The Covid-19 Chess Diaries – Lord Clueless Reflects

When you reach 60 years of age, things start to stop working properly (not that!!), so you have to work harder to keep them going.

The body starts to get lazy and sometimes painful – knees in particular – the powers of recovery take longer to kick in, and what was effortless previously, requires serious application and time.

In some ways it’s the mirror image of the lockdown we are all facing at the moment – life is limiting your choices – so you have to work harder to make things happen. 

This requires a huge alteration in mindset and a definite step-up in motivation.

In the chess field I need to radically re-assess my options…

Ok I am gonna say it – I really miss over the board chess (this is the purest form of  chess combat), the team camaraderie, the verbal banter and most of all the social side of club nights. Hammer is a huge part of my life – both socially and from an organising point of view.

There is a big, gaping chasm.

Suddenly, I have to embrace the new ways of working and socialising at chess. What were the nice to have extras – WhatsApp, email, and online – have become the new mainstream. No choice if I want to get my chess fix!

The biggest problem is to wean myself off bullet chess (2min + 1 second increment) – up till now I have had no patience for longer play online – it feels like a pointless waste of time. I have to accept longer time limits and get on with it – that is going to be so hard.

I guess I am an old reactionary – I just want to look my opponent in the eye – there are so many tells at the chess board. The psychological battle is tangible and real. It is not lost in the internet either.

This may be the second biggest struggle of the lockdown for me.

The social side of chess has also gone AWOL – the sad thing is nothing can fill that void. That is such a painful loss. I miss the banter with Sorted, Pickle, Sydney… all of you.

The sad fact is there are a few Hammers who are now cut off.

However, two positives…

  • Being able to watch the chess24 stream on the 2020 Candidates, and that has been incredible. With the rest of world sport in limbo or shutdown – chess is still going at the highest level. (edit: as of this morning, that too has been shut down!)
  • My puzzle rating has gone over 2300 for the first time.

Is it time to upgrade to membership and ditch the freebie version?

On the personal side, both Karen and I are working from home.

The trouble for Karen as a CBT therapist is that most patients want face-to-face treatment. That option on the NHS ended last week. She is having to conduct sessions by phone – just not the same, and a different skillset is required.

My digital Pharmacy TV business is very active – our screens are carrying Government and personal adverts about combating Covid-19. My pharmacy clientele is on the frontline of this pandemic fight, and struggling to cope with the workload and keeping safe at the same time.

Lord Clueless gets to grips with the latest technology

This fight against the Covid-19 virus is like a chess game – the struggle is never over until it is over. You have to change strategy at times, and then maybe a tactical opportunity will present. There is sacrifice and loss in this battle – do not forget you have to protect the health workers on the frontline – our Kings. If you lose your King, you lose the battle.

Hammers, we will get through this but we must all do our bit – please remember 8pm this evening, and join the public show of support for our health care workers.

Over the board chess is not dead, it is just in a temporary coma.

Hammer will be back but for now we have Hammer Online – a big shout out to Adam, Christof, Andy and Jim (aka Pickle, Der Vader, Spidey and El Loco) they have so stepped up. (Round II of the Corona Cup continues this evening at 7.30pm – details will be posted in the WhatsApp!)

To IM Peter Roberson who did a sumul online for Hammer members – just brilliant.

Hammers, hold the faith, stay safe, and I will see you when all this has passed.


A small request…

Hammers – we are keen to hear the ‘lockdown’ stories of other Hammer members. If you have a  story to share please get in touch:, and we will post it on our website!

2 thoughts on “The Covid-19 Chess Diaries – Lord Clueless Reflects”

  1. Tremendous article Lord Clueless, definitely catching the zeitgeist in these strange days.

    Hasta la Victoria Siempre as the great man said.

  2. That’s a marvellous (is that one ‘l’ or two ‘ll’s’) piece J. At these times I find it useful to turn to poetry. I found a fabulous rendition of Gray’s Elegy on Youtube. Check it out. Today I read Stevie Smith’s ‘Not Waving but Drowning’ this is one of the nation’s best loved poems. In case you don’t know it , here it is,
    Nobody heard him, the dead man,
    But still he lay moaning:
    I was much further out than you thought
    And not waving but drowning.

    Poor chap, he always loved larking
    And now he’s dead
    It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
    They said.

    Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
    (Still the dead one lay moaning)
    I was much too far out all my life
    And not waving but drowning.

    It’s probably autobiographical. Some people think it’s silly because of the contradiction in the first two lines but poetic licence. I love the word ‘larking’ in the second stanza. Don’t hear that word much anymore. The last two lines remind me of my wood pushing skill.
    On the chess side I’ve been looking into the Polgar ‘5334 ‘ book. I found this lovely but difficult (for me ) mate in 2. Can you do better?
    White pieces: R a1; K e1; B e2; B d4; N b6
    Black pieces: K c2; P b4.
    If you have the book it’s puzzle 1939. It’s a mate in two and White to move.

    Keep safe and indoors if poss. When this is over we’ll have stories to relate. This will be a time marker for us all in the future. We’ll be asking ‘was that after or before the virus?’

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