Jimmy Gordon, long standing captain of Livingston Chess Club,
died on Monday night. Apparently he had a massive heart attack
on his way to an Edinburgh League game against University.
Jimmy Gordon (2nd from the left)
In the late 60's Jimmy was a founder member of the Leyland Chess Club,
then the only adult club in West Lothian. When the Leyland factory closed
and the club folded Jimmy went on to start the Livingston club.
Jimmy was unique in many ways and his unorthodox style led many to
underestimate him, often to their cost. He was a pure tactician,
had little understanding of positional concepts but with a very keen
eye for traps.
This was no doubt the consequence of a purely self taught style.
Jimmy never learned either algebraic or descriptive notation, developing his
own unique notation, a bit of a mix of both. This meant that he never read
a chess book in his life. Sadly it also meant that his scores were
I would have liked to present a game of Jimmy winning against some of
the good players he did beat but I don't have the scores and as previously
mentioned probably couldn't follow them anyway.
Best I can do is to offer this game against Alan Bell from the early 80's.
Jimmy should certainly have won and would have done if he hadn't made the
old mistake of trying to rush his opponent who was in great time trouble.
3…h6 is typical Jimmy. He had experienced Ng5 against the 2 knights
so plays this to avoid it. He would not have known that with 4…Qe7 he
was using a system of holding the centre that Alekhine had developed -
Jimmy never heard of Alekhine.
White plays too passively and allows Jimmy a thrust on the kingside
that wins a pawn, although White has a lot of pressure to compensate.
The tactics really start on move 16. b4
Jimmy was a good tactician and easily saw
16...Qxb4 17.Nxd4 Bxd4 18.Qxd4 Qxe1+ 19.Bf1 Rh7 20.Bd2 trapping his Queen
First big chance comes at move 28
If he hadn't been trying to rush his opponent he would have seen
28...Ng3+! 29.hxg3 h4 and White can resign.
He misses another opportunity at move 29....
29...Qxe4 30.Nb6+ Ka7 31.Qc5 and now simply 31...Qd4!
After the time control at move 36 he is left with only the 'what might have beens'.
[Click here to replay the game]
A.Bell - J.Gordon
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 h6 4.d4 Qe7 5.0-0 d6 6.c3 Bd7 7.Re1 a6 8.Nbd2 g5 9.Nf1 g4 10.N3d2 exd4 11.cxd4 Nxd4 12.Ne3 Qg5 13.Ndf1 Bg7 14.Ng3 Qc5 15.Ngf5 Be5 16.b4 Qa7 [16...Qxb4 17.Nxd4 Bxd4 18.Qxd4 Qxe1+ 19.Bf1 Rh7 20.Bd2] 17.Rb1 0-0-0 18.Bb2 Nxf5 19.exf5 h5 20.Bxf7 Nf6 21.Bxe5 dxe5 22.Qc2 Bc6 23.Be6+ Kb8 24.Rbc1 Ne4 25.Bd5 Bxd5 26.Qxc7+ Ka8 27.Nxd5 Qxf2+ 28.Kh1 Qd4 [28...Ng3+ 29.hxg3 h4] 29.Rxe4 Qxd5 [29...Qxe4 30.Nb6+ Ka7 31.Qc5 Qd4!] 30.Qxe5 Qd2 31.Rce1 Rhe8 32.Qxe8 Rxe8 33.Rxe8+ Ka7 34.Rf1 Qd6 35.Re2 h4 36.f6 h3 37.f7 Qd3 38.f8Q Qxe2 39.Qf2+
Jimmy never reached a particularly high grading, his play was far too uneven
for that, but he often beat players several hundred grading points above him.
A couple of years back when a Keith Ruxton led Bell's team were thrashing all
in Edinburgh Division 1, the last match of the season was a title decider between
Bell's and Livingston.
As expected Bell's won convincingly but Jimmy saved Livingston's
blushes by a typical win against a much higher graded Mike Chisholm
which featured in a previous Chandler Cornered:
here it is. (Geoff)
Next we have Jimmy Gordon from Livingston v Bells player, Mike Chisholm,
Now this is not the exact position. It's close, the main
actors for this mini tragedy are in the right place.
Black has just played N(e5)g6 thinking...
"This is OK, f8 is covered twice." True but...
1 Qf7+ Kh8 2 Qe8+ 1-0
Jimmy's last season included a win over Eoin Campbell and saw
him pull out a grading performance over 1700, his highest for some years,
and that could have been a lot better if he hadn't let his
last couple of games slip away.
Anecdotes are many;
Frank McDonald's funniest memory was from a cramped Edinburgh Tournament,
Jimmy was struggling in a Ruy Lopez and he kept pressing the clock of the
adjoining game, and finally, taking his glasses off to apologise,
he swept his hand over their board knocking over all their pieces.
Alan Bell recalls in the 80's overhearing a conversation between some very
strong players in the Edinburgh League about Jimmy.
The general gist was that they had all struggled against him but couldn't
understand why, as "the guy has no understanding of the game".
Mike Basman probably got similar reactions to his unorthodox play.
Jimmy was an indomitable optimist; he considered he never had a lost game
until the game was finally over; even then he had surely missed a win earlier.
He never had a bad word to say about anybody and was one of the
friendliest and generous guys you could hope to meet playing chess.
He will be much missed.
I'd like to add I recall trying to get Jimmy's score sheet to work
after the mentioned Bells v Livingston match. Jimmy was there
but still we could not decipher his score. Quite funny and of course
an inspiration for a later C.C.
We did play once, but i cannot recollect anything about the game.
I'm sure I won. I can remember most/all of my losses. Wins fade away.
But my mind is swimming with a memory of Jimmy once beating a strong
player at the Edinburgh Chess Club. I can still see his beaming smile but
I cannot recall who it was. It was in the mid 80's.
Not Condie or Norris, I think it was Bennett but am ready to be corrected.
It was certainly a player in that class. Yes Jimmy could play chess and he
was quite a character.
His family and friends will miss him greatly.
Eoin Campbell has kindly and very sportingly sent us his loss
v Jimmy from last season's League Match, Dragons V Livingston.
E.Campbell (1887) - J.Gordon (1410) these grades are from 2006.
Jimmy has passed away and in this game you may expect me to
gloss over his bad moves and point out his good fortune
that the stronger player threw away a win.
Well never having seen the game that is what I expected I'd be doing.
Eoin Campbell is no dope at the chess board.
He regularly features amongst the prize winners in the under 1900's.
He beat me last time we played.
I did not lose the game, he beat me. There is a difference.
But I'm happy to report I have no need to gloss over anything.
Jimmy played a good game of chess against a player graded 450+
higher than him.
So with no bad moves from Jimmy to shy away from I've used the
difference in grades to try to explain why one player lost
and the other won.
The one thing I cannot explain is how a player of Jimmy's
calibre was ever graded only 1410.
So onto the game.
White develops,castles and then starts mixing things up a bit.
Jimmy plays his trade mark 7...h6 this time to give the Knight
a bolt hole on h7 with 8...Nh7
And on h7 the Knight stayed for 38 moves!
Infact when eventually the Knight jumped back into
the game with 46...Nf6. White resigned.
White sacced a Queen-side pawn to free e4 for
a Knight and get a King-side attack going.
White won back his pawn and this position arose.
An interesting affair with both players having a position they can work with.
White can think of swapping of the Bishop on e7 and dropping a
Knight on d6. Also the square g6 is another base for a Knight
or, as infact happened, a Queen.
Black has an open f-file and a lovely outpost on d3 for a Knight.
Get a Knight on d3 working with open f-file and Black is in business.
It went wobbly for White with 18.Qg6?! He perhaps thought the lower
graded player would start to panic due to the threat of Bxh6.
18.Ne4 was better it trades off Black's only active piece, the Knight
on c5. This Black Knight is about to land on d3 cause mayhem.
After 18.Qg6 Black could have set a wee defenders trap.
18.Qg6 Rf7 19.Bxh6? Nf8! winning a piece.
Remember this defenders idea. It's not only attackers who
have the bag of tricks.
Instead after 18.Qg6 Black took off the Queens with 18...Qf5.
Actually OTB the best move. Because now White has to take severe
chances to win this game. The position looks level but Black has
the simple easy to see moves, Raf8, Nd3, b5, Nf8-g6.
As the stronger player you do not want to give your opponent
these positions. You must either swamp the board with tricks
and traps confident you are going to out combine them (the Chandler way).
Or leave them alone with no weakness in your position and watch
them destroy their own position with pawns moves (the Ruxton way).
White has to win from here, his higher grade demands a win.
The next few moves he will have to cover Black's threats and
his overall position is very placid compared to his opponents.
Then came the impatient blunder. White was determined to get the
initiative, he jumped into d6 with a Knight only seeing the attack
on the Rook and c-pawn. He missed the Black Knight check on e1.
Position after 22.Nd6?
22...Rxf3! 23.Rxf3 Ne8+ Black is a piece up.
So Jimmy was lucky?
Not at all. A bad move is bad play not bad luck.
With the material level White had a bargaining chip.
His grade. He could have accepted a lousy position by covering
his weaknesses and make Black think up ways of continuing the game
When the time was right he could offer a draw.
A draw against a 450+ opponent is as good as a win.
9 times out of 10 the weaker player takes the draw,
accepts the pats on back from his club mates and
shrugs his shoulders when told he had the better position.
Now the bargaining chip has gone White has to either resign
or fight for the draw. He chose to fight on.
The White plan is to trade off the Queen-side pawns
and hold the ending on the King-side.
But it's not White's night. He allows yet another Knight
fork and it's the pieces that are coming off not pawns.
White tries one or two tricks but Black is in no mood
to chuck this one.
A good game by Black. Nothing silly, controlled aggression,
alert enough to spot the shot when it appeared and the
cold blooded technique to win it.
On the night Black played the better chess and made a mockery
of the grading difference.
It was stated earlier that Jimmy never read a chess book.
"...90% of chess books should never have been written."
Polugaevsky said that.
Just think of the player Jimmy might have become if he had
read the remaining 10%.
Here is the full game.
[Click here to replay the game]
E.Campbell - J.Gordon
1.Nf3 e6 2.c4 c6 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0-0 0-0 6.Nc3 a6 7.e4 h6 8.e5 Nh7 9.h4 d5 10.d4 f5 11.exf6 Bxf6 12.Re1 dxc4 13.Bh3 e5 14.Bxc8 Qxc8 15.dxe5 Be7 16.Kg2 Nd7 17.Qc2 Nc5 18.Qg6 [18.Ne4] 18...Qf5 19.Qxf5 Rxf5 20.Ne4 Nd3 21.Re3 Raf8 22.Nd6 Rxf3 23.Rxf3 Ne1+ 24.Kf1 Nxf3 25.Nxc4 b5 26.Na5 Nxe5 27.Bf4 Bf6 28.Re1 Nd3 29.Re6 Nxf4 30.gxf4 Bxb2 31.Rxc6 Rxf4 32.Rc8+ Rf8 33.Rc2 Bf6 34.Nc6 Bxh4 35.Nb4 a5 36.Nc6 a4 37.Ne5 Bf6 38.Nd7 Rd8 39.Rd2 Kf7 40.Ne5+ Ke6 41.Rxd8 Bxd8 42.Nc6 Be7 43.Nd4+ Kd5 44.Nxb5 a3 45.Ke2 Kc4 46.Nc7 Nf6