Eradicating the Book of Faces

I came to Facebook rather late in life and there were reasons for so doing. One of the reasons was to learn how the life of the love of my life developed after we parted. Initially I thought the book of faces was a good thing as I was in contact with many people involved with Chess from all over the world. People post pictures and write about their life and in some cases one feels as if he knows them better than when only knowing them from the old Atlanta Chess and Game Center or email. One example of this would be Professor Mark Taylor,

Mark Taylor day tripping in Macon, Georgia

the best editor of the Georgia Chess News magazine during the half century of my involvement in Georgia Chess.

Because of the book of faces I was able to communicate with Grandmaster Danny Gormally in England

about his book, one of the most honest Chess books ever written,

and GM Keith Arkell, another Brit.

Arkell's Endings - GM Keith Arkell - ImmortalChessForum

We had a lengthy discussion concerning the rising price of older Chess books. I was able to see the bread Helen Milligan

Surprising winner at the Sydney Open | ChessBase

has baked in New Zealand. I saw many pictures of the publisher of Elk & Ruby, Ilan Rubin, in Moscow,

Ilan Rubin

the man responsible for many of the books reviewed on this blog. I could go on and on…

Unfortunately, there is a dark side to the book of faces. I have recently been in touch with a gentleman I have only seen once, that at the twenty year reunion of my high school class of 1968. After mentioning Facebook Richard cut me off, saying, “I don’t do social media, especially Facebook, because it is only dividing America.” That particular conversation started the questioning of my decision to join the book of faces…

Then there were the negative posts appearing on my screen, many filled with vitriol. Some posts spewed venom like a snake. One such screed was by a fellow who was a regular at the House of Pain, Richard Staples. There were a few obviously strident right-wingers among the players at the ACC, and Richard was one of them. Fortunately, he was smart enough, unlike some others, to take care when and where he spewed his wrong-wing vitriol. Richard is a big and tall fellow and he was the only player who wore a knife, kept in a holster on his belt, while at the House of Pain. There was another fellow at the Center who carried a knife but no one knew because it was kept in an ankle holster. That person would be this writer. The House was not located in the best of areas and there were numerous vehicles broken into during the two decades the House was rockin’. Mr. Staples posted some ill chosen negative words about a certain segment of our society. I was so new to the book of faces that I did not know how to “unfriend” someone. After contacting my friend Mike Mulford he gave me the skinny on Facebook etiquette, or maybe ‘lack thereof’ would be more appropriate, infroming me he had previously “unfriended” Richard. I immediately “unfriended” the first of what would become “many” of what I thought of as “Forkbookers”.

I had met a gentleman, Davide Nastasio,

Jon Speelman's Agony Column #25 | ChessBase

at the 2019 Castle Chess Grand Prix tournament at Emory University, the last Chess tournament in which Senior Master Brian McCarthy played, who is the editor of the online Georgia Chess Magazine, which is basically a place where books are reviewed. There was a pleasant conversation near the area where Thad Rogers was selling books. Davide was extremely knowledgeable about Chess books and the conversation is fondly recalled. After being appalled at some of what was directed at me on the book of faces, I eradicated him, too.

Then there was Rick Rothenberg, a gentleman befriended while living in Louisville, Kentucky. Rick was a few years younger than am I and a weak Chess player, but he was interesting enough that we would get together for lunch, and sometimes breakfast, in different parts of the city. He once asked me to go with him to Indiana, which was right over the Kentucky state line, and he showed me the house in which he had raised a family until being divorced. Another time I rode with Rick for a day trip to the US Open Chess tournament in Indianapolis. When I noticed his name on the book of faces I immediately clicked on the friend request and the next time I went to Facebook there were posts by Mr. Rothenberg. Unfortunately, what he had put on Facebook shocked and appalled me to such an extent I immediately unfriended him after sending a note which read, “If I had known you were splattering this kind of excrement all over Facebook I would not have become your friend.” I have, fortunately, forgotten most of what was read that day, but I do vividly recall that in response to something Rick had written about the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris,

Kamala Harris: What her experience tells us about US ...
Kamala Harris: What her experience tells us about US …

some woman had used the pejorative, “Ho.” I had seen, and read, enough. Rick was eradicated.

I have surfed to the book of faces for the last time. Facebook is not the solution; it is the problem. Since Facebook owns YouTube I will no longer put anything having to do with the Tube of You on this blog. In my world Facebook has been eradicated. I have chosen this path because:

The King and Queen Save the Day

Two more books have been published, The Queen Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,

and The King Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies,

by Elk & Ruby. Having previously written a review ( of the previously published books, I racked my addled brain in hopes of fostering an idea of what to add to what has already been written. After writing the earlier review the 2018/1 issue of the best Chess magazine being published, New In Chess,

arrived, which contains a review by GM Matthew Sadler

of the first two books published, One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day. After reading the excellent review I sent an email to the publisher, Ilan Rubin, in which I wondered if it would be possible to publish GM Sadler’s full review on this blog, or would it infringe upon copyright law. Ilan suggested I write to the NIC folks, asking permission. Rather than do so I decided to publish an excerpt from GM Sadler’s review, which is allowed under copyright law. I also mentioned Matthew’s review was so good compared to my review that it was about as much better as the difference in our ratings. I am no Grandmaster Chess player; far from it, and I am not a GM writer, although I work hard in an attempt to be the best I can be. I strongly urge anyone reading this to obtain a copy of the magazine, or at least a copy of his review in NIC. From GM Matthew Sadler’s review, Be Prepared: The eternal question remains: how do I get myself in good shape before a tournament?

“The most fundamental requirement to playing a good tournament is to spot simple tactics. Continually missing easy tricks is terribly bad for your morale. The higher level you play, the more you need to concentrate on the difficult things – drawing up a plan, keeping up the purpose and drive in your play throughout a whole game. You need to assume that your sense of danger will pick up on the simple stuff: if you can’t, you’ll waste masses of time frantically checking and rechecking everything. Solving tactical puzzles is the obvious way, but it’s hard to find the right material. Ideally you would challenge yourself with spectacular positions ( which keep you interested) at a moderate level of difficulty (you want to give yourself a morale boost before and during the tournament, not destroy yourself!)

This time, I was extremely lucky to be able to turn to One Pawn Saves the Day and One Knight Saves the Day by Sergei Tkachenko, published by the new Elk and Ruby publishing house. These small-format books each contain 100 studies in which the hero is the piece in the title. The idea is very nice; in each of the studies, a pawn or knight will deliver the coup de grace in the final position. The author is a member of the very strong Ukrainian team which has scored consistently high placings in the World Chess Composition Tournaments (winning in 1997). Solving studies as training before a tournament was a recommendation of Mark Dvoretsky’s, but one that always filled me with trepidation. Everyone knows the feeling of staring at a fiendish study for 15 minutes and not finding any idea at all. Not the feeling I want before a tournament! These books are excellent in three ways. Firstly, the chosen studies are exceptionally beautiful. I was constantly oohing and aahing with satisfaction! Secondly, the examples are a good mix of the famous and the unfamiliar. I’ve solved a fair number of studies in the past, but about 75% of the studies in each book were unfamiliar to me, which is excellent. Thirdly, the level of the studies is very rewarding. Some are harder than others, but the knowledge that a pawn (in the first book)or a knight (in the second book) will deliver the final blow is a wonderful hint that always helps you in the right direction without revealing too much. I worked through all 200 before and during the tournament and I felt that it had helped immensely. Can’t wait until the next pieces!”

Sadler “…worked through all 200 before and during the tournament.” Imagine that, solving studies while playing in a tournament. Maybe that is part of the reason Matthew is a Grandmaster…Every day I go to Mark Crowther’s This Week In Chess (, spending time attempting to solve the puzzle of the day before attempting to solve only one position from one of the two new Elk & Ruby books received recently as an attempt to keep my aged brain working. Use it or lose it! I read Sadler’s book, Chess for Life,

which deservedly won the ECF Book of the Year 2016 prize., and will recommend it wholeheartedly!

I never read any review of a book before reviewing it, unless I have read it before knowing I will review the book, because I want to keep an open mind, and think for myself. After writing the above I went to Amazon where I was surprised to find one review, by Paul Maginley, a rated Expert, as shown at the USCF website, already published for the book, The King Saves the Day: A World Champion’s Favorite Studies by Sergei Tkachenko, posted May 11, 2018. (

“I retired from tournament play years ago, yet I still purchase chess books. How does one explain that? Chess remains an excellent avenue for mind exercise even if one has eschewed the rigors of competitive play. And what better way to exercise the mind than to work on endgame studies? Publisher Elk and Ruby have put out six related books on endgame studies favored by the Soviet composer Sergei Tkachenko.
The books are pocket sized and nicely produced with one puzzle per page and the solution printed on the next page thereby facilitating those who would prefer not to accidentally view the answer before attempting to solve the puzzles. There is a series of six books representing a 100 puzzles per book. The compositions represent multiple composers and one ends up with a lone king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, or pawn at the end of each puzzle. The books are pocket sized and the typeset and diagrams are large enough to rule out any eyestrain. The puzzles can be quite challenging, but the solutions frequently display a high degree of beauty and pleasure. English translations of Russian chess books are often stiff and unappealing but translator Ilan Rubin presents the material clearly and concisely.
We live in a culture dominated by the cell phone and people can be seen with their faces glued to their mobile devices whenever they find themselves in a situation involving any kind of waiting. What better way to overcome such dead time than to pull out one of these books and work out a beautiful endgame composition? The books are affordably priced at $11.99 each. I don’t know how many will ultimately be printed, but it would make sense to jump on these while they last.
If poetry represents the ultimate beauty of literature then I can argue that endgame studies represent the ultimate beauty of chess. If I were to find myself exiled on a small island and allowed only a handful of chess books, most of them would likely be books on endgame studies. These wonderfully diminutive volumes would be worthwhile selections for any kind of trip. I look forward to seeing more from this small publisher.”

I cannot add anything to that wonderful review, other than to say “Ditto!” This series of books will bring pleasure and enjoyment while sharpening your tactical awareness.