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 (www.slateandshell.com).

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 (http://tcec.chessdom.com/), 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: http://www.trianglegoclub.org/zhou1217.htm

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.”

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“They’re here”

Stephen Bassett

is the executive director of Paradigm Research Group founded in 1996 to end a government imposed embargo on the truth behind the so called “UFO” phenomenon. Stephen has spoken to audiences around the world about the implications of formal “Disclosure” by world governments of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race. He has given over 1000 radio and television interviews, and PRG’s advocacy work has been extensively covered by national and international media.
http://www.paradigmresearchgroup.org/stephenbassett.html

Mr. Bassett appeared on the Phenomenon Radio program on KGRA web radio, Thursday, January 11, 2017, which is hosted by Linda Moulton Howe of Earthfiles.com.

Live KGRA worldwide web radio Thursday nights –
5 -7 PM Pacific / 8 – 10 PM Eastern.

January 9, 2018 – Tune In January 11th LIVE PHENOMENON Radio with co-hosts Linda Moulton Howe, Reporter and Editor of Earthfiles.com, and retired USAF Tech Sgt. John Burroughs.

Guests will be Eric W. Davis, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, EarthTech International, Inc., Inst. for Advanced Studies at Austin, Texas;
and Steve Bassett, Executive Director of the Paradigm Research Group (PRG). Dr. Davis will share some of his Institute’s 2008 technical paper about the November 2004 “tic-tac” AAV (Aerial Anomalous Vehicle) fighter jet gun camera 34-second infrared video with pilots reacting — as released from Luis Elizondo’s DoD Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) on December 16, 2017, to The New York Times.
https://www.earthfiles.com/

The program, which can be found here (http://kgraradioarchives.com/shows/phenomenon-radio/?loc=2018) concerns the possibility of disclosure in the near future of the fact that, “They’re here.”

Near the end of the two hour program Steve Bassett said, “They’re (governments of various countries of earth) playing a difficult game of Chess with the pieces that they have and I think the timing is also somewhat connected to the political realities of Donald Trump.”

Naturally, Vladimir Putin,


Vladimir Putin introducing a ‘Spaceman’

the Trumpster’s buddy, is heavily involved in the variation being played, or is it the TrumPet Putin is playing? It seems there is a battle between Russia and US as to which leader will be first to disclose the fact that aliens are among us.

Houdini Wins TCEC Championship

Houdini, a computer Chess program with the third highest rating, surprised the computer Chess world by making the TCEC Super Final against the favorite Komodo, then astounded the computer Chess world when it convincingly beat the Dragon. Houdini becomes the engine with most titles in the decade history of TCEC.

In an interview Robert Houdart, author of the champion engine Houdini, said, “It is a great feeling to win the Top Chess Engine Championship and be the engine with the highest number of titles. I’ve worked non-stop for the past two years to bring Houdini back to the top level, and I’m really happy that this has resulted in a new TCEC title, which is the equivalent of “world champion” status. Before the tournament I expected a close contest between Houdini, Komodo and Stockfish, and that’s exactly what we’ve got.” (http://www.chessdom.com/interview-with-robert-houdart-author-of-the-champion-engine-houdini/)

For those who can afford and simply must have the new new thing, the new and obviously improved version of the Escape Artist is already available for purchase at the official website. (http://www.cruxis.com/chess/houdini.htm)

Unfortunately for Houdini this could prove to be a Pyrrhic victory what with the announcement near the end of the tournament of AlphaZero’s devastating victory over Stockfish, winner of last year’s season nine TCEC tournament. AlphaGo’s ‘machine learning’ is already being incorporated into some Go programs for sale and it is only a matter of time until that same technique will be incorporated into future versions of Chess programs, which will destroy the current big three Chess engines unless they also do what Google’s Deep Mind has done. (https://deepmind.com/) For example, consider this exchange from the aforementioned interview:

Alpha Zero just defeated last year’s champion Stockfish 8. Your opinion on the paper published and the match that took place?

It’s fascinating and amazing, and at the same time very much expected!… We even discussed this during the interview with Nelson and the Komodo authors. It opens entirely new, astonishing possibilities for chess engines! I do hope Google will publish more details about their approach, so that the chess world in general and the computer chess world in particular can benefit from their achievement.

Season 11 is starting after the rapid and blitz. TCEC is becoming a league and Houdini starts in the Premier division. Do you expect more competition besides Komodo and Stockfish for the top spots?

The gap between the top 3 and the rest is quite big, I don’t expect any other engine to bridge it soon. Then again, 16 months ago everybody was talking about the “top 2” and the rest, nobody expected Houdini to make a comeback. Anything can happen, Season 11 should be fascinating!

https://yogarecords.bandcamp.com/album/computer-chess-original-motion-picture-soundtrack

https://www.spin.com/2013/07/collie-ryan-its-gonna-rain-computer-chess-andrew-bujalski-stream/

Charlotte Invitational: Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

There were a “”whole lotta” short draws in the recently completed Charlotte Invitational held at the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy. Have you noticed that this century every “Chess Center” also is some kind of “Scholastic” something or other? Back in the day one went to a “Boys Club,” after first going to a “Scholastic Center,” which was known as a “school.”

I decided to cut and paste the draws “earned” in less than twenty moves, with the “winner,” the shortest draw first. The “winner” is:

IM ANGELO YOUNG vs NM BENJAMIN MOON

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 g6 3. Bd3 Bg7 4. O-O Nc6 1/2-1/2

This transpired in the last round. It must be a terrible imposition on the players, after eight arduous rounds, to be forced to actually come to the board, fill out the scoresheet, and then make all of those moves when they would like to get on with their lives doing better things than playing Chess. Major League Baseball has discontinued the practice of forcing the pitcher to actually make a pitch when the manager chooses to issue an intentional walk, so why are Chess “players” forced to make a few moves when all they wanna do is go have some fun?

Elvis Presley – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On?

The silver medal goes to:

GM ALONSO ZAPATA vs GM TANGUY RINGOIR

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. O-O a6 6. Ba4 Be7 7. Re1 O-O 1/2-1/2

Taking bronze is:

GM TANGUY RINGOIR vs GM DENES BOROS

1. d4 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bd2 b6 7. e3 Bb7 8. Be2 1/2-1/2

Honorable mention goes to games that actually made it into double digits:

IM ROBERTO MARTIN DEL CAMPO vs IM ANGELO YOUNG

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 exd5 4. Nf3 Bd6 5. Bd3 Ne7 6. O-O O-O 7. Bg5 f6 8. Bh4 Bf5 9. Bg3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 c6 11. Nbd2 1/2-1/2

FM GAURI SHANKAR vs IM ANGELO YOUNG

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. Nbd2 Bb7 12. Bc2 c5 1/2-1/2

FM KEVIN WANG vs GM TANGUY RINGOIR

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. d3 Nf6 5. O-O d6 6. c3 a6 7. Bb3 Ba7 8. Re1 h6 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. h3 Re8 11. Nf1 Be6 12. Ng3 Qd7 1/2-1/2

GM DENES BOROS vs IM NICOLAS CHECA

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. dxc5 Nf6 6. Ngf3 Qxc5 7. Bd3 Nbd7 8. O-O Be7 9. Re1 Qc7 10. Ne4 Nxe4 11. Rxe4 Nc5 12. Bb5+ Bd7 13. Bxd7+ 1/2-1/2

FM SAHIL SINHA vs IM SAFAL BORA

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Bd2 Nb6 6. Bf4 Bg7 7. e3 O-O 8. Nf3 c5 9. dxc5 N6d7 10. Nd5 Nc6 11. Bc7 Qe8 12. Bg3 Qd8 13. Bc7 Qe8 14. Bg3 Qd8 15. Bc7 1/2-1/2

FM ELIOT SOO-BURROWES vs FM GAURI SHANKAR

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. g3 Bb4 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nf3 Bxc3 6. dxc3 d6 7. O-O h6 8. Qc2 Nc6 9. e4 Be6 10. b3 Qd7 11. Rd1 b6 12. Nh4 Ne7 13. f4 Qc6 14. f5 Bc8 15. h3 b5 1/2-1/2

IM BRYCE TIGLON vs GM TANGUY RINGOIR

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. c3 Bd7 6. O-O g6 7. d4 Bg7 8. Re1 Nf6 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. Bxc6 Bxc6 11. dxe5 dxe5 12. Nxe5 Bxe4 13. Nxe4 Qxd1 14. Nxf6+ Bxf6 15. Rxd1 Bxe5 1/2-1/2

IM FARAI MANDIZHA vs IM RAJA PANJWANI

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 d5 4. d4 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. a3 c5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. dxc5 Nxc5 11. Be5 Bf5 12. Be2 Bf6 13. Bd4 Ne6 14. O-O Nxd4 15. Nxd4 Be4 16. Qb3 Bxd4 1/2-1/2

FM SAHIL SINHA vs NM JOHN GABRIEL LUDWIG

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Re8 10. Nd2 Nbd7 11. a4 Ne5 12. Ra3 g5 13. Qc2 a6 14. Nd1 Ng6 15. Ne3 Rb8 16. a5 Qe7 17. f3 1/2-1/2

GM TANGUY RINGOIR vs IM NICOLAS CHECA

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bf4 Nc6 7. Rc1 Nh5 8. Bd2 Nf6 9. e3 Bg4 10. Qb3 Na5 11. Qa4+ Bd7 12. Qd1 Rc8 13. Ne5 e6 14. Bd3 Be7 15. Qf3 O-O 16. O-O Nc6 17. Qh3 g6 18. f4 Nxe5 19. fxe5 1/2-1/2

FM ELIOT SOO-BURROWES vs IM ANGELO YOUNG

1. c4 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. Bg2 e6 4. Nc3 Ne7 5. e3 d5 6. Nge2 O-O 7. O-O dxc4 8. Qa4 c6 9. Qxc4 e5 10. d4 Nd7 11. Rd1 exd4 12. Nxd4 Qa5 13. b4 Qh5 14. Bf3 Qh3 15. Bg2 Qh5 16. Bf3 Qh6 17. e4 Qh3 18. Bg2 Qh5 19. Bf3 1/2-1/2

Notice all those games ended in under twenty moves? Since Jerry Lee Lewis continues to shake, rattle, and roll, I’ll give another couple of short draws so as to be able to include a few more “numbers.”

GM ALONSO ZAPATA vs IM ANDREW TANG

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 d6 5. Bxc6+ bxc6 6. d4 f6 7. c4 Ne7 8. Nc3 Ng6 9. h4 h5 10. dxe5 fxe5 11. Ng5 Be7 12. g3 Qd7 13. f3 Bxg5 14. Bxg5 Qf7 15. Qd3 O-O 16. O-O Be6 17. b3 a5 18. Rac1 Kh7 19. Rf2 Rae8 20. Rd1 Ra8 21. Rc1 Rae8 22. Rd1 1/2-1/2

NM BENJAMIN MOON vs FM ELIOT SOO-BURROWES

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O d5 5. d3 O-O 6. Nbd2 c5 7. e4 Nc6 8. c3 e5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nc4 b6 11. Re1 f6 12. a4 Be6 13. Nfd2 Qd7 14. Ne4 Rfd8 15. a5 Nde7 16. Qa4 Rab8 17. axb6 axb6 18. Qa6 Qc7 19. Be3 Bd5 20. b4 b5 21. Ncd2 cxb4 22. cxb4 f5 1/2-1/2

Jerry Lee was still shakin’ late in life and I am certain some “players” will still be shaking hands as long as they continue to “play.”

If you would like more information on the tournament go to: https://www.charlottechesscenter.org/

All the games can be found here: http://chessstream.com/TournamentGames.aspx?EventName=Fall+2017+CCCSA+GM%2fIM+Norm+Invitational&PGNFileID=6396

The USCF recently published an article on the tournament, which can be found here: https://new.uschess.org/news/andrew-tang-completes-gm-title-charlotte-invitational-panjwani-earns-second-norm/

Until next time, keep on shakin’ baby SHAKIN’!

Authorities Crack Down On Go Players Using Phones

It was just a matter of time as far as I was concerned until the Go community would be forced to take action when I posted on Go forums prophesying about the actions which would be necessary in the near future to prevent cheating with use of computer programs during play. This was before the rise of AlphaGo and I was excoriated unmercifully for even saying such a thing. After all, Go was not Chess, and most so-called “experts” were predicting it would be another decade before any computer program would rival even lower level Dan players. In reality it was closer to ten months before the Go community was in for a “rude awakening.”

Chess GM Alexander Morozevich, who has also been in the news for playing Go recently, spoke about this in a recent interview with Murad Amannazarov when he was asked, “So it’s only a hobby?” Morozevich answered the question, “Well, of course it’s a hobby. Go can’t be my profession, I understand that perfectly well. It’s not that I’ve been disappointed in chess and decided to start from scratch, because it’s clear that I’ve got neither the time, opportunity nor anything else in order to become a professional there. For me it feels more like I’ve learned a foreign language i.e. if I learned something like Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or some other language I’d also need to practice it from time to time and that, of course, would surprise no-one. It turned out that I “learned a language” – I got acquainted with playing Go, it really drew me in and it’s the first game after chess that has really enthralled me. To some extent I’ve learned to play it, which by analogy is like someone more or less acquiring a language at a beginner level. Then he travels either to the country or finds some native speakers, or he reads books i.e. he develops that in some way. I do more or less the same: I go along, I chat, sometimes I play tournaments, but it’s clear that it’s only as a hobby, of course. It’s not a new job, or a new profession, or a new path. At least from the point of view of achieving any results I don’t have any illusions. I’m 40 years old and that would be extremely naïve. I understand perfectly well that there are roughly ten thousand 10-year-old Go players who would beat me. Therefore you have to understand that if you’re competing with millions and among them you’re roughly in the 4th million, or something like that, then no doubt there’s no point having any great illusions.

A different issue is that somehow I see very similar processes in what Go is going through and what happened in chess 10-15 years ago. That’s all happening to them and is comparable to what happened to us – it’s not even retro-analysis but as if you have another view of the process that we already saw in chess. When the first computers came along they gradually gained momentum, became stronger and stronger, and the way chess players reacted to that then, what they expected of where it would lead, how they began to use them – the same is now happening, the same computer revolution, only it’s as if it’s only just begun. Until 2015 that was the only intellectual game in which professionals were stronger than machines, and only in the last year or year and a half have the first harbingers appeared saying that yes, the end of Go has come. For now it’s not quite formalized, but gradually, I think, they’ll follow the same path that we followed in chess. Machines, of course, will take up an absolutely dominant position, despite the fact that of course the calculating algorithms, the evaluation algorithms are quite different. As far as I understand it the algorithm used by AlphaGo, the most successful program, is a Monte Carlo algorithm. That was also one of the main computational approaches in chess, but it didn’t become common. Machines reached a maximum of 2400 with that. After all, our game is about more direct selection, while there it was possible even to use that algorithm, which is quite interesting.”

I highly recommend anyone interested in either game read this excellent interview with one of the more interesting minds in the world of games.
(https://chess24.com/en/read/news/morozevich-on-go-computers-and-cheating)

An article published recently in the Global Times:

Authorities getting stricter about Go players using their phones at a match in China

China’s top authority for the game Go recently announced a ban on phones at Go matches in response to the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sport.

According to a notice released by the Chinese Weiqi Association (CWA) on Tuesday, “during matches, players are not allowed to have or watch mobile phones and any other electronic devices. If they are found with one of the devices, they will be judged losers immediately.”

Players are also forbidden to leave the room during a break in the matches, unless they have special needs and are acccompanied by a judge.

For team events, if the team leaders or coaches use AI technology in connection with the match, the entire team’s score for the round will be declared invalid.

The new regulation covers all upcoming matches of China’s professional Go league in 2017, with further expected in 2018.

AI technology has been used on some board games with great success.

On a related note, Georgian chess champion Gaioz Nigalidze was thrown out of the Dubai Open in 2015 for regularly leaving the table to check his mobile phone which he had hidden in a toilet cubicle, the Washington Post reported.

AlphaGo, a Google AI program, claimed a 3-0 clean sweep on May 27 over China’s Ke Jie, the current world No.1 Go player, after defeating many other top players.

“AlphaGo has done a splendid job,” 19-year-old Ke, a native of Lishui, Zhejiang, told a postgame press conference.

Go, or weiqi in Chinese, involves two players who take turns putting white and black stones on a grid of 19 x 19 lines. Victory over an opponent involves advancing over more territory on the grid.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1073115.shtml

If caught cheating I assume the perpetrator would be forced to do a “perp walk” with the only question being, “Would you like a blindfold?” There are some, if not most, officials in FIDE, such as Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who would dispense with the blindfold and even possibly even the perp walk. For those unaware, Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov, after knocking former World Human Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand out of the World Cup, was accosted by the bombastic organizer of the event, GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili for wearing Bermuda shorts even they are deemed acceptable by the world Chess organization, FIDE, a few minutes before beginning the game with his next opponent. As stated by numerous witnesses, Azmaiparashvili’s unnecessary diatribe would have rattled even the most stable Chess player.

(http://www.spraggettonchess.com/fide-psychopath-at-large/)

See also the article Psychopathy in Tbilisi, by GM Kevin Spraggett on his excellent blog in which he prints the official FIDE rule:

3 Dress code for players during games in progress

3 a. The following is acceptable for men players, captains, head of delegation.

Suits, ties, dressy pants, trousers, jeans, long-sleeve or shirt-sleeve dress shirt, alternatively T-shirts or polo, dress-shoes, loafers or dressy slip-ons, socks, shoes or sneakers, sport coat, blazer, Bermuda shorts, turtleneck, jacket, vest or sweater. Team uniforms and national costumes clothing.

http://www.spraggettonchess.com/psychopathy-in-tbilisi/

Another excellent commentary of the sordid affair is: https://laregledujeu.org/arrabal/2017/09/10/8209/a-n-t-o-n-k-o-v-a-l-y-o-v-grand-maitre-international/

IM Colin Crouch on The So – Rich – Akobian dispute

The news was announced on the English Chess Forum by Nevil Chan, Sat Apr 18, 2015 8:34 am:

“Harrow Chess Club deeply regret to announce that Colin Crouch has passed away. Colin was 58 years old and a member of the club since 1970.” (http://www.ecforum.org.uk/viewtopic.php?t=7336)

Dr. Crouch was Professor Emeritus, University of Warwick; External Scientific Member, Max-Planck-Institut für Gesellschaftsforschung, Cologne. (http://www.britac.ac.uk/fellowship/elections/index.cfm?member=4526)

His Principal publications were:
Making Capitalism Fit for Society, 2013
The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, 2011
Capitalist Diversity and Change, 2005
Post-Democracy, 2004
Social Change in Western Europe, 1999
Industrial Relations and European State Traditions, 1993

IM Crouch published a chess book, one of many, How to Defend in Chess, in 2007. It became one of my favorite chess books. “Many books discuss how to attack in chess, but resourceful defensive play is also a vital ingredient in competitive success. This is an area largely neglected in the literature of the game. This book fills the gap admirably. Following a survey of general defensive methods in chess, Dr Colin Crouch investigates the techniques of World Champions Emanuel Lasker and Tigran Petrosian, both highly effective defenders. Lasker would place myriad practical obstacles in the opponent’s way, and was a master of the counterattack. Petrosian developed Nimzowitsch’s theories of prophylaxis to a new level. His opponents would find that somehow their attacking chances had been nullified long before they could become reality.” (http://www.amazon.com/How-Defend-Chess-Colin-Crouch/dp/1904600832/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1429714416&sr=1-1&keywords=colin+crouch+chess)

I enjoyed the blog written by IM Colin Crouch. This is an excerpt from his last post:

The So – Rich – Akobian dispute

“Sadly, the news at St Louis dominates all discussion in the US Championships. The forfeit of Wesley So’s game against Varuzhan Akobian is deeply controversial, and no doubt will have long term implications.

The situation was, at its most basic, that Akobian had made a complaint against So, after move 6. There was no indication that there was any cheating by So, of, for example, using the computer of finding the very best moves in a particular position (the main reason for barring electronic devices).

What then was Akobian complaining about? The answer was that he had been scribbling a few notes, while the game was being started, mainly as motivation techniques. It was along the lines of thinking before you make a move, slow down, don’t hurry. It is more a case of getting more relaxed, for what is likely to be a tense game.

I have heard recently of this type of technique, used in political speaking. At a recent Seven-ways Leader debate (hes, these days there were seven parties, plus minor groupings), just before the British General Election, there were notes placed before the podium, for many of the leaders. With seven players battling it out, there were never going to be long set-piece speeches. It was much more the case of the speakers having written down in advance something like, calm down, don’t get wound up, that sort of thing. It does not even involve the speakers having written notes, and loads of statistical facts and figures o be wheeled out. That would have caused unconvincing lack of spontaneity.

It is in many ways what Wesley So has been doing in the last few months, and maybe before. Maybe it can be claimed that what he was doing was technically in breach of the chess laws, although it is, it can be regarded, as only a slight technically breach. Presumably something will need to be clarified at some later FIDE congress. Again though, such a writing down in such notes is, it seems, acceptable in politics, and in other fields. Is there is no totally clear rule that this should be forbidden during a game of chess? And what happens if, for example a couple of players agree to meet up for a meal after the game, and write down where they should meet up at a restaurant?

The simple point is that unless there is absolute clarity in the regulations, there should be no reason for a player being given the drastic punishment of a loss – after six moves of play!

Akobian claimed that he was distracted by So’s play. Really? It is surely much more of a question of how much Wesley So was distracted by Akobin’s play, and in particular in trying to make a formal complaint. It is of course just about possible that Akobian had only made a casual note to the chief arbiter, and that the Chief Arbiter, Tony Rich jumped the gun. I do not know, and without much clearer information, I cannot be certain.

My suspicions are however that Akobian was at least as guilty as distracting So, than So is of distracting Akobian. It is an unfortunate aspects of chess that one way of “cheating” is by accusing the opponent of cheating. Akobian was clearly able to take full advantage of Tony Rich’s actions. Even so, without 100% knowledge of what was going on, I am reluctant to say whether this was what in fact happened.

The next question is how Tony Rich handled things. We must too remember that unfortunately he would have had his clashes with chess authority. We was, for example, not given the expected payment for his contributions for Chess for the Philippines, in a bib Asian sports event, as the excuse was made that chess does not count. He moved to the USA, but it took time to play for the team in the Olympiad in Tromso, while various players originally from Ukraine were given the chance to change qualifications to Russia almost instantly. Where is the justice in that? I do not want to attempt to write about what was happening during his time at St Louis. There were some complications. He did not however complete his university degree there, which is totally understandable, as, unlike the vast majority of even top grandmasters, he is capable of playing at fully equal terms against Carlsen, given time. He also had problems with his mother, on his future in chess and study. There was an unexpected encounter with her at the beginning of the US Championship.

My instincts here is that quite probably he felt that he was being hassled by Tony Rich, and his continuous complaints that Wesley was doing such-and-such a thing, and that quite simply he merely wanted to play chess, concentrate on chess, and try to become the top player from the USA. He could easily be thinking that why does this arbiter keep whinging? It is not as if he is a strong player anyway.

There is an indication that probably Tony Rich is not quite as clued up as one would like. To make things easier, it is simplest that when strong players, including super-strong players, are under the control of the arbiters, the convention is that the arbiters have full knowledge and understanding of what is going on, during the game, and elsewhere in the tournament and surrounds. It is only when suspicions arise, that players have doubts about the arbiters.

A final point. I would hope that the game between Akobian and So is to be expunged from the points gained and lost in their game. Akobian did not win any points through his superior chess knowledge.” (http://crouchnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-so-rich-akobian-hispute.html)

The Wesley So Forfeit

The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center was in its infancy when I played in the St. Louis Open there in the spring of 2009. In the second round I faced a young boy, Kevin Cao, who was an expert at the start of the tourney. Playing my favorite Bishop’s opening the boy did not take advantage of the opportunities my play afforded, putting him in a difficult position. My opponent had been keeping score on a gizmo called “Monroi.” When the going got tough my opponent pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and placed his gizmo on the table, eschewing the actual chessboard in order to focus only on the chessboard on his gizmo. Since this violated the rules of chess, I lodged a protest with the TD’s. The rule is simple and clear: 11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

The tournament director’s did not see it that way. Since the Monroi was a USCF “approved” gizmo they had trouble ruling the only way they should under rule 11.3. They decided to “compromise” by asking my opponents father have his son not use the gizmo as a chessboard the rest of the game. I agreed to this, and so did the father, albeit reluctantly. This was done because I was playing a child. If my opponent had been an adult I would not have agreed, but insisted he be forfeited because the rule is clear. Things change dramatically when a child is involved.

After a few more moves my opponent’s position deteriorated, and he was in also in time pressure which happens with a G/2 time control. His father, seeing this while constantly hovering over the board, told his son to do go back to using his gizmo. The boy then pulled his hood over his head and placed his gizmo on the table and again eschewed the actual chessboard. I protested, the clocks were stopped and into the TD room we went. This time things became, shall we say, heated. Actually, the father went ballistic. Some time later the USCF issued a ruling castigating the father for “reprehensible behaviour.” The father took his son home and when his time ran out, I was declared the “winner.” The young boy dropped back into the “A” class because of the loss. He is now rated 2300+.

This was written about and discussed on the forum of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center, which no longer exists, and some have said it is no longer in existence was because of what was written on it, none of it positive toward me. Simply put, I was vilified. Much was written on the USCF forum at the time, where I was also excoriated unmercifully.

I closely followed the recent US Championship tournament, the one now called the “Open” tournament, as opposed to the one called the “Women’s” tournament. GM Wesley So is obviously a supremely talented chess player. I found the interviews with him intriguing, to say the least. After the interview early in the tournament,maybe the very first round, the one in which he mentions playing weakly in the middle game after not seeing his foster mother for some time, (She had been with Jeanne Sinquefield he said) I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman something was obviously “not right” about Mr. So. I could not put my finger on it, but knew something was wrong.

Much has been written about Wesley being forfeited, and I have read everything found on the interweb. I would like to share some of it with you, then share a few comments of my own.

“Akobian complained that this distracted him”!? What is the motive behind this statement? To me it looks like a “sucker punch” from Akopian to get an easy win. Chess referees should according to the rules always apply common sense. And the nature of this incident considering the actual writing of So does not by any means amount to such a serious offence that So should forfeit his game against Akopian.” – thomas.dyhr (Thomas Dyhr, Denmark)

“This decision is absolutely ridiculous I take it So has been writing on his scoresheet sometimes which would show on his copy handed in and is against Fide rules ok and Rich told him this.
He gets a blank piece of paper instead to write some thought positives and Akobian complains to Rich who forfeits So.
Akobian if he was distracted by So’s actions should have asked him to stop first.
Rich should have seen that this was not writing on a scoresheet which he warned him about and if he was not allowing So to write on blank paper as well told him to stop immediately and if So complied let the game continue.
Akobian and Rich do not come out of this with any credit and Akobian should be ashamed of himself as a man of integrity.” – Gilshie (Thomas Gilmore, United Kingdom)

“I guess they wanted to guarantee that an American wins the US Championship…” – Shtick (Nick Daniels, Canada)
(All of the about quotes from: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

“PS: editorial comment to myself

Many chess writers and commentators seem to have little better to do this weekend than to talk about a silly forfeit incident in the US championship, so I will throw in a few of my own observations.
The first is that even though some tournament rule might give the tournament arbiter, Tony Rich, the POWER or the AUTHORITY to forfeit Wesley So , no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did. So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.
Please understand that I am not saying that Akobian–who is a perfect gentleman– acted wrongly when he drew to the arbiter’s attention So’s actions. Nor am I saying that Tony Rich acted incorrectly when he decided to act according to the written rules. And especially I am not saying that So was right when he lashed out when interviewed afterwards…there were CLEARLY better ways to have handled the situation.
What I am trying to say is that once more the game of chess DESERVES to be belittled because of this incident. ONCE MORE, mainstream media will target and make fun of us. Chess LOST some prestige on that day. When Jon Stewart recently did a humorous skit on the USCF trying to recruit F.Caruana for the national team, many–including ChessBase–thought it was also a bit insulting to the game of chess. Perhaps it was a bit insulting, even though it might not have been intended to be insulting…
But until the day we (the chess community) STOP allowing silly and poorly written rules to hurt and denigrate the noble game of chess in the eyes of normal and intelligent onlookers (and let us not forget about potential sponsors and patrons), then we deserve to be insulted a little bit more each time…” – Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett
(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/it-took-a-really-long-time-but/)

“Guess my point is – even if he warned So, forfeiting is a staggering over-reaction. Threaten with forfeit = fine. Actually doing it = insane” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (Also from the aforementioned chess24 article, and if you click on this, you will find more comments, including this one by IM Mark Ginsburg, “Correct. Time penalty first. This action was wildly disproportionate as GM Hammer points out. Bad call.”)

GM Emil Sutovsky, President at Association of Chess Professionals, wrote this on his Facebook page (taken from the aforementioned chess24 article) “The arbiter’s decision to forfeit Wesley So for writing down irrelevant notes on his scoresheet during the game seems weird to me. Indeed, that can be seen as a violation of rules: ” 8.1 b. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.” And arbiter has repeatedly urged Wesley to stop it. But awarding a loss is way too harsh a punishment for such a minor sin. Yes, it can be disturbing for the opponent, and the arbiter could and should have deducted the time on Wesley’s clock for disturbing the opponent. And to keep deducting it (2 minutes each time), if needed after each move (warning Wesley, that a forfeit will come after 2nd or 3rd deduction). That was the most painless and logical decision. Unfortunately, the arbiter has preferred the most brutal solution. These things should not happen.”

It should be obvious from the above that the TD, Tony Rich, and the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center have not come out of this sordid incident in a favorable light. As GM Spraggett says, once again chess has suffered a black eye. I agree with Kevin when he writes, “…no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did.” The reputation of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center has been sullied.

The punishment should fit the crime. As GM Kevin Spraggett writes, “So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.”

Contrast this with how I was treated at the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center. My opponent violated the rule in order to gain an ADVANTAGE! GM Wesley So did no such thing. He is one of the elite chess players in the world and has no need to gain an advantage against any other player in the world.

If one closely examines the rule, “11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard,” it is clear the meaning is that a player cannot use any “NOTES, sources of information or advice,” to help, or assist him in regard to making his MOVES. A player cannot utilize a book, or gizmo containing chess information, or any “advice” from another person. There is no ambiguity here.

I was not there and do not know EXACTLY what Tony Rich said to Wesley, but from what I heard on the broadcast, and have now read, GM So was under the impression he could not write on his scoresheet, so he wrote on another piece of paper. How culpable is Tony Rich in this matter? Did he make himself COMPLETELY understood? Besides, as “Najdork” (Miguel Najdork, from Nepal) commented, “Also I would like to point out how from rule 8.1 you are allowed to write on the scoresheet any “relevant data”, and that is so vague that I guess you could write almost anything.” Who defines what is “relevant?” Your relevant may differ from what I consider “relevant.” For example, what if your opponent in a Senior event wrote on his scoresheet, “Take heart medication at 3 PM.” Who, other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, would complain? And who, other than Tony Rich would forfeit the man? I know Tony Rich. As Tony reminded me in 2009, I won our game at the Missouri State Championship in 2002 in Rollo. He was nice to me then, and has been every time I have encountered him, such as at the US Open in Indiana a few years ago. I liked Tony until he lost his mind. What could possibly have motivated the man to issue this stupid ruling, which will have lasting repercussions? If you were Wesley So would you join the American team at the Olympiad?

“In love with this rule: “12.2 The arbiter shall: b. act in the best interest of the competition.” Common sense.” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.

The forfeit defies common sense. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rule; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.” – John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/when-the-umpire-is-playing-for-the-other-team/262429/)
No one watches a chess tournament to see the TD. In lieu of watching Wesley So play GM Akobian, the world was instead subjected to a TD try and explain his “logic.” As many a TD has proven over the years, the less involved they are, the better the outcome.

None of this made any sense to me until reading this, “In the final reckoning Wesley So’s forfeit had no effect on the top three standings. Even a win against Akobian would only have tied So with Ray Robson on 7.5/11, and since he lost against Robson he would still have finished third. The person who has a real cause for complaint seems to be Gata Kamsky, who was edged out of 5th place – his goal in order to qualify for the World Cup later this year – by Akobian.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-and-krush-are-2015-us-champions)

There it is, the reason for this whole debacle. It always comes down to “Who profits?”

The whole affair is disgusting, and sickening. It proves only that a TD has only one rule by witch to abide: Do What Thy Wilt! There should be some kind of punishment for a TD who oversteps his bounds. I have seen far too many tournament director’s puff out their chest while strutting around singing, “I’ve got the power,” such as Richard Crespo, the former TD spending his days in prison after abducting a woman and shooting it out with police in San Antonio, Texas a decade ago.
I am embarrassed, and ashamed, to be an American involved with chess. This putrid affair rivals anything I have written about FIDE and the nefarious Russians. United States chess has reached a new low. Tony Rich has now made everyone forget about L. Walter Stephens, the TD who awarded Sammy Reshevsky a win against Arnold Denker in the 1942 US Championship even though it was Sammy who lost on time. The game will die before the shock waves emanating from this debacle subside. The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center touts itself as the US Capital of Chess. Knowledgable players and fans know that three of the players in the Championship, Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, and Daniel Naroditsky, cut their chess teeth in the San Francisco Bay area, home of the oldest chess club in America, the venerable Mechanic’s Insitute Chess Room. If any area should be acknowledged as the “Capital of US Chess,” it is San Francisco, in lieu of the neuveau rich, faux chess club AND scholastic center in St. Louis, which has now been tarnished. No longer can it be considered a “leading light,” or “shining example.”

I can only hope this affair does not dessiccate Wesley So’s desire. If one watches the interviews with Mr. So during the US Chess Championship he will see a dramatic change in Wesley as the tournament progressed. Hopefully, this will fire him up and prod Wesley to play the kind of chess of which he is capable culminating in a match for the World Chess Championship.