The beautiful connection between chess and North Norfolk

Is it possible to have too many books? When it comes to moving house, as my brother is about to do after some 40 years, the answer is a resounding yes. But in normal circumstances, it is a comforting thing to see the number of bookcases in a house increase, even when they are not being used as a backdrop to a Zoom conference.

So I was more than happy in the past few weeks to obtain three new books from fellow Norfolk writers who I have had the honour to be associated with over some years.

One is Shifting Sands by Godfrey Sayers, who is probably the most reliable source of information about the history and geography of North Norfolk to the west of Salthouse. He has lived in the area since he was a child and has wide experience of walking and fishing (professionally) there. His latest book, a follow-up to the very impressive Once Upon a Tide, looks at the rise and fall of the Glaven Ports, what happened to the coastline there over the centuries, and why – as well as what might have happened if different decisions had been taken.

Like his earlier book, this one contains many examples of his paintings, for Godfrey, as many of you will know, is also a first-rate artist as well as a renowned campaigner for the environment and a bit of a minor prophet when it comes to what might happen next. A book well worth reading if you have any interest in the area and want to know more about its obvious beauty.

The second and third books are about chess – a world away? Not really, because the attraction of chess is its wild beauty. Not easy to convey to non-players, but once you are grabbed by it, it never lets you go.

I have known Mike Read and David LeMoir for many years. David is editor of the Norfolk chess magazine, En Passant, as well as being a very strong, exciting player and a brilliant writer about the game. His latest book, Chess Scribe: a 50-Year Anthology, is particularly compelling as it looks back over a whole lifetime of his chess writing, coming up with many famous names along the way.

I especially enjoyed the section on Owen Hindle, probably Norfolk’s strongest ever player, as well as, scattered through the book, many games from friends I have fought with over the years, especially those at the Norwich Dons Chess Club.

One thing I would have liked is an index, just to check that my name didn’t crop up anywhere, but why should it? If it did, I would have to mention it, which would be embarrassing. Mike Read’s name does crop up, of course, as he is, with Owen, another very strong Norfolk player who is internationally recognised.

He has recently published his second book – another collection of his correspondence games which this time includes draws and defeats as well as victories. It’s called Triumph and Disaster and, as with his first book containing 120 of his games, it has the outstanding merit of being attractive to read. Mike has the gift of making his games, which are often complex, easy to understand for lesser talents, but still compulsive for strong players.

All of these books are available from Amazon. Do not buy them if you are about to move house.