All The Wrong Moves Part Seven: The Secret Of Chess

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

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

Ben Finegold,

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

Finegold

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

Ouch.

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

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

Euwe, that hurts!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wasn’t that the motto of Trump University?

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

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

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

“If your wife

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

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

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

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

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

set up on the sidewalk outside the club.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Um, Kasparov.”

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

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

“Bobby Fischer.”

Remembering Bobby Fisher – I

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, then, don’t be yourself.”

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

“That sounds hard.”

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

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

“Um, sure,” I said.

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

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

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

Honor The Intent

It has been my policy to approve all comments left by readers, especially if signed by the respondent, with only a few exceptions. It bothers me not if I am criticized because one of the things that sets our country apart is freedom of the press. I have even printed comments left by people using a nom de plume. However, there is a line and I do enforce the line from time to time.

A scathing comment was left recently by someone disgruntled because of what had been written in the post, Chess Segregation. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/chess-segregation/) The writer was obviously “ticked off” by, “There are more women and girls involved with Chess than ever before and it started with the so-called “youth movement,” which began when money earmarked for Master Chess was, shall we say to be kind, diverted to children’s Chess.”

Among the many things I was called during the diatribe was “liar.”

I am sixty nine years of age and will be the first to admit my memory is not what it used to be. Still, having participated in brain and memory studies at Emory, Georgia Tech and the Veteran’s Administration (the results of which were to be used to help veterans who had served our country), I am thankful for how much better off than others even younger than am I. That said, I will admit to having an occasional “Senior moment” which is exacerbated by fatigue.

After receiving the salvo comment I racked my brain in an attempt to recall what and where I had read concerning the diversion of funds. I seemed to recall something former POTUSCF Don Schultz had written in a Chess Life magazine, thinking it was a letter to the editor, but I could be mistaken. I went to the internet in an attempt to locate anything about the matter. What you are about to read is the only thing I managed to locate. If anyone can shed any more light on the subject please leave a comment.

Honor the Intent

by Don Schultz

During the 1990s the direction of the American Chess Foundation changed from sponsoring a wide variety of chess projects to almost exclusively promoting their highly successful New York City inner city school programs. In order to emphasize this redirection, the American Chess Foundation changed their name to Chess-in-the-Schools. Although their inner school programs continue to be enormously successful, part of the funding of these programs comes from income from donations of patrons who intended other uses for their contributions.
Case in point, when former USCF President Fred Cramer died in April 1989 he bequeathed a quarter of a million dollars to the ACF. Throughout his life, Cramer was an avid advocate for better communication and improved chess journalism, particularly at the state level. In order to partially satisfy Cramer’s wishes, Fan Adams, then President of the ACF, used a portion of the income from the Cramer bequest to sponsor the Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism. Unfortunately Chess-in-the-Schools has now cancelled their financial support of the Cramer Awards Program. They did this so they can redirect all of the income from the Cramer bequest to support their NYC inner city school programs.
The Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism are not the only victim of the Chess-in-the-Schools new policy. An example is the income from over a million dollars of Thomas Emery donations. Emery was a close friend of many of our finest players, including Frank Marshall and Al Horowitz. He helped support master chess. He also was a member of the Marine Corps during World War I and as a result had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960, and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime. He had every expectation that income from his donations would continue to be used for master and armed forces chess promotions. But it is not. All of it is now being used for the Chess-in-the Schools New York City inner city school programs.
Chess-in-the-Schools does continue to support a few projects unrelated to their inner school programs. These include the Denker High School Invitational and the Paul Albert Awards. But the patrons for these projects are still living and members of their Board.
However invaluable the Chess-in-the-School programs are, income from bequests and contributions such as those from Cramer and Emery should be used to pay for the intended programs of the patron. If you agree with this assessment, please express your feelings to Members of the Board, Chess-in-the-Schools, 353 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036, tel. 212 643-0225, fax 212 757-7704.

http://www.chessnews.org/acf.html

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Joe South

[Verse 1]
If I could be you
And you could be me
For just one hour
If we could find a way
To get inside
Each other’s mind, mmm
If you could see you
Through my eyes
Instead of your ego
I believe you’d be
Surprised to see
That you’d been blind, mmm

[Chorus]
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

[Verse 2]
Now your whole world
You see around you
Is just a reflection
And the law of karma
Says you’re gonna reap
Just what you sow, yes you will
So unless
You’ve lived a life of total perfection
You’d better be careful of every stone
That you should throw, yeah

[Verse 3]
And yet we spend the day
Throwing stones
At one another
‘Cause I don’t think
Or wear my hair
The same way you do, mmm
Well I may be
Common people
But I’m your brother
And when you strike out
And try to hurt me
It’s a hurtin’ you, lord have mercy

[Chorus]
Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

[Verse 4]
There are people
On reservations
And out in the ghettos
And brother there
But for the grace of God
Go you and I, yeah, yeah
If I only
Had the wings
Of a little angel
Don’t you know I’d fly
To the top of the mountain
And then I’d cry

https://genius.com/Joe-south-walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes-lyrics

Chess Segregation

After reading Kevin Spragett’s post dated March 30, 2019, Friday Coffee
by kevinspraggettonchess · Published March 29, 2019 · Updated March 30, 2019, (http://www.spraggettonchess.com/friday-coffee-24/) which includes the question, “Is Chess Sexist?”, I sent Kevin an email:

Kevin,

You write, “We acknowledge that there is no fundamental difference when it comes to the brain of a women or that of a man.” You, sir, are WRONG! I have written much on my blog concerning the science and studies which confirm just how wrong are you as there is a “fundamental difference” between the male and female brain, which you would have known if you had read my blog.

After reading the new book, Gender and Our Brains, by Gina Rippon,

I must apologize to Kevin and admit being wrong. Although there appear to be some differences between the male brain when compared with the female brain that does not mean there is any difference between the two brains when it comes to cognitive ability. For example:

Study finds some significant differences in brains of men and women

By Michael Price Apr. 11, 2017

The largest study to look at sex differences in brain anatomy found that women tend to have thicker cortices, whereas men had higher brain volume. (https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/study-finds-some-significant-differences-brains-men-and-women)

Are Male and Female Brains Biologically Different?

The scientific debate around this question keeps raging, but one neuroscientist says we’re more alike than we think.

By Taylor Lorenz Jun 25, 2018

(https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/male-female-brains-biologically-different/563702/)

Ms.Rippon writes, “We have tracked the “blame the brain” campaign down the ages, and seen how diligent was the scientists’ pursuit of those brain differences that would keep women in their place. If a unit of measurement didn’t exist to characterize those inferior female brains, then one must be invented!”

She also writes, “Hence men’s more efficient callosal filtering mechanism explained their mathematical and scientific genius (with chess brilliance thrown in for good measure), their right to be captains of industry, win Nobel Prizes and so on and on. In this instance, in the “size matters” wars, with respect to the corpus callosum, small is beautiful.”

This is the only place in which one finds the word “chess” in the four hundred pages of the book.

If you believe Gina Rippon’s thesis then the question of why women are segregated in Chess must be asked. As a matter of fact the question was asked by E.E. Deedon in a letter (via email) to Chess Life magazine in the July 2019 issue. Mr. Deedon wrote:

“I just received my May 2019 edition of Chess Life, “The Women’s Issue.” What I cannot understand is the fact that men and women are still segregated after it has become quite obvious that men have no “advantage” when playing against women as they would obviously have in “physical” sports like football, basketball, and track and field. Would you be so kind to enlighten me as to why this situation still exists?”

For my international readers I must mention that when E.E. uses the word “football” he is talking about the American version, what I call “maimball”, not what is known in the rest of the world, which is called “soccer” here in the United States of America.

There follows in Chess Life:

Women’s Program Director for US Chess, WGM Jennifer Shahade

(that’s for WOMAN Grandmaster, as opposed to a real Grandmaster, whether male of female. For the international readers, Jennifer Shahade is rated 2301 US and 2322 FIDE. She has earned the title of “Original Life Master” from the United States Chess Federation. Although I am uncertain how one becomes an OLM I do know that if Jennifer were a male she would be considered just another National Master) responds:

“Women have historically been outnumbered in chess competition (She could stop there as it answers the question, but adds more, much more, as if she is a long-winded politician running for office) and most women and girls play and study in mixed competitions for the majority of the time.”

This begs the question of how she knows “most women and girls study in mixed competitions.”

Jennifer continues:

“Women’s spaces, tournaments, and camps are great ways to allow them to work on their game, make friendships, and get attention for their success and talent, which creates a positive, self-perpetuating cycle that brings more girls and women into the game.”

You are not alone in your curiosity. Your question is by far the most frequent I get when hosting, supporting, or streaming an event that includes a women’s or girl’s component. Unfortunately, when this question is asked, it is often negatively charged, and changes a positive event (women and girls enjoying and playing chess) into a forum for amateur analysis of gender, biology, and sociology. This line of questioning is so common that streamers like Alexander Botez (as featured in the first edition of my Ladies Knight podcast) create automated moderator responses for her streams – if the questioning become negative, moderators advise re-focusing on the chess.

Which brings me to an important point when we talk about women and girls in chess. As Woman’s Program Director, I focus on the positive as we grow the game: from Jennifer Yu’s stirring victory to the inspiring story of Phiona Mutesi, from Rachael Li’s standing as the top nine year old in the U.S. to the rich history of women’s chess from Menchik to Graf to Rudenko.

Thanks for you interest in US Chess Women!”

What, women cannot “work on their game, make friendships, and get attention for their success and talent” by attending a “space” -whatever that means- tournament or camp that includes males?

Who judges when a question is “negatively charged?” If anyone suggests females play in tournaments open to everyone regardless of sex does Jennifer consider that to be “negatively charged?”

I played Backgammon professionally for a time and women were welcomed in tournaments. There were no tournaments for only women.

Jennifer’s ridiculous answer to an important question can be distilled to, “Because we’re special.” Women want to eat their cake and have it too. It is as simple as that…

The fact is that men resent preferential treatment for women in Chess because females are diverting money from the small pool of Chessbucks which should go to the best player(s) regardless of sex. Period.

As I write this a Chess tournament, the FIDE chess.com Grand Swiss, is unfolding in the Isle of Man. In the second round the female player GM Antoaneta Stefanova defeated male player Gawain Jones. IM Batkhuyag Munguntuul bested GM Sergei Movsesian.

There are many female players challenging males. I do not know exactly how many, or what percentage, are female because Chess Results (http://chess-results.com/tnr478041.aspx) makes no distinction between the sexes.

There are more women and girls involved with Chess than ever before and it started with the so-called “youth movement,” which began when money earmarked for Master Chess was, shall we say to be kind, diverted to children’s Chess. With this brought an influx of “Chess moms,” a term first heard in relation to soccer, as in “Soccer mom.” It has gotten to the point that many women have been placed in positions of power in the Chess world, taking positions formerly held by men. For example, in the Spring 2018issue of the American Chess Magazine

there is an interview with the new executive director of the USCF, Carol Meyer.

Pete Tamburro posed this question to the new E.D.:

Have you learned to play chess? (Upon reading this my first thought was, “What The Fork?”) Anybody offer you lessons? Do you have a chess strategic plan?

Answer:

“I know how to move the pieces and have played with my family.” (I’m thinking, “You’re kidding me, right?”) “What I’ve learned is that playing chess for a tournament player is a very different concept from playing chess as a casual player. (How would the woman know that if she has NEVER PLAYED A TOURNAMENT GAME?) I have considered taking lessons after I settle in a bit more. I was thinking about blogging the personal experience of someone over the age of 50 learning the game.”

Good luck with that! The fact is that Chess is so difficult it is almost impossible for anyone over the age of 50 to learn how to play a decent game of Chess. I have attempted to teach Chess to men in their 30s to no avail. One gentleman was an attorney with a prominent law firm who informed me he had accomplished whatever it was he attempted until trying to play Chess.

From the earliest days of my involvement in Chess everyone involved came from some kind of Chess background. It may not have been required, but that was the way it was…I have battled over the Chess board with many USCF pooh bahs, such as Don Schultz, President of several different state organizations. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Schultz) Don was POTUSCF at one time. The fact is I cannot recall all of the many positions Don held in Chess. I do know he was once President of the Georgia Chess Association. This woman, Carol Meyer, in that position makes the USCF President, Allen Priest, rated 701 after having played 45 games in his life (10 wins; 3 draws) look like a battle scarred veteran. What can this woman possibly know about the Royal game? Is having someone who knows almost nothing about Chess good for the USCF? Having a litigious imbecile as POTUS has not exactly turned out well for the USA or the world, and it will get worse before he is impeached and forced to resign. I do not know about you but I would not want the pilot of my plane to say, “I know how to push the buttons and have flown in a simulator.”

Then there is the Publications Editor, Melinda Matthews. I searched the USCF and found her listed along with other rated players but the USCF MSA page shows she has yet to play a rated game. I kid you not. Maybe she is the reason the once venerable Chess Life magazine now includes articles such as More Chess Parenting: Nurturing the Talented Child, by Alexey Root, WIM.

Alexey is rated 2000 USCF, meaning she would be a floored National Master if male. I recently reached out to a number of Chess players, asking if they read the article. No one replied in the affirmative. One wag responded, “No one reads that shit, Bacon.” Who knows, maybe a few parents of children involved with Chess actually read the article. Maybe… Another said, “The USCF could care less about people who actually play Chess, Mike. They are attempting to reach PARENTS!”

“It’s a Total Numbers Game”

The above has become the mantra for women involved with Chess. It is also a load of crap. Statistics prove that young girls exposed to Chess stop playing the game around puberty. There is a reason. I do not profess to know the reason, but there must be a reason, because there is always a reason. Unfortunately, the same could be said for preteen boys. Something happens to children of both sexes around puberty and they leave Chess in droves. Why is that? There is a reason, and it would seem those in charge would spend as much of Rex Sinquefield’s money as they could grasp to learn why young people leave the game. Instead, large sums of money go to attracting even more young children to replace the money of those who leave the game, never to return.

Sports Illustrated Features US Chess Women: “It’s a Total Numbers Game.”
By Jennifer Shahade|December 21, 2018|Kids, News, Women

It’s a total and complete numbers game. What the women’s committee is trying to do is to grow the base- Maureen Grimaud

Comments
Edward | December 27, 2018 at 4:29 pm
No matter all the explanation in the world, having separate girls/women chess tournaments sends the message that females can not compete with males in chess.
https://www.si.com/more-sports/2018/12/17/lisa-lane-hou-yifan-womens-chess-gender-inequality-world-championships

Ladies Knight with Maureen Grimaud [PODCAST]
By Jennifer Shahade|August 21, 2019|Ladies Knight, News, Podcast, Women

The August episode of Ladies Knight features Maureen Grimaud,

chair of the US Chess Women’s committee. Maureen is a vocal proponent and supporter of bringing more women and girls into chess, from her work with the girls club’ rooms and Regional women’s events. In a Sports Illustrated article about women in chess, Maureen said, “It’s a numbers game, It’s a total and complete numbers game. What the women’s committee is trying to do is to grow the base.”

Ladies Knight with Maureen Grimaud [PODCAST]

How about Maureen’s numbers? The woman has played a total of 44 rated games since 2006. She won four of the games and drew three. She last played in a USCF rated tournament in 2012. Her rating is 440. How about Rex Sinquefield putting up money for a match between Maureen and the President of the USCF, Allen Priest? Although the Prez outweighs her by about the same number of pounds as he out rates her I would hafta say it’s a toss-up.

I do not have answers to the questions posed in this post; maybe there are no answers, or no one really wants to learn the answers while the money is still flowing into Chess. But how long will it last?

GM Igor Rausis says “Chess is a disease”

The post dated July 13, 2019, GM Igors Rausis Caught With The Toilet Seat Down, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/grandmaster-igors-rausis-caught-cheating/) went viral. The number of viewers was the most, by far, of any previous post on the AW blog. Tens of thousands of people all over the world viewed the post in numbers that dwarfed any other post. The number of viewers is given each day and there is a map of the world in which the number of viewers is color coded. The world map lit up like a Christmas tree, with viewers from almost every country on the planet. This continued for a few days until dropping back to what was previously considered “normal.” Because of the huge daily numbers for those days what was formerly considered a “normal” day is now seen as a tiny blip on the graph of viewers. From this it is more than a little obvious people interested in the Royal game are very interested in the ever increasing problem of cheating in Chess.

I had not intended on writing anything else on cheating but a recent interview with GM Igor Rausis has caused me to have second thoughts about posting anything concerning the confessed cheater. Chessbase published, Igors Rausis: How to quit chess in one move By Andris Tihomirovs, yesterday, August 23, 2019, which was read this morning. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/how-to-quit-chess-in-one-move) The article was, “Originally published in SestDiena magazine, July 26, 2019.” I clicked onto the link (https://www.diena.lv/raksts/sestdiena/tuvplana/ka-ar-ravienu-tikt-prom-no-saha.-saruna-ar-igoru-rausi-14223781) finding it in need of translation, so I headed to Google translate only to learn only the heading could be translated but one cannot cut & paste the article. This is what could be translated:

How to Get Away from Chess A conversation with Igor Rausis

A photo of a chess player in a restroom using his mobile phone during a game

broke a long-standing storm not only among fans of the sport, but also for those who have a simple black and white picture of chess. Chess grandmaster Igor Rausis, who has been trapped in a fraud, says it was his chance to get away from the chess world with a twist.

What follows is part of the translation from the aforementioned Chessbase article:

Has anyone else been accused or suspected of cheating in chess?

Lots. Unfortunately, lots. I don’t want to talk about the others. I don’t want to name any specific surnames. I don’t know why people came up with this idea of making phone apps for chess. It all started with that.

They’ve been around for a long time.

But why? What’s the point?

To play. To analyse. I play on the tram.

But they didn’t think about the consequences. Well, there are a lot of sick people in the world. Previously, this sickness didn’t exist. Gaming mania. Unfortunately, it’s a contemporary illness.

Like casino?

That’s different, because a person goes to the casino and leaves money behind. It’s like drugs.

What exactly? Chess?

Gaming. And the world supports this, because somebody’s earning money from his. (It is possible the word “his” should be “this.” It is printed exactly as found at Chessbase.)

Beyond phones, is chess a sickness?

Chess players never talk about it, because chess fans like other words — like chess is art. Maybe it partially applies to those who compile compositions [chess problems].

So is chess a disease?

In a manner of speaking. A great pyramid has been built. I can now say something controversial aimed at the functionaries.

THE THREAT IS STRONGER THAN ITS EXECUTION!

If Chess is to survive it MUST change in order to adapt to the current circumstances. Over a decade ago I wrote about the need for Chess to adapt but money was flowing into Chess thanks to billionaire bullies with more money than sense, so who wanted to be the first to rock the boat? (I use the term “billionaire bullies” because of people like the Koch bros, etc., and other extremely wealthy people who donate money to political candidates who would obviously be more comfortable in a Nazi-type party than any political party consisting of We The People) At a recent Chess tournament in Atlanta someone mentioned Daniel Lucas,

formerly editor of Georgia Chess before becoming editor of Chess Life magazine. There was laughter upon my mentioning I thought Daniel was still editor of Chess Life. “Because USCF is now awash in Sinquebucks there have been many changes at USCF, Bacon,” said someone who will remain nameless. “Now Daniel’s WIFE is the editor and he has been given a new title of, Senior Director of Strategic Communication for the United States Chess Federation.”

“What does that mean, exactly?” I asked. “I mean, wouldn’t simply Director of Communication have sufficed? Is there a “Junior Director of Strategic Communication?” After more laughter I asked, “What, exactly, is ‘Strategic Communication’ and how does it differ from just plain Communication?” After the uproarious laughter abated someone said, “They just pull those kind of names out of their ass.” This brought the house down, so to speak.

In a capitalist economy it is said, “He who has the money makes the rules.” It is no secret Rex Sinquefield wants much shorter time controls for the Royal game. It has become apparent how little it matters what he, on any other wealthy patron of Chess wants, because now, for the game of Chess to survive, it MUST limit a game to one sitting, with no player allowed to leave the room.

On the very popular, and famous, television show, House, the character of Doctor House

was famous for saying, “Everyone lies.” The way Chess is currently played I can say, “Everyone cheats,” and who will argue? It is too easy to cheat so it is happening in every section by players of all ages. Some years ago at a tournament in Atlanta a player was caught cheating and his response was, “Everyone else is doing it, so I must do it too.” At another tournament, at Emory University some years ago, everyone but the TDs was talking about a group of young boys who would simply leave the playing hall heading for the seats of the cafeteria where they would check out a cell phone in plain sight. Why go to the lavatory when one can sit in the comfort of the cafeteria?

There are signs everywhere pointing to the death of Chess. The recently concluded US Open Chess tournament managed to draw only three hundred plus players. Before a recent round of the Sinquefield Cup Chess tournament in St. Louis, Maurice Asheley talked about the myriad draws in the tournament thus far, contrasting the mostly draw “classical” Chess tourney with a recent “rapid” tournament round in which six of the ten games were decisive. Is the Royal game as it is played by the best Chess players “played out?” How many people will be interested in Chess if it must devolve to “Blunder Fest Chess” to survive?

Theory Of Shadows: A Review

It must be extremely difficult to write a historical novel because many have tried and most have failed. Many of the historical novels I have read were of the type, “What if he had lived?” Some concerned POTUS John F. Kennedy.

The last one read was years ago and it caused me to put other books of the type on the “back burner,” where they have since continued to smolder…It may have helped if the author could write, but he had as much business writing as I have running a marathon. The book was not one of those print on demand tomes which allow anyone to publish a book nowadays but a book published by an actual publishing company, which means there was an editor who must have thought the book good enough to earn money. I found the book, a hardback, only a few weeks after it had been published and it was marked down to a price low enough for me to take a chance and fork over the cash. P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In a way the editor was right, but then, marked down enough anything will sell.

There have been notable historical novels such as Michael Shaara‘s masterpiece, The Killer Angels,
which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1974.

It must be terribly difficult to write a novel about people who actually lived. A novelist invents a character. To write historical fiction about an actual living, breathing human being is another thing entirely.

Having recently returned to the city of my birth meant a visit to the local library, which happened to be selected as the 2018 Georgia Public Library of the Year. After renewing my lapsed library card I went to the catalog that very evening to check on, what else, Chess books. I had been pleasantly surprised when seeing the latest issue of Chess Life magazine in the reading room of the Decatur branch of the Dekalb county library system after obtaining my new card. While surveying the Chess books a jewel was found, a book I recalled being published years ago, but not in English. It was published at the end of the last century by the author of The Luneburg Variation,

Paolo Maurensig.

It was his first novel, published at the age of fifty, and it was a good read. The book about which I will write is, Theory Of Shadows,

published in Italy in 2015. It was published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2018 after being translated by Anne Milano Appel.

From the front inside jacket: On the morning of March 24, 1946, the world chess champion, Alexander Alekhine – “sadist of the chess world,”

renowned for his eccentric behaviour as well as the ruthlessness of his playing style – was found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal.”

There it is, a fictional account of how Alekhine died. The last paragraph on the jacket reads: “With the atmosphere of a thriller, the insight of a poem, and a profound knowledge of the world of chess (“the most violent of all sports,” according to the former world champion Garry Kasparov), Paolo Maurensig’s Theory of Shadows leads us through the glamorous life and sordid death of an infuriating and unapologetic genius: not only trying to work out “whodunit,” but using the story of Alexander Alekhine to tease out what Milan Kundera has called “that which the novel alone can discover.”

I loved everything about this book. The book begins with this quote : “If Alekhine had been a Jew hating Nazi scientist, inventor of weapons extermination and therefore protected by those in power, then that intellectual rabble would have held its breath. Instead, the victim had to drain the bitter cup to the last drop…Even the supreme act of his death was vulgarly besmirched. And we cowards stifled our feelings, remaining silent. Because the only virtue that fraternally unites us all, whites and black, Jews and Christians, is cowardice.” – Esteban Canal

After reading the above I had yet to begin the first chapter yet had been sent to the theory books…OK, the interweb, in order to learn who was Esteban Canal. “Esteban Canal (April 19, 1896 – February 14, 1981) was a leading Peruvian chess player who had his best tournament results in the 1920s and 1930s.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esteban_Canal)

This was also found:

Who was Esteban Canal?

Writing in a 1937 edition of Chess Review, Lajos Steiner,


Lajos Steiner (1903-1975), by Len Leslie

who knew Canal when they were living in Budapest, said that Canal never reached the heights his talent deserved. He was awarded the IM title in 1950 and received the honorary GM title in 1977.
Not much is known about his life and what little is known is wrapped in a cloud of mystery. Canal himself claimed to have been a cabin boy on a cargo ship carrying wheat from Australia, but it has proven to be impossible to verify dates. It is known that he had an extensive nautical knowledge and sailors.
In 1955 the South African player Wolfgang Heindenfed, writing in his book Chess Springbok, An Account of a South African Chess Player’s Experiences Overseas wrote of Canal, “The grand old man of Italian chess is Esteban Canal, originally of Peru, who at the age of 57 won the 1953 Venice tournament to which I had the good luck of being invited. He is one of the most interesting and amusing of all chess personalities. Formerly a roving reporter, he speaks six or seven languages and still treasures mementos of such VIPs as Kemal Pasha and Abd el Krim. He is an inexhaustible raconteur of chess stories.” (http://tartajubow.blogspot.com/2018/03/who-was-esteban-canal.html)

About a third of the way through the one hundred seventy nine page book we read: “Though it was an essential task, armchair analysis of the matches he’s played in the past often bored him. Without the presence of the human element, the pieces on the chessboard lost their vitality. It was quite a different matter to play with an opponent in front of you: to enter his mind, predict his strategies by interpreting the slightest variations of his posture, the position of his hands, the subtle though significant contractions of his lips. During the period when he worked for the Moscow police, they had taught Alekhine how to interpret small signs such as these during interrogations, to see if their subjects were lying.”

During an interview, after discussing the murder of his brother at the hands of the Soviet communists as retribution of Alekhine leaving “Mother Russia” the interviewer asks, “And you never feared that you might suffer the same fate?”

“You mean being killed?”

The journalist nodded.

He hesitated a moment, then: “Perhaps, yes, now and then, the thought’s occurred to me.”

“After all,” Ocampo said, a little heavy-handedly, “Trotsky himself, despite taking refuge in Mexice, was ultimately hit by a hired assassin.”

“I took my precautions.”

For a time Alekhine was silent. In fact, he knew very well that it was not strictly necessary for a victim to be close to his murderer, that there was no place in the world where one could be assured of finding a completely secure refuge. A well-trained hit man could strike even in broad daylight and in the midst of a crowd.”

I’m thinking, “Just ask JFK…”

Jews and Chess:

“That was the first time he’d faced a Jewish chess player – it would certainly not be the last. He would endure a stinging defeat by Rubenstein


Akiba Rubenstein

in the first masters tournament in which he competed. He was eighteen years old then, and, encountering that young man, some years older than him, who was said to have abandoned his rabbinical studies to devote himself to chess, he’s had to swallow several bitter truths. Later on, he played against Nimzowitsch,


Aaron Nimzowitsch

Lasker,


Emanuel Lasker

and Reshevsky,


Sammy Reshevsky

soon realizing that, in his rise to the world title, his competitors would all be Jews.
Their faces were still sharply etched in his memory: Rubinstein, dapper, with a drew cut and an upturned mustache and the vacant gaze of a man who has peered too closely into his own madness; Lasker, with his perpetually drowsy air and spiraling, hopelessly rebellious hair; Nimzowitsch, looking like a bank clerk who, behind his pincenez, is haughtily judging the insufficiency of other people’s funds’ Reshevsky, resembling a prematurely aged child prodigy. Often he imagined them muffled up in long black cloaks, gathered in a circle like cros around a carcass, intent on captiously interpreting chess the way they did their sacred texts.”

Near the end of this magnificent book it is written, “By then, the harbingers of what in the coming decades would be called the Cold War were already looming. And if the weapons of the two blocs were to remain unused, it was essential that there be other arenas in which they could compete and excel. Chess was therefore, as ever, a symbolic substitute for war: gaining supremacy in it was a constant reminder to the enemy that you possessed greater military expertise, a more effective strategy.”

In beating the Soviet World Chess Champion Boris Spassky in 1972 Bobby Fischer won much more than a mere Chess match.

Bobby emasculated the Soviet Communist regime. Alekhine may have taken a brick out of the wall when leaving Mother Russia, but Bobby Fischer took the wall down.

Being a novel within a novel made the book was a pleasure to read and I enjoyed it immensely. I give it the maximum five stars.

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. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/botvinnik-the-patriarch)

The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (http://www.elkandruby.com/), 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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larisa_Kronberg)

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,

Tigran,

Bobby,

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!

Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index