Douglas Griffin is a chess author/blogger, translator, and an indispensable source of historical chess perspective on “chess twitter”. He is particularly interested and knowledgeable about chess in the Soviet Union. Doug is also a strong player. As a teen, he was one of Scotland’s stronger junior players. His FIDE rating reached about 2270, before his family, his work and his strong interest in chess history overtook his interest in tournament participation. While Doug may not be as well-known as some of the Grandmasters and personalities that have been on the show, our talk was one I looked forward to, and sure enough, it was highly informative and inspiring.. For more information about Doug, you can check out his blog, and his twitter page. Please keep reading for timestamps and many fun links and resources.
0:00- Intro and discussion of Doug’s intro to the chess world. Mentioned in this segment, GMs Anatoly Karpov, Tony Miles, VIktor Korchnoi. The BBC show, The Master Game
6:00-How did Doug improve in chess and develop an interest in Soviet-era chess and the Russian language? He owes a debt of gratitude to his former teacher IM Danny Kopec, among others.
9:00- Doug transitions to telling some stories about some of the chess greats he encountered early in their careers. Players mentioned are those he saw at the Lloyds Bank London 1984- GM Vishy Anand, Ivanchuk, Spassky, Nigel Short. You can read a bit more about the Lloyds Bank tournament in this Chessbase article by Priyadarshan Banjan Read Doug’s blog post about the Troon 1984 tournament he mentions and about GM Lev Psakhis in his blog post here.
14:30- How did Doug learn Russian, and where does he get all of the original sources for his blog? Magazines mentioned: Shakhmatny Bulletin , Chess in the U.S.S.R. and “64” Doug bought a lot of his Soviet chess magazine’s from Kimmo Välkesalmi's website. Translator named in this segment: Ken Neat
25:00- Friend/supporter of the podcast, John Hartmann of Chess Life Online (and author of CLO’s Throwback Thursday) writes in to ask whether Doug has any plans of turning his material into a book and/or launching a Patreon page. Mentioned in this segment; Ilan Rubin of Elk and Ruby. .
31:45- We discuss an excerpt of Doug’s most recent blog post, which unearthed a great and prescient quote from former World Champion GM Mikhail Botvinnik regarding an ascendant Bobby Fischer. Read Doug’s blog post here.
38:00- Are there any Soviet periodicals or books that Doug is especially excited to translate? Mentioned in this segment:, IM John Donaldson and IM Nikolay Minev’s books about The Life and Games of Akiba Rubinstein, GM Razuvaev and Murahveri’s Russian language Rubinstein biography. Nikolai Krylenko is also mentioned
43:00- Chris Wainscott writes in to ask if Doug has favorite lesser-known Soviet chess players. Doug mentions Andor Lilienthal, Isaac Boleslavsky, Semyon Furman, Ratmir Kholmov, Grigory Levenfish (about whom Doug is writing a book) Books mentioned by GM Genna Sosonko: Russian Silhoettes, The Reliable Past, Smart Chip from St. Petersburg and other tales of a bygone chess era
Also mentioned GMs John Shaw and Jacob Aagard, co-founders of Quality Chess
53:00- Doug and I wax nostalgic about The Chess Informant and he discusses some exciting upcoming projects on which he will work with their publishers.
56:30- Doug names of a few of his favorite chess books amongst those that have been published in the English language. They are: Botvinnik’s Best Games, Smyslov’s Best Games, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal , Anatoly Karpov: My 300 Best Games , Kasparov on Kasparov, Leonid Stein: Master of RIsk Strategy
1:00- Doug reflects a bit on what helped him become a strong chess player. He credits reading voraciously and being blessed with a good memory.
1:05- On the heels of GM Neil McDonald’s story of meeting legendary GM David Bronstein, Doug shares his own story . Also mentioned in this segment: Jon Speelman, Julian Hodgson, Paul Motwani, Colin McNab, Jonath Rowson, Bojan Kurajica
1:09- Reluctantly, we discuss non-chess related stuff. Doug discusses his day job and his affinity for hiking and photography. Check out his landscape photography site here. The Dutch online photo archive Doug mentions is here.
1:13- Goodbye! A friendly reminder to read Doug’s blog here, follow him on twitter here, You can email him here.