Armageddon Chess

The headline on Chessbase shows “GRENKE Final: Carlsen wins in Armageddon!” The article by Alejandro Ramirez is dated 2/10/2015 and even with the exclamation mark I am nonplussed. Carlsen did not win the tournament in my universe because he scored the same number of points as GM Arkadij Naiditsch. According to the multiverse theory whatever possibility exists can be found in one of those other universes. In one universe, let us call it nocaBverse, the two players who scored the same number of points tied for first. In another universe, let us call it Ironmanverse, tiebreaks were used and the first tiebreak was, as it is in every other game and sport on the universe in which the tournament we are discussing was played, the head to head matchup. In the Ironmanverse Arkadij Naiditsch was declared the winner. Other universes use things like most wins, or performance rating, or even most wins with Black, to decide a winner. Only in our universe are the best human chess players made to run a sprint after running a marathon in order to decide a “winner.” In one of the other universes a system is used whereby more points are awarded for a win or a draw for Black. A win with Black scores 3 points, while a win with White only scores 2 points. A draw with Black scores 1 1/2 points, while a draw with White only scores one point. In this multipointverse Arkadij Naiditsch outscored Magnus Carlsen by one half point, 11 1/2 to 11, and was declared the winner.

Magnus Carlsen know this. He is considered the World Human Chess Champion and commands the authority to take a page out of former first lady Nancy Raygun’s book and “just say no” to any organizer. Instead, like a trained seal, he jumps through whatever hoop is placed in front of him in order to be thrown another piece of meat. Hopefully, one day chess will have a worthy Champion who will say, “This is silly. I have just played a long tournament of normal chess and to contest some souped-up, heebee-jeeb games to determine anything is stupid.” I should live so long…

I have absolutely no interest in these quick-play games and do not pay any attention to them. The top players in the world these days make enough “howlers” in what passes for “classical” chess without my having to watch a blunder-fest. These games devolve into a kind of train wreck. It is absurd.

The once Royal game has devolved into “Armageddon Chess.” The definition of Armageddon is, “The final battle at the end of the world between the forces of good and evil.”

Where does the game of chess go after this? What comes after Armageddon?

Having No Fun

My last post was written in the early stage of what has turned out to be a viral sinus infection. This is known to me because it is not the first time I have been afflicted by this particularly nasty virus. As luck would have it, a book ordered from England, “JFK: An American Coup D’etat: The Truth Behind the Kennedy Assassination,” by Colonel John Hughes-Wilson, arrived, and being left unable to do much other than read has allowed me to focus on the book by the Colonel, “…one of Britain’s leading military historians,” according to the book jacket. There is no mention of why one of Britain’s leading military historians decided to write about an American tragedy. It could be he chose to write this book for the same reason I read it, which is that the JFK assassination is, as Sir Winston Churchill said about Russia in a radio broadcast in October 1939, “…a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”
For the sake of historical accuracy I provide the full quote, which has become one of, if not the, most famous things ever said by Sir Winston, and the man was verbose. “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.” The quote is as accurate today as it was then. These days Russia considers Great Britain “just a small island no one pays any attention to,” or so said Russian President Don Vladimir Putin. (See, “In an astonishing attack, Vladimir Putin mocked the UK’s size and influence…” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2412831/Just-small-island-pays-attention-Russias-astonishing-attack-Britain.html)
When contacted beyond the grave Ronald Raygun had this to say about Pootin, “There you go passing gas again, Vladimir.”

As I sat in my weakened state reading about how and why Robert Kennedy had Norma Jean Mortensen, aka Marilyn Monroe, killed, the following appeared, “Something’s Got to Give, her aptly named final film for Twentieth Century Fox, was the last straw. She had been ill on the first day of shooting. The hard-nosed lawyers who owned Fox sent their own studio doctor, who reported that she had a viral sinus infection that might take weeks to cure.”

“Oh No, Mr. Bill! I do not want to feel like this for WEEKS!” I thought. Then the thought struck me that maybe a visit to the doctor was in order. Fortunately, practicality got the better of me because doctor’s are No Fun whatsoever. Sounds like a campaign slogan, does it not? I will take my chances with letting my own immune system battle the infection because these days the cure can be worse than the disease.

By now you are probably wondering what this has to do with chess. I do not intend on this being a book review, even if it is filled with salacious tidbits, such as the fact that the famous dancer Juliet Prowse shaved her mons veneris. As Johnny Carson used to say, “I did not KNOW that.” Now days they all shave their mons veneris…When it was announced that Juliet Prowse was next up on a variety show it was also, “OK children, it’s time for bed.”

What I would like to write about is this paragraph written by the Colonel:

“For American big business too, the Cold War arms race was an important source of profit and thus a major preoccupation. Preparing for Armageddon might be frightening, but the fear of the ‘Red Threat’ provided a lucrative-and guaranteed- source of steady sales and huge profits for US Corporations and their shareholders.”

As we “prepare for Armageddon,” I will use this as a segue to my next post because I must now take a nap.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

During the summer of 1864 the insane yankee General William Tecumsch Sherman and his marauders had crossed the line into the Great State of Georgia, alarming the citizens of Atlanta. “Joseph E. Brown, Georgia’s petulant, half-mad governor, grew increasingly and understandably anxious about Sherman’s advance.” (From: The Grand Design: Strategy and the U. S. Civil War,” by Donald Stoker)
The troops of Confederate General Joe Johnston were vastly outnumbered. On July 9, “Governor Brown sought another means of strengthening Johnston’s army and saving his state: he decreed what equated to a levee en masse. Brown (with a few exceptions) summoned to the colors all men in the Georgia reserve militia between the ages of sixteen and seventeen, all those fifty to fifty-five, and all free white men between seventeen and fifty who had not been subject to conscription. “Georgians,” Brown cried in his proclamation, “you must reenforce General Johnston’s army and aid in driving back the enemy, or he will drive you back to the Atlantic, burn your cities and public buildings, destroy your property, and devastate the fair fields of your noble State.” Anyone who has seen the movie, “Gone With The Wind” knows how things turned out. The South has still yet to recover. If you question this, please check out the map of the US charting the “Hardest Places to Live” in the US published recently by the venerable NY Times:(
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMedia&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1). Every chart and map I have seen in my now seventh decade shows something similar.
The USCF, according to the chart provided by President Ruth Haring (it can be found on the USCF website in an issue of Chess Life magazine, but one has to be a member to access it, so go to “Chess For All Ages,” the wonderful blog by Mark Weeks http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2013/06/2013-uscf-executive-board-election.html), the largest age group, by far, is the one comprised by children. The numbers flat line until one sees a bump around age fifty.
Governor Brown had to call upon the very young and old because those of the “prime” age group, the one advertisers covet, those of the ages eighteen to forty-five, had been decimated by death, severe wounds, or desertion by cowardice, like Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
USCF President Ruth Haring and the boys on the board find themselves in a similar situation. The adult chess players, for whatever reason, have deserted; there are none to be called upon because they are no longer members.
I have posted several links to several recent Armchair Warrior blog posts on the USCF forum. I am suprised to report the discussion has been interesting, and civil. Typical of the responses is this one by Thomas Mager:
by tmagchesspgh on Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:45 pm #282799
“When the Fischer boom went bust in the late 70’s and 80’s, there wasn’t a surge of juniors at that time to replace the players who left the game. We have a big demographic hole from that era. Today, when I go to a large Grand Prix tournament, I see lots of gray hair and tons of kids below the age of 16.”
I received an email from a reader of the AW in which he blamed me for “…constantly criticizing the USCF and offering no ideas to change the situation.” He obviously missed the part of the post, “THIS EVENT IS CHILD FRIENDLY” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/this-event-is-child-friendly/), where I wrote, “I do not have answers to these questions.” Nevertheless, his comments stung, causing me to reflect and cogitate on what I would do if, by some quirk of fate, I were installed as the Supreme “Pooh-Bah” of USCF. (Think of me as Harry Stamper, played by Bruce Willis, in the movie, “Armageddon.” From the Internet Movie Database – “After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is going to impact Earth in less than a month, N.A.S.A. recruits a misfit team of deep core drillers to save the planet.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120591/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_63)
The first thing I would do would be to institute a program named, “Bring ‘Em Back!” I would appoint a team to contact as many former members as possible via email, snail mail, telephone and cards and letters, and any other feasible idea offered. The former members would be welcomed back with a membership costing only as much as any new scholastic membership, at least for the first year. I would immediately institute a membership drive which would award prizes to the members who recruit the most former members. First prize would be an all expenses paid trip to St. Louis as a special guest to spectate at the US Championships. The St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center is so wonderful that just a trip there, with the chess HOF across the street would be enough in itself, I suppose, but why not go all the way?
Next I would immediately lower the cost of a membership for any Senior, those eligible to play in the US Senior, to the same as that offered little Spud. I would also offer a lifetime membership for those Seniors age 62 and up of only $300. Many would be willing to “bet on the come.” Most would not live ten years, but they would have the satisfaction of knowing they had helped USCF in time of crisis. Older players also have something invaluable to any organization, time.
The last thing I would do while hitting the ground running would be to stop publishing a monthly magazine. I would cut the magazine to a quarterly publication in order to make it a “world-class” magazine, on a par with the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess. The columns, like “The Check is in the Mail,” which has already moved, could be continued online, while the magazine would focus on noteworthy US tournaments, and have interviews with featured players. Consider the comment made by GM Levon Aronian, the #2 rated human player in the world, “I love it when the book consists of light analysis but plenty of words describing the subtle psychological details.”
http://susanpolgar.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-very-special-interview-with-levon.html
These are the things I would do immediately, with other ideas to follow.
For those who are unaware, the title of this post comes from a song by the greatest Rock & Roll band of all time, a group held in high regard by peers, The Band. Just thinking of the song makes me well-up. Listening to the song always brings tears to my eyes.
The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell, it’s a time I remember, oh so well,
[Chorus]
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’. they went
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,

Back with my wife in Tennessee, when one day she called to me,
“Virgil, quick, come see, there goes Robert E. Lee!”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good.
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest,
But they should never have taken the very best.

The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’. they went
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la,

Like my father before me, I will work the land,
Like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand.
He was just eighteen, proud and brave, but a Yankee laid him in his grave,
I swear by the mud below my feet,
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat.

The night they drove old Dixie down, and the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and all the people were singin’, they went
Na, la, na, la, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na,

The night they drove old Dixie down, and all the bells were ringing,
The night they drove old Dixie down, and the people were singin’, they went
Na, la, na, la, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/90003/