Board game magic for Christmas

Board games go with Christmas, don’t they? Ludo and Scrabble, not to mention Monopoly and Dixit. Gold, frankincense, myrrh and Cluedo. A shepherd did it, with a crook, in the stable. You must remember.

But not chess. Too introspective, too binary, too many pieces on earth. 

Except that someone bought me a couple of chess books this year, and I was delighted. Especially as one of them contained four games I had played. I have been immortalised in print. All right – two of them were losses, but you can’t win them all, especially at chess, where the agony of losing possibly exceeds the joy of winning. A bit like Norwich City, except that Norwich City have forgotten what winning feels like.

This particular book, which I cannot praise too highly, because it has my games in it, is by my friend Mike Read, a senior international master who I have known since he was an outstanding schoolboy player at the City of Norwich School back in the 1970s. Hampered by medical problems over the years – he is unable to use a computer screen – he had huge success as an international correspondence player and has built an immense reputation as a chess analyst and annotater.

This, his third book, is called 110 Instructive Chess Annotations, and is considerably more exciting than it sounds, containing a tremendous variety of games from Norfolk players of varying strength, all closely examined and explained with that lucidity of style that has become his trademark in the prizewinning Norfolk chess magazine, En Passant – edited by David Le Moir, another prolific chess author.

As I have been involved with Norfolk chess for even longer than Mike (I played for CNS in the early 1960s and subsequently for Norfolk), the book is especially valuable to me, containing so many games by players who became friends, including two who died this year – Greg Tebble and Jonathan Wells, both the kindest of men. Chess may be hard fought, but between people who generally like each other.

Anyway I shall be playing through those games by friends and familiar ghosts, absorbing Mike’s astute comments and delighting in the magic of maths and music that chess reveals to those who love it. Too much? Maybe.

110 Instructive Chess Annotations, by SIM Mike Read, is available from Amazon at cost price, which happens to be £10.35.