Upset in Sautron

The games from the National Open were being broadcast by a website new to me, FollowChess (http://followchess.com/news/). Further exploration brought a page of upsets, nothing but upsets (http://followchess.com/share/). Everyone loves an upset, unless they are the one being upset! The first entry is:

Upset in Sautron: Flachet 2025 beat Sergeev 2417. Attack & Tactics!
October 27, 2017

The game is, according to 365Chess, a C00 French, Chigorin variation! What are the odds?! If you are a regular of this blog you KNOW I was compelled to play over the game…

Vladimir Sergeev (2417) vs Thierry Flachet (2025)

17e open international de Sautron, 2017.10.26

1 e4 e6 2 Qe2 Be7 (Stockfish at the ChessBaseDataBase gives this as best. Komodo prefers 2…c5, which is the move chosen by Siegbert Tarrasch

in the second game of the 1893 match with Mikhail Chigorin,

still the most outstanding Chess match ever contested. Seven times Chigorin played 2 Qe2 against his opponent’s French defense. If you have not played over the match I urge you do do so. It can be found at a fantastic historical website, chessgames.com (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chess.pl?tid=85135)

Here is a game played by Chigorin and the man who lost the US Chess Championship to Frank Marshall,

Jackson Whipps Showalter,

on June 13, 1899 in London. Chigorin pulled a rabbit out of his hat when playing his third move, a move that cannot be found at the CBDB!

Mikhail Chigorin vs Jackson Whipps Showalter

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 Be7 3. Qg4 Nf6 4. Qxg7 Rg8 5. Qh6 Nc6 6. Nf3 Rg6 7. Qe3 d5 8. e5 d4 9. Qb3 Nd7 10. Bb5 Nc5 11. Qc4 Rxg2 12. b4 Nd7 13. Bxc6 bxc6 14. Qxd4 Rb8 15. Ba3 a5 16. bxa5 Rxb1+ 17. Rxb1 Bxa3 18. Qa4 Bc5 19. Qxc6 Kf8 20. d4 Be7 21. a6 Bxa6 22. Qxa6 Nb6 23. Qb7 Kg7 24. Kf1 Rg6 25. Rg1 Nd5 26. Rxg6+ hxg6 27. c4 Nf4 28. Qb8 Qd7 29. Qa8 Bf8 30. Rb8 Qe7 31. c5 Nh3 32. Qc6 1-0. Back to the game…)

3 Nf3 d5 4 e5 (Komodo’s choice of 4 d3 is far and away the most often played move, although Stockfish 9 at a depth of 32 gives 4 d4. Stochfish 9×64, at a depth of 25, shows the game move)

4…Nh6 (SF 9 and Komodo 11.2 2 64-bit at depth 27 play 4…c5, but Komodo 9.2 64-bit at depth 25 would play the game move)

5 h4? (I considered being kind and including an exclamation mark after the question mark but not because the move is dubious but because the move is so shocking. Consider for a moment you are sitting across from your student. Let us call him “Allen.” He has just begun showing his most recent rated game and you are sitting behind the black pieces. Your first instinct may be something like, “What the hell kinda move is THAT?!” You cannot say this because Allen is a “Priest.” So you stifle yourself and say, “That is a bad move.” Although a middle-aged man Allen looks like one of your young students as he hangs his head before asking, “Why is it bad?” As you sit gazing into the distance you consider his lowly 701 rating and recall some of the lame opening moves you played in the past before replying, “Because it is unnecessary.” Then you tell him about how important time is in the opening phase of the game, and of the many things one needs to accomplish in the opening, such as development, etc. You would follow by explaining why 5 g3, to develop the bishop, is the way to play this particular opening. This would also be the time you attempted to explain why h4 may be a decent move in the opening if black has weakened his pawn structure when playing g6. This would make Allen feel a little better, especially if you add, “In many openings the same moves are played, but what matters is not the move played, but the order in which they are played. There must be a reason for every move.” Since you must sit there and see the remaining moves of Allen’s game you decide to show him the opening moves of the game between Dimitri Bogdanov (2175) and Bjorn Brinck Claussen (2354) from the 21st Politiken Cup in 1999 at Copenhagen. 1 e4 e6 2 Qe2 Be7 3 Nf3 d5 4 e5 Nh6 5 g3 f5 6 d4 Nf7 7 h4. “See how the pawn stops any black piece from coming to g5?” you ask. “Now the rook pawn move has a purpose,” you say as the color begins returning to Allen’s face. This causes you to show him the rest of the game before having to get back to his game. After all, you are getting paid by the hour…

7…c5 8. dxc5 Na6 9. Be3 Qc7 10. Bg2 Nxc5 11. Bd4 O-O 12. O-O Bd7 13. Re1 b5 14. Nbd2 a5 15. Bxc5 Qxc5 16. Nb3 Qb6 17. Nbd4 Nd8 18. Qd2 Nb7 19. Rad1 Nc5 20. Qf4 b4 21. Bf1 a4 22. Re3 Ne4 23. Rdd3 a3 24. bxa3 Rxa3 25. Rxa3 bxa3 26. Rb3 Qa7 27. Kg2 Rc8 28. Qe3 Qc7 29. Ba6 Rb8 30. Rxb8+ Qxb8 31. Qb3 Qa7 32. Bb5 Bc8 33. c4 Bc5 34. Qd3 g6 35. cxd5 exd5 36. Nc6 Qb6 37. Qxd5+ Kg7 38. Bc4 Qb2 39. Kh3 Qxf2 0-1)

5…c5 6 d3 Nf5 (6…Ng4 would be possible because of white playing pawn to h4) 7 c3 h6 8 h5 Nc6 9 Na3 a6 10 Nc2 b5

11 g3 (Although the move could have possibly been played earlier, now looks like the right time for 11 g4)

11…a5 (The coach would have to take time here explaining why development should be completed before launching any kind of aggressive movement, such as the last move. 11…O-O or Bb7 are good alternative moves)

12 Bg2 Rb8 13 Bf4 b4 14 c4 b3 15 ab3 Rb3 16 Bc1 Ba6 17 O-O O-O 18 Re1 dc4 19 dc4 Ncd4 20 Ncd4 Nd4 21 Nd4 cd4

22 Rd1 (22 Qg4! Kh8 23 Bd2 looks about equal) 22…Bc5 23 Be4? (23 Bxh6! gxh6 24 Qg4+ Kh8 25 Qf4 Kh7 26 Be4+ Kg7 27 Qg4+ Kh8 28 Qf4 looks like all white can hope for at this point in the game)

Take a good look at this position as black. What move would you make?

23 Rg3! (Brings the house DOWN! Examine ALL checks, something neglected by the much higher rated player)

24 Kf1 d3 (I looked at moving the rook to either b3 or h3, in addition to 24…f5, so the move in the game took me by surprise) 25. Rd3 Rd3

26 Bd3 (The human brain rejects 26 Qxd3 Qh4 27 Kg2 Qxf2+ 28 Kh3, leaving the King naked in no mans land) 26…Qh4 27. Qf3 Rd8 ( As my friend the Master of Understatement was fond of saying, 27…Bb7 looks strong, not that it matters) 28. Be4 Bc4 29. Kg2 Rd4 30. Ra5 Re4 31. Ra8 Kh7 32. Qe4 Qe4 0-1

P. Vessosi (2351) vs M. Astengo (2064)

Lodi Open 2008

1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 Be7 3. Nf3 d5 4. e5 Nh6 5. d3 Nf5 6. g3 c5 7. Bg2 Nc6 8. O-O g5 9. c3 h5 10. h3 g4 11. hxg4 hxg4 12. Nh2 Nh6 13. Rd1
Bd7 14. Na3 Qb6 15. Bxh6 Rxh6 16. Nxg4 Rg6 17. Bf3 O-O-O 18. Kg2 Rdg8 19. Rac1 Kb8 20. Rh1 Qa5 21. Rh6 Rxg4 22. Bxg4 Bg5 23. Rch1 Bxh6 24. Rxh6 b5 25. Bh5 Be8 26. d4 c4 27. Qd2 b4 28. cxb4 Qxb4 29. Qc3 Qf8 30. Rf6 Rh8 31. g4 Nb4 32. Nc2 Nd3 33. Ne1 Qg7 34. Kf1 Qh7 35. Nxd3 cxd3 36. Qb4+ Ka8 37. f3 Qg7 38. Qd2 Qh7 39. Ke1 Rf8 40. b3 Bb5 41. a4 Ba6 42. b4 Bc4 43. b5 Qg7 44. Qf4 Qh7 45. Kd2 Bb3 46. Rxf7 Rxf7 47. Qxf7 Qh6+ 48. f4 Bxa4 49. g5 Qh8 50. Qe8+ 1-0

The general of the white pieces takes 46 seconds of his five minutes to play his THIRD move of the game, obviously flummoxed by the choice of move made by the general of the black pieces.

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Captain Future

HAL-like robot to help astronaut in space odyssey

Joey Roulette

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

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-artificial-intelligence/hal-like-robot-to-help-astronaut-in-space-odyssey-idUSKBN1JP0WP

http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/little-known-sci-fi-fact-hal-9000-cheats-at-chess-in-2001-a-space-odyssey

Perpetual Chess Podcast

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

by Macauley Peterson,

FIDE should be encouraging chess, not discouraging it” at Chessbase (https://en.chessbase.com/post/nigel-short-interview), which includes a podcast with Macauley interviewing Nigel. The podcast is about an hour and well worth your time as it is very interesting, indeed. The questions are ‘right-on’ and so are the answers! DO NOT MISS IT! (https://omny.fm/shows/perpetual-chess-podcast/ep-78-nigel-short-final)

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,

the author of the last book reviewed on this blog, Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/evil-doer-half-a-century-with-viktor-korchnoi-a-review/). The publisher of the book sent an email notifying me of the podcast, but I had already listened to it after becoming a follower of the PCP and having been notified via email. I STRONGLY urge you to check out the website if you have, like me, procrastinated until now. The PCP can be found at: https://omny.fm/shows/perpetual-chess-podcast.

Charles Krauthammer: Leaving Life, and Chess, with No Regrets

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

by Adam Bernstein June 21

Charles Krauthammer,

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.

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking,” Dr. Krauthammer wrote in a June 8 farewell note. “I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny. I leave this life with no regrets.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/charles-krauthammer-pulitzer-prize-winning-columnist-and-intellectual-provocateur-dies-at-68/2018/06/21/b71ee41a-759e-11e8-b4b7-308400242c2e_story.html?utm_term=.60d25502de35

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.

“Nope.”

“What happened?”

“Quit when I was 21.”

“Why?”

“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.

No alcohol, though. Not even a beer. It’s not a prohibition. You can have a swig if you want, but no one ever does. The reason is not ascetic but aesthetic. Chess is a beautiful game, and though amateurs playing fast can occasionally make it sing, we know there are riffs — magical symphonic combinations — that we either entirely miss or muck up halfway through. Fruit juice keeps the ugliness to a minimum.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2002/12/27/the-pariah-chess-club/ebf8806d-eb6b-43b6-9615-766d3e5605ef/?utm_term=.a39c79610415


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?

Still, we must be careful. Unfortunate episodes like these tend to fuel native American paranoia about how far the Soviets will go in relentless pursuit of even the most speculative political advantage. We must resist such facile reactions. Next thing you know someone will claim that the KGB got the Bulgarians to hire a Turk to shoot the pope to pacify Poland.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/03/01/when-chess-becomes-class-warfare/51584d63-ede9-49bf-9b3f-40b7ea91e606/?utm_term=.ee5b4244d2fe

TYRANNY OF CHESS

By Charles Krauthammer October 16, 1998

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.”

Ilyumzhinov rides around in his Rolls-Royces, presiding over a state that specializes in corruption and tax evasion. The Washington Post reports that he paved the road from the airport to the capital and painted every building along the way, but only the side that faces the road. So now the world knows what chess players have known all along: A passion for chess, like a drug addiction or a criminal record, should be automatic disqualification for any serious public activity. Column writing excepted, of course.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1998/10/16/tyranny-of-chess/8854cca6-ca40-4e90-bfa1-d9d90c5f4d6c/?utm_term=.d46f29d730b4

https://en.chessbase.com/post/krauthammer-on-che-just-how-dangerous-is-it-

Charles Krauthammer: Chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be

https://www.weeklystandard.com/be-afraid/article/9802

https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2018/02/07/the-brute-force-of-deep-blue-and-deep-learning/#3dfc9ad49e35

Are We Just “Pawns in the Chess Game?”


A protest against the election of Trump outside the US embassy, London, November 2016

Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

This is taken from the transcript of the Chris Hayes show on MSNBC. The headline:

Sen. Feinstein: This ‘isn’t Nazi Germany’

Every single Senate Democrat has now signed on to a bill introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein to bar the Trump administration from splitting up families at the border.Jun.18.2018

https://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/sen-feinstein-this-isn-t-nazi-germany-1258688067865

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
entertain?

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
just bizarre.

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.”

The full review can be found at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/hitlers-rise-it-can-happen-here/

The Cameron Files

Canadian Grant Cameron

is a legend in UFOlogy. “At the 22nd annual International UFO Congress in Arizona, Cameron — co-author of “UFOs, Area 51, and Government Informants” — was honored with the researcher of the year award for his outstanding achievement in the field of UFO studies.” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/09/grant-cameron-ufos-us-presidents_n_2838065.html)

“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 program can be accessed via the archives, located at http://kgraradioarchives.com/shows/cameron-files/?loc=2018.

https://skeptiko.com/grant-cameron-ufo-consciousness-link-324/

Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi: A Review

“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

…Subtle psychologist

…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!”

And then Spassky roared with laughter…(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/author/kevinspraggettonchess/page/366/)

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.”

“Graham Greene

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?”

“Vladimir Tukmakov,

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.

Vasily Ivanchuk

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.

Jan Timman,

who had composed studies since he was young (http://www.arves.org/arves/index.php/en/halloffame/264-timman-jan), recalled: Viktor, unlike many colleagues, always took an interest in my compositions, and we would often spend hours analyzing together.”

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.