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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Leonard Barden

     Leonard W. Barden (born 20 August 1929, London) an English master, columnist, author, and promoter was educated at and Balliol College, Oxford with a degree in modern history. He learned to play chess at age 13 while in a school shelter during a German air raid and within a few years became one of the country's leading juniors.
      In 1946, Barden won the British Junior Correspondence Chess Championship, and tied for first place in the London Boys' Championship. The following year he tied for first with Jonathan Penrose in the British Boys' Championship, but lost the playoff. Barden finished fourth at Hastings in 1951–52.
      In 1952, he won the Paignton tournament ahead of GM Yanofsky. In 1954 Barden tied for first with the Belgian GM Albéric O'Kelly de Galway at Bognor Regis, was joint British champion, with Alan Phillips, and won the Southern Counties Championship. He finished fourth at Hastings 1957–58. In the 1958 British Chess Championship, he tied for first with Penrose but lost the playoff match. He also represented England in a number of Olympiads.
     In 1964, Barden gave up competitive chess to devote his time to chess journalism and writing. Early in my career two of Barden’s books, A Guide to Chess Openings and How Good Is Your Chess?, were among my favorites. His London Evening Standard column, begun in 1956, is now the world's longest running daily chess column. Always an excellent author, a sampling of his chess column can be read HERE.
     Barden's most important achievement was his key role in the advance of English chess in the 1970s and 1980s when he noticed that Tony Miles and Michael Stean were both likely contenders for the biennial 1973 world junior (under-20) championship, but that the only way for a country to have two representatives was to host the event. Fortunately, Barden knew the financier Jim Slater who offered to co-sponsor the event. The event was held at Teeside and Miles and Stean won silver and bronze medals, respectively. In 1974 Miles won the title. Slater also agreed to Barden's proposal that he should finance special coaching by IM Robert Wade for the five best teenage prospects. As a result, they all became grandmasters. Barden also organized weekend junior invitation events at which the best prospects played a tournament and had coaching from masters between games.
     Barden was well acquainted with Soviet chess literature and in 1974 made a prediction in his column that an 11-year-old named Gary Weinstein was a likely future world champion. That kid, later known as Garry Kasparov, did, in fact, become world champion in 1985. In 1975 Barden recognized that 9-year old Nigel Short also had world title potential and made arrangements for Short’s progress.
     In 1976 Barden was successful in securing financial backing for chess from Lloyds Bank. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the bank's chairman, Sir Jeremy Morse, was an eminent chess problemist. As a result Lloyds Bank sponsored numerous matches and tournaments.
     As for his own chess, Barden's best single rating performance was at Hastings 1957–58, where he finished fourth behind Keres, Gligorich and Filip, scoring 5 out of 9. Barden also has a “Blunder Theory” which states, “The worst blunders occur on the days when you’re feeling in form and aren’t expecting the chess gremlins to strike.”
     His favorite game is the one where he defeat U.S. Master Weaver Adams at Hastings in 1950-51.  A few words about Barden’s opponent in the featured game, Weaver Adams, are in order. According to Arnold Denker, “Adams wrote a book, White to Play and Win, lived in a white house on White Street, chewed antacid pills that left the inside of his mouth perpetually white, and raised only white chickens that laid white eggs. Predictably, Adams' business was soon no more than a shell." Harry Golombek wrote in 1977 that Adams, whom he described as "author of White to Play and Win and a sodium bicarbonate addict", was on Golombek's "reserves" list for "the ten most interesting personages" from the past 100 years.
     While annotating this game I did not allow a lot of engine analysis time for the position after Adams retreated his B to f8 on move 10, but several engines gave a mixed bag of results during my quick look. Readers may find it interesting to investigate the position after 10…Bf8 more thoroughly.  Perhaps the entire game is worth a more thorough look just as an exercise to improve one's analysis skills, assuming one is interested in improving in that area, of course. 

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