ECF Book of the Year 2018 shortlist

One of the books reviewed on this blog, Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution
by Sergei Tkachenko, Elk and Ruby Publishing House, has made it to the English Chess Federation shortlist. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/alekhines-odessa-secrets-chess-war-and-revolution-a-review/)

I have a vague memory of someone, possibly David Spinks, saying something about what counted was not how many times an actor won the award, but how many times he or she were nominated. I feel the same about books.

This brought to mind an email received concerning the book from former California Chess Champion Dennis Fritzinger:

Dennis Fritzinger
To:Michael Bacon
Feb 24 at 3:28 PM

Hi Michael,

You definitely read widely! I would never have heard of this book I’m sure but for your review. Somehow I thought my eyes were going to glaze over reading about such past happenings but they didn’t. I was swept along to the very end. The book reminded me of a certain author, Ian Fleming. It certainly gives him a run for his money!

Dennis

Book of the Year 2018 shortlist

Posted By: WebAdmin 28th August 2018

The large number of varied and interesting books this year made the selection particularly difficult, but the choice came down to books by two new chess publishers and two excellent instruction manuals (beautifully printed by Quality Chess) which the judges had great difficulty in separating, so included both!

Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution
Sergei Tkachenko, Elk and Ruby Publishing House, paperback, pp213, £19.99
The cover alone indicates this is not a conventional chess book. It vividly covers the chess community in Odessa, how it and they coped with the rapidly changing governments 1916 to1919. Alekhine was a frequent visitor to Odessa. When the Bolsheviks captured the town in 1919, they shot an estimated 1,200 “traitors”. Alekhine was arrested, imprisoned and was on the list to be executed. Why he was released remains a mystery. Amongst the narrative drama are the chess games he played in Odessa which show his outstanding chess imagination.

Carlsen vs Kajarkin World Chess Championship 2016
Lev Alburt and Jon Crumiller, Chess Information and Research Centre, paperback, pp336, £22.50
World championship matches are the summit of the chess world. Whilst there is extensive short-term media coverage during the match, there are surprisingly few books published after the event giving a considered view. This book is one, with the usual photos, atmospheric background and computer analysis all well done. What lifts the book to an exceptional level is ‘Vlad’s Viewpoint’ which occurs throughout the book. The former world champion Vladimir Kramnik is able, from his unique experience, to give a wider and deeper insight into the play and players. Essential reading for Caruana!

Small Steps to Giant Improvement

Sam Shankland, Quality Chess, hardback, pp 331, £23.99
Shankland had a setback in his chess playing activities so had some free time. He decided to study and write about pawn play which he identified as one of his weaknesses. Written in a refreshing and open style he gives pointed examples of various issues eg advanced pawns can be strong, but they can also be weak. There is much to learn in this book as Shankland himself showed: he won his next three tournaments including the USA championship and raised his grading over 2700!

Under the Surface
Jan Markos, Quality Chess, hardback, pp276, £23.99
Markos has not written a standard text book, rather an exploration of the other factors that affect chess play. A sample of the chapter headings give an impression of his unusual approach – ‘Anatoly’s billiard balls’, ‘What Rybka couldn’t tell’, ‘Understanding the Beast’ and so on. Markos writes in an original way bringing in applicable concepts from the none chess world. There are four fascinating chapters on computer chess. All in all players of every level will find something original or instructive in this book.

— Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand, Sean Marsh – 20th August 2018

https://www.englishchess.org.uk/book-of-the-year-2018-shortlist/

Techmate

An article, Tech mate? Top grandmaster claims chess is riddled with cheats using smartphones, By Leon Watson, appeared in The Telegraph 21 Mar 2015. It must have flown under the radar because it was not mentioned by other chess based websites. It now seems prescient because underneath the headline one reads, “Daniel Gormally suggests many chess players now disappear to the toilet with their smartphones during games to work out their next move.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11487515/Tech-mate-Top-grandmaster-claims-chess-is-riddled-with-cheats-using-smartphones.html)

“The genteel world of British chess has been rocked after a top grandmaster claimed the game of kings is riddled with cheats.”

Daniel Gormally, 38, suggested the game is facing an epidemic of people popping to the loo during competitions and using mobile phones to work out their next move.

Mobile apps such as Droidfish and Shredder have made it easy to play chess on the move and analyse complex positions with so-called “chess engines”.

But despite handsets being banned in most tournaments on the English circuit, Gormally said there is nothing to stop players hiding in cubicles with them.”

“Gormally, from Durham, said: “There’s a few players in English chess whose ‘improvement’ I’ve found a bit suspicious, to say the least. But I won’t name any names.

“The worrying thing is the amount of chess players who cheat at chess, a game with very little money in it.”

Gormally, ranked 13 by the English Chess Federation, went on to say he believes chess is no different to sports like cycling which have been embroiled major drug taking scandals.

“The problem is that computers are so powerful,” he added. “It’s just a shame because now when you see someone have a significant improvement you think ‘hang on, wait a minute’ and it shouldn’t be that way.

“Of course, you can’t prove it. If somebody wants to go to the toilet once or twice in a match you wouldn’t be suspicious, but they could easily look at their phone and gain a significant improvement.”

“I don’t think it happens at the top level because they would get found out. The top players have press conferences after their matches and have to explain all their moves. But its at the lower level where it is a problem.”

Until GM Gaioz Nigalidze was caught with his pants down and his engine up, this has been the accepted, conventional wisdom. The administrators of chess have tried to either ignore, or talk the problem to death. They failed, because it lives.

Who is Daniel Gormally? ” Gormally himself hit the headlines in 2006 – although for other reasons.

He was involved in a drunken punch-up in a nightclub after he saw a rival dancing with a female player, dubbed the “Anna Kournikova of chess”.

Gormally had struck up an email relationship with 19-year-old Aussie Arianne Caoili and was accused of hitting and shoving world number three Levon Aronian when he spotted the Armenian with her.

The day after the bust-up at a tournament in Turin, Italy, Gormally was attacked by fans of Aronian.”

That would not happen today because the best players are not old enough to drink an adult beverage.

“Telegraph chess correspondent Malcolm Pein, who runs the top level London Chess Classic tournament, said he is not aware of any allegations of cheating in the English game and the game is clamping down on the use of technology.

He added: “The chess community is very aware of the possibility of cheating and measures are being taken to prevent it.

“There are metal detectors now at some tournaments and all electronic devices are banned at most. At the London Chess Classic, which I run, the arbiters observe the audience to check for suspicious behaviour.

“Were there to be a drug invented that makes you better at chess, I would give it to my children and boost their exam results.”

Most parents would probably do the same thing with their children because they have done exactly that with all kind of psychotropic drugs without having any idea what effects the drugs will produce later in life. The next generation should be called the “guinea pig” generation. At least adult guinea pigs get paid. (http://www.gpgp.net/)

“The English Chess Federation’s chief executive Phil Ehr denied cheating is widespread in the game and said he is aware of only one English player in the past four years who was caught cheating with a mobile phone.”

This is typical of the F.I.P.s in control of chess today. They are in denial, and have been all of the early part of this century. During the broadcast of the last round of the US Open Championship, and the ancillary tournament reserved for women not strong enough to make the Open a film was played of GM Maurice Ashely interviewing Yuliya Levitan, a counselor on the FIDE anti-cheating commission. She was there to spout the party line while singing, “Everything is beautiful, in its own way”…and “Don’t worry/be happy.” The woman ran down a list of things FIDE is doing to thwart cheating, including “…players not having cellphones on them.”

The latest gizmo wizard, who will forever be known as the “Dubai Cheater,” GM Gaioz Nigalidze, did not have a gizmo on him. He beat FIDE by leaving it in the toilet, which is where some say FIDE is headed. Yuliya mentioned something about “…keeping fans separate.” Maybe that should apply to a manager like Silvio Danilov.

She mentioned something about cameras, which made me think of the old TV show, Candid Camera, as in, “Smile, you’re on candid camera! Euuww, what ARE you doing?” FIDE will go ANYWHERE to prevent cheating! Anywhere but Russia, where in a tournament like Aeroflot, players conspire to draw games in the opening and, who knows, maybe even throw games, as happened between the nefarious Russians in the last round of the recent 2015 European Championship. She also mentioned “metal detectors,” and one could not help but notice the security guard behind Maurice holding, you guessed it, a metal detector.

Ms. Levitan also mentioned something about “…investigations going on. I cannot comment on those.” Too bad someone is not investigating FIDE…

The interview comes at the 3:06 mark and you can watch it, which is exactly what I did again. I wanted to make sure I quoted the woman correctly. She said, “Once again, more concern for the open tournaments. It does not happen often in professional chess…it does happen on higher level, but usually it happens on lower levels.”

Until the “Dubai Cheater,” GM Gaioz Nigalidze, this has been the “party-line.” The cat is now out of the bag, or should I say the genie is out of the bottle. Every result the “Dubai Cheater” has ever had is now suspect. Actually, one could drop the “Dubai Cheater” and just say that every FIDE result is suspect.

Dominic “Lone Nut” Lawson

Dominic Lawson is the President of the English Chess Federation. An article he has written, “Dialogues of the deluded: Computers and the death of kibitzing,” was published in New In Chess 2014/7. He writes, “…the computer-aided kibitzing on chess websites has become increasingly ugly-and stupid.” This may, or may not be so, but what happens to the Royal game when fans lose interest and stop kibitzing?

Mr. Lawson goes on to further insult kibitzers, fans of chess, by writing, “There is an even less appealing explanation for some of the more savage online abuse of our leading grandmasters from patzers armed with large computer programs. Perhaps they are the chess equivalent of nonentities who try to assassinate great men-a grim feature of American public life over the decades. Just as the gun enables the inconsequential loner to somehow ‘equalize’ himself with, say, John Lennon or John F. Kennedy, so the computer allows the talentless to prove themselves ‘better’ than celebrated grandmasters. And via online comments they can broadcast their imaginary superiority to the world.”

This man, Lawson, is a citizen of Great Britain, yet he has chosen to disparage America. Need he be reminded of the assassinations that occurred in his country long before there was an America? Why the man chose to single out America when assassinations have taken place in almost every country in the world is beyond my comprehension. If that is not bad enough, Lawson has continued to promulgate the shibboleth that an “inconsequential loner,” i.e. a “lone-nut,” was responsible for the cold-blooded murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 on the streets of Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Nothing could be further from the truth. With a modicum of research Lawson would have known this fact, but he obviously did not do his due diligence, and nor did the editors of New In Chess magazine, which is published in The Netherlands.

All of these people, Lawson and everyone at New In Chess, must be unaware that “The United States House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr..” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Select_Committee_on_Assassinations)

“The Final Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations presents the HSCA’s findings in the murders of both President John F. Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The HSCA found a “probable conspiracy” in the JFK assassination, but was unable to determine its nature or participants.” (http://www.history-matters.com/archive/contents/hsca/contents_hsca_report.htm)

It is impossible for there to be a conspiracy of one “inconsequential loner.” Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, who rode in the front of the Presidential limousine during JFK’s assassination, describing what the Warren Commission would later describe as a single fatal shot said, “Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shots come into the car.” (http://history-matters.com/index.htm) Secret Service Agent Kellerman, who had taken a vow to protect the POTUS, sat in the front seat talking on the radio in lieu of thrusting himself into the back seat in order to try and save the life of his President. It has been written in many books on the assassination that Jackie Kennedy, after the assassination of her husband, was at a party and saw a picture of Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman. She then took a pen and wrote, “Killerman” on it.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a paid informant of the FBI at the time of the assassination, has been blamed for killing Kennedy. “No nitrates (contained in powders in gases when a weapon is discharged) were found on Oswald’s cheek when a paraffin test as conducted following his arrest.”
“Since the paraffin wax seeps deep down in to the pores, it is a very sensitive test,” wrote G. Paul Chambers in his scientific approach to the assassination, “Head Shot.” Even washing one’s face prior to the test will not remove all presence of nitrates. As someone who has worked extensively with ball powders, I can tell you that reacted powders have a very distinctive odor, which is difficult to get out of your skin and clothes. The presence of nitrates may indicate that he had fired a revolver, for instance (he was accused of shooting Officer Tippet on the same day as the assassination), however, nitrates could also have gotten on his hands from other sources, such as paper or ink. The absence of nitrates on his cheek is court-admissible evidence, however, that he had not fired a rifle that day.” This is taken from the book, “The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ,” by Roger Stone. This is only one of a plethora of books about the assassination of JFK by LBJ. Others are, “LBJ and the Conspiracy to Kill Kennedy,” by Joseph P. Farrell; “LBJ: The Mastermind of the JFK Assassination,” by Phillip F. Nelson; “Blood, Money, & Power: How LBJ Killed JFK,” by Barr McClellan; and LBJ and the Kennedy Killing, by eyewitness James T. Tague. Are you beginning to see a pattern, Mr. Lawson?

What Dominic Lawson wrote is an insult to all questioning and reasoning, Americans. What makes it even worse is the fact that the first books printed questioning the “official version” of the assassination of JFK were written in Europe by Europeans. The fact that New In Chess has printed such erroneous information only serves to sully the once fine reputation of the magazine. By publishing such nonsense New In Chess helps those who conspired to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. There is nothing better for the guilty than for people in positions of influence to continue to facilitate the cover-up, and the lie, that some “lone nut” shot JFK.

What has been written, and published, is analogous to my writing on this blog that the Queen of England ordered the assassination of Princess Diana. I cannot write that Queen Elizabeth of England, acting as a lone nut, ordered the cold-blooded murder of Princess Diana because I have no facts to confirm that the Queen of England, Elizabeth, gave the order to eliminate Princess Diana “by any means necessary.” For all I know, Harry Pearce, of MI-5, gave the order to agent 007, James Bond. But there are, and will continue to be, rumors. A reasoning man deals in facts, Mr. Lawson.

As for the assassination of John Lennon I would suggest Mr. Lawson to read, “Rethinking John Lennon’s Assassination: The FBI’s War on Rock Stars,” by Salvador Astucia.

The Psychology of Chess

It is difficult for a woodpusher to write about the game of chess played by the best human players because, as Bob Dylan wrote, “The game is the same—it’s just on a different level.” (Po’ Boy by Bob Dylan- http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/po-boy)

We try our best to understand but from being around those at, or near, the top, it is apparent their understanding is on a higher level. The same can be said about any other game, or sport, I suppose, yet many, if not most, of the greatest writers in the history of baseball never played in the show, and some never played the game on any level. Former MLB player Harold Reynolds had the audacity to tell one famous writer that since he had not played baseball in the major league he could not understand the game. Harold has a right to his opinion only because he did play in the show. After hearing the callous remark I thought there might be some merit to his argument, but that the accomplished writer could have a different understanding of the game.

I can still recall a time when IM Boris Kogan, at a tournament in Florida, knew he would face Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne, in the next round having the black pieces. Boris was lamenting the fact that he had no chance. This left the Legendary Georgia Ironman and I flummoxed. We were having a difficult time understanding his defeatist attitude. “You not understand,” Boris kept saying, “Cannot beat him. He too strong now.” Granted, Walter was at the top of his game, and was much younger than Boris, but still…we had a difficult time wrapping our minds around seeing Boris in that condition. Boris lost that game. The players at the top do not need numbers to know chess strength.

“From London to Elista: The Inside Story of the World Chess Championship Matches that Vladimir Kramnik Won Against Garry Kasparov, Peter Leko, and Veselin Topalov,” by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov is a magnificent book. It won the English Chess Federation 2008 Book-of-the-Year Award. The Gorilla is showing a new copy priced at $221.42; a used copy will set you back $55.00. I am holding on to mine. After reviewing the 7th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik there is a discussion of chess psychology which begins with my all-time favorite quote about Bobby Fischer. “When you’re playing Fischer, the question isn’t whether or not you’ll win; the question is whether or not you’ll survive.” The quote is from the man Bobby vanquished, Boris Spassky.
“SMYSLOV explained to us: ‘It was difficult for me to play Geller for a simple reason-when we sat down at the board, hatred was written on his face, he was ready to destroy his opponent. And if someone fell into that kind of condition, I couldn’t play.”

Geller had a lifetime plus score against Bobby Fischer. Reflecting on this made me wonder about how a player as strong as Hikaru Nakamura is considered Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s “regular customer.” Magnus has beaten Hikaru like a drum, with a lifetime score of 11 wins without a defeat in the only games that count, what is now called “classical” games. How is this possible?

“LEVITOV: But now, in my opinion, all chess players have become highly-qualified psychologists, and they don’t use only chess methods in their battles. Let’s take Kasparov. It’s said that he put pressure on his opponents psychologically-he exuded such a supply of negative energy that they felt like resigning immediately. Bareev once described to me very amusingly how in time trouble Kasparov started shaking his head and making tragic grimaces, as if to say, ‘how can this be, I’ve missed such a simple idea!’ And his opponent sits and desperately tries to work out if he’s being toyed with, and his clock is ticking…In other words, you have to solve psychological problems as well as chess problems during a game.”

Has Hikaru Nakamura lost the psychological battle? Has Magnus gotten into Hikaru’s head? What else can explain such a score?

Levitov poses a question for Bareev, “Does your opponent’s energy have a strong influence on the chess player? Why, for example, did Shirov and Anand always lose to Kasparov, why did Fischer play badly against Geller, and why can’t Polgar play against Kramnik?”

Bareev answers, “It’s genuinely unknown why it’s easier to play one opponent than another, and there are also metaphysical explanations for this-a powerful energy, and unfamiliar style and so on. More often everything simply depends on the playing strengths of blondes and brunettes and their preparedness for the specific encounter. In other words, you have to investigate every specific case separately.”
“LEVITOV: How do you control your emotions, how do you avoid showing that your opponent has surprised you horribly, for example, with his choice of opening? Does everyone have their own acting methods?”
“BAREEV: To a certain extent. People sometimes get ideas on this from the good results of new players. Later they adapt their openings and style of play and stop reacting to the unexpected. It’s better to combine your acting talents with specific skills and abilities.”

After seeing the following parody on the blog of GM Kevin Spraggett (http://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/), the best chess blog on the internet, I could not help but wonder how much acting went into the lessons given by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov to current Human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. What part do histrionics play in the psychology of chess?

HMS – SjakkVM – Magnus Carlsen parodi