Dr Colin S. Crouch
Born 1956, Bushey, England. Currently living in Harrow, Middlesex, London
International Master in Chess
Doctoral thesis on The Economic Geography of Recession in the UK: the early 1980s and historical perspectives (completed 1989, University of Durham)
Part of the introduction of my thesis is given, under the same name, in Shakthinking, mostly concerned with the question of deep upswings and recessions in the last two centuries.
As the reader will soon be aware, I am writing about things other than chess, and about such things as economic and politic history would suspect that readers will find that my basic patterns of thought show similarities, whether I am trying to analyse a game of chess, or whether I am trying to analyse current political questions. Therefore, I am starting to transfer my various mini-sites into one site, even if the topics appear a first vastly different.
It is the "thinking" that is central, not the "shak"
(Just a note to avoid confusion. The writer, Colin S. Crouch, is not the same person, and neither is he related to the distinguished writer on political theory, Colin R. Crouch. The younger writer would not have been old enough to write about inflationary pressures and class struggle in Europe in the late 1960s, although at various points in his thesis, he has cited comments by the older Colin Crouch.)
(and if anyone else is interested in the use of the Comic font, the simple point is that I have the use of only half of one eye. It is the only font in which I can read reasonably comfortably, but the formatting can be dreadful at times.)
I would regard my doctoral work as ultimately intellectually much more significant than anything I have achieved in chess. The fragment I have noted above is indeed just a fragment.
The bulk of the research concentrated on the questions of employment and of full employment (which has regrettably not been achieved since the late 1960s), and on detailed patterns of economic growth and decline in different parts of the UK, concentrating mainly on the time between the First World War to the 1980s, but also adding insights to earlier periods.
What is perhaps most significant, in terms of what is going on in the British and the western economies in the 2010s, is the prognostications which I suggested back in the 1980s. I suggested that while there was likely to be significant economic growth from the mid 1980s through to the early part of the 21st century, there was the potential danger of a slowing down of the economy, most likely starting slightly after 2010, but within a margin of perhaps five or so either way. This downturn would perhaps last for about ten years.
I regarded this as a testable prediction. If, to borrow a Chancellor of later years, there would be "an end of boom and bust" from the 1990s onwards, a central argument of my thesis would have been seriously damaged.
In fact, as events turned out, my prediction was broadly correct. This does not of course prove conclusively that my whole argument was correct. I may just have been lucky. The events of the last half dozen years or so suggest however that the mainstream of western economic theory has been seriously damaged.
Chess, and thinking about chess
Latest book published:
Fighting Chess move by move: learn from the world's best players (January 2013, Everyman Chess, London; ISBN 978 1 85744 993 8)
There have also been other recent books of mine, under Everyman Chess. My main interests have been first, to understand, analyse and explain to readers, the best of chess at the very top level; and second, to analyse my own games, and try to examine the psychology of tournament chess, with the practical purpose of trying, as far as possible, to eliminate unnecessary mistakes.
I am currently writing a book an recent games by Magnus Carlsen, which should be out later in the year. As a result, I am slowing down in writing up my own games (the games by other people are far more interesting!), but I hope to catch up on this during the summer of 2013.
Some personal recent history
I suffered a stroke, at the end of 2004, while I was organising a chess tournament. This was quite a serious event, and quite probably had I been ten years older at the time of my initial stroke, I would not have survived. As it was, I suffered considerable brain damage, and I suddenly lost most of my eyesight (I am blind in one eye, and I can see a little in the other).
It was important for me, as an element of personal survival, that I had to use my mind as systematically as possible. The core of my recent thinking has been on chess, not necessarily because this was, of itself, the main thing I wanted to do, but rather, because when the music had stopped, after an illness, this was about the only thing I could do.
While trying to recover, I played chess, at a reduced strength, and I started to think about psychology and philosophy, as I tried to bring my brain working, and started to think about how I could become a reasonably good player again.
Were it not for my illness, I would much have concentrated much more on the question of economics and history, based on my analysis of my doctoral thesis. By 2005 though, I felt, too rusty in my analysis to update my understanding. After my stroke, I was barely able to read. It took some years before I could start to go through my doctoral work.
When I was stuck in my hospital bed, and not sure how long I could live, I wondered whether the main prediction about the outcome of the economy was totally wrong, and that instead, as Gordon Brown had said, he had ended in boom and bust. Unfortunately, as I had predicted, the long boom from the mid-1980s onwards ended in a severe bust. It has proven to take a long time before I have been able to recover my thought processes and memories, and reading, for someone with partial eyesight, is a frustratingly slow process. I have not been able to contribute much to my analysis of the world economy, although the guidelines I suggested in the 1980s seem as relevant now, and perhaps even more so, than ever.
For the moment though, as of 2012-13, I am still concentrating on thinking about chess, and as a sideline, trying to think about current issues in the economy.
(partial rewriting has started. More to follow ...)
Why do chessplayers occasionally make mistakes? Why do politicians and economies so often make catastrophic mistakes?
shakthinking project is based, at the micro-level, concentrating very
much on why players make mistakes during games of chess, and how
players can gradually reduce the number of errors they make, so as to
improve their playing strength.
(more comments to be added, as the sidebar gradually expands)
Various mini-sites will be transferred shortly to the main site.
On chess thinking outside chess
My doctoral thesis can now easily me unearthed, by google, and quite probably by other search engines.
At the start of my thesis, at the beginning of the introduction, and not hidden by the middle of chapters, I indicated the broad outlines of modern economic history, in the decades to come.
Writing in the mid 1980s, I looked back to the deep recessions of Britain, in the early 1970s trough to the early 1980s, while noting also that there were premonitions in the mid 1960s that the posy-war boom, which in retrospect can be foreseen. The deep recession of the early 1980s was over, and the economy was likely to expand for quite a long time. The early 1980s was a “slump”, using this as a technical term, the end of a series of increasingly deep recessions. After the slump, there is a long post-slump recovery, with quick economic growth There will quite probably by a quick and sharp recession some years after the slump, more through over-excitement about economic growth, rather than through pessimism about the economy. Once this first recession after the recession has gone away, there will be a long period of steady economic growth, perhaps lasting for about twenty years. Then however, the next set of long deep recessions will set in.
All this is based on the historic records of the past. As the great geologists of the past have noted, in a different context, the past is the key to the present. By extension, the past and the present are the key to the future.
What is baffling is that, not so long ago, very few saw what was going on. In Britain, notoriously, Gordon Brown was claiming that he had ended boom and bust, while not noticing that there was going to be a massive bust, even when the bust was starting. In the euro-zone, the assumption was made that as soon as the European currency was in place, the golden era will start. Not so. And so on, and so forth.
My eyesight these days is not good enough to go through reams of statistics, and it will be difficult to make direct projections for the future, except perhaps that the more obvious point that if my earlier analysis is broadly correct, the recessions in later years will become deeper, rather than shallower.
A more interesting point, perhaps, is that my earlier chess discipline has been able to think about things which others, for example politicians and academics, would be unable to understand the underlying points. Shakthinking from a different angle.
Two primitive impulses
I want, after my stroke, to show that my mind is still working, and able to work effectively, even at a reduced level. I want very much to show that I am playing chess now as well as ever I played.
In my own doctoral thesis work, my own impulse is in saying that “I told you so”. It was almost thirty years ago that I indicated that at some stage of the decade of the 2010, we would start to enter increasingly severe recessions in the west, after twenty years or so of apparently much more stable growth.
As I continue to write up more and more of my games, and as I start to write on other things, the Home page continues to expand. What am I planning to do with all the games of chess that I have written up? The simple answer is to leave them, in print. These are essentially for my own use, to help me to improve my chess, but others are welcome to read my comments on my games, and maybe learn as much from me as I managed to learn from my own games. If I were to publish parts of this chess website, in terms of later publication, I would of course thoroughly go through, and revise, the comments I have made, concentrating on particular aspects of the game.
Recently I have decided to pull together blogs and sites on other aspects of the thought process and life in general. Chess thinking is a useful discipline, which helps inform other aspects of thinking in other disciplines.
All material (c) Colin Crouch 2012, 2013, 214
I have decided that for reater clarity, I have started off a blog version.
Shakthinking remains mainly as an archive, covering:
My own chess games
Games by others, including games between top grandmasters
Large extracts from my doctoral work, on economic geography and economic history
Politics -are the two main parties gradually crumbling?
And other aspects
I now feel that it is better to try a more chronological approach, so that it is clearer to see for the reader exactly what is going on at any particular stage.
This site is getting dreadfully tangled, I have to admit. About to start on blog format - starting on the Candidates, 2014: -
Another shatteringly tense game in the World Candidates, and in the end it looks like an odds-on favourite for Anand, two half-points ahead of Aronian, and even further ahead of thee rest of the field. Yet even a day earlier, both players were level, each having just played a tense draw. Anand next round beat Topalov smoothly, while Aronian went for an all-or-nothing attack against Mamedjarov, and he went empty-handed.
Quite clearly, the outcomes of a tournament are not pre-ordained, especially if all the players are extremely strong. Before the start of the match, Aronian was a clear strong favourite, not least on the current rating list, and if anyone among truly knowledgeable circles were to be asked who would be the second favourite, most would choose Kramnik, not least because a year ago Kramnik almost sensationally beat Carlsen, as Carlsen, exhausted and under pressure, lost two tired and exhausted games in the last three. Kramnik, who had played solidly and steadily, himself succumbed to the pressure, just when he was about to have another shot at the world championship match again, crashed in the final game, the fourteenth game.
The key point here is how, this year and last year, the competitors handled the match tension. Kramnik last year, and Anand this year, have had the enormous psychological advantage of “been there, done that”. They have already been world champions, and so do not have the emotional intensity of trying to be a first-time world champion. Also of course they know what has to be done, and what needs to be done, to keep things in proportion.
For the other players, and certainly including Aronian, they have become tired, tense and, in chess terms, aggressive. No player with great ambition would be happy ending up with fifty percent, or a small minus score. They would want to win, or, if things start to go badly, to aim for a plus score.
Now it just so happens that in the first three rounds, Anand won two wins and a draw. It was not as if Anand had suddenly entered an aggressive winning streak, unburdened by the pressure of being World Champion, and moving on to the next gear. Some have suggested this, but examination of the games suggest that the defeats by the opponents (Aronian and Mamedjarov) were basically self-inflicted. They played badly, although they improved later on.
Few players would believe that Anand would rush away with a massive Carlsen-like score. No, these days it is not Anand's way. He would want to play quiet and steady chess, aiming always to keep the draw in hand, and would be happy, if required, to keep the plus two score to the end. And everyone knows that. The target for the competitors is the more modest attempt to reach plus two, and then to start to think about trying to overtake Anand. The target is not unachievable, especially if some of the other players start to get tired. Even a minus one run is potentially achievable, with a good head-wind. Thus every player will want to strain hard for a when to get things going, and then start to think about what to do next, and then perhaps to try to push for an extra half-point.
This leads to Aronian. Had he taken a draw, which seems fully achievable with 20...Qc6 21.f3 Rxd5 22.Qd2 Qd7, with reasonable care), Aronian would still have been favourite, just, to win the tournament. Instead, he defended rather carelessly, maybe first round nerves, or maybe getting a bit too casual, or maybe a bit of both), and he lost. Cracks in his technique were starting to show.
Even so, there was only one player who realistically had the likelihood of a plus three score quickly, and that was Levon Aronian, with a mixture of high imagination, plus technique. His win against Svidler was a masterpiece, an excellent example of finding an unexpected piece sacrifice when still in opening theory, and creating ultimately winning pressure.
By the half-way point, Aronian was able, with intense hard work and much use of his nerves, to catch up with Anand's +2 score. But, as noted, what to do next? Anand was far more relaxed, not worried about agreeing a few steady draws. There is the extra point that if the two players were to enter a tie-break, Anand would very probably be on top. Still pressure against Aronian, then.
The Aronian – Anand encounter in round 8 was a nervy draw, quick but difficult. Then in round 9, Aronian as Black seemed to have reasonable chances of an edge at move 10, against Mamedjarov (with 10...Re8+ followed by ...Nxf6), instead of entering wild tactics with 10...Qe8+, and then allowing White to have a passed pawn on g7 (!). Apparently preparation, but here, despite the abundance of tactics, there is no obvious way for Black to be better. A weaker player would no doubt have fallen for this, but Mamedjarov kept his nerve. Result, a win for White, and Aronian is now almost out of contention. It was so unnecessary. He could so easily have stayed in plus-equal mode.
Probably Anand will by now win the tournament, but it was Aronian who let him back into control.
Four games to go, and if Anand merely keeps drawing, it is almost certain that he will win. But please, no stuff to say that he played stunningly brilliant chess. He played well, took his opportunities, and did not give anything substantial away. Excellent technique, as to be expected, but in the end it is the fault of every one of his opponents that he lost a game.
Summary of main recent sub-sites, etc.
For older material, see main sidebar. Includes games of my own, up to December 2012. Then, partly for reasons of a sudden, but I hope not permanent, decline in health, I got less interested in trying to look for small improvements in my paying strength. If at times I can barely walk, and given too that I have sight of, effectively, half fe only one eye, and give to that I am getting older and losing stamina, how on earth could I possibly expect myself to reach a and maintain a respectable 2400?
#I have continued to write up books on chess, mostly on games written by top grandmasters. Most recently (September 2013) Magnus Forces: how Carlsen beat Kasparov's world record (Everyman Chess, London)
During this time I have tried out some correspondence chess, with, l have to admit, disappointing results. Detailed commentary to be followed here,as time allows.
No attempt is made of detailed, move-by-move chess analysis, at least just yet. General impressions also count.
Economics, politics, Great Britain, etc.
This is based on ideas I was kicking around with during the summer, and the question of whether Labour had ceased its long decline support since the heady days of 1997 (five million votes lost since then), and will bounce back in 2015; or whether New Labour will continue to +decline even further (which would be my own interpretation). Support on the left and centre left has faded recently, but things are getting complicated, in that the UKIP is attracting much support from the Conservatives.
Complicated, and it is a pleasant change analyse something other than chess.
The website is starting to become chaotic, with so many subjects being squeezed in. I started off with all my chess in one site, but first, I am writing published chess books, commercially. and second there are other aspects I would like to write on, politics, economics, life in general, and so on.
Chess - For my own fairly recent games, look on the left-hand sidebar. I have for a while abandoned this, for other projects. One can only go so far looking through my own games. In the end, I tend to repeat my own mistakes, and this can be dispiriting. Besides, with not many decades left in my life, I want to keep in touch with my own thought processes, to do things before my life gets extinguished.
My doctoral work (or the first couple of chapters)
Recent analysis, and a conclusion that it is unlikely that Labour can win the 2015 general election.
On the chessboard lies and hypocrisy do not last long
A famous quote by Emanuel Lasker, World Chess Champion, 1894 - 1921
Maybe it helps explain why, as I start to get old, I am getting more and more interested in chess, and particularly in trying to understand chess at the very highest level, and I am becoming less and less interested in politics, and the negative art of spin-doctoring.
It is perhaps still just about possible to have an optimistic point of view about the "dismal science" of political economy. The most obvious sign is that "the rest of the world" is catching up with "the advanced economies", and a good thing too, but the process is being painful in the west.
June and July, 2013
Updates very slow at the moment. Reason - I am finishing writing a book, on over 25 annotated games played by Magnus Carlsen. This is time consuming. I want to be able to say something intelligent, and to make as few mistakes as possible, trying to go much deeper on day-after notes.
I have to admit that I am getting far behind in writing up my own games. Perhaps I am starting to get bored with this? So be it. I have not played any over-the board games since May, which pleases me. It is unlikely I will play over the summer. Maybe an occasional game around October?
I have however played a few correspondence/email games, with modest success - and yes, I have managed to lose a game. I will want to look at these games much more closely, but there are still three games in progress.
It would be good to get back to some none-chess stuff. There are many hints in my recent thinking, on economics and politics, and why there is such an obvious lack of confidence in the two main political parties, in Britain. I want to tie up the arguments more closely.
It's late in the evening now, 29th June. I want to get something started, 1st of July if possible!?
My attempts at correspondence chess
Difficult, and I have not yet won a game. I am almost certainly about to agree a draw in my fourth game, and there is only one game to try get up to 50%. Something has gone badly wrong in my play. I was for example a pawn up in two games, but I could only draw. Time trouble blunders have been cut out, a pleasant change from over-the-board stuff, but it also means that I can no longer put pressure on my opponent through his own time pressure. With an average of three days per move, he will always have plenty of time.
When my final game has been completed, I will write up all the games. August or September perhaps?
Notes on the Candidates'
Recent updates to the site,
and current work
Diary stuff: Work in progress, Apr - May 2013
Chess work continues, more on the Carlsen book.
I have started trying out some correspondence chess, with mixed results. I got very careless in one game, overlooking what was probably a winning tactic on my part, and now it looks as though I am losing. (Much later - This is nonsense. I missed an interesting drawing line, but I was never better)
Perhaps I am getting tired with my chess. I do not know whether I want to play over the summer. Really, I only want to play any tournament chess, unless I am feeling happy that I am playing well. Writing is easy. You analyse, and re-analyse, and go through it all over again, and finally you can find something reasonably logical and convincing. Tournament or match chess are, I find, far more difficult, and I can easily make mistakes in judgement, over the board.
Ding dong! The ding-dong years - the 1980s
When I heard that Thatcher had died, I did not feel any great sense of jubilation. She was in her late eighties, and was in declining health for a long time. I suppose that through much of the eighties, I kept thinking that at some stage in the future, if nothing else, I would be joining a massive celebration when the Leaderene finally drops her clogs. Preferably somewhere in the North of England, or in Scotland, or in Wales, where hatred of Thatcher was the norm. The creation of mass unemployment was always a horrendous thing.
By 2013, my health in decline, I could no longer be able to celebrate in dancing in the streets, not least because my legs and feet were in such a bad state that it was difficult, that day, in getting out of the house. All I could do was to listen to the radio, to the BBC, and take careful not about all the comments of the day, and take particular note of what significant points had been missed out.
There seems to have been a collective amnesia about what was happening in the very start of the eighties. The general consensus seems to be that the economy was in disaster in the seventies (with the hidden argument being that this was under Heath and Callaghan, rather than under Heath), and then, jumping forward to the Falklands War, everything was great under Thatcher, with people getting richer and more prosperous, and this was the new golden age. Yet unemployment was consistently over three million throughout the Thatcher years, and the vast majority of the increase in unemployment took place in the early years under Thatcher, through 1980 and 1981, the "hidden years". Those two years were not of fast economic growth. It was not the case that high unemployment was somehow necessary if the economy was going to improve. It is rather that these were years of economic and industrial slump.
Following Fighting Chess move by move: learn from the world's best players, brief comments will be made about events in the very top level games. It is not intended to try to give extremely detailed complicated variations. That is best left to books and to other formats, rather than to blogs. I am hoping however that after I have written about events by Anand, Gelfand, Kramnik, Aronian, and others, my commentary can be regarded as reasonably well informed.
Recent, current and forthcoming events:
Baden-Baden, February 2013
London, Candidates', March 2013
Economics, politics, history, etc
The various mini-blogs relate in part to thoughts of many years ago, often even decades ago, and in part to current events and to most recent thoughts. Comments have been added, when it all grabs me at the time. Most of the commentary is at best incomplete, at the moment.
The latest string is on Why I do not vote for Labour. The point here is not just the ups and downs of one political party, a party which I used to be a member of for many years. It is rather the case that the two main parties have been in decline for many decades, mainly through economic uncertainty, and the difficulty of steering through a course of steady growth from the early 1970s onwards, while third parties, except the Scottish Nationals in Scotland, have not made any genuine impact. The problem is seen as a total lack of enthusiasm for Labour and the Conservatives, a lack of clear breakthrough by any party, and all in the context of very slow growth in the economy, probably for at least another parliament. And also, can Labour, in intellectual terms, handle its long-term problems?
Of course, very few politicians ever admit that they have made a mistake. Chessplayers, however grudgingly, admit that they must have done something wrong if they have lost a game.
Not yet added to the main blog: Stagflation and the return of the economic misery index. Some number-crunching has been added, but more thinking needs to be done. Before too long?
To be restructured shorty, for greater clarity