Independent Pursuits: Chess

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The Independent Culture
THE CAMPAIGN to get chess recognised as a sport gathered further momentum on Thursday with a reception in the Members' Dining Room of the House of Commons organised by the chess computer manufacturers Saitek and the British Chess Federation. Parliamentarians, chess administrators, several ferocious junior chess players and some even more fearsome grandmasters, including Nigel Short and Gary Kasparov himself, came together to promote "serious support for a serious sport".

The first part of the proceedings consisted of four speeches. First up was Charlotte Atkins (Labour, Staffordshire Moorlands) whose Early Day Motion last parliamentary session was signed by 93 MPs and who was due to table a second EDM on Friday. Herself the mother of a chess-player, she emphasised the educational aspects and hoped to see chess clubs established in all 24,000 schools in the UK.

Gary Kasparov said that no fewer than 124 governments worldwide recognise chess as a sport and pointed out that 60 years ago, nobody would have dreamt of classifying even snooker in this way.

Saitek's marketing director, Paul Moodie, said that chess is played by more than 4 million Britons and is second only to football in popularity. He ran through our several recent junior champions and introduced the young titans present.

Last on was Dr Evan Harris (Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon) a former Liverpool under-18 champion, who opened the Adjournment Debate on chess a fortnight ago. Deputed to organise the parliamentary troops, he pre-emptively blamed his own opening repertoire on Ray Keene's An Opening Repertoire for the Attacking Player - as seen in action below.

Too young to have been weakened by champagne, the junior squad were then loosed on the parliamentarians and, not unexpectedly, tore into them 5- 0.

The opening play was inaccurate - 6 Bb5 is better, 6 ...Bd7! a good reply to 6 Qa4 and 8 Ne5 strong, but later White built up logically and 25 Bxf5! would have won a pawn. A wild scramble ensued in which White's flag fell as Black delivered mate; but she only had six seconds left, too!

White: Evan Harris

Black: Jessie Gilbert

House of Commons, 1999

Caro Kann-Panov Attack Gundaram Variation

At the end of proceedings (fortunately after this slaughter of the parliamentarians which might have inserted a most impolitic "blood" before the sport) the Minister of Sport himself, Tony Banks, found time in his busy schedule to attend. We can only hope that owing to his crucial support, precious parliamentary time will also be found to enact the necessary legislation.