The Double Houdini is a book for chess players and would-be players. It contains some previously unknown approaches to starting a game including the Latte and Cookie Attack and The Sardine Gambit
The Double Houdini tells a tale ‘based on real-life’. Its central theme is a battle for survival in a chess club in a lightly disguised region of Cheshire known as East Cheadle. [See a recent post in LWD about how Cheadle was to become a location for targeted advertising directed at the editor.]
The East Cheadle Chess Club is struggling to avoid humiliation against the more professional forces their players face every week. Their very existence is threatened as their teams slide towards demotion and players are attracted to other clubs.
“It would take Houdini to escape from this” Phil, the first team captain says.
“Make that a Double Houdini” replies Paul, the second team captain.
Based on a true story, the author becomes himself embroiled in a gripping sporting drama. He finds has to confront far more disturbing problems than his club’s relegation to the lower regions of the league.
The Queen’s Sardines Gambit
As Edwin, one of the characters, explains, there is brilliance in the idea behind his invented opening: The pieces are squashed together like sardines in a tin. With skilful manipulation the lid peels of the tin, and the pieces are ready for action.
I put as many pieces as I can into the four by four central squares of the chess board, the key battle territory, and wait for my opponent’s mistakes. This has been working well this season.
The Sniper Botvinnik Variation
Paul reported thus on his top board match:
‘I succumbed to that old chestnut “The Sniper Botvinnik variation”. [TR: Irony. I had never heard of this exotic opening, until my good friend Mr Google filled me in about it. A very unusual move order for white, which with straightforward play gets into more conventional openings. The sniper is the white bishop, sniping along the dark-square diagonal from behind the white army’s lines].
The Latte and Cookie Attack
This is my favoured opening. I turn up at my favoured chess café (well, a favoured bookshop really), order a Latte and Cookie and start playing over the game of chess provided in a national newspaper. Recently this opening has been put on hold, as the said newspaper has gone electronic, and it’s not as congenial to start the day with a session on my i-Pad, not exactly encouraged by the normally aimiable host.
Maybe a Triple Houdini
What I failed to mention is another Houdini much in demand by serious chess players. If I had throught of it, I would have produced a book title of The Triple Houdini. It is a fiendishly clever electronic chess engine. There is an important idea in a U Tube video in which Houdini plays a game which is claimed to be in the spirit of romantic chess, and thus not just Artificial Intelligence but Artificial Creativity.
Players following games in a tournament can track each game on-line using Houdini, and see what are the predicted best moves. There is no mention of that Houdini in my book, but several mentions of an older chess engine Fritz which is also popular for pre-match preparation and checking the moves played afterwards.
You can read more about The Double Houdini here, on the books page of my website. In its current format there are several blunders to be found in chess terms in The Double Houdini (typos in proof-editing parlance). Don’t let these deter you from purchase. Maybe the rare first print-run of several dozen copies for assorted chess-playing friends will grow in value as subsequent printings occur.