An unexpected phone call recently led to an enjoyable visit from Mike Read, one of Norfolk’s top chess players – but one who achieved his peak performances in a specialised form of the game.
Mike is a Senior International Master in correspondence chess. His results have always been exceptional, and eventually he played on top board for England in the Olympiad team. For health reasons he stopped playing at around the turn of the century and switched his attention to annotating games for the Norfolk chess magazine, En Passant.
Now he has produced a book of 120 of his correspondence games, all annotated entertainingly by himself: he must be unique in not using one of the top chess computer engines to assist him, but his comments are almost always spot on and often profound.
I have known Mike since he was at school and started playing over-the-board chess, at which he also excelled. So I was delighted when he presented his book to me, and even more delighted when I started playing through the games, which demonstrate his clear, satisfying style.
One of his heroes is former world champion Bobby Fischer, whose opening preference he shares (“1 P-K4, best by test”); another is Norfolk’s over-the-board chess star Owen Hindle of Cromer, an England international who won the Norfolk chess championship in a record five decades. When I was at school, and just after, I used to play with Owen in the Norwich chess team Kings; one of my proudest achievements was to achieve a draw against him in a tournament match.
Mike, like Owen, does not brag about his considerable achievements in the world of chess and is always willing to share his skills with others. It was good to see him after a gap of several years.
Chess, by the way, is a beautiful game, easy to learn and worth exploring for purely artistic reasons. Mike’s book is called My 120 Selected Correspondence Games and is available from Amazon at a very reasonable £10.14.