Author Archives: NigelD

About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days he teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 13 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game.

Chess Sets

At this seasonal time of year many chess players will be getting a new set. For those buying such a present, it’s very important to have Staunton pieces, under no circumstances should you get a serious player some kind of fancy set. Wood is good too, though there are some nice plastic ones around which don’t look like plastic. And one small difference is allowable, having white bishops having a black top and black bishops having a white one.

This is known as a Dubrovnik set and it was a firm favorite of Bobby Fischer. In the following video we see him using this set:

Nigel Davies

How Professionals Support Amateur Chess

I’ve recently seen some comments about amateurs supporting professionals, a view which probably came about because UK chess has been run down so much and has very little sponsorship. But I think that there’s another side of this that seems to be getting ignored.

Here are some of the ways in which amateurs are being supported by professionals:

1) Professional players provide an ongoing source of instruction though their games, which are routinely collected and published in databases without any payment or royalty.

2) Many hours work has gone into the development of different chess patterns (including openings), which are then routinely played by amateurs if they bother to learn them. Once again all this knowledge is available without any royalty being paid to the masters who discovered these ideas.

3) Ratings and competition were designed to discover who the best players were, not to compare Joe Bloggs to John Smith. Without the pursuit of excellence chess competition in its current form wouldn’t exist.

4) Title norms opportunities are provided by full time players, without them receiving anything like decent recompense.

5) When sponsorship does exist, for example at the London Chess Classic, numerous events are created in which amateurs can participate.

6) Chess achievements boost interest in chess and swell the numbers of people who want to play and join chess clubs etc.. This was certainly the case in the days of Bobby Fischer, and even Paul Morphy in his time inspired many to take up the game.

I’m sure there are many more ways too, but even these provide strong arguments in favour of having professionals in chess.

Nigel Davies

Learning From The London Chess Classic

I’m back home after commentating on the London Chess Classic last Friday, but I’m due to return next weekend. One interesting thing happened meanwhile in that my son, having seen me commentating, became interested in following the games. Prior to this he had been looking at the games of his peers, which provided far from optimal models of play.

You can learn a lot from following tournaments online, especially if you try to guess the move before it is played (active involvement). Of course not everybody finds the Berlin (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6) fascinating, and this suggests that perhaps with need tournaments with mixed strength participation. But even so it can be useful.

Here anyway is the Youtube video of round 1.

Nigel Davies

London Chess Classic

I arrived in London yesterday to do some commentary at the London Chess Classic. I don’t usually make predictions but I’m going to stick my neck out for this one. Although Magnus Carlsen hasn’t played well this year I feel sure that he will have noticed and figured out how to do something about it.

Watching top class tournaments is a good way to improve, especially if you try to guess the moves without any technological assistance!

Nigel Davies

Just To Be Clear, I Did Not Bleeping ‘Defect’!

I think I’m going to decline all future interviews with national newspapers after this latest piece by Stephen Moss. And that means for ever!

Below is my email to Mr. Moss when he first asked to interview me, mentioning that he was also interested in improving his chess. Although I was reluctant at first, given other newspaper coverage on this matter, I got talked into it thinking that this time would be different. But when the article appeared it said that his (my!) disaffection with the English Chess Federation was so great that he had switched his allegiance to Wales!

Seriously folks, I’ve really tried to separate my move to Wales with subsequent attempts at constructive criticism of English chess, but somehow the people who’ve interviewed me seem to hear something completely different to what I’ve been saying. This does of course give an indication of how little we can trust the media to report things accurately, perhaps even with matters of genuine importance. It also explains why I haven’t watched the news or read a newspaper for around a decade and feel an ease and cheer I’d never want to be without!

Here anyway is the email which shows very different motives to those ‘described’ in the article:

Dear Stephen,

I’m not sure you picked this post up about why I switched to Wales but it makes clear that the issues with English Chess are not directly linked to my switch. This wasn’t really represented well in the articles that have appeared, perhaps largely due to the fact that it wouldn’t make much of a story. BBC Wales have spoken to me more recently but with the focus being firmly on my being the principality’s first GM.

Probably I can help you more with your attempts to get better as my web site, Tiger Chess prevents a very clear methodology. You’ll need to work on it but people who do get better with me.

Best wishes, Nigel

Nigel Davies

A New Recipe Against Alzheimer’s: Chess & Champagne at Simpson’s

Given the amount of interest this area has attracted in the chess scene, I thought it worth mentioning the potential that playing chess at Simpson’s, accompanied by a glass of champagne or three, has in combating this disease.

In the following video Anatoly Karpov confirms the value of chess for the mind: “If you train, if you keep your brain working all the time, you maintain your thinking abilities and your memory.” And whilst there are those who have questioned the growing evidence I think it makes sense to go with this rather than wait for the researchers to provide absolute confirmation.

Nigel Davies

Chess In The Media

Here’s some further evidence about the popularity of chess in the media, its symbolism never failing to capture attention. I don’t like seeing chess pieces kicked over as this is a kind of sacrilege, and I don’t like the song much either. But isn’t it a shame that organized chess events rarely seem to capture much of the game’s magical appeal?

Nigel Davies

More Than 400 Students In Indian State Level Competition

There are of course a lot of kids participating in junior tournaments in the UK. But the difference in India is that chess is a highly respected and well paid profession there, as a chess GM you’re a big star and national hero, rolled into one. And this in turn provides a strong incentive for ongoing study and play throughout the teenage years:

Nigel Davies

Why I Switched To Wales

A few months ago I changed my international representation to Wales, which you wouldn’t think is a big deal for a chess teacher who is currently on a long break from playing competitive chess. Amazingly this has now hit the media in a big way with articles in the Telegraph (with different pieces appearing online and in the print version), the Times and being on the news on Radio 4 and BBC Wales (2.48 onwards). As this story has been jazzed up quite a bit (not to mention the fact that the Times interviewed me via mobile phone whilst I was in a coffee bar with noisy Italians on the next table), I thought I should give my own version of events in my own words.

Leaving the English Chess Federation (ECF) was a largely personal decision that came from not feeling relevant despite being an International Grandmaster and well regarded coach. In fact I never heard from them except when it was time to pay my subs.

In an interview with Telegraph correspondent Leon Watson, the Publicity Manager of the ECF, Mark Jordan, confirmed this: “Nigel of course isn’t strong enough at the moment to get into the England team, unless it was a very poor England team, but he would be far and away the best Welsh player.”

However some people have pointed out that I might have been valuable in an England attempt to win Gold in the European and World Seniors Championships as for an over 50 I’m probably not too bad. Vis a vis ‘strength’ it would also be interesting to see a match between Mr. Jordan and one of the Welsh girls, for example Immogen Camp. If someone would like to sponsor this event I’d be happy to pitch in and do the commentary for free.

By changing to Wales I can still play in the European and World Individual 50+ events (albeit under the Welsh flag) and have given them their first Grandmaster. Perhaps this in turn will inspire young people to take up the game and progress. This has been confirmed by the Home Director of Welsh Chess, Kevin Staveley:

It was Nigel who approached us and said he’s got so many close ties with Wales can he play under our banner, and we were delighted. Success breeds success and we have now got someone on the top layer. Hopefully there will be others who will come along and be inspired by him. We have a crop of promising youngsters, particularly girls, coming through who we think will go a long way in chess.

A sponsor was willing to pay my transfer fee to FIDE (the International Chess Federation) but I got nothing out of this myself except the hope that it would do some good for the game. Other English GMs have also departed for what may be very similar reasons; Murray Chandler left for New Zealand, Tony Kosten left for France, David Norwood went to Andorra and Matthew Turner to Scotland.

More recently, inspired by comments by Garry Kasparov, I wrote two blog posts on The English Chess Explosion and How To Raise The Finance to offer an analysis, based on my 40+ years in the chess scene, of why England is in decline as a chess playing nation and what might be done about it. I also decided not to renew my ECF subscription, partly because I am only playing training games against my son at home and partly through disappointment at the infighting going on within the ECF. The time line is important; I didn’t storm out of the ECF and have not been involved in the recent very public and unfortunate spats and scandals.

Of course the possibility of linking these events seems to be what made the story so attractive to the media, which seems to be confirmed by the Telegraph’s print edition piece that appeared on October 25th under the heading A Bold Move:

There was a time when the buzz on the chess circuit was whether or not a Soviet player might defect to the West. Nigel Davies, however, has defected from the English Chess Federation to Wales. The veteran Grandmaster grandly announced that he was tired of what he described as a “rag bag of chess amateurs who think they should be important but lack the knowledge and skill.”

Chess has often involved bitter rows fuelled by big personalities. But even as the contestants put each other down, the spectator still wonders at the sheer brainpower on display. It takes ego to get ahead; it takes humility to regonise that some of us are better made for a game of draughts. As Woody Allen once quipped: “I failed to make the chess team because of my height.”

I read this together with my chess playing son during a day out in Liverpool and we found it hilarious, especially the Woody Allen quote! But defected? This seems rather melodramatic to say the least, but I guess they’ve got papers to sell. They also took my ‘rag bag of amateurs’ remark completely out of context, what I actually said was this:

There are other very capable people around too, such as GM David Norwood, IM Nigel Povah and IM Paul Littlewood, all of whom have had heavy involvement in the corporate and financial Worlds besides their long standing and distinguished involvement with competitive chess. It should be obvious that these are the individuals you want running things rather than a rag bag of chess amateurs who think they should be important but lack the knowledge and skill.

So basically it’s just a storm in a tea cup and nothing for anyone to get excited about. To put any further speculation to rest I have no plans to play tournaments right now as I’m too busy with other things, including running my Tiger Chess training site. In any case I’m not qualified to play for the Welsh team as I don’t currently live in Wales, but when my son Sam is a bit older we’ll probably play in tournaments together. I dare say that he’s the one to watch rather than me, at 13 he’s already giving me a hard time of it in our training games!

Nigel Davies