Magnus Force

I sit down to write today at two PM with the knowledge that 178 years ago at this time what has become known as “Pickett’s Charge” began at this hour. Although Maj. Gen. George Pickett was one of three Confederate generals who led the assault under Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, with Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble being the other commanding Generals, Pickett has been the one who “took one for the team.” Because of books like the excellent, “Lost Triumph: Lee’s Real Plan at Gettysburg–and Why It Failed,” by Tom Carhart, we know no that the major reason for the defeat of the Confederate forces was due to the heroic action taken by General George Armstrong Custer.
The author posits that General Robert E. Lee of the Confederacy had a plan which included a cavalry force commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart to hit the Union forces from behind. “The reason this didn’t happen is attributable to the actions of two generals whose clash at Gettysburg changed everything, one Confederate and the other Union: James Ewell Brown (J.E.B., or Jeb) Stuart and George Armstrong Custer. Remembered in modern times only for one day in 1876 when he and his entire unit of more than two hundred men were killed by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, Custer was one of the brightest stars in the Civil War, a fact that has been obscured by his death on the high plains. While Custer has been roundly condemned by generations of Americans who learned only that he cruelly punished innocent Native Americans, there is another Custer whose record at Gettysburg should at least be noted, for as I will show, it wa his raw personal courage alone that prevented a Confederate victory at Gettysburg and thus truly preserved the Union.”
What was at stake is best illustrated by this paragraph by Carhart:
“This would have meant the return of peace, for the basis of an armistice would have been the Confederacy’s freedom to exist as a separate state, a fact the Union would have been forced to recognize. And that-a triumphant victory over the Army of the Potomac that would have shattered it as the fighting force protecting the Union capital in Washington and an event that would have forced the Union to recognize and accept the Confederacy.”
When Custer met Stuart he was outnumbered by two to one, 2,000 to 6,000. General George Armstrong Custer refused to let Stuart come through him, and without a diversionary force in the rear of the Union battle line…the rest is history.
Of all the officers in the Union army, George Custer would have seemed to have been the least likely to have become a hero. He finished near the bottom in his class at West Point and may still hold the record for demerits given during his time at the institution. Yet when the battle raged, and when extraordinary fortitude was required, Custer had it in abundance. By allowing his much larger force to be thwarted by Custer, when what he needed to do was “pull his goalie,” JEB Stuart settled for a draw. It was obviously not JEB’s finest day.
What is the quality that allowed an officer considered mediocre by most to “rise to the occasion”? In the “Star Wars” movies one hears, “May the force be with you.” What, exactly, is this “force”?
While reading the essay, “Uncovering the Mysteries of the Knuckleball,” in the outstanding book, “The Hardball Times Annual 2014 (Volume 10)” by Dave Studenmund and Paul Swydan, I read, “For normal pitches, which are spinning rapidly, the aerodynamic force causing the movement is called the Magnus force. The strength of the Magnus force increases as the spin rate increases. The direction of the Magnus force is such as to deflect the ball in the direction that the front edge of the ball is turning, as seen by the batter.”
Being a chess player, after reading the above my thoughts turned to the World Human Champion of chess, Magnus Carlsen. He is, unquestionably the best human player, towering over the few contenders, who may now be thought of as “pretenders.” What is the ineffable quality that has brought Magnus to the top of the chess pyramid? I think of it as the “Magnus Force.”
The Nashville Strangler, FM Jerry Wheeler, related a story concerning IM Ron Burnett, who has two GM norms. When Ron was first beginning his chess career he had to face the strong player Richard Carpenter. Ron obviously relished his opportunity to battle his opponent, so the Strangler said, “You cannot beat Richard. He is too strong.” Ron beat Richard. Jerry said he knew then that Ron would be a titled player. Like Lenny Dykstra (see previous post), Ron could not wait for his chance.
What is it that allows a player of any game to rise above his competition? I believe it has a lot to do with the “will to win.” Magnus Carlsen obviously has a tremendous will to win. What seems to separate the best from the pretenders is a resolute “force” that will not allow them to “settle” for a drawn game, unless a full fight has been engaged.
Union General George McClellan has the reputation of a General reluctant to fight. From the book, “The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War” by Donald Stoker, one of the best books I have ever read on the War For Southern Independence, one finds, “McClellan’s friends and detractors have long searched for a key to deciphering his actions. Clausewitz offers one in his essay “On Military Genius.” “Intelligence alone is not courage; we often see that the most intelligent people are irresolute,” he wrote. “In short”, he continued, “we believe that determination proceeds from a special type of mind, from a strong rather than a brilliant one. We can give further proof of this interpretation by pointing to many examples of men who show great determination as junior officers, but lose it as they rise in rank. Conscious of the need to be decisive, they also recognize the risks entailed by a wrong decision; since they are unfamiliar with the problems now facing them, their mind loses its former incisiveness.” (from: Carl von Clausewitz, “On War”)

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.

On The Road With IM Ron Burnett

Jazz Classics, hosted by H. Johnson on WABE-FM (http://wabe.org/) in Atlanta, is broadcast every Saturday night from nine pm until two am Sunday morning. H. has hosted the show for the past two decades and listening to it is like earning a Ph.D in the classics of jazz. I rarely get to listen to the whole show, but I did last night. The reason was my friend, IM Ron Burnett was doing battle with GM Maghami at the US Open and it was broadcast live, with me hanging on every move. I became frantic when, after 42…Ke8, the next move for White was also given as Ke8, which was not possible. Fortunately the mistake was eventually corrected.
In his self-published book, replete with wonderful stories from a life filled with chess, LM Brian McCarthy writes of one group of players known as the Road Warriors. Ron Burnett was Brian’s first student, and he is one of the last of the Warriors still on the Road. Brian writes, “We have lost track of the number of times we have played but we are sure it is greater than 46 and probably over 50.”
I have been on the road with Ron; just ask him about the “crazy trucker” next time you see him. After losing to Ron once he said something I have not forgotten. “I did not know you were so strong,” he said. On one likes to lose even when one knows objectively that one is outmatched, but saying what he did helped take the sting out of defeat. It pleased me that I had made Ron work to earn victory.
I watched every move of the 96 move marathon, inputting each move into a program in order to have a copy, without having the infinite analysis running. I will have to look at it later because the final round of the tournament is this afternoon in lieu of the same time as the previous rounds of the traditional schedule. I struggled with Ron to hold the draw to the point I was exhausted when the game ended! It can sometimes be tough in the armchair. The game is still up on the US Open website, but I do not know how long it will be there and I have not found a way to obtain previous games. This is the URL for the live games page: http://www.alchess.com/chess/13/usopen/?page=LIVE
I will provide the game the old fashioned way, because that is the way we did it “back in my day,” with the help of a modern, new-fangled gizmo:
Maghami – Burnett,Ron [D90]
2013 US Open, 04.08.2013

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 g6 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Bf4 Bg7 7.e3 0–0 8.h3 Nc6 9.Bd3 Nd7 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 g5 12.Bg3 e5 13.dxe5 Ndxe5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.0–0 d4 16.exd4 Qxd4 17.Be4 Qxd1 18.Raxd1 Be6 19.b3 Nc6 20.Nb5 Rfd8 21.Bxc6 bxc6 22.Nc7 Rac8 23.Rxd8+ Rxd8 24.Nxe6 fxe6 25.Rc1 Rd2 26.Rxc6 Rxa2 27.Rxe6 Kf7 28.Re4 Ra3 29.Rb4 Bc3 30.Rb7+ Kg6 31.Kh2 Bd4 32.Rd7 Bc3 33.Rd6+ Kh7 34.f4 Rxb3 35.Rd7+ Kg6 36.Rxa7 Bd4 37.Ra6+ Kf5 38.Ra5+ Kg6 39.f5+ Kf6 40.Bc7 Rc3 41.Bd8+ Kf7 42.g4 Ke8 43.Ra8 Kd7 44.Kg2 Be5 45.f6 Bd6 46.Ba5 Rc8 47.Ra7+ Ke6 48.Ra6 Kd5 49.Kf3 Bf8 50.Bd2 Re8 51.Be3 Rd8 52.Bc1 Rc8 53.Bd2 Re8 54.Ra5+ Ke6 55.Bc3 Rc8 56.Bd4 Rb8 57.Ke4 Rb4 58.Re5+ Kf7 59.Rd5 Ke6 60.Ra5 Kf7 61.Ke5 Rb1 62.Ra7+ Kg6 63.Ke6 Re1+ 64.Be5 Rb1 65.Ra6 Rb7 66.Rc6 Ra7 67.Bd4 Ra4 68.Be5 Ra7 69.Rb6 Ra3 70.Rb8 Ra6+ 71.Kd5 Ra5+ 72.Kd4 Ra4+ 73.Kd3 Ra3+ 74.Bc3 Kf7 75.Rb6 Kg6 76.Kc4 Ra4+ 77.Kd5 Ra3 78.Rc6 Ra8 79.Be5 Kf7 80.Rc7+ Kg6 81.Bd4 Ra5+ 82.Ke4 Ra4 83.Rc6 Kf7 84.Rc7+ Kg6 85.Rc8 Kf7 86.Rc2 Kg6 87.Ke5 Ra5+ 88.Ke6 Ra6+ 89.Kd5 Ra5+ 90.Ke4 Ra4 91.Rc7 Rb4 92.Kd5 Ra4 93.Rc6 Kf7 94.Ke4 Kg6 95.Ke5 Ra5+ 96.Ke4 ½–½
I wondered why Ron did not take the Bishop with his Knight on move 16 in lieu of taking the pawn with the Queen. Then he would have had the two Bishop’s and the better pawn structure. Hope I can remember to ask next time we are on the road.