John Roycroft

EGEG, a new title (Sep 2016) by John Roycroft (b.1929)

Yuri Bazlov is a renowned Russian composer of scintillating but never obscure prize-winning studies published over a long period. Being selective both as to style and where he sends them it has taken a while for him to amass the FIDE Album points needed to qualify for the title of Composition Grandmaster, awarded in 2016.

So what is Baazlov’s secret? In short it is to stick to the ideals of the classical composers such as Troitzky, the Platov brothers and Zakhodyakin. The fact that he eschews late 20th and early 21st century trends does not mean that he does not hold opinions about them, but rather that he has withheld expressing them in public. This changed early in 2015 when an article, embellished with 25 examples, appeared under his name on the Russian language website run by the Volgograd chess activist Oleg Efrosinin. The article’s title translates as Trends are all very well, but ... The burden of Bazlov’s thesis is that modern tendencies in study composition are in many cases to be deplored – and should not be encouraged by study tourney judges.

Bazlov’s polemical article – it is not designed to make him popular with the movers and shakers – impressed me in a number of ways: its measured tone; its choice of many examples relevant to every point he wishes to make; its level-headed and reasoned argument; its detailed analysis of content and criticism of defenders of said content; its not infrequent invocation of humour; its frankness; its overall balance.

It soon became clear to me that a translation into English was of importance to the study world as a whole. So I set about it. It was far from straightforward: in just a few places the intended meaning remains in doubt, and that is where I have included the Russian original. But it is now done and can be read in its entirety in EGEG, a self-publication. If you, my respected enthusiast for studies, are yourself unhappy with any of the following (to be found in proliferation in tourney awards), my recommendation is that Bazlov’s article is for you, because it will bring clarity of thought in its train.

And here are ‘the following’: deep reciprocal zugzwangs, never explained; numerical records; ‘monstrous’ positions; the ‘foresight’ effect; unnecessary force; multiple early exchanges in the solution’s main line; ‘EGTB’ justification without explanation; levels of nested parenthetical variations. A few of Bazlov’s examples demonstrate that contemporary composers can match, and outperform, the undisputedly brilliant modern school (or schools). But there is no doubt about whom Bazlov is targeting: tourney judges. For myself I would put it like this: publish what you like where you like, but tourney judging is a different matter altogether.

As well as Bazlov’s thesis there is a great deal more to browse for in EGEG. John Beasley expounds the contribution made by Marc Bourzhutsky. David Blundell deconstructs some of his own work. Steffen Nielsen chooses three studies (none of them his own) that he admires. And at my request Russian specialist Sarah Hurst has translated, for the first time, or so I believe, into any language, a ‘dramaturgical’ dialogue between ‘Black’ and ‘White’ from the pen of the mercurial Sigizmund Khrzhizhznovsky, who was not treated as a dissident in the Soviet era, but who nevertheless met obstacle after obstacle in his path to publish – in his lifetime.

Three tourney awards that I had the honour and pleasure to judge are included, two of them unabridged. They are BCPS 2012 ‘G’; Hero-Towns VII; Phénix 2006-2011 (when no one else wanted the job!). Makeweights are AJR-relevant snatches of autobiography, photos, compositions and otb games. Not everything is explicit – the reader may have to work here and there. The volume has 398 pages and comes in two editions differing only in that one has pages in colour and the other does not. The binding is similar to that of Stinking Bishops, namely ‘coil’, to facilitate opening flat.

If you are interested in purchasing, please e-mail me: roycroft@btinternet.com – and for the curious there is more about me elsewhere on the BCPS site and on www.roycroft-ajr.uk .

John Roycroft (‘AJR’)
London, September 2016

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