Fischer or Kasparov, I could do really clever things with this kind of position. Alas I am only an Eraclides playing quickly in a simul. So I go for more complications.

15. Nb5 a6
16. Nd4!?

Obviously. But wait, Black has been doing a scheming hatch (see note at move 8 above). Okay, okay, I know I’m not Alekhine, and could never seriously claim to foresee so many moves ahead (I often stumble over just the next move), but I was trying to see if you were awake.

16 ...........Nfxe4!?
17. Bxe4 Bxd4
18. Qxc4 Bxb2

Just cleaning up MY DIAGONAL (one gets so possesive in the King’s Indian).

19. Raa2 Bc3

Is it true? I am a Pawn up against a Master and have the initiative as well. It’s the complications what did it. And all the other games Craig had to worry about.

20. Re2 Nxa4
21. Qc6 Qg4!?

This seemed the best at the time but 21...Qxc6 22. dxc6 Nc5 is also interesting. Then 23. c7 (23. Bxe7 Rfe8) Nxe4 24. Rxe4 f6! 25. Bc1 with favourable complications for Black after e5 and a Pawn roller. White’s Pawn on c7 is going nowhere fast. I was thinking that if I win this game I should build a shrine to the King’s Indian in my living room.

22. f3 Qxg5
23. Rxa4 Qc1+

This woman is mad I tell you, mad. Stay away from her, she’s on a rampage.

24. Kg2 Bd4
25. Rxb4 Qg1+
26. Kh3

Now what?

26 ...........Rac8!?

Cunning, eh what. If now 27. Qxa6 Qf1+ 28. Kh5 (Kg4, f4+ is a show-stopper) g5+ 29. Kxg5 Be3+ and either he takes the Bishop and loses his Queen, or Black will probably nail the enemy King, e.g. 30. f4 Qh3! or 30. Kg5 Kh8! It’s these complications, so imperfectly presented, which bring a warm inner glow to a player with attacking proclivities. However, puting proclivities aside (which you should, because they are quite heavy to carry for too long), why not just play 26...Qf1+ 27. Rg2 f5!
If 28. Bd3 Qxf3 29. Be2! Qe3! Heavy. He has to lose the exchange.
Or 28. Rxd4 fxe4 29. Rxe4 (fxe4 Rac8 and Rf2 or Rxc2 depending where the Queen goes) Qxf3 with the problem-like threat (I have always wanted to write this) of 30...Qh5+ 31. Rh4 Qf5+ 32. g4 Qf3+ 33. Rg3 Qf1+ 34. Rg2 Rf3++ To prevent all this is hard. For instance 30. Rg4 Qf5 or 30. Rge2 Qf1+ 31. Rg2 (a King move loses as well) Qf5+ or 30. Qc4 Qf5+.
It is all very complicated if you are an ordinary and playing in a simul where players are dropping off. I was almost last around here, so I played quickly. Attacking a Queen can’t be all bad.

27. Qa4

He dare not take the Pawn.

27 ...........Bf2

Threatening Qf1+.

28. Rb1 Qxb1
29. Rxf2 Qb5!

The dust has settled and all the cliches can now go to bed. I am the exchange and Pawn up so I figure to go for simplification, and win by technique. Problem is, I don’t really have any technique. I am also playing a Master and I am now the only player left in the simul. It’s mano-el-mano against a player far better than me, who is unlikely to make any more mistakes. We play very quickly from this point on.

30. Qxb5 axb5
31. Bd3 Rb1
32. Re2 Rfe8
33. f4

He’s doing the best he can with a losing position. It’s a principle of practical chess that you fight as hard as you can, making it difficult for your opponent who may lose heart or make a mistake in the face of your defiance. Craig probably also suspected that I play the endings worse than I do the opening and middle game, because I am such a well rounded player.

33 ............Kf8

Not bad, but why not e6 or e5 and if he doesn’t take then f6?

34. Kg4 h6

I am scared of shadows. If I let the King get to g5 then f6+ and if Kh6 Kf7 and if then Kxh7?? Rh8++

35. h4 e6

Finally, but is it too late?

36. dxe6 Rxe6
37. Rxe6 fxe6
38. Bxg6 Kg7
39. Bd3!

The strategy for White in this ending is to exchange Pawns. Black is vulnerable on the King side and he could conceivably be tricked into letting White get a passed Pawn, which will need blockading. I will then find it hard to get my Queen side Pawns rolling. But I had the glimmer of a plan to win the ending. Combinations again.

39 ..........b4
40. Kf3 b3!?
41. cxb3 Rxb3
42. Ke4 Rxd3!

I saw a win with this little combo Not that I want to brag or anything, but Capablanca won a lot of endings this way.

43. Kxd3 h5!

This boy can play the ending. I read in Capablanca’s ‘Chess Fundamentals’ that this kind of move keeps enemy Pawns back. If you haven’t read Capablanca’s book, you should. It’s the best starting place to learn to play well. Not mine, but The Bot's opinion (Botvinnik).

44. Ke4 Kf6

Surely, if there is a God, or even just a super powerful extraterrestrial watching over the world, Black should win.

45. Ke3 Kf5
46. Kf3 e5??

WRONG PAWN YOU KLUTZ! 46...d5 wins. What kind of a Palooka is this guy?

47. fxe5 dex5

If 47...Kxe5, g4.

48. Ke3 d5


49. Kd4 Drawn

49...Kg5 50. Kxe4 Kxg3 51. Kf5 Kxh4 52. Kf4 is a theoretical draw even I know about.

So justice was not done, the world is not a fair place, the supreme comedian of the universe failed to guide my hand to the right Pawn, and the Master player got away with a draw. Don’t give me any of that nonsense about us being responsible for our actions, and therefore because I blundered, the result was fair.

My intellect agrees with you but my emotions do not. Grrrrrrrrrr.

Black is left with all of the agony and none of the ecstacy. Just a few bad cliches for comfort.

Still, from a positive point of view, in future games I learned to take time in the ending. Don’t rush your moves, think before moving. Botvinnik once made the pithy observation that too many players move before they think. It seems obvious that thought should precede movement in chess, but sometimes it takes a genius like The Bot to point it out. I also studied endings more and more and I can now say confidently, that I play the ending better than I play the opening and middle game. That’s encouraging don’t you think? Maybe not.

Oh Caissa, you brazen hussy.......

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It’s fun with bluster and bombast ~ the immodest approach to chess annotation

Hi Pilgrims,

In going over games annotated by today’s Master players I find a distinct lack of personality coming through the annotations. It’s as though a humourless computer has prepared the notes. Maybe that is what happens. Fritz is not noted for having much of a personality.

I miss the bombast, the snide asides at an opponent, the sheer chutzpah of the ‘I am wonderful and I saw it all’. The annotators I like are people such as Nimzovich, Alekhine, Tartakower, Larsen, Fischer, Bronstein, Tal, and of the non-champion level players, Chernev and Reinfeld. You learn something, and you know a human being with a sense of humour, a personality, is behind the notes.

Today’s players seem to have been infected by the computer disease: Think like a computer, play like a computer, annotate like a computer.

At any rate, the following game is annotated in a bombastic style which suits the actual play. An unusual defence and tricky play calls for the old fashioned annotating style.

Older readers should be reminded of some of the writings of past great players, from before the age of computer (uninspired) chess.

J. M. Bruere (2020) VERSUS G. Eraclides (1830)
Correspondence Chess League of Australia Tournament 2603/1997


1. Nf3 Nf6
2. g3 b5!?

As always we intend to be original and put theory aside as much as possible. White is an experienced player and Life Master of CCLA; Black is a pain in the neck.

3. Bg2 Bb7
4. 0-0 e6
5. d3 c5

Bravely played. If space is there for the taking, and you want to play for a win, then a move like this is necessary.

6. e4 d6

We have assymetry: A solid Kings Indian type of formation for White; Queenside expansion and opportunities for Black.

7. Nbd2 Nbd7
8. Qe2 Qc7

Preventive prophylaxis (and is there any other kind?) against e5, which is a thematic idea for White in this kind of position.

9. c3 Be7
10. d4 a6

Karpov’s idea to stabilize the Queenside; c4 is also possible.

11. Re1 e5!?

Our move to destabilize the game! Black has not yet castled, but is taking measures to prevent White's threat to expand in the centre: 11 ...0-0 12. e5 dxe5 13. dxe5 leaves White with a strong position in the centre. An eye on the centre, and a squint to the flanks - that is the watchword.

12. dxe5

White does not want to lock things up after 12. d5 c4, with Black threatening Nc5/d3, or a long game of maneuvering in blocked conditions. He also reasons that as Black has not yet castled, any opening of the position must favour the more developed side. This is routine, classical thinking, of the year dot. It may be true in symmetrical openings, on which so much of the classical ‘pseudo-thinking’ was based, but with assymetry comes tension. This creative challenge for both players means that concrete analysis is the order of the day.

12 .........dxe5
13. Nh4

Intending Nf5 and/or f4 with a swift mobilization. Black reacts concretely.

13 .........g6

It may look ugly, but beauty, we have always maintained, is to be found in the effectiveness of the move. On the broader canvas on which we think, the assymetry and concrete play of Black has made this an interesting game, avoiding the soporific dangers posed by White's Nf3 opening.

14. Nf1

To unleash the Bishop on c1 to h6 and trap Black's King in the centre. Black replies accordingly, increasing White's frustration and need to think concretely at all times.

14 ......Bf8!?
15. f4 c4

Forget 15 ......exf4? White takes with the g Pawn and then just plays the rest of the game by the numbers. Black prefers a threatening gesture, and lays a deep positional trap for his opponent.

16. Nf3?!

With the Rook on e1 instead of f1, White's coordination is inadequate when Black does not oblige with exf4. If 16 fxe5 Black has Nxe5 (even Qxe5 is possible), 17 Bf4 Qb3+ (17...Be6 allows 18 Bh6/g7) with Nfd7 to follow and the isolated Pawn is blockaded; if now 18 Be3 Bc5 (18...Qc7 19 Bd4 Bc5 is also interesting) and matters are still unclear (Black's prefered strategy in the b5 line); 16 f5 is not strong with the Rook on e1; Black can play Nc5 and Bg7 or Rd8 or 0-0 after Bg7, with matters remaining complicated for both players. White prefers the clearer strategy of reorganizing his forces more effectively, and this gives Black time to act.


Hoping to exchange black square Bishops, and if that does not occur, then following manoeuvre was already calculated as being creatively interesting.

17. Kh1?!

He wants the Bishop for attack on h6 and the weakened black squares, but in the creative complications, something has been overlooked.


When he played 16. Nf3 he blocked the Bg2 diagonal defence of e4, making this charming exchange possible. We formed the impression that our unconventional play was becoming an irritation to White.

18. Be3

There is a danger on f2 if the dancing Knight should land there, so he defends this point first. Black's reply avoids helping White by exchanging.

18 .........0-0
19. Ne5 Rfe8

At this stage we feel rather pleased with our highly original game and can indulge in a positional move even traditionalists can understand.

20. Nxd7 Qxd7

Best. If Rxd7, 21. BxB is good for White (the Re7 is loose), and our preventive strategy cannot allow that.

21. Rad1 Qc7

Not a problem.

22. Qc2

Getting out of the line of the Rook.

22 ..........Bxe3
23. Rxe3 Nc5

Black now indulges his fantasy of being a positional player.

24 Rde1

Note that 24. RxR would simply reinforce Black's pressure on the open central files; 24. BxB QxB+ gives Black the d3 outpost after all the exchanges (as in the game). White hopes to bring his Knight out to defend g2.

24 ...........Rxe3
25. Nxe3

Poor Knight - finally coming back into the game, but on a less than optimum square.

25 .........Nd3!

What an outpost! Only our innate modesty prevents us from assigning this move two exclamation marks. The devious plan, first worked out with 2...b5, now bears fruit.

26. Re2 Bxg2+!
27. Nxg2

Begginers should note that 27. Rxg2 Ne1 wins the house and 27. Kxg2 Qc6+ is unwelcome.


A pin, an attack on the white squares, control of the diagonal - it doesn't get better than this.

28. Kg1 Qc5+

The step-wise technique (Troitzky) to acquire more space as we get closer.

29. Kf1 Qd5

If the Knight moves, its Qh1 mate! A triumph of restriction.

30. Kg1 Qc5+

Making up time; White would love a draw.

31. Kf1 Rd8
32. Ne1 Qd5

Threatening mate (not mateship).

33. Kg1 NxN
34. RxN Qd2

It’s time to cash in on on all that positional pressure. Otherwise, ‘What's it all about, Boris?’

35. Re8+

White is aiming to place his Rook as aggressively as possible for this ending, but 35. QxQ RxQ 36. Rb1 or 35. Qb1 Kg7 (or Rd3) are better, although Black is still for choice and to a player of our level, the win is a matter of technique.

35 ..........Kg7
36. Qxd2 Rxd2
37. Ra8 Rxb2
38. Rxa6 b4!!

Ka-Pow! This is the move White missed.

39 cxb4 c3!

White Resigns. 40 Rc6 c2 and it is over.
Thank you linesmen, thank you ball-boys.

We were pleased to win in the fashion that we did, demonstrating the soundness of our philosophy.

If a player can use the principle of ‘creative randomisation’, taking the game out of the natural flow which the opponent expects, then there are plenty of winning chances for both players.

The games of the pseudo-classical period (1885 to 1938) looked so impressive (Steinitz, Tarrasch, Rubinstein, etc...) because White was allowed to play symmetrical positions where the best Black could hope for was equality. The stale technique of these great players was such that Black was doomed if he made a slight error in position. As our modern praxis shows, asymmetry and a drop of chaos can do wonders for Black's game and the cause of chess as a spectacle.

Our ideas, which have hypermodernized the sterile play of the past, rarely lead to characterless equality.

I want to acknowledge all the great players of the past whose phrases I have purloined, especially the great Aron Nimzovich.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Eraclides versus the Masters Part 2 ~ Slam-Dunked by Greg Hjorth

Hi Pilgrims,

Here is another game against a master level player. This time it’s against International Master Greg Hjorth.

When I played him in 1986, he was quite young, still a student at University, and already a very strong player. He had represented Australia in youth tournaments and was rated in the top three or four players in the country.

Greg had, and probably still has, a very relaxed style. He never seems to rush his moves, which seem simple and direct. Invariably they are positionally sound, particularly when contrasted to a player at my level. Somehow, during the course of a game, his opponents seem to self destruct and that’s exactly what I did in the game below.

In a lot of open tournaments, they use what is called an ‘accelerated draw’ when matching players. Someone rules a line through the median point of chess players listed by rating level; who-plays-whom in the first two rounds is determined by the principle of matching the top-half (the strongest players) against the bottom-half (the weaker players). The idea is to get the strongest players out in front so they can then be matched or paired in further rounds by points scored as well as ratings.

The assumption is that the strongest players will most likely win their first two round games and form a glamorous subgroup within the general tournament participants, the rest of us ‘hoi poloi’. Great for the onlookers, not so good if you are in the bottom half of the draw, because you end up on minus two points before you get to play someone remotely close to your rating level. Sometimes a weak player manages to get a point or two and join the elite group in the tourney, but most times he or she just gets hammered. And to think you paid to enter the tournament!

As you can tell, I was invariably in the bottom half and generally went into the third round on minus two.

So, in this tournament, in the first round, I was matched against the number one player of the top-half, International Master Greg Hjorth. He was rated 2390. I was rated 1471. I have to confess, that if the fascists who organise such tourneys select a strong player for me to play, I would rather it was someone really strong and even famous. Then I could say I was beaten by somebody, rather than another nobody who just happens to be a few rating points on the other half of the dividing line. And maybe I could learn something. Was I nervous? Not really. What’s wrong with conceding 900 rating points in a slam-bang weekender?

What was the first thing I learned in playing against this level of opponent? One of the characteristics of Greg’s play was speed. He played very quickly, and not just against a bunny like me, but against anyone. He knew intuitively the right squares to place his pawns and pieces. One of the dangers you face against someone much faster than you is being tempted to speed up your play to match theirs. Don’t do it!

In order to avoid falling in with your opponent’s speed of play, you may need the willpower of a Botvinnik. The old Bot was definitely on the slow side in playing speed, and even avoided lightning games with the lame excuse that it would make him superficial in normal time games. I think he just did not fancy getting duffed up by lesser players who could play quickly.

I know it’s hard, but you must MAINTAIN YOUR NATURAL PLAYING TEMPO. Sorry to shout, but the point has to be made. You must not speed up. Equally important, you must not slow down too much in compensation or to get your nerves under control. If you have a way of playing which gets you good results and manages the clock effectively, then try and stick to it. Ignore the clock pounder on the other side.

To underscore this point, here’s a story about what happened to me in a club game. I once faced a schmuck who played a normal time game at blitz speed. He would slam down the pieces after his moves, belt the clock, and glare at me while I thought. I was less experienced back then and should have given him The Three Stooges ‘two-fingered eye poke’, for daring to disturb my strategic ruminations. You can probably tell I did not like this schmuck, I mean fellow. I concentrated on my play and slowed right down to annoy him in return. You want speed? I’ll give you glacial slowness and hope your arteries are hardening. Alas I overcompensated. I slowed down too much, and although I got ahead in material and had a winning position, I lost on time. So I became the schmuck in the end.

Greg Hjorth was a very fast player, but throughout our game he was polite and a fine sportsman. He did not even get up disdainfully from the board, although I am sure he was often bored as I tried to get my fossilized neurons to synapse with each other. I played too quickly at the start of the game and then slowed right down when I saw I had made things difficult for myself. I managed to play reasonably well and could have done a lot better but by then I was in my all too familiar time trouble. I went from too fast to dead slow.

When I arrived at the table, Greg Hjorth was already sitting down, reading a book on philosophy. He was demure, soft featured, with an ersatz pageboy haircut. He looked very young. We shook hands, and I resisted the temptation to improve my playing chances by dislocating his shoulder. I’m not that kind of player.

He noted my surname and asked whether it bore any relationship to the surname of the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus. Coincidentally, I had an honours degree in philosophy, and was able to explain to the young master that my surname was of Greek-Cypriot origin and meant ‘son of Hercules’. You know how we Greeks love our classical heritage, and wasn’t the old Hercules some kind of philosopher as well? At any rate, I lacked both my namesake’s physical and chess playing strength. You didn’t know Hercules played chess? Let me set you straight, the ancient Greeks invented chess, or rather their mythical heroes did. The Trojan War as recounted by Homer, was actually just an allegorical account of the great chess match between the top clubs of Mycenae and Troy. At stake was which club would get Helen - an indifferent player with great knockers. Even back then, it was hard to get women to join chess clubs.

Greg Hjorth is now a mathematics professor somewhere in the United States, I think in California, and plays in chess tournaments in the USA. If you’re reading this Greg, ‘Hi from Oz’, and while Eraclides is not a lineal descendant of Heraclitus, the Eraclides playing style may suggest some kind of connection. It’s all those disconnected fragments that fall short of coherence.

Victorian Chess Association Daylight Weekender March 14 to 16, 1986

Greg Hjorth IM (2390) VERSUS George Eraclides (1471)

1. Nf3 e6!?
2. g3 Nc6?!

Hjorth used to play the Catalan formation against almost anything. I was trying to get out of the books early and although my moves look odd, the position I reach is not as bad as it looks. Thank you Nimzovich.

3. Bg2 d5
4. 0-0 Nf6
5. d4 Be7
6. c4 0-0
7. b3 b6
8. Nc3 Bb2

Seems pointless, as Hjorth now just closes the diagonal, but how do you develop the Queen’s Bishop otherwise in this position? Or maybe it’s all about overprotecting d5. Thank you Nimzovich.

9. cxd5 exd5
10. Bg5 Ne4

Best under the circumstances. An outpost. Thank you Nimzovich.

11. Bxe7 Nxe7

At least Black is trying to play actively instead of just sitting back waiting for the master player to unleash his genius.

12. Qc2 Nxc3?!

Hjorth does not want to ‘release’ the b7 Bishop’s diagonal by exchanging on e4 but did Black have to capture on c3? A clamp on the centre may have been tried with 12...f5. I let Nimzovich down by turning away from central ideas.

13. Qxc3 Nf5?

Hjorth is going to pummel my c7 so why didn’t I try Rac8 intending c5, or even Ng6? I was playing too fast for my own good (see introductory warnings above).

14. Ne5 Qd6
15. Rac1 f6?!

We now get a series of exchanges and I start to play too slowly because of the complications my play had generated. I lose a Pawn and get into my regular time trouble (see introductory warnings above).

16. Qxc7 Qxc7
17. Rxc7 fxe5
18. Rxb7 Nxd4
19. Bxd5+ Kh8
20. e3

The discovered skewer of the Rook at a8 leads to nought.

21. Be4!?

If 21. e4 Nf3+ Black can play his Rook to f6 and perhaps generate counterplay.

22. Kg2!?

He wants to be nearer the centre for the ending and also avoid a back rank check at some stage. See notes at move 26 below.

23. Bf3 Nxa2

I could have tried e4 but after Bg4 I could not see a clear and strong line. In time trouble I play the check.

24. Rxa7 Rd2
25. Rd1 Rb2?!

I was nervous about the possibilities of a back rank mate but 25...Rxd1
26. Bxd1 Nc3 was better, although the Knight’s flightiness will not prevent a lost ending.

26. Rc7

What was it Nimzovich said about the seventh rank? Absolutely fabulous. Could I now have played 26...Rxb3? If I move my Rook from it’s seventh rank and a possible double attack on f2, Hjorth plays 27. Rdd7.

26 .............Re1?

So I oblige with a silly move in time trouble. Instead 26...e4 was worth a try:
27. Bxe4 Rfxf2+ 28. Kh3 Rxh2+ 29. Kg4 h5+ 30. Kg5 Rhd2 is a more noble way to go down.

27. Rdd7 e4?

In time trouble I thought I still had my Rook on f8. Daft play with more daftness to come as I get slammed for the count.

28. Bxe4 Rg8
29. Bd5 h3
30. Rxg7! Rxg7
31. Rc8+ Kh2
32. Be4+ Rg6
33. Rc7+ Kg1
34. Bxg6 Rxb3??
35. Bf7+ Resigns

Black saves his best move for last. Goodnight Irene.

If I had a little more time at the end or used a bit more time at the start - in other words played to my own tempo - perhaps I could have done more with a reasonable position (see note at move 12).

But equally, if I was a good player, or played at master level, or if the sea breezes had not irritated my sinuses (the Tarrasch excuse for losing to Lasker) then I would not have lost.

In the counterfactual world where ‘maybe’ is reality, we are all world champions. Hooray!