The Guardian view on chess cheating claims: innocent until proven guilty
The world champion, Magnus Carlsen, has cast doubt on the success of a younger grandmaster, Hans Niemann. Where’s the evidence?
Sun 2 Oct 2022 13.25 EDT
Chess generally hits the headlines only for reasons external to the game itself: Bobby Fischer’s eccentricity; Viktor Korchnoi’s
allegations that the Soviet Union was using hypnotism to undermine him in his 1978 world title match with Anatoly Karpov;
the Toiletgate furore that marred the 2006 world championship.
Now, the reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen’s airing of suspicions over the play of the 19-year-old US grandmaster Hans Niemann has put chess into the spotlight again.
Carlsen has been world champion since 2013. Niemann is a tyro who has made astonishingly rapid progress recently. Carlsen has publicly questioned that trajectory, saying on Twitter last week that “his over the board progress has been unusual”. These days, most elite players become grandmasters in their early teens – Carlsen was 13. Niemann, a charismatic character who says his life has been devoted to proving critics who said he wasn’t good enough wrong, was a late-developing 17, and his rise to super-GM level has been meteoric.
The controversy erupted when Niemann beat Carlsen last month in the Sinquefield Cup. Niemann said he had somehow guessed what opening Carlsen would play. It was Carlsen’s first defeat in 53 classical (long-form) games, and he reacted by withdrawing from the tournament, making gnomic references to something being not quite right. “If I speak I am in big trouble,” he tweeted. Some of his supporters filled in the blanks, with claims that Niemann had computer help. Elon Musk
unhelpfully suggested that he was using unusual methods; Niemann countered by offering to strip naked.
Carlsen and Niemann met again last month in an online game, and the world champion sensationally resigned after making just one move. Carlsen said he was unwilling to “play against people that have cheated repeatedly in the past”, and that he believed the younger man had cheated “more than he has admitted”. Niemann has acknowledged cheating online as a teenager, but insists he has never done so in an over-the-board game and angrily denies the new claims. “Once a cheat, always a cheat,” chorus his detractors, but Niemann should surely not be condemned for youthful misdemeanours in games where little was at stake. There is no evidence that he cheated when he beat Carlsen.
The world champion is right to say that cheating poses an existential challenge to chess – there have been many examples at less exalted levels of the sport. But he is wrong to muddy the waters around Niemann without substantive evidence. Britain’s former world title contender Nigel Short says that the young American is at risk of suffering “death by innuendo”. (https://www.inkl.com/news/the-guardian-view-on-chess-cheating-claims-innocent-until-proven-guilty) Experts reckon Carlsen played unusually poorly in his defeat to Niemann. Maybe it was just a bad day at the office. Or perhaps it was the result of paranoia: once a player believes their opponent is cheating, that inevitably affects their own play. Carlsen needs to produce concrete evidence – ideally as part of the inquiry announced on Thursday by the International Chess Federation – or let Niemann get on with his career. Only by playing over a long period will the latter’s true playing strength emerge – while any repeated cheating in the rarefied conditions of elite tournaments would soon be exposed. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/oct/02/the-guardian-view-on-chess-cheating-claims-innocent-until-proven-guilty
This story, coming on the heels of the recent avalanche of stories concerning cheating in Chess, is being posted because of the surprising connection to Chess at the end of the article.
By James Gordon For Dailymail.com Published: 01:26 EDT, 1 October 2022 | Updated: 09:29 EDT, 1 October 2022
A pro poker player is alleging that his opponent ‘clearly cheated’ during a livestreamed game of poker after she returned her earnings to her opponent. Garrett Adelstein has suggested that his female opponent, Robbi Jade Lew, could have cheated by using a ‘device hidden that simply vibrates to indicate you have the best hand.’
Lew, meanwhile, says she was taken outside of the gambling hall and threatened in a ‘dark hallway,’ by Adelstein. ‘Garrett blocked me. Guilty as charged. What an honest man. He cornered me & threatened me. If he has the audacity to give me the death stare ON camera, picture what it’s like OFF camera.’
Adelstein, 36, from Arizona, is a regular at the 24-hour Hustler Casino in California. He was playing a Texas hold’em game when he was stunned into silence by Lew, a relative newcomer.
Lew, 35, suddenly made a call to go all-in despite having a relatively poor hand, leaving Adelstein and observers agape. Those commentating on the game were in disbelief because the odds were stacked against her with online betting casino DraftKings calculating there were around 150 ways for Lew to lose, but only six ways for her to win – which she proceeded to do.
Adelstein forced Lew to go all in with her $130,000 hand and appeared shocked as her cards revealed her to have a ‘Jack high’, winning the game and taking the entire $269,000 pot.
Adelstein hails from Tucson and has been playing poker professionally for almost a decade. His specialty is on ‘live no-limit hold ’em cash games’ where he is known for his aggressive and large wagers. He became a public figure during the 2013 season of CBS’ Survivor: Cagayan, and began appearing regularly on live poker shows in 2017.
Robbi Jade Lew, meanwhile only started taking poker seriously after the coronavirus pandemic. She previously worked in a senior capacity for pharmaceutical company Bayer. During the game in question Garrett had needed a club, six or a jack, but Lew’s jack won the hand.
The look on Adelstein’s face as he lost the hand said it all as he stared on in disbelief and simmering rage. ‘I don’t understand what’s happening right now,’ he said.
‘You look like you want to kill me. I thought you had ace high,’ Lew said.
‘So, why call with jack high?’ Adelstein said. A jack high would have lost to ace high.
‘Because you don’t have s**t!’ Lew said.
Adelstein then got up and left the table. Lew has explained her unorthodox way of playing her hand was simply because she believed Adelstein’s cards were inferior to hers.
‘Get over it,’ she wrote on Twitter. Yet Adelstein later revealed on social media how Lew then offered to return the money he lost which he took as a sure sign of her guilt. Adelstein has now openly accused Lew of cheating. ‘Poker is an extremely complicated and nuanced game,’ he said adding that her hand had ‘very little equity’. He then went on to analyze some of Lew’s previous strategies and suggested that someone could ‘cheat’ by using a ‘device hidden that simply vibrates to indicate you have the best hand.’ ‘Another common way of cheating is someone has the technology to know who will have the best hand at showdown by hacking into the card reader.’
Adelstein has not provided any evidence whatsoever that Lew cheated or used such a device. He went on to note how after the game he told her: ‘Robbie, this is likely to be viewed by millions of people … I think you know now, you f**ked up.’ It was at that point Adelstein claims Lew offered to repay him the winnings. ‘Knowing a) this was likely the closest I would get to a confession and b) how impossible it is to get refunded in these cheating scandals … I took her up on her offer,’ he wrote. ‘Once she offered, of course I am going to accept my money back after being clearly cheated.’
‘Forget ranges or game theory optimal play, even the most novice players simply don’t ever make that call simply based on the strength of their hand. You can always bluff in poker, but once your opponent moves all-in for twice the size of the pot, that’s where the bluffing stops. Hustler Casino Live co-founder Nick Vertucci has said Lew is an inexperienced player who likely misread her hand. ‘There’s no possibility that there’s anything that could be cheating goes,’ Vertucci said. ‘We’ve checked everything.’ Hustler Casino has said neither player will be invited to return until the incident had been investigated.
‘We completely understand the magnitude of the situation and the accusations. We take this extremely seriously,’ the casino said in a statement. ‘At this point we have no proof either way or any indication of any wrongdoing besides the accusations of parties involved.’ Adelstein has appeared more than 50 times on the casino’s livestreamed show and is its top player, winning more than $1.6million. By contrast, Lew has only appeared twice collecting just over $100k in winnings.
Poker is not the only table game to be rocked by allegations of cheating through vibrating devices. Last week, Magnus Carlsen, the world’s No. 1 chess player, was accused of ‘damaging’ the game after he sensationally resigned from a match against a fellow grandmaster after one move over fears his rival was using anal beads to cheat. In a statement last Friday, the president of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), Arkady Dvorkovich, revealed he was not pleased with Carlsen’s behavior in withdrawing from the Sinquefield Cup and quitting his match against his 19-year-old opponent, Hans Niemann. The resignation came amid rumors that Neimann cheated using a vibrating anal sex toy. Dvorkovich took aim at the world Carlsen, saying the 31-year-old Norwegian has a ‘moral responsibility’ because he is ‘viewed as a global ambassador of the game.’
His actions impact the reputation of his colleagues, sportive [sport-related] results, and eventually can be damaging to our game. We strongly believe that there were better ways to handle this situation,’ he said. The statement did not ‘specify’ what situation they were referring to, although it is likely the sensational claim about the anal beads, which Neimann has denied. He is accused of using a vibrating, remotely-controlled sex toy to gain an advantage over Carlsen by getting an accomplice to buzz the device to guide him into making better moves. The president said the game’s governing body is looking creating a group of ‘specialists’ who will eradicate cheating from FIDE events. ‘FIDE is prepared to task its Fair Play commission with a thorough investigation of the incident,’ Dvorkovich said. The chess body boss said further evidence would be needed before any such probe could begin.
One of the best things about the Atlanta Chess and Game Center was the multifarious people, who came from every walk of life while having one thing in common: Chess. I thought of this while reading an article in the New York Times, How to Change Minds? A Study Makes the Case for Talking It Out. Below the title one finds the main point of the article: Researchers found that meaty conversations among several people can align beliefs and brain patterns — so long as the group is free of blowhards. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/science/group-consensus-persuasion-brain-alignment.html)
There were the habitués who would pontificate loudly, but usually anyone could get a chance to put in their two cents worth. There were a few blowhards and occasionally the Forhorn would blow. During the time spent working there it became obvious the blowhards were all far right of the political spectrum. One extremely strident wrong-winger lost it once, balling up his fist before slamming it into the glass counter top, shattering the glass. He was never seen again, thankfully.
From the article:
“Conversation is our greatest tool to align minds,” said Thalia Wheatley, a social neuroscientist at Dartmouth College who advises Dr. Sievers. “We don’t think in a vacuum, but with other people.” The new study “suggests that the degree of similarity in brain responses depends not only on people’s inherent predispositions, but also the common ground created by having a conversation,” Dr. Leong said.
The experiment also underscored a dynamic familiar to anyone who has been steamrollered in a work meeting: An individual’s behavior can drastically influence a group decision. Some of the volunteers tried to persuade their groupmates of a cinematic interpretation with bluster, by barking orders and talking over their peers. But others — particularly those who were central players in the students’ real-life social networks — acted as mediators, reading the room and trying to find common ground. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/16/science/group-consensus-persuasion-brain-alignment.html)
There were myriad “meaty conversations” at the House of Pain. The President of the Georgia Chess Association, Scott Parker, was also the Tournament Director at many events. Scott was called, “The Sheriff” behind his back because he did not care to be called “Sheriff,” but with his ramrod straight deportment it fit. When The Sheriff was in the House the conversations may have been “meaty” but they were “conversations,” not shouting matches. Scott was, whether he likes it or not, The Sheriff because of the respect everyone at the House had for him.
Writing these words caused me to reflect upon those days and nights at the House and how little conversation has been engaged during the pandemic. A phone call is not the same as actually watching someone engaged in conversation; nor is an email. With that in mind I have recently been reading comments left at various websites concerning the Magnus Freak Out affair. I spent time reading the comments left by Chess fans at various websites and after copying one, wondered why I did not copy an earlier comment, so I scrolled backward and did just that. What follows could be considered modern day conversation:
Chumlychess @DohnalSteven Replying to @ChampChessTour Always admired the World Champion but unless he speaks out to his proof this seems like a wussy move
B @damnthecatt emotional damage for niemann his chess career is done
kiran.sol 🔮🦉 @kiranjaimon He has an impeccable record with no controversy. If he believes something is wrong, I am inclined to agree
David Gil de Gómez @ITStudiosi Why anyone would defend Magnus here is beyond me.
Khan Explorer @khan_explore Unfortunately Magnus has too many dick riders who will keep defending him.
dd df @dddf08021173 Disqualify Magnus for this behaviour.
Steve Holloway @JSteveHolloway A good lawyer sees a defamation suit against Magnus
Indian Sports Fans @IndianSportFan King 👑 Magnus does it again. Magnus Carlsen vs. Hans Niemann game today, a recap:
Magnus Quits.. Why. Can anyone explain. Pls. #chessdrama #chess
CryptoSala🔁 @CryptoSala Magnus should not participate in events with Hans in that case. Or provide evidence for Hans cheating.
Neil Merryll 👌🥀 @Neilmerryll True its unsportsmanlike and he has no integrity
Praava 🇮🇳 @Praava97 Magnus losing all his fans really quickly. Going down the Fischer lane..
Praava 🇮🇳 @Praava97 I’m a huge fan of Magnus but this sort of behaviour is just bullish to say the least. It’s high time now that Magnus should come forward and SPEAK on the matter.
Gerry Last @PatzerGod I feel this is some kind of massive troll, or publicity stunt. Most likely wrong but this just doesn’t make any sense.
Vishesh Kabra @visheshkabra This is the new Queen’s Gambit Declined
DK @DaleKerr Magnus should have been sanctioned after the Sinquefield Cup, either he makes a full statement and provides some evidence, or he is banned from future tournaments. His actions are disrupting tournaments and every player, not just himself and Hans.
Martin Hansen @bondegnasker If he isn’t sanctioned, that raises another point about a wealthy and influential player owning his own chess server and how that affects fair play.
Kela Siame @TheRealKela You’re in fantasy world sir.
dot @dot16060982 Magnus should be banned from chess tournaments
Big Alex @Big__Alex this summed to the fact that he will not defend his title is really a shame. He should have been punished!
Mark J. Moser @mjmoser I lost all respect for Magnus. Whatever Niemann did or not. Magnus should communicate and not just fan the flames of gossip and ruin the reputation of Niemann. The loser is chess!
Hic. @TheHigherSpace Everybody turning against Magnus .. This is weird ..
Saltybird @saltcod1 Naa.. Hugely impressive move by Magnus in my opinion. Brutal forcing strategy.. no sweeping it under the carpet now and it will ALL come out.
A new article inspired by the Cheating Scandal appeared today in The Atlantic magazine and it is an excellent article. Excerpts follow:
Chess Is Just Poker Now
A cheating controversy involving two grandmasters shows how computers have transformed the game.
By Matteo Wong September 17, 2022
It was as if a bottom seed had knocked out the top team in March Madness: At the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament in St. Louis earlier this month, an upstart American teenager named Hans Niemann
snapped the 53-game unbeaten streak of world champion Magnus Carlsen,
perhaps the game’s best player of all time. But the real uproar came the following day, when Carlsen posted a cryptic tweet announcing his withdrawal that included a meme video stating, “If I speak I am in big trouble.” The king appeared to have leveled an unspoken accusation of cheating—and the chess world, in turn, exploded.
Some of the biggest names in chess launched attacks on Niemann in the subsequent days, while others rushed to defend him. No concrete evidence of cheating has emerged, and the 19-year-old grandmaster vehemently denied accusations of misconduct in St. Louis, vowing to an interviewer that he has never cheated in an over-the-board game and has learned from prior mistakes.
Whatever really happened here, everyone agrees that for Niemann, or anyone else, to cheat at chess in 2022 would be conceptually simple. In the past 15 years, widely available AI software packages, known as “chess engines,” have been developed to the point where they can easily demolish the world’s best chess players—so all a cheater has to do to win is figure out a way to channel a machine’s advice. That’s not the only way that computers have recently reshaped the landscape of a 1,500-year-old sport. Human players, whether novices or grandmasters, now find inspiration in the outputs of these engines, and they train themselves by memorizing computer moves. In other words, chess engines have redefined creativity in chess, leading to a situation where the game’s top players can no longer get away with simply playing the strongest chess they can, but must also engage in subterfuge, misdirection, and other psychological techniques. In that sense, the recent cheating scandal only shows the darker side of what chess slowly has become.
The computer takeover of chess occurred, at least in the popular imagination, 25 years ago, when the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated world champion Garry Kasparov.
Newsrooms at the time declared the match a “Greek tragedy,” in which a silicon “hand of God” had squashed humanity. Yet 1997, despite its cultural resonance, was not really an inflection point for chess. Deep Blue, a nearly 3,000-pound, one-of-a-kind supercomputer, could hardly change the game by itself. Its genius seemed reliant on then-unthinkable processing power and the grandmasters who had advised in its creation, to the point where Kasparov, after losing, could accuse IBM of having cheated by supplying the machine with human assistance—a dynamic that today’s accusations of foul play have reversed.
As engines became widespread, the game shifted. Elite chess has always involved rote learning, but “the amount of stuff you need to prepare, the amount of stuff you need to remember, has just exploded,” Sadler said. Engines can calculate positions far more accurately and rapidly than humans, so there’s more material to be studied than ever before. What once seemed magical became calculable; where one could rely on intuition came to require rigorous memorization and training with a machine. Chess, once poetic and philosophical, was acquiring elements of a spelling bee: a battle of preparation, a measure of hours invested. “The thrill used to be about using your mind creatively and working out unique and difficult solutions to strategical problems,” the grandmaster Wesley So, the fifth-ranked player in the world, told me via email. “Not testing each other to see who has the better memorization plan.”
To understand just how superior machines have become, consider chess’s “Elo” rating system, which compares players’ relative strength and was devised by a Hungarian American physicist. The highest-ever human rating, achieved by Carlsen twice over the past decade, was 2882. DeepBlue’s Elo rating was 2853. A chess engine called Rybka was the first to reach 3000 points, in 2007; and today’s most powerful program, Stockfish, currently has more than 3500 Elo points by conservative estimates. That means Stockfish has about a 98 percent probability of beating Carlsen in a match and, per one estimate, a 2 percent chance of drawing. (An outright victory for Carlsen would be almost impossible.)
Yet if computers set the gold standard of play, and top players can only try to mimic them, then it’s not clear what, exactly, humans are creating. “Due to the predominance of engine use today,” the grandmaster So explained, “we are being encouraged to halt all creative thought and play like mechanical bots. It’s so boring. So beneath us.” And if elite players stand no chance against machines, instead settling for outsmarting their human opponents by playing subtle, unexpected, or suboptimal moves that weaponize “human frailty,” then modern-era chess looks more and more like a game of psychological warfare: not so much a spelling bee as a round of poker.
In that context, cheating scandals may be nothing less than a natural step in chess’s evolution. Poker, after all, has been rocked by allegations of foul play for years, including cases where players are accused of getting help from artificial intelligence. When the highest form of creativity is outfoxing your opponent—as has always been true of poker—breaking rules seems only natural.
Though I have stayed at arms length from this latest scandal, I should point out that the chess community, Judge or layman alike, has never been able to treat the subject of cheating seriously and with the professionalism that it deserves. In sports there are plenty of ways of ‘proving’ cheating vis a vis drugs and boosters. In chess, our chess players and politicians rush in and tamper with the evidence. FIDE has a well known history of turning every cheating accusation into a public relations scandal. No one (world championship level) is ever ‘proven’ to be cheating, and the community feels that ‘paranoia’ and Fischer-like craziness is an adequate explanation.
This time however, Carlsen’s opponent will likely see his career cut short. He has admitted to cheating. In the court of public opinion (non-chess community) Carlsen’s behavior has been vindicated.
Have a nice weekend!
I appreciate Kevin allowing me to publish his thoughts.
The following short video needs no explanation as the author is one of the most famous streamers in the world. He is also a Grandmaster, who at one time was called the world’s strongest International Master. In addition, he currently resides in the Great State of Georgia, only a short drive north from outside the city of Atlanta, in Roswell, the ninth largest city in the state.
I concur with most of what GM Ben Finegold says in the video:
Matthew Southall 3 days ago This is why I love you Ben: you’re not afraid to express an unpopular opinion. And you backed up your view pretty well.
ExtraCheeseProject 3 days ago When friends asked me why I stopped playing over the board the answer is because I never played in a FIDE-rated tournament that had any anti-cheating measures in place. I have no idea why Finegold’s opinion is unpopular and it actually feels like it’s the most obvious way to handle things. Eventually cheating will define the game of chess if people keep treating like the elephant in the room; it needs to be in the limelight because if more isn’t done to prevent cheating it could literally destroy this game.
It has been said that all publicity is good publicity. I hope that holds true for Chess, but I have my doubts… I noticed the following article a couple of days ago and read it, hoping it was a one off kinda thing, but unfortunately, that was not the case. I refused to touch it, but now that it has exploded all over the world…
If you asked most people to rank sports based on the amount of drama they have the tendency to generate, I have a feeling competitive chess would probably be near the bottom of every single list (if it even made the cut in the first place).
However, it turns out that particular pastime is very capable of producing some borderline unbelievable turmoil based on what’s unfolded over the past week or so courtesy of a scandal involving the top-ranked player in the world and an up-and-coming prodigy who’s been accused of resorting to a very unconventional strategy to beat him.
A summary of the drama between Magnus Carlsen and Hans Niemann that’s tearing the chess world apart
A summary follows if you click on the link. I will give the bro with a bible the last word. Amen, Brother!
Throughout his career IM Ronald Burnett, from Tennessee
has been a creative and inventive player, especially with the black pieces, preferring to go his own way much of the time. His page at 365Chess.com (https://www.365chess.com/players/Ronald_Burnett) shows Ron has defended with the B06 Robatsch (modern) defense in 37 games. Second with 23 games is the B07 Pirc defence, with 23 games. In the final round of the 2022 US Open IM Burnett had black against Daniel Lin, from California, rated only 1939 prior to the event. After managing to snatch a draw from the hands of defeat, Mr. Lin was one of only two players rated under 2000 to finish with 6 1/2 points. Lang Leo Xiong, from Virginia and rated 1978 was the only other player in the top thirty one players with a rating beginning with a “1”. Because of IM Burnett’s penchant for creating openings over the board one would assume there would not be much theory involved with most of Ron’s openings, at least with the black pieces. Because of the recent explosion of Chess games in the databases these daze one would be wrong to “ass u me” anything.
Daniel Lin vs IM Ronald W Burnett 2022 US Open last round B00 Owen defence
Your writer was fortunate enough to have faced IM Burnett one time. I say fortunate because it was always my intention to play well enough to face titled players. After losing the long, hard fought game Ron said, “I never knew you were so strong.” Ron did not have to say what he said, and it was appreciated, but still, the game was lost. It is difficult playing your friends, who become your “friendenemy” during battle. Most of the time the “enemy” part is dropped after the game, but not always. For example, defeating John “Smitty” Smith, a man with whom I had traveled and shared a room on the road, ended our friendship. After the game Smitty informed me that if he had won he had figured out he would have become a National Master, and planned on withdrawing to ensure he would earn the NM certificate from the USCF. Smitty never became a NM, and soon gave up Chess. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2020/04/12/john-smitty-smith-jr-vs-im-boris-kogan/)
NM Gabriel Eidelman vs GM Eduardas Rozentalis
2022 US Open Last Round E32 Nimzo-Indian, classical variation
It is difficult to believe there have been numerous games played with this opening concidering the fact that according to the ‘rule’ that the side down by -1.5 is considered to have a ‘lost’ game. After playing 6…d6 Stockfish considers black down by -1.7. After the Grandmaster slid his King over one square to f8 with his tenth move the program shows Rozentalis down by -2.2. As my friend IM of GM strength Boris Kogan was so fond of saying about some of my moves, “This is no way to play CHESS!” It is not often we lesser rated players see any Grandmaster busted up so badly they have a losing position before getting out of the opening. GM Rozentalis may have looked fine outwardly after losing such a game, but inwardly he looked like the man some called the “real Rocky Balboa,” Chuck Wepner, aka The Bayonne Bleeder:
For those of you wondering “Why on earth the AW would post these films with a post concerning Chess”, the answer is that I know, as do all Chess players who take the game seriously, that, metaphorically speaking, this is how we feel after losing a game…and sometimes even after WINNING!
It was the move 6…Nbd7 that attracted my attention, not 7 Qe2. When playing the Najdorf what now seems like another lifetime ago I invariably played 6…e6, which was the preferred move of Bobby Fischer, and now Stockfish, or at least the Stockfish program utilized by Lichess.com. Although 7…h6 has been the most often played move by we humans, Stockfish plays 7…b5. Again humans place this move below the move played in the game and 7…e6 and 7…Qc7. After 8 Bh4 Stockfish shows 8…Qc7 as best. Yet GM Sorokin played 8…g6, which has been the most often played move by human players. Then comes a series of moves of which Stocky approves, until after 12…b5, when the program would play 13 a3. After 14…Qb8 Stocky would play 15 Na5, but the IM chose to make a draw. This has all been seen previously:
Dmitry Kryakvin (2589) vs Aleksandr Rakhmanov (2647)
And this will no doubt be seen again, and again, and again… It will be used, especially after this post, by anyone and everyone with a desire to draw. It is the perfect game with which to make a draw because who would ever expect the venerable Najdorf variation, the favorite of World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer because it was a fighting defense that could be used to win with the Black pieces, to be used to make a “quick” draw? The game can last twenty moves, so older, weaker, Grandmasters, like Julio Becerra and Jacob Aagaard (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2022/07/29/gm-jacob-aagaard-blasphemes-caissia-at-the-charlotte-chess-center-gm-norm-invitational/) can make a peaceful, short draw and not have Chess writers rake them over the coals for being old and weak by playing two moves and calling it a day, err…draw.
In the excellent book, Seven Games, by Oliver Roeder,
the first chapter concerns the game, Checkers. It is written: “Competitive tournament checkers games begin with the drawing of a card from a deck. The familiar game, played in living rooms and school cafeterias, with its initial checkers starting in the traditional formation shown below, is known on the competitive circuit as go-as-you-please, or GAYP. But expert players know this version so well that any game can be effortlessly steered toward a draw. To combat this, the first three moves of a typical competitive game are determined randomly by drawing a card from a predetermined deck of opening moves. This version of checkers is known as three-move ballot or, simply, “three-move.” This variation has been played for the game’s most prestigious titles. Checkers openings come with colorful names: the White doctor, the Octopus, the Skull Cracker, the Rattlesnake, and the Rattlesnake II. There are 174 possible three-moves openings in checkers, but not all of these appear in the deck. Some would simply give too big an advantage to one side or the other, resulting in lopsided and, uninteresting play. The deck currently sanctioned by the American Checkers Federation (https://www.usacheckers.com/) contains 156 openings,each of which seasons the game with its own unique favor. Some of them remain bland, typically leading to uneventful draws. But some of them are sharp, bestowing on one side an instant advantage. In those sharp games, it is incumbent upon one player to attack, and upon the other player to fight for his life.” Top players have all this memorized, of course, along with lengthy continuations beyond the third move. Whatever checkers lacks in complexity compared to, say, chess, its top players make up for in depth (itl). Elite players can often see some twenty, thirty, or even forty moves ahead. This is what Tinsley meant when he said that playing checkers was like staring down a bottomless well.”
It has been obvious for decades that Chess has a draw problem. The problem has only gotten worse with the utilization of the computer Chess programs, and the problem will continue to grow, and fester, until it sucks the life out of the game of Chess, just as it sucked the life out of the game of Checkers. The problem is obvious. Players are awarded far too much when “earning” a half-point for drawing. I have posited changing a draw to only one quarter of a point, while some have said a third of a point should be awarded for drawing. The problem is not going away. How long will it be before Chess has to resort to using cards, or some other random generator like a computer program, to choose the openings for the players? Even then players who want to draw will be able to make a draw, unless and until what is gained by making a draw is far less than the 1/2 point the players “earn” by “playing” a game before bellying-up to the bar.
I realize the Royal Game appears to be in its heyday, but circumstances can be deceiving. Many will scoff because Chess has been enjoying a period of incredible popularity recently, which has put chickens in the pots of many players the all over the world. Yet for several reasons there are storm clouds gathering. The pandemic caused many to spend much more time at home at a time when contact could be made with anyone in the world via the internet. When Viswanathan Anand became World Chess Champion
it kindled a firestorm in India which brought untold millions into the game. Kenneth W. Gronbach is president of KGC Direct, LLC and author of the current book, “Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead“, which was recently released in April 2017. “A demographic winter refers to locations that are seeing significant declines in their birth rates, such as China, which has “changed from an aging country to an aged country,” he commented. In practical terms, this means more people dying than being born. India, on the other hand, has a growing populace and will likely be strengthened in the years ahead.” (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2022-07-20-show/) There are many Chess teachers in the US who teach only Indian students. With Anand covered with FIDE slime, how long will that last?
One of the most pressing problems with Chess is FIDE, the world Chess organization, which is led by a Russian stooge, Arkady Dvorkovich, known as Mad Vlad Putin’s “lapdog.”
Former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand decided, for whatever reason, to join the ticket of current president of the World Chess organization, Arkady Dvorkovich,
who is running for reelection. Anand, known as “Vishy”, had a stellar reputation while being admired and respected the all over the world. That ended immediately when he chose to join the nefarious Russians, who are performing genocide against a neighboring country as this is being written. The name “Anand” has now become besmirched the world over. Why would anyone in his right mind join the perpetrators of war crimes against civilians? Need I remind anyone the Russians are not only wantonly killing innocent women and children but also bombing their wheat fields! (https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/07/15/ukraine-farms-wheat-fields-russia-shelling-crops-fire-pkg-watson-lead-vpx.cnn) The wheat grown in Ukraine formerly fed much of the world, therefore Russia has, in effect, attacked the REST OF THE WORLD! Although not acknowledged, World War III has begun, thanks to the opprobrious Russians. And Vishy Anand has joined the villains.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen
decided to give up HIS title and who can blame him? The title of World Champion most definitely does NOT BELONG TO FIDE. That particularly corrupt organization can bestow the title on anyone, as it has done in the past. It matters not who is called the “World Chess Champion” when every Chess player in the world knows the best player is Magnus Carlsen. Awarding the title to another player will only cheapen the title, which has lost much luster over the years as changes were made to the World Chess Championship match format. Former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik
once said, when asked, the match for the World Championship should be at least sixteen games. Even with the souped-up heebe-jeeb games, played with little time, the match for the World Championship is not played with sixteen games. Frankly, the World Championship lost luster when the match began using quick-play games to decide the Championship. It has reached a point where the Championship is virtually meaningless. The WCC cycle went from three years to a two-year cycle. Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend six months preparing for the match and do it again in little more than a year? Why would the World Champ want to face a player he defeated handily after that opponent, the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi,
melted down during the last match. The candidates tournament that Nepo won in order to face Carlsen should not have been started. After it was stopped it was certainly a terrible mistake to resume the tournament after a lapse of one whole year. The next recently completed Candidates tournament was an unmitigated DISASTER! FIDE has egg, after it has been digested, all over their faces. Fact is, FIDE is covered head to toe in STUFF. The World Chess Championship match has been a cash cow for FIDE, and you can bet your sweet bibby that, if reelected, Putin’s lapdog, the Dvork, and his second in command, Vishy, will milk that cash cow for all it is worth.
Younger people will ignore what I write because, well, you know, to them I am an old fogy. The thing about we “old fogies” is that we have been around awhile and have seen things change, sometimes in a heartbeat. I have written on this blog (or was it the forerunner, the BaconLOG? https://baconlog.blogspot.com/2008/07/) about how the game of Putt-Putt was once more popular than golf.
The players earned more cash playing Putt-Putt than did the golf professionals of the PGA (Professional Golf Association) because Putt-Putt was televised. Then the fad was over, in the beat of a heart. I have also written about how popular was Backgammon. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/paul-magriel-r-i-p/) After hitting the road to play the best I returned home to find Gammons closed. The “boom” had ended. As I write this the once popular card game of Bridge is on life support because the players have grown old(er) and not been replaced by younger players. (https://www.plumasnews.com/is-the-card-game-of-bridge-fading/) The time to worry is not after interest wanes but when interest is booming, because when interest fades it is too late to do anything but cry in your beer.
A different post was about ready to go when the decision was made to check the email, where this reply was found in the inbox:
J Parnell Watkins, Jr.
Well written as always. I will ask you, just how many people walk away from a tournament with prizes? How many are motivated by the prize fund to play? Am I in a minority?
J. Parnell Watkins, Jr. President, Georgia Chess Association 770.744.8595 firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to thank the POTGCA for his kind words.
His questions will be answered in order:
I have no idea “…just how many people walk away from a tournament with prizes.” If anyone does have an answer please share it with the POTGCA.
“How many are motivated by the prize fund to play?” can only be answered by asking each and every player in each and every section how motivated they were by the possibility of winning money. If one does that for every tournament for a year one would probably have enough information to answer the question.
As for the last question about possibly being in a minority, once again, how large a sample size do you need? I will begin by informing you, sir, that you are, indeed, in a minority!
Then again, I will admit Chess is different in some respects, which can best be illustrated by something that happened at Gammons, in the Piedmont Peachtree Crossing shopping center, in the 1980s. One day Steve Moffitt and I were there early and began conversing about Chess. Steve was a Texas junior Chess champion, and he asked if I would like to play a game. He had a set and clock in his trunk even though he had not played in years. Once a player… We decided to do as GM David Bronstein suggested and play a fifteen minute game. Since the game was drawn we set them up again. The second game was also drawn. A backgammon player had entered and was standing there watching the conclusion of the second game. He had no idea why we were shaking hands and smiling. “Who won?” he inquired. Steve said, “It was a draw.” He looked dumbfounded before incredulously saying, “You mean you SPLIT? Nobody paid off?” After wrapping his mind around the fact that no money had changed hands he asked, “So the only way to get paid is to win?” Steve told him that was the way it was. I added, and then immediately regretted it, “We were not playing for anything other than the love of the game.”
“What?!!?” he scoffed. “You mean you weren’t playin’ for ‘nuthin at all? What’s the point of playing?”