What Happens at Chess Club

I attended the Chess club Thursday night at the local Barnes & Noble bookstore. Because of my age and having only recently sufficiently recovered from illness I informed the TD I would be willing to act as a “filler” in the event there were an odd number of players and would only play in the first two rounds.

Having attended the previous week, the first time I had made it in some time, a few new players were noticed, which the gentleman who runs the club attributed to the recently finished match for the Human World Chess Championship. Most, if not all, of the players who attend are so hungry for a game they play “skittles” games before the G/15 event begins. There was a “newby” who caught my eye because he was wearing sandals during winter. He looked as though he would have fit in at Woodstock in 1969, so I spoke to the young man, saying, “You gotta like a guy who refuses to give in to winter.” His name was Dawson and he was ready to play, someone…anyone, so we sat down for a game after introductions. I had the white pieces and opened with 1 e4. He responded with the French move of 1…e6. After playing the standard 2 d4 he answered with 2…d5, whereupon I advanced my pawn to e5 on my third move. My opponent stopped to cogitate a few moments before playing 3…Nc6 with obvious trepidation, which showed when he kept his finger on the Knight after placing it gingerly on the square. As he did so I took a good look at him while thinking he appeared about the same age as I was when first visiting an official Chess club. He finally removed his finger from the Knight. I continued looking at the young man, wondering if I should say anything…Before speaking a particular scene from one of my favorite movies flashed in my mind:

When he looked up from the board I said, “At the Chess Club we do not, ever, hold our finger on a piece. When you decide upon your move, make it like you mean it and place it firmly on the square with deliberation, and immediately remove your fingers from the piece.”

The young fellow was somewhat taken aback, but gathered himself quickly and nodded in assent. I continued, “Are you playing in the tournament?” He said he was not. “Then I suggest you spend some time watching these gentlemen play, paying particular attention to how they move their pieces.” Again, he nodded. I did not have to mention it again.

Granted, I am no longer the player I was earlier in my life, and having played over many of the games from the recent World Senior Chess Championship,
(http://www.wscc2018.european-chessacademy.com/index.php/en/) I realize how much of a decline there is for an old(er) player, especially in the 65+ section, which is now my category. That said, the young fellow played a decent game, developing his pieces in the opening without any extraneous pawn moves or outright blunders. We arrived at about an even position in the early middle game, before he made a mistake, moving his a-pawn aggressively, but weakening his b-pawn in the process. I secured my b-pawn by playing a3, then picked off his undefended b-pawn. A few moves later there was a tactical skirmish in which I came out a piece ahead, and he sort of went downhill from there. The game ended in mate by my newly minted Queen protected by a lone Knight.

“You played very well, young man,” I said. There were a couple of players watching the game and they seconded my remark. He said graciously, “I appreciate your saying that, sir.” We talked and I learned he was twenty years old, the same age as was I when I first went to the Atlanta Chess club. He mentioned coming because he was beating the players with whom he had been playing and wanted better competition. Wondering how he could play such a decent game I asked if he read any Chess books. “Not really,” he said. “But I’ve been on Chess.com and watched many YouTube videos.”

The tournament began and I was not needed, fortunately. This gave me an opportunity to watch some of the action, talk with some of those who come and play without playing in the tourney, and those who come to simply “hang-out.” It was immensely enjoyable. I watched Dawson play one of the young players who is not a member of the USCF (“It costs $30!”) but comes to play skittles. Dawson was a piece down but came back to win the game.

After becoming a Senior I began staying home at night for a reason. Although exhausted after being at the Chess Club I was unable to sleep soundly and the next day, Friday, was not one of my better days, so I took it easy and relaxed, spending much time reading, and listening to programs via the internet.

Fortunately, Saturday was a totally different story. I read while having my first cuppa joe. After breakfast the web was surfed. Chess is usually saved for last and one of the sites I visit every day is GM Kevin Spraggett’s

website (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/). He has a “Chess News” scroll, “What is Happening Today?” I clicked on the ones new to me and began reading. I read every article and there were many on AlphaZero. I even read an editorial by Garry Kasparov

in Science magazine. (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/362/6419/1087) Then I clicked on to read Mastering board games, by Murray Campbell.

I had intended on watching several videos by GM Matthew Sadler concerning the recent World Human Chess Championship games, but discovered videos at Chess24 in the article, AlphaZero really is that good (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/alphazero-really-is-that-good). I watched every video contained in the article superbly elucidated by GM Sadler. I was had by hook, line and sinker, after watching the first one, All-in Defence, “A true Najdorf brawl.”

The Najdorf was my first love. Like many others I played it because Bobby Fischer played the opening. With Bobby the Najdorf was an offensive defense.

While watching the Najdorf “brawl” I noticed another Sadler video over on the right and it looked like the position could have emanated from the Leningrad Dutch, my “second love.” I clicked on and, sure enough, it was a Leningrad! I was compelled to watch.

As if that were not enough I noticed a video by GM Ben Finegold, who married a woman in my home city of Atlanta and they opened the new Atlanta Chess Club & Scholastic Center. (https://atlchessclub.com/) The video is Capablanca Endgames with GM Ben Finegold.

I enjoyed Ben’s commentary while thinking, “I wish the internet existed in 1970.” How can young players, and even older players, not be far superior to those of my generation with tools like this, and the best players giving great advice away for practically nothing? Why would anyone pay someone to teach Chess?

In an email to Karen I wrote, “I did surf over to Twitch the other day to listen to the lonely Ben comment on the game. I was thinking it must be very difficult to do it alone for a long period of time…Ben the Maytag repairman…”

Karen replied, ” I don’t think he gets lonely streaming …. he seems to enjoy it and likes to talk a lot so it works out.” Ben talks a lot because he has something useful to say. He is like the old EF Hutton TV commercial. “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

Other articles read:

AlphaZero: Shedding new light on the grand games of chess, shogi and Go
https://deepmind.com/blog/alphazero-shedding-new-light-grand-games-chess-shogi-and-go/

Updated AlphaZero Crushes Stockfish In New 1,000-Game Match
https://www.chess.com/news/view/updated-alphazero-crushes-stockfish-in-new-1-000-game-match

Inside the (deep) mind of AlphaZero
by Albert Silver
https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-full-alphazero-paper-is-published-at-long-last

Three new articles were found before writing this post at Spaggett On Chess and I intend on reading them later today, even the one by discredited economist and former GM Ken Rogoff:

Commentary: Where is the fun of playing chess against a robot? by Kenneth Rogoff
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/why-human-classic-chess-survives-even-with-technology-chess-ai-10980248

Saudi Arabia calls Israel’s bluff
If Saudis do not feel like welcoming Israelis on their lands, they are perfectly right


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Image Credit: AFP

Published: December 08, 2018 16:39 Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News
https://gulfnews.com/opinion/op-eds/saudi-arabia-calls-israels-bluff-1.60805086

Chess Is An Important Part Of Russian Soft Power
by Joseph Hammond December 3, 2018

https://tsarizm.com/analysis/2018/12/03/chess-part-russia-soft-power/

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Halftime at the World Human Chess Championship

The sixth game of the 2018 World Human Chess Championship was drawn, as were the first five games.

There are multiple reasons all games have been drawn. The format of only twelve games lends itself to many drawn games. When Bobby Fischer

defeated Boris Spassky in 1972 the World Chess Championship was comprised of twenty four games. A player could lose a game, or two, as did Fischer to begin the match, and still have time to mount a comeback. In a much shorter match the combatants know one decisive game could be all she wrote. In addition, the players are evenly matched. One would expect extremely close games between the two best human players in the world. Then there is the fact that human players are much stronger and better than their predecessors. As Chess players improve there will be more draws, unless there are changes to the rules.

In the recent 2nd Du Te Cup 2018 played in Shenzhen, China 4th to 11th November 2018, six of the top Grandmasters in the World, rated between 2709 and 2816, played an eight round double round robin in which a total of twenty four games were played, only five of which ended in victory, and each was a win for the player with the white pieces. The first win did not come until the fifth round.

The recent TCEC computer program World Chess Championship is a possible indication of what could happen in future human tournaments and matches. Stockfish and Komodo played one hundred games; only twenty one were decisive. Stockfish won thirteen games with white; Komodo won five, for a total winning percentage of eighteen percent for white. Playing black Stockfish won only two games, while Komodo won only one. Only three percent of the games played ended in victory for the black pieces. Seventy nine percent of the games played by the two 3500 rated programs were drawn.

FiveThirtyEight

It was my intention to write something about the revelatory Chess articles being written at the website of ABC News, FiveThirtyEight (https://fivethirtyeight.com/), which has been on my radar because of the excellent articles written about Major League Baseball. I first surfed over to FiveThirtyEight to read an article mentioned on another Baseball website and soon was surfing there every day, and not only because of the MLB atricles.

Mark Weeks over at Chess For All Ages beat me to the punch, so to speak, with his post Chess@538, dated 15 November, 2018 (http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2018/11/chess-538com.html). It is an excellent post which culminates with:

“The resulting brouhaha convinced one respected chess journalist, GM Ian Rogers of Australia, to resign his job working with the American team: @GMIanRogers: Sadly parting ways with @ChessLifeOnline after a decade… (twitter.com):-

…I declined to accept edits to my round 4 World Ch’p report which would downplay responsibility of editors of the Caruana video, downplay the effect of the video on Caruana’s chances, and omit the key image from the video.

On top of that, all of the videos produced by the St.Louis Chess Club disappeared from Youtube. Out of sight, out of mind? Hardly. Someone in St.Louis is guilty of an unprofessional lapse of judgement. That’s the person who should resign — not a journalist doing the job he was paid to do.”

I must concur conclusively with Mark’s astute assessment of the situation. Who is guilty in St. Louis? Inquiring minds want to know…

In the latest column by Oliver Roeder, Chess World Rattled As Someone Nearly Wins Game, it is written, “Chess players are second only to maybe biological taxonomists in their proclivity to elaborately name things, and sure enough even this rare position has its own proper name: the Karklins-Martinovsky Variation. But neither player was troubled by Karklins-Martinovsky, they said after the game. Its theory is well known to these elite players.

And so they played on. The powerful queens came off the board by move 8, but this loss took no edge off the fight. For a while, the game looked less like a battle and more like a dressage competition, as 66 percent or more of each player’s first 12 moves were knight moves.”

The following paragraph can be found in the November 16 post by Mr. Roeder:

“The data scientist Randal Olson analyzed hundreds of thousands of chess games in an article a few years ago. The closer players are in rating, he found, the longer games tend to go. And as the players get better, draws become far more common. Carlsen and Caruana are as good — and about as close in rating — as you can get. Indeed, they are even beyond the scope of Olson’s chart below, with Elo ratings (which measure the strength of players given the opponents they’ve played) north of 2800.”

I clicked on the link provided and was sent to a column written May 24, 2014, by Randal S. Olsen. There is a fantastic picture of Bobby Fischer playing Mikhail Tal, which I saved. It was worth clicking on just to see the picture.

Then I went to Mr. Olsen’s home page (http://www.randalolson.com/) and found this: “Does batting order matter in Major League Baseball? A simulation approach”

Good thing today is an off day in the WHCC.

Biothythms of Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana

Upon learning I played tournament Chess in the late 1970’s the father of a new girlfriend mentioned a book he had read, Biorhythm: A Personal Science, by Bernard Gittelson, going on to say Bobby Fischer had been profiled during the match with Boris Spassky. Naturally this peaked my interest. I read the book, learning the importance of critical days. For example, the Japanese did not allow any professional driver to work on a double critical day, or allow any to pilot fly on those days and it cut the number of accidents tremendously. Over the course of my life while in a relationship with a woman I have charted their moods by jotting down simple notes such as, “bitchy day,” or “good mood day.” Hold off on those nasty comments and emails, please, as I have done the same for me. In addition I have focused on not only my individual day but on different periods in an attempt to understand biorhythms and whether of not they have anything to do with my state of being. I have come to the conclusion there is something to biorhythms, especially physically. A critical day is when one is changing from one phase to another. One can go from a low to a high phase, or the reverse. It has been my experience that it is much worse to go from a high phase to a low phase, and it becomes increasingly pronounced as one ages. It has been extremely difficult to understand the other two phases, emotional and intellectual. I can, though, say with authority that several woman in my life have sent me to the biorhythm chart when having a…how to describe it…let us say an “overly emotional” type of day. It has also been my experience over the last four decades that it is better to be in an emotionally low phase than a high phase. Being in a high phase is akin to being what is commonly known as “wound too tightly.” Beginning at birth everyone’s day of birth will be a critical day followed by either a peak or floor day. For example, I was born on a Monday, so every other Monday is an emotional critical day for me.

Some years ago I put something on the USCF forum concerning a World Championship match and biorhythms. The nattering nabobs ripped me a new one. I recall “pseudo-science” and “akin to astrology” among other remarks. For this reason I ask the reader to be open-minded and kind when commenting or sending an email.

Magnus Carlsen

Fabiano Caruana

https://www.biorhythm-calculator.net/

When the match begins the graph shows Magnus at his physical nadir while Fabiano is near his physical zenith. It is almost the exact opposite for the two combatants intellectually. Magnus will be going through an emotional critical day, transferring from high to low. Fabi will coming off of his emotional nadir. This illustrates how different are the two players, biorhythmically speaking. This is dramatically shown with this:

Relationship Compatibility

Name: Carlsen
Date of birth 1990-11-30

Name: Caruana
Date of birth 1992-7-30

Physical: 13%
Emotional: 42.9%
Intellectual: 15.2%

Spiritual: 5.7%
Awareness: 33.3%
Aesthetic: 72.1%
Intuition: 100%

http://www.procato.com/biomatch/

The lack of compatibility between the two players in the three main facets is striking. I left the latter part in for illustration purposes only because of the 100% match in intuition. Ordinarily I only look at the ‘Big 3’ but the total match had to be shown even though I have no idea what it means. When I learned about biorhythms there were only the top three.

The physical match up shows Carlsen playing most of the match in a physical high phase, while it is the opposite for Caruana. This could be a major factor, especially in light of the fact Fabiano has played so much Chess leading up to the match. Magnus has demonstrated throughout his career just how much endurance and stamina he possesses. No current player can match Carlsen in this regard. It would be wonderful to step into an alternate universe where the physical cycles are reversed, would it not?

If FIDE president I would strongly advocate a sixteen game match. With only a twelve game match I would advocate a tie match at the end of regulation would require another match one year later. If that match was also tied after regulation, then the champion would remain the champion. The challenger would have had two chances to beat the champ. To obtain another chance the challenger would have to again win the candidates tournament.

The World Champ will begin the match intellectually high before declining into a low phase the second half of the match. The challenger will begin the match low intellectually, but spend the majority of the match in a high phase.

Magnus will play most of the match in an emotionally low phase while Fabiano will only be in an emotional low period at the beginning of the match with the latter two-thirds being in a high phase.

Simply put, the two contestants biorhythms could not be more disparate.

The critical period of the match will be games three through six. One look at the chart of the challenger vividly illustrates this fact. Caruana will be undergoing biorhythmic changes in all three phases. His biorhythms will be going every which a way…

The chart of the World Champion looks much “smoother” in contrast.

I did this comparison in an attempt to make a prediction according to biorhythm theory. After studying the charts I am unable to do so as the disparity is simply too great. How much of a factor will it be that Magnus will be physically high during the latter part of the match? How much will it matter that Fabi will be high intellectually? In a longer match of even sixteen games, the number many time World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik said was needed to determine a winner, the physical factor would play a larger part, but this is a shorter match. They are both young so the physical aspect may not mean as much as the intellectual, but how does one quantify the intellectual biorhythm? As I have grown older the physical factor is much easier to quantify, for example. Some physical critical days, especially transferring from high to low, are pronounced in a way that can be felt and understood. It may take a huge amount of information to demonstrate the kind of impact an intellectual critical day produces. I just do not know…One thing I do know, though, is that this will be an extremely interesting match, biorhythmically speaking.

If my life were on the line I would have to go with the current Champion because of the tiebreak issue. If the match is even then Magnus will be a heavy favorite.

Hypothetically speaking, if there were no tiebreak and my life depended on only the biorhythms of the players, again I would be forced to go with Magnus because of the critical period between games three and six for the challenger and his physical high phase toward the end of the match.

That was from the logical ‘Spock’ part of my brain. The ‘Captain Kirk’ emotional part from my heart will be hanging on every move Fabiano Caruana makes during the course of the match.

I would also like to mention I plan on spending much time watching, and listening, to the best Chess internet broadcasting trio, Yasser Seirwan, Maurice Ashley, and Jennifer Shahade, which can be found here (https://www.uschesschamps.com/2018-today-in-chess/world-chess-championship).

Let the games begin!

Kacper Piorun vs Hikaru Nakamura Play Captain Mackenzie’s Variation

In the Chessbase report Batumi Olympiad Round 9: Poland stuns USA, Sagar Shah writes:

10/4/2018 – “Being the sole leader at the Olympiad is not an easy task. USA was the sole leader with 15.0/16 going into the ninth round. They were the clear favourites facing the Polish team. But the inspired Poles played out of their skins and beat the US with three draws and the decisive result being Piorun beating Nakamura.” (https://en.chessbase.com/post/batumi-olympiad-round-9-poland-stuns-usa)

I nominate the latter part for understatement of the year. Team USA held control of its fate in its hands. Hikaru Nakamura’s loss was, quite simply, DEVASTATING. There were other losses earlier in the Olympiad by team USA but coming when it did, none compared to Nakamura’s loss in round nine. To argue that it was not the most devastating loss of the 2018 Olympiad, and arguably the most devastating loss by any American in any Olympiad, would be akin to arguing that a batter striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the MLB World Series with two outs and the tying and winning runners on base was the same as a strikeout earlier in the game.

Mr. Shah writes about the game, “Nakamura tried the Scandinavian against Kacper Piorun, retreating his queen back to d8, and was in a slightly inferior position out of the opening. There were a few equalizing chances like the one below, but Naka wanted to win the game at all costs and that’s the reason why he made certain poor decisions.”

The author of those words mentions absolutely nothing about how he came to know that, “…Naka wanted to win the game at all costs and that’s the reason why he made certain poor decisions.” Is this what Hikaru said after the game when questioned, or is this what Mr. Shah assumes? Inquiring minds want to know…Maybe we Chess fans will be able to glean what, exactly, was in Nakamura’s mind during that game if, and only if he gives an interview. Maybe IM John Donaldson will explain the circumstances in a future article about the Olympiad. I find it extremely difficult to believe “…Naka wanted to win the game at all costs.” Hikaru Nakamura has been drawing the majority of his games recently and his current rating decline is an indication of the correctness of what I have written. Hikaru Nakamura is now thirty years old, and if he were a Chinese player would not be on the Olympic squad because when a player turns thirty in China he must stop playing and become a teacher. Could this be the reason China took the gold medal? Although it pains this old man to write this as Nakamura is to me still a young man the fact is that in modern Chess when players earn their GM title before leaving grade school Hikaru became “old” upon turning thirty.

Let us have a look at the game. I have previously attempted to play this line, first played by Captain George Henry Mackenzie

in the London tournament held in 1883. Why Nakamura chose this particular opening only he can explain.Certainly if he were of the mindset to “…win the game at all costs…” he would have chosen a more, shall we say, dynamic opening. Incidentally, Piorun is five-time World problem-solving champion. He certainly solved the Nakamura problem in this game…

Kacper Piorun (POL) (2612)

– Hikaru Nakamura (USA) (2763)

World Chess Olympiad Batumi 2018 round 09

B01 Scandinavian or Centre Counter defense

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 (It should come as not surprise that both Komodo and Stockfish prefer 3…Qa5)

4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 g6 (The top two moves are, in order, 5…Bg4 and c6. Houdini would play the seldom played 5…a6. Nakamura has entered fertile territory here as his move has not been played often, and it has not been played previously by a so-called “super” GM)

6. Be2 (This move has only been attempted a handful of times by much lesser players. The Dragon would move the prelate to c4, or play 6 h3)

6…Bg7 7. O-O (Komodo prefers 7 h3) 7…O-O (Komodo prefers 7…Nc6)

8. Bf4 Nc6 (Komodo would play either 8…c6 or Bf5 depending on the program and depth. The game between Georg Schwager and Rudolf Ohmstede from Ruhrgebiet VK3 9899, 1999 continued, c6 9. Qd2 Re8 10. Rfe1 Bf5 11. Bd3 Bxd3 12. Qxd3 Nbd7 13. Rad1 Nb6 14. Ne5 Nbd5 15. Nxd5 cxd5 16. b3 Rc8 17. c4 a6 18. h3 Qa5 19. Re2 Qb4 20. Rc2 e6 21. Qf3 Rf8 22. Rdc1 Qa5 23. Bg5 Ne4 24. Be7 Bxe5 25. Bxf8 Bxd4 26. Bh6 g5 27. cxd5 Rxc2 28. Rxc2 Qe1+ 29. Kh2 f5 30. dxe6 Nd6 31. Re2 Be5+ 32. g3 Qc3 33. Qd5 Bxg3+ 34. fxg3 Ne8 1-0)

9. Qd2 b6 10. Rad1 Bb7 11. Rfe1 (Until this move we have been following the game R. Miranda (2238) v S. Slipak (2458) played at the Caba Legislatura Cup 2018. Slipak played 11 Nb5 Nd5 12. c4 Nxf4 13. Qxf4 a6 14. d5 Ne5 15. Nbd4 Qd6 16. Qc1 Qc5 17. Ng5 Qa5 18. Qb1 c5 19. f4 Nxc4 20. Nf5 Nxb2 21. Rc1 Bf6 22. Ne4 Qb4 23. a3 Qxa3 24. Rf3 Qb4 25. Kh1 Bg7 26. Nxe7+ Kh8 27. Nd6 c4 28. Nef5 Bxd5 29. Nxg7 Bxf3 30. Bxf3 c3 31. Bxa8 Qxd6 32. Bf3 Qf6 33. Nh5 gxh5 34. Qe4 Rc8 35. Qb4 Rc5 36. g3 Nd3 0-1)

11…e6 12. Bh6 Ne7 13. Bxg7 Kxg7 14. Ne5 Rc8 15. Qf4 a6 16. Rd3 b5 17. a3 Qd6 18. b4 Rcd8 19. Red1 Nfd5 20. Nxd5 Nxd5 21. Qh4 f6 22. c4

22…g5 (This weakening move gives the advantage to white. Naka should have played 22…bxc4)

23. Rg3 Ne7 24. Qh5 (Nakamura has been outplayed up to this point and with 24 c5 Piorun would retain a large advantage)

24…Be4 25. Re3 Bf5 26. c5 Qd5 27. Bf3 Qa2 28. Nc6 Nxc6 29. Bxc6 Qc4 30. Be4

30…Bxe4 (This is an instructive mistake. Stockfish shows two better moves, 30…Rxd4 and 30…Bg6, both leaving the game equal)

31. Rxe4 e5 32. h4 h6 33. Qf3 Qd5 34. h5

34…exd4? (This is as bad as it gets. The Fish shows that a prudent move such as 34…Kg8, or even 34…Rd7 would keep Naka in the game)

35. Rdxd4 Qf7 36. g4 Rxd4 37. Rxd4 Qe6 38. Qd3 f5 39. Rd7+ Rf7 40. Qd4+ Kh7 41. Rd8 Rg7 42. Rf8 (Breaking the coordination between the Queen and Rook. There were many better moves. Stockfish has the simple 42 Kg2 best. White is still winning, but has possibly given his opponent chances to hold))

42…Qc4 43. Qxc4 bxc4 44. Rxf5

44…c6 (Turn out the lights, the party’s over…There were many better moves, all of which did nothing, such as 44…Rd7 and Re7. Sometimes it is difficult to no nothing when wants to do something, hoping to save the game. Moving the pawn makes Naka’s position worse. Shuffling the rook keeps the position bad, but does not make it worse. It is difficult to sit there facing defeat without wanting to do something; anything, but as Sergei Karjakin showed in his World Championship match with Magnus Carlsen, it can be difficult for an opponent with a “won” game to actually “win” the game if one continues to limit the damage to his position)

45. Re5 Rd7 46. Re4 Rd1+ 47. Kg2 Rc1 48. Kf3 Kg7 49. Ke3 Kf6 50. Kd4 c3 51. Re8 c2 52. Kc3 a5 53. Rc8 axb4+ 54. axb4 Ke5 55. Rxc6 Rb1 56. Kxc2 Rxb4 57. f3 Kd4 58. Rxh6 Rc4+ 59. Kd2 Rxc5 60. Re6 1-0

This particular variation took a devastating hit in the 1962 Olympiad in Varna with the following game:

Bobby Fischer

vs Karl Robatsch

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 g6 5. Bf4 Bg7 6. Qd2 Nf6 7. O-O-O c6 8.
Bh6 O-O 9. h4 Qa5 10. h5 gxh5 11. Bd3 Nbd7 12. Nge2 Rd8 13. g4 Nf8 14. gxh5 Ne6
15. Rdg1 Kh8 16. Bxg7+ Nxg7 17. Qh6 Rg8 18. Rg5 Qd8 19. Rhg1 Nf5 20. Bxf5 1-0

After the following game the variation was put into moth balls for quite some time:

Bobby Fischer vs William Addison

Palma de Mallorca Interzonal 1970

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 Nf6 5. Bc4 Bf5 6. Qf3 Qc8 7. Bg5 Bxc2 8.
Rc1 Bg6 9. Nge2 Nbd7 10. O-O e6 11. Bxf6 gxf6 12. d5 e5 13. Bb5 Be7 14. Ng3 a6
15. Bd3 Qd8 16. h4 h5 17. Bf5 Nb6 18. Nce4 Nxd5 19. Rfd1 c6 20. Nc3 Qb6 21.
Rxd5 cxd5 22. Nxd5 Qxb2 23. Rb1 Qxa2 24. Rxb7 1-0

Alexander Sellman vs George Henry Mackenzie

London 1883

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 Bf5 5. Qf3 Qc8 6. Bf4 e6 7. Bd3 Bxd3 8.
Qxd3 Nf6 9. Nf3 Bd6 10. Be5 Nbd7 11. O-O-O a6 12. Rhe1 Bb4 13. d5 Nxe5 14. Rxe5
Bd6 15. Re2 O-O 16. dxe6 fxe6 17. Rde1 Qd7 18. Rxe6 Rae8 19. Rxe8 Rxe8 20.
Rxe8+ Qxe8 21. Qc4+ Kf8 22. Kd1 Qg6 23. g3 Qh5 24. Qe2 Bb4 25. Qd3 Bxc3 26.
Qxc3 1/2-1/2

Samuel Rosenthal vs George Henry Mackenzie

London 1883

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 Bf5 5. Nf3 e6 6. Be2 Nf6 7. O-O Bd6 8.
Nb5 Be7 9. Bf4 Na6 10. a3 c6 11. Nc3 Nc7 12. Re1 O-O 13. Nh4 Bg6 14. Nxg6 hxg6
15. Bd3 Ncd5 16. Nxd5 Nxd5 17. Be5 Bf6 18. Qg4 Bxe5 19. dxe5 Re8 20. Rad1 Qc7
21. h4 Ne7 22. h5 gxh5 23. Qxh5 g6 24. Qh6 Nf5 25. Bxf5 exf5 26. e6 Rad8 27.
Rxd8 Qxd8 28. exf7+ Kxf7 29. Qh7+ Kf6 30. Qh4+ Kf7 31. Qh7+ Kf6 32. Qh4+ Kf7
33. Qc4+ Kf6 34. Qc3+ Kf7 35. Qb3+ Kf6 36. Rxe8 Qxe8 37. Qxb7 Qe1+ 38. Kh2 Qxf2
39. Qxc6+ Kf7 40. Qc4+ Kf6 41. Qc3+ Kf7 42. b4 g5 43. Qd3 g4 44. c4 Kf6 45.
Qc3+ Kg5 46. Qg7+ Kh5 47. Qe5 Kh4 48. Qe7+ Kh5 49. Qe5 Kh4 50. Qh8+ Kg5 51.
Qd8+ Kh5 52. Qe8+ Kh4 53. Qe7+ Kh5 54. Qe5 Kh4 55. Qf6+ Kh5 56. Qf7+ Kh4 57.
Qe7+ Kh5 58. c5 f4 59. c6 Qf1 60. Qe5+ Kg6 61. c7 f3 62. Qe4+ Kg5 63. Qxg4+
Kxg4 64. c8=Q+ Kg5 65. Qg8+ Kf4 66. Qf7+ Kg4 67. Qg7+ Kf5 68. gxf3 Qxf3 69.
Qxa7 Qe2+ 70. Kg1 Kg4 71. Qg7+ 1-0

The Captain was not the only player to attempt the “Queen back” variation at London:

James Mortimer vs Berthold Englisch

London 1883

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 e6 5. Be3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Be7 7. Nce2 b6 8.
Nf3 Bb7 9. Ng3 Nbd7 10. c3 O-O 11. h4 c5 12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. Bxc5 Bxc5 14. Qc2
Qc7 15. Ng5 h6 16. Kf1 Rfd8 17. N5e4 Ng4 18. Re1 Nxf2 19. Nxc5 Nxd3 20. Nxd3
Qxg3 21. Rh3 Qg6 22. Nb4 Ba6+ 23. Kg1 Qxc2 24. Nxc2 Rd2 25. Rc1 Bb7 26. Rg3
Rad8 27. b4 Rd1+ 28. Rxd1 Rxd1+ 29. Kf2 Rd2+ 0-1

Other players were inspired by the Captain, including the man with one of, if not the best nickname in the history of Chess:

Szymon Winawer

vs Joseph Henry “Black Death” Blackburne

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd8 4. d4 g6 5. Be3 Nh6 6. Qd2 Nf5 7. Bd3 Bg7 8.
Bxf5 Bxf5 9. h3 h5 10. Nge2 Na6 11. a3 c6 12. Ng3 Qd7 13. O-O-O h4 14. Nxf5
Qxf5 15. Qd3 Qa5 16. Qe4 e6 17. Bf4 O-O-O 18. Qe3 Nc7 19. Bxc7 Qxc7 20. f4 Rh5
21. Rhf1 Qb6 22. Ne2 c5 23. c3 cxd4 24. Nxd4 e5 25. Nc2 Rxd1+ 26. Kxd1 Qxe3 27.
Nxe3 Bh6 28. Nd5 exf4 29. c4 Re5 30. Re1 Rxe1+ 31. Kxe1 Kd7 32. Ke2 f5 33. Kf3
g5 34. Nb4 Bg7 35. Nd3 Kd6 36. b3 Bd4 37. Ke2 Be3 38. Kf3 b6 39. b4 a6 40. a4
Bd4 41. Ke2 Bc3 42. b5 a5 43. Kf2 Bd4+ 44. Ke2 Bg1 45. Kf3 Be3 46. g4 hxg3 47.
Kg2 Bd2 48. c5+ bxc5 49. b6 c4 50. Ne5 Kxe5 51. b7 Ke4 0-1

Yes, that is the man responsible for the Winawer variation of the French defense.

Stinking It Up At The Sinquefield Cup

The trio of announcers at the Sinquefield Cup were effusive during every round, especially during the final round. They did the best they could to put lipstick on a pig

but in the final analysis it was still a stinking pig. The gang mentioned the high percentage of draws and GM Yasser Seirawan said something like, “We haven’t noticed because of the quality of the draws.” Forty five games were played during the tournament with only eight of them ending decisively, which is 17.7%. There were nine rounds so the average was less than one win per round.

The announcers for MLBaseball teams are called “homers” for a reason. They are paid by the ball club so it is in their interest to put lipstick on their particular pig.

I am uncertain about who pays the announcers at the Sinquefield Cup, but it is more than a little obvious they want to continue being paid. It is in their interest to put as much lipstick on the Chess pig as possible. Because of this they lack objectivity. I am not being paid by anyone so can be objective. The tournament was B-O-R-I-N-G. To their credit, the announcing team of Yaz, Maurice, and Jen did the best they could to inject some excitement into the moribund tournament. The excitement certainly did not come from the players. The pigs were in full force and there was some reeking Chess played at what I have come to consider the Stinkfield Cup.

Hikaru Nakamura lost the last round game to World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen


Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

by first needlessly allowing Magnus a protected passed pawn. Later he exacerbated an already tenuous position by jettisoning a pawn for absolutely nothing, and was deservedly ground down by the ultimate grinder.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave managed to turn what should have been a win into a draw against Sergey Karjakin because he did not know how to play the endgame.

Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana played what was arguably the most boring game of the tournament in the last round and, guess what, it ended in a draw. Watching lipstick being put on a pig was better than watching the “game.” Here is what two Chess fans posted on the ChessBomb chat at the game:

Abraxas79: So will drop out of sight soon. Will be playing open tournaments with Kamsky
eddiemac: was being interviewed and said he be in a chess960 tourney in a few weeks. Should be more exciting than this dreary tourney.
(https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-So_Wesley-Caruana_Fabiano)

The 71st Russian Chess Championship began less than a week ago with twelve players competing. After four rounds twenty four games have been played and seven of them have ended decisively. That is 29%. Not great, but much better than the paltry 18% of the Stinkfield Cup. At least there has been a decisive game in each of the four rounds of the Russian Championship. In the third round three games were decisive. Three of the rounds of the Stinkfield Cup finished without any decisive games.

Yaz can talk all he wants about “…the quality of the draws,” but the fact remains the games ended in yet another draw. There is not enough lipstick Yaz can smear to obviate the fact that pigs were stinking it up at the Sinquefield Cup. Chess fans want winners. Potential Chess fans do not understand the proliferation of draws; they want to see a WINNER.

The last round game causing much excitement was the game between Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk. Levon unsoundly sacrificed a rook on f7 and the game was all for Grischuk’s taking, but he had previously spent almost three quarters of an hour on one move which left him short of time. Still, I cannot imagine Bobby Fischer losing the game with the black pieces after 18 Rxf7 no matter how little time he had left. Give Bobby two or three minutes, maybe only one, and he would have won the game. Seriously, give Bobby only the thirty seconds added and he would have won that game!

“The Herceg Novi blitz event was the speed tournament of the 20th century. It had four world champions competing, and Bobby not only finished 4½ points ahead of Tal in second place, he also obliterated the Soviet contingent, 8½-1½, whitewashing Tal, Tigran Petrosian and Vasily Smyslov, six-zip; breaking even with Viktor Korchnoi; and defeating David Bronstein with a win and draw.” (http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/03/16/bobbys-blitz-chess/)

This was with a time limit of only FIVE minutes for the whole game! When I hear people talking about how strong are today’s Grandmasters and how the players of the 20th century would not stand a chance against the current top players I laugh. In his prime Bobby would have OBLITERATED these posers no matter the time control. Bobby played each and every game to WIN.

Because I played the Bird opening often, but not as many as the Atlanta player who became a NM using it exclusively, Adam Cavaney, who became an attorney and moved to New Orleans before hurricane Katrina, I paid close attention to the following game.

Let us review the aforementioned game between Alexander Grischuk and Wesley So from the penultimate round:

Alexander Grischuk vs Wesley So


Photo: V. Saravanan

Sinquefield Cup 2018 round 08

1. f4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. b3 Bb7 4. e3 g6 5. Bb2 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. c4 d5 9. O-O Nc6 10. Qe2 Rc8 11. d3 d4 12. exd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 cxd4 15. Na3 Nd7 16. Nc2 Nc5 17. f5 Qd7 18. g4 b5 19. Ba3 a5 20. Bxc5 Rxc5 21. Rae1 bxc4 22. bxc4 gxf5 23. gxf5 Rxf5 24. Rxf5 Qxf5 25. Qf3 Qg5+ 26. Kh1 Kh8 27. Rg1 Qh6 28. Qd5 Qd2 29. Nxd4 Qxa2 30. Qe4 Qb2 31. Nf5 Be5 32. Rg2 Qc1+ 33. Rg1 Qb2 34. Rg2 Qc1+ 35. Rg1 Qb2 36. Rg2 1/2-1/2

An analogous position after 7…c5 was reached by a different move order in this game:

David Bronstein (2585)

v Vladimir Tukmakov (2560)

Event: URS-ch40
Site: Baku Date: 11/23/1972
Round: 6
ECO: A01 Nimzovich-Larsen attack, symmetrical variation

1. b3 b6 2. Bb2 Bb7 3. e3 Nf6 4. f4 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. O-O Nc6 9. a4 d6 10. Na3 a6 11. Qe2 Rb8 12. d3 Ba8 13. c4 e6 14. Rfd1 Qe7 15. e4 Nd7 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Nc2 e5 1/2-1/2
(https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=2419289&m=15)

After 13 moves this position appeared on the board:

I was certain Grischuk would play 14 Qxg2. He took with the King. In the old BC (before computer) days if one disagreed with a move a GM played we would defer to the GMs move because, well, you know, he was a Grandmaster. Still, with my limited understanding of the Royal game, my thinking was that now that the white squared bishop has left the board, what better piece to take it’s place than the Queen? Stockfish agrees.

This position was reached after 16 moves:

While Grischuk was thinking I thought he would first play 17 Ne1 followed by 18 Nf3, considerably improving the position of the woeful knight. After the game the Stockfish program at the ChessBomb made me feel like I knew something about how to play the Bird as it gives this variation as equal: 17. Ne1 e6 18. Nf3 Qd7 19. Kg1 Rfd8 20. Ba3 Qb7 21. Rae1 Bf8 22. Bb2 Bg7 23. Ba3. The clanking digital monster also shows 17 Ba3 as equal. The move Grishuk played, 17 f5, is not shown as one of the top four moves. His choice gives the advantage to black.

This position was reached after 22 moves:

SF shows 23. Qxe7 Qc6+ as best, but Grischuk played 23 gxf5. It is easy to see black has an increased advantage. After a few more moves were played we reach this position after white played 25 Qf3:

Wesley So could have simply dropped his queen back to e7 with a by now large advantage. IM Boris Kogan said, “Chess is simple. He attack, you defend. You attack, he defend. My retort was, “Maybe for you, Boris.” Wesley played 25…Qg5+, which still left him with an advantage. I was thinking, “Patzer sees a check and gives a check.”

We move along until his position was reached after 28 Qd5:

The two best moves according to SF are 28…Qf4 and/or Qb6. So played the fourth best move, 28…Qd2.

After 29…Qxa2 we come to this position:

30 Nc6 is the best move. Grischuk played the second best move, 30 Qe4.

Bobby Fischer

spoke of “critical positions.” This is one of them.

Wesley had far more time than his opponent at this point. I was therefore shocked when he took very little time to play 30…Qb2. I will admit the moved played was my first choice, but then I am not a GM. Faced with the same position Wesley So had on the board I would have probably played 30…Qb2. I followed the games at Mark Crowther’s wonderful site, The Week in Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), because it has no engine analysis. After the game was concluded I went to the ChessBomb to see StockFish had given the move 30…Qf2 as much superior to the move played in the game. Initially flummoxed, I wondered if Wesley had taken more time, which would have meant more time for me to cogitate, would I have seen the much better 30…Qf2? Honesty compels me to think not, as 30…Qb2 attacks the knight and makes way for the passed a-pawn. What’s not to like? SF only gives 30…Qf2 followed by 31 Nc6, so I had to “dig deep” to understand the efficacy of moving the queen to f2. Fortunately for this old grasshopper there was understanding. Later I watched some of the coverage by Yaz, Maurice, and Jen. Maurice showed the engine they were using gave it as best. This begs the question, which engine were they using? I have yet to hear a name used for the “engine.” There are many “engines,” so why do they not inform we Chess fans which “engine” they utilize?

After 30…Qb2 Grischuk played 31 Nf5 (SF says Nf3 is a little better) and this position was reached:

I was thinking Wesley would play 31…Bf6, later learning SF shows it best. As a matter of fact, it is the only move to retain an advantage. Wesley So played the second choice of SF, 31…Be5, and the game sputtered to a draw, a fitting conclusion to a poorly played game by both players. So much for Yasser’s comment about “…quality of the draws.”

This is what Chess fans who chat at the ChessBomb thought about the ending of the game:

CunningPlan: I suspect draw agreed
dondiegodelavega: WTF???
BadHabitMarco: this cant have happened
rfa: yup draw
poppy_dove: BUG
dondiegodelavega: moving to twitter
CunningPlan: Maybe So missed Kxg1
jim: mdr
jim: Qxg1 wow
Frank200: hahahaha somebody was trolling
LarsBrobakken: no takebacks!
CunningPlan: So is a dirty rotten cheat
CunningPlan: Oh So. What a cop out.
rfa: 🙂
BadHabitMarco: devine intervention
Vladacval: phhhooogh
BadHabitMarco: divine
Vladacval: nice save!
jim: So touched accidentally the rook
poppy_dove: draw
dondiegodelavega: what a pussy!
CunningPlan: Grischuk deliberately dropped an eyelash on it to tempt So to brush it off
CunningPlan: Oldest trick in the book
CunningPlan: I’ve won many a game that way
BadHabitMarco: he was like “did you see that the felt was missing under my rook?”
https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/08-Grischuk_Alexander-So_Wesley

Charles Krauthammer: Leaving Life, and Chess, with No Regrets

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

by Adam Bernstein June 21

Charles Krauthammer,

a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died June 21 at 68.

The cause was cancer of the small intestine, said his son, Daniel Krauthammer. He declined to provide further information.

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking,” Dr. Krauthammer wrote in a June 8 farewell note. “I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny. I leave this life with no regrets.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/charles-krauthammer-pulitzer-prize-winning-columnist-and-intellectual-provocateur-dies-at-68/2018/06/21/b71ee41a-759e-11e8-b4b7-308400242c2e_story.html?utm_term=.60d25502de35

Charles was a conservative thinker who loved Chess. Decades ago, after learning of his love for the Royal game I began to read his column on a regular basis, something mentioned at a small gathering of Chess players, some of whom were Republicans, one of whom asked why I read Krauthammer. “Because he plays Chess,” was the reply. He seemed unable to grasp the fact that I read a conservative columnist until one legendary Georgia player spoke up, saying, “On some issues Bacon is to the left of Jane Fonda, but on others he is to the right of Attila the Hun!” Uproarious laughter ensued…I mentioned reading George Will because he had written several books on Baseball. “Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I don’t,” I said, “But I take what he has to say in consideration, just as with Krauthammer.”

Chess: It’s like alcohol. It’s a drug. I have to control it, or it could overwhelm me. I have a regular Monday night game at my home, and I do play a little online.
Charles Krauthammer (http://www.azquotes.com/quote/163123)

The Pariah Chess Club

By Charles Krauthammer December 27, 2002

I once met a physicist who as a child had been something of a chess prodigy. He loved the game and loved the role. He took particular delight in the mortification older players felt upon losing to a kid in short pants.

“Still play?” I asked.

“Nope.”

“What happened?”

“Quit when I was 21.”

“Why?”

“Lost to a kid in short pants.”

The Pariah Chess Club, where I play every Monday night, admits no one in short pants. Even our youngest member, in his twenties, wears trousers. The rest of us are more grizzled veterans numbering about a dozen, mostly journalists and writers, with three lawyers, an academic and a diplomat for ballast. We’ve been meeting at my house for almost a decade for our weekly fix.

Oh, yes, the club’s name. Of the four founding members, two were social scientists who, at the time we started playing, had just written books that had made their college lecture tours rather physically hazardous. I too sported a respectable enemies list (it was the heady Clinton years). And we figured that the fourth member, a music critic and perfectly well-liked, could be grandfathered in as a pariah because of his association with the three of us.

Pariah status has not been required of subsequent members, though it is encouraged. Being a chess player already makes you suspect enough in polite society, and not without reason. Any endeavor that has given the world Paul Morphy, the first American champion, who spent the last 17-odd years of his life wandering the streets of New Orleans, and Bobby Fischer, the last American champion, now descended John Nash-like into raving paranoia, cannot be expected to be a boon to one’s social status.

Our friends think us odd. They can understand poker night or bridge night. They’re not sure about chess. When I tell friends that three of us once drove from Washington to New York to see Garry Kasparov play a game, it elicits a look as uncomprehending as if we had driven 200 miles for an egg-eating contest.

True, we chess players can claim Benjamin Franklin as one of our own. He spent much of his time as ambassador to France playing chess at the Cafe de la Regence, where he fended off complaints that he was not being seen enough at the opera by explaining, “I call this my opera.” But for every Franklin, there is an Alexander Alekhine, who in 1935 was stopped trying to cross the Polish-German frontier without any papers. He offered this declaration instead: “I am Alekhine, chess champion of the world. This is my cat. Her name is Chess. I need no passport.” He was arrested.

Or Aron Nimzovich, author of perhaps the greatest book on chess theory ever written, who, upon being defeated in a game, threw the pieces to the floor and jumped on the table screaming, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”

I know the feeling, but at our club, when you lose with a blunder that instantly illuminates the virtues of assisted suicide, we have a cure. Rack ’em up again. Like pool. A new game, right away. We play fast, very fast, so that memories can be erased and defeats immediately avenged.

I try to explain to friends that we do not sit in overstuffed chairs smoking pipes in five-hour games. We play like the vagrants in the park — at high speed with clocks ticking so that thinking more than 10 or 20 seconds can be a fatal extravagance. In speed (“blitz”) chess, you’ve got five or 10 minutes to play your entire game. Some Mondays we get in a dozen games each. No time to recriminate, let alone ruminate.

And we have amenities. It’s a wood-paneled library, chess books only. The bulletin board has the latest news from around the world, this month a London newspaper article with a picture of a doe-eyed brunette languishing over a board, under the headline “Kournikova of Chess Makes Her Move.” The mini-jukebox plays k.d. lang and Mahler. (We like lush. We had Roy Orbison one night, till our lone Iowan begged for mercy.) “Monday Night Football” in the background, no sound. Barbecue chips. Sourdough pretzels. Sushi when we’re feeling extravagant. And in a unique concession to good health, Nantucket Nectar. I’m partial to orange mango.

No alcohol, though. Not even a beer. It’s not a prohibition. You can have a swig if you want, but no one ever does. The reason is not ascetic but aesthetic. Chess is a beautiful game, and though amateurs playing fast can occasionally make it sing, we know there are riffs — magical symphonic combinations — that we either entirely miss or muck up halfway through. Fruit juice keeps the ugliness to a minimum.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/2002/12/27/the-pariah-chess-club/ebf8806d-eb6b-43b6-9615-766d3e5605ef/?utm_term=.a39c79610415


Charles Krauthammer playing chess with Natan Sharansky at Krauthammer’s office in an undated photo. (FAMILY PHOTO)

Charles was as comfortable with Presidents as he was with Chess players.


Charles Krauthammer with President Ronald Reagan in an undated photo.


Charles Krauthammer with President Jimmy Carter in an undated photo. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)


Charles Krauthammer with President George W. Bush in 2008. (COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)

When Chess Becomes Class Warfare

By Charles Krauthammer March 1, 1985

Capitalism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, a woman’s first historic run for the White House — into cash. Communism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, chess — into politics.

Chess? You may have trouble seeing chess as politics. Americans think chess is a game. The “Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” in one of its few correct entries, defines chess as “an art appearing in the form of a game.” And like all art under socialism, it is to be turned into an instrument of the state.

You think I exaggerate. If I quoted you Nikolai Krylenko, commissar of justice, in 1932 — “We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess. . . . We must organize shock-brigades of chess players, and begin the immediate realization of a Five Year Plan for chess” — you’d say I was dredging the history books for Stalinist lunacies. So I bring you fresh evidence of communism’s penchant for politicizing everything, for controlling everything it politicizes, and for letting nothing — shame least of all — jeopardize that control. I bring you L’affaire Karpov, a tempest for a teapot.

The story is this. On Sept. 10, 1984, the world chess championship begins in Moscow. Both players are Soviet citizens: champion Anatoly Karpov and challenger Gary Kasparov. To win, one must win six games. Draws don’t count. After nine games Karpov is ahead 4-0. An astonishing lead.

Kasparov then launches the most relentless war of attrition in the history of championship chess. He deliberately forces draw after draw, at one point 17 in a row, to one purpose: to exhaust the older and frailer champion.

On Nov. 24, Karpov does win a fifth game, but he will not win again. On Dec. 12, Kasparov wins his first. The score is 5-1. Then 14 more draws.

Then something extraordinary happens. Karpov, known for his metronomic logic and unshakable composure, loses game 47, playing “as though in a daze,” writes chess master Robert Byrne. Game 48: Karpov loses again. The score is 5-3.

By now, says another expert, Karpov “looks like Chernenko.” Chernenko looks bad, but Karpov is 33. He has lost 22 pounds and did not have very many to start with. He is close to collapse. He is about to fall — as Nabokov’s fictional champion, Luzhin, fell — into what Nabokov called “the abysmal depths of chess.” Kasparov is on the brink of the greatest chess comeback ever.

And on the brink both will stay. Six days later, on Feb. 15, the president of the International Chess Federation, under enormous pressure from Soviet authorities, shows up in Moscow and declares the match a draw — and over. Karpov is saved by the bell, except that here the referee rang it in the middle of a round and at an eight count.

Why? One can understand the Party wanting Karpov to win in 1978 and 1981, when the challenger was Victor Korchnoi — defector, Jew, all around troublemaker, Trotsky at the chessboard. But Kasparov is not Korchnoi. He is a good Soviet citizen, a party member, and not known for any politics. He is, however, half Armenian, half Jewish. Until age 12, his name was Gary Weinstein. He is no dissident, but he is young (21) and independent. Above all, he is not reliable.

Karpov, a man who needed to be named only once, is. Conqueror of Korchnoi (twice), receiver of the Order of Lenin, ethnically pure (Russian) and politically pliant (a leader of the Soviet Peace Committee), he is the new Soviet man. And he receives the attention fitting so rare a political commodity: he says he was told of the match’s cancellation over the phone in his car. Cellular service is not widely available in the Soviet Union.

Now, this is the third time that Soviet authorities have tried to undermine Kasparov’s shot at the championsh. In 1983 they stopped him from traveling to his quarterfinal match in Pasadena, Calif. The official reason (later pressed into service for the Olympics) was “lack of security.” Only a sportsmanlike opponent and accommodating chess officials (they rescheduled the match without penalty) saved Kasparov from defaulting in the candidates’ round and losing his chance to challenge Karpov.

But challenge he did. The finals were held in the prestigious Hall of Columns in the House of Unions. That is, until Kasparov’s rally in the 47th game. Soviet authorities then suddenly moved the match to the Hotel Sport outside the city center. “Like moving from Carnegie Hall to a gin mill in Poughkeepsie,” says Larry Parr, editor of Chess Life magazine.

I interpreted the move to mean that Chernenko was about to die, since the Hall of Columns is where Soviet leaders (like Dmitri Ustinov) lie in state. Silly me. I was insufficiently cynical about Soviet behavior. The reason for the move was not to bury Chernenko (he continues to be propped up like a Potemkin villain), but to save Karpov. The move took eight days — eight otherwise illegal days of rest for Karpov.

It didn’t help. Karpov was too far gone. Kasparov destroyed him the very next day in the 48th game. Soviet officials then made sure it was the last.

Now do you believe me?

A month ago I would not have believed it myself. (Kasparov still does not believe it.) Fix the biggest chess match in the world? Steal the championship from one Soviet citizen for a marginal propaganda gain? In broad daylight?

Still, we must be careful. Unfortunate episodes like these tend to fuel native American paranoia about how far the Soviets will go in relentless pursuit of even the most speculative political advantage. We must resist such facile reactions. Next thing you know someone will claim that the KGB got the Bulgarians to hire a Turk to shoot the pope to pacify Poland.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1985/03/01/when-chess-becomes-class-warfare/51584d63-ede9-49bf-9b3f-40b7ea91e606/?utm_term=.ee5b4244d2fe

TYRANNY OF CHESS

By Charles Krauthammer October 16, 1998

Not all chess players are crazy. I’m willing to venture that. But not much more. Eccentricity does reign in our precincts. In my 20s, I used to hang out at the Boston Chess Club. The front of the club was a bookstore in which you’d mill around, choose a partner, put your money down with the manager and go to the back room — 20 or so boards set up in utter barrenness — for some action. (At five bucks an hour it was cheaper than a bordello, but the principle seemed disturbingly similar to me.)

I remember one back room encounter quite vividly. The stranger and I sat down to the board together. I held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Charles.” He pushed his white king’s pawn and said, “I’m white,” fixing me with a glare that said, “Don’t you dare intrude into my space with names.” It was dead silence from then on.

A psychiatrist colleague of mine came by to fetch me a few hours later. He surveyed the clientele — intense, disheveled, autistic — and declared, “I could run a group in here.”

Don’t get me wrong. Most chess players are sane. In fact, a group of the saner ones, mostly journalists and writers, meets at my house every Monday night for speed chess. (You make all your moves in under nine minutes total, or you lose.) But all sane chess players know its dangers. Chess is an addiction. Like alcohol, it must be taken in moderation. Overindulgence can lead to a rapid downward spiral.

Vladimir Nabokov (a gifted creator of chess problems and a fine player, by the way) wrote a novel based on the premise of the psychic peril of too close an encounter with “the full horror and abysmal depths” of chess, as he called its closed, looking-glass world. (Nabokov’s chess champion hero, naturally, goes bonkers.)

Chess players, says former U.S. champion Larry Christiansen, inhabit a “subterranean, surreal world. It is not the real world, not even close.” So what happens when a creature of that nether world seizes political power?

Impossible, you say: Sure, there have been dictators — Lenin, for example — who played serious chess, but there has never been a real chess player who became a dictator.

And no wonder, considering the alarming number of great players who were so certifiably nuts they’d have trouble tying their shoelaces, let alone running a country. Wilhelm Steinitz, the first world champion, claimed to have played against God, given Him an extra pawn, and won. Bobby Fischer had the fillings in his teeth removed to stop the radio transmissions.

Well, in some Godforsaken corner of the Russian empire, Kalmykia on the Caspian, where the sheep outnumber people 2 to 1, the impossible has happened. A chess fanatic has seized power. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former boy chess champion, current president of the International Chess Federation, was elected president of Kalmykia two years ago on the promise of a cell phone for every sheepherder and $100 for every voter in his destitute republic.

Naturally, nothing came of these promises. But once elected, he seized all the instruments of power including the police, the schools and the media.

Result? Ilyumzhinov calls it the world’s first “chess state.” God help us. Compulsory chess classes in all schools. Prime-time chess on TV. And in the midst of crushing poverty, a just erected “Chess City,” a surreal Potemkin village topped by a five-story glass-pavilioned chess palace where Ilyumzhinov has just staged an international chess tournament.

This scene (drolly described by Andrew Higgins in the Wall Street Journal) would be Groucho running Fredonia if it weren’t for the little matter of the opposition journalist recently murdered after being lured to a meeting where she was promised evidence of Ilyumzhinov’s corruption. (Ilyumzhinov denies involvement. Perhaps it depends on how you define the word “involve.”) Kalmykia is beginning to look less like Woody Allen’s “Bananas” than Nurse Ratched’s “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Ilyumzhinov rides around in his Rolls-Royces, presiding over a state that specializes in corruption and tax evasion. The Washington Post reports that he paved the road from the airport to the capital and painted every building along the way, but only the side that faces the road. So now the world knows what chess players have known all along: A passion for chess, like a drug addiction or a criminal record, should be automatic disqualification for any serious public activity. Column writing excepted, of course.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1998/10/16/tyranny-of-chess/8854cca6-ca40-4e90-bfa1-d9d90c5f4d6c/?utm_term=.d46f29d730b4

https://en.chessbase.com/post/krauthammer-on-che-just-how-dangerous-is-it-

Charles Krauthammer: Chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be

https://www.weeklystandard.com/be-afraid/article/9802

https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2018/02/07/the-brute-force-of-deep-blue-and-deep-learning/#3dfc9ad49e35

Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi: A Review

“The “Evil-Doer”, as the Soviet chess players now called Korchnoi, had turned chess into a matter of state urgency. The Soviet leadership received real time accounts of the world title matches as though they were dispatches from the front in time of war.”

It is difficult for anyone not living when Viktor Korchnoi

defected to understand what his leaving the “Mother country” meant to the Chess world at that time.

“…in taking a one-man stance against the hulking Soviet monster, he gained the entire world’s attention and imprinted his name in the history of the game forever. Just as a poet in Russia was much more than a writer, a grandmaster in the Soviet Union was much more than a chess player.”

“Chess’s next wave of popularity was exclusively down to Viktor Korchnoi. He represented quite a melting pot: the conflict between two opposing systems, the international tension caused by that very Cold War, and his personal drama, with the Soviet authorities refusing to allow his family to leave for the West. News of this standoff made chess front-page news again, and it was even the subject of the madly popular musical Chess, which ran for years in London and New York.”

Thus the stage is set by the author, GM Genna Sosonko in his magnificent new book, Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi.

“Almost half a century later, it is not easy to appreciate what such a decision by Korchnoi meant for a Soviet citizen, and how incredibly hard it was to make that final leap to freedom.”

Sosonko emigrated from the Soviet Union before Korchnoi, but he left after receiving permission from the monolithic State; Korchnoi defected, thus earning the opprobrium and enmity of not only the Soviet authorities, but also of the citizens of Russia. Korchnoi was considered a renegade; a traitor.

The following paragraphs explain the author’s aim in writing the book:

“There was a time when Sigmund Freud

dissuaded the writer Stephan Zweig

Stefan Zweig in seinem Salzburger Domizil am Kapuzinerberg. 1931. Photographie von Trude Fleischmann. [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance/IMAGNO ]

from attempting to compile the former’s biography: “Whoever becomes a biographer forces himself to tell lies, conceal facts, commit fraud, embellish the truth and even mask their lack of understanding – it’s impossible to achieve the truth in a biography, and even if it were possible, that truth would be useless and you could do nothing with it.”

“I have to agree with the father of psychoanalysis and I have not attempted to write Korchnoi’s biography as such. Rather, this is a collection of memories, or to be more precise still: a collection of explanatory notes and interpretations of incomprehensible or misunderstood events from the complex life of a man whom I knew for nearly half a century, and alongside whom I spent in total many months – indeed years. I want to believe that these recollections will not only uncover the motives behind his controversial actions, but will also shed light on his approach to the game, his personality and behavior in everyday life. In any event, a portrayal of Korchnoi must obviously highlight the most important feature of his life – his dedication to chess – which grew into an obsession.”

“When he turned seventy, he asked me to write the foreword to his collected games. Naturally, I hardly imbued my text written for his big occasion with “plain speaking.”

“Yet, in the book you are now holding, I have attempted to do just that: in my reflections on this great player, I wanted to display him, as the English say, warts and all.”

The author has achieved his goal. It must have been painful at times to write so openly and honestly about someone with whom one spent so much time, and about someone for whom he obviously had so much affection, but Sosonko has done a masterful job in this outstanding work of art. I lived during the era of which the author writes, but did not play Chess seriously until 1970. Therefore I learned much from the early, pre-1970, period of Viktor the Terrible. Even though I have read extensively about the Chess world much of what I read in this book shed light on some of the dark spots.

“This is how Canadian grandmaster Kevin Spraggett

described a conversation with (Boris) Spassky:

He began to list Korchnoi’s many qualities:

…Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Viktor’s ‘gift’)

…Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)

…Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)

…Ability to calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)

…Tenacity and perseverance in defense (unmatched by anyone)

…The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)”…Impeccable technique (flawless, even better than Capa’s)

…Capacity to concentrate (unreal)

…Impervious to distractions during the game

…Brilliant understanding of strategy

…Superb tactician (only a few in history can compare with Viktor)

…Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation

…Subtle psychologist

…Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)

…Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries

…Enormous energy and self-discipline

Then Boris stopped, and just looked at me, begging me to ask the question that needed to be asked…I asked: “But, Boris, what does Viktor lack to become world champion?” Boris’s answer floored me: “He has no chess talent!”

And then Spassky roared with laughter…(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/author/kevinspraggettonchess/page/366/)

Viktor Korchoi was what is popularly known as a “late bloomer.” He may have had little, or no, talent for Chess, but no Grandmaster ever out worked the Evil Doer. He rose to the rarefied heights attained by strong determination, and an indomitable will to win.

“Korchnoi was born in Leningrad into a Jewish family on 23 March 1931. Lev Korchnoi (Viktor’s father) was killed at the very beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War II, and Rosa Abramova (his mother) took Vitya’s upbringing upon herself. The little boy lived through the Blockade of Leningrad, the death of many nearest and dearest, cold and hunger, and at one point was hospitalized with dystrophy.”

“Graham Greene

claimed that a difficult childhood was a priceless gift for a writer, while Soviet grandmaster Alexander Tolush

asserted that you needed to be poor, hungry and angry to be good at chess. There is no doubt that being brought up without his father and his tough childhood contributed to Korchnoi’s difficult personality, and were the reasons for complexes that it took him many years to shed.”

Viktor overcame the obstacles in his path to challenge for the World Chess Championship, becoming the second best Chess player in the world.

“If he noticed somebody voluntarily choosing a passive or quite unpromising opening line, he would shake his head: “What can we say here? X had a difficult childhood, a difficult childhood.” He would repeat this at a training session of the Dutch team prior to the Haifa Olympiad (1976) when we were analyzing some opening of Polugaevsky’s. This expression caught on, and became part of Dutch chess folklore for many years: what, did you have a difficult childhood or something?”

“Vladimir Tukmakov,

who worked with Korchnoi in the early 1990’s, was also amazed at the famous veteran’s energy and emotional state:

The several days that we spent analyzing together during his candidates quarter-final again(st) Gyula Sax

(Wijk-aan-Zee 1991) enabled me to understand him much better than the ten or so games that we had played against each other until then. Korchnoi was spewing out ideas like a fountain. Sometimes we would spend almost an entire day on chess, yet like a child he would then continue to play around with the chess pieces, trying out various positions.

Vasily Ivanchuk

also noticed this quality:

Sometimes you ask somebody to look at a position and they refuse – “I’m not interested, I don’t play that line.” Well, you would never hear such words from Viktor Lvovich. He would analyze any position, attempting to grasp it and suggesting ideas. For example, we would look at a position where we needed to find a way for black to equalize or for white to gain an advantage. When it looked like we had found it, everything seemed to work, and we had checked the variations, I would have stopped there. Yet Korchnoi always tried to penetrate the position more deeply, and to see if there was another way.

Jan Timman,

who had composed studies since he was young (http://www.arves.org/arves/index.php/en/halloffame/264-timman-jan), recalled: Viktor, unlike many colleagues, always took an interest in my compositions, and we would often spend hours analyzing together.”

Now the players no longer analyze, they head for the nearest computer for the answer.

“Korchnoi was sixteen when he managed to draw a game against Estonian master Ivo Nei

after escaping from the jaws of defeat. “This was the first time that I felt pleasure from a difficult, tiresome defense! But if, in my youth, the desire to defend was driven by mischief, a love for risk, then in the subsequent years defense became my serious, practical and psychological weapon. I enjoy drawing my opponent forward, allowing him the taste of attack during which he might get carried away, drop his guard, sacrifice some material. I often exploit those episodes to launch a counterattack, and that’s when the real battle begins,” Korchnoi said at the start of the 1960’s. He concluded: “Masters of defense have contributed no less to chess history than masters with an attacking style!”

“Only Korchnoi can capture that pawn!” became a widely-used cliche to describe position where any sane chess player would not even consider accepting a sacrifice.

“Shall we ‘Korchnoi’ a bit?” I had heard masters and even grandmasters suggest this during analysis back tn the Soviet Union, when they considered capturing material that appeared particularly dangerous to accept.

Journalists of course lapped up the Leningrad grandmaster’s attitude to the game: “A man of courage who chose defense as his weapon!”…”Korchnoi captured the poisoned pawn and chalked up another win!”…”After the Leningrader accepted everything thrown at him in sacrifice, his opponent found himself without a mating attack and raised the white flag.” Phrases like these were often found in tournament reports.

“At the end of his life, Francois Mauriac wrote” “I’m not brave enough to revise my technique, as Verdi did after Wagner appeared.”

“Well, Korchnoi did have enough bravery. Middle aged, he decided to review his approach to the game, to become broader minded, to throw off his focus on material, to learn to play positions with the initiative, with sacrifices and with material imbalances. He managed to do this in the prime of a successful career. Only professionals are capable of appreciating the gigantic effort that Korchnoi made.”

“He said one day: “You know, I have a son in Ukraine, he’s 32 years old. Recently, he wrote to me that he had just realized that he had lived half his life. Well, at that age I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how to play chess!
Even though that’s when I won the national championship for the second time! I suppose you need a great deal of talent to win the championship of the Soviet Union without knowing many of the laws of chess! After all, all sorts of things have been written about me! I’m a great defender, that my play resembles Dostoevsky and all sorts of nonsense. Yet I couldn’t have played any differently, I didn’t know how to! So I started to work. I analyzed thousands of games. I mastered the most important skill of all – to wield the initiative!”

“Yet, after changing his style, he retained his won, original way of looking at the game. Korchnoi’s deliberations about chess were always to the point, yet unexpected.”

I end the review here. I could continue, going on and on, ad infinitum. I have attempted to convey the tenor of the book to the reader to the best of my ability. You, the reader, will decide if I managed to impart a glimmer of what this marvelous book contains.

A personal note: While reading a book to review I never write in the book; any book. To do so would be to deface the book. A book is sacrosanct. I place paper in the book, and then reread the pages containing the inserted slips of paper. It is almost like reading it twice. I agonized on what to include, which caused much anguish after deciding to exclude parts for the review. While rereading parts of the book I cogitated on how to begin the review. This, too, caused much anguish. There is so much contained in the book that I could write other, totally different, reviews, using none of the above.

I have read every book written by the author, one of the very best writer’s on the Royal game, not to mention his many articles. My admiration for Genna Sosonko is unbounded. This work is his pièce de résistance.