CHESS-PLAYING TO-DAY (PART II)
One very satisfactory outcome of all this match-playing has been a very much wider application of the "time limit," which had only been enforced in great masters' tournaments and in isolated games of any special importance. In the ordinary way a player might take ten minutes--and as many more as he pleased--over every move; in many games he can and does still. This is all very well if you have a whole evening and a night before you, but otherwise one of two things will probably happen: either the game will result in a draw for want of time to develop it, or the faster player will throw it away in sheer disgust. After analyzing a position for any length of time, a player ought to be able to proceed for the next few moves with tolerable rapidity, and in order to prevent him from examining every possible variation after every move, the "time limit" is introduced. The standard varies according to the quality of the chess expected. In the great masters' tournaments twenty moves in the first hour and fifteen moves an hour afterwards is the general limit. In the league matches twenty-four moves an hour is the rate, and in some contests even thirty is not considered to be too fast.
A "time limit" of twenty-four moves an hour means that each player has one hour at his disposal wherein to complete his first twenty-four moves, an hour and a quarter for his first thirty moves, an hour and a half for thirty-six moves, and so on. If he has made more than the required number in the hour, the time he has gained is added on to the time allotted for the next series of moves. For instance, supposing a player has made thirty-six moves in the first hour and he has a difficult position to analyze, he can if he likes examine it for half an hour, and yet will not have exceeded his limit of thirty-six moves in an hour and a half. On the other hand, should a player exceed his "time limit"--that is, should he have failed to complete twenty-four moves in the first hour, or six additional moves for every quarter of an hour afterwards--he forfeits the game.
Hour-glasses or "sand-glasses" were formerly used for the purpose of measuring time at chess matches, but now specially constructed clocks are in general use for this purpose. These clocks consist of two clocks mounted on a common base, which moves on a pivot, the two clocks therefore being on the arms of a sort of see-saw. The beam or base is so constructed that when one clock is elevated it stands perfectly perpendicular, whilst the depressed clock lies over at an angle. But as the mechanism of each clock is so constructed that it only moves when the clock is perfectly perpendicular, it follows that when the upright clock is going the depressed clock is at rest.
Another and more modern variety has the two clocks fixed on the same level, but with a small brass arm reaching from the top of one to the top of the other. This arm acts as a pivot, and can be brought down into actual contact with one clock at a time by a touch of the finger. When it is thus in contact, by an ingenious device the clock is stopped, and the desired result is attained. The working of the clocks during a match is simplicity itself. At the commencement of the match the hands of each clock point to twelve, then at the call of "time to commence play," the clock of the first player is started. Then as soon as he makes his first move he stops his own clock, either by depressing it or by touching the arm referred to, the same motion starting his opponent's clock; so it goes on during the entire course of the game, each move being marked by the stopping of one clock and the starting of the other.
To fight for one's club in matches is one of the most pleasing of a chess-player's duties. True, there are a few strong players who invariably decline to take part in these contests, and who reserve their skill for the club tournaments. In the one case you play for the honor of your club, in the other for your own reputation. The club secretary always thinks more kindly of the man who will do both. It is no uncommon thing for a London chess-player to be a member of one or two local clubs, and also of one of the more important central organizations. In the league and Surrey trophy matches a man must decide at the beginning of the season for which of his clubs he will fight, and he must stick to his choice. Not a little friction is sometimes caused by a valued member of a local club turning up to do battle against it. But the grievance is only imaginary, for a man is clearly at liberty to join as many clubs as he likes, and to please himself as to which he will play for.
Of great central clubs there are three: the St. George's, in St. James Street, S.W.; the City of London, 19 Nicholas Lane, E.C.; and the British, of Whitehall Court, S.W. The St. George's is the oldest existing chess club of the metropolis, having been founded as far back as 1845. It is the club of the "leisured and lettered" class, and from time to time has attracted to it many of the stronger university players. At one time it took the lead in London chess matters, but of late it has not been so much in evidence, and its members now mainly content themselves with quiet afternoon chess, though they occasionally still try conclusions with other metropolitan clubs.
The City of London Chess Club comes next in point of age. It was formed in 1852, and at this moment stands at the very head of English chess as a great fighting organization. It is aptly named, for it is and has always been a city club for city men, busy men all--stock-brokers, merchants, lawyers, accountants, managers and others, all representatives of the busy hive wherein they toil. In every way the "City" is a great chess institution, great alike in its membership, its aggregate playing strength and its enthusiasm for the game. Its membership totals up to something like four hundred and fifty, and it is ready to play a match, one hundred a side, with any chess club or organization in the world. The quality of the play in its championship tournament, and in the first-class sections of its great winter tournament, is of the highest; and what the "old City" can do when put upon its mettle was fully shown some little time ago when a team of master players (including Lasker) could do no more than effect a draw against a team of "City" players.
We next come to the British Chess Club, which was founded in 1885. The British is much less a fighting club than a great gathering-place for the wealthy middle-class chess-player, who loves his dinner as well as his game.
Of other foremost clubs we may mention the Athenaeum, the Ludgate Circus, the Metropolitan and the North London, all strong and vigorous organizations, and each boasting the possession of players of great skill.
To be continued...
Read Part 1
About the Author
This article by J. Arnold Green is from the journal, THE LIVING AGE (Sixth Series, Volume XVIII, April, May, June, 1898), which is in the public domain.
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