GM Jonathan Tisdall’s articles for Matt & Patt

I would like to bring your attention to an article by GM Jonathan Tisdall published January 23, 2018. It is one of the best, most insightful, Chess articles I have ever read. It begins:

Men and machines

Drama Kings

The middle rest day is the closest thing to a half-way mark at the 80th anniversary edition of the Wijk an Zee tournament. This year’s Tata Steel Masters (and Challengers) continues a brilliant tradition of offering more than the usual 9 rounds, and a cleverly composed mix of world stars and hungry, dangerous outsiders. For me, this event is the highlight of the tournament year, with only the Candidates offering comparable entertainment when it rolls around – though that is due to high stakes rather than careful and colorful organization. I like some extra rounds and some new faces, preferably crazed with aggression. This event always delivers.

Other headers tell you much about the content:

Top this?

Shakh shock

Older? Wiser

‘Winning’

Psychology

“This tweet sparked some interesting conversation. Yes, I suppose it is true that in a way Carlsen’s tireless technical determination is also a form of psychological warfare. But torture and fighting spirit are not such unique factors – there are of course occasional wizards at maneuvering or grinding, but these skills have also been part of the daily toolkit of gritty professionals, from those on the weekend circuit to the legendary Soviet school of endgame superiority. But great technical champions tend to spawn dazzling tactical successors; Capa to Alekhine, Karpov to Kasparov, and … Carlsen to ? Presumably someone who will play like AlphaZero, on a human scale, an UltraTal. That is the idea I was trying to summon up.”

Human frailty

Compensation

“And why is it that when world champions blunder a full piece, it isn’t quite a full piece?

Catching up on today’s #TataSteelChess
On Magnus’s blunder: 17…f4 would be positionally catastrophic for Black if it didn’t win a piece.
One difference between humans and computers is that our strategic filters often trump our tactical filters at the worst possible moments.

Jonathan Rowson (@Jonathan_Rowson) January 21, 2018

I am a huge fan of Rowson’s insights, and his unique examinations of chess matters psychological. His tweet sparked a few trains of thought – another component of his observation contains a kind of inherent law of compensation – even a blunder can result in practical chances if there is any price, particularly structural, to winning the material.”

Included this because I, too, am a huge fan of GM Rowson.

The human factor

Double trouble?

Game-changer

Muppets. Muppets!

The Candidates

So dangerous

The remarks contained under Psychology brought to mind a position from the 2018 Tata Steel Challengers tournament, aka, the ‘B’ group.

Provocative play by black, to say the least. It has been written that GM Viktor Korchnoi would sometimes play somewhat ‘dubious’ opening moves in an attempt to cause problems for his opponent, especially those who were known to be ‘booked-up’. The player of the white pieces has just made her thirteenth move, which completed her development, while black, Benjamin Bok, lags behind in development.

WGM Olga Girya (2489) vs Benjamin Bok (2607)

Round 5

1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bf4 Nbd7 5. e5 Nh5 6. Be3 dxe5 7. dxe5 Nxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. O-O-O+ Bd7 10. Be2 f6 11. g4 Ng7 12. f4 Nf7 13. Nf3 Nd6 14. h3 c6 15. Rd2 Kc7 16. Rhd1 Nge8 17. Ne4 Bc8 18. Nf2 b6 19. c4 c5 20. b4 Nb7 21. bxc5 Nxc5 22. Nd4 Nd6 23. Nb5+ Nxb5 24. cxb5 a6 25. Bf3 Ra7 26. f5 gxf5 27. gxf5 Bxf5 28. Ng4 Bxg4 29. Bxg4 axb5 30. Kb1 e6 31. Bxc5 bxc5 32. Rd8 Kb6 33. Bxe6 Bg7 34. R8d6+ Ka5 35. Bf5 Re8 36. R6d3 Bf8 37. Ra3+ Kb6 38. Rxa7 Kxa7 39. Bxh7 c4 40. h4 Kb6 41. Rf1 Ka5 42. Rxf6 Re1+ 43. Kc2 Ba3 44. h5 Ra1 45. h6 Rxa2+ 46. Kd1 Rh2 47. Be4 Bb2 48. Rd6 Rh4 49. Bf5 Rh5 50. Be4 Rh4 51. Bf5 Rh5 52. Be4 Re5 53. Bc6 Rc5 54. h7 Kb4 55. Kc2 Bc3 56. Rh6 Bh8 57. Rd6 Rh5 58. Rd5 Rh2+ 59. Kd1 c3 60. Rxb5+ Kc4 61. Rg5 Rxh7 62. Kc2 Bd4 63. Be4 Rh8 64. Bd3+ Kb4 65. Be4 Rf8 66. Kd3 Bh8 67. Rg2 Rf1 68. Kc2 Bd4 69. Re2 Kc5 70. Rg2 Ra1 71. Re2 Be5 72. Bg6 Bf6 73. Bf5 Kd4 74. Re4+ Kd5 75. Re2 Bd4 76. Bg6 Kc5 77. Bf5 Rf1 78. Bd3 Ra1 79. Bf5 Ra3 80. Bg6 Bg7 81. Bf5 Ra7 82. Bg6 Kc4 83. Bd3+ Kd4 84. Re4+ Kc5 85. Re2 Ra2+ 86. Kb1 Ra8 87. Kc2 Rb8 88. Bg6 Kc4 89. Bd3+ Kd4 90. Re4+ Kc5 91. Re2 Rb2+ 92. Kd1 Rb3 93. Kc2 Ra3 94. Bg6 Bh6 95. Kd3 Ra6 96. Bh7 Kb4 97. Bg8 Bd2 98. Re4+ Ka3 99. Kc2 Rb6 100. Rc4 Rb2+ 101. Kd3 Rb8 102. Bh7 Kb2 103. Bg6 Rb6 104. Bf5 Rf6 105. Rc5 Rf8 106. Ke2 Re8+ 107. Kf3 Be3 108. Rc6 Rf8 109. Kg4 Bf2 110. Rc7 Rf6 111. Rc8 Be3 112. Rc7 Rf8 1/2-1/2

There is another picture I like immensely.

It looks as though the human World Champ is eavesdropping on the conversation, does it not?

This is Chess writing at its best. The wonderfully excellent article can be found in its entirety here:

http://mattogpatt.no/2018/01/23/men-and-machines/

Garry Kasparov Lives In Fear Of Being Assassinated By Putin

An article, Garry Kasparov told us what it’s like to live in fear of being assassinated by Putin, by Jim Edwards, appeared on the Business Insider website.


Garry Kasparov and Jim Edwards

These are the main points given in the article:

In 2007, a former KGB general warned that he believed former chess champion Garry Kasparov was next on a list of Putin critics to be assassinated.

Putin is suspected of condoning the assassination of 14 people in the UK.

Kasparov has lived in exile in New York since 2013. “Look I’m an optimist and I think it will not last forever,” he told Business Insider.

Putin will be a major issue at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year because US President Donald Trump will address the meeting. Putin and Trump have a relationship that baffles outsiders.

Trump gets unusually positive coverage in the Kremlin-controlled Russian media, Kasparov says.

Excerpts from the lengthy article:

When I met Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster and Putin critic, in Lisbon recently, he was sporting a large Band-Aid on his forehead. The wound had been sustained in the back of a taxi in London on the way from Heathrow Airport to a conference in Canary Wharf. With traffic crawling along, as it always does in London, Kasparov decided he didn’t need to wear a seatbelt.

Then the taxi driver slammed on the brakes.

“I was just talking to my wife, talking to my mother, looking at my phone. And next thing I remember I’m just lying on the floor with my head covered in blood,” Kasparov says. “At first, I was screaming because — now it looks fine — but I was bleeding for more than an hour, so it was pretty nasty. Then I realised how lucky I was because I had my glasses on me, these glasses, one inch down, could be my eyes. One inch on the side could have been temple.”

Kasparov went flying across the back of the Hackney cab, and hit his forehead on the top side of the jump chair. After a couple of stitches at Newham University Hospital Urgent Care, he posted a picture of his injury on Twitter. It spawned a rash of jokes in response: “Lame assassination attempt, Putin is desperate,” that kind of thing, Kasparov says. “The best one was, ‘are you preparing to play Gorbachev at Halloween?’ I was lucky, but now I buckle up.”

That Putin joke is only half funny.

Kasparov really is one of Putin’s potential assassination targets. In 2007, the former KGB general Oleg Kalugin told Foreign Policy magazine that Putin’s targeted killings would one day reach Kasparov.

Cryptically, Kalugin said: “People who knew them are all dead now because they were vocal, they were open. I am quiet. There is only one man who is vocal, and he may be in trouble: [Former] world chess champion [Garry] Kasparov. He has been very outspoken in his attacks on Putin, and I believe that he is probably next on the list.”

Kasparov is no longer one of Putin’s most visible critics, but Putin still regularly assassinates inconvenient Russians. Fourteen people have been killed in the UK on Putin’s orders, according to an exhaustive investigation by BuzzFeed.

As world leaders, billionaires, and oligarchs meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, again this year, Putin and Russia are suddenly one of the biggest issues at the conference.

That’s because US President Trump will address the Alpine gathering for the first time. Trump has repeatedly expressed his enthusiasm and admiration for Putin. And many in America believe Russia covertly interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a way that swayed votes toward Trump.

Russia is normally mere background noise at Davos. While Russia has a large military and is not afraid to flex its muscles in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria, the country itself is relatively poor. Its GDP ranks below Italy and Canada, and only just above Spain — a country whose economy was so heavily battered by the 2008 credit crisis that it still hasn’t fully recovered.

Russia’s influence in the West is limited in large part because European and US companies are afraid of doing business with Russia, precisely because of the ever-present threat of showing up on Putin’s radar.

That means individual ex-patriot Russians in the West who disagree publically with Putin — like Kasparov — can never go home. Does Kasparov worry about being in danger from Putin?

“Would it help? I live in New York, so what else can I do? I live in New York, I don’t drink tea with strangers,” he says.

“Tea with strangers” is a reference to the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian FSB secret service agent who was fatally poisoned in 2006 when he met two Putin agents at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair who placed radioactive polonium-210 into his drink.

“I don’t travel to certain countries where I believe that my security could be in jeopardy. So, unfortunately, the list of the countries I have to avoid is growing,” Kasparov says.

Of course, the big unanswered question for everybody in Davos is, what is the true nature of the relationship between Putin and Trump? Does Putin have some kind of hold over Trump — as the infamous Steele dossier suggests? Or is it simply that Trump really likes to be in the presence of powerful people, and that Putin — and ex-KGB man — is playing him like an asset, as James Clapper, the former US director of national intelligence, believes?

Kasparov doesn’t believe it is quite that sinister.

“No, what I saw from the beginning of the US presidential campaign is that the Russian press they like Trump but for different reasons. So they started liking him because he could help them to portray US elections as a circus. And this is, by the way, a part of Putin’s message, both inside and outside of Russia. Truth is relative — everybody’s bad. We bad, they bad,

we corrupt, they corrupt. We don’t have democracy, they have a circus. So that was the original message,” he says.

“America-bashing is 24/7 on all the Russian channels, on Kremlin-controlled media,” Kasparov says. “Trump is an exception. Trump personally is not criticised. The only criticism, mild criticism, is that he’s too weak to fight the deep state, which is amazing. … So everything’s bad in America. Except Trump, who’s a good guy.”

http://www.businessinsider.com/garry-kasparov-fear-of-being-assassinated-by-putin-2018-1

I have never understood what our Republican Presidents have seen in Vladimir Putin. For example, George Dubya Bush infamously said, “I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialog. I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

Dubya has even painted a picture of Vladimir Putin:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/the-26-biggest-bromance-moments-between-george-w-bush-and-vl?utm_term=.bn0KKbLgZV#.fkOaa5ylzQ

Now the Trumpster has a bromance with Vladimir.

I just do not understand what it is they find so mesmerizing when they look into the eyes of Vladimir Putin.

Magnus ‘The Headless Machine Gunner’ Carlsen Norway’s Bravest Son

The World human Chess Champion from Norway, Magnus ‘Roland’ Carlsen,

made what he called a “crude” blunder in playing his 17th move, pawn to g4, against fellow British Grandmaster Gawain Jones

in the 8th round of the 80th Tata Steel Masters Chess Tournament. The move lost a piece, certain death against any Grandmaster, even one rated almost 200 points less on th Elo scale. Ordinarily a Grandmaster will resign to another Grandmaster after dropping a piece, but Magnus showed absolutely no respect

for his opponent by continuing the game. GM Jones began showing why he deserved no respect by playing like a patzer after receiving the “gift.” He proved World Champion Emanuel Lasker

correct when he said, “The hardest game to win is a won game.”

I give the game for the record:

Magnus ‘The Headless Machine Gunner’ Carlsen vs Gawain ‘Another Round’ Jones

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O d5 10. Qe1 e5 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. exd5 Nxd5 13. Bc4 Be6 14. Kb1 Re8 15. Ne4 f5 16. Ng5 Bc8 17. g4 f4 18. h4 fxe3 19. Qxe3 h6 20. Qc5 Bb7 21. Ne4 Re6 22. h5 Qb6 23. g5 hxg5 24. Qa3 Rb8 25. b3 Qd8 26. Qxa7 gxh5 27. Rxh5 Rg6 28. Rxg5 Rxg5 29. Nxg5 Qc8 30. Rg1 Ra8 31. Qb6 Ra6 32. Qc5 Qd7 33. Ne4 Kh8 34. Qf2 Qe7 35. Bxa6 Bxa6 36. Qh2+ Kg8 37. Qh6 Qa7 38. Qe6+ Kf8 39. Rg5 Ne3 40. Qd6+ Kf7 41. Nc5 Bc8 42. Rxg7+ 1-0

To his credit GM Jones did consent to be interviewed before heading to the pub.

“Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner” as written by David Eric Lindell and Warren Zevon….

Roland was a warrior
From the Land of the Midnight Sun
With a Thompson Gun for hire
Fighting to be done

The deal was made in Denmark
On a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Biafra
To join the bloody fray

Through ’66 and 7
They fought the Congo War
With their fingers on their triggers
Knee-deep in gore
The days and nights they battled
The Bantu to their Knees
They killed to earn their living
And to help out the Congolese

Roland the Thompson Gunner
Roland the Thompson Gunner

His comrades fought beside him
Van Owen and the rest
But of all the Thompson Gunners
Roland was the best
So the CIA decided
They wanted Roland dead
That son-of-a-bitch Van Owen
Blew off Roland’s Head

Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Time Time Time for another week of war

Norway’s bravest son
Time stands still for Roland til he evens up the score

They can still see his headless body
Stalking through the night
In the muzzle flash of Roland’s Thompson Gun
In the muzzle flash of Roland’s Thompson Gun

Roland searched the continent
For the man who’d done him in
He found him in Mombassa
In a bar room drinkin’ Gin
Roland aimed his Thompson Gun
He didn’t say a word
But he blew Van Owen’s body
From there to Johanasburg.

Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner
Talkin about the man
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner

The eternal Thompson Gunner
Still wanderin through the night
Now it’s ten years later
But he still keeps up the fight
In Ireland, In Lebanon
In Palastine and Berkley
Patty Hurst
Heard the burst
Of Roland’s Thompson Gun
And bought it.

http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/82475/

Board Games Are Back!

An article in The Atlantic magazine, The Invasion of the German Board Games attracted my attention because a “like” in my inbox recently was on my mind.

Below the title of the article by Jonathan Kay, dated Jan 21, 2018, one finds: Their peaceful premises and intricate rule systems are changing the way Americans play—and helping shape an industry in the process.

“In a development that would have been hard to imagine a generation ago, when video games were poised to take over living rooms, board games are thriving. Overall, the latest available data shows that U.S. sales grew by 28 percent between the spring of 2016 and the spring of 2017. Revenues are expected to rise at a similar rate into the early 2020s—largely, says one analyst, because the target audience “has changed from children to adults,” particularly younger ones.

Much of this success is traceable to the rise of games that, well, get those adults acting somewhat more like children. Clever, low-overhead card games such as Cards Against Humanity, Secret Hitler, and Exploding Kittens (“A card game for people who are into kittens and explosions”) have sold exceptionally well.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/german-board-games-catan/550826/

Secret Hitler? Exploding Kittens? To me a board game would be Backgammon, Chess, or Go. Who knows, maybe in the future there will be an Exploding Chess game on the market…

My inbox contained this: Gamer On Board liked your post on Armchair Warrior

They thought Rethinking Opening Strategy was pretty awesome.

You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!

They (also) thought “They’re here” was pretty awesome.

I always “go see what they’re up to” if someone likes a post. For the next seven days Gamer On Board is having a “Super Sale up to 80% off all items!”

They have all kinds of board games for sale, including a Ches set! Check them out. Be sure to tell them the Armchair Warrior sent you.

https://gameronboard.com/

7. The Game

Your life defined by many lies
You dwell in your own words
Distant from all that’s real
Gaze into the mirror
And behold the Face of a player

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

In some situations once so common
And then disappointed stabbed those
That once aided you in the back
Seeking truth in a glass

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

Aggressive and disappointed
You roam through life
Tossing away
Your whole future for a
Small illusion in your head

A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game
A game of life – the game of life
A game with your life – the game of life

The Tortured Face of an International Tournament Chess Photographer

An article, The Tortured Faces of International Tournament Chess Players by Michael Hardy, was published in Wired “1.22.18 09:00 AM.”

It begins:

“In 1987, Russian grandmasters Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov faced off in Seville, Spain for the World Chess Championship. David Lloda, then a nine-year-old boy growing up the small northern town of Asturias, remembers being captivated by a newspaper photograph of the two chess geniuses. “Two grown men, playing a mysterious game, with those little figures carved in wood?” he recalls thinking. “That seemed interesting.”

Unfortunately the author of the article, which is about a recently published book of photographs of Chess players, The Thinkers, misspelled the name of the photographer who authored the book, David Llada. Adding insult to injury, Michael Hardy did it again in the next paragraph:

“A few days later, a teacher at Lloda’s school taught him the basic chess moves, sparking a lifelong passion for the game that has persisted throughout stints as a journalist, author, entrepreneur, and money manager—and, most recently, photographer. About five years ago, Lloda began traveling the world to shoot chess tournaments, who then hired him to help them get publicity.”

After skipping a paragraph which does not include Llada’s name, Michael Hardy does it again but also gets it right once in the fourth paragraph:

Lloda has included over a hundred of his portraits in his new book The Thinkers, which was published earlier this month by Quality Chess Books. Llada’s favorite photos in the book are the ones he took of his childhood heroes, Kasparov and Karpov. He particularly liked Kasparov’s picture: “I think it captured his soul, all that energy in him.”

The last paragraph:

Although chess might not appear the most exciting sport to the average viewer, Lloda captures the game’s intensity through the often tortured faces of its players. “Only those who have played it know how tense a chess game is,” he says. “You spend five or six hours ‘fighting’ with someone, but you can’t touch him, you can’t talk, you can barely move…. All that pent-up tension can be felt by the observer, and I thought it could be captured, too.”

https://www.wired.com/story/photos-tournament-chess-players/

David Llada must feel like Rodney Dangerfield…

Chessbase has an excellent article about the book in which they spell David Llada correctly:

https://en.chessbase.com/post/master-class-with-david-llada


David Llada with new book from Chessbase article

Stormy Forecast For Trump

My father was a Baptist, more specifically, a Southern Baptist. Millard Cheek was the preacher at our church. Every Sunday ol’ Millard would bore the adult men to sleep while their wives would nudge them, or in some cases, give them the elbow, to keep them from falling asleep. Fortunately the men did not usually take an elbow until they began to snore…While others were drowsing I would pay rapt attention. Then, right before time to “pass the hat,” for collections, Millard would close the large Bible, pick it up, and SLAM! it on the podium. The congregation would come ALIVE. Later I would ask my father questions he could not answer, and he would invariably tell me that to become a Christian I would have to “accept the word of God like a sheep,” and never question. I was full of questions…and did not like the thought of becoming like a sheep. My father took me to see Millard in hopes he could answer my questions. He, too, was unable to answer my questions, so he, too, told me I should just “accept.” Later I heard my father tell my mother Millard had said, “There’s something wrong with your boy.”

The Reverend Billy Graham was BIG in the South, and he was somewhat large in our house. Franklin Graham

is the son of Billy,

and has followed his father in the family business. Franky has made many controversial statements, too numerous to mention, something his father did not do, at least publicly.

UK officials call for banning Franklin Graham amid planned 2018 visit

Several government officials in the United Kingdom want the country to refuse entry to the Rev. Franklin Graham for an upcoming visit, saying the Asheville-born evangelical preacher promotes hate speech.

http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2017/12/28/united-kingdom-officials-want-franklin-graham-banned-planned-2018-visit/987788001/

I thought of this when seeing the headline:

Reverend Franklin Graham: Trump not ‘President Perfect,’ but has Christian values

http://www.msnbc.com/weekends-with-alex-witt/watch/reverend-graham-assails-u-s-moral-character-praises-pres-trump-1141574723960

Trump Lawyer Arranged $130,000 Payment for Adult-Film Star’s Silence

Agreement just before election required woman to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, people familiar with the matter say
By Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyer-arranged-130-000-payment-for-adult-film-stars-silence-1515787678

“Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein: A Review

Ilan Rubin, founder and CEO, LLC Elk and Ruby Publishing House (www.elkand ruby.ru) read the post, The Laws of the Najdorf (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/the-laws-of-the-najdorf/) in which I mentioned having a desire to read the book published by his company, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein,

by Genna Sosonko

then contacted me wanting to know if I would be interested in writing a book review. I answered in the affirmative and the book was on its way. I have recently purchased another book published by his company, Team Tal: An Inside Story,

by Valentin Kirillov

and Alexei Shirov,

which has arrived and is on top of a stack of books to be read. So many books, so little time…

David Bronstein

gave a simul at the House of Pain which I have always regretted missing. The owner of the Atlanta Chess Center, Thad Rogers, had some awful things to say about the Bronstein visit. After reading the book I have a better understanding of why Mr. Rogers said those things.

The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, is a extremely disquieting book. Yet I was riveted, reading all two hundred seventy one pages in only a few days. I have spent much more time thinking about the book than time spent reading it.

I have read all of the books by the author, and in addition, many articles. Genna is one of the best writers on the game of Chess. This book could be his best work. I write that knowing some may find the subject matter upsetting. The book concerns the aging of a Giant of the Chess world. “Colleague champion” was how former World Chess Champion Max Euwe

addressed David Bronstein in a telegram after the 1951 World Championship match between Bronstein and Mikhail Botvinnik,

the man who called himself, “First among peers,” which ended in a 12-12 tie. There can be no higher compliment.

Certainly there should have been a return match for the crown, but there was no match. When Botvinnik lost his crown, first to Mikhail Tal,

then to Vassily Smyslov,

there was a return match in which Botvinnik regained the title.

“You know, Botvinnik should have allowed me a return match; he was obliged to. In truth, though, I’m glad that I’m not hanging in the gallery at the chess club. Do you realize it was just half a point, half a point? And then, everything would have been completely different. Chess history and everything else. You see, Botvinnik and I had totally different outlooks on chess, and we were quite different people, too.”

The book left me wondering if Bronstein would have won a return match. Bronstein was afraid to win the match with Botvinnik for many of the same reasons Bobby Fischer

was afraid to play a match for the Chess championship of the world against any Russian. At the time of the 1951 match Bronstein’s father was being held in a Soviet gulag. How can one play his best while wondering what the “authorities” might do in reprisal if one wins? When living in a totalitarian system one tends to want to appease those who run the system, or at least not upset the Darth Vader’s in control.

One of the themes of the book considers the mental health of the Colleague champion. It caused me to consider a book read many years ago: Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John J. Ratey.

No human is perfect; we all have a certain percentage of different kinds of mental illness. The question is what percentage constitutes a full blown mental illness? Those who judge must determine if, for example, someone who has 49% of a particular mental illness, is considered mentally ill. What if that person rates in at 51%? Where is the line drawn? Who draws the line? While working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I had several people ask me if I thought this or that person was mentally ill. My answer was invariably the same. “I am not the one to ask that question.” When asked why, the reply would be, “On more than one occasion I have heard it said in the skittles room, “That guy Bacon is NUTS!”

“Botvinnik never took Bronstein seriously. His diary was full of negative and sarcastic commentary on his future opponent’s style: “neurotic and probably plagued by obsessive thoughts, but hard-working,” is one comment.

“Disregarding the fundamental truth that several different excuses always sound less convincing than one, Bronstein found a number of scapegoats and reasons for his loss: his hatred-filled opponent, the atmosphere of that time, fear for his father, his seconds, who neglected their duties, walks with a girlfriend who didn’t care about his career, and the hardships he had endured.”

“Psychologists say that you need to separate the ‘here and now’ from the ‘there and then’. They advise you to stop feeling regret about what was in the past and not to fool yourself. Bronstein didn’t want to come to terms with his past and nobody close to him dared to tell him that the match with Botvinnik was in the past, that life hadn’t stopped, and it was time to move on. Nobody dared to hit him over the head with the facts, to bring him back to reality. I admit to not knowing how such an attempt would have turned out, but nobody even attempted it, and everybody who regularly interacted with him shares responsibility for him remaining in such a state until the very end.”

“Bronstein the philosopher and Bronstein the talker had pushed aside Bronstein the chess player, and he increasingly seemed to be almost at odds with himself.”

“Ideas were bubbling in his head,” Yuri Averbakh

recalled. “He literally breathed them, couldn’t stop talking about everything that came to his mind. ‘How does your wife put up with your fountain of language?’ I once asked him. ‘She goes to visit the neighbours once she can’t put up with it any longer,’ David admitted with a guilty smile.”

Tom Furstenberg wrote: “David has so much to talk about he constantly ‘harasses’ organisers, sponsors, arbiters, and players with his ideas, even to the point of annoying them. This is why organisers occasionally do not want him in their tournaments and people sometimes do not take him seriously.”

“Furstenberg states that Bronstein also had other offers at the time, but none of them came to anything for the same reason. When Tom strongly recommended that he speak less, and especially stop repeating himself, Davy would answer, “I like people.” Of course, that wasn’t quite true. He liked people when they listened to him in admiration. Others, though, interested him only as an outlet to revisit Davy’s past.”

“It would probably have been useful for him to visit a therapist. The latter would have asked about something, and Davy would have talked for hours without even politely inquiring “how are you?” He never asked anybody that question. I can’t ever recall him asking me how things were or what plans I had. It was always about him, himself, and his chess. His place in chess was the meaning and substance of his entire life.”

“His listeners (including me) wouldn’t ask difficult questions out of respect for this great chess player and highly insecure person. As such, we strengthened his conceit and intoxication with his own uniqueness. If my opinion wasn’t the same as his, I would rarely disagree with him openly, although I could have argued frequently. I was constantly aware that I was talking with an outstanding chess player and, at the same time, a slightly unhinged person.”

“Psychotic symptoms are a normal part of human development, and everybody has a genetic inclination to experience them. Particular risk factors, though, are childhood traumas, and a psychotic state or neurosis may fuel or intensify genius.”

It got back to me that the owner of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, Thad Rogers, said I was a “Small, insecure man.” I have probably been called worse. It made me wonder why someone would say that about me. I am, like Bronstein, a small man. Like most children who were bullied I have reason to be insecure. Bullies pick smaller boys as their targets because they are cowards. I learned boxing at a Boys Club and fought back against the cowards, and feel I have been fighting all my life. Reading this book caused empathetic feelings to be evoked.

“Viktor Korchnoi

invited Bronstein to Brussels in 1991 to his match with Jan Timman,

but he never engaged his services. “He talks so much that it gives me a headache,” Viktor explained to his seconds.

“He would trustingly take his ‘victim’ aside and he would start to fire off his ideas, thoughts, and views in a quiet, nearly toneless voice. Sometimes, they were interesting, sometimes amusing or moralizing, but always original, unexpected, and paradoxical, and Bronstein would experience genuine satisfaction if he sensed he had been able to ensnare his listener in a web of his monologue, filled with complicated twists and turns,” Mark Taimanov

recalled.

"Among his repeat stories, the endless refrain was, of course, his match with Botvinnik, and he constantly talked about what had been and what might have been had what happened not happened. His other monologue subjects included: reforming the rules of chess, including allowing the pieces to be set up freely behind the row of pawns, reducing the time allowed for thinking, the compulsory use of charts showing how much time is spent on thinking, as well as the idea that young players who think that they are the first to comprehend the game's subtleties and who receive enormous prized for doing so, dance on living classics' graves."

I could not help but wonder if a better word would have been "soliloquy" in lieu of "monologue."

"Although conversing with Bronstein was a tough challenge, the reward, when the grandmaster was in the mood, came in the form of brilliant flashes of colorful comparisons, clever thoughts and unusual conclusions that his listeners would never forget."

"Bronstein didn't like the fact that computers brought the truth in chess closer, that memorization had replaced improvisation: "By inventing computers, they wiped the wonderful game of chess from the face of the Earth. Chess is in crisis because it has been analyzed to death. The sense of mystery has disappeared. Chess today has nothing to do with the chess that my generation played."

A friend who stopped playing Chess, turning to Poker, said much the same thing, "GMs used to be thought of as some kind of mysterious Gods. Now there are considered to be nothing more than mere mortals."

Botvinnik was Bronstein's bête noire.

"Moreover, just like in all of Bronstein's deliberations, there was no avoiding the main wrongdoer. He criticized the 'computer' way of Botvinnik's thinking, claiming that the latter "reacted painfully to another man's genius and wrote with pretend disdain about chess as an art. Let's quote Botvinnik here: "Sometimes (and maybe often!) the thinking of a chess player is surrounded by mystique: the workings of a player's brains are presented as some sort of wonder, a magical and totally inexplicable phenomenon. Further, it is claimed that not only is the thinking of chess 'geniuses' a mystery, but that advantage is gained at the board thanks to some magical laws of chess art. We need to accept that unidentified laws of the chess battle do indeed exist, but that they can and will be identified just like the as yet unidentified way a grandmaster thinks. Moreover, it's fair to assume that these laws and the ways of thinking are relatively elementary – after all, youngsters play chess, and fairly well?" Botvinnik wrote in 1960."

"When he began, yet again, to claim: Believe me, that champion's title was of no interest to me," I said, "do you know David, how Toulouse-Latrec's grandfather informed his wife, born a duchess, at the breakfast table just what they had lost in the revolution of 1789?"
Bronstein looked at me nonplussed. "When his wife replied that she didn't give a damn, the artist's grandfather smiled sarcastically and stated, 'you certainly do give a damn, Citizen Duchess, because you wouldn't have talked about it every day if you didn't give a damn.' "
"Let me assure you," said David pulling me by the arm, "that I really don't care at all about this. Do you really think that I missed Na7 in game 23? Such an obvious move? Do you really believe that?"
I realized that any criticism on this matter was pointless and never again interrupted him when he got going about his match with Botvinnik.
The fear embedded in the minds of Soviet citizens who had lived through that terrible era was one reason for his unfinished thoughts, his hints, and his reticence…
How can one express the atmosphere of 1951 – when he was already an adult and a public figure – in words? How much willpower and which subtle hints are required to recreate the darkness of the time?"

Another time, "What ideas did Botvinnik have, I ask? Do you really think I didn't see that I shouldn't have taken the pawn and given white the advantage of two bishops versus two knights in game 23? Do you really think I missed that?"

Still later, "How was I supposed to play chess anyway, when I had this constant feeling of terror? Not facing Botvinnik, although I overestimated him at the time, I thought he was better than he turned out to be. No, it was terror facing my personal situation, the country I lived in, everything together. You experienced something similar, even if it wasn't for long. So you must understand what I'm talking about."

Reading the book made me think of David Bronstein as the Don Quixote of Chess.

"The functionaries did indeed dislike this now professional troublemaker, but realizing he was an oddball, they allowed him to play the role of frondeur, dreamer, village idiot, and eccentric maverick waving a toy sword.”

“That was the case with David Bronstein, too. In the half-century that followed, his tournaments included some brilliant games, elegant moves and original ideas, but there were no consistently strong results, or continual flow of inspiration. The formidable, ingenious player left him long before his actual death.You could perceive his abilities of old here and there in the games, but most of them were lacking in both joy and vigour.”

“At the very end, he became even more irritable and complained about everything. About his life ruined by chess and lived in vain. And of course, Davy complained about this Sosonko dude, who was just waiting pen in hand for him to kick the bucket so that he could publish his memoirs about the near world champion. The interesting thing, though, is that all of Davy’s complaints, although frequently unfair and exaggerated, and sometimes even absurd, had a grain of truth to them.”

“The fate of those long in the tooth is loneliness. Besides illnesses and adversity, the loss of friends and relatives, the horror of living without witnesses was tougher for him to bear than perhaps for anybody else. After all, there is no soul more desolate than an idol whose name was once on everybody’s lips.”

“Once, however, after repeating for the umpteenth time that Botvinnik had been utterly right all along, he added with a childlike smile: “Though that was still one hell of an imagination I possessed.”

“My heart began to ache at those words, however, and a powerful thought pierced my mind: “why did I write all that stuff about this great chess player who suffered so much at the end of his life? Why? What was the point of all that philosophizing and those attempted explanations? Who was all that for?” You see, I knew deep own that I shouldn’t have tried to recall anything. I should have left the departed alone in their graves and should have allowed the living to keep their illusions.”

This “Sosonko dude” was obviously troubled and full of doubt. In deciding to publish the book he has done the Chess world a great service.

“When Vladimir Nabokov

died, his niece scolded his wife, Vera, for apparently allowing her husband to die. The writer’s wife responded: “Vladimir died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed: thinking and writing.”

After reading those words I realized my life, too, will end when I am unable to do those things.

“Let’s repeat these harsh words here: David Bronstein died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed most of all – to play, discuss, and think about chess.”

This is a magnificent book, written with love for the subject. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Purchase and read this stunning, thought provoking book.

Only a Pawn in the Game

“My father taught us not to be a pawn in God’s game,” Patti Smith told Andy Warhol’s Interview in 1973. “He used to blaspheme and swear against God, putting him down. I got that side of me from him. The religious part I guess is from my mother, who is a complete religious fanatic.” Patti Smith

http://www.paulgormanis.com/?p=2147

“The there are some who just stay with the tour, all the way, day after day, show after show. I’ve met a few and have to say some of them remind me of the Chess players I’ve seen in Harvard Square, playing Chess all day long, decade after decade. You wonder how Dylan feels about those ones.” – Richard F. Thomas, the George Martin Lane Professor of the Classics at Harvard University

http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2008/06/12/hangin-out-in-harvard-square/

http://bob-dylan.org.uk/archives/1605

AlphaGo and the Hand of God

I watched the eagerly anticipated documentary movie AlphaGo

on Netflix (https://www.netflix.com/title/80190844) last night. The IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6700846/) gives it a rating of only 8.1. I would give it a 9.9, but then I have never jumped through the hoops required to rate a movie on the website. This reminds me of David Spinks, who lived and worked at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center,

as he did jump through the hoops and relished arguing about how to rate a movie. Upon learning I would rate it so highly David would, no doubt, exclaim, “What? Have you lost your mind? Nobody rates any movie higher than a 9.5!”

I spent an inordinate amount of time watching each and every game during March of 2016 while greatly enjoying the commentary of 9 dan Michael Redmond,

an American who is the highest ranking Western player ever, and Chris Garlock, the editor of the American Go Journal.

If I had to use only one word to describe the movie it would be “poignant.” Many people with no interest in the game of Go, or any game for that matter, would have little, if any, interest in watching a movie, especially a documentary, about a mere game, possibly considering it dry and uninteresting. They would be sorely mistaken. Games are played by human beings and we humans are emotional creatures. Only a psychopath could watch this movie without having feelings evoked. When something is gained something is also lost. The computer program known as AlphaGo gained a victory for artificial intelligence when man lost yet another battle with a machine.

Lee Sedol,

a 9-dan, the highest rank, professional Go player, who has won 18 World Titles, and is considered to be one of the all-time great Go players, lost the match to AlphaGo, 1-4, but won our hearts. Lee Sedol said, “I want my style of Go to be something different, something new, my own thing, something that no one has thought of before.” Unfortunately it was the silicon monster that showed something new, something that no one had thought of before. It is now known all the world over as “Move 37!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNrXgpSEEIE)

“In Game Two, the Google machine made a move that no human ever would. And it was beautiful,” writes Cade Metz in Wired.

The move reminded me of the great Go Seigen,

considered to be one of the strongest players of all time, if not the greatest, because it was played on the inside, near the middle of the board, a type of move he made famous.


Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo Move 37 reactions and analysis

In the movie one hears, “Move 37 begat move 78.” From the aforementioned Wired article: “But in Game Four, the human made a move that no machine would ever expect. And it was beautiful too. Indeed, it was just as beautiful as the move from the Google machine—no less and no more. It showed that although machines are now capable of moments of genius, humans have hardly lost the ability to generate their own transcendent moments.” (https://www.wired.com/2016/03/two-moves-alphago-lee-sedol-redefined-future/)

Move 78 has become known as the Hand of God move.


Lee Sedol Hand of God Move 78 Reaction and Analysis

Lee Sedol won the fourth game, striking a glorious blow for humans. Unfortunately he lost the final game in a close, hard fought battle. It may have been the last game a human will ever win against any program as the next incarnation of AlphaGo beat the current world No. 1 ranking player Ke Jie,

3-0 in the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China, played on 23, 25, and 27 May 2017.

Before the match it was commonly accepted that it would be at least a decade before any program was able to challenge the best human players. Beating Kasparov at Chess was considered child’s play to beating a human at Go. “The Game of Go is the holy grail of artificial intelligence. Everything we’ve ever tried in AI, it just falls over when you try the game of Go.” – Dave Silver Lead Researcher for AlphaGo

While watching the movie the thought crossed my mind that what I was watching was a watershed moment in the history of mankind, analogous to Neal Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“We think of DeepMind as kind of an Apollo program effort for AI. Our mission is to fundamentally understand intelligence and recreate it artificially.” – Demis Hassabis Co-Founder & CEO, DeepMind

A comment from a member of the AlphaGo team has stuck with me: “We do not understand enough about Go to understand what AlphaGo is doing.” I cannot help but wonder if, in the future when programs are exponentially more powerful, humans will allow the programs to make decisions for them while not understanding why those decisions have been made…

This is a great movie. The Chess player IM Boris Kogan said, “The measure of a man is how he comes back after a defeat.” In the two months after Lee Sedol lost to the computer program known as AlphaGo he won every match he played against human opponents.

We have truly entered a Brave New World.

The Shanghai Restoration Project

The Shanghai Restoration Project (SRP) is the Brooklyn based electronic duo of Dave Liang and Sun Yunfan.

In 2011 Liang met multidisciplinary artist Sun Yunfan and the two soon started collaborating – at first on music videos and live performance visuals and later on songwriting and production. The two co-produced Life Elsewhere, a playful album that weaves Zhang Le’s jazz vocals with electronica, samba, bossa nova, world music, and Chinese Taoist philosophy.

The duo’s latest album R.U.R. marks a shift from its more recent whimsical releases towards introspection, a reaction to the changing world. Setting out to find balance in chaos, R.U.R. plays with a more dissonant and polyrhythmic palette featuring atonal analog synth lines and samples including household items, Malaysian rainforest insects, China’s omnipresent in-store marketing chants, and the sounds of outer space.

https://www.shanghairestorationproject.com/?js_albums=alpha-go