Beautiful Flowers on the Chess Battlefield

Being pawed in the eye by Copper the dog left me with much time to cogitate, what with my eye being swollen shut. The day before I had read an article in the August issue of Chess Life, “Excutive Director’s Report,” which is by the new woman chosen to lead the USCF, Jean Hoffman, the first woman to hold the position (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Executive+Directors+of+the+United+States+Chess+Federation). I learned the USCF mission has become, “Empowering people through chess one move at a time.” I wondered what that meant, exactly.

According to the Free Dictionary (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/empower), the definition of “empower” is:
1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority.
2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable: “Computers … empower students to become intellectual explorers” (Edward B. Fiske).

Jean writes, “As a result of this process, we crafted a new mission, complemented it with our first-ever vision statement and also developed long-term organizational goals that align with our status as a 501(c) charitable organization.”

The USCF mission statement sounds like one of those Orwellian “newspeak” things along the lines of the “Clear Skys Initiative,” promulgated by the Bushwhackers, which brought massive pollution raining down upon We The People by the Bushwhacker admistration. What happened to “Chess is a lifetime sport?”
The first-ever USCF “vision statement” is, “Our vision is to enrich the lives of all persons and communities through increasing the play, study, and appreciation of the game of chess.” How is it possible USCF made it through eighteen male Executive Director’s without a “vision statement?

Chess is not for all people. USCF statistics show the vast majority of children who learn chess reject it at, or before, puberty. Why is that? A generation after moving toward scholastic chess USCF is still “studying the question.” If the USCF has a clue, it has yet to be divulged to the membership.

The new female Executive Director comes from what is now referred to as “the scholastic part of chess.” With Ruth Haring the President of the USCF board the top two leadership positions are held by women. Here in the Great State of Georgia three of the five remaining board members are women, who do not play chess. Women like change. I cannot count the times I have heard someone say after a break-up between a man and a woman, “She thought she could change him.” The proliferation of women in the game of chess has changed things drastically. This is not your father’s chess, Bunky.

A good illustration would be an article published today on the Georgia Chess News website, “Women’s Open 2014 Results” By Laura Doman. (http://georgiachessnews.com/2014/09/29/womens-open-2014-results/)
“Pink carnations were laid beside each board position. Beautiful flowers in vases graced the tournament directors’ informatics table. Yes, this was the site for the annual Georgia Women’s Open tournament, which hosted sixteen women and girls on Saturday, September 20 at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria Hotel.”

“Pink carnations” and “Beautiful flowers”? Laura Doman is a lovely woman, and I am sure she means well, but this is the kind of thing women have done, and are doing, that is off-putting to male chess players. What could be worse than to spend time getting psyched-up for the coming battle, getting prepared, as it were, to pull your sword, and arrive at the field of battle with “Pink carnations” and “Beautiful flowers” gracing the battlefield? This reminds me of an episode of the TV show, “Northern Exposure.” Holling Vincoeur, played by John Cullum, married a much younger woman, Shelly Marie Tambo, played by Cynthia Geary. Shelly began to “make changes.” Next thing you know Holling is forced to visit the Dr. Joel Fleischman, played by Rob Morrow. For the first time in his life Holling has become constipated. Dr. Fleischman cannot understand it and fails to find a reason, until it comes out that Holling had given Shelly permission to make changes in the bedroom. She had turned his rustic, log cabin in Alaska into a “pink” room with “flowers.” It was obviously more than Holling’s system could take, and he became all stressed out and “jammed-up.” I had the same kind of feeling after reading Laura Doman’s report.

This kind of thing proliferates. For example, see “Yamie Chess simul with Jennifer Shahade” on the Chessbase website (http://en.chessbase.com/post/yamie-chess-simul-with-jennifer-shahade). What is Yamie Chess? “Manufactured in the Michigan, USA, and designed for 5 to 12 year olds, the Yamie Chess® learning aid series focuses on nurturing children’s cognitive thinking and intellectual potential for mathematics, and is aligned to support the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Curriculum Focal Points in algebra, geometry, data analysis, measurement and number logic.” If you are still uncertain about what, exactly, Yamie Chess is, it will help you to know that “Under the pieces the cartoon characters can be seen.”

Scott MacKenzie San Francisco 1967(original)

Scott McKenzie – San Francisco.flv

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Chambiz on the GCA Board

I devote this post to my friend the Discman, aka NM Chris Chambers. As will become obvious, this is a reply to my last post.

“Good stuff Bacon, but it’s not a crisis.

The ship has broken apart and sunk. The pieces are beginning to settle on the bottom.

A crisis implies that something could still be done to fix the problems if those in charge acted quickly and appropriately.

In reality the leaders are long gone and the janitor, assistant cook and a couple of rats have assumed the leadership roles (in name only).

Rex brings up an important point as it relates to tournament chess – the concept of Critical Mass.

You need more than a handful of players to have a meaningful tournament, for the following reasons:

1) To make it an interesting competition.
2) To generate enough entry fees to be able to give meaningful prizes
3) To generate enough money to be able to take out a little bit for tournament administrative expenses associated with putting on a tournament

To do this you need at least 32 players in a Swiss tournament, in my estimation.

In addition to computers, the class tournament structure has also KILLED tournament chess.

If there are fewer than 32 players in a section, sections should be combined until there are at least 32 in the top section.

The idea of having a tournament with 5 different sections with 8-10 players in each section makes absolutely no sense.

I remember when people began structuring tournaments in this format and I knew then that it was a bad idea.

At most you should have 2 sections, an Open section with everybody half-way decent and better (say >1599) and a Novice section for those still learning the game.

You can have an open section and give class prizes, but if you split everybody into classes with less than 32 players per section you are fragmenting the field for no good reason.”

chambiz

Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald (’79)

Seniors Mad as Hell

In response to my last post I have received several emails. The first was from former GCA baord member Michael Mulford. After reading it I sent Mike a reply asking if I could use it on the blog. Several hours later I read his answer, surprised to learn he had left it as a comment on this blog. More Seniors need to take a page out of Mike’s book and speak up and out. I can only wonder if there are enough of them still involved with chess to matter…I am bringing Mr. Mulford’s email out of the comments section and printing it for all to read:

“Michael,

When the GCA Open events committee decides to get things lined up far enough in advance to advertise in Chess Life I will believe they seriously care about senior chess. Some people actually have to plan their priorities; I could have planned around these dates if they had been announced in advance but as usual it wasn’t. I have of course communicated my concerns with Fun Fong, who expressed agreement and essentially blamed the committee. The simple fact is that while the committee approach does a good job of sharing the workload, someone must be accountable, and that someone is the President. Whether the buck stops there or not, it clearly stopped.
The Senior Open will also draw better, in my opinion, if there are only seniors present. We need our own event. GCA used to consider the expense for the tournament to be worth it. Now, even without the expenses of the magazine, it apparently doesn’t.

Mike”

The next email arrived from REB. That would be NM Rex Blalock, who has moved back to his home South after residing many years in Portugal. I have known Rex since the 1970’s when his beloved French defense took my 2 Qe2 to task. In our email correspondence before returning to the states I warned him about the drastic changes he would find in the chess world.

“Hi Mike ,

I have grown disgusted with chess here and doubt I will continue playing tournament chess much longer . The changes that have been made are a handicap to adult players , especially seniors , and favor kids . I have been playing tournament chess more than 40 years and am not willing to accept the changes that hinder my ability to compete … I refer to faster and faster time controls and tournaments with 4 rounds in one day , as I grow older I simply don’t have the stamina to play 3 serious games in the same day , let alone 4 !! My wife has the same problem(s) of course . I look at the tournies in Ga and reject them because they have almost all become class tournaments and the Open section often has so few players in it that its ridiculous . I refuse to play any senior event that has more than one section simply because there are not enough seniors playing to support more than one section in a seniors event . As I write these words the Alabama state championship is being held in Tuscaloosa and I should be there but I chose not to go because of what I experienced in last year’s event . Last year , as this year , the state championships scholastic event was held alongside the adult tournament and the children had better conditions than the adults , this was the last straw for me . It seems to me that organizers/TDs don’t give a damn about adult players and are content to see them all leave the game , this is how I feel . Its truly tragic that adult players are being treated in such a way and I am not surprised at all when adult players quit the game.

Rex Blalock

I’m Mad As Hell And I’m Not Going To Take This Anymore!

GCA Board Resignations

Upon learning Expert Frank Johnson had tendered his resignation from the board of the GCA I reached out to him and was shocked to read, “Perhaps you might want to reach out to Tim Payne first, who led the way by two days. The Board has not officially recognized or acknowledged my resignation yet and I would like for them to say something before I speak publicly.”

Mr. Payne, also an Expert, had also been a member of the GCA board. This lowers the average rating of those left on the board, often called “Fun & the Girls,” somewhere between four and five hundred. It is so high because Fun Fong, the POTGCA, gained 160 rating points at the recent US Open after finishing a creditable -1 in played games.

My mother gave me some advice decades ago saying, “Listen to what a man says, but watch what he does.” In this case these actions are louder than words.

Queen – Another One Bites the Dust (Official Video)

The 2014 Georgia Senior & Women’s Open

The Georgia Senior Chess Championship and something called the “Women’s Open” were held last weekend at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria Hotel. According to the statistics provided by the USCF there were a total of only thirty-one players in both events combined. There were fifteen in the Senior and sixteen in the tournament held exclusively for females.

This is not true. There were only SIX players in the Georgia Open, along with EIGHT players in an ancillary tournament, the “U1800/UN,” held in conjunction with the Georgia Senior. One of the assistant TD’s, J PARNELL WATKINS JR., played an extra rated game, bringing the total of the two separate tournaments to sixteen. (http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201409215302)
There were only four players in the Women’s Open, with an additional six females in the “U1400” tournament, and another six in the “U800” tournament.

The most striking thing about the stats given on the USCF website (http://www.uschess.org/datapage/events-rated.php) is the percentage of local participation in the Senior was only 60%. It was only a little higher, 62.5%, in the combined tournament for women only.

Considering the expense involved, and the paltry turnout, this weekend must be considered a unmitigated disaster. Once again, the GCA pooh-bahs have egg all over their collective faces.

I have intentionally waited all week in hopes something, anything, would be published about the “festival” on the moribund GCA website (http://www.georgiachess.org/), or the new Georgia Chess News website (http://georgiachessnews.com/). We can only speculate why no mention has been made of the “festival.”

How bad was it? In the last round of the Georgia Senior there was only one game contested. Mark Hoshor defeated Van Vandivier, thereby winning all four games to finish first. Mark really earned this championship because he was the only player to actually contest four games. GCA board member, Adrian T Payne, lost to Hoshor in the first round. He then took a half-point bye in the 5:30 round Saturday evening. The next morning he did not show for his game with the aforementioned Vandivier. The player who finished second, Chris Ferrante, only contested two games, winning one, but finishing with a score of 3-1.

I quoted LM Klaus Pohl over a decade ago when he said, “A Senior tournament should be an Open tournament because at our age anyone can beat anyone.” I have also written that if enough players enter a case can be made for a cut-off at 1600 for the Open because class “B” players are capable of beating the top players. If such had been the case in this tournament it would have allowed four additional players to play in the Open. With only fifteen players it is more than a little obvious the 2014 Senior Open should have been just that, an Open tournament.

I found a top 100 list on the GCA website. These are the players on the list of the Senior players I know to be eligible on that list who did not play:

1 GM ALONSO ZAPATA 2533
13 MARK T HOSHOR 2227
15 DAVID M VEST 2203
16 BRIAN MCCARTHY 2200
22 CM JEFFREY A KIDD 2107
23 JOSEPH COUVILLION 2102
27 DONNY GRAY 2073
29 TIMOTHY BROOKSHEAR 2055
34 ALAN G PIPER 2018
38 KEVIN LEE SCHMUGGEROW 2007
46 DAVID LORENTZSON 1975
47 GEORGE LEITE 1971
50 JUSTIN B MORRISON 1960
66 JEFFREY RYMUZA 1900
74 JOHN RICHARD SIMMONS 1879
MARK E COUVILLION 1879
85 JARED P RADIN 1841
86 MURPHY G CLAY 1836
88 COLIN POTTS 1831
92 JOHN D AUSTIN 1810
93 MICHAEL A MULFORD 1809
94 ORLANDO L CANO 1808
96 W MICHAEL BACON 1800

When first looking for the crosstable I went to the USCF website and typed in the name of one of the most prolific Senior players, Alan Piper, the man who won the 2012 Georgia Senior. Although he chose not to defend his title last year, playing at the same site in a different tournament, a terrible indictment of the GCA, I thought he may have played this year since the GCA decided to discontinue the “stipend” prize, which hardly any Georgia Senior thought a good idea. Since I was unable to find the crosstable I assumed the tournament had yet to be rated. The Legendary Georgia Ironman disabused me of such thinking when he told me how to retrieve the crosstable. It was then I learned former Senior Champion Piper had failed to play. If it were not so serious it would be Fun E.

Speaking of the President of the GCA, Fun Fong, he has the power and continued pounding that square peg into a round hole this year by having the “stipend” prize in the Women’s Open. It was a bad idea several years ago which did not work and it is STILL a bad idea that has not worked. Nevertheless, the POTGCA found another round hole and continues to pound that square peg, whacking away with a “whap”, “whap,” “whap.” Fun is obviously in love with his ridiculous idea and refuses to give it up, regardless of the evidence against his ill-fated idea.

The tournament had fallen so far off of my radar that I was unaware of it when Tim mentioned it to me last Saturday, the first day of the tournament. I am obviously not alone. As it turned out I would not have been able to play because of my eye. If I had been aware of the tournament and my eye had not been punctured by Copper, the dog, I would still have had grave reservations about playing because of the disasters the last two years. A decision to play would have meant having to take a half-point bye in the second round because of the late start time, something difficult to do in a four round tournament. The Sunday round times were ten and three-thirty. Why could the round times on Saturday have not been the same?

Former Senior champion David Vest would have played, but he was committed to the Championship Chess 7th Annual Fall Kickoff, as was the Ironman, and Scott Gandy. The GCA knew this when choosing the date for the Georgia Senior. The aforementioned gentlemen wonder if that is the very reason the GCA chose last weekend to hold the tournament.

As for the Women’s Open, the top female players in the state, WIM Carolina Blanco, Bella Belegradek, and Elena Gratskaya, did not play. One of the women on the women’s chess committee, Caroline Lantelme, did not play. None of the three women on the GCA board, 2nd Vice President Katie Hartley; Treasurer Pam Little; or 1st Member-at-large Laura Doman, participated in the Women’s Open. The editor of the Georgia Chess News website, Tricia Hill, did not play. 1st Vice President of the GCA Ben Johnson did not play in the Senior Open. I do not know the age of Fun E Fong, but if eligible, he too, did not play. It is obvious the GCA pooh-bahs did not support their own tournament.

Things will not change in Georgia until those who have the power relinquish it to others who have a clue.

Snap – I ve Got The power

Would You Take the Pawn?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Andrew Sisters & Bing Crosby-Accentuate The Positive

Chess Life Editor Daniel Lucas and Mental Illness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hoarding Song

Kathy Griffin – ‘Hoarders’