The Mulfish Versus The International Master

Michael Mulford, aka “Mulfish”,

That’s Bill on the left and Mike on the right.

is one of the really “good guys” in Chess (and so too was Bill Hall, who was the Executive Director of the United States Chess Federation, and we go way back to a time when Bill was a teenager from the Great State of Tennessee. When in Crossville for a Senior tournament Bill treated me like royalty, spending an afternoon at the USCF office showing me around while introducing me to everyone I did not already know) and I am pleased to call him a friend, a word the AW does not use loosely. Mike has been involved with Chess for decades and has been involved in almost every facet of the Royal Game in who knows how many different states. It is rare for a person to be liked by everyone, but the Mulfish is one of those kind of guys that one cannot help buy like and admire. Not once have I ever heard anyone say a discouraging word about the Mulfish. Earlier Mike sent me an email which began:

Hi nocaB,

When you have nothing better to do, please peruse this amateur game and comment as you deem appropriate. I’ll give you more complete information about the game after you reply. The name and location of the tournament and the name of the opening were added by the AW after the fact, so I had no clue when or where the game was contested:


A55 Old Indian, main line

  1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nd7 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Ngf6 5. e4 Be7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. h3 Re8 9. Be3 exd4 10. Nxd4 Nc5 11. Qc2 Bf8 12. Bf3 a5 13. Rfe1 Nfd7 14. Rad1 Ne5 15. Be2 Qh4 16. Nf3 Nxf3+ 17. Bxf3 Nd7 18. Qd2 h6 19. Be2 a4 20. Bf4 Ne5 21. Bg3 Qg5 22. Kh2 Qxd2 23. Rxd2 g5 24. f4 gxf4 25. Bxf4 Ra5 26. Red1 Be6 27. b3 axb3 28. axb3 Ra3 29. Rb1 b6 30. Rc2 Bg7 31. Na4 Nxc4 32. Bxc4 Bxc4 33. Rxc4 b5 34. Rxc6 bxa4 35. Bxd6 Rxb3 36. Rxb3 axb3 37. Rb6 Re6 38. Rb8+ Kh7 39. e5 b2 40. g3 f6 41. Rxb2 fxe5 42. Bc5 Rc6 43. Be3 Rc3 44. Re2 Kg6 45. Kg2 e4 46 Kf2 1/2-1/2

That was the extent of it…I did as requested, looking over the game on a board with wooden pieces, a Drueke travel set that caused the barrister, Warren Ott, to smile broadly while giving me the thumbs up when first setting eyes on the set. I made a cuppa Joe, broke out paper and pen, and settled in to look at the game while jotting down my thoughts, just as was done in the pre-computer days. After firing an email to the Mulfish this reply was soon received:

Gotta hop on a conference call in about 15 minutes, so quickly:

  1. This game was played Saturday at G/60.
  2. The game actually went a few moves longer, but by then I was down below five minutes (my opponent had 20).
  3. I was white vs IM Michael Brooks.
  4. I was on my own the whole game, basically. Fortunately he chose a cramped opening, so focusing on keeping him cramped seemed like a good idea.
  5. As to the limp Rc2, there is a story there. My idea was to get the rook out of the way to threaten Bc1. I started to put it on d3, realized that was not an option. Brooks chuckled “Might not want to go there” I said, yeah, I’m probably not good enough to spot an IM and exchange. Rc2 seemed the best option since c4 would also need some coverage. I think he erred with Nxc4; b5 immediately must be better.

I’ll look at your other comments later. Anyway, I thought it was a decent game for G/60, and it was my first draw with an IM. I don’t think either of us ever had much of an edge.


I am thinking, “Wow…an International Master.” Michael Brooks

has played in the United States Chess Championships!

I had no thought of it being a game in which Michael participated, thinking he would have let me know if it had been a game in which he had played. I replied asking him if he would consent to my using the game for a blog post. This was part his reply:

Wed 2/16/2022 11:36 AM
I’ve got mixed feelings on the subject. On the one hand, I’d say that if you think the game (and your notes) provide a vehicle for something of interest to your readers, I say go for it. On the other hand, if you are just doing it to pay homage to a friend, then I say that’s not really appropriate. You know your motivation.

The return salvo was sent immediately:


You should know me better than that, Mike. I would never publish a game just to “pay homage to a friend.”


These are the notes sent to the Mulfish:

  1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nd7 3. Nc3 e5 4. Nf3 Ngf6 5. e4 Be7 6. Be2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. h3 Re8 9. Be3 exd4 10. Nxd4 Nc5 11. Qc2 Bf8 12. Bf3 a5 13. Rfe1 Nfd7 14. Rad1 Ne5 15. Be2 Qh4 (This is playing fast & loose! The programs probably play 15…a4, but I would probably play 15…Qc7) 16. Nf3 (16 b3) 16…Nxf3+ 17. Bxf3 Nd7 (I really do not care for this move. I would probably play 17…a4) 18. Qd2 h6 19. Be2 (19 Bf4 looks strong) 19…a4 (Most players not named Capablanca would not return the Knight to c4 but it may be best. Another move I like is 19…g5, playing fast and loose, but no program is gonna approve! I can hear IM Boris Kogan after seeing me play a move like 19…g5. “Why Mike? Why?” he would say while shaking his head. Hey, you asked…) 20. Bf4 (I was thinking 20 f3 or maybe f4…) 20…Ne5 (I dunno…that Knight oughta be on c5) 21. Bg3 (Here’s the deal…most people would play this move, probably including me, but upon reflection, the Bishop oughta be on h2 where it’s protected by the King after a future move of the f-pawn to f4) 21…Qg5 22. Kh2 (Although the Queen may be better placed on d4, or even c2, I would probably play 22 Bf4. Allow the Queen trade has gotta help Black, does it not?) 22…Qxd2 23. Rxd2 g5 24. f4 (I’m playing 24 Red1) 24…gxf4 25. Bxf4 Ra5 (Here’s the deal…you teach Chess and one of the most important things taught is to develope your pieces, right? With that in mind I would prefer 25…Be6, because of the rule I just made up of developing your minor pieces before your major pieces…) 26. Red1 (I want to make a move on the Queenside, such as 26 a3; or b3; or even b4. I gotta feeling one of them is correct, and cannot wait to put the game into the free analysis program at 365Chess to learn which one…) 26…Be6 27. b3 axb3 28. axb3 Ra3 29. Rb1 b6 (I do not understand this move. It appears there is only a choice between 29…Nxc4 and 29…Rea8) 30. Rc2 (Don’t know about this move either…seems rather limpid…I want to play 30 Ra2 followed by doubling, but then there are trades…so I don’t know…maybe simply 30 Nd1, but only because I’m uncertain what to play, frankly. I mean, it’s not like there’s a purpose, other than making a move, and one should have some kinda reason behind playing a move, right?) 30…Bg7 (That’s my move!) 31. Na4 (When in doubt, attack something! But maybe attacking 31 Ra2 is better…) 31…Nxc4 (31…b5 is a move deserving attention…) 32. Bxc4 Bxc4 33. Rxc4 b5 34. Rxc6 (After spending far too much time on this position I can say with some authority it would have been better to have played 34 Bxd6) 34…bxa4 35. Bxd6 (I would prefer 35 bxa4) 35…Rxb3 36. Rxb3 axb3 37. Rb6 Re6 38. Rb8+ Kh7 39. e5 b2 40. g3 f6 (The moves leading up to time control, or was there a time control, were easy to understand, but 40…f6 is a real non sequitur. Frankly, I’m flummoxed…Why not simply play 40…Bxe5?!) 41. Rxb2 fxe5 42. Bc5 Rc6 (The pawn should be moved forward to e4 because I’ve heard that passed pawns should be pushed…) 43. Be3 Rc3 44. Re2 Kg6 45. Kg2 e4 (45…h5 would probably be more precise, but it’s a draw anyway…) 46 Kf2 1/2-1/2

And now, as regular readers have come to expect, here are the notes on the opening made just today after spending far too much time with the usual suspects, the ChessBaseDataBase and

  1. d4 d6 2. c4 Nd7 3. Nc3 e5 (The most often played move by about 15-1 over the move played in the game is the move 3…Ngf6. Deep Fritz likes 3…c5, a move with two games in the ChessBaseDataBase. Houdini will play 3…Ngf6, but Komodo will play 3…e5. No word from Stockfish, unfortunately…) 4. Nf3 Ngf6 5. e4 Be7 (The CBDB contains 1636 games with the move played in the game, 5…Be7, which has scored 61% against an ELO average 2378 rated player. The most often played move has been 5…c6, with 1987 games versus 2401 rated opposition. Then there is the number three most often played move of 5…g6, which has scored only 53% for white in 1384 games versus 2423 rated opposition. 5…g6 is, unsurprisingly, the move of Stockfish) 6. Be2 O-O (The move of Stockfish 14.1 @depth 47. It is curious that @depth 41 SF 14.1 will play the move 6…a6, a move having been attempted in only 3 prior games. The most popular move has been 6…c6, which has been seen in 1758 games, while scoring 61% for white) 7. O-O c6 8. h3 (This move has been tried in 176 games, scoring only 51% against a hypotheteical opponent rated 2365. The move 8 Be3 is the choice of SF 14. In 593 games @depth 51 it has scored higher than any other move, 67%. Still, Stockfish 130122 @depth 51 will play 8 Qc2. In 678 games it has scored 64% versus 2424 rated opposition) 8…Re8 (8…a6 has been attempted in 100 games, with white scoring 55%. Next is 8…Re8 with 46 games contained in the CBDB. It has scored only 45% for white versus a composite player rated 2392. In 31 games against 2374 opposition the move 8…Qc7 has held white to 56%. Stockfish 11 @depth 42 will play 8…h6. There are only 3 games in the CBDB in which 8…h6 has been played. Then there is the move 8…exd4…Fritz 17 will play the move, and so will SF 100122! Yet the move has only been attempted in five games!) 9. Be3 (This has been the most often played move, but in 30 games it has only scored 47% against a composite 2353 player. It is the choice of Fritz 13. Stockfish 130222 @depth 31 will play 9 Qc2, which has scored 53% in 15 games against a 2348 player. Then there is the choice of SF 14, 9 d5, which has only been attempted in 7 games, scoring 50% versus 2399 opposition. Whew! You got all of that? It’s your move, Bunky…) 9…exd4 (9 Qc7 has been the most often played move in 35 games. 9…a6 shows 17, but the choice of what used to be known as the “Big Three”, Stockfish, Komodo, and Houdini all favoring is the seldom played 9…exd4, which also happens to be the move made by the IM) 10. Nxd4 Nc5 (There are only 4 games shown for 10…Bf8; one only for 10…a6, yet IM Brooks played the move both Deep Fritz and Houdini show at the CBDB, a move not having been played previously by a titled player, so the move played in the game, 10…Nc5 is a THEORETICAL NOVELTY! Or is it? See the two games below found at 365Chess…)

Patrick Vincent vs Eric Birmingham (2300)
Event: FRA-chT
Site: France Date: ??/??/1987
Round: 5 Score: 0-1
ECO: A55 Old Indian, main line
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 d6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.Nf3 Be7 6.Be2 c6 7.O-O O-O 8.h3 Re8 9.Be3 exd4 10.Nxd4 Bf8 11.Qc2 Nc5 12.Bf3 a5 13.Rfe1 a4 14.Rad1 Qa5 15.Bd2 Qb6 16.b4 axb3 17.axb3 Ra3 18.Bc1 Ra1 19.Qb2 Ra8 20.Be3 Qb4 21.Bf4 Ra3 22.Nb1 Ra6 23.e5 Nd3 24.Nc2 Qxe1+ 25.Rxe1 Nxb2 26.exf6 Rxe1+ 27.Nxe1 Bf5 28.Nc3 Ra1 29.Bd2 Bc2 30.Ne4 Nd3 31.Kf1 Nxe1 32.Bxe1 Bd3+ 0-1

Sevara Baymuradova vs Aigerim Rysbayeva (2170)
Event: Asia-ch U18 Girls
Site: Tashkent Date: 07/01/2007
Round: 4 Score: 0-1
ECO: A55 Old Indian, main line
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.c4 Nbd7 4.Nc3 e5 5.e4 Be7 6.Be2 O-O 7.O-O c6 8.h3 Re8 9.Be3 exd4 10.Nxd4 Nc5 11.Qc2 Bf8 12.Bf3 a5 13.Rfe1 Qc7 14.b3 Bd7 15.Rad1 Rad8 16.Bg5 Be7 17.Bf4 Bf8 18.g4 Bc8 19.Nf5 Bxf5 20.gxf5 Nfd7 21.Re3 Ne5 22.Kh2 Nxf3+ 23.Rxf3 Kh8 24.Rg3 Be7 25.Rdg1 Bf6 26.f3 Rg8 27.Ne2 Be5 28.Qd2 b6 29.Nd4 Nd3 30.Bxe5 dxe5 31.Qxd3 Rxd4 32.Qe3 f6 33.R1g2 Rdd8 34.h4 Qf7 35.f4 exf4 36.Qxf4 Rge8 37.Rg4 Qe7 38.Qg3 Rd7 39.h5 h6 40.Qe3 Qe5+ 41.Qg3 Qxg3+ 42.Kxg3 Rd3+ 43.Kf4 Re7 44.R4g3 Red7 45.Re3 R7d4 46.Rgg3 Rd2 47.a4 Kg8 48.Kf3 Kf7 49.Rg1 Rh2 50.Kg4 Rf2 51.Rgg3 c5 52.Rgf3 Rg2+ 53.Rg3 Rf2 54.Rgf3 Rfd2 55.Kg3 Rd6 56.Rf2 Rd1 57.Ree2 R6d3+ 58.Kg2 0-1

A Chess House Divided Cannot Stand

You know things are serious when the Armchair Warrior resorts to paraphrasing the devil himself, President of the Disunited States, Abe Lincoln. Dishonest Abe did, though, have a point.
I wrote some time ago about a state which had divided into separate organizations when the scholastic group broke away after developing their own organization. I recently discovered the Great State of Virginia now has two separate and distinct chess organizations, the Virginia Chess Federation (, and the The Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (

That is two split state organizations and for all I know, there may be more. If, or when, the third state decides to split, the words of Arlo Guthrie in the immortal song, “Alice’s Restaurant” could be prophetic:
“And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.”
With lyrics- (
Decades later- (

How many states split before the scholastic faction decides to break away from the USCF and have their own organization, the USSCF? There are many who now consider the USCF to be a defacto USSCF. Bill Hall, the former Executive Director of USCF, was an expert player. After being forced out he was replaced by Jean Hoffman, a person highly touted for her word in scholastic chess. She played in 22 tournaments in the early to mid 90’s, crossing into the “C” class. Ms. Hoffman came back to next play in once in 2004 and twice in 2006, dropping back into the “D” class. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (

This was posted on the USCF forum recently:
by jjamesge1 on Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:25 am #281436
“I guess Dr. Bell summed it one pretty good one day. (I was at the local chess meet): I asked him about the collegiate chess players, since the few that showed up were *mediocre C maybe B level at best. He replied that there were several really good players at the university (Murray State University), but they didn’t play at the collegiate level, since they considered chess to be “something they played as a kid”. (
This struck a cord because sometime during the last decade I was at a bookstore coffee shop and a young fellow broke away from his group to talk with me. It turned out he had no interest in chess, but in one of his Frat brothers. He told me the fellow said he had been a Master as a child, and gave me his name. Of course I knew the boy. I told the inquirer the chess community wondered why he had stopped playing. “Oh,” he said, “he told us chess was only a game for children.”
Perception is reality. The general public also thinks chess is a children’s game because most everything positive they read concerns scholastic chess. The vast majority of stories about chess one sees on the internet emanate from local papers and concern children. I was in one of my favorite restaurants, the Mediterranean Grill ( wearing a chess tee-shirt when the owner, who had lived in Chicago for twenty years, noticed and said, “Chess is getting younger.”

On August 22, 1862, Abe Lincoln wrote this to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune:
“I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.”

Who will save chess?

Alice’s Restaurant:
Decades later-

Subterranean Homesick Blues: