Monday 22 August 2005

Archive: UNCUT! 40

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
*Column 40*
* *August 2005* *

Respect! That’s what we chess players lack. If we practiced the piano for as many hours as we do chess we would earn respect and not derision. Piano players often boast about reaching grade 7 and the like….7!? I used to be in the mid-190s, walking with the Gods! Did a piano maestro ever have to get up and answer the phone? (…especially when only one minute remains on the clock…!)

The distractions incurred during an online blitz session are surely enough to drive a chap to murder. A 30-year stretch as punishment would be little deterrent; in all these years, I’ve never managed to finish a sentence yet.

Sometimes, however, people see chess players as something rather more than we are. Quite a few years ago, I received an anonymous letter (well, sort of…). Quite what I was expected to do in my capacity of chess correspondent for the Cleveland Advertiser is anyone’s guess. However, as a curiosity from the fringe world of chess, I present to you the story of…

The letter was hand-written in red ink. I have corrected a couple of spellings but retained the unusual use of punctuation and brackets in the interests of historical accuracy.

Sean Marsh,
I would like to introduce myself to you as (TUKA). I am an individual artist who has walked on not only the streets of London (Britain) but Sydney, Melb (Australia) and many more. The one thing all these countries have in common, no matter where it is are (people who live on the streets) which unfortunately is no new news. As you know, like everyone, these people are deprived of even the basic necessities. I think – I know, it’s about time – something was done about it, to help those less fortunate than ourselves. I know steps are being taken, I just think things are taking a little long. (Please hear me out).
I would like to set forth a request, to organise an appeal to all those artists in the (Pop/music & television world) to – paint, sketch, draw on t-shirts, jeans, trainers, any artistic or (non artistic) design so that it can with a lotta help be auctioned off and give all the proceeds to charity.
‘It would be good to see art for once working for the people’
I don’t seek fame not fortune, that’s the reason for the name I have (T.U.K.A.) it simply stands for (The Un-Known Artist). I know it’s a difficult task to undertake and organise something of this scale, that’s the reason why I’m writing to someone like yourself. I’ve just got to get it through to the media and most of all to reach the people who can help do this. I am for real – serious, I do mean what I write/say and I do hope you can help.
All it takes are people to help push the wheel, once the wheel starts rolling, it will keep on rolling.
Well, you can throw this away and not give it another thought, but the fact of the matter is, these people who are deprived don’t go away, they just keep on growing! I know it can be done, all I need is a helping hand.
Thanks for reading these words. Again, if you can help, please do.
The Un-Known Artist,

I wonder what happened to TUKA and his campaign. Did he exist at all? Is he still wandering the streets dreaming of a better world? Or did he end up like the majority, with a bald head, glasses and paunch? Perhaps he regenerated into Bob Geldof and lived his dream after all. Perhaps we’ll never know. Whatever his fate, he is surely a rare example of someone according chess and its players with rather more respect than we are used to.

From approximately the era, I chanced upon an old grading list. The list wasn’t done on computer in those days (surprisingly few things were) but arrived via lots of hard work by the then-grader, Mike Creaney, who wrote everything out by hand.
This list includes only those players above 140.

Grades 1989/90
Richard Hall 212
David Smith 208
Norman Stephenson 202
Morray Vincent 199
David Wise 193
Robert Akehurst 184
Robert Shaw 184
Steve Dauber 182
Glen Bowen 180
James Akehurst 180
Paul Gregory 179
Trevor Glass 177
Ken Glass 175
Sean Marsh 174
Jeff Glass 169
Mike Closs 169
Mark Suscens 163
Joe Spayne 162
And Barker 160
Jason Glass 158
Graham Marshall 159
Howard Turner 158
Stan Horkan 155
Steve Rodgers 153
Howard Cockerill 151
John Marshall 151
Stuart Morgan 151
Richard Moore 150
Dave Redman 150
Robert Harding 148
Steve McCormack 147
Brian Myers 145
Jason Benham 146
Ron Stather 149
David Baillie 145
Steve Tighe 148
Steve Cole 142

A good number of the players on the list are either no longer in the area (America, Cuba and Australia are the last recorded sightings of three of them) and/or are not active in chess any more.

For others, it’s a case of ‘the more things change, the more they stay as they are’. What is noticeable is that we haven’t had anyone graded over 200 for some time and the dizzy heights of 212 now seem almost impossible to aim for. Just look at how many locals we had above 140 – almost 40! The real problem we have to match such a number these days is the brain drain, taking away our conveyor belt of promising juniors to pastures new. A pity; we enjoyed a strength in depth we rather took for granted at the time and we would welcome with open arms a return to such stability and solidity.

A couple of game fragments from my recent battles are hereby presented for your perusal.
The first came at the end of a long game, but shortly after my first column of book reviews, in which the same theme was explored. Black had held an edge throughout the game but White brought things to a swift conclusion with:

62 Rh7+ Kxh7 63 Qc7+ Qxc7 ½-½

The next position could almost be inspired by the thousand s of cookery shows to grace our screens. Instead of the delights of the Cheese Melt and Tuna Melt, I present the Long-Diagonal Melt

27…a3 28 Ra4 Qxa4! 29 Bxa4 axb2 30 Rb1 Nxc3


Sean Marsh
August 2005