Chess Detective

Now I'm retired from full-time chess journal editing, I tin indulge my diverse passions (family history, local history, photography, guitar playing, etc) with a clear conscience. And also pay some attending to Britbase, the British chess game archive which I founded nearly xx years ago.

If I were asked to pick out my favourite pastime, I think I would stimulate got to summarise it as "looking things up". This encompasses theatre unit of measurement history, chess database work, too ane or ii other things. It dates good earlier the advent of the network (I used to pass days inwards musty records offices, tracing ancestors inwards ledgers dorsum inwards the 1980s too 1990s, long earlier Google). There's nada I similar amend than browsing through the index at the dorsum of a mass - almost whatever mass - or trying to regain arcane facts on the internet. I wouldn't dignify it with the discussion "research" since it tends to last unstructured too serendipitous, but it occasionally leads me to doing something useful, almost yesteryear accident.

I think this dear of looking things upward dates dorsum to my regain of chess literacy. I can't quite recollect how or when I learnt to read, but I create recollect the beginnings of my chess literacy. It was when I opened a mass called Chess for Children yesteryear Raymond Bott too Stanley Morrison, in all likelihood to a greater extent than or less 1961 when I was eight. I had already been initiated into chess, thank yous to my elderberry brother, so I didn't truly demand all the materials nigh how the pieces moved but I was amazed to larn from the mass that a chess game could last written down. That truly was a low-cal bulb minute for me. The idea that games could last recorded too played dorsum at one's leisure greatly impressed me. I'm yet non exclusively certain why but it was a revelation. It yet is. Imagine if ane could lookout adult man historic football game or cricket matches, from a hundred years ago, inwards total color too all-round stereo audio - that's how it feels for me to play through some ancient chess game, witnessing the exact moves on the board that Staunton, Morphy or Steinitz played. Fifty years on the sense of wonder yet hasn't worn off.

Influenza A virus subtype H5N1 twelvemonth or ii later, yet earlier I had played inwards whatever formal competitions or joined a club, I started writing downwards my ain distressing chess efforts, as good as cutting too pasting chess columns from newspapers into a form of scrapbook. We took the Manchester Guardian, so that meant Leonard Barden too his wonderful Saturday column, too also the Sunday Times, for which Hugh Alexander was an every bit impressive chess writer. The recording was, if anything, to a greater extent than of import to me than the playing, so it was almost inwards monastic tell to stimulate got an excuse to write to a greater extent than games downwards inwards my scrapbook that I felt the demand to start playing contest chess inwards 1967.

I yet stimulate got this itch to tape chess games, thus my creation of Britbase too my piece of occupation over the years as a game inputter for diverse competitions. Of course, in that place are plenty of other people at in ane lawsuit engaged worldwide on this of import piece of occupation too I salute their efforts. These days I run across myself to a greater extent than as a chess detective too a proof-reader, trying to cudgel the mountains of games beingness input into some semblance of order. I stimulate got to seek too proceed my style to perfectionism inwards banking concern check when I witness games beingness input too disseminated inwards industrial quantities, with an inevitably large issue of mistakes beingness made. Rather than lambast sloppy inputters (as I acknowledge I may stimulate got done on occasions), I think it is mostly amend to last constructive, bridle dorsum the criticism too assistance game inputters inwards their Sisyphean task.

We shouldn't last also surprised or shocked that commercial databases are non as accurate as nosotros would similar them to be. I know only also good the fourth dimension pressures that game inputters are nether to acquire games digitised to accompany press reports too website publicity. And in ane lawsuit a given day's pile of scoresheets stimulate got been carted away to brand room for the adjacent batch it is oftentimes also tardily to ready whatever errors that may stimulate got crept in.

The adjacent phase of the procedure is when games are collated too published on disk to accompany database software. I'm non quite certain how this procedure is conducted as I stimulate got never personally been involved it, but I suspect really footling resources is position into it. I would gauge ChessBase (or whoever is producing the disk) hire a handful of editors, who too then stimulate got to trawl the network too otherwise collate iv or 5 ane G k games, standardising tournament too names, adding ratings, etc, etc. I uncertainty that they tinker really much with the actual moves as recorded but other things tend to acquire awry: of import bits of information (whether a histrion lost on fourth dimension or yesteryear 'phone death', a banknote of the source of the game, etc) tin last flushed away, too dodgy decisions made as to which Smith, Jones, Garcia or Sokolov was involved.

Part of my self-imposed Britbase travel is to acquire through old United Kingdom of Great Britain too Northern Ireland of Britain too Northern Republic of Ireland bulletins, looking for games which are missing completely from commercial too online databases, but also for games which mightiness already stimulate got been recorded but are deficient inwards some of import honor (e.g. misattributed, curt on data, such as circular numbers too dates, or to a greater extent than importantly with incorrect moves). I may also generate 'stubs' or 'blanks', i.e. game records showing players, ratings, circular issue too date, but with no moves or only a brief textual overview of the game. This tin last useful for the generation of crosstables, too also prompts futurity researchers to acquire looking for the game moves.

Here's a illustration inwards point: I came across this game inwards Mega Database 2014. N.B. please don't add together the next to your database as it contains a issue of mistakes as it stands:

[Event "Lloyds Bank op"]
[Site "London"]
[Date "1973.??.??"]
[Round "3"]
[White "O'Kelly de Galway, Alberic"]
[Black "Penrose, Jonathan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A56"]
[PlyCount "73"]
[EventDate "1973.08.??"]
[EventType "swiss"]
[EventRounds "9"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2000.11.22"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e5 4. Nc3 d6 5. e4 Be7 6. Qd3 O-O 7. g3 Na6 8. h4 Nc7
9. a4 Na6 10. Bh3 Nb4 11. Qe2 Bxh3 12. Nxh3 Qd7 13. Kf1 Ne8 14. Kg2 f5 15. exf5
Qxf5 16. Ne4 Nf6 17. Nhg5 h6 18. Nxf6+ Rxf6 19. Ne4 Rf7 20. Ra3 Raf8 21. g4 Qd7
22. g5 Kh7 23. Rg3 Rf5 24. gxh6 g6 25. h5 g5 26. Bxg5 Bxg5 27. Nxg5+ Kxh6 28.
Ne4 Rf4 29. Rg6+ Kh7 30. Ng5+ Kh8 31. Rh6+ Kg8 32. Ne6 R8f6 33. Rxf6 Rxf6 34.
Qg4+ Kh8 35. h6 Rf7 36. Qg7+ Rxg7+ 37. hxg7+ 1-0

I constitute this ane with some other batch of games attributed to Lloyds Bank op 1973. Which brings me to the firstly error: in that place was no Lloyds Bank Masters inwards 1973 (that wonderful serial of tournaments didn't start until 1979). The other games I chop-chop figured out were played at the Islington weekender inwards Dec 1973 (which volition last coming to Britbase really shortly - my thank yous to Richard James for lending this too several other bulletins) but this ane clearly had nada to create with it as nobody called O'Kelly or Penrose took part.

The identity of the white histrion also made me suspicious. ChessBase had already confused the Belgian GM Alberic O'Kelly de Galway (1911-80) with the English linguistic communication histrion Rory O'Kelly (born 1950) several times inwards the 1990s, which I had reported to them too they had fixed a few years ago. It was fifty-fifty possible that Black was someone else - Jonathan has a blood brother Oliver who is a adept player, albeit unlikely to play inwards London since he is based inwards Edinburgh. I noted that Jonathan Penrose had never played the Czech Benoni before, but of course of didactics players tin alter their opening repertoire at whatever time.

My adjacent pace was to stimulate got a await through old magazines for 1973 but I couldn't regain whatever draw of pairings betwixt Penrose too either O'Kelly. Then I discovered that Ray Keene had annotated the game for Informator 17. Ray's version showed white as Rory O'Kelly, Black as Jonathan Penrose, the occasion only as "England" too the game moves ending at 31.Rh6+.

The adjacent pace was an slow ane - contact Ray! The Times' chess columnist responded to my electronic mail inside minutes too helpfully copied inwards his old schoolhouse colleague Rory O'Kelly who, a few minutes later, contacted me to confirm that he was the histrion of the white pieces:

"The game was played betwixt myself too Jonathan Penrose inwards a London League fit betwixt Mushrooms too Hampstead on tertiary Apr 1973. It truly ended 31 Rh6+ which was my sealed move. Penrose resigned without resuming. As I recall I felt confident plenty to tell him what I had sealed.
My half-dozen Qd3 was a TN - in all likelihood my only contribution to opening theory. The betoken was to play h4 too Bh3 without allowing a b5 sacrifice. In this illustration it also had the fortunate though unintended result of tempting my opponent into a really unhelpful excursion with his QN."
So, mystery solved. Here is the game, for your enjoyment, too to allow yous to ready the game on the database*. My thank yous to Ray too Rory for helping me to solve this mini-mystery.

* To capture the PGN data, click on the c8 foursquare on the board, too then cutting too glue from the pop-up window

Next Post Previous Post
No Comment
Add Comment
comment url