Would You Take the Pawn?

Imagine you are the General of the black pieces and reach the following position in the opening:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. fxe4 dxe4 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. Bd3

Would you take the proffered pawn? Cogitate on the answer a few moments until we come back to it.

Chess players have a style. The choices a player makes signals his style, whether or not he is aware of this fact. Humans communicate with not just what they say, but how they say it. Chess players also communicate, giving information to their opponent not only not only with what they play, but what they do not play.
For decades I have used a position with students in order to discern what type of player he may be. I have also shown the position to groups of students on a demo board, and listened to some lively discussions as each student tries to justify their answer. It is also very useful as a way to teach that in chess it is sometimes possible that there can be more than one way to skin a rabbit. It is from a standard opening, the Caro-Kann. The position arises after the standard opening moves of, 1 e4 c6 2 d4 3 d5 3 Nc3 dxe4 4 Nxe4 Nf6 5 Nxf6. With which pawn do you capture the Knight?

Statistics show that after capturing with the e-pawn Black draws far more than when capturing with the g-pawn, but also wins much less. Such a simple choice says something about a players style.
Most players would choose one move or the other. The Legendary Georgia Ironman is one of the few who has played both captures, but his predominant choice has been 5…exf6, which is better suited to his style. During a recent conversation about openings Tim mentioned something about liking the Berlin because, “It suits my style.” I would much prefer to undergo waterboarding by Darth Cheney than be forced to sit behind the Berlin. The move 5…exf6 is anathema to me. I cringe at the thought of ever having to play such a move. On the other hand, my eyes light up and become filled with fire at the prospect of playing 5…gxf6! This move opens the g-file, giving the black General something with which to work. It also follows the principle of capturing toward the center, whereas the capture 5…exf6 leaves the black General with an ugly pawn structure with the future prospect of long hours of laboriously striving to hold an inferior position. Where is the fun in that?

The game in question is the first one in the first chapter, “Rare Continuations,” of “The Extreme Caro-Kann: Attacking black with 3. f3,” by Alexey Bezgodov.

Paul Kuijpers (2074) – Harry Van der Stap Sr
Vlissingen HZ op 8th 2004

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 f5 4. Nc3 fxe4 5. fxe4 dxe4 6. Nxe4 Nf6 7. Bd3
Here the author writes, “A well-founded pawn sacrifice, which Black dare not accept.” I closed the book to sit there for some time thinking about the position, finally coming to the conclusion that I would take the pawn. Then I wondered if this position could also provide a clue into a players style. It is well-known that Bobby Fischer had a fondness for taking material and defending that choice with “machine like defense.” This could be one reason GM Mark Taimanov, in answer to the question, “Do you think that you had chances of winning your match against Bobby Fischer?” answered, “It was the first time I was encountering not a playing partner, but a computer that didn’t make mistakes.” (http://www.chessclub.org/news.php?n=678)

Inquiring minds want to know, so I put the position into my now antiquated Houdi, as I now think of it, dropping the “ni” since it has been passed by Stockfish and Komodo. Houdi took the pawn and it is not close. Taking the pawn leaves Black with an even game, whereas Houdi’s second choice, 7…Nxe4, gives White an advantage of 2/3 of a pawn. Not taking did not turn out well for the General of the Black pieces in this game: 7…Nbd7 8. Bg5 Qc7 9. Qe2 Nxe4 10. Bxe4 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qb5 12. Qxb5 cxb5 13. Bd3 a6 14. Nf3 Nf6 15. O-O e6 16. Rfe1 Be7 17. Ng5 Nd5 18. Nxe6 Kf7 19. Ng5+ Bxg5 20. Bxg5 h6 21. Rf1+ 1-0

The Andrew Sisters & Bing Crosby-Accentuate The Positive

Chess Life Editor Daniel Lucas and Mental Illness

This was posted on the USCF forum a couple of months ago:

by Chess Life Editor on Tue Jul 08, 2014 4:58 pm #281923

“Chess Hoarders, we want to hear from you! For a future article on chess hoarding, let us know about your experiences, huge piles of books, scoresheets, etc. Do you have a ‘spare bedroom’ that has never seen a guest because it is filled with Informants from the 1970s? Let us know! Send hi resolution photos too. Email us at letters@uschess.org.”
Dan Lucas
Editor, Chess Life

As of this writing 192 people have read the Editor’s post, none of whom left a comment. Why am I not surprised? After all, hoarding is considered a mental illness, to wit:

“Compulsive hoarding (more accurately described as “hoarding disorder”) is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the excessive acquisition of and inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment.
Researchers have only recently begun to study hoarding, and it was first defined as a mental disorder in the 5th edition of the DSM in 2013.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding)

Diseases and Conditions
Hoarding disorder
Definition
By Mayo Clinic Staff
“Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.” (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/basics/definition/con-20031337)

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
Hoarding: More Than Just a Mess
Hoarding is a common problem that is difficult to treat.
By Eric Metcalf, MPH
WebMD Feature
“This problem has gained wider visibility in recent years, thanks in part to several hoarding-related television shows. Two percent to 5% of Americans may meet the criteria for being hoarders, says psychologist David Tolin, PhD, a hoarding specialist and author of Buried in Treasures. “Panic disorder might affect 1%, and obsessive-compulsive disorder maybe 2%. We’re talking about a surprisingly common disorder that had never really been recognized,” he tells WebMD.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/harmless-pack-rat-or-compulsive-hoarder)

I cannot help but wonder how many emails the Chess Life editor has received? I question the sanity of anyone who would ask chess players with a mental illness to be profiled ” For a future article on chess hoarding…”
I await this article with bated breath.

The Hoarding Song

Kathy Griffin – ‘Hoarders’

2014 USCF US Senior Chess Embarrassment

The headline at the USCF website reads, “US Senior Open Cruises On.” Below that one finds, “Thirty four players, including six-time US Champ GM Walter Browne will compete for the title of U.S. Senior Open Champion aboard the amazing Allure of the Seas.”

I rest my case. Only thirty four players decided to “ante up” and take a chance on a “three hour tour.”
I have previously written about the US Senior being played aboard a ship. When I mentioned the pitiful turnout to the Legendary Georgia Ironman today he said, “I’ve never been on a cruise and I don’t think I would want to if hit by the rolling thunder.” There is nothing like the prospect of being in time trouble while seasick.

Earlier this summer I noticed this headline, “Massive brawl breaks out on Island Belle,” (http://www.thehour.com/news/nw-police/massive-brawl-breaks-out-on-island-belle-during-summer-cruise/article_669ad4ab-0716-5a23-8c09-2bf24bbb6e6d.html) and wondered if the US Senior Open had put out to sea, so I checked, finding the chess cruise was still months off.

Later I spotted this one, “ROYAL CARIBBEAN Ship Sports Robot Bar.” I was conversing with a gentleman after reading the article who, as it so happens, had just been on a cruise with a robot bartender. He said the thing could make a decent drink but had a problem if a customer wanted something other than what the recipe called for. “I asked the thing for a splash of Tabasco and it turned on me saying, “This ain’t Burger King, bub!” (http://www.engadget.com/2014/08/25/quantum-of-the-seas/)

OK, I admit this is not exactly true… I made up the “bub!” part.

How about this one?

“Cruise passengers call for stricter government oversight of industry.”

By Marianne LeVine

“Angry former cruise ship passengers, including one who said she was raped by a ship employee and a woman who blamed inadequate shipboard medical care for her mother’s death, are calling on lawmakers to impose tighter restrictions on the industry to protect travelers from what they called undisclosed criminal activity.” (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-cruise-crime-20140724-story.html)

Just the place for a Senior chess tournament, wouldn’t you say?

At the end of the USCF article one finds this: “The Senior Open is sponsored this year by Vegas Chess Festivals and Card Player Cruises. This is the first Senior Chess Cruise in 13 years but we hope to do more in future years.” (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12800/772/)

I mean, why not, since this one was so successful!

Upon clicking on the link provided by USCF one finds this, written by the man behind such a successful tournament:

“Chess (and Poker) on the High Seas”
by Alan Losoff

“Last Fall my wife and I cruised with Card Player Cruises on the Allure of the Seas. They hosted a first class poker room with tournaments and cash games as well as extra activities for our group. We had a great time. Wouldn’t this be a great venue for a chess tournament! Until 12 years ago the U.S. Senior Open was held on a cruise every other year and I thought it was time to restart that tradition.” (http://www.vegaschessfestival.com/senior2014/)

Only two people have commented on the USCF article, one of whom left this:

by chessmast123 on Tue Sep 16, 2014 4:21 pm

“I was going to play in either this one or the us masters — this year I chose the other tournament for a number of reasons and skipped this one.”
Keep in mind this fellow chose not to play when reading his closing remarks:
“I like the idea of making this national tournament a cruise every other year. It’s more expensive but well worth it.”

Don’t ‘cha just love it?!

Jaime Brockett – Legend of the USS Titanic (FULL)

Lyrics

http://www.rkdn.org/titanic%20lyrics.htm

The Greatest Chess Tournament of All-Time

The last day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season has often been called “The Greatest Day Of Baseball Ever.” Eric Simon @AmazinAvenue used the aforementioned headline (http://www.amazinavenue.com/2011/9/29/2457299/red-sox-rays-braves-wild-card-jose-reyes-mlb-playoffs).

MLB.com continues the trend with headlines such as, “One year later, recalling baseball’s Best Night Ever” (http://m.mlb.com/news/article/39125938/)

Do a search and a film by MLB.com heads the line-up, “Regular season’s wild end” (http://m.mlb.com/video/v19789807/the-2011-regular-season-ends-with-a-flourish).

The sad thing is that all this “greatness” transpired long after most fans had gone to sleep. Little League baseball players cannot stay up until after midnight to watch, no matter how “great” the event. Most who have to rise early to get to work cannot stay awake because the games drag on and on, with an endless series of commercials between innings and endless pitching changes. Most fans have been bored stiff long before something “great” happens.

Every generation has its “greatest.” The sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox, which featured a home run that barely stayed fair by Carlton Fisk, was the “greatest game of all-time.” To the fans in Pittsburgh the home run hit by Bill Mazeroski to beat the damn Yankees in the bottom of the ninth inning off of Ralph Terry in the 1960 World Series will always be the “greatest game of all-time” no matter what happens in the future.

The recently concluded second Sinquefield Cup is being called the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time. Except for the runaway winner, Fabiano Caruana, who kept his head while those around him were losing theirs, the standard of play was abysmally low. It is possible the player who finished, the sinister Vesilin Topalov, played the worse chess. Fortunately for him some of his opponents played their worst chess against him. For example, Hikaru Nakamura should have blown Topalov off of the board in the third round, leaving him three losses and having to face World Champion Magnus Carlsen while sitting behind the black army. Nakamura would have only a half point behind Fab Car and it would have been a completely different tournament. I will be kind and say that other than Fab Car the players did not bring their “A” game. It was certainly not the most interesting chess tournament of all-time.

GM Alejandro Ramirez wrote an article on 9/7/2014 for Chessbase, “Sinquefield 10: Draws end magnificent event,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-10-draws-end-magnificent-event)

A few days later, 9/10/2014, Alisa Melekhina wrote an article, “Behind the Scenes of the Sinquefield Cup,” which included this: “This super-GM double round robin tournament is being played from August 27th to September 7th. It is billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/behind-the-scenes-of-the-sinquefield-cup)

“Strongest Chess Tournament Ever Begins in Saint Louis”
By Brian Jerauld
August 27, 2014
SAINT LOUIS, MO (August 26, 2014) — It‘s time to ring the bell on the strongest chess tournament in history.

http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12780/772/

Saturday, August 16, 2014
Sinquefield Cup 2014 – Strongest Chess Tournament in History

http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/08/sinquefield-cup-2014-strongest-chess.html

Jason Rosenhouse, writing on something called the “Evolution Blog: Science, Religion, Math, Politics and Chess” has this headline: “The Greatest Chess Tournament in the History of Chess Tournaments”
Posted by jrosenhouse on August 28, 2014

http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2014/08/28/the-greatest-chess-tournament-in-the-history-of-chess-tournaments/

But wait, there’s MORE!

“Fabiano Caruana Is Doing The Impossible At Chess’s Most Competitive Tournament”
10:21 AMSep 5 By Oliver Roeder

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/fabiano-caruana-is-doing-the-impossible-at-chesss-most-competitive-tournament/

Leave it to Tim Krabbé to put an end to the hyperbole:

“Could this nonsense about ´the strongest chess tournament in history´ please stop? You have the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 and 9 of the most recent ranking. The 1938 AVRO tournament had the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Of your six players, four are in the top-six – a density of 4/6, or .67. The AVRO Tournament had eight of the top eight – a density of 8/8 or 1. Both tournaments are double round robins, with of 30 and 56 games respectively. Multiplying these numbers, we get an index of 4/6*30=20 for Sinquefield, and 1*56=56 for AVRO.

AVRO, therefore, was almost 3 times as strong.

Should anyone see these calculations as meaningless, they should consider that they share that quality with Sinquefield´s average rating of 2802. Ratings do not reflect playing strength – they reflect relative playing strength and therefore, inflation more than anything else. I could go out right now and buy the most expensive pingpong ball in the history of humankind.

With many thanks for the wonderful tournament,

Tim Krabbé”

http://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess2/diary.htm

Many thanks for putting the latest, greatest, chess tournament of all-time into perspective, Tim.

MUHAMMAD ALI: THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME

Copper and The Princess

The Legendary Georgia Ironman’s long time ladyfriend, Pat the Princess had to undergo the scapel last week (she is fine now) which necessitated our keeping her dog, Copper, at the Fortress. He is a small dog encapsulated in a large dog body. For some reason he thinks of himself as a lap-dog. Although he is old, he is also frisky. I should be so lucky… Copper is an Australian Shepard, and supposedly the second smartest breed of dog, behind only the Golden Retriever.
Copper poked me in the eye some days ago, which was quite painful. My right eye swelled and closed immediately, with a copious amount of tears when my immune system sent out a warning to all of my macrophages to go to my right eye.
That day I did nothing other than stay in bed, getting plenty of rest, hopefully letting my body do its thing. Upon waking the next day by eye was still completely shut, and quite swollen. A couple of hours later it opened enough for me to know I still had site. I listened to the radio that day. The following day I turned on the ‘puter, but the bright white background caused too much pain, so I turned it off and tried to read, but this caused another flood of tears. Later I was able to go over a few chess games from the book, “The Extreme Caro-Kann,” by Alexey Bezgodov. I was well enough to read the book as long as I averted my eyes, moving them to the wooden chess board with wooden pieces.
Today I am well enough to sit here and punch and poke. So many chess blogs have ended lately that I wanted you to know why I’ve not posted. One of my favorites, “Old In Chess” by Steve Wrinn (http://oldinchess.blogspot.com/) has not posted since the end of July, and the “Award Winning” (easy to win when yours is the only blog nominated! Hey, I, too, will take it any way I can get it!) “The Kenilworthian” (http://kenilworthian.blogspot.com/) ended the first of September with Michael Goeller writing, “But this also seems like a good time to withdraw from the field because I am convinced that professional chess blogging has made the amateur chess blog increasingly irrelevant.” Say it ain’t so, Joe! Michael may be correct, but my numbers show the number of readers this year has doubled from the same time period from last year. And I have yet to win an award…
Just the short time writing this has caused a problem, so I will, hopefully, be back in a day or so, “Firing salvo’s,” as the Ironman is wont to say.

A tremendous live version:

Manfred Mann – Blinded by the Light

“Blinded by the Light” written and originally recorded by Bruce Springsteen 1973 off his debut album , Greetings from Asbury Park N.J
This is Manfred Mann’s Earth Band version of the song off the album, The Roaring Silence, released in 1976. This is the extended version of the song and not the radio edited shorter version. The song went all the way to #1 on Billboard’s charts in 1976. Please overlook my misspelled words ;) and enjoy!!

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band lineup in 1976:
Manfred Mann – keyboards, backing vocals
Colin Pattenden – bass
Dave Flett – lead guitar
Chris Hamlet Thompson – vocals, guitar
Chris Slade – drums, percussion, backing vocals

Blinded by the Light ~ Manfred Mann’s Earth Band with lyrics

The Psychology of Chess

It is difficult for a woodpusher to write about the game of chess played by the best human players because, as Bob Dylan wrote, “The game is the same—it’s just on a different level.” (Po’ Boy by Bob Dylan- http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/po-boy)

We try our best to understand but from being around those at, or near, the top, it is apparent their understanding is on a higher level. The same can be said about any other game, or sport, I suppose, yet many, if not most, of the greatest writers in the history of baseball never played in the show, and some never played the game on any level. Former MLB player Harold Reynolds had the audacity to tell one famous writer that since he had not played baseball in the major league he could not understand the game. Harold has a right to his opinion only because he did play in the show. After hearing the callous remark I thought there might be some merit to his argument, but that the accomplished writer could have a different understanding of the game.

I can still recall a time when IM Boris Kogan, at a tournament in Florida, knew he would face Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne, in the next round having the black pieces. Boris was lamenting the fact that he had no chance. This left the Legendary Georgia Ironman and I flummoxed. We were having a difficult time understanding his defeatist attitude. “You not understand,” Boris kept saying, “Cannot beat him. He too strong now.” Granted, Walter was at the top of his game, and was much younger than Boris, but still…we had a difficult time wrapping our minds around seeing Boris in that condition. Boris lost that game. The players at the top do not need numbers to know chess strength.

“From London to Elista: The Inside Story of the World Chess Championship Matches that Vladimir Kramnik Won Against Garry Kasparov, Peter Leko, and Veselin Topalov,” by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov is a magnificent book. It won the English Chess Federation 2008 Book-of-the-Year Award. The Gorilla is showing a new copy priced at $221.42; a used copy will set you back $55.00. I am holding on to mine. After reviewing the 7th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik there is a discussion of chess psychology which begins with my all-time favorite quote about Bobby Fischer. “When you’re playing Fischer, the question isn’t whether or not you’ll win; the question is whether or not you’ll survive.” The quote is from the man Bobby vanquished, Boris Spassky.
“SMYSLOV explained to us: ‘It was difficult for me to play Geller for a simple reason-when we sat down at the board, hatred was written on his face, he was ready to destroy his opponent. And if someone fell into that kind of condition, I couldn’t play.”

Geller had a lifetime plus score against Bobby Fischer. Reflecting on this made me wonder about how a player as strong as Hikaru Nakamura is considered Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s “regular customer.” Magnus has beaten Hikaru like a drum, with a lifetime score of 11 wins without a defeat in the only games that count, what is now called “classical” games. How is this possible?

“LEVITOV: But now, in my opinion, all chess players have become highly-qualified psychologists, and they don’t use only chess methods in their battles. Let’s take Kasparov. It’s said that he put pressure on his opponents psychologically-he exuded such a supply of negative energy that they felt like resigning immediately. Bareev once described to me very amusingly how in time trouble Kasparov started shaking his head and making tragic grimaces, as if to say, ‘how can this be, I’ve missed such a simple idea!’ And his opponent sits and desperately tries to work out if he’s being toyed with, and his clock is ticking…In other words, you have to solve psychological problems as well as chess problems during a game.”

Has Hikaru Nakamura lost the psychological battle? Has Magnus gotten into Hikaru’s head? What else can explain such a score?

Levitov poses a question for Bareev, “Does your opponent’s energy have a strong influence on the chess player? Why, for example, did Shirov and Anand always lose to Kasparov, why did Fischer play badly against Geller, and why can’t Polgar play against Kramnik?”

Bareev answers, “It’s genuinely unknown why it’s easier to play one opponent than another, and there are also metaphysical explanations for this-a powerful energy, and unfamiliar style and so on. More often everything simply depends on the playing strengths of blondes and brunettes and their preparedness for the specific encounter. In other words, you have to investigate every specific case separately.”
“LEVITOV: How do you control your emotions, how do you avoid showing that your opponent has surprised you horribly, for example, with his choice of opening? Does everyone have their own acting methods?”
“BAREEV: To a certain extent. People sometimes get ideas on this from the good results of new players. Later they adapt their openings and style of play and stop reacting to the unexpected. It’s better to combine your acting talents with specific skills and abilities.”

After seeing the following parody on the blog of GM Kevin Spraggett (http://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/), the best chess blog on the internet, I could not help but wonder how much acting went into the lessons given by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov to current Human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. What part do histrionics play in the psychology of chess?

HMS – SjakkVM – Magnus Carlsen parodi

Hikaru No Chess

The title is a play on the hugely popular Japanese TV series, “Hikaru no Go” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0426711/).
the popularity of this program is best described by this, “World Go population probably tripled because of ‘Hikaru no Go'”, said Joey Hung, USA 8 dan Go instructor. All of Joey’s Go School ( http://www.egogames.com) Go students in Fremont, CA, USA have watched the exciting Go anime. Also, at the World Amateur Go Tournament and Beijing Mental Olympics Tournament, many European, South American and Asian players reflected that they have seen a dramatic increase in Go population due to the ‘Hikaru no GO’ anime.”

“Hikaru no Go (literally The Go of Hikaru or Hikaru’s Go) is a manga (a Japanese comic) and an anime (a Japanese cartoon) about a boy (Hikaru Shindo) who discovers the ancient game when he finds an old board in the attic and meets the spirit of a past Go master (Fujiwara-no-Sai).
The Hikaru no Go manga is published by VIZ Media ([ext] http://www.viz.com) in the United States and Canada, and the Hikaru no Go anime has been licensed by VIZ Media in the United States and Canada. The manga is serialized in the United States version of Shonen Jump ( http://www.shonenjump.com), while the entire anime is viewable at Hulu.com. In North America Hikaru no Go is also available on the ImaginAsian TV Channel” (http://senseis.xmp.net/?HikaruNoGo).

“Hikaru no Go ( lit. “Hikaru’s Go”) is a manga series, a coming of age story based on the board game Go written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata with an anime adaptation. The production of the series’ Go games was supervised by Go professional Yukari Umezawa (5-dan). The manga is largely responsible for popularizing Go among the youth of Japan since its debut, and considered by Go players everywhere to have sparked worldwide interest in Go, noticeably increasing the Go-playing population across the globe, perhaps tripling it.
Current top Japanese Go professional Iyama Yuta is considered to be part of the influx of young Go players whose generation was inspired by the series.
First released in Japan in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump in 1998, Hikaru no Go achieved tremendous success, spawning a popular Go fad of almost unprecedented proportions” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_no_Go).

Maybe the best way to impart just how popular is “Hikaru no Go” would be to mention that in the December, 2012, issue of the second best chess publication in the world, “Chess Monthly,” the man who recently tied with GM David Howell for first place in the British chess championships, IM Jonathan Hawkins, the author of “Amateur to IM: Proven Ideas and Training Methods,” when asked the question of what is your favorite film or TV series, answered, “Hikaru no Go.” (!)

The impetus for my last post was Hikaru Nakamura. It is no secret that Hikaru has not been playing well recently. I am sure many other fans of “Naka” have “felt his pain.” After blowing a certain win against human World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the third round of the Zurich tournament, I could not help but wonder if he could ever come back from such a defeat, especially since he has never beaten Magnus in a classical game of chess. Now he has finished dead last on his home court of the St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center in the latest edition of the Sinquefield Cup. If there is a next S.C. Hikaru should be left out, as was Gata Kamsky this year. It is clear there is something wrong with Hikaru. He would not be a good poker player because he is easy to read. It is obvious from his body language that he is not the same person I saw in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, at the 32nd Continental Open in 2002, when he was kicking ass and taking names. He was brimming with confidence and the world was his oyster.

After losing to Veselin Topalov, the Bulgarian, who is often referred to as a former “world champion” though I know not why, Hikaru was interviewed by GM Maurice Ashley. Maurice said, “There was a moment in the game that the computer spotted an idea and we thought you were for sure gonna play. It’s the kind of move you always play. Yasser said you would play it in a bullet game, the move Bxf2. Tell us your thoughts in this moment right now.” Hikaru responded, “Well, I mean basically I had this exact position up until move 19 up on the board, um, you know, before the game and e5 was not a computer move and I knew it had to be bad but, um, during the game I just couldn’t quite figure it out. Um, OK, obviously I looked at Bxf2 and then I rejected it, but, I mean I just simply did not see the end of the line and more or less it’s unfortunate, but even then later I was still OK and then I just completely lost the thread, so I mean, sometimes things don’t go your way.”

Maurice: “The…we hear this often from really high level players like yourself that something goes wrong in the calculation. Can you ever explain it when that happens, because it seems unnerving even to you guys.”

Hikaru: “Um…well I mean…I’m not so upset about missing this one because I mean it wasn’t clear even though it’s the most intuitive move on the board. I mean, sometimes it happens, but again what can you do, sometimes, sometimes you don’t…I mean, if you don’t calculate perfectly, I mean that’s why, that’s why computers are just much better than all of us.”

Maurice: “Well, at least it’s calculating for sure. You’re in a tough situation now.”

There is a caption underneath a picture of Nakamura on the Chessbase website in an article by Alejandro Ramirez titled “Sinquefield 08: Streak stopped, Event clinched” dated 9/5/2014, “Nakamura has had some trouble calculating this tournament, it is unclear why.”
(http://en.chessbase.com/post/sinquefield-08-streak-stopped-event-clinched)

It appears the wagons have been circled and the popular thing to say is that GM Nakamura finished last, without winning a single game, because his powers of calculation have deserted him. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hikaru has been playing badly because he has lost faith in his judgement and doubt has crept in where there once was confidence. Losing will do that to a player no matter what game is being played. Simply put, Hikaru has lost confidence in his intuition. His suspect moves show this fact.

When on his way to becoming World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal played moves that defied calculation. There were no super computer programs in those days so humans could not calculate the ramifications of some of Tal’s moves. Tal could not calculate the ramifications of some of his moves, yet he played them anyway, because his intuition told him they were the right moves to play. Nakamura played like that at one time in the past. Now he seems to be trying to play like a calculating machine. He tells us this with his answer above to the question posed by GM Ashley. “I looked at Bxf2+ and then I rejected it…I just simply did not see the end of the line…”

There is a battle raging inside the head of Hikaru Nakamura. It is a battle between the emotional Captain Kirk and the logical Mr. Spock. Hikaru is an intuitive player, not a calculating machine. He is a poet of the chess board, not a philosopher. I say that with a line from Kevin L. Stoehr, professor of Humanities at Boston University, in mind. He wrote, “Philosophy typically strives for the clarity of definition and proposition. Poetry, in most cases, revels in ambiguity and mystery.” (From the essay, “You Who Philosophize Dylan: The Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry in the Songs of Bob Dylan” in the book, “Bob Dylan and Philosophy: It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Thinking).” Later on in the same essay he writes, “Like the true poet that he is, Dylan believes that when it comes to the construction of his lyrics (and certainly the creation of the music itself, we might assume), the power of immediate intuition counts far more than the categorizing and ordering power of the intellect.” Hikaru Nakamura must somehow come to terms with the fact that he is an intuitive player and know that ” the power of immediate intuition counts far more than the categorizing and ordering power of the intellect.”

In an alternate universe Nakamura, at Zurich, after disposing of the former Human World Chess Champion, Vishy Anand, in round two, then beat the new Human World Champion, Magnus Carlsen, in lieu of losing the “won game” as he did in this universe. In that universe Hikaru played 21…Bxf6+ in lieu of the insipid 21…g6, bringing the sinister Topalov to his knees, making him 0-3, and having the black pieces against the Human World Champion the next round. Hikaru would have been in clear second place, only a half point behind Fab Car. Things would have turned out differently. After the tournament in which Nakamura and Caruana tied for first place, bizillionaire Rex Sinquefield put up one million dollars for a match between Naka and Fab Car, with the winner going on to play a match with Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen, with ten million dollars going to the winner. I regret it is impossible for me to give you any more details, as I am certain you would like to know who won the matches in the other universe, but Dr. Walter Bishop’s machine providing a window into the other universe destructed when Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin invaded Ukraine, which caused the other Magnus to decline the match with the other Vishy Anand. This caused World War III in which nuclear weapons were used, which destroyed the window on the other side.

In this universe the best thing our Hikaru Nakamura could do would be to take a page out of Bobby Fischer’s book and take a year or so off from chess to, as Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen said to GM Maurice Ashley after beating Naka for the ELEVENTH time, “Figure it out.”

Hikaru No Go can be watched free at these sites:

http://www.hulu.com/hikaru-no-go

http://www.animehere.com/anime/hikaru-no-go.html

The Beatles – Across The Universe

Across The Universe Soundtrack