What is Chess?

The Legendary Georgia Ironman once remarked, “Chess is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” With my eye swollen shut I had time to reflect upon his statement while contemplating the question, “What is chess?”

The new people who have entered the chess world because of the scholastic craze do not seem to understand this simple fact. Their ignorance is masked by new slogans and “vision statements.” A recent example can be found on the forum of the North Carolina Chess Association. It is election time in the Great State of NC and Sara Walsh has thrown her hat into the ring, running for the post of VP. Unlike my home state of Georgia, the NCCA has a forum where mud can be slung, and from reading the comments on said forum, it is being fast and furiously flung. In her post of Thu Sep 25, 2014 10:14 pm Sara wrote, “While working on a project and looking for content, I realized that there was no About Us page on the NCCA website. So my challenge to you is to come up with a portion of an About Us page. A succinct overview of what defines the NCCA and its role in NC Chess. Think about what’s on the website, what’s in the Bylaws/Charter. One might include a Mission Statement, Vision, Objectives, a short history, possibly some highlights, or anything else you think belongs on an About Us page. Any thoughts?”

There it is again, the “vision” thing. What is it with women and a “Vision statement?” Does chess need a “vision statement” to answer the question of “What is chess?” Women evidently think it does.

The USCF has put all its eggs in the one basket of scholastic chess. Chess has become a game for children. Chess has become a “learning tool.” For example, the new Executive Director of the USCF, Jean Hoffman, writes in the August 2014 issue of Chess Life that one of the USCF goals is to, “Educate children, parents, teachers and school administrators on the benefits of chess as a part of a school curriculum and as an extra-curricular activity.” Thus far this new century has been devoted to transforming the Royal game into a frilly fun game for children in hopes it will give them a warm fuzzy feeling. Chess is anything but warm and fuzzy. The children learn chess at a young age. As they start to mature they realize what chess is in actuality and stop playing. Children are much smarter than some adults give them credit for, and are astute enough to know when adults are selling them a bill of goods.

Chess is a difficult game to learn and even more difficult to play. The game of Go, or Wei Chi in other parts of the world, has only a few rules and is much simpler to learn, and it does all the things chess people have sold to educators. The number of people on the planet who have taken to the game this century, most of whom are children, has tripled, and is increasing exponentially. Chess is a game of the past, while Go is the game of the future.

Chess is a war game. War does not instill the “warm fuzzys.” The mentally deranged yankee general, William Tecumseh Sherman, is best known for uttering, “War is hell.” Chess is hell. I have heard chess called many things, including, “Mental torture.” I have seen grown men brought to their knees by a game of chess. I have seen grown men cry after losing a game of chess. GM Vassily Ivanchuk once beat his head against a wall so hard and so long after losing a chess game that it left blood on the wall and dripping from his face. Chess is a psychic knife fight. Chess is pure and simple combat, which takes place in the mind.

Over the years I have read chess called many things by the greats of the game, and other notables. Here are some examples:

Chess is war over the board. The object is to crush the opponents mind. – Bobby Fischer

Chess is ruthless: you’ve got to be prepared to kill people. – Nigel Short

Chess is, above all, a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

By some ardent enthusiasts Chess has been elevated into a science or an art. It is neither; but its principal characteristic seems to be – what human nature mostly delights in – a fight. – Emanuel Lasker

A chess game, after all, is a fight in which all possible factors must be made use of, and in which a knowledge of the opponent’s good and bad qualities is of the greatest importance. – Emanuel Lasker

Chess is a test of wills. – Paul Keres

Chess is a contest between two men which lends itself particularly to the conflicts surrounding aggression. – Rueben Fine

Chess is a sport. A violent sport. – Marcel Duchamp

Chess is mental torture. – Garry Kasparov

In the Soviets’ view, chess was not merely an art or a science or even a sport; it was what it had been invented to simulate: war. – Pal Benko

There is no remorse like a remorse of chess. It is a curse upon man. There is no happiness in chess. – H.G. Wells

Chess has been sold to the parents of young children as something it is not, a wonderful game where everyone goes home a winner. Life is not like that, something which the children learn the hard way. As the author Gore Vidal so eloquently put it, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Many aspire to be the best, but there can be only one World Chess Champion.

The following is taken from an episode, “Three Coaches And A Bobby” (season 3, episode 12), of the cartoon show, “King of the Hill.”

The problem with Soccer

I dedicate this version to my friend for over four decades, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, a BIG fan of…

REO Speedwagon Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this version to myself because it was popular at the time I lost my first love and helped me out of the funk:

Jerry Butler Only the Strong Survive

And here is a live performance many years later:

Jerry Butler – Only The Strong Survive

I dedicate this cover to my crazy cousin Linda who had three passions in life, with Elvis being one, and include it because although many have been called the “King” of popular music, there can be only one King:

Elvis Presley – Only The Strong Survive ( Alt.Take,X Rated )

Beautiful Flowers on the Chess Battlefield

Being pawed in the eye by Copper the dog left me with much time to cogitate, what with my eye being swollen shut. The day before I had read an article in the August issue of Chess Life, “Excutive Director’s Report,” which is by the new woman chosen to lead the USCF, Jean Hoffman, the first woman to hold the position (http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Executive+Directors+of+the+United+States+Chess+Federation). I learned the USCF mission has become, “Empowering people through chess one move at a time.” I wondered what that meant, exactly.

According to the Free Dictionary (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/empower), the definition of “empower” is:
1. To invest with power, especially legal power or official authority.
2. To equip or supply with an ability; enable: “Computers … empower students to become intellectual explorers” (Edward B. Fiske).

Jean writes, “As a result of this process, we crafted a new mission, complemented it with our first-ever vision statement and also developed long-term organizational goals that align with our status as a 501(c) charitable organization.”

The USCF mission statement sounds like one of those Orwellian “newspeak” things along the lines of the “Clear Skys Initiative,” promulgated by the Bushwhackers, which brought massive pollution raining down upon We The People by the Bushwhacker admistration. What happened to “Chess is a lifetime sport?”
The first-ever USCF “vision statement” is, “Our vision is to enrich the lives of all persons and communities through increasing the play, study, and appreciation of the game of chess.” How is it possible USCF made it through eighteen male Executive Director’s without a “vision statement?

Chess is not for all people. USCF statistics show the vast majority of children who learn chess reject it at, or before, puberty. Why is that? A generation after moving toward scholastic chess USCF is still “studying the question.” If the USCF has a clue, it has yet to be divulged to the membership.

The new female Executive Director comes from what is now referred to as “the scholastic part of chess.” With Ruth Haring the President of the USCF board the top two leadership positions are held by women. Here in the Great State of Georgia three of the five remaining board members are women, who do not play chess. Women like change. I cannot count the times I have heard someone say after a break-up between a man and a woman, “She thought she could change him.” The proliferation of women in the game of chess has changed things drastically. This is not your father’s chess, Bunky.

A good illustration would be an article published today on the Georgia Chess News website, “Women’s Open 2014 Results” By Laura Doman. (http://georgiachessnews.com/2014/09/29/womens-open-2014-results/)
“Pink carnations were laid beside each board position. Beautiful flowers in vases graced the tournament directors’ informatics table. Yes, this was the site for the annual Georgia Women’s Open tournament, which hosted sixteen women and girls on Saturday, September 20 at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria Hotel.”

“Pink carnations” and “Beautiful flowers”? Laura Doman is a lovely woman, and I am sure she means well, but this is the kind of thing women have done, and are doing, that is off-putting to male chess players. What could be worse than to spend time getting psyched-up for the coming battle, getting prepared, as it were, to pull your sword, and arrive at the field of battle with “Pink carnations” and “Beautiful flowers” gracing the battlefield? This reminds me of an episode of the TV show, “Northern Exposure.” Holling Vincoeur, played by John Cullum, married a much younger woman, Shelly Marie Tambo, played by Cynthia Geary. Shelly began to “make changes.” Next thing you know Holling is forced to visit the Dr. Joel Fleischman, played by Rob Morrow. For the first time in his life Holling has become constipated. Dr. Fleischman cannot understand it and fails to find a reason, until it comes out that Holling had given Shelly permission to make changes in the bedroom. She had turned his rustic, log cabin in Alaska into a “pink” room with “flowers.” It was obviously more than Holling’s system could take, and he became all stressed out and “jammed-up.” I had the same kind of feeling after reading Laura Doman’s report.

This kind of thing proliferates. For example, see “Yamie Chess simul with Jennifer Shahade” on the Chessbase website (http://en.chessbase.com/post/yamie-chess-simul-with-jennifer-shahade). What is Yamie Chess? “Manufactured in the Michigan, USA, and designed for 5 to 12 year olds, the Yamie Chess® learning aid series focuses on nurturing children’s cognitive thinking and intellectual potential for mathematics, and is aligned to support the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Curriculum Focal Points in algebra, geometry, data analysis, measurement and number logic.” If you are still uncertain about what, exactly, Yamie Chess is, it will help you to know that “Under the pieces the cartoon characters can be seen.”

Scott MacKenzie San Francisco 1967(original)

Scott McKenzie – San Francisco.flv

A Chess House Divided Cannot Stand

You know things are serious when the Armchair Warrior resorts to paraphrasing the devil himself, President of the Disunited States, Abe Lincoln. Dishonest Abe did, though, have a point.
I wrote some time ago about a state which had divided into separate organizations when the scholastic group broke away after developing their own organization. I recently discovered the Great State of Virginia now has two separate and distinct chess organizations, the Virginia Chess Federation (http://www.vachess.org/), and the The Virginia Scholastic Chess Association (http://www.vschess.org/).

That is two split state organizations and for all I know, there may be more. If, or when, the third state decides to split, the words of Arlo Guthrie in the immortal song, “Alice’s Restaurant” could be prophetic:
“And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it’s a movement.”
With lyrics- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx2t7xoF1k)
Decades later- (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_7C0QGkiVo)

How many states split before the scholastic faction decides to break away from the USCF and have their own organization, the USSCF? There are many who now consider the USCF to be a defacto USSCF. Bill Hall, the former Executive Director of USCF, was an expert player. After being forced out he was replaced by Jean Hoffman, a person highly touted for her word in scholastic chess. She played in 22 tournaments in the early to mid 90’s, crossing into the “C” class. Ms. Hoffman came back to next play in once in 2004 and twice in 2006, dropping back into the “D” class. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7-hbc9s7k)

This was posted on the USCF forum recently:
by jjamesge1 on Mon Jun 30, 2014 2:25 am #281436
“I guess Dr. Bell summed it one pretty good one day. (I was at the local chess meet): I asked him about the collegiate chess players, since the few that showed up were *mediocre C maybe B level at best. He replied that there were several really good players at the university (Murray State University), but they didn’t play at the collegiate level, since they considered chess to be “something they played as a kid”. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20209&sid=4d9c167c450bbaee5df8ecc338d4f264)
This struck a cord because sometime during the last decade I was at a bookstore coffee shop and a young fellow broke away from his group to talk with me. It turned out he had no interest in chess, but in one of his Frat brothers. He told me the fellow said he had been a Master as a child, and gave me his name. Of course I knew the boy. I told the inquirer the chess community wondered why he had stopped playing. “Oh,” he said, “he told us chess was only a game for children.”
Perception is reality. The general public also thinks chess is a children’s game because most everything positive they read concerns scholastic chess. The vast majority of stories about chess one sees on the internet emanate from local papers and concern children. I was in one of my favorite restaurants, the Mediterranean Grill (http://www.mediterraneangrill.com/) wearing a chess tee-shirt when the owner, who had lived in Chicago for twenty years, noticed and said, “Chess is getting younger.”

On August 22, 1862, Abe Lincoln wrote this to Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune:
“I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored, the nearer the Union will be ‘the Union as it was.’ If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps save the Union.”

Who will save chess?

Alice’s Restaurant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPx2t7xoF1k
Decades later- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_7C0QGkiVo

Subterranean Homesick Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RS7-hbc9s7k

The State of Georgia Chess

The state of chess in Georgia is not good, unless, that is, one considers scholastic chess. The reality is that there is a complete division between scholastic chess and what for over a century was simply called chess. It is human nature to think of the way things are now as the way they were previously. New people to chess are surprised to learn that at one time scholastic chess was actually only a part of chess and not the driving force it has become today. With the hiring of Jean Hoffman as the new Executive Director, USCF has gone “all-in” as a scholastic chess organization. If the reader disputes the statement, I suggest he read the article on her hiring on the USCF website here: http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12347/141/ Whether or not this was a good move will only be answered by future events. Because the membership of USCF is predominately children it was probably the only move USCF could make. In Informant talk, it was a “box” move. I have decided to not write about scholastic chess here in my native state, choosing to focus on what is now called “adult” chess, and something near and dear to my old heart, Senior chess. There are far more people in the scholastic arena who can do a better job of writing about it than I can do, so I leave it to them.
I receive many emails from readers and one of the questions I am frequently asked is like the one from Dr. Orlando Cano. He asked, “… where are the chess tournaments that we used to have here in Ga.” I replied, asking the good Doctor to elaborate and he responded, “Through your website find out why we do not have good tournaments anymore.” I believe Dr. Cano, and others, should address this question to the members of the board of the GCA. Any one, or all, of them are free to leave a comment here if they would like to answer Dr. Cano, and others who are asking the same question. The fact is that the good tournaments here in the Atlanta area are now for the children. Scholastic chess has the numbers, and money. The only tournaments with a nice hotel as a venue are scholastic tournaments. The only organizer, other than the GCA is Thad Rogers. I have previously written about the location of his tournaments, which have had myriad problems. I have received emails asking me to bring out the fact that Mr. Rogers holds tournaments in other states, but not his home state. For example, Thad writes in a forum post on the website of the NCCA, titled, 40Th Annual Lipkin Pfefferkorn Open, “It will be held at the
Holiday Inn, 5790 University Parkway, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27105. That is
a stone throw from where Highway 52 intersects with University. After the first of the
year, it becomes a Doubletree Hotel. It is a very nice hotel!” (http://www.ncchess.org/Discussion/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=701)
When I ask players to recall the last time an “adult” (I REALLY hate using that term, especially since children vastly out number adults at an “adult” tournament) chess tournament was held in a “very nice hotel,” they scratch their heads while considering the question for some time. There does not seem to be the will to bring a decent tournament in a nice venue to Atlanta, the capital of the South. When questioned on why he refuses to hold his tournaments in a hotel, Mr. Rogers has previously responded, “They’re too expensive!” He has chosen to locate his tournaments in an old, run down Mall with little or no air conditioning. People are so hungry to play they have endured appalling conditions to play the game they love.
If you go to the website of the Georgia Chess Association, http://www.georgiachess.org/, you will learn the GCA is holding four tournaments in conjunction, the Georgia Women’s Open 2013; 10th Annual Georgia Senior Open; 2013 Georgia State Series III; and Georgia Collegiate Open 2013, at the Gwinnett Place Mall later this month. The first advertisement on the website showed this: Georgia Collegiate Open 2013
September 28, 2013 10:00 AM • Gwinnett Place Mall, Empty Store Space in Block “H,” 2100 Pleasant Hill Road Duluth, GA 30096
The “Empty Store Space in Block “H” has now been changed to, “Upper level next to Macy’s.”

I am familiar with the area because of the sports memorabilia shows in which I participated two decades ago, which were held at one of the ancillary buildings on Satellite Blvd. At that time it was considered to be a “good” area. I was, therefore, surprised when the Mall was mentioned during dinner conversation with the Legendary Georgia Ironman and his lady friend when she asked, “Isn’t that a bad area?” After asking several others about the area I have learned the common perception is the Gwinnett Place Mall is, indeed, considered to be a “bad area.” Perception is reality. Unlike other cities, Atlanta has always been in a constant state of flux during the course of my life. Many areas are, to be kind, not what they used to be. For that reason I decided to research the area in order to learn more about the venue chosen by the members of the board of the GCA. This is what I learned from the internet:

Gwinnett cops seek public’s help in Hertz worker’s killing
By David Ibata
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gwinnett County police on Monday appealed to the public for help solving the slaying of a Hertz Rent-a-Car employee who was found fatally wounded behind the rental car office next to the Gwinnett Transit Center.
Monique Marlowe, 24, of Duluth was cleaning a car between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Friday when a young man wearing a light blue shirt approached her, police said. For unknown reasons, the man shot the victim once and fled the area.
Marlowe was founded wounded by her co-workers and taken to Gwinnett County Medical Center, where she died as a result of her wounds Friday evening.
Maria Marlowe, the victim’s mother, told Channel 2 Action News that her daughter loved swimming and had graduated in 2009 from the University of Georgia at Athens with a degree in international business.
“I don’t know of any enemy that she had, nobody that didn’t like her,” the mother said.
The Hertz office is near the intersection of Satellite Boulevard and Merchants Way, next to the Transit Center’s pick-up and drop-off hub for bus passengers. The location is across from the Gwinnett Place Mall shopping center.
Gwinnett Place: The Long, Slow Death of a Suburban Mall
Wednesday, March 20, 2013, by Josh Green
Although the headlines tell it all, I decided to read a few reviews placed online by people who were at the Mall.
• Yoomee H.
Lawrenceville, GA
This place gives me the creeps. I don’t know why but it just does! It has that ‘eerie’ feeling as if someone’s going to run up to you and snatch your purse kind of feeling. I’ve been here with my mom and siblings and while we were walking into the mall, I felt as though the mall itself was a ‘scary place’.. aren’t malls suppose to make you feel safe? Nope not this mall. There are those people who look like they could hurt you, I’m usually a smiley type of person who likes to smile a lot (even to strangers) but here.. when I smiled at this woman, she gave me a mean look and said, “whatchu lookin’ at?!” Usually when I walk around the Mall of Georgia, people smile back at me.
• Angela H.
Atlanta, GA
To be honest, there are so many vacant store spaces in this mall that I have had no desire to ever browse the entire mall. Sure, I’ve strolled through most of the mall, but it *felt* like there were more vacancies than occupied stores.
• Brian A.
Orlando, FL
I remember when this mall was the mall to go to in the 90’s. When I was a kid, it was always a treat to go to Gwinnett Place. It was clean, had great stores, and this was before the Mall of Ga opened.

But now, it’s the exact opposite. Now a days, everyone avoids this mall, they really let it go down the shitter. It’s dirty, the stores suck and they never have good options, half of the stores that were there closed down and re-opened stores that no one’s ever heard of before, basically the clothing equivalent to the dollar general. There used to be great restaurants on the outskirts of the mall but most of them closed down and the whole area has turned into ghetto Mexico town. Avoid this shithole at all costs.
• Amanda H.
Dawsonville, GA

I will never go back to this mall.
• Sarah E.
Lawrenceville, GA
Yuck. This mall used to be okay, but has gone WAY downhill.
There is no reason that you need to go here. Don’t bother.
• Grace K.
Washington, DC
This mall used to be THE place when I was younger, but now it’s like a bad Law & Order SVU episode. Definitely creepy and almost phantomlike if you’re there near night time. Last time I went, a short creep followed me from the pet store to the end of the mall. I would definitely carry around Lysol if I had to come here (it’s more potent than pepper spray).
• Wendy T.
Snellville, GA
Three words: What A Dump!!!
These reviews were taken, and can still be found, here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/gwinnett-place-mall-duluth
Before doing this research I had considered going to the GPM myself to check it out. I reflected on something William Coe told me during our interview at the Castle Chess tournament at Emory University. He had taken time to go by the North Dekalb Mall, saying, ”I had no desire to spend my weekend in that room.” His comments can be found on my post of June 24, 2013, “Panchanathan Storms the Castle!” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/gm-panchanathan-storms-the-castle/) After reading the above, and much more, including the crime statistics in the area, I decided there was no need to make the trip.
After reading the above, the question I pose is why would anyone in their right mind choose such a place to hold a tournament for anyone, much less women and Seniors? If I can learn this by investing a little time, why can the members of the GCA board not do the same thing? Or did they? Do they know these things, yet chose this place in any event? The question you should ask yourself is would you want your daughter, wife, mother, or grandmother to spend many hours over a period of two days in this place? Maybe you would even want to ask yourself if the people who signed off on this place should even be in a position to make such a decision.