Reprise of the Atlanta Kings

There was a chess league last century in the late 1970’s, the National Chess League. The games were play in different cities, with the moves being delivered via something named a WATS line, which stood for Wide Area Telephone Service, which “was a flat-rate long distance service offering for customer dial-type telecommunications between a given customer phone (also known as a “station”) and stations within specified geographic rate areas employing a single telephone line between the customer location and the serving central office. Each access line could be arranged for outward (OUT-WATS) or inward (IN-WATS) service, or both.
WATS was introduced by the Bell System in 1961 as a primitive long-distance flat-rate plan by which a business could obtain a special line with an included number of hours (‘measured time’ or ‘full-time’) of long-distance calling to a specified area. These lines were most often connected to private branch exchanges in large businesses. WATS lines were the basis for the first direct-dial toll free +1-800 numbers (intrastate in 1966, interstate in 1967); by 1976, WATS brought AT&T a billion dollars in annual revenue.” (
Not only is that history for you but for me as well, for until today, I never knew so much about the service we utilized. Atlanta had an entry and the name of our team was the Atlanta Kings. The games were played at a company named Scientific America. Lew Martin worked there and the price for use of their WATS line was the inclusion of Lew on the team. Since he was rated far lower, by hundreds of points, of all of the other players this caused much dissension. I was opposed to Lew being on the team, as were many others, but it was decided better to have Lew on the team than to have no team. Former Georgia Champion Mike Decker verified this several years ago when reading an erroneous article about Lew in Georgia Chess, with this being brought to the attention of the editor, Mark Taylor. Mike also said Steve Schneider was a driving force behind the team. I felt strongly that the four highest rated players should be allowed to play. I did not play in the first ever match of what came to be called the “telephone league.” Instead, I worked the phone, sending and receiving the moves, with others passing the moves to the players. Members of the press were there for that match and an article appeared in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution Sunday Magazine, which included a picture of this writer with a phone in one hand and a pen in the other. Alas, that was so long ago it is possible one cannot find a copy on microfilm. Mike “Maddog” Gordon, who has retired from the newspaper, and chess, tried to find a copy decades ago without success.

Last night I learned from Thad Rogers that he has been awarded the newest team to join the United States Chess League. Thad is to be the General Manager. I asked him if I could put it in print and he said yes. “Good,” I said, “a scoop!” It was then Thad informed me he had made the announcement at the Georgia State Championship, which was a month ago. No one has mentioned it to me. When I asked the Legendary Ga Ironman why he had not mentioned it he said, “I do not remember it.” Thad blurted, “But you were standing right beside me when I made the announcement!” Tim responded, “I had other things on my mind.” At this point Thad added, “No one paid any attention.” When asked why nothing has appeared on either of the two GCA website’s Thad said it was because the GCA was not involved. I thought that strange, because it is about chess in Georgia. The original Atlanta Kings were really big news in our small community, but then the chess community was composed of adults, unlike today when there are so few adults participating in the game other than parents. The change that has taken place was apparent at the Atlanta Chess Center. When it opened there was little need for space for parents, but near the end there was not enough room for family members of the many children playing.
The conversation with Thad lasted some time as it transpired during the last round and it was late and we were too tired to do anything other than sit and talk. I learned a great deal from Thad, including the fact that Kazim Gulamali asked for $200 per game to play. I was taken aback by that, not knowing that each and every player received at least $100 from the league. How can that be? We played for the love of the game. I realize a C-note is not much these days, but still, it is the principle of the thing. Receiving money makes these players professionals, even the lower rated ones who play last board so as to meet some ridiculous average rating requirement. There was no such requirement with the telephone league. Each team could have the four best players possible filling out the squad. Thad mentioned the possibility of New York being able to “Have four 2600 players.” I answered with, “So what? Chicago, LA & San Francisco could match them.” Back in the day New York may have had more strong players from whom to choose, but a team from DC, appropriately named the “Plumbers,” took first the initial season. (The Fabulous 70s: The National Chess League & The Fabulous 70s: Washington Plumbers win the 1976 National Chess League!
I neglected to mention the nouveau riche in chess city of St. Louis, thanks to Daddy Sinquebucks, which may now be the city with the most titled players. Build it and they did come. Thad mentioned something about building a team that could “…count on wins from the bottom two boards and one draw on the top two boards.” There is something wrong with the format if the best the few adult fans of chess left in Atlanta can hope for the Kings is to find two players whose chess strength has yet to be matched by rating. I will admit to being nonplussed about the USCL, and have much the same feeling about the new Atlanta Kings.

Girls Are Bad At Chess

Thus far this century there have been many different ideas posited for why women have been inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess. The latest is an article on the Scientific American website by Daisy Grewal, who “…holds a BA in psychology from UCLA and a PhD in social psychology from Yale University. She currently works at Stanford University as an applied researcher.” The article, published April 15, is entitled, “Are Girls Bad at Chess?” (
Underneath the title one finds Daisey’s answer: “Of course not — but stereotypes can have a real effect on performance.”
I will leave it to others to judge just how good or bad girls are at chess and say only that I enjoy playing over games played by women, and in some cases, girls, because they are inferior to the games played by the best men chess players. I have also found enjoyment in watching women play golf and tennis even though they cannot compete with men. I enjoy this in the same way I enjoy going to a great website, Old in Chess ( and playing over the games of the old Masters, who were obviously not as strong as the best current players. Because they are inferior does not mean they cannot be interesting. I also enjoy studying the games of the first round of major Open tournaments because of the disparity between the players. I believe one can learn a great deal from why the inferior player lost to the superior player. By examining the games of the lower rated players I see moves played that are the kind of moves I have made. Hopefully, this helps me to improve on the moves I may make in the future.
Daisey begins with, “Research has shown that stereotype threat can lead people to perform worse than expected. For example, women make more mistakes on a math test after being reminded of the stereotype that men are better at math.”
Then why remind them? It seems a no-brainer that to tell any child, male or female, they are inferior is not a good thing to do.
Daisey writes, “For many people, the idea of a famous chess player evokes the image of someone smart yet nerdy—and male. Do societal ideas about who makes for a better chess player impact the performance and motivation of girls who play chess?”
She says, “Psychology professors Hank Rothgerber and Katie Wolsiefer decided to tackle both of these issues by looking at whether stereotype threat affects young girls who play in chess tournaments.”
To do so, “Rothgerber and Wolsiefer surveyed 77 girls between the ages of 6 and 11 and found that the girls showed awareness of the stereotype that boys are better at playing chess than girls.”
This seems like a very small sample size to one who has read many sabermetric studies about baseball. The study would seem to have much more credibility if a zero was put on the end of the 77.
The article continues, “The researchers then gathered and analyzed data obtained from the United States Chess Federation (USCF). The data included information about female players from elementary, middle, and high schools who had competed in twelve tournaments. To control for the possibility that all chess players, both male and female, perform worse when playing against a male opponent, the researchers included a comparison group of young male players.”
Twelve tournaments. Only twelve tournaments? Study ten times that many and get back to me with the results.
“The results showed that when playing against a boy, girls were less likely to achieve an expected win. However, this was only true when they were playing moderate or strong (but not weak) male opponents.”
Well, how about that? The girls in the study did not do as well when facing stronger competition. The same could be said about me through out every decade I played, beginning in 1970 when I was twenty years of age playing in my first USCF tournament. Take any random player in the USCF files and it will be difficult to find anyone who has shown a better record against Experts and Masters than against class ‘A’ or ‘B’ players. Daisey continues, “Therefore, only girls who perform more poorly than expected seem at risk to give up on chess.”
From the graph published in Chess Life magazine ( and the comments made by USCF President Ruth Haring (“Existing scholastic programs see constant turnover and we see in our membership data, a membership decline beginning around the age of 11.”) it would seem that it is not only girls who are “at risk to give up on chess.” From what I have seen in my forty four years of chess, it is not the players who perform better than expected who quit playing the game. While working at the Atlanta Chess Center I once asked a player who had returned to the game why he had stopped playing. “I was losing too much,” he said.
Daisey continues, “This research demonstrates that stereotype threat may, in fact, thwart performance in real-world situations.”
Then again, it may NOT!
She continues, “Even outside the laboratory, where there are so many variables at play, stereotypes have the potential to cause vulnerable individuals to falter.”
It is a law of nature that only the strong overcome and survive.
It continues, “Overall, the study suggests that stereotype threat may be an issue for even young girls and may contribute to girls’ early avoidance of certain activities. To prevent girls from giving up in areas where they are negatively stereotyped, parents and educators may need to step in early. In the past decade, researchers have developed and tested a number of simple strategies to combat stereotype threat. If adopted for girls who play chess, these strategies could include providing young girls with role models of successful female chess players and emphasizing that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with. Another strategy might be to frame chess ability in terms of qualities that have nothing to do with gender—such as problem-solving and concentration skills.”
Why would anyone in their right mind emphasize “that chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” I am aware of absolutely nothing that proves chess ability is something that can be improved through practice rather than something you are born with.” Where is the study? Show me the facts! People are born with different brains, as well as different bodies. Some people can naturally run much faster than others, and no matter how much the slower runner practices running, he will still be a slow runner. The same can be said for playing the game of chess. I have no idea how much stronger I would have been if I had learned to play chess as a child in lieu of an adult, but I do know that from associating with many game players, there are some who seem to have a “gift.” They have an understanding of the game, whatever game it may be, that others would not have if they devoted their life to the game.
It is apparent that Daisey believes that even though the evidence shows women have been, and still are, inferior to men when it comes to the game of chess, the answer lies in stereotypes. It is a fact that there is a difference in the brain of a male and a female. I realize it is “politically incorrect” to write such, but it is the truth.

Milan ‘J’adoubovic’ Matulović R.I.P.

Yugoslavian GM Milan Matulovic, 1935-2013, was better known for the nickname he earned after taking back a losing move he had just made versus István Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in 1967. From Wikipedia: “Perhaps Matulović’s most notorious transgression was against István Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in 1967. He played a losing move but then took it back after saying “j’adoube” (“I adjust” – spoken before adjusting pieces on their square, see touch-move rule). His opponent complained to the arbiter but the move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulović the nickname “J’adoubovic”. This reportedly happened several times, including in a game against Bobby Fischer.” (
In his book on Bobby Fischer, “Endgame,” Frank Brady writes about a match the fifteen year old Bobby played against Matulovic before the 1958 Interzonal in Portoroz. “Bobby’s training match opponent in his first formal game on European soil was Milan Matulovic, a twenty-three-year-old master who would become infamous in the chess world for sometimes touching a piece, moving it, and then-realizing it was either a blunder or a weak move-returning the piece to its original square, saying “J’adoube,” or “I adjust,” and moving it to another square or moving another piece altogether…In his first encounter with Matulovic, Bobby ignored the Yugoslav’s mischievous disregard of the rules and lost the game. So with three games left to play, Bobby told Matulovic he’d no longer accept any bogus “j’adoubes.” Bobby won the second game, drew the third game, and won the fourth, and therefore won the match 2 ½-1 ½. Both of Bobby’s wins were hard fought and went to fifty moves before his opponent resigned. Matulovic may have been a trickster, but he was also one of his country’s finest players, not easily defeated.”
Wiki has a section on his page devoted to, “Controversies,” where one finds: Controversy in actions both over and away from the board was nothing new to Matulović. Over the board he was known for playing out hopeless positions long after grandmaster etiquette called for a resignation, allegedly in the hopes of reaching adjournment (suspension of a game for resumption the next day, common in tournament play at the time) so that the news reports would read “Matulović’s game is adjourned” rather than “Matulović lost!”[2][3]
More seriously, in the aftermath of the 1970 Interzonal tournament at Palma de Mallorca, he was accused of “throwing” his game against Mark Taimanov in return for a $400 bribe, thus allowing Taimanov to advance to the Candidates matches,[4] where he was famously defeated by Bobby Fischer 6–0. The accusations centered on Matulović’s conduct during the game[5] and the alleged feebleness of his resistance. The score of the notorious Taimanov–Matulović game follows, from which the reader can draw his or her own conclusions:
Taimanov–Matulović, Queen’s Gambit Accepted: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.h3 Bh5 8.0-0 Bd6 9.e4 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Be2 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Qe7 14.Bf4 Be5 15.Bxe5 Qxe5 16.Qe3 0-0 17.f4 Qe7 18.e5 c6 19.Rfe1 Rfe8 20.Qf3 Qc5+ 21.Qf2 Qxf2+ 22.Kxf2 Nd5 23.Nxd5 cxd5 24.Red1 Red8 25.Rac1 Rd7 26.Ke3 Rad8 27.Kd4 Kf8 28.f5 Ke7 29.Rd3 Re8 30.Rdc3 b6 31.Rc7 Rd8 32.R1c6 Ke8 33.g4 h6 34.h4 Rb8 35.g5 hxg5 36.hxg5 Rb7 37.Rc8+ Rd8 38.Rxd8+ Kxd8 39.Kxd5 a5 40.Rd6+ Ke8 41.Kc6 Re7 42.Rd5 1–0
The section culminates with, “Matulović was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nine months in prison for a car accident in which a woman was killed.”
While on duty at the Atlanta Chess Center one would often hear a player in the skittles room cry out, “What are you, some kind of J’adoubovic?” Most were too young to know much, if anything, about the man who earned the name of infamy. Yet every chess player on earth knows what a “J’adoubovic” is because of Milan Matulovic. He will live on in the lore of chess long after much better players have been forgotten. It is an everlasting tribute to a Grandmaster of ill repute.