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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Flummoxed by Charles G. M. Watson

     While browsing one of Prudy's books the other day I came across his description of the play of this rather obscure (to most of the chess world) Australian champion and was curious to find out more about him. 
     According to Purdy, Watson was one of those players whose tactics were far superior to their strategy. Watson studied chess books, but he never bothered with general principles and preferred to revel in sheer calculation.  Purdy speculated that he probably whipped through a dozen variations almost every move and saw far more, and far more quickly, than most of his opponents. Purdy added that he still had a plus score over Watson in their individual encounters, mostly because Purdy, as he put it, "...had some faith in principles, and discarded quickly many of the lines Watson took the trouble to calculate out for many moves ahead." 
     Purdy concluded that because Watson despised general principles he suffered for it. According to Purdy, the moral is that even though seeing tactics is absolutely essential, studying strategy is beneficial and is of practical value in that it will often save a lot of time on the clock. Purdy suggested that he looked at fewer lines than Watson, but discovered sounder ones sooner than he did. 
     Charles Gilbert Marriott Watson (October 22, 1878 – March 5, 1961) was an Australian national chess champion. Born in Buninyong, he started playing chess with his father at the age of 10 and, also, at the local club. He later joined the Melbourne Chess Club, winning the Melbourne Chess Club championship for the first time in 1898, then in 1902, 1904, 1905, 1914, 1921, 1931 and 1936. He won the Australian Championship in 1922 and a second time in 1931.
     Watson only played one international tournament, and was soon overshadowed by younger players like Purdy, Koshnitsky, Steiner and so he is unknown outside of Australia and even there, his career wallows in obscurity. Watson retired from chess many times, but always reappeared and was known for his uncanny ability to win lost games. 
     He competed in the championship of the province of Victoria 12 times, won it on his first attempt in 1898 and last won it in 1936. 
     When he won the won the Australian championship in 1922 the British Chess Federation had reserved a place for the winner of the Australian title in the International Masters tournament to be held later that year. The 1922 London International Congress, won by Capablanca ahead of Alekhine and Vidmar, was Watson's only international tournament. He finished 15th out of 16, scoring +4 -1 =10. However, he did mange to defeat many time British Champion H.E Atkins and Richard Reti in a 92-move ending. 
     Watson also had a brief soccer career and played 11 games for the Melbourne Demons in the inaugural season of the Victorian Football League Australian Football competition in 1897. Later in life became a big fan of bridge. 
     The following game has been described as worthy of Tahl. I have to admit that when I saw 10...h4 it left me plumb flummoxed! In the Dragon isn't white supposed to storm the K-side while black seeks counterplay on the Q-side? In this game we see black attacking on the K-side while white is reduced to passive defense. Tinkering around with Stockfish 8 and Komodo 10.1 didn't yield any refutation to Watson's idea though!

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