Montenegro’s revenge

Before the seventh round of the European Team Championship in Montenegro, I woke with a peculiar malaise I could not explain. Answer soon came, in an alarming salvo of diarrhoea. My hopes for an easy ride in my game against the German grandmaster Alexander Donchenko did not last long, and I landed in a tenable

Highlights from Budva

My hotel room in Montenegro enjoys a picturesque view of the Adriatic sea. It’s a 15 minute drive to Sveti Stefan, the island where Fischer faced Spassky in their 1992 rematch, 20 years after Fischer won the world title in Reykjavik. I am here playing for England in the biennial European Team Championship, where we have just finished in 6th

Double gold in Palermo

English grandmasters Michael Adams and John Nunn both won gold medals at the World Senior Championships in Palermo, which ended earlier this month. Adams was the top seed in the over-50 section, while Nunn was the top seed in the over-65s, and the reigning champion. With one round to go, both were half a point

Grand Swiss Gambit

Large chess tournaments are usually played according to the ‘Swiss’ pairing system. In each round, players are grouped according to their total points amassed so far, and match-ups for the next round take place between players in the same score-group. Even in a large field of diverse abilities, the potential winners tend to encounter their

A young contender

Bodhana Sivanandan won the gold medal in the World Girls U8 Championship in Sharm El Sheikh earlier this month, making her the first English world youth champion since 1998, when Nicholas Pert won the U18 event and Ruth Sheldon won the Girls U18. I witnessed Sivanandan’s enormous talent when we played a casual game of speed chess at ChessFest

Remembering Jonathan Penrose

The Jonathan Penrose Memorial Chess Challenge, held at Colchester Town Hall on 7 October, was a felicitous tribute to the ten-time British champion, who died in 2021, and would have turned 90 on that very day. Before it was razed by Boudicca, Colchester was one of the earliest Roman settlements on these isles. More recently, it


Magnus Carlsen was, as he said, ‘completely crushed’ in the second round of the Qatar Masters earlier this month. His opponent, 23-year-old Alisher Suleymenov from Kazakhstan, is a grandmaster, but on paper nowhere near to the level of the world elite. He played the game of his life, but his achievement was undermined by Carlsen’s

The long plan

‘Chess, an ancient game of strategy…’ – that’s what they write on the packaging in department stores. But in real life, playing a game of chess feels more like fighting fires, half of which you kindled yourself. Whatever grand ambitions you have, right now your queen is under attack and the next priority is your

A matter of technique

A queen and king can force mate against a lone king – that is as fundamental as it gets. Almost all regular players know that to be true, and they also know how to execute it. But players are regularly confronted by the distinction between ‘knowing that’, and ‘knowing how’. Many know that king, bishop

Harry Potter’s game of chess

Novice chess players can seem spellbound by the power of their own queen, zigzagging hither and thither in desperate search of bounty. You soon learn that on the chessboard strength is weakness and weakness is strength; the queen must flee from any attack while a pawn is, well, only a pawn in your game. Experienced

India’s rising stars

The former world champion Vishy Anand has described the current crop of young Indian talents as a golden generation. At last month’s Fide World Cup, four of the quarter-finalists were Indian. Most eminent was 17-year-old Gukesh, who recently entered the world top ten, narrowly overtaking Anand himself. Praggnanandhaa, 18 years old, went as far as

Show of Hans

Hans Niemann is back. The American grandmaster drew worldwide attention last year when he was alleged to have cheated by Magnus Carlsen. Niemann responded with a $100 million defamation lawsuit against various parties. That was dismissed by a federal judge in June, though Niemann could still have pursued some of his claims in a state court.

Norm score

‘How do you become a grandmaster?’    ‘You must climb the mountain, and defeat the opponent at the top.’ Alas, the answer is not nearly so succinct, and when I get asked the question, I remind myself to spare the finer details. The gist is that you must outperform an ‘average’ grandmaster over the course

Back to Baku

A fortnight ago, I wrote about Magnus Carlsen’s narrow escape against the German teenager Vincent Keymer at the Fide World Cup in Baku. That brush with mortality seemed to galvanise the world no. 1, who coasted to the final with convincing victories in his next three matches, against Ivanchuk, Gukesh and Abasov. His next opponent was

Senior teams

England teams brought home a raft of medals from the European Senior Teams Championship, held last month in Swidnica, Poland. England’s first team were top seeds in the over-50s event, with an all-grandmaster lineup (Mark Hebden, John Emms, Keith Arkell, Glenn Flear and Chris Ward). They faced a serious challenge from Slovakia, whom they defeated

Baku burner

If you love chess enough to play hundreds of tournaments you will, sooner or later, play like a numbskull. You lick your wounds, go to bed, and hope the engine belches into action the next day. As a wise man once told me, the great comfort of a knockout tournament is that if you play

Funding matters

Three cheers for last week’s news leak, indicating government plans to support English chess. According to Dominic Lawson, the president of the English Chess Federation (ECF) and The Spectator’s former editor, his conversation with Rishi Sunak, setting out the significant role played by chess players in the wartime codebreaking effort at Bletchley Park, proved particularly

British champions

Three protagonists shaped the action at the British Championships, held at De Montfort University in Leicester last month, with sharply different stories to tell. ‘Business as usual’ was a fair description of the top seed Michael Adams’s performance, who was undefeated on 7.5/9 and secured his eighth championship title by a comfortable margin. His closest

Getting a grip

In the 12th and final game of the women’s world championship, a pivotal role was played by a modest knight retreat from China’s defending champion Ju Wenjun. Her immediate purpose was to restrain a dangerous passed pawn. But that simple measure set in motion a deeper plan, which challenger Lei Tingjie was unable to prevent.


Nine wins in a row. What are the chances? That’s how Magnus Carlsen began on the first day of blitz (fast) chess at the the Zagreb Grand Chess Tour. My guesstimate is that Carlsen wins no more than half of his blitz games against the standard of opposition that he faced in Croatia, where his