The Gazette - February 2021

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.


Welcome to the first gazette of 2021! As is my custom, the February editorial takes as its theme the Chinese New Year, which starts on the 12th of February and it’s the Year of the Ox. Eastern and Western philosophies agree on the qualities associated with this beast; dependable, strong, determined and hard working. When trying to think what an ox might have in common with chess, however, I must admit I was flummoxed!

In desperation, I googled “oxen chess” and to my amazement many matches were listed! The connection hinges around berserkers, who, in Viking society, were fearless warriors said to wage battle in a wild fury. Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson (1179–1241) wrote this description of berserkers in his Ynglinga saga:

“Odin's men rushed forwards without armour, were as mad as dogs or wolves, bit their shields, and were strong as bears or wild oxen, and killed people at a blow, but neither fire nor iron told upon them.”

The link between these “strong as wild oxen” fighters and our game, is that some chessmen in the Isle of Lewis set are depicted as berserkers! These exquisite 12th century pieces, carved in walrus ivory, were discovered in the Outer Hebrides in 1831. Apart from the pawns, all pieces are human figures, and the berserker characters, which may have been used as rooks, look particularly menacing because, as mentioned in the poem, they are biting down on the top of their shields to prepare for combat!

So, what does this issue have in store for you? Unlike a certain other Whitehouse, I’m delighted to say that ours, i.e. Guy, is stable and working reliably, perhaps we might say in an “ox-like” fashion! He has summarised the November committee meeting and he sets out our plans for this year’s AGM, complete with the agenda.

Treasurer, Gill Smith, reports on fundraising successes even in these tricky Covid-19 times. She also reminds us how we can all play our part by entering the Millennium Club and thinking of the BCA when we shop online.

Correspondence Chess Director, Paul Benson, has once again battled with computer problems to compile his report. Paul has also written the first of a series of analysed games, designed to help us all improve our chess!

There’s an account of our Remote Autumn Tournament and the final scores in the 13th BCA Email Tournament. Also, Rod Macdonald has analysed a fascinating game of his from the 12th BCA Email Tournament.

You’ll discover who won the 2020 David Hodgkins Memorial Best Game Competition and who will be judging the competition for us this year. If you’ve ever wondered how Gerry Walsh got into chess, you’ll find out in his article which includes a master game. We have the usual puzzle and more great chess quotes!

In the November issue it was revealed that the BCA would feature in an article in Chess Magazine. This time we have the text of that piece! Membership Secretary, Mark Hague reports how the article inspired one of this quarter’s new members to join us. We also say a fond farewell to Dorothy Hodges, who passed away in October.

There are already a couple of email matches underway this year and we have a few remote events planned for the spring. Waste no time in entering the brand new “BCA Big Bash” as the closing date is imminent!

We’re hoping it might be possible to hold over the board events later this year, but it’s by no means certain. When we do all meet for a tournament though, remember that if you hear gnawing in the playing room it’s not safe to assume that a nearby guide dog is nonchalantly chewing a table leg! It could be your opponent getting his or her teeth into the chessboard, about to go berserk and launch an attack of the utmost ferocity. Beware!

You might have noticed, that the gazette has put on weight since November! (Alas, so has the editor, but that’s another matter.) Many thanks to everyone who responded to my plea for more material. I received so much that I’ve held one item over for next time! Please send me your contributions for the May gazette by the end of March.

Julie Leonard