Rival U3A groups clash in chess duel

During lockdown the University of the Third Age's north London membership increased from 45 to 70

Thursday, 30th June — By Tom Foot


Captains Robert Kruszynski and David Lewis face each other at the Old Hampstead Town Hall

FORGET Kasparov v Topalov. Move over Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.

And don’t even mention The Queen’s Gambit.

An intense north London chess derby took place yesterday afternoon (Wednesday) as rival University of the Third Age factions squared off at the Old Hampstead Town Hall.

The U3A in London, based in Belsize Park, took on players from U3A North London, from Finchley, in a battle of wits spread over five tables.

Before the clash, U3A in London captain Robert Kruszynski said: “There are two kinds of thinking: strategic, long-term thinking – the big picture, as you might say – and short-term, move-by-move thinking. The measure of the two together is what chess is all about.

“To me a strong player is someone who will just look and say, ‘I’m doing that.’ They will have a feel for what is likely to succeed. Intuition. A lot is based on feeling.

“It helps you keep an optimistic approach and your mind active with two-dimensional and three-dimensional thinking. People, of course, say chess is good for cognitive ability. There is a big debate in the US about: does having compulsory chess improve the marks of children?

“[Garry] Kasparov, the former world champion, says, ‘Of course!’ I think most of all it instils tenacity. You think to yourself. ‘I lost, I lost, grrrr, but I’m going to beat you now.’

“Or as one player, [Aron] Nizowitsch, did, he stood on the table in a serious tournament and said, ‘How can I lose to this idiot?’ You get this fightback potential. Not about moving to the dark side, but there’s something in that. But even if you lose, the beauty of chess – like maths, and computer programming – is there is an elegant solution to everything.

“You ask yourself, ‘Could I have done that better?’”

Mr Kruszynski said internet chess was popular among U3A members to play and also to watch.

He said: “There is one nine-year-old from Russia, Pinkamena, who plays online – she wears pink rabbit ears when she plays, and she is so very good. She doesn’t give up.”

He added: “The funny thing about chess, unless you know better, it is one of the few games when you can have an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old and anyone in between having a great game together. Bridge, hmmm, maybe – but I don’t think so.”

Mr Kruszynski said he had to give up playing competitive chess in 2009 due to his anthropologist work with human remains and archaeological artefacts at the Natural History Museum.

The U3A, based in Hamsptead Town Hall, was the first to be set up in London and Mr Kruszynski said “as a result it sort of pumps itself up as being for all of London and there is a bit of resentment about that with other U3As”.

There are 46 groups spread across the capital, including North London, whose chess challengers were in high spirits before the clash.

Captain David Lewis was predicting a close-fought victory, adding: “I used to play competitive chess with Hendon Chess Club and I came back to it after I retired.

“My father taught me, but he wasn’t a strong player. You are playing with a clock. If you run out of time you lose the game. It can happen when you are winning.

“But I find sometimes when you are ahead you can move very quickly and successfully.

It’s when you are behind that often the best move is not obvious. Sometimes you can extricate yourself from a disastrous position.”

During lockdown the U3A north London’s membership increased from 45 to 70, he said.

The last time the two teams met face to face was in 2019 when U3A in London ran out winners.
U3A In London beat the visitors by four points to two.

Newcomers are welcome and can contact U3A on 020 7692 5440

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