Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ashley Sterne and Chess

I found a fragment of an Ashley Sterne article in the daily chess column of The Adelaide Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), 23 August 1924.  The chess editor had included it for comic relief in the News and Notes section 

News and Notes

My readers will be forever grateful to Mr. Ashley Sterne, of the English "Passing Show," for the advice he gives upon "how to make chess a really popular game." For example: —

Why we should all feel so desperate an urge to attend cup finals is, to me, a psychological subtlety incapable of solution. I can only wish that, for the sake of sport in general, the same stimulus would impel us to witness the finals of other forms of manly recreation. It would be all to the good of the game. Take the recent chess tournament in America. From all accounts it was a slow affair—one game alone taking 6.5 hours to decide—yet I cannot help thinking that, if only there had been a Wembley crowd present, their attendance would have inspired the players to invest the proceedings with a little more pep. Naturally, when there is no cheering, no booing, no maiming, no lynching of the referee, the contestants can hardly be expected to brisk up and chivvy their pieces round the board on third gear. I feel perfectly certain that if the players were from time to time encouraged with stentorian shouts of— "Good old Bogoljubow! Now you've got him— give him check with your rook! Good old Bogoljubow! Come on, Capablanca! Pull up your rooks! Centre with your queen's bishop! . . . .Oh, good move, sir! Absolutely stymied him! .... Pinch his blinking knight!  . . . Well played, Tartakower! .... Now's your chance, Lasker! Collar him en passant .... Durn it, why don't you castle, you boob .... Oh, jolly fine push, Maroczy! Ra! Ra! Ra! . . ."— I feel certain, I say, that such exclamations would put the players on their mettle, and stimulate them to do something a little more exciting and spectacular.

Much, too, might be done by revising the existing chess rules, and by introducing a football atmosphere into the game. For example, I would like to see the player who has had the misfortune to lose his queen become entitled to take a free kick at his adversary, partly to compensate him for the loss of this valuable piece, and partly because it is a clear case of lese majeste to put a queen out of action when she's having a good time. I would like, also, a player threatened with imminent checkmate to be empowered to drop a new King on to the board over his shoulder.

I am further of opinion that it would be a vast improvement if, when a knight is in the act of jumping over an intervening piece, the opposing player be allowed to rush in and "head" the knight.  Captured pieces, too, might be thrown on the board again from the touch-lines by the referee; and I am all in favor of "huffing" in chess, as is the custom in draughts. [In informal English checkers, a player who failed to make a capturing move when one was available was penalized by having the piece that could have performed the capture huffed, i.e. removed from the board.]

And lastly, I would like to see the rule about moving in turn scrapped, and the players be permitted to hustle their men along with all possible energy. There seems to me to be something radically wrong about a game where you have to wait for your opponent to hit you.

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