All The Wrong Moves Review: Part 3 One Night In Bangkok

The third chapter begins, “My headlong descent into an Internet chess wormhole did terrible things to my personality.”

Let me take a moment to inform you, the reader, that I once tried to play the Royal game on the internet. This was at the former Atlanta Chess & Game Center on one of the computers in the back room. It only took a few games before the realization hit me in the form of a question. “What the fork are you doing, man?” That particular form of Chess held absolutely no interest for me and, frankly, I question the sanity of anyone who would do such a thing.

Mr. Chapin continues, “This is because Internet chess is a fertile breeding ground for hatred. When you’re playing someone who isn’t visible, known to you only by their nickname – SchellingFord or ButtSex69 – your competitive instincts are unmitigated by the basic civilizing effect of the presence of a living person before you.”

This reminded me of the time Lester Bedell, after having been away from the House of Pain for about a year, walked through the door just in time to be paired for the nightly tournament. I asked Lester where he had been during the year he had missed and he replied, “I was playing on the internet.” Later, between rounds, I asked Lester why he had returned to the House. “Mike,” he began, “It’s not the same, playing on a computer. I returned because I missed playing a human being.”

Sasha continues, “But on the Internet, the patter is a little different. When somebody asks you what cup size your mother is, you say, “Fuck you.”

“How your mother do it?”

“I ignored his continuous abuse until right before the end of the game, when I offered the gracious message “You lose.”

“Come in hell for cock suck,” he responded.

Why would anyone in their right mind spend their precious time cursing someone via the internet while playing Chess? There was much trash talking in the pits, or skittles room, at the House of Pain, but without the cursing and without involving anyone’s mother, fortunately. What was heard, mostly, was what could be called “good natured trash talk,” if such a thing is possible. I never liked trash talking and never understood why anyone would do it other than to break the concentration of his opponent. I would watch players trash talking each other while those watching the game would laugh uproariously and think of something IM Boris Kogan was fond of saying, “This is not chess.” Writing this caused me to reflect upon something written in the previous chapter, “Badly played chess is kind of like badly played life.”

Because of constantly playing Chess on the internet, “My life was a constant alternation between triumph and ignominy, all delivered through the glow of my MacBook. The ratio of wins to losses was the determinant of my whole emotional spectrum.”

Is that not sad? Then reality struck.

“At some point I became alarmed that I wasn’t actively seeking human company. It wasn’t exactly that I was getting lonelier. It’s that I was disturbed by how little my loneliness was affecting me now that I was playing chess. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. There was an ideal personality I was supposed to be striving for: that of a witty and urbane writer-type who would fling consequential phrases from his well-compensated fingers before going our in the evening to quip his way through intimate gatherings and win over strangers with lustrous anecdotes. But none of that was happening at all. In Bangkok, a bright and gritty city, totally free to be whomever I wanted, I was becoming a chess nerd.”

Who wants to be a chess nerd, right? Actually, Chess nerds come in various shapes and sizes. To wit:

“So, I downloaded Tinder, in an attempt to prove to myself that I still possessed worldly desires. Resultantly, I met up with a cute girl named Sundae on a lantern-lit patio. She was charming and smart and full of contagious optimism, sure that both of our lives would be forever involved in a state of continuous improvement and joy.”

Oh, to be young again! Her name was Cecelia Jordan, Cecil for short. She had driven a clunker all the way from Sacremento, California, to become a stewardess for Delta Air Lines. She was cute as a button with a rather deep voice like that of one of my earliest crushes, June Allyson. She initiated me into the “Mile High Club.”

I digress…

Sasha and Sundae had a wonderful one night in Bangkok. “But later that week, when she sent me a very felicitous text, I was deep in a chess game. Two days later, she texted me again, at 1 a.m. But I didn’t respond immediately because I was deep in a chess game.”

He fell into the rabbit hole…”My only contacts with non-chess reality were Elena and Sally…”

“So, it occurred to me, in Bangkok, as I started feeling like a sack of fatback left under a heat lamp, that I might be in the middle of this cycle again. Perhaps my chess infatuation was just another vanishing fancy…”

To Sasha it was obvious things had to change because, “I was becoming frightened of my increasingly hostile interior landscape, so I decided that I needed counsel. Therapy occurred to me…Instead, I decided I needed the presence of other chess players, who would steer me in the right direction. I took a shower, got on the Skytrain, and went to meet the Bangkok Chess Club.”

The club met on the upper floor of a pub on the far end of Soi Cowboy, one of Bangkok’s high-efficiency sex markets. Pink lights illuminated pink banners over bars where pink drinks were served by women wearing pink bikinis. Reality was painted one color. Up and down the neon-crated avenue, the working women preened with numbers pinned to their chests. It was a slow night, so the salesmanship was particularly energetic. One woman in a barely existing spandex onesie took my hand and asked me where I was going. When I didn’t offer a distinct answer, she took hold of my crotch. I gently removed her hand from my person, saying something like, “Excuse me, ma’am, I have to go to chess club.”

“At the chess club…Social affiliation has only one cost: the game of chess. Friendship in chess is simple. It isn’t about smartly signaling that you’ve got the right opinions about recent topics. It’s about examining small areas of the game’s infinite tapestry – finding each other in a landscape that transcends the complexities of cultural taste, as well as every geographical boundary. This common bond engenders a positive spirit. With the exception of a few petty jerks, chess players tend to be cooperative creatures.”

“That first night at chess club

brought me back from the edge of melancholy.”

“There are different kinds of players, and broadly, you can sort them by how crazy they are.”

“Strangely, I now remember those pre-tournament days fondly, and not just because of the specialty beverages of Southeast Asia. When you’re devoting your life to chess, even if the devotion is as troubled as mine was, there’s a satisfying purity to it all. You’re surrendering yourself to a search for aesthetic pleasure as well as mental fitness. Chess, to the seasoned player, is pretty like poetry is pretty – it bears the wonder of indelible combinations arising from a simple language.”

It also brought information about a chess tournament, and a chess teacher named Mike. Before the first round of the tournament Mike said, “I’ll be watching you.”

“Do you have any advice? I asked.”

“Be calm,” he said. Ignore psychology, ignore your self, ignore the face of you opponent – just play a good move.”

“I lost the game in fifteen moves, in fifteen minutes – an astonishingly brief amount of time…”

“After I slept for twelve hours, I emailed the tournament directors, announcing my resignation. I would not be attending the remaining six games. This brought me great, instant relief. Clearly, I had been right when I was a teenager – chess just wasn’t my game. A chess hobby would lead only to misery and frustration. I decided to quit, and to keep doing things I was good at.”

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau: A Review

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau,

is a beautiful book written about a lifelong love between two people, one of whom, Mikhail Tal,
happened to win a World Chess Championship match against the man called “the patriarch of the Soviet School of Chess,” Mikhail Botvinnik. (

The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (, is a wonderful history of a time long gone with the wind. The author brings to life a different time and the people who lived during the Soviet Communist period. The book, like a Chess game, has only three chapters, the opening by Sally, the middle by Gera, the son of Mikhail and Sally Tal, and the end, again by Sally.

She begins the book by writing about herself. “I am an inconsistent and impulsive person, who first does and only then thinks about what I have done. I am an ordinary, vulnerable woman, in which a womanly nature lived and lives, found joy and finds joy, suffered and suffers, in the full sense of those words. The way I see it, selfishness and a desire for independence somehow manage to coexist inside me with love for the people surrounding me and a subconscious wish to be a woman protected by a man who lives for me – protected by him from all sorts of major and minor everyday troubles.”

Later she writes, “Still sharp contradictions coexisted within me: on the one hand, this immense fear of losing my personal freedom, on the other hand, this equally immense fear of solitude and a subconscious desire to have a strong man beside me with whom I wouldn’t be afraid of falling off an overturned boat in the open seas, even if I didn’t know how to swim. These contradictions played a significant role in my life with Misha…”

She writes about her impression of what it was like being a Jew in the Soviet Union. “So it wasn’t the external appearance of the Tals’ apartment that struck me that evening. Rather, it was its anti-Soviet spirit that I sensed. I immediately inhaled this pleasant middle-class air. It was apparent straight away that the people living there were not “mass-produced” but very much “hand-crafted”, and that relations between them did not fit into the usual framework of socialist society.”

“Misha was born a frail child. He had two fingers missing from his right hand. When she (Ida, Mikhail Tal’s mother) first saw her son after he was brought to her and unwrapped from his swaddling clothes she again fainted in shock at the site of his three crooked fingers. She was unable to breastfeed. Her lack of milk was perhaps due to those shocks. She was treated for a long time after that.

“When he was just six months old, Misha was struck by a nasty meningitis-like infection with a very high temperature and convulsions. The doctor said that his chances of making it were remote, but that survivors turn out to be remarkable people. Well, Misha began to read at the age of three, and by the age of five he was multiplying three-digit numbers – while adults were still struggling to solve the math with a pencil he would tell them the answer.”

“He got “infected” with chess at the age of seven and began to spend nearly all his time at the chess club, nagging adults to play him.”

Gera was a Medical Doctor and qualified to write about Tal’s well known medical problems.

“Well, the actual start of my father’s physical ailments, however banal it may sound, was the fact of his birth. Ever since then he simply collected illnesses. But the fundamental cause of course was his totally pathological, nephrotic kidney. It tortured him relentlessly. People suffering from kidney disease know that there is nothing worse in the world than pains in the kidneys. I don’t understand how such people can even exist, let alone play chess. I’m sure that it wasn’t my father who lost the return match to Botvinnik,

but his diseased kidney.”

“My father treated his life like a chess game, somewhat philosophically. There’s the opening, then the opening transposes into the middle game, and if no disaster strikes in the middle game you get into a dull, technical endgame, in which a person ultimately has no chances. As far as I know, father didn’t gain pleasure from playing endgames – he found them boring and insipid. Force him to give up smoking, brandy, partying and female admirers – basically, the source of intense experiences in the middle game of life – and he would find himself in the endgame, when he would have nothing left to do other than passively see out the rest of his life. However, that would have been a different person just resembling Tal. And what’s the difference – to die spiritually or die physically if you can no longer be Tal?”

Throughout their life, together and apart, Mikhail and Sally had other loves and lovers, yet remained friends. A love interest of his was written about but only named by the letter “L.” Research shows this was Larisa Ivanovna Kronberg,

a Soviet/Russian actress and a KGB agent. She was named Best Actress at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in A Big Family. In 1958, she was involved in the Ambassador Dejean Affair, Kronberg lured Dejean in a honey trap. She was in a long-time relationship with World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal in the 1960s, they parted in the 1970s. (

Sally had an affair with a man about whom she writes, “I won’t name him in the book. Why? Let’s say he was a high-up government official…I will call him “The Minister”…Let that be his name here.” Reading this caused me to reflect upon something IM Boris Kogan said decades ago about the KGB. “Mike, KGB like octopus with many tentacles that reach everywhere!” The relationship between Sally and “The Minister” was doomed to failure because a good Soviet communist did not consort with a Jew. Sally writes, ” Misha was such a unique person! I was living with Alnis; at the time he was effectively a common-law husband; and Misha understood that perfectly well. And yet, while he treated Alvis with respect, he continued to consider me his only woman and the most important woman in the world – his Saska. Alnis took quite a liking to Misha, saw what a remarkable person he was, and would say of him: “Tal isn’t a Jew. Tal is a chess genius.”

Tal playing the husband of his former wife Joe Kramarz, not only a Chess player but a HUGE fan of Mikhail Tal!

The book is replete with things like this from Yakov Damsky writing in Riga Chess, 1986. “He has a wonderful ability with language and always has a sharp wit. I remember, for example, after a lecture some tactless dude asked Tal: “Is it true you’re a morphinist?” to which Tal instantly replied: “No, I’m a chigorinets!”

“Petrosian once joked morbidly: “If I lived the way Tal does I would have died a long time ago. He’s just like Iron Felix.” (The nickname of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB)

Having worked at the House of Pain I got a kick out of this: “Chess players talk to each other in the language of notation. I was always amazed at this. Although I understood nothing of it, I listened to them as though they were aliens, observing their emotions. If, for example, Tal, Stein and Gufeld got together, their conversation could flow along the following lines:

Gufeld: What would you say to knightdfourfsixbishopg2?
Stein: Bishopgsevenfgknightdefivecheck!
Tal: Yes but you’ve forgotten about if knightfsixintermezzoqueenheight!
Gufeld: Pueenheightrookgeightwithcheckandrooktakesheight and you’re left without you mummy!
Tal: But after bishopeone you’re left without your daddy!
Stein: Bishopeone doesn’t work because of the obvious knighttakesoneecfourdekinggsevenrookasevencheck!

And this wonderful chitchat would continue endlessly, with people not “in-the-know” thinking they were in a madhouse.”

During tournaments at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center it could be, at times, a “Madhouse of Pain.”

A player would walk up talking about his game in these terms while having the position clearly in his mind. I, on the other hand, had no clue, but would nod in agreement, or frown when called for, while commiserating with the player, understanding, but not understanding, if you get my drift. The worst was when two players who had just finished their game would come downstairs talking in variations, bantering back and forth, then look at me asking, “What do you think, Mr. Bacon?!” To which my usual response was, “That’s a heckofaline!” Hopefully they would smile and nod in agreement before giving way to the next player or players wishing to tell me all about their game…

“A grandmaster said to me once: “When Misha finds himself in a hopeless position, his head tells him this but he doesn’t believe that he, Tal, has no chances. He starts to seek a saving combination, convinced that such a combination exists – it’s just a matter of locating it. And as a rule he finds it. However, despite all its beauty and numerous sacrifices, the combination turns out to be flawed, and then the defeat becomes for him even more painful and humiliating than if he had been physically dragged face down in the road.”

After reading the above I reflected upon a game recently played over contain in the latest issue of Chess Life magazine. In reply to a letter to the editor GM Andy Soltis writes, “Good point, Dr. Seda-Irizzary. Tal is a splendid example because he understood the principle of “Nothing Left to Lose.” That is, when you are truly lost, you should forget about finding a “best” move that merely minimizes your lost-ness.” The game follows:

Vassily Smyslov

vs Mikhail Tal

Candidates Tournament Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 10/03/1959 round 15

B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.O-O d5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.b3 a5 12.Bb2 a4 13.a3 axb3 14.cxb3 Qb6 15.exd5 cxd5 16.b4 Nd7 17.Nb3 e5 18.Bf5 e4 19.Rec1 Qd6 20.Nd4 Bf6 21.Rc6 Qe7 22.Rac1 h6 23.Rc7 Be5 24.Nc6 Qg5 25.h4 Qxh4 26.Nxe5 Nxe5 27.Rxc8 Nf3+ 28.gxf3 Qg5+ 29.Kf1 Qxf5 30.Rxf8+ Rxf8 31.fxe4 dxe4 32.Qe3 Rd8 33.Qg3 g5 34.Rc5 Rd1+ 35.Kg2 Qe6 36.b5 Kh7 37.Rc6 Qd5

38.Qe5 Rg1+ 39.Kh2 Rh1+ 40.Kg2 Rg1+ ½-½

I conclude the review with this paragraph:

“Salo Flohr,

with whom I was great friends, once showed me around the Moscow chess club, and told me, pointing at the photos of world champions on the wall: Sallynka, look at them. They are all the most normal, mad people.” Well, I’m ever thankful that I lived my life among such “normal, mad people” as Misha,



and Tolya Karpov.

(Garry Kasparov is also a genius, but not mad – that’s my opinion, anyway.)”

I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. Anyone with a love of the history of the Royal Game will be greatly rewarded for spending their time reading a beautifully written love story surrounded by the “mad men” who play the game of Chess. Please keep in mind I have told you not all the words.
I give it all the stars in the universe!

Leningrad Dutch Wins 2019 US Chess Championship!

When four time US Chess Champion Hikaru Nakamura

absolutely, positively had to win with the black pieces in the final round of the 2019 US Championship he played the Leningrad Dutch

against Jeffrey Xiong

and won in style. Since Fabiano Caruana,

the world co-champion of classical Chess according to World Rapid Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen,

could only draw with the 2018 US Chess champion Sam Shankland

in the last round, and newcomer Lenier Dominguez Perez

managed to draw a won game versus tournament clown Timur Gareyev,

included only because he won the US Open, which is not and has not been an elite tournament for many years, Hikaru Nakamura, by winning became a five time winner of what he called, “…a super event, almost.” The inclusion of Timur the clown and Varuzhan Akobian,

a “fan favorite” at the St. Louis Chess Club we were informed by GM Maurice Ashley, made the event “almost” a super event. It is time the people in the heartland stop with the gimmicks and include only the best players on merit in the US Chess championship.

I have spent many hours this decade watching the broadcast via computer of the US Chess championships. The broadcasts have gotten better each year and now can be considered “World Class.” Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan,

Maurice Ashley,

and “Woman” Grandmaster (inferior to “Grandmaster” as she is only a Life Master according to the USCF), Jennifer Shahade

do an excellent job of covering the US Chess championships. The manager of the old Atlanta Chess Center, aka the “House of Pain,” David Spinks was fond of saying “You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” He found it difficult to believe anyone could watch anything, like Baseball or Golf, and not “pull” for someone, anyone, to win. I will admit to “pulling” for Bobby Fischer

to beat Boris Spassky

in 1972 World Chess championship, which he did, but now simply enjoy watching the event unfold. Every round is a different story, a story told well by Yaz, Maurice and Jen. But when Hikaru Nakamura moved his f-pawn two squares in reply to his opponent’s move of 1 d4 I unashamedly admit I began to “pull” for Hikaru to win the game and the championship. I was riveted to the screen for many hours this afternoon as the last round unfolded.

One of the best things about traveling to San Antonio in 1972 was being able to watch some of the best Chess players in the world, such as former World Champion Tigran Petrosian

and future WC Anatoly Karpov,

make their moves. I also remember the flair with which Paul Keres

made his moves. All of the players made what can only be called “deliberate” type moves as they paused to think before moving. IM Boris Kogan gave anyone who would listen the advice to take at least a minute before making a move because your opponent’s move has changed the game.

Lenier Dominguez Perez took all of eleven seconds to make his ill-fated twenty sixth move. If he had stopped to cogitate in lieu of making a predetermined move he might be at this moment preparing to face Nakamura in a quick play playoff tomorrow. I’m glad he moved too quickly, frankly, because I loathe and detest quick playoffs to decide a champion. Classical type Chess is completely different from quick play hebe jebe Chess. Wesley So obviously lacks something I will call “fire.” He took no time, literally, to make his game losing blunder at move thirty. Maybe someone will ask them why and report it in one of the many Chess magazines published these days.

What can one say about Jennifer Yu

other than she has obviously elevated her game to a world class level. She is young and very pretty so the world is her oyster. It was a pleasure to watch her demolish the competition this year. Often when a player has the tournament won he will lost the last round. Jennifer crowned her crown by winning her last round game, which was impressive.

The quote of the tournament goes to Maurice Ashley, who said, “When you’re busted, you’re busted.”

Best interview of this years championships:

Jeffery Xiong (2663) – Hikaru Nakamura (2746)

US Chess Championship 2019 round 11

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5 Na5 9. b3 c5 10. Bb2 a6 11. Ng5 Rb8 12. Qd3 Qe8 13. Nd1 b5 14. Qd2 Nb7 15. Ne3 Nd8 16. Nh3 Bd7 17. Rad1 b4 18. Qc2 a5 19. Nf4 a4 20. h4 Ra8 21. Qb1 Ra6 22. Bf3 Qf7 23. Neg2 Ng4 24. Bxg4 fxg4 25. e4 Bxb2 26. Qxb2 Qg7 27. Qxg7+ Kxg7 28. e5 Bf5 29. exd6 exd6 30. Rfe1 Nf7 31. Re7 Kf6 32. Rb7 axb3 33. axb3 Rfa8 34. Ne3 Ra1 35. Kf1 Ne5 36. Rxa1 Rxa1+ 37. Ke2 Nf3 38. Nxf5 Kxf5 39. Ke3 Re1+ 40. Kd3 Ne5+ 41. Kd2 Ra1 42. Ne6 h6 43. Rb6 Ra3 44. Kc2 Ra2+ 45. Kd1 Nd3 46. Rxd6 Nxf2+ 47. Ke1 Nd3+ 48. Kd1 Ke4 49. Nc7 Nf2+ 50. Ke1 Kd3 51. Rxg6 Ne4 52. Kf1 Nxg3+ 53. Kg1 Ne2+ 54. Kh1 Ke3 55. Rf6 Ra1+ 56. Kg2 Rg1+ 57. Kh2 g3+ 58. Kh3 Rh1+ 0-1

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 (Stockfish 181218 at depth 50 considers 7…c6 the best move. The game move has been my move of choice)

8. d5 Na5 (An older version of SF plays this but the newer versions prefer 8…Ne5, the only move I played because as a general rule I do not like moving my knight to the rim, where it is dim, much preferring to move it toward the middle of the board)

9. b3 c5 (9…a6, a move yet to be played, is the move preferred by Stockfish at the CBDB, while Houdini plays 9…Ne4)

10. Bb2 (SF 10 shows 10 Bd2 best followed by 10 Rb1 and Qc2) a6 11. Ng5 TN (SF has 11 Rb1 best, while Komodo shows 11 e3, a move yet to be played, but Houdini shows 11 Qd3 best and it has been the most often played move. There is a reason why the game move has not been seen in practice)

Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen (2469) vs Andres Rodriguez Vila (2536)

40th Olympiad Open 08/30/2012

1.Nf3 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.O-O Bg7 5.c4 O-O 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 Nc6 8.d5 Na5 9.b3 c5 10.Qc2 a6 11.Bb2 Rb8 12.Rae1 b5 13.Nd1 bxc4 14.bxc4 Bh6 15.e3 Ne4 16.Ba1 Rb4 17.Nd2 Nxd2 18.Qxd2 Rf7 19.Nb2 Bg7 20.Nd3 Nxc4 21.Qc2 Na3 22.Qc1 Ra4 23.Bxg7 Rxg7 24.Nb2 Ra5 25.e4 Nb5 26.a4 Nd4 27.e5 Bd7 28.exd6 exd6 29.Nc4 Rxa4 30.Nxd6 Qb6 31.Ne8 Rf7 32.d6 Bc6 33.Qh6 Qd8 34.Bxc6 Nxc6 35.Nc7 Re4 36.f3 Re5 37.Qd2 Rxe1 38.Rxe1 Nd4 39.Qf4 g5 40.Qe3 f4 41.Qe7 Nxf3+ 42.Kh1 Qf8 43.Qxf8+ Rxf8 44.Re7 Nd4 45.gxf4 gxf4 46.d7 Nc6 47.Re8 Nd8 48.Nxa6 c4 49.Re4 c3 ½-½

Z. Ilincic (2465) vs D. Sharma (2344)

Kecskemet Caissa GM 02

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5 Na5 9. b3 c5 10. Bb2 a6 11. Rb1 Rb8 12. Ba1 Bd7 13. Qd3 b5 14. h3 bxc4 15. bxc4 Rb4 16. Nd2 Qc7 17. Kh2 Rfb8 18. f4 Rxb1 19. Rxb1 Rxb1 20. Qxb1 Qb7 21. Qxb7 Nxb7 22. e3 Na5 1/2-1/2

The headline, Bearded men look angrier than clean-shaven types when they are angry made me think of Hikaru Nakamura:

I could not help but wonder if the beard had anything to do with his play in this tournament?

Just Checking The End Of The Line

Each issue of the best Chess magazine in the universe, New In Chess, culminates with Just Checking, which is a series of questions for various strong players from various parts of the world. Since I am not a titled player NIC will never interview me, yet I have sometimes fantasized about answering the questions posed. Some of the answers are surprising and each and every answer tells you something about the person providing the answer. Since it is a magazine with limited space most of the answers are short. Since this is a blog I can elaborate at length. Don’t get me started! I hope you enjoy what follows.

What is your favorite city?

Decatur, Georgia, the city of my birth.

What was the last great meal you had?

Something beautiful in its simplicity prepared by the woman with whom I was in love.

What drink brings a smile to your face?

Which book would you give to a dear friend?

I have no “dear friend.”

What book are you currently reading?

Just finished reading, Presumed Guilty: How and why the Warren Commission framed Lee Harvey Oswald, by Howard Roffman. Although it was published in the mid-seventies it had somehow escaped my attention. Although I had read a few books before beginning to work at the Oxford bookstore in Atlanta, my serious reading began a few years after the book was published, yet I missed it. I ordered the book after reading about it in Volume 20, #3 of the JFK/DEEP POLITICS QUARTERLY, published in August of 2018 by Walt Brown and Tim Smith (info @ Upon opening the package and reading the front of the dust jacket I turned to the back and was taken aback, no, ASTOUNDED, to see a picture of a young Justin Morrison, now owner of Kid Chess in Atlanta, Georgia ( I kid you not! The picture of the the young man bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Justin Morrison, who was one of my opponents in the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship. From the jacket: “Howard Roffman, now 23, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., where he attended public school. His interest in the assassination of President Kennedy began when he was fourteen, and he read everything he could lay his hands on on the subject. By 11th grade he had bought all 26 volumes of the Warren Report ($76), and, convinced of the inadequacy of the conclusions, he went to the National Archives and studied the files – the youngest researcher ever to see them. Alarmed at what he discovered, he writes, “I can’t think of anything more threatening than when the government lies about the murder of its leader.” It is a fine book and a clear refutation of the US Government’s “official” finding that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered the POTUS, John F. Kennedy.

What is your favorite novel?

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

Do you have a favorite artist?

Maxfield Parrish

Way back in the 1970’s a girlfriend, Cecil Jordan, who was from California, and came to Atlanta to become a stewardess for Delta Air Lines, took me to some place in San Francisco where the paintings of Maxfield Parrish were being shown. The colors, especially blue, were so very vibrant it was like they jumped out at you in a spectacular way. I fell in love with the artists work. The pictures one sees in a book or magazine are nice, but absolutely nothing like what one sees if fortunate enough to see the real McCoy.

What is your favorite color?

What is your all-time favorite movie?

When young it was Cool Hand Luke,

then came One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,

but I cannot watch either of them now because they are too depressing. The English Patient

became a candidate, but only one movie has stood the test of time. When channel surfing and the movie flashes upon the screen it matters not what is on any other channel as the surfing ends immediately. That movie is Casablanca.

What is your all-time favorite TV series?

Who is your favorite actor?

Humphrey Bogart.

And actress?

Kim Basinger

and Blair Brown.

To what kind of music do you listen?

Because of tinnitus I now listen to mostly what is called “ambient,” or “electronic,” or “New Age,” or “space” music. (

I have, at one time or another, listened to every kind of musical genre.

Who is your favorite composer?

Duke Ellington.

Favorite male singer/songwriter?

Bob Dylan


Joni Mitchell.

Best Rock & Roll song of all-time?

Like a Rolling Stone.

Like A Rolling Stone

Written by: Bob Dylan

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?

People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”

You thought they were all kiddin’ you

You used to laugh about

Everybody that was hangin’ out

Now you don’t talk so loud

Now you don’t seem so proud

About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be without a home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely

But you know you only used to get juiced in it

And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street

And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it

You said you’d never compromise

With the mystery tramp, but now you realize

He’s not selling any alibis

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

When they all come down and did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat

Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat

Ain’t it hard when you discover that

He really wasn’t where it’s at

After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people

They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made

Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things

But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose

You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

Favorite Rock & Roll song of all-time?

The Night They Drove Old Dixe Down.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

The Band

Produced by John Simon

Virgil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville train
‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell
It’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Back with my wife in Tennessee
When one day she called to me
“Virgil, quick, come see, there go the Robert E.Lee”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Like my father before me, I will work the land
And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand
He was just eighteen, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Best Rock & Roll band of all-time?

George Harrison of the Beatles said The Band was the best band in the universe. Who am I to argue with him?

What is your all-time favorite album?

The Romantic Warrior.

What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?

“Life is like the Bataan death march. Your best buddy might fall down but you cannot help him up because he will only drag you down so you gotta keep high-steppin’.”

Is there something you would love to learn?

The meaning of life.

What is your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

And your greatest regret?

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

Who is your favorite Chess player of all-time?

Robert J. Fischer.

Is there a Chess book that had a profound influence on you?

Chess Openings in Theory and Practice by I. A. Horowitz

I would also like to mention a Grandmaster for whom I much admiration, Vladimir Malaniuk,

because he devoted his entire life to playing the Leningrad Dutch, and with much success. For anyone desiring to play the Leningrad Dutch his book is de rigueur.

What does it mean to be a Chess player?


Is a knowledge of Chess useful in everyday life?


Do you have any superstitions concerning Chess?


If you could change one thing in the chess world what would it be?

End the offering of a draw, award more points for a win, especially with the black pieces, and rid Chess of all the people in positions of power who do not, and have not, played Chess, most of whom do not even like the game, and only want to “run things.”

That is three things.

You want me to go on?


That’s what I thought…

What is the best thing ever said about Chess?

Before the advent of the computer programs:

I believe in magic … There is magic in the creative faculty such as great poets and philosophers conspicuously possess, and equally in the creative chessmaster. – Emanuel Lasker

After the advent of the computer programs:

“The ability to combine skillfully, the capacity to find in each given position the most expedient move, is the quickest way to execute a well-conceived plan, and is in fact the only principle in the game of chess”- Mikhail Chigorin

What is the most exciting Chess game you have ever watched?

Keep in mind we were unable to “watch” most games ‘back in the day’. Even the World Championship games were replayed from the next days newspaper, which was usually the New York Times. Therefore, I am limited in the number of games I have “seen” in real time. That said, I was working the demo board the day the following game was played at the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio 1972 and managed to watch every move. It was “exciting” to me, and some of the home town crowd, to watch Ken Smith,

who had been manhandled by the GM’s (Ken did manage to draw earlier with Mario Campos Lopez, and beat former World Junior champion Julio Kaplan in the previous round eleven) draw with GM Paul Keres.

After the game someone mentioned something about Ken drawing because Keres was old and obviously tired. I responded, “What? You think Ken was fresh as a daisy? He has probably sat at the board longer and played more moves than any other player during the event because he was the lowest rated player, and the other players were going to test him in the endgame in each and every game.” Ken, known as the “Capablanca of the cattle country,” heard this, and was nice, and gracious to me from that day forward. Some years later I entered an elevator after losing a game in a big tournament, such as the World Open, or maybe the Western States Chess festival in Reno. There were three people on the elevator, one of whom was Ken. “How did you do, Mike?” He asked. I hung my head and answered, “I lost, Ken.”
“What opening did you play?” He asked. “It was a Leningrad Dutch,” I said. “Ah, at least you played a fighting opening!” For some reason that made me feel better and as he exited I smiled in response to his smile. It is difficult to make a player who has just lost a Chess game smile.

Paul Keres vs Kenneth Ray Smith
San Antonio (1972), San Antonio, TX USA, rd 12, Dec-04
English Opening: Anglo-Indian Defense. Queen’s Knight Variation (A16)

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. fxg7 cxd2+ 7. Bxd2 Bxg7
8. Qc2 Nd7 9. Ne2 Nf6 10. Ng3 Qc7 11. Bd3 Bd7 12. Bc3 O-O-O 13. O-O-O Ne8 14.
Rhe1 e6 15. Bxg7 Nxg7 16. Qc3 Nf5 17. Qf6 Rhf8 18. Re5 Kb8 19. Bxf5 exf5 20.
Qd6 Be6 21. Qxc7+ Kxc7 22. b3 Rxd1+ 23. Kxd1 Rg8 24. f4 Rg4 25. Ke2 Rxf4 26. h3
Kd6 27. Ra5 a6 28. Ke3 Rh4 29. Nxf5+ Bxf5 30. Rxf5 Ke6 31. Rg5 Rh6 32. Ke4 Rh4+
33. Ke3 Rh6 34. Kd4 Rg6 35. Re5+ Kd6 36. c5+ Kd7 37. g4 Rh6 38. Rf5 Ke6 39. Rf3
Rf6 40. Re3+ Kd7 41. Re5 Rh6 42. Re3 Rf6 43. Ke4 Ke6 44. Rd3 Rf2 45. Rd6+ Ke7
46. Rd4 Rxa2 47. Rb4 Ke6 48. Rxb7 Re2+ 49. Kd4 Rd2+ 50. Kc4 Rc2+ 51. Kb4 a5+
52. Kxa5 Rxc5+ 53. Kb4 Rc1 54. Rc7 Kf6 55. Ka3 Kg6 56. Kb2 Rc5 57. h4 h6 58.
Rd7 f6 59. Rd6 Kg7 60. h5 f5 61. Rg6+ Kh7 62. gxf5 Rxf5 63. Rxc6 Rxh5 64. b4
Rg5 65. Rc5 Rg8 66. b5 Kg6 67. Kc3 h5 68. b6 h4 69. Kd4 Rd8+ 70. Kc4 h3 71. Kb5
h2 72. Rc1 Kg5 73. b7 Rb8 1/2-1/2

What was your best result ever?

Winning the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship 5-0.

What was the best game you played?

A win with the black pieces vs Mark Pinto, or possibly a win vs the sour Kraut, LM Klaus Pohl which was published in Chess Life magazine.

FM Mark Pinto

vs Bacon

1986 US Open rd 4

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6
6. c3 Qd5 7. Ne2 Bg4 8. f3 Bf5 9. Ng3 Bg6 10. Qb3 Qxb3 11. axb3 e6 12. Be3 Nd7
13. b4 f5 14. Bc4 Nb6 15. Bb3 Nd5 16. Bd2 Be7 17. O-O h5 18. Ne2 h4 19. Nf4
Nxf4 20. Bxf4 h3 21. g3 a6 22. Be5 Rg8 23. Kf2 Bg5 24. f4 Be7 25. Bc7 Kd7 26.
Bb6 Bh5 27. Rfe1 Bd6 28. Rg1 Rg6 29. Bc4 Rag8 30. Rae1 Bxf4 31. gxf4 Rg2+ 32.
Rxg2 Rxg2+ 33. Ke3 Rxh2 34. Bd3 Ke7 35. Bc5+ Kf6 36. Bf8 Rg2 37. Bf1 Rg3+ 38.
Kf2 Rf3+ 39. Kg1 Bg4 40. Bh6 Kg6 41. Bg5 f6 42. Rxe6 h2+ 43. Kxh2 Rxf1 44.
Rxf6+ Kg7 45. Rd6 Rf2+ 46. Kg1 Rxb2 47. Rd7+ Kg6 48. Rxb7 Bf3 49. Rb6 Kh5 50.
Rxa6 Kg4 51. Ra1 Kg3 0-1

The game was annotated by GM Jon Speelman:

What is your most memorable game?

You and your Chess program will have a field day with this game. After making my twenty third move, which threatened checkmate, in addition to attacking the Queen, and knowing there were four ways my knight could be taken, all of which lose, I sat back and folded my arms with a smug look on my face, expecting my opponent to resign. It is the most beautiful move I have ever played on a Chess board. Instead, he did what a player is supposed to do, he put his head in his hands and “hunkered down.” Although I do not recall, it is highly probable I got up and strutted around the room, waiting for the resignation that did not come… I should have simply taken the knight. I did, though, learn a valuable lesson which I have attempted to teach everyone to whom I have given lessons. “Examine ALL CHECKS.”
The game was played in Midland, Texas, in the Halliburton Open, 1974. If I recall correctly, it was played in the second round, after I had lost to a NM named Gary Simms. I also recall that after I came back to win my last three games Mr. Simms was nice enough to say, “You showed us something by not withdrawing.”

T. Thompson vs Michael Bacon

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2
Qxb2 9. Nb3 Qa3 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Be2 h5 12. f5 Nc6 13. O-O Bd7 14. fxe6 fxe6
15. Rxf6 Qb4 16. a3 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Ne5 18. Rb1 Qc7 19. Nd4 Rc8 20. Qg5 Be7 21.
Bxh5+ Kd8 22. Rb3 Qc4 23. Rxb7


24. Nxe6+ Bxe6 25. Rf8+ 1-0

A close second would be a game in which I drew with IM Andre Filipowicz

with the black pieces in the first round of a weekend swiss tournament in Atlanta during the FIDE congress. IM Boris Kogan

Boris Kogan with raised hand at Lone Pine

and NM Guillermo Ruiz became excited with the possibility of my nicking an IM for a half-point to begin the tournament. I graciously accepted the draw offer in an even position, which brought relief to the other titled players because they knew I usually disdained a draw, preferring to play on in what was usually a futile effort.

Going back to my first blog, the BaconLOG ( I have been blogging, off and on, for over a decade. You cannot please all of the people but evidently, judging from some of the comments received, you can please some of the people. An example of the former would be this email received from the Ol’ Swindler:

raj kipling
To:Michael Bacon
Jul 19 at 9:27 AM
PLEASE remove my email address from any of you “blog” notifications…you are heading for a fall and I do not want to be dragged down with you…in fact do not email me under any circumstances…do not even respond to this email…forget that you even knew me…good luck…neal harris

Judging by the date it would appear Mr. Harris

did not care for my post of the previous day ( When we were together politics was never discussed. Why would we discuss politics when there was Chess to discuss? I did, though, travel with the Ol’ Swindler to Waynesville to attend the Smoky Mountain Chess Club once and Neal did stop at a survivalist store where it could be gleaned from the very right of center conversation all of the votes there would go to Republican candidates…

Fortunately most of the email responses received have been positive. For example:

Kevin Spraggett

To:Michael Bacon
Nov 3 at 10:02 PM
Great Article, Michael. You have become a wonderful writer!


To:Michael Bacon
Dec 10 at 6:05 AM
Great article! You are a very good writer ( I was an English major and went to grad school so I notice these things!).


That would be Karen Boyd, wife of GM Ben Finegold.

“A man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” I cannot recall when or where I heard, or read, that, but know it is true. I have had enough blogging. We, dead reader, have reached…

End of the Line
The Traveling Wilburys
Featuring Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne & 2 more
Produced by Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison) & Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne)
Album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

[Chorus 1: George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand

[Verse 1: Tom Petty]
You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring
Waiting for someone to tell you everything
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring
Maybe a diamond ring

[Chorus 2: Jeff Lynne]
Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgement Day

[Verse 2: Tom Petty]
Maybe somewhere down the road away
You’ll think of me, and wonder where I am these days
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays
Purple haze

[Chorus 3: Roy Orbison]
Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

[Verse 3: Tom Petty]
Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive
It don’t matter if you’re by my side
I’m satisfied

[Chorus 4: George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say

[Jeff Lynne]
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please

[George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

After a sports memorabilia show about three decades ago the self-proclaimed Legendary Georgia Ironman and I were at Spondivits, a bar with a seafood motif, when one of the songs, from the album, Tweeter and the Monkey Man began blasting from the excellent sound system. The late afternoon, early evening crowd broke into song, and we were with them. “Wow Mike,” the smiling Tim Brookshear, schooner filled with beer, said, “I’ve never been in a bar when everyone in the place sang along with the song!”

For that reason alone I nominate Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 for best Rock & Roll album of all-time.

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.

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.” (

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

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 (, 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?”

Magnus Carlsen’s Bishop’s Opening

Having recently annotated a Bishop’s Opening played in the Women’s World Championship I had not intended on annotating the following game played in the ongoing Altibox Norway Chess 2018 tournament, but since it was yet another BO played by the human World Champion Magnus Carlsen, versus his challenger for the crown later this year, my mind was changed. Rather than making extensive comments I decided to make only a few pertinent comments, since the game has been annotated by many, including video(s) of the game, which can be found everywhere. In addition, Chessbase is now advertising a new video, The Bishop’s Opening and the Italian game, by GM Sergei Tiviakov.

I could not help but wonder if this product is being brought to the market now because of its use by the World Champ, Magnus Carlsen? The article/advertisement is authored by Davide Nastasio, who writes for the Georgia Chess Magazine (, which is now mainly devoted to reviews in lieu of articles concerning Georgia Chess. He begins the article, “This DVD could be Carlsen’s answer to Caruana’s unbeatable Petroff Defence.” I can only hope Magnus opens with 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 one time in the upcoming World Championship. Imagine one of your “off-beat” openings that has been derided and ridiculed for decades being played in a match for the human World Championship!

The aforementioned game ( between Zhongyi Tan

and Wenjun Ju

began 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+. This caused a pause to study the position. The automatic response seems to be the move played, 7 c3. What if white plays 7 Bd2? Black could (should?) retreat the bishop as taking the bishop on d2 would mean black has moved his bishop twice in order to take a piece that has only moved once, thereby facilitating his opponents development. It would appear blacks best move would be to simply play 7…Bd6. But what if black takes the bishop? Does white take with the knight, playing , after 8…Bxd2, 9 Nxd2, or 9 Qxd2? These are the kinds of things argued about “back in the day.” Stockfish at ChessBomb gives 7 c3 in this particular position as best)

Magnus Carlsen (NOR)

vs Fabiano Caruana (USA)

Altibox Norway Chess 2018 round 01

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ (Wenjun Ju played a5 6. a4 Bb4+ vs Zhongyi Tan. See below) 6. Bd2 Bxd2+ 7. Nbxd2 (Magnus takes with the knight. What do the CDMs know? They know Magnus made an inferior move. They also know that now, without the inclusion of a5 followed by a4, the best move in the position is 7 Qxd2) 7…a5 8. c3 Nbd7 9. exd5 cxd5 10. O-O O-O 11. Re1 Re8 12. Nf1 b5 13. a4 b4 14. cxb4 axb4 15. Ne3 Bb7 (Nc5 is better)

16. d4? (Stockfish considers this move leaving a completely equal position, while 16 Nf5 gives white with an advantage of about half a pawn. Which move would you make? GM Daniel King in his video of the game found at Chessbase ( does not mention the much better 16 Nf5) 16…e4 17. Ne5 Nxe5 18. dxe5 Rxe5 19. Qd4 Re7

20. Rac1? (When seeing this move I thought it might be a misprint. After becoming apparent it was the move played I could hear IM Boris Kogan asking, as he did so often when going over my games, “Mike, why you move rook protecting completely passed pawn when you could move other rook to the c-file?” Why indeed. GM Daniel King

glossed over this move, saying “Rac1 looks good to occupy the open file,” continuing as if it were the most natural move in the game. Frankly, the video leaves much to be desired. If GM King had been reviewing a game by one of his students, would he have praised the move? Or would he mention the possibility the move was inferior to Rec1? Why are other GMs afraid to criticize the human World Champion? Back in the day we accepted moves played by a World Champ almost without question. There is a reason Magnus is the human World Champion, but still…He is, after all, HUMAN. To NOT criticize the Champ is a disservice to we fans of the Royal game. We the Fans deserve better than twenty-two minutes of insipid drivel, which can be seen below providing you have twenty-two minutes to waste) 20…Rd7 21. Red1 h6 22. Rc5 Ra5 23. Rxa5 Qxa5 24. h3 Kh7 25. Rc1 Rc7? (GM King quotes Magnus as saying, “This is insane.” Stockfish at the ChessBomb gives the “sane” 25… Qa6 26. Rd1 Qa5 27. Rc1 Qa6, which likely leads to a draw, as best. After winning the candidates tournament, earning the right to face Magnus for the World Championship, I predicted Fabiano would beat Magnus. That was before watching Fabi play game after game, and tournament after tournament, in lieu of resting, and preparing, for the most important match of his life. Caruana has made weak move after weak move, followed by blunder after blunder, since becoming challenger. All I can say now is Caruana’s chances have diminished considerably. Unless things change DRAMATICALLY Fabi will be fortunate to not be blown out of the match early on…There is no more to be said about this game. I give the remaining moves for the record)

26. Rxc7 Qxc7 27. Qxb4 Qc1+ 28. Bd1 Ba6 29. Qd4 Be2 30. Kh2 Bxd1 31. Nxd1 Qc7+ 32. Kg1 Qc1 33. b4 e3 34. fxe3 Ne4 35. Qxd5 Nd2 36. Qf5+ Kh8 37. Qg4 f5 38. Qe2 Ne4 39. Qe1 Qa1 40. a5 Nd6 41. Qd2 Nc4 42. Qd4 Qc1 43. Kf1 Nxe3+ 44. Qxe3 Qxd1+ 45. Kf2 Qc2+ 46. Kg3 g5 47. Qe5+ Kh7 48. Kh2 f4 49. Qd5 Qa4 50. Qf7+ Kh8 51. Qg6 Qxb4 52. Qxh6+ Kg8 53. Qxg5+ Kh7 54. Qh5+ Kg7 55. Qg5+ Kh7 56. h4 Qd6 57. Qh5+ Kg7 58. Qg5+ Kh7 59. h5 f3+ 60. g3 f2 61. Qg6+ Kh8 62. Qxd6 f1=Q 63. Qh6+ Kg8 64. Qe6+ Kh8 65. Qe3 Qb5 66. Qc3+ Kh7 67. g4 Qd5 68. Qc7+ Kg8 69. Kg3 Qe6 70. Qd8+ Kh7 71. Qd3+ Kh8 72. a6 Qe5+ 73. Kh3 Qa1 74. Qd8+ Kh7 75. Qe7+ Kh6 76. Qe3+ Kh7 77. a7 1-0

Zhongyi Tan (CHN) 2522 – Wenjun Ju (CHN) 2571

FIDE Women’s World Championship 2018 round 05

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 a5 6. a4 Bb4+ 7. c3 Bd6 8. O-O O-O 9. exd5 cxd5 10. Na3 Nbd7 11. Re1 h6 12. Nb5 Bb8 13. d4 e4 14. Nd2 Nb6 15. f3 Re8 16. Bc2 Bd7 17. Rb1 exf3 18. Nxf3 Ne4 19. Ne5 Bxe5 20. dxe5 Bxb5 21. axb5 Rxe5 22. Be3 Re6 23. Bd4 Nc4 24. Bd3 Qg5 25. b3 Ncd6 26. Rb2 Rae8 27. Rbe2 Nf5 28. Bc2 Nh4 29. Qd3 Ng6 30. Be3 Qh5 31. c4 Ne5 32. Qd4 Rg6 33. Bxe4 dxe4 34. Kf1 Nf3 35. Qd7 Nxh2+ 0-1

Magnus Carlsen (2877) vs Fabiano Caruana (2801)

2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014
Saint Louis USA 08/29/2014
C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bb4+ 6. c3 Bd6 7. Bg5 dxe4 8. dxe4 h6 9. Bh4 Qe7 10. Nbd2 Nbd7 11. Bg3 Bc7 12. O-O Nh5 13. h3 Nxg3 14. fxg3 Nc5 15. Bxf7+ Kxf7 16. Nxe5+ Kg8 17. Ng6 Qg5 18. Rf8+ Kh7 19. Nxh8 Bg4 20. Qf1 Nd3 21. Qxd3 Rxf8 22. hxg4 Qxg4 23. Nf3 Qxg3 24. e5+ Kxh8 25. e6 Bb6+ 26. Kh1 Qg4 27. Qd6 Rd8 28. Qe5 Rd5 29. Qb8+ Kh7 30. e7 Qh5+ 31. Nh2 Rd1+ 32. Rxd1 Qxd1+ 33. Nf1 Qxf1+ 34. Kh2 Qg1+ 0-1

Backing Down at the US Chess Championship

Fabiano Caruana

v Hikaru Nakamura

Before the tournament began one could look forward to this game having a great deal in determining the 2018 US Chess Champion. In reality, Nakamura became an also-ran, while all Chess fans are wondering why Caruana decided to play in the Championship, especially after playing, and winning, the Grenke Chess Classic almost immediately after winning the Candidates tournament when the only thing that matters is the coming battle for the World Human Chess Championship. If Fabiano does not best Magnus Carlsen the pundits will have a field day questioning whether Caruana burned himself out playing so much Chess before the title match.

U.S. Championship 2018 round 09

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. c3 O-O 6. O-O Re8 7. Nbd2 a6 8. Bxc6 dxc6 9. Nc4 Bd6 10. Bg5 b5 11. Ne3 Qe7 12. Nh4 Qe6 13. Nhf5 Bf8 14. f4 Nd7

15. Ng3? This is a terrible move! Caruana backs down, refraining from playing the expected 15 fxe5. In the language of the clanking digital monsters the limpid retreat by Fabi gives his opponent an advantage of about a quarter of a pawn. Taking the pawn would leave Fabi with an advantage of about half a pawn. If Caruana plays weak moves like this against the World Champion he will lose the match.

15…f6 16. f5 Qf7 17. Bh4 Bb7 18. Qe2 Rad8

19. Nh1 (This move reminded me of the same move played by Aron Nimzowitsch, first seen in the book Aron Nimzowitsch: A Reappraisal

by GM Raymond Keene,

the plagiarist. ( It is ironic that a man who resorted to stealing the work of others for his books could have produced one of the best Chess books ever written. There are better moves, all being with the king rook. Stockfish shows 19 Rfd1 best)

19…Nc5 20. Rfd1 Rd6 21. Nf2 Red8 22. Rd2 a5 23. g4 g5 24. Bg3 Ba6 25. Rad1 b4 26. c4 b3 27. a3 R6d7

28. Qe1? (Another weak, dilly-dally move from Caruana. 28 h4 is the best move, and one does not need a program to know this. Caruana’s limpid move hands the advantage to his opponent. According to digital speak, in lieu of being up by half a pawn, the move played puts Fabi DOWN by a quarter of a pawn.)

28…Nb7 29. Nh1 Nimzowitsch would be proud, but this is not one of his better choices. The Fish has 29 Kg2 or Qe2 as better. When in doubt, play Qe2!) 29…Nc5 30. Qe2 (Now this is the best move according to SF)

30…Rd4 (In this position black has a choice between four moves, 29…h6; Nb7; and a4, in addition to the move played, each keeping the game even, Steven.)

31. Be1 R8d6 (Expecting the obvious 31…Qd7, tripling on the d-file, I was shocked to see this move. The Fish proclaims Qd7 best. IM Boris Kogan was fond of saying “Chess is a simple game.” My reply was, “Maybe to you, Hulk…” It seems the modern day players intentionally eschew playing the “obviously best” moves for some reason I cannot fathom…How often does one get the opportunity to triple the heavy pieces in any game? Look at the position after moving the Queen to d7. Every piece sans the dark squared bishop is putting pressure on the backward white d-pawn. How long would you be able to withstand that kind of pressure?)

32. Nf2 Qd7 (Naka plays the move, but now SF does not consider it best. The clanking digital monster would now play the rook BACK to d8! Like Capablanca, the program has no problem admitting a move a mistake, and correcting said mistake.)

33. Kg2 Qd8 34. h3 Rd7 35. Nf1 Na4 36. Nh2 Bc5 37. Nf3 R4d6

38 Rc1 (Now SF would play, you guessed it, Nh1!) Bxf2 39. Qxf2

39…c5 (The Fish shows the path to victory with 39… Rxd3 40. Rxd3 Rxd3. Naka does not pull the trigger.)

40. Qe2 Rxd3 41. Rxd3 Rxd3 42. Bxa5 Bb7 43. Kf2 Qd7 44. Re1 Rd6

45. Rc1? (Yet another weak, vacillating move. White is lost. The move previously rejected by Fabiano, h4, is best) 45…Qc6 46. Re1 (Fabi returns the rook to its former square)

46…Rd8? (I will admit to having trouble finding a move in this position. I finally decided to move my king to g7. WRONG! I kept looking at taking the pawn on e4 with the queen, but it looks like the bishop will be lost. There is a reason Stockfish is the best Chess playing thing on the planet, and that reason is this variation: 46… Qxe4 47. Qxe4 Bxe4 48. Bxc7 Rd7 49. Rxe4 Nxb2 50. Nxe5 Rxc7 51. Nf3 Nd3+ 52. Ke2 Ne5 53. Nd2 b2 54. Nb1 Rd7 55. a4 Ra7 56. Kd2 Rxa4 57. Kc3 Rb4 58. Re2 Rxc4+ 59. Kxb2 Rb4+ 60. Kc2. Looks like a game produced by Mikhail Tal, does it not? Like me, the top players cannot calculate as well as the clanking digital monsters. It often seems that the top players no longer believe in their intuition, as did the players of the last, and previous, centuries. Because of the rise of the computer programs human players are trying to be calculating machines when what they should be doing is relying on their judgement, and intuition. I will admit going into the unknown can be a scary prospect, but the best human players have done it previously. Maybe the top players would be better off chunking the programs in the garbage and thinking for themselves…)

47. h4 (Finally, the move is played. Still, 47 Kg3 first was better…)

47…h6? (Naka has a chance to again play the winning move, but backs down, again, with this move, content to settle for a draw. SF shows, (47… Qxe4 48. Qxe4 Bxe4 49. Bxc7 Rd7 50. Rxe4 Nxb2 51. Nxe5 Nd1+ 52. Ke1 fxe5 53. Bxe5 gxh4 54. Re2 Rd3 55. Rh2 Nc3 56. Bxc3 Rxc3 57. Rb2 Kg7 58. g5 h3 59. Kd1 Rg3 60. a4 Rg1+ 61. Ke2)

48. hxg5 hxg5 49. Kg3 Rd7 50. Qh2 Rh7 51. Qd2 Rd7 52. Qh2 Rh7 53. Qd2 ½-½