It’s All Happening in St. Lou!

Upon learning from the USCF website that the number one and two players in the world will be taking on the top two players in the US at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL) September 9-15, (http://saintlouischessclub.org/) for what is called the Sinquefield Cup, I immediately thought of an old song from my youth by Simon & Garfunkel, At The Zoo. While reflecting I was struck by the realization that what the Sinquefield’s have done for chess in St. Louis, and the US, is the second biggest story in US chess since I have been involved with chess since 1970, behind only the winning of the World Championship by Bobby Fischer. So, with apologies to Paul Simon:

Someone told me
It’s all happening in St. Lou.

I do believe it
I do believe it’s true.

It’s a light and tumble journey
From the East Coast to the Chess Club
and Hall of Fame.
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To St. Lou.

But you can take the Greyhound bus
If it’s raining or it’s cold,
And the chess players will love it
If you do.

Something tells me
It’s all happening in St. Lou.

The Bishops stand for honesty.
Rooks dance,
And the Knights are kindly while
They prance.
Pawns are skeptical
Of changes in their formation,
And the tournament director is very fond of rules.Kings are reactionaries,
Prelates are missionaries,
Queens plot in secrecy,
And Knights joust frequently.
What a gas! You gotta come and see
it all in St. Lou.

FM William Stewart Interview

1) Who are you?
FM William Stewart

2) Why did you leave the country and how was the experience?
I left the US after graduating from UGA in 2009, wanting to learn about new cultures and especially improve my language abilities by becoming fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese. It was a fantastic experience and really helped me gain perspective on how easy life is in the United States.

3) How did you become involved with chess?
I became involved in chess at the age of 10 because a friend’s dad ran the chess club at my elementary school (Spalding Elementary in Sandy Springs).

4) Who was your first teacher? First rating?
My first teacher was Nick Paleveda, a strong expert and multiple-time Florida State Champion. (Nick earned hisNM certificate in 1992-A.W.) Big Nick is one of the coolest guys I have ever met and I have to thank him for introducing me to chess and being a great teacher. My first rating was around 1100-1200.

5) Do you have a favorite current player? Former player? Anyone you have tried to emulate?
This is a tough one because I really like a lot of top players today. My biggest picks would be Kramnik (incredible reinvention of his style lately), Carlsen (he is just too good!), and Wang Hao (I really like his attacking style and he seems like a very normal, relaxed person). Ah – and Vassily Ivanchuk because he is incredibly creative. I’ve tried to emulate Kasparov’s extreme attacking style and ridiculously stubborn desire to win every game.

6) When did you make NM? (Where were you after playing for six years? I ask because GM Soltis wrote in his column that players usually peak after six years.)
I became an NM about 9 years after I started playing (I was about 19).

7) The best game you have played. The most exciting. Game that made greatest impression on you. Best game you’ve seen.
Well this is a very easy question for me to answer – I played a nice game against GM Ray Robson at the 2012 National Open in Las Vegas. This was in the last round (the money round!), I was having a great tournament, and I went all out to win this game. Here is a link to my game with Ray Robson from last year: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1670674
The most exciting game I have ever played was at the 2009 World Open in Philadelphia. It was round 9, I was having a great tournament, and the winner of this game would at least tie for first and win over $10,000. I won this game, co-won the Under 2200 section with Scott Low, graduated college 6 months later and used this money to travel and support myself in Brazil and Argentina over the next year.
Game that makes the most impression on me – this is too tough to say. I am a huge fan of Karpov’s game because his style is so subtle and unique. At his best, you would see the leading GMs in the world playing timid chess, trying to beg him for a draw by trading pieces into a very slightly inferior ending. And Karpov would obtain such a tiny advantage, grind them out, and win the game.

8) Best result(s).
2012 National Open was great. I very narrowly missed an IM norm at a tournament in Argentina in early 2013 (Copa la Razon), although I did pick up about 35 FIDE points there which really helped push me over 2300.

9) Talk about your education; degree’s, etc.
I graduated with a BS in Psychology and BA in Spanish from the University of Georgia in 2009. GO DAWGS!

10) Favorite food; fruit; drink; season; color; music, movie, etc.
Food – Sushi and/or Hot Wings; Fruit – Mango or Maracuya; Season – Summer, I love to hit the pool; Color – Red; Music – I like all kinds (except new country music), I’ve played drumset since I was 10 years old; Movie – King of New York

11) What is your favorite novel; writer. What about best non-fiction book? Did any book have a profound effect on you?
I used to love Stephen King books when I was a kid, but I’ve basically only read chess and business books in the last 10 years. I really like Kasparov’s “My Great Predecessors” series.

12) First chess book; favorite; best.
Man I can’t remember that far back Mike! Probably was something like “Play the Accelerated Dragon” by Daniel King. My favorite books are by Mark Dvoretsky, he is an incredibly deep writer and provides extremely challenging material.

13) What is the purpose of life; chess?
Deep stuff Mike! For me, the purpose of life is to better everyone around me. If I can do that, I know it will come back to me tenfold and contribute to my success. In chess, the answer is the opposite! I want to crush everyone I play so badly that they quit playing! Grandmaster is my ultimate goal, although I work too much right now to make that a real possibility.

14) You have a new book being published. Tell us about it; how did you decide to write it, what prompted you to write it?
“Chess Psychology: The Will To Win!” was very recently published by Everyman Chess in June 2013. I wrote this book because I thought it would be a great way to share my years of experience as a chess trainer. It is targeted at beginner and intermediate players and intended to serve as a comprehensive guide.

15) There are myriad books on chess being published. Why should someone purchase it over other books?
I have over 10 years of experience as a chess trainer and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I combine two of my best skills with a passion for teaching. This book is very different from other chess books because I am very clear and to the point. It is also a comprehensive guide, focusing on a variety of topics – while almost always maintaining a focus from the psychological perspective. Here are links for my book:
http://www.everymanchess.com/chess/books/Chess_Psychology%3A_The_will_to_win%21

http://www.amazon.com/kindle-store/dp/B00CYIYM00

16) With what person from the past would like to converse? Living person?
This is a tough question. I guess I would say Ray Charles or James Brown for past – two of my favorite musicians. For present, it would be awesome to have a drink with Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter.

17) What would you change about chess?
I am extremely disappointed with FIDE and their lack of organization with respect to high level tournaments, the world championship cycle, and especially their blatant disregard for the widespread promotion of chess.

18) What needs to be done that is not being done to promote chess?
The 21st century is the fastest changing time ever! But chess and its’ promotion simply have not caught up. Computers are taking over the game and making chess players very bored with memorizing variations, etc.. It is very difficult to commercialize chess and I think a few very easy ideas to make it more fun for chess players and general audiences would be to:
1. Use faster time controls (non chess players cannot focus on 3 hour games, but a 5-10 minute game is short enough to maintain their attention).
2. Popularize variants (specifically Chess960 – this is a very interesting variant that would bring a lot of chess players back to the game and showing up in tournaments.)
3. The Intel Grand Prix Series in the 1990s was incredible! It combined a variety of appealing factors: the best players of the world, fast time controls, large prize money, and an exciting knockout format. I can’t understand why FIDE (or some other organizer/sponsor) won’t run another type of tournament series like this.

19) How can chess be improved in the Great State of Georgia?
More FIDE-rated tournaments will bring more titled players to Georgia. I think that is the biggest thing missing in Georgia chess – there aren’t many high-rated players here because it is impossible to compete for a FIDE title. As for scholastic chess, I think the Atlanta area has been very successfully developed in the past 15-20 years. Maybe it would help if some of these companies in the Atlanta area received support from the GCA to extend their programs to other parts of the state.

20) What do you see in your chess future?
Ah finally an easy question! I very recently confirmed the title of FIDE master as of May 2013 with a rating of 2305. My goals are to become an IM in 3 years and GM in 5 years. My biggest obstacles to these goals are very simple – I work at least 70 hours/week so I don’t have much time to study and play. And of course the United States very rarely has any FIDE-rated tournaments (and if they do, you have to travel far and pay a lot of money in entry fees and hotels) So basically I will leave the United States again to find FIDE-rated (thus IM norm and GM norm) tournaments that are realistically available. I think it is really a shame that the USCF does not do anything about this problem, because forcing your talented players to go abroad to play competitively does not really do much to promote chess here in the US…

As a chess organizer however, I am much more control! I currently operate a chess website in English (http://OnlineChessLessons.NET) and Spanish (http;//ClasesdeAjedrez.NET) with my business partner Freddy Lansky (I do the chess, he does the IT). We are working with dozens of Grandmasters now to produce high-quality chess DVDs at low prices, called the Empire Chess series (or in Spanish, Imperio Ajedrez). We also work to promote chess by releasing free promotional excerpts on our YouTube channels. We also publish free content on the blogs of these websites – check us out!
21) Thank you for an interesting interview and continued success in chess!

Upcoming 2013 North Carolina Senior Championship

Three days ago in my post on the 2013 Virginia Senior Open I wrote, “It is obvious the South is leading the nation when it comes to Senior chess. The glaring omission is the great State of North Carolina, surrounded as it is on all sides by other Southern States with Senior tournaments.”
Tonight while surfing the web I found a thread posted on May 30 by Gary Maltzman, 2013 North Carolina Senior Championship(!) All right North Carolina! I formerly resided in the mountains of western NC and there was talk of a possible Senior tournament during the South’s foremost tournament, the Land of the Sky, in 2011. I recall my friend Bruce Goodwin taking part in the discussion, along with Gary Newsome and some of us other “old fogeys,” as Sara Walsh referred to we Seniors in her follow up post. If aware of the upcoming NC Senior I obviously would not have written about the “glaring omission.” The “movement” is now in full swing!
The tournament will take place October 19-20, 2013. It will consist of four rounds with a time limit of G/120 with a five second delay. Inquiries: seniors@queencitychess.com
Here is the URL of the tournament announcement given in Gary’s post: http://www.seniors.queencitychess.com/NorthCarolinaSeniorOpen.pdf
There is also an article in the Gambit, the online magazine of the NCCA, Dobson North Carolina hosts first ever Seniors event, which can be found here: http://www.ncchess.org/wordpress/2013/04/dobson-north-carolina-hosts-first-ever-seniors-event/

ELEVENTH THURSDAY THROWDOWN

This edition of the Throwdown, the eleventh, had to be moved back to the Church of Decatur Heights after problems surfaced with the air conditioning system at the North Dekalb Mall. With violent thunderstorms associated with an early summer cold front predicted, the air was electric as thirty nine players crossed swords to begin the first round. Local weatherman Glenn Burns of WSB TV had earlier predicted the storms would lose intensity approaching Atlanta, but because of the dreaded “heat island” that is the metro Atlanta area, the storms intensified exponentially. Glenn was in his element illustrating the one thousand lightning strikes per hour, with five percent of them being positive, the most dangerous kind. The storm hit in the latter stages of the first round, and I do not mean just outside the playing hall. Courtney Edwards did it again, this time hitting LM David Vest, with a bolt which caused the man from the High Planes to pull a Dobie Gray and drift away into the night.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaPnOASOWIU) JOHN LATTIER was upset by CHRISTOPHER DANIEL, but in his defense John was not feeling well, deciding to play only at the last moment. JEREMY PAUL had the only perfect score after beating SASHA CREIGHTON in the last round. FRANK JOHNSON took clear second with a draw in the first round to ARISH VIRANI the only blemish on his scorecard. Daniel and Creightom tied for third with a score of 2-1.
Twenty nine players entered the under 1600 section. When the storm ended two were left standing unscathed. VEDIC PANDA, known as the Bear, tied for first place with the man with a big heart, always ready and able to lend a hand, LARRY BOLTON. Panda Bear is on the middle school team at Fulton Science Academy, where he has doubled his rating in the last year, improving by leaps and bounds. When informed by the Legendary Georgia Ironman that he would now, because of finishing first, ‘slingshot’ into the Open section at the next event, the stunned Mr. Bolton mustered an understated, “Oh wow.” Frank Johnson immediately extended his hand saying, “Welcome to the club!” ADRIAN KING, a young man in high school, and KAVIN JAYAVEL KUMARESAN, another talented grammar school up and comer, tied for third with two wins and a draw.
The Championship Chess 12th Thursday Throwdown will be June 27, 2013 6:30 PM, at the Church of Decatur Heights, 735 Sycamore Drive, Decatur, GA 30030.

2013 US Junior Closed

The US Junior chess tournament begins today (http://www.uschesschamps.com/). I know this because the CCSCSL (that’s Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis, for all my international readers), sent me a notification via email:
Hello!

It’s another month, and yet another U.S. Championship is upon us! This time, the young guns get their turn in the spotlight to duel it out for the title of 2013 U.S. Junior Closed Champion. Ten of the top up-and-coming stars of the U.S. chess scene will battle head-to-head in a nine-round, round-robin event. The winner will earn a $3,000 grand prize and an invitation to the 2014 U.S. Championship. Click here to meet the field!

Round 1 begins today, June 14, at 1 p.m., and spectators are welcome to enjoy the action live at the Chess Club or online via http://www.uschesschamps.com.

We will not be canceling any of our regular programming for this event as the Junior Championship will be held in the Chess Club board room. Check out all of our exciting upcoming events in the column at left, and we hope to see you at the club soon!

Sincerely,

Mike Wilmering
Communications Specialist
mwilmering@saintlouischessclub.org
Since it did not mention anything about who would be doing the commentary, I clicked on over, learning GM’s Yasser Seirawan and Ben Finegold would be on my screen during the event. I will admit to knowing very little about the Junior world of chess, so I clicked on to read about the participants. The first thing I noticed was the question of the day, which is, “Who will be the 2013 U.S. Junior Closed Champion?” Listed first is Sarah Chiang. As of this writing she has yet to receive a vote. After reading the bio’s of the players I learned Sarah is not only the lowest rated player, but clearly 200 points lower rated than the other 9 players, which is a whole rating class below the rest of the field! The webpage informs that the first 7 players were invited because of rating, while the next 2 were wild cards. Sarah’s “Invitation Method” was by way of, “U.S. Open Invitation.” I have absolutely no idea what that means, so will make no comment. I will say, though, that I am reminded of a former Junior player, Robin Ault. From Chess.com:
“Robin Ault (1941-1994) was the first person to win the U.S. Junior Championship three times (1959-1961). In the 1959, the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) had a rule that the American Junior Chess Champion was automatically qualified into the adult title competition. So Robin was invited to the 1959-60 U.S. Championship, then lost all 11 games (0-11). After this, the USCF no longer allowed the top junior player to be invited to the U.S. Championship.” (http://www.chess.com/chessopedia/view/ault-robin)
Then it hit me…I had just read, “The winner will receive an invitation to the 2014 U.S. Championship.” Wonder how long “…the USCF no longer allowed the top junior player to be invited to the U.S. Championship?” It is probably not as bad for the junior now as it was then because now the field has become a herd, while “back in the day” it was composed of only the best players.
I checked Sarah out on the USCF ratings page finding that although she is “27 out of 6461 female players”, she is only “112 out of 39156 junior players.” Maybe she is the top rated female junior and that is why she was invited. Yet it seems rather strange that a player not even in the top 100 would be invited to such a prestigious tournament with such a long history. A quick look at the top list on the USCF site shows there are many young men and boys more deserving, by rating, of participating in the tournament. The fact is this under qualified girl has taken the place of one of them. It is possible Sarah could be shutout in this event and it could have a deleterious effect on the poor girl in the future. Imagine, for example, the uproar caused if a Senior player, a former top level GM, had been invited to a closed US Championship even though he was now rated 200 points below the field and his playing strength was clearly not ready for prime time.
Speaking of Senior chess…The US Junior is up on the USCF webpage and there will be much coverage of the Junior in the coming days, while there has still been absolutely nothing posted on the website concerning the recent US Senior Open. This in spite of the fact I received an email from President Ruth Haring on Sat. June 8 in which she wrote:
Thanks for the report and suggestions. I will look into why there is no report online yet.

Regards,
Ruth

Sent from my iPhone

Anatoly Karpov’s Other World Championship

Most people involved with chess know former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov is also a world renowned philatelist. What you may not know is that he is the book signing champ of the world, according to the Guinness world records. This was discovered when I caught a huge wave at one of my favorite surfing spots: http://authorscoop.com/ One of the writer’s responsible is a lovely chess mom named Jamie Mason, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at a children’s tournament in Asheville, NC. Here is the proof:
The most books signed by one author in a single session is 1,951 by the ex-World Champion in chess Anatoli Karpov (Russia) who signed “El Camino de una Voluntad” by David Llada and Anatoli Karpov on 21 October 2006 during the Third Mexico City Chess Festival in Mexico. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/1/largest-book-signing
IM Timothy Taylor has a new book titled, Slay the Sicilian. He writes about his book in an article on the Chess Café website (http://www.chesscafe.com/everyman/ebcafe08.htm). The article begins, “I was idly looking at World Champion Anatoly Karpov’s book, My Best Games – and I came across a line that absolutely stunned me, that I quote in full below:
“I have always felt it completely unnecessary for White to rush headlong into a maelstrom of forced variations with his first moves in the Sicilian. His superiority in the centre gives him the possibility of resolving any problem by solid positional play.”
Reading this comment caused me to recall something GM Andy Soltis wrote about a book like GM David Bronstein’s masterpiece, Chess Struggle in Practice, not being able to be published today because it contains words, like the aforementioned quote, in lieu of reams of variations, as one finds in most of the books published today. The quote pointed out so adroitly by IM Taylor goes to the heart of Karpov’s understanding of chess. Contrast this with what GM Yasser Seirawan writes in his forward to Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne’s new book with the wonderful title, The Stress of Chess and its Infinite Finesse:
“In the many games that we contested we held a deep post-mortem. Often these lasted for hours and during them it was obvious, time in and time out, that Walter had out-calculated me. We had looked at the same variations, but he had calculated them more deeply than I had. In many instances Walter went far beyond the point where I had stopped, being satisfied with a line. Walter wanted to be sure. When he felt a win existed he wished to nail it down with calculation and cold-blooded determination. When I asked why he didn’t just play an obviously good move, he would often say that while his ‘instinct’ had told him to play the ‘natural’ good move it was his calculation that guided him to consider other possibilities, and what ultimately caused him to come to a decision was the calculated line. In most cases Walter’s instinct and calculation were one and the same, producing the same move, which he would then play.”
It makes me wonder if those top players who continue to play at a very high level late into life, like former World Champion Vassily Smyslov, do so because they rely on their ‘instinct’ or intuition, rather than calculating myriad variations.
I have one other note on books. I was saddened to learn of the death of the writer Iain Banks. None of the obituaries I have read mention the book I consider to be my favorite of the Science Fiction genre, The Player of Games. I cannot speak of his oeuvre because this is the only book of his I have read, but I have read it several times. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/09/iain-banks-dies-59-cancer

2013 VA Senior Open

The website of the Virginia Chess Federation website (http://vachess.org) proclaims “FM Larry Gilden wins,” but the crosstable shows a three-way tie with Expert William Marcelino and Class ‘A’ player Harry S Cohen, all scoring 3 ½-1/2. Marcelino took the prize for Top Virginian, while FM Gilden was also the top scoring 70+! Five players tied for fourth including Expert Leif Kazuo Karell, who took the prize for the 60-69 age group. Thirty six players competed.
The name Larry Gilden may not seem familiar to most of you, but it brought back memories to me. It has been decades since I have heard his name. Seeing it sent me to the USCF website where I punched his name into the “players & ratings” and found “There are a total of 3 events for this player since late 1991.” After not playing for decades, Larry played in a quick tournament in September of 2012. He next took part in The Cherry Blossom Classic in April where he won his first three games, but lost his next three. One of the losses was to the eventual winner, Sean Vibbert, and another to IM Justin Sarkar. By now you must be asking yourself, “Who is Larry Gilden?” From: Dr. Mark Ginsburg presents A Personal Chess History (http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/category/chess-players/larry-gilden/)
Before the current day US Chess League, there was the pre-Internet phone matches conducted between various cities in the National Chess League. Here is a photo of the 1976 season winners, the Washington Plumbers (so named after Nixon’s squad of burglars who broke into the Watergate hotel and started the snowball of corruption that sank the Nixon presidency). The photo was taken at the “It’s Your Move” chess club in Georgetown, Washington DC – this club has long been defunct, the victim of rising rents in popular Northwest Washington. Next to John is senior master Larry Gilden with his hand in the plunger, a player with one of the highest ratings in the country in the early 1970s. As Charlie Hertan writes recalling 1972, “Senior masters were very rare in those days, and except for national tournaments like the U.S. Open or fledgling World Open, you wouldn’t expect to see more than one, sometimes two, at a weekend event. Larry Gilden was usually the top-ranked player, with a “monster” rating of about 2410.”
I urge you to click on the link and take a look at the picture, a real piece of chess history. There is much more on Larry Gilden at Dr. Ginsberg’s site, and also much more on the history of our game, a personal history that could become lost but for the efforts of people like Mark Ginsburg. I played for the Atlanta Kings team in the telephone league that year, and can still recall vividly the amusement cause by the name of the D.C. team. If there had been some kind of award for best team name, the Plumbers would have won it unanimously!
There were thirty players at the Tennessee Senior held in Crossville during May, with twenty two at the 5th Annual South Carolina Senior Open in April. Contrast that with the small turnout of fifty seven at the recently completed US Senior in Tarrytown, NY. It is over a week now since the US Senior ended and there has still been no mention of it at the website of the USCF, which goes to show that Senior chess is the Rodney Dangerfield of USCF chess, because, “It don’t get no respect.” I had trouble locating the crosstable because it is listed under “US Senior & US Junior Open.” At least “Senior” is listed first. It is glaringly obvious Senior chess is not first and foremost with the United States Scholastic Chess Federation!
It is obvious the South is leading the nation when it comes to Senior chess. The glaring omission is the great State of North Carolina, surrounded as it is on all sides by other Southern States with Senior tournaments. It is also disappointing to see a state with such a large chess community as Florida, known as a retirement state, without a Senior tournament. I played in a Texas Senior tournament over a decade ago. Now if the Great States of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana hold a Senior tournament we will have the makings of what Arlo Guthrie called a “movement.” (http://songmeanings.net/songs/view/71247/)
I include a couple of URL’s, each containing an annotated game by Senior players:
http://sgchess.net/2013/06/12/662-kingside-offensive/
http://chess.ca/newsfeed/node/58

GM Alonso Zapata Shares First In Columbia

GM Zapata sends this report via email:
Dear: Michael Bacon.
Thanks for all the information!
I share the first place in Colombia. Check the page: http://www.chess-results.com/tnr103375.aspx?art=4&lan=1&fed=RIS&wi=821
Best regards!

Alonso Zapata

It was an eight round tournament. GM Zapata tied for first with Carlos Antonio Hevia Alejano, from Cuba, even though their game in the antepenultimate round, a Najdorf in which Alonso played 6 g3, ended in a win for his young opponent. GM Zapata was able to catch the IM by winning both of his his last games, including a win versus the only other GM in the field, Sergio E Barrientos of Columbia, while Hevia Alejano split the point in the last two games.
The link provided contains games from the tournament which can be downloaded.

Viva GM Zapata!

Stoned Chess

The Stone, “a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless,” is a section of the Opinionator, “Exclusive Online Commentary From The New York Times.” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/the-myth-of-just-do-it/) The article in the Monday, June 10, 2013 online edition is, The Myth of ‘Just Do It,’ by Barbara Gail Montero. She writes, “…thinking about what you are doing,as you are doing it, interferes with performance.” Then she asks, “But why not?” Why not, indeed.
“Although novice athletes need to think about what they are doing, experts in normal situations, we are told by the University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock in her recent book “Choke,” ought not to since, as she puts it, “careful consideration can get them in trouble.” Based on experiments she and her colleagues have performed, she concludes that high-pressure situations lead experts to think in action and that such thinking tends to cause choking, or “paralysis by analysis.” To prevent this, she advises, you need to “play outside your head.”
Or, as a 13-time winner on the Professional Golfers Association Tour, Dave Hill, put it: “Golf is like sex. You can’t be thinking about the mechanics of the act while you are performing.” I played golf in my younger days, and I watch golf now. I am here to tell you that golf is definitely NOT like sex! Dave may have meant you should not think about it, but just do it. It seems, though, that to do it requires one to cogitate about it first, at least a little.
By now you are probably asking yourself what this has to do with chess. Please, bear with me. While reading the part about choking I conjured up the picture of GM Magnus Carlsen playing GM Peter Svidler in the last round of the recent London Candidates tournament. Magnus usually sits there calmly, giving the impression he is above it all, as he grinds down another top tier GM. Yet during this game, which he felt was a must win situation, he was on his knees, up in his chair with his arms on the table as his head hovered over the board, while his time dwindled. He looked like any twelve year old boy in a junior tournament. The impression given was of someone trying too hard in lieu of letting it happen. As I continued to read my thoughts drifted back to something Big Al Hamilton said to the love of my life, Gail Childs, at a chess tournament, the 1980 US Open in Atlanta, Georgia, decades ago. She mentioned later Al told her I was “Trying too hard.”
Realizing I had continued reading while my thoughts drifted to another time and place I made myself focus in order to stay in the “now.” This paragraph came next: “Though the University of California at Berkeley philosopher Hubert Dreyfus takes his inspiration more from Merleau-Ponty and Martin Heidegger than from empirical studies, the conclusions he arrives at resonate with Beilock’s. Dreyfus has long argued that “the enemy of expertise is thought” and that the apogee of human performance is exemplified in seamless, unreflective actions in which the self disappears. In a debate with the University of Pittsburgh philosopher John McDowell, published in the journal Inquiry, Dreyfus tells us that whenever Homer describes his heroes at a feast, instead of having them deliberately reach for bread in baskets or bowls brimful to drink, “their arms shot out to the food lying ready before them.” Similarly, says Dreyfus, the grandmaster chess player might find “his arm going out and making a move before he can take in the board position.” As with the master archer in Eugen Herrigel’s perennially popular “Zen in the Art of Archery,” neither Odysseus feasting at a banquet nor the grandmaster playing chess moves his arm; rather “it shoots.”
This reminded me of the famous quote by GM Miguel Najdorf about World Champion Bobby Fischer, “Bobby just drops the pieces and they fall on the right squares.” I do not believe one Grandmaster has ever given another a better compliment.
The articles continues, “It may very well be that our ordinary actions, like eating — especially when famished after a battle — do in some sense just happen to us. Yet what are we to say about the grandmaster as he closes the mating net? According to Dreyfus, Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger teach us that “what we are directly open to is not rational or even conceptual … [rather,] it is the affordance’s solicitation — such as the attraction of an apple when I’m hungry.” The problem with this picture for chess, however, is that the attractive apple is often poisoned. In such cases, leaving reason behind leads you right into your opponent’s trap.”
Having taken far too many bites out of a poisoned apple all I can say is that I have been there and done that a few too many times!
Near the end Barbara writes, “Perhaps golf is like sex, not because, as Dave Hill claimed, attention to performance interferes with expert action, but rather because both the sex drive and the expert’s drive to excel can be all-encompassing.”
I will drink to that!

Wesley So Does It Again

Heading into the sixth and last round of the ongoing National Open GM Wesley So was tied with GM Alejandro Ramirez and GM Manuel Leon Hoyos for first place, each with 4 ½ points. Six players, all GM’s, Ray Robson; Jaan Ehlvest; Varuzhan Akobian; Tomas Gelashvili; Victor Michalevski; and Enrico Sevillano, were a half point back. The pairings were: 1)Ramirez-So; 2) Hoyos-Robson; 3) Gelashvili-Ehlvest; 4) Michalevski-Akobian; 5) Fidel Corrales Jimenez (with only 3 ½)-Sevillano.
Ramirez battled So for twelve tough moves before offering a draw, which was accepted. As it is said in golf, “That puts them in the lead in the clubhouse.” I was disappointed Wesley did not make his twelfth move and castle, for then the position would have been completely symmetrical. Maybe that is why Ramirez decided to offer the draw. This would seem to make no sense because Hoyos can finish a half point ahead of them with a win over Robson. Certainly that will not be an easy task as Ray needs a win to tie for first place. Still, it is a possibility. If Hoyos manages to draw that would allow the possibility of a six-way tie for first. If ever there were a time to do battle, this would seem to be it.
Wesley So, along with his opponent Pavel Eljanov, has taken much heat from the press and pundits for offering a draw in the last round of the recent Reykjavik Open. There is an extremely interesting article by GM Eljanov in the current issue of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess (2013/3), in which Pavel tries to explain his motivation for taking the draw without playing. He writes, “The last round started much earlier than the others-at 12, as often happens even in super-tournaments.” Another motivating factor was, “It’s all very simple: we are people and sometimes our strength is exhausted.” He admits to being out of bullets, writing, “In Reykjavik I strictly followed my principles for the first nine rounds, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I fought to the last bullet.” He blames the Soviet chess school culture when he writes, “Nevertheless, I was raised in the traditions of the Soviet school of chess, where various kinds of short and prearranged draws were fairly standard,” later admitting, “But one way or another I have a grain of that mentality inside me.” Maybe an exorcist would help? He writes about a game he lost versus Mikhail Gurevich, playing a Dutch (and nothing says “I intend to win” better than the Dutch!). Eljanov provides chess fans a glimpse into his soul when he writes, “Unsurprisingly, at some point in an ordinary but complex position I couldn’t withstand the tension and came under a crushing attack.” After reading this how many 2700 GM’s are going to offer Pavel a three move draw in the last round?
About the short draw Pavel writes, “Even then I had a kind of an unpleasant aftertaste after the draw,” and, “…I couldn’t have imagined that the reaction would be so strong!” That is precisely the problem in chess. The top players have come to regard it as their right to not try and win. Unless the rules are changed the only thing that will stop this sordid practice from occurring is the opprobrium of the chess community. Without a fan base, there will be no chess.
He must have come to the conclusion that accepting the draw offer was wrong because he writes, “The first thing I’d like to do is apologize to the chess fans who felt insulted.” He quotes Albert Einstein a couple of times and compares chess to a “90-minute football match.” (For my American readers, that is what we call “soccer,” not the maimball in the US) It is an interesting article to read. Pavel sums things up by writing, “The next day what happened, happened.” Or as Hikaru Nakamura is fond of saying, “It is what it is.”