The Chess World Isn’t Ready for a Cheating Scandal
Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Championship winner, withdrew from the Sinquefield Cup after losing to Hans Niemann.
By Greg Keener Sept. 13, 2022Updated 2:05 p.m. ET
When Hans Niemann beat Magnus Carlsen, the world chess champion, in the Sinquefield Cup on Sept. 4, he ended Carlsen’s 53-game unbeaten streak in classical over the board tournaments, and set into motion a debacle that has turned into one of the biggest chess scandals in years.
The next day, Mr. Carlsen withdrew from the tournament, which is an exceedingly rare move, especially among top players in elite events. He also tweeted a cryptic video of José Mourinho, the Portuguese soccer manager, saying, “I prefer really not to speak. If I speak, I am in big trouble.” In the video, Mourinho is speaking at a news conference after a game in which his team might have lost because of questionable officiating, so online observers interpreted Mr. Carlsen’s post as insinuating that Mr. Niemann cheated in some way during the game. A representative for Mr. Carlsen did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Irina Krush, a grandmaster who has played against both Mr. Niemann and Mr. Carlsen, said, “I did play against Hans at the Marshall Championship at the end of 2019, where he made his second GM norm and tied for first in the tournament. So from that point on, I knew he was a very strong and up-and-coming player.” She added, “I think it would be good if Magnus also gave his side of things because it’s just a bad situation for the chess world to have this hanging without a resolution.”
The above is from an article in the New York Times. The question in the Chess World is, “Why has Magnus nutted-up?”
If you are wondering who is Greg Keener he informs readers a few paragraphs later in this paragraph:
In addition to these past cheating incidents, Mr. Niemann is notorious in the chess community for his abrasive personality. As an arbiter in FIDE, or Fédération Internationale des Échecs, the governing body of professional chess, I have known Mr. Niemann since he was a talented scholastic player, and have had to navigate his difficult behavior on more than one occasion. Just a few years ago, Mr. Niemann was not yet a grandmaster and would play regularly at the Marshall Chess Club in New York City, where I work as an assistant manager.
Say what? Where do I begin? How about this dude is working in New York City and has the audacity to call anyone from outside the city “abrasive”?! Give me a break… This poor dude has had to “navigate his difficult behavior on more than one occasion.” Do tell… GIVE ME A BREAK! What kind of work does this guy do in New York City? I worked at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center and part of the job description was “navigate difficult behavior!” Out of all the Chess players, and parents, you have encountered in NEW YORK CITY, you chose to single out Hans Niemann for having “difficult behavior”?! What does any of what is contained in the paragraph have to do with anything other than being an attempt to disparage Hans Niemann. I’ve been to New York City and this is the kinda crap one reads in a tabloid…in NEW YORK CITY!
Hatchet job Keener continues in that vein when writing: “Statistical analysis by Pawnalyze, a chess analysis blog, showed that Mr. Niemann had consistently outperformed his rating strength to an astonishing degree.”
Give me a break. The same could be said about most, if not all, top rated Grandmasters on their climb to the top. Fortunately, there is one New Yorker who speaks for most of the Chess world, Grandmaster Michael Rohde.
Michael Rohde, a grandmaster, worked with Mr. Niemann as a student at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School. “Hans was the captain of the C.G.P.S. chess team,” Mr. Rohde said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say I was his coach. He was autonomous and very hard-working.” He added, “It makes perfect sense to me that he is 2700 now.”
Regarding the most recent allegations of cheating, Mr. Rohde said, “I don’t understand exactly what the allegation is. I haven’t seen any evidence or anything specific. It’s just accusations based on his results.”
The article concludes with these two paragraphs:
“Nonetheless, Mr. Niemann’s meteoric rise raises important questions for professional chess. FIDE and the organizers of large tournaments owe the community of players and fans clear guidelines and procedures for how to handle what is likely to be an increasingly common phenomenon.”
“When asked if Mr. Niemann would be invited back to the St. Louis Chess Club, Mr. Rich, its executive director, said, “Yes, Hans has already accepted an invitation to play in the fall classic, so I already have him signed up for the next tournament at the club.”
In the last round of the recently completed Denker Invitational FM Jason Wang
faced IM Arthur Guo with a first place on the line. Arthur was a half point ahead of the contenders, one of whom was Jason Wang. After move forty it looked as though the game would end in a draw after the position was repeated, but Arthur eschewed the draw when playing 43…Nf6 in lieu of returning the knight to h5. FM Wang then blundered by playing 44 Kg1? This allowed Arthur to take a pawn with impunity while attacking the white Queen. I thought the game was over because the two passed pawns will devastate white in the long run. This is the position:
It was more than a little obvious Arthur would play 46…Rc7 because every Chess player knows that ROOKS BELONG BEHIND PASSED PAWNS. I had a heart palpation after seeing Arthur’s next move of 45…Bd6. The Stockfish program at Lichess.com gives the move not one, but two question marks. The move is so bad it defies comprehension. What could have caused such a budding star to make such a horrible move? I decided to put the game up to after white played 46 Qc2 into the analysis program at Lichess.com and this is best play by Stockfish after 45 Qc2:
Winning a won game is difficult, and like Ringo sang, “It don’t come easy.” Almost every day at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center one would frequently hear, “I blew a WON GAME.” or, “If only I had won more WON GAMES I would be a Master (or Expert, or class A, etc. player).”
After reading the following at ChessLifeOnline in an excellent article by JJLang, dated August 3, 2022, understanding was found:
Following the old tiebreak adage of ‘lose last, laugh last,’ tournament leader Georgia’s IM Arthur Guo drew his final game against Ohio’s FM Jason Wang to win first place on tiebreaks. By not losing any games, Guo had stronger pairings throughout the tournament than his rivals, meaning tiebreaks would likely come out in his favor were he to draw his final game. Indeed, after failing to find anything concrete on the attacking side of a sharp Ragozin, Guo took the draw and, fortunately for him, the math played out in his favor. https://new.uschess.org/news/day-4-rancho-mirage-invitationals-end-6-day-begins
Therein lies the problem. It is not as if there are not enough draws in Chess these daze. Now the pooh-bahs have made rules that only INCREASE the likelihood of a draw! Arthur needed only a DRAW to “WIN” the event. The fact is that Arthur did NOT win the tournament! He finished in a THREE WAY TIE for FIRST PLACE! The three players each scored the same number of points, five. Reading further in the aforementioned article one finds: “Northern Californian GM Andrew Hong and Arizonian FM Sandeep Sethuraman each won their final round games to finish second and third, respectively, on tiebreaks.” Simply put, that is a crock of excrement! As it stands now, tiebreaks are MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE RESULT OF THE GAME! What if there had been a three-way tie for first place? That would mean at least three times as much publicity for the Royal Game because the publicity director (USCF has a publicity director, does it not? If not, why not?!) could have articles on all three of them in local newspapers and on local TV news programs in three different cities. This ain’t the Highlander, where there can be only ONE!
The same could be said for the recently completed US Senior, where there was a FIVE-WAY TIE! Unfortunately, the brain trust at the USCF decided to have a souped-up heebe-jeeb speed tournament after the conclusion of almost TWO WEEKS of playing what now passes for classical Chess. The playoff was not the next day, but only a short time after the players had spent at least five hours playing over the board. We are talking about SENIORS here, ladies and gentlemen. Why does USCF FORCE Seniors to play nerve-wracking speed games but not force the JUNIORS to do the same? As a Senior I can tell you that a speed tournament to determine the “winner” was much more difficult on the Seniors than it would have been on the Juniors. My hat is off to GM Alexander Shabalov for winning the speed tournament, but he won more than TWICE AS MUCH MONEY as the other four for winning a SPEED TOURNAMENT! ‘Back in the day’ tournaments held five minute speed tournaments as an ancillary event, not the main event. The fact that there were tiebreaks irrevocably altered the Denker event, as it does every event in which it is used. Because of the plethora of draws Chess is unlike Go or Backgammon, where there is only ONE WINNER! Just sayin’…
relocated from Music City to the Phoenix city, Atlanta, Georgia. It happened that by happenstance I was at Todd’s apartment after he moved in and again later as he was getting ready to return to Nashville, Tennessee. There was an obvious disparity between how the apartment looked on those two occasions, kind of like one of those ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.
Todd was young, and strong, at that time, and was the “Big Dog” at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. He was also an extremely personable and animated fellow. After being beaten by Todd one regular habitué of the House of Pain vociferously and demonstrably said to any and everyone within earshot, “That Todd has a BIG HEAD!” To which Bob Bassett replied, “Yeah, and if you ever get your rating up to 2400 you will have a big head.” Another wag added, “Fat chance.” The loser hit the door… The name stuck, although no one ever called Todd “Big Head” to his face. After yet another player had been battered and bloodied, metaphorically speaking, of course, over the Chess board by Todd, the loser would be asked about the result and the reply would invariably be, “Big Head got me.” About this time there was a popular music group, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, who were quite popular. Todd traveled to a music festival in another state and I considered asking if Big Head Todd and the Monsters were there, but refrained from so doing…
These days Todd is the man with the Big Head at the Nashville Chess Center:
FM Andrews drew with fellow FM James Canty in the opening round of the May 2022 GM/IM Norm Invitational at the Charlotte Chess Center and followed that with a victory over GM Alonso Zapata, now a citizen of Georgia living in the metro Atlanta area. A couple of losses set him back before he was paired with serial drawer IM Nikolay Andrianov,
“…who became the Soviet Junior Champion in 1980. He beat GM Gary Kasparov in their junior years and maintains a plus score against the world champion. After that, he chose to focus on chess training. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chess training from the Moscow Central Physical Culture and Sports Institute, considered the top chess school globally at the time. He has since then trained students, many of them becoming masters in Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Indonesia, the Philippines, and the United States. Currently, he teaches chess in Arizona and online with Ashburn Chess Club.” (https://ashburnchessclub.com/nikolay-andrianov)
These are the games produced by IM Nikolay Andrianov in the first four rounds:
IM NIKOLAY ANDRIANOV (2317) vs DONALD JOHNSON (2102)
What happened in the second round? It looks as though Tianqi Wang actually considered attempting to try and play for a win, but after making a very weak move that gave the advantage to his opponent changed his mind and offered a draw, which was accepted by the player with little fight left in him. It takes two to tango, and make a draw, so all the blame cannot go to IM Andrianov. Some of the blame must be taken by the pusillanimous pussies so ready to accept a draw offer from an old and weak IM. Todd Andrews came to play Chess and forced the ineffectual IM to play to the death. Unfortunately, it was Todd who lost, but he went down fighting, like a man, and my hat is off to FM Todd Andrews. In losing Todd Andrews comes away a winner from one of the Charlotte Drawing Tournaments.
GM ALONSO ZAPATA (2367)
vs FM TODD ANDREWS (2209)
Round 2 | 2022.05.05 | 0-1 ECO: C06 French, Tarrasch, closed variation, main line
e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 (Stockfish 14 and 15 both play 3 Nc3, as does Komodo) 3…Nf6 (According to the ChessBaseDataBase, Komodo, Houdini, and Deep Fritz prefer 3…c5) 4. e5 Nfd7 5. c3 (SF 8 @depth 46 plays the move played in the game, but SF 13 @depth 44 goes with the most often played move of 5 Bd3. SF 14.1 @depth 47 will play 5 f4) 5…c5 6. Ndf3 (SF 311221 plays 6 Bd3 which has been far and away the most often played move with 8421 games in the CBDB; SF 14.1 will play 6 f4, the second most often played move (1924). The move played in the game has only been attempted in 54 games) 6…Nc6 7. Bd3 cxd4 (This move has been played most often with 130 games in the CBDB, but SF 14.1 and Komodo will play 7…Qa5. The reason could be that 7…cxd4 has resulted in a 66% score for players of the White pieces as opposed to only 42% in 31 games for 7…Qa5) 8. cxd4 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 (SF 12 plays this move, but SF 070222 will take the pawn with the Queen with 9…Qxf6. Houdini will fire a TN with 9…Bb4+. 9…Nxf6 has been played in 84 games; 9…Qxf6 in only 8. White has scored 64% versus the former, but only 38% against the latter move) 10. Ne2 Qc7 (SF 130121 @depth 59 plays 10…Bd6, as do two different Fritz programs) 11. O-O Bd6 12. Nc3 (Fritz 16 plays this move, but Deep Fritz will play will play 12 g3. SF 170821 prefers 12 h3) 12…a6 13. Bg5 O-O 14. Rc1 (SF 14.1 plays 14 Bh4 and so should you) 14…h6 (14…Bd7 has been played most often, and one of the “New Engines” @depth 42 likes it, but left running a little longer it changes its whatever @depth 43 to 14…Ng4, which is what Komodo will play @depth 26) 15. Bh4 Bf4 (There is only one prior game with the game move. Komodo 8 @depth 14 plays 15…Bd7, but SF 261120 will play 15…Nh5, as will Komodo 9)
In the game between Grandmasters Amin Tabatabaei and Wesley So
in the 2022 FIDE Grand Prix yesterday the latter resigned the game after his opponent played 30 a4. This was the final position:
A local Chess coach was showing the ongoing game to a student. When the above position was reached the Ironman kept hitting the key that would have ordinarily shown the next move only there were no more moves made after Tabatabaei played his thirtieth move because Wimpy Wesley So RESIGNED! Try explaining that to any neophyte student attempting to learn how to correctly play Chess. The material is balanced, but White no doubt has a huge positional advantage. The Stockfish 14+ NNUE program used at lichess.org (https://lichess.org/broadcast/fide-grand-prix-2022-leg-3–knockout-stage/semifinals-game-2/d5hX2IQ7) shows White with an advantage of 4.8. Nevertheless, the game should have continued, and it would have continued if a less than wimpy player had been sitting behind the Black position. From Chess24.com:
You might reasonably ask why Wesley resigned when material was equal, but the US Champion explained: “It’s not going to be equal for a long time. Basically anybody who plays chess knows it’s lost, because White has the bishop pair, better pawn structure, active rook and Black cannot move. The rook is on the 6th rank, so all the technical pluses are for White. You just have to learn the basics to know it’s lost!” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-wins-grand-prix-both-semis-go-to-tiebreaks)
Wesley So is an extremely strong Chess player, but he is not a fighter. Many fighting Grandmasters, like Victor Korchnoi
for example, would have sat there many hours making life as difficult as possible for their opponent.
“What makes you a coward?” asked Dorothy, looking at the great beast in wonder, for he was as big as a small horse.
“It’s a mystery,” replied the Lion.
“I suppose I was born that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way. Whenever I’ve met a man I’ve been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has always run away as fast as he could go. If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself—I’m such a coward; but just as soon as they hear me roar they all try to get away from me, and of course I let them go.”
“But that isn’t right. The King of Beasts shouldn’t be a coward,” said the Scarecrow.
“I know it,” returned the Lion, wiping a tear from his eye with the tip of his tail. “It is my great sorrow, and makes my life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger, my heart begins to beat fast.”
“Perhaps you have heart disease,” said the Tin Woodman.
“It may be,” said the Lion.
“If you have,” continued the Tin Woodman, “you ought to be glad, for it proves you have a heart. For my part, I have no heart; so I cannot have heart disease.”
“Perhaps,” said the Lion thoughtfully, “if I had no heart I should not be a coward.”
“Have you brains?” asked the Scarecrow.
“I suppose so. I’ve never looked to see,” replied the Lion.
“I am going to the Great Oz to ask him to give me some,” remarked the Scarecrow, “for my head is stuffed with straw.”
“And I am going to ask him to give me a heart,” said the Woodman.
“And I am going to ask him to send Toto and me back to Kansas,” added Dorothy.
“Do you think Oz could give me courage?” asked the Cowardly Lion.
“Just as easily as he could give me brains,” said the Scarecrow.
“Or give me a heart,” said the Tin Woodman.
“Or send me back to Kansas,” said Dorothy.
“Then, if you don’t mind, I’ll go with you,” said the Lion, “for my life is simply unbearable without a bit of courage.”
“You will be very welcome,” answered Dorothy, “for you will help to keep away the other wild beasts. It seems to me they must be more cowardly than you are if they allow you to scare them so easily.”
Before heading up the stairs at the old Atlanta Chess & Game Center, owned by L. Thad Rogers, a proud member of the United States Chess Federation Hall of Fame, the players would see a drawing of the following, which was put there by Thad:
M. Amin Tabatabaei 2623 vs Weird Wesley So 2778 Fide GP 3 Berlin – Playoffs E21 Nimzo-Indian, three knights variation
d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 (According to 365Chess.com the name of the opening after this move was the E20 Nimzo-Indian defence) 4. Nf3 (This move made it the E21 Nimzo-Indian, three knights variation. The two most often played moves are 4 e3 and 4 Qc2. The question is, do you play the former and allow your opponent to play Bishop takes Knight on c3 ripping apart your pawn structure? This writer prefers the latter. Komodo 11 @depth 47 plays the move played in the game, but Stockfish 14.1 @depth 73(!) will play 4 e3) 4…O-O (There are 10884 games in the ChessBaseDataBase in which Black has played 4…d5. There are 5197 games where Black played 4…b6, and both show a 54% score for White. Fritz 18 @depth 29 will play 4…b6. Stockfish 14 @depth 61 will castle, as will SF 14.1 @depth 62) 5. a3 (This move is not found at the CBDB. There are thirty examples contained in the ‘Big Database’ at 365Chess. Stockfish 13 @depth 60 plays 5 Qc2. SF 191221 @depth 66 plays 5 e3. The CBDB shows 1992 games of the former and 758 for the latter) 5…Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 c5 7. g3 b6 (SF 14.1 @depth 41 will play 7…d5 and so should have Weird Wesley)
“Coward Of The County”
Lyrics by Kenny Rogers
Everyone considered him The coward of the county. He’d never stood one single time To prove the county wrong. His mama named him Tommy, But folks just called him Yellow. Something always told me They were reading Tommy wrong.
He was only ten years old When his daddy died in prison. I looked after Tommy ‘Cause he was my brother’s son. I still recall the final words My brother said to Tommy, “Son, my life is over, But yours has just begun.
Promise me, son, Not to do the things I’ve done. Walk away from trouble if you can. It won’t mean you’re weak If you turn the other cheek. I hope you’re old enough to understand: Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.”
There’s someone for everyone, And Tommy’s love was Becky. In her arms he didn’t have to prove he was a man. One day while he was working The Gatlin boys came calling. They took turns at Becky. There was three of them.
Tommy opened up the door And saw his Becky crying. The torn dress, the shattered look Was more than he could stand. He reached above the fireplace And took down his daddy’s picture. As his tears fell on his daddy’s face He heard these words again,
“Promise me, son, Not to do the things I’ve done. Walk away from trouble if you can. Now it won’t mean you’re weak If you turn the other cheek. I hope you’re old enough to understand: Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.”
The Gatlin boys just laughed at him When he walked into the bar room. One of them got up And met him half way ‘cross the floor. When Tommy turned around they said, “Hey, look, old Yellow’s leaving.” But you could’ve heard a pin drop When Tommy stopped and locked the door.
Twenty years of crawling Was bottled up inside him. He wasn’t holding nothing back, He let ’em have it all. When Tommy left the bar room Not a Gatlin boy was standing. He said, “This one’s for Becky,” As he watched the last one fall. N’ I heard him say,
“I promised you, Dad, Not to do the things you’ve done. I walk away from trouble when I can. Now please don’t think I’m weak. I didn’t turn the other cheek. And, Papa, I sure hope you understand:
The review will begin with the bottom line. The book is a lovingly written, magnificent masterpiece. Anyone reading it will be richly rewarded in ways they may not even understand at the time of reading. This is most definitely not a book one reads and forgets. It is a book to savor.
I met Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson at the World Open in 2002 while assisting Thad Rogers in the book room after turning certain victory into defeat in the first round and after losing the next two games Thad needed help and the book room looked inviting. There was a discussion concerning his book, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins,
which had been read the previous year. Later I read Jonathan’s Chess For Zebras,
which was very entertaining, and while working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I advocated any and everyone purchase his excellent books. All I recall now about our conversation is that other books were discussed and when asked to name my favorite novel I answered immediately, “The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse.”
“Really?!” he said before continuing with a question, “Why?”
Why, indeed. I no longer remember how I answered, but do recall being taken aback, because most people with whom I have mentioned the novel have not even been aware of the book. I also recall Jonathan displaying actions which led me to believe he was about ready to leave, so the answer was truncated. In addition I recall Jonathan saying, after I answered his question, “Fascinating!”
GM Rowson tied for first at the 2002 World Open. Because of the pleasant memories of the chance encounter I will admit it is difficult for me to be completely objective. In addition, upon learning of the forthcoming publication of the book about to be reviewed I contacted the publishing company, informing them of the blog and the encounter with Jonathan, while informing them I would like to review the book. I had hoped to finish reading the book long before publication in order to review it ASAP, but life intervened. Another factor is that the book required much more thought than I had imagined, which is a very good thing. A quote from the book comes to mind: “You cannot think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” – cognitive scientist Martin Minsky. Therefore reading the book required much more time than I had imagined.
The book is full of wonderful quotes, which is a positive thing. Decades ago there was a show on public television, Thinking Allowed, hosted by Dr. Jeffery Mishlove.
After briefly perusing the book one long time National Master Chess player closed it before saying, “Where’s the meat?!” This meant GAMES. After explaining there were about two dozen games contained in the notes he exclaimed, “What kind of Chess book is that?!” This caused me to consider the question too long because he began talking before I could answer. I was never able to answer his question because, to his way of thinking, a Chess book with mostly words was most definitely NOT a Chess book. This has caused me to reflect upon what, exactly, is a Chess book. For example, consider Frank Brady’s book on Bobby Fischer, Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.
Would it be considered a Chess book? Maybe what constitutes a “Chess book” is what is in the eye of the beholder…
The Moves That Matter is is a book about oh so much more than Chess. It is a book written by a man who devoted most of his early years, and maybe half of his life, to the Royal game, so therefore it does contain much Chess put into words, but, strictly speaking, it is not about Chess. It is about so much more than a mere game. The book is about life, and thinking about life. Although the reader will be entertained, it is not about entertaining per se. It is a “deep” book which will cause the reader to do some seriously deep thinking. That is to be expected since Dr. Jonathan Rowson is an applied philosopher. “The Society for Applied Philosophy was founded in 1982 with the aim of promoting philosophical work that has a direct bearing on areas of practical concern.” (https://www.appliedphil.org/)
In lieu of a review I have decided to write about the the ideas and questions contained in the book. Copious notes were taken while reading; twelve pages of college ruled note paper to be precise. What I will attempt to do is share some of the thoughts and questions in the book that caused me to question and think about those thoughts and questions.
The book contains eight chapters each broken down into another eight sub-headings. The format caused me to reflect upon one of my favorite books, The Eight,
by Katherine Neville.
Katherine Neville in 1985
A photograph of the author in San Francisco’s Marin Headlands, California, 1985.
In the first chapter, Thinking and Feeling, under sub-heading #5 Asking Pertinent Questions, one finds, “There are many different ways to frame the educational value of chess, but if I had to sum it up in one word, it would probably be: ‘questions’.
If I had three words it would be ‘questions about relationships’. As the writer Marinan Benjamin puts it, to ask a question is to invest in attentiveness, to declare a stake in the answer, and that is one of the many gifts of chess; you cease to be a passive recipient of information, and become an active learner – an intrinsically rewarding experience. Playing chess is about posing questions to the opponent, and answering the questions they pose you; the little questions are always nested inside bigger ones.”
We will move ahead to the last chapter, Life and Death, under sub-heading #64, Facing up to death. It is written, “The 2009 Acropolis Open in Greece was overshadowed by the death of a respected Greek player, Nikolaos Karapanos, who had a heart attack just before executing a winning move in his first-round game. His opponent, Israeli Grandmaster Dan Zoler, who happens to be a doctor, tried to revive him, but Karapanos stopped breathing before the ambulance arrived.
This story indicates just how stress-inducing chess can be, but the deeper point is that we never know when our time will come. All the major spiritual traditions speak about the importance of being ready for the unthinkable, and the importance of being ready for the unthinkable, and the importance of dying at peace, without undue regret.
It seems profane to point out that Zoler resigned the game, but he also withdrew from the event, stating that he no longer felt like playing chess in the circumstances. You can hardly blame him. Chess sometimes seems singularly charming and vitally important, but a brief reflection on our mortality has to lead to some searching questions. Is this it? Pushing these pieces around? Is this what I am supposed to be doing?”
Nikolaos Karapanos vs Dan Zoler
24th ICT Acropolis (2009), Chalkida, Greece, rd 1, Aug-10
Catalan Opening: General (E00)
One of the things I liked about playing Chess was the people whom I met along the Chess road. The road led me to twenty five states in which I participated in a USCF tournament. Some people make a point of attempting to play in every state. In my case it was happenstance.
I came of age in the South. You can take a boy out of the South, but you can never take the South out of the boy. My father was a Southern Baptist; my Mother was not. My father said he “knew” he was going to heaven. My Mother asked, “How can he know? Nobody knows…” I am agnostic.
Southern Baptists are very conservative people who feel threatened by change, or by anyone who is “not like us.” They do not like anyone who is “different.” The people among whom I came of age did not like John F. Kennedy because he as a “Catholic.” They hated “Jews” because they had killed Jesus Christ. I pointed out Jesus was a Jew and was turned on with venom. “Jesus was NOT A JEW! Jesus was GOD!”
My parents voted for Barry Goldwater
because he was a “conservative,” which was a code word for “racist.” My father worked for a new newspaper, the Atlanta Times, because it was an alternative to the “liberal” (pronounced “liBRUL”-as in “He’s one of ‘dem damned liBRULs!) Atlanta Journal & Constitution, for whom my father once worked. The newspaper was ahead of its time and went belly-up, and so did my father, who had put EVERYTHING into the paper.
I can still recall the first time I saw an American of African descent. An older, dark-skinned woman was walking on our street, about to head up what we called, “the hill.” One of my sisters noticed her and yelled for us to come to the picture window. There were black people living within walking distance of us, but we never saw them because that’s just the way it was in those dark days. The high school I attended, College Park, was integrated the year after I graduated.
Chess helped expand my horizons. I met a fellow whom we called “Mad Dog” with affection. He was really a meek and mild kinda guy, except when sitting across from you at a Chess board. Someone said he played the Alekhine defense “like a mad dog,” and it stuck. I, too, would play the Alekhine defense in those days, and invariably had difficulty playing against the Mad Dog’s Alekhine defense.
Mad Dog was Jewish, but had been excommunicated from his family when he married a gentile, with whom he had a daughter. Like my father, the Mad Dog worked for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. We would sometimes get together and play Chess in the Central City Park, located at Five Points in the heart of the city of Atlanta. Former Georgia Chess Champion Bob Joiner also worked downtown in the office of the Public Defender. John “Smitty” Smith worked for the state downtown, and we would play Chess during lunch hour. Years later Chess tables were put in the park, which had a different name. I had to travel to Grady hospital to participate in a memory study in my sixties and walked around our old stompin’ grounds, surprised to see one of those really large Chess sets, in addition to the usual size tables, which were full of players.
Mad Dog was my friend. We did things (he was then divorced) like get together after work at a bar called “The Beer Slug,” which was actually named The Beer Mug. The Slug provided free wings and held things like trivia night. One time a legendary Chess player was with us and we were leading with only one question left to answer. We were having trouble coming up with the answer because they were distracted by two pretty young women. I was racking my brain to no avail when I had to hit the head. “I’ll be back in a moment guys, so do not answer until I return.” They agreed, all smiles as they turned back to the pretty girls. I had a “eureka” moment while whizzing and returned with the correct answer, only to learn they had already turned in our answer, which had been provided by one of the girls. Unfortunately, it was WRONG! I will admit being a prick about it, but, what the hell, I thought later, these two guys, not exactly ladies men, were having the time of their lives…One time the three of us went to a tennis court to hit the ball around, or so I thought. The legendary one and I were attempting to warm up, but the Mad Dog would have none of it. “Let’s PLAY!” he yelled. “Don’t you want to warm up, Mad Dog?” asked the legendary one. “Hell no. Let’s PLAY!” Mad Dog served and I hit a wicked return that caused him to move quickly and…he went down like he had been SHOT! He was crumpled up on the court, writhing in pain. That ended our evening of tennis…Mad Dog was tuff, though, as he refused going to the emergency room. I spent the night on his couch in case he needed help later…
Mad Dog and I would discuss all kinds of different subjects, but the one I recall most vividly is the time he discussed his Jewishness. When he told me his grandparents had been in Nazi concentration camps and had the serial numbers on their bodies to prove it, I was SHOCKED! I mean, it’s one thing to read about such things, but to know someone descended from concentration camp survivors is another thing entirely. The words to a Dylan song came immediately to mind:
When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side
rather late, relatively speaking, but when he did, he almost became a Bob Cat. He may have liked to quit his job and travel with the Bob Cats, but the Dog limited his shows to a reasonable number. He knew I had been a fan since early teenage years and, after he became a fan, thought more of me. The Dog asked me to drive him to a Dylan concert in Bristol, Virginia. The venue turned out to be what looked like some medieval castle, which we thought was appropriate, but which was a local school of some sort. The Dog had gotten involved with other “Bob Cats” online, with whom he hooked up, having the time of his life. I, on the other hand, was under the weather, but nevertheless made the best of the situation, and have wonderful memories for proof.
The last time I saw Mad Dog we were at the 350 Pizza joint across from the House of Pain, which was the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, for those of you who are unaware. His father had passed away and the Mad Dog was attempting to inform me that since his father had died, he was now the man of the family. “It’s a Jewish thing,” I recall him saying. He was telling me this life was over and a new one beginning. I told him I understood, though the legendary one never got his mind wrapped around that fact. Mad Dog enriched my life, and I am a better person for having known him. People come and go throughout one’s life, but sometimes the memory lingers…
In an interview promoting his new book,
David Cay Johnston
was asked about support of the Trumpster by Joy Reid,
“Why aren’t those numbers getting worse. They seem to have stayed exactly the same.” She was talking about the mid-thirty percent where his support seems to hover.
“Well Joy, as we begin season two of Trump: The White House Reality Show, we are getting a very good measure that there is a segment of the populace who are going to support Donald Trump no matter what… I mean if the worst possible thing could happen, if Robert Mueller
proves Donald Trump is a traitor, you’re going to see a segment of the population supporting him for an entirely different reason. Unfortunately there are people in this country who hate the civil rights movement and those people are going to be with Donald till the end of his life.”
had about the same kind of support when he became leader of Germany as the Trumpster has now. Hitler never had a majority of the people behind him, and neither does the TrumPet. His support emanates from a little above one third of the people of the United States of America. Do not forget THREE MILLION MORE Americans voted for Hillary Clinton
than voted for the Trumpster. If EVERY VOTE COUNTED in our country Donald Trump would NOT BE PRESIDENT! If every voted counted in our country, George Dubya Bushwhacker
would not have become POTUS! A war was fought in this country in the 1860’s to decide whether we would be ONE COUNTRY or FIFTY STATES. Why is it that some, if not most, of those states are “not in play.” If you happen to live in a “red” state, such as Georgia, it matters not for whom you vote. Why vote? This will change only when young people become mad as hell and decide to not take it anymore. Now is the time, but where is the outrage?
Donald poppinJay Trump
is a Republican, or as I think of them, RepublicaNazi. The RepublicaNazi party spawned poppinJay, just as they have accepted “Nazi-avowing Holocaust-denier Arthur Jones
The leader of any country sets the tone. One does not need a weatherman to know which way the RepublicaNazi wind is blowing.
When young there were so-called, “liberal” Republicans. Now there are no longer even any “moderate” Republicans. The party has become the RepublicaNazi party. You are either, as we say in the South, “With ’em,” or “Against ’em.” I want the world to know I stand with the latter group. The RepublicaNazi’s need to be eradicated like the German Nazi’s were during the second world war.
‘Year One’: A visual reflection of the first year of the Trump presidency
Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures
A gathering of hundreds of white nationalists in Virginia took a deadly turn when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters and killed one person on Aug. 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. The state’s governor blamed neo-Nazis for sparking the unrest in the college town of Charlottesville, where rival groups fought pitched battles using rocks and pepper spray after far-right protesters converged to demonstrate against a plan to remove a statue of a Confederate war hero. The violence was the latest clash between white supremacists – some of whom have claimed allegiance to Donald Trump – and the president’s opponents since his January inauguration. (Photograph by Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures)
then contacted me wanting to know if I would be interested in writing a book review. I answered in the affirmative and the book was on its way. I have recently purchased another book published by his company, Team Tal: An Inside Story,
by Valentin Kirillov
and Alexei Shirov,
which has arrived and is on top of a stack of books to be read. So many books, so little time…
gave a simul at the House of Pain which I have always regretted missing. The owner of the Atlanta Chess Center, Thad Rogers, had some awful things to say about the Bronstein visit. After reading the book I have a better understanding of why Mr. Rogers said those things.
The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, is a extremely disquieting book. Yet I was riveted, reading all two hundred seventy one pages in only a few days. I have spent much more time thinking about the book than time spent reading it.
I have read all of the books by the author, and in addition, many articles. Genna is one of the best writers on the game of Chess. This book could be his best work. I write that knowing some may find the subject matter upsetting. The book concerns the aging of a Giant of the Chess world. “Colleague champion” was how former World Chess Champion Max Euwe
addressed David Bronstein in a telegram after the 1951 World Championship match between Bronstein and Mikhail Botvinnik,
the man who called himself, “First among peers,” which ended in a 12-12 tie. There can be no higher compliment.
Certainly there should have been a return match for the crown, but there was no match. When Botvinnik lost his crown, first to Mikhail Tal,
then to Vassily Smyslov,
there was a return match in which Botvinnik regained the title.
“You know, Botvinnik should have allowed me a return match; he was obliged to. In truth, though, I’m glad that I’m not hanging in the gallery at the chess club. Do you realize it was just half a point, half a point? And then, everything would have been completely different. Chess history and everything else. You see, Botvinnik and I had totally different outlooks on chess, and we were quite different people, too.”
The book left me wondering if Bronstein would have won a return match. Bronstein was afraid to win the match with Botvinnik for many of the same reasons Bobby Fischer
was afraid to play a match for the Chess championship of the world against any Russian. At the time of the 1951 match Bronstein’s father was being held in a Soviet gulag. How can one play his best while wondering what the “authorities” might do in reprisal if one wins? When living in a totalitarian system one tends to want to appease those who run the system, or at least not upset the Darth Vader’s in control.
One of the themes of the book considers the mental health of the Colleague champion. It caused me to consider a book read many years ago: Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John J. Ratey.
No human is perfect; we all have a certain percentage of different kinds of mental illness. The question is what percentage constitutes a full blown mental illness? Those who judge must determine if, for example, someone who has 49% of a particular mental illness, is considered mentally ill. What if that person rates in at 51%? Where is the line drawn? Who draws the line? While working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I had several people ask me if I thought this or that person was mentally ill. My answer was invariably the same. “I am not the one to ask that question.” When asked why, the reply would be, “On more than one occasion I have heard it said in the skittles room, “That guy Bacon is NUTS!”
“Botvinnik never took Bronstein seriously. His diary was full of negative and sarcastic commentary on his future opponent’s style: “neurotic and probably plagued by obsessive thoughts, but hard-working,” is one comment.
“Disregarding the fundamental truth that several different excuses always sound less convincing than one, Bronstein found a number of scapegoats and reasons for his loss: his hatred-filled opponent, the atmosphere of that time, fear for his father, his seconds, who neglected their duties, walks with a girlfriend who didn’t care about his career, and the hardships he had endured.”
“Psychologists say that you need to separate the ‘here and now’ from the ‘there and then’. They advise you to stop feeling regret about what was in the past and not to fool yourself. Bronstein didn’t want to come to terms with his past and nobody close to him dared to tell him that the match with Botvinnik was in the past, that life hadn’t stopped, and it was time to move on. Nobody dared to hit him over the head with the facts, to bring him back to reality. I admit to not knowing how such an attempt would have turned out, but nobody even attempted it, and everybody who regularly interacted with him shares responsibility for him remaining in such a state until the very end.”
“Bronstein the philosopher and Bronstein the talker had pushed aside Bronstein the chess player, and he increasingly seemed to be almost at odds with himself.”
“Ideas were bubbling in his head,” Yuri Averbakh
recalled. “He literally breathed them, couldn’t stop talking about everything that came to his mind. ‘How does your wife put up with your fountain of language?’ I once asked him. ‘She goes to visit the neighbours once she can’t put up with it any longer,’ David admitted with a guilty smile.”
Tom Furstenberg wrote: “David has so much to talk about he constantly ‘harasses’ organisers, sponsors, arbiters, and players with his ideas, even to the point of annoying them. This is why organisers occasionally do not want him in their tournaments and people sometimes do not take him seriously.”
“Furstenberg states that Bronstein also had other offers at the time, but none of them came to anything for the same reason. When Tom strongly recommended that he speak less, and especially stop repeating himself, Davy would answer, “I like people.” Of course, that wasn’t quite true. He liked people when they listened to him in admiration. Others, though, interested him only as an outlet to revisit Davy’s past.”
“It would probably have been useful for him to visit a therapist. The latter would have asked about something, and Davy would have talked for hours without even politely inquiring “how are you?” He never asked anybody that question. I can’t ever recall him asking me how things were or what plans I had. It was always about him, himself, and his chess. His place in chess was the meaning and substance of his entire life.”
“His listeners (including me) wouldn’t ask difficult questions out of respect for this great chess player and highly insecure person. As such, we strengthened his conceit and intoxication with his own uniqueness. If my opinion wasn’t the same as his, I would rarely disagree with him openly, although I could have argued frequently. I was constantly aware that I was talking with an outstanding chess player and, at the same time, a slightly unhinged person.”
“Psychotic symptoms are a normal part of human development, and everybody has a genetic inclination to experience them. Particular risk factors, though, are childhood traumas, and a psychotic state or neurosis may fuel or intensify genius.”
It got back to me that the owner of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, Thad Rogers, said I was a “Small, insecure man.” I have probably been called worse. It made me wonder why someone would say that about me. I am, like Bronstein, a small man. Like most children who were bullied I have reason to be insecure. Bullies pick smaller boys as their targets because they are cowards. I learned boxing at a Boys Club and fought back against the cowards, and feel I have been fighting all my life. Reading this book caused empathetic feelings to be evoked.
invited Bronstein to Brussels in 1991 to his match with Jan Timman,
but he never engaged his services. “He talks so much that it gives me a headache,” Viktor explained to his seconds.
“He would trustingly take his ‘victim’ aside and he would start to fire off his ideas, thoughts, and views in a quiet, nearly toneless voice. Sometimes, they were interesting, sometimes amusing or moralizing, but always original, unexpected, and paradoxical, and Bronstein would experience genuine satisfaction if he sensed he had been able to ensnare his listener in a web of his monologue, filled with complicated twists and turns,” Mark Taimanov
"Among his repeat stories, the endless refrain was, of course, his match with Botvinnik, and he constantly talked about what had been and what might have been had what happened not happened. His other monologue subjects included: reforming the rules of chess, including allowing the pieces to be set up freely behind the row of pawns, reducing the time allowed for thinking, the compulsory use of charts showing how much time is spent on thinking, as well as the idea that young players who think that they are the first to comprehend the game's subtleties and who receive enormous prized for doing so, dance on living classics' graves."
I could not help but wonder if a better word would have been "soliloquy" in lieu of "monologue."
"Although conversing with Bronstein was a tough challenge, the reward, when the grandmaster was in the mood, came in the form of brilliant flashes of colorful comparisons, clever thoughts and unusual conclusions that his listeners would never forget."
"Bronstein didn't like the fact that computers brought the truth in chess closer, that memorization had replaced improvisation: "By inventing computers, they wiped the wonderful game of chess from the face of the Earth. Chess is in crisis because it has been analyzed to death. The sense of mystery has disappeared. Chess today has nothing to do with the chess that my generation played."
A friend who stopped playing Chess, turning to Poker, said much the same thing, "GMs used to be thought of as some kind of mysterious Gods. Now there are considered to be nothing more than mere mortals."
Botvinnik was Bronstein's bête noire.
"Moreover, just like in all of Bronstein's deliberations, there was no avoiding the main wrongdoer. He criticized the 'computer' way of Botvinnik's thinking, claiming that the latter "reacted painfully to another man's genius and wrote with pretend disdain about chess as an art. Let's quote Botvinnik here: "Sometimes (and maybe often!) the thinking of a chess player is surrounded by mystique: the workings of a player's brains are presented as some sort of wonder, a magical and totally inexplicable phenomenon. Further, it is claimed that not only is the thinking of chess 'geniuses' a mystery, but that advantage is gained at the board thanks to some magical laws of chess art. We need to accept that unidentified laws of the chess battle do indeed exist, but that they can and will be identified just like the as yet unidentified way a grandmaster thinks. Moreover, it's fair to assume that these laws and the ways of thinking are relatively elementary – after all, youngsters play chess, and fairly well?" Botvinnik wrote in 1960."
"When he began, yet again, to claim: Believe me, that champion's title was of no interest to me," I said, "do you know David, how Toulouse-Latrec's grandfather informed his wife, born a duchess, at the breakfast table just what they had lost in the revolution of 1789?"
Bronstein looked at me nonplussed. "When his wife replied that she didn't give a damn, the artist's grandfather smiled sarcastically and stated, 'you certainly do give a damn, Citizen Duchess, because you wouldn't have talked about it every day if you didn't give a damn.' "
"Let me assure you," said David pulling me by the arm, "that I really don't care at all about this. Do you really think that I missed Na7 in game 23? Such an obvious move? Do you really believe that?"
I realized that any criticism on this matter was pointless and never again interrupted him when he got going about his match with Botvinnik.
The fear embedded in the minds of Soviet citizens who had lived through that terrible era was one reason for his unfinished thoughts, his hints, and his reticence…
How can one express the atmosphere of 1951 – when he was already an adult and a public figure – in words? How much willpower and which subtle hints are required to recreate the darkness of the time?"
Another time, "What ideas did Botvinnik have, I ask? Do you really think I didn't see that I shouldn't have taken the pawn and given white the advantage of two bishops versus two knights in game 23? Do you really think I missed that?"
Still later, "How was I supposed to play chess anyway, when I had this constant feeling of terror? Not facing Botvinnik, although I overestimated him at the time, I thought he was better than he turned out to be. No, it was terror facing my personal situation, the country I lived in, everything together. You experienced something similar, even if it wasn't for long. So you must understand what I'm talking about."
Reading the book made me think of David Bronstein as the Don Quixote of Chess.
"The functionaries did indeed dislike this now professional troublemaker, but realizing he was an oddball, they allowed him to play the role of frondeur, dreamer, village idiot, and eccentric maverick waving a toy sword.”
“That was the case with David Bronstein, too. In the half-century that followed, his tournaments included some brilliant games, elegant moves and original ideas, but there were no consistently strong results, or continual flow of inspiration. The formidable, ingenious player left him long before his actual death.You could perceive his abilities of old here and there in the games, but most of them were lacking in both joy and vigour.”
“At the very end, he became even more irritable and complained about everything. About his life ruined by chess and lived in vain. And of course, Davy complained about this Sosonko dude, who was just waiting pen in hand for him to kick the bucket so that he could publish his memoirs about the near world champion. The interesting thing, though, is that all of Davy’s complaints, although frequently unfair and exaggerated, and sometimes even absurd, had a grain of truth to them.”
“The fate of those long in the tooth is loneliness. Besides illnesses and adversity, the loss of friends and relatives, the horror of living without witnesses was tougher for him to bear than perhaps for anybody else. After all, there is no soul more desolate than an idol whose name was once on everybody’s lips.”
“Once, however, after repeating for the umpteenth time that Botvinnik had been utterly right all along, he added with a childlike smile: “Though that was still one hell of an imagination I possessed.”
“My heart began to ache at those words, however, and a powerful thought pierced my mind: “why did I write all that stuff about this great chess player who suffered so much at the end of his life? Why? What was the point of all that philosophizing and those attempted explanations? Who was all that for?” You see, I knew deep own that I shouldn’t have tried to recall anything. I should have left the departed alone in their graves and should have allowed the living to keep their illusions.”
This “Sosonko dude” was obviously troubled and full of doubt. In deciding to publish the book he has done the Chess world a great service.
“When Vladimir Nabokov
died, his niece scolded his wife, Vera, for apparently allowing her husband to die. The writer’s wife responded: “Vladimir died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed: thinking and writing.”
After reading those words I realized my life, too, will end when I am unable to do those things.
“Let’s repeat these harsh words here: David Bronstein died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed most of all – to play, discuss, and think about chess.”
This is a magnificent book, written with love for the subject. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Purchase and read this stunning, thought provoking book.
as he did jump through the hoops and relished arguing about how to rate a movie. Upon learning I would rate it so highly David would, no doubt, exclaim, “What? Have you lost your mind? Nobody rates any movie higher than a 9.5!”
I spent an inordinate amount of time watching each and every game during March of 2016 while greatly enjoying the commentary of 9 dan Michael Redmond,
an American who is the highest ranking Western player ever, and Chris Garlock, the editor of the American Go Journal.
If I had to use only one word to describe the movie it would be “poignant.” Many people with no interest in the game of Go, or any game for that matter, would have little, if any, interest in watching a movie, especially a documentary, about a mere game, possibly considering it dry and uninteresting. They would be sorely mistaken. Games are played by human beings and we humans are emotional creatures. Only a psychopath could watch this movie without having feelings evoked. When something is gained something is also lost. The computer program known as AlphaGo gained a victory for artificial intelligence when man lost yet another battle with a machine.
a 9-dan, the highest rank, professional Go player, who has won 18 World Titles, and is considered to be one of the all-time great Go players, lost the match to AlphaGo, 1-4, but won our hearts. Lee Sedol said, “I want my style of Go to be something different, something new, my own thing, something that no one has thought of before.” Unfortunately it was the silicon monster that showed something new, something that no one had thought of before. It is now known all the world over as “Move 37!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNrXgpSEEIE)
“In Game Two, the Google machine made a move that no human ever would. And it was beautiful,” writes Cade Metz in Wired.
The move reminded me of the great Go Seigen,
considered to be one of the strongest players of all time, if not the greatest, because it was played on the inside, near the middle of the board, a type of move he made famous.
Lee Sedol vs AlphaGo Move 37 reactions and analysis
In the movie one hears, “Move 37 begat move 78.” From the aforementioned Wired article: “But in Game Four, the human made a move that no machine would ever expect. And it was beautiful too. Indeed, it was just as beautiful as the move from the Google machine—no less and no more. It showed that although machines are now capable of moments of genius, humans have hardly lost the ability to generate their own transcendent moments.” (https://www.wired.com/2016/03/two-moves-alphago-lee-sedol-redefined-future/)
Move 78 has become known as the Hand of God move.
Lee Sedol Hand of God Move 78 Reaction and Analysis
Lee Sedol won the fourth game, striking a glorious blow for humans. Unfortunately he lost the final game in a close, hard fought battle. It may have been the last game a human will ever win against any program as the next incarnation of AlphaGo beat the current world No. 1 ranking player Ke Jie,
3-0 in the Future of Go Summit in Wuzhen, China, played on 23, 25, and 27 May 2017.
Before the match it was commonly accepted that it would be at least a decade before any program was able to challenge the best human players. Beating Kasparov at Chess was considered child’s play to beating a human at Go. “The Game of Go is the holy grail of artificial intelligence. Everything we’ve ever tried in AI, it just falls over when you try the game of Go.” – Dave Silver Lead Researcher for AlphaGo
While watching the movie the thought crossed my mind that what I was watching was a watershed moment in the history of mankind, analogous to Neal Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“We think of DeepMind as kind of an Apollo program effort for AI. Our mission is to fundamentally understand intelligence and recreate it artificially.” – Demis Hassabis Co-Founder & CEO, DeepMind
A comment from a member of the AlphaGo team has stuck with me: “We do not understand enough about Go to understand what AlphaGo is doing.” I cannot help but wonder if, in the future when programs are exponentially more powerful, humans will allow the programs to make decisions for them while not understanding why those decisions have been made…
This is a great movie. The Chess player IM Boris Kogan said, “The measure of a man is how he comes back after a defeat.” In the two months after Lee Sedol lost to the computer program known as AlphaGo he won every match he played against human opponents.
My subscription to the best Chess magazine ever published in the history of the Royal Game, New In Chess, expired with the 2017/6 issue. Although I would like to renew financial conditions due to health issues, etc., are such that the decision was made for me. Living on a fixed income requires sacrifice. I had extra money after deciding to postpone dental work until spring and there were these two Chess books I’ve wanted to read for quite some time, Insanity, passion, and addiction: a year inside the chess world, by GM Danny Gormally, and Ivan’s Chess Journey: Games and Stories, by GM Ivan Sokolov. Greg Yanez of Chess4Less.com sent out an email announcing his Black Friday sale on Thursday evening and I was about to clear everything in order to listen to the weekly edition of Phenomenon Radio with Linda Moulton Howe (http://kgraradio.com/phenomenon-radio/) so I clicked on and examined all ninety pages of Chess items for sale, while listening to the program, ordering the above mentioned books and the new issue of New In Chess magazine because not only is it the best Chess magazine in the universe, but I am 67 and tomorrow is today. Alas, the issue contains book reviews by GM Matthew Sadler of two books on my wish list, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, and Guyla Breyer, by Jimmy Adams (published by New In Chess), both of which earned five, count’em, FIVE STARS! Two more books, or another subscription to the best Chess magazine in the universe? Oh well, I can take solace in that no matter how I choose to spend my money I cannot go wrong!
Before continuing, let me say that I met Greg at one of the National tournaments for children at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta, Georgia some years ago. I purchased a stack of books while enjoying talking with Greg and the fellow with him, whose name I simply cannot recall. I spent most of my time while there in the book room, and returned the next day and did the same. The next year another group, USCF sales, had the book concession. I talked with Aviv Friedman, who was there to write an article for the USCF. I mentioned we had played a tournament game but he did not recall it. When told I answered his French with 2 Qe2 his face erupted in a big grin as he interjected, “And I played 2…e5!”
“You do remember it?” I asked. “No,” he said, “I always answer 2 Qe2 with 2…e5! Who won?” I told him he had won the game and that made him smile even more. “It is the only time anyone has ever played that move,” I said, “and I played 3 f4 because I had seen it recommended somewhere.”
Upon mentioning I had just returned from the book room he said, “Oh yeah? What did you think of it?”
When I replied, “Not much,” he said, “Really? Why is that?” Saying I had only purchased one book compared with a stack from Chess4Less the previous year, provoked another, “Really?”
“Yeah,” said I, “The place was moribund compared to last year. Man, that Chess4Less room was really hopping!” I said. Aviv responded, “Really?” Then some USCF official came up to Aviv and I took my leave, heading to the food court. Aviv did not mention this exchange in the article…
I sent my order that night and had it with the US Mail Monday at noon! I worked at the Oxford Bookstore on Peachtree road in the Buckhead section of Atlanta in the late 70’s-early 80’s, and at Oxford Too, a place for used and remaindered books and things like old magazines, later in the 80’s, and once managed a Mr. K’s bookstore on Peachtree road in the same area of town, before quitting to play Backgammon full time. I sold books and equipment with Thad Rogers on the road, and also at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, aka, the House of Pain, so I know more than a little about selling Chess stuff, and I am here to tell you that one simply cannot go wrong dealing with Chess4Less!
The 2017/7 issue of NIC is a wonderful issue. I recall the Nashville Strangler’s wife telling me that when a new issue of NIC arrived she would tell her children, “We have lost daddy for a couple of days.” This issue is a prime example of why.
What I would like to share with you is the opening of the very first game in this magnificent magazine, the game between former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand and GM Anton Kovalyov from the World Cup. That is the tournament in which the latter knocked out the former, but was then “knocked out” by ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili when Zurab verbally accosted and abused the young GM from Canada, who is in college in the USA, only a few minutes before the next round was to begin. Anton left for the airport immediately. From what I read at Chessbase, the bombastic Zurab brings lotsa cash into Chess so he can abuse anyone at any time with impunity and without any kind of reprimand from FIDE. Proof that, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”
Viswanathan Anand (2794) vs Anton Kovalyov (2649)
Event: FIDE World Cup 2017
Site: Tbilisi GEO Date: 09/06/2017
Round: 2.1 Score: 0-1
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Adams attack
Notes by Anish Giri
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 h5 (“This move is typical in the Najdorf, when White has a pawn of f3 and the knight on b3, stopping his pretty much only plan of g2-g4, or when White’s pawn is on h3 and the knight is on e2, hindering the g4/Ne2-g3 set-up and the natural development of the f1-bishop. With the knight on be and the pawn on h3, this move is poor. It is easy for White to prepare f4 in one go (which is more often than not his main plan in this variation anyway), and the pawn on h5 is a minor weakening of Black’s kingside pawn structure.”) 9 Be2 Nbd7 (Black’s set-up looks ‘normal’, but since it is not the 6 f3 variation but the 6 h3 variation and White gets f2-f4 in one go, Black is essentially a tempo down. You may get away with a tempo down in a Giuoco Piano, but not in a sharp Sicilian.”) 10 0-0?! (Vishy plays a little timidly, but he will get another chance to punish Black for not obeying the laws of the Najdorf later on. 10 f4! at once would have been stronger. Black has to deal with the threat of f4-f5, but neither allowing or stopping it will solve his issues: 10…Qc7!? 11 0-0 Be7 12 a4 and one doesn’t need to be Efim Petrovich Geller to see that things are not going well for Black here. To begin with, he can’t castle kingside so easily, since the h5-pawn is vulnerable.) 10…Rc8 11 Qd2 (Again, too timid. 11 f4!? was still strong. Vishy was satisfied to get a good version of the Karpov Variation in the 6 Be2 Najdorf, but the nature of that line is such that, bad version or good, the position is still perfectly playable for Black. White’s plans there are slow and manoeuvring.) 11…b5? (Another ‘normal-looking’ move that is completely out of context.)
Although I would like to give the complete game, including commentary, right out of New In Chess I must stop the comments here, because there are copyright laws and the last thing I need on my limited, fixed income is a lawyer breathing down my neck! I suggest you purchase this issue as it would truly be “cheap at twice the price.” Think of it this way…back in 1968 we would skip the awful lunch at our high school and drive to Mrs. Jackson’s, where we would obtain a meal consisting of a meat, three veggies, roll, iced tea, and dessert, all for only a buck. A meal like that will set you back ten dollars these daze, so an individual copy of the greatest Chess magazine in history will cost you about the same as that meal at Mrs. Jackson’s because that ten spot in your pocket has the purchasing power of that single dollar bill “back in the day.” If you purchase a subscription, you are making out like a bandit! I mean, where else can you obtain this kind of teaching for so little money? If you play the Najdorf, or play against it, you have just increased your understanding exponentially, and the magazine gives this to you each and every issue, plus so much more!
I will, though, provide the remaining moves of the game, sans comment, which can be found all over the internet: (This comes from 365chess.com)
9. Be2 Nbd7 10. O-O Rc8 11. Qd2 b5 12. Rfd1 Nb6 13. Bxb6 Qxb6 14. a4 b4 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. exd5 Bd7 17. a5 Qb7 18. Qe3 Be7 19. Qb6 Qxb6 20. axb6 Rb8 21. Rxa6 Bd8 22. b7 Ke7 23. Nc5 dxc5 24. d6+ Kf6 25. Bf3 Kf5 26. Bd5 e4 27. Re1 Bf6 28. Bxe4+ Kg5 29. Ra5 Bxb2 30. Rxc5+ Kf6 31. Re3 g6 32. Rf3+ Ke6 33. Rd3 Rhd8 34. Ra5 f5 35. Bf3 Bc3 36. h4 Kf6 37. g3 f4 38. Be4 Bf5 39. Bxf5 gxf5 40. Rb5 Ke6 41. Kf1 Rd7 42. gxf4 Rbxb7 43. Re3+ Kf6 0-1
I went to the Chessbase Database, a fantastic FREE resource, (http://database.chessbase.com/js/apps/database/) and learned much: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 (Here Komodo prefers 8…Be7, expecting 9 Qf3 to which it will reply 9…0-0; Stockfish would play 8…Nc6, expecting 9 Qf3 Rc8) h5?! 9 Be2 (Stockfish plays 9 f4, while Houdini would play 9 Nd5) Nbd7 10 0-0?! (Stockfish would play an immediate 10 f4, but Komodo would play 10 0-0, as did Vishy, and after 10…Rc8 then play 11 f4)
This is the only other game (found at 365chess.com) with the line:
Ruifeng Li (2404) vs Guillermo Vazquez (2394)
Event: Spring Break UT GM
Site: Brownsville USA Date: 03/06/2015
Round: 1.3 Score: ½-½
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Byrne (English) attack
The Najdorf was my favorite opening with Black “back in the day.” I won the 1976 Atlanta Championship using the Najdorf in the last round, when I was 4-0 while my opponent, Earle Morrison, was a half point back. I recall someone saying, “The Najdorf is not an opening. It is a SYSTEM,” but I can no longer recall by whom it was said…
IM Daniel Gurevich “cut his eye teeth,” as we say in the South, at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, aka, the House of Pain.
I made a point to be near the first board game of the last round of the K-6 section when Daniel took clear first in the Supernationals at Opryland in Nashville back in 2009 and I was the first one to congratulate him. He was beaming and his face broke into a big smile as he took my proffered hand. His score of six and a half out of seven games raised his rating from 2075 to 2104, and it has not stopped rising. His FIDE page shows his current FIDE rating as 2471. It will continuing heading upward after his second place finish, tied with four others, in the GM section of the recently concluded St. Louis Invitational, with a undefeated score of plus two, both wins coming with the black pieces. The final crosstable shown at the website of the STLCC (https://www.uschesschamps.com/2017-saint-louis-invitational/pairings-results-gm) shows Daniel with the second highest performance rating (2563) behind only that of tournament winner IM John Burke (2606).
I would like to present all of Daniel’s games at the tournament, some of which I was fortunate enough to watch (“You GOTTA pull for somebody, man!” – David Spinks); all of which I have played over.
Two games annotated by his opponents follow below the games. The first game, which I enjoyed immensely, could be called a “real barn burner!” The ChessBomb shows a plethora of “red moves,” but then most fighting games are repleat with “off-color” moves, are they not?
IM Daniel Gurevich (2471) v IM Aman Hambleton (2484)