The weirdness of math’s golden age

Adventures in Fine Hall

By Elyse Graham ’07

“Then, as now, the anchor of mathematics at Princeton was Fine Hall, which opened in 1931. (Forty years later, the original Fine Hall was renamed after its donor, Thomas Jones 1876, when today’s mathematics building was constructed near Princeton Stadium.) Henry Fine had been a much-beloved dean of the faculty and the University’s first dean of science; after he died, Jones, a member of the Board of Trustees, gave money for a mathematics building in his honor. The building was gorgeous: three stories high, with oak paneling, leaded-glass windows, a central courtyard, and a library. A common room, with leather chairs, tables for chess, and a blackboard tucked away nearby in case of arguments, allowed the department to follow the English practice of gathering every afternoon for tea. Every time a bean counter approached Jones with the growing bill for the building, he said, “Nothing is too good for Harry Fine.”

Mathematician John von Neumann, shown here at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1947, started teaching at Princeton in 1930. Tea was a tradition at both the University and the Institute.
Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

“To blow off steam, many students got into games, as players and creators both. Fine Hall’s common room held late-night poker games, with good cash on the line: “We used to play all night,” said Flood. “The janitor would come and sort of chew us out at 6 in the morning.” During the day, a visitor to the common room might see the nation’s mathematical brain-trust absorbed in games of Go, bridge, double solitaire, or chess, played classic or in whimsical variants. A favorite was a double-blind variant of chess called Kriegspiel. (Paul Erdős reportedly loved that game.)

A truly magnificent book:

Here is the PDF:

One student invented what he called “nonholonomic chess”; another invented a card game called Psychology, and another a card game called Goofspiel, which has since been used to teach concepts in game theory. The boast went out that Fine Hall “could produce a champion in any game that was played sitting down.”


Modern Chess with the Clanking Digital Monsters

Vladislav Artemiev (RUS) 2697 versus

Alan Pichot (ARG) 2552

Aeroflot Open 2018 round 01


1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 Nf6 (Houdini & Stockfish prefer an immediate 4…d5) 5. Bg2 d5 6. Qe2 6 Nbd2 is most often played, yet Komodo Stockfish prefer immediate castling) Be7 7. O-O (The most often played move but there is disagreement between the Big Three, with the Dragon choosing 7 c3; the Fish 7 Bf4; and the escape artist 7 e5) O-O 8. e5 Nd7 9. c4

b5 (There is a reason this move has been rarely played, yet is has been played by top GMs. 9…Nb6 and d5 have most often been the choice, but Komodo considers 9…a6 best) 10. cxb5 (SF plays cxd5) Na5

11. Nc3? (This is the kind of ‘natural’ move from which one must not play as it hands over the advantage to the opponent. Both Houdini & Fish advocate 11 Qc2, a move that has yet to be played by a human. An alternative would be 11 Nfd2, as in Kryvoruchko v Svetushkin below) a6 12. Bf4 (Dragon & Fish prefer bxa6) axb5 13. Nxb5 Ba6 14. Nc3 Nc6 15. h4 Qb6 (Fish & Dragon play 15…h6; Houdini Nd4) 16. b3 (The choice of Stockfish-16. Rfd1 Nd4 17. Qd2 Rfb8 18. Rdb1 1/2-1/2, Alexander Stripunsky (2536) v Axel Bachmann (2653) 2017 World Open)

We are now in uncharted territory. My thinking is development has been almost completed with only finding a good home for the rooks needed for completion.

16…Rfe8? (Black could have retained a small advantage with 16…h6; Qa5; or Nb4, according to Stockfish. Komodo would play 16…Qd8)

17. Rac1? (17. Nxd5! is given by the Stockfish program at ChessBomb, with the following amazing line, 17…exd5 18. e6 Nce5 19. exd7 Nxd7 20. Rfe1 Nf6 21. Qd2 Bc8 22. Be3 Be6 23. d4 cxd4 24. Qxd4 Qb7 25. Ne5 Ne4 26. Rec1 Bb4 27. Rc2 f6 28. Nd3 Ba3 as the only way for white to retain an advantage)

17…Qa5 (SF gives, in order, 17…h6; Qb7; Qa7; & Nb4, as holding a small advantage)

18. Rfd1 (Once again SF gives 18. Nxd5 exd5 19. e6 Nf6 20. exf7+ Kxf7 21. Ng5+ Kf8 22. Qe6 Nd8 23. Qf5 Nf7 24. Bxd5 Nxg5 25. hxg5 Bc8 26. Be6 Bxe6 27. Qxe6 Nh5 28. Bd6 g6 29. Rxc5 Qd8 30. Bxe7+ Qxe7 31. Qc4 Rxa2 32. g4 Ng7 33. b4 holding the game in balance)

18…Nd4 (Nb4 or h6) 19. Qd2 (Qe1!) Bf8 (Qb6!) 20. Na4 (g4; Qe1; & Qe3 with an equal game)

Nxf3+ ((20… Qxd2 -+) 21. Bxf3 Qxd2 22. Rxd2 Reb8 23. Bg2 Rb4 (h6=) 24. Rdd1 (Be3 +=) Bb5 25. Nc3 Bc6 (Ba6) 26. Rc2 g6 (Bb7) 27. Ne2 Bb5 28. Nc1 Ba6 29. Be3 Nxe5? (h5 or Be7) 30. Bxc5 Rbb8 (Bxc5) 31. Bxf8 (+-) Kxf8 32. d4 Nd7 33. Bf1 Rb4 (Nf6)

34. Rc6? (34. Bxa6 Rxa6 35. f3 Nf6 36. Kf2 Ra3 37. Ke3 Rb8 38. Nd3 Ne8 39. g4 Rba8 40. Rdd2 Nd6 41. Kf4 Kg7 42. Rc6 Ne8 43. Nb4 Nf6 44. Rdc2 h5 45. g5 Ng8 46. Rc8 Rxc8 47. Rxc8 Ne7 48. Rb8)

34…Bb7 (Bxf1 holds white to a small advantage)

35. Rc7 Ke8 36. Nd3 Rb6 37. Nc5 Bc8 38. Rd2 Kd8 39. Nxd7 Bxd7 40. Rc5 h6 41. f4 Ke7 42. Kf2 g5 43. Ke3 Kd6 44. Rcc2 Rg8 45. Rg2 Rb4 46. Bd3 f6 (f5 is better) 47. Rcf2 (fxg5 fxg5) e5 (f5) 48. hxg5 exd4+ 49. Kd2 hxg5 50. fxg5 fxg5 51. Rf6+ Kc7 52. Rh2 (Rgf2) Rbb8 53. Rf7 (Kc1 or Bf5)
Rbf8 54. Rfh7 Kd6 55. R7h6+ Kc7 56. Be2 Ra8 57. a4 Rgb8 58. Bd1 Bf5 59. Rf6 Be4 60. Rhh6 Rf8 61. Rc6+ Kb7 62. Rb6+

Ka7? (This move is a huge mistake. The most amazing thing about modern Chess is that players today have ‘clanking digital monsters’ that show a line proving what a large difference there can be between two similar moves. To play Chess well at the top-level players must make PRECISE moves. The difference now is that one can, at the touch of a button, see a line produced by the ‘clanking digital monster’ illustrating how much difference there is, when ‘back in my day’ we would argue endlessly over such moves, and produce far worse lines. I recall human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen saying in an interview that he only looked at Chess on a board and pieces when he was with other humans. Humans playing Chess today should be far superior to those from the BC (Before Computer) age. Check out this line if you do not believe me: (62… Kc7 63. Rhc6+ Kd8 64. Rb7 Rh8 65. Bg4 Rh2+ 66. Kc1 Rh1+ 67. Kb2 Rb1+ 68. Ka3 Ra1+ 69. Kb4 R8xa4+ 70. bxa4 Rb1+ 71. Kc5 Rxb7 72. a5 Rc7 73. Rxc7 Kxc7 74. Kxd4 Kc6 75. Be2 Bf5 76. Ke5 Be4 77. Bf1 Kb7 78. Bb5 Ka7 79. Kd4 Kb7)

63. Ra6+ Kb7 64. Rhb6+ Kc7 65. Rc6+ Kb7 66. Rab6+ Ka7 67. a5

Rfc8? (Black was no doubt losing but this move lets go of the rope completely. The only move to continue the game was to EXAMINE ALL CHECKS!) 68. Re6 Re8 69. Ra6+ Kb7 70. Reb6+ Kc7 71. Rc6+ Kd7 72. Bg4+ Ke7 73. Rc7+ Kf8 74. Rf6+ Kg8 75. Be6+ 1-0

I would like to thank the ChessBomb for making this information available to people, like me, who have no CDM (Clanking Digital Monster)!

Lastly, I would like you to know that I played over this game on a board with pieces one can touch, and move about, while taking notes, before going to, as I think of it, Da Bomb’. I will admit to finding about half of the better moves given by Da Bomb, and would be ashamed to print most of the “variations” found with my brain. At my age, and with my simple understanding, I am thrilled when somehow finding the first moves of most of these variations.

Behind Enemy Lines

World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer said every game had a “critical position,” and a player MUST be aware when a critical position arises on the board. The following game caused me to reflect upon the comments of the greatest Chess player of all-time.

Gonzalo Muniz (URU) FM (2281)

Herman C. Van Riemsdijk (BRA) IM (2285)

Open of Montevideo Marcel Duchamp Cup 2018 round 09

C68 Ruy Lopez, exchange variation

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Bxc6 dxc6 5. O-O Bd6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Ne7 8. Nc3 O-O 9. f4 Re8 10. Nb3 f6 11. Be3 Nf5 (Not exactly a critical position. Nevertheless there is only one move for White to retain a small advantage, as all other moves leave his opponent with a small advantage.)

12. Bc5? Bxc5+ 13. Nxc5 (We have now reached the critical position. Black did not find the best move. Can you find it without consulting the clanking digital monster?)

13…Ne3? 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Rf2 b6 16. Re2 Nc4 17. Nd3 Be6 18. h3 c5 19. Rae1 Na5 20. Rf2 Nc6 21. f5 Bf7 22. Nf4 Ne5 23. Ncd5 Ra7 24. Rd1 Re8 25. Re2 b5 26. Nd3 Nxd3 27. Rxd3 c6 28. Nf4 Bc4 29. b3 Bxd3 30. cxd3 Rd7 31. Rc2 Re5 32. Kf2 Kf7 33. Ke3 Rd6 34. a3 a5 35. g3 g5 36. Ne6 Rdxe6 37. fxe6+ Kxe6 38. b4 axb4 39. axb4 Kd6 40. Rf2 Re6 41. bxc5+ Kxc5 42. Rf5+ Kb4 43. h4 h6 44. d4 Ka4 45. Kd3 b4 46. d5 cxd5 47. exd5 Rb6 48. Kc2 Ka3 49. d6 b3+ 50. Kc3 Rc6+ 0-1

In the first position White should simple “advance to the rear” with Bf2. The line given by Stockfish at the ChessBomb is: 12. Bf2 Nh6 13. Qf3 b6 14. h3 Bb7 15. Nd2 c5 16. Rad1 Nf5 17. Qd3 Nd4 18. Be3 Nb5 19. Nxb5 axb5 20. Qxb5 (

In the second position Black missed 13… Qe7 14. Nd3 Ne3.

Now that is a move one does not see every day!

The Wormald Attack

GM Sergey Tiviakov

of the Netherlands tied for first with GM Gawain Jones,

from England, at the recently completed, record breaking 25th anniversary of the Bunratty Masters.

There is a reason the Bunratty Masters, commonly known as “best weekender in the world.”

Where else does one see Chess players sitting at the board with a pint?

When the beer flows freely so does the Chess!

There was yet another ridiculous speed “playoff” after the event ended between the two players who tied for first, which was won by Sergey, who was declared the “winner.”

Gawain held a pawn down ending versus GM Nigel Short in the final round, while Sergey could have taken clear first if he had won his pawn up game against GM Mark Hebden.

Tiviakov, Sergey vs Hebden, Mark
Bunratty Masters 2018 last round

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 Be7 6. c3 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. d4 d6 9. Nbd2 exd4 10. cxd4 Bg4 11. Qe3 Bh5 12. O-O Bg6 13. Re1 Na5 14. Bc2 Re8 15. b3 Bf8 16. Qc3 c5 17. dxc5 dxc5 18. Bb2 Qc7 19. Nh4 Ng4 20. Qh3 c4 21. Nxg6 hxg6 22. Qxg4 c3 23. Bc1 cxd2 24. Bxd2 Qxc2 25. Bxa5 Re6 26. Re2 Qc6 27. e5 Qc5 28. Qf3 Rae8 29. Bc3 Qc6 30. Qxc6 Rxc6 31. Bb2 Rec8 32. Kf1 Bb4 33. Rd1 Kf8 34. g3 Ke7 35. Rd4 a5 36. a3 Bc3 37. Rd5 Bxb2 38. Rxb2 Rc5

White to move

There is only one move to retain the advantage. Tiviakov did not find it…

39. Rxc5 Rxc5 40. b4 axb4 41. Rxb4 Rxe5 ½-½

Tiviakov, having played this variation an astounding 71 times according to, must be the world’s leading exponent of the Wormald attack (for information on Wormald see 3974. The Steinitz-Wormald-MacDonnell controversy, at Edward Winter’s excellent Chess Notes – Having played the variation ‘only’ 27 times, Bukhuti Gurgenidze is lags behind in second place.

Tiviakov, Sergei – Beliavsky, Alexander G

Cacak 1996

C77 Ruy Lopez, Wormald attack

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 Be7 6. c3 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. d4 d6 9. Nbd2 exd4 10. cxd4 Bg4 11. Qe3 d5 12. e5 Ne4 13. O-O Bf5 14. Bc2 Nxd2 15. Qxd2 Be4 16. Rd1 Qd7 17. Qe2 f5 18. Ne1 1/2-1/2

Tiviakov, Sergei (2615) v Leko, Peter (2630)

Cacak 1996

C77 Ruy Lopez, Wormald attack

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. d4 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Bb7 10. O-O Re8 11. Ng5 Rf8 12. dxe5 dxe5 13. Rd1 Bd6 14. Nf1 Na5 15. Bc2 Nc4 16. Ng3 g6 17. a4 Nb6 18. axb5 axb5 19. Rxa8 Qxa8 20. Qxb5 Ba6 21. Qa5 Qb7 22. Qa2 Bc4 23. b3 Bb5 24. Nf3 Nbd7 25. b4 Ra8 26. Qb2 Nb6 27. Bg5 Nc4 28. Qc1 Nd7 29. Bh6 Be7 30. Bb3 c5 31. h3 cxb4 32. cxb4 Rc8 33. Qa1 Ndb6 34. Nd2 Rd8 35. Nxc4 Rxd1+ 36. Bxd1 Nxc4 37. Bb3 Qa6 38. Qd1 Qd6 39. Qg4 Nb6 40. Nf5 Qxb4 41. Qg3 Nd7 42. Nxe7+ Qxe7 43. Bg5 Qb4 44. Bd5 Kg7 45. Qe3 h5 46. Bh6+ Kg8 47. Qf3 Qe7 48. Qb3 Ba6 49. Qa2 Bd3 50. Qa7 Kh7 51. Bd2 Bb5 52. Qa5 Bd3 53. Qc7 Bb5 54. Qb7 Ba4 55. Qa6 Bd1 56. Qa7 Qd6 57. Bc3 Kg7 58. Kh2 h4 59. Bd2 Bb3 60. Bxb3 Qxd2 61. Bd5 Qf4+ 62. Kg1 Nf8 63. Qc7 Nh7 64. Qc3 Nf6 65. Qc2 g5 66. Qd3 g4 67. g3 hxg3 68. fxg3 Qc1+ 69. Kh2 Qb2+ 70. Kh1 Qf2 0-1

Tiviakov, Sergei – Ibragimov, Ildar

C77 RUS-ch m5-8 Elista 1997

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 Be7 6. c3 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. d4 d6 9. Nbd2 exd4 10. cxd4 Bg4 11. Qe3 d5 12. e5 Ne4 13. O-O Bf5 14. Rd1 Qd7 15. Nf1 Na5 16. Bc2 Nc4 17. Qe2 f6 18. Ne3 Bg6 19. Nh4 f5 20. Nxg6 hxg6 21. Nxc4 bxc4 22. f3 Ng5 23. b3 cxb3 24. Bxb3 Ne6 25. Qc2 Rfc8 26. Be3 c6 27. Ba4 Rab8 28. Rab1 Nd8 29. Rdc1 Rxb1 30. Rxb1 Qc7 31. g4 fxg4 32. fxg4 Kh7 33. Qd3 Qd7 34. h3 a5 35. Bc2 Qe8 36. Kg2 Ne6 37. h4 c5 38. h5 cxd4 39. Qxg6+ Qxg6 40. hxg6+ Kg8 41. Bf5 Rc6 42. Rb8+ Bf8 43. Bc1 d3 44. Ba3 Nf4+ 45. Kf2 Rxg6 46. e6 d2 47. Bxg6 1-0

I can still recall the time Ildar,

who played at the Atlanta Chess Center while visiting his sister, and I were standing outside the House of Pain and he said, “You are very lucky to have this place.”

Chess : Black destroys white in 15 moves in Ruy Lopez | Brilliant attack by Black (Wormald attack)

GCA President Renounces Chess

The former President of the Georgia Chess Association, Fun Fong, announced his resignation in December. Although having knowledge of the resignation for some time I have not posted it because of the difficulty obtaining information other than what has been available on the internet. I have reached out to the current POTGCA, Thad Rogers, and the VPOTGCA, David Hater, neither of whom responded. I do not know the other members of the GCA board, so did not ask for comment. Some in the community whom I contacted responded by informing me they were no longer involved with Chess because their children had lost interest in the game. The people who did respond did not want their names used. For example, one person responded, “I have deliberately been staying away from GCA politics and events because of the toxic turn that they have taken in the last year or so.” There was no further elaboration so your guess is as good as mine as to what kind of “toxic turn” has been taken “in the last year or so.”

I was aware the man I came to think of as the Fun E. one

had posted something on Facebook. I do not, and have never, belonged to the book of faces. People who complain about lack of privacy and government intrusion join Facebook in droves, while divulging their innermost secrets, which makes it easy for the government, does it not? An anonymous source sent me a copy of what is written on Mr. Fong’s Facebook page, which I quote:

“I have resigned as GCA President and will be leaving chess. I am appreciative of all the good times and great working relationships that I experienced. I will be unfriending the great majority of my chess friends so as to not be lured back to chess again. If I have unfriended you and you would like to speak to me about non-chess topics, I’d be glad to keep in touch with you. I wish my chess friends well.”

I must admit to not being aware one could “unfriend” anyone until reading this, so it is news to me. It sounds pretty serious to “unfriend” anyone. It is one thing to resign an office where one is one of only fifty in the US, but to also “…be leaving chess”? He talks of not being lured back into chess again as someone addicted to heroin might talk about staying away from other addicts. There were rumors that losing for a seat on the USCF policy took the fun out of Chess.

There is a story here but I am in no position to obtain the story. According to the GCA website there is a “GCA Board Meeting, February 01, 2018 7:00 PM • Red Lobster Meeting Room, 3927 LaVista Rd., Tucker.” (
As I am punchin’ & pokin’ this the afternoon of February 1, that means the meeting is tonight. Maybe if still living in, or near, Atlanta, I would put my journalist hat on and attend the meeting. Then again, having attended a few of the things, maybe not…

There is an article at the GCA magazine website concerning the departure of Fun Fong:

The GCA Bids Farewell to Dr. Fun Fong

By Michael Muzquiz

After 6 years of untiring service as president of the Georgia Chess Association, Dr. Fun Fong has announced his resignation. As 1st vice president, Thad Rogers will fulfill the duties of the president until a successor is named.(

In addition, Mr. Muzquiz writes, “Dr. Fong will certainly be missed by all.”

This is not true. I, for one, will not miss the Fun E. one AT ALL! When the second Georgia Senior under his “leadership” was announced I vowed to never again play in any GCA tournament, so I was ECSTATIC to hear of his implosion! The second was just as bad as the first, so it was obvious the man had obtained power and refused to listen to reason, preferring to have yet another failed Senior rather than admitting a mistake and making changes to the failed format.

Then there was what came to be known as “The DeCredico Incident.” Fun Fong wrote the following email:

From: Fun Fong
>> Date: November 25, 2014 at 12:11:01 PM EST
>> To: Greg Maness
>> Cc: gcaboard Board , Laura , Frank Johnson , Ben Johnson , “J Parnell Watkins, Jr.” , Elena Gratskaya
>> Subject: Re: Incident with Chattanooga friends
>> I am also seeking legal advice.
>> GCA cannot sustain legal action (costs). As I said, if this were to progress to a lawsuit, we might win on the merits, but we would lose, likely losing the organization.
>> This is a conundrum. My thought is that we must avoid a legal action at all costs. I now think that Mr. DeCredico will complain to USCF and we need to have possible responses lined up. I will be using the legal advice to consider these factors.
>> Mr. DeCredico states that both he and his children were touched. This is becoming a “he said, he said” story. I think we should look for witnesses.
>> I think that we should discuss this issue at the Board in closed session, after the official Board meeting is over on 2 December. Discussion is available to non-board members now.
>> Fun

This can be found here:

I have always wondered why Elena Gratskaya,

the very pretty young woman from Russia, was copied on this email since she was never on the board or involved with GCA politics. With all the women coming out with accusations against powerful men these days, I cannot help but wonder if this played some part in the resignation? This was during the time a television show, The Americans, about Russian agents posing as an American couple, was quite popular. A source reported years ago that when this was mentioned to Mr. Fong at a tournament in another state, where Fun and Elena had been seen together, the POTGCA became quite upset. I had the pleasure of interviewing Elena at the Castle Chess tournament at Emory University some years ago and will admit that if I had been several decades younger I probably would have asked her to be the Queen of my Chess board! What can I say? She was extremely easy on the eyes…

I had to wait some time to publish this because of only having one source. After publication of the emails I was asked by someone with interest in the activities of the GCA to provide the name of “the” person who had passed on the series of emails published on this blog. The GCA board must have been SHOCKED to learn that, like Woodward and Bernstein, I waited until there were TWO SOURCES before publication. That meant that, as far as they were concerned, there was another RAT! You will not read in any of the emails anything about keeping it confidential. The board then turned on each other, and there was suspicion, which led to rancor. There followed resignations, with the first to go taking the blame, in some minds, as the OTHER RAT. I am reminded of lyrics to For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield:

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

Further information on this blog about the Fun E. man can be found by typing in “Fun Fong” in the question box.

From what little I have been able to piece together Fun E Fong was burned out on Chess. It appears he played the Fried Liver attack once too often… It must have been challenging for an emergency room doctor who is accustomed to giving orders without being questioned to “suffer the fools” who questioned each and every decision he made. Multiple sources reported he had said he was, “sick of being questioned,” and “…tired of being “ragged on all the time,” or something along those lines. I am reminded of the current POTUS, Donald popinJay Trump,

who cannot wrap what’s left of his mind around our form of government; a man who would obviously be more comfortable as a dictator.

Like Georgia RepublicaNazi Governor Nathan “Asleep at the Wheel” Deal (or, if you prefer, Nathan “Raw” Deal),

the Fun E. one won reelection. Sources informed “the new people” loved Fun, so I was not that surprised at the turn of events. The phrase that has stuck with me is when the Fun E one said he wanted to, “Change the demographics” of Chess in Georgia. Donald popinJay Trump wants to change the demographics of US. We can only hope the Trumpster becomes tired of being “ragged on” constantly and follows the lead of Dr. Fun E. Fong.

The Clanking Digital Monster

Some time ago I received an email from an older, obviously disgruntled, Chess player who asked why I did not write about what the influx of so many children has done to tournament Chess. “They are noisy and disruptive,” he wrote, “and Chess is no longer taken seriously because of it.” He enclosed a picture, which prompted his words, adding, “How would you like to sit across the board from THIS for HOURS!”

I have given his email serious thought for quite sometime. I recalled seeing the picture somewhere, but for the life of me cannot recall where…

I thought about something one legendary Georgia Chess player said years ago. He was gearing up for some scholastic event I thought was the Georgia High School championships, knowing he was into the HS thing ‘back in the day’. “What’cha talking about Mike,” he said, “by the time they get to High School they’ve stopped playing Chess. Junior High is where it’s happening!” This caused me to reflect upon the time Neal Harris asked me to coach a group of middle school children in 2006. Neal had taught them the basics and they seemed to be quite serious. Chess was only one of the activities in which they participated, but they took Chess seriously. They did not wear funny hats, but like all children they liked to have some fun. Several days later I sent the man a nice email telling him about growing up at a Boys Club, and later earning a collage scholarship to work at that same Boys Club. I mentioned that one of the attractions of the Boys Club was that it was a place to go have some FUN, and that I never forgot that fact while working around the younger boys. I enclosed this picture, writing, “I hope I never grow too old to have a little fun.”

Jacob Crofts (left) and Lane Erickson (right) dressed in their chess best for Halloween and round two of the TNM, pose for the camera, while Frank Bannan takes a break from his blitz game to check them out. This photo was taken in the Chess Room Annex, where a giant photograph of Mikhail Tal (partly seen in the photograph) is hung. (Photo: Laura Sheppard)

I’ve yet to hear from him again…

After the previous LOTS I received an email from Gene Nix, who had read the post. It began, “Thanks for the kind comments on my contest with Randall.” It got better from there…”This was only my second LOTS, and obviously I’ve been missing out. Many children wearing animal hats (a few adults too), lucky plushy toys at the chess boards, and a festival atmosphere. As a school teacher I often scowl at kids always on their electronic distraction devices, so it’s good to see young people involved in an engrossing mental and tactile game. Of course one must accept gracefully being outplayed by said youngsters.”

“…a festival atmosphere.” I like that phrase immensely! Most people, even an old curmudgeon, will gravitate towards “a festival atmosphere.” If Wilder Wadford is fostering a “festive atmosphere at the Land of the Sky the number of players do not matter, for the Wild Man has done his job! It made me lament the fact that I could not make it again this year, and I vowed that if still alive next year I will make it to the Land of the Sky, as we say in the South, “Creek willing and the Lord don’t rise.” Who knows, maybe I will find the right hat to wear next year…and maybe you reading this will find the right hat to wear next year and we will have started a MOVEMENT! I know Wilder will read this, so I propose that next year the name be changed to the Land of the Sky Chess Festival!

I have also given much thought to “community involvement.” The “community” is not limited to the businesses in and around Asheville, though it would be nice if some younger Ashevilleians were to spend the next year talking with business types about some kind of sponsorship for the LOTS Chess Festival. “Community” also means US, as in ME and YOU. I will, therefore, put my money where my mouth is and make a pledge to the 2019 LOTS Chess Festival. I will donate a book, a brand spanking new book, to be given away by drawing before each and every round next year. All one has to do to be entered in the drawing is to be paired for the upcoming round. Withdraw and you are not entered!

Gene also wrote, “Life Master Klaus Pohl, the Old Gray Wolf, fared poorly in the top section, but took second place behind only Alexander Ivanov in Saturday morning’s blitz tourney.”

I would like to humbly suggest, Wilder, that you limit the LOTS Chess Festival to only FOUR rounds, in order to have a speed tournament Friday evening before the event so all can participate. Four rounds will make it much more difficult for top players to make a quick buddy-buddy, draw, as every half point will COUNT!

If you are reading this YOU are a member of the “community,” and maybe you have an idea you would like to share. If so, leave a comment. Maybe YOU will pledge to get just one more player to come next year. If so, you have done your part. If EVERYONE did this then Wonderful Wilder Wadford could actually RAISE the prize fund! You can start by sending an email with a link to this post to just one player you know, asking them to pass it forward.
What’cha waiting for?

Now, some CHESS! Gene was nice enough to send me a couple of games he annotated, with the help of what he calls the “clanking digital monster.” Check it out: “The clanking digital monster says I missed a win late in the endgame when we both had under a minute remaining, but the details included allowing an unthinkable, but apparently not uncomputable, pawn-romp that involved the other fellow promoting first. Unthinkable.”

The complete Nix vs Ferguson game can be found in the previous post.

We will begin with the position after 52 Be4:

Black plays 52…Ne6?

Gene then played 53 Bf5? missing the move of the “clanking digital monster” (He does not attach a name to the CDM) 53 Kc3!

There follows:


54 b4+


55 c5+


56 Kc4


57 Bd3


58 b5


59 b6


60 Be4


61 Bg2 (Gene writes: “One can always spot the computer analysis. What live human could allow this pawn-scamper with under a minute on the clocks?”)


62 Kd5


63 Kxc6


64 b7


65 Bxf1


66 b8=Q


67 Kc7


68 Kb7


69 Ka8


70 Qb7+


71 c6 +-

Hard to believe Gene missed this line…

Rethinking Opening Strategy

Yuan Zhou 7d,

a well known and highly respected Go workshop teacher, has witten a new book, “Rethinking Opening Strategy: The Impact of AlphaGo on Pro Play,” published by Slate & Shell (

The difference between Go and Chess playing programs is that the computer programs are on their own from the first move. In tournaments, such as the ongoing TCEC tournament (, the “engines,” as they are called in Chess, are forced to play opening moves made by human players, even if their algorithm would never play such a move. Who knows what the “engines” consider best play? Who in the Chess world wants an answer to the question of what each “engine” considers best play? How many books, or articles, have appeared concerning the impact “engines” have had on opening play?

Last month Yuan Zhou returned to North Carolina for his 11th Workshop. It was held December 8-10, 2017, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Yuan Zhou excels at explaining Chinese language phrases and meanings relating to Go. This year, in addition to sharing many new expressions, he shared some of the meaning of professional 9 dan Tang Weixing’s name (唐 韦星), tracing the surname Tang back to the seventh century A.D. Dynasty, and the meaning of xing as a celestial star.”

The excellent article by Bob Bacon can be found here:

One of the most difficult things about learning the great game of Go is the language barrier. As a young man in his twenties I studied the Russian language in order to read Chess books and periodicals such as the Shakhmatny Bulletin and 64. Since I subscribed to the Russian Chess periodicals there is no doubt there is an FBI file with my name on it. I have done the same as an old(er) man while learning the myriad Go terms and I am here to tell you it was much easier in my youth. There was no Google translator in the 1970’s as there is now, so we had to do it the old fashioned way and “earn it.”