Blitzed

6 November 2011

My own chess career was modest: I made it as far as number 4 board in a moderately good school team. But that was enough to give me a respect for the game, and especially the way in which quite small advantages in ability were almost inevitably transformed into winning positions.

So I enjoyed the account by the journalist Stephen Moss of covering the launch of a chess initiative at the House of Commons, hosted by Rachel Reeves MP, now Shadow Treasury Secretary, who two decades ago was the British girls’ Under-14 champion. Moss challenged her to a game of blitz chess (10 minutes per player for all moves) and finding her “a little rusty” duly beats her.

But then the story takes a twist, in the shape of the former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, who was also attending the launch:

He quickly sizes up the situation – that Reeves, his host for the day and the new standard-bearer of chess in schools – has been walloped, and suggests a rematch. He will, he says, intervene on her behalf just three times.

We play again. … As the game gets more interesting he can’t help lending Reeves a hand. “I’m just offering general advice,” he insists as her position improves while mine deteriorates. … “Now final, final, final shot,” says Kasparov as my position becomes dire. He has seen a way to win my queen, and Reeves eventually sees it too. Amid much laughter and applause I resign.

“I think that’s one of the best games I’ve ever played,” says Reeves with neat self-deprecation.

The image at the top comes from Chess Right, and is used with thanks.

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