Garry Kasparov: Carlsen’s behavior was unacceptable
By nikita Posted on September 29, 2022
Garry Kasparov again spoke about the controversy that hit the chess world in the interview with Carl Fredrik Johansson from Uppsala Chess+ Academy, saying that Carlsen’s behavior was unacceptable. Speaking about Carlsen’s decision to withdraw from the World Chess Championship, Kasparov explained: “I was surprised by his decision to walk away, but I understand the pressure that was on him. I understand the motivation. It’s really tough to play tournaments and matches for years and years; anything but winning is a disaster. It’s tremendous pressure. He probably got tired“.
Talking about the happenings related to the Carlsen – Niemann case and the game in which Niemann defeated Carlsen at the Sinquefield Cup, Kasparov said: “I was in Saint Louis. I spoke to people who were involved directly in this case. I don’t see an evidence that could be convincing (…) I understand his frustration, but leaving the tournament is unacceptable. Even if he had proof, but there was no proof, there is zero evidence (of cheating) in that specific game. It was really bad for chess. It was bad for Saint Louis. This was one of the most important tournaments, if not the most important tournament in the world of chess. And I think that his behavior was unacceptable“. (https://www.chessdom.com/garry-kasparov-carlsens-behavior-was-unacceptable/)
A new article inspired by the Cheating Scandal appeared today in The Atlantic magazine and it is an excellent article. Excerpts follow:
Chess Is Just Poker Now
A cheating controversy involving two grandmasters shows how computers have transformed the game.
By Matteo Wong September 17, 2022
It was as if a bottom seed had knocked out the top team in March Madness: At the Sinquefield Cup chess tournament in St. Louis earlier this month, an upstart American teenager named Hans Niemann
snapped the 53-game unbeaten streak of world champion Magnus Carlsen,
perhaps the game’s best player of all time. But the real uproar came the following day, when Carlsen posted a cryptic tweet announcing his withdrawal that included a meme video stating, “If I speak I am in big trouble.” The king appeared to have leveled an unspoken accusation of cheating—and the chess world, in turn, exploded.
Some of the biggest names in chess launched attacks on Niemann in the subsequent days, while others rushed to defend him. No concrete evidence of cheating has emerged, and the 19-year-old grandmaster vehemently denied accusations of misconduct in St. Louis, vowing to an interviewer that he has never cheated in an over-the-board game and has learned from prior mistakes.
Whatever really happened here, everyone agrees that for Niemann, or anyone else, to cheat at chess in 2022 would be conceptually simple. In the past 15 years, widely available AI software packages, known as “chess engines,” have been developed to the point where they can easily demolish the world’s best chess players—so all a cheater has to do to win is figure out a way to channel a machine’s advice. That’s not the only way that computers have recently reshaped the landscape of a 1,500-year-old sport. Human players, whether novices or grandmasters, now find inspiration in the outputs of these engines, and they train themselves by memorizing computer moves. In other words, chess engines have redefined creativity in chess, leading to a situation where the game’s top players can no longer get away with simply playing the strongest chess they can, but must also engage in subterfuge, misdirection, and other psychological techniques. In that sense, the recent cheating scandal only shows the darker side of what chess slowly has become.
The computer takeover of chess occurred, at least in the popular imagination, 25 years ago, when the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated world champion Garry Kasparov.
Newsrooms at the time declared the match a “Greek tragedy,” in which a silicon “hand of God” had squashed humanity. Yet 1997, despite its cultural resonance, was not really an inflection point for chess. Deep Blue, a nearly 3,000-pound, one-of-a-kind supercomputer, could hardly change the game by itself. Its genius seemed reliant on then-unthinkable processing power and the grandmasters who had advised in its creation, to the point where Kasparov, after losing, could accuse IBM of having cheated by supplying the machine with human assistance—a dynamic that today’s accusations of foul play have reversed.
As engines became widespread, the game shifted. Elite chess has always involved rote learning, but “the amount of stuff you need to prepare, the amount of stuff you need to remember, has just exploded,” Sadler said. Engines can calculate positions far more accurately and rapidly than humans, so there’s more material to be studied than ever before. What once seemed magical became calculable; where one could rely on intuition came to require rigorous memorization and training with a machine. Chess, once poetic and philosophical, was acquiring elements of a spelling bee: a battle of preparation, a measure of hours invested. “The thrill used to be about using your mind creatively and working out unique and difficult solutions to strategical problems,” the grandmaster Wesley So, the fifth-ranked player in the world, told me via email. “Not testing each other to see who has the better memorization plan.”
To understand just how superior machines have become, consider chess’s “Elo” rating system, which compares players’ relative strength and was devised by a Hungarian American physicist. The highest-ever human rating, achieved by Carlsen twice over the past decade, was 2882. DeepBlue’s Elo rating was 2853. A chess engine called Rybka was the first to reach 3000 points, in 2007; and today’s most powerful program, Stockfish, currently has more than 3500 Elo points by conservative estimates. That means Stockfish has about a 98 percent probability of beating Carlsen in a match and, per one estimate, a 2 percent chance of drawing. (An outright victory for Carlsen would be almost impossible.)
Yet if computers set the gold standard of play, and top players can only try to mimic them, then it’s not clear what, exactly, humans are creating. “Due to the predominance of engine use today,” the grandmaster So explained, “we are being encouraged to halt all creative thought and play like mechanical bots. It’s so boring. So beneath us.” And if elite players stand no chance against machines, instead settling for outsmarting their human opponents by playing subtle, unexpected, or suboptimal moves that weaponize “human frailty,” then modern-era chess looks more and more like a game of psychological warfare: not so much a spelling bee as a round of poker.
In that context, cheating scandals may be nothing less than a natural step in chess’s evolution. Poker, after all, has been rocked by allegations of foul play for years, including cases where players are accused of getting help from artificial intelligence. When the highest form of creativity is outfoxing your opponent—as has always been true of poker—breaking rules seems only natural.
From prodigy to champion, Stuart Rachels was the best Alabama saw in chess
by: Tanner Brooks
Posted: Sep 17, 2021 / 10:56 AM CDT
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — There was a time when Stuart Rachels seemed to have a bright future in chess. Rachels, a philosophy professor at the University of Alabama, was a chess prodigy who had become the youngest U.S. chess master in history by the time he was 11-years-old. By 1990, he was co-champion of the U.S. Chess Championship and had already played some of the best players in the world. That all changed in 1993, when Rachels decided to walk away from chess.
‘Kids didn’t play chess’
Rachels recalled one of his earliest chess memories in 1977, when he was 7 years old. “I remember trying to capture the queen of one of my father’s graduate students — his name was Greg — by moving a pawn backwards,” Rachels said in an email correspondence with CBS 42. “I was pretty irritated when he made me give him his queen back.” By the time he was 9, Rachels was constantly playing at the Birmingham Chess Club and rapidly improving. “I never played kids when I was a kid, I only played adults,” Rachels said. “Kids didn’t play chess.”
Rachels’ family did everything they could to support him. His father, UAB philosophy professor James Rachels, organized chess tournaments in Birmingham and gave him the means to improve his game, including books, magazines and, later, a trainer.However, Rachels said they never put any pressure on him to play. “A good player will put pressure on himself; extra pressure will only give him stomach aches,” he said. “A kid who isn’t self-motivated doesn’t have what it takes, and parents who try to provide motivation from the outside are only being bad parents.”
In 1981, Rachels became the youngest chess master in American history, beating the record previously held by chess icon Bobby Fischer. Rachels was 11 years and 10 months when he broke Fischer’s record. He remained the youngest U.S. chess master until 1994, when it was broken by Jordy Mont-Reynaud.
Rachels credits Kyle Therrell, a player from Fairfield, and trainer Boris Kogan with his early success. “Without them, forget it, I never would have become good,” Rachels said. “It’s not something you can do on your own, with just books and magazines.”
Early on, Rachels had the opportunity to play against both former and future world chess champions. He lost twice against Garry Kasparov, often referred to as the greatest chess player in history, and he lost to Boris Spassky, Fischer’s opponent in what is considered the “Match of the Century,” the 1972 World Chess Championship. Rachels also drew against future five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand. Rachels described each experience with one word. “Kasparov: Exciting. Spassky: Terrifying. Anand: Exhilarating,” he said.
Rachels faced Spassky in the 1985 U.S. Open in Hollywood, Florida. In his book, “The Best I Saw in Chess,” Rachels recalled Spassky walking over to Kogan to ask why he was so nervous. By the time Rachels collected himself, it was too late: Spassky had out-maneuvered him. When Rachels resigned, the spectators applauded. “I joined in, remembering Spassky’s sportsmanlike applause for Fischer when Fischer took the lead against him in Iceland,” Rachels wrote in his book.
Rachels went on to become U.S. co-champion in the 1989 tournament, sharing the title with grandmasters Roman Dzindzichashvili and Yasser Seirawan.
In 1993, Rachels retired from competitive chess, calling it a “whole-life decision.”
“I wasn’t good enough to compete for the world championship,” he said. “In 1993, the life of your average chess professional in the United States was pretty depressing: very little money, a lot of traveling, an all-male culture, no health insurance, no respect from the general public, etc. A lot of professional players moved to Europe, which I didn’t want to do.”
Rachels said his life didn’t change that much after he retired, gradually weaning himself from the game to focus more on his graduate studies of philosophy. “The main change was not traveling to tournaments in the summer,” he said. “Also, I could stop worrying about how to fix problems in my opening repertoire.”
In his father’s footsteps
Even before stepping away from chess, Rachels took a keen interest in philosophy, something of a family business in the Rachels’ household. His father, James, was a moral philosopher and professor at UAB. His 1971 anthology, “Moral Problems,” shifted colleges from teaching meta-ethics to teaching concrete practical issues. “When people know my father as a philosopher, I say, ‘He was an even better father,’” Rachels said.
Rachels remembers spending a good chunk of his teenage years pestering his father with philosophical questions after he would come home from work. “He was my Boris Kogan in the realm of philosophy. I knew, even back then, how lucky I was, but I know this even better now,” said Rachels.
In addition to his father, Rachels credits people like Donald Rutherford and Robert McCauley from Emory University and Derek Parfit from Oxford University as some influences.
There was one year of graduate school that Rachels was so consumed by philosophy that he let his subscription to his favorite chess magazine lapse. But that was only for a year. Rachels said that he was consumed by chess and by philosophy, but was primarily a student first and a chess player in his spare time. “Even people who have always known me are surprised when I remind them that I never took any time off from school in order to play chess,” Rachels said.
Rachels now teaches philosophy at the University of Alabama as an associate professor specializing in ethical theory.
Returning to the game
Back in June, nearly 30 years after retiring from competitive chess, Rachels took part in the 2021 Alabama Blitz Championship and the 2021 Alabama Quick Championship in Montgomery. Rachels won all of his games to sweep the Alabama Blitz Championship. With all wins and a draw, he pulled out on top in the Alabama Quick Championship as well.
reigning Alabama State Chess Champion and editor for the Alabama Chess Antics magazine, said he always heard older players talk about Rachels with a sense of awe, but he had never had the chance to play him. With Rachels returning, Varagona was not going to miss the opportunity. “For him to resurface after all these years, and for me to finally get to face him in a serious tournament, was a big deal for me. After all, he was Alabama’s strongest player of the 20th century,” said Varagona. “Even though he hadn’t played competitive chess for over 25 years, whereas I was the reigning Alabama State Champion, he beat me very badly! I was impressed.” Varagona said he was too nervous and starstruck against Rachels to play at his best, but believes he would do better if he got another chance to play him.
Rachels said that going back to those tournaments after years away was like sticking his toes in the water. “For me, it was ‘sort of’ like playing in a real tournament. I didn’t consider it ‘fully real’ because the time control was accelerated, we weren’t keeping score, and it didn’t affect my classical rating,” he said. “But I enjoyed it, and I was relieved to discover that I can still push pawns okay.” When asked if he will pursue more competitions or potentially seek attaining the coveted Grandmaster title, Rachels said he will probably play more. “It’s a slow process,” he said. “I doubt I will play again seriously enough to pursue the GM title, but who knows.”
Larger than life
Rachels said that today, things are different for professional players in the United States. While he still believes it to be an odd life, players can make a living on social media platforms, like Twitch, where they can livestream games to subscribers. “The internet brings grandmasters into everyone’s living room,” Rachels said, “or, indeed, everyone’s pocket.” Over the last few years, there has been a boom in the game with more people learning chess for the first time, most notably following the popularity of the Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit.” According to The New York Times, sales of chess sets in the United States rose by around 125% since the show first premiered.
Rachels said he was thrilled to see how popular the game is continuing to be. “I wish people would power down their screens and get out and play more in-person, that would make me even happier. It’s better for the culture to be in-person,” Rachels said. “Interest in chess also surged in 1972 when Bobby Fischer became world champion. This surge feels more real to me, though, because in 1972, it was about Fischer himself, and so when Fischer quit, people lost interest in chess. Now, however, it’s about people actually playing.” Last week, Rachels was inducted into the first class of the Alabama Chess Hall of Fame.
a prominent player and figure in the Alabama chess community, played Rachels a handful of times over 30 years ago. While he wasn’t able to make Rachels’ comeback tournament, Melvin was surprised that he actually participated. “Stuart’s impact on chess is simply as the greatest talent to come out of Alabama,” Melvin said. “His star was bright, but he quit chess at such an early age. He has explained his reasoning with me many times, but I still don’t understand.”
Varagona echoed Melvin, saying that Rachels proved that an Alabama player could reach the pinnacle of chess in the nation, something no Alabama player has come close to achieving since. “There have been many great Alabama chess legends — but then there is Stuart Rachels. Stuart is larger than life.”
MOLOKOV: How straightforward the game When one has trust in one’s player And how great the relief Working for one who believes in Loyalty, heritage, true to his kind come what may
THE AMERICAN: Though it gives me no joy Adding to your satisfaction You can safely assume Your late unlamented employee Knows if he wins then the only thing won is the chess
MOLOKOV: It’s the weak who accept Tawdry untruths about freedom Prostituting themselves Chasing a spurious starlight Trinkets in airports sufficient to lead them astray
FLORENCE: Does the player exist In any human endeavour Who’s been know to resist Sirens of fame and possessions? They will destroy you, not rivals, not age, not success
THE RUSSIAN: They all think they see a man Who doesn’t know Which move to make Which way to go Whose private life Caused his decline Wrecked his grand design Some are vicious, some are fools And others blind To see in me One of their kind Anyone can be A husband, lover Sooner them than me When they discover Their domestic bliss is Shelter for their failing Nothing could be worse Than self-denial Having to rehearse The endless trial Of a partner’s rather sad Demands prevailing
SVETLANA: As you watch yourself caring About a minor sporting triumph, sharing Your win with esoterics, Paranoids, hysterics Who don’t pay any attention to What goes on around them They leave the ones they love the way they found them A normal person must Dismiss you with disgust And weep for those who trusted you
THE RUSSIAN: Nothing you have said Is revelation Take my blues as read My consolation — Finding out at last my one true obligation
SVETLANA & CROWD: Listen to them shout! They saw you do it In their minds no doubt That you’ve been through it Suffered for your art but In the end a winner Who could not be stirred? Such dedication We have never heard Such an ovation Skill and guts a model For the young beginner They’re completely enchanted But they don’t take your qualities for granted It isn’t very often That the critics soften Nonetheless you’ve won their hearts How can we begin to Appreciate the work that you’ve put into Your calling through the years The blood, the sweat and tears, the Late late nights, the early starts There they go again! Your deeds inflame them Drive them wild, but then Who wants to tame them? If they want a part of you Who’d really blame them?
THE RUSSIAN: And so you’re letting me know
SVETLANA: For you’re the only one who’s never suffered anything at all
THE RUSSIAN: How you’ve hated my success
SVETLANA: Well I won’t crawl And you can slink back to your pawns and to your tarts
THE RUSSIAN: And every poisoned word shows that you never understood Never!
BOTH: Nothing you have said Is revelation Take my blues as read My consolation
SVETLANA: Finding out that I’m my only obligation
THE RUSSIAN: Is there no-one in my life Who will not claim The right to steal My work, my name My success, my fame And my freedom? Last Update: April, 14th 2015
This is a magnificent book. I recall an actor once saying that although winning an Oscar meant something in the business what mattered was who garnered the most nominations. This book will surely be on every voters short list for the best book of the year award.
The book begins: Foreword to the English Edition: Chess in the Context of Time
Sergey Voronkov edited the Russian edition of My Great Predecessors; maybe that’s what gave him the idea of creating his own huge project, Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships. I wanted to show the historical development of modern chess through analyzing the games of world champions and those who got close the their level. He is trying to write the history of the Soviet chess school through the prism of the Soviet championships. Over the years that have passed since his first book, David Janowski (with Dimitry Plisetsky, published in Russian in 1987), Sergey has grown into a top Russian chess historian. Small wonder” he worked with Yuri Lvovich Averbakh
for a number of years and classes him as his teacher. And then Sergey gained experience of chess analysis when working with David Bronstein on their book Secret Notes.
As in his other books, Masterpieces and Dramas of the Soviet Championships is based on documents” periodicals, tournament bulletins, games collections, eyewitness accounts… And, as a classic said, “analysis of what’s happening in the world based on documentary evidence is a thousand times more demonstrative than any dramatization of this world.” Another attractive feature of this book is the great game selection. I know from experience how difficult and laborious this task is: to choose, out of hundreds of worthy games, the most wholesome and beautiful, the most important for each championship, and to demonstrate the development of chess as a whole. In this sense, the idea of combining “masterpieces” with “dramas” was very clever, allowing him to include a number of historically valuable games that influenced the course of tournaments in crucial ways. Most of the games were annotated by the players themselves. On the one hand, this makes the author’s job easier, but on the other hand, it becomes more challenging ethically. There are quite a few erroneous lines and evaluations in the original annotations, which necessitates computer evaluation. But if we point out all the errors and inaccuracies, this might ruin the notes themselves, and give readers the wrong idea about the master’ playing strength and analytical skills. These days, you immediately get to see any error on the screen, but back then the analysis of a game required blood, sweat and tears… And what to do with the opening recommendations, oftentimes very obsolete? To throw them away entirely is to break the linkage of time, to dilute the development of opening thought, deprive it of its roots, and devalue the work of our predecessors. But if we don’t challenge the archaic recommendations at all, the opening part of the games will become essentially useless for modern players… It’s hard to find the right balance between the analytical facts and historical truth. The author was helped by chess master Dmitry Plisetsky, who helped me to write My Great Predecessors. So, you can be sure that the chess part of Sergey’s book is high-quality as well. Trying to shoulder alone such a burden as the history of the Soviet chess school is a heroic act. Sergey has already published three volumes in Russian that encompass 20 championships (1920-1953). 38 more are ahead… Will he manage to complete his project? Each championship requires meticulous work. I can only imagine how many tons of chess and literary “ore” the author had to dig through, how much information he had to interpret and structure to create a seamless picture of the first ten championships! Despite its academic adherence to documents, this book virtually resembles a novel: with a mystery plot, protagonists and supporting cast, sudden denouements and even “author’s digressions” – or, to be exact, introductions to the championships themselves, which constitute important parts of this book as well. These introductions, with wide and precise strokes, paint the portrait of the initial post-revolutionary era, heroic and horrific at the same time. I’ve always said that chess is a microcosm of society. Showing chess in the context of time is what makes this book valuable even beyond the purely analytical point of view.
Gary Kasparov New York, July 2020
Where does a reviewer begin after the forward by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov? This was a major problem when trying to write this review. After the forward almost everything I added seemed superfluous. The author seemed to be in a quandary as well as he writes, “I hope that David Ionovich would have liked this book,” followed by, “I think the only thing Bronstein wouldn’t have approved of is computer analysis of the games.” Gone are the days when we mortals would spend time analyzing and dissecting our own games and the games of the Grandmasters. The top players were human and made mistakes. How wonderful it seemed when one found a better move, and others agreed! That does not happen today because players resort to the oracle called Stockfish, which has become the be all and possibly the end all of Chess. Something has been gained, but something greater has been lost…As the author writes in the following introduction, the book is, “…first and foremost about people.” Unfortunately, the computer Chess programs have eliminated the human element from the game.
Introduction: Through the Lava of Time
“In Russia, when you talk about history, you are always alluding to current times, while a historian is a prophet who predicts retrospectively.” – Dmitry Bykov, Boris Pasternak
It’s such a pity that David Ionovich Bronstein
won’t see this book. His ideas demonstrated an amazing ability to grow through the lava of time. I hope that David Ionovich would have liked this book. It’s first and foremost about people, whereas the “Soviet Chess School” is a secondary topic: this wasn’t a conscious decision – it’s simply because in chess, as in life, I was always more interested in individual people that in abstract chimeras of “schools” or trends”. My articles, fully based on documentary sources, were criticized because I dared to state my won opinion, even though “a chronicler should be above the fray.” Please don’t get confused: I’m not a chronicler, my genre is closer to a documentary movie. And as Mikhail Romm, creator of Triumph Over Violence, once said, “A documentary is a peculiar form of auteur cinema.”
I think the only thing Bronstein wouldn’t have approved of is computer analysis of the games. But what else could I do: Of course, if he was still around, as in the wonderful times when working on David Versus Goliath (The Russian name of our book, Secret Notes), I wouldn’t have even thought about it. Back then, we decided to calculate all lines purely with our human brains, but.. David was the only one who could do that! The modern Goliaths of machine analysis have probably already forgotten the delights of that multiple – hour search for the truth, and just how exciting it is to slowly push around the ordinary wooden pieces on an ordinary wooden board…
So begins the introduction by Sergey Voronkov, written in Moscow in March of 2007.
Now that you have been introduced, the book consists of ten chapters, one for each of the first ten Soviet Chess Championships.This review will focus only on the first.
A Chess feast During the Plague: All-Russian Chess Olympiad: Moscow, 4th – 24th October 1920:
“Let’s light the lamps, let’s pour the drinks, Let’s drown our sorrows in the kegs, Let’s feast, and dance, and do all things, To praise the kingdom of the Plague” Alexander Pushkin, Feast During the Plague
Just like any truly great undertaking – and the Soviet Chess Championships are a phenomenon of planetary scale – this one owes its existence to a random, almost trifling coincidence. Had the Leninist revolutionary Ilyin-Shenevsky not been a passionate chess fan, who know how many years would have passed before the Bolsheviks took note of the “royal game”. Really, can you call that anything but a miracle? The Russian Civil War is still raging in the outskirts of the country, devastation and hunger are rampant, conspiracies abound, the Red Terror is in full swing – and then, suddenly, there’s an All-Russian Chess Olympiad! How could such a thing have happened in 1920? Oh, this was such an unbelievable chain of coincidences that it might really make you believe in an old adage: any random occurrence is actually a manifestation of some unknown pattern. It all began when Alexander Fyodorovich Ilyin-Zhenevsky… well, we can let him speak for himself.
Ilyin-Zhenevsky: “In early 1920, I got a job in the head office of the Vsevobuch (Universal Military Training) and was soon promoted to commissar. I worked together with great physical education specialist to develop pre-conscription training programs for workers, and I suggested including chess training in these programs… The main value of sports, they said, was that it developed qualities that were very important for a soldier. I thought that this was true for chess as well. Chess training often develops the same qualities in people as any other sport training – bravery, resourcefulness, composure, willpower – and also, unlike sport, it develops strategic skills. My suggestion was accepted and approved by the chairman of Vsevobuch, Comrade N. I. Podvoisky. Soon after, all regional Vsevobuch heads received a decree to cultivate chess and organize chess circles…” (From the book Memoirs of a Soviet Master) There is a note here: The full bibliography is included at the end of the book.
Future World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine had this to say about how the Soviet era in Chess came about: “The Moscow chess players, moving from place to place, despite the fuel crisis and many other insurmountable obstacles, managed to survive until 1919, and the, one of the most influential members of the Soviet government appeared on the horizon. And even thought he was the brother of the even more famous Raskolnikov, the leader of the sailors, he had a different pseudonym, Ilyin-Zhenevsky (from the city of Geneva). He was a decent player and a fervent chess enthusiast, and his authority, both as Raskolnikov’s brother and his position as the Vsevobuch head commissar, was instrumental in making the Red government drastically change its attitude towards the ‘royal game’. In their eyes, chess turned from “bourgeois leisure” into a “high and useful art that develops the intellectual strength of the growing generation” (a quote from the resolution of the Moscow region Vsevobuch officials’ convention, which took place in April 1920). Because of this change of stance, Moscow chess players were suddenly treated to a real cornucopia. Above all, they were allocated excellent six-room premises in the Vsevobuch Central Military Sport Club; the Moscow Chess Club was officially turned into a “department” of that institution. Also, they received funding of 100,000 rubles (which had a purchasing power of 1 million rubles now!) to organize serious tournaments. And, finally and most importantly, they got to organize the “All-Russian Chess Olympiad”, which was held in October 1920.” (from the book Chess in theSoviet Union by A. von Alekhine, originally published in the German language in Berlin, 1921.)
Who was Alexander Ilyin-Zhenevsky, the man responsible for your reading this review, and hopefully, the book?
Ilyin-Zhenevsky’s authority was so great that chess players referred to him as “our president”. The Leningrad master Andrei Batuev was a schoolboy back then and first saw Alexander Fyodorovich later, but he may as well have been referring to the 26 year-old Vsevobuch commissar: “He was incredibly handsome and unique man, with blue eyes, delicate, a girl-like blush and curly auburn hair. He was shell-shocked in the war and made funny grimaces, turning his head to the side and smacking his trembling lips. Interestingly enough, Ilyin-Zhenevsky lost his memory after a contusion, and he had to relearn chess from scratch,” (Neva No. 9, 1984)
The Winners and the Prizes
From the press: “Most of the participants of the main event played after a long hiatus, and so couldn’t fully demonstrate their skills on the chess battlefield. Without a doubt, Alekhine didn’t play his best, and managed to win only with a great effort and good shard of luck. By contrast, Levenfish, who played better than everyone else, took only third place because at the very beginning of the tournament, when he hadn’t hit his stride yet, he drew and even lost some games despite having completely won positions…Romanovsky played unexpectedly well, taking second place, ahead of three maestros.” (Listok Petrogubkommuny, 8th May 1921.
The comment about Alekhine is quite remarkable! As you might see, the opinion that he “effortlessly” and “brilliantly” won first prize only took hold years later, not immediately. I initially blamed his biographers, Vasily Panov
and Alexander Kotov,
but then I found the original source – Levenfish’s words in 1925: “Alekhine won the 1920 Olympiad without any effort.” Yes, if we look into the table, such an evaluation looks pretty convincing. But an analysis of Alekhine’s games (even though only ten of them survived) shows that the victory indeed didn’t come easy to him. Years later, Zubarev wrote about that, too: “The tournament ended with Alekhine’s victory, however, this win wasn’t completely overwhelming. Alekhine played with great strain, but despite that, he still had lost positions in several games, and Blumenfeld agreed to a draw with him despite having an obvious win.” (Shakhmaty v SSSR(itl), No. 11-12, 1937.)
However, we shouldn’t take the Listok’s words at face value, either: as it soon (in No. 9) became known, there was a conflict of interest, since the magazine’s editorial board included both Levenfish and Romanovsky. In this context, the remark about “Levenfish, who played better than everyone else” look kind of improper… I’ll finish the introduction of the winner with a quote from a humorous poem about the Olympiad, written by a Moscow chess player Boris Grigoriev, well-known in his time. The poem is certainly not a masterpiece, but Alekhine’s image is so different from the generally accepted one (“even though he doesn’t create his own plan…”) that this alone redeems all technical flaws. As the years go by, accounts about people written before they became famous geniuses and everyone started writing about them with reverence, become increasingly valuable.
Alekhine is our grandmaster. Want to introduce him? What for? The fame is like glue. If it sticks to you, you can’t get it off. He doesn’t need recommendations From anyone,And the prize – a bundle of money – He said himself, “I’ll take it!” So, what’s your opinion About his creativity? The general consensus Is currently this: Even though he doesn’t create His own plan, And only searches for flaws, You should beware if he finds one… He drills into your weakness, He hits you like a hammer! He’ll beat your pieces into a pulp, Nobody can survive that! He is also able To catch the thread of play And then think intently On further developments… He’s a demon of destruction, A very dangerous microbe Of decay and dissolution, And this is not slander! His openings are shaky (The theory is strict!), But as soon as you make a smallest mistake, Woe is you!
There is a footnote here: The original rhymed
Let’s begin with the most dramatic game of the entire Olympiad. It was played at the very start, but its result ultimately determined the final standings and brought the master’s title to Peter Romanovsky. Still, years later, he would write, “This accidental victory did not make me happy. I realized that this tournament would be a hard test for me.”
vs Grigory Levenfish
Moscow 1920, round 1 Annotated byG. Levenfish
33…Qxa2. 33…Qd8 34.Qa6! Qg8 35.e5 (35.Qxc6+ Kd8!) 35…Qg4+ 36.Ke4 Qg6+ 37.Kf3 Rxh2 or 37…Qxb1 won as well. While my opponent thought over his move, I took a walk. Alekhine walked around the hall, too. He looked at my game, and then, walking beside me, said, “Aha, so you’re preparing mate on g2!” 34.e4 Romanovsky clearly saw the rook sacrifice. For instance, 34.Ra3 is met with 34…Rg3+ 35.hxge Qg2+ 36.Kg4 Rd8 37.Bg1 Rh8 38.Rxa7 Rh4# (37.f5 Rg8+38.Bg5 Bxg5 39.Qf3 Be3+ would only prolong the struggle). The game move prevents this combination. Black could win in numerous ways not. The simplest one was 34…Rd8, again threatening Rg3+, or 34…Bh4, or 34…Rxh2, without any fancy stuff. But, hypnotized by Alekhine’s words, I came to the board and immediately sacrificed the rook, without even writing the move down!
34…Rg3+?? 35.hxg3 (35.Kxg3?? Qg2#) 35…Qg2+ 36.Kg4. I didn’t expect this move at all. 36…Rd8 37.Kh7! (That’s why white played 34.e5) 37…Rh8 38.Qxh8+ Bxh8 39.Rxb7 Qe2+ 40 Kh4 Qa6 41 Rb8+ Kc7 42.Bd2. Black resigned. I was punished for my complacency. Because of this game I finished third in the tournament, while Romanovsky took second place.
“Maybe I have a chance — maybe it’s my swan song,” was a thought that went through the head of 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov one round into the final day of Chess9LX, but by the time it was over there was frustration at finishing “only” 5th.
“Sometimes you have to take your chances, you have to take risks! With Hikaru I repeated moves and the position was… I had to calculate the idea with f4, and I saw it, and I wasn’t sure, and I thought, why should I take this risk? And I repeated moves, and it was a bad decision… I’m not at my prime, but I had to take my chance!”
I teach chess and want to champion others to grow in it, as well as personally, using my unique teaching perspective. I strongly believe in others’ inherent qualities and enormous potential to succeed both in chess and in life https://www.flickr.com/people/chesscontact/
Whoa now, Mr. Pawn? Georgia’s #1 Chess Blog?!!! This reminded me of an old TV commercial about websites in which a boy asks an adult, “How many hits do you get?”
At this point I emailed the President of the GCA, the honorable Scott Parker, inquiring about the man behind Georgia’s #1 Chess Blog, of which I had never heard. This was his reply:
I know Momir Radovic personally, and have played some chess with him. We’re about equally skilled (equally unskilled might be more exact) at chess. He’s a good guy.
Be well, Scott
The Self-deprecation was to be expected from the man known at the House of Pain as “The Sheriff.” If Scott says Momir is “a good guy” that is good enough for me. Still, that thing about having Georgia’s #1 Chess Blog makes me ready to go over the board, in lieu of into the ring, but only because of my age! On August 11, 2019, the post, Yet Another Chess Cheating Scandal, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/08/11/yet-another-chess-cheating-scandal) went viral, garnering 5773 views that day. As of today there have been 7005 views of the post. Although not having as many “hits” on the day published, the post of April 26, 2020, Confirmation Garry Kasparov Cheated Judit Polgar, ()https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/confirmation-garry-kasparov-cheated-judit-polgar/ continues to be read with hardly a day going by without a view. It will soon top the aforementioned post in total views. I am calling you out, Mr. Georgia’s #1 Chess Blog(ger). How many hits does the Pawn that Roared receive?Momir Radovic is rated 1767 by the USCF. That would be his ‘regular’ rating. I am old enough to remember when there were only two ratings, one for Over The Board and the other for Correspondence Chess. Mr. Radovic is a class ‘B’ player who has previously crossed the line into class ‘A’. Back in the day he would be considered a ‘solid’ class ‘B’ player. With so many people, like former USCF President Allen Priest, who sported a 700 rating, having a triple digit rating these daze Momir is almost world class. Please do not take me wrong, I do not mean to demean Momir because ‘back in the day’ it was thought that anyone who made it to class ‘B’ had to be taken seriously as they had stopped dropping pieces and could play a serious game of Chess. I tied for first place in the 1974 Atlanta Chess Championship with a fellow from New York and was declared Champion while a class ‘B’ player. The class ‘B’ player W. Stanley Davis, upset GM John Federowicz
in the very first round of the 1980 US Open in Atlanta, Georgia. That said, it was still something to hear Momir call out Grandmasters in his article., which begins:
“There’s a massive, uncontrolled and unhealthy proliferation of chess opening experts of all kind and provenience. From ELO 1600 all the way up to the super GM circle (where, among others, is sitting a certain famous Twitter celebrity and acclaimed Najdorf expert).
The mushrooming of experts into all sorts of domains like, “visa consultants,” “immigration experts,” or “life coaches” sees their bold advertising services, making false promises and charging exorbitant amounts. And all of that to provide just a very basic service.”
I do not know about you but I want to know the name of that “…certain famous Twitter celebrity and acclaimed Najdorf expert.”
There follows: “In chess, this corrupt practice has been established around openings. It creates a grave disservice and has direct consequences for the average player in that it is slowing down/stopping them altogether along the growth path. Amateur players have thus become prisoners of the opening theory and their own conditioning that has been put on them and used by opening “experts.”
It gets better, or worse, depending on one’s perspective. I strongly urge you to read the remarkable article because, as Momir writes at one point, it is, “Simply astonishing, isn’t it?”
It certainly is! I was so astonished I read it again! What follows is one of the reasons I reread the piece. Chess book and video publishers are not going to like what Momir had to say, and I do not blame them. In another line of work the kind of ‘hit’ Momir received would be more along the line of something out of the Godfather,
Better learn to duck and cover, Momir, my man…See what I mean:
“Chess books publishing and chess portals are following suit. They are tirelessly producing tons of copies of invaluable content on openings. On all channels, openings count for more than HALF of all chess material delivered to you. Here’s some facts and the number of books/courses/videos as of early August.”
Chessable (“No.1 site for chess improvement and science-based learning backed by the World chess champion Magnus Carlsen..”)
Openings 341 Endgames 38 Strategy 92 Tactics 227
New In Chess Openings 412 Middlegame 68 Strategy 86 Tactics 68 Improvement 84 Attack and Defense 33 Endgames 50
Everyman Chess Openings 277 Games Collections 69 Training books 135 Improvers 32 (5 on ops)
Quality Chess Openings 93 Improvement 83
Gambit Publications Openings 59 Endings 14 Puzzles and Studies 14 Training, Strategy and Improvement 37 Beginners and Intermediate 19 Tactics 19 Games Collections and General 9
He does not stop there. Momir reloads time and again. Take this for example: “The situation isn’t much better in blogging, either. The blogging space is, sadly, also overcrowded with opening enlightenments.
So it seems that, in the Brave New World of Chess, average players have basically been brainwashed
into being one-dimensional consumerists of openings with no regard or interest in seeing chess for themselves. Or in thinking for themselves.
The chess world is filled with endless (mostly opening) distractions that keep us perpetually numb to the world of ideas.”
Wait a minute…I am a blogger and focus on the opening! One of his salvos has hit home and is now the Armchair Wounded Warrior!
The Pawn that Roared ends with this mighty blast:
ART OF FLIMFLAM. CONTINUED
“An artificially created market that demands openings as a “quick and easy” fix has a devastating effect on the developing player’s road to growth, that’s for sure. The primary victim is the player’s staying-underdeveloped, never-improving thought process.
But what all of this is telling us about its creators, opening “experts” themselves?
Do they really think they are helping us with their trifle manuals? (Do you?)
Are they doing all this to show their creativity and chess understanding, or maybe for a quick and easy profit instead?
Or perhaps the opening experts simply have nothing better to offer us? They may not be capable, without their trustworthy engines, to write about any subtler chess topics at all?”
Writing about openings is comparatively easy, because you are setting out specific lines you check with an engine. Writing about middlegames and endings is hard, because you have to communicate concepts. – Cuddles T
After reading the above my first thought was, “Who the hell is Cuddles T?”
I am going to disagree with the Killer ‘B’ but not now, because it is late and I am tired. One of the reasons is I stopped punchin’ & pokin’ to watch some of the moves being played at the Charlotte Labor Day 2021 tournament and became transfixed with one game in particular and stopped writing to concentrate on the game, but more on that tomorrow in part 2 of this post. Until then, once again I urge you to take time to read one of the most remarkable Chess articles I have read in some time, and come on back tomorrow to read part two of The Pawn Who Roared.
Kasparov refuses to go gently into that good night…
lost in without getting out of the opening playing black against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
A phone call from an excited Ironman, who happened to be between online lessons, and was watching some of the “action,” gave notice that something big was happening in the world of Chess. I care nothing for blitz Chess, or anything other than what has come to be called “classical” Chess, because playing good Chess requires thought, and if you do not have time to cogitate what is the point? Nevertheless, when a former World Chess Champ losses like a beginner it makes news all around the world. I decided to wait until after having my morning cuppa coffee before checking the usual suspects, TWIC, Chessbase, Chess24, and Chessdom. Sometimes I surf on over to Chess.com and today was one of those days, which was a good thing because the first video found during a search at duckduckgo.com proclaimed erroneously that Kasparov had lost in 10 moves:
This is false. As ignominious as it sounds, Garry Kasparov actually lost after playing only 6 moves:
Below you can find all the gory details, which was located at Chess.com, including a very short loss by former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand
to a player who now resides in the Great State of Georgia, GM Alonso Zapata,
explained by the Australian GM Max Illingworth:
Garry Kasparov was born in 1963. He was eligible to play in the World Senior Championship eight years ago. I have often wondered why a player such as Kasparov, or Anatoly Karpov, has not deigned to participate in a Senior event for the good of Chess. Maybe it is time Garry consider playing in a Senior event.
In the 1983 Candidates Finals a young Garry Kasparov faced former World Chess Champion Vassily Smyslov for the right to contest a World Championship match with the then World Champ Anatoly Karpov. The fact that Smyslov made it to the final was almost beyond belief. The Chess world was astounded that someone so old could play well enough to face the young whipper-snapper, Kasparov. Granted, Smyslov was given no chance of defeating Kasparov by the pundits, but just getting to the finals was a victory of sorts. The older I have become the more amazing it seems…
Imagine yourself sitting behind the white pieces as your student begins showing a recently played game for review. He calls out, “e4” and you move the pawn in front of the King two squares. He then moves the pawn in front of his King one square, known as the French defense. You then move the pawn in front of your Queen two squares to the d4 square as he nods before doing the same with his d-pawn. You wait, because there are several alternatives here, until he says, “Nd2.” This makes it the Tarrasch variation in plain English, called that because Sigbert preferred it.
In ECO language it is the C03 French, Tarrasch variation. You make the move on the board and your student moves the pawn in front of the King’s Rook, one square.
What happens next depends entirely on the student, and past experience. For example, say the person who just pushed his Rook pawn to h6 was someone you have known for decades, with the moniker Mulfish. You may ask, “What the hell kinda move is that?!”
Or maybe it’s the recalcitrant middle school kid from Garry Kasparov’s hometown who has to be home schooled after pulling the fire alarm in school, who is only sitting at the board because he is being home schooled and must be here, like it or not. You look at his glazed eyes and say, “Figures,” as he takes another breath while disinterestedly continuing to stare out the window.
But if your student is a young child, boy or girl, you must be more circumspect, and say something as sweetly as possible under the circumstances, like, “Why did you play that move?” Tears may still well up in their little eyes even though you have been as sweet as pie, and they may even begin to cry…If the student is a young boy you can channel your former football coach and shout, “Suck it up, buttercup!” But if it is a girl you know there is absolutely nothing you can say, so you remain silent while wondering how the path of life led you to where you are at this moment in time…
Now if the student happens to be an adult, say about thirty years of age, give or take, and an attorney at a prominent law firm, it would be possible to inquire as to why he made that particular move. And if he said, “To prevent his Bishop from coming to g5.” You could FLARE UP and scream, “But the Knight that just moved to d2 is blocking the Bishop from moving, you IDIOT!” But then you realize that is not possible because the reason the lawyer is sitting across from you instead of another teacher is because a former coach FLARED UP on the poor guy and asked you to give this lesson, and you could use the money, if for nothing else, some alcoholic beverage(s) after the lesson to ease the pain of teaching…Then you reflect on a former adult student who was attending college when bitten by the Chess bug, as was yours truly, who, when seeing him again a decade later and asking why he had stopped playing Chess, answered bitterly, “I lost my wife; I lost my life; all to become a class ‘B’ player!” And you wished you had not asked the question…Then you think about his wife, one of the loveliest women your eyes have ever seen, who became a stewardess…and you know this because she told you when you ran into her a few years later. In addition, after asking about your former student, she told you about the divorce, while also sweetly saying, “I’m not seeing anyone,” and you remember thinking, “THANK YOU, GOD!” even though you’re agnostic… Then the current student adds, “World Champion Magnus Carlsen plays the move,” which immediately brings you back to reality and you say, “Well now, Bunky, at least you had a reason.”
What? You thought teaching Chess was easy?
What prompted this was a recent game from round five of the First Saturday June IM 2021, between Koppany Geher (2291) and Adam Szeberenyi (2373).
e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 h6 (The CBDB shows this having been played in 495 games. 365Chess shows 353 games. The CBDB shows these moves having been played more often: 3…c5 (12883); Nf6 (11743); dxe4; (3099) Be7; (4461) Nc6; (2719) a6 (1998). 356Chess even shows 3…b6 having been played more frequently than 3…h6. There is a reason.) 4. Ngf3 Nf6 5. e5 (SF 040021 at depth 35 plays this, but SF 13 @depth 40 plays 5 Bd3) 5…Nfd7 6. c4 (SF 13 @D54 plays 6 Bd3, but SF 051020 @D56 would play 6 Be2, which has only been attempted in 3 games. SF 13 @D48 shows 6 c3, which has been played in 11 games) 6…c5 (Komodo plays this move but SF prefers 6…dxc4) 7. Bd3 (SF plays 7 cxd5) 7…dxc4 (Komodo would play 7…Nc6, a TN) 8. Nxc4 cxd4 (Although one Komodo program plays the game move, another, and Stockfish, would play 8…Nc6) 9. O-O Nc6 10. Be4 (SF & Houdini play 10 Bf4) 10…Nc5 SF & Komodo both play 10…Nb6) 11. Bxc6+ bxc6 12. Qxd4 Qxd4 13. Nxd4 Ba6 14. b3 Rc8 15. Rd1 Bxc4 16. bxc4 Nd7 17. Bf4 g5 18. Bg3 Bg7 19. Re1 O-O 20. h3 Rfd8 21. Nb3 Nf8 22. Rad1 Ng6 23. Rd6 Bf8 24. Rd4 Rxd4 25. Nxd4 Bg7 26. Kf1 a6 27. Re4 Ne7 28. Bh2 Rb8 29. Nb3 Rb4 30. Nc5 a5 31. a3 Rb1+ 32. Re1 Rb2 33. Re2 Rb1+ 34. Re1 Rb2 35. Re2 Rb8 36. Re3 Ng6 37. Nd7 Rb1+ 38. Ke2 Rc1 39. c5 h5 40. g4 h4 41. Kf3 Nf8 42. Nf6+ Bxf6 43. exf6 Nd7 44. Bd6 Nxf6 45. Rb3 Nd7 46. Rb7 Nxc5 47. Ra7 Rc3+ 48. Ke2 f6 49. Be7 Ne4 50. f3 Ng3+ 51. Kf2 Rc2+ 52. Kg1 Kf7 53. Bd6+ Kg6 54. Rxa5 Ne2+ 55. Kf1 Nd4 56. Rc5 Rd2 57. f4 gxf4 58. Bxf4 Rd3 59. Bc1 Nb3 0-1 https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2021-first-saturday-june-im/05-Geher_Koppany-Szeberenyi_Adam
Melkumyan, Hrant (2633) vs Carlsen, Magnus (2840) Event: World Blitz 2016 Site: Doha QAT Date: 12/29/2016 Round: 6.1 ECO: C03 French, Tarrasch
(https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/garry-kasparov-cheated-judit-polgar/) was published December 11, 2017. The post, Garry Kasparov Cheated Judit Polgar, has been read by people in almost every country on the planet. Although other posts written many years prior to 2017 have garnered more total viewers, no post published after December 11, 2017 has been read by more often by people in more different countries since being published. It is usually among the top posts read most days, and weeks, such as this week, when it was the most read post on this blog. The post has obviously resonated with readers the all over the world.
When the new issue of NIC arrives
this writer, and reader, usually flips through the magazine to get an overview before landing at the ‘Just Checking’ interview, which is read first. That did not happen with the current issue because a picture of Judit Polgar caught my attention and was read before going any further.
“We noted with interest the release of a new documentary on Judit Polgar, Judit contra today (Los Otros) – ‘Judit against all(The Others)‘ – produced by Movistar+, Spain’s leading online digital platform. It’s part of a series on influential game-changers in sports.
The 44-minute documentary has interviews (many in English) and old film footage from throughout her career – the highlight being the most controversial, Polgar’s first meeting with Garry Kasparov at Linares 1994. Indeed, the ‘did-he-or-didn’t-he’ release the knight incident. Now, for the first time in over 25 years, the film footage is finally seen in public.
Polger tells how her inexperience clouded her judgment about what she should have done. There was video evidence available, but that was ‘mysteriously’ spirited out of the Hotel Anibal to Madrid on the orders of the legendary godfather of the tournament, Luis Rentero.
Still, this isn’t the first time the evidence is shown, as can be read in Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam’s book Linares! Linares!.
On page 79, he writes that the video in fact returned a few days later to the Hotel Anibal and was shown in a private room to several journalists and others, including the chief arbiter, Carlos Falcon. And with the benefit of an early version of VAR, they all witnessed that the piece was indeed briefly released; Falcon even writing an official letter stating this to be the case, but from his vantage point from where he was at the time, he couldn’t see this due to Kasparov’s hand shielding the piece.”
Pg 9, New In Chess, 2020 #2
To some the film was obviously as important as the infamous Zapuder film of the JFK assassination, which was kept locked away from the public for many years.
Garry Kasparov was obviously a great Chess player. Unfortunately, the only thing for which he will be remembered by history is that he was the human world champion who lost to a computer program,