Pitiful Chess

Before the last round of the Netanya International Chess Festival 2019 Leinier Dominguez Perez was tied for first with Boris Gelfand, both with five points. The former, now representing the USA, was the higher rated, and younger, player. Dominguez Perez also had the white pieces. The “game” follows:

Leinier Dominguez Perez vs Boris Gelfand

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. O-O Bg7 6. Re1 Nh6 7. c3 O-O 8. h3 f5 9. e5 Nf7 10. d3 a5 11. Na3 Ba6 12. Bf4 e6 13. Qd2 h6 14. h4 1/2-1/2

This is pitiful Chess. Something is drastically wrong with Chess when any player refuses to play for a win in the last round to win a tournament. Some say there is no incentive for a player to “risk all” to win when a quickie draw will tie for first place. Is there not enough incentive for these chumpy-lumpy types to play for a win? Why is winning the tournament not enough incentive, as it was for Bobby Fischer, and appears to be for Magnus Carlsen? Why do these cowards even play the Royal game? What is the point of “playing” the game if the result is a short draw? Why is Chess taken seriously by some people? What is it about the culture of Chess that it has become accepted practice for the best human players alive to not play Chess? Imagine going to a Baseball game and watching the two teams bat in the first inning with neither team scoring before ending the game by agreeing to a draw. How long would Major League Baseball last? If the current conditions, conducive to “playing” quick draws, continue being acceptable how long will Chess last as a serious game?

Chess in Schools and Communities Initiative

LM Brian McCarthy left a comment on the previous post and provided a very interesting link. Brian writes, “Susan Sallon explores the impact of chess on primary school children’s cognitive development. She debunks every last study before hers as being flawed by low numbers as you say or bad methodology or both. Her’s is hard to find fault with, unless you want every grade tested in the same fashion.”

I would urge anyone with interest in this subject to read what Susan has to say. For example, I quoted GM Yasser Seirwan in the previous post concerning the “Margulies” study. This is what Susan has to say about that particular study:

“In the South Bronx NYC, Stuart Margulies (1990 – 1992) conducted a study to look at changes in reading scores after chess instruction. Mid-elementary school children joined chess clubs at school. In the 1st year, they received instruction by chess masters. In the 2nd year, they also participated in computer-supported chess activities. Chess club membership was voluntary. Before the study began, students were assessed, using a standardised reading test. In this instance, the “control” group was the National Norm for the same grade students in the same school district. Students in the chess group made greater improvements than the national norm. However, since the chess group had higher pre-test scores than the control, Margulies aimed to address the selection bias, by comparing the chess group scores with those of a non-chess control group, consisting of children with pre-test scores comparable to the chess group. But again, the chess group showed more gains than the control group. However, Margulies himself, is quick to point out that “chess participants form a pool of intellectually gifted and talented students. Students who join this group make contact with a core of high achievers and thereby develop more academic interest, speak at higher levels of standard speech……”

Brian also provides a link to a page which contains an interesting study recently conducted in Great Britain by “the “Chess in Schools and Communities” Initiative (CSC) set up by International Chess Master, Malcolm Pein.” A link can be found in Brian’s comment, and I will provide a link to the PDF of “Susan Sallon explores the impact of chess on primary school children’s cognitive development.” (http://www.chessinschools.co.uk/download/research/Susan_Sallon_Dissertation.pdf)

This study appears to be very good news for the effect chess can have on students. It is possible that this is the best news of any study yet conducted on chess and education, at least from a chess perspective. Kudos to LM Brian McCarthy for sharing this information!

Former GCA Board member Tim Payne, who resigned from the board, along with the man I hope becomes the next President of the Georgia Chess Association, Frank Johnson, sends information about the “largest study in world about impact of chess on education is underway in Israel.” – http://www.israel21c.org/social-action-2/can-chess-make-you-smarter/

In an article, Can chess make you smarter? by Viva Sarah Press, dated January 23, 2013, we learn, “Boris Gelfand made all the right moves to become Israel’s highest-ranking chess player. Now, he’s partnering up with an Israeli university to launch the country’s first scientific research project focused on chess. The Grandmaster Chess Research Project is a one-of-a-kind initiative to develop a novel academic approach to the skills and culture of chess-playing that can, in turn, contribute to social and scientific development.”

We also learn, “Gelfand’s ranking as vice world champion is what triggered the Grandmaster Chess Research Project.” That is the first time in my four and a half decades I have heard anyone called a “vice world chess champion” although I will admit to having heard some called the “world champion of vice.”

“The program will provide an opportunity to achieve breakthrough research and social outreach in a field that has not yet been fully explored,” said University of Haifa Vice President and Dean of Research Prof. Michal Yerushalmy. The researchers will examine the impact of chess on students’ abilities in math, language acquisition, and other areas.”

“I am sure this will make our society better,” Gelfand said during a toast to launch the new research initiative. “I know leading intellectual professionals who succeeded thanks to their playing chess in school and continued playing alongside their professional development.”

My thanks to Tim Payne for sharing the information. Many detract from, but only a few “add to” the discussion, and I appreciate those, like Brian and Tim, who have added something pertinent. The more one knows the better the chances of obtaining the truth, at least in theory.

The Hebrew Hammer

Before the start of the Petrosian Memorial the Legendary Georgia Ironman picked Boris Gelfand to win. I scoffed. In the previous tournament, the FIDE Grand Prix in Tashkent, GM Gelfand tied for last place without winning a game. This came on the heels of the first stage of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he tied for first place with Fabiano Caruana. With only a few days separating the tournaments, Tim said the players were being bussed around the former Soviet heartland like a circus troop. As can be seen from the play, the players obviously need a break for rest, but something as simple as that is apparently anathema to the FIDE leadership. Kirsan and the ET’s do not play, so why would they know anything about a chess player needing rest?

Decades ago Mad Dog Gordan had a collection of baseball cards that consisted of Jewish players. He called them the “Hammering Hebe’s.” Tim calls Boris Gelfand, the “Hebrew Hammer.” I can assure you this is a terrific sign of respect from the LGI! I, too, have a great deal of respect for the Hammer, but not enough to predict an obviously exhausted Gelfand to win the tournament named after the legendary Tigran Petrosian.

The Hebrew Hammer beat Peter Leko in the final round of the Petrosian Memorial today to finish tied for third place at +1, along with Levon Aronian, who also won his last round game. Alexander Grischuk finished first in an impressive performance, while Vladimir Kramnik came second, showing the good form that has eluded him recently.

Boris Gelfand did not win the tournament, but I was wrong to scoff at Tim’s suggestion that he would win. Never discount the Hebrew Hammer!

Riding the Roller Coaster with Hikaru Nakamura

David Spinks, the caretaker of what has become known as the Dump, officially the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, had difficulty wrapping his mind around the fact that I could watch a game of baseball, or any other sporting event, for just the joy of it. “”You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” Spinks would say. True to his words, David would “pull” for a golfer by the name of Briny Baird. I looked Briny up once, learning his given name is Michael Hancey; that he attended Ga. Tech before transferring to Valdosta State University where he won the NCAA Division II individual golf championship in 1994 and 1995. Spinks knew none of this and was surprised when informed, questioning why I would have gone to the trouble to learn more about Briny. I told him I wanted to understand what motivation he could have had to “pull” for Briny, adding, “It must be the hat.” David looked at me incredulously and said, “I like his name. Who ever heard of a name like Briny?” Since Briny has the distinction of being the richest golfer never to win a PGA Tour event, earning over $12 million during his career, but coming up short five times, I guess he needs all the fans he can get to “pull” for him…
Eleven years of my early life were devoted to playing baseball, and I have learned from reading about the brain that I watch baseball because in my mind it is like I am actually playing the game. I will, though, “pull” for my home teams, such as the Atlanta Braves and Ga. Tech Yellow Jackets.
I am a fan of the game of chess and very much enjoy watching the top level events broadcast in real time via the internet. Although I realize it is wrong to wish for things that never were, I cannot help think about how wonderful it would have been to be able to watch the Fischer-Spassky match for the World Championship in the way I was able to watch the match between Anand and Gelfand. Now I follow Hikaru Nakamura with a passion. His games are interesting and often exciting to behold. His play evokes visceral emotions. For example, yesterday he beat the World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, with the black pieces in the sixth round of the Tal Memorial. In so doing he launched his g-pawn at the Champ. After it was taken, Nakamura was left with a ruptured King side formation. I used to play that way, and would usually lose. My opponents were nowhere near world class. Seeing this on The Week In Chess (http://www.theweekinchess.com/) sent me to the Chess Bomb (http://chessbomb.com/) which has analysis by the program known as Houdini. It did not have the g-pawn launch as one of the top four moves, but the dagger aimed at the heart of the Tiger of Madras won the game. What does Houdini know?
Hikaru, playing white, began the tournament with a horrible loss to Mamedyarov. The roller coaster began a steep descent. It was short though, as the roller coaster began its climb. Then three wins in succession against three of the top players in the world. The coaster leveled out with a draw before attaining its zenith, as Hikaru beat the Champion of the World. Then the roller coaster encountered precipitous fall, as Nakamura lost with white to the grizzled veteran, Boris Gelfand, the man who took the World Champ into souped-up, heebe-jeeb, tie break games before losing the match for the title. A strange thing happened in that the loss has seemed to embolden Boris ‘Grizzly’ Gelfand, while leaving Anand a toothless tiger from Madras. With his win with the Chelyabinsk variation of the Pelikan Sicilian, Grizzly Gelfand has taken the lead from our hero. Like Bobby Fischer put it after losing game four of his rematch with Boris Spassky, “That’s chess, you know. One day you give a lesson, the next day your opponent gives you a lesson.”
There are still two games to play, but Hikaru has to play the number one player in the world, Magnus Carlsen, with black, tomorrow. Thus, Boris would seem to have easier pairings for the last two rounds, but anything can happen when one rides the roller coaster with Hiraru Nakamura!