THIS EVENT IS CHILD FRIENDLY

The title of this post was found at the website of the “Millionaire Chess Open” (http://millionairechess.com/about-us/).
What, exactly, is meant by an event being friendly toward children? This could, obviously, be interpreted in many different ways. I would ask GM Maurice Ashely to clarify exactly what is meant by “This event is child friendly.”
I must make an assumption because I am unsure of the meaning. Rob Jones, has wrote this on the USCF forum, “Today, 2014, kids make up about 70 % of the regular tournament participants.” (by DENTONCHESS on Wed Jul 30, 2014 11:05 am #282711; http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20350&sid=81c0e47d4f09f31850f80b8d5eb5d0c7)
It is obvious from the above that the Millionaire Open will fail unless it attracts a large percentage of children. The possibility of failing could be the reason for informing the world the event is friendly toward children. It is also apparent the people behind the Millionaire Open need children for the tournament to be successful. It would be honest to say the organizers need the money of the parents of those children in order to be successful. Such is the state of chess these days, for without children there are no longer enough adults to support big money chess tournaments. My question is, “Should children be allowed to play for large cash prizes?”
What amount of cash is considered “large?” Definitions will vary, but for the sake of argument I am going to consider the Millionaire Open to fall into the category of “large.” If your young Spud wants to play and you have faith in Spud going up against the adult wiley ol’ veterans, should you “ante up?”
If your little Spud played poker extremely well and wanted to enter the World Series of Poker he would not be allowed to play unless he was twenty-one years of age. Period. At the WSOP (http://www.wsop.com/) a player pays his money and takes his chances. He will sit down with the big dogs and play a game of skill until there is only one player, the winner, left standing.
If one enters his precocious Spud into the Millionaire Open, he will sit down to play a game of skill, hoping to win a large cash prize. Why is a child allowed to enter one, but not the other?
I am no lawyer, although I have previously done investigations for a one. I have no idea what the law is in the matter of children playing in big money chess events. I also know the law is subject to change at the whim of lawmakers, as happened when the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006 was passed, wreaking havoc and sending shock waves into the poker world from it has yet to recover.
“…the UIGEA was really the brainchild of two conservative senators-Bill Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, and Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona- who’d come up with the ingenious plan of attaching it as a last-minute amendment to the Safe Port Act-no matter that Internet gambling had nothing to do with protecting U.S. ports from terrorists. The two antigambling senators, who had run for their positions on morality platforms, knew that trying to take down a pastime that millions of Americans were already enjoying was too difficult, so they’d concocted what was essentially a sneak attack.” Taken from the book, “Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a BILLION-DOLLAR ONLINE POKER EMPIRE-and How It All Came Crashing Down,” by Ben Mezrich.
Children have been allowed to play, and win, what is considered “big money” in the world of chess. What the chess world considers “big money” is considered “chump change” in the real world. It has not been enough to interest any self-serving politico, but that could change with the Millionaire Open. And if you do not believe even a politician would stoop to such a level as to use a child winning “big money” to his advantage, from what other alternate universe do you come?
I must leave the legal aspect alone because I do not have enough information on the subject. I do know there are fifty states, all with their own laws pertaining to this matter, and in addition, Federal laws, which constantly change. For example, during the Viet Nam conflict the eighteen year old boys (men?) rebelled against the law which prevented them from drinking alcoholic beverages until they reached twenty-one years of age, and because they did, the law was changed in many states, including the Great State of Georgia, allowing one to drink an “adult beverage” upon reaching the age of eighteen. After the conflict moral Republicans took control and changed it back to twenty-one, which is where things now stand.
The question I am posing is more of a “moral” question. Scientific studies, too numerous to site, have proven that a child’s brain is not yet fully developed. Should that child be allowed to battle grizzled ol’ veterans with fully developed brains? What effect does doing so have on the child? I am unaware of any studies on this subject. Young players, like World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen, and Hikaru Nakamura, are exemplars of the efficacy of having precocious young boys participate with adults in the chess arena. What about all of those who do not make it? How are the ones who have left the arena affected? No one knows because nothing is heard of them once they have left the arena.
Bill Goichberg, owner of the Continental Chess Association, deems a player a “professional” as a player who has attained a rating of 2209 (or is it 2210?). What is a “professional?” I decided to check the dictionary and found this:
pro·fes·sion·al (pr-fsh-nl)
adj.
1.
a. Of, relating to, engaged in, or suitable for a profession: lawyers, doctors, and other professional people.
b. Conforming to the standards of a profession: professional behavior.
2. Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career: a professional writer.
3. Performed by persons receiving pay: professional football.
4. Having or showing great skill; expert: a professional repair job.
n.
1. A person following a profession, especially a learned profession.
2. One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation: hired a professional to decorate the house.
3. A skilled practitioner; an expert.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/professional

As I read the definition it seemed as though things were clear until the very last part. How does one define a “skilled practitioner” in the world of chess? Compared to the average Joe playing chess, a tournament player, such as the VP of the GCA, triple-digit rated Ben Johnson, may be considered by some to be a “beast” because he plays, or thinks he does, tournament chess. Then again, maybe not…How about the Prez, Fun Fong? He is about a 1400 player who has been known to pay his money and take his chances. Some would consider Mr. Fong to be “a skilled practitioner.” I am not one of them. How about yours truly? I somehow managed to crawl over the threshold into the “Expert” category. Should I be considered a “professional?” I think I can answer the question. I have known, and played, professional chess players. Some have been friends of mine, and I am here to tell you I am no professional. Yet, according to the definition I, or any other player who has crossed the 2000 threshold, could conceivably be considered a “professional.”
Regardless of his rating, is a ten year old “Spud” who has his entry fee paid by his parent(s) considered a “professional?” What about a fifteen year old? Years ago there was a young fellow, nicknamed “Hayseed” by the man from High Plains (not the Ironman as previously, and mistakenly, written) who won money in every section until he met his match in the class “A” section. Was he a “professional” chess player?
I do not have answers to these questions. I have often wondered why the question is never asked, much less discussed. As I sit here punching & poking at the keyboard the people who will have to decide these questions are gathered in Orlando at the US Open where the business of USCF is discussed. I cannot help but wonder how many of them have even entertained the question.

Classical Chess

“Bill James is the best known baseball analyst in the world” (http://sabr.org/about/bill-james). Bill began his writing career by questioning the assumptions in baseball, something commonly called, “The Book.” For questioning some of the commonly held beliefs in baseball Bill was excoriated by the MLB establishment. His books, and the thinking contained therein, caught on with many and his books became very successful. Many other baseball fans began to question things like the sacrifice bunt, held dear by the MLB establishment. Decades later Bill was hired by the Boston Red Sox as an analyst and the Red Sox became the World Champions. Now every MLB team has an analyst, or team of analysts.

Bill’s latest book is, “Fools Rush Inn: More Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom.” One of the essays is, “Classical Sport.” As is often the case, while reading the essay my thoughts would drift to chess and I would substitute the word “chess” for “classical music.” Read on and you will understand why.

Bill writes, “Classical music has very, very serious problems as an industry. The number of people who enjoy classical music is small compared to the market for other kinds of music and the market is composed primarily of old people.

“Classical music survives, or has survived so far, because it has advantages over the marketplace, rather than advantage in the marketplace. Classical music is perceived by a very large cadre of musical professionals as the highest form of music, and these people have integrated themselves and their music into the society in ways that insulate it from extinction by economic forces. High schools do not teach young musicians to play rock and roll, as a rule; they teach them to play “instruments,” which are in truth the instruments of classical music. Millions of small children take violin lessons, which their parents get for them because this is how music is taught. The perception that this form of music is “classy” -widely accepted in our culture- keeps the form alive by giving it these advantages, and many similar and related advantages. At the symphony I am below the median age and, I suspect, well below the median income. Those old people who go to the symphony have more-than proportional power because they have more-than proportional wealth. There is something much more than that going on here. It has to do with the perception of rectitude, of value and of virtue.”

“Music, like sport, is instinctive to us, exists in all cultures, and will never disappear. There are primal and sophisticated forms of music and of sport, which could also be called vibrant and calcified, or youthful and moribund. There is a spectrum in these activities that runs from vibrant, primal and youthful to sophisticated, calcified and moribund. All sports and all forms of music move across that spectrum, crawling toward obsolescence.”

I have always thought of chess as a form of the “Glass Bead Game,” made popular by the greatest novel ever written, “The Glass Bead Game,” also published as “Magister Ludi,” Latin for “Master of the Game,” by Hermann Hesse, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature for the book. The Glass Bead Game takes place centuries into the future. It concerns the place the game occupies in the culture. “As the novel progresses, Knecht begins to question his loyalty to the order; he gradually comes to doubt that the intellectually gifted have a right to withdraw from life’s big problems. Knecht comes to see Castalia as a kind of ivory tower, an ethereal and protected community, devoted to pure intellectual pursuits but oblivious to the problems posed by life outside its borders.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game)

The game of chess can be thought of in the way Bill James writes of classical music. Chess has always been thought of as important because it requires thought, something some very wealthy people have valued highly enough to become patrons of the game. I am thinking of Gregor Piatigorsky and his wife, Jacqueline, and the famous tournaments they funded in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1966, called the Piatigorsky Cup. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piatigorsky_Cup) Every chess player knows of these tournaments, and if you encounter anyone involved with chess who has never heard of the Piatigorsky tournaments the question becomes, “What is this person doing in chess?” In 1961 the Piatigorsky’s sponsored a match between Bobby Fischer and Sammy Reshevsky. It ended prematurely when the wealthy couple wanted to change the scheduled time of one of the games because of a conflict Gregor had with a musical performance. Bobby refused because he had signed a contract that specified the round time of each game. The wealthy couple must have felt like Ronald Raygun, when running for POTUS, and he was heckled from the audience. Ronnie famously yelled, “I am paying for this microphone!” In actuality he was not paying. The people contributing money toward his campaign were paying, but why quibble? It was a great sound bite for the Gypper. The Piatigorsky’s were paying and thought Bobby should jump through any hoop provided. Bobby provided them with what is called a “rude awakening” when he “just said no.” Extraordinarily wealthy people are not used to being refused. They are also not used to being told “no” because they surround themselves with “yes men.”
I mention this because without the patronage of very wealthy people there may not be future chess as we have known it until now. Consider for a moment the state of chess without the largess provided by the latest patron, billionaire Rex Sinquefield. Rather than being held in the state of the art St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center the US Championships may have been held in some room in a college, as has been the case previously. The STLCC&SC is an artificial construct. I mean that because St. Louis was never known as a hot-bed of chess in the way New York city was known to be a hot-bed of chess. The game of chess developed naturally in New York, San Francisco, and other cities without some fantastically wealthy individual building it so they would come. Please do not take me wrong; I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that it is a “thing.”

Chess is in a fight for its life in the marketplace. The common perception among adults is that chess is dead, and that it died when the computer program “defeated” human World Chess Champ Garry Kasparov. In order to survive chess has been “sold” as a wonderful game to help children “think.” Chess is a wonderful tool to help children learn how to think, but so are literature and math The game of Wei-Chi, popularly known as “Go” in the west, is also a wonderful game and in many ways it is better than chess because a computer program is not yet as strong as the best human players (I will discuss this in a planned future post). Go is exponentially more complicated than chess and it is much simpler to learn, with no “weird” moves such as castling or en passant. A draw in go is about as common as leap year. One of the major problems afflicting chess is non-serious games. It will be terribly difficult to explain the worth of a game in which he is asked to contribute after being shown a game such as the one played today in the British Championship:

Pert, Richard G – Pert, Nicholas
101st ch-GBR 2014 Aberystwyth WLS (8.2), 2014.07.27
1.e4 e5 ½-½

To those who may say they are related I say, “Go talk to Venus and Serena Williams.” To those who may say it is near the end of the Championship and they were tired I say, “It is only one game per day and the previous day was an OFF DAY!”

In reply to the post “Has Cheating Affected Chess?” my friend the Discman sent me an email in which he wrote, “Interesting discussion and on point. However, cheating isn’t the biggest problem facing chess. Computers have taken the mystery out of the game. GM’s used to be gods with almost super-natural powers. Now any schmo with a smartphone can figure out the best move. Technology and the public’s need for instant gratification have left chess behind. It is no longer relevant in the public consciousness. Yes, cheating and the potential of cheating are contributing factors, but not the root cause.”

Chris has hit the nail on the head. The Royal game no longer has mystique. Most adults without children consider chess an anachronism, much in the same way they think of the game of checkers, a hugely popular game once upon a time. Consider these comments, first from Ron Suarez on the USCF forum: “We have seen a big drop in adult participation and membership.” (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20209&sid=98f50abff42e50fe2fc1e9553255a7cd)
Gary Maltzman wrote this on the NCAA forum: “Seems like some of the big NC Tournaments are on an attendance downswing.” (http://www.ncchess.org/Discussion/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=856&sid=4d93659f883d9f10934dba14bd4e056b)

These kinds of comments proliferate on the web these days.

I have no solution to offer other than those previously written. The chess world has to look toward those in positions of power, for better or worse. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein to mind: “The thinking it took to get us into this mess is not the same thinking that is going to get us out of it.”

USCF Board Member Supports Exclusion

One of the chess tournaments held in conjunction with the World Open was something named the “Senior Amateur.” There were two sections of this tournament, one for players rated over 2210 and one for those rated under 1810. The best Senior players were once again excluded from the tournament. There was only one NM entered in the top section, Phillip M. Collier of Maryland. The “winner” was Harry Cohen, rated 1989, also of Maryland. There were a total of 24 players in the top section, with 28 in the lower section, for a total of 52 Seniors. Included in the top section was USCF board member Michael Atkins, another player from Maryland.
As has been the case for several years the highest rated Senior players were excluded from the tournament. The fact that the best Senior players have been systematically excluded from participating is reprehensible. Michael Atkins is a USCF board member and supported the tournament by his participation, thus showing the USCF supports exclusion. The motto of FIDE is Gens una sumus, which means, “We are one people.” All, that is, except for a Senior who happens to be rated over 2210.
What is the definition of “professional” as it relates to chess? In this case the owner of the CCA, Bill Goichberg, is the arbiter. He decides and he decided a “professional” is anyone rated over 2210. As to how Mr. Goichberg came to that conclusion, your guess is as good as mine.
What if an organizer decided to hold an event open to everyone except class “C” players? Suppose he was asked why and answered, “I do not like “C” class players because they are not good enough to have reached the “B” class, the demarcation line between a player who has stopped dropping pieces, but are better than the “D” class players and would most probably win the money in an under 1600 section, so I excluded them.”
What if I decided to hold a Southern Senior Amateur open to all except “yankees” rated over 2210? I would then have to decide who is, or is not, a “yankee”. As the ultimate arbiter, a “yankee” would be whomever I decided was a “yankee.” Most of you are probably thinking, “This is preposterous.”
What if a group of Neo-Nazis in Idaho decided to host an event, the Northwest Senior, in which they advertised it would be for all players except for “Jews” rated over 2210? There would be an outcry from the media heard all over the world, and rightly so, I might add.
Substitute the word “Senior” for “yankee” or “Jew” in the above scenarios. Any way you cut it a member of the chess community is being excluded. What makes it so egregious is those players being excluded by the CCA are the very players who have worked hard all their life to reach the top and in their declining years are being told they are not welcome. So much for “Gens una sumus.”
Former Georgia Chess Champion, and my friend, Bob Joiner, related a story concerning a state championship in the late 1960’s in which the organizers had decided to exclude Mr. William Scott, a gentleman whom I respected and also considered a friend. The organizers, the arbiters of all things chess in Georgia “back in the day,” decided Mr. Scott, publisher of “The Atlanta Daily World,” one of the most respected “Black” newspapers in the United States, would not be allowed to play in the same room as the “White” players. In one of, if not the most, the finest moments in the history of chess in Georgia, Mr. Robert Joiner, and others, refused to accept the “wisdom” of the “pooh-bahs.” Bob and the group just said “No” long before Nancy Reagan. They told the “pooh-bahs” that if Mr. Scott was not allowed to play then neither would they, and there were enough of them to carry the day. Mr. Scott was allowed to play in the same room as the other players.
I, and other Senior players, feel strongly that if a Senior tournament is held anywhere, at any time, under the auspices of the USCF, every Senior alive should be allowed to participate.

ARBITER
I’ve a duty as the referee
At the start of the match
On behalf of all our sponsors
I must welcome you
Which I do — there’s a catch
I don’t care if you’re a champion
No one messes with me
I am ruthless in upholding
What I know is right
Black or white, as you’ll see

I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best

CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed

ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64

CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64

ARBITER
If you’re thinking of the kind of thing
That we’ve seen in the past
Chanting gurus, walkie-talkies
Walkouts, hypnotists
Tempers, fists
Not so fast
This is not the start of World War Three
No political ploys
I think both your constitutions are terrific
So now you know — be good boys

I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best

CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed
ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64
ARBITER
I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
You got your tricks
Good for you
I’m on the case
Can’t be fooled
Any objection is overruled
Yes, I’m the Arbiter and I know best
CHORUS
He’s impartial
Don’t push him
He’s unimpressed
ARBITER
You’ve got your tricks
Good for you
But there’s no gambit
I don’t see through
Oh, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64
ARBITER
Yes, I’m the Arbiter, I know the score
From square one I’ll be watching all 64
CHORUS
From square one he’ll be watching all 64

A Chess House Divided Cannot Stand

You know things are serious when the Armchair Warrior resorts to paraphrasing the devil himself, President of the Disunited States, Abe Lincoln. Dishonest Abe did, though, have a point.
I wrote some time ago about a state which had divided into separate organizations when the scholastic group broke away after developing their own organization. I recently discovered the Great State of Virginia now has two separate and distinct chess organizations, the Virginia Chess Federation (http://www.vachess.org/), and the The Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (http://www.vschess.org/).

That is two split state organizations and for all I know, there may be more. If, or when, the third state decides to split, the words of Arlo Guthrie in the immortal song, “Alice’s Restaurant” could be prophetic:
“And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.”
With lyrics- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx2t7xoF1k)
Decades later- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_7C0QGkiVo)

How many states split before the scholastic faction decides to break away from the USCF and have their own organization, the USSCF? There are many who now consider the USCF to be a defacto USSCF. Bill Hall, the former Executive Director of USCF, was an expert player. After being forced out he was replaced by Jean Hoffman, a person highly touted for her word in scholastic chess. She played in 22 tournaments in the early to mid 90’s, crossing into the “C” class. Ms. Hoffman came back to next play in once in 2004 and twice in 2006, dropping back into the “D” class. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7-hbc9s7k)

This was posted on the USCF forum recently:
by jjamesge1 on Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:25 am #281436
“I guess Dr. Bell summed it one pretty good one day. (I was at the local chess meet): I asked him about the collegiate chess players, since the few that showed up were *mediocre C maybe B level at best. He replied that there were several really good players at the university (Murray State University), but they didn’t play at the collegiate level, since they considered chess to be “something they played as a kid”. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20209&sid=4d9c167c450bbaee5df8ecc338d4f264)
This struck a cord because sometime during the last decade I was at a bookstore coffee shop and a young fellow broke away from his group to talk with me. It turned out he had no interest in chess, but in one of his Frat brothers. He told me the fellow said he had been a Master as a child, and gave me his name. Of course I knew the boy. I told the inquirer the chess community wondered why he had stopped playing. “Oh,” he said, “he told us chess was only a game for children.”
Perception is reality. The general public also thinks chess is a children’s game because most everything positive they read concerns scholastic chess. The vast majority of stories about chess one sees on the internet emanate from local papers and concern children. I was in one of my favorite restaurants, the Mediterranean Grill (http://www.mediterraneangrill.com/) wearing a chess tee-shirt when the owner, who had lived in Chicago for twenty years, noticed and said, “Chess is getting younger.”

On August 22, 1862, Abe Lincoln wrote this to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune:
“I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.”

Who will save chess?

Alice’s Restaurant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx2t7xoF1k
Decades later- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_7C0QGkiVo

Subterranean Homesick Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7-hbc9s7k

Questioning USCF

During a conversation with the Legendary Georgia Ironman he mentioned the importance of a player leaving the “provisional” rating behind and obtaining a “regular” rating. The transference gives the player a little creditability; it is a first step on the path. Triple digit players have no creditability. None. Zip. Nada. I know because I was one who began trying to get to the path with a rating of eight hundred plus after losing all six games at my first USCF tournament. It does not matter who or what you are in the other world, if you only have three digits following your name, you are less than nothing in the world of chess. But add that extra digit onto your rating and the chess world notices you have, somehow, gotten a clue. It would be interesting to know what percentage of “newbies” make it out of triple digit purgatory. It would also be worthwhile to know what percentage of them make the transference from “P” to “R”.
“Mike Nolan would know,” I said to Tim. “You mean the USCF guy?” he questioned. Tim is not a forum reading kind of guy unless something is pointed out to him, so I told him I would post and pose the question.
Decades ago I worked at the Oxford bookstore when the first computers were brought into the store. We had to transfer everything on 3×5 cards to the computer. Once the information was inside the machine we found wonderful things we could do with it. Any question could be answered. For example, if one wanted to know the percentage, and or average number of chess books sold in the last day; week; month; year; or all-time, the question could be answered.
I love statistics. There were baseball stats coming out of my ears when a boy. I love sabermetrics, the study of baseball stats, and have read numerous books on the subject. A USCF board member should have statistics for everything. I would ask questions like, “How many games per year does (add any age) play? What is the average number of games for each age? What percentage of new members advance to quadruple digits? What percentage of new members who advance to quadruple digits do so as “provisional” as opposed to “regular.” How long does the average member belong to USCF? When it comes to questions, I am like Jimmy Durante, who was famous for saying, “I’ve gotta million of ‘em.” The wonderful thing is that they can all be answered, if asked. The more information one has the better prepared he is to answer any question. Change begins with thought. We have Special relativity because Alburt Einstein asked himself a question.
Mike Nolan was the first to respond:
by nolan on Tue Jul 22, 2014 12:30 pm #282373
“What would you do with this information if you had it?”
Next to step into the ring was heavyweight, and newly reelected board member:
by Allen on Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:10 pm #282374
“I don’t see how that is a major priority of staff time. we know that most members only play in 1 event per year. We know that scholastic turnover in membership is very high as kids try it once or twice and never play again. I don’t see that as a particularly bad thing as you see the exact same pattern in other youth sports – baseball, soccer, basketball, etc.
My estimate would be far more than 50% – probably more like 75%.
But then again, many new adult members also do not reach a regular rating either. And then many adult members do not play in any events in a year – a large % have not played in any tournament in years.”
Allen Priest
National Tournament Director
Delegate from Kentucky
If on the USCF board I would be able to deliver a Powerpoint program containing charts and graphs, in color mind you, not give an estimate. As far as “…not seeing how that is a major priority of staff time…,” I seem to recall Mike Nolan regularly posted statistics on the forum a few years ago. I will admit to not having been a regular reader since Bill Hall was replaced and cannot help but wonder if the woman who took his place is cracking the whip?
Next up is Gary L. Walters, another board member, writing as “Grayson.”
by Grayson on Tue Jul 22, 2014 1:16 pm #282375
“Please direct this request to the office along with a reason for the request.”
This post is an attempt to provide you “…with a reason for the request.” I posted this after the next post by “Crume.”
by nocab on Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:24 pm #282416
There were, and are no plans to do anything with the information. Inquiring minds just want to know…
The next man to step up to the plate was Bob Crume, or as I now think of him, “Rocky Mountain Bob,” my man!
by Crume on Tue Jul 22, 2014 3:40 pm #282379
Derived from the Golden Database and a peculiar skill in Excel formulas and pivot tables. Lots of assumptions in this data set (sub500 and sub1000 rating levels are arbitrary), so I would not assume any definitive judgments. Expiration and years are based on today, 7/22/14. Provisional rating based on Regular rating only; no consideration given to Quick or Blitz.

835,861 Member IDs in the August 2014 Golden Database (100%).
277,321 Member IDs who expired while Provisional (33% of total).
230,253 Member IDs who expired while Provisional and below 1000 rating (28% of total).
113,607 Member IDs who expired while Provisional and below 500 rating (14%).
74,432 Member IDs who expired while Provisional within the last 10 years and below 500 rating (9% of total).
33,605 Member IDs who expired while Provisional within the last 5 years and below 500 rating (4% of total).
I do not know who Rocky Mountain Bob is, or how he came to “interface” with the “Golden Database” but I thank you, sir. I was unaware of a “Golden Database.” Sounds like it should at least be locked up for safekeeping. It also sounds expensive; wonder if Rex had anything to do with it…Is there a “Platinum Database”? How about a “Silver” or “Bronze”? Does the “GD” hold the keys to the kingdom?! OK, I will stop, but you get my drift…There are always questions.

The Chess Detective

The US Open begins in a few days, which means the chess politicos are packing their bags, getting prepared to travel to Orlando to do their “moving” & “shaking.” For that reason I have decided to post some thoughts, and pose some questions, for the “pooh-bahs” and I need to do it now because once they arrive there will be no time for them to read and thoughtfully consider anything because they will be busy “schmoozing.”
Like many others I read with interest the June “Chess Life” cover article by Howard Goldowsky, “How To Catch A Chess Cheater.” I clicked on the links provided and read everything on the blog IM Ken Regan shares with R. J. Lipton, a Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Tech. Since the article appeared I have invested a considerable amount of time reading, and cogitating, about the issue of cheating at chess by using a program. Most people will not do this, and most readers may not have the time to read all of this long post, so I will give my conclusions up front in the hope it will spur some, especially those people in power who must confront one of the major issues facing the Royal game, to read on and learn what brought me to my conclusions.
The article was published in order to allay the fears and suspicions of the chess playing public. I am reminded here of the infamous statement by Secretary of State Al Haig following the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan.
Al Haig asserted before reporters “I am in control here” as a result of Reagan’s hospitalization. The trouble was that he was not in control, according to the line of succession in the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAhNzUbGVAA).

The incorrect statement was made to reassure We The People, as was the “official” announcement that Ronald Raygun had removed his oxygen mask and quipped to his doctors, “I hope you are all Republicans.” This is now written as “history.” The thing is that “Rawhide,” the name given to RR by the SS, had suffered a “sucking chest wound,” and no one, not even the “Gipper,” is able to talk after suffering a such a wound. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attempted_assassination_of_Ronald_Reagan)

Like the handlers of the wounded POTUS, the Chess Life article is an attempt by the powers that be to tell chess players the Chess Detective is on hand, so, “Don’t worry Be happy.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU)

How can one be happy, and not worry when the Chess Detective, IM Ken Regan, says this, “An isolated move is almost un­catchable using my regular methods.”

The man with whom the Chess Dectective shares a blog, Richard J. Lipton writes, “How should we rate how well a player matches the chess engine as a method to detect cheating?
The short answer is very carefully.
Ken has spend (sic) years working on the right scoring method given these issues and others. I believe that his method of scoring is powerful, but is probably not the final answer to this vexing question.”

The only problem is that the Chess Detective has spent years using what is now obviously antiquated programs. Sorry Fritz, but your program was passed by those of Houdini, Komodo, and Stockfish, the top three chess programs in reverse order, quite some time ago. How is it possible for even the Chess Detective to discern possible program generated moves while using an inferior program?

Mr. Lipton continues, “The problem is what strategy might a cheater use? A naïve strategy is to always select the top ranked move, i.e. the move with the largest value. This strategy would be easy for Ken to detect. A superior strategy might be to select moves based on their values: higher values are selected more frequently. This clearly would be more difficult for Ken to detect, since it is randomized.”
“Another twist is the cheater could use a cutoff method. If several moves are above a value, then these could be selected with equal probability.”
“I could go on, but the key is that Ken is not able to assume that the cheater is using a known strategy. This makes the detection of cheating much harder, more interesting, and a still open problem. It is essentially a kind of two player game. Not a game of chess, but a game of the cheater against the detector; some player against Ken’s program.”

There you have it, the man with whom the Chess Detective shares a blog has no faith in the methods used by the Chess Detective. What follows is the post that has consumed much of my time for the last month or so.

The Chess Detective

An interview between Scott Simon of NPR and IM Ken Regan begans, “Ken Regan is a kind of chess detective. He’s a computer scientist and an international chess master, who played with the likes of Bobby Fischer as a kid. Which gives him particular skills to help recognize cheating in chess, which, he says, is becoming more common. Ken Regan has created a new algorithm to help detect test cheating. He’s profiled this month in “U.S. Chess” magazine and joins us now from Buffalo. Thanks for much for being with us.” (http://www.npr.org/2014/06/21/324222845/how-to-catch-a-chess-cheater)

“SIMON: So how does somebody cheat in chess?
REGAN: The most common way is having the game on your smart phone or handheld device and going into the bathroom surreptitiously to check it.
SIMON: So people are consulting their smart phones, because there are algorithms that will tell them what the propitious next move is?
REGAN: Yes. There are chess engines that are very strong – stronger than any human player, apparently even running on the reduced hardware of smart phone.
SIMON: Well, what are the odds of somebody being falsely accused?
REGAN: I deal with accusations, whispers, public statements, grouses that people make. And, usually, my model shows, no, this play really was within expectation. The other side is, yes, it’s a great danger that the statistics might falsely accuse someone. As a failsafe, I have taken data – many millions of pages of data from the entire history of chess, including all the performances by Bobby Fischer and Gary Kasparov. So I have an idea of the distribution of what happens by nature.”

An article about a name from the past, “Seven things you should know about Alan Trefler” By Michael B. Farrell (http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/07/05/seven-things-you-should-know-about-alan-trefler-founder-pegasystems/ZQULf5r9uUFkZZytsQB3WP/story.html), brought back memories of the man, now a billionaire, who, as an expert, was co-champion of the 1975 World Open. What would happen today if an expert did the same?

The cover story of the June 2014 Chess Life, “How To Catch A Chess Cheater: Ken Regan Finds Moves Out of Mind,” by Howard Goldowsky, was deemed so important one finds this preface, “The following is our June 2014 Chess Life cover story. Normally this would be behind our pay wall, but we feel this article about combating cheating in chess carries international importance.
This subject has profound implications for the tournament scene so we are making it available to all who are interested in fighting the good fight.”

~Daniel Lucas, Chess Life editor (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12677/422/).

From the article, “According to Regan, since 2006 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of world­wide cheating cases. Today the incident rate approaches roughly one case per month, in which usually half involve teenagers. The current anti-cheating regulations of the world chess federation (FIDE) are too outdated to include guidance about disciplining illegal computer assistance, so Regan himself monitors most major events in real-time, including open events, and when a tournament director becomes suspicious for one reason or another and wants to take action, Regan is the first man to get a call.”
Dr. Regan, a deeply religious man, says, “Social networking theory is interesting,” he says. “Cheating is about how often coincidence arises in the chess world.”
“Regan clicks a few times on his mouse and then turns his monitor so I can view his test results from the German Bundesliga. His face turns to disgust. “Again, there’s no physical evidence, no behavioral evidence,” he says. “I’m just seeing the numbers. I’ll tell you, people are doing it.”
Goldowsky writes, “Statistical evidence is immune to con­ceal­ment. No matter how clever a cheater is in communicating with collaborators, no mat­ter how small the wireless communications device, the actual moves produced by a cheater cannot be hidden.”

This is where Alan Trefler enters the conversation. Goldowsky goes on to write, “Nevertheless, non-cheating outliers happen from time to time, the inevitable false positives.”

“Outliers happen…” How would you like to tie for first as an expert today and have your integrity questioned in addition to having to strip naked and “bend over and spread ‘em?”
The article moves on to a detailed analysis of how the “Chess Detective” determines whether or not cheating has occurred.

“Faced with a complex calculation, a player could sneak their smartphone into the bathroom for one move and cheat for only a single critical position. Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand said that one bit per game, one yes-no answer about whether a sacrifice is sound, could be worth 150 rating points.
“I think this is a reliable estimate,” says Regan. “An isolated move is almost un­catchable using my regular methods.”
But selective-move cheaters would be doing it on critical moves, and Regan has untested tricks for these cases. “If you’re given even just a few moves, where each time there are, say, four equal choices, then the probabilities of matching these moves become statistically significant. Another way is for an arbiter to give me a game and tell me how many suspect moves, and then I’ll try to tell him which moves, like a police lineup. We have to know which moves to look at, however, and, importantly—this is the vital part— there has to be a criterion for identifying these moves independent of the fact they match.”

What is the “criterion”? It is not mentioned.

Dr. Regan is co-author,with Richard J. Lipton, of the blog, “Godel’s Lost Letter and P=NP.” I went to the blog and found this recent post by “rjlipton” (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/the-problem-of-catching-chess-cheaters/).

R.J. writes, “The easy (sic) of cheating is a major issue for organized chess. The number of cases in professional tournament play is, according to Ken, roughly one per month—one case happen at a tournament in Romania just last month. Ken knows this because he routinely runs his detection methods, more on those shortly, on most major tournaments.”
“How should we rate how well a player matches the chess engine as a method to detect cheating?
The short answer is very carefully.
Ken has spend (sic) years working on the right scoring method given these issues and others. I believe that his method of scoring is powerful, but is probably not the final answer to this vexing question.”
“The problem is what strategy might a cheater use? A naïve strategy is to always select the top ranked move, i.e. the move with the largest value. This strategy would be easy for Ken to detect. A superior strategy might be to select moves based on their values: higher values are selected more frequently. This clearly would be more difficult for Ken to detect, since it is randomized.”
“Another twist is the cheater could use a cutoff method. If several moves are above a value, then these could be selected with equal probability.”
“I could go on, but the key is that Ken is not able to assume that the cheater is using a known strategy. This makes the detection of cheating much harder, more interesting, and a still open problem. It is essentially a kind of two player game. Not a game of chess, but a game of the cheater against the detector; some player against Ken’s program.”

This article provides links to several other posts concerning the subject of cheating at chess and I read each and every one. Here are a few excerpts:

“Chess is a game of complete information. There are no cards to hide that might be palmed, switched, or played illegally, no dice that could be loaded. So how is it possible to cheat at chess? Alas the complete information can be conveyed to a computer, and thanks to the exponential increase in computer power and smarter chess-playing algorithms, consumer hardware can play better than any human. Hence cheating in chess in possible, and unfortunately this year it has seemed to become common.” (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/littlewoods-law)

“The fear of players being fingered this way is remarked by Dylan McClain in today’s New York Times column:
“If every out-of-the-ordinary performance is questioned, bad feelings could permanently mar the way professional players approach chess.”

The threat can be stronger than its execution.

A question was posed to Dr. Regan:
“I think there is a bigger picture here. Why even play a strategy game that a computer, without any information or connectivity advantage, will win.”
IM Regan answered:
“Because it’s still fun, has a great history, and has more public participation all over the world than any time previously. Computers are still a step behind the best humans at the Japanese form of chess (Shogi), and human supremacy at Go is apparently not threatened in the near future. My best effort at a more computer-resistant “evolution” of Western chess is here.”
From: “The Crown Game Affair” by KWRegan January 13, 2013 (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/the-crown-game-affair/)

“I have, however, been even busier with a welter of actual cases, reporting on four to the full committee on Thursday. One concerned accusations made in public last week by Uzbek grandmaster Anton Filippov about the second-place finisher in a World Cup regional qualifier he won in Kyrgyzstan last month. My results do not support his allegations. Our committee is equally concerned about due-diligence requirements for complaints and curbing careless allegations, such as two against Austrian players in May’s European Individual Championship. A second connects to our deliberations on the highly sensitive matter of searching players, as was done also to Borislav Ivanov during the Zadar Open tournament last December. A third is a private case where I find similar odds as with Ivanov, but the fourth raises the fixing of an entire tournament, and I report it here.
Add to this a teen caught consulting an Android chess app in a toilet cubicle in April and a 12-year-old caught reading his phone in June, plus some cases I’ve heard only second-hand, and it is all scary and sad.
The Don Cup 2010 International was held three years ago in Azov, Russia, as a 12-player round-robin. The average Elo rating of 2395 made it a “Category 6″ event with 7 points from 11 games needed for the IM norm, 8.5 for the GM norm. It was prominent enough to have its 66 games published in the weekly TWIC roundup, and they are also downloadable from FIDE’s own website. Half the field scored 7 or higher, while two tailenders lost all their games except for drawing each other and one other draw, while another beat only them and had another draw, losing eight games.
My informant suspected various kinds of “sandbagging”: throwing games in the current event, or having an artifically-inflated Elo rating from previous fixed events, so as to bring up the category. He noted some of the tailenders now have ratings 300 points below what they were then.
In this case I did not have to wait long for more-than-probability. Another member of our committee noticed by searching his million-game database that:
Six of the sixty-six games are move-by-move identical with games played in the 2008 World Computer Chess Championship.
For example, three games given as won by one player are identical with Rybka’s 28-move win over the program Jonny and two losses in 50 and 44 moves by the program Falcon to Sjeng and HIARCS, except one move is missing from the last. One of his victims has three lost games, while another player has two wins and another two losses. Indeed the six games are curiously close to an all-play-all cluster.”
From: “Thirteen Sigma” by KWRegan, July 27, 2013 (http://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/thirteen-sigma/)

American Variation Transpositions

While researching the American variation the name of a player from Atlanta jumped out at me from the CBDB. Sanjay Ghatti played an accepted variation against the Scandinavian defense, a favorite of one of the top players, and former Georgia Champion, Damir Studen. The game was played a couple of years ago and Sanjay is a far stronger player today because of losses like this game, for as former World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca said, “You may learn much more from a game you lose than from a game you win. You will have to lose hundreds of games before becoming a good player.” (http://www.chessquotes.com/player-capablanca/)

Sanjay Ghatti vs Manuel Nieto (1892)
Philadelphia Int 2012
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6 4. d4 Nf6 5. Be2 c6 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. O-O e6 8. Re1 Qc7 9. Be3 Bd6 10. h3 O-O 11. Qd2 Nbd7 12. Rad1 Nb6 13. Nh4 Bg6 14. Nxg6 hxg6 15. Bg5 Nbd5 16. Nxd5 cxd5 17. Bxf6 gxf6 18. c3 Kg7 19. Bd3 a6 20. Re2 f5 21. Rde1 Rh8 22. Qg5 Bf4 0-1

The position after8…Qc7 can be obtained after the move order 1 e4 d5 2 ed5 Qd5 3 Nc3 Qe5+ 4 Be2 c6 5 d4 Qc7 6 Nf3 Bf5 7 0-0 e6 8 Re1 Nf6.

Here is another game that reaches the same position by a different move order:

Christian Grosse (1885) vs Christoph Natsidis (2284)
15th Leipzig VfB Open 2008
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 Nf6 5. Be2 c6 6. Nf3 Bf5 7. O-O e6 8. Re1 Qc7 9. Nh4 Bg6 10. d5 cxd5 11. Nxd5 Nxd5 12. Qxd5 Be7 13. Bb5+ Nc6 14. Qc4 Bxh4 15. Qxh4 O-O 16. Bf4 Qb6 17. a4 a6 18. Be3 Qc7 19. Bxc6 Qxc6 20. c3 Rad8 21. Rad1 Rd5 22. Rd4 e5 23. Rd2 Bd3 24. f3 f5 25. Qb4 e4 26. fxe4 fxe4 27. Bd4 Rg5 28. Qe7 Rg6 29. a5 h6 30. b4 Rg5 31. Rb2 Rf7 32. Qd8+ Kh7 33. Rd2 Rgf5 34. h3 Qg6 35. Qb8 Qg5 36. Rb2 Rf1+ 37. Rxf1 Rxf1+ 38. Kh2 e3 39. Qe8 Qf4+ 40. g3 Rf2+ 41. Rxf2 Qxf2+ 42. Kh1 Qf3+ 43. Kh2 Be4 0-1