Archive for the ‘Personal Interest & Experience’ Category

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Before I returned to chess I did play in a tournament in Kuwait once. I remember that I enjoyed it very much despite being so rusty.

I found evidence in the video below, at around the 3.50 mark, that despite such a long hiatus I still played 1. f4 [and Rachel, the picture of me @ the 02.50 mark shows me wearing the green cardigan that Al bought me, may he rest in peace].

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“Progress is the injustice each generation commits with regard to its predecessors.” 

Emile Cioran

It’s arguable that chess is on the up in England. Those of us who understand club and county chess exceptionally well can tell you that both of the aforementioned pale in comparison to what they were in more recent decades…

So I visited The London Chess and Bridge centre in Middlesex yesterday. It’s based in a place called London…or something like that. On ‘Baker street’ apparently…

I thought it would be at best dingy and disheveled, full of depressed, lost souls that are far too British in their demeanour, however, that was not the case. It was, in fact, quite the opposite, and in becoming excited by that -just look at what I went and bought!

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The avarice of assertiveness without an ensuing assuredness has struck again. My daughter seized upon her father’s treasured possessions then reeked havoc with glitter! The copies I made of Chess in Bedfordshire, published so long ago (search within the site yeah) have…hmm…but being only 4 years old, Grace, perhaps convinced that a picture really does say a thousand words, depicted our great forefathers, and tbh, I’m not quite sure if she’s got it right there!


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“In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps,
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures.”

Faith Healing -Philip Larkin

Depart here: arrive there. I am about to ‘win the exchange’, to put it metaphorically for ahead is an ascent into the sky by A380, leaving behind a bid farewell to the fragments of a life long since passed, still echoing, resonating into that to come: the resumption of the life I chose, the airline chosen to carry me there, and my child waiting for her father to carry her, therefore, an exchange of locations awaits. I will ‘win the exchange’ but it is not without an evinced sense of sorrow. To cherish that disparate fragment left behind so deeply, I will miss it…I know how I will feel and think during take-off next week: ‘Into my heart an air that kills’…one day next year the Bedfordshire chess scene will feel like ‘the land of lost content’, that I can tell … .

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A Shropshire Lad v.40 A. E. Housman

Behold the spectacle of Bedford Chess Club! Before departing I went there to see both it and its members new and old. It was great to thank Mr. Paul Habershon for the help he has given and to be escorted to the bar by Mr. Nigel Staddon, now 87 years old, able to answer the questions I posed. It was also a pleasure to meet Mr. Steve Pike, and have a chat at the bar… in fact I wonder and ask myself did I spend more time chatting in the bar than in the club watching games? All in all, truly amazing it was and whether or not I had drunk cider just before never mattered…not that I would ever do such a thing you understand being on the medication that I am!

Oops! Now where's that delete button gone?

Oops! Now where’s that delete button gone?

At the centre of the county scene flourishes Bedford Chess Club. I was so welcomed, it was so very touching but within my heart a sadness spoke too, it said ‘When you close the door as you leave, you must say goodbye to not just the members but the club as a whole’. Many I met were kind and so polite, happy to see me again. There was much to talk about and part of me wanted not to go but to stay… .

I left the building and there something left me…when the exit door was opened it jarred then splintered through my heart…but I remembered as one door closes another opens, and close it I did…so upon the street I stood alone… .

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.”
Here -Philip Larkin
There, stood staring into an avenue empty, my brain stopped processing for a split second or two: then I heard the trees arching over rustle in the wind that gusted suddenly, saw the street lights become brighter, felt the pain of ‘farewell’ sharpening, and for a moment I was disorientated. Towards the train station I walked happy but sad, sad but happy as I had an evening so inspired by the courtesy and company of others, and it cannot be repeated… .
To the action… .

In Bedford 3, I offer assistance to Steve Pike’s son at @6.10 then appear!

Farewell beloved Bedford Chess Club…it was such a pleasure, I do hope one day I will see you again…once I have won the exchange (of locations) and played on with a better position…perhaps I will return with my daughter to play also…if I can free us up… .

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Life moves us on. And on. And whilst at the station awaiting an extortionately priced train to where I grew up, that afternoon of horrendous delays extended long into the evening… . It was then, and only then, that my love of the chess club in Bedford became perceptible as a dissonant fragment of a life long passed by, thus a cynical epiphany occurred. I told myself, ‘what I tolerate, so must my child, as she will endure what I endure’. Crap train service as always, for example. I told myself, ‘If you tolerate this (extortionate and crap train service) then your child will be (the) next (to tolerate this extortionate and crap train service)’… .

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You pretend to what you say you feel
You pretend that you’re something special
All your lies that you hide behind
I see right through you
See right through you

The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

In the final day, which had two rounds of the Bedfordshire County Championship in May 2010, tragedy struck. In the break between the morning and afternoon game I sat by myself as quiet and deep in thought as always. A close friend called to say that our mutual friend and Irish man Tom O’Grady had suddenly died. His hospital told him his cancer returned and he had five days to live only… . They were correct, he died five days later. Leaving his two teenager sons behind. They lost the father they loved, his family lost a member so beloved, his many friends he was so close to lost a great companion…upon the cricket pitch I had wandered into, there I stood remembering how charming his banter was, the intellectual American lady I knew was much pleasured by his gentlemanly, jovial and captivating tête-à-têtes always within earshot of anyone nearby wherever he was… .

She said “The water has no memory.”
For a few months everything about our lives was perfect.
It was only us, we were inseparable.
But gradually, she passed into another distant part of my memory,
until I could no longer remember her face, her voice, even her name.

The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

So hurt I remained on the pitch since I was more isolated there, standing towards where the horizon broadened with that which withered and that which did not. Of all people to be taken away…why…why him? I stopped so very hurt knowing he had suffered so greatly for so long…his child autistic and in need of such great care, then of course, the two stabbings in London…was he really the same thereafter? Poor, poor Tom.

We have got, we have got a perfect life – The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

I could not go home on that day at that time so play on I did. It was my worst game ever. In shock, I never wanted to be there, never spoke to anyone, never concentrated, and stood at the window to stare into the fields beyond so that no one would see when tears flowed from my eyes. I could not try in my game and lose I did. It mattered not. You must never play chess under such tragic circumstances for its outcome can never matter…life itself matters more…R. I. P Tom O’Grady. Good bye my good friend.

Take your pride, take your vanity. Can’t you see that your ego’s empty. The Perfect Life – Steve Wilson

The writer of that below is so talented and clever. You won’t guess what it is about because that’s his style.

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“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” – Orson Wells

LIFTED FROM THE NEWS: ‘Harpenden, Hertfordshire had its reputation torn asunder in the media today when two chess-snobs, from Bedfordshire of all places, entered a chip shop nearly bombed during WW2, and sat guzzling chips, dressed up as Nazis, glorifying Germany’s greatest ever chess players. Whilst leaving, a local geriatric, witnessed by a teenager entering, pointed at them with his walking stick and said ‘Who do I kill?’ as he glared at them, just before he walked out and he got into his car, slamming his door shut’. When questioned, the owner of the shop said, ‘Oh I was so worried, when I said to them “HEY YOU TWO DROP GUNS!”, they turned their heads away and talked about someone called Tarrasch…I knew something would happen eventually…er chips anyone?’

Ha ha, only kidding but you must watch the video next before continuing because it’s so unique (oops sorry there, I forgot that unique is a non-gradable adjective) and the music is right up there. In the 1990s I only ever liked music that was strange, intense, or hopefully both. That track isn’t intense but the video is strange, very creative, and so well shot, and don’t ask me what the hell is going on in it because I can’t help you there, even though I’ve been watching it for twenty years now…oh and hardly anyone knows this but the cameo that appears @ 1.23 is Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, sadly no longer with us (btw, like Cobain, Hater were from Seattle). You must skip the first 27 seconds for the music to start. Enjoy what looks like a serial-killer laden and deeply disturbing sub-culture of Seattle, USA (not Harpenden UK)!

And on we go…

I have recently learned that when you should be dead but somehow are not, you quickly learn who your friends are and are not.

‘I’m so tired, I can’t sleep.’ Pennyroyal Tea -Nirvana 

Some thirty years ago the gentry across Bedfordshire befriended me but when news broke that I may not live on, concerns gripped the county!

‘Who gotta get it?’ Who do I kill -Hater 

Embraced at the airport upon my return by he who has always been closest to me, then two days later by he whose play I always admired the most -and despite being brain damaged with blood still trapped inside my head -what a glorious day was had in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, even though Mr. Nick McBride now lives in Kent and drove so very far to see me, waking up at 3.45 am -what a gentleman!

‘All of a sudden, I found myself in love with the world.’ Jesus Built My Hotrod -Ministry

At no point of the day could conversation cease, since there was so much to talk about, and with Harpenden being so quiet, quaint and quick to explore, wonderful it was to wander around its bookshops aimlessly, then reminisce whilst sat in its coffee shops until late-afternoon approached unwantonly. In one I noticed the flooring consisted of large square tiles, moving like a wandering king into adjacent squares in any direction, I reached the counter, coughed loudly and announced the following, ‘I’d like to “sit and drink Pennyroyal Tea. I’m anemic royality”‘, the reply was ‘Oh we have none sir but we can offer some “warm milk, laxatives and cherry flavoured antacids.”‘ 

On foot with the trees decidedly deciduous, the air chilly, the sky grey, the rain light, it felt autumnal and I felt alive again, albeit fleetingly as we walked along pathways that the village green sat by; there yellow leaves lay scattered, and unable to leap about like a draught, upon my direction I focused assiduously, able only to proceed like a pawn and move forwards slowly, unbalanced and numbed by the cold air cutting across the paths ahead, beyond the village green to where woodland stretched over a hill, then became lost on the horizon… .

But White argues, while it has been accounted one of history’s positive virtues to overcome (or conceal) the inherent meaninglessness of the past, such concealment is actually vicious, since it deprives people of any liberating vision of alternative possibilities and choices for their own futures. A better function for history is, again, to highlight the discontinuities and contingencies, and so empower people, in the cause of a visionary politics.

Beverly Southgate -History, What & Why, pg. 117, Routledge

…fearing I may be wounded without warning by the unforgotten should it impale my psyche once more, I told myself to concentrate instead on what lies ahead, and remain more focused upon what my interlocutor uttered, proceding undistracted by the leaves that thickened underneath, upon a pathway not as narrow as what we were engaged in, nor as broad as whatever questions were emplotted unrehearsed with utterances contiguous to sentences neither erroneous nor unswerving, each less precise than the next as we wandered on oblivious to whoever most affluent passed by as well as the countryside most English… .

‘Something, I felt, had to be done before I could again look composedly at English landscape’. Edward Thomas

That's Harpenden and we had some chips at a shop up the top of that hill just on the left.

That’s Harpenden and we had some chips at a shop up the top of that hill just on the left.

Poor old Dr. Tinsley, pancreatic cancer got the better of him.

Poor old Dr. Tinsley, pancreatic cancer got the better of him.

The conversation juxtaposed chess and draughts throughout the day, since we both represented England in the latter…are you now ablaze with amazement at how gifted we are or were back in the 90s?


One of my opponents that day, Tom Landry, is standing the forth from the left. I should have beat him but only drew.

Mr. McBride, who challenged draughts extraordinaire Pat McCarthy in Luton on July, 17th 1993 (and don’t ask me why I wore a red T-shirt that day, that was the last time I wore anything of that colour) once produced the English Draughts Journal. Dr. Marion Tinsley sent letters from Florida and Mississippi to him, they met up in London when Tinsley took on the computer Chinook, whilst walking round London parks together they chatted about draughts (or checkers as Tinsley would have called it), academia, chess and life in general.


Pat McCarthy, an Irishman, a true gentleman and sadly no longer with us.

Me one week before Nick's match with Pat took place. My hair didn't go down so well.

Me one week before Nick’s match with Pat took place. My hair didn’t go down so well amongst those who turned up to watch the draughts unfold. Inspired by Al Jourgenson from the intense metal band Ministry.

Oh dear, I do feel embarrassed now…erm…by all means watch Al in action below, its very strange, its funny and captivated me from 92-94 but I suspect you might find it a bit too much. Together the band on video are…erm…jesus how to put it into words, better that you watch and form your own opinions if you can but close your eyes @ 2.05 mark. What Al gets up to @ 3.20…well you watch it. Rather strange!!??



Al Jourgensen, (to the left) who can be well understood in his videos alone although I do not recommend you explore them as they are rather intense to say the least. The person on the right is, of course, William Burroughs who appears in their video ‘Just one fix’, which I suggest you don’t take interest in, even though one scene is a contender for the most difficult to understand in cinematic history. Perhaps only answerable by Burroughs’s fans.

A few of Nick’s comments can be found below.

Dr. Marion Tinsley: ‘I’ve studied draughts more than anyone more than anyone has ever studied anything in history.’

My questions: ‘Why would someone make such an assertion? Was he trying to show how superior he was or did he genuinely believe that?

Nick’s reply: ‘He genuinely believed, I think he was studying for 16 hours everyday.’

Nick’s asserts that: ‘God told him to go and work at Florida A&M

Nick speaks again: ‘Shaeffer said ‘If anything Tinsley’s the computer not his computer, you know not Chinook.’

Nick speaks for the final time reproduced here: ‘Tinsley’s best friend was Paul Thompson was a religious person…he’s the reason why Tinsley became a christian because initially he didn’t believe in god, he said “I always worshiped the shrine of reason.”, those are his exact words but he kept being challenged by Paul Thompson, “How can you explain this? How can you explain that?”.

The determination of this functional interrelationship is carried out by an operation that some modern philosophers, such as W. H. Walsh and Isiah Berlin have called “colligation”. In this operation the aim of explanation is to identify the “threads” that link the individual or institution under study to its specious sociocultural “present”.

Metahistory Page 17 -Hayden White, John Hopkins University Press, 1973

‘In my sleep I grind my teeth. I’m a teethgrinder.’ Teethgrinder -Therapy?

Conclusively, at the end of the day, having returned to a stalemated suburbia, I said goodbye as I exited the car with a knight maneuver, hoping Nick would have a safe journey home. Immediately it dawned that I had just had one of the nicest days of my entire life despite being in recovery, the gratitude undeniably present as I thought how kind it was for someone to drive so far. So many moments were captured en passant during the day telling me how wonderful it was to still be alive and how fortunate I was. I felt happy again and as that evening’s solitude beckoned it mattered not, as the contemplation that lay ahead was dependent upon it. What was the conclusion of the contemplation? Being alone is incorrect no matter where you are because it’s companionship that counts thus being back home in England can be wonderful… .


T’was where we strolled.

Beyond the conclusion lies that which is impromptu: cloaked in verisimilitude, an encore of paradigmatic performances, a staccato narratives between them, and a quotation from something browsed on the day finish the post hand-in-hand as if they were on stage, smiling away together in between bows toward the revered… .



“Losing his mind, he feels it going.” Teethgrinder -Therapy?

Aha, the Emerald Isle’s greatest ever band. The video below takes me back about 3 weeks when I lay in hospital also. Hmm, in fact what the patient undergoes and endures isn’t entirely dissimilar to what I suffered just before slaughter commenced especially @ 2.47 where the patient gets chainsawed open (Mark: it’s 1 month to the day of the accident, just forget about it yeah?)…oh okay, erm…I forgot about the riff that kicks in @ 1.56 whoa…and um…the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Finnish girl I broke my virginity with never ever stopped talking about the singer Andy Cairns the morning after, back in the day when meeting non-chess players and non-metalheads was expressly forbidden and punishable by death or so someone once told me down a pub called ‘The Cock’! Was he a cock? Dunno, can’t remember… .

“We don’t really learn anything properly until there is a problem, until we are in pain, until something fails to go as we had hoped … We suffer, therefore we think.”

Alain de Botton – How Proust can change your life (seen on sale in Harpenden)

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The greatest chess-related victory in my life was bringing a child into the world who was born out of her father’s love of chess, as he met her mother at a tournament. Even her initials suggest that at one point, she was the world’s youngest GM -but by name not prowess (which is why I requested she had no middle name)! And also, the chess community we were central to at the time was truly overjoyed that we brought a child into the world because I took more interest in her mother than the demise of my defeated opponents at their tournament that year. Still today it is spoken about and of course they all love my daughter, being the happy child she is!

Here is a video that shows her entry into the world and her development there after. There are many references to and pictures of chess…oh, I should also add that when I lived in the UAE I was a professional photographer for a short while, so you will be able to establish which photos were shot be me with consulate ease. There’s some video too, you might find her reaction to her first introduction to chess amusing, I know I certainly do.

The one picture that indicates the location where the causal chain formed and resulted in her birth 541 days later is at the 7.35 mark, as the table in the background is where I first met her mother in the 5-star hotel where the tournament took place. I also want to say that I only use SLRs on a shoot, so putting together a video took quite some time but it does stand out far above all others. The pictures offer a chronology of her first 9 months and some great piano music lies within also. Enjoy!

Thankfully, my daughter did not lose her father last month. Let us hope she will have a loving father for now and forever more… .

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