IM Boris Kogan was The Trainer

After publishing the two posts concerning IM Stuart Rachels I wanted to notify someone next door in the Great State of Alabama so I went to the Alabama Chess Federation website ( where a picture of NM Bill Melvin,

the Secretary of the ACF, was found. Although I never knew Bill other than the time we sat across from each other over the board the decision was made to reach out with an email:

“In the event you do not remember me I was fortunate enough to defeat you at the Lincoln Memorial U Open decades ago. I can tell you now that immediately prior to the game, after learning we were paired, Tim Brookshear said, “Bacon, you’re paired with the Oleg Romanishin of Southern Chess!” You lived up to the rep when sacking a pawn in the opening. I believe the opening was 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 c6 3 dxc6, etc. In lieu of playing in my customary “fire on the board” style I played my pawns close to my chest, or maybe it would be better to have written “Vest”, while hanging onto the pawn like it was a Titanic life raft!”

Part of the reply:


I understand procrastinating over reading chess books. I have a shelf full of unread ones. It took me only a year to get around to reading Stuart’s book.

I’m more interested in your stories about Boris than about Stuart’s short career. Boris played a lot in area tournaments and was always a bit of a mystery. Most of the anecdotes I heard came from the late Brian McCarthy (I played him a couple years ago at Castle Chess shortly before his passing).

Best Regards,


My first thought was, “A year?!” From the moment the book arrived it was opened and not put down until finished. The first post of the quasi review of Stuart’s book was ready to go but Bill’s words had resonated and it became apparent a preface of sorts was needed because IM Boris Kogan

Boris Kogan

was The Trainer. On page ten of the book it is written:

“Two players were vital for my development: Kyle Therrell (then called Dana), my best friend and local rival; and my trainer from the age of 12, IM Boris Kogan. From Kyle I learned all of my openings, one pairing at a time. Here was our drill: When the pairings were posted before a round, we’d hurry over to a quiet spot. ‘What does so-and-so play?’ I’d ask. My next question was, ‘What do I do against that?’ And finally I’d ask: ‘How is that supposed to be for White//Black?’ Without Kyle, I would have been lost – especially because Boris Kogan had no interest in opening theory. From Boris, I learned the finer points of position evaluation. Kogan played like Petrosian. ‘You must play seemple (itl) chess,’ he always told me. ‘Kviet(itl) moves.’ Thanks to Boris, I eventually became a weak strong player. Without him, I would only have become a dangerous patzer.”

The last two words stopped me in my tracks, causing me to recall a time when walking to the pairing board for the about to begin round and hearing someone say, “What do you mean? The guy is rated over two hundred points below you.” Then Dana Therrell replied, “Yeah, but the guy is dangerous because one round he can beat a master and then lose to a class C player the next round.” After seeing me they both left in a hurry. It was then I learned Dana would be my opponent. The game ended in a long, hard fought draw.

Who was Boris Kogan?

“International Master Boris Kogan, who died of colon cancer on Christmas Day in 1993, is best remembered for playing in three U.S. Championships and winning the Georgia state championship seven years in a row (1980-1986). He was also the coach of Stuart Rachels, helping him advance from being a young national master to sharing the U.S. Chess Championship. What isn’t so well known is that Kogan was a very promising player (Soviet Junior Champion in 1956 and 1957), before making the transition from player to coach at a very early age.”
Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club #696
January 23, 2015

The best way to illustrate how strong a player was IM Boris Kogan is this result:

New York open New York 1984

Apr, 1984 67 (players) 2427 (avg ELO) 276 (games) 9 (rounds)

GM Dzindzichashvili, Roman 2485 7.0
GM Portisch, Lajos 2625 6.5
GM Adorjan, Andras 2570 6.5
GM Sosonko, Gennadi 2560 6.5
GM Kavalek, Lubomir 2545 6.5
Kogan, Boris 2450 6.5
GM Browne, Walter S 2585 6.0
GM Gurevich, Dmitry 2545 6.0
GM Kudrin, Sergey 2520 6.0
GM Gheorghiu, Florin 2495 6.0
GM Hjartarson, Johann 2415 6.0
GM Ljubojevic, Ljubomir 2635 5.5
GM Fedorowicz, John P 2475 5.5
GM Lein, Anatoly 2475 5.5
GM Benko, Pal C 2450 5.5
Frias Pablaza, Victor J 2425 5.5
IM Haik, Aldo 2405 5.5
GM Alburt, Lev O 2515 5.0
GM De Firmian, Nick E 2515 5.0
IM McCambridge, Vincent 2465 5.0

One of the opponents Boris faced in this tournament was Canadian Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett:

Kevin Spraggett (2540) vs Boris Kogan (2450)
Event: New York op
Site: New York Date: ??/??/1984
Round: 5
ECO: A20 English opening
1.c4 e5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 Ne7 5.e4 Nbc6 6.Nge2 d6 7.d3 O-O 8.O-O f5 9.exf5 Nxf5 10.Rb1 Nfd4 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.b4 a6 13.Be3 Rb8 14.a4 Be6 15.h3 h6 16.Kh2 g5 17.b5 a5 18.b6 c6 19.Ne4 Qd7 20.Bc1 Rf7 21.Ba3 Bf8 22.Qh5 Bf5 23.f4 exf4 24.gxf4 d5 25.Bxf8 Rbxf8 26.cxd5 cxd5 27.Nc3 Bxd3 28.Qxh6 Bxb1 29.Rxb1 Nf5 30.Qxg5+ Kh8 31.Nxd5 Qxa4 32.Rc1 Qd4 33.Rc7 a4 34.Qh5+ Kg8 35.Qg6+ Rg7 36.Qe6+ Kh7 37.Qe2 a3 38.Qh5+ Kg8 39.Rxg7+ Qxg7 40.Qe2 Qb2 41.Qg4+ Kh7 42.Qh5+ Nh6 43.Ne7 Rf6 44.Nd5 Rg6 0-1

Who is Kevin Spraggett?

Full name Kevin Spraggett
Country Canada
Born 10 November 1954
Montreal, Canada
Title GM

Kevin Spraggett (born 10 November 1954) is a Canadian chess grandmaster. He is the fourth Canadian to earn the grandmaster title, after Abe Yanofsky, Duncan Suttles and Peter Biyiasas. Spraggett is the only Canadian to have qualified for the Candidates’ level, having done so in 1985 and 1988. He has won a total of eight Canadian Open Chess Championships, seven Closed Canadian Chess Championships, and has represented Canada eight times in Olympiad play. Spraggett has also written for Canadian chess publications.

These days Kevin is probably better known for his excellent blog,, though it has been quite some time since Kevin has posted. GM Spraggett wrote that he, and other GMs, considered Boris a fellow Grandmaster without the title. Please note that the above game, and the one below, were played when Kevin was at the top of his game. The next year he qualified as a contender for the right to play the World Champion by qualifying for the Candidates matches.

The only Canadian ever to have qualified for a candidates tournament was Kevin Spraggett of Montreal, who played in the 1985 and 1988-89 tournaments. He made it to the quarter-finals in his second attempt.

Kevin Spraggett (2540) vs Boris M Kogan (2450)
Date: 1984
Event: World Open
Round: 1
Opening: English Opening, Anglo-Slav Variation, General (A11)
Problems: 53159

  1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 d5 4. Qc2 g6 5. e3 Bg7 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. Bd3 c5 8. cxd5 cxd4 9. e4 e6 10. dxe6 Bxe6 11. O-O Nc6 12. a3 Rc8 13. Qb1 Ng4 14. b4 Nce5 15. Bb2 Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Rc3 17. Qb1 Qb6 18. Bxc3 dxc3 19. Nb3 c2 20. Qxc2 Bxb3 21. Qxb3 Bxa1 22. h3 Nxf2 23. Rxf2 Rc8 24. Qa2 Bg7 25. Kh2 Qd6+ 26. g3 Rc3 27. e5 Qe6 28. Qd2 Bxe5 29. Re2 Rxf3 0-1

Boris died without being awarded the title of Grandmaster, which is a shame because many Grandmasters told me he was a Grandmaster, including but not limited to, Walter Browne, Larry Christiansen, and John Fedorowicz. If your peers consider you to be a Grandmaster who cares what some antiquated organization says or does?

I thought of Boris when reading an excellent article in the 2020 #1 issue of New In Chess entitled, Kamran Shirazi ‘I Never Stopped Loving This Game’: A legendary player still chasing the Grandmaster title, by Dylan Loeb McClain. In the article Shirazi said, ‘I put my whole spirit into this and not to be a grandmaster is a little bit too much.’

‘I put my whole spirit into this and not to be a grandmaster is a little bit too much.’

In order to earn the Grandmaster title a player must jump through many hoops. FIDE, the world governing body of Chess, has instituted many picayune rules and In order to earn the Grandmaster title a player must jump through many hoops.

Cruel twist of fate

Frustrated with the relatively few tournaments that offered grandmaster norms, Shirazi moved to France, in 1994. Though he was already in his 40s, he experienced a rebirth and his results in tournaments with grandmaster norms improved.

In a 1998 tournament in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, a seaside town in Northern France, he gained his first norm. Four years later, in Cannes, he earned his second. And then, another four years later, in 2006, in Metz, he earned his third and final norm needed for the title. That should have been enough, but for a cruel twist of fate. During the Cannes tournament, in the penultimate round, he reached his peak rating: 2499, only a point shy of what he needed for the title. According to the rules, achieving a rating of 2500 once in a lifetime is sufficient, even if the required norms are gained later. If Shirazi had won or drawn his final game, his rating would have been over 2500. But he did not know how close he was – it was still a time before rating updates were done after each round. So, in the final round, Shirazi overpressed in a good position and lost. He ended the tournament with a rating of 2486. ‘I missed by one point’, he said, with a hint of incredulity.

I mention this because of something seen in the last round of a Chess tournament in New Orleans, the Plaza in Lake Forest tournament, if memory serves. The two top rated players were Kamran Shirazi and Boris Kogan, and it came down to a battle with only seconds on the clock. The two combatants were moving with such speed it was difficult to follow the moves. Boris had a time advantage and the players were moving at blitz speed when, all of a sudden, Shirazi STOPPED THE CLOCK! Boris took that as a resignation, but Shirazi said he stopped the clock because it was obvious they were only moving the same pieces around and the tournament director should have stepped in and declared the game a draw by repetition. Boris scoffed, but honesty compels me to agree that Shirazi had a point. The problem was that the TD was unqualified and had absolutely no clue what to do. There had been a group of at least a couple of dozen players watching who had been electrified by what they had just witnessed. Although Boris could speak English, it was somewhat mangled, and I became his spokesman. Shirazi also had his spokesman and there was a shouting match between the two of us. Keep in mind this was a time when the Iranians had defied convention and taken United States citizens working at the embassy hostage. My counterpart invited me to “step outside.” The answer was fired immediately. “Let’s go, dude. I’ve got at least a couple of dozen red-blooded Americans right here, right now, ready to step outside with a couple of IRANIANS!!!” Kamran and his buddy beat a hasty retreat to the hotel… The tournament director later paid out the prize money as if the game had been drawn, and the USCF backed him up. Boris never got over it, lamenting, “He stopped the clock…”

If one did not know how FIDE has operated over the decades it would be difficult to understand why neither player became a Grandmaster. Certainly both players were of Grandmaster caliber and both should have been awarded the title because the title has been awarded to much lesser players. Because of things like this the title has lost its luster.

Astronomers spot up to 170 giant rogue planets floating through space

Rogue planet
This artist’s impression shows an example of a rogue planet with the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex visible in the background. Rogue planets have masses comparable to those of the planets in our Solar System but do not orbit a star, instead roaming freely on their own. (Bordeaux University / ESO)

BORDEAUX, France — Nearly 200 giant planets have been spotted moving aimlessly through space, according to a remarkable discovery by astronomers. Researchers from the European Southern Observatory say these “rogue planets” float in space and don’t orbit a star — like the Earth and the rest of the planets in our solar system do.

The planets are in a star-forming region relatively close to our Sun in the southern constellations of Upper Scorpius and Ophiuchus. Although there may be billions of these rogues out there in the Milky Way, the 170 scientists found in this section of the galaxy represents the largest group of rogue planets discovered to date.

“We did not know how many to expect and are excited to have found so many,” says study first author Dr. Nuria Miret-Roig of Bordeaux University in a media release.

Rogue planets are a bit of a mystery to astronomers. For comparison, our Sun has at least eight planets orbiting it (nine if you count Pluto). From what scientists can tell, most other stars also have planets circling them as well. (

Grandmaster Igors Rausis Caught Cheating!!

Igors Rausis (58) Under Investigation Of Cheating

By Peter Doggers
Updated: Jul 12, 2019, 6:51 AM

GM Igors Rausis

is under investigation for cheating after he was caught with his phone during a game at the Strasbourg Open. The 58-year-old Latvian-Czech grandmaster had raised suspicions after he increased his rating in recent years to almost 2700.
During an open tournament that is taking place July 10-14 in Strasbourg, France, a phone was found in a toilet that had just been used by Rausis. He later signed a declaration that the phone was his.
Whether he was using his phone to get assistance from a chess engine is not clear at the moment.
In a comment to, Rausis said:
“I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me – I played my last game of chess already.”

The Evil Empire Battles Ukraine

I usually do not comment on a knock-out type tournament, especially one so-called a “world championship,” but the final match between a Russian and a Ukrainian with the situation, Russian encroachments and troops and tanks one the border, is the closest thing the chess world has seen to the situation when American Bobby Fischer challenged the Russian Boris Spassky for the World Championship in 1972 during the Cold War. GM Kevin Spraggett wrote about Natalia Pogonina and Mariya Muzychuk, “…who I understand are friends.” ( That friendship may last no matter which player wins the match, but it will not last when the real war with weapons of destruction begins.

Make no mistake, if the insane Rootin’ Tootin’ Pootin’ does not back down, there will be war. The West has no choice but to call Putin’s bluff. “Let us not forget that Ukraine has been guaranteed, in 1994, the protection of its territorial integrity by the United States. Ukraine gave up nukes! Very few people remember it was the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. [Not honouring the gurantee] is very bad, not only for the United States – Bill Clinton’s signature was there. Ukraine gave up twelve hundred nuclear warheads, more than England, France and China combined, in exchange for guarantees from America and Great Britain. This will have implications way beyond Ukraine’s borders, because it destroys the credibility of the White House, it destroys the credibility of the free world, and it sends a message, let’s say to Iran, that you need nukes to protect your borders. Same can apply to Japan, South Korea, countries that are facing a rising threat from China. It will be a totally different world unless we follow the promises written on paper and signed by the leaders of the free world.” -Garry Kasparov

The lead story in the magazine Modern War #16, March-April 2015, is Visegrad: The Coming War in Eastern Europe, by David March. (
It is also possible to play a board game before the real war begins. (

I have followed the games of the Muzychuk sisters because they play the Leningrad Dutch, most of which I have played over in recent years, so I would be predisposed to pulling for Mariya in this prelude to war. After reading the article, and Putin as Warlord, by Gilberto Villahermosa, in the same magazine, I believe Russia will lose World War III, just as I expect the Russian, Pogonina, to be stopped and lose the match with the Ukrainian, Mariya Muzychuk.


Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter?

D. Zachary Hambrick is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University. He received his Bachelors from Methodist College, Fayetteville, NC 1994; Masters at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 1997; and became a Ph.D. at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 2000, where I became acquainted with him by taking part in studies which led to his earning his Ph.D. Because of the kinds of things he studies I sought his answer to the question of what, exactly, is the state of knowledge pertaining to whether or not learning, and playing, chess can enhance intelligence. Zach emailed me a copy of Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli, of University of Nottingham, which, unlike many other studies, can be found online. This study is considered by those in the academic world to be the “last word.”

The introduction begins, “Chess playing makes kids smarter.” “Chess increases mathematical abilities.” “Chess improves academic performance.” Numerous similar claims have been made about the efficacy of using chess to foster education.”

That it has…It used to be that chess was considered to be a lifetime “sport.” Now when a Chinese GM reaches the ripe old age of thirty he is forced to retire and become a “trainer,” or “coach.” The players have become ever younger, and now one sees a picture of the latest four year old “prodigy” at Chessbase. Check out, Moscow Open: The four-year-old veteran by by Albert Silver. ( The chess world is doing the age limbo; how low can it go?

The introduction continues, “Indeed, schools in various countries (e.g., USA, France, Argentina) offer chess as an optional subject, and some even propose compulsory classes. There is clearly a strong interest worldwide in the potential advantages of chess in education, and the conference from which this book stems is just another example of this interest. Implicit in all these activities is the belief that skills acquired playing chess can transfer to other domains. Is this belief based on well-substantiated evidence? Is the educational value of chess a well-established empirical fact? Or have chess players been blinded by their love of the game into thinking that it offers instructional advantages? In this chapter, we attempt, as objectively as possible, to tackle the question of whether chess is advantageous for general education. To do so, we subject research into the educational benefits of chess to the same rigorous criteria commonly used in academia for evaluating educational research.”

They begin with The question of transfer.

“The question addressed in this chapter can be summarized as follows: Can a set of skills acquired in a specific domain (in our case, chess) generalize to other domains (e.g., mathematics, reading) or to general abilities (e.g., reasoning, memory)?”

The question is simple enough. People have pondered the question for centuries. A well known and popular NM here in Georgia, a former State Champion, and Georgia State Senior Champion, and the only player to hold both titles simultaneously, the sui generis David Vest, has stated that the President of the Georgia Chess Association, Dr. Fun Fong, “is proof positive that expertise in one area does not translate into expertise in another area.” I wholeheartedly concur with his astute assessment of the situation in regard to the POTGCA. He may be a fine emergency room doctor at Emory University, but as POTGCA he leaves a great deal to be desired.

The authors continue, “This is an old question, which, for a long time, was answered positively; for example, for centuries, it was accepted without dispute that learning Latin or geometry would train the mind and prepare it to cope with other topics. However, when, for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century, the question was studied scientifically, the conclusions were rather different.”

Inquiring minds want to know, and not just accept that which is offered. The more highly educated the people the more questions asked, and the generations after the second world war are the most highly educated in history. There are more inquiring minds than ever before in the history of mankind. So when, for example, there are constant problems with the organization of the GCA; when there are problems with every tournament organized by the GCA; and when members of the GCA board resign and there is no accountability by the President of the GCA, who continues to stonewall in the same way as did US President Richard Nixon during what came to be known as “Watergate,” people begin to question. The two members who resigned have not answered my email entreaties and have chosen to remain silent. This has caused rumors of things like financial malfeasance, illegal stipends paid out, and hush money, to run rampant.

The paper continues, “A different view of transfer emerges from the psychological study of intelligence. Researchers in this field believe that one or a few transferable abilities form the basis of intelligence. These abilities are seen as general, at least within verbal or visuo-spatial domains, and are supposed to apply to a variety of domains (see Sternberg, 2000, for an overview). However, these basic abilities are also seen as innate, and thus not amenable to improvement through practice.”

“In spite of these disagreements about the nature of transfer, some results are clear. In particular, recent research into expertise has clearly indicated that, the higher the level of expertise in a domain, the more limited the transfer will be (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). Moreover, reaching a high level of skill in domains such as chess, music or mathematics requires large amounts of practice to acquire the domain specific knowledge which determines expert performance. Inevitably, the time spent in developing such skills will impair the acquisition of other skills.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Fortunately for Dr. Fong, he has already developed the skills needed to become a ER Doctor. The Georgia chess community can only hope the Doctor decides the time he is spending on chess will impair the acquisition of other skills he may need to become even better at his day job and leave the administration of chess in Georgia to those who have a clue as to what to do.