SANDS: Sorting fact from fiction in chess’ hazy past

By David R. Sands
The Washington Times
Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It’s a paradox: Our beloved game, so rigorously logical and immune to deceit at the chessboard, rests on a foundation of lies.

To read the work of the meticulous English chess historian Edward Winter is to reach the inescapable conclusion that the story of the game’s past is shot through with falsehoods, fabrications and outright inventions. To judge from Winter’s research, every famous chess quote uttered before, say, 1950 is misattributed, every anecdote apocryphal, every story “everybody knows” is wrong. There was, despite the insistence of Horowitz and Reinfeld, no shower of gold coins on Frank Marshall’s board after that famous game with Lewitzsky.

We are given to such musings after a call from longtime area master (and good friend of the column) Phil Collier, casting doubt on the authenticity of last week’s game between Napoleon and longtime aide-de-camp Gen. Bertrand, supposedly played when the Little Colonel was living out his last years in exile on St. Helena. The game score may be genuine, but there is some pretty telling research that Napoleon and his subordinate cooked up the denouement featuring an improbably picturesque queen sacrifice leading to checkmate.

It would seem that the standards for accuracy were a little more lax back in the day, or at least chess authors of the Romantic Age were less likely to allow the facts to get in the way of a good story. Anyway, we have a little more confidence in the veracity of today’s two games, both played this month.

First up is a welcome return to form by former Russian world champion Anatoly Karpov — in a strong rapid tournament played in his honor. Although in his prime he favored a slow, almost mesmerizing positional style, Karpov always has been one of the world’s greatest players at faster time controls. At the Trophee Anatoly Karpov in Cap d’Agde, France, this month, Karpov defeated Ukrainian superGM Vassily Ivanchuk in the finals of the eight-player rapid event.

Although no longer rated in the top 100 worldwide, the 61-year-old Karpov showed that he still remembers a few tricks in defeating German GM Christian Bauer in the preliminary rounds. The queens come off early in this Queen’s Pawn Game, but Karpov has managed to squeeze full points out of far more lifeless positions over the course of his career.

Read more: SANDS: Sorting fact from fiction in chess’ hazy past – Washington Times

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
Tags: , ,