A wandering American perspective on England, chess & bananas

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JohnChernoff
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A wandering American perspective on England, chess & bananas

Post by JohnChernoff » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:17 am

Hello,

My name is John Chernoff and I must admit, much in the style of Alcoholic Anonymous meetings, that I, like so many, am an American. I've come to England for no clear reason(1) and am participating in various chess tournaments throughout the area to give my venture some sort of loose structure and sense of purpose. This post is to be my first attempt to share my initial impressions of English/Irish/Welsh culture, people, chess, and bananas.

First off, the bananas. At the airports at least, they are noticeably smaller than American bananas and, according to the BBC, often shipped with poisonous tropical spiders. In my opinion this is a bad thing. Waiting in a lengthy queue for a delayed Ryanair flight is challenging enough even with a banana, but simply intolerable when said banana is under-ripe, undersized, over-expensive, and you've just been bitten several times by an angry funnel web spider that's probably been through an almost equally arduous journey.

Well, enough about bananas. My trip began with a 6:00 AM arrival in Shannon, Ireland, where I had a nice chat with a lady whom I in retrospect believe to have been the head customs officer. She was most helpful in ascertaining that I did indeed have a return ticket and in directing me towards some of the safer fruits available at that hour. After that, various things then transpired in Ireland that I will not relate right now, instead preferring to fast forward a few days to the beginning of the e2e4 Chess Congress in High Wycombe. Actually, nevermind, I'll do that later, I've a train to catch right now.

To be continued,

- John

(1) Or, rather, several unclear reasons, some of which I may detail in an another episode. For now I suspect the simplest way to put it to a chess playing reader would be a somewhat personal form of zugzwang.

Jon D'Souza-Eva

Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Jon D'Souza-Eva » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:31 am

Can you do it as a poem? I loved this one on Leko (pinched from http://www.chessninja.com/boards/ubbthr ... ber=142666)

With Apologies to William Blake...

Leko! Leko! Spurning fight
On the chessboard, as black (or white)
What immortal hand or eye
Could break thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant depth of plies
Blots the fire of thine eyes?
For what Queen dare he aspire?
What paroxysm doth seize his Sire?

And who bolder, & what art,
Could stir the Magyar in thy heart?
And when thine horse deigns retreat,
What Caro-Kann? & what dead scoresheet?

What Schlechter? What pawn chain?
To what purpose works thy brain?
What new angle? what dread trap
Dares your ready terror grasp?

When Kasparov lays down his spear,
And patzers spy the draw that’s near,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Leko! Leko! Taking flight
In the dullest fit of fright
What Oll or Tal in the sky
Could break thy fearful symmetry?

Geoff Chandler
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Geoff Chandler » Fri Oct 14, 2011 8:52 am

You now of course have to play the Banana v the KID

1. d4 Nf6 2. c3 g6 3. f3 Bg7 4. e4 d6



White's pawn formation c3-f3 reminds one of a banana.

Beware that Black will try to peel the Banana and then you get
the Banana Split.

David Robertson
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by David Robertson » Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:44 pm

British bananas - that is, bananas on sale in Britain: we have none of our own :) - tend to be smaller than one might find elsewhere in America or Western Europe for important reasons.

In large part, our bananas are sourced from the West Indies, a practice that has endured for a century as a consequence of the imperial/colonial relationship. For years, these bananas were sold for export by peasant farmers off small-holdings. Latterly, governments of the now-independent territories have encouraged the formation of co-operatives. But the nurture of the stock still tends to fall below that available on large plantations elsewhere. So the bananas grow smaller from the outset. There may also be a genus factor in play too; but I'm not aware of that.

One can buy large bananas here of course. I imagine we now import from India and other large volume producers as well. But we retain a strong commercial relationship with the Caribbean countries, necessarily so because their economies would be substantially damaged if we ended the supply. So the term 'Banana Boat' will continue to resonate in British culture, perhaps in happier contexts than was perhaps the case in the 1950s & 1960s when the phrase "fresh off the banana boat" was a popular (racist?) euphemism for Afro-Caribbean immigrants.

Niall Doran
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Niall Doran » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:44 am

If you're around for Gatwick at the end of the month I'll try to bring you over a French banana. Grown in France!

JohnChernoff
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by JohnChernoff » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:24 pm

OK, I just got internet access again today at the start of the Guernsey Tournament, and am mildly flummoxed by the variety of unexpected replies to my journal, including poetic proof that my mangling of the English language dates back at least a decade or so. For now, however, here's the next installment:

Gullible's Travels Continued

When last I left off my travelogue of England and Ireland (and any other sovereign territories I'm forgetting) to catch a train somewhere in Wales (case in point), I had just arrived at the e2e4 Congress in High Wycombe. I cannot easily relate my initial impressions of Wycombe as it was 3 AM in the morning by the time I managed to get a bus from London up to this I'm sure very picturesque when lighted hamlet. My main recollection is instead of someone else getting off at the same stop as I with even less idea what he was doing there. Apparently a "friend" told him that it would be a good place to find lodging en route to Leeds, but it soon became clear that this advice was mis-Leeding in the extreme.

Anyhow, the Wycombe tournament's first round started at 7 PM, plenty of time for me to sleep half the day and still have several hours in which to repeatedly lose my hotel room card before my maiden English chess voyage:

http://blog.chess.com/view/e2e4-high-wycombe-rd-1

Winning this game came as a mild surprise to both me and possibly my opponent given that I spent about an hour on move five. What I was thinking about I cannot say, but fortunately White was gracious enough to force me to make decent moves the rest of the way.

Btw, one note about the Uplands House in High Wycombe: you're basically imprisoned there unless you have a car or want to pay for a taxi (as I did to get there at 3 AM). Mercifully the food is more or less OK (though a bit expensive), but there's no laundry facilities or really anything to do except watch darts on the TV, something I found only slightly more entertaining than Charlie Rose interviewing Bill Gates which was, in fact, on the other channel.

Anyhow, round two was against a very talented young man who played very rapidly and likely would have run me out of time save for the fact that he came up with a truly original idea: ...Qb8 and ...Qa7. However, I'm sure he will quickly learn that chess rarely if ever awards creativity, originality and/or daring, preferring instead to reward those who simply try not to blunder.

http://blog.chess.com/view/e2e4-high-wycombe-rd-2

Round three was my turn to be sacrificed to the Grandmaster Gods, this time GM Wells who almost literally beat me in his sleep, waking only to see Bg5! whereupon he could return to sonnambulence whilst I contemplated calling an ambulance for my ailing position.

http://blog.chess.com/view/e2e4-high-wycombe-rd-3

Round four was against another talented youngster, this time a WFM who I managed to beat simply by not caring much about things at that point due to my previous defeat. In such a state I sometimes lack the energy and/or imagination to invent the sort of hallucinatory howlers I'm otherwise so very capable of producing.

http://blog.chess.com/view/e2e4-high-wycombe-rd-4

In round five my opponent's youthfully exuberant King's Gambit (f4 in particular was banged out in a most intimidating manner) threw me into a hang-on-for-dear-life survival mode from basically move two onwards. I still don't quite understand at what point White's clearly dominating position went sour but by ...Rxe5 Black's counterplay was in full swing and shortly thereafter Black's King got to take a slightly comic stroll along the dark squares to his coronation on c3.

http://blog.chess.com/view/e2e4-high-wycombe-rd-5

So, all in all, an inexplicably good result for me: 4/5, enough for fifty pounds prize money and a soon to be painfully fractured sense of confidence. Perhaps more importantly, however, I learned a lot about many people and places in England by chatting with several friendly participants during the tournament. I am hoping that this knowledge will impress my friends back in America who, while obliquely aware of England, tend to think of it as the land of fog, murder mysteries, sausages of ill repute, and people attempting to more or less successfully not complain about how miserable they are(1).

Next Episode: Wales, Guernsey, Brixton, and the most profoundly embarrassing night of my existence

***

(1) FWIW, Americans seem to me just as miserable as the English if not more so, and the fact they are certainly louder about it does tend to amplify the effect.
Last edited by JohnChernoff on Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:42 am, edited 6 times in total.

Niall Doran
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Niall Doran » Sun Oct 16, 2011 8:48 pm

This looks like it's building up do be an interesting topic!

*Installs himself comfortably on sofa, opens popcorn*

Michael Jones
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Michael Jones » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:19 pm

Love it :lol:

I'm pretty sure both the size and price of bananas vary considerably around the UK. London's bananas are smaller than anywhere else's, and of course they're priced per banana rather than per lb/kg. London ripping everyone off as usual. :roll:

Geoff Chandler
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Geoff Chandler » Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:43 am

I enjoyed the last game v Alan Merry.
The King hunt turning into a Rook hunt was amusing.

What you need now is a new opening to baffle the book worms.

Make this your first six moves against anything.

1. b3
2. a3
3. Nc3
4. a4
5. Nf3
6. a5

You will notice it spells out b-a-N-a-N-a.

Good Luck.

JohnChernoff
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by JohnChernoff » Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:07 am

I believe there's a cabbage opening, and while it might be strategic rubbish it probably would have still been better than whatever I played yesterday.

Other playable fruits:

Er...

OK, I can't think of any, but perhaps an opening could be made out of the I believe English term for American Football, "handegg" (since the ball is more like an egg and is generally carried, not kicked)...

h2h3, a2a3, Nf3, d2d3, e2e3, g2g4, g4g5

I can imagine a handegg game going like so:

Last edited by JohnChernoff on Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:55 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Gavin Strachan
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Gavin Strachan » Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:20 am

Not being a banana man
Image

Bananas made in Madeira are very small which is why they were once banned from sale in the EU. Not banana shaped.

Sean Hewitt

Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Sean Hewitt » Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:00 pm

JohnChernoff wrote:OK, I can't think of any, but perhaps an opening could be made out of the I believe English term for American Football, "handegg" (since the ball is more like an egg and is generally carried, not kicked)...
I think the correct term is 'rugby' :lol:

Geoff Chandler
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Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Geoff Chandler » Tue Oct 18, 2011 10:31 am

"Geoff, nice.... What other fruits can you open with?"

Sadly, most of my moves are Lemons.

Paul Cooksey

Re: A wandering American perspective on England, chess & ban

Post by Paul Cooksey » Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:51 am

Warren Kingston wrote:Geoff, nice.... What other fruits can you open with?
My suggested repetoire is:
White: 1 b4
Black 1e4 c6
and 1d4 d5 2c4 e6 (with nf6, g6, d5 in must win games)

So thats the Orange-Utan, the Carrot-Kann, The Quince Gambit Declined and the Plumfeld Defence.

( :oops: carrot isn't even a fruit, an the umlaut not working either :oops: )


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