GCA President On The Mend!

Mr. J. Parnell Watkins is the President of the Georgia Chess Association. He has been sidelined recently after having heart surgery to replace a valve. It was good to have this good news in the inbox today! The following exchange transpired a short time ago:

Mike Bacon magister7476@gmail.com

Your words would make a fine post, Parnell, and with your approval I am willing to put it on the blog.

The reply:

Yes, you are free to share. I will be glad to review and comment on any edits you make.

Parnell

Mike Bacon magister7476@gmail.com

to Jr.
I’d not planned on any edits! I would not change a word, sir. Now if you want something changed, please let me know…otherwise, I’m ready to fire that salvo!

J Parnell Watkins, Jr.

to me
No changes. I’m feeling reckless, and short on work hours.

Parnell

With that in mind…

J Parnell Watkins, Jr.

12:42 PM (1 hour ago)

to me
I should add, heart surgery went well and other than a tendency to end sentences with “Mooo”, no ill effects. New valve working well, arteries and veins relatively healthy, and back to (limited) work today. I have about a month of GCA to catch up on, but am glad to say we are now at a state where we can host a tournament without my direct intervention. The MLK went well from planning to implementation with minimal input from me. I have the greatest respect for Scott Parker, but I am not him nor am I willing to be the critical piece that makes the entire organization function. I do not have either his or Fun Fong’s energy (each of us have different strengths and weaknesses to work with).

We desperately need a treasurer if you know anyone who has that kind of mind for details and a love of chess. It isn’t me for sure. Board positions up for election in April are: President (me), 1st VP (Thad Rogers), Treasurer (vacant), Secretary (Kendya Scott), 1st Member at Large (Kevin Schmuggerrow), 2nd Member at Large (vacant). Kendya will not run again (focusing on running tournaments) and Thad may not (he is slowing down).

Thanks to the generosity of James Altucher, most of your concerns with last year’s Senior’s Tournament have been addressed. He is hosting the event, giving us a break between rounds. Most of the other details are the same. Formats for the championship, class, and open are the same this year. Women’s tournament tournament failed to occur last year, the first choices for venue were not available and the backup site was cancelled on us. Still trying to get a college, preferably a women’s college (Agnes Scott or Spellman), to host.

With some minor exceptions, this year is planned, and we will begin looking at 2024 in April. Two biggest challenges right now are the office of treasury (paying bills, awarding winnings, accounting, etc.) and communications (websites, blogs, etc.). I need the right people to run these efforts. We need to be more timely paying out and have better accounting practices and ensure easy and clear access to any and all GCA information via social media of choice, coordinating the outlets and feeding them in a timely manner.

Well, I’m back and open for feedback again. Sorry for the long absence but my heart wouldn’t wait for a more convenient time to make its own problems known. Now with a fully functioning heart I hope to have more energy to put into the GCA.

Parnell

You have heard from The Man. Any organization is only as good as those who lead the organization. The GCA needs YOU!

President of the GCA Parnell Watkins awarding a prize to Alex, a student of the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear

The Doomsday Clock and The Final Countdown

The Doomsday Clock reveals how close we are to total annihilation

By Megan Marples, Kristen Rogers and Rachel Ramirez, CNN
Tue January 24, 2023

From left: Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Siegfried S. Hecker, Daniel Holz, Sharon Squassoni, Mary Robinson and Elbegdorj Tsakhia stand for a photo with the 2023 Doomsday Clock in Washington, DC, on January 24.

The Doomsday Clock has been ticking for 76 years. But it’s no ordinary clock.

It attempts to gauge how close humanity is to destroying the world.

On Tuesday, the clock was set at 90 seconds until midnight — the closest to the hour it has ever been, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which created the clock in 1947. Midnight represents the moment at which we will have made Earth uninhabitable for humanity. From 2020 to 2022, the clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight.
https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/24/world/doomsday-clock-2023-climate-scn/index.html

The Land of the Sky

The Land of the Sky Chess tournament has a special place in the hearts of every Southern Chess player because of the organizer, Wilder Wadford, who, for whatever reason, took it upon himself to host the tournament, which began in 1992. The 2023 edition will take place again in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, Asheville, North Carolina. After surfin’ to the tournament website (https://landofthesky.us/) one finds: “The People’s Chess Tournament.” I can attest that it is! This year’s event will be the 35th edition of the tournament known as the “LOTS.”

Wilder may not be aware of this but in certain circles he is thought of, and called, “The Impresario,” and it it said with the utmost respect. “Wild Man Wilder” has also been heard on occasion, although Wilder is anything but a “wild man.” He is a respected attorney who lives in Weaverville, who hails from the Great State of Virginia. Wilder is, or maybe I should say was, a tournament Backgammon player. I have never, ever, heard anyone say anything derogatory about the man also known as “WW.” He is the epitome of a gentleman and scholar. There is one tale that was told to me about Wilder when I was residing in the mountains I will share. At a Chess tournament in New York city a thief nabbed the bag of someone WW was with on the sidewalk and without hesitating, WW took off after the thief, caught him, and returned with the bag! In NEW YORK CITY!

One year the fellow who took care of the wall board for the first board could not attend because his wife booked a cruise for the date of the LOTS. WW called this writer, who had not planned on attending, and asked if I would come up and man the wall board. The answer was, “I am honored by your request and will certainly be there, my friend.” It turned out to be one of the most pleasurable visits to the LOTS because I did not have to suffer the agony of defeat! It was interesting to watch, listen, and learn from a different perspective. The task was taken seriously and watching the top board, while attempting to predict the next move, was interesting. There was time to walk around and check out the games of my friends and frenemies while awaiting the next move made on the top board. WW comped the room, which meant I could stay Sunday night without having to drive after the tournament ended. This was nice because by that time I qualified for “Senior” status.

The most memorable and vivid memory was of an incident which will tell you about what kind of man is Mr. Wadford. I was in the TD room, talking with WW, when a well-known “live wire” player entered and began reading some papers as WW and I talked. Let me add here that some, if not most, would classify this writer as somewhat of a “live wire,” so I do not disparage the man when using the term “live wire.” I was about to take leave of the TD room when, all of a sudden, the live wire began arguing with WW about the prize fund. He was not happy about something and accused WW of who knows what. All I recall is that Mr. Live Wire thrust the papers he was holding into the face of WW! For a few seconds I was STUNNED… After looking at Wilder’s impassive face, and then taking a look at the live wire, I, as was told by a bystander, “Grabbed live wire by the throat with his left hand and shoved live wire out of the door and into the hallway wall, while balling up his right fist!” What can I say? I was LIVID! The thought of Wilder being attacker that way was “beyond the pale.” Fortunately I did not slug the cretin because the look of fear on his face told me there was no need to hit him. I did, though, give the live one the boot… After returning to the room WW was still sitting there with an impassive look on his face… After gathering the papers that had been strewn about the floor after leaving WW’s face I asked if he were OK. Wilder had the strangest look on his face as he nodded, so I figured maybe he wanted, or needed, to be alone, so I headed out of the TD room. It needs to be mentioned here that Mr. Live Wire was later one of only two players that had to be ordered out of the Atlanta Chess and Game Center by this writer.

Some time later as I was headed into the tournament room there were Wilder and Live Wire standing in the hallway, talking. That’s the way it is in Chess…

To prepare for writing this post I went to the LOTS website (https://landofthesky.us/) where this was found:

Please take the Land of the Sky Survey
Land of the Sky XXXV
The People’s Chess Tournament
February 3-5, 2023 (Weekend before Super Bowl)
Downloadable Flier
Registration: https://achievementtesting.info/wp/product-category/land-of-the-sky/

I urge everyone reading this to go to the website and take the survey. Over the years I have heard some bitch, whine, and complain, about organizers who will not listen to them. Wilder Wadford listens, and wants your feedback. Please honor the man and give him your two cents worth! As noted above, he can take it…

In preparing to write this post I went to the LOTS website where four games from the 2022 LOTS can be found. Each of them was replayed. The following game stood out:

Sheehan, Ethan Thomas (2288) – Smith, Bryan (2540)
Land of the Sky XXXIV (Asheville NC) [5] 2022.02.06
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 Na6 7.O-O e5 8.Qc2 Nb4 9.Qd1 a5 10.a3 Nc6 11.d5 Ne7 12.Nd2 Bd7 13.b3 Nc8 14.Bb2 c5 15.Nb5 Bh6 16.Bd3 Nh5 17.Re1 Nf4 18.Bf1 Qg5 19.Kh1 f5 20.Bc3 Nh5 21.b4 b6 22.bxa5 bxa5 23.exf5 gxf5 24.Nf3 Qg6 25.Rxe5 Nf6 26.Re2 Ne4 ½-½
https://landofthesky.us/

Final position

This writer first wrote about GM Bryan Smith

store.chessclub.com

on the long defunct BaconLOG in the post Louisville Chess (https://baconlog.blogspot.com/2009/11/louisville-chess.html) many years ago. The most recent post, The Najdorf in Black and White: A Review, can be found here: (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/the-najdorf-in-black-and-white-a-review/).

Upon reaching the final position it was obvious NM Ethan Thomas Sheehan had an advantage at the time of the draw. Much time was spent looking at the position in an attempt to learn how much of an advantage… This writer, and Chess fan, has gotten pretty good at guessing the numerical advantage, or disadvantage, the Stockfish program at lichess.com assigns a position, but still… Grandmasters do not usually offer a draw to a much lower rated unless maybe it is the last round, so I checked the cross table and it was the last round game. Because it ended in a draw GM Smith only tied for first with his last round opponent, and another National Master, Donald Johnson, from North Carolina. A Grandmaster would not offer a draw in that particular situation unless there was a good reason. The longer I looked at the position the less understanding was found. White is a pawn up, and the Black King is out in the open. It became obvious that it was incumbent for NM Thomas to reject the draw offer and at least make an attempt to defeat his GM opponent. No guts, no glory. For the rest of his life NM Thomas can tell others he drew with a GM, but when they say, “Oh yeah, let’s see the game,” he will not show it because it is proof positive he was chicken excrement that day. It is also positive proof of what is wrong with the Royal Game. There are no draw offers allowed in the Great Game of Go, which is why it is light-years better than Chess. It is also another reason all draw offers should be abolished. I do not know which is worse, agreeing to a three or four move draw or offering a draw when winning the game, but I do know that both should be consigned to oblivion. By the way, I finally estimated NM Thomas had an advantage of +1.5. The Stockfish program at lichess.com shows the advantage to be +2.4, which is considered having a winning advantage. Maybe the affinity developed for GM Smith after spending time with him in Louisville, and the well-placed Knight on e4, entered into my thinking a little too much…

Magnus Carlsen’s Biorhythms

In the article at Chessbase, Not quite unprecedented, by Carlos Alberto Colodro, much was made of the fact that current World Chess Champ Magnus Carlsen lost two consecutive games in rounds four and five in the 2023 Tata Steel Chess tournament.

“Before the rest day at the Tata Steel Masters, Carlsen had lost to Anish Giri, and in the very next round, he was shockingly defeated by 18-year-old Nodirbek Abdusattorov. The last time Carlsen had lost two classical games in a row was in 2015, at the Norway Chess event, where he lost to Veselin Topalov and Fabiano Caruana in the first two rounds of the super-tournament.” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/tata-steel-chess-2023-r5-b)

There is a box in the article which contains the number of Carlsen losses since 2013:

Amount of losses in classical chess for Carlsen by year:
2013: 4
2014: 6
2015: 10
2016: 3
2017: 6
2018: 2
2019: 0
2020: 2
2021: 2
2022: 1#TataSteelChess
— Tarjei J. Svensen (@TarjeiJS) January 19, 2023

Anyone who knows anything about statistics knows that without context numbers are meaningless.

For example, the two games Magnus lost during the pandemic year could be more, percentage wise, than the ten lost in 2015. Without knowing how many games were contested by Magnus for the above years the numbers are meaningless.

Things would have been different if the writer had, for example, taken time to research his subject. The author also could have researched how often the other World Chess Champions had lost two consecutive games, which would have added something interesting to the article.

The article did stoke my curiosity, causing me to wonder why Magnus played such poor Chess moves. I researched the earlier tournament in order to learn the dates of the two games that were lost back in 2015. Then I went to the preferred biorhythm calculator (https://www.biorhythm-calculator.net/) to check what it displayed for Magnus at the beginning of the 2015 Norway Chess event:

Magnus finished the tournament one-half point out of last place in the event, winning two, drawing three, and losing four games. The above chart shows Magnus intellectually low for the entire tournament.

Contrast the above chart with the one below:

Psycho Chess Cat

The Chess World’s New Villain: A Cat Named Mittens
A ruthless bot with an innocuous avatar is driving chess players crazy

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chess-mittens-cat-bot-11674018529?st=joee0rhfj7i05sz&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink

By Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson
Jan. 18, 2023

The heels of the chess world have included Soviet grandmasters, alleged cheaters, and faceless supercomputers. But the game’s latest villain is a fearsome genius who quotes French cinema and has played millions of games in just a couple of weeks.

She also happens to be a mean cat.

Mittens—or technically the chess bot known as Mittens—might look cute. Her listed chess rating of a single point seems innocuous. But her play over the past few weeks, which has bedeviled regular pawn-pushers, grandmasters, and champions who could play for the world title, is downright terrifying. And as it turns out, people are gluttons for punishment.

Since Chess.com introduced this bot with the avatar of a cuddly, big-eyed kitten on Jan. 1, the obsession with playing her has been astonishing. Mittens has crashed the website through its sheer popularity and helped drive more people to play chess than even “The Queen’s Gambit.” Chess.com has averaged 27.5 million games played per day in January and is on track for more than 850 million games this month—40% more than any month in the company’s history. A video that American grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura posted to YouTube titled “Mittens The Chess Bot Will Make You Quit Chess” has already racked up more than three million views.

“This bot is a psycho,” the streamer and International Master Levy Rozman tweeted after a vicious checkmate this month. A day later, he added, “The chess world has to unite against Mittens.” He was joking, mostly.

Mittens is a meme, a piece of artificial intelligence and a super grandmaster who also happens to reflect the broader evolution in modern chess. The game is no longer old, stuffy and dominated by theoretical conversations about different lines of a d5 opening. It’s young, buzzy and proof that cats still rule the internet.

The past few months have seen yet another surge in the worldwide appeal of chess. The viral image from the World Cup was a Louis Vuitton advertisement showing Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi poring over a board.

https://futballnews.com/how-louis-vuitton-pulled-off-cristiano-ronaldo-and-lionel-messis-picture-that-broke-the-internet/

The picture that summed up the college football national championship was of a TCU fan playing chess on her phone in the stadium while the Horned Frogs got demolished by Georgia. When Slovenian NBA superstar Luka Doncic was asked for his thoughts about Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, he shrugged it off and said he uses his phone to play chess.

None of those moments have driven people to virtual chess boards quite like a cat named Mittens who likes to taunt her opponents while she destroys them.

“I am inevitable. I am forever. Meow. Hehehehe,” Mittens tells her opponents in the chat function of games.

Chess.com, the popular platform where both grandmasters and millions of everyday chess lovers play, has a number of bots ranging in skill level and styles for users to challenge. Some are designed to play poorly and be beatable even by a crummy player. Others, in an age when the computers dominate humans, can topple the chess elite.

This particular bot was the brainchild of a Hamilton College student named Will Whalen who moonlights as a creative strategy lead. He had a crazy idea. What if they put an incredibly strong bot behind some devastatingly cute eyes?

“Then Mittens was born,” Whalen says.

But Mittens didn’t become a brutal troll until a Chess.com writer named Sean Becker led a team that developed Mittens’s personality to become the evil genius tormenting chess players everywhere. Part of why Mittens has become such a notorious villain is because she acts like one.

Mittens doesn’t purr. She references ominous lines from Robert Oppenheimer, Van Gogh, and even a 1960s Franco-Italian film called “Le Samourai.”

“Meow. Gaze into the long abyss. Hehehehe,” Mittens says, quoting German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Even her approach to the game is menacing. Mittens is designed to be skillful enough to beat the best chess players on the planet but uses particularly grueling tactics. Becker thought it would be “way more demoralizing and funny” if, instead of simply smashing opponents, Mittens grinded down opponents through painstaking positional battles, similar to the tactics Russian grandmaster Anatoly Karpov used to become world champion.

It hasn’t been difficult for Becker to see the reactions to his masterpiece. Nakamura, who could manage only a draw against Mittens, bluntly said in a video, “This cat is extremely patient, which is kind of annoying. I’m not going to lie.”

Becker has also seen it when he rides the subway and notices someone on their phone getting crushed by Mittens.

“You can see their eyes be kind of afraid,” Becker says.

Getting absolutely creamed by Mittens might get old. But her surprising popularity speaks to an underlying current in the chess world as freshly minted fans flow in: People are endlessly curious about new ways to engage with the ancient game. Facing novelty bots is just one of them. There has also been a new wave of interest in previously obscure chess variants.

Chess960, for instance, is a version of the game where all the non-pawn pieces are lined up in random order on the back rank. Also known as Fischer Random, for its inventor Bobby Fischer, it has gained traction among elite players as a high-purity test of chess skill and vision, because the random setup makes openings nearly impossible to prepare ahead of time.

In an unprecedented move, chess world governing body FIDE recognized Chess960 and gave it a world championship in 2019. The tournament was closely watched in 2022 when the final featured two of the best players on the planet: Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi, the runner-up at the 2021 world championship of normal chess. (World champion Magnus Carlsen finished third.)

Other variants include: “Fog of War,” where players have a limited view of their opponents’ pieces; “Bughouse Chess,” which is played across two boards with captured pieces potentially moving from one to the other; and “Three Check,” where the objective is simply to put the opposing king in check three times.

The wackiest of all is the chess variant known as Duck Chess. It looks mostly like regular chess—64 squares and 32 pieces. But it also has one rubber ducky on the board.

After every move in Duck Chess, the player moves the titular object to a new square of the board where it blocks pieces in its path. Good luck moving your bishop when there’s a duck squatting on its diagonal.

There are also other cat bots. One is Mr. Grumpers. Another is Catspurrov, which bears a curious resemblance to former world champion Garry Kasparov. None have become a sensation quite like the chess terrorist called Mittens.

“While I still think chess is a symbol of the highest level of strategic thinking,” said Chess.com chief chess officer Danny Rensch, “it’s also a game that is just incredibly fun and enjoyable.”

Just not when you play Mittens.

Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew.beaton@wsj.com and Joshua Robinson at Joshua.Robinson@wsj.com

Appeared in the January 19, 2023, print edition as ‘Chess World’s New Villain: A Cat Named Mittens’.

Chess Versus Go Redux

In the opening round of the ongoing 2023 New York Winter Invitational the following game was not played:

2023 New York Winter Invitational GM A
FM Nico Chasin vs GM Djurabek Khamrakulov
D 20 Queen’s Gambit Accepted: Central Variation, Alekhine System

  1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e4 Nf6 4. e5 Nd5 5. Bxc4 Bf5 6. Ne2 Nb6 7. Bb3 Nc6 1/2-1/2
    https://lichess.org/broadcast/2023-new-york-winter-invitational–gm-a/round-1/EpM3bORl

The only pictures found of the youngster, Nico Chasin, are prior to the pandemic daze.

marshallchessclub.org
https://new.uschess.org/news/nico-chasin-eddy-tian-top-seeds-5th-grade-long-try-hardest

The youngster obviously likes hats…

This was Nico’s first round opponent, GM Djurabek Khamrakulov:

marshallchessclub.org

The Grandmaster appears much older than the youngster. What did the boy learn from the truncated Chess game? If for no other reason the boy should have rejected the draw offer and played the game because even if he lost he would have won by gaining valuable experience. These non-games are killing the Royal Game! Why is it allowed?

Go, also known as Wei Chi and Baduk, is a superior game to Chess for several reasons, one of which is that there are no draws, other than a triple Ko, which happens so infrequently that when it does occur news is made all over the world. The game usually contains over a hundred moves, or possibly two hundred moves. These are a few of the comments left below the video that follows:

Nobody
I like the comparison of Chess being a Battle inside of a War and Go is like the whole War.

Patralgan
While I’m a Chess player at heart and I mostly play chess, I recognize that Go is a better and more beautiful game. While a Chess game can get very complicated, it’s nothing compared to how mind-blowingly complex even a local battle of life and death can become, let alone the whole situation on the board. The most interesting thing is when both sides teos to capture each other’s group so they twist and turn around each other like two snakes trying to strangle each other to death.

Tim’s Timbre
I like Go and Chess both. Love the individual pieces and promoting in Chess. Love Go because of the flow of the game, the opening and the increased focus on building, connecting. Objectively Shogi might be a better game than Chess, however I do not share the enthusiasm most have for the respawning of pieces in Shogi. In both Chess and Go you have a clear visual at the end.

GO – MUCH MORE THAN A GAME

Go is described by the American Go Journal as “an ancient board game which takes simple elements, line and circle, black and white, stone and wood, combines them with simple rules and generates subtleties which have enthralled players for millennia.”

The object of Go is to gain control of territory, so in many ways it resembles land warfare. There are border clashes and invasions; enemy forces can be surrounded and captured; groups of stones can be cut off, pursued and cornered; there are feints, probes and ambushes.

At the same time, Go has an architectural quality. The player tries to build well-designed, efficient, strong positions, and good players tend to arrange their stones in visually appealing shapes. Overall, Go is more of a constructive than a destructive game.

An intellectually stimulating game that trains the mind in discipline and concentration, Go is far superior to chess, says Lim. Those who know both chess and Go contend that Go is to chess as theoretical physics is to long division.

Afficionados say that the same tension that exists in chess exists in Go – the same sort of life-and-death decision making, but chess is a much more concrete game, while Go is intuitive. Go is also regarded as the most physically and mentally exhausting of all the sedentary games. Competitors in tournaments have been known to lose as much as 12 pounds during a match. (https://www.deseret.com/1990/10/30/18888850/go-much-more-than-a-game)

https://www.forbes.com/sites/peterjreilly/2012/09/18/go-is-more-than-a-game-despite-what-seattle-thinks/?sh=3ab3be57798d

Start Playing Go Right Now!

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be playing in minutes!
First,

Learn The Basics
Then, “Lose 100 games as quickly as possible!”

An ancient Chinese proverb.

Play a Computer: Download Igowin, a freeware small-board (9X9) version of Many Face of Go and try a few games.

Play a Person: When you feel ready, try a game online at Pandanet, The KGS Go Server (KGS Tutorial), or any of several other go servers. Thousands of people are playing online right now, and if you've followed these steps, you're stronger than some of them already!

Finally, we would like to offer these three brief pieces of guidance to the developing player:

Play Someone in Person: Many players have gotten strong playing online, never meeting an opponent face-to-face; but almost everyone enjoys the game even more in the "real world." The AGA maintains a list of chapters and clubs in the US; we hope there's one near you. If not, you can run a free classified ad in The American Go E-Journal, read each week by more than 13,000 players in the US and around the world. Putting up signs at the local college may also pay off.

Study: If you want to get really strong, you will have to study. Fortunately there are literally hundreds of books to help you. The AGA's complete list of go books in English can be daunting; ask your friends what they read, or you can join the go discussion group Life In 19x19 and ask, you'll get plenty of recommendations.

Finding Equipment: You can get a decent playing set for the cost of a computer game, or you can spend more for special high-quality slate and shell stones and boards made from beautiful wood. But good equipment is hard to find in the US. Many game stores carry poor imitations, if they have anything at all. Visit the AGA's list US distributors of Asian equipment to find the best boards, stones and bowls, and in some cases special discounts for AGA members.

We wish you good luck and good games!
https://www.usgo.org/start-playing-go-right-now

Last Round GM vs GM Battle at the 8th Annual Gulf Coast New Year’s Open

GM Nikola Mitkov vs GM Vladimir Georgiev
8th Annual Gulf Coast New Year’s Open Rd 5
Sicilian Defense: Kan Variation, Wing Attack

  1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 a6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. O-O Qb6 8. Nb3 Qc7 9. Qe1
Position after 9 Qe1

To these eyes the move 9 Qe1 looks strange, but then again these daze these eyes see all kind of moves produced by AI that may look strange, but are strong enough to bring the house down… After watching the game I used the analysis program at lichess.com while checking out the moves contained at 365Chess.com, where it was surprising to see the most often played move has been 9 Qe2! OK, I put the exclam there and regular readers know why. Frankly, the Queen looks better placed on e2 than e1 to these eyes, but I was attracted to the move 9 f3, not because it is the move I would make, but in watching, and replaying myriad games recently the move f3 has featured prominently in many different Sicilian openings. Only one game with 9 f3 was found at 365Chess and it did not turn out well, making 9 Qe2! look even better:

Martin Ludwig (1395) vs Alexander Foermes (1885)
Event: Bad Zwesten op 7th
Site: Bad Zwesten Date: ??/??/2003
Round: 3
ECO: B40 Sicilian defence
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Qb6 5.Nb3 Qc7 6.Nc3 a6 7.Bd3 b5 8.O-O Bb7 9.f3 d6 10.Bf4 Nd7 11.Qd2 Ngf6 12.Ne2 Rc8 13.a4 e5 14.Bg5 b4 15.Qxb4 d5 16.Qa5 dxe4 17.Qxc7 Rxc7 18.fxe4 Nxe4 19.Be3 Nd6 20.c3 e4 21.Bc2 Nc4 22.Bf4 Rc8 23.Ra2 Be7 24.Nd2 Nxd2 25.Bxd2 Bc5+ 26.Kh1 O-O 27.b4 Bd5 28.Rb2 Bb6 29.b5 axb5 30.axb5 Ne5 31.h3 Nc4 32.Bxe4 Bxe4 33.Ra2 Nxd2 34.Rxd2 Rfd8 35.Rfd1 Rxd2 36.Rxd2 Rd8 37.Rxd8+ Bxd8 38.Kg1 Bb6+ 39.Kf1 Bd3 40.Ke1 Bxb5 41.Kd2 Bxe2 42.Kxe2 Kf8 43.Kd3 Ke7 44.Kc4 Kd6 45.Kb5 Bf2 46.c4 f5 47.Kb4 g5 48.Kc3 Kc5 49.Kd3 h5 50.Ke2 Bd4 51.Kf3 Kxc4 52.Ke2 Be5 53.Kf3 Kd3 54.Kf2 g4 55.hxg4 hxg4 56.Kf1 Ke3 57.Kg1 Ke2 58.Kh1 Kf1 59.g3 Ke2 60.Kg2 Bxg3 0-1
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=18456&m=18

Only one game was found with 9 Qe1:

Fabrice Wantiez (2315) vs Vladimir Chuchelov (2545)
Event: BEL-chA
Site: Gent Date: 07/??/2000
Round: 3 Score: ½-½
ECO: B43 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Nc3
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Nc3 b5 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.O-O Qb6 8.Nb3 Qc7 9.Qe1 Nc6 10.Bd2 Nf6 11.a4 b4 12.Ne2 d5 13.exd5 Nxd5 14.f4 Be7 15.f5 exf5 16.Rxf5 Ne5 17.Nf4 f6 18.Qg3 O-O-O 19.Nxd5 Bxd5 20.Bxa6+ Kb8 21.Be3 Bd6 22.Qf2 Ng4 23.Qe2 Nxe3 24.Qxe3 Bxh2+ 25.Kh1 Be5 26.Qe2 Ka7 27.Bd3 Rhe8 28.Qf2+ Ka8 29.Nc5 Qb6 30.Be4 Bxe4 31.Nxe4 Qxf2 32.Nxf2 Rd2 33.Nd3 b3 34.Nxe5 Rxe5 35.Rxe5 fxe5 36.cxb3 Rxb2 37.Re1 Rxb3 38.Rxe5 Rg3 39.Re7 h5 40.Kh2 Rg5 41.Kh3 g6 42.Rg7 ½-½
https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=616725&m=18

According to SF the best move is 9 f4, and it is second on the list with 118 games showing. The most often played move has been 9 Qe2.

The GM answered with 9…d6 and I wondered why…

Afyer 9…d6

White has developed three pieces, castled, and moved his Queen in a sort of sideways development, shall we say. Black has only two pieces developed. Although it is difficult to question a Grandmaster, if the GM plays weak moves he must be questioned. ‘Back in the day’ the moves made by Grandmasters were all we had and they were considered the final word. As Bob Dylan sang, things have changed… If the game were shown by a student it would be incumbent upon any teacher to question the lack of development, would it not? The numbers, or titles, matter not if you do not develop your pieces. Later SF agreed, showing 9…Be7 best. 10 Bd2 is a really strange looking move, versus a Sicilian. SF plays 10 a4, and so should you. The Fish agrees with all the moves played until 12…Nbd7, when it would develop the knight to c6. Most Chess coaches teach their students to develop their knights to the third rank unless there is a good reason to not do so. Although it does look inviting to play the knight to d7, because it leaves the Queen and Bishop unblocked, the knight is usually better placed at c6.

After 12…Nbd7

After replaying myriad games using the Stockfish program at lichess.com if there is one thing learned from the experience it is that the SF program will attack, and as IM Boris Kogan was fond of saying, “He attack, you defend. You attack, he better defend!” After seeing the move move 13 Na5 I ‘just knew’ SF would have played 13 Ba5 to attack the Queen. SF rarely misses a chance to attack the opponent’s Lady… GM Mitkov then takes the Bishop on b7 which is what, given the chance, I would have played. Not StockFish! It plays 14 f4. After 14 Nxb7 Qxb7 15 f4 we reach this position:

After 15 f4

What move would you make? Although a case could be made for castling the best move is 15…e5 to counter the previous thrust by White. The GM played 15…g6, which only looks weakening to these eyes.

After 15…g6

Could it be the GM wanted to stop, or at least impede 16 f5? Frankly, it is difficult to believe any GM would play such a weakening move as 15…g6. The next move, 16 Qe2, could, and may have been played by this writer, given the chance. I liked how it seemed to ‘fit’ behind the Bishop and took control of the g4 square while possibly preparing the move g4! with an attack. The move advocated by SF is a move I have noticed the program playing regularly. It is the consummate ‘positional’ move of simply tucking your King safely away by sliding the sovereign into the corner with 16 Kh1, the kind of move I should have played more often, but was usually reluctant to ‘waste’ a move. Do not let this happen to you! King safety is PARAMOUNT! After 16…0-0 17 c4, Georgiev played 17…Rab8, and the SF program shows white up by +1.4. Since +1.5 is considered to be ‘winning’ GM Georgiev is on the precipice, with another weak move causing him to fall into the abyss. SF would play 17…Nb8 to reposition the steed after 18 b4 Nc6. Think about it, that is the knight that should have been developed to c6 when it went to d7. After the Rook moved to b8 GM Mitkov then tucked his King into the corner with 18 Kh1. SF would have played 18 b4, taking away squares from the black Queen. If he had played the b4 move how would you reply? After 18 Kh1 GM Georgiev played 18…Nh5, the move that SF would have made if 18 b4 had been played. SF played 18…Rfe8. Then comes the SF approved sequence of 19 b4 e5.

After 19…e5

After 19…e5 SF shows an advantage for White of +1.7, so in the above position White has a winning advantage. What’s that said about having a won game?! With his next move GM Mitkov jettisoned his advantage and we again have a game.

After 20…c5

It is difficult to understand Mitkov’s 20 c5, which is given a ? by SF. What makes it even more interesting is much time, about 15 minutes, was used to make the questionable move. Thematic would have been 20 fxe5. I expected black to play 20…Nxf4, which seems logical, but GM Georgiev decided to protect the a-pawn by playing 20…Ra8, which is given not one, but two question marks by SF, as Georgiev went down by +2.3, meaning the GM completely let of the rope, and it was all over but the shouting.

GM Nikola Mitkov vs GM Vladimir Georgiev
8th Annual Gulf Coast New Year’s Open Rd 5
Sicilian Defense: Kan Variation, Wing Attack

  1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nf3 a6 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nxd4 b5 6. Bd3 Bb7 7. O-O Qb6 8. Nb3 Qc7 9. Qe1 d6 10. Bd2 Nf6 11. a4 bxa4 12. Nxa4 Nbd7 13. Na5 Be7 14. Nxb7 Qxb7 15. f4 g6 16. Qe2 O-O 17. c4 Rab8 18. Kh1 Nh5 19. b4 e5 20. c5 Ra8 21. Nc3 Nxf4 22. Bxf4 exf4 23. Nd5 Rfe8 24. Bxa6 Rxa6 25. Qxa6 Qxa6 26. Rxa6 dxc5 27. Ra7 1-0

The game was followed in real time, sans analysis. It is not often one sees two Grandmasters paired in the last round and not draw the game. Both players had previously won two, and drawn two games heading into the final round, meaning a draw would bring them little, if anything. This caused me to recall the story told by one legendary Georgia player of the time he bellied up to the bar after the last round and noticed GM X, a player from the Soviet Union, who had emigrated to the USA along with many other former Soviet players. He took a seat next to the GM and asked what had happened in his last round game, which had ended decisively in favor of GM X’s opponent. “It looked like a sure draw,” said the legendary one. After downing another shot the GM said, “Someone needed to have accident,” and grinned like the cat who had eaten the canary. Then his last round opponent, another ex-Soviet player, smiled and said, “Today he have an accident; next time it is me has accident!” Uproarious laughter ensued. Then it was, “Hey bartender… How ’bout another round!”

FIDE President Dvorkovich Should Be Removed From Office

After being acquired by Chess.com the website chess24.com stopped publishing new articles so I stopped surfin’ over to the website. Today I surfed to chess24.com and was surprised to find an excellent article by Colin McGourty, Top arbiter sidelined over “Women, Life, Freedom” T-shirt (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/top-arbiter-sidelined-over-women-life-freedom-t-shirt).

It is a long and detailed article in which the author basically rips FIDE, and especially the Prez of FIDE, the nefarious Russian quisling, Arkady Dvorkovich, a new one. This writer salutes Mr. McGourty!

“Shohreh Bayat, who was forced to leave Iran in early 2020 after a scandal over wearing the hijab, has revealed she was personally asked by FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich to stop wearing a T-shirt with the message “Women Life Freedom” at the Fischer Random World Championship in Iceland. She did, but only to wear the Ukrainian colours instead, and since appears to have fallen out of favour with FIDE.”

Shohreh Bayat with the Women Life Freedom T-shirt in Iceland | photo: Lennart Ootes (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/top-arbiter-sidelined-over-women-life-freedom-t-shirt)

“Shohreh Bayat is a FIDE Women’s Master and early on in her chess career decided to become an arbiter as well. Perhaps the pinnacle of her new career came when she worked as the Chief Arbiter at the Ju Wenjun vs. Aleksandra Goryachkina Women’s World Championship match in early 2020, but it was a success overshadowed by non-chess drama.”

“Shohreh switched to the English Chess Federation and continued to work as one of the world’s top arbiters. Then in October last year she was Deputy Chief Arbiter for the World Fischer Random Chess Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland, just as women’s rights in Iran had suddenly become centre stage again. Two young women had died in mid-September, with women across the country protesting by taking huge risks to remove their hijabs.”

“It was natural that Shohreh would show her support, as she did by wearing a T-shirt with the message “Women Life Freedom”. She performed her duties without issue and, in what FIDE had billed as the Year of Women in Chess, this could have been positive all round — an illustration that women can take top roles in chess and support their fellow women. Her appearance, if anything, brought extra positive publicity to the event, and it broke no rules — there was no dress code for arbiters.”

“Alas, that’s not how FIDE approached the issue. FIDE’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer David Llada says he was first to raise the topic with Shohreh and describes “doing activism” in her role as “inappropriate and unprofessional”.

“That brings us to the real issue — Dvorkovich personally contacting Bayat to ask her not to wear the T-shirt.”

“Arkady is said to have accused Shohreh of mixing sports and politics, but there are two obvious responses. One is that in this case it was less “politics” than an appeal for basic human rights, something FIDE’s own Charter requires the organisation to promote.”

At this point GM Peter Heine Nielsen, long time second for World Chess Champ Magnus Calsen, weighs in via twitter:

“The @FIDE_chess charter specifies that we shall strive to promote the protection of human rights.

They are defined in the charter as the UN universal declaration of human rights: https://un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights

It means we have an active duty to promote protection of human rights.”

The article continues:

“The other was that it was clear hypocrisy, since Arkady Dvorkovich remaining FIDE President is the single most political statement made by the organisation.”

“Dvorkovich was a high-ranking Kremlin official for the decade from 2008-18, serving as adviser to Dmitry Medvedev and then as Deputy Prime Minister, including in 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine for the first time. Arkady has never expressed regrets about that decision, instead repeating Russian propaganda when asked about the topic by the BBC and other news organisations.”

“For chess, Dvorkovich, who organised the 2018 World Cup in Russia, ensured there was a steady flow of Russian money into the game. That meant a lack of genuine commercial sponsorship was no issue, but also came at the cost of FIDE’s events being used for what has been termed “sportswashing”.

Being unfamiliar with the word sent me first to the dictionary, and then another, before inputing the word into DuckDuckGo search engine where the most succinct definition was found: “The term sportswashing is used when a country organizes, sponsors or takes ownership of high-profile sporting events, where the purpose is to divert attention from matters worthy of criticism; such as human rights violations or crimes against humanity.” (https://www.nhc.no/en/sportswashing-what-is-it-and-why-should-you-care/

At this point GM Peter Heine Nielsen

again weighs in with a tweet: “I just don’t get it:
A t-shirt with a slogan promoting human rights is unacceptable and making chess political.
But having Putin greet al the players of an online tournament he has nothing to do with, and having a panorama view of the Kremlin is not political ?”

“Dvorkovich sits on the Honorary Board of the Russian Chess Federation alongside the likes of Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu, and numerous sanctioned oligarchs. Exactly a week before February 24th, 2022, when some kind of attack looked inevitable, Arkady Dvorkovich handed out the prizes at a tournament for the Russian armed forces.”

Arkady Dvorkovich posed with the winners | photo: Russian Chess Federation

“The full-scale invasion that followed meant the government Arkady Dvorkovich had served for a decade had led his country and Ukraine to utter catastrophe.”

“Calls for Arkady’s resignation were immediate, but he stayed in place, giving an interview to Mother Jones (https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2022/03/chess-grandmasters-putin-russia-ukraine-war/) where he commented, “my thoughts are with Ukrainian civilians”. Any benefit from that interview, however, was immediately wiped out by his statement a day later as Head of the Skolkovo Foundation. He talked about a peace “with no place for Nazism”, a clear nod to Russian propaganda against Ukraine.”   

“Dvorkovich, who stepped down as head of Skolkovo before it was placed on the US sanctions list for supporting the Russian arms industry, has never renounced that statement, and also resisted all calls to resign. Some of his supporters claimed there was no need for resignation as his term was coming to an end, but Arkady then announced he would again put himself forward as a candidate for President. He faced no well-funded opposition and won comfortably.”

“So for Dvorkovich to lecture Shohreh Bayat about not mixing chess and politics would have been extreme, even if it not for the specific Iranian angle. At the time of the tournament, Iran had become one of Russia’s few military allies, providing drones to attack Ukrainian cities. Arkady intervening to suppress criticism of the Iranian regime could hardly provide worse optics for the game of chess.”

“Shohreh told chess24:

Since I wore those shirts, they removed (not re-elected) me from the Arbiters Commission. Then they appointed a Delegate of the Iranian Chess Federation as the Secretary of the FIDE Women's Commission and offered me to work under her (my oppressor federation) in the Women's Commission.

Meanwhile, they call me inappropriate and unprofessional for supporting Human Rights while they are silent about Iran keeping refusing to play against Israel due to political reasons.

I think everything is clear.

“Her case has been taken up by many prominent activists, including Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad.”

“Shohreh’s response in Reykjavik was fitting. She didn’t wear the “Women Life Freedom” T-shirt again, but instead came proudly dressed in Ukrainian colours.”

Shohreh Bayat in blue and yellow as Hikaru Nakamura went on to win his 1st official world title | photo: Lennart Ootes

The article concludes with the following: “It’s to be hoped that the recent exposure of FIDE’s approach will encourage the organisation to restore one of their most talented arbiters to a full role in the game.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/top-arbiter-sidelined-over-women-life-freedom-t-shirt)

It should be obvious from the above that the President of FIDE, Arkady Dvorkovich, is a metastasizing CANCER inside the body of FIDE. The hypocritical Russian scalawag needs to be removed by any means necessary.

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/546771

It is long past time for the weaselly Dvork to go. Russia has committed genocide and war crimes in their futile attempt to subjugate their next door neighbor, the independent nation of Ukraine. THE PRESIDENT OF FIDE IS GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES because he is a part of the ruling class of criminals in charge of their beloved MOTHER FORKIN’ RUSSIA!

The United States Chess Federation should have already left FIDE, but there is not one person involved with USCF with the cojones to take the needed step. Each and every official of the USCF needs to take a good, long look into the mirror and ask him or herself some serious questions, questions that should have been ASKED and ANSWERED long ago. FIDE is being led by a WAR CRIMINAL. The USCF is part of FIDE and therefore complicit in what has happened to Ukraine. First Ukraine, then possibly US! For the good of the Royal Game this RUSSIAN cretin must step down and hand the reins of FIDE to former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand.

Three New Go Lectures in English

Iwamoto North American Foundation for Go (INAF) has released three more online go lectures, all in English. This follows release of two lectures last month. In the first of the latest batch, which features a number of interesting plots, Ohhashi Hirofumi 7P, an expert on AI play, comments on his game with the young Tengen-title holder Seki Kotaro, who’s also well known for studying and emulating AI play.

The second lecture is by Michael Redmond 9P, who comments on a game by Kevin Yang, the new North America professional. Yang played this game in the 2022 Globis Cup against the Kansai Kiin’s young star, Nishimura Jin.  

The third lecture is by Ishikura Noboru 9P, the most well-known go teacher in Japan who also offers go courses at the University of Tokyo. Here he comments on some modern fuseki ideas.

Yilun Yang’s 2023 New Year’s Puzzle

Sunday January 8, 2023

Black to move

Yilun Yang 7P has been creating original annual problems based on the digits of the New Year for many years now. Yang is one of the most popular go teachers in the US. His original tsume-go problems are a regular feature in the Member’s Edition of the American Go E-Journal. You can reach him at yly_go@yahoo.com.

Join the AGA now and receive the weekly E-Journal with members-only extras such as game files with professional commentary. Plus: participate in local and national tournaments, the national rating system, and attend the annual US Go Congress –- the largest go event in North America.
https://www.usgo.org/news/2023/01/yilun-yangs-2023-new-years-puzzle-solution/