27 August, 2020

Knight to the rescue

My instant reaction to the below problem was Qxh2, as its mate.

Although, of course, it isn't...

Shortly afterwards, the solution dawns. Its not an Arabian mate, but its the next best Knight mate, and its a Queen sacrifice ! What more can you ask ?

Sadly, the problem does not seem to be from an identified game, but still good to see.

Black to play



22 August, 2020

(August) 20-20 Blues

I have spent some time this last two weeks looking through the music I have ( I am talking CDs here, rather than 'cloud-based') since its another thing you can do at home in "lockdown" during a weekend for occupation and entertainment .

Focusing on what I have in the blues area, I have enjoyed playing old music ( both that bought years ago and shall we say pre-rock era ?), and have re-discovered T-Bone Walker.  Truly incredible music.

As with many musicians of the 30s, 40s and 50s,  albums of their music (in the modern sense) didn't really exist , so generally you end up with either cheap compilations covering "hits" or else box sets focusing on a complete label recording.  

The cheap compilations can tend to have poorer sound, so given that the music is already 80+years old, having something that you can actually listen to properly is an advantage of the 'complete label' approach, since these have often been re-mastered with some care and attention, the down-side being the usually higher price.

My younger self seems, sensibly, to have bought the Imperial records set covering T-Bone's heyday of 1950-54, plus a best of 1942-49, and his 1966 "T-Bone Blues" ( a 'real' album ), so pretty much covered for entertainment and historical value.

What sparked this ? Uncovering the "Penguin Guide to Blues recordings" bought second-hand years ago and suitably shelved in a box. 

Its is a really good guide assessing musicians, their importance and what to look for in their recordings. No idea why it never grabbed me before !   The only issue with it is the fact it stops in 2002, and much has been issued since then, even pre-war blues, with newly-discovered music or, more often, improved mastering ( Robert Johnson and Charley Patton are prime examples here as their complete works are re-mastered and are fully/easily listenable now ).

I am now looking for the out-of-print "Complete Black and White and Capitol Recordings" of T-bone Walker, but as it is expensive when available, I may content myself with something called "The Alternate T-Bone" which seems to be the alternate takes from his vibrant sessions for the Black & White label, so will be interesting and enjoyable. 

As with many musicians from those days, T-Bone Walker re-recorded hits for new labels, so alternate takes from the 40s could often be versions/variations that will turn up on a different label later on. 

Its also a revelation hearing people like Ivory Joe Hunter, Amos Milburn, Hadda Brooks, Big Mama Thornton, Lowell Fulson, Maceo Merriweather and others playing music that isn't 'rock and pop' music, but has the recognisable roots of it.

One more thing my younger self did was to buy compilations recommended, for example, by Mojo or Q, so I have some great CDs with a swathe of lesser-known musicians such as Jimmy Wilson, Roy Hawkins ( writer of the "Thrill is gone" as purloined by BB King ), Jimmy Nelson and others. 

The J.O.B. label compilation of early 1950s  recordings is a case in point, as, although I didn't know it when I bought it via mail-order from Red Lick records almost 20 years ago, it contains 4 of Leroy Foster's later recordings, showing what a remarkable singer and musician he was.  Some pretty amazing Memphis Minnie ( "Kissing in the Dark"is my favourite here), plus the likes of Robert Lockwood, Johnny Shines and others. A great way to discover new artists to explore.

As I write, I'm listening to a more modern 'minor-celebrity covers' album from 2016. Blind Willie Johnson songs re-imagined for the 21st century, and they sound contemporary.

Really enjoyable hearing the likes of Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Rickie Lee Jones and even Sinead O'Connor interpreting these timeless songs ( out of interest she covers "Trouble soon be over").

Wouldn't it be great if there was a cleaner re-master of Blind Willlie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell or Blind Lemon Jefferson, so you don't have to rely on your brain assisted by a couple of beers to filter out the noise and scratches ?

I will have to have a search...

21 August, 2020

Yet again, not an Arabian mate

Just to continue the variation on the theme of Arabian mate, here's another example...maybe its an "assisted"Arabian Mate ? This time with a Rook as the bolster.

White to Play

19 August, 2020

Not an Arabian mate

If I were to suggest that this was an Arabian mate, not only would this upset the purists, but I would be wrong. 


However, its the idea that counts....

White to Play

01 July, 2020

Two Knights and a Queen

Technically, it would be difficult to fail this mate problem, as there were 4 or 5 alternatives given in Chess Tempo.

However, I was please to solve it correctly, so only discovered the "alts" afterwards.

This was something that just had to be mate, given the position, but I don't think I have ever seen a mate quite like this, with a Queen and two knights giving a sort of epaulette mate.

White to play and mate

17 June, 2020

Not the three-minute mile

The difference between training with apps and websites compared to books, is that what you do is stored and available for checking, even if you don't remember that you can.

For whatever reason, I decided to check my previous attempts at the below problem, since it was a good problem to solve and took me some time to work out

White to move
I was amazed to find this was my second attempt, and that I had solved it correctly both times, but surprisingly, the second attempt took 2+ minutes compared to the initial 4+.

Conclusions can't be drawn from 1 problem, but certainly, I sense that progress is being made, albeit slowly.  

More importantly, I also seem to gain greater satisfaction and enjoyment during games as well.