Chess Versus Go

Richard Bozulich is writing a series of essays on various go topics. The first is, The Interplay of Intuition and Brute-Force Analysis in the Game of Go. (http://www.usgo.org/news/2015/03/two-new-books-from-kiseido-and-bozuliuch-launches-online-series/)
The one with interest for the chess world is the second, Chess and Go: A Comparison. (http://www.usgo.org/news/2015/03/spring-sale-at-kiseido/)

“Richard Bozulich (born 1936) is an American author and publisher of go books in English and a college math professor. He co-founded the Ishi Press. Bozulich was born in Los Angeles, California. He attended UCLA and in 1966 graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in mathematics. Bozulich had worked his way through college by buying and selling highly technical used books and upon graduation decided to become a book publisher. He moved to Japan and in 1968 in partnership with Stuart Dowsey founded The Ishi Press, a book and magazine publishing company that primarily published books about the game of go. In 1982 Bozulich founded Kiseido Publishing Company. Richard Bozulich has written or published more than one hundred books and magazine and newspaper articles about the game of go. He is the world’s most prolific author of go materials in English.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bozulich)

He begins Chess and Go: A Comparison with, “Chess and go are games rich in both strategy and tactics. Because of the relatively small size of the chess board (64 squares), chess is considered to be more of a tactical game than a strategic one, in which gaining a material advantage is the all important first step to the eventual mating of the king. The small size of the chess board does not seem to be conducive to strategic ideas.

Go, on the other hand, with its enormous playing field of 361 points, is generally considered to be a game in which both strategy and tactics are equally represented.

For sure, there are a large number of principles that govern go strategy. With respect to tactics, there are at least 45 different kinds of tesujis that can be used to gain a tactical and, ultimately, a strategic advantage. Many of the strategic and tactical principles of go are encapsulated in a hundred or so go proverbs. In addition, there are a large number of other strategic principles which make up go theory and are instinctively understood by all strong players.

What about chess? What are the principles that guide a player to make sound strategic moves?

When I first started to investigate this, I didn’t expect to find too many strategic principles. I was sure that there would be many more chess ‘tesujis’. ((teh-soo-djee) (skillful play) (http://senseis.xmp.net/?GoTerms) To my surprise, I found more than 60 strategic chess principles, but only 13 chess tesujis.

In spite of the paucity (compared to go) of its tesujis, chess is still a game rich in tactical maneuvers that require deep and accurate analysis. However, due to the small size of the chess board, a small slip in reading is often catastrophic, whereas in go, small mistakes in reading are not necessarily fatal, as compensation can be obtained in other parts of the board.

In a game of chess, there is essentially one battle going on. Only one opening can be played and the opening chosen sets the strategic theme of the game. In go, each corner of the board can feature a different opening (joseki) each with its own strategic theme. Skirmishes also arise on the sides, so there are numerous battles going on simultaneously in different parts of the board, but they are all interconnected and coordinating them into one coherent strategy is what makes go a very difficult and profound game.

There are a number of strategic concepts that exist in go but not in chess. They are analogous to the ones used in decision-making situations in business, geo-politics, or in everyday life.” (http://www.magicofgo.com/roadmap9/chess%20and%20go.htm)

Richard then contrasts Go principles with the principles of Chess in the rest of this highly interesting and provocative look at the differences between the Royal game and Go.

Programmers Attack Go With Brute Force

Last June an article by Jonathan Schaeffer, Martin Müller & Akihiro Kishimoto, AIs Have Mastered Chess. Will Go Be Next? was published. “Randomness could trump expertise in this ancient game of strategy,” followed. “Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, had been creating game-playing artificial intelligence programs for 15 years when Martin Müller and Akihiro Kishimoto came to the university in 1999 as a professor and graduate student, respectively. Kishimoto has since left for IBM Research–Ireland, but the work goes on—and Schaeffer now finds it plausible that a computer will beat Go’s grand masters soon. “Ten years ago, I thought that wouldn’t happen in my lifetime,” he says.” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/artificial-intelligence/ais-have-mastered-chess-will-go-be-next)

Jonathan Schaeffer is the man behind Chinook, the computer program that solved Checkers. You can find the paper, Checkers is Solved, to learn about the proof here: (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/)
He has also revised his book first published in 1997, One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers, which I read years ago. Jonathan Schaeffer is like E. F. Hutton in that when he talks about a computer game program, you listen.

For years I have followed news of computer Go programs. Before sitting down to punch & poke I searched for the latest news, coming up empty. This as good news for humans because Go is the last board game bastion holding against machine power. It is also the world’s oldest, and most complicated, board game. It “originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. It was considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. Its earliest written reference dates back to the Confucian Analects.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28game%29)

Schaeffer and his group have developed a Go-playing computer program, Fuego, an open-source program that was developed at the University of Alberta. From the article, “For decades, researchers have taught computers to play games in order to test their cognitive abilities against those of humans. In 1997, when an IBM computer called Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, at chess, many people assumed that computer scientists would eventually develop artificial intelligences that could triumph at any game. Go, however, with its dizzying array of possible moves, continued to stymie the best efforts of AI researchers.”

In 2009 Fuego “…defeated a world-class human Go player in a no-handicap game for the first time in history. Although that game was played on a small board, not the board used in official tournaments, Fuego’s win was seen as a major milestone.”

They write, “Remarkably, the Fuego program didn’t triumph because it had a better grasp of Go strategy. And although it considered millions of possible moves during each turn, it didn’t come close to performing an exhaustive search of all the possible game paths. Instead, Fuego was a know-nothing machine that based its decisions on random choices and statistics.”

I like the part about it being a “know-nothing machine.” I have often wondered if humans, like Jonathan Schaeffer, who are devoting their lives to the development of “thinking” machines, will be reviled by future generations of humans as is the case in the Terminator movies. It could be that in the future humans will say, “Hitler was nothing compared to the evil SCHAEFFER!” If I were supreme world controller a command would be issued ending the attempts to crack Go, leaving my subjects one beautiful game not consigned to the dustbin of history, as has been the fate of checkers. I fear it is only a matter of time before chess meets the same fate. GM Parimarjan Negi was asked in the “Just Checking” Q&A of the best chess magazine in the history of the universe, New In Chess 2014/6, “What will be the nationality of the 2050 World Champion?” He answered the question by posing one of his own, “Will we still have a world championship?” Good question. I would have to live to one hundred to see that question answered. Only former President of the GCA, and Georgia Senior Champion, Scott Parker will live that long, possibly still be pushing wood in 2050, if wood is still being pushed…

The article continues, “The recipe for building a superhuman chess program is now well established. You start by listing all possible moves, the responses to the moves, and the responses to the responses, generating a branching tree that grows as big as computational resources allow. To evaluate the game positions at the end of the branches, the program needs some chess knowledge, such as the value of each piece and the utility of its location on the board. Then you refine the algorithm, say by “pruning” away branches that obviously involve bad play on either side, so that the program can search the remaining branches more deeply. Set the program to run as fast as possible on one or more computers and voilà, you have a grand master chess player. This recipe has proven successful not only for chess but also for such games as checkers and Othello. It is one of the great success stories of AI research.”

Voilà, indeed.

“Go is another matter entirely,” they write, “The game has changed little since it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and millions around the world still enjoy playing it.”

But for how long?

“Game play sounds simple in theory: Two players take turns placing stones on the board to occupy territories and surround the opponent’s stones, earning points for their successes. Yet the scope of Go makes it extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for a program to master the game with the traditional search-and-evaluate approach.”

This is because, “For starters, the complexity of the search algorithm depends in large part on the branching factor—the number of possible moves at every turn. For chess, that factor is roughly 40, and a typical chess game lasts for about 50 moves. In Go, the branching factor can be more than 250, and a game goes on for about 350 moves. The proliferation of options in Go quickly becomes too much for a standard search algorithm.”

Hooray! That is the good news, and there is more…”There’s also a bigger problem: While it’s fairly easy to define the value of positions in chess, it’s enormously difficult to do so on a Go board. In chess-playing programs, a relatively simple evaluation function adds up the material value of pieces (a queen, for example, has a higher value than a pawn) and computes the value of their locations on the board based on their potential to attack or be attacked. Compared with that of chess pieces, the value of individual Go stones is much lower. Therefore the evaluation of a Go position is based on all the stones’ locations, and on judgments about which of them will eventually be captured and which will stay safe during the shifting course of a long game. To make this assessment, human players rely on both a deep tactical understanding of the game and a clear-eyed appraisal of the overall board situation. Go masters consider the strength of various groups of stones and look at the potential to create, expand, or conquer territories across the board.”

This sounds good so far, but then they continue, “Rather than try to teach a Go-playing program how to perform this complex assessment, we’ve found that the best solution is to skip the evaluation process entirely.”

Oh no, Mr. Bill!

“Over the past decade, several research groups have pioneered a new search paradigm for games, and the technique actually has a chance at cracking Go. Surprisingly, it’s based on sequences of random moves. In its simplest form, this approach, called Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), eschews all knowledge of the desirability of game positions. A program that uses MCTS need only know the rules of the game.”

I do not know about you, but I am hoping, “What happens in Monte Carlo stays in Monte Carlo.” Do you get the feeling we are about to be Three Card Monte Carloed?

“From the current configuration of stones on the board, the program simulates a random sequence of legal moves (playing moves for both opponents) until the end of the game is reached, resulting in a win or loss. It automatically does this over and over. The magic comes from the use of statistics. The evaluation of a position can be defined as the frequency with which random move sequences originating in that position lead to a win. For instance, the program might determine that when move A is played, random sequences of moves result in a win 73 percent of the time, while move B leads to a win only 54 percent of the time. It’s a shockingly simple metric.”

“Shockingly simple,” my jackass. There is much more to the article, including this, “The best policies for expanding the tree also rely on a decision-making shortcut called rapid action value estimation (RAVE). The RAVE component tells the program to collect another set of statistics during each simulation.”

As in “Raving lunatic.” The article provides a list of what current computer programs have done to games, and how they rate in “…two-player games without chance or hidden information…”

TIC-TAC-TOE (Game positions, 10 to the 4th power) = Toast

OWARE (Game positions, 10 to the 11th power) = Fried

CHECKERS (Game positions, 10 to the 20th power)= Cooked

OTHELLO (Game positions, 10 to the 28th power)= Superhuman

CHESS (Game positions, 10 to the 45th power) = Superhuman

XIANGQI (CHINESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 48th power) = Best Professional

SHOGI (JAPANESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 70th power) = Strong Professional

GO = (Game positions, 10 to the 172th power) = Strong Amateur

They end the article by writing, “But there may come a day soon when an AI will be able to conquer any game we set it to, without a bit of knowledge to its name. If that day comes, we will raise a wry cheer for the triumph of ignorance.”

I would much prefer to raise a stein and drown my sorrows to that…

The Future of Chess

“The phrase, “All politics is local” is a common phrase in U.S. politics. The former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill is most closely associated with this phrase, which encapsulates the principle that a politician’s success is directly tied to the person’s ability to understand and influence the issues of their constituents.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_politics_is_local)

The world of chess is beset with myriad problems. For example, consider something recently written by GM Kevin Spraggett on his blog, Spraggett on Chess:

RIP: Canadian Open Championship (1956-2014)

“For my readers (Canadian and international) who were wondering about the 2015 edition of Canada’s most PRESTIGIOUS tournament, I have sad news. Not only has the 2015 Canadian Open been cancelled, but it is unlikely to be resurrected in coming years. The present mind-set of the CFC executive is to concentrate on junior chess and slowly (quickly!) phase out adult chess.

The writing was on the wall for some time now, but few wanted to believe it. Despite a well documented decline in adult membership in the CFC since 2007, and calls to organize a membership drive to remedy the situation, the CFC refused to act. Adult membership levels are now 50% of normal levels. All funding of adult-programs have been eliminated.”

Grant Oen is a junior at Emory University, Grant is a 2-time GA Collegiate Chess Champion, 2-time NJ Grade Level Chess Champion, manager of the 2014 Atlanta Kings Team, and current Emory Chess Club President. He is one of the people who are the future of chess, and the future is NOW! I have come to admire and respect Grant because he is GREAT for chess in my home state.

I received an email from Mr. Oen a short time ago, and after reading it, sent an email asking for permission to post it on the blog, which was granted. Although it may be true that “all politics is local,” what happens in my home state of Georgia, just as what happens in our wonderful neighbor to the north, Canada, affects the Royal game in the WORLD. It is not just the worldwide governing body of chess, FIDE, that impacts chess, fortunately. Chess stays viable because of the efforts of those in, for example, New Zealand, even though you may not here of what is going on with chess there, unless you make an effort do so. When the chess lights go out, for whatever reason, in any town, city, state, or nation, it has a negative impact on the game of chess. I urge you to read what Grant has to say, and to forward it to anyone and everyone, and ask them to do the same. “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect)
I believe there is a “butterfly effect.” I also believe that “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” What has happened to chess in my home state of Georgia is tragic. I can only hope that you who read this learn from the recent mistakes made here and do not let it happen in your part of the chess world.

“Good evening,

First, I’d like to thank many of you for supporting Southeast Chess in its first year of tournaments. Since our first event in March 2014, we have run over 25 events, attracting 250+ unique players from 15 states. Despite being a small operation, we have offered large open tournaments, scholastics, invitationals, Grand Prix, blitz, and action tournaments which have become a staple in the chess landscape in Georgia, and will continue to do so going forward.

Southeast Chess recognizes the following players for participating in 6 or more of our events in our first year:

Shanmukha Meruga – 22 tournaments
Grant Oen – 21
Frank Johnson – 16
Kapish Potula – 10
Amaan Pirani – 8
Sijing Wu – 8
Saithanusri Avirneni – 7
William Remick – 6
Phillip Taylor – 6
Rochelle Wu – 6

I would also like to express my personal opinions on the upcoming GCA election. The following positions are up for election at this year’s State Championship:

President: Fun Fong (incumbent), Frank Johnson
Secretary: Herky del Mundo, Greg Maness
2nd Member at Large: Steve Schneider, Ashley Thomas

The remaining board positions, not up for election this year, are filled by Vice Presidents Ben Johnson and Katie Hartley, Treasurer Amrita Kumar, and 1st Member at Large Laura Doman.

I will be voting the following ticket – President: Frank Johnson, Secretary: Herky del Mundo, 2nd Member at Large: Ashley Thomas. To have a positive say in the future of the GCA landscape, I strongly encourage you to do the same.

The GCA is in a long period of deterioration under the current administration. While scholastics have shown relative success in recent years, the GCA’s organization of open tournaments has proven to be a terrible insult to our royal game. The lethargic, unorganized, and indecisive “organization” under President Fong has devastated the hundreds of chess players in Georgia. Developing youngsters and seasoned masters alike have not been shown any respect as players by the GCA.

Fun Fong, additionally, has not fulfilled his designated role as GCA President. Supposedly, the responsibilities undertaken by his office are to support chess in Georgia through and through. However, Fun has shown a clear conflict of interest in only supporting the GCA’s events, and not providing any measure of support to the rest of the community.

For example, when former Emory Chess Club President Jeff Domozick and I were developing the idea for Southeast Chess to fill a meaningful gap in Georgia, we approached Fun to hear his thoughts and potential improvements on our business plans. His response could not have been more negative – he was critical of our idea, and warned us of the dangers and difficulties of running tournaments, strongly suggesting us to abandon the venture.

Of course, we were persistent, and although Jeff graduated Emory in Spring 2014, I have continued the Southeast Chess enterprise and hope that many of you would agree that it is a professionally-run and successful tournament business. Similar stories regarding Fun have been echoed by American Chess Promotions owner Thad Rogers and North Georgia Chess owner Kevin Schmuggerow, both of whom I greatly respect for their pursuits as chess organizers.

Throughout his tenure as GCA President, Fun has shown a clear preference for having all chess activities remain under the flailing umbrella of the GCA, and shuns all other ventures. Throughout Southeast Chess’ infancy, Fun was loathe to extend us help of any kind, threatening us not to use any TDs under the GCA’s umbrella. The President of the GCA should simply support all chess events in Georgia. Fun’s unprofessional behavior overall has led to many resignations on the GCA board and its subcommittees. Support for Fong among the rank and file in Georgia chess has been all but diminished.

Of course, there are many other reasons for which I could criticize the incumbent candidate (print magazine extinct, abuse of power, no support for players, school programs, or organizers), but I am of course also obligated to mention why I am voting for Frank Johnson.

Frank has significant chess experience in all capacities. He is an avid player, organizer, director, project manager, coach, parent, former GCA secretary, and overall chess supporter. He supports tournaments all across the state and country, and organizes and directs his own events under the popular Chess-coach.net label. He has years of experience and knowledge in working with developing chess communities, and has sponsored hundreds of local formal and informal chess meetups in the greater Atlanta area, including Atlanta Chess Mess.

As a personal aside, Frank proved essential in helping Southeast Chess get off the ground by providing critical organizational advice, helping to market the events, and playing in them himself. He served in an important management position in the Atlanta Kings chess team, a co-venture between my friend Thad Rogers and I.

Frank has shown significant expertise in all arenas of Georgia chess. Most importantly, he in unbiased in his vision to move the chess community forward. Right now there is a disconnect between players, organizers, and the GCA. Frank has essential plans in place for removing this disconnect for the benefit of all parties. He is a true chess professional who, as President, will develop the GCA into the association it should be. If you have questions or comments for Frank, he is always available at frankjohnson@chess-coach.net.

For the office of secretary, I support Herky del Mundo, organizer of the Atlanta Chess Club, active tournament player, director, and supporter. Herky has been influential in the outreach to GM Mark Paragua for the annual state championship. For the 2nd Member at Large position, I support Ashley Thomas, a long-time chess parent and player.

The election is open to current GCA members 18 years or older who have paid the $15 annual dues in the last year. A current membership is also required for Georgia players in play in the State Championship. The election will be held on Sunday, April 26 at 2:30pm, between rounds 4 and 5 of the Georgia State Championship in the Hotel Wyndham Hotel Galleria. If you are interested in voting but will not attend the state championship, email secretary@georgiachess.org to request an absentee ballot by 4/12, and have it returned to the secretary by the beginning of the tournament on 4/24.

Please remember to vote, as each eligible member can have a meaningful say towards change in the future of Georgia Chess.

Thank you.”

Grant

Dana Mackenzie’s Key Lime Pi Openings

The interweb is a wonderful thing because I enjoy reading chess, and other, blogs. Occasionally the “other” is contained in a chess blog.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has recently been memorizing the digits of Pi.

Dana Mackenzie is “a national master, two-time former champion of North Carolina, and a regular lecturer at http://www.chesslecture.com.” He says, “Don’t let all of that stuff impress you, though. Deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary player. I don’t play chess for money or glory, just for the love of the game.” How can you not like a guy like this? His blog is dana blogs chess.

The title of his last post, dated March 14, 2015, was, Happy Pi Day… April 3? It begins, “Going off topic today!” Dana proves chess players do not live on chess alone…

This blog is mainly about chess, so I will leave Pi to Dana and the Ironman. Dana also writes about chess, except in “real life,” where he is a freelance science writer. You can read all about his scientific writing, and learn things such as his favorite writer, and poet, at: http://www.danamackenzie.com/blog/

Dana has written a most interesting three part Grading the Openings, which I wholeheartedly recommend. He begins Part One by setting the stage with, “Rob Weir, the statistician whom I mentioned in my last post, graciously shared with me a data base of the performance of all the openings, organized by ECO code. This allows us to create something that I’ve never quite seen before: a “report card” of all the chess openings. Which are best for White? Which are best for Black? Which are the most drawish? Which are the most or the least popular?”

Part two begins, “First of all, let me announce that my last post, Grading the Openings (Part One), unexpectedly turned into the biggest hit I’ve ever had on this blog. The blog had 1136 visitors yesterday, which is three times more than I have ever had in a single day (except during the 2012 World Championship match, when I was translating Sergei Shipov’s commentaries).”

In Part three I learned one of my favorite openings with White, the Closed Sicilian is one of “…the top five variations for Black.” Oh no, Mr. Bill! Unfortunately it gets worse because the line I play(ed) with 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 6. Be3, known as “B26,” is the second top scoring line for Black, with only the D01 (Richter-Veresov) scoring better for BLACK. Say it ain’t so, Joe…

I also learned, from one of the many comments, of the “Zombie Apocalypse Tournament, March 14 – 15, 2015.”
I kid you not. If the High Planes Drifter had known of this tournament I am certain he would have imitated the Nashville Strangler and driven all night in order to make it to the round on time at the Lory Student Center, CSU Campus Rooms, Grey Rock Room, on the CSU campus in Ft. Collins, Colorado, because David Vest loves all things Zombie! Bill Wall left the comment and let us know it was “Open to all USCF members and “Zombies.” I cannot make this up, folks. “First round starts at 10 AM but free pie will be served at 3/14/2015 at 9:26:53 AM following the sequence of pi. Shirley Herman has asked for Peach Pie ala mode and Philipp Ponomarev has asked for Key Lime Pie.”

Is this a great blog, or what?!

Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index

The Daily Chess News Roundup Show

Sevan A. Muradian, International Arbiter and International Organizer, and Illinois Delegate, posted a link to a skit on The Daily Show on the USCF forum, without making any comment. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=21282&sid=a4a1a47dac15766671e98aa586184c71)

For those who do not know, The Daily Show is a popular comedy show. I recall some years ago reading something about more young people obtaining news from Jon Stewart’s show than from what is now called “mainstream” news sources, such as the antiquated “big three,” ABC, NBC, and CBS, Cable News Network, and the “Fairly Unbalanced” FOX news network. After watching what passes for news on FOX who can blame them?

Someone using the handle “chessdad 64” in Chicago left this comment:

“I like the Daily Show a lot, but I thought this bit fell flat on its face. Rather than it’s usual clever, and creative insights, this piece relied upon the age old tired stereotypes that characterize chess culture (nerds, boredom, et al). The lameness of this sketch reflects upon the failure and laziness of the Daily Show’s writing staff as well as that of chess industrial complex in the US which has done nothing to effectively dispel the popular culture of these tired antiquated yarns.”

It has been my experience that some, if not most, of those in the chess world simply cannot understand how the players of the Royal game are perceived by those outside the world of chess. Perception is reality. For example, consider this headline from December 10, 2014, Half of Americans Don’t Want Their Sons Playing Football, Poll Shows (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2014-12-10/bloomberg-politics-poll-half-of-americans-dont-want-their-sons-playing-football). The next headline informs us of which half:
Poll: Wealthy, College-Educated Less Likely to Want Kids to Play Football (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/football-high/poll-wealthy-college-educated-less-likely-to-want-kids-to-play-football/).

Parents do not want their children maimed. This is the secondary headline in the latter article: “Women and elites in particular want to keep their boys off the gridiron.” Football is dying. It could be the game will still be played by those from the lower socioeconomic class, as is the case in boxing, but what has passed for football in this country has seen its heyday.

Chess people are quick to point out how many are playing chess these days. What they do not mention is the vast majority are children who are doing what they are told. When the children first begin to think for themselves and begin questioning, around puberty, they quit playing chess. Could the reason be they learn the perception of chess is that it is considered a strange game by the vast majority of the people in the world? Could it be the children realize there is much truth in the way chess is portrayed by the media? Could it be that many of the children want to be accepted by their peers rather than being ostracized for playing what is thought of as a “weird” game?

I laughed uproariously at the skit, especially the part about Rootin’ Tootin’ RasPootin’…Check it out for yourself here: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/oxku1b/chess-news-roundup

‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ Found Beaten and Stabbed to Death

Stephen Dillard, 55, was found beaten and stabbed to death Friday in his Jeffersontown, Kentucky, home, and police charged one of his former foster kids with murder. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/14/mr-kentucky-chess-found-stabbed-jtown/24771833/)

Police said around 11 a.m., Ronshai Jenefor beat and stabbed to death a man at his home on Thelma Lane. Jeffersontown investigators found Jenefor walking in the rain, not far from the scene, two hours after the body of the Carrithers Middle School teacher was discovered in the home. Police said Jenefor confessed to the killing and had lived there. (http://www.whas11.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/13/20-year-old-faces-murder-charge-after-teacher-killed-in-jeffersontown/70310244/)

Even in confirming the death of 55-year-old Dillard, police disclosed scant details about the events leading up to Dillard’s homicide and the arrest of Ronshai Jenefor, 21, a foster son who had lived with Dillard for several months. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/03/15/community-mourns-slain-chess-mentor-teacher/24820687/)

These are the basic facts as they are known at this time. Having lived in Louisville and having known the man everyone called Steve, I was obviously shocked upon learning of his death in such a brutal fashion. I cannot stop thinking about something former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker, a native of Louisville, used to say so frequently it became almost a mantra, “No good dead goes unpunished.”

During one of my first visits to the quick-play tournament Steve directed at a big box store, called Monday at Meijer’s, Steve introduced me to a woman seeking a chess teacher for her son. I did not know then, but now know, why Steve knew so much about the boy, who had been expelled from school. Before his brutal demise all I knew about Steve was that he was a school teacher. Because I tried to teach this boy for about two years, I have a practical understanding of why Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli wrote in Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/chess-offers-low-level-gains-for-society/) “…compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems.” Steve also gave me what turned out to be prophetic advice on a personal matter which I, being the recalcitrant type, did not take, to my detriment.

Steve and I met over the board only once, with that being a quick-play game at a Barnes & Noble. I had the black pieces and played the Dutch. We reached a locked-up position and he offered a draw, which I refused. After losing, Steve asked me why I had turned down his draw offer, and laughed uproariously when I said, “Because I play to WIN!” I did not understand his laughter then, but after reading the following, I can better understand why he laughed.

“Wow. I am stunned.

A story about Steve, as remembered nearly 30 years later:

I still tell this one from time to time. Steve told it to us during my High School days (back in the 1980s) when someone directing a tournament (Geoff McAuliffe?) ejected Steve from the tournament floor because Steve simply could not stop laughing.

What triggered that laughing fit? A rated game Steve was playing against Don Ifill, where Don had checked Steve … with his own king … and punched the clock.”

Russ Billings (http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=2)

For the first time in years I went to the Kentucky Chess Association website to read about the death, bringing back memories of some of those writing on the forum. Nothing better exemplifies why Steve Dillard was known as ‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ than this:

“Steve paid for my first membership and encouraged me to get involved with KCA politics. He believed that I could be a positive figure in that process. The last time I spoke to him I was worried that my chess play would suffer because of my KCA board involvement. He reassured me that I could still achieve my master rating while being president.

Without Steve I wouldn’t know anyone on this thread. I probably wouldn’t even be involved in chess if Steve hadn’t left that chess club flyer at my second job in 2002. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

This is truly a sad day in chess.

R.I.P Steve. You will be missed.

Randas Burns

KCA President”
(http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=1)

In an article on the USCF website, Chess Community Loses Great Ambassador, Steve Dillard, Frank Niro writes, “He was known for his “Steve Dillard rule” where he allowed players to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score, as a way to encourage new players.” (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12989/806/)

The rule transmogrified into any player being able to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score , in contravention to USCF rules, but the chess community allowed it because of the stature held by Steve Dillard. Few reach a point when they are above the rules, but Steve Dillard had obviously reached that point in USCF. Steve had as much gravitas in the chess community as anyone has ever had in any local chess community. Steve Dillard was, first and foremost, a chess player. It is said that, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” From some of the comments on the Chess Affiliate thread concerning “threats and accusations” it is obvious the internecine war in Kentucky chess has begun, and this before Steve has been laid to rest. From what little I know about Steve Dillard it is obvious he would be appalled at some of what has been written. We can only hope the chess community in Derby City can use this tragic event to come together, not pull apart. Before they write, say, or do anything, they could ask, “What would Steve do?”

My condolences to the family, and the Kentucky chess family, of Steve Dillard. May he rest in peace.

Here is a link to Steve’s obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/louisville/obituary.aspx?n=stephen-p-dillard&pid=174427909&fhid=4753