Tim Tobiason: A Colorful Chess Character

Reading the following from Mark Weeks blog, Chess for All Ages, caused me to pause and reflect upon the man named in the post:

“By coincidence, while I was preparing the recent post, An 1886 Photoshopped Illustration, where I mentioned that ‘I’ve been downloading old copies of The Chess Journalist (TCJ)’, I noticed that the December 2006 issue of the TCJ credited the existence of the scanned CL/CRs to Tim Tobiason. He seems to have been a colorful character in several ways, but this isn’t the time or place to repeat stories that can be found elsewhere on the web. It is his misfortune that while the original magazines are protected by copyright, his scans aren’t protected by a second copyright because they don’t represent creative work.”
(http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2018/06/caveat-ebay-digital-documents.html)

The first time I met Tim Tobiason was in Rolla, Missouri, at the 2002 Missouri State Chess Championship. Mr. Tobiason, who was also playing in the small event, had the most eclectic collection of things ever seen at a Chess tournament. Along with the usual Chess books and other Chess related things, he displayed books he had written, and other items looking like they would be more comfortable at a gun show. I cannot recall the titles, but they were along the same line as the infamous Anarchist Cookbook.

He talked of the right he had to publish anything, and of being hounded by the FBI because of the content, which tended toward blowing things up with explosives. Tim rather proudly stated he had been “filmed by 60 Minutes,” the CBS TV show. He also mentioned having been banned at gun shows, which is where he sold most of his self-produced books. People began moving away from the table. He also mentioned needing a place to stay, or at least a shower, as he was traveling from Chess tournament to tournament while living in his van. I mentioned, with as much deference as could be mustered, maybe he might want to reconsider the part about being followed by the FBI if he wanted a place to stay. “You gotta point,” he said.

The next encounter with Tim was at the Atlanta Chess Center. He needed to take a shower and wanted to stay inside the House of Pain that night. In addition, he needed some space in the back room to set up his equipment, which consisted of scanning equipment to be used to copy older material, which he would sell. Unbeknownst to me David Spinks had flatly turned him down. Later on I saw and greeted him. He was obviously road weary and in a disheveled state. Tim was heavyset, with a rather large, and protruding belly. Happy to see a friendly face after his encounter with Spinks, he greeted me like a long-lost friend. After informing me he knew Thad Rogers, owner of the Dump, and explaining the situation, as he had attempted with Spinks, I told him it would be OK to shower. I figured Thad would give the OK, so I did so. David was LIVID! It was one of the few times I saw Spinks “lose it.” David was adamant. He did not want Tim around, especially on a tournament weekend. I tried reasoning with him, to no avail. For the first and only time while working at the HOP I placed a call to Thad. After informing him of the situation, he said, “Toby’s there? Tell him I said hello, and yes, you were right to allow him access. Let me speak with David.” Spinks did not like being overruled, but had no choice in the matter.

Toby said he was hungry and I mentioned the Dekalb Farmer’s Market, but Toby had other ideas. He asked about an all you can eat place, telling me he only ate once a day, spending hours eating all he could, which would have to last until the next day. I understood immediately why Thad liked Toby, as he, too, could spend hours at an all you can eat buffet. Besides, Toby was a character, and Thad always had a fondness for characters, one of the great things about Thad. That particular character trait was exactly what one needed to interact with Chess players.

Upon his return we made room for Toby and his equipment in the back room while taking pains to pacify Spinks. I spent a great deal of time with Toby that evening while working the front. Toby was a nervous type, and who would not be with the FBI breathing down his neck? Most Chess players are paranoid; it seems to come with the game. Toby was not the only player claiming to be followed by authorities. IM Emory Tate was in the military for many years, playing, and winning, the Armed Forces Championship five times. We were regaled with stories of his being in Military Intelligence, and according to Emory, “They are still watching me.” Who were we to argue? After listening to Emory I will admit to being pleased someone was keeping an eye on the man. Consider this:

“A lone lion wanders afar in the wilderness, no longer part of the pride
Once gleaming, accepted, a beautiful beast, now having been cast aside
No chance for part in coordinated hunt, this one can’t run very fast
Nature holds no place, and faltering, it seems this beast just won’t last

~Emory Andrew Tate, Jr.”

Is Emory writing about himself, or the Royal game? This can be found at the excellent website of Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum. (http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2015/10/21/emory-tate-chess-savant-warrior-1958-2015/)

Thad drove up from Macon the next day and if memory serves, stayed the night. While on duty Thad could be heard laughing constantly from the back room. It was obvious he had an affinity for Toby. I cannot differentiate between all the tournaments held at the House of Pain, but because of Toby I do recall that particular weekend. Toby definitely brought something different to the staid House that weekend. In deference to Spinks I mentioned the recent rash of car break-ins experienced at the House in the crime filled area and Toby decided to sleep in his van.

I asked Thad if what Toby related was real, or a figment of his imagination. “I dunno,” he answered, “But they make for great stories!” he said with a grin. Toby kept busy, and out-of-the-way, making his discs, which he sold to Thad. One legendary Atlanta player was extremely pleased with what he purchased.

The last time I encountered Toby was in Louisville many years later. There was a children’s tournament and I arrived a little after noon. The event was over (they ‘head ’em up and move ’em out’ in Derby land) and Toby was getting ready to leave, hitting the road for who knows where.

Reading the Chess for All Ages post prompted a visit to startpage.com, where I entered Toby’s name, finding this article, which is quite lengthy. If you do not have the appetite for all of it, scroll on down to the last four paragraphs, which has been made bold. This will make you want to read all of what follows, so why not just invest the time and read it all now?

Hoax! (part 2)
The second half of Jon Ronson’s investigation into people behind the post-September 11 anthrax hoaxes.

I had met Tim two years earlier at a gun show in Rochester, Minnesota. I was there with my producer, Jim, and the Ruby Ridge survivor Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were shot by FBI agents in a bungled raid in Idaho 10 years ago. Crowds flocked to get Weaver’s autograph, but Tim didn’t. He stood apart, a lone wolf among lone wolves, a pasty-looking man, wearing a lumberjack shirt and glasses. He had a deep grudge against the federal government and, it turned out, a rudimentary scientific knowledge. He told us that anthrax was the only way forward for the “movement”. In our experience, anthrax wasn’t a big militia topic of conversation. In fact, we’d never heard it mentioned, so Jim did a quick interview with him.

“I get into the more dangerous biological and chemical weapons area,” Tim said during this taped interview. “You can mail massive-scale weapons in microscopic form on a postage stamp, and that way you can re-arm the entire nation if the government ever tries to take your guns away.”
Guardian Today: the headlines, the analysis, the debate – sent direct to you
Read more

The people we met at the gun shows all had their own special ways of theoretically battling the government. One man had advocated the use of piano wire, another favoured firebombs. Tim’s big thing was anthrax. I’d never ratted out an interviewee to the feds before. I’d never given up a source. This would normally be a very bad thing for a journalist to do. But this was October 2001.

“Tim probably isn’t the anthrax killer,” I thought to myself. “But how often does one meet someone who is almost the anthrax killer?”

“I should call the FBI,” I said to Jim, when he telephoned in early October to remind me about our interview with Tim.

“Hang on,” he said. “I’m the one who thought of Tim. I should call the FBI.”

“I want to call the FBI,” I said.

“Well, I don’t want you bloody going to the FBI without me,” said Jim.

There was a hurt silence. “OK,” I said. “I promise to bring you with me to the FBI.”

It wasn’t easy to find the FBI in London. Directory enquiries had no record of them. “Are you sure F stands for Federal?” they asked.

I finally tracked them to the US embassy, and an agent called Michael came on the phone. When I told him what I had, he said, casually, “Yes. That would be something we’d be interested in. Could you bring it in?”

“Tomorrow?” I asked, and Michael agreed.

I realised that things were less casual when Michael telephoned me at 8.30am to ask if I was coming in today. Things aren’t casual at 8.30am. People call at 8.30am if they’ve been up worrying.

And two hours later – in Grosvenor Square, central London – Jim and I were past the security guards, past the ocean of fencing, through the x-rays, the bag search, up the elevator, through a series of reinforced steel doors – the kind of doors you find on safes – through more corridors, through the body search, and into London’s FBI headquarters. We were led into an office decorated with novelty Big Ben snowstorms and a collection of funny police helmets.

Michael was sitting at his desk. He was bookish and young. He shook hands, led us through to his boss’s office, and sat us on the sofa. He got out his notepad and said, “So how did you come to meet this Tim?”

“Well,” said Jim, “we’re journalists, and we were following Randy Weaver around the gun show circuit. Actually, Jon had hooked up with Randy Weaver a few days earlier, but I’d been researching another project, would you believe it, surveillance cameras in shopping malls!” Jim laughed nervously. Michael’s eyes began to glaze.

I think that Jim, like many people who meet law enforcement officers, was feeling the desperate urge to confess. Luckily, Jim didn’t have anything to confess to, so this compulsion was finding a different outlet – mad small talk. I glanced down at Michael’s notepad. So far, he’d written only two words: “Randy Weaver.”

“Shall we watch the tape?” said Michael.

“With a mass propagated pre-packaged bio-weapon, you could render most of the major cities uninhabitable in about a week, which would wreck the economy and pretty much put an end to the government,” said Tim on the tape.

“Tim,” replied Jim on the tape, “what you’re advocating here is the spread of really dangerous information. Why do you feel that it’s a good idea for everybody to know this terrible stuff?”

I was relieved that Jim had adopted a combative style of questioning with Tim. All too often, Jim and I ask extremists over-soft questions that might lead FBI agents erroneously to believe that we had gone native. When the tape ended, Michael thanked us very much and escorted us back to the lobby.

That night, as I lay in bed, I thought of Tim, and I wondered who he really was. A week later, the Wall Street Journal provided the answer: the FBI, it said, was looking for a home-grown anthrax terrorist, and they were making inquiries about a Nebraska man called Tim Tobiason, who was known on the gun show circuit for advocating the use of anthrax. Apparently, the FBI had been alerted to Tim by a “member of the public”. There was a photograph. This was my Tim.

It turned out that Tim Tobiason came from Silver Creek, Nebraska. He had once been a pillar of the community, the owner of an animal-feed mill with 24 employees and $3m a year cashflow, married, with two daughters, and a bit of a chemical wizard, too; he mixed up witches’ brews at night in his garage – funny-smelling stuff, said his neighbours. Then he made a new kind of phosphate-based feed additive which, he calculated, would net him millions. He set about patenting it, but the government said it would be dangerous to cattle, so they rejected it. He began bitching to his friends about a conspiracy, how the government had stolen his patent and given it to some agricultural corporation. He moved into a Dodge caravan and plotted his revenge. He wrote Scientific Principles Of Improvised Warfare: Advanced Biological Weapons Design And Manufacture. The cover promised, “If you can make Jell-O, you can wipe out cities. Enjoy!”

His marriage collapsed and he took to selling his book on the gun show circuit. In the wake of the Wall Street Journal article, TV crews stormed Silver Creek. But Tim had vanished. The FBI analysed his handwriting, and followed the instructions in his anthrax cookbook, finding them to be shoddy and incomplete. They concluded that Tim Tobiason was innocent. As a result of the publicity, Tim was banned from gun shows across the US. His Silver Creek neighbours said they didn’t expect him back, which was for the best because he was no longer welcome in town.

The last I heard of Tim Tobiason was in December last year. Dan Rather’s CBS news team secretly filmed him at a gun show in California – one of the few still letting him sell his books. In this covert recording, Tim said that if a federal agent killed him and his children, an unnamed colleague of his would exact a terrible revenge. This colleague would take “communicable weapons to every grade school within 50 miles of CIA headquarters, infect them all, they go home, infect Mom and Dad, Mom and Dad goes back to CIA, and two weeks later CIA’s gone.” Tim was one of those people who always lived in fear that the federal government would come after him, and Jim and I made his paranoid fantasy come true.

For all his blather, I think my decision to shop Tim to the FBI was an even less justifiable response to the hysteria than the actions of the four anthrax hoaxers whom I interviewed. Clay Waagner had a good excuse for going crazy that month. He had a cause. Lucy Manifold was trying to stay happy. Bryan Mangnall was a dumb jock. And Terry Olson was depressed and wanted attention. I had no good reason to do what I did. And I got thanked for it.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/oct/05/anthrax.uk1

Crime in The City (Sixty to Zero) by Neil Young
——–

All the champs and the heroes
They got a price to pay
They go from sixty to zero
In the split of a hair
They see the face in the window
They feel a shadow out there
They’ve got the places they can go
They’ve got the people who stare
They’ve got to walk in their shoes
They’ve got to see what they see
They’ve got the people around them
Getting too much for free
All the pimps and the dealers
All the food they can eat
All the screamers and squealers
When they walk down the street
Yeah.

He’s just a rich old man
He never cared for anyone
He likes to count his possessions
He’s been a miser from penny one
He never cared for his children
Never cared for his wife
Never made anyone happy
That’s the way he lived his life
And one day in the sunshine
He got a bolt from the blue
Unloaded all of his possessions
Sold his investments too
And now he lives with the homeless
Owns 900 hospital beds
He prefers to remain nameless
It’s publicity he dreads
Yeah.

There’s a judge in the city
He goes to work every day
Spends his life in the courthouse
Keeps his perspective that way
But I respect his decision
He’s got a lot on his mind
He’s pretty good with the gavel
A little heavy on the fines
One day there was this minstrel
Who came to court on a charge
That he blew someone’s head off
Because his amp was too large
And the song he was singin’
Was not for love but for cash
Well, the judge waived the charges
He fingered his mustache
Yeah.

Well, there’s a clown in a carnival
He rode a painted horse
He came from somewhere out west
He was very funny of course
But that is not what I noticed
It was the incredible force
With which he held his audience
While he rode on his horse
His jokes were not that off-color
His smile was not that sincere
His show was that not that sensational
Reasons for success were not clear
But he still made big money
One day the circus was his
Now he’s married to the acrobat
And they’re training their kids
Yeah.

Now the jailhouse was empty
All the criminals were gone
The gate was left wide open
And a buck and fawn
Were eating grass in the courtyard
When the warden walked in
And took a rifle from the prison guard
And said to him with a grin
To shoot those deer would be stupid, sir
We already got ’em right here
Why not just lock the gates and keep them
With intimidation and fear?
But the warden pulled the trigger
And those deer hit the ground
He said Nobody’ll know the difference
And they both looked around.
Yeah.

Well, the cop made the showdown
He was sure he was right
He had all of the lowdown
From the bank heist last night
His best friend was a robber
And his wife was a thief
All the children were murderers
They couldn’t get no relief
The bungalow was surrounded
When a voice loud and clear
Come out with your hands up
Or we’re gonna blow you out of here
There was a face in the window
TV cameras rolled
And they cut to the announcer
And the story was told.
Yeah.

Well, the artist looked at the producer
The producer sat back
He said What we have got here
Is a pretty good track
But we don’t have a vocal
And we still don’t have a song
If we could get this thing accomplished
Nothin’ else could go wrong
So he balanced the ashtray
And he picked up the phone
And said Send me a songwriter
Who’s drifted far from home
And make sure that he’s hungry
And make sure he’s alone
And send me a cheeseburger
And a new Rolling Stone
Yeah.

Well, the Sioux and Dakota
They lost all of their land
And now a basketball player
Is trying to lend them a hand
Maybe someday he’ll be president
He’s quite a popular man
But now the chief has reservations
And the white man has plans
There’s opposition in Congress
The bill is up against cash
There’s really no way of predicting
If it will fly or it will crash
But that’s the nature of politics
That’s the name of the game
That’s how it looks in the tepee
Big winds are blowing again
Yeah.

There’s still crime in the city
Said the cop on the beat
I don’t know if I can stop it
I feel like meat on the street
They paint my car like a target
I take my orders from fools
Meanwhile some kid blows my head off
Well, I play by their rules
So now I’m doing it my way
I took the law in my own hands
Here I am in the alleyway
A wad of cash in my pants
I get paid by a ten year old
He says he looks up to me
There’s still crime in the city
But it’s good to be free
Yeah.

Now I come from a family
That has a broken home
Sometimes I talk to my daddy
On the telephone
When he says that he loves me
I know that he does
But I wish I could see him
Wish I knew where he was
But that’s the way all my friends are
Except maybe one or two
Wish I could see him this weekend
Wish I could walk in his shoes
But now I’m doin’ my own thing
Sometimes I’m good, then I’m bad
Although my home has been broken
It’s the best home I ever had
Yeah.

Well, I keep getting younger
My life’s been funny that way
Before I ever learned to talk
I forgot what to say
I sassed back to my mummy
I sassed back to my teacher
I got thrown out of Sunday School
For throwin’ bibles at the preacher
Then I grew up to be a fireman
I put out every fire in town
Put out everything smoking
But when I put the hose down
The judge sent me to prison
Gave me life without parole
Wish I never put the hose down
Wish I never got old.
http://thrasherswheat.org/fot/lyrics_crime.htm

Advertisements

“Jane, you ignorant slut.”

In the event you are too young to recall the now immortal words from the title of this post, they were uttered with disdain by Dan Akyroyd to Jane Curtain on the Saturday Night Live program decades ago as a skit that was a take-off on the “60 Minutes” segment “Point/Counterpoint” between “conservative” James J. Kilpatrick and “liberal” Shana Alexander. I thought of it as left-shoe, right shoe; the ol’ two step, double shuffle. What the two commentators gave was two differing views of the establishment. When Dan spoke those words to Jane it was so unexpected one was so taken aback that it took a few moments before the laughter began.
I am currently enrolled in a study at Emory University. When being questioned by the Doctor with a PhD I mentioned that I had participated in similar studies at Georgia Tech by a young fellow working on his PhD, Zach Hambrick, who was now at a University up north I thought was Minnesota. “I know Zach,” he said, “but he is at Michigan State.” He got a kick out of the fact that Zach would schedule my appointment at the Psychology department, which was across from Chandler field, the baseball diamond, so I could walk over after finishing and watch a game.
Yesterday as I was perusing the Daily Chess News Links July 1, 2014 on the Chess Cafe website (http://blog.chesscafe.com/?m=201407) I noticed the penultimate link, “10,000 hours to genius theory questioned,” and clicked on. The article dated 30 June 2014 is by Jane Bainbridge. It begins, “The research was led by David Hambrick and looked at studies of chess players that provided information on people’s highest ability level achieved along with their history of practice. They found that between 2005 and 2012 six studies had been done, involving more than 1000 players internationally in total.”
Could it be the young man I knew as Zach? Yes, indeed, I discovered it was none other than Zach! Jane continues, “On average, the amount of deliberate practice accounted for 34% of variance in chess ability, which although an impressive proportion, was insufficient to explain why some players achieved greatness and others didn’t. And there was a huge range in the deliberate practice completed by players of different standards. One study, looking purely at grandmasters found the range of practice they’d invested was between 832 and 24,284 hours. Looking at players who achieved only intermediate level, 13% of them had completed more practice than the average amount invested by the grandmasters.” (http://www.research-live.com/news/10000-hours-to-genius-theory-questioned/4011897.article)
Further research revealed a debate on “The Creativity Post” between Zach and author David Shenk, known to the chess world for his book, “The Immortal Game” called “superb” by the Wall Street Journal (I concur). I read the post by Zach, “Intelligence Matters for Success, Like it or Not” (http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/debate/intelligence_matters_for_success_like_it_or_not) first. Who is Zach Hambrick? “David Z. (Zach) Hambrick is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. Dr. Hambrick’s research focuses on individual differences in basic cognitive abilities and capacities and their role in skilled performance. Dr. Hambrick received his Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology (2000). His work has appeared in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Cognitive Psychology, and Memory & Cognition, among other scholarly journals. Dr. Hambrick was the 2000 recipient of the James McKeen Cattell Award for Best Dissertation in Psychology from the New York Academy of Sciences, and is a consulting editor for Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.” http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/debate/intelligence_matters_for_success_like_it_or_not#sthash.unEtiCg5.dpuf
Zach writes, “How do people become great at what they do? What separates the best from the rest in music, science, art, sports, and so on? This question has been a topic of intense debate in psychology for as long as psychology has been a field. Francis Galton surveyed genealogical records of hundreds of scientists, artists, musicians, writers and other eminent individuals and discovered that they tended to be biologically related. Galton therefore concluded that “genius” is hereditary. The debate rages on.”
“The deliberate practice view has attracted a great deal of attention in the scientific community, and beyond. In his bestselling book “Outliers,” for example, the writer Malcolm Gladwell describes 10,000 hours as the “magic number” of greatness. At the same time, a vast and venerable literature documents the importance of basic abilities for success in a wide variety of complex tasks.”
Included in his post is a link to a New York Times Op-Ed “Sorry, Strivers. Talent Matters, by David Z. Hambrick and Elizabeth J. Meinz” dated November 19, 2011. They began the article with a question, “HOW do people acquire high levels of skill in science, business, music, the arts and sports? This has long been a topic of intense debate in psychology.
Research in recent decades has shown that a big part of the answer is simply practice — and a lot of it. In a pioneering study, the Florida State University psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues asked violin students at a music academy to estimate the amount of time they had devoted to practice since they started playing. By age 20, the students whom the faculty nominated as the “best” players had accumulated an average of over 10,000 hours, compared with just under 8,000 hours for the “good” players and not even 5,000 hours for the least skilled.
Those findings have been enthusiastically championed, perhaps because of their meritocratic appeal: what seems to separate the great from the merely good is hard work, not intellectual ability. Summing up Mr. Ericsson’s research in his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell observes that practice isn’t “the thing you do once you’re good” but “the thing you do that makes you good.” He adds that intellectual ability — the trait that an I.Q. score reflects — turns out not to be that important. “Once someone has reached an I.Q. of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional I.Q. points doesn’t seem to translate into any measureable real-world advantage.”
David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, restates this idea in his book “The Social Animal,” while Geoff Colvin, in his book “Talent Is Overrated,” adds that “I.Q. is a decent predictor of performance on an unfamiliar task, but once a person has been at a job for a few years, I.Q. predicts little or nothing about performance.”
But this isn’t quite the story that science tells. Research has shown that intellectual ability matters for success in many fields — and not just up to a point.”
They point out how research has shown “…that “working memory capacity,” a core component of intellectual ability, predicts success in a wide variety of complex activities.”
They conclude their refutation of Malcom Gladwell, and those who follow his convoluted and discredited theory with, ” It would be nice if intellectual ability and the capacities that underlie it were important for success only up to a point. In fact, it would be nice if they weren’t important at all, because research shows that those factors are highly stable across an individual’s life span. But wishing doesn’t make it so.
None of this is to deny the power of practice. Nor is it to say that it’s impossible for a person with an average I.Q. to, say, earn a Ph.D. in physics. It’s just unlikely, relatively speaking. Sometimes the story that science tells us isn’t the story we want to hear.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/sorry-strivers-talent-matters.html?_r=2&)
I next read, “Response to Zach Hambrick” by David Schenk. His post begins, “Thanks for the opportunity to join this discussion. In order to point the way to the fullest possible answer of “How do people become great at what they do?” I suggest that we first need to pull back and ask a few even more basic questions, such as:
– Where do abilities come from?
– What is intelligence?
– What is innate?
– What does “heritable” mean?
I’m obviously not going to tackle all of these giant topics right now.”
Well, why not?! I will let you read what Mr. Schenk has to say (http://www.creativitypost.com/psychology/debate/response_to_zach_hambrick).
I would, though, like to add the last paragraph written by David:
“But there’s also something very beautiful in the science I see — including Ericsson’s wonderful work. It is this: with the exception of people born with severe defects, most every human being has, at the moment of conception, an extraordinary potential. We are biologically designed to adapt to our circumstances. People become great at what they do when they have some sort of very deep and constant need to be great.”
I would like to focus on the last sentence. I played baseball for a decade, from the ages of ten to eighteen. I had a “very deep and constant need to be great.” I spent far more than 10,000 hours practicing and playing the game of baseball. I had everything required to play baseball except size and strength. I was good enough to have been offered a contract by both the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets to play minor league baseball, but the scout for the Cards told me, “You are good enough to play at double A, but will probably ride the pine at triple A, but you could have a job in baseball such as coach or manager, or maybe be a scout.” The part that stuck with me was “ride the pine.” I had never sat on the bench and the prospect did not sound appealing to me, so I stopped playing baseball.
I cannot help but think of the book “Moneyball,” which was made into a movie, and the General Manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt. Billy had been an outstanding baseball player, one who “had all the tools.” Yet he did not make it to “The Show.” He tells the story of facing a flame throwing pitcher whom he did not want to face again. On the other hand, his teammate, Lenny Dykstra, nicknamed “Nails,” grabbed a bat saying, “Let me at ’em. I’ll hit that expletive deleted!” Lenny, a much smaller man than Billy, made “The Show,” and had some very good seasons, even if it took “the juice” to do it. Like Pete Rose, Lenny has had a difficult time out of baseball, and last I heard was in prison.
Pete Rose did not have all the tools, but he had a burning desire to play baseball. His nickname was “Charley Hustle.” I tried my best to emulate his “all-out” style of play. Pete holds the MLB record for most hits, lifetime. There have been many MLB players with more talent, but none with more base-hits. Then there was Eddie Stanky, a player about whom the infamous Leo Durocher said, “He can’t hit; he can’t throw; and he cannot run. All he can do is beat you.”
“People become great at what they do when they have some sort of very deep and constant need to be great.” Does that not sound like Bobby Fischer?
There was a young man upon whom the Legendary Georgia Ironman hung the moniker, “Little Hayseed,” because he wore a straw hat. “Hayseed” came into the tournament world with a low rating and won money in every section until he made it to class “A,” where he found the going tough. Then he stopped playing. Xiao Cheng began at a young age, becoming a NM and won the Georgia State Championship. Then he was not seen for some time, until one night he came to the House of Pain. I asked him why he had stopped playing chess and he was honest enough to inform me that he gave it up because he did not like losing. Stephan Muhammad was a strong Senior Master who also won the Georgia State Championship. He lost five games at the 6TH NORTH AMERICAN FIDE in Chicago in November of 2007, then played in three tournaments in Atlanta, and that was the end of the tournament road for him. He was a Life Master who topped out at 2468, but then went into a nosedive (http://main.uschess.org/datapage/ratings_graph.php?memid=12355370).
I have often wondered if players such as these played because they loved winning, not playing. Marshall Jaffe, may he R.I.P., was a Senior who played at the Atlanta Chess Center in one of the lower sections. I noticed Marshall always used most of his time and once complimented him for it. “It takes me longer to make my bad moves,” he said. Then he added, grinning, “I just love to play the game.”
Is that not why the game is played? I have enjoyed a hard fought loss more than some “walkovers” I have played. The thing about chess is that it used to be that one could always find someone to battle of about the same strength. Until, that is, what is now called the “youth movement.” Most of the players who “just loved to play the game” have found other pursuits, to the detriment of chess. We cannot all be winners, but chess is the loser when people stop playing.