Archive for the ‘Life beyond the chess board’ Category

The writing project I have been engrossed in for the last 18 months was completed months ago but the editorial procedure is based on ultra-perfectionism and is thus drawn out… .

The second section, which is based on what I didn’t gain from chess in my youth, had a flaw. There was a missing adjective.

Whilst listening to the British Radio station TalkSport, I heard the word I so badly needed. Whilst watching the world champion defeat Svidler on-line another crucial missing adjective was overheard.

I am now in a position to take care of section two; progress has been made.

The finish line is closer than I think.

Courtesy of the word count, it has to be proofread and sent for publication. Should that not happen I will post it here.

From memory alone, my Dissertation was around 14500 words. Most likely it will be thrice that.


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To that great many across that on-line world of ours, so many suppose somehow they I am thee President of Thee Bedfordshire Chess league. I am not…well not yet for I don’t live in England and am finding it difficult to return home: so shifty looking teams asking me to join the league is a waste of their and my time. I had a group of lads contact me recently saying they’d like to start in Div 2 next season. There request ‘You’s Mark yeah -stik us in the league next season init,not divison A -were’d get mullered. They’ll be a few quid in it for ya like’. He hadn’t taken in my point. I can’t make decisions of any kind, and from the tone of the emails I’m not sure it’s if its a good idea at all to further the conversation…

The latest images to be sent by them are these, and they’ve changed their name the C-Firm now.

Battered by a brick to the head by GM playing The Benoni
Northampton Chess club with table put through window after a dart went though the head of the board 5 player. Only the TV Satellite is showing.
Simul gone wrong

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Down to my last item of chess clothing now… .

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The number of visitors which have mostly visited this site over the years went into the tens of thousands a long time ago. Mostly they find it amusing and informative but the last request made was very different to all others preceding -simply put I was stumped. I thought about calling the old bill for advice even ,anfd perhaps I should. An team captain e-mailed me asking if they could join next season, they call themselves the ‘Clophill Killers’ Some feedback required here, as agreeing to their wishes may not be for the best. Have a look and decide yourself.

The ‘Clophill Killers’ club captain was arrested and detained during a match against Leighton Buzzard for banging the clocks off the table during matches, and letting tires down in the car park after he lost his game.
Studied the Catalan extensively, throws a solid right-hook.
A Caro-Kann King. Will put his head on you in the corridor before the game. if he gets the chance
Will play the St. Georges defense, will try to break into your car when its your turn to move.
Nasty fucker in time-trouble, likes to turn tables over in the end-game.
Usually plays the English Opening. Rating below 100. Never does much during matches. Often looks edgy.
Looks like a young Peter Svidler. Strong tactically, works out at the gym a lot.
No real interest in chess. Rating less than 70. Doesn’t usually make it out of the opening. Good to chat to.
Likes the Benko Gambit. Always gets hammered during play. Always in court.
The team reserve drafted in away to Northampton. Opened with The Grob and got a dart in the head for it on move two by the team captain: the match had to be cancelled, then there was a right rumpus.
Aftermath of the abandoned match. A Northampton player had his jaw broken as a result.

They want to enter Division two next season and call themselves ‘The Clophill Killers’ as mentioned. I smell danger here: they look like a right roudy bunch to me. But as they say, the more the merrier. A new club with more members may improve the league no end. Their inclusion may give them a psychological edge over other clubs in the league so strong they will take Div 1 by storm even though I do know they are all steaming before 9pm….perhaps many opposing teams will default,

I should add for the last 18 months I have been fully engaged with two writing projects, one of which is well over the 30,000 word mark. The reading list accompanying both is far more voluminous than when I wrote my dissertation on early 19th century German Philosopy. It’s broad and makes me read content for characterization I am unfamiliar with. A day without 6 hours of research and writing is a blessing…sometimes something lighthearted like this helps alleviate the tension. I doubt whether the aforementioned posts will remain as posts only. The proof reader is pushing towards publication but vanity aside, saying ‘I’m an author means fuck all, for myself, vanity refers only to appearance: humble brags over how I wrote this and that mean fuck all much because I write for myself and myself only. I prefer not to be read: if I am read so be it, if not so be it, comment so be it, don;t comment so be it…I just don;t care. I am an artist I write only for myself and no one else.


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In the first video you see my daughter in the pink dress take her place.

In the second you see me for what I really am. I Still do not have full use of all my limbs and the damage to my nervous system is much worse than I thought.So did I stay at home and do nothing but recover? Like fuck I did. I run non stop and push it so hard on my bike at all times even though I can’t grip the handlebars with my left hand very well. I posted this because I have spent over a year writing a post that dispels many myths surrounding chess, and I am tremendously proud of it. My upbringing is very much different to what you might expect. So now you can see me as I really am and not whoever you thought I were.

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Greetings my dear friends and sincere apologies for my absence. I am still in recovery from a major accident three years back and have found the adjustments to that difficult to say the least. I recently suffered from a seizure which so nearly cost me my life. It did not and instead has jolted me back into action even though I am still injured.

It is my intention to offer a post-modern historical account on the history of Bedfordshire Chess, and I do have a publisher lined up, should I stay alive long enough to complete it. Last year I underwent the process of teaching myself the finer points and methodological procedures of Britain’s most prominent post-modern historians, of whom Jenkins is the one I am learning the most from. But with the British Library remaining rather guarded over their resources, this project has barely got off the ground (although the groundwork is being put in).

More recently I spent a year and more writing about what I gained and did not gain from chess in my youth. That far from finished project is at the 20,000 word mark already and has not one but two appendices; one written within the confines of academic procedure, the other a stylistic device written in ‘teen speak’ if you like…or put differently how I used to speak as the street kid I was and still am. It’s a very broad project which has a narrative beginning many decades before I was born, strictly speaking its a mimeses of life itself, and by mimesis I specifically refer to the term used when Plato’s writings are referenced (more on that to come). Once again, I’m sad to say for local readers, it isn’t the greatest advert for the Bedfordshire Chess League, and worse, to a lesser extent the post prefaces the one preceding this (yes the one with the rather pretentious title).

A devoted reader of this site pointed out that when she knew me, I had dropped my accent. For some time I have wondered about that, as rebuilding who you are after losing your entire memory isn’t exactly easy. Well, anyway, it was because chess players generally don’t speak with the same crude, working class accent I grew up talking with. So, snippets of super-exciting content left to one side: when the project will be complete I don’t know. Will it be worth reading? Not sure also. But what I do know is that health comes first, oh and in addition my writing style has changed considerably, more on that to come later…. .

I don’t yet have full use of my limbs after my most recent seizure and until my health is restored I can’t really write much if anything at all, well not without the concentration it requires that is… .

It was also my intention to rejoin The British Newspaper Archive and post content from that. Again, this is of local interest only and partially explained by the fact that my world view is altered by personal injury, as is the case with everyone else who has had to fight to have their life saved. It’s no longer the case that I can post about anything beyond personal experience within the environment I developed as a player, and offer interpretations of that environment itself -by this I mean differing historical accounts. The world beyond that is too far removed from play, and since when was I ever good enough as a player to comment on it anyway?

Health permitting, and ability to remain alive with an uncrashed head on my bicycle, I do hope to return home around christmas this year, and hopefully play some chess at home. So to conclude, I will bring this site back to life when I am strong enough to do so, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later… .

Until then… .

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…some Englishman gives up chess to concentrate upon academia. During a summer break, he goes on holiday to Hollywood where every night is party night. There, he dates an academic but when he sees chess played on a street, becomes distracted and loses his waywandering the streets of New York penniless is how his holiday ends…

…he finds his way back to England. The following season he plays chess in that same dull league he left behind, which many years thereafter he bored everyone to tears with on that ghastly blog of his…

“Who on earth wrote this limey nonsense! Dreadful and dreary.”

New York Times Literary Review, February 8th 2017


“Good gracious! Sophisticated but oh-so-soporific!”

-The Guardian Literary Supplement, Feb 8th, 2017


“What the blazes! A memoir full of misery -avoid reading at all costs!”

-The Bangkok Post, Cultural Review, second section, Feb 8th, 2017


‘Romantic and probably well-remembered, pretty engaging really.’

Ridgefield Press, Connecticut, Feb 8th, 2017


‘Certainly not the greatest advert for the Bedfordshire Chess League it must be said.’

The Luton News, Bedfordshire, February the eighth, twenty seventeen.


‘Utter shite.’

New in Chess, (Double Dutch edition) Februari achtste, twee van een zeven


“It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”   
    ― D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality                   


The emancipation and its beginnings…                                                                     

If I win a tournament, I win it by myself. I do the playing. Nobody helps me.

Bobby Fischer


Are they Fischer’s hands?

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
― Henry David Thoreau

…in the autumn of nineteen ninety five, I left both chess and Bedfordshire behind when my education branched into Hertfordshire. I studied at a university campus hidden in the woodlands that The River Colne trickled through. Once a stately home in a hallowed antiquity; its empty dining rooms became cluttered seminar halls, which only emptied when lecturers drove home, as afternoons ended and evenings began with journals chosen not only to advance learning but also to abate the boredom of the countryside. I was so scruffy but in that solitude I studied assiduously; something that I had become quite accustomed to, having already wasted spent many years studying chess at home in my room…

…later on in life my education branched beyond the home counties towards our beautiful game, where I rediscovered it buried within the digital revolution which embalms the very words I am typing at present…

The opposite of depression isn’t happiness but vitality.

Andrew Solomon


Wall Hall Campus. I spent years of my life there studying both analytical and continental Philosophy.


Myself with two non-chess players and The River Colne all en route to a country pub named The Old Fox, the only thing to do on Sunday afternoons.

Caissa – Little Miss Scare All!


Beauty is such a terrible thing because no one has fathomed its complexity.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Summer, 1998 – earth and sky become one above Cambridgeshire…

…a parting in the clouds of academia appeared; examinations ended, a conference held by the Aristotelian Society passed, and post-graduate study in Warwickshire was confirmed when the summer in Cambridge came to a close. With little else to do I booked a flight to California so I could cycle along its coastline each afternoon, and when rested, explore the nightlife awaiting. An altogether preferable option to the lanes I took to work everyday: those narrowed by the colleges where annoying tourists meandered by The River Cam, so they could laze on its grassy banks and get drunk together when summer evenings were long…


Bloody Tourists!

Escapism fuelled by inescapism… 

… a bus to Heathrow took me to where a British Airways jet lifted both bicycle and I above the home counties and with England’s grasslands captured en passant, turbulence over a vast azure of sea shook me out of slumber with a momentary optimism ensuing. Many hours more into the flight, the sky darkened over Greenland then Canada. Whilst contemplative over what lay ahead, the dimly lit food I consumed besides the blackened windows directly above engines was unpalatable. I did not care, I was not hungry. I was satisfied sufficiently by the spectre of darkness I travelled through…

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without the benefit of experience.

Henry Miller

as that plane landed I felt uplifted, having just arrived in L.A. with chronic jetlag. Up and down then down and up its coastline I cycled, huffing and puffing happily, (except when a juggernaut with a very loud horn chased me off the freeway). Below that blazing sun I gleefully soared over my sweaty saddle along those cycle paths, often pausing for that sugary Gatorade stuff at another store by-the-sea, re-reading Wittgenstein in the shade they furnished those beaches withguzzling it good, wondering how I could follow my favourite lecturer’s advice and ‘do philosophy’ like Socrates on the streets of Athens once did, whilst lazing around on that golden sand with untalkative sunbathers. That was how those first days passed until the afternoon when Labour Day arrived unforeseen and punctured my progress on the path ahead!

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity (one is unable to notice something because it is always before one’s eyes). The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all.
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

Labour day…’loving you was like loving the dead’ – Pete Steele…

…I was chauffeured on that day out of kindness and curiosity by a new-found friend, the great, great, great, grandson of the former President of America, Zachary Taylor. Through his well-rehearsed endeavors I was introduced to a Philosophy grad like myself, who unlike myself, spoke with an eloquence that accentuated above the jazz in the background. It was still early afternoon. She sat with her closest friends, one of whom became coquettish upon accompaniment. Tipsy, I sat at their table as a guest being polite rather than gauche, even when my Englishness was prodded at and poked fun of. All laughed loudly when I couldn’t place where Connecticut was, all except the one sat at the far end of the table. After an hour or two passed, we paid up for the empty glasses amassed on the table then left, looking for some fun in the afternoon sun…


Zachary Taylor

…on a walkway that sloped down to Redondo Beach Harbour was where Rachel and I first came together. We found a bar named Naja’s Place. There, rock music blared on into the evening. Through its raucous crowds was how we entered with no stools to sit on as ‘The Downward Spiral’ by Nine Inch Nails began playing…

…an articulate Ivy League graduate with designer glasses appended to a pretty face -such a woman I had never met before let alone be introduced to. The ageing Bedfordshire Chess League, quiet libraries of Hertfordshire, and cycle lanes of Cambridgeshire were the limits of my world; all that beyond, I had only a passing interest in, believing women were rubbish not very good at chess like me thus not really worth bothering with…

…whilst on Mexican beer I mentioned Wittgenstein briefly, referring to an academic -whose name I can no longer recall- and how his written deliberations always crowded my desk: yet at the Aristotelian conference only weeks before, he nervously asked me whether it would be ‘quite alright’ if I could show him how to open a window he had difficulty with. ‘So’, I thought to myself, ‘publications on Wittgenstein are easily written but opening a window was harder’…have a good chuckle at that we most certainly did until I accidentally spilled beer on someone’s boot. With myself being a pacifist –albeit a rather bad-tempered one- thankfully he did not notice, and being a true American continued his conversation in the loudest most unabated, unabashed manner possible, allowing us to drunkenly ‘do philosophy’. Now very merry charmed by yours truly, -for some impossible reason-, in search of some privacy we left the bar…


Nondescript yet unforgettable: a progenitor of philia if ever there was one…a downward spiral?

…and staggered along the harbour where wealthier males moored their yachts. There I was cajoled into a smooching session as many in beachwear walked on by…

Man’s happiness today consists in “having fun.” Having fun lies in the satisfaction of consuming and “taking in” commodities, sights, food, drinks, people, lectures, books, movies—all are consumed, swallowed. The world is one great object for our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast; we are the sucklers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones—and the eternally disappointed ones.
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving


About half way along was where that smooching session went on. We were drunk and didn’t care who saw what -how romantic!

…wild nights on the strip in Hollywood were had. One week later, to the acronymized NYC where Rachel awaited, in an American Airlines jet, where big bagels were offered for breakfast I flew: unable to see into the darkening horizon beyond and how to find where the condiments on the tray were hidden. Just as I was about to eat a bagel I was stopped by a hostess. ‘Sir, should you wish to use the lavatory please inform me first’. ‘Er okay, why?’ I asked, somewhat surprised. ‘The lavatories in economy are all malfunctioning. Somebody blocked one with the contents of his back passage. None of them work now’. ‘Oh, that’s rather unfortunate. So if I do need to go, what then?’ I asked trying to sound interested. ‘Sir, the flight is almost empty, we can move you up to business or first. You see sir, you get a higher class of turd in those sections of the aircraft, so you can use the lavatories there if you so wish…mull it over whilst you enjoy that bagel of yours.’ That I did not. ‘Hmm, I intend to stay right where I am and if you offer or even threaten to upgrade me I shall have to write a letter of complaint. I shall stay right where I am. I have no interest in your corporate imposition of class structure. ‘ Off she went in a huff…

…I was met at Newark Airport, New Jersey. There I was given a chocolate bar by Rachel as we boarded a bus that swept us across the cityscape in all its sunlit splendour. Later that evening, as Rachel lay asleep, I ate her gift and slowly drifted into thoughts of how summer was ending, how overdrawn I was becoming at the bank, and how a kid from a broken, immigrant family, one who grew up on a rough council road far from the school he never liked could be in New York with barely a month to spare before commencing a Masters’ degree. I thought about Connecticut, her home state, and what it must be like until dreams of us travelling around the state on a ghetto connector a Greyhound bus interlaced with sleep itself after what had been a long day of discovery…

Rachel had not moved since we left New Haven. We mirrored each other’s posture and sat still until I took an interest in the serenity outside. Beyond the square windows of the bus, a painted line went by. A sign said “Welcome to-Morrow County”. Further in the distance, the shining windows of a farmhouse blazed by a creek that wove among the fields in the hills, beyond valleys sloping into an expanse of time, where day and wild orchids blew across the freeway ahead…

I briefly awoke but knew not where I was…

…a muddy greyhound ran with the bus over boundless hills, across fields and forests, to where water drew in the thirsty. Under trees sunk in mist and mud, a rush of water slammed a drowning deer into rocks where a brook broke into a river, foaming and forming around a collapsed footbridge.

I awoke once more, the room was dark still…

There, standing in a valley that the bus passed, I looked older and had a beard. It was sunset and the light was fading. I was reading aloud an excerpt from Tennyson’s Ulysses:

             ‘And this gray spirit yearning in desire

            To follow knowledge like a sinking star,

            Beyond the utmost of human thought.’

…and for the last time I awoke not quite knowing where I had gone until my eyes rolled back in my head. I was soon fast asleep.

‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.’ – Marcel Proust


…for a week we stayed in that suburbia that more unimaginative less visionary chess players, may assume is the strongest of all –Queens


Fischer v Petrosian 1959. Surely Bobby should have lived in Queens rather than Brooklyn after this draw? Their draw is played out below.


A shadow of hope?

…emancipation and its disconnect with an elucidation…

Many of our most serious conflicts are conflicts within ourselves. Those who suppose their judgments are always consistent are unreflective or dogmatic.

John Rawls – Justice as Fairness: A Restatement

…through Soho we walked, itself so different to the residential beach areas I had become familiar with in L.A; decaying architecturally yet comparatively vibrant until I came into contact with people playing our beautiful game. Then everything changed. Close to a video rental store we went to was Washington Square, where chess hustlers hung out and unkempt strays gathered -some of whom not only wandered across the city to play chess, but before that, defected from afar in search of ‘The American Dream’ and only the devil knows whatever else…

So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn’t like my parents. I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind. Nowhere has the number zero been of more philosophical value than in the United States…and when the [train] plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with its lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.

Kurt Vonnegut -Bluebeard

George Bernard Shaw once claimed that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. I thought about that as we sat side by side, wanting to initiate conversation before becoming distracted by the action ahead. I failed, more curious whether that same silent, morose manner that chess is played with in England could be seen in those more competitive than magnanimous; content within cliques outside which they were ardently anti-social. In the sunlight Rachel’s glasses glinted. She looked so pretty but we barely spoke. I was preoccupied. Some players, I noted, seemed visibly bored. What were their days about I wondered, forming the opinion that everyday they play, they win but sometimes lose, they neither pocket much money nor socialize, and savour shadenfreude they don’t; they just eat, drink, take the subway home, and after another day of being downbeaten by the slithers of past success ends, they are inexorably less loquacious…

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays


…the transgressing past travelling through NYC… 

‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.’ – Henry David Thoreau

…adjacent to that unedifying ensemble of chess-playing New Yorkers, I continued to remain distracted whilst accompanied; maturing into a competitive chess player, the person sat closest to me was always my opponent and rarely spoke after the end of game handshake I always acquiesced to. I only ever played chess out of a blind love for our beautiful game but as those years went by, the law of diminishing returns set in deep: a drawish opening repertoire lacking any real dynamism never helped as I so often lost interest and made mistakes, ending games with mad time scrambles whilst fending off blood-curdling attacks!

In musing over the memories of chess amassed, I suddenly became sombre. I remembered my worst teenage years and how during winter’s darkest nights, play became tougher because the oppressive silence chess itself demands isolated me from my team mates with a degree of discomfort that far outweighed the pleasure of playing. Matches always ended about an hour before midnight, and being a team captain I had to be the last to leave, ensuring everything was locked up. I always walked home by myself. Listening to the winter snow crunch under my boots, and watching headlights cut through the cold air, forming shadows through the trees blocking the path ahead. Sometimes, as I lay awake at night, haunted by the absence of the only person who ever loved me as a child and how she was no longer there when I needed consoling, I curled up with a sadness so eviscerating, and stared into the darkness for hours without moving a limb, not knowing why I had lost interest in my game…

To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness.

Eric Fromm

Then the person closest at that very moment, with brown eyes softening in the sunlight asked, ‘…umm do you like chess Mark?’ ‘I certainly used to and may I ask -do you?’ ‘No. I’m curious because a place called the Marshall Chess Club is only a couple of blocks away. I went there once…would you like to go with me?’ Though initially excited to do something together, something just didn’t seem right about it. ‘From what little I remember the person they named the club after was defeated more than once by a man from my home town...William something-or-other I think. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea but perhaps I am wrong.’  A minute of silence passed. ‘Hmm…and how old were you when that occurred?’ ‘Oh I wasn’t even born, it was many decades before’, ‘So he will have been forgiven by now then just as you will be I’m sure’, she said with a smile. And there I sat, thinking about chess until a morbidly obese woman announced to all that a hot-dog eating contest was to commence at a stall close by; play in the park paused as tables emptied, those in search of something more ingratiating and awfully American returned with it already half-eaten.

Obviously, I believe that to pursue the American Dream is not only futile but self-destructive because ultimately it destroys everything and everyone involved with it. By definition it must, because it nurtures everything except those things that are important: integrity, ethics, truth, our very heart and soul. Why? The reason is simple: because life is giving, not getting.

Hubert Selby Jnr.


Marshall V Ward 6th Anglo-American cable match 1901. Marshall plays 40. Re4 not realizing that Ward can simply capture the knight on c4. After 40. … Rxc4, white is lost.

Suffuse with asynchronicity came a commiseration…

“Reason flows from the blending of rational thought and feeling. If the two functions are torn apart, thinking deteriorates into schizoid intellectual activity and feeling deteriorates into neurotic life-damaging passions.”
― Erich Fromm

Upon walking past Wall St., the path ahead became lost as I asked myself a question or two. ‘Exactly where in Manhattan did Bobby Fischer play? And did he have a redemptive idea of what chess demanded from him?’ I saw a bench and sat down, my hands holding my head as if my position had gone from winning to unclear. Why did I feel closer to who I admired in my youth instead of who I was with, wondering where he walked, what he did, unable to realize that as I grew up Fischer was only a role model, his importance conflated by a literary genre far more sycophantic than academic. Fischer was never an exemplar and nor could he have been given how he conducted himself away from the board I told myself to no avail, my love of chess unlamented still. ‘Mark. May I ask you a question?’ ‘Yes’, I said clearing my thought, ‘what is it?’ ‘You seemed happy in L.A. Why aren’t you like that here? You don’t like New York do you or is it me?’ ‘No it’s not you’, I replied. ‘And its not New York either’ She paused briefly, ‘So are you feeling okay? Are you like this with other women?’ ‘What other women? I never met a woman before…I’ve only ever liked dead chess players and dead philosophers. Apart from my grandmother, you are the only living person I have ever felt anything at all for’, I stated. ‘Hmph’ she scratched her head, ‘well I noticed your mood altered when you saw those chess players. You seemed different…encumbered by something for some reason. Hey sorry, I just wanted us to be happy’, and there we sat together but apart, both staring into the traffic, watching it pass by aimlessly, breathing in its pollution, rendering ourselves more rational than we really were…

“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an ordination of character which determines the relatedness of the person to the world as a whole, not toward one object of love”

Erich Fromm


Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking – and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority.  
― The Art of Loving pg. 11 Erich Fromm

Robert James Fischer – birth-solitude-chess-solitude-death-solitude

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms








The United States is an illegitimate country, just like Israel. It has no right to exist. That country belongs to the Red man, the American Indian… It’s actually a shame to be a so-called American, because everybody living there is a usurper, an invader taking part in this crime, which is to rob the land, rob the country and kill all the American Indians.

Robert James Fischer














I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
Robert Frost, West-Running Brook




After your death, you will be what you were before your birth.
― Arthur Schopenhauer


When I wrote songs like ‘Everyone I Love is Dead,’ I never thought about how I was going to execute them live – Pete Steele

I knew that a historian (or a journalist, or anyone telling a story) was forced to choose, out of an infinite number of facts, what to present, what to omit. And that decision inevitably would reflect, whether consciously or not, the interests of the historian.

Howard Zinn – A people’s history of the United States

The speeding train that hit an epiphany head on!


Brooklyn’s finest…

New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous.
But there is one thing about it – once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.

John Steinbeck, American and Americans, and selected Nonfiction

In the grayish air of an uncertain afternoon, thoughts about chess dispersed and together we agreed it was time to head back. Alfred Hitchcock, once said “Happiness is a clear horizon’; through two straight sunless streets we walked, alongside its relentless, raucous traffic, we danced to that percussion from those pedestrians always pushing past until we sank into the subway station nearest, purchasing a ticket some minutes later. Then, as the train left Manhattan, we saw the setting sun spill into the East river, and over the suburbia approaching. And as that train sped on, I sat staring into the distance unaware of what was waiting at the next station…

…at Lowery St. Station, Queens, we alighted with many who rushed past. From nowhere an epiphany arrived and slammed straight into me: that to find a fuller life rather than succumb to yet more years of scholarly solitude was a well-chosen move: all the bookshops I browsed through whilst playing truant at school were now closed off, those empty aisles in the local library now shut out, chess clubs where boring old farts insisted that silence reigned supreme, hushing and shushing every utterance before blaming it on their next blunder now forsaken, those weekends wasted by county matches to remote corners of East Anglia, and tournaments held in Hertfordshire’s church halls where clocks ticked away loudly, chairs scrapped wooden floors, and resignations by so many sat in solitude broke through a leadened silence, were now all renounced…

I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all of my being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn’t be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: I would regret my entire life; I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life.

Herbert Shelby Jr.

Queens…idealization…red water…

…’Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ – Søren Kierkegaard

…in the streets that stretched over Brooklyn the sunlight faded and that chequered bedroom window above us both became softly lit. Opposed to sleep, I stared at that window no longer numb to what wasting my youth on a board game had done to me; in chess there are critical moments in every game we play, and how we prepare ourselves to handle them is often decisive, that I knew, but in life itself, I was without preparation, not even acutely aware they existed away from the board too, and that I had reached one…

…next morning, sunlight filled the room and warmed the air. ‘I’m feeling kinda flaky’ Rachel told me before she ‘stepped out‘ for coffee. Whilst she did I deciding that we should go to Colney Island, where one of my favourite films was shot, and where we could be by the beach again, now conscious that a flag began to fall as my time in NYC came to a close…

How can there be a true history when we see no man living can write truly a history of the last week?

T. Shadwell, The Squire of Alsatia 1688

…we socialized and Rachel was courteous and considerate, taking me to Colombia University, where she had graduated, then into the curling hills of Connecticut to meet her family. In a quaint village not far north of New Haven, they took us for a meal, her grandmother commentating that I looked like a member of The Beatles. I thought it best not to mention that the only band I ever liked from Liverpool is Carcass.


Carcass, a still from the single – Unfit for Human Consumption. Like so many other crap chess players, I also fit into that category…right Rachel?

…to ‘The Ale House’ in Upper-East Manhattan, to the best pizza I have ever had thereafter, and back to her apt but how I do not remember. Not sober and not sleeping, I clambered along a dark corridor back in the apartment. By the basin I peed and washed my hands below a mirror. I stared at myself in that with those same lifeless eyes my opponents always stared at me with over the board, especially whenever it was my move and his name was dreadfully Dickensian. Many minutes passed yet I still stared. I was no longer him yet not free from him I thought as I sensed his presence from within. Then, I saw him glance away, fraught with despair, knowing that I stopped playing chess, stopped studying in solitude the games of those long since dead. I wanted to put my fist straight through the mirror. That I then did, the realization that the aloneness within me was made manifest only upon reflection. I hit my reflection on the nose hard and shattered the mirror. Crashing down it came, startling Rachel. Barely a few seconds later she was there standing in the doorway scratching her head, ‘What’s happened!’ she asked looking somewhat confused. ‘The mirror broke not because I saw someone intolerable at that very moment but in the moments gone forever‘, I said with such seething anger. ‘You mean you broke my mirror deliberately?’, she asked terse with disbelief. I would not answer.

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose and depression is the mechanism of that despair. When it comes it degrades oneself and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself.

Andrew Solomon- The Noonday Demon, an Atlas of Depression


Queens in sunlight…

… as I lay awake the blackness of evening seeped into my mind, feeling the force of an epiphany that slammed right into me. I felt guilty and restless. ‘Whilst Rachel sleeps, I ought to go out and do something. Go walk, go discover’, I told myself. And that I did. I left the apartment quietly, carefully closing the door behind me. Dressed in black I walked to Manhattan. But instead of walking towards the oblique tip of the Chrysler Building, which I could see across the river, I moved like a knight across the city grid following street signs that said where not to go, where a fuller moon was blocked by buildings, and the trees dimmed all the street-lights by Bleeker Street. 


One way?

…I kept walking; not walking away from Queens, just walking on and on and on. Each junction became emptier and a deadened silence hung in the air, hardly what you would expect from the ‘city that never sleeps’. I found a club named CBGBs. Look lively it did, so in I went hoping I could use the bathroom where people hopping mad hung out…

“If other people do not understand our behaviour—so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us. If this is being “asocial” or “irrational” in their eyes, so be it. Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves. We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them. How many lives have been ruined by this need to “explain,” which usually implies that the explanation be “understood,” i.e. approved. Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds, your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself—to his reason and his conscience—and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”

Erich Fromm – The art of being.

…the club was rammed, the music full-blast. It was hot and sweaty. I needed a beer pronto. No one was an outsider, everyone was part of the club. Type-O-Negative, played. I moved away from the bar. I was dragged into a moshpit and lost my drink, so I returned to the bar to get another whilst we all sang along to songs about suicide. En route a stage diver landed on my head and knocked me to the floor. Worse still, the beer I had just bought was now lost again.

I had hit a critical period in my life, where I changed very much as a person. I consider the person I used to be dead and I’m glad that he is. Insecure, frightened, confused, much like a lot of people I know today.

Peter Steele

…the band took a break, to the bar I clambered. A woman dressed in black bit me on the neck then pushed me out of the way! She did that minutes later too. I was drunk by then so it mattered not. Another mosher pushed past moments later. Beer sprayed around and as I walked to the toilet someone else bonked my bonce. He got up then failed to drag me into one more moshpit: as the injuries amassed, the less I cared. I was free and that was what mattered most…

The liberation of ‘Under-promotion’… 

…somehow I found my way back before dawn broke. With no key I rang the bell. Rachel answered the door in her gown sleepily. ‘What happened?’ I had no answer. ‘Mark, I thought you were a learned man, a gentleman even but then…and now just look at you!’ she said after we sat down together on the sofa. I felt excited still rather than injured and it showed.

The greatest challenge with communication is facing the illusion that it has taken place’ D.G.Wells

‘Well, I should spend some time alone’, there followed a pregnant pause, ‘its best we both do that if you will be okay by yourself?’,  ‘Why wouldn’t I be?’ I replied. ‘Mark, just look at the state you are in. How clumsy can a person be? I thought perhaps you’d like to go and play chess in Soho or something.’ ‘Play chess? What the fuck for…oops I mean I’d much rather go to some concerts and enjoy myself…um, should I extend my flight?’ I asked. ‘You may do as you wish‘, came the reply. She returned to her room and closed the door. That was it. I left and never saw her again…

Modern man thinks he loses something – time – when he does not do things quickly. Yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains, except kill it.
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving


A decaying past -Colney Island

Colney Island – an unprepared endgame

Adversity is a great teacher, but this teacher makes us pay dearly for its instruction; and often the profit we derive, is not worth the price we paid.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

…for days I walked the streets alone, waiting for that rescheduled flight. Overdrawn at the bank by student loans, I had no money to buy a room with. I took the D-train to Colney Island and by a disused theme park I met a homeless heroin addict from Ontario, he never told me his name. Fond of company and a few dollars more for his habit, he showed me his den and how hidden from prying eyes it was. We talked and drank and talked all day long. He told me how his pursuit of the American Dream had cost him his marriage and his career as a journalist way back in the early 70s. I believed him. He spoke in a gentlemanly manner with a penetrating intellect, so I had no reason to doubt him. He would die soon if I did not help him, he said repeatedly. Although I believed that too, I could barely help myself, turning to cider whilst he turned to the needle. He was not well at all: I saw helplessness in his stare, heard sincerity in his voice, and found him to be warm-hearted but there was nothing I could do. I had nothing to give.

…I stayed close enough to the sea on the first night to feel its cold air. On the second, still drunk from the night before, I found him dead upon awakening and knew not what to do. He’d overdosed whilst I slept. That afternoon I sat on a bench staring at the sea for hours, lamenting all that was lost, fretting over flight confirmations, drowning in sorrow, struggling to hold back the tears in the sea air. The following day I stood on the beach by the water’s edge. I could go no further and there I stood all afternoon, facing the sun, untalkative and out of reach to the public passing by on the promenade…those were my last days on the east coast.

…I flew back to L.A, collected my bicycle and caught my return flight home. I did not know what else to do with myself…


Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
― Robert Frost

Keele University fucked about with the MA I was supposed to start, so over the phone, I told them to ‘fuck off‘ as a new chess season began. I was back playing for my club and county for the first time in a few years, welcomed back by many but none knew why I had returned to the fold. I could not tell anyone why and not because I had something to hide but because in truth I didn’t know…

…although my results improved dramatically, every game was shit: at the board I was a corpse but on I played, strangled by a sense of nothingness, the tourniquet around my neck being the beauty of chess itself…

…one winter morning, I was driven to Bedford to play for the county. It pissed it down as we passed through long acres of fallow fields where in the distance their footpaths were flooded. Uninspired, I read a poem en route:

Going – Philip Larkin

There is an evening coming in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.

Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.

Where has the tree gone, that locked
Earth to the sky? What is under my hands,
That I cannot feel?

What loads my hands down?

..the afternoon dragged. I sat with a winning position over the board, but bored shitless, I stared out the windows as rain pissed down them, repeatedly asking myself ‘Why am I back here again?’  We sat in a small hut opposite the hospital there. I counted the floors it had, there were six. When it was my turn to move I deliberated tactically. When it was my opponent’s turn to move I contemplated positional motives. I sat so still and stared at the hospital, where many more were resigned whilst facing death itself, and die there they did every day. I thought about leaving my won position, walking over in the rain, taking the lift to the top floor and jumping to my own death. But instead I beat my opponent with a wistful smile, then sat amongst my team mates silently as we travelled home along the roads the rain lashed down upon from an unforgiving, blackened sky…

It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.

Emile Cioran

…in the twelve years I took chess out of my life, that was the only anomaly. It amounted to nothing more than most of one season for my town and county, and that’s all. I returned to chess only because I loved our beautiful game, and still do as I type these very words. Back then chess was just a game I was quite good at rather than an untimely cultural phenomenon to be avoided, courtesy of the avarice of adolescence; whilst sat alone at the board for thousands of hours, I was always more focused on understanding my position over the board rather than living a fuller life away from it. But still, I returned to the fold, it was: ‘an emancipation without freedom, a freedom without the elucidation that beauty is such a terrible thing’, somehow I missed the simplicity of home and having nothing much to do…the aspirations of greatness and their refuge even though I was rubbish at chess then as I am now, somehow I missed the comfort in being sad…

Finding this post too difficult to understand?

It’s too dense right? Well piss off then Well here’s a Marcel Duchamp, who appears within, inspired montage of it and the anticipated transition ahead: and yes that refers to the thumbnail chosen, and yes Rachel there is a picture of you but not one you, perhaps, anticipate. The music is a slow-paced rock song. It is quite listenable even if you are not a fan of the genre.

…this post represents a transition. Though, unfortunately, I will always love chess, I simply cannot give it the attention I once could. Apart from the research I may undertake in the summer of 2018 -the focus of which will be the history of Bedfordshire chess only -there will be no further posts to this site. I found writing this rather exhausting, the only thing I find enjoyable is the amusing montage above, it is time to move on…

“Let us not be needlessly bitter: certain failures are sometimes fruitful … Let us salute it, then, even celebrate it: our solitude will be reinforced, affirmed. Cut off from one more channel of escape, up against ourselves at last, we are in a better position to inquire as to our functions and our limits, the futility of having a life.”

Emile Cioran

All future posts will be on the following


Does he to the left look like your typical chess player?

Mark. J. McCready 



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Being a game of concentration, perhaps playing on-line does not lend itself to great play. By this I mean how could I, he who is perennially rusty, win a forth consecutive game with The St. George Defence, this time winning in 11 moves? Can you really open with 1. …a6 and win in eleven moves against a player rated 1900+? Yes of course, as the opening sentence suggests, and here is the proof:


A rather unusual set up by white that aims towards a queenside castle.


The move black must always deliberate over is should he play Nc6 and if so when, so here I play 7. …Nc6 because there is no pawn on d4.

1. e4 a6 2. f4 b5

3. Nf3 Bb7 4. d3 e6

5. Be3 c5 6. Nbd2 Nf6

7. Qe2 Nc6 8. h3 d5

9. e5 Nh5 10. c3 Ng3

11. Qf2 Nxh1

0-1   Bizarre!

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“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
― Aristotle, Selected Writings From The Nicomachean Ethics And Politics

Quietly proud of last night’s victory, I adopted The St. George Defence again tonight, this time my opponent being 1923. Once again my opponent had some idea of how to play against it but got his systems mixed up like the victim before him. This time he went for a classical big centre and undermined it himself, only to then drop a knight.


Black once again, this time the person who plays white is Dutch.


Nd2 is a sound main line where white tries to retain a classical pawn centre. I was expecting white to play c3 here, instead he plays the more aggressive c4, which works in some lines but undermines his centre in this one. 


All I did was exchange of b and c-pawns with 6. …bxc4 and 7. …cxd4 respectively, and await a timely …Bb4+. Black is fine. I play the Sveshnikov Sicilian, which means …e5 may come at some point.


The position has transposed into an open Sicilian type postion, so it is here I play …e5 to lure the c4 knight away, after which Qa5 is devastating.  


I squeezed in all position motives I wanted to and sensed correctly that, given the game was only a 15 min game, white would unthinkingly play 16. Nd6. Can you tell why its a blunder? It’s not very hard to guess, even on an off day for someone ELO-1234 it would take far less than 0.000001 second, which is much less time than its taken to read this rather silly sentence.

Checkmate was delivered on the 48th move…

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
― G.K. Chesterton, The Defendant

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“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
― Howard Zinn

The stupidly named St.George Defence, is a better defence to play than most people think. It’s not that I play it because I am English by birth but rather its obscurity.

I have played it on and off for five years, sometimes against titled players, and can win with it quite easily. Last night I played on-line someone rated 2032, about 100 points higher than mine. See below for how it went.


I am black of course.


A slightly innocuous setup by white.


The two things you need to understand about playing 1. …a6 is not to develop your queen’s knight too early, and that if the centre becomes blocked its often better not to castle. White should proceed with 8. e5 here. The point with an early b5 by black is that the knight can come to d5 and remain unchallenged if that happens. But here white plays 8. d5 for some odd reason.


White has just played 11. Nc6 with no advantage.


The opening was a success owing to the fact that my opponent didn’t quite know what to do then made a slip.


Black has just played 17. …Nb4, which is, I think, winning.


…getting messy


26. … Rd1#.


I was half-watching the tv too as I played this out on my phone…

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