The Machine vs The Bull

While watching The Game today I could not understand why Hikaru Nakamura did not play the move 29…b4, the move I would have played. If I had been going over a game by a student and he had played the move chosen by Hikaru, 29…bxc4, I would have shown him b4, telling him the importance of having a protected passed pawn as a lasting strength, etc. These players are light years ahead of me, so when one of the top ten players in the world does not play a move which seems obvious to me, I am flummoxed. For that reason I left TWIC and surfed over to the tournament website because “inquiring minds just have to know.” Sure enough, the program they were using had 29…b4 as best. I then surfed over to the ChessBomb, and their program, Stockfish, also showed it as the best move. When a player of my calibre can see such an obvious move and he does not, there is obviously something is wrong with my favorite player, Hikaru “Red Bull” Nakamura. Could it be too much Red Bull?
I noticed that after the game finally ended, the Hikaru took a sip from his glass of water, in lieu of drinking any of the Red Bull from the can sitting next to the board. That would not happen in NASCAR. Then when Hikaru took his seat for the interview, it was without his can of the Bull. Nakamura is obviously not bullish on the Red stuff. Upon learning Hikaru decided to endorse the product I thought of Bobby Fischer. I recall he said he would not endorse a product he had never used. For that I have always admired him. When asked why he had turned down such offers Bobby said, “People are trying to exploit me.” Normal people could not understand such logic. Penurious chess players were heard to say things like, “Why, given the opportunity, I would sell my soul to the devil for that kind of money!” And they meant every word of it.
The interview was a sad thing to behold. After six hours it was obvious the players just wanted to leave. To make matters worse, they were forced to answer the most inane questions. The first question was to Magnus. He was asked, “Magnus, can you tell us about the key moment of the game?” He was gracious, but mentioned nothing about his opponent missing 29…b4. It was Hikaru who interjected with, “It was around move 30.” When the position arrived on the analysis board on the screen Nakamura still played 29…bxc4, giving a variation that should have “…been fine.” Hikaru said, “When I started losing my mind was right around here when I played (33)…Nb6.” That is two games in a row that the Bull has “lost his mind.” Lay off the Red Bull! I am certain that when the Bull looks at the game with his 3100+ rated program of choice he will come to an understanding, grasshopper, of the exact moment he began to lose his mind.
One of the questions to The Bull concerned his 0-9 score to The Machine. The questioner wanted to know if there was some kind of “psychological problem” when he faced The Machine. At this point the camera panned to the father, Henrik Carlsen, sitting next to GM Peter Heine Nielsen, who had been gazing in obvious boredom. He perked up with the question. The Bull answered that the problem has been in the opening, with it being difficult to play at a disadvantage. He also said he played well “…except for three bad moves in the middle.” He also mentioned something about a “blunder.” Funny how it is always the weaker player who blunders. It was sad to hear, because it is obvious a player cannot make even one bad move against The Machine! I thought about the game Hikaru lost to Magnus in Zurich, a game he should have won. His problem was not the blunder, but much earlier in that game. If he had played correctly the game would have been over long before he blundered. Then there is the comment on the cover of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess 2014/1. Hikaru Nakamura: ‘I do feel that at the moment I am the biggest threat to Carlsen.’ The Bull must be in denial. Seems he would wait until he at least beat The Machine one time before mouthing off. As bad as it has been, The Bull should consider trying to make a draw because one has got to walk before he runs.
Magnus is playing like a machine. No matter with which 3100+ program you compare his moves, the majority of Magnus “The Machine” Carlsen’s moves agree with the first choice. Maybe he needs to be checked to learn whether or not he is “hooked up.” Has a chip been implanted in the brain of The Machine?
Seriously, Magnus The Machine is now a class above his fellow Grandmasters. As a matter of fact if his rating improves a few more points he could qualify for the next TCEC tournament! As I write the program Shredder 14, rated 2921, has made it to the elite eight. The Machine was rated 2881 before winning his first two games. He’s got a shot!

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Shamkir 2014 in Memory of Vugar Gashimov

One of the glorious things about being a lover of the Royal game is the computer. One of the worst things about being a fan of chess is the computer.
Since I am still alive at an advanced age and have a computer I am able to watch the games of the best human players in real time via the machine. For instance, as I punch & poke at this very moment, GM Gata Kamsky is playing one of my favorite openings, the Leningrad Dutch, versus GM Mikhailo Oleksienko. The latter played 6 b3 against the usual first five moves, a move favored by IM Boris Kogan. The ideas the “Hulk” shared with me about this particular move order have stayed with me. I will be surfing on over to the game periodically while writing.
I prefer to watch the moves played in the game sans computer generated analysis while trying to understand what is transpiring over the board in a country on the other side of the planet. I admit that occasionally I am so flummoxed I will resort to looking at current analysis provided by the tournament website, or the ol’ standby, http://www.ChessBomb.com.
As should be known from what I have written previously, I am a HUGE fan of Hikaru Nakamura. “You gotta pull for SOMEBODY,” was heard on numerous occasions at the House of Pain. I pull for Hikaru, and make no bones about that fact. Today, at the tournament in memory of GM Vugar Gashimov, my man, Naka, had the White pieces versus Fabiano Caruana, my number two favorite player. I think of him as an International American. And no, Magnus is not my number three. That honor goes to Peter Svidler, because I read in an interview he listens to Bob Dylan. Svid, my man! I have got to like a player who appreciates Bob.
One of the best things about watching chess on the interweb is the interviews after the game. Unlike earlier days, a computer is used by the players for analyzing the just played game. Something may be gained by my being able to watch the players share their thoughts, but something has also been lost. Anyone who has ever watched GM Walter Browne go over his game will attest to that fact. It has been said that Walter has never lost a game in analysis, and for good reason. Walter was a bundle of energy with the pieces flying across, and sometimes off, the board. The best show was after the game when it came to Mr. Six Time!
Today’s game between my two favorite players was an English Four Knights game. The system is one in which White builds up a fine position with more space and then has to decide what to do with it. I am reminded of my days playing backgammon, when a player would reach a beautiful position and a kibitzer would say, “Take a picture of it,” meaning he had to make a move and because he had no timing, his position would collapse like a house of cards no matter what move he made. “Stack ’em up,” would also be heard as the unfortunate player had to begin placing too many chips on one pip. This is what occurred in today’s game. Hikaru said as much after the game. “I didn’t find the right plan an that’s why I should’ve lost,” he said. After move forty Hikaru said honestly, “Right around here I start losing my mind for no reason.” Earlier as I was watching him lose his mind, I thought of something GM Viktor Korchnoi said about Magnus Carlsen being rated so highly at such a young age and there being thousands of positions he had not seen. The great thing about the game of chess is that although a player may have seen millions, if not billions, of positions, he has not seen this particular position. He may have seen similar positions, but not this one, and he has to not lose his mind in the complications.
Because of the computer programs, or “engines” as they have become known, top level chess is vastly different than it was even a generation ago. This is not your father’s chess. The players speak of the “engines” anthropomorphically. For example, Hikaru said, “The computer will probably be a better person to ask than us.” Later he said, “That’s why computers are better than us.”
Fabiano got in on the discussion by saying, “The game was complicated. I don’t know how we played until I check the computer.” It seems to me that a player rated 2783 ought to know how he, and his opponent, played without having to resort to a machine. Have the programs advanced so far as to be the end all when it comes to understanding chess?
GM Caruana said, “I wish there was more time to see Baku. We only had one day…” I smiled while thinking to myself of the lyrics to a song from the musical, “Chess.”

“One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, brother”
“One Night in Bangkok” as written by Tim Rice, Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus
http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3458764513820545967/

Girls Are Bad At Chess

Thus far this century there have been many different ideas posited for why women have been inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess. The latest is an article on the Scientific American website by Daisy Grewal, who “…holds a BA in psychology from UCLA and a PhD in social psychology from Yale University. She currently works at Stanford University as an applied researcher.” The article, published April 15, is entitled, “Are Girls Bad at Chess?” (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-girls-bad-at-chess/)
Underneath the title one finds Daisey’s answer: “Of course not — but stereotypes can have a real effect on performance.”
I will leave it to others to judge just how good or bad girls are at chess and say only that I enjoy playing over games played by women, and in some cases, girls, because they are inferior to the games played by the best men chess players. I have also found enjoyment in watching women play golf and tennis even though they cannot compete with men. I enjoy this in the same way I enjoy going to a great website, Old in Chess (http://oldinchess.blogspot.com/) and playing over the games of the old Masters, who were obviously not as strong as the best current players. Because they are inferior does not mean they cannot be interesting. I also enjoy studying the games of the first round of major Open tournaments because of the disparity between the players. I believe one can learn a great deal from why the inferior player lost to the superior player. By examining the games of the lower rated players I see moves played that are the kind of moves I have made. Hopefully, this helps me to improve on the moves I may make in the future.
Daisey begins with, “Research has shown that stereotype threat can lead people to perform worse than expected. For example, women make more mistakes on a math test after being reminded of the stereotype that men are better at math.”
Then why remind them? It seems a no-brainer that to tell any child, male or female, they are inferior is not a good thing to do.
Daisey writes, “For many people, the idea of a famous chess player evokes the image of someone smart yet nerdy—and male. Do societal ideas about who makes for a better chess player impact the performance and motivation of girls who play chess?”
She says, “Psychology professors Hank Rothgerber and Katie Wolsiefer decided to tackle both of these issues by looking at whether stereotype threat affects young girls who play in chess tournaments.”
To do so, “Rothgerber and Wolsiefer surveyed 77 girls between the ages of 6 and 11 and found that the girls showed awareness of the stereotype that boys are better at playing chess than girls.”
This seems like a very small sample size to one who has read many sabermetric studies about baseball. The study would seem to have much more credibility if a zero was put on the end of the 77.
The article continues, “The researchers then gathered and analyzed data obtained from the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The data included information about female players from elementary, middle, and high schools who had competed in twelve tournaments. To control for the possibility that all chess players, both male and female, perform worse when playing against a male opponent, the researchers included a comparison group of young male players.”
Twelve tournaments. Only twelve tournaments? Study ten times that many and get back to me with the results.
“The results showed that when playing against a boy, girls were less likely to achieve an expected win. However, this was only true when they were playing moderate or strong (but not weak) male opponents.”
Well, how about that? The girls in the study did not do as well when facing stronger competition. The same could be said about me through out every decade I played, beginning in 1970 when I was twenty years of age playing in my first USCF tournament. Take any random player in the USCF files and it will be difficult to find anyone who has shown a better record against Experts and Masters than against class ‘A’ or ‘B’ players. Daisey continues, “Therefore, only girls who perform more poorly than expected seem at risk to give up on chess.”
From the graph published in Chess Life magazine (http://chessforallages.blogspot.pt/2013/06/2013-uscf-executive-board-election.htmland) and the comments made by USCF President Ruth Haring (“Existing scholastic programs see constant turnover and we see in our membership data, a membership decline beginning around the age of 11.”) it would seem that it is not only girls who are “at risk to give up on chess.” From what I have seen in my forty four years of chess, it is not the players who perform better than expected who quit playing the game. While working at the Atlanta Chess Center I once asked a player who had returned to the game why he had stopped playing. “I was losing too much,” he said.
Daisey continues, “This research demonstrates that stereotype threat may, in fact, thwart performance in real-world situations.”
Then again, it may NOT!
She continues, “Even outside the laboratory, where there are so many variables at play, stereotypes have the potential to cause vulnerable individuals to falter.”
It is a law of nature that only the strong overcome and survive.
It continues, “Overall, the study suggests that stereotype threat may be an issue for even young girls and may contribute to girls’ early avoidance of certain activities. To prevent girls from giving up in areas where they are negatively stereotyped, parents and educators may need to step in early. In the past decade, researchers have developed and tested a number of simple strategies to combat stereotype threat. If adopted for girls who play chess, these strategies could include providing young girls with role models of successful female chess players and emphasizing that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with. Another strategy might be to frame chess ability in terms of qualities that have nothing to do with gender—such as problem-solving and concentration skills.”
Why would anyone in their right mind emphasize “that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” I am aware of absolutely nothing that proves chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” Where is the study? Show me the facts! People are born with different brains, as well as different bodies. Some people can naturally run much faster than others, and no matter how much the slower runner practices running, he will still be a slow runner. The same can be said for playing the game of chess. I have no idea how much stronger I would have been if I had learned to play chess as a child in lieu of an adult, but I do know that from associating with many game players, there are some who seem to have a “gift.” They have an understanding of the game, whatever game it may be, that others would not have if they devoted their life to the game.
It is apparent that Daisey believes that even though the evidence shows women have been, and still are, inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess, the answer lies in stereotypes. It is a fact that there is a difference in the brain of a male and a female. I realize it is “politically incorrect” to write such, but it is the truth.

Magnus Carlsen’s Blunder

The headline on the Drudge Report reads, “UKRAINE ON BRINK.” Russia, a neighboring country has troops massed on the borders of Ukraine, and has already carved out a part of Ukraine, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. I recall reading decades ago about how Russia has always wanted control of Crimea because of the warm water port at Sevastopol. All empires in our current written history, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Russian, British and French, Nazi German, and Soviet Union have vied for possession of the warm water ports of Crimea.
It is well known that the Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, has described the break-up of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical disaster of the last century.” Putin says he is “Correcting the historical mistake from 1954 that saw Crimea end up as part of Ukraine.” Brookings scholar Steven Pifer argued that it was the “most blatant land grab in Europe since WWII.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/03/18/what-history-can-tell-us-about-russia-crimea-and-vladimir-putin/)
Putin’s gestapo type agents are currently fomenting dissension in the Eastern part of Ukraine. After all, Putin was KGB. IM Boris Kogan once said to me, “Once KGB, ALWAYS KGB!” It is obvious the megalomaniac will not be satisfied until he restores Russia to what it was during the time of the Soviet Union. Putin thinks he is advancing, but in reality he is only advancing to the past. Former World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov has been traveling the world this century saying as much, but no one listened to him.
There is an article on Chessbase (http://en.chessbase.com/post/carlsen-at-mit-moscow-style) about the new World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, being in Russia at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, while troops are massed on the borders of Ukraine. The article calls Mr. Carlsen, “…a great ambassador for chess.” Seems what the World Champion has become is a great ambassador for Vladimir Putin.
What I would like to know is exactly why Magnus Carlsen went to Russia at this particular time. It would seem Russia would be the last place on the planet a World Chess Champion would want to be seen. What was the man thinking?

Chess and the Assassination of Lincoln

I decided to make an exception and post something today because of the significance of the date. One hundred, forty nine years ago on this day, the actor John Wilkes Booth pulled a trigger on his Derringer, sending a bullet into the skull bone, and brain, of Abe Linclon, thus causing his death the next morning. We The People will be inundated with this fact today, but next year, because it will be the 150th anniversary, We The People will be overwhelmed with the government version of the “facts” on the matter. The fact is that, at my age, I may not be around to enjoy the festivities.
Much has been written about the assassination of the Devil Lincoln, little of it true. The prolific author W. C. Jameson, a descendant of the great man, John Wilkes Booth, has written a very well researched book, “John Wilkes Booth: Beyond the Grave.” What sets this book apart is stated best by the author. “Far too much of the existing “history” is little more than a repetition of materials quoted from the works of earlier writers who in turn obtained it from federal files.” The bookshelves are replete with books written by government approved writers such as the plagiarist Doris Kearns Goodwin, the unofficial government hagiographer of Dishonest Abe, and James L. Swanson, who, after beating the dead horse Lincoln assassination for years, turned his attention to the government approved version of events of the JFK assassination. Many of these “writers” are nothing more than CIA assets. To understand why see CIA document #1035-960, CIA Instructions to Media Assets: RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report, on pages 241-245 of “They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK,” by Jesse Ventura, Dick Russell and David Wayne, a book every American should read.
Much has been written about the, shall we say, inconsistencies of the “official” government version of the death of the tyrant, Lincoln. W. C. Jameson has poked enough holes in it to make the government version look like swiss cheese. The author writes about, on page 190, what he calls, “The Lewis Payne-Lewis Powell Conundrum.”
“Descriptions of the man called Lewis Payne (or Paine) offered in dozens if not hundreds of publications about the conspiracy and assassination of Lincoln add more disorder and bewilderment to an already confusing and contradicting series of events. Writers have referred to Payne as “lacking mental capacity,” having a “weak and sluggish intellect,” “crazy,” “demented,” “mentally unbalanced,” “insane,” and “illiterate.” Men such as this do not make good conspirators or spies. Conversely, a man sometimes identified as Lewis Powell is described as “almost sophisticated,” “immaculately clad,” “literate,” and a man who played CHESS and euchre in the company of refined ladies. It is clear that the above are the descriptions of two different men.”
Later the author writes, “If Payne and Powell were two different men who were look-alikes, that may, in part, explain many of the discrepancies in the historical record. Payne’s movements were hard to follow during the unfolding of the conspiracy. If Payne was constantly confused with Powell, then it is easy to see how such a thing could happen.”
“Lewis Powell and John Wilkes Booth had been acquaintances for years. Because of Powell’s apparent intelligence and his passion for the theater as well as his involvement in smuggling medicines into the South, it appears as though he could have been a suitable companion to the actor. Lewis Payne, on the other hand, possessed not a single one of the characteristics prized by Booth.”
Read this book and you will learn some of the truth of the assassination of the leader of the northern troops who raped and ravaged the Southern people, committing what are now called “war crimes.” The man captured and killed wearing a Rebel uniform and foisted upon history as John Wilkes Booth was actually a Confederate Captain James William Boyd. This was expedient for some in the Lincoln administration. John Wilkes Booth escaped and lived to be an old man. Today we salute the memory of one of the greatest actors to hit the stage.