Behind Enemy Lines

World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer said every game had a “critical position,” and a player MUST be aware when a critical position arises on the board. The following game caused me to reflect upon the comments of the greatest Chess player of all-time.

Gonzalo Muniz (URU) FM (2281)

Herman C. Van Riemsdijk (BRA) IM (2285)

Open of Montevideo Marcel Duchamp Cup 2018 round 09

C68 Ruy Lopez, exchange variation

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O Bd6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Ne7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. f4 Re8 10. Nb3 f6 11. Be3 Nf5 (Not exactly a critical position. Nevertheless there is only one move for White to retain a small advantage, as all other moves leave his opponent with a small advantage.)

12. Bc5? Bxc5+ 13. Nxc5 (We have now reached the critical position. Black did not find the best move. Can you find it without consulting the clanking digital monster?)

13…Ne3? 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Rf2 b6 16. Re2 Nc4 17. Nd3 Be6 18. h3 c5 19. Rae1 Na5 20. Rf2 Nc6 21. f5 Bf7 22. Nf4 Ne5 23. Ncd5 Ra7 24. Rd1 Re8 25. Re2 b5 26. Nd3 Nxd3 27. Rxd3 c6 28. Nf4 Bc4 29. b3 Bxd3 30. cxd3 Rd7 31. Rc2 Re5 32. Kf2 Kf7 33. Ke3 Rd6 34. a3 a5 35. g3 g5 36. Ne6 Rdxe6 37. fxe6+ Kxe6 38. b4 axb4 39. axb4 Kd6 40. Rf2 Re6 41. bxc5+ Kxc5 42. Rf5+ Kb4 43. h4 h6 44. d4 Ka4 45. Kd3 b4 46. d5 cxd5 47. exd5 Rb6 48. Kc2 Ka3 49. d6 b3+ 50. Kc3 Rc6+ 0-1

In the first position White should simple “advance to the rear” with Bf2. The line given by Stockfish at the ChessBomb is: 12. Bf2 Nh6 13. Qf3 b6 14. h3 Bb7 15. Nd2 c5 16. Rad1 Nf5 17. Qd3 Nd4 18. Be3 Nb5 19. Nxb5 axb5 20. Qxb5 (

In the second position Black missed 13… Qe7 14. Nd3 Ne3.

Now that is a move one does not see every day!


Weiqi (Go) Versus Chess

“Using a universally relevant metaphor, Zbigniew Brzezinski,

former National Security Adviser to US president Jimmy Carter,

wrote in The Grand Chessboard,

published in 1997 ( “Eurasia is the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played.” China’s New Silk Road strategy certainly integrates the importance of Eurasia but it also neutralizes the US pivot to Asia by enveloping it in a move which is broader both in space and in time: an approach inspired by the intelligence of Weiqi has outwitted the calculation of a chess player.”
“The chronicle by Japanese writer Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972) of an intense intellectual duel, translated in English as The Master of Go,

contributed to the popularity of the game in the West, but Weiqi is a product of the Chinese civilization and spread over time in the educated circles of Northeast Asia. Kawabata, who viewed the Master as one of his favorite creations, knew that for China the game of “abundant spiritual powers encompassed the principles of nature and the universe of human life,” and that the Chinese had named it “the diversion of the immortals.”

Several years ago I contrasted the number of players in the US Chess Open with the number of players in the US Go Congress, posting the findings on the United States Chess Federation forum, and was excoriated for so doing, except for one person, Michael Mulford, who put the nattering nabobs of negativism to shame by congratulating me for “good work.” Basically, the numbers showed Chess losing players while Go had gained enough to have caught up with, and surpassed, Chess. It has continued to the point that if one thinks of it as a graph, with Chess in the top left hand corner; and Go in the bottom left hand corner, an “X” would appear.

I have spent some time recently cogitating about why this has come to pass. Certainly world Chess (FIDE) being administered as a criminal enterprise for at least a quarter of a century has not helped the cause of the Royal game. It has not helped that members of the USCF policy board have stated things like it being better to work within a corrupt system than to leave the corrupt system. See my post, Scott Parker Versus Allen Priest, of November 29, 2017 (

Now that the bank account of FIDE, the world governing body of Chess, has been closed I do not foresee anything but further decline for the game of Chess. IM Malcolm Pein,

Mr. Everything tin British Chess, commented for Chessdom, “The statement from the FIDE Treasurer was alarming to say the least, but not totally unexpected. As the statement said, we had been warned. All legal means should be used to remove Ilyumzhinov

from office as soon as possible. Taking away his executive authority has not been good enough for the bank and FIDE will experience difficulty finding another institution to handle it’s accounts and this threatens the viability of the organisation. ((

Although both Weiqi (Go in America) and Chess are board games there are major differences between the two. The following encapsulates the drastic difference between the two games:

R. Saxon, Member of a GO club in Tokyo (3k). USCF B rated at chess
Updated Mar 14 2017

From my experience, GO players are far friendlier and more polite than Chess players, who are prone to both trash talk and to gloating after a win. This is especially true for club players and younger players. Chess players may engage in gamesmanship to psych out their opponent. I’ve known quite a few superb Chess players that were real nut cases. More than just a few, actually.

That has not been my experience with GO players. GO players are almost always successful and well-adjusted outside of GO. GO players are willing to say with sincerity that they enjoyed a game that they just lost. I don’t recall a Chess player ever being so gracious.

The nature of the game is a good indicator of the personality of the players that like them. Chess is an attacking game in which you try to control the center. It’s very direct and may be over quickly if a player makes a mistake. The idea of a “Checkmate” is like a home run or a touchdown. It’s a sudden and dramatic moment that appeals to a particular type of person.

Chess appeals to people who like to attack and who savor the win over the process.

GO, on the hand, is a slower game which starts at the corners and edges and only gradually moves to the center. It’s extremely complicated, but in a subtle way. GO strategy is indirect. It’s a game of influence and efficiency more than a game of capture. The best players are those that know how to sacrifice pieces for territory elsewhere or to take the initiative. Making tradeoffs are key. There’s usually no “checkmate” type moment or fast victory.

GO is a game of patience and position. It appeals to very bright people who don’t expect to win quickly but who are willing to earn success one small step at a time. GO players enjoy the process as much as the win.

There are many Chess players involved with Go. Natasha Regan,

a Woman Chess International Master who has represented the English women’s team at both Chess and Go, says: “When I learnt Go I was fascinated. It has a similar mix of strategy and tactics that you find in Chess and, with just a few simple rules, Go uncovers a whole new world of possibilities and creativity. Chess players may also find that they can use their Chess experience to improve in Go very quickly. I highly recommend learning this ancient but ever new game!” (

Consider, for example, this by Mike Klein: “Many cultures have nationally popular strategy games, but rarely do top chess players “cross the streams” and take other games seriously. That is not the case with GMs Tiger Hillarp Persson and Alexander Morozevich,

who long ago claimed the top title in chess, and who both now take go somewhat seriously.” ( Check out Tiger’s website and you will see annotated Go games along with Chess games ( Chess Grandmaster Alexander Morozevich

plays in Go tournaments,

and holds Go classes.


AlphaGo has done for the game of Go in America what Bobby Fischer did for the game of Chess when he defeated the World Chess Champion, Boris Spassky, in 1972.

The number of people playing Go has increased dramatically in the past few years. After the world-wide release of a new movie about Go, The Surrounding Game,

the number of people playing Go will increase exponentially. In a very short period of time the game of Go will be unrivaled, leaving all other board games in its wake.

Sometime around 1980 a place named Gammons opened in the Peachtree Piedmont shopping center located in the section of Atlanta called Buckhead, the “high-end” district of Atlanta. In was a restaurant/bar, which contained tables with inlaid Backgammon boards.

I quit my job at a bookstore and began punching the proverbial time clock at Gammons, which closed at four am. The Backgammon craze burned brightly for a short period of time, as do most fads, such as putt-putt. Few remember the time when putt-putt was so popular it was on television, and the professional putters earned as much, if not more, that professional golfers.

Although quite popular for centuries, Chess lost its luster after the human World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, was defeated by a computer program known as Deep Blue,

a product of the IBM corporation. The defeat by AlphaGo, a computer program from Google’s Deep Mind project, of first Lee Sedol,

one of the all-time great Go players, and then Ke Jie,

currently the top human Go player in the world, has, unlike Chess, been a tremendous boon for the ancient game of Go, which is riding a crest of popularity, while interest in Chess has waned.

I have wondered about the situation in the world considering the rise of China and the decline of the USA.

For example, consider these headlines:

China’s Rise, America’s Fall by Tyler Durden (

China’s rise didn’t have to mean America’s fall. Then came Trump. By Zachary Karabell(

Is China’s Rise America’s Fall? by Glenn Luk (

Also to be considered is the stark difference between the two games. It could be that the people of the planet are moving away from the brutal, war like, mindset of a war like game such as Chess and toward a more cerebral game such as Go.

“While in chess or in Chinese chess (xiangqi)

the pieces with a certain preordained constraint of movement are on the board when the game begins, the grid is empty at the opening of the Weiqi game. During a chess game, one subtracts pieces; in Weiqi, one adds stones to the surface of the board. In the Classic of Weiqi, the author remarks that “since ancient times, one has never seen two identical Weiqi games.”

“In Written in a Dream, the polymath and statesman Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072), a magister ludi, captures the depth and mystery of Weiqi: “The Weiqi game comes to an end, one is unaware that in the meantime the world has changed.”

Team Tal: A Review

Tal. Simply say “Tal” around any Chess player, or in any gathering of Chess players, and the response is magical. To those of us in the Chess community “Tal” is the definition of sui generis. “Tal played a kind of chess that nobody could understand at the time. Now that theory has taken a big step forward, and we have chess engines, we’re starting to realize that he was playing 21st-century chess.” – Grandmaster Alexei Shirov.

Valentin Kirillov,

Tal’s childhood friend, and his second from 1968 through 1976, has done the Chess world a HUGE service by lovingly writing about the Magician from Riga. Alexi Shirov writes in the introduction, “It’s a pity that my idea to ask Kirillov to write a book with his memories came a little too late-when he was already in poor health. Yet he has still created a new portrait of Tal (and his Latvian contemporaries)-a portrait as WE knew him.”

The author writes, “After we got our hands on our first records, which were extraordinarily hard to find in those days, music became a permanent fixture at the Tal residence. I distinctly remember my first exposure to rock and roll. Bill Haley’s raging Rock Around the Clock, which we played until the vinyl wore out, absolutely knocked my socks off.”

The author turned to writing about Chess.

“In those days, articles and reports on chess in the press tended to be academic and rather dry, which didn’t appeal to the millions of club players out there. I wanted to make my pieces a bit more accessible and lively, and crack a few jokes along the way-my editors were always there to keep me in check, though. If one argues that chess isn’t merely a science, but an art and a sport as well, then what’s stopping journalists from drawing upon the models, analogies, and comparisons made in literature, music, sports, and the circus? Using the knowledge and skill set I possessed, I tried to give my tales a certain flair.”

With this book the author has accomplished his mission. He succeeds by writing about the game Tal vs Bronstein

from the 1970 USSR Championship in hockey terms! Simply amazing…The more I read the more I came to admire the author. For example, here is what he writes about a man who was a colonel in the KGB, director of the Central Chess Club in Moscow, and vice president of the USSR Chess Federation.

“Viktor Baturinsky,

the big chess boss in the USSR, urged me to cut my long hippie hair-and asked Misha to make sure I did-before the awards ceremony of the USSR championship, because I was set to go on stage as the USSR champion’s coach. Naturally, I didn’t heed his advice, and the chess boss had to put my gold medal on over the disheveled locks flowing down to my shoulders.”

I am reminded of the time I lost a speed game horribly to Baturinsky at the FIDE congress in Atlanta in 1980. “You Americans cannot play Chess,” he said. I turned and walked away. “Set them up!” he shouted. I turned to look at him. He was LIVID! Granted, it was customary for the loser to replace the pieces, but the man had insulted me, and all American Chess players. I returned to the board and politely suggested he have sex with himself, at which point he lost it completely, and EXPLODED, as I turned and again walked away…

Team Tal: An Inside Story,

is replete with wonderful stories about Misha Tal, and his family, friends, and supporters; his team. Once begun, it could not put down. The book contains only two games so if you are looking for a book about the Chess played by Tal this is not it. If you want to read about the man who played that fantastical Chess, this book is for you! The book is filled with pictures of Tal and those who were involved in his life. In addition, there are many illustrations which are quite fascinating.

On his blog recently GM Kevin Spraggett

mentioned one of his favourite chess blogs, ‘Lost on Time’ ( so I clicked on the link provided and discovered the editor, Justin Horton, had posted this concerning the Tal book:

Tal order

There was a series on the old blog, Bad Book Covers. I came across this yesterday, and had it been out back then, it would have been on it. (


I recall Senior Master Brian McCarthy showing an old Informant that had seen so much action it no longer had a cover.
When someone questioned Brian about it he responded, “That don’t matter…It’s still got the MEAT!”

As Bob Dylan sang, “Don’t let other people get your kicks for you.” Judge the cover for yourself. I happen to like the cover and think it fits the “meat.”

The book also contains stories about fellow Latvian players such as Janis Klovans,

and Alvis Vitolins, and the man Tal dubbed, the Maestro, Alexander Koblencs. “Contemporary chess history knows numerous examples of successful creative partnerships, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Spassky -Bondarevsky, Karpov-Furman, and Kasparov-Nikitin are perhaps the most famous ones. As for Tal and Koblencs, we have two Don Quixotes on our hands.”

“He (Tal) had his favorites, for whom he had the greatest warmth and the utmost respect. He adored Vladimir Simagin, a true knight on the chess battlefield. “That man was on a constant quest; he was the Don Quixote of chess,” Tal said.

“When he came onto the scene, classical chess, as dry as the desert, was king. Everyone was all prim and proper. It felt like the Party and the government had instructed people to play balanced, strategic chess, from the opening to the endgame. Then suddenly, a real troublemaker-but he wasn’t just a troublemaker, for he added a ton to the game!-shows up and starts muddying the waters and making waves. He was like a gushing spring!” Boris Spassky said.

High praise, indeed.

Mikhail Tal could be recalcitrant.

“The Soviet authorities would say that anybody who didn’t agree with the prevailing ideology was a “nonconformist.” It goes without saying that Tal’s playing style was nonconformist.”

Sic transit Gloria mundi!’ (thus passes the glory of the world) Misha once joked after he was removed from his position as chief editor at Shas for organizing a real blowout of an office party on International Women’s Day, flouting the government’s anti-alcohol laws yet again.”

Another time, somebody asked him, “are you a morphinist?” He answered, “you’ve got it all wrong, I’m a Chigorinist…but Morphy was great, too.”

I, too, am a Chigorinist, having fallen in awe the first time I played over his 1893 match with Sigbert Tarrash, which is my all time favorite Chess match.

“We went to the movies a few times, too. I remember the new James Bond, Goldfinger,

and an erotic movie (they were taboo in the USSR!) about a passionate love affair between a woman guard and a prisoner at a concentration camp. We showed up a tad late, and when the lights came on at the end, we discovered that nearly our whole delegation was sitting there in the half-empty theater.”

A case could be made that after Bobby Fischer

defeated World Chess Champion Boris Spassky

in 1972 the best player still playing when Bobby stopped playing was Mikhail Tal.

“Although no records in professional chess could prove it, experts, journalists, and regular fans would probably characterize Tal’s achievements from 1972 through 1974 as record-breaking. I’ll let you be the judge- Tal did not suffer a single defeat from July 1972 through April 1973; six months later, he kicked off an even more remarkable streak of 96 games without a single loss (October 1973-October 1974), winning or sharing first place at six international tournaments. He won 72 games, yet drew 110 during both streaks combined…”

Possibly the most poignant part of the book concerns what happened to Mikhail’s possessions. Much is written about attempts to have a museum dedicated to Mikhail Tal in his old apartment.

“As per the Tal family’s instructions, our cargo was handed over directly to Ratko Knezevic at the Hussar of Riga Club-which had just opened its doors on the sixth floor of the Minsk Hotel to celebrate what would have been Mikhail Tal’s 60th birthday. Botvinnik and Karpov’s stories about Misha, Smyslov’s singing (he gave me a CD with his renditions of Russian romances on it), and Ivanchuk, who won the blitz tournament, reciting his own poems into the night were the highlights of the opening ceremony for me. By the way, the blitz competition winners received bags of candy instead of prize money at the tourney! I don’t know how his memorabilia then wound up in Elista.”

What are Tal’s treasured possessions doing in Elista?

“When Kirsan Ilyumzhinov

came to Riga to discuss plans to construct a knight-shaped, high -rise hotel, he even promised to share Tal’s memorabilia, which is now stuck in Elista.”

“There will be a chess club, tournament hall, and museum in the hotel,” the FIDE president said. He painted a beautiful picture, but a few years have passed, and there aren’t any knights towering over the Daugava River.”

Kirsan, if you have not taken Tal’s possessions to Zeta Reticuli please return them to Riga and the Latvians, where they belong!!!

The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein: A Review

Ilan Rubin, founder and CEO, LLC Elk and Ruby Publishing House (www.elkand read the post, The Laws of the Najdorf ( in which I mentioned having a desire to read the book published by his company, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein,

by Genna Sosonko

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…

David Bronstein

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.

“Viktor Korchnoi

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.

Hastings Last Round

We will look at how the players profiled in a previous post on Hastings fared in the tournament.

Adam Taylor

finished with a score of 5 1/2 out of 9, which included the upset win over Sengupta in the first round and three draws with GM’s. He drew with Black against GM Alexander Cherniaev (2436) in the second round; Alexandr Fier, with White, in the penultimate round; and Bogdan Lalic (2415),

also playing White, in the last round. Mr. Taylor’s performance rating was 2452, over 200 points higher than his FIDE rating.

Adam C Taylor vs Bogdan Lalic

Last round

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 Nd7 4. O-O e6 5. c4 Ngf6 6. b3 Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. d3 c6 9. h3 Bh5 10. Nbd2 a5 11. a3 Re8 12. e4 1/2-1/2

GM Deep Sengupta

won his last round game with Danny Gormally (see below) to tie for first place with IM Yiping Lou,

who settled for a short draw with Arghyadip Das

in the final round to finish with 7 points.

Yiping Lou vs Arghyadip Das

Last round

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 O-O 7. Bg5 dxc4 8. Qxc4 b6 9. Nf3 Ba6 10. Qa4 c5 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Rd1 Qb6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Rd2 Nc6 15. Qg4+ Kh8 16. Qh4 Kg7 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Qh4 Kg7 1/2-1/2

After his first round draw with GM Daniel Gormally in round one Kim Yew Chan (2299) beat an FM with Black in the second round. Then the wheels came off as he first lost to GM Alexander Cherniaev with White in the third round. He drew with the Black pieces versus a player rated 1961, Mikolaj Rogacewicz, in the fourth round before losing to a titled woman player rated only 1993 WFM Rasa Norinkeviciute in the fifth round. Unable to take the woman’s Chess punch, he withdrew. His PR was only 2151.

GM Jens Kristiansen (2415),

playing White, managed to draw a long game versus John N Sugden (2059). The GM is sixty five years young, showing fighting spirit the above named players who agreed to quick draws should envy, if not emulate. There is no shame in a game of 70+ moves which ends in a hard fought draw, unlike the aforementioned gentlemen with short drawers.

Jens Kristiansen vs John N Sugden

Final round

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. Nf3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nbd7 10. Bg5 Nb6 11. Bb3 Be7 12. Qd3 Bd7 13. Bc2 g6 14. Bh6 Re8 15. Ne5 Nbd5 16. Qg3 Nh5 17. Qf3 Bf6 18. Nxd5 Bxe5 19. dxe5 exd5 20. Qxd5 Bc6 21. Qxd8 Raxd8 22. f4 Rd2 23. Rf2 Rd4 24. Rd1 Red8 25. Rxd4 Rxd4 26. f5 Ng7 27. f6 Ne6 28. Bb3 Rd7 29. Be3 a6 30. h3 Kf8 31. Kh2 Nd4 32. Bxd4 Rxd4 33. e6 fxe6 34. Bxe6 Bd5 35. Bxd5 Rxd5 36. Re2 Rd7 37. Re6 Kf7 38. Rb6 g5 39. Kg3 Kg6 40. Kf3 h5 41. Ke3 Kf5 42. a4 h4 43. a5 Ke5 44. b4 Kf5 45. Kf3 Rd3+ 46. Ke2 Rd7 47. Ke3 Ke5 48. b5 axb5 49. f7 Rxf7 50. Rxb5+ Kf6 51. Kd4 Ke6 52. Rxg5 Rf2 53. Ke3 Ra2 54. Kf3 Kf6 55. Rg4 Ra3+ 56. Kf2 Ra2+ 57. Kg1 Rxa5 58. Rxh4 Rb5 59. Rh8 Rb2 60. h4 b5 61. Kh2 Rb3 62. Rb8 Kf5 63. Rg8 b4 64. h5 Rc3 65. h6 Rc7 66. Rg7 Rc8 67. g4+ Kf4 68. h7 Rh8 69. g5 b3 70. g6 b2 71. Rb7 Kf5 1/2-1/2

Jonah B Willow (2152), with the Black pieces, beat Brian Hewson (2007) in the last round. He also won the previous round game to finish with a flourish. Unfortunately the games between his opening round draw with GM Kristiansen and the penulitmate round were not kind to Mr. Willow.

Hewson, Brian W R vs Willow, Jonah B

Last round

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. e4 a6 8. a4 Bg4 9. Be2 Bxf3 10. gxf3 Bg7 11. Be3 Nbd7 12. Qd2 O-O 13. Bh6 Re8 14. h4 Nh5 15. Bg5 Qa5 16. Nd1 Qc7 17. a5 f5 18. Nc3 f4 19. Bxf4 Nxf4 20. Qxf4 Rf8 21. Qg5 Be5 22. Qd2 Bf4 23. Qc2 Ne5 24. Nd1 Qf7 25. Ra3 Rae8 26. Ne3 Bxe3 27. Rxe3 Qc7 28. Qa4 Rc8 29. Kd2 Rf4 30. Kc2 Rcf8 31. Qa3 h5 32. Qb3 R8f7 33. Qb6 Qxb6 34. axb6 Nxf3 35. Kd1 Ne5 36. f3 0-1

The Najdorf was my weapon in the 1970’s. Like many other players who also played The Najdorf, Bobby Fischer had a tremendous influence on making The Najdorf my weapon in the 1970’s. Returning to Chess from years of playing Backgammon professionally I no longer played The Najdorf simply because of not having the time to keep up with the ever changing and developing theory of the opening. The Najdorf is so much more than just an opening; it is an opening SYSTEM. Players who challenge The System have thrown EVERYTHING against it, yet The System prevails. The System works unless and until someone screws up The System more than Donald J. Trump has screwed up the US system of government. GM Gormally’s handling of The System is such an example.

One thing learned from my time attempting to play The Najdorf is that many of the same moves feature in The System. What is important is WHEN they are played, and in what ORDER. Once one learns The System the moves sort of fall into place as one gets a “feel” for what to play and when to play it. The first thing that hit me when playing over the game was that the move 7…Qc7 is not good because White can obtain a very good position by taking the Knight immediately, playing 8 Bxf6. I never played anything other than 7…Be7. I studied other ways of playing without the move, but found none appealing. Deep refused to play the best move and played 8 Qf3, cutting the Gorm much slack. Unfortunately, the Gorm once again refused to play Be7. When he did finally play Be7 on his ninth move it was the wrong move. He should have played 9…b5. Gormally never played b5. The reason one plays a3 in the Najdorf is to follow with the move b5 ASAP. If one is not going to play b5 then one should not attempt playing The System known as the Najdorf. Frankly, this is a pitiful effort by GM Gormally, especially considering it was the last round. The way he played The Najdorf System resembles something a player learning The Nadjorf System might produce, not something one would expect from a long time veteran like the Gorm. I continue reading his fine book, Insanity, passion and addiction: a year inside the chess world, with his constant comments questioning why he continues playing Chess. After this game the Gorm needs to do some SERIOUS soul searching. Maybe he should get a job, or become one of the GM’s he writes about who stay home and give lessons via the internet.

Deep Sengupta vs Daniel W Gormally

Last round

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qc7 8. Qf3 Nbd7 9. O-O-O Be7 10. g4 h6 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. h4 Qb6 13. Nb3 Nc5 14. Nxc5 Qxc5 15. e5 dxe5 16. Ne4 Qc6 17. Bg2 Be7 18. fxe5 O-O 19. g5 Qb5 20. Qg3 h5 21. Nf6+ Kh8 22. Nxh5 Bd7 23. Qg4 Rac8 24. Nf6 gxf6 25. gxf6 Bxf6 26. Qh5+ 1-0

Hastings Upsetting First Round

The first round of any strong open tournament invariably captures my attention and the Hastings tournament was no exception. Replaying the upsets, which includes any drawn game by a much lower rated player, is enjoyable. The first game I wish to bring to your attention is a player who has been on my pages recently. GM Daniel Gormally was held to a draw by Kim Yew Chan, rated 2299. Not much to say when the Queens come off on the tenth move, other than that the ‘Gorm’ could have played something like 1…f5!

Daniel Gormally (2477) vs Kim Yew Chan (2299)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 d6 5. d4 c5 6. g3 Ne4 7. Nbd2 Qa5 8. Qc1
Nxd2 9. Qxd2 Qxd2+ 10. Kxd2 Nc6 11. e3 Bg4 12. Bg2 O-O 13. Kc1 e5 14. dxc5 dxc5
15. h3 Bf5 16. Ne1 Rfd8 17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. g4 Be6 19. Nf3 f6 20. Kc2 h5 21. Rag1
Kf7 22. e4 1/2-1/2

The next game features GM Jens Kristiansen, who won the 22nd World Senior in 2012, also earning the GM title. Born in 1952, Jens should be eligible for the ‘older’ Senior division which is 65+. His opponent, Jonah B Willow, born in 2002, was rated 2252.

Bobby Fischer said every game has a ‘critical’ moment. Since everyone has an ‘engine’ I want to provide the moves then interject a diagram at what hit me as a ‘critical’ moment. In the best world, you the reader, would have a Chess board with the position set up so as to cogitate a little.

Jonah B Willow (2252) vs GM Jens Kristiansen (2415)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. Bd3 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. c4 c5 7. Nc3 cxd4 8. exd4
d6 9. d5 e5 10. Nh4 g6 11. f4 Nfd7 12. Nf3 f5 13. Bc2 O-O

After attempting tournament Chess I decided to review my games in order to ascertain why I was losing so many games. It was apparent I was making mistakes around move 13. I do not have Triskaidekaphobia, but the number 13 stuck with me. Having a somewhat rational mind I concluded my problem was with the transition from the opening to the middle game. The GM’s next move reminded me of some of the ‘salvo’s’ fired around my 13th move.

14. g4 fxg4 15. Ng5 Nc5 16. Qxg4 Bxg5 17. fxg5 Rxf1+ 18. Kxf1 Qf8+ 19. Kg2 Bc8 20. Qe2 Bf5 21. Be3 Qc8 22. Bxf5 gxf5 23. Rf1 Nba6 24. a3 f4 25. Bg1 Qf5 26. b4 e4 27. Kh1 f3 28. Qd2 Nd3 29. Be3 Qh3 30. Kg1

Qg4+ 31. Kh1 Qh3 32. Kg1

Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qh3 1/2-1/2

OH NO, MR. BILL! Did you see the move? After outplaying his GM opponent Mr. Willow must have wept when seeing the beautifully centralizing move 30…Ne5! Then he missed it again on move 32!

The last game we will focus on was THE UPSET of the round.

Adam C Taylor (2242) vs GM Deep Sengupta (2586)

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. Ne5 Bf5 5. c4 c6 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. O-O e6 8. d3
Bd6 9. Qa4+ Nbd7 10. Bf4 Qe7 11. e4 dxe4 12. dxe4 Bg4 13. Nxd7 Qxd7 14. Qxd7+
Kxd7 15. Bxd6 Kxd6 16. h3 Bh5 17. f4 Ke7 18. g4 Nxg4 19. hxg4 Bxg4 20. Bf3 Bxf3
21. Rxf3 Rhd8 22. Nc3 Rd2 23. Rf2 Rad8

24. Raf1 a6

25. Rxd2 Rxd2 26. Rf2 Rd3 27. Kf1 h5 28. Ke2 Rg3 29. e5 f5 30. exf6+ gxf6 31. Rh2 Rg8 32. Ne4 Rh8 33. Kf3 h4 34. Rc2 f5 35. Ng5 Kd7 36. Rd2+ Ke7 37. Re2 Rh6 38. Kg2 Kd7 39. Kh3 Ke7 40.Re3 Kd7 41. a4 b6 42. Nf3 Kd6 43. Nxh4 Kc5 44. Kg3 Kb4 45. b3 a5 46. Nf3 Rg6+ 47. Ng5 Rg8 48. Kf3 Rd8 49. Nxe6 Rd7 50. Ke2 Ka3 51. Kf3 Kb2 52. Kg3 Kc2 53. Kh4 Rd6 54. Kg5 Kd2 55. Re5 Kc3 56. Kxf5 Kxb3 57. Re4 1-0

The move that would have brought the house down vividly illustrates why I was known as the coach who had the mantra of “Examine All Checks!” A teacher should be able to impart the three golden questions:
“Why did my opponent make that move?”
“What move do I want, or need, to make?
“Am I leaving anything en prise?”

Then the student is ready for what follows: “Examine All Checks!” If your King is in position to be checked after making your move a player better know how the King will get out of check before moving.

Magnus Carlsen Superman

The World Human Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, did not win the recently completed London Chess Classic. Although he may have lost a battle he won the war by taking the Grand Chess Tour.

One of the headlines at the Chessbase website during the tournament proclaimed, London Chess Classic: Magnus on tilt. (

The article, by Macauley Peterson, began:

“Round 8 saw a startling blunder from the World Champion whose frustration following the game was palpable.”

Later we fans of the Royal Game read this:

Round 8

“For the first few hours of Sunday’s games, it looked like we could be heading for another day of peaceful results. Adams vs Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave vs Anand both ended in early draws, and the remaining games were level. Suddenly, a shock blunder from World Champion Magnus Carlsen flashed up on the screens, a variation which lead to Ian Nepomniachtchi being up a piece, and easily winning. Carlsen resigned just four moves later.

After the game, a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup with Grand Chess Tour commentator GM Maurice Ashley.

These occur in the same conference room in which a live audience enjoys commentary during the round, and around 150 people were crowded into the room to hear from Carlsen.”

Whoa! Let us stop right here and consider what we have just read…

“…a visibly frustrated World Champion stepped into the live webcast interview zone for a contractually obligated webcast standup…” I believe the word “interview” should be inserted after “standup.”

Why would anyone in their right mind put something in any contract, in any game or sport, forcing a player who has just lost to be interviewed by anyone BEFORE THEY HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO DECOMPRESS?! This is incomprehensible, and the sanity of those responsible for forcing anyone to sign a contract that requires the person to be interviewed before having a chance to compose themselves must be questioned.

The article continues:

“A few moments before they were to go on air, Ashley casually reached over to adjust the collar on Carlsen’s sport coat, which had become turned outward awkwardly. Magnus reacted by violently throwing his arms up in the air, silently but forcefully saying “don’t touch me”, and striking Ashley in the process. Maurice was, naturally, taken aback but just seconds later he received the queue that he was live.”

Maurice is a GM, and a pro, not only when it comes to playing Chess, but also when it gets down to interviewing tightly wound Chess players. Since he played the Royal game at the highest level he knows the emotions it can, and does, evoke first hand. Maurice was the first one to ‘fergettaboutit.’

I recall a time during a tournament when a young fellow playing in his first tournament lost control of his emotions and, shall we say, “flared-up.” His mother was aghast, and appalled, saying, “Now you will never be able to come here again.” Since I had given lessons at the school the boy attended I stepped in saying, “Ma’am, that’s not the way it works around here. By the next time your son comes here everyone will have forgotten what happened today.” The mother gave me the strangest look before asking, “Are you just saying that to make me feel better?” I assured her I was not and then someone else interjected, telling her, with a large grin on his face, that I was indeed telling her the truth. Chess people, to their credit, are about the most forgiving people one will ever know.

There followed:

Magnus was clearly in no mood to chat:

“I missed everything. There’s not much else to say. I think I failed to predict a single of his moves, and then, well, you saw what happened.”

“It will be interesting to see if Magnus will recover tomorrow. When asked for his thoughts on the last round pairing he replied, “I don’t care at all. “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task, with that attitude.”

The excellent annotation of the game Magnus lost to Ian Nepomniachtchi

on Chessbase is by GM by Tiger Hillarp-Persson,

who has also annotated games of Go on his blog ( After move 29 Tiger writes, “There were probably a few who thought Magnus would win at this stage…”

Magnus begins going wrong at move 30. He then gives a line and writes, “White is dominating. It is quite out of character for Carlsen to miss something like this. It seems like he wasn’t able to think clearly today.”

Before Magnus plays his 33rd move Tiger writes, “Now White’s pieces are all in the wrong places.”

After White’s 34th move Tiger writes, “Here Carlsen seems to lose his will to fight. Now one mistake follows another.”

Those are very STRONG WORDS! Human World Chess Champions, with the exception of Garry Kasparov when losing to Deep Blue,

do not lose their will to fight!

Yuri Averbakh,

Russian GM, and author, in a 1997 article in New in Chess magazine, the best Chess magazine of ALL TIME, placed chess players into 6 categories; Killers; Fighters; Sportsmen; Gamblers; Artists; and Explorers. Although he listed only Kasparov and Bronstein

as “Fighters,” the World Chess Champion best known for being a “Fighter” was Emanuel Lasker.

I would put current human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen in the class with Lasker as a “Fighter.”

In an interview at the Chess24 website his opponent in the game, Ian Nepomniachtchi,

had this to say, “To be fair, Magnus had a bad cold during the second half of the tournament and therefore wasn’t in his very best form.”

Nepo is extremely gracious while explaining why Magnus “…seemed to lose his will to fight.” When one is under the weather it is extremely difficult to think clearly, especially as the game goes on and fatigue begins to dominate. Imagine what history would have recorded if Bobby Fischer had not caught a cold after the first few games against former World Chess Champion Tigran Petrosian.

This was a topic of conversation during a meal with Petrosian, Paul Keres,

and future World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov,

at a restaurant in San Antonio, the Golden Egg, during the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in 1972.

Interviewer Colin McGourty asked Nepo this question:

“It seems as though he’s stopped dominating as he did a few years ago. Is that the case?

A few years ago the level he was demonstrating was out of this world, particularly when he wasn’t yet World Champion, plus at times good patches in his career alternated with even better ones. Gradually, though, people have got used to him, and when you’ve already achieved it all, when over the course of a few years you’ve been better than everyone, it gets tougher to motivate yourself. That doesn’t just apply to sport, after all. Magnus has a great deal of interests outside of chess, but even his relatively unsuccessful periods are much more successful than for many of his rivals. Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

There you have it. “Even in what generally wasn’t the tournament of his life he beat Aronian with Black in the final round and finished third i.e. he performed very decently.”

Levon had the year of his life in 2017. He had the White pieces in the last round against a weakened World Champion. He could have ended the year in style with a victory. This from Chessbase:

The Magnus bounce

“The World Champion, after a troubling performance yesterday, appeared once more to be on the brink of defeat with the black pieces against Levon Aronian. Carlsen was considerably worse in the middlegame, but it took just a couple of inaccuracies from Aronian for the World Champion to completely turn the tables. He went on to win, despite knowing that a draw would be enough to clinch first place in the Grand Chess Tour standings.

In fact, Aronian offered Carlsen a draw, right after the time control, which Magnus refused, as he was already much better in the position. It was the 11th time in 17 tries that Carlsen came back with a win immediately following a loss, since 2015.” (

Many years ago IM Boris Kogan told me the measure of a Chess player is how he responds to a loss. Many in the same condition would have been happy to settle for a draw in the last round. Some would have made it a quick draw. Not Magnus!
Magnus Carlsen is a worthy World Champion. My admiration for our World Champion has grown immensely.

Consider this headline from the official tournament website:

Round 8 – Carlsen Car Crash at the Classic

11.12.17 – John Saunders reports: The eighth round of the 9th London Chess Classic was played on Sunday 10 December 2017 at the Olympia Conference Centre. The round featured just the one decisive game, which was a disastrous loss for Carlsen, as the result of two terrible blunders.

As bad as that is, it could have been much worse. Even when completely well Magnus has sometimes gotten into trouble early in the game, especially when playing an opening some consider “offbeat.” Every true human World Chess Champion, one who beat the previous title holder in a match, was a trend setter who was emulated by other players of all ranks and abilities. Simply because Magnus opened with the Bird against Mickey Adams

in round seven other players may now begin opening games with 1 f4. It is true that Magnus got into trouble in the opening of that game, but his opponent was unable to take advantage of it and Magnus FOUGHT his way out of trouble. (see the excellent article, including annotations to The Bird game, by Alex Yermolinsky at Chessbase:

As Macauley Peterson

wrote, “Black against Levon Aronian will be no easy task…” That is Black in the LAST ROUND against the player who this year has stolen Magnus Carlsen’s thunder. An obviously under the weather Magnus had Black versus a man who believes he should be the human World Chess Champion. If there were no FIDE (we can only dream…) and things were like they were before World War II, Levon Aronian would have absolutely no trouble whatsoever finding backers for a match with Magnus Carlsen. The outcome of the game could have psychological ramifications for some time to come.

Levon held an advantage through 34 moves, but let it slip with an ill-advised pawn push on his 35th move.

Position before 35. b6

The game ws then even. The player who fought best would win the game. That player was Magnus ‘The Fighter’ Carlsen. The loss must have shattered Levon Aronian’s psyche; there is no other way to put it. Levon had White against a weakened World Champion yet he did not even manage to make a draw. That fact has to be devastating to Aronian. Oh well, Levon has a pretty wife…