Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau: A Review

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau,

is a beautiful book written about a lifelong love between two people, one of whom, Mikhail Tal,
happened to win a World Chess Championship match against the man called “the patriarch of the Soviet School of Chess,” Mikhail Botvinnik. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/botvinnik-the-patriarch)

The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (http://www.elkandruby.com/), is a wonderful history of a time long gone with the wind. The author brings to life a different time and the people who lived during the Soviet Communist period. The book, like a Chess game, has only three chapters, the opening by Sally, the middle by Gera, the son of Mikhail and Sally Tal, and the end, again by Sally.

She begins the book by writing about herself. “I am an inconsistent and impulsive person, who first does and only then thinks about what I have done. I am an ordinary, vulnerable woman, in which a womanly nature lived and lives, found joy and finds joy, suffered and suffers, in the full sense of those words. The way I see it, selfishness and a desire for independence somehow manage to coexist inside me with love for the people surrounding me and a subconscious wish to be a woman protected by a man who lives for me – protected by him from all sorts of major and minor everyday troubles.”

Later she writes, “Still sharp contradictions coexisted within me: on the one hand, this immense fear of losing my personal freedom, on the other hand, this equally immense fear of solitude and a subconscious desire to have a strong man beside me with whom I wouldn’t be afraid of falling off an overturned boat in the open seas, even if I didn’t know how to swim. These contradictions played a significant role in my life with Misha…”

She writes about her impression of what it was like being a Jew in the Soviet Union. “So it wasn’t the external appearance of the Tals’ apartment that struck me that evening. Rather, it was its anti-Soviet spirit that I sensed. I immediately inhaled this pleasant middle-class air. It was apparent straight away that the people living there were not “mass-produced” but very much “hand-crafted”, and that relations between them did not fit into the usual framework of socialist society.”

“Misha was born a frail child. He had two fingers missing from his right hand. When she (Ida, Mikhail Tal’s mother) first saw her son after he was brought to her and unwrapped from his swaddling clothes she again fainted in shock at the site of his three crooked fingers. She was unable to breastfeed. Her lack of milk was perhaps due to those shocks. She was treated for a long time after that.

“When he was just six months old, Misha was struck by a nasty meningitis-like infection with a very high temperature and convulsions. The doctor said that his chances of making it were remote, but that survivors turn out to be remarkable people. Well, Misha began to read at the age of three, and by the age of five he was multiplying three-digit numbers – while adults were still struggling to solve the math with a pencil he would tell them the answer.”

“He got “infected” with chess at the age of seven and began to spend nearly all his time at the chess club, nagging adults to play him.”

Gera was a Medical Doctor and qualified to write about Tal’s well known medical problems.

“Well, the actual start of my father’s physical ailments, however banal it may sound, was the fact of his birth. Ever since then he simply collected illnesses. But the fundamental cause of course was his totally pathological, nephrotic kidney. It tortured him relentlessly. People suffering from kidney disease know that there is nothing worse in the world than pains in the kidneys. I don’t understand how such people can even exist, let alone play chess. I’m sure that it wasn’t my father who lost the return match to Botvinnik,

but his diseased kidney.”

“My father treated his life like a chess game, somewhat philosophically. There’s the opening, then the opening transposes into the middle game, and if no disaster strikes in the middle game you get into a dull, technical endgame, in which a person ultimately has no chances. As far as I know, father didn’t gain pleasure from playing endgames – he found them boring and insipid. Force him to give up smoking, brandy, partying and female admirers – basically, the source of intense experiences in the middle game of life – and he would find himself in the endgame, when he would have nothing left to do other than passively see out the rest of his life. However, that would have been a different person just resembling Tal. And what’s the difference – to die spiritually or die physically if you can no longer be Tal?”

Throughout their life, together and apart, Mikhail and Sally had other loves and lovers, yet remained friends. A love interest of his was written about but only named by the letter “L.” Research shows this was Larisa Ivanovna Kronberg,

a Soviet/Russian actress and a KGB agent. She was named Best Actress at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in A Big Family. In 1958, she was involved in the Ambassador Dejean Affair, Kronberg lured Dejean in a honey trap. She was in a long-time relationship with World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal in the 1960s, they parted in the 1970s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larisa_Kronberg)

Sally had an affair with a man about whom she writes, “I won’t name him in the book. Why? Let’s say he was a high-up government official…I will call him “The Minister”…Let that be his name here.” Reading this caused me to reflect upon something IM Boris Kogan said decades ago about the KGB. “Mike, KGB like octopus with many tentacles that reach everywhere!” The relationship between Sally and “The Minister” was doomed to failure because a good Soviet communist did not consort with a Jew. Sally writes, ” Misha was such a unique person! I was living with Alnis; at the time he was effectively a common-law husband; and Misha understood that perfectly well. And yet, while he treated Alvis with respect, he continued to consider me his only woman and the most important woman in the world – his Saska. Alnis took quite a liking to Misha, saw what a remarkable person he was, and would say of him: “Tal isn’t a Jew. Tal is a chess genius.”


Tal playing the husband of his former wife Joe Kramarz, not only a Chess player but a HUGE fan of Mikhail Tal!

The book is replete with things like this from Yakov Damsky writing in Riga Chess, 1986. “He has a wonderful ability with language and always has a sharp wit. I remember, for example, after a lecture some tactless dude asked Tal: “Is it true you’re a morphinist?” to which Tal instantly replied: “No, I’m a chigorinets!”

“Petrosian once joked morbidly: “If I lived the way Tal does I would have died a long time ago. He’s just like Iron Felix.” (The nickname of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB)

Having worked at the House of Pain I got a kick out of this: “Chess players talk to each other in the language of notation. I was always amazed at this. Although I understood nothing of it, I listened to them as though they were aliens, observing their emotions. If, for example, Tal, Stein and Gufeld got together, their conversation could flow along the following lines:

Gufeld: What would you say to knightdfourfsixbishopg2?
Stein: Bishopgsevenfgknightdefivecheck!
Tal: Yes but you’ve forgotten about if knightfsixintermezzoqueenheight!
Gufeld: Pueenheightrookgeightwithcheckandrooktakesheight and you’re left without you mummy!
Tal: But after bishopeone you’re left without your daddy!
Stein: Bishopeone doesn’t work because of the obvious knighttakesoneecfourdekinggsevenrookasevencheck!

And this wonderful chitchat would continue endlessly, with people not “in-the-know” thinking they were in a madhouse.”

During tournaments at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center it could be, at times, a “Madhouse of Pain.”

A player would walk up talking about his game in these terms while having the position clearly in his mind. I, on the other hand, had no clue, but would nod in agreement, or frown when called for, while commiserating with the player, understanding, but not understanding, if you get my drift. The worst was when two players who had just finished their game would come downstairs talking in variations, bantering back and forth, then look at me asking, “What do you think, Mr. Bacon?!” To which my usual response was, “That’s a heckofaline!” Hopefully they would smile and nod in agreement before giving way to the next player or players wishing to tell me all about their game…

“A grandmaster said to me once: “When Misha finds himself in a hopeless position, his head tells him this but he doesn’t believe that he, Tal, has no chances. He starts to seek a saving combination, convinced that such a combination exists – it’s just a matter of locating it. And as a rule he finds it. However, despite all its beauty and numerous sacrifices, the combination turns out to be flawed, and then the defeat becomes for him even more painful and humiliating than if he had been physically dragged face down in the road.”

After reading the above I reflected upon a game recently played over contain in the latest issue of Chess Life magazine. In reply to a letter to the editor GM Andy Soltis writes, “Good point, Dr. Seda-Irizzary. Tal is a splendid example because he understood the principle of “Nothing Left to Lose.” That is, when you are truly lost, you should forget about finding a “best” move that merely minimizes your lost-ness.” The game follows:

Vassily Smyslov

vs Mikhail Tal

Candidates Tournament Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 10/03/1959 round 15

B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.O-O d5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.b3 a5 12.Bb2 a4 13.a3 axb3 14.cxb3 Qb6 15.exd5 cxd5 16.b4 Nd7 17.Nb3 e5 18.Bf5 e4 19.Rec1 Qd6 20.Nd4 Bf6 21.Rc6 Qe7 22.Rac1 h6 23.Rc7 Be5 24.Nc6 Qg5 25.h4 Qxh4 26.Nxe5 Nxe5 27.Rxc8 Nf3+ 28.gxf3 Qg5+ 29.Kf1 Qxf5 30.Rxf8+ Rxf8 31.fxe4 dxe4 32.Qe3 Rd8 33.Qg3 g5 34.Rc5 Rd1+ 35.Kg2 Qe6 36.b5 Kh7 37.Rc6 Qd5

38.Qe5 Rg1+ 39.Kh2 Rh1+ 40.Kg2 Rg1+ ½-½

I conclude the review with this paragraph:

“Salo Flohr,

with whom I was great friends, once showed me around the Moscow chess club, and told me, pointing at the photos of world champions on the wall: Sallynka, look at them. They are all the most normal, mad people.” Well, I’m ever thankful that I lived my life among such “normal, mad people” as Misha,

Tigran,

Bobby,

and Tolya Karpov.

(Garry Kasparov is also a genius, but not mad – that’s my opinion, anyway.)”

I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. Anyone with a love of the history of the Royal Game will be greatly rewarded for spending their time reading a beautifully written love story surrounded by the “mad men” who play the game of Chess. Please keep in mind I have told you not all the words.
I give it all the stars in the universe!

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Michael Mulyar vs Ben ‘Dover’ Finegold: Shame on the Moon

Michael Mulyar (2385) vs Ben ‘Dover’ Finegold) (2487)

Foxwoods Open 2019

Round 7

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. O-O c6 7. Nc3 Bf5 8. Re1 Ne4 9. Qb3 Nxc3 10. bxc3 Qc7 11. e4 Bc8 12. e5 dxe5 13. Nxe5 Bf5 14. Bf4 Qc8 15. c5 Nd7 16. Nxf7

Rxf7 17. Rxe7 Qf8 18. Bd6 Nf6 19. Rxb7 Qe8 20. Re7 Qf8 21. Bxc6 1-0

https://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-openings/is-ben-finegold-as-big-a-jerk-as-he-seems-in-his-videos

Mind Control, Chess, and the Race to Find a Superman in Sport

The following excerpts are from: Mind control, levitation and no pain: the race to find a superman in sport published April 18 in The Guardian.

The US and Soviet Union both believed people could develop superpowers. And, reveals The Men on Magic Carpets,

their psychic experiments played out in the sporting arena, by Ed Hawkins.

Baguio City, the Philippines, 14 years later. Mental combat has begun for the World Chess Championship. Anatoly Karpov, the golden boy of the Soviet Union, is playing Viktor Korchnoi, a defector the regime loves to hate. Despite sitting opposite each other for hour after hour, day after day, they have not spoken. But somebody is talking to Korchnoi. There is a voice inside his head. It is incessant. Over and over and over it berates him: “YOU. MUST. LOSE.”


Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov compete for the 1978 World Chess Championship. Photograph: Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images

Korchnoi recognises the voice. It’s not his. It belongs to the man sitting in the front row of the audience since the match began. His heart starts to beat a little faster. He begins to sweat.

“YOU. SHOULD. STOP. FIGHT. AGAINST. KARPOV.”

The demands keep coming. Korchnoi is not afraid but he is angry. He understands perfectly what is happening. The man is trying to control his thoughts.

“YOU. ARE. TRAITOR. OF. SOVIET. PEOPLE.”

The man sits cross-legged, dressed immaculately in a white shirt and dark brown suit, reclining with a hint of arrogance. He looks like an accountant, albeit a somewhat demented one. A slight smirk plays across his face. His eyes are terrifying, bearing into Korchnoi. He does not blink until Korchnoi is defeated.

Both of these stories are true. Murphy, the zany hippy in bell-bottom jeans warbling occult orders, would, in time, have the US government dancing to his tune. And Dr Vladimir Zoukhar, the immaculately dressed communist spook, staring demonically for comrade and country, was considered the KGB’s mind control expert. Both men were protagonists in an extraordinarily paranoid chapter of human history: the cold war.

Murphy was no regular football fan. Known as “the godfather of the human potential movement”, he co-founded the Esalen Institute, a famed new age retreat and pillar of the counterculture movement in 60s California. It was a centre for eastern religions, philosophy, alternative medicines, and a fair amount of nude hot-tub bathing. Controversial eroticist Henry Miller swam at the hot springs in the grounds, Beatle George Harrison once landed his helicopter there to jam with Ravi Shankar, and Timothy Leary, whom Richard Nixon called “the most dangerous man in America”, taught regular workshops on the benefits of LSD, claiming that women could orgasm hundreds of times during sex when under the influence. And most recently, in the final frames of Mad Men, advertising executive Don Draper was seen smiling on Esalen’s lawn.

While Murphy was establishing Esalen, if Soviet state security wanted to place a negative or damaging thought in someone’s head, they called Zoukhar. That’s why Zoukhar was at Korchnoi’s match; communism trumped capitalism if it could produce a world chess champion. Korchnoi, hang-dogged and pot-bellied with his mistress in tow, was not the image they were going for. He could not be allowed to win against Karpov, the poster boy for true Soviet values.

Murphy and Zoukhar hailed from opposite cultures teetering on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. But for all their differences, America and the Soviet Union held a common belief: the existence of superhumans. Both world powers believed in a race of cosmic beings who could, just like in the sci-fi movies, slow down time, speed it up, change their body shape, feel no pain, levitate, see into the future, and more. With boggle-eyed mind control and harnessing the occult, both nations believed they could put a thought in someone’s head, or stop a man’s heart at 100 paces. Both nations thought these powers would win them the war. From the west coast of America to the far corners of the Soviet Union, yogis, shamans and psychics were sought out to aid these alternative war efforts, with millions spent on attempts to create a real life Superman or Wonder Woman.

In 1975, the Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA was attempting to develop a new kind of “spook”, after finding a man who could “see” what was going on anywhere in the world. CIA scientists would show the man a picture of a place, and he would then describe any activity going on there at that time.

In fact, there was more than one of these men. Russell Targ, who had taught this psychic power at Esalen, was one; another was Uri Geller. (You might have heard of him and his bendy spoons.) There was a whole team of psychics based at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, as part of the CIA’s Stargate programme to find psychic warriors. Targ and Geller would sit in that office, close their eyes, breathe deeply and then after a few minutes draw the location of Soviet missiles. Sometimes, they were right.

By contrast to the Soviet plan, Targ and Geller seemed harmless. “They were using it to kill people,” Targ said. The Russian term for superpowers was “Hidden Human Reserves”.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/18/superhuman-sport-cold-war-mind-power-men-on-magic-carpets-ed-hawkins-extract?fbclid=IwAR3IAsmcuth_VhCadNCMFGmKMcAG56NgEiTPltDNzM00Ikp7zjYP-L5AtIw

Russell Targ

is the brother-in-law of Bobby Fischer.

Mind and Matter with Russell Targ

Russell Targ | CONTACT in the DESERT 2019

Indian Wells May 31 – June 3 2019

Russell Targ

The 2019 Mr. Phillip Taylor Georgia State Chess Championship

The 2019 Mr. Phillip Taylor GA State Championship begins in a month, May 17 through May 19, 2019. Who is Mr. Phillip Taylor? Chess tournaments in Georgia have usually been named after someone who has left the board. Since I have been around about as long as anyone involved with Chess in Georgia and was unfamiliar with Mr. Taylor, I reached out to former POTGCA Scott Parker with an inquiry. Mr. Parker replied,

Michael,

I believe it is because of a financial commitment, but I don’t know the details. If you want to email the full board to see who might know use gcaboard@georgiachess.org. That reaches all board members. And Mr. Taylor is very much alive and kicking. That much I do know.

Best Regards,

Scott

After forwarding the above to every board member only one reply was received, from 2nd Member-at-large Anna Baumstark, who wrote:

Hi,
I wasn’t on the board for the last State Championship, but I believe that Phil donates to the GCA each year to help defray the cost of the
tournament.

Thanks,
Anna

Having a desire to play Chess, in addition to a desire to meet Mr. Philip Taylor, sent me to the website to learn the particulars of the tournament, which can be found at: http://www.georgiachess.org/event-3086683. There is also a PDF if interested: http://www.georgiachess.org/resources/Documents/2018-2019%20Open/2019%20Georgia%20State%20%20Championship.pdf

Basically it is a one hundred dollars to play, one hundred dollars to stay kind of tournament. There are various time controls for the different sections, but the only one that matters is the “40/90, SD/30, d10″ for the Championship section. I prefer the added time of usually 30 seconds.

The 3-day schedule has two games, the first and third, to begin at 7:30 PM. Since I will not again attempt playing Chess at night in a tournament that would mean I could take two half-point byes, which are allowed, but only in rounds 1 thru 4 (limit two) and must request before Round One, with (absolutely) no changes afterwards!

I then found the website of the hotel in which the tournament would be played, the Radisson Atlanta Northwest, located at 1775 Parkway Pl SE, Marietta. This means the playing site is not accessible via MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the absolutely best way to get around Atlanta because the train moves when traffic comes to a halt. Although there is a bus system in Cobb county, where the city of Marietta is located, word on the street is it pales in comparison to MARTA and the Gwinnett county bus system. It is well known the traffic situation in Atlanta is horrible. The northern part of Atlanta known as Buckhead has recently considered the possibility of charging people who drive into that particular part of the city in order to relieve congestion. One official said, “Ninety percent of people who work in Buckhead do not live in the city.” I lived and worked in what was known as “The Head” in the 1970’s and 80’s when it was a community and there were affordable places for employees to live. Now only the wealthy can afford to live in “The Head.” As Atlanta continues to grow more people will utilize only public transportation like many people who live in New York City and never own, or even drive, a car. This should be taken into consideration by the GCA board.

A search for comments by former quests of the Radisson Atlanta Northwest, followed. Phil G. from Knoxville, TN., posted his review on 3/30/2019, giving the Radisson only one star out of a possible five, writing, “The only reason I gave this one lace a 1 star is because I couldn’t give it NEGATIVE stars.
This is the worst hotel I have ever been to. We were in the area for a Baseball tournament and our entire team booked here. One room had bugs in the bed and throw up in the floor, literally chunks of vomit in the middle of the floor. One room had the water running in the tub and it wouldn’t turn off. We had a total of 9 rooms and of the 9, eight of them didn’t have towels when we checked in. If the other area hotels weren’t booked we would have went somewhere else. Out of the 9 rooms, 7 had to change rooms because of filth or because something didn’t work, shower, TV, door locks. When our kids went to swim in the pool, we asked the front desk for towels and the said “get them from your room”, after we just told them there were NO TOWELS IN THE ROOMS!
The hotel employees acted like none of this was important and offered NO compensation for the dirty rooms and bad service. The hotel lobby was full of leaves and the trash cans were over flowing. The hotel is next door to a really trashy nightclub, might have been a strip club by the looks of the way people were dressed going in. Sharing the same parking lot as a night club lead to coming out to your car in a parking lot covered in trash.
DONT STAY HERE, save your money. This is NOT a typical Radisson.”
Phil G.
Knoxville, TN

Ouch!

A few days earlier, 3/27/2019, E T. of West Hollywood, CA, gave the hotel two stars when writing the following:

So many things went wrong with this stay and I don’t know where to even begin except to say that I never in my life stayed at a Radisson Hotel nor will I again. Oddly enough, I encountered no service issues during my stay … it was just the overall grime and yuck factor of this hotel and quite frankly it’s clientele which turned me off.

When we pulled in, there were some shady characters in the parking lot. These folks did not look like the type who would pay $120 per night for a hotel. They looked more like vagrants. However, low and behold they were staying there. Also, there is a REALLY sketchy dance club next door called Tiger Tiger. Imagine any gangstah rap video you’ve ever seen before and that is who frequent this dance club. They must offer deeply discounted rooms on an app because the hotel is filled with people staying there who are going to the club next door.

The hallways looked like a combination of a frat party/rap video. People were screaming in the hallways, walking around with red solo cups and playing loud music. The rooms have connecting doors and the walls are pretty thin, so I could hear everything in the next room like it was in my room. Loud teens and 20-something year olds everywhere. It was like staying in a college dorm room.

The hotel has seen better days … the windows to the room were crusted with white stains and you couldn’t really see out. There was a sliding balcony door which to a small balcony with no furniture which was shared with the room next door. It looked like the floor could give out at any moment.

To say the carpet was old and filthy would be an understatement. I wore shoes the whole time in the room. The overall feel of the room was a hotel from the 2003-era. Same furniture I remember, draperies, color scheme as early 2000/late 1990s hotels. The lobby seems to be where they put their money … it’s all brand new and beautiful. They have an odd little restaurant/bar which looks like it has never been cleaned and by closing time at 11 p.m. on a Friday, they were out of every beer on tap.

Next door, the club music booms until 3:30 a.m. and if your room is located on the front side of the building facing the parking lot, you’ll hear it all night long through your window. There is no escaping the sound of booming club music, so if you are a light sleeper … you will be a non-sleeper. After the music stops, you then have drunks in the parking lot making noise which comes up into the hallways and rooms.

It seemed like there were a LOT of problems with guests that were do to the overall shadiness of those who stayed there. Often we would hear people yelling at the front desk people … and twice we noticed police cars pulled up outside the hotel. This was during a 24 hour long stay.

Avoid this hotel unless you are going to get your groove on at Tiger Tiger … or really miss going to college in the 1990s in which case, staying here will be a trip down memory lane. The only reason I left 2 stars is because the front desk staff was helpful and friendly.

E “On the road again” T.
West Hollywood, CA

Parking lot from balcony minus the shady vagrants

Clubs right next door equals no sleep due to loud music

https://www.yelp.com/biz/radisson-hotel-atlanta-marietta-marietta

This hotel does not sound like one conducive to playing good Chess, or obtaining a good night’s sleep. After doing due diligence I have decided against playing in the event. It would seem that with the additional money donated to the tournament by Mr. Taylor a decent venue could have been found.

I do not know who is responsible for the decision to have the tournament at this particular hotel, especially considering the plethora of hotels in the greater Atlanta area, but it is obvious someone, or some group of people did not do their due diligence. I do not know why many Chess tournaments in the greater Atlanta area have been, and obviously continue to be, held in second, or even third rate, run down hotels, but I have played Chess in Atlanta since 1970 and, unfortunately, this hotel is not an exception. For example, the legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, who has been playing almost as long as this writer, likes to tell the story of the first Sweat-box Open, which was held at the Biltmore hotel in downtown Atlanta during a hot summer and there was no air conditioning. Sweat-box number two (and 2a, 2b, 2c, etc.) were held at the House of Pain, aka, The Dump, which was the old Atlanta Chess and Game Center. The Dump was known for an air conditioning system held together who knows how by Longshot Larry, defying law, rules and regulations, and the law of physics, that was down as much as it was up. When a window unit stopped putting out cold air it was usually replaced by a much smaller unit. The latest incarnation of the sweat-box Open was at the North Dekalb Mall a few summers ago when a tournament was played completely sans AC. The stench overwhelmed the senses while making eyes sting.

Having participated in Backgammon tournaments and visited both Scrabble and Bridge tournaments in the Atlanta area which were held in good conditions in nice hotels I cannot help but wonder why it is only Chess tournaments in Atlanta that have had such problems.

Cyrus Lakdawala Interviewed at Georgia Chess News

An Interview with IM Cyrus Lakdawala

by Davide Nastasio was published March 1, 2019 at the GA CHESS NEWS website. http://georgiachessnews.com/2019/03/01/an-interview-with-im-cyrus-lakdawala/

The interview is excellent and was enjoyed immensely. Although aware of IM Lakdawala from his playing days, and knowing he was a prolific author considered controversial by some, I knew very little about him. The lack of knowledge was remedied by the interview found him to be a very interesting person with whom I would like to spend time.

The knock on Cyrus is the number of Chess books he has written. I visited the Gorilla and stopped after counting on my fingers and toes twice. I must admit to not having read any of the books. I do not even recall seeing one of his books in a bookstore. Yet his book published last summer, How Ulf Beats Black: Ulf Andersson’s Bulletproof Strategic Repertoire for White,

looks interesting, especially since I previously read, Grandmaster Chess Strategy: What Amateurs Can Learn from Ulf Andersson’s Positional Masterpieces, by Jurgen Kaufeld and Guido Kern, published at the beginning of this decade and consider it to be a masterpiece.

The interview begins, “Life is full of surprises. Thanks to the unexpected alignment of Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter, I had the chance to interview Cyrus Lakdawala, likely the biggest writer in chess history. Some love him, and some definitely hate his writing style. Whatever your inclination is, don’t miss this interview, because in it we discover more about a great professional player who has worked in chess for decades, and who has dedicated his life to something he truly loves.
Generally when I don’t know what to give as a gift for Christmas, I give Lakdawala’s books. I remember once I found an incredible offer of Korchnoi’s Move by Move for something like $6, and bought some for Christmas.” One of the friends I gave the book to never played chess again, so I guess Lakdawala was pure enlightenment! I loved interviewing Lakdawala for the following reasons: he is really articulate, he shows a human side of chess in which we can all find ourselves, but most of all I felt the similarities with his writings and my own.

As always in my articles I will pause the interview from time to time to show some excerpts from the great books written by Lakdawala, Some of the games I found in his books are quite important for our development as chess players.”

Davide Nastasio: Could you tell for our readers how the chess journey began for you?

Cyrus Lakdawala: My father taught me how to play at age eight, and I have never forgiven him for it! I got immediately addicted, even though I didn’t display an iota of talent for the game.

DN: Who coached you when you were young?

CL: At first I only played my father (who was an A-player) and kids at school, but never had a formal coach. I was essentially self-taught from books — and I wasn’t a very good teacher, since my study was all over the place. Also, I was completely dishonest with myself, since at age eight, I strove to be the new Tal, which was a wee bit off the mark, since on the chess board I was the biggest dove of all time. When I was a kid, during summer vacation I desperately sought out strong competition and would walk miles to the shopping center bus stop, take a 45-minute bus trip to downtown Montreal, then take a 20-minute metro ride to the En Passant Chess Cafe. There I could play blitz with strong masters, like FM George Levtchouk (maybe I’m misspelling his name, if so, sorry George!) and GM Kevin Spraggett, and many others. I would play endless blitz games for stakes of 25 to 50 cents per game, which for a 13-year-old in 1973, was a fortune, since I only made $5 per week from my paper route. I was completely lopsided in playing strength with fast and slow time controls. I could hang with masters and even some titled players in blitz, yet in tournament play, I was still rated 1795 in over-the-board play when I was 17 years old, so it would be slightly dishonest to describe myself as a budding prodigy!

DN: Which books influenced you most in your formative years? (An excellent question for a prolific Chess writer)

CL: Five chess books deeply influenced me:
1. I don’t remember its name or its author, but it was a book on Capablanca’s games. Going through them, I craved to replicate Capa’s Mozartian perfection in my own games and always fell short.
Let me pause the interview here to point out that Lakdawala wrote a book on Capablanca!

And this is a game from that book which shows Lakdawala’s great teaching skills! (The game between Capa and A. Conde from Hastings 1919 follows)

And now back to the interview!

2. I read a book on Nimzowitsch’s games (I don’t remember the name or author of this one either and I’m wondering if I should up my daily dose of Ginko Biloba) and desperately tried to imitate Nimzo’s play, usually with disastrous results, since I would cleverly transfer my queen to a1 and then get mated on the other side of the board, or with great erudition I would overprotect my e5-pawn (just as Nimzowitsch taught) and then overlook my opponent’s response …Bxa1, chopping my now hanging queen.
3. I devoured Fischer’s 60 Memorable Games, and swore to be his next incarnation and play just like him. As you may have guessed, this vow didn’t come to fruition.
I need to pause the interview once again to show another book by Lakdawala on Fischer.

My idea to show entire games commented by Lakdawala has purpose to show the great deal we can learn from his format, thanks to his questions at the right moments.
4. In the summer of 1977, I read my buddy IM Tony Saidy’s

masterpiece: Battle of Chess Ideas

and was so inspired that I made the slightly questionable decision of striving to become a professional chess player, despite the fact that I was 17 years old and rated 1795. I have since demanded an apology from Tony for tricking me with his book.
5. In 1994, I was mired at a USCF rating of 2500 for several years and it felt as if I had reached my peek rating. Then to my great good fortune, I bought a copy of my buddy Jeremy Silman’s

Reassess Your Chess

as a teaching tool for my students, since I considered it a beginner’s book. To my great astonishment, the book shifted something which was previously jammed in my thinking process and my rating rocketed to nearly 2600 within the space of a very short time, which I completely attribute to Jeremy’s indispensable book. The reason Reassess Your Chess is the best-selling chess book of all time is that it may be the greatest chess book of all time. There is some hidden secret within it. Exactly what the essence of that secret is I can’t fathom, but it is there.
Again, I pause the interview to interject my own comments: I bought a 3rd edition of Silman, because I thought it was a classic. And I also bought the last edition, now I just need to find the time to read them!

DN: Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your books, because I know you are a prolific author. How did you select material for your own books?

CL: Sometimes I propose an idea and sometimes the publisher suggests one. I’m at the point right now where there is no time when I’m not simultaneously working on at least two books. For me, the books are all consuming and I think about them day and night. Since I began writing chess books, I filled up 77 yellow notepads with notes for my books. If I average about 650 notes per pad, that is a lot of notes. I can’t give you the exact number, because I already mentioned that I’m not very competent in math and am only able to count to 20.

DN: What is your philosophy for teaching?

CL: My philosophy for teaching is to never BS the student (or parent) and always ruthlessly tell them the truth — even when it hurts — which I do, since I’m not afraid of losing students by offending their parents. It is the nature of humans to crave praise, but false praise (which I see some teachers engage in) is harmful to the student. It’s a ruthless world out there and the student shouldn’t be congratulated if they didn’t prepare, lost 50 rating points in the tournament, ignored your opening advice and placed 40th in their section, yet some of the parents clap their hands in delight and tell the kid, “Great job! High five!” Instead, the student must be toughened with the truth. If the student is weak in a portion of the game or with a psychological aspect, I insist that they strive to fix the problem. The other issue is unrealistic expectations from parents. Their kid is lazy, 14 years old and rated 1400, yet they believe he or she is a prodigy and expect me to have the student break the 2200 barrier by the end of the year, achieve the IM title the following year and GM the year after that. I tell them this is impossible, yet love is blind and many parents believe their kid is the next Caruana or Carlsen.
Speaking of Carlsen, Lakdawala also wrote one Move by Move book on the World Champion.

DN: Do you have any advice for senior players?

CL: If we are the exquisitely carved porcelain doll, then old age is the hard stone floor when we are dropped, destined to smash into a thousand tiny shards. It’s difficult not to regard old age as a personal rebuke, since it is also a thief who slowly and brazenly embezzles our abilities over time. Survival in an unforgiving environment means having to make ruthless choices, so adjust your style to reduce calculation and complications, which exhaust us old guys. If you are an older player now way past your prime, you are most certainly better than your younger counterparts when it comes to decision-making and technical positions. So strive for these, rather than math-based situations. Our brains just don’t work as well as they did in our prime, so think about switching to the Caro-Kann and put your Dragons on the shelf. Factor in that your synapses don’t fire in the brain as fast as they used to and stop being the antlered buck who wants to smash heads, vying for dominance in the herd. Be sneaky, rather than forceful. So steer the game to logic-based positions, rather than irrational ones. Look, it isn’t all doom and gloom for us old guys and gals.

Davide then writes, “I’d like to pause the interview here to show Lakdawala can help also in the field of openings. He just mentioned the Caro-Kann for senior players, and he wrote a book on the Move by Move series.”

The game between A. Matanovic and T. Petrosian, Kiev, 1959 from the Caro-Kann book follows. Then the interview resumes:

With age comes the following:
1. Our experience translates to instant understanding in some positions, which youth and inexperience sorely lack.
2. With a slowing of our brain speed comes an increase of deceit, from decades of having been tricked ourselves. Young, inexperienced players can sometimes be easily tricked into positions which require experience and understanding, rather than calculation. I wrote in Play the London System,

“Old age and deceit overcome youth and talent,” and I meant it! So there are actual advantages to being old, and as the spokesperson for Farmer’s Insurance loves to repeat, “We know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

A writer cannot please everyone and must have thick skin to put his thoughts on paper, or digits on a screen. This is an example found on the internet:

maxharmonist

3 years ago

Cyrus Lakdawala is insufferable, his books being filled with endless and pointless meanderings of this sort (from the Kramnik book):

“The meek bishop backs off, does what he is told to do and goes where he is told to go. A beaten dog may still follow the cruel master’s command. In college, my first job was as an inept hotel clerk. When encountering daily traffic of unruly, spoiled hotel guests, my mouth would obediently respond, ‘Thank you, Sir, for your constructive criticism! Of course, Ma’am! Right away, Ma’am!’ As a pressure valve, my chafing mind, suffering from some strange, inward form of Tourette’s Syndrome, would add in the dark, silent realm of thought: ‘Bugger off (anatomically explicit expletives deleted)!'”

I am one of the readers who actually like “endless and pointless meanderings of this sort,” as they tell one much about the human being who has pointlessly meandered off endlessly. Some of my favorite books about Baseball have used a meandering regular season game as a backdrop for the author’s “meanderings,” which, when one cogitates a little, were the real reason for the book.

Because of reading this fabulous interview on the website of my state Chess magazine I intend on making it a point to read several of the author’s books, including this one since I have long been a Birdman:

It is obvious Lakdawala’s books have held their value. An example would be this book:

It is out of print and will set you back at least $83.44 on Amazon with some books priced over two hundred dollars. Obviously some readers like Cyrus Lakdawala’s books.

Sinister Minister Magnus Carlsen

World Classical Chess co-champion Magnus Carlsen

was an angry man during the recently completed Shamkir Chess tournament where he obliterated the opposition, finishing two full points ahead of the competition. It must have been the beard.

Bearded men look angrier than clean-shaven types when they are angry

Dr Belinda Craig researched the effect men with beards communicating emotion
She found men with beards looked angrier when angry than clean shaven men
The study also found people were quick to recognise a bearded man’s was angry
Dr Craig said: ‘Beards emphasise the jaw… leading to faster recognition of anger’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6867435/Australian-scientists-say-bearded-men-look-angrier-clean-shaven-types.html

Decades ago a young lady said bearded men looked “sinister.” Yet she like a man with a beard, and not because of how he looked, but how the it felt…

Carlsen’s

performance rating for the event was a computer program like 2988. Magnus could have been content with an easy draw versus his last round opponent, Alexander Grishuk,

but left his opponent wondering what had happened while leaving poor Grishuk stunned after winning yet another game.

Magnus has not lost a real, classical, game of Chess since losing to Shakhriyar Mamedyarov

in the Biel tournament on the final day of July of LAST YEAR! Magnus has played like a man with something to prove after not being able to win a classical game during the world Chess championship match with Fabiano Caruana.

Rather than present a game from the tournament I would like to feature one from the 2017 Isle of Man tournament which can be found in issue #5 of the American Chess Magazine

in an article by GM Ivan Sokolov, Magnus The King Among Mere Mortals.

Pavel Eljanov (2734)

vs Magnus Carlsen (2827)

Isle of Man Masters 09/28/2017

B00 Owen’s Defense

1.Nf3 b6 (After this move Ivan writes, “This is another rather suspect opening choice. Magnus was definitely in the mood to show he could win with “anything”.) 2.e4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.d4 Bb4 5.Bd3 Nf6 6.Qe2 d5 7.exd5 Qxd5 8.O-O Bxc3 9.bxc3 Nbd7 10.c4 Qh5 11.Bf4 (Improving upon 11.Ne1 Qxe2 12.Bxe2 Be4 13.Nd3 O-O 14.Bf4 Rfc8 15.Rfe1 Ne8 16.Bf1 Bb7 17.c5 Bd5 18.Rec1 bxc5 ½-½ in Eckhard Stomprowski vs Hans Joerg Fritz, GER Police-ch 1st 1997) Rc8 12.a4 a5 13.Rab1 O-O 14.Rb5 c5 15.dxc5 Rxc5 16.Bd6 Rxb5

This is the critical position. How should Eljanov recapture?

Cogitate on this while I pontificate at length on the unfortunate state of Chess after the latest World Chess Championship debacle. The fact is that after only a dozen real games of Chess all the games had been drawn. Carlsen did not beat Caruana in the real Chess games, the only games that actually matter in deciding who is the best human Chess player on the planet. Magnus said Fabiano should be considered co-classical Chess champion. Chess fans want to know which one is the better player. Period. If the match continued until one player actually won a classical game to break the tie, so much the better. If anyone other than Florencio Campomanes thinks more games are deleterious to the health of the players then how about declaring the match a draw and having another twelve game match after a month to rest? If that match is drawn, then hold another one in a month’s time, or as long as it takes until a player wins a classical game of Chess. Can you imagine the excitement that would generate among not only the people who play Chess, but even the general public would be talking about the never ending match.

17.cxb5 (Sokolov writes, ” In a way this is a crucial mistake. Carlsen is now able to target the weakened queenside pawns, which White will not be able to keep together. 17. axb5! was necessary, the point being that after 17…Rc8 [It is probably best for Black to settle for 17…Bxf3 18. Qxf3 Qxf3 19. gxf3 Rc8 with a draw as the most likely result, as the bishop pair compensates for the weakened which pawn structure.] the white c-pawn is not hanging, so White can make a knight jump to e5 or d2.)

Rc8 18.c4 Nc5 19.Bc2 Nce4 20.Bf4 Nc3 21.Qd3 Qg4 22.Be5 Qxc4 23.Qxc4 Rxc4 24.Bd3 Rc8 25.Ra1 Nfd5 26.Nd2 f6 27.Bd6 Nb4 28.Bc4 Bd5 29.Bf1 Nba2 0-1

Béla Fleck & The Original Flecktones – “Sinister Minister” – Mountain Jam VII – 6/3/11