GM Igor Rausis says “Chess is a disease”

The post dated July 13, 2019, GM Igors Rausis Caught With The Toilet Seat Down, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/grandmaster-igors-rausis-caught-cheating/) went viral. The number of viewers was the most, by far, of any previous post on the AW blog. Tens of thousands of people all over the world viewed the post in numbers that dwarfed any other post. The number of viewers is given each day and there is a map of the world in which the number of viewers is color coded. The world map lit up like a Christmas tree, with viewers from almost every country on the planet. This continued for a few days until dropping back to what was previously considered “normal.” Because of the huge daily numbers for those days what was formerly considered a “normal” day is now seen as a tiny blip on the graph of viewers. From this it is more than a little obvious people interested in the Royal game are very interested in the ever increasing problem of cheating in Chess.

I had not intended on writing anything else on cheating but a recent interview with GM Igor Rausis has caused me to have second thoughts about posting anything concerning the confessed cheater. Chessbase published, Igors Rausis: How to quit chess in one move By Andris Tihomirovs, yesterday, August 23, 2019, which was read this morning. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/how-to-quit-chess-in-one-move) The article was, “Originally published in SestDiena magazine, July 26, 2019.” I clicked onto the link (https://www.diena.lv/raksts/sestdiena/tuvplana/ka-ar-ravienu-tikt-prom-no-saha.-saruna-ar-igoru-rausi-14223781) finding it in need of translation, so I headed to Google translate only to learn only the heading could be translated but one cannot cut & paste the article. This is what could be translated:

How to Get Away from Chess A conversation with Igor Rausis

A photo of a chess player in a restroom using his mobile phone during a game

broke a long-standing storm not only among fans of the sport, but also for those who have a simple black and white picture of chess. Chess grandmaster Igor Rausis, who has been trapped in a fraud, says it was his chance to get away from the chess world with a twist.

What follows is part of the translation from the aforementioned Chessbase article:

Has anyone else been accused or suspected of cheating in chess?

Lots. Unfortunately, lots. I don’t want to talk about the others. I don’t want to name any specific surnames. I don’t know why people came up with this idea of making phone apps for chess. It all started with that.

They’ve been around for a long time.

But why? What’s the point?

To play. To analyse. I play on the tram.

But they didn’t think about the consequences. Well, there are a lot of sick people in the world. Previously, this sickness didn’t exist. Gaming mania. Unfortunately, it’s a contemporary illness.

Like casino?

That’s different, because a person goes to the casino and leaves money behind. It’s like drugs.

What exactly? Chess?

Gaming. And the world supports this, because somebody’s earning money from his. (It is possible the word “his” should be “this.” It is printed exactly as found at Chessbase.)

Beyond phones, is chess a sickness?

Chess players never talk about it, because chess fans like other words — like chess is art. Maybe it partially applies to those who compile compositions [chess problems].

So is chess a disease?

In a manner of speaking. A great pyramid has been built. I can now say something controversial aimed at the functionaries.

THE THREAT IS STRONGER THAN ITS EXECUTION!

If Chess is to survive it MUST change in order to adapt to the current circumstances. Over a decade ago I wrote about the need for Chess to adapt but money was flowing into Chess thanks to billionaire bullies with more money than sense, so who wanted to be the first to rock the boat? (I use the term “billionaire bullies” because of people like the Koch bros, etc., and other extremely wealthy people who donate money to political candidates who would obviously be more comfortable in a Nazi-type party than any political party consisting of We The People) At a recent Chess tournament in Atlanta someone mentioned Daniel Lucas,

formerly editor of Georgia Chess before becoming editor of Chess Life magazine. There was laughter upon my mentioning I thought Daniel was still editor of Chess Life. “Because USCF is now awash in Sinquebucks there have been many changes at USCF, Bacon,” said someone who will remain nameless. “Now Daniel’s WIFE is the editor and he has been given a new title of, Senior Director of Strategic Communication for the United States Chess Federation.”

“What does that mean, exactly?” I asked. “I mean, wouldn’t simply Director of Communication have sufficed? Is there a “Junior Director of Strategic Communication?” After more laughter I asked, “What, exactly, is ‘Strategic Communication’ and how does it differ from just plain Communication?” After the uproarious laughter abated someone said, “They just pull those kind of names out of their ass.” This brought the house down, so to speak.

In a capitalist economy it is said, “He who has the money makes the rules.” It is no secret Rex Sinquefield wants much shorter time controls for the Royal game. It has become apparent how little it matters what he, on any other wealthy patron of Chess wants, because now, for the game of Chess to survive, it MUST limit a game to one sitting, with no player allowed to leave the room.

On the very popular, and famous, television show, House, the character of Doctor House

was famous for saying, “Everyone lies.” The way Chess is currently played I can say, “Everyone cheats,” and who will argue? It is too easy to cheat so it is happening in every section by players of all ages. Some years ago at a tournament in Atlanta a player was caught cheating and his response was, “Everyone else is doing it, so I must do it too.” At another tournament, at Emory University some years ago, everyone but the TDs was talking about a group of young boys who would simply leave the playing hall heading for the seats of the cafeteria where they would check out a cell phone in plain sight. Why go to the lavatory when one can sit in the comfort of the cafeteria?

There are signs everywhere pointing to the death of Chess. The recently concluded US Open Chess tournament managed to draw only three hundred plus players. Before a recent round of the Sinquefield Cup Chess tournament in St. Louis, Maurice Asheley talked about the myriad draws in the tournament thus far, contrasting the mostly draw “classical” Chess tourney with a recent “rapid” tournament round in which six of the ten games were decisive. Is the Royal game as it is played by the best Chess players “played out?” How many people will be interested in Chess if it must devolve to “Blunder Fest Chess” to survive?

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The High Planes Drifter

An excellent article, 1st Ron Finegold Memorial, by Davide Nastasio, appeared at the Chessbase website recently (https://en.chessbase.com/post/1st-ron-finegold-memorial).

5/7/2018 – “Open weekend tournaments in the United States are proof of chess as a very competitive high stakes sport. Local tournaments often celebrate the changing of seasons, recurring events, or, as in this case, memorialise (sic) a master player who dearly loved chess, and gifted such passion to his children. GM Elshan Moradiabadi took top honours (sic) in the inaugural Ron Finegold Memorial, held at the new Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta, which was founded by his son, Ben.”

Elshan Moradiabadi wins with 4½ out of 5

“From March 31st to April 1st, 2018 At the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta was held the Ron Finegold Memorial, a tournament with 4 sections and 92 players.

Ron Finegold (born in 1937), the father of GM Ben Finegold, was a National Master who died after a long illness on July 15th, 2014. His passion for chess brought him to teach the game to his children.”

“The Open weekend tournament in the USA is proof that chess is a sport. Five rounds in two days. On Saturday one can play for nine hours straight, for a total of three games, then follow on Sunday another six hours of playing. The last three hours are quite important because the last round is what divides the winner from the losers, those who will bring home the money from those who fought for nothing. The Open section of this tournament was particularly well stocked with two GMs, plus the US Women’s Champion of 2017, and a few national masters and candidate masters.”

Reading the above made me laugh. The ‘next generation’ considers the above playing schedule “grueling.” Back in the day we played five rounds over two days at a time control of 40 moves in two hours, followed by various time limits such as twenty moves in an hour, which became twenty moves in a half hour, followed by increasingly shorter time limits for the endgame. I won the Atlanta Chess Championship in 1976 at a time control of forty moves in two and one half hours, followed by twenty moves in one hour. Granted, there was only one game played at night for five weeks, but when we sat down it was known the game could possibly last well into the wee hours. During the 1980 US Open in Atlanta my opponent, Dauntless Don Mullis, finally resigned at three thirty the next morning. The game began at seven pm. And WE LIKED IT! My heart bleeds for these namby-pamby wussies…

The address given at the website of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta is, 2500 Old Alabama Rd., Suite 11, Roswell, GA 30076. Roswell is not Atlanta. It is a city far to the north of Atlanta. In 2014 the estimated population was 94,089, making it Georgia’s seventh largest city (http://www.visitroswellga.com/). Maybe it should be called the Atlanta Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Roswell?

A game Ron Finegold

lost to Bobby Fischer

at the Western Open in Bay City accompanies the article. No date is given. The other game contained in the article is by LM David Vest, aka, the High Planes Drifter, whom I have known for almost four decades. We played many speed games over the years, with Mr. Vest usually besting me. One time the Drifter informed me he intended to sacrifice the exchange in every game, which is exactly what he did, as I lost again and again… David gave me a lesson never forgotten. I used that lesson in a telephone game with the legendary one, playing an exchange sacrifice that brought the house DOWN! I proudly showed the game to Vest, who smiled with approval.

David Vest


Scott Prichard playing against Carter Peatman | Photo: Davide Nastasio (Vest is shown in the background playing Harry Le)

is the only player to hold the title of both Georgia State Chess Champion, and Georgia Senior Champion. The man from the High Planes stopped drifting and settled down at the House of Pain. Frequently heard from the younger players were things like, “Vest got me again,” and “How come I can’t beat that old man?” They knew the Chess road led through Mr. Vest, and to best Vest was a sign that, as one young player succinctly put it, “Now I’m getting somewhere!”

Mr. Vest talks with a booming voice, which was often heard, to the detriment of the other players, when he was right outside the front door, directly below the window of the main playing room, smoking his ready-rolled cigarettes. David was known for his “A.O.” theories. That’s for “Atmospheric Occupation.” As far as he was concerned, the only hope for mankind was to get off of the planet. He could not understand why everyone did not agree with him. For some reason he thought he was the first to come up with the idea of moving off planet. He told of taking his theories to the US government, and his disappointment in being rejected…Voice booming and eyes blazing, Mr. Vest would rail against our government and threaten to take his ides to the “Communist Chinese.” One time a VietNam veteran, who had listened to some of a Vest tirade, entered the HOP saying, “That man ain’t right.” He got no argument. I attempted to council Mr. Vest about toning down his traitorously inflammatory harangues, but it fell on deaf ears…Another time one of the Chess fathers, after listening to a Vest diatribe, said, “There is a fine line between sanity and insanity, and that man is on it.”

As can be seen in the photograph, Mr. Vest has a large scar in the shape of a horseshoe underneath his right eye, which was obtained when he moved to Louisville and began a job working with horses, which he loved. The horse obviously did reciprocate. Dave was fortunate as a kick to the head from a horse can be fatal. One legendary Atlanta player informed me the Drifter told them he had experience with horses to obtain the job. “What he did not say was the experience came from wagering at the track!” he said while laughing uproariously. “What the hell does Dave know about horses other than the betting odds?” he added.

Mr. Vest’s rating plummeted as he continued to play Chess while pus oozed from his wound. His Master rating fell below 2100 and the word at the House was he would never be the same player. Mr. Vest proved them wrong when, after recovering, his rating steadily climbed to over 2200 once again, where it stayed for some time. After losing yet again to Vest one promising junior came down the stairs saying, “That man OWNS this place!”

Before leaving Atlanta and moving to the country the aforementioned legendary player informed me Mr. Vest was to be interviewed on an Atlanta radio station, WGST. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “I wish I were, but I’m not,” he said. “I just hope he don’t give Chess in Atlanta a bad name.” We listened with trepidation to the interview, with the legendary one muttering things like, “Lordy,” and “I hope he don’t mention Championship Chess.” When they went to a break I glanced over at the legendary one to see what can only be described as an ashen face. “I don’t know if I can take any more of this,” he said. He, and we, did. “Oh God,” the legendary one exclaimed at one point, “Chess in Atlanta will never be the same.” Having listened to Mr. Vest at length over the years I was grinning while enjoying the show. “You’ve gotta admit, it’s entertaining,” I stated. “Maybe in some kinda way in your warped brain, Bacon,” he said. “It’s sad Dave don’t know he’s making a fool of himself,” the legendary one said as he sat there shaking his head. “How did the drifter get on the show?” I asked. “He called in regularly,” was the reply.

By now you should understand why I decided to put Dave’s game through the clanking digital monsters at the ChessBase DataBase.

David Vest 2200 vs Harry Le 1971

1 c4 (David’s love of the English rivaled has that of LA Master Jerry Hanken, of whom Vest spoke highly) Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Be7 5 a3 (Komodo plays 5 Qb3) O-O 6 b4 (Stockfish plays either 6 d4 or Qb3) d6 (Stockfish plays either 6…d5, or 6…e4. Houey prefers d5)

7 d4 (This move cannot be found in the databases so must me a Theoretical Novelty. Unfortunately, it is not a good one. It is the way of Chess that the best move in the position on the previous move now becomes less than desirable.) exd4 8 exd4 Bg4 9 Be2 a6 10 h3 Bh5 11 Bf4 d5 12 g4 (I am not surprised Vest played this move, but a more circumspect move such as 12 0-0 may have been better. After 12…Bxf3 13 Bxf3 dxc4 white would have the possibility of completely ruining the black pawn structure with 14 Bxc6. There is also the possibility of playing 14 d5! Granted, black does not have to play to take the pawn, as after 12 0-0 he could play 12…Re8, for example) Bg6

Look at this position from white’s perspective and imagine your student sitting across from you. What move would you suggest, and why?

13 Ne5

After seeing this move one might question a student, offering 13 0-0 as an alternative. “Look kid,” one could begin, “You have followed the rules of the Royal game by developing your four minor pieces. You need only move your king to safety before developing your major pieces.”) dxc4

14 Nxg6 (I would be strongly tempted to play 14 Nxc6 bxc6 a5 Bxc4) hxg6 15. d5 Nb8!

(Shades of the man from the High Planes! Vest was famous for playing the Brooklyn variation of the Alekhine’s defense. An example:

IM Vinay Bhat (Earned GM title in 1997)

vs David Vest

1996 American Open

Los Angeles, California

B02 Alekhine’s defence, Brooklyn defence

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d5 4. exd6 cxd6 5. c4 e6 6. Be2 Nf6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. Be3 Nbd7 9. Nf3 b6 10. O-O Bb7 11. Bf4 O-O 12. Rc1 a6 13. h3 Qb8 14. Re1 Qa7 15.Qb3 Rac8 16. Na4 Rfd8 17. Bf1 h6 18. Be3 Bc6 19. Nc3 Ba8 20. Qa4 Bc6 21. Qb3 Ba8 22. Qa4 Qb7 23. b4 Nb8 24. a3 Rc7 25. Bf4 Qc8 26. Qb3 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Nc6 28.Be3 Rb7 29. f4 Rb8 30. d5 Na7 31. Na4 exd5 32. Nxb6 Qf5 33. Nxd5 Nxd5 34. cxd5 Rd7 35. Kh2 Nb5 36. Bd3 Qh5 37. Be2 Qh4 38. Qd3 Bf6 39. Rg1 Bb2 40. Rg4 Qe7 41.Rcg1 Qd8 42. Bd1 Rc7 43. Bc2 Kf8 44. Qh7 Nxa3 45. Rxg7 Bxg7 46. Rxg7 Nxc2 47.Qg8+ 1-0)

16 g5 (I would take the pawn with 16 Bxc4. The game move is more in keeping with the High Planes Drifter’s fast & loose, shoot from the hip style, but 16 Bxc4 is best) Ne8

I could not help but wonder what Mr. Vest was thinking about while looking at this position. Many years ago the Drifter said that after 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nf8 he was “Sucking them into my vortex!” This position has Vest in the wrong plane! Now he is the one being sucking into a vortex…)

17 Qd2 (Now 17 Bxc4 is answered by 17…Bxg5) Bd6 18. Be3 Be5 (Black has driven white back and the bishop takes a dominating position. The amazing thing about the position is that black has only one piece off of the back rank but has the advantage)

19 f4 (Vest could take the pawn with 19 Bxc4, but Nd6 20 Be2 Re8 black has greatly improved his position ) Bxc3 20. Qxc3 Nd6

21 h4 (Having been outplayed Vest decides to thrust his sword, or fall on it…It was still possible to castle even though black could then play 21…b5, protecting the pawn. Still, after 23 Bf3 white would have the two bishops versus the two horses, which may have been why Vest pushed the pawn, come to think of it…You see, the Drifter LOVES the horses, so how could he possibly bet against them? I have often watched his play without Queens on the board, in which his knights shine) Re8

22 h5 Nf5 23 Bf2? (He had to try 23 Rh3 gxh5 24 Bxh5) Qxd5 24 Rh3 Qe4

25 Qb2? (Dave could have tried (25 O-O-O as 25… Qxe2 26 Re1 Qxf2 27. Rxe8+ Kh7 28. h6 Qf1+ 29. Kc2 Qg2+ 30. Kc1 Qf1+ only leads to a draw. 25…Nc6 is better, though…) gxh5 (25…Qg2! The remaining moves need no comment) 26 g6 fxg6 27 Kf1 Qxf4 28 Rf3 Qe4 29 Re1 Nc6 30 b5 Ne5 31 Rc3 Qh1+ 32 Bg1 Nd3 0-1

The High Plains Drifter was a strong Chess player; strong enough to beat many time US Women’s Champion Irina Krush

in the last round of one of the 2003 EMORY/CASTLE GRAND PRIX. The upset win translated into a first place tie with GM Julio Becerra.

The game was annotated by IM John Donaldson in the award winning Georgia Chess magazine. I will admit to being somewhat disappointed when the Drifter informed me he had “chickened out” when offering Irina a draw, which was declined.

I have met many Chess players during the course of my life. The mold was definitely broken after the Drifter came down from the High Planes. He often claimed to be “above you humans.” Fortunately, Chess kept him somewhat grounded…David Vest is definitely sui generis.

The Future of Chess

“The phrase, “All politics is local” is a common phrase in U.S. politics. The former Speaker of the U.S. House Tip O’Neill is most closely associated with this phrase, which encapsulates the principle that a politician’s success is directly tied to the person’s ability to understand and influence the issues of their constituents.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_politics_is_local)

The world of chess is beset with myriad problems. For example, consider something recently written by GM Kevin Spraggett on his blog, Spraggett on Chess:

RIP: Canadian Open Championship (1956-2014)

“For my readers (Canadian and international) who were wondering about the 2015 edition of Canada’s most PRESTIGIOUS tournament, I have sad news. Not only has the 2015 Canadian Open been cancelled, but it is unlikely to be resurrected in coming years. The present mind-set of the CFC executive is to concentrate on junior chess and slowly (quickly!) phase out adult chess.

The writing was on the wall for some time now, but few wanted to believe it. Despite a well documented decline in adult membership in the CFC since 2007, and calls to organize a membership drive to remedy the situation, the CFC refused to act. Adult membership levels are now 50% of normal levels. All funding of adult-programs have been eliminated.”

Grant Oen is a junior at Emory University, Grant is a 2-time GA Collegiate Chess Champion, 2-time NJ Grade Level Chess Champion, manager of the 2014 Atlanta Kings Team, and current Emory Chess Club President. He is one of the people who are the future of chess, and the future is NOW! I have come to admire and respect Grant because he is GREAT for chess in my home state.

I received an email from Mr. Oen a short time ago, and after reading it, sent an email asking for permission to post it on the blog, which was granted. Although it may be true that “all politics is local,” what happens in my home state of Georgia, just as what happens in our wonderful neighbor to the north, Canada, affects the Royal game in the WORLD. It is not just the worldwide governing body of chess, FIDE, that impacts chess, fortunately. Chess stays viable because of the efforts of those in, for example, New Zealand, even though you may not here of what is going on with chess there, unless you make an effort do so. When the chess lights go out, for whatever reason, in any town, city, state, or nation, it has a negative impact on the game of chess. I urge you to read what Grant has to say, and to forward it to anyone and everyone, and ask them to do the same. “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.”
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect)
I believe there is a “butterfly effect.” I also believe that “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” What has happened to chess in my home state of Georgia is tragic. I can only hope that you who read this learn from the recent mistakes made here and do not let it happen in your part of the chess world.

“Good evening,

First, I’d like to thank many of you for supporting Southeast Chess in its first year of tournaments. Since our first event in March 2014, we have run over 25 events, attracting 250+ unique players from 15 states. Despite being a small operation, we have offered large open tournaments, scholastics, invitationals, Grand Prix, blitz, and action tournaments which have become a staple in the chess landscape in Georgia, and will continue to do so going forward.

Southeast Chess recognizes the following players for participating in 6 or more of our events in our first year:

Shanmukha Meruga – 22 tournaments
Grant Oen – 21
Frank Johnson – 16
Kapish Potula – 10
Amaan Pirani – 8
Sijing Wu – 8
Saithanusri Avirneni – 7
William Remick – 6
Phillip Taylor – 6
Rochelle Wu – 6

I would also like to express my personal opinions on the upcoming GCA election. The following positions are up for election at this year’s State Championship:

President: Fun Fong (incumbent), Frank Johnson
Secretary: Herky del Mundo, Greg Maness
2nd Member at Large: Steve Schneider, Ashley Thomas

The remaining board positions, not up for election this year, are filled by Vice Presidents Ben Johnson and Katie Hartley, Treasurer Amrita Kumar, and 1st Member at Large Laura Doman.

I will be voting the following ticket – President: Frank Johnson, Secretary: Herky del Mundo, 2nd Member at Large: Ashley Thomas. To have a positive say in the future of the GCA landscape, I strongly encourage you to do the same.

The GCA is in a long period of deterioration under the current administration. While scholastics have shown relative success in recent years, the GCA’s organization of open tournaments has proven to be a terrible insult to our royal game. The lethargic, unorganized, and indecisive “organization” under President Fong has devastated the hundreds of chess players in Georgia. Developing youngsters and seasoned masters alike have not been shown any respect as players by the GCA.

Fun Fong, additionally, has not fulfilled his designated role as GCA President. Supposedly, the responsibilities undertaken by his office are to support chess in Georgia through and through. However, Fun has shown a clear conflict of interest in only supporting the GCA’s events, and not providing any measure of support to the rest of the community.

For example, when former Emory Chess Club President Jeff Domozick and I were developing the idea for Southeast Chess to fill a meaningful gap in Georgia, we approached Fun to hear his thoughts and potential improvements on our business plans. His response could not have been more negative – he was critical of our idea, and warned us of the dangers and difficulties of running tournaments, strongly suggesting us to abandon the venture.

Of course, we were persistent, and although Jeff graduated Emory in Spring 2014, I have continued the Southeast Chess enterprise and hope that many of you would agree that it is a professionally-run and successful tournament business. Similar stories regarding Fun have been echoed by American Chess Promotions owner Thad Rogers and North Georgia Chess owner Kevin Schmuggerow, both of whom I greatly respect for their pursuits as chess organizers.

Throughout his tenure as GCA President, Fun has shown a clear preference for having all chess activities remain under the flailing umbrella of the GCA, and shuns all other ventures. Throughout Southeast Chess’ infancy, Fun was loathe to extend us help of any kind, threatening us not to use any TDs under the GCA’s umbrella. The President of the GCA should simply support all chess events in Georgia. Fun’s unprofessional behavior overall has led to many resignations on the GCA board and its subcommittees. Support for Fong among the rank and file in Georgia chess has been all but diminished.

Of course, there are many other reasons for which I could criticize the incumbent candidate (print magazine extinct, abuse of power, no support for players, school programs, or organizers), but I am of course also obligated to mention why I am voting for Frank Johnson.

Frank has significant chess experience in all capacities. He is an avid player, organizer, director, project manager, coach, parent, former GCA secretary, and overall chess supporter. He supports tournaments all across the state and country, and organizes and directs his own events under the popular Chess-coach.net label. He has years of experience and knowledge in working with developing chess communities, and has sponsored hundreds of local formal and informal chess meetups in the greater Atlanta area, including Atlanta Chess Mess.

As a personal aside, Frank proved essential in helping Southeast Chess get off the ground by providing critical organizational advice, helping to market the events, and playing in them himself. He served in an important management position in the Atlanta Kings chess team, a co-venture between my friend Thad Rogers and I.

Frank has shown significant expertise in all arenas of Georgia chess. Most importantly, he in unbiased in his vision to move the chess community forward. Right now there is a disconnect between players, organizers, and the GCA. Frank has essential plans in place for removing this disconnect for the benefit of all parties. He is a true chess professional who, as President, will develop the GCA into the association it should be. If you have questions or comments for Frank, he is always available at frankjohnson@chess-coach.net.

For the office of secretary, I support Herky del Mundo, organizer of the Atlanta Chess Club, active tournament player, director, and supporter. Herky has been influential in the outreach to GM Mark Paragua for the annual state championship. For the 2nd Member at Large position, I support Ashley Thomas, a long-time chess parent and player.

The election is open to current GCA members 18 years or older who have paid the $15 annual dues in the last year. A current membership is also required for Georgia players in play in the State Championship. The election will be held on Sunday, April 26 at 2:30pm, between rounds 4 and 5 of the Georgia State Championship in the Hotel Wyndham Hotel Galleria. If you are interested in voting but will not attend the state championship, email secretary@georgiachess.org to request an absentee ballot by 4/12, and have it returned to the secretary by the beginning of the tournament on 4/24.

Please remember to vote, as each eligible member can have a meaningful say towards change in the future of Georgia Chess.

Thank you.”

Grant

Reprise of the Atlanta Kings

There was a chess league last century in the late 1970’s, the National Chess League. The games were play in different cities, with the moves being delivered via something named a WATS line, which stood for Wide Area Telephone Service, which “was a flat-rate long distance service offering for customer dial-type telecommunications between a given customer phone (also known as a “station”) and stations within specified geographic rate areas employing a single telephone line between the customer location and the serving central office. Each access line could be arranged for outward (OUT-WATS) or inward (IN-WATS) service, or both.
WATS was introduced by the Bell System in 1961 as a primitive long-distance flat-rate plan by which a business could obtain a special line with an included number of hours (‘measured time’ or ‘full-time’) of long-distance calling to a specified area. These lines were most often connected to private branch exchanges in large businesses. WATS lines were the basis for the first direct-dial toll free +1-800 numbers (intrastate in 1966, interstate in 1967); by 1976, WATS brought AT&T a billion dollars in annual revenue.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_Area_Telephone_Service)
Not only is that history for you but for me as well, for until today, I never knew so much about the service we utilized. Atlanta had an entry and the name of our team was the Atlanta Kings. The games were played at a company named Scientific America. Lew Martin worked there and the price for use of their WATS line was the inclusion of Lew on the team. Since he was rated far lower, by hundreds of points, of all of the other players this caused much dissension. I was opposed to Lew being on the team, as were many others, but it was decided better to have Lew on the team than to have no team. Former Georgia Champion Mike Decker verified this several years ago when reading an erroneous article about Lew in Georgia Chess, with this being brought to the attention of the editor, Mark Taylor. Mike also said Steve Schneider was a driving force behind the team. I felt strongly that the four highest rated players should be allowed to play. I did not play in the first ever match of what came to be called the “telephone league.” Instead, I worked the phone, sending and receiving the moves, with others passing the moves to the players. Members of the press were there for that match and an article appeared in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution Sunday Magazine, which included a picture of this writer with a phone in one hand and a pen in the other. Alas, that was so long ago it is possible one cannot find a copy on microfilm. Mike “Maddog” Gordon, who has retired from the newspaper, and chess, tried to find a copy decades ago without success.

Last night I learned from Thad Rogers that he has been awarded the newest team to join the United States Chess League. Thad is to be the General Manager. I asked him if I could put it in print and he said yes. “Good,” I said, “a scoop!” It was then Thad informed me he had made the announcement at the Georgia State Championship, which was a month ago. No one has mentioned it to me. When I asked the Legendary Ga Ironman why he had not mentioned it he said, “I do not remember it.” Thad blurted, “But you were standing right beside me when I made the announcement!” Tim responded, “I had other things on my mind.” At this point Thad added, “No one paid any attention.” When asked why nothing has appeared on either of the two GCA website’s Thad said it was because the GCA was not involved. I thought that strange, because it is about chess in Georgia. The original Atlanta Kings were really big news in our small community, but then the chess community was composed of adults, unlike today when there are so few adults participating in the game other than parents. The change that has taken place was apparent at the Atlanta Chess Center. When it opened there was little need for space for parents, but near the end there was not enough room for family members of the many children playing.
The conversation with Thad lasted some time as it transpired during the last round and it was late and we were too tired to do anything other than sit and talk. I learned a great deal from Thad, including the fact that Kazim Gulamali asked for $200 per game to play. I was taken aback by that, not knowing that each and every player received at least $100 from the league. How can that be? We played for the love of the game. I realize a C-note is not much these days, but still, it is the principle of the thing. Receiving money makes these players professionals, even the lower rated ones who play last board so as to meet some ridiculous average rating requirement. There was no such requirement with the telephone league. Each team could have the four best players possible filling out the squad. Thad mentioned the possibility of New York being able to “Have four 2600 players.” I answered with, “So what? Chicago, LA & San Francisco could match them.” Back in the day New York may have had more strong players from whom to choose, but a team from DC, appropriately named the “Plumbers,” took first the initial season. (The Fabulous 70s: The National Chess League
http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2007/09/16/the-fabulous-70s-the-national-chess-league/ & The Fabulous 70s: Washington Plumbers win the 1976 National Chess League!
http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/the-fabulous-70s-washington-plumbers-win-the-1976-national-chess-league/)
I neglected to mention the nouveau riche in chess city of St. Louis, thanks to Daddy Sinquebucks, which may now be the city with the most titled players. Build it and they did come. Thad mentioned something about building a team that could “…count on wins from the bottom two boards and one draw on the top two boards.” There is something wrong with the format if the best the few adult fans of chess left in Atlanta can hope for the Kings is to find two players whose chess strength has yet to be matched by rating. I will admit to being nonplussed about the USCL, and have much the same feeling about the new Atlanta Kings.

The Award Winning Georgia Chess Magazine

The Major League baseball pitcher Jim Kaat won the Gold Glove award for fielding excellence sixteen consecutive times from 1962-1977, which was a record at the time. Former Atlanta Brave pitcher Greg Maddux now holds the record, having won the award 18 times, though not consecutively. The gold glove was awarded to fellow Brave pitcher Mike Hampton in 2003 for some reason. Jim Kaat is man enough to have said he could not understand why they kept giving him the award because, “There were years I threw the ball away too many times.” Such was the case in 1969 when “Kitty” Kaat committed eight errors, the most of his career. “I figure the voters just got used to giving me the award,” he admitted. A baseball sabermetrician, or “stat-head,” wrote an article one year contrasting the fielding of Tom Glavine, another Maddux teammate on the Braves, concluding Tommy was more deserving of the award. Greg Maddux laughed upon hearing about it, saying, “It was not one of my better years.” He made seven errors that year, the most of any season he played.
Denzel Washington is a fine actor, with many superlative performances to his credit. He won the Academy award for best actor in 2001 for the film “Training Day.” It was not a good movie and this was not his best performance, yet he was given the coveted award. Few actors have won the best actor award two consecutive years. Russell Crowe won the award the previous year for his outstanding performance in the film “Gladiator.” He was also nominated the next year for his performance in the movie “A Beautiful Mind,” which won the award for the best movie. He did not win his second best actor award, though he should have, because it was given to Mr. Washington.
Something similar has occurred in chess. The Chess Journalists of America released the names of the winners last week and the Georgia Chess magazine once again won the award for best state magazine. This is a travesty of epic proportions. The magazine, edited by Mark Taylor, has won numerous awards recently, continuing a tradition begun by Daniel Lucas, now the editor of Chess Life magazine. Unfortunately, the award winning Georgia Chess magazine has fallen upon hard times in the past year or so, deteriorating to the point of irrelevance. For example, the most recent issue, May/June 2013, arrived last week via USPS, has been called a “pamphlet.” It, like other recent issues contains, as I have heard it said by many members, “No games!” In actuality there are a few games, but nothing like past issues, which were replete with many games. The magazine used to be timely, but the past year saw it fall behind to the point that along with the most recent issue, May/June, 2013, the November/December 2012 arrived in the mail the same day. Earlier this year one issue appeared with another just a few days later. It was the size of a pamphlet.
The magazine hit what is considered by many to be a new low with the publication of the March/April 2013 issue. The picture on the cover is of IM Ronald Burnett. To be kind, it is not a very appealing picture of the IM. My first thought upon seeing the cover was shock. Later someone called it “hideous.” Many were embarrassed by the picture, which covers the front with a blown up picture that has been called “frightening” by children. My friend in chess deserves much better than this travesty. Many words have been used in trying to describe the picture. The comment I best recall came from Richard Staples, who asked about the person responsible, the editor, Mark Taylor, “What could he possibly have been thinking?” Richard sent a game to the editor, which was published in the September/October issue. Richard was extremely displeased because the game could not be replayed since the notation was unreadable. When asked about it, Richard said many things I cannot publish, along with, “I do not understand why Mark did not proofread it, or get someone to do it. Why did he not send it to me before publishing it?” He also said he would never, ever, submit another game to the magazine. Another reader mentioned one of the games included in WIM Carolina Blanco’s article, “14th Dubai Chess Open, part 2.” The game ends on move 25 in an even position, yet it is a win for Black.
It took me quite some time to get around to reading the magazine after reading the article I submitted, “Ten Days of Summer Heat.” Mark was pressing me due to the fact the magazine was behind schedule, so I rushed to get it to him. After reading it the next day, I found mistakes needing correction, so I sent Mark an email with emendations. He replied, assuring me he would make the necessary changes. My article was the first thing I read upon receiving the magazine. I do not have words with which to convey my disappointment. The corrections had not been made and I could not understand why, since the magazine was way late in being published. Why had I been rushed if the magazine was published so late? I could have had many more weeks to proofread it myself.
Then I read this paragraph: “The tournament was marred when the Chief TD, watching the game between Sanjay Ghatti and Richard Lin, saw Sanjay’s time expire and yelled, “You’re down!” This was an egregious mistake by the greenhorn TD, violating, as it does, what must be the TD’s “Prime Directive.” LM Brian McCarthy pointed this out to a member of the CC (Championship Chess) staff, who asked why the chief TD done such a thing. “I knew it was wrong when I did it, and I cannot tell you why I did it,” he explained.”
Reading, “…who asked why the chief TD done such a thing,” made me nauseous. Stunned beyond belief, I had to read it again, and again, and again…I showed it to the Legendary Georgia Ironman, immediately going to my computer in order to retrieve the original copy. The line reads, “…who asked why the chief TD had done such a thing.” I do not talk that way, and I try not to write like that, if at all possible. After reading the article, former Georgia champion and Georgia Senior champion LM David Vest said, “He did it because you made them look bad in your article and this was their way of getting back at you.” I told Mr. Vest I had not, “made them look bad,” since they had done a good job of looking bad without my help. All I had done was write about it. He agreed.
I have not discussed this with Mark, a person I have admired and enjoyed sharing emails and thoughts over the years. I have seen him only one time since publication, but was unable to talk with him because he wandered off with the married mother of one of the players, something he was fond of doing during chess tournaments at the House of Pain. As David Spinks put it, “He follows her around like a puppy.”
By the time the issue was published I had several other articles ready for the magazine, including an article about the time I traveled to San Antonio for the Church’s Fried Chicken tournaments in 1972, which would have been published around the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest events in American chess history. It was not sent to the editor, and will never be published in the Georgia Chess magazine. This was not the first time I have had trouble with an editor of the magazine, but it will be the last.
To be fair, the September/October issue does contain one of the best, if not the best, essays I have read in my 40+ years involved with chess. That would be, “A Retrospective: A Few Things I’ve Learned From My Kids During a Decade in Chess,” by Jennifer Christianson. I told her personally during the recent Emory Castle chess tournament. She told me she, too, had been asked by Mark Taylor to write something, anything, to fill the magazine. And what does she do but sit down and write something beautiful. Fortunately, Mark did not mar her article. I wish I could direct you to her amazingly heartfelt essay, but the “award winning Georgia Chess magazine” is published in print form only, unlike other forward thinking organizations, continuing to drain the budget of the GCA. That is only one reason one well known chess personality from Georgia has been heard to call our state organization, “Backward.”
Many years ago during a discussion with a NM in another state, he mentioned one Southern state, calling it, “The armpit of Southern chess.” The state was having, shall we say, “problems.” That state has turned things around completely in the last few years. Winning the award for best state publication may have been the worst possible thing that could have happened to chess in my native state because those holding the reins of power now have something upon which to hang their hat, so to speak. The fact is that Atlanta is known as the capital of the South. It is the largest metropolitan area with one of the busiest airports in the world, yet the chess tournaments are pitiful, with the exception of the Emory Castle, and even that venerable tournament is not held in a hotel, as one will find in most other large metro areas. The only tournaments held in a hotel are scholastic tournaments for the children. The Georgia State Championship was held in an old, rundown mall. For instance, this is one of the most recent reviews found on the internet: “This place is a dump. Half of the stores are empty, and the others seem to be struggling along. Even the theater is getting dilapidated.” This was written by Walt S. and can be found here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/north-dekalb-mall-decatur
There are teams from both North Carolina and Tennessee in the UNITED States Chess League, but not from the “Capital of the South.” After reading an article, Savannah’s Scholastic Chess Fest, online I sent an email to Katie Hartley, the Administrator, suggesting she post a link on the moribund GCA website, which she did. In her reply to me in May of this year, she agreed the website was “moribund.” I would like to report that has been changed, but the fact is otherwise.
On the CJA website (http://chessjournalism.org/2013entries/entries2.htm) I learned there were two other magazines nominated for the award of best state magazine, Louisiana and Northwest Chess. I have not seen the Louisiana magazine, but the Northwest Chess magazine is published on the website (http://www.nwchess.com/) and can be downloaded in PDF format. I urge you to check out the 48-page special memorial January 2013 issue with “Elena Donaldson Akhmylovskaia (1957-2012) by Frank Niro.” The issue is fantastic and indicative of the great work they have been doing for some time now. This one issue alone is better than all issues of Georgia Chess published in the past year combined. I sincerely regret the good people of Northwest Chess did not win the award they so deserved. The fact that they did not win is shameful.
I do not know who, or how many, votes for these awards, but recall reading a few years ago the number is small. I do not know how anyone in their right mind could possible consider the Georgia Chess magazine of the past year superior to the one published by the people of Northwest Chess. In all honesty, the Georgia Chess magazine should not have even been nominated, as it, like chess in my native state, has become an embarrassment.