Category Archives: 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


How To Raise The Finance

In a previous article on The English Chess Implosion I presented a case for the UK’s reduction in titled players being largely driven by financial considerations. I do have a practical suggestion for how money can be brought into chess, though I doubt there’s much chance of it happening.

It’s really very simple, you need people with a proven track record of raising capital in key positions within English Chess. Who are they? Well first and foremost there’s GM Raymond Keene who has been involved with the vast majority of UK sponsorship deals for more than 30 years. And secondly there is IM Malcolm Pein, founder and Chief Executive of the UK’s Chess in Schools charity which is now funding chess teachers and events all over the country. 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.

Would those with talent be willing to help? Well someone would need to ask them. Malcolm Pein is clearly interested and was elected as the International Director at the ECF Annual General Meeting last Saturday. Certainly this is good news, English chess desperately needs people with his abilities and track record. But more are needed and in key positions.

Moving down to an individual level, how do people finance their own attempts to improve? With little or no help from federations most have to do this off their own bat, which means either massive support from family (usually parents) or enough disposable income to get to tournaments and afford coaching. In this respect kids with strong chess players as parents have a distinct advantage, especially if the parent concerned has some notion about how to become a strong player and is willing to play lots of games against their chess playing child.

Sometimes you can find a mentor or coach at a local chess club who will hopefully know what they are doing. And these days people can also become members of my Tiger Chess site which explains exactly what you must do. Of course the message of dedicated study of strategy, tactics and endgames over a period of years isn’t as attractive as the promise of transformation using a 1,000 page openings book or four. I went for years in a semi confused state about what I was doing wrong with my chess until I mixed with enough well schooled Russian players (especially Lev Psakhis) to understand the difference in what we were doing.

I have a lot more to say about these matters but frankly I think I’d just be wasting my time. Let’s just say that I’m still congratulating myself on recently changing my international representation from England to Wales and cancelling my membership of the ECF. This has been especially the case since the news broke that one of the ECF’s recent Presidents was a former rent boy and might have killed someone.

English chess is not what it was and without radical change will just drift to the end of the Fischer boomers when tournaments and clubs will have been decimated through a lack of players. But with enough of the right people in the right places there’s certainly some hope that things might get rebuilt.

Nigel Davies



People are always looking for ways to popularize chess, coming up with one gimmick after another. But how about chess just being authentic, just being what it is without chasing after attention? This is what happened in 1972, and people are still talking about it:

Nigel Davies


Life After Chess For Garry Kasparov

As someone who hasn’t played many tournaments of late it’s always interesting to see what other former competitors are up to. Garry Kasparov has certainly kept himself busy defending humanitarian causes and giving numerous interviews about Russia, but the chess player is still there. Knowing that a certain young journalist would interview him Kasparov learned more about him and was ready. Old habits die hard.

This is one of the things about chess that has lasting value, at least when you do it properly. Competitive chess is a tough arena which teaches valuable survival skills. The same can not necessarily be said about other specialist disciplines.

Nigel Davies


Does Red Bull Help Your Chess?

The news that Red Bull is sponsoring Hikaru Nakamura might get people wondering if this drink might be good for your chess. Here he is with a can of the stuff by his side:

So is it true, can Red Bull help? Well be warned first of all, caffeine can get you banned by FIDE if there’s 12 micrograms per millilitre in your bloodstream. Plus the fact that it might not help, personally I’ve found beverages with caffeine in just make me nervous during games.

Of course it’s as well to test this for yourself, plus other approaches like staying well hydrated. But stay within the legal limit if you’re likely to be dope tested.

Nigel Davies


Chess Set Designs

People sometimes wonder what sort of chess set they should get. My take is that nothing beats a wooden Staunton set for clarity, elegance and feel. And using one of them gets you used to the sets used in tournaments.

Of course not everyone agrees and there have been some ‘different’ designs over the years. Like this horrible thing:

Nigel Davies