Pitiful Chess

Before the last round of the Netanya International Chess Festival 2019 Leinier Dominguez Perez was tied for first with Boris Gelfand, both with five points. The former, now representing the USA, was the higher rated, and younger, player. Dominguez Perez also had the white pieces. The “game” follows:

Leinier Dominguez Perez vs Boris Gelfand

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. O-O Bg7 6. Re1 Nh6 7. c3 O-O 8. h3 f5 9. e5 Nf7 10. d3 a5 11. Na3 Ba6 12. Bf4 e6 13. Qd2 h6 14. h4 1/2-1/2

This is pitiful Chess. Something is drastically wrong with Chess when any player refuses to play for a win in the last round to win a tournament. Some say there is no incentive for a player to “risk all” to win when a quickie draw will tie for first place. Is there not enough incentive for these chumpy-lumpy types to play for a win? Why is winning the tournament not enough incentive, as it was for Bobby Fischer, and appears to be for Magnus Carlsen? Why do these cowards even play the Royal game? What is the point of “playing” the game if the result is a short draw? Why is Chess taken seriously by some people? What is it about the culture of Chess that it has become accepted practice for the best human players alive to not play Chess? Imagine going to a Baseball game and watching the two teams bat in the first inning with neither team scoring before ending the game by agreeing to a draw. How long would Major League Baseball last? If the current conditions, conducive to “playing” quick draws, continue being acceptable how long will Chess last as a serious game?

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What Is Chess And What Does It Do?

A new story appeared today at the Chessbase website:

“Chess makes you smart”: Huge scholastic tournament in Bremen

by André Schulz

6/25/2019 – “Marco Bode is a German football legend, famous for his fair play and his loyalty to his club, Werder Bremen. Bode is also a passionate chess player who is keen to teach young kids the game and to make chess a subject in schools. Last week, Bode’s efforts led 1,000 primary school students to play a huge tournament in the center of Bremen.”

“Following the motto “Schach macht schlau” (“Chess makes you smart“) the pupils in Bremen’s primary schools now once a week learn chess in school. Teachers and education experts agree that chess is very useful for young kids. The children learn to focus, to follow their goals systematically, and they simply enjoy the playful lessons in school.”

https://en.chessbase.com/post/chess-makes-smart-scholastic-tournament-in-bremen-2019

All of the studies by professionals using rigorous methodology approved by peers have proven Chess makes a human smarter at playing Chess. Period. When anyone in the Chess community writes anything about Chess making anyone “smarter” they are being disingenuous at best. The “motto” or “slogan” used by the Chess community could have been used when there was a question concerning just how “smart” Chess made anyone, but now that the results are in and there is absolutely no proof Chess makes anyone “smarter” at anything other than Chess it should be stopped being used because for the Chess community to use “Chess makes you smart,” as a selling point has crossed the line and become a “lie.” It is time the Chess community stop lying.

To compound the problem Chessbase printed the following in the aforementioned article: “However, chess not only helps in the education of young pupils, it is also a sport.”

I kid you not…Chess is most assuredly NOT A SPORT! Chess is a GAME. Specifically, Chess is a BOARD GAME. If Chess were a sport it would not have been turned down repeatedly for inclusion into the Olympics. The only people who have ever considered Chess a “sport” are Chess players and administrators who desire Chess be included in the Olympics. The majority of people on the planet who know what Chess is will laugh at you if you try to tell them Chess is a “sport.” They will do so because they know the definition of “sport,” which is:

a. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.

b. often sports(used with a sing. verb) Such activities considered as a group: Sports is a good way for children to get exercise.
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/sport

It is long past time for the Chess community to stop lying about what the Royal game is and what it does. Chess has been a great GAME. How long it will continue to be considered a great game is up for debate. If the Chess community continues to promote a lie the end of the Royal game will come sooner, not later.

Chess Grit

The website of one of the two organizations teaching the Royal game to youngsters in after school programs in Atlanta is Championship Chess, which proclaims on the website (https://www.championshipchess.net/), “Championship Chess Makes Kids Smarter.”

Chess has not and never will make anyone, child or adult, “smarter” at anything other than Chess, as the latest studies have all proven, and you can read about the latest research studies right here on this blog. A few of the many posts written on the subject can be found below:

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/does-playing-chess-make-you-smarter/

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/chess-offers-low-level-gains-for-society/

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/can-you-handle-the-truth/

A new Baseball book (After Gene Nix posted a link to this blog on his Greenville Chess newsletter an older gentleman informed me he had clicked onto the link and, seeing the picture of a Baseball book, exited immediately, saying, “I don’t like Baseball.” See: https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/powerball-and-chess/) recently read has caused me to reflect upon why some with much talent and ability fail while others without such gifts succeed. It has also caused me to reflect about how children are taught in school, which is simply not working in public schools, and frankly, I have my doubts about places of “higher” learning. I decided to write this post while thinking about how Chess is being taught. How should Chess (or any subject for that matter) be taught? The famous Baseball maven, Branch Rickey

forbid his his managers from criticizing a player’s mistakes without telling him how to correct them. How many times have you seen a Chess “coach” criticize the mistake of a student without telling him how to correct the mistake? How many Chess coaches are capable of explaining to the student how he can correct his mistake? Weak teachers and methodology are the main reasons Championship Chess has been ridiculed unmercifully by the Chess community. How many Championship Chess type organizations are raking in the dough from the so-called “Chess boom” without actually teaching children how to play Chess?

When young I played Baseball. I was never the best athlete on any team and, although a fast runner, I was never the fastest runner on any team, nor was I the most powerful hitter on any team, but could make contact at bat and had a “good eye,” which meant I drew an inordinate number of bases on balls, which was good because I was the lead off hitter. I was above average as a fielder, but my arm was more suited to second base than shortstop even though I played the latter position most often until becoming a teenager. I even pitched and mostly pitched well even though “fastball” was a misnomer when one left my hand. Yet I had good control and was able to make the ball “move.” Young hitters who had only seen straight balls coming at them had much trouble with my “junk” pitches. Like the Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb,

of whom I have read much, I was the studious sort, always watching, and thinking, about how best to beat “those guys” on the other team. The adult coaches would ask me questions about this player of that player and I would give them what they asked for, such as, “You can lay a bunt down on Stubby (the third baseman).” Although talented, Ty Cobb was never the most talented player on the field, but he had the most “grit.” I, too, had an abundance of “grit.” After a game my Mother had attended with her cousin Carl she proudly told him someone said, “Your boy has an abundance of grit.” Cousin Carl replied, “Yeah Mud (short for ‘muddy,’ my Mother’s nickname), “Michael is full of grits!” She ran Cousin Carl out of the house…

After leaving Baseball I discovered Chess. Four years after beating my philosophy professor I tied for first in the 1974 Atlanta Chess Championship with Wayne Watson, who was from New York, which made me the Atlanta Chess Champion. “Can you believe we have a class “B” player as the Atlanta Chess champ?” was heard at the time. I will admit to not being the most talented player in the event. There was no Atlanta Chess championship tournament in 1975, but there was an event in 1976, and again I was not the highest rated, or most talented player in the field, but yet I scored 5-0 to again win the Atlanta Chess Championship.

When one becomes immersed in the culture of Chess most everything one reads is thought about through “Chess eyes.” The question, “How does that relate to Chess,” is foremost in the mind of a Chess player.

I still watch Baseball and am a big fan of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Georgia BullDawgs Baseball teams. I can still be found occasionally watching, or listening, to the Atlanta Braves even though the Major League games have become some kind of version of “Home Run Derby,” as the game drags on and on and on with endless pitching changes and long breaks to “review” the umpires call. The people in charge are to dumb to realize the quest for perfection breaks the flow of the game, which is what made Baseball great. Forget about America, someone please Make Baseball Great Again!

I continue to read about Baseball, as I have done since 1960. The most recent Baseball book read was, The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players by Ben Lindbergh & Travis Sawchik.

I had immensely enjoyed Mr. Lindbergh’s

previous book, “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team,”

and was looking forward to reading his latest effort, which did not disappoint. In the second chapter of the book, A Natural Maniac, An Unnatural Athlete, which concerns MLB pitcher Trevor Bauer, now with the Cleveland Indians, one finds:

Angela Lee Duckworth had left a management-consulting job to teach seventh graders math in New York City schools. Se soon observed that IQ alone was not a reliable indicator of the difference between her best and worse students. She became convinced every one of her students could master the material if they worked “hard and long enough.” Her experience led her to believe that educators must better understand learning from motivational and psychological perspectives.

Duckworth then left teaching to study psychology. She examined the performance of children and adults in challenging settings, always exploring the same questions: Who is successful, and why? She tried to predict which West Point cadets would stick in the military. She forecasted which contestants would advance furthest in the National Spelling Bee. She administered a questionnaire to Chicago high-school students and analyzed the responses of the ones who graduated. One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t IQ. “It was grit,” she told the TED Talk audience. “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out. Not just for the week of month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.”

To Duckworth, who had spent much of her professional career studying it, the most surprising thing about grit “is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it.” What she did know is that natural talent did not make some “gritty.” If anything, her data showed that grit was inversely tied to measures of talent. “The best idea I’ve heard about teaching grit in kids is something called growth mindset,” Duckworth said.

Growth mindset is a characteristic defined by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, whose research suggests that the way we think about our abilities is a key to shaping talent. Dweck defined a fixed mindset as one that assumes that a skill, ability, or attribute cannot be improved or changed in a significant way. Cultural critic Maria Popova writes that with a fixed mindset, “avoiding failure at all costs becomes a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled,” whereas a growth mindset regards failure not as evidence of stupidity or lack of ability but as a “heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

From: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence,” TED Talk, published May 9, 2013:

Magnus Carlsen Being Human

“Looking at computer games it’s clear that we still have a very long way to go when thinking about long term compensation and such things, because simply we misjudge positions and we draw our conclusions too early. It’s not clear exactly how you can improve these things, but it’s very, very clear to see that we’ve only still scratched the surface of what is possible to do in chess, because we are human and we make mistakes.” – Magnus Carlsen

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/a-new-age-in-computer-chess-leela-beats-stockfish

Good Old Friends and the Buddy-Buddy Draw at the Moscow Grand Prix

Although I have intentionally not followed the ongoing Moscow Grand Prix event my old friend the legendary Georgia Ironman has followed it because it did begin with a couple of games of what is now called “classical” Chess before devolving into what is called “rapid Chess” before devolving further into “speed” Chess. Frankly, I could care less about which player is best at faster time controls. The only thing that matters is who is best at a classical time control. Say what you will about Magnus Carlsen but the fact is that he could not beat either Sergey Karjakin or Fabiano Caruana at classical Chess, something to keep in mind when talking about the best Chess player of all time.

In an article at Chessbase by Antonio Pereira recently, dated 5/18/2019, it is written: “Ian Nepomniachtchi, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Radek Wojtaszek won with the white pieces at the start of the FIDE Grand Prix in Moscow, which means Levon Aronian, Wesley So and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov will need to push for a win on Saturday if they want to survive the first round. Three match-ups ended with quick draws, while Peter Svidler and Anish Giri accepted the draws offered by Nikita Vitiugov and Daniil Dubov in games that could have easily kept going.”

The article continues:

“Better than losing and worse than winning”

“A lot of criticism followed the 2011 Candidates Tournament in Kazan, in which the knock-out format led to some players openly using a safe-first strategy by signing quick draws in the classical games and putting all on the line in the tie-breaks. In order to discourage the players from using this strategy, the organizers are awarding an extra point in the Grand Prix overall standings for those who eliminate their opponents needing only two games. In the first game of the opening round in Moscow, four out of eight encounters ended peacefully after no more than 23 moves.”

The so-called “strategy” of the organizers had absolutely no effect on the players who continue to agree to short draws with impunity whenever and wherever they want, regardless of what organizers or fans want to see from them. Are the players aware their “inaction” is killing the Royal game? Do they care?

Exhibit one:

Teimour Radjabov (AZE)

vs Hikaru Nakamura (USA)

Moscow Grand Prix 2019 round 01

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 d5 3. Bg2 e6 4. c4 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. d4 dxc4 7. Qc2 b5 8. a4 b4 9. Nbd2 Bb7 10. Nxc4 c5 11. dxc5 Be4 12. Qd1 ½-½

Sergey Karjakin (RUS) – Alexander Grischuk (RUS)

Moscow Grand Prix 2019 round 01

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. a4 Bd6 7. a5 O-O 8. Be2 e5 9. cxd5 cxd5 10. dxe5 Nxe5 11. O-O Bc7 12. Qb3 Nc6 13. a6 bxa6 14. Qa4 ½-½

The article continues:

“It must be added that Nikita Vitiugov had what seemed like a considerable advantage against Peter Svidler when he surprisingly offered a draw.

Both contenders are part of the Mednyi Vsadnik team from Saint Petersburg, which won the last two editions of the Russian Team Championship and are the current European champions. Vitiugov has also worked for Svidler as a second more than once. The long-time friends talked about how unfortunate it was for them to be paired up immediately in round one, although Svidler confessed that, “[he] somehow had a feeling that [they] would play at least one [match], and particularly in Moscow”.


Good old friends from Saint Petersburg | Photo: World Chess

“Regarding the position shown in the diagram, Peter recounted how he was thinking about 18.f4 being a move that would leave him worse on the board. So, when the move was accompanied by a draw offer, he thought, “yeah, that’s a good deal!” And the point was split then and there.

To accept the draw was a good match strategy? Peter wittily added:

“As for match strategy, I envy people who have strategies of any kind. I don’t have any. I thought I was worse and then I was offered a draw, so I took it.”
https://en.chessbase.com/post/moscow-grand-prix-2019-r1-d1


http://www.espn.com/espnw/news-commentary/slideshow/13596920/13-major-showdowns-serena-venus-williams

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have had to play each other many times during their storied tennis careers, and each and every time there has been a winner because offering a draw is not in the tennis rule book. What is it doing in the Chess rule book?

Chess organizers better wake up because Chess is in a battle with the game of Go and if the trend continues, like the Highlander, there will be only one left standing.

Theory Of Shadows: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

Paolo Maurensig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was also found:

Who was Esteban Canal?

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


Lajos Steiner (1903-1975), by Len Leslie

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

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

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

“You mean being killed?”

The journalist nodded.

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

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

“I took my precautions.”

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

I’m thinking, “Just ask JFK…”

Jews and Chess:

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


Akiba Rubenstein

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


Aaron Nimzowitsch

Lasker,


Emanuel Lasker

and Reshevsky,


Sammy Reshevsky

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

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

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

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

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