Davenport homicide victim was well-known publisher, chess player

I attempted to use this picture in the initial post concerning the murder of Bob Long:

 

but for some reason was unable to do so “for security reasons.” I sent an email to Daniel Lucas asking about use of the picture by US Chess. In a short time an email was received from John Hartmann of US Chess: “I downloaded the the picture from Long’s website and used it. Hope that helps.”

Today I had no problem with the picture of “Cowboy” Bob.

In the article you are about to read you will find the word irascible used to describe Bob. I will admit the word popped into my head during an email exchange with the Mulfish, but I was uncertain of the exact meaning of the word, so I checked it out at the Free Dictionary, learning the definition of the word, 1. “Prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered. 2. Characterized by or resulting from anger,” is too harsh a word for Bob. (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/irascible) I would prefer the word tetchy, which means “being or inclined to be cross, irritable, or touchy.” (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/tetchy)

Davenport homicide victim was well-known publisher, chess player

Tom Loewy Jan 10, 2020 Updated Jan 10, 2020

Robert Long lived in a humble home on a modest street in Davenport.

The 74-year-old’s sagging two-story faces the brick-covered 1500 block of LeClaire Street. High curbs cracked by time bulge to contain the neighborhood’s shifting yards.

There is little, if any, sign of conspicuous consumption on the block — unless you count the discarded candy wrappers and dead leaves piling up against the sewers.

No one has said why Charlie Gary allegedly chose Long’s home to rob Tuesday, Jan. 8. The 19-year-old told police he strangled Long before stealing his car.

“We’re just ordinary people on this block,” said Connie Kindig, Long’s next-door neighbor for “the last 10 or 15 years.”

Kindig said she wants “to go back to ordinary” after Long’s stunning murder in his humble home on the modest street. She’s still friendly, but tired of talking to TV cameras and people who scribble in notebooks.

While Long’s death grabbed headlines, friends and fellow chess players described a man who was anything but ordinary. Besides being an expert chess player, he was a mathematician, writer, small businessman and publisher.

He even wrote a book about internet dating for seniors.

John Beydler worked as an editor at the paper that is now the Dispatch-Argus for 48 years. He met Long in 1977.

“I decided I wanted to play a more serious level of chess,” Beydler said. “I went in search of books, and I found a place called Thinker’s Press. It was a little place up on Harrison Street.”

Thinker’s Press was a store that catered to chess players and other gamers. It featured books and equipment for chess players of all levels. It was the place where many met Long.

Beydler and a number of people tried to tell a little bit about Long’s life through posts and comments on Facebook.

Beydler sat down to offer his own take, posting a remembrance Thursday.

“Bob’s contribution to chess in the Quad-Cities and far beyond deserve to be more remembered than his end,” Beydler wrote.

“Bob was just bright — he knew something about everything and had a wide range of interests,” Beydler said Friday. “In his element, he was an outgoing guy. He could be growly — you know, irascible.

“But by God, it was fun to spend time with him.”

Thinker’s Press moved to 2nd Street and published books on chess. Long also started a mail-order business which Kindig said he converted over to online sales.

His imprint published titles from internationally known chess players. Long is said to have known famous chess recluse Bobby Fischer. Grandmaster Michael Rohde, writing under a remembrance post on Alex King’s Facebook page, said Long helped him publish.

“I had many great discussions with Bob, concerning chess and other subjects, as he helped me to create my 1997 book (‘The Great Evans Gambit Debate’) published by his company Thinkers Press,” Rohde wrote. “The genesis of the book was an article I had written about the 1995 game (between) (Garry) Kasparov and (Viswanathan) Anand — an Evans Gambit, the last game they played before their 1995 World Championship match. Bob ran with that and helped me grow it into a book.”

Long’s next-door neighbor knew a bit about Long’s chess playing and his singular business.

“He was a very smart man, you could tell that by talking to him,” Kindig said. “He was married for a while. I don’t know her name, but the sticker on her car said ‘Georgia Peach.’ And she had another sticker that said ‘I’m Bobby’s Girl.’

“Rob, that’s what we called him, was a good neighbor. He never made any noise or had wild parties, or anything like that. Sometimes we’d all stand out there in his front yard and talk about things, ordinary things. He was a good neighbor, a nice man.”

Gary made his first appearance Thursday in Scott County Court, facing first-degree charges of murder, robbery and burglary. He requested a court-appointed attorney and a preliminary hearing, set for 8:30 a.m., Jan. 13. A second preliminary hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m., Jan. 17.

 

https://qctimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/davenport-homicide-victim-was-well-known-publisher-chess-player/article_e1b5d693-b000-5a23-85af-644e156be464.html#tracking-source=home-trending

Rawhide Chess

Taking time to check out what was happening in the world of Chess found me surfin’ to the ChessBomb, where the Salamanca Chess Festival was on top of the list. The round seven games had been completed. The last game looked interesting because Yifan Hou, with the black pieces, had defeated none other than the man who accelerated the demise of the Royal game when he falsely accused Vladimir Kramnik of cheating, Vladimir Topalov. What made it so interesting is that word on the street had it that Topalov had been cheating in consort with his manager, Silvio Danilov. Topalov once held the title of FIDE world champion, a title with huge import ‘back in the day’. These daze there seems to be a plethora of so-called, “world champions.” What with age groups, each broken down into male and female, and other forms of the formerly Royal game, it would take a calculator to count all of them.

Where was I… Oh yeah…

Topalov, Veselin

– Hou, Yifan

Salamanca Chess Festival 2019 round 07

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 0-1 (https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2019-salamanca-chess-festival)

I have no idea…

This caused me to go to the beginning where I noticed, and began to replay, the game Hou vs Ponomariov. Do not ask me why…

Hou, Yifan – Ponomariov, Ruslan

Salamanca Chess Festival 2019 round 01

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nbd2 Bg4 7. Nc4 Nd7 8. h3 Be6 9. Na5 Rb8 10. O-O f6 11. Qe1 O-O 12. Be3 Bxe3 13. Qxe3 c5 14. a3 c6 15. b4 Qc7 16. Nd2 b6 17. Nab3 Qd6 18. bxc5 Nxc5 19. Nxc5 bxc5 20. Rfb1 Rb6 21. a4 Rfb8 22. Rxb6 axb6 23. a5 Ra8 24. Nb3 Bxb3 25. cxb3 Rxa5 26. Rxa5 bxa5 27. Qe2 Kf8 28. Qg4 Qxd3 29. Qc8+ Kf7 30. Qxc6 Qd4 31. g4 h6 32. Qc7+ Kg6 33. Qxa5 Qxe4 34. Qxc5 Qb1+ 35. Kg2 Qxb3 36. Qc6 Qd3 37. h4 e4 38. Qe6 Qf3+ 39. Kg1 Qf4 40. Kg2 Qe5

Now any Chess player other than Allen Priest would know it is imperative in this position to keep your queen on the board. The woman played, I kid you not…

41. Qxe5?? A Bomb RED MOVE, if ever there was one…

After taking the queen with 41…fxe5 black is soooooooooooo won.

Hou played 42 Kf1 and I wondered why. Then I noticed she only had eighteen seconds time remaining while her opponent still had over five minutes on his clock. Ponomariov (Did he, too, win some kind of Chess World Championship?), with all the time in the world to win a completely won position produced the move 42…h5?? BIG RED!

And we now have a completely drawn game that any Chess player, other than Allen Priest, could hold with a nano second on the clock.

43. gxh5+ Kf5 44. Ke1 Kg4 45. Ke2 Kf4 46. h6 gxh6 47. h5 e3 48. f3 e4 49. fxe4 Kxe4 50. Ke1 Kf3 51. Kf1 Kg4 52. Ke2 Kf4 53. Ke1 Kf3 54. Kf1 e2+ 55. Ke1 Ke3 ½-½
https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2019-salamanca-chess-festival/01-Hou_Yifan-Ponomariov_Ruslan

I will admit it took me some time to learn the above game was a rapid game. Still…

Chess is rapidly (couldn’t help myself) changing, and not for the better. The above game is only a taste of the excrement being provided to the Chess fans of the world. Back in the day any form of speed Chess was considered an exhibition. We marveled when Bobby Fischer decimated the competition, “In April 1970, Bobby scored 19-3 (+17 -1 =4) to win the unofficial “Speed Chess Championship of the World,” which was held in Herceg Novi, Yugoslavia.” (https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/03/16/bobbys-blitz-chess/)

That was then and this is now and it is obvious speed kills. Yet, because of the Chess programs Chess has no choice other than to hold the time limit of a game to the human bladder. It is either that or having every player wear a diaper. What, you think I’m kidding? How do you think a NASCAR driver disposes of waste material during a four or five hour race? Needing petrol is not the only reason a driver looks forward to a pit stop.

Back in the day we would play around the clock on Saturday and return for another possibly ten hours, AND WE LIKED IT!

These daze it seems the Chess people in charge are moving toward rawhide Chess. As in “Head ’em up Move ’em out, Rawhide.”

As I was wondering why anyone in their right mind would watch Rawhide Chess the answer was provided today by GM Kevin Spraggett on his excellent blog, Spraggett on Chess:

“We have all noticed this phenomenon from Day#1 of our very first visit to the tournament hall. A densely packed crowd gathers about a board, and when you investigate you find that one of the players is about to lose.
The expectation is palpable in the spectators’ facial expressions. It does not matter if the players are masters or beginners: the coming ‘execution’ is worth the wait!
It is difficult to explain this phenomenon, I suppose it has to do with human nature. And probably also explains why more people are willing to watch a blitz game than a slow game. A blitz game allows for faster executions!”
(http://www.spraggettonchess.com/todays-vintage-chess-humor-16/)

Reading this caused me to recall something former Georgia, and Georgia Senior, Chess Champion David Vest said to me around the turn of the century. “You only watch NASCAR to watch the wrecks.” The retort was, “You only watch the horses because they crash and burn on the track.” I was afraid of the Drifter sending me into the High Planes, but fortunately, he kept it together…

The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life: Part One

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.

http://www.thinkingallowed.com/jm.html

Jonathan Rowson would have made an excellent guest on the program. (Just put Thinking Allowed into the Startpage.com search engine and found: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFk448YbGITLnzplK7jwNcw. Oh happy day!)

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)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 c5 5.Bxb4 cxb4 6.Bg2 O-O
7.Nf3 d6 8.O-O a5 9.a3 Na6 10.Nbd2 Qc7 11.h3 Rd8 12.e4 e5
13.Qe2 b6 14.a4 Bb7 15.b3 Re8 16.Rad1 Rad8 17.Rfe1 exd4
18.Nxd4 Nc5 19.f3 Nh5 20.Nf1 d5 21.cxd5 Bxd5 22.exd5 Rxe2
23.Rxe2 g6 24.f4 Nf6 25.Nc6 Rd7 26.Ne5 Rd8 27.Nc6 Rd7 28.Ne5
Nxb3 29.Nxd7 Nxd7 30.d6 Qc5+ 31.Kh2 Kg7 32.Re7 Qc8 33.Ne3 Nf6
34.d7 Qd8 35.Ng4 Kf8 36.Ne5 Nc5 1-0
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1554879

See the excellent article by Daaim Shabazz at The Chess Drum:

Playing Chess to Death

Aug 4th, 2019 by Daaim Shabazz

Playing Chess to Death

End part one

All The Wrong Moves Part Seven: The Secret Of Chess

This paragraph is the first of chapter 7: The Secret Of Chess.

I first stumbled upon the lectures of my future teacher and spiritual guardian,

Ben Finegold,

during a despairing google for chess tips in Bangkok. He was different from all the other chess lecturers I’d seen before. Most lecturing grandmasters, even the most charming ones, approach the game with a hushed reverence, as if delivering news on a pediatric oncology ward, or trying to placate an errant tiger. Finegold is the complete opposite. He’s charismatic, frank, and viciously funny, matching a respect for the game’s elegance with flagrant mockery of everything else. When Finegold’s students raise their hands, he often points a meaty had at them and says, “You, with the wrong answer,” or “You, with some crazy comment.” Upon hearing one of their replies, he’ll often respond, “Ugh, that was painful,” or “Hey, you’re the best player in your chair.” He’s given to claiming that the Panov-Botvinnik Atack was named after “Mr. Attack.” His lectures are littered with Tarantino references, imitations of other lecturers from hiss chess club, and fatuous advice like “never move pawns.”

Finegold

has a unique place in the chess world. He has ardent fans, because of his aforementioned characteristics, and many detractors, also because of his aforementioned characteristics. Moreover, he lives on an odd plateau of chess skill – that of the low-level grandmaster.

Ouch.

It seems like just yesterday Ben was being proclaimed “The World’s Strongest IM,” while gracing the cover of Chess Life (now Lifeless) magazine. Garner that coveted GM title and nobody knows your name…

The fact that this is a coherent concept is another illustration of the vast distance between the amateur and the professional player. To any player like me, any grandmaster lives in an unreachable and starry grove of intellectual superiority. Someone like Finegold can calculate in drunken sleep better than I can while achieving satori on Adderall. But, to most grandmasters, Finegold isn’t that notable, except for his personality.

Euwe, that hurts!

There are essentially two ways you could regard Finegold, given his position in the chess ecosystem. You could see him as a pitiable example of the game’s mercilessness, by focusing on the fact that Finegold never made it to the upper ranks. On the other hand, you could see him as someone who hurled himself directly into the howling void of chess and came out intact, with a fan following, two kids, a little house in Georgia,

and the ability to eke out a modest living by teaching his favorite game to captivated pupils –

occasionally including desperate adults who come all the way from Canada to absorb his teachings.

I arrived in St. Louis a few days before my first meeting with Finegold, to have a chance to explore the city. And during this pre-Finegold interval, I had a random meeting with a stranger that would prove to be an omen of the month ahead. She was a woman walking alone downtown, screaming.

“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Holy shit,” she screamed.
“Um,” I said.
“Fuck all these pussy-ass people,” she screamed.
“I am so tired of this life,” she screamed.
“Damn it,” she screamed.
She walked away. And, unfortunately, I came to agree with her about the city of St. Louis.

This is probably my fault. I am a great believer in the idea that a failure to love is often the fault of the lover. If I were more patient and more curious and more forgiving, I probably could’ve found more to appreciate. I’m told that St. Louis contains many beautiful sun-strewn lanes and cheerful people, and fun bars where tender words are exchanged over locally made beers of the highest quality. But that is not what I found. What I found was a humid, boring, and flat place, dappled with some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in North America. According to the website of the St. Louis Police, you shouldn’t “wear clothing or shoes that restrict your movement” in their fair metropolis, so you can run away from assailants if you need to.
The local food, also, is hilarious. There’s a special kind of pizza they make there, which is a prank played by Satan. It’s a cracker, topped with ketchup, finished with a goopy kind of processed cheese that you’ve never had before, because they invented a new kind of cheese for this pizza. It’s edible caulking that clings to the back of your throat, reminding you that you live in an unjust world.

Based on my experiences, I cannot recommend St. Louis. Unless, that is, you’re interested in studying chess. Weirdly, St. Louis is the home of the world’s best chess school. This is the greatest love of billionaire Rex Sinquefield,


https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-36257742

a longtime St. Louis resident. Although he was never a skilled player, he was a skilled investor, to say the least, and he arrived at retirement age with enough money that he could quite casually open an air-conditioned temple devoted to his favorite game, and bankroll grandmaster lectures as well as exclusive tournaments with big prizes for the strongest players in the world. The club is housed in a pristine two-story commercial property, and might be mistaken for a posh hernia clinic or a yoga studio if not for the chess pieces depicted on the frontispiece’s stained glass windows.

We have now arrived at what I consider to be the best part of the book, that being the meeting of the teacher and the pupil.

“Hey, Finegold,” I said.
“Sup,” he said.
“I’m Sasha,

that Canadian guy.”
“Who?”
“That guy who emailed you.”
“I know who you are.”
“Yeah, so here I am.”

You ever notice that no matter where you go, there you are?

“How many lessons are you looking for?”
“I was thinking like ten hours.”
“You could do more – the more you pay, the more you learn.”

Wasn’t that the motto of Trump University?

As I considered this, a class of kids, whom he had just taught, flooded out of the classroom and started playing blitz in the lobby, which is to say that they started knocking pieces off tables, knocking clocks off tables, making illegal moves, and screaming at each other. Finegold presided for a few minutes until the parents showed up, delighting the kids with a barrage of verbal abuse, and then returned to me with a searching look on his face.
“Jesus, I want to kill myself,” he said, very quietly.
“Wait till you see my games,” I said.
“You’re not here to impress me, you’re here to learn.”
“But I’d like to impress you.”
“Well, you won’t.”

And he was right. He was right about everything. Sooner or later, everything he told me came true.

Just Because Someone Goes Crazy, It Doesn’t Mean You Also Have to Go Crazy

“If your wife

cheats on you, that’s bad,” Finegold said. “She shouldn’t have done that.

But if you then kill her, kill yourself, and the mailman, that’s not really constructive. You shouldn’t escalate a situation just because someone else did.”

“How does this apply to chess?” I said.

“Well, you consider yourself a creative guy, which is kind of a problem. So, from move two, you’re going out of you mind, trying to invent a work of genius. Which means that when your opponents play crazy, you start playing even crazier. Don’t do that. Just don’t be crazy at all. When they play weird, just play normal good moves. Other grandmasters will tell you that you have to punish your opponents for all of their mistakes. That’s one point of view. My point of view is that you have to win chess games.”

The wisdom of this became clear after the lesson, when we played some blitz at one of the tables

set up on the sidewalk outside the club.

The muggy air was licking my face. Cute couples walked by on their way to Whole Foods, unaware that they were passing a spectacle of truly historic importance: my first game against a grandmaster. It was also the first time I’d ever played against someone drinking two brands of seltzer at once. Finegold played the Slav Defense, an extremely solid opening.

“I hate playing against the Slav,” I said.
“The truth hurts,” he said.
“Is this a good move?”
“It’s a move.”
“But is it good?”
“Probably not. Whose turn is it?”

He moved his queen deep into my territory. For the first ten moves, I thought I might have a microscopic chance of victory, because I didn’t lose all of my pieces. But, every other turn, I made a slight mistake that I didn’t know I was making, and in the face of my craziness, he responded not with theatrics but with a quiet malice. As sweat dripped down my chest, I realized that a crowd was gathering – all the kids in the neighborhood wanted to see Finegold crush me. I tried to put up a good fight so I could entertain these little boys and girls, who were soon to be embittered adults, maybe losing at chess themselves. But Finegold didn’t give me a good fight – he gave me a slow, vicious grind, allowing me only to twist lamely while he attained total control. I was a jittery rabbit, running from a surefooted cheetah, in a maze whose pathways slowly curled in on each other and contracted, until we were confined together, predator and prey, in a tiny cell. Under the pressure, I cracked, and made a horrible blunder.
“You’ll have to forgive him for that,” Finegold said to the audience. “He’s tired, because he just moved here. From Crazytown.”

Finegold, who was always coming and going, and who noticed everything, observed that I was having a lot of fun, and that it was translating into my play as a whole. He disapproved.

“Take a look at those guys over there,” he said, during a lesson, pointing to an array of portraits of great players that hung on the far wall.

“What am I supposed to be seeing?” I said.

“Tell me who looks like he’s never had fun in his life.”

“Um, Kasparov.”

Garry Kasparov was the top-ranked player in the world for nineteen years, except for a three-month-long slump. And he was famous for his boundless, masochistic work ethic. “Chess is mental torture,” he said.

“Yeah, Kasparov never had any fun. Now, tell me who looks like he’s furious all the time.”

“Bobby Fischer.”

Remembering Bobby Fisher – I

“Yeah, Fischer. That guy didn’t have a lot of fun.”

What he was saying was true. Slow tournament chess, played well, is like violent meditation. The mind is wrenched by an evolving series of parenthetical thoughts, during which the limits of human cognition are directly assaulted.

“Being a winner starts when you realize what a loser you are.”

At my next lesson, I explained my emotional turmoil to Finegold. He was having none of it. “Your emotions are irrelevant,” he said. “You can’t stop protecting your pawns because you’re sad. Chess isn’t one of those crazy stories that you sell to a magazine. You’re not a hero; your opponent isn’t the villain.”

“It’s hard for me not to think like that. It’s kind of who I am,” I said.

“Well, then, don’t be yourself.”

“I can tell you everything I know,” he said, “but absorbing it can take years. Chess is hard. Like, let’s take a simple part of being a grandmaster. To be a grandmaster, you have to spend a lot of time thinking about what your opponents want to do, rather than just focusing on your own plans. Saying that to you is easy, but it’s hard to do, because just thinking about yourself is kind of the human instinct. Being good at chess is pretty counterintuitive. A lot of the time, you’re fighting your basic tendencies.”

“That sounds hard.”

“It’s actually easy. It’s just impossible.”

I was twenty-nine years old. I walked back towards the metro station, through the deserted streets beyond, between beautiful art deco skyscrapers, and I thought about what Finegold had said at the end of our first lesson. After we’d gone through a few of my games, he had nonchalantly asked me whether I’d like to know the secret of chess.

“Um, sure,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll tell you. But you’re not going to believe me,” he said. “And maybe you never will.”

This was correct. I had no idea what to make of the secret of chess. And I definitely didn’t believe it. Only later, much later, when I was walking on a beach in California, did his words really strike me with their full force.

The review must end somewhere, and this is where it ends. It seems I have written, arguably, too much, but actually, it is only the tip of the iceberg. To learn the secret of chess, according to Ben Finegold you must find a copy and read it for yourself. You can thank me later…

All The Wrong Moves Review: Part 2: Hooked, Lined, and Sinkered

I enjoyed every minute spent reading this wonderful book.

It was so interesting the book was completed in only a couple of days because I simply could not put it down. From the inside front cover jacket one reads, “Sasha Chapin is a victim of chess. (“I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art – and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.” Marcel Duchamp)

Like countless amateurs before him – Albert Einstein,

Humphrey Bogart,

Marcel Duchamp

– the game has consumed his life and his mind.”

Which means, even though he is a writer by trade, he is one of us! On the inside jacket one finds, “Sasha Chapin is an award-winning journalist and recovering chess enthusiast.”

I have yet to win an award for writing and I am still recovering from the years spent playing the Royal game.

The book begins, “Anyway, like most people, I became obsessed with chess after I ran away to Asia with a stripper I’d just met.”

I had been hooked, lined, and sinkered after reading only the first sentence! The stripper was Courtney and she “…made an impression.”

From experience I know most strippers make an impression or they find another line of work.

Courtney suggests they “do drugs together – specifically Psilocybe cubensis, aka magic mushrooms. “Doing shrooms with somebody instantly acquaints you with about half of who they are.” Unfortunately, as often happens when dealing with the opposite sex, “I became sullen and Courtney became moody and erratic.” What to do? “”Since we were going crazy, I suggested we take a trip to Bangkok.”

Courtney runs out of money and decides to return to Toronto earn it the old fashion way.

“She left just before Christmas, so I was alone on New Year’s Eve in our Chiang Mai apartment…”

“In January I was writing six pieces at once, but in February I was barely writing one. My credit card balance crept up; I observed it with no particular emotion. And as I predicted, there was no sign of Courtney.” That’s when my troubles really started. That’s when life as I know it began. Not that I knew that at the time. The future never announces itself. Your destiny is quietly prepared offstage, until the hour when it emerges, saying something like, “Knock, knock, motherfucker.” Elena arrived in the apartment bearing a contagious excitation about the most recent leg of her travels.”

“Nepal is so interesting,” she said.

“What’s going on there?” I said.

“There’s a blockade, gasoline isn’t making it over the Indian border, nobody can do anything and, like, everything is paralyzed.”

“That sounds good. Should I write a story about it?”

“Totally.”

And Sasha was off to Kathmandu.

“So I did – a story about the incredibly complicated domestic tensions there, which I barely understood, even after extensive research. Essentially all I knew was that reporters should talk to people, so from the moment I landed in Kathmandu, I began a conversation with everyone who engaged me in more than a moment of eye contact. During the ungainly process, after after ambling down an arbitrary lane, I found myself in a rubble-strewn square presided over by a group of chess hustlers – strong players who make their salary on small-wager games with suckers like me.”

You know what comes next: “He opened the game in the most common fashion, by playing e4. This was the only opening move Bobby Fischer

enjoyed playing; he called it “best by test.” In response I played the move e6-the first move of the French Defense. The French Defense was an old friend of mine that I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. I hardly recognized it when I saw it on the board, although we had once been intimately familiar. It was my weapon of choice when I played on my hippie alternative school’s Pawnishers.”

This is how the first chapter concludes, and how the book begins. Now you know how I became hooked, lined, and sinkered.

New Book on Bobby Fischer in Iceland

New Book on Bobby Fischer in Iceland


Garðar Sverrisson, with his book, now in English translation: Bobby Fisher-The Final Years. Photo/Kristinn Magnusson

The book Bobby Fischer – The Final Years, by Garðar Sverrisson, has just been published by Ugla publishing house, Morgunblaðið reports. The English translation is by María Helga Guðmundsdóttir, but the original Icelandic version, Yfir farinn veg með Bobby Fischer, hit the shelves in 2015.
“I relate a number of things, not revealed elsewhere, regarding his life and attitudes, along with information on how he reacted to a difficult disease in the end,” Garðar states.
The former chess world champion died in 2008. He spent the last three years of his life in Iceland, where he is buried. Garðar and he were in touch almost daily for more than three years and remained close friends the whole time Fischer lived in Iceland.
“My family and I got to know him very well, unlike most people who have written about him and who have had to rely on sources of diverse quality, making many guesses where information is lacking,” Garðar explains.
He decided to write the book after being asked about Fischer numerous times by people who had heard all sorts of rumors about him.
“My family and I hardly knew the Bobby they were talking about,” Garðar continues, referring to the rumors. “That’s when I started jotting down all sorts of notes, which didn’t appear to have been revealed about his life and attitudes. Not just regarding chess and social issues, but also his numerous interests and dramatic life experiences, from growing up in New York to his last years in Iceland.”
Just like many others, Garðar admits he had expected Fischer to be difficult to get along with, but he turned out to be quite a gentle person. He enjoyed being around animals and chatting with young people. He spoke to them on their terms.
“It surprised me, too, how attracted he was to nature, having lived mainly in large cities,” Garðar states.
“He was interested in philosophy, very intelligent and well informed, having read so many books through the years and spent a long time abroad, mainly in central Europe and Asia.”
Garðar’s goal was to present the Bobby he knew and share points others would not be able to relate.
“I’m convinced Bobby would have enjoyed [the book],” he concludes, “although he might have argued about some details.”

https://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/culture_and_living/2019/10/05/new_book_on_bobby_fischer_in_iceland/

Coaching Kasparov: A Review

Coaching Kasparov, Year by Year and Move by Move
Volume 1: The Whizz-Kid (1973-1981)

by Alexander Nikitin

This is a meritorious book in all respects. When the book was finished I was already looking forward with anticipation to the second volume to follow. The Elk and Ruby publishing company has hit the ground running with one of the books reviewed on this blog, Checkmate!

by Sally Landau, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/checkmate-the-love-story-of-mikhail-tal-and-sally-landau-a-review/) having recently garnered a prestigious spot on the ECF shortlist for book of the year award.
(https://www.englishchess.org.uk/ecf-book-of-the-year-2019-shortlist/)

The author, Alexander Nikitin,

was the coach of the young Garik Weinstein from 1973 until 1990. Simply put, the young lad had vast potential, like a diamond in the rough, but needed polishing, which was provided by his coach. The first sixty seven pages, which were read with amazement, recount what transpired in those early years. The second part of the one hundred ninety eight pages consists of annotated games played by the young Weinstein/Kasparov. The author writes about the necessity for the change of name. “His change of surname was a delicate matter. It’s usually found in women, very rarely in men, and, as a rule, only happens to men when it’s forced. Garik’s mother had to bear the main burden of stress and battle when arranging the legal formalities and, above all, when convincing all friends and relatives that this was the right decision. Klara had to endure so many unpleasant hours. So many tears were shed after conversations with relatives of her by then long departed husband. “…a year earlier, with Botvinnik’s assent, I had tenaciously started to try and convince Garry’s mother of the need to change her son’s surname from his father’s to her own-which, by the way, she had not changed upon getting married.”

In the following paragraph the author writes, “From the very beginning I had no doubt that the lad would have a fantastic chess career. I knew from my work in the Sports Committee just what inexplicable difficulties of a totally non-chess character could suddenly appear to a youth with the “wrong” surname during the development of his talent, especially at the transition to Big Chess, when somebody’s sporting career could be held back and perhaps even badly damaged, without much notice being taken at the top and without much discussion.” And, “Chess fans throughout the world quickly got used to this surname without having learnt unnecessary details. Life was to confirm the justification of my fears and the need for this difficult decision. Enough has now been written about the hidden anti-Semitism, especially in the lower corridors of the government. I am convinced that Garry Weinstein would have never got to play a world title match against Karpov in 1984 or even in 1987. He wouldn’t have been allowed. He would have been isolated in the periphery of chess. The system functioned like clockwork in those days.”

For every Weinstein/Kasparov how many other, extremely talented young boys were fodder for the “system”? Nikitin writes about one such boy, “…twelve-year-old Boris Taborov. They were both highly talented, smart and inquisitive, by my-how their lives soon panned out so differently! The phlegmatic and good-natured Boris soon became the first Soviet player to gain the master title at the age of 14. He played a couple of times in the junior championships in Europe, but failed to achieve further success and gradually faded. What happened to him? Boris was raised in a family of scientists who had little enthusiasm for their son’s chess achievements. His parents really wanted Boris to become a scientist like them and continue their work. They got quite worried at seeing that chess for their son was more than a game. Feeling no moral support from those near and dear to him, the lad was torn between two occupations at once, unable to make a definitive choice… His focus on two activities at once in fact prevented him from achieving great things in science, while he was quite unable to jump on to the steps of the prestigious carriages of the chess train as it disappeared into the distance. Caissa doesn’t favor the indecisive.”
He who hesitates is lost.

The author writes about Garik’s father, “Kim Weinstein on all evidence seems to have been a strong and unusual personality; highly valuing fairness and honesty. He managed to pass on much to his son, but alas it could have been more.”
I’m certain Judit Polgar will agree with what was written! (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/garry-kasparov-cheated-judit-polgar/comment-page-1/)

He writes, “Yet most of all, I was struck by Garry’s eyes-smart, with a kind of unusual spark in them.”

Mikhail Botvinnik

plays a large role in the saga of Garik Weinstein/Kasparov. He would say: “A lad striving to become a true chess player needs to be able to do many things. He needs to work at chess independently, prepare for every competition, analyze the outcome of each tournament, and love analysis not only in respect of the opening. He also needs to know how to relax and regain his strength after a competition. If he isn’t successful in that, chess will not become an art form bringing joy, but instead just a trade bringing sadness. Therefore, he should not play many games and should not play often.”

“As the years progressed, the union of Teacher and Favorite Pupil transposed into a comradeship of colleagues of equal playing strength.”

“Lasker’s thought: “a person is responsible for the quality of his work but not for its results” from that year on became one of the mottos driving Garry’s work.”

The author divulges the secret concerning, “Vladimir Andreevich Makogonov,

who had been one of the strongest masters of the pre-war period and a player with a subtle positional style, who had a wonder grasp of the nuances of battle and without a doubt understood the game at a grandmaster level, showed up at the Kasparov apartment. Few people knew about Garry’s contact with Makogonov-the master didn’t want to advertise it. I don’t think even Botvinnik knew about it…The two great chess elders who coached the kid had their own eccentricities: Botvinnik was overly jealous about allowing other coaches to work with Kasparov, while Makogonov had taken offense at society.”

“A big talent acts like a mighty magnet or bright star – it draws those who have discovered its strength, blinds their judgement and takes them prisoner for years to come.”

This paragraph blew my mind:

“It wasn’t just chess books that I sent him, but everything that could satisfy his curiosity, thereby further developing his logical thinking. For example, one parcel that I sent in 1975 contained the latest issue of Chess Informant, a selection of endgame articles required in order to tackle homework that Dvoretsky had set, excellent commentary by Spassky showing how to assess positions, Bronstein’s book on Zurich, accompanied by a request to study carefully how the world’s best players handled King’s Indian positions, alongside…a Go Set, (! my exclam)


photo by Phil Straus/American Go E-Journal

in order for him to better understand how to gain space, and, for dessert, interesting articles on his tory, which the boy so loved.”

If I had known Kasparov played Go I would have challenged him to a game at the Supernationals in Nashville a decade ago when he signed my copy of

“At first I did not always manage to follow the volume of work carried out by the boy independently. He found everything interesting and wanted to learn more and as quickly as possible. However, this led to information overload, leading to interesting symptoms, which I called “know-all disease”. The boy’s agile and deep memory digested everything fed to it, but the process of comprehending what he had read lagged behind. He would mechanically memorize variations, but they were not given the time to settle in his mind in the right order, and they would get mixed into a messy and, consequently, fairly useless tangle in his brain. Petrosian called this illness the symptom of “Informant children”. The majority of young players now suffer from this ailment, especially abroad, where the computerization of chess has sharply increased the volume of information available. Klara wrote to me that in those times Garik resembled an excited madman.”

Naturally, the author writes about Bobby Fischer

with words that can only be called “glowing praise.” For example, “For both me and Garry, the American genius of those years remains the benchmark of high professionalism. His independent behavior was unusual for that time, and many of his demands were considered to be whims. Now, though, the majority of those demands are considered to be the norm.”

“After Minsk it became clear that Garry’s calculation ability had developed so much further than his positional understanding that it simply “squeezed out” the latter. When playing strong this could lead to nasty problems. His technique for converting an advantage also lagged. Here we needed to work both at chess itself and on his psychology. Unlike Karpov, he wasn’t born with a killer’s instinct, and after gaining an advantage he often reduced his concentration and his earlier playing intensity, hoping that his opponent would bring about his own defeat.”

I can, unfortunately, identify with reduced concentration after gaining an advantage.

“Karpov once described a similar situation of a battle against himself, providing the apt conclusion: “you mustn’t play for a win if in spirit you’re happy to draw.” In order to rise above yourself in such circumstances you have to love chess madly, like the legendary Fischer.”

“A battle in a chess game is frequently a battle against yourself, against your doubts and prevarications.”

“The degree of his childishness, which in my opinion has not yet completely disappeared even today…”

There is a thread running through the book concerning the lack of stamina displayed by the young boy Weinstein, which, with the current youth movement, should make everyone involved with Chess pause to ask the question, “How much Chess is too much Chess?”

The author writes things like this, “At the finish the boy was very tired and incapable of working at top gear for four hours.”

“The child’s tired brain would turn on and off at will.”

“The boy only relented at the end of the fourth hour of tense battle. He didn’t have the energy left to resolve the final, quite tricky problem in a sharp endgame, and the game was drawn.”

“It’s always disappointing to lose your way when the danger appears to have passed. However, at the age of ten it’s hard to retain concentration over four hours of tense work.”

The annotations to the games are marvelous and the commentary fascinating. Game six, of forty six, is an excellent example:

G. Weinstein – B. Kantsler

Leningrad. Spartak Junior championship. 27.07.1975

Kings’s Indian Attack. [C00]

1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4. g3 Nc6 5.Bg2 g6 6.Ngf3 Bg7 7. 0-0 Nge7

Just half a year later I added this way of playing the opening for white to the list of opening systems temporarily banned from use. Garik would have to make do with 2.d4 and go for a more active setup, which was appropriate to his playing style. He was to learn with surprise that battles after 2.d4 are much richer and more interesting.

8.Re1 0-0 9.Qe2 b5 10.e5 a5 11.Nf1 Ba6 12.h4 b4 13.N1h2 h6 14.Bf4 Kh7 15.Bh3 c4 16.Kh2

This generally OK system is not of much use for young players, in that thanks to its lack of ideas it doesn’t require much time to study compared with other, richer opening systems. If you are targeting big achievements in chess then you need to strive to learn the subtleties of as many standard positions as possible, in other words, those that frequently come up. Such positions provide support in the middle of the game, and their knowledge will significantly improve your technique. The best way to build up a solid base of such positions is to study opening systems whose content is as rich and varied as possible. The opening setup deployed by Garik here was one I called a system for idlers, as white can make all the moves automatically, often while ignoring the location of his opponent’s pieces.

16…Nf5?! 17 Bxf5 gxf5

18.g4!

So, here’s the first test to see if the player can think out of the box. Set up the position after move 17 and ask your pupil the simple question: “What would you play as white?” Give the young player 20 minutes to think. Will he look at 18 g4? How quickly?

Little children introduced to chess strategy don’t like pawn advances that open up their own king’s bunker. They are afflicted by the usual, childish fear of the unknown, when it’s hard to assess the approaching danger, as they don’t have life experience or precedents. Deliberately made moves such as 18 g4 are an indicator of a child mature beyond their years. Actually, Garry already had experience – he remembered the game with Alexei (now Alex Yermolinsky)

and the jokey nickname “g4”.

After playing over the game I realized the openings played “back in the day” could very well be thought of as “Bacon’s opening system for idlers!”

In conclusion, this is a superb book. It is truly “cheap at twice the price.” This is a five star book that should make it to a shortlist for the best Chess book of the year award because it will stand the test of time.