Deadly Women (with Matt Fullerty)


Thursday, October 22, 2009

James Bond and Chess

James Bond and Chess

"The two faces of the double clock in the shiny, domed case looked out across the chess-board like the eyes of some huge sea monster that had peered over the edge of the table to watch the game. The two faces of the chess clock showed different times."

With these words Ian Fleming opens chapter 7 of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. In 1963 this novel became the second film in the perennial James Bond series.

But there's not much 0-0 in 007 -- or much chess in most chess fiction, for that matter. The book only tells us that grandmaster Kronsteen, a secret agent of the deadly SMERSH, won this game after introducing "a brilliant twist into the Meran Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined to be debated all over Russia for weeks to come."

The position on a wallboard in the movie is based on an intruiging King's Gambit won by Boris Spassky against David Bronstein at the USSR Championship in 1960. Here it takes place at the Venice International Tournament where Kronsteen ignores a courier's sealed message ordering him to stop play on the spot. He knows he risks his life if he fails to obey, but how many players can abandon a sure win?

At his own peril Kronsteen waits three more minutes to accept his opponent's resignation; but later he must explain to his superior why he did not obey at once. In the book his excuse is accepted reluctanctly:

"To the public, Comrade General, I am a professional chess player. If, with only three minutes to go, I had received a message that my wife was being murdered outside the door of the tournament hall, I would not have raised a finger to save her. My public know that. They are dedicated to the game as myself. Tonight, if I had resigned the game and had come immediately upon receipt of that message, 5000 people would have known that it could only be on the orders of such a department as this. There would have been a storm of gossip. My future comings and goings would have been watched for clues. It would have been the end of my cover. In the interests of State Security, I waited three minutes before obeying the order. Even so, my hurried departure will be the subject of much comment."

In the real game Spassky gambled by rejecting the prudent 15 Rf2. Black in turn missed the best defense by 15...exf1/Q 16 Rxf1 Bxd6 17 Qh7 Kf8 18 cxd6 cxd6 19 Qh8 Ke7 20 Re1 Ne5 21 Qxg7 Rg8 22 Qxh6 Qb6 23 Kh1 Be6 24 dxe5 d5 25 Qf6 Kd7 and the king trips to safety with a possible draw in the offing.

Later if 17...Kxf7? (necessary is 17...Qd5 18 Bb3 Qxb3) 18 Ne5 Kg8 19 Qh7! Nxh7 20 Bc4 Kh8 21 Ng6 mate.

White: BORIS SPASSKY Black: DAVID BRONSTEIN King's Gambit 1960 1 e4 e5 2 f4 exf4 3 Nf3 d5 4 exd5 Bd6 5 Nc3 Ne7 6 d4 0-0 7 Bd3 Nd7 8 0-0 h6 9 Ne4 Nxd5 10 c4 Ne3 11 Bxe3 fxe3 12 c5 Be7 13 Bc2 Re8 14 Qd3 e2 15 Nd6!? Nf8? 16 Nxf7 exf1/Q 17 Rxf1 Bf5? 18 Qxf5 Qd7 19 Qf4 Bf6 20 N3e5 Qe7 21 Bb3 Bxe5 22 Nxe5 Kh7 23 Qe4 Black resigns

Source: Evans On Chess. June 30, 1995. From Chess Connection
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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's a Book! No, It's a Vook! No, It's a... Nook?

As Joseph L. Selby pointed out in yesterday's comments, Barnes and Noble just unveiled the Nook, and I must say, it is a handsome device indeed. And with its dual screens, Wi-Fi capability, an open format, and (GET THIS) a "book lending" feature, I think it's my new favorite reader. (Sorry, Sony... we can still be friends.) And what are you talking about, Kindle? We were never anything at all.

With the e-reader market exploding and some even more promising technology on the way, I feel I must reiterate my position that e-books are absolutely the future of reading/writing/publishing. Don't get me wrong: there will be challenges, and there are some of you who will only surrender your printed books when pries them from your cold, dead fingers, but I think change is in the air (and has been for awhile) and while e-books certainly won't spell the end of publishing, they're going to be game-changers. Industry professionals who can't keep one step ahead of said game (or at least keep up) will be left behind.

Which brings me to today's question: has Barnes & Noble's e-reader changed your opinion about the technology in any way? Are you more likely to buy a Nook than a Kindle?
Source: Pimp My Novel
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Gambit: Where was the Paul Morphy Chess Club?


Blake Pontchartrain

Hey Blake,

Ronnie Virgets wrote a wonderful column on the history of Paul Morphy. My question is: where was the Paul Morphy Chess Club? I can remember an uncle of mine speaking of it often as a place where men met for lunch, cards and cigars.

Kenny Mayer

Dear Kenny,

Virgets' story ("Chairman of the Board," News Views, May 6, 2008) about our local chess genius who died in 1884 at age 47 was excellent.

Morphy was the first great American-born chess player. He traveled to Europe in the 1850s, defeating all challengers except the English champion of the time, Howard Staunton, who refused to play him. Morphy, however, still was hailed as the chess champion of the world.

Paul Morphy Chess Club in New Orleans had several locations, the first in the Balter Building, in the block surrounded by Commercial Place, Camp Street, and St. Charles and Poydras avenues. The last was at 316 St. Charles Ave.

The club was organized in May 1928, when several chess-playing gentlemen agreed to form a new club devoted exclusively to the game. Members were solicited, and the club soon had officers and a charter. New members decided to name the club after the local chess master they so revered. The club opened its doors to members for play on June 22, 1928, Paul Morphy's birthday. There is no longer a chess club by this name in New Orleans, but there are several in America, and there's even a Paul Morphy Chess Club in Sri Lanka.

An earlier group called New Orleans Chess Club was founded in 1841, but it languished due to lack of interest. Later, many New Orleanians became interested in the game when young Paul Morphy burst on the scene. By the mid-1850s, the club sponsored weekly tournaments and membership increased rapidly. Morphy himself was elected president of the club in 1865. Earlier, when Morphy went to Europe in June 1858, the New Orleans Chess Club offered to pay his way. Morphy declined because he did not want to be considered a professional chess player.

Another famous club in the Crescent City was the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club. This organization was founded in 1880, shortly before Morphy's death. The club first met in July in a room at 128 Gravier St. There were 27 members. It was an immediate success and membership grew rapidly. New quarters had to be found, so the group relocated to Common Street and then to a three-story building at the corner of Canal and Baronne streets.

Then disaster struck: A fire in 1890 burned the building to the ground. Lost in the fire was invaluable Morphy memorabilia. The owner of the structure agreed to rebuild, and soon the club was re-established in comfortable surroundings on the third floor. At this point, there were more than 1,100 members.

In 1920, another move brought the club to 120 Baronne St., where the men played various games in splendor. It occupied four floors in a large building, which had many rooms for games, as well as dining rooms, a billiard hall, a library and bedrooms for men who lived at the club.

It was after the death of Judge Leon Labatt - a strong supporter and member of the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club - and a number of resignations that the members decided to form a new group: the Paul Morphy Chess Club.

Morphy retired from chess long before his death. He played absolutely no games of chess with anyone after 1869.


To read my chess novel about Paul Morphy's life, please see this link.

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