The Moves That Matter Finale: The Tragedy of Chess

Jonathan writes, “Intellectual beauty is the lifeblood of chess rather than something that occurs as a one-off historic event. World-class games are replayed thousands of times to open-jawed amazement. But there are beautiful ideas permeating otherwise unremarkable games between players of all abilities. What makes the beauty of chess ideas not merely interesting, but also important, is that beauty and truth are so closely intertwined. If an idea does not ‘work’ it might be impressive, or even aesthetically appealing, but it can’t really be beautiful. The perception of intellectual truth and beauty, in chess at least, is not relative to the subjective intent of the players, but to aesthetic qualities of the ideas that feel more objective.”

“The tragedy of chess is that many use it to make themselves real and add depth and definition to their lives, but the game is not ultimately fit for this purpose. However culturally resonant it may be, it remains a game within the game of life, not the game of life itself.”

“Chess is not a waste of time, but time is scarce and there is more to life than chess.”

“Many of those who love the cultural contours that have surrounded the game for decades sense that its meaning and mystery and majesty is slowly ebbing away.”

“This book is a personal story, an expert guide to the chess world, and a philosophy of life in general.”

“What chess taught me, through contrasting the intense drama of the game with the relative monotony of life, is that beyond pleasure, purpose and even meaning, we have deep need to make ourselves feel real.”

“The sublest and most enduring gift that chess gave me is the awareness that we can feel gratitude for life regardless of the happiness it offers at any given moment.”

“On reflection, while one of many reasons to write this book was to share my deep love of chess, another was atonement. My chess career was characterised by significant success that fell short of complete fulfillment. Ever since I started a professional life outside of chess I wanted to finish this book to be at peace with the relationship between my past and my future.”

“I miss many things about playing chess regularly and seriously. I miss believing that each move in each game really matters, I miss the sense of strength and power and dignity that comes with playing well. I miss the felt sense of honour and self-overcoming when you make better decisions because you have learned your lessons well. I miss the clarity of purpose experienced at each moment of each game, the lucky escape from defeat and the thrill of the chase towards victory. And yet, I like what has become possible because I am no longer living through and for the game. I feel liberated from the centripetal pull of chess; it is easier now for my thoughts and feeling to move outwards rather than inwards.”

“Other people play the game of chess, and I feel like one of them now, as if the part of me that plays chess is an autonomous region of my psyche, rather than the sovereign part of my identity. My mind is still charmed by the game, but my soul feels free of it.”

Jonathan writes, “I prefer to end with the disarming thoughts of the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz:

Tripping Over Joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually

Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, ‘I Surrender!’

Whereas, my dear, I am afraid
you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

This is the end of the ongoing review. I hope each of you who have read this review obtain the book. Although I have written extensively about the book the fact is that what was written is only the tip of an iceberg. This is one of, if not the most beautiful book about Chess I have had the good fortune to read. Much time has been spent thinking about the ideas contained in the wonderful book. Everyone who reads this book will profit from so doing.

https://omny.fm/shows/perpetual-chess-podcast/ep-150-gm-jonathan-rowson

https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2017/12/08/the-sacred-1-jonathan-rowson

Shifting the social imaginary | Blog by Jonathan Rowson

Jonathan Rowson — Integrating Our Souls, Systems, and Society

http://dev.jeremysilman.com/shop/pc/Seven-Deadly-Chess-Sins-p3834.htm

The Moves That Matter Part 5: The King Ain’t Got No Hustle

HUSTLE

Jonathan Rowson writes, “I have a friend who never reads or watches anything recommended by only one person, but acts almost immediately on the advice of two or more. He enjoys looking out for such signals and waits for the world to reveal to him what he should do. He says he appreciates books and films all the more when he senses that they are meant for him, and while I am charmed by his methodology, I fear for his sanity. I thought of him when I started watching The Wire

on DVD in 2011. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0306414/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) The series is a gritty and sometimes harrowing take on the urban drug scene in Baltimore, USA, and is awash with swearing and violence. From that kind of description, I found it hard to imagine I could like it, yet with so many trusted friends telling me I would, I relented, and was pleasantly surprised.”

The opening theme music for HBO’s series The Wire is a song written by Tom Waits titled “Way Down in the Hole” (1987). Each year, during the series’ five-season run, the producers selected or solicited a different version of the song. As a series, The Wire is often interpreted as lacking a space for representations of Black spirituality. Each of the five seasons features complex institutional characterizations and explorations of the Street, the Port, the Law, the Hall (i.e., politics), the School, and/or the Paper (i.e., media). Through these institutional characters and the individual characters that inhabit, construct, and confront them, The Wire depicts urban America, writ large across the canvas of cultural and existential identity. For all of its institutional complexity, The Wire then serially marginalizes Black spirituality in favor of realism, naturalism, and some may argue, nihilism.1 “Way Down in the Hole” is a paratextual narrative that embodies this marginalization and creates a potential space for viewers (and listeners) of the show, one that frames each episode and the entire run, through literary and spiritual Black musical contexts. The multiple versions of “Way Down in the Hole” ultimately function as a marginalized repository for the literary and spiritual narratives that are connected to the series—narratives that become legible via intertextual analyses and in turn render visible The Wire’s least visible entities: Black spirituality and the Black Church.2 (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137305251_7)

Something similar happened to me some years after Jonathan decided to invest the time watching what has come to be on everyone’s short list of the best series to grace a screen. For many years I considered the best television series of the genre commonly known as ‘Cops and Robbers’, to be Homicide: Life on the Street


(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106028/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1)
The Wire rivaled Homicide and may have even superseded it. Ironically, both series are set in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

“The characters are raw and compelling and their dialect electrically authentic. I remember being irritated to find that audiences in America watched some films set in Scotland, like Trainspotting, with English subtitles, but the street language of The Wire is also so far from conventional English that I initially had to do the same. Still, in an early episode I knew I had made a good decision to watch when I saw one young drug dealer – D’Angelo – teach two others – Bodie and Wallace – how to play chess.


“Ya’ll can’t be playing checkers on no chessboard yo!” – D’Angelo Barksdale

this particular scene is an extraordinary work of art; a beguiling mixture of social commentary, existential despair, youthful hope and dark humour.”

“D’Angelo describes the king as ‘the kingpin’ and says that the aim of the game is to protect your own king and get the king of the other side. He says the king can move one square in any direction but that he doesn’t have ‘hustle’.”

“There are many worlds within that word: hustle. As a noun and a verb, hustle hints at a relationship between a setting and a plot, a juxtaposition that defines the moral ambiguity of characters in The Wire. Describing the king’s lack of hustle is a succinct way to say that the king is rarely out on the streets; in professional terms he does not have to solicit clients. The expression also means the king does not directly display force, he’s not typically aggressive, he’s not illicit, not in a hurry, but equally he doesn’t have what you might need to get things done. ‘Hustle’ is sometimes admirable, not least when it seems necessary; the word conveys the spirit of entrepreneurial transgression needed to survive.”

“The king

may not have hustle, but nonetheless he survives for longer than the other pieces by definition. Checkmate – from the Persian Shah Mat – literally means the king is dead. ‘The man’ is therefore the ultimate target of attack, but he is surrounded by people who will give their lives to protect him, and often do. Most chess endgames when few pieces remain, are characterized by the king suddenly becoming emboldened, partly because with fewer enemies around it is relatively safe to come out ‘into the street’, but also because there are fewer allies left to do his hustling for him.”
“The realization that life-and-death chances are not fairly distributed is what makes the chess scene from The Wire so poignant.”


D’Angelo (center), explaining chess to Wallace (left) and Bodie (right), triangulated in a
way as to distinguish a hierarchy within the Barksdale crew

“As the rules of the game are described by D’Angelo, Wallace and Bodie can see their own lives in the game’s metaphors, giving rise to an open question of who or what exactly they are living in service of, and why.”
“Bodie, himself a pawn in the drug wars, points to the pawns, and asks about ‘them little baldheaded bitches’. D’Angelo explains that they are like soldiers and shows how they move, saying they are out on the ‘front lines’. Bodie gets excited by the possibility of pawns getting promoted, about becoming ‘top dog’ if he can ‘get to the end’. D’Angelo is quick to disabuse him of the probability of that happening, implying that they often get ‘capped’ (shot) quickly.”


‘The queen ain’t no bitch. She got all the moves.’
(https://www.kingpinchess.net/2010/02/the-queen-aint-no-bitch-she-got-all-the-moves/)

“Bodie shoots back that this may not happen if they are ‘smart-ass pawns’, which he himself later proves to be, surviving and rising through the ranks until series four. Wallace, on the other hand, proved as vulnerable as most pawns do, and died a few episodes later when he was just sixteen after trying to leave the drug scene. Bodie, Wallace’s friend, was also his assassin.”

“The writers loop back to this scene in series four when Bodie is speaking with Detective McNulty and considering his next move. Bodie is resolute about not being a snitch and conveys that he has done everything he was told to do by his bosses since he was thirteen, including killing his friend Wallace. McNulty know the context and has clearly grown to admire Bodie, calling him ‘a soldier’, as D’Angelo called the pawns earlier. At that moment, after years of imagining he might somehow escape or transform his fate, Bodie sees the truth of being a pawn more clearly, and realizes he is still ‘one of them little bitches on the chessboard.’ McNulty clarifies: ‘Pawns.'”

“In an early chess manual published around the middle of the sixtenenth century, Francois-Andre Philidor

describes pawns as ‘the soul of chess’, and this line is widely quoted by chess teachers and commentators because we know and feel its truth. Pawns are not the most powerful pieces, and they are mostly at the mercy of events, but they have a certain amount of hustle and they both set the scene and shape the narrative.
What occurred to me while watching The Wire is that most of us are pawns to a greater or lesser extent. We have our moments of power, fame and glory, but we are always potentially alone and vulnerable to forces beyond our control. We are the soul of the game of life, and our lives are precious not in spite of our fragility, but because of it.”

The Moves That Matter Part 4: Chess and Education

“A chess position can be thought of as a system, and probably should be to fully appreciate the game’s educational value. Systems thinking is a form of perception above all, imbued with understanding that wholes have properties that do not exist in the sum of their parts, and that everything is connected to a greater or lesser extent. Defining ‘system’ too tightly risks reifying it into one thing of many, which obscures the premise of systems thinking namely that the fundamental features of life are not things at all, but more like relational processes.”

“In chess the system is deceptively simple and the key question is where its boundaries lie.”

“Perhaps the challenge of thinking systemically explains why chess is so difficult. Indeed, the comedian Stephen Fry

aptly described chess as ‘ludicrously difficult’. If a person doesn’t like things that are difficult, they won’t like chess, which is fundamentally about loving the struggle of reaching beyond our grasp.”

“Since ludicrous difficulty and inevitable mistakes are two of chess’s main assets, it is no wonder that chess is a stiff marketing challenge. In effect, the unvarnished selling pitch would be something like: ‘Play chess! It is extremely difficult and absolutely maddening. You will definitely screw up and possibly feel like an idiot, but you will love it. Hurry while stocks last. Two players for the price of one!’ Of course, in reality, chess promoters sell the sizzle and not the sausage, by foregrounding themes of depth, strategy, play and intelligence. I wonder, however, if something might be gained by making more of the game’s role in helping us experience difficulty and mistakes, which is the character-forming terrain where educational value is deepest.”

The Need For Evidence

“On a frosty day in February 2013 I was one of nine people gently checking each other out across a round table in a high-rise office building on the south side of the River Thames. The meeting was full of words like ‘power’, ‘confidence’ and ‘fidelity’. I felt like I had skin in the game because there was a lot of money at stake; but this was not a legal office and these were not divorce proceedings. The agenda was how to devise and complete a rigorous quantitative study of chess in education. ‘Power’ is a statistical term conveying the likelihood that the study would detect an effect of chess on education if there was an effect there to be found. ‘Confidence’ was about the robustness of any such a finding, and ‘fidelity’ was about the process of the chess intervention being consistent and true to its purpose in each place it was tested.”

“The four academics from the Institute of Education at the University of London knew they would potentially be doing the research, and they seemed dispassionate, as if the meeting was an extension of their day jobs. Two senior staff from the Educational Endowment Foundation looked under thirty, but they would be the ones to establish whether the project was viable and fundable. They seemed excited, as if they had already been given a green light from elsewhere and knew the right answer was yes, but they had to be seen to be doing their due diligence. And then there was a friend of mine, the director of the chess and education charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC), Malcholm Pein,

who had developed a comprehensive chess teaching programme over several years and had access to the schools where the research would happen. The potential prize was evidence not only that chess in schools made sense, but that it might make particularly good sense for the poorest children; a dream result for those like Malcolm who love chess as much as they dislike inequality of opportunity. And then there were Malcolm’s wingmen conferring moral and intellectual support: Sandy Ruxton, an experienced policy researcher and chess aficionado, and me, deeply grateful to have grown up playing chess in a regular state school, and hoping others would have similar opportunities.”

“The conversation did not go quite as I hoped it might. Often despite their better judgment, educational professionals are institutionally bound to care more about test results than the social and emotional contexts and thinking dispositions that arguably give rise to them. A policymaker spending public money is acutely aware of being accountable to the taxpayer, so they need to know that educational gains are caused by the active ingredients in chess as such, and not by the mere fact that pupils are, for instance, sitting down and taking a breather from normal lessons, or because the time allocated to chess reduces or eliminates something else that is having a negative impact.”

“The agenda of the meeting is therefore best understood in juxtaposition with suggestions about all the things that should be taught in schools. Those who have sound reasons for suggesting the inclusion of one thing rarely have good reasons for justifying the exclusion of another.”

“Prior to any formal research, few would doubt that chess might make a valuable contribution to educational outcomes. On the face of it, the game should teach us how to think under pressure, to plan, to concentrate, to improve out reasoning by considering competing ideas, and so forth; the fact the game has wide cultural and historical resonance and is so cheap and inclusive adds to its viability. However, at the time of the meeting, and without broader cultural support for the game that reduces the need for validation research, there was little compelling evidence that chess in particular should be part of a national curriculum or a major feature of school life.”

“In one sense the meeting went extremely well and the research proceeded as planned, but I remember feeling quiet desperation at the time, as if what the room seemed to be agreeing to do risked missing the point entirely, The three chess players in the room knew that chess informed education in a profound way and we were eager to share stories that might begin to explain why. However, there was nothing about the discussion or the proposed research process that made our experience seem relevant. We were welcome to be there, and we chipped in now and again, but in terms of what the funders were hunting for, and the tools their academic hunters were planning to use, we were bystanders with no relevant insight or formal standing to influence events.”

“The money eventually rewarded for the project was £689,150, which is significantly better than a slap in the face with a wet fish, and gives some idea of the ambitious scale of the research. The aim was to measure the effectiveness of CSC’s thirty-week programme on 4,009 Year 5 (age nine to ten) pupils across one hundred schools with varying socio-economic intakes in terms of their standard attainment test (SAT’s) results in mathematics at the end of that Year 5, compared to control groups, with some secondary outcomes relating to English and science also considered. The evaluation of this landmark study into chess and education was published towards the end of 2016. The conclusion was effectively as follows; no evidence of effect.”

(John Jerrim, Lindsey Macmillan, John Micklewright, Mary Sawtell and Meg Wiggins (independent evaluators), Chess in Schools evaluation report and executive summary, Education Endowment Foundation, July 2016. Available at https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/filesProjects/Evaluation_Reports/EEF_Project_Report_Chess_in_Schools.pdf)

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2
Pink Floyd
Produced by Roger Waters, James Guthrie, David Gilmour & 1 more
Album The Wall

[Verse 1: Roger Waters & David Gilmour]
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teacher, leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

[Chorus: Roger Waters & David Gilmour]
All in all, it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

[Verse 2: Islington Green School Students]
We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teacher! Leave us kids alone!

[Chorus: Islington Green School Students]
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall
All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall

[Guitar Solo]

[Outro: Roger Waters]
Wrong, do it again! *Children playing*
Wrong, do it again!
If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding!
(Wrong, do it again!)
How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?
(Wrong, do it again!)
You! Yes! You behind the bike sheds! Stand still, laddie!
(If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding!
How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?)
(You! Yes! You behind the bike sheds! Stand still, laddie!)
*Children playing*
*Phone beeping sound*

https://genius.com/Pink-floyd-another-brick-in-the-wall-pt-2-lyrics

The Moves That Matter Part 3: Chess is a Game for Hooligans

On page 1 of the Introduction to The Moves That Matter

it is written, “Chess is just a game…” There are those who are up in arms about that statement, ready to shout out, “Chess is more than a game!” Many proclaim the Royal game to be much more than a game, yet the statement above is the bottom line. The sentence continues, “…in the way that the heart is just a muscle.” The paragraph continues, “There is a muscle that pumps blood around the body, but it is the heart that sustains life, signifies love and situates courage. There is a game with sixty-four squares, thirty-two pieces and some rules, but it is chess that has become a metaphor for human battles big and small, an enchanting mirror for the psyche, and an icon for all that is deep and difficult.”

“Chess is not the meaning of life, but it does simulate conditions for a life of meaning. The game is sublimated warfare and chess players are compelled to kill, but unlike the gruesome horror of war, the martial conceit of chess allows us to experience aesthetic liberation. Every battle is a unique geometric story where two protagonists seek to destroy each other, but the underlying logic feels beautiful and true. The more intense the battle and the more sublime the ideas, the more we experience power and freedom.”

“No wonder chess has long served as the touchstone of choice for the competitive tension that defines business, sport and politics. The themes of planning ahead, knowing the opponent, anticipating responses and sacrificing for future gains are adaptable, and meaningful for anybody familiar with the symbolism of chess, even if they have never pushed a pawn.”

“However, the connection between chess and life is usually assumed to be almost exclusively about the application of strategic thinking. Too little has been written about how chess evokes and illustrates emotional and existential issues. There is more to be said, for instance, about the anguish of defeat, the craving for status, the joy of reaching beyond our grasp, and the sublime beauty of an unexpected winning idea.”

This book is a philosophical offering on chess as a metaphor for life as a whole.”

“I have learned that it is precisely because chess is both something that doesn’t really matter and something that matters enormously that the game is something else too: a gateway to the enigma of life. This book is about the challenge of living well in the context of that enigma.”

“The main bridge between those worlds is metaphor, and the metaphorical significance of chess has been the story of my life. In many ways I owe chess everything.”

What is Chess?

“…it’s the experience of concentration – the thing I miss most about no longer being an active player.”

“Chess is a test of the mind and will under social pressure. The game is like a drug and we play it to experience a change in consciousness.”

“…my chess experience tells me that concentration is more about summoning layers of oneself as source’s of strength, while simultaneously purging psychic debris.”

“Chess allows you to do and be things you cannot be in the real world.”

“Chess is not a waste of time, but time is scarce and there is more to life than chess.”

“Perhaps a love of chess is love for the mood of the game. If you enter a chess tournament hall and sit and watch what is happening, there is not usually much to report, but there is definitely a mood to be sensed and appreciated. I experience the mood as ambient incidence; the palpable intrigue that arises when, on every board, something is under way and about to happen. I have come to love this state of expectation in which there is a sense of being held tightly in perpetual motion. When I say the meaning of chess is implicit, I am referring to that experience of unfolding significance.
Implicit comes from the Latin root ‘entwined’. The point is not that life’s meaning is interwoven in chess positions, like pesto in pasta or honey in porridge. The implicit meaning in chess is – if you’ll permit me – more like the meaning that arises when two bodies become entwined in love-making. Meaning arises not because two things are together but because the experience of intercourse is like becoming a different form of life, and sometimes so intense that we feel altered, transformed and, all being well, transcendent. Although sex is considered explicit, the meaning of the act is implicit – entwined in the process itself. The act subsumes most of the meaning of talking about it, and f-ing the ineffable is rarely wise. I hesitate to say that chess is better than sex, but it is perhaps more reliable. Chess suspends us in a heightened state of luscious cogitation for hours at a time, like a diffuse, prolonged and strictly silent orgasm.”

“Chess can be seen as an as-if ritual. At some level we know the rewards of the game do not ultimately matter, and yet we play as if they do, and thereby evoke qualities of mind and character that might otherwise lie dormant. Chess does not matter until we make it matter and it matters all the more for that.”

“Chess is a study in truth and beauty, but it is also a violent contact sport; a geometric cage fight. What makes contact are two psyches obliged to try to destroy each other, and in that confrontation there is nowhere to hide. ll the violence is sublimated, but a sense of latent terror is always present. At moments, in the heat of the battle, Clockwork Orange

– style sadism can emerge. A dark excitement can arise from figuratively crushing our opponent, as if we were nonchalantly kicking them in the head while laughing. These are dark thoughts, I know, but they are not gratuitous. Grandmaster Boris Gulko

makes mild and peaceful impression in person, but he famously advised one (of) his students: ‘Understand, chess is a game for hooligans.’

“The tragedy of chess is that many use it to make themselves real and add depth and definition to their lives, but the game is not ultimately fit for this purpose. However culturally resonant it may be, it remains a game within the game of life, not the game of life itself.”

The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life: Part One

The review will begin with the bottom line. The book is a lovingly written, magnificent masterpiece. Anyone reading it will be richly rewarded in ways they may not even understand at the time of reading. This is most definitely not a book one reads and forgets. It is a book to savor.

I met Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson at the World Open in 2002 while assisting Thad Rogers in the book room after turning certain victory into defeat in the first round and after losing the next two games Thad needed help and the book room looked inviting. There was a discussion concerning his book, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins,

which had been read the previous year. Later I read Jonathan’s Chess For Zebras,

which was very entertaining, and while working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I advocated any and everyone purchase his excellent books. All I recall now about our conversation is that other books were discussed and when asked to name my favorite novel I answered immediately, “The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse.”

“Really?!” he said before continuing with a question, “Why?”

Why, indeed. I no longer remember how I answered, but do recall being taken aback, because most people with whom I have mentioned the novel have not even been aware of the book. I also recall Jonathan displaying actions which led me to believe he was about ready to leave, so the answer was truncated. In addition I recall Jonathan saying, after I answered his question, “Fascinating!”

GM Rowson tied for first at the 2002 World Open. Because of the pleasant memories of the chance encounter I will admit it is difficult for me to be completely objective. In addition, upon learning of the forthcoming publication of the book about to be reviewed I contacted the publishing company, informing them of the blog and the encounter with Jonathan, while informing them I would like to review the book. I had hoped to finish reading the book long before publication in order to review it ASAP, but life intervened. Another factor is that the book required much more thought than I had imagined, which is a very good thing. A quote from the book comes to mind: “You cannot think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.” – cognitive scientist Martin Minsky. Therefore reading the book required much more time than I had imagined.

The book is full of wonderful quotes, which is a positive thing. Decades ago there was a show on public television, Thinking Allowed, hosted by Dr. Jeffery Mishlove.

http://www.thinkingallowed.com/jm.html

Jonathan Rowson would have made an excellent guest on the program. (Just put Thinking Allowed into the Startpage.com search engine and found: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFk448YbGITLnzplK7jwNcw. Oh happy day!)

After briefly perusing the book one long time National Master Chess player closed it before saying, “Where’s the meat?!” This meant GAMES. After explaining there were about two dozen games contained in the notes he exclaimed, “What kind of Chess book is that?!” This caused me to consider the question too long because he began talking before I could answer. I was never able to answer his question because, to his way of thinking, a Chess book with mostly words was most definitely NOT a Chess book. This has caused me to reflect upon what, exactly, is a Chess book. For example, consider Frank Brady’s book on Bobby Fischer, Endgame: Bobby Fischer’s Remarkable Rise and Fall – from America’s Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness.

Would it be considered a Chess book? Maybe what constitutes a “Chess book” is what is in the eye of the beholder…

The Moves That Matter is is a book about oh so much more than Chess. It is a book written by a man who devoted most of his early years, and maybe half of his life, to the Royal game, so therefore it does contain much Chess put into words, but, strictly speaking, it is not about Chess. It is about so much more than a mere game. The book is about life, and thinking about life. Although the reader will be entertained, it is not about entertaining per se. It is a “deep” book which will cause the reader to do some seriously deep thinking. That is to be expected since Dr. Jonathan Rowson is an applied philosopher. “The Society for Applied Philosophy was founded in 1982 with the aim of promoting philosophical work that has a direct bearing on areas of practical concern.” (https://www.appliedphil.org/)

In lieu of a review I have decided to write about the the ideas and questions contained in the book. Copious notes were taken while reading; twelve pages of college ruled note paper to be precise. What I will attempt to do is share some of the thoughts and questions in the book that caused me to question and think about those thoughts and questions.

The book contains eight chapters each broken down into another eight sub-headings. The format caused me to reflect upon one of my favorite books, The Eight,

by Katherine Neville.


Katherine Neville in 1985
A photograph of the author in San Francisco’s Marin Headlands, California, 1985.

In the first chapter, Thinking and Feeling, under sub-heading #5 Asking Pertinent Questions, one finds, “There are many different ways to frame the educational value of chess, but if I had to sum it up in one word, it would probably be: ‘questions’.

If I had three words it would be ‘questions about relationships’. As the writer Marinan Benjamin puts it, to ask a question is to invest in attentiveness, to declare a stake in the answer, and that is one of the many gifts of chess; you cease to be a passive recipient of information, and become an active learner – an intrinsically rewarding experience. Playing chess is about posing questions to the opponent, and answering the questions they pose you; the little questions are always nested inside bigger ones.”

We will move ahead to the last chapter, Life and Death, under sub-heading #64, Facing up to death. It is written, “The 2009 Acropolis Open in Greece was overshadowed by the death of a respected Greek player, Nikolaos Karapanos, who had a heart attack just before executing a winning move in his first-round game. His opponent, Israeli Grandmaster Dan Zoler, who happens to be a doctor, tried to revive him, but Karapanos stopped breathing before the ambulance arrived.
This story indicates just how stress-inducing chess can be, but the deeper point is that we never know when our time will come. All the major spiritual traditions speak about the importance of being ready for the unthinkable, and the importance of being ready for the unthinkable, and the importance of dying at peace, without undue regret.
It seems profane to point out that Zoler resigned the game, but he also withdrew from the event, stating that he no longer felt like playing chess in the circumstances. You can hardly blame him. Chess sometimes seems singularly charming and vitally important, but a brief reflection on our mortality has to lead to some searching questions. Is this it? Pushing these pieces around? Is this what I am supposed to be doing?”

Nikolaos Karapanos vs Dan Zoler
24th ICT Acropolis (2009), Chalkida, Greece, rd 1, Aug-10
Catalan Opening: General (E00)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 c5 5.Bxb4 cxb4 6.Bg2 O-O
7.Nf3 d6 8.O-O a5 9.a3 Na6 10.Nbd2 Qc7 11.h3 Rd8 12.e4 e5
13.Qe2 b6 14.a4 Bb7 15.b3 Re8 16.Rad1 Rad8 17.Rfe1 exd4
18.Nxd4 Nc5 19.f3 Nh5 20.Nf1 d5 21.cxd5 Bxd5 22.exd5 Rxe2
23.Rxe2 g6 24.f4 Nf6 25.Nc6 Rd7 26.Ne5 Rd8 27.Nc6 Rd7 28.Ne5
Nxb3 29.Nxd7 Nxd7 30.d6 Qc5+ 31.Kh2 Kg7 32.Re7 Qc8 33.Ne3 Nf6
34.d7 Qd8 35.Ng4 Kf8 36.Ne5 Nc5 1-0
https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1554879

See the excellent article by Daaim Shabazz at The Chess Drum:

Playing Chess to Death

Aug 4th, 2019 by Daaim Shabazz

Playing Chess to Death

End part one

GM Jonathan Tisdall’s articles for Matt & Patt

I would like to bring your attention to an article by GM Jonathan Tisdall published January 23, 2018. It is one of the best, most insightful, Chess articles I have ever read. It begins:

Men and machines

Drama Kings

The middle rest day is the closest thing to a half-way mark at the 80th anniversary edition of the Wijk an Zee tournament. This year’s Tata Steel Masters (and Challengers) continues a brilliant tradition of offering more than the usual 9 rounds, and a cleverly composed mix of world stars and hungry, dangerous outsiders. For me, this event is the highlight of the tournament year, with only the Candidates offering comparable entertainment when it rolls around – though that is due to high stakes rather than careful and colorful organization. I like some extra rounds and some new faces, preferably crazed with aggression. This event always delivers.

Other headers tell you much about the content:

Top this?

Shakh shock

Older? Wiser

‘Winning’

Psychology

“This tweet sparked some interesting conversation. Yes, I suppose it is true that in a way Carlsen’s tireless technical determination is also a form of psychological warfare. But torture and fighting spirit are not such unique factors – there are of course occasional wizards at maneuvering or grinding, but these skills have also been part of the daily toolkit of gritty professionals, from those on the weekend circuit to the legendary Soviet school of endgame superiority. But great technical champions tend to spawn dazzling tactical successors; Capa to Alekhine, Karpov to Kasparov, and … Carlsen to ? Presumably someone who will play like AlphaZero, on a human scale, an UltraTal. That is the idea I was trying to summon up.”

Human frailty

Compensation

“And why is it that when world champions blunder a full piece, it isn’t quite a full piece?

Catching up on today’s #TataSteelChess
On Magnus’s blunder: 17…f4 would be positionally catastrophic for Black if it didn’t win a piece.
One difference between humans and computers is that our strategic filters often trump our tactical filters at the worst possible moments.

Jonathan Rowson (@Jonathan_Rowson) January 21, 2018

I am a huge fan of Rowson’s insights, and his unique examinations of chess matters psychological. His tweet sparked a few trains of thought – another component of his observation contains a kind of inherent law of compensation – even a blunder can result in practical chances if there is any price, particularly structural, to winning the material.”

Included this because I, too, am a huge fan of GM Rowson.

The human factor

Double trouble?

Game-changer

Muppets. Muppets!

The Candidates

So dangerous

The remarks contained under Psychology brought to mind a position from the 2018 Tata Steel Challengers tournament, aka, the ‘B’ group.

Provocative play by black, to say the least. It has been written that GM Viktor Korchnoi would sometimes play somewhat ‘dubious’ opening moves in an attempt to cause problems for his opponent, especially those who were known to be ‘booked-up’. The player of the white pieces has just made her thirteenth move, which completed her development, while black, Benjamin Bok, lags behind in development.

WGM Olga Girya (2489) vs Benjamin Bok (2607)

Round 5

1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. Bf4 Nbd7 5. e5 Nh5 6. Be3 dxe5 7. dxe5 Nxe5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. O-O-O+ Bd7 10. Be2 f6 11. g4 Ng7 12. f4 Nf7 13. Nf3 Nd6 14. h3 c6 15. Rd2 Kc7 16. Rhd1 Nge8 17. Ne4 Bc8 18. Nf2 b6 19. c4 c5 20. b4 Nb7 21. bxc5 Nxc5 22. Nd4 Nd6 23. Nb5+ Nxb5 24. cxb5 a6 25. Bf3 Ra7 26. f5 gxf5 27. gxf5 Bxf5 28. Ng4 Bxg4 29. Bxg4 axb5 30. Kb1 e6 31. Bxc5 bxc5 32. Rd8 Kb6 33. Bxe6 Bg7 34. R8d6+ Ka5 35. Bf5 Re8 36. R6d3 Bf8 37. Ra3+ Kb6 38. Rxa7 Kxa7 39. Bxh7 c4 40. h4 Kb6 41. Rf1 Ka5 42. Rxf6 Re1+ 43. Kc2 Ba3 44. h5 Ra1 45. h6 Rxa2+ 46. Kd1 Rh2 47. Be4 Bb2 48. Rd6 Rh4 49. Bf5 Rh5 50. Be4 Rh4 51. Bf5 Rh5 52. Be4 Re5 53. Bc6 Rc5 54. h7 Kb4 55. Kc2 Bc3 56. Rh6 Bh8 57. Rd6 Rh5 58. Rd5 Rh2+ 59. Kd1 c3 60. Rxb5+ Kc4 61. Rg5 Rxh7 62. Kc2 Bd4 63. Be4 Rh8 64. Bd3+ Kb4 65. Be4 Rf8 66. Kd3 Bh8 67. Rg2 Rf1 68. Kc2 Bd4 69. Re2 Kc5 70. Rg2 Ra1 71. Re2 Be5 72. Bg6 Bf6 73. Bf5 Kd4 74. Re4+ Kd5 75. Re2 Bd4 76. Bg6 Kc5 77. Bf5 Rf1 78. Bd3 Ra1 79. Bf5 Ra3 80. Bg6 Bg7 81. Bf5 Ra7 82. Bg6 Kc4 83. Bd3+ Kd4 84. Re4+ Kc5 85. Re2 Ra2+ 86. Kb1 Ra8 87. Kc2 Rb8 88. Bg6 Kc4 89. Bd3+ Kd4 90. Re4+ Kc5 91. Re2 Rb2+ 92. Kd1 Rb3 93. Kc2 Ra3 94. Bg6 Bh6 95. Kd3 Ra6 96. Bh7 Kb4 97. Bg8 Bd2 98. Re4+ Ka3 99. Kc2 Rb6 100. Rc4 Rb2+ 101. Kd3 Rb8 102. Bh7 Kb2 103. Bg6 Rb6 104. Bf5 Rf6 105. Rc5 Rf8 106. Ke2 Re8+ 107. Kf3 Be3 108. Rc6 Rf8 109. Kg4 Bf2 110. Rc7 Rf6 111. Rc8 Be3 112. Rc7 Rf8 1/2-1/2

There is another picture I like immensely.

It looks as though the human World Champ is eavesdropping on the conversation, does it not?

This is Chess writing at its best. The wonderfully excellent article can be found in its entirety here:

http://mattogpatt.no/2018/01/23/men-and-machines/

The Cost of Chess Magazines

The Legendary Georgia Ironman loves “Chess Monthly” (http://www.chess.co.uk/). He takes it with him to lessons and pontificates at length about the good qualities of the magazine. He does this while there are copies of the best chess magazine in the world, “New in Chess” (http://www.newinchess.com/), sitting unopened, still in cellophane, in the apartment. The Barnes & Noble in Buckhead carries “Chess Monthly” and “Chess Life” but not “New in Chess.” An advertisement in the 2014/3 issue of NiC shows ten places it is sold and one of them is The Book Tavern in Augusta, Georgia, yet I have been unable to find it in any bookstore or newsstand in the largest city and the capital of the state, Atlanta.
I have purchased “Chess Monthly” at the B&N when found. This means it comes irregularly, so the Ironman is missing some issues. We usually split the cost. One time Tim received a B&N gift card and he gave it to me to use and it covered the cost of two issues. We hit the jackpot when Greg Yanez of chess4less.com (http://www.chess4less.com/) was here for the National children’s something or other at the downtown Hyatt. Greg had back issues on sale for only five dollars, and they went fast. The last July issue sold before the Ironman was able to nab one. Meanwhile the issues of NiC, which cost more, did not sell well. Everyone wants a deal. Still, I would rather have a NiC at ten dollars than a CM for five.
I was in the B&N the other day and, as luck would have it, so was the July issue of “Chess Monthly.” I had a buck or two left on the aforementioned B&N gift card, so I nabbed a copy and took it to the checkout counter. My billfold was out when I heard the clerk say, “That will be eighteen something.”
“Pardon me?” I said. Having tinnitus means I do not hear as well as I used too, what with the constant ringing in the brain.
“That will be eighteen something,” he repeated. The last one I purchased was “eleven something.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. He showed me the price attached to a price tag that covered the one on the magazine, and, sure ’nuff, it showed a price of $16.99 US. Include tax and, wah-lah, “eighteen something.”
As I was putting my billfold back into my pocket I said, “Wow…Last time I purchased a copy it was only eleven plus; that is a dramatic increase.” He gave me a blank stare. The clerk at the next register, who had been watching this unfold, gave me a look and sort of shrugged his shoulders as if to silently say, “What’cha gonna do?”
I started to grab the magazine, telling the young man I would put it back, but he jerked it out of my hand saying, “We will do that!” I was stunned, thinking, “I did not even get a chance to peruse the mag…”
I went to the coffee shop where one of the Starbucks employees is a fellow who used to come to the House of Pain and trade genuine Starbucks coffee for a membership, etc. And now everyone knows the secret of why the House had the best coffee of any chess club. I told him my tale of woe while awaiting my cuppa joe. Back in the adjoining bookstore an empty table was located, where I broke out my chess board and latest copy of the best chess magazine in the universe, “New in Chess.” I am behind with the NiC, having only recently received issues 2014/2 & 3. The subscription ended and times are tough, with the current situation being in a state of, shall we say, flux. I purchased the issues from Amazon. The Gorilla recently raised the amount for free shipping from $25 to $35, and since the price of a NiC is a little over $10, I have included it to meet the new requirement. Unfortunately, the Gorilla cannot produce an issue in a timely fashion. For example, check out the dates of the two NiC’s I have on order:
Not yet shipped
Track Package
Delivery estimate: Friday, October 10, 2014 – Wednesday, October 15, 2014 by 8:00pm
New In Chess Magazine 2014/4
Guezendam, Dirk Jan ten
Sold by: Amazon.com LLC
Delivery estimate: Thursday, October 9, 2014 – Tuesday, October 14, 2014 by 8:00pm
New In Chess magazine 2014/5
ten Geuzendam, Dirk Jan
Sold by: Amazon.com LLC
That’s right, the Gorilla has the issue out now set to ship before the previous issue! I believe 2014/4 was published in June. I have been sending emails to the Gorilla about this, but maybe I expect too much from a Gorilla…It is obvious there must be a better way.
Back at the B&N with my cuppa joe, I opened NiC 2014/3 and thought about what GM Jonathan Rowson wrote about taking his new issue of NiC to the coffee shop as soon as it arrived…Then I began to read. I discovered a letter by one Evan Katz, of “New York, NY, USA.” Seems Mr. Katz is disappointed in the price of the best chess magazine, ever, in the recorded history of the human race. NiC is truly “cheap at twice the price,” but not to Evan.
At this point I began to ponder the reason for the dramatic increase in the price of “Chess Monthly,” so I decided to ask the manager. When I mentioned the amount of the price increase she was obviously shocked. “That is a huge increase,” she said. The nice woman went on to tell me B&N had nothing to do with the price of magazines because a distributor handled it, going on to inform me that beginning in July B&N had a new distributor. I told her that explained things, and thanked her for the information, and her time.
In putting this together I did discover that chess4less.com not only provides a yearly subscription for $70, but has individual issues for sale for $7.95. The Ironman and I have not seen the May, June, July, and August issues. Even with shipping charges one can purchase two for the price of one from chess4less in comparison to B&N. Goodbye Barnes & Noble, hello chess4less!

Elton John perfoms Benny and The Jets on Soul Train