AS the country recovers from the recent Election campaign, it's worth noting that the game of chess has a fine tradition in the Palace of Westminster.
For over a century, chess was the only game officially allowed to be played in the House. Indeed, they even have an exquisite Chess Room, filled with magnificent sets that were gifted by foreign delegations.
But alas, in 1987, "The Times" reported that 'because of the diminishing number of MPs with the time or inclination for chess' the hallowed chess room was to be thrown open for games of chance 'from mah-jong to poker'.
Only two world champions have been allowed to play there: Capablanca in 1919 when he took on the best players in the House, and likewise Garry Kasparov in 1989.
Many politicians over the years have been known to play, but the strongest ever was arguably Marmaduke Wyvill MP (1814-96), who was second behind Adolph Anderssen in the great London tournament of 1851 - the first official international tournament.
Former premier James Callaghan was a noted player and at one time held the post of honorary president of the English Chess Association; Labour leader Michael Foot had the reputation of being a dashing player; and even the new Father of the House, Tam Dalyell, when defeated by Kasparov in 1989, commented: "I have never played anybody who moved into my backyard with such effect and then pinned me for the rest of the match. It was a great lesson."
On the opposite side of the political divide, former Tory party Chairman Sir Jeremy Hanley didn't fair any better in that 1989 match with Kasparov, but got his revenge by becoming the Chairman of Brain Games Network, the company that organised and sponsored Kasparov's title loss last year to Kramnik.
At present, Junior Minister Angela Eagle (joint British Girls' under-eighteen champion in 1976) replaced Foot as the best player in the Commons when she took the seat of Wallasey in the 1992 General Election.
However, after last Thursday's election, Alan Reid, the newly elected Liberal Democrat member for Argyll & Bute, can now lay claims to not just being the strongest player at present in the Commons, but also being the second strongest player ever behind Wyvill.
In the late 70s and early 80s, Alan was one of Scotland's leading players who represented his country in the 1978 Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires. Not only did he take the 1977 West of Scotland championship, he was also a permanent fixture in the Scottish and British Championships (in 1978 even gaining a creditable draw with future world championship challenger, Nigel Short) during that period.
Alan's highest published rating was 2255, and if you consult Mega Database 2001 from ChessBase, you can find around 30 of his games there - including this impressive victory over one of his new constituents - Jonathan Lennox of Tobermory!
CJ Lennox - A Reid Scottish Championship 1977, Marshall Attack
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Be7 6 Re1 b5 7 Bb3 0-0 8 c3 d5 9 exd5 Nxd5 10 Nxe5 Nxe5 11 Rxe5 c6 12 g3 Bd6 13 Re1 Qd7 14 d4 Qh3 15 Bxd5 cxd5 16 Qd3 Bf5 17 Qf1 Qh5 18 Be3 Bh3 19 Qe2 Bg4 20 Qf1 Rae8 21 Nd2 Re6 22 a4 bxa4 23 Rxa4 f5 24 Rxa6 f4 25 Bxf4 Rxe1 26 Qxe1 Bxf4 27 gxf4 Re8 28 Qc1 Bh3 29 f3 Qh4 30 Ne4 dxe4 31 Qe3 Qh5 32 Kf2 Bc8 33 Ra8 Qxh2+ 34 Ke1 Qh1+ 35 Kf2 Qh2+ 36 Ke1 Qh1+ 37 Kf2 Qh4+ 38 Kg1 Qg3+ 39 Kh1 Qh3+ 40 Kg1 Qg3+ 41 Kh1 Qxf3+ 42 Qxf3 exf3 43 Kg1 Kf7 44 Kf2 Bg4 45 Rxe8 Kxe8 46 c4 Kd7 47 b4 Kc6 48 Kg3 h5 49 f5 h4+ 50 Kf2 Bh5 51 d5+ Kd6 52 b5 Kc5 53 Kf1 h3 54 Kg1 Bg4 0-1
JOHN B HENDERSON