Colin Crouch, who has died at the tragically young age of 58, had a magnificently mischievous sense of humour. He contributed several pieces to Kingpin, serious and funny, and wrote one of the wittiest parodies of a chess writer you are likely to read.
An affable, thoughtful and sensitive man, Colin gave Kingpin this typically reflective, candid and self-deprecating interview in 1996.
What is your earliest memory of playing chess?
Finally working out how to win with rook and king against my father. I think it was my third game of chess.
What is your most memorable game?
Beating Neverov in the final round the year I won the Hastings Challengers. Like most players that year I was coughing and spluttering horrendously, so felt no nerves. It was a wild game, and I was losing at one stage, but my umpteen passed pawns won in the end.
Neverov – Crouch
What was your worst defeat?
I lost a horrible game against Bogdan Lalic on New Year’s Day last year; I followed a game I had had against Polugayevsky and simply blundered. Chances of a GM norm instantly vanished.
Which living player do you most admire?
As a player, still Kasparov. As people, I have little liking for either Kasparov, Karpov or Short, and would be very glad to see a younger generation take over.
How do you relax?
With long walks. Absolutely essential; I hate being indoors for too long. Sometimes in summer I cover over thirty miles in a day.
What/who is your favourite band/music/composer?
I find it very difficult to listen to music. My mind is always off somewhere else.
What is your favourite record?
Don’t know. ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials caught the atmosphere of the 1980s splendidly, but it’s ages since I’ve heard it.
‘Perhaps the books you most enjoy are those you read when you are young’
What do you consider to be your greatest weakness as a chess player?
Poor tactical control, combined with near zero opening preparation. The latter can be changed; the former I am stuck with.
What is your greatest strength?
Creativity. But this can be very double edged.
What is your most unappealing habit?
Which book would you take to a desert island?
At my age I would rather write than read. There is a particular philosophical project I would love to have the time to explore, but I would still need to read a lot on psychology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, economics, semiotics, and so on. The one essential book is of course Darwin’s Origin of Species.
Who is the chess writer you most enjoy reading, and why?
Either Nimzowitch or Réti. Réti was an excellent prose stylist and very influential, but I have come to realize that some of his judgements on the history of chess style are misleading. Keres I also enjoyed. Perhaps the books you most enjoy are those you read when you are young.
How would you characterize your chess-playing style?
Intuitive, but with too little sense of danger. I know I’ll never be a good player; I just try to play the moves that I would play if I were good.
What is your favourite television programme?
Election specials, although I have to admit that ultimately I have found those for General elections (as opposed to by-elections, Euro-elections, etc.) a depressing experience.
Against which player do you have the worst results?
I’m glad that my games over the years against David Mooney haven’t been Elo-rated.
What was your most embarrassing moment at the chessboard?
I played Tom Wiley in a county match many years ago and built up a nice position. Then he castled and I couldn’t understand why i hadn’t considered this, and my initiative disappeared and I eventually lost. It was only on the coach journey back that I suddenly realized that he had castled through check!
‘I would regard my work in economics as vastly more important than anything I have done in chess’
Which single thing would most improve the chess scene in Britain?
International tournaments springing up all over the place.
In which particular tournament do you most like to compete?
I would hate to miss either the Isle of Man or Hastings.
Have you ever been the victim of cheating at a chess tournament?
Who is the most irritating opponent you have faced?
I played a Czech IM, Konopka, at Aosta 1990, and when he realized he was losing he tried everything he could to distract me. Naturally this just made me concentrate harder, and I got my IM norm. And then, when I was a junior, there was a former British Champion who, when I offered him a draw in a totally drawn opposite colour bishop ending, ranted away for ten minutes and threatened to have me disqualified! Later he calmed down, offered me a flipper and we split the point, but he was bad-mouthing me for several months afterwards.
Who is the most courteous person you have played?
Maybe Paul Motwani. But most strong players are courteous.
Are there any other sports/activities at which you excel?
I would regard my work in economics as vastly more important than anything I have done in chess. Maybe in a couple of years’ time this point will become clearer. Making progress in a horrendously unfavourable political climate is difficult.
First published in Kingpin 26 (Spring 1996)