CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A science fiction-inspired robot hardwired to assist astronauts launched from Florida early Friday to become the first personal, artificial intelligence-powered companion in space.
The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, or CIMON, is an English-speaking droid roughly the size of a basketball that will help German astronaut Alexander Gerst conduct experiments on the International Space Station.
“What we’re trying to do with CIMON is to increase the efficiency of the astronaut,” Matthias Biniok, an engineer for chip maker IBM (IBM.N) and one of the lead architects behind CIMON’s artificial intelligence, told Reuters.
Biniok said the concept of CIMON was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future.
CIMON also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Bret Greenstein of IBM holds an artificial intelligence bot named CIMON, following a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken on June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joey Roulette
There have been no posts in a few days because yours truly was afflicted with a dreadful sinus infection, which caused blurred vision, so internet time has been limited, as has, unfortunately, time for reading. This comes at an awkward time as there is a book to be reviewed, which was sent via email, and had to be downloaded to Toby, the ‘puter. I read enough on the ‘puter as it is, and much prefer to wrap my grubby little hands around a meaty book, such as the heavy and hefty tome, President Carter: The White House Years, by Stuart Eizenstat,
which weighs in at an astounding NINE HUNDRED pages! Unfortunately, the print is very small and therefore not easy on the eyes. It is obviously time for an e-reader as the print can be enlarged, a great selling point for the ageing population of We The People.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the dark cloud. I enjoy listening to many programs via the interwovenweb and had fallen behind, so was able to sort of catch up. In addition, there was a wonderful article about GM Nigel Short
Although aware of the podcasts, having put checking it out on my ’roundtoit’ list, I had yet to listen to one. I have spent a considerable amount of time listening to many of the podcasts this week, and will make a point of listening to each and every one of them because they are that good.
The Nigel Pod was #78 and #80 is with GM Genna Sosonko,
Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68
by Adam Bernstein June 21
a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died June 21 at 68.
The cause was cancer of the small intestine, said his son, Daniel Krauthammer. He declined to provide further information.
Charles was a conservative thinker who loved Chess. Decades ago, after learning of his love for the Royal game I began to read his column on a regular basis, something mentioned at a small gathering of Chess players, some of whom were Republicans, one of whom asked why I read Krauthammer. “Because he plays Chess,” was the reply. He seemed unable to grasp the fact that I read a conservative columnist until one legendary Georgia player spoke up, saying, “On some issues Bacon is to the left of Jane Fonda, but on others he is to the right of Attila the Hun!” Uproarious laughter ensued…I mentioned reading George Will because he had written several books on Baseball. “Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I don’t,” I said, “But I take what he has to say in consideration, just as with Krauthammer.”
Chess: It’s like alcohol. It’s a drug. I have to control it, or it could overwhelm me. I have a regular Monday night game at my home, and I do play a little online.
Charles Krauthammer (http://www.azquotes.com/quote/163123)
The Pariah Chess Club
By Charles Krauthammer December 27, 2002
I once met a physicist who as a child had been something of a chess prodigy. He loved the game and loved the role. He took particular delight in the mortification older players felt upon losing to a kid in short pants.
“Still play?” I asked.
“Quit when I was 21.”
“Lost to a kid in short pants.”
The Pariah Chess Club, where I play every Monday night, admits no one in short pants. Even our youngest member, in his twenties, wears trousers. The rest of us are more grizzled veterans numbering about a dozen, mostly journalists and writers, with three lawyers, an academic and a diplomat for ballast. We’ve been meeting at my house for almost a decade for our weekly fix.
Oh, yes, the club’s name. Of the four founding members, two were social scientists who, at the time we started playing, had just written books that had made their college lecture tours rather physically hazardous. I too sported a respectable enemies list (it was the heady Clinton years). And we figured that the fourth member, a music critic and perfectly well-liked, could be grandfathered in as a pariah because of his association with the three of us.
Pariah status has not been required of subsequent members, though it is encouraged. Being a chess player already makes you suspect enough in polite society, and not without reason. Any endeavor that has given the world Paul Morphy, the first American champion, who spent the last 17-odd years of his life wandering the streets of New Orleans, and Bobby Fischer, the last American champion, now descended John Nash-like into raving paranoia, cannot be expected to be a boon to one’s social status.
Our friends think us odd. They can understand poker night or bridge night. They’re not sure about chess. When I tell friends that three of us once drove from Washington to New York to see Garry Kasparov play a game, it elicits a look as uncomprehending as if we had driven 200 miles for an egg-eating contest.
True, we chess players can claim Benjamin Franklin as one of our own. He spent much of his time as ambassador to France playing chess at the Cafe de la Regence, where he fended off complaints that he was not being seen enough at the opera by explaining, “I call this my opera.” But for every Franklin, there is an Alexander Alekhine, who in 1935 was stopped trying to cross the Polish-German frontier without any papers. He offered this declaration instead: “I am Alekhine, chess champion of the world. This is my cat. Her name is Chess. I need no passport.” He was arrested.
Or Aron Nimzovich, author of perhaps the greatest book on chess theory ever written, who, upon being defeated in a game, threw the pieces to the floor and jumped on the table screaming, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”
I know the feeling, but at our club, when you lose with a blunder that instantly illuminates the virtues of assisted suicide, we have a cure. Rack ’em up again. Like pool. A new game, right away. We play fast, very fast, so that memories can be erased and defeats immediately avenged.
I try to explain to friends that we do not sit in overstuffed chairs smoking pipes in five-hour games. We play like the vagrants in the park — at high speed with clocks ticking so that thinking more than 10 or 20 seconds can be a fatal extravagance. In speed (“blitz”) chess, you’ve got five or 10 minutes to play your entire game. Some Mondays we get in a dozen games each. No time to recriminate, let alone ruminate.
And we have amenities. It’s a wood-paneled library, chess books only. The bulletin board has the latest news from around the world, this month a London newspaper article with a picture of a doe-eyed brunette languishing over a board, under the headline “Kournikova of Chess Makes Her Move.” The mini-jukebox plays k.d. lang and Mahler. (We like lush. We had Roy Orbison one night, till our lone Iowan begged for mercy.) “Monday Night Football” in the background, no sound. Barbecue chips. Sourdough pretzels. Sushi when we’re feeling extravagant. And in a unique concession to good health, Nantucket Nectar. I’m partial to orange mango.
Charles Krauthammer playing chess with Natan Sharansky at Krauthammer’s office in an undated photo. (FAMILY PHOTO)
Charles was as comfortable with Presidents as he was with Chess players.
Charles Krauthammer with President Ronald Reagan in an undated photo.
Charles Krauthammer with President Jimmy Carter in an undated photo. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)
Charles Krauthammer with President George W. Bush in 2008. (COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)
When Chess Becomes Class Warfare
By Charles Krauthammer March 1, 1985
Capitalism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, a woman’s first historic run for the White House — into cash. Communism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, chess — into politics.
Chess? You may have trouble seeing chess as politics. Americans think chess is a game. The “Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” in one of its few correct entries, defines chess as “an art appearing in the form of a game.” And like all art under socialism, it is to be turned into an instrument of the state.
You think I exaggerate. If I quoted you Nikolai Krylenko, commissar of justice, in 1932 — “We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess. . . . We must organize shock-brigades of chess players, and begin the immediate realization of a Five Year Plan for chess” — you’d say I was dredging the history books for Stalinist lunacies. So I bring you fresh evidence of communism’s penchant for politicizing everything, for controlling everything it politicizes, and for letting nothing — shame least of all — jeopardize that control. I bring you L’affaire Karpov, a tempest for a teapot.
The story is this. On Sept. 10, 1984, the world chess championship begins in Moscow. Both players are Soviet citizens: champion Anatoly Karpov and challenger Gary Kasparov. To win, one must win six games. Draws don’t count. After nine games Karpov is ahead 4-0. An astonishing lead.
Kasparov then launches the most relentless war of attrition in the history of championship chess. He deliberately forces draw after draw, at one point 17 in a row, to one purpose: to exhaust the older and frailer champion.
On Nov. 24, Karpov does win a fifth game, but he will not win again. On Dec. 12, Kasparov wins his first. The score is 5-1. Then 14 more draws.
Then something extraordinary happens. Karpov, known for his metronomic logic and unshakable composure, loses game 47, playing “as though in a daze,” writes chess master Robert Byrne. Game 48: Karpov loses again. The score is 5-3.
By now, says another expert, Karpov “looks like Chernenko.” Chernenko looks bad, but Karpov is 33. He has lost 22 pounds and did not have very many to start with. He is close to collapse. He is about to fall — as Nabokov’s fictional champion, Luzhin, fell — into what Nabokov called “the abysmal depths of chess.” Kasparov is on the brink of the greatest chess comeback ever.
And on the brink both will stay. Six days later, on Feb. 15, the president of the International Chess Federation, under enormous pressure from Soviet authorities, shows up in Moscow and declares the match a draw — and over. Karpov is saved by the bell, except that here the referee rang it in the middle of a round and at an eight count.
Why? One can understand the Party wanting Karpov to win in 1978 and 1981, when the challenger was Victor Korchnoi — defector, Jew, all around troublemaker, Trotsky at the chessboard. But Kasparov is not Korchnoi. He is a good Soviet citizen, a party member, and not known for any politics. He is, however, half Armenian, half Jewish. Until age 12, his name was Gary Weinstein. He is no dissident, but he is young (21) and independent. Above all, he is not reliable.
Karpov, a man who needed to be named only once, is. Conqueror of Korchnoi (twice), receiver of the Order of Lenin, ethnically pure (Russian) and politically pliant (a leader of the Soviet Peace Committee), he is the new Soviet man. And he receives the attention fitting so rare a political commodity: he says he was told of the match’s cancellation over the phone in his car. Cellular service is not widely available in the Soviet Union.
Now, this is the third time that Soviet authorities have tried to undermine Kasparov’s shot at the championsh. In 1983 they stopped him from traveling to his quarterfinal match in Pasadena, Calif. The official reason (later pressed into service for the Olympics) was “lack of security.” Only a sportsmanlike opponent and accommodating chess officials (they rescheduled the match without penalty) saved Kasparov from defaulting in the candidates’ round and losing his chance to challenge Karpov.
But challenge he did. The finals were held in the prestigious Hall of Columns in the House of Unions. That is, until Kasparov’s rally in the 47th game. Soviet authorities then suddenly moved the match to the Hotel Sport outside the city center. “Like moving from Carnegie Hall to a gin mill in Poughkeepsie,” says Larry Parr, editor of Chess Life magazine.
I interpreted the move to mean that Chernenko was about to die, since the Hall of Columns is where Soviet leaders (like Dmitri Ustinov) lie in state. Silly me. I was insufficiently cynical about Soviet behavior. The reason for the move was not to bury Chernenko (he continues to be propped up like a Potemkin villain), but to save Karpov. The move took eight days — eight otherwise illegal days of rest for Karpov.
It didn’t help. Karpov was too far gone. Kasparov destroyed him the very next day in the 48th game. Soviet officials then made sure it was the last.
Now do you believe me?
A month ago I would not have believed it myself. (Kasparov still does not believe it.) Fix the biggest chess match in the world? Steal the championship from one Soviet citizen for a marginal propaganda gain? In broad daylight?
Not all chess players are crazy. I’m willing to venture that. But not much more. Eccentricity does reign in our precincts. In my 20s, I used to hang out at the Boston Chess Club. The front of the club was a bookstore in which you’d mill around, choose a partner, put your money down with the manager and go to the back room — 20 or so boards set up in utter barrenness — for some action. (At five bucks an hour it was cheaper than a bordello, but the principle seemed disturbingly similar to me.)
I remember one back room encounter quite vividly. The stranger and I sat down to the board together. I held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Charles.” He pushed his white king’s pawn and said, “I’m white,” fixing me with a glare that said, “Don’t you dare intrude into my space with names.” It was dead silence from then on.
A psychiatrist colleague of mine came by to fetch me a few hours later. He surveyed the clientele — intense, disheveled, autistic — and declared, “I could run a group in here.”
Don’t get me wrong. Most chess players are sane. In fact, a group of the saner ones, mostly journalists and writers, meets at my house every Monday night for speed chess. (You make all your moves in under nine minutes total, or you lose.) But all sane chess players know its dangers. Chess is an addiction. Like alcohol, it must be taken in moderation. Overindulgence can lead to a rapid downward spiral.
Vladimir Nabokov (a gifted creator of chess problems and a fine player, by the way) wrote a novel based on the premise of the psychic peril of too close an encounter with “the full horror and abysmal depths” of chess, as he called its closed, looking-glass world. (Nabokov’s chess champion hero, naturally, goes bonkers.)
Chess players, says former U.S. champion Larry Christiansen, inhabit a “subterranean, surreal world. It is not the real world, not even close.” So what happens when a creature of that nether world seizes political power?
Impossible, you say: Sure, there have been dictators — Lenin, for example — who played serious chess, but there has never been a real chess player who became a dictator.
And no wonder, considering the alarming number of great players who were so certifiably nuts they’d have trouble tying their shoelaces, let alone running a country. Wilhelm Steinitz, the first world champion, claimed to have played against God, given Him an extra pawn, and won. Bobby Fischer had the fillings in his teeth removed to stop the radio transmissions.
Well, in some Godforsaken corner of the Russian empire, Kalmykia on the Caspian, where the sheep outnumber people 2 to 1, the impossible has happened. A chess fanatic has seized power. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former boy chess champion, current president of the International Chess Federation, was elected president of Kalmykia two years ago on the promise of a cell phone for every sheepherder and $100 for every voter in his destitute republic.
Naturally, nothing came of these promises. But once elected, he seized all the instruments of power including the police, the schools and the media.
Result? Ilyumzhinov calls it the world’s first “chess state.” God help us. Compulsory chess classes in all schools. Prime-time chess on TV. And in the midst of crushing poverty, a just erected “Chess City,” a surreal Potemkin village topped by a five-story glass-pavilioned chess palace where Ilyumzhinov has just staged an international chess tournament.
This scene (drolly described by Andrew Higgins in the Wall Street Journal) would be Groucho running Fredonia if it weren’t for the little matter of the opposition journalist recently murdered after being lured to a meeting where she was promised evidence of Ilyumzhinov’s corruption. (Ilyumzhinov denies involvement. Perhaps it depends on how you define the word “involve.”) Kalmykia is beginning to look less like Woody Allen’s “Bananas” than Nurse Ratched’s “Cuckoo’s Nest.”
HAYES: So then tell me this, what is the endgame here from your
perspective? It seems to me that the White House quite explicitly is
essentially using these children as hostages to try to get Democrats to
give in to a variety of demands they have on restricting legal immigration
as part of a legislative package. Is that something you`re willing to
FEINSTEIN: Well, I think that`s exactly right. Of course, we`re willing
to entertain a legislative package if it makes sense but don`t hold
children hostage. I mean, you don`t have to take 2,500 children from their
parents to get support for something. I mean, that`s bizarre and it`s hard
for me to believe that even President Trump would want to do that. It`s
HAYES: Well, he pretty clearly does want to do it, at least as advisors
do. I mean you have John Kelly talking about how it`s a deterrent. You
have Stephen Miller giving on-the-record quotes about how it`s a deterrent.
Jeff Sessions saying the Romans 13 commands us to obey the laws of man in a
godly fashion. I mean, there does seem to be a part of this administration
that knows what they`re doing.
FEINSTEIN: Well, this is the United States of – I mean, United States of
America, isn`t Nazi Germany and there`s a difference. And we don`t take
children from their parents until now. And yes, I think it`s such a sad
day. People are so upset. I just read a wonderful letter to the editor by
Laura Bush. I can`t believe that this is happening in the United States
and the President insists so we, of course, will do everything we can to
pass a bill which would prohibit this. http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/all-in/2018-06-18
With all due respect to the Senator from California, if the POTUS walks like a Nazi, talks like a Nazi, acts like a Nazi, and howls like a Nazi, we have become Nazi’s. The RepublicaNazi Trump administration is redolent with the acrid smell of Nazism.
Consider the article, It Can Happen Here, by Cass R. Sunstein in the June 28, 2018 issue of the New York Review of Books,.
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–45
by Milton Mayer, with a new afterword by Richard J. Evans
University of Chicago Press, 378 pp., $20.00 (paper)
Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the Twentieth Century
by Konrad H. Jarausch
Princeton University Press, 446 pp., $35.00
‘National Socialist,’ circa 1935; photograph by August Sander from his People of the Twentieth Century. A new collection of his portraits, August Sander: Persecuted/Persecutors, will be published by Steidl this fall.
Liberal democracy has enjoyed much better days. Vladimir Putin has entrenched authoritarian rule and is firmly in charge of a resurgent Russia. In global influence, China may have surpassed the United States, and Chinese president Xi Jinping is now empowered to remain in office indefinitely. In light of recent turns toward authoritarianism in Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the Philippines, there is widespread talk of a “democratic recession.” In the United States, President Donald Trump may not be sufficiently committed to constitutional principles of democratic government.
In such a time, we might be tempted to try to learn something from earlier turns toward authoritarianism, particularly the triumphant rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is that Nazism was so horrifying and so barbaric that for many people in nations where authoritarianism is now achieving a foothold, it is hard to see parallels between Hitler’s regime and their own governments. Many accounts of the Nazi period depict a barely imaginable series of events, a nation gone mad. That makes it easy to take comfort in the thought that it can’t happen again.
But some depictions of Hitler’s rise are more intimate and personal. They focus less on well-known leaders, significant events, state propaganda, murders, and war, and more on the details of individual lives. They help explain how people can not only participate in dreadful things but also stand by quietly and live fairly ordinary days in the midst of them. They offer lessons for people who now live with genuine horrors, and also for those to whom horrors may never come but who live in nations where democratic practices and norms are under severe pressure.
Milton Mayer’s 1955 classic They Thought They Were Free, recently republished with an afterword by the Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans, was one of the first accounts of ordinary life under Nazism. Dotted with humor and written with an improbably light touch, it provides a jarring contrast with Sebastian Haffner’s devastating, unfinished 1939 memoir, Defying Hitler, which gives a moment-by-moment, you-are-there feeling to Hitler’s rise. (The manuscript was discovered by Haffner’s son after the author’s death and published in 2000 in Germany, where it became an immediate sensation.)* A much broader perspective comes from Konrad Jarausch’s Broken Lives, an effort to reconstruct the experience of Germans across the entire twentieth century. What distinguishes the three books is their sense of intimacy. They do not focus on historic figures making transformative decisions. They explore how ordinary people attempted to navigate their lives under terrible conditions.
Haffner’s real name was Raimund Pretzel. (He used a pseudonym so as not to endanger his family while in exile in England.) He was a journalist, not a historian or political theorist, but he interrupts his riveting narrative to tackle a broad question: “What is history, and where does it take place?” He objects that most works of history give “the impression that no more than a few dozen people are involved, who happen to be ‘at the helm of the ship of state’ and whose deeds and decisions form what is called history.” In his view, that’s wrong. What matters are “we anonymous others” who are not just “pawns in the chess game,” because the “most powerful dictators, ministers, and generals are powerless against the simultaneous mass decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.” Haffner insists on the importance of investigating “some very peculiar, very revealing, mental processes and experiences,” involving “the private lives, emotions and thoughts of individual Germans.”
The conclusion of the review:
“If the president of the United States is constantly lying, complaining that the independent press is responsible for fake news, calling for the withdrawal of licenses from television networks, publicly demanding jail sentences for political opponents, undermining the authority of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, magnifying social divisions, delegitimizing critics as “crooked” or “failing,” and even refusing, in violation of the law, to protect young children against the risks associated with lead paint—well, it’s not fascism, but the United States has not seen anything like it before.
With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here, but it would be foolish to ignore the risks that Trump and his administration pose to established norms and institutions, which help preserve both order and liberty. Those risks will grow if opposition to violations of long-standing norms is limited to Democrats, and if Republicans laugh, applaud, agree with, or make excuses for Trump—if they howl with the wolf.”
In their different ways, Mayer, Haffner, and Jarausch show how habituation, confusion, distraction, self-interest, fear, rationalization, and a sense of personal powerlessness make terrible things possible. They call attention to the importance of individual actions of conscience both small and large, by people who never make it into the history books. Nearly two centuries ago, James Madison warned: “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure.” Haffner offered something like a corollary, which is that the ultimate safeguard against aspiring authoritarians, and wolves of all kinds, lies in individual conscience: in “decisions taken individually and almost unconsciously by the population at large.”
“Grant Cameron became involved in Ufology in 1975 with personal sightings of an object which locally became known as Charlie Red Star. The sightings occurred in Carman, Manitoba. In the past few years Cameron has turned his research interests to the involvement and actions of the President of the United States in the UFO problem. He has made 20+ trips to the National Archives and most of the various Presidential archives looking for presidential UFO material.
One highlight of his presidential UFO research was the chance to question Vice-President Dick Cheney on his knowledge of the UFO subject. Another highlight of the presidential UFO research was a FOIA to the White House Office of Science and Technology which yielded 1,000 pages of UFO documents from the Clinton administration. Many of these findings have been written up on his website, http://www.presidentialufo.com. At present Cameron is awaiting almost 100 FOIA requests from the White House Office of Science and Technology in Little Rock, Arkansas, related to the UFO related actions and policies inside the two Presidential terms of Bill Clinton.” (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/guest/cameron-grant/6261)
He has written many books on the subject of UFOs, including, but not limited to:
Mr. Cameron’s new show, The Cameron Files, made its appearance on KRGA radio (http://kgraradio.com/) last night.
“The “Evil-Doer”, as the Soviet chess players now called Korchnoi, had turned chess into a matter of state urgency. The Soviet leadership received real time accounts of the world title matches as though they were dispatches from the front in time of war.”
It is difficult for anyone not living when Viktor Korchnoi
defected to understand what his leaving the “Mother country” meant to the Chess world at that time.
“…in taking a one-man stance against the hulking Soviet monster, he gained the entire world’s attention and imprinted his name in the history of the game forever. Just as a poet in Russia was much more than a writer, a grandmaster in the Soviet Union was much more than a chess player.”
“Chess’s next wave of popularity was exclusively down to Viktor Korchnoi. He represented quite a melting pot: the conflict between two opposing systems, the international tension caused by that very Cold War, and his personal drama, with the Soviet authorities refusing to allow his family to leave for the West. News of this standoff made chess front-page news again, and it was even the subject of the madly popular musical Chess, which ran for years in London and New York.”
Thus the stage is set by the author, GM Genna Sosonko in his magnificent new book, Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi.
“Almost half a century later, it is not easy to appreciate what such a decision by Korchnoi meant for a Soviet citizen, and how incredibly hard it was to make that final leap to freedom.”
Sosonko emigrated from the Soviet Union before Korchnoi, but he left after receiving permission from the monolithic State; Korchnoi defected, thus earning the opprobrium and enmity of not only the Soviet authorities, but also of the citizens of Russia. Korchnoi was considered a renegade; a traitor.
The following paragraphs explain the author’s aim in writing the book:
“There was a time when Sigmund Freud
dissuaded the writer Stephan Zweig
Stefan Zweig in seinem Salzburger Domizil am Kapuzinerberg. 1931. Photographie von Trude Fleischmann. [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance/IMAGNO ]
from attempting to compile the former’s biography: “Whoever becomes a biographer forces himself to tell lies, conceal facts, commit fraud, embellish the truth and even mask their lack of understanding – it’s impossible to achieve the truth in a biography, and even if it were possible, that truth would be useless and you could do nothing with it.”
“I have to agree with the father of psychoanalysis and I have not attempted to write Korchnoi’s biography as such. Rather, this is a collection of memories, or to be more precise still: a collection of explanatory notes and interpretations of incomprehensible or misunderstood events from the complex life of a man whom I knew for nearly half a century, and alongside whom I spent in total many months – indeed years. I want to believe that these recollections will not only uncover the motives behind his controversial actions, but will also shed light on his approach to the game, his personality and behavior in everyday life. In any event, a portrayal of Korchnoi must obviously highlight the most important feature of his life – his dedication to chess – which grew into an obsession.”
“When he turned seventy, he asked me to write the foreword to his collected games. Naturally, I hardly imbued my text written for his big occasion with “plain speaking.”
“Yet, in the book you are now holding, I have attempted to do just that: in my reflections on this great player, I wanted to display him, as the English say, warts and all.”
The author has achieved his goal. It must have been painful at times to write so openly and honestly about someone with whom one spent so much time, and about someone for whom he obviously had so much affection, but Sosonko has done a masterful job in this outstanding work of art. I lived during the era of which the author writes, but did not play Chess seriously until 1970. Therefore I learned much from the early, pre-1970, period of Viktor the Terrible. Even though I have read extensively about the Chess world much of what I read in this book shed light on some of the dark spots.
“This is how Canadian grandmaster Kevin Spraggett
described a conversation with (Boris) Spassky:
He began to list Korchnoi’s many qualities:
…Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Viktor’s ‘gift’)
…Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)
…Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)
…Ability to calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)
…Tenacity and perseverance in defense (unmatched by anyone)
…The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)”…Impeccable technique (flawless, even better than Capa’s)
…Capacity to concentrate (unreal)
…Impervious to distractions during the game
…Brilliant understanding of strategy
…Superb tactician (only a few in history can compare with Viktor)
…Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation
…Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)
…Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries
…Enormous energy and self-discipline
Then Boris stopped, and just looked at me, begging me to ask the question that needed to be asked…I asked: “But, Boris, what does Viktor lack to become world champion?” Boris’s answer floored me: “He has no chess talent!”
Viktor Korchoi was what is popularly known as a “late bloomer.” He may have had little, or no, talent for Chess, but no Grandmaster ever out worked the Evil Doer. He rose to the rarefied heights attained by strong determination, and an indomitable will to win.
“Korchnoi was born in Leningrad into a Jewish family on 23 March 1931. Lev Korchnoi (Viktor’s father) was killed at the very beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War II, and Rosa Abramova (his mother) took Vitya’s upbringing upon herself. The little boy lived through the Blockade of Leningrad, the death of many nearest and dearest, cold and hunger, and at one point was hospitalized with dystrophy.”
claimed that a difficult childhood was a priceless gift for a writer, while Soviet grandmaster Alexander Tolush
asserted that you needed to be poor, hungry and angry to be good at chess. There is no doubt that being brought up without his father and his tough childhood contributed to Korchnoi’s difficult personality, and were the reasons for complexes that it took him many years to shed.”
Viktor overcame the obstacles in his path to challenge for the World Chess Championship, becoming the second best Chess player in the world.
“If he noticed somebody voluntarily choosing a passive or quite unpromising opening line, he would shake his head: “What can we say here? X had a difficult childhood, a difficult childhood.” He would repeat this at a training session of the Dutch team prior to the Haifa Olympiad (1976) when we were analyzing some opening of Polugaevsky’s. This expression caught on, and became part of Dutch chess folklore for many years: what, did you have a difficult childhood or something?”
who worked with Korchnoi in the early 1990’s, was also amazed at the famous veteran’s energy and emotional state:
The several days that we spent analyzing together during his candidates quarter-final again(st) Gyula Sax
(Wijk-aan-Zee 1991) enabled me to understand him much better than the ten or so games that we had played against each other until then. Korchnoi was spewing out ideas like a fountain. Sometimes we would spend almost an entire day on chess, yet like a child he would then continue to play around with the chess pieces, trying out various positions.
also noticed this quality:
Sometimes you ask somebody to look at a position and they refuse – “I’m not interested, I don’t play that line.” Well, you would never hear such words from Viktor Lvovich. He would analyze any position, attempting to grasp it and suggesting ideas. For example, we would look at a position where we needed to find a way for black to equalize or for white to gain an advantage. When it looked like we had found it, everything seemed to work, and we had checked the variations, I would have stopped there. Yet Korchnoi always tried to penetrate the position more deeply, and to see if there was another way.
Now the players no longer analyze, they head for the nearest computer for the answer.
“Korchnoi was sixteen when he managed to draw a game against Estonian master Ivo Nei
after escaping from the jaws of defeat. “This was the first time that I felt pleasure from a difficult, tiresome defense! But if, in my youth, the desire to defend was driven by mischief, a love for risk, then in the subsequent years defense became my serious, practical and psychological weapon. I enjoy drawing my opponent forward, allowing him the taste of attack during which he might get carried away, drop his guard, sacrifice some material. I often exploit those episodes to launch a counterattack, and that’s when the real battle begins,” Korchnoi said at the start of the 1960’s. He concluded: “Masters of defense have contributed no less to chess history than masters with an attacking style!”
“Only Korchnoi can capture that pawn!” became a widely-used cliche to describe position where any sane chess player would not even consider accepting a sacrifice.
“Shall we ‘Korchnoi’ a bit?” I had heard masters and even grandmasters suggest this during analysis back tn the Soviet Union, when they considered capturing material that appeared particularly dangerous to accept.
Journalists of course lapped up the Leningrad grandmaster’s attitude to the game: “A man of courage who chose defense as his weapon!”…”Korchnoi captured the poisoned pawn and chalked up another win!”…”After the Leningrader accepted everything thrown at him in sacrifice, his opponent found himself without a mating attack and raised the white flag.” Phrases like these were often found in tournament reports.
“At the end of his life, Francois Mauriac wrote” “I’m not brave enough to revise my technique, as Verdi did after Wagner appeared.”
“Well, Korchnoi did have enough bravery. Middle aged, he decided to review his approach to the game, to become broader minded, to throw off his focus on material, to learn to play positions with the initiative, with sacrifices and with material imbalances. He managed to do this in the prime of a successful career. Only professionals are capable of appreciating the gigantic effort that Korchnoi made.”
“He said one day: “You know, I have a son in Ukraine, he’s 32 years old. Recently, he wrote to me that he had just realized that he had lived half his life. Well, at that age I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how to play chess!
Even though that’s when I won the national championship for the second time! I suppose you need a great deal of talent to win the championship of the Soviet Union without knowing many of the laws of chess! After all, all sorts of things have been written about me! I’m a great defender, that my play resembles Dostoevsky and all sorts of nonsense. Yet I couldn’t have played any differently, I didn’t know how to! So I started to work. I analyzed thousands of games. I mastered the most important skill of all – to wield the initiative!”
“Yet, after changing his style, he retained his won, original way of looking at the game. Korchnoi’s deliberations about chess were always to the point, yet unexpected.”
I end the review here. I could continue, going on and on, ad infinitum. I have attempted to convey the tenor of the book to the reader to the best of my ability. You, the reader, will decide if I managed to impart a glimmer of what this marvelous book contains.
A personal note: While reading a book to review I never write in the book; any book. To do so would be to deface the book. A book is sacrosanct. I place paper in the book, and then reread the pages containing the inserted slips of paper. It is almost like reading it twice. I agonized on what to include, which caused much anguish after deciding to exclude parts for the review. While rereading parts of the book I cogitated on how to begin the review. This, too, caused much anguish. There is so much contained in the book that I could write other, totally different, reviews, using none of the above.
I have read every book written by the author, one of the very best writer’s on the Royal game, not to mention his many articles. My admiration for Genna Sosonko is unbounded. This work is his pièce de résistance.
Four players were at the top in the Norway Chess tournament at the start of round nine: Wesley So, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Caruana and So met each other, while Carlsen was dealt black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Nakamura faced off against Levon Aronian, also with black. Even Viswanathan Anand, with 3½ points, had chances jump into a tie for first with a win, although the 15th World Champion was black as well, against Sergey Karjakin.
Carlsen, was in no mood to take any chances against Vachier-Lagrave. When the game was in full swing on just move 17, the players began repeating moves in a position reached several times before. It certainly played a role that the two players trained together for Carlsen’s 2016 World Championship title defence, as Magnus himself pointed out in the “confession box” (in Norwegian):
Unfortunately, I do not understand Norwegian so the accompanying video could not be understood. What I do understand is that Magnus Carlsen, rather than fight like a World Champion, decided to be content with a draw. The decision by the HWCC was an insult to Caissa, and a disgraceful act unworthy of a World Champion. What kind of example has Magnus Carlsen set for all the children playing the Royal game? The above noted article at Chessbase seems to take the position, like most of the Chess world, that what Magnus did was perfectly acceptable. Chess is dying by draw, yet one hardly ever notices a discussion concerning the proliferation of draws. THERE ARE NO DRAWS IN THE ANCIENT ORIENTAL GAME OF GO! Before you send that nasty email, I am aware of the triple Ko situation in Go, in which the game is declared drawn. It happens about as often as a leap year, and when it does occur it makes news all around the Go world. Magnus did not have to agree to a draw; he did it because he is the HWC and can do what he wants to do when he wants to do it, without being called out by anyone involved with Chess. Magnus decided to rest on his laurels. As we say in America, Magnus CHICKENED OUT! I would have more respect for the HWCC if he had fought, and lost, while trying to win, rather than meekly acquiescing to a draw.
The moves in the game have been played so many times one cannot help but wonder if the fix was in…Was it a prearranged draw? Let us examine the “game.”
vs World Champ Magnus Carlsen
Altibox Norway Chess 2018
Last round, with all the marbles on the line.
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 (Stockfish at the CBDB shows 8 a4 as the best move)
8…O-O (Although Komodo shows this as the best move, Houdini has 8…Na5 best)
9. Nc3 (One Stockfish program has this as best, but the other prefers 9 Ba2. Komodo shows 9 Re1 as best)
Na5 (The most often move played in this position is 9…Bg4, and it is the choice of the Dragon. Houdini would play 9…Rb8)
10. Ba2 Be6 11. b4 Bxa2 12. Rxa2 Nc6
13. Bg5 (Although the Stockfish program at ChessBomb shows this best at depth 21 after 30 seconds of ‘reflection’, the Stockfish program at the ChessBaseDataBase at depth 30 gives 13 Nd5. Komodo at depth 24 would play 13 h3)
13…Ng4 (SF at the Bomb has this in second behind 13…Nd7. The Fish and the Dragon at the CBDB would play 13…Qd7)
14. Bd2 (The SF at CBDB plays this move, but Komodo would play 13 Be3, a TN. Meanwhile, the SF at ChessBomb would play 14 Bxe7)
(Let us stop here too reflect a moment. If the Royal game had the Ko rule, as does Go MVL would not be allowed to play 15 Bg5 and repeat the position. MVL would be forced to play elsewhere)
15.Bg5 (SF at CBDB plays 15 Re1; SF at DaBomb would play either 15 Qb1 or Ra1)
Ng4 16. Bd2 Nf6 17. Bg5 1/2-1/2
From the above it is apparent there was a plethora of choices each player could have chosen, had they been inclined to do so. They were not so inclined, for whatever reason. To their credit, fellow countrymen Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So played a full-bodied game of Chess, with neither backing down and offering a draw. THEY PLAYED TO WIN!
Magnus Carlsen embarrassed himself and his reputation with his servile acquiescence to split the point. Magnus took a page out of the old Soviet Union Chess playbook when he decided to not fight in the last round of a major tournament held in HIS OWN COUNTRY! Oh, the SHAME…
Since the candidates tournament I have vacillated between the choice of Magnus versus Fabiano to win the upcoming World Human Chess Championship. The fact is that Caruana has shown much more fighting spirit in the tournaments in which the two have battled since the candidates tournament. Fabiano Caruana has demonstrated tremendous FIGHTING ability recently. We Chess fans can only wish the WCC were longer, as in the past. Mikhail Botvinnik considered sixteen games the optimum number of games, and who would know better than the Botvinnik? If it were a sixteen game match, without any speed games in case of a tie, I would wager on Fabi. Magnus is a much superior speed Chess player, so Magnus has draw odds going into the match, which is an unfair advantage. Speed Chess is NOT Chess! It is ABSURD to settle a WCC with speed games. I have often heard that “speed kills.” Speed Chess is killing the Royal game! The title of WCC should NOT be won by playing speed Chess!
This is not a column about whether Donald Trump is a quisling — a politician who serves the interests of foreign masters at his own country’s expense. Any reasonable doubts about that reality were put to rest by the events of the past few days, when he defended Russia while attacking our closest allies.
We don’t know Trump’s motivation. Is it blackmail? Bribery? Or just a generalized sympathy for autocrats and hatred for democracy? And we may never find out: If he shuts down the Mueller investigation and Republicans retain control of Congress, the cover-up may hold indefinitely. But his actions tell the story.
As I said, however, this isn’t a column about Trump. It is, instead, about the people who are enabling his betrayal of America: the inner circle of officials and media personalities who are willing to back him up whatever he says or does, and the wider set of politicians — basically the entire Republican delegation in Congress — who have the power and constitutional obligation to stop what he’s doing, but won’t lift a finger in America’s defense.
It’s important to understand that the fight Trump is picking with our allies isn’t about any real conflict of interest — because they are not, in fact, doing the things he accuses them of doing. No, Canada and Europe aren’t imposing “massive tariffs” on U.S. goods: A vast majority of U.S. exports enter Canada tariff-free, and the average European tariff is only 3 percent. These are simple facts, not disputable issues.
So Trump is justifying his attempt to destroy the Western alliance by accusing our allies of misdeeds that exist only in his imagination.
The same thing may be said about his claim that Canada’s Justin Trudeau somehow betrayed him and undermined the Group of 7 summit meeting. In reality, Trudeau’s remarks at the end of the conference were restrained and conventional, simply asserting — as any normal leader would — that he would defend his nation’s interests. The Trump rage-tweet that followed was responding to an insult that, like those “massive tariffs,” exists only in his imagination.
But that’s Trump, a man whose presidency has been marked by around seven false statements per day in office. What about his officials?
Well, they have been acting like the courtiers in the old story about the emperor’s new clothes. (The emperor’s new hairpiece?) If the boss says something whose falsity is obvious to anyone with eyes to see, they’ll claim to believe his version.
So Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist (actually “economist,” but that’s another story) went on TV to declare that Trudeau “stabbed us in the back.” Peter Navarro, the administration’s chief trade expert (“expert”) went even further, repeating the stab-in-the-back line and declaring that Trudeau faces a “special place in hell.”
Remember when people used to imagine that Trump would be restrained by officials who would put some check on his worst impulses? Maybe that happened for a few months, but at this point he’s entirely surrounded by sycophants who will tell him whatever he wants to hear.
Still, America isn’t a monarchy — not yet, anyway. Congress has the power to check a president who seems to be betraying his oath of office. It can even remove him; but short of impeachment, there are many ways members of Congress could act to constrain Trump and limit the damage he’s doing.
But Congress is controlled by Republicans. And their response to a president whose actions are manifestly not just un-American but anti-American has been … a few sad tweets from a handful of senators who are unhappy about Trump’s behavior but not willing to do anything real. Most Republicans haven’t even gone that far: They’re just silent.
Why are Republican politicians unwilling to discharge their constitutional responsibilities? Relatively few of them, one suspects, actually want a trade war, let alone a breakup of the Western alliance. And many of them, one also suspects, are well aware that a de facto foreign agent sits in the Oval Office. But they are immobilized by a combination of venality and cowardice.
On one side, tax cuts for the rich have become the overriding priority for the modern G.O.P., and Trump is giving them that, so they’re willing to let everything else slide.
On the other side, the party’s base really does love Trump, not for his policies, but for the performative cruelty he exhibits toward racial minorities and the way he sticks his thumb in the eyes of “elites.” So any Republican politician who takes a stand on behalf of what we used to think were fundamental American values is at high risk of losing his or her next primary. And as far as we can tell, there is not a single elected Republican willing to take that risk, no matter what Trump does.
What all this tells us is that the problem facing America runs much deeper than Trump’s personal awfulness. One of our two major parties appears to be hopelessly, irredeemably corrupt. And unless that party not only loses this year’s election but begins losing on a regular basis, America as we know it is finished.
Imagine the liar and thief Trump having the audacity to call the leader of the country to our north “dishonest.” In the South there is an expression for what the Trumpster has done. We say “It is like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau
Wish the US had a leader like Justin Trudeau. We can only hope…
Life-Time Ban Visually Impaired Player For Cheating
A visually impaired chess player has been permanently banned by the Norwegian Chess Federation (NSF) after having been caught red-handed with an earplug glued to his palm during a game against a nine-year-old girl. Norwegian chess reporter Tarjei J. Svensen tells the story.
The player, 52-year-old Stein Tholo Bjørnsen,
was caught just two months after he had completed serving a two-year ban for prior cheating.
The verdict in this remarkable cheating case, reached at a board meeting of the federation at the end of May, was historic. It’s the first time in the history of the NSF that a player received a life-time ban from domestic competition. Although Bjørnsen still has the opportunity to appeal the suspension, the evidence and severity of the case leaves little hope for the verdict to be changed.
“We have zero tolerance when it comes to cheating, and we want all our members to play according to the rules,” Morten L. Madsen, President of the federation, said in a statement.