The Najdorf in Black and White: A Review

Because of having played the Najdorf system during my formative years in the last century I was interested in learning about GM Bryan Smith’s new book on the opening (

I met Bryan

at the 2009 Kentucky Open where he took first place by a half point. There were myriad problems with the tournament, directed by Alan Priest, which included no electricity for the lighting in the first couple of rounds, so it was played in semi-darkness, which seemed to not bother Mr. Priest. After developing a splitting headache, due to the poor lighting, and losing a game, I withdrew from the tournament, but returned the following day to spectate. While Bryan was waiting on the last round games to finish a conversation developed. Bryan is a quite, taciturn young man, the kind of fellow who lets his moves do his talking. I learned he was from Anchorage Alaska, and he is now the first-ever Grandmaster from Alaska. My home state of Georgia has yet to produce a home-grown GM. I recall asking Bryan why he decided to travel to Louisville in lieu of playing in one of the other, larger, tournaments in his area. He answered in a way that said he would rather be a big fish in a small pond that weekend rather than being a smaller fish in a much larger pond. “Better odds of taking home money?” I asked, and he produced a grin. We talked for some time and I transcribed what was recalled of the conversation later that day, but never used it, much to my regret. Bryan graciously answered my questions so what I recall was an enjoyable afternoon conversation with one of the nicest GM’s with whom I have conversed.

I have replayed many Nadjorf games since moving on to playing other openings, but have not devoted time studying the Nadjorf system with the intensity shown earlier when playing the system. For some time I have wanted a book to read on the system in order to compare the way the system is played now as opposed to how it was played last century, but the books are usually dense and voluminous, with a heavy emphasis on variations. Some of the books could be used as a doorstop. When my review copy, published by Mongoose Press (, arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see it was only a small volume of 162 pages. The book is heavy on words, and ideas, rather than being yet another “data-dump.” Some have written books like the magnificent Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953,

by David Bronstein,

et al, cannot be published today because words, conveying ideas, are predominate. This book proves those writers wrong. Most of the variations included are short enough one does not need a board with which to visualize them. One of the players from my early days told me he liked to read a Chess book without using a board. There are enough diagrams for one to utilize this book in that way, which is exactly how I read the book. Then I read it again using a board and pieces because it is that good.

The book begins with an Introduction: The Cadillac of Openings.

“With this book, I present a collection of games played in the Najdorf Sicilian. The purpose of this book is not to be exhaustive – that would require at least ten times the content, and even then it would not encompass a fraction of the analysis and relevant games played in the Najdorf. This book also does not suggest a repertoire for either White or Black – although players can glean some ideas, since I have generally picked games played in the lines I favor. I think it is dishonest for a writer to try to portray an opening in only a positive light: ultimately, even the most objective writers of repertoire books have to massage the facts and minimize the problems of an opening – and every opening has them.

The purpose of this book, rather, is to show how to play the Najdorf, with White or Black, through archetypal games. I believe that by studying the games in this book, one can develop a solid general sense of the different types of game resulting from the Najdorf as played in the twenty-first century. It is my hope that readers will also gain some degree of enjoyment or entertainment from the games, which have been selected not only on their instructional merits, but also for their aesthetic value.”

The book will be judged by the criteria chosen by the author. The question is whether Bryan delivered on his promise. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” In Baseball terms this book is like hitting a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series!

Bryan continues the introduction. “Having a lifelong opening that one knows inside and out like one’s own house is a major advantage to a chess player. It means that the player can always rely on reaching position that he understands in general terms and knows something about. Perhaps more importantly, though, it gives confidence.”

Reading the above caused me to reflect upon my early days playing the Najdorf. I have never felt as confident playing any opening as I did when playing the Najdorf system. Why did I stop playing the Najdorf system? Bryan continues the introduction, “A sufficiently rich opening will provide immunity against the winds of theory – if one variation is refuted, another can be found, so long as the opening is built on proper principles. I believe the Najdorf can be such an opening. Some may imagine that is is a theoretical labyrinth, suitable only for those with an incredible memory and a willingness to play twenty or more moves of known theory before beginning the game. It is true that there are certain lines in the Najdorf where this is the norm – for instance, the Poisoned Pawn Variation (6.Bg5 e6 7,f4 Qb6). However, the reader will see in this book that these variations can be sidestepped, and that it is indeed possible to play the Najdorf “by the light of nature,” with experience providing a guide. Most of the games I have chosen feature ways of avoiding these quagmires. Despite its sharpness, the Najdorf is an opening built on solid positional principles. It is basically a positional opening.”

When first beginning the Chess road the Dragon variation was very popular. Once a strong player advocated against purchasing a book on the Dragon because “It is written in disappearing ink.” He said that because the theory was changing so fast by the time you read the book, much of it had been refuted. The same could have been said about the Najdorf system. I also recall reading something about there being players who knew the Najdorf, but did not know Chess. I was one of those people, because like others, I knew the Najdorf, but not Chess. After leaving Chess for Backgammon, upon my return to Chess I simply did not have time to keep abreast of the constantly changing theory of the Najdorf system, so decided to learn, and play, other openings. Yet what I learned about Bobby Fischer’s favorite opening has stuck with me, while the other openings never infused me with the confidence felt when playing the Najdorf system.

After the introduction, and before the first chapter, one finds, The Development Of the Najdorf Sicilian, a seven page historical perspective of the Najdorf system. It begins, “The Najdorf can trace its origins to the nineteenth-century German master Louis Paulsen.

Paulsen was an innovator of defense. In an era when 1.e4 e5 was the dominant opening and direct attacking play was the main method of winning, Paulsen understood the concept of asymmetrical play and counterattack. His openings and positional play were often a full century ahead of their time.”

Louis Paulsen was one of the most interesting, and underappreciated, players from the early days of the nineteenth century. Paulsen’s ideas influenced the development of the Royal game greatly. I played openings such as the C26 Vienna, Paulsen-Mieses variation, for example.

Bryan gives a game between Lewis Isaacs and Abraham Kupchick played at Bradley Beach in 1928, writing, “A forgotten 1928 game from a tournament in the U. S. might be the first use of the “real” Najdorf.”

Lewis Isaacs vs Abraham Kupchik

Bradley Beach 1928

ECO: B92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opovcensky variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 b5 7. Bf3 e5 8. Nb3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Re1 O-O 12. Rc1 Nb6 13. Na5 Rb8 14. Nxb7 Rxb7 15. b3 Rc7 16. Qd3 Nbd7 17. Be3 Nc5 18. Qd1 Qa8 19. Bg5 Ncd7 20. Nb1 h6 21. Bd2 Rfc8 22. Ba5 Rc6 23. g3 Nc5 24. Nc3 Bd8 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Nd5 Nxd5 27. Qxd5 Qc8 28. Red1 Ne6 29. Bg4 Rc5 30. Qd2 Rc3 31. Re1 Qc5 32. Re3 Rxe3 33. fxe3 Ng5 34. Qd3 d5 35. exd5 Rxd5 36. Qe2 Qc3 37. h4 Rd2 38. Qe1 Ne4 39. Bf5 Nf2 40. Bd3 Nxd3 41. cxd3 Qxd3 42. Rc8+ Kh7 43. Rc1 f5 44. a4 b4 45. g4 Re2 0-1

He culminates the chapter with, “Despite the opening’s great popularity and constant use at the top level for many decades, the Najdorf remains mysterious and has its unexplored areas, with the new ideas waiting to be born. Its attraction for the chess professional today is easy to understand, since it is an opening where it is possible to play for a win with Black, while it is also unquestionably sound. Although positionally and tactically very sharp, the Najdorf player still controls his own fate.”

Chapter one is titled, Va Banque: 6.Bg5. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 the author advocates Qc7. I never played any move other than 7…Be7 because, well, you know, that is the move played by Bobby Fischer. After studying the games, and positions, I came to understand why the author would advocate the move Qc7 for those taking their first Najdorf steps. The amount of material in the main line can be daunting for a neophyte. The fourth game of the chapter is one in which the author had white against Hristos Banikas at Retymnon in 2009. After the obligatory first five moves of the Najdorf Bryan played 6 Bg5, which was answered with Nbd7. “An old and new move – it was played frequently in the 1950s and again in the 2010s – and not so much in-between.” After 7 f4 we have Qc7.

The other chapters are:

2) The Classicist’s Preference: 6 Be2
3) Add Some English: 6 Be3
4) In Morphy’s Style: 6 Bc4
5) White to Play and Win: 6 h3
6) Systematic: g3
7) Healthy Aggression: 6 f4
8) Action-Reaction: 6 a4
9) Odds and Ends

To illustrate what I mean by the use of words, in lieu of variations, to explain what is happening on both sides of the board, look at the position from Game 11: Zaven Andriasian-Ian Nepomniachtchi, played at the 2010 Aeroflot Open in Moscow. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nf3

The reader finds, “The retreat of the knight to f3 rather than b3 changes nothing in the structure (at least not right away), but the choice of this square has a dramatic effect on the course of the game. In contrast to 7. Nb3, putting the knight on f3 leads to much quieter, more positional play, where White tries t dominate the d5 square. And why is this? Whereas 7.Nb3 allows for White to play f2-f3 with queen-side castling and a king-side pawn storm, after 7,Nf3 this is not possible. White will almost certainly castle king-side. In the meantime, b3 is left free as a retreat square for the bishop from c4. Consequently, rather than opposite-side castling and mutual attacks, you get a more positional struggle.”

Another fine example is from Game 14, Nigel Short

vs Garry Kasparov,

PCA World Championship, game 8, London 1993: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Nbd7 8. f4 Nc5 9. e5 dxe5 10. fxe5 Nfd7 11. Bf4 b5

“In this way, Black places the bishop on its best diagonal (the long diagonal) before White can prevent it by Qd1-f3. Such a position might look good for White on the surface-the e5-pawn confers some space advantage and White has rapid development, plus the f-file is open and the white pieces are placed in threatening-looking positions. But such is the poison of the Sicilian. Black too has his advantages, and they tend to be more long-lasting. The bishop which will come to b7 will be very well placed. The advanced e5-pawn is not only a strength, but a weakness. And most importantly, Black has a well placed knight on c5 and a substantial advantage in space on the queen-side – the advance…b5-b4 is constantly looming over White, and the b3-bishop, if not activated in some dramatic fashion, could turn out to be a complete dud.”

One can turn to almost any page and find nuggets of wisdom such as the above illustrating the aims of BOTH SIDES! If one wishes to play the Najdorf system, or play against it, this is the book for you.

The author has dug deep, unearthing this game, found in the notes to Game 24, Judit Polgar

vs Dariusz Swiercz,

which I was unable to locate in any database. Bryan writes, “6…e6 is likely to be met by 7.g4, which looks like a fairly promising line for White – although 7…Nc6 is another possibility for Black to look into. Instead, the originator of 6.Qf3, American master Andrew Karklins, liked to continue with 7.b3. His record against grandmasters with this line was not very good, but he did have one major scalp:

Andrew Karklins

vs Peter Svidler,

World Open 1995

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6.Qf3 e6 7. b3 Qb6 8. Nde2 Qc7 9. Bb2 b5 10. a3 Bb7 11. g4 d5 12. exd5 Nxd5 13.
Bg2 Nd7 14. O-O Bd6 15. Qh3 Nxc3 16. Nxc3 Be5 17. Bxb7 Qxb7 18. Rad1 O-O 19.Qe3 Bb8 20. Ne4 Ne5 21. Bxe5 Bxe5 22. Nc5 Qc7 23. f4 Bf6 24. Rd7 Qb6 25. Rfd1 Rfd8 26. b4 a5 27. Qf3 axb4 28. axb4 Kf8 29. Kg2 Rdc8 30. R1d6 Qb8 31. Qd3 1-0

This book achieves its aim, hitting the target with a bullseye!


Scott Parker Versus Allen Priest

The USCF has a Forum. In theory, members are allowed to discuss anything Chess related. In practice, the censor will not allow anything deemed controversial, as I learned, much to my chagrin, on numerous occasions.

There are six different categories at which one can post. Under the All Things Chess category one finds a “thread” entitled,
Another Boycott Hits FIDE. This thread was started by ChessSpawn on Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:58 am.

by ChessSpawn on Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:58 am #321527 … -players/#

“I hope that US Chess will publicly support Nakamura’s position. Perhaps it’s time to start working to replace FIDE?”
Brian Lafferty
“If you play the Caro-Kann when you’re young, what are you going to play when you’re older.” – Bent Larsen

ChessSpawn is Brian Lafferty. One is allowed to use a quote and the Larsen quote is the one chosen by Mr. Lafferty.

I happen to know the next post is by Thomas Magar. If one goes to the USCF forum he would not know this fact. Mr. Magar is from N. Versailles, Pa. I know this because it is stated on the side of the post. One would not know where Mr. Lafferty is located because it is not stated.

by tmagchesspgh on Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:40 am #321529

“The only way to stop this form of discrimination is if all of the top players refuse to play in this type of official mock championship event. However, since there is so much money involved, I do not expect that to happen. Money trumps principle, all pun intended. There will always be players who will cross lines for money, even if it makes them international pariahs.”

The following post is by Scott Parker, former President of the Georgia Chess Association. He is originally from Wisconsin. Scott is a former Georgia Senior Champion who is now rated class A. Although his USCF page shows he has played around 300 rated games since USCF began using a computer program to keep stats in 1991, I can attest that he has played many more unrated games in the “pits,” or skittles room, at the House of Pain. Scott is not known for playing, but directing, and he has directed an unbelievable number of tournaments, devoting countless hours to Chess. One legendary player in the Atlanta area stuck Scott with the moniker, “The Sheriff,” because of his ramrod straight walk, saying, “Scott reminds me of Gary Cooper in High Noon.” Mr. Parker has never cared for the term even though it fits. Another crusty Chess personality once said, “Scott is like E.F. Hutton…when he talks, people listen.”

Postby scottrparker on Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:38 pm #321542

“It’s been time to replace this thoroughly corrupt organization for a long time. Some half hearted efforts have been made, but none of them ever gained much traction. I’m hoping that this may be a catalyst for a real alternative to emerge, but I’m not holding my breath.”

Don’t hold back, Mr. Parker, tell us how you REALLY feel!

Several other posts follow before one arrives at a post by “Allen.” It shows that “Allen” is from Louisville, Kentucky. “Allen” weighs in on everything, and “Allen” has considerable weight with which to weigh in, having posted 6703 times since Jan. 20, 2007. “Allen” is Allen Priest, who was previously on the policy board of the USCF.

by Allen on Wed Nov 15, 2017 11:16 am #321561

“This event was not announced at the recently completed FIDE Congress, nor were there bids, nor was there any review. Just like the Iranian hosting of the women’s world championship, the event was announced late and outside the normal FIDE rules for awarding events.

Agon never paid FIDE the fee for the Rapid/Blitz world championship held in Germany. The powers that be in FIDE decided they would waive that fee and not demand it to be paid. There have been calls to void the contract with Agon – most notably from Americas President Jorge Vega. But that contract is still in effect.

However, to call for US Chess to simply withdraw from FIDE is not realistic. FIDE will have a US national federation. I believe it is far better for that to be us rather than for it to be someone who perhaps likes to curry favor with FIDE and is complicit to FIDE shenanigans. There clearly have been behind the scenes maneuvering over the years to supplant US Chess within FIDE, although those efforts do not appear to have gained much traction.”

Allen Priest
National Tournament Director
Delegate from Kentucky

Allen Priest is rated only 701. THIS IS NOT A MISPRINT! Between 2003 and 2014 Mr. Priest played a total of forty-five (45!) games. I have previously written about Mr. Priest on this blog,and/or an earlier blog, the BaconLOG. I first met him at the ill-fated 2009 Kentucky Open. The lights were not working and I was one of the few who questioned starting the first round sans lights. I found him to be dictatorial and a bully. I was very small when young, and bullied, so because of that first-hand experience, I ought to know a bully when in close proximity to one. Another player, an FM from Tennessee, who gave himself the moniker, “The Nashville Strangler,” felt much the same. One never gets a chance to make another first impression. I lived in Louisville for a few years and while there learned that Mr. Priest was brought into Chess by the man called, “Mr. Kentucky Chess,” Steve Dillard, whom I have written about on this blog. ( Several Chess moms informed me that Allen came to Chess after being involved with the Boy Scouts and Soccer where he “Just wanted to run things.”

Scott Parker then replies:

by scottrparker on Wed Nov 15, 2017 1:11 pm #321564

“What is not realistic is believing that you can somehow reform FIDE from the inside. FIDE has been a corrupt organization as long as I can remember, and I’m well into my seventh decade. It’s governance structure is such that just getting rid of the top guy won’t change anything. Campomanes left, Ilyumzhinov took over, and what, exactly changed for the better? Ilyumzhinov will leave one day, possibly fairly soon, but don’t expect much to change with FIDE when that happens. It’s one thing to stay with FIDE for the nonce when they are the only game in town, as long as you’re also working to supplant them with a better organization. If you’re just going along with them because “somebody else would be worse”, then how do you differ from Vidkun Quisling?”

Someone else came between the two, posting this:

by bruce_leverett on Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:18 pm #321565

“Flag on the play — violation of Godwin’s law — penalty, you have to edit that message to not compare the present FIDE goings-on with World War II.”

Mr. Parker answers this:

by scottrparker on Wed Nov 15, 2017 3:21 pm #321571

“It’s not a violation of Godwin’s Law. It’s a confirmation of Godwin’s Law.

FIDE is an international criminal enterprise that has, at least so far, monopolized international chess. To help US players succeed internationally US Chess has to go along with them for the time being. I get that. But not to also work to supplant them with something better is to become complicit in their actions.”

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke


After several more posts by various members Mr. Priest weighs in again:

by Allen on Wed Nov 15, 2017 8:18 pm #321574

“FIDE will have a US national federation. Period. That body will be the one that is charged with looking out for US players interests. I would rather than be US Chess than Susan Polgar and friends.”

Allen Priest
National Tournament Director
Delegate from Kentucky

Let me see now…Susan Polgar was a women’s World Chess Champion. Alan Priest is rated seven OH one (that’s 701). Which one do you think knows more about Chess?

There is more, much more, and I hope you, the reader, will go to the USCF webpage and read all of this important thread, but for now I will conclude with this:

by ChessSpawn on Thu Nov 16, 2017 9:08 am #321586

“Replacing FIDE is the only alternative. FIDE can not, and will not, be reformed from within.”

by Allen on Thu Nov 16, 2017 10:40 am #321589

“Much easier to say than to do.”

And now for the pièce de résistance:

Postby sloan on Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:03 pm #321719

“What do you expect from someone who has made a career of saying, but not doing?”

Will this be an Edward R. Murrow vs Senator Joe McCarthy moment for the good of Chess? One can only hope.

If Alan Priest had been in the old Soviet Union he would have been an “apparatchik.” He clearly prefers to work with a criminal organization from the inside. Scott Parker uses the word “complicit.” Seems I heard that word bandied about often during the sordid Watergate and Iran-Contra affairs, and it will no doubt be used in conjunction with the current Special Prosecutor probe of the Trumpster. As for “working within” FIDE, let me pose this question. What if we exchange “Nazi” for “FIDE?” Can anyone argue that it would have been better to “work within” the Nazi party to engender change? Or would it have been better, historically speaking, to work toward replacing this thoroughly corrupt organization, the position taken by Mr. Parker?

All comments will be published providing they break no law and are within the commonly accepted bounds of decency.

The full thread can be found here:

Sitting Kills, Moving Heals

The headline on the post dated March 6 of Spraggett on Chess is, “More bad news for chess players…”( Kevin references a new recently released study, Study shows each hour sitting increases heart disease risk by 14%. This is nothing new because it has been known for a long time that a sedentary lifestyle leads to bad health. Their are many in the chess community who are overweight and I include myself in that category. Like most older people I have gained a few pounds and know from personal experience how difficult it can be to shed them, even with concerted effort. Then there are those who have crossed the line into obesity, such as USCF Board member Alan Priest, who weighs in on almost every thread on the USCF forum. When I first met him at the Kentucky State Championship in 2009 he was huge. The next time I saw Alan was at the scholastic event held at the downtown Hyatt here in Atlanta last year. I could not believe a man that huge could be larger but he has now become gargantuan. My heart goes out to Alan because he obviously has a problem with food addiction. There were a few obese relatives in my family and it did not turn out well for them, with one dropping dead of a heart attack after eating a big mac, and another having to live on dialysis for years. What kind of example is Alan for the children with whom he is in contact at these scholastic tournaments? The best example he could set would be to lose weight, and to do that Mr. Priest needs to begin with an exercise called “push-backs,” as in pushing back away from the table.

Several years ago Dr. Joan Vernikos, research scientist and former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, wrote, Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death — and Exercise Alone Won’t. “In Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, Vernikos uncovers the unsuspected medical connection between the health dangers of weightlessness in space and the chronic diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles here on Earth. In her research at NASA, Vernikos discovered that movement that resists the force of gravity is essential to good health. In weightlessness, astronauts, who are far fitter than the average adult, seem to rapidly age; their muscles, bones and overall health degenerate to levels usually seen in elderly people. Vernikos found that keeping subjects resting and immobile — an extreme form of the typical American lifestyle — caused the same health problems as extended weightlessness.” (

Dr. Joan advocates standing for two minutes out of every twenty minutes sitting. Most chess players do this without realizing it. Because of nervous energy most players will stand when it is the opponents move. They will also head to the head much more often because of the nervous energy, and walking is a wonderful thing, even if it is only to the lavatory. Health problems arise when a human sits without moving for hours on end, such as someone who sits in front of a computer turned to the USCF forum and weighs in on every thread.

Simply standing is good for the leg muscles. While waiting for a friend whom I had driven to retrieve a prescription he surprised me by returning to the car much earlier than expected. He caught me standing on one leg, and then the other, which he found amusing. “What are you doing,” he asked with a big grin. When I answered, “What does it look like?” he laughed. I told him that standing on one leg at a time was an isometric exercise and he howled with laughter. I thought of this man, who had trouble walking from the car to the drug store and back, later when reading an article, Simple Sitting Test Predicts How Long You’ll Live: Flexibility, balance and muscle strength are key indicators of longevity By Becky Lang ( Can you pass this test?

You Must Be Present to Win

Having awakened with a headache Saturday morning the last thing I wanted to do was look at a computer screen. Because light and sound caused pain I stayed in a quiet, dark room most of the day. After taking a handful of 81 mg aspirin, and several naps, the pain diminished to a point nearing evening where it was possible to crank-up Toby and watch a replay of the sixth game of the WC match. As I watched, and listened to the commentary of GM Peter Svidler, and the incessant giggling and tittering of Sopiko, which grates on the nerves like someone scratching a blackboard with fingernails, a decision was made to take a break. Upon resumption of the coverage it was blatantly obvious by the demeanor of Peter that something dramatic had happened, but what? Rather than informing we viewers of exactly what had transpired, Svid “drug it out,” as we say in the South, until I was screaming at the screen, “Get on with it!” Finally, the blunder by the World Champion was shown. It was what Yasser Seirawan would call a “howler.” It was the kind of blunder one would expect from someone rated in the triple digits. When that was followed by a blunder by the former World Champion I yelled, “Oh Nooooooooooooo!!!” This was like watching a game between GCA VP Ben Johnson and USCF board member Alan Priest, both of whom sport triple-digit ratings.

As if it were not bad enough to break away from the action at what turned out to be the most critical part of the game, and possibly the match, the people in charge of the “live” coverage did NOT continue filming, but also took a break. This is absurd! Upon resumption of the coverage all we were left with is the description of GM Sivdler. This is reminiscent of the now infamous “Heidi game,” as it is called. “The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, with the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.” ( The blunders on the board were nothing compared to the decision made by someone producing coverage of the game.

When teaching children to play chess one of the things I have said is, “You must be present to win.” I tell the children that in Las Vegas if one enters a drawing the rules state “you must be present to win.” If your name is called and you are not there, another name will be drawn. “You snooze, you lose,” I say in hopes this will stay with the children. I add that it is imperative they stay focused at whatever is is they are doing and “be present.”

The blunder Viswanathan Anand made is the same kind of move all players have made; he moved too quickly. Peter Svidler said, “If Vishy had taken thirty seconds to look at the position he would not have played that move,” adding, “It is always the quick move that kills you,” or some such. I know that is true from first-hand experience. Vishy was so focused on his plan he neglected to ask himself how the position had changed after the blunder made by Magnus.

I have taught the children what I call the “cardinal” rules of chess. 1) Why did my opponent make that move? 2) What move do I want, or need, to make? 3) Am I leaving anything en prise? Anand obviously did not ask himself any questions, much to his regret. Vishy was so “not there” that he did not watch Magnus play one of the worse moves ever made in a match for the championship of the world. Vishy was not present and did not win.

But what about Magnus Carlsen? He violated cardinal rule number three. I am having trouble getting my mind around the fact that Magnus did not even ask himself the question, “If I play my King to d2, how will my opponent respond?” These are the best players in the world and both drifted away at the same moment. This is INCREDIBLE! This type of double-blunder has happened previously in the games of Magnus. The Legendary Georgia Ironman mentioned the back to back “red moves” (Chessbomb displays the move in red if it is what GM Yassser Seiriwan would call a “howler”) played by Magnus and Levon Aronian recently, adding, “Somehow it is always the opponent of Magnus who makes the second “howler.” Maybe they just do not expect Magnus to make a mistake.” Maybe so, but a wise man always expects the unexpected.

It was so bad during the press conference the moderator, Anastasiya Karlovich, said, “Are there any questions not about the move Kd2?” Everyone wanted to know how Magnus could have played such a horrible move. He had no explanation. It is more than a little obvious things are not right with team Carlsen. This is the main reason I thought Vishy would win the match. Magnus has not played well since winning the title, and his poor play has continued. Vishy had not played particularly well in the year(s) leading up to the first match. Some thought he may “get it together,” but I was not inclined to believe it possible to reverse such poor play, which proved to be the case.

How much did the fact that Magnus would play White two games in a row during the middle of the match factor into the game? I recall reading about a group of mathematicians who “proved” it is much more fair during a shootout in football that the team who goes second will also have the third attempt, and then revert to alternating. This would seem to be inherently better than to have one player play the White pieces twice in the middle of a World Championship match. Who thought of, and implemented this ridiculous format? Could it have been the FIDE ETs”? Back in the day games were played every other day, but now it is two games and then a break. Things were better “back in the day.”

Most have wondered how Vishy will respond to such an oversight, forgetting that Magnus is the one who made one of the worst blunders ever made in a WC match. Magnus has to know that he missed his chance to put the hammer down in the first game by playing 42…Re3. If he had won that game, and also won the second, as he did, the match would have been all over but the shouting. He knows he has only himself to blame for being in a contest. He also knows that even with a win in the first game the match could now be tied, if Vishy had won the most recent game. He also knows it is possible that Vishy could very well be leading the match at the halfway point. Vishy is not the only one seeing ghosts at this point in the match.

I have no idea what to expect tomorrow; probably more of the same. I do, though, expect the players to take a page out of the book of former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura ( and “stay vigilant.” Although down, I still have faith in Viswanathan Anand, and expect him to win the match.

Latest Cheating Scandal Rocks Chess World

I would like to answer the question posed by Mike Thomas in the comment he left to the post The United Scholastic Chess Federation. He asked, “Why do Priest’s and Bauer’s incorrect answers merit criticism as attempts at misdirection by chess politicians?”
I found the answers given to the question posed humorous. Imagine, I thought, what if one member of each state got up to answer a question by informing the House of Representatives how things are done in their state. Oh, wait, they do! Fortunately it is confined to C-Span. I only watch the channel when the politicos go home and it morphs into BookTV.
I cannot understand why Mr. Thomas thought what I wrote was criticism (I have absolutely no idea where Mike got the idea I wrote anything concerning, “…attempts at misdirection by chess politicians?”), when, as a journalist, all I did was report what is on the forum of the USCF website. I noted there were only two comments made and after checking, those are still the only comments. Poor Alex still has not received an answer to his question. Mr. Bauer and Mr. Priest are, or have been, chess politicians. Some politicians provide more humor than late night comedians; think John McCain and Sarah Palin. All politicians are in the public eye. They make decisions affecting We the People. The same goes for chess politicians. They, as all other politicians, should be questioned. Why is it considered criticism when one questions the actions of elected public officials? Most politicians grant interviews and schedule question and answer sessions with journalists. Such is not the case with chess politicos. It is rare to find a question and answer session, or interview, with a chess politician. One such rarity is an informative interview of USCF Executive Board President Ruth Haring in the September 2012 issue of the California Chess Journal by Aditya Kumar. Racking my brain failed to bring recollection of the last time, if there has been one, I read an extended interview like the one with Ms. Haring. A PDF of the issue containing the interview can be found at the CalChess website:
I applaud Ruth for publishing in Chess Life magazine the graph vividly illustrating one of the major problems facing USCF, the problem of membership retention. Seeing is believing and seeing the graph has rocked many in the chess community. “Membership retention” in this case means finding a way to halt the hemorrhaging of very young preteen members. The fact is the USCF has been akin to a pyramid, or Ponzi scheme. Adult membership has dropped to a point where, if for any reason, the parents of very young children stop purchasing memberships there are not enough adult members to sustain the USCF. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the so-called “Fischer boomers” are rapidly aging, and with age comes death. The dead may vote, but they no longer become members.
From my many years in chess I have learned most people are involved for one reason, that being to play! Most do not care about the politics of chess, wanting to know only, “When is the next tournament?” Whether on a local or national level there are few people willing to attempt running an organization. There has been little scrutiny, almost to the point of a “need to know” basis. There are only a few people actually controlling the operation of chess, which would seem to be all the more reason for someone to be asking the tough questions.
One of the major problems facing the chess world is the problem of using the assistance of programs to cheat. An ongoing cheating scandal has afflicted Major League Baseball since before the beginning of this century, and it continues. Monday a “dirty dozen” MLB players were suspended for what is being called “cheating.” For example, on the show MLB NOW, one of the talking heads said, “Continued talk of cheating is bad for baseball.” Another head talked about, “How we got to this point because people sat there and did not say anything.” Every week there is news of yet another cheating scandal. This appeared on the Chessbase website August 4, “A cheating scandal rocked the Dortmund Open.” Continued talk of cheating is bad for chess. Some organization needs to step-up to the plate. I have more faith in the ET’s the President of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is said to have visited, to take appropriate measures than FIDE.

Of the two major issues facing organized chess, the latter is paramount. If measures are not taken the first problem will not exist because there will not be any members to retain. If the USCF board members held a press conference the first question asked should be, “How do you plan to address the onerous problem of the perception by the public of rampant cheating in chess tournaments?”
MLB players cheated because there were big bucks involved. The stakes in chess are just as huge, albeit on a lower monetary level. For example, in a column in the Washington Times, “At Cadets, one short chess game leads to one big payout for New Yorker,” David Sands writes, “It was one of the bigger payoffs you’re going to see riding on a single game of rapid chess: $145,624 for less than a half hour of work. That’s how the math worked out at the U.S. Cadet Championship in Rockville last week, as New York NM Justus Williams defeated fellow master Michael Brown of California in their rapid Game/25 playoff after the two tied for first at 4½-2½ in the eight-player invitational for the strongest American players under 16. The stakes: a full four-year scholarship to collegiate chess powerhouse University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which, according to the school’s website, is worth $36,406 a year for an out-of-stater like Williams.” ( )
This is Big Money in chess. Players have cheated for much less. I must mention the absurdity of that much money riding on a quick-play game. It does not take a Bob Dylan to see the wind is blowing in the direction of ever faster time controls. Even the World Chess Championship is now decided by quick-play games! If it is more difficult, if not impossible, to cheat during a fast game, then all games will become quick-play in the future. Imagine what it would do to the scholastic foundation upon which the USCF is now based if the headline had been, “Cheating Scandal Rocks US Cadet Championship.”

United Scholastic Chess Federation

This past Saturday, July 20, Alex Relyea started a thread on the USCF forum when he published the following:
“As some have pointed out, it is a long time since I have attended an Oklahoma state championship, so I was curious as to how the state champion was determined. In New Hampshire it is all of the New Hampshire residents that have the highest score in the Championship section, so it is possible to have more than one state champion. I believe that it is the same way in Maine, except that the Maine state championship tournament is closed to Maine residents.
The reason I ask is because I notice that Big Chuck Unruh and Little Chuck Unruh, that is CD and CM Unruh, were tied for first this year, and I was wondering if they were co-champions or if one of them won on tiebreaks?
Thank you.”
Alex Relyea

A few hours later, Alan Priest, responded with:
“Ky holds a closed round robin to determine its state champion. The players qualify for the closed based on the top state residents placing in the Ky Open, as well as winners of other events in the year.”
Allen Priest
Delegate from Kentucky

His response has absolutely nothing to do with the question posed by Mr. Relyea. Mr. Priest is a chess politician who was on the board of the USCF (and still may be). Like most politicians who do not answer questions, he provided an answer which was a non-sequitur. Two days later another chess politician, Randy Bauer, decided to get in on the act by throwing in his two cents worth with:
“Iowa has a series of qualifier events where high-finishing players earn qualifying points for the next state championship. Five players plus the defending champion then play a round robin. In the case of a tied state championship there is no automatic qualifier the following championship and the top 6 players qualify.”
Randy Bauer

Mr. Bauer has been on the USCF policy board. Although he has played tournament chess, he is now a chess politician. Either of these two chess politicians could have attempted to find an answer to the question posed by Mr. Relyea, but chose to answer a question that was not asked, just like a politician.
I have no idea who is the champion from Oklahoma. But I do know the results for the USCF policy board have been tabulated. From the USCF website: “Pending certification of the election results by the delegates at the annual meeting, Ruth Haring and Mike Atkins have been elected to three-year terms, and Randy Bauer and Charles D. Unruh have been elected to two-year terms.”
We also learn that, “A total of 2,049 ballots were received for the USCF Executive Board election, of which 2,046 were qualified.”

I do not know the number of USCF members, but from the graph provided by Ruth Haring in the May 2013 issue of Chess Life magazine it is obvious the vast majority of members are not old enough to vote. It is therefore impossible to know what percentage of eligible members took the time and made the effort to vote. I urge you to go to Mark Weeks blog, CHESS FOR ALL AGES to see the graph and read what Mark has to say in response to what Ms. Haring wrote in Chess Life:
“As we look forward to the future it is important that we address membership retention. Existing scholastic programs see constant turnover and we see in our membership data, a membership decline beginning around the age of 11.
Scholastic retention is one of the most urgent and least understood puzzles facing the organization (see chart). USCF needs to focus in on this phenomenon to better understand the dynamics in play and develop strategies to convert scholastic members to lifelong members.”I cannot help but wonder how the two chess politicians who did not answer Mr. Relyea’s question would answer how they intend to “…develop strategies to convert scholastic members to lifelong members.” Since both Mr. Priest and Mr. Bauer have been on the USCF board, and were unable to answer the most important question facing organized chess during that time, maybe the new man on the board, who may or may not be the chess champion form Oklahoma, Mr. Unruh, will be able to answer a question that has had chess politicians scratching their heads for decades, ever since the pooh-bahs here in the US decided to turn the United States Chess Federation into the United Scholastic Chess Federation.