Hou Yifan Says Women Cannot Compete With Men

After reading the previous post Brian McCarthy left a comment which concerned the article you are about to read, but it was not the original article. This morning there was an email from Dennis Fritzinger which included a link to the article. Thanks, Dennis!

‘Queen of chess’ says it’s hard to imagine women competing at same level as men

By Leon Watson
12 October 2019

The gender gap in sport may be narrowing, but in the game of chess women may never reach the levels of their male counterparts – according to the world’s best female player.
University of Oxford student Hou Yifan said the cerebral game won’t get a female world champion for decades because women “are less focused” than men, don’t train as hard and are at a physical disadvantage.

The 25-year-old, who is often referred to as the Queen of Chess’, has opened a row in the normally genial world of chess.
Her comments follow a controversial claim by English Grandmaster Nigel Short that men and women should just accept they are “hard-wired very differently”.
Short, who was widely criticised for his stance, said he “would have been ripped to shreds as a misogynist dinosaur” if he’d said the same as Hou.

Speaking to chess.com, Hou said: “Theoretically, there should be a possibility that a woman can compete for the title in the future, but practically I think that the chances of this happening in the next few decades are very small.
“I do think the average rating of female players could improve, but the gap between the top women right now and the players competing for the world title is really quite large.
“But if you look at any sport, it’s hard to imagine girls competing at the same level as men.
“I think there is a physical aspect because chess exhausts a lot of energy, especially when games last 6-7 hours, and here women could be more disadvantaged.
“But in general, I think women train less hard at chess compared to men while they’re growing up.
“In China, girls tend to think more about university, and then things like family, life balance… while boys are more focused and persistent on that one thing.
“This makes a big difference. The ones who put greater effort in achieving better results. But I also think there are external factors too.”
In chess, there is the World Championship which is open to all and is currently held by the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen. Since its inception in 1886, all 16 undisputed champions have been men.
There is also a parallel Women’s World Championship and women-only tournaments designed to encourage female participation in the sport.
However, while Hou is a four-time winner of the women’s crown, in recent years she has chosen not to compete in women’s events in order to compete against higher-ranked players.
Hou, who became a Grandmaster aged 14, is the number one ranked female player but number 87 among men and women. She is one of just three women, along with Judit Polgar and Maia Chiburdanidze, to have cracked the world’s top 100.

However, there is a big gap between Hou’s rating and the top men. By comparison, Hou’s current rating is 2659, while world number one Carlson is more than 200 points higher on 2876.
The next strongest female player is another Chinese player, Wenjun Ju, way back at world number 288 with a rating of 2586.
Hou said: “Growing up, female players are told, ‘If you win the girls’ title, we’ll be really proud of you, and this is a great job!’ It’s unlikely that any of them were told, ‘No, you should be fighting for the overall title!’
“Girls are told at an early age that there’s a kind of gender distinction, and they should just try their best in the girls’ section and be happy with that. So without the motivation to chase higher goals, it’s harder for girls to improve as fast as boys as they grow up.”
Asked if she believes there are any gender differences in the way men and women play the game, Hou added: “To me, in all aspects of life, sometimes women and men tend to see the same thing from completely different perspectives, and that also comes into chess.
“To put it simplistically, I think male players tend to have a kind of overview or strategy for the whole game, rather than focusing too much attention on one part of the game. It could be interesting to explore this further. I need to do more research to answer this properly!”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/10/12/queen-chess-says-hard-imagine-women-competing-level-men/amp/

Smyslov on the Couch: A Review

Smyslov on the Couch,

by Genna Sosonko, published by Elk and Ruby, (http://www.elkandruby.com/) is broken down, like Smyslov at the end of his long life, into three parts. This review will, therefore, be in three parts.

Part 1: The Real Vasily Smyslov

The author writes, “He possessed an incredible memory.” Most, if not all, World Chess champions were blessed with a memory far above most human beings. Some no doubt contained a brain possessing an eidetic memory. How else can one explain Bobby Fischer

recalling a speed (that was five minutes and only five minutes per game ‘back in the day’) game that had taken place decades earlier? (…just prior to his historic match with Taimanov, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Fischer met the Russian player Vasiukov and showed him a speed game that the two had played in Moscow fifteen years before. Fischer recalled the game move by move.) (http://billwall.phpwebhosting.com/articles/Memory.htm)

Smyslov says, “Oh Genna, don’t wake my memories. What’s done is done, done to oblivion. I don’t remember a thing! I’ve been blessed with the ability to forget. There is an uncanny pattern to things, though; you best of all remember what you should forget.”

“His style was very clear-cut; he was considered a wonderful master of the endgame. Jan Timman,

known as the Best of the West during the eighties, who grew up on Botvinnik’s games, once said that he thought Smyslov’s style, due to his original strategic vision, lucid play, and virtuosic endgame technique, was the best.”

“Indeed, Max Euwe,

who had a very poor record against Smyslov, would say, “This amiable giant of the chess world (who) makes moves that, frankly, any other grandmaster could make. There’s just one small difference: Smyslov wins, but the other GM’s don’t. His playing style is really slippery; he doesn’t attack you head-on, doesn’t threaten mate, and yet follows some path that only he sees. His opponent’s are caught off-gaurd and fail to see his secret plans. They think they have a perfectly decent position….The suddenly they realize something isn’t right, but it’s too late! An attack is building up against their king and they can’t beat it off. Yeah, Smyslov is an amazing player, an amiable and obliging man, but so dangerous to play against.”

The author writes, “Or Boris Spassky,

highlighting Smyslov’s incredible intuition, called him “the Hand”, explaining this as follows: “His hand knows on which square each piece belongs, he doesn’t need to calculate anything with his head.” Later on there is this, “We had already said our goodbyes, but then suddenly he stepped off to the side, visibly distressed by something. “I thought of the game I lost to Van Wely yesterday. At first, I had a clear advantage. Then the position was equal. And then…no, it’s terrible, just terrible. Like an apparition haunting me. An evil force led my hand astray.” Shaking his head, he went towards passport control.”

The author, who had earlier emigrated from the Soviet Union, writes, “I visited Leningrad in 1982. Although I already had a Dutch passport by then, I was strongly advised against taking that trip. It was the height of the Cold War, and the consequences of such a visit were unpredictable in the Soviet days.” Genna “follow(ed) his own route,” and “…poked my head into the Chigorin Chess Club a few hours before the ship’s departure from Leningrad. “The doors are all shabby. When are they going to renovate the place?” I blurted out as I walked into the building I’d known since my Leningrad childhood. New “details” of my visit surfaced later on. Sosonko had supposedly come to Leningrad in secret and promised to donate ten thousand dollars to renovate the club.”

“I heard all about your foray into Leningrad, Genna,” Smyslov said smiling, when we met up a month later at the Tilburg tournament. “You decided to make a run for it? Have you completely lost your mind?” he chided me in a fatherly tone.

We faced off in round five. We had drawn all of our previous games, sometimes without trying. Smyslov played passively in the opening, and my advantage grew with every move. When Black’s position was completely lost, he rose slightly from his chair, extended his hand, and congratulated me, “Enjoy this one, Genna, but don’t let it go to your head. I can’t play against my friends.” He moaned and groaned the whole next day, still upset with me: “That guy? Yeah, he’d knock off his own father for five hundred dollars. Him donating ten thousand? I don’t think so!” But then everything went back to normal, with our daily walks around the village of Oisterwijk near Tilburg, where the tournament participants were staying, and long talks about everything.”

Gennady Borisovich Sosonko

vs Vasily Smyslov

Interpolis 6th Tilburg NED 1982.10.06

D46 Queen’s Gambit Declined semi-Slav, Chigorin defence

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 Bd6 7. e4 dxe4 8. Nxe4 Nxe4 9. Bxe4 c5 10. O-O Qc7 11. Re1 Nf6 12. Bc2 Bd7 13. Ne5 cxd4 14. Qxd4 Qc5 15. Qc3 Qb4 16. Bd2 Qxc3 17. Bxc3 Bxe5 18. Rxe5 O-O 19. Rd1 Bc6 20. f3 Rfd8 21. Rxd8+ Rxd8 22. a4 Nd7 23. Re2 Nc5 24. b3 b6 25. a5 Nb7 26. a6 Nc5
27. b4 Na4 28. Rd2 Rc8 29. Bd4 Be8 30. Bb3 Kf8 31. Kf2 f6 32. f4 b5 33. Bxa4 bxa4 34. Bxa7 Rxc4 35. Bc5+ Kf7 36. Rd6 1-0

Smyslov did not care for Fischer Random Chess, and nor do I. For one thing, allowing a computer to choose the opening setup of the pieces is absurd! If the game is going to be played why not put the pawns in their positions and have the player of the white pieces place the first piece, etc.? Smyslov says, “Chess is harmonious just the way it is. Fischer chess is utter nonsense. That setup deprives the game of its inherent harmony.”

Smyslov says, “I have noticed I play better if I treat my opponent with respect, no matter what disputes may arise. That type of attitude cleansed my soul, which enabled me to focus solely on the board and the pieces. My inspiration would wane and my performance would suffer whenever I let my emotions get the better of me.”

Part 2: Match Fixing in Zurich and the Soviet Chess School

This part of the book shines a light on the dark and dirty Soviet School of Chess, where every result can be questioned beginning with the 1933 match between the Czechoslovak master, Salo Flohr,

“…on his first trip to the Soviet Union, and the rising star of Soviet chess, Mikhail Botvinnik.”

Flohr won the first two decisive games of the match, but Botvinnik “won” games nine and ten, the final games of the match, to draw the match to send the fans into a frenzy.

The author blames everything on the “monstrous state system…” He never assigns any blame on any individual, yet a “system” is comprised of “people.” The author writes, “Soviet chess, with its undoubted achievements on the one hand and cynicism and total absence of morals on the other hand, was the fruit of the monstrous state system, controlling everything that was the Soviet Union. And it died alongside that country.” Really? “As Stalin used to say, ‘no person-no problem’.” (Pg. 139 of Checkmate, by Sally Landau https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/checkmate-the-love-story-of-mikhail-tal-and-sally-landau-a-review/) An excellent case can be made that when it comes to Russia today, only the names have changed as Putin continues to eliminate former Russian citizens on foreign soil, and even on home soil, proving if there is “no person” there is “no problem.” It is not the “system” which is corrupt, but the people who comprise the system. The American system is not corrupt, but many, if not most, of the people comprising the system are corrupt, and that includes those at the very top, including the POTUS, who is so obviously corrupt, and corruptible. It is not the “system” that needs be changed, but those in charge of the corrupt system, no matter what system and what it is named, who need to be eliminated, as Malcoln X said, “by any means necessary.”

The author used Former World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker

to prove his point when he writes, “Emanuel Lasker had visited the Soviet Union back in 1924. He played in all three international tournaments and, escaping from the Nazis, he moved to Moscow in 1935. In his memoirs, Mikhail Botvinnik wrote about the Nottinghanm tournament of 1936, one of the greatest competitions of the twentieth century: “World Champion Euwe led the tournament for a considerable time, and I found it hard to keep up. At a critical moment in the battle, Lasker unexpectedly turned up in my hotel room. ‘I now live in Moscow,’ he announced pompously, ‘and as a representative of the Soviet Union I consider it my duty to play for a win against Euwe, especially as I’m playing White.’ At the same time, the old Doctor bore quite an alarmed expression. ‘Don’t be silly, Dear Doctor,’ I objected, waiving my hands in the air. ‘If you draw that will be fine.’ Lasker breathed a sigh of relief: Well, that will be easy,’ he said, and then left the room, having shaken my hand. The next day, Euwe, playing to win missed a somewhat straightforward tactical subtlety in an equal ending and lost.”

“Let’s reflect for a moment on the meaning of Lasker’s words,” writes Sosonko. “When learning that the aging doctor, as a representative of the Soviet Union, wondered whether he should play to win against a rival of his new fellow-countryman, you instinctively think just how quickly a person becomes influenced by their stay in a strict totalitarian system. Even a very short stay. Even a wise man and philosopher who was born free.”

Let us reflect for a moment…Lasker had the white pieces and should have, therefore, played for a win. If Bobby Fischer had been playing Euwe the next day he would have been playing to win even with the black pieces!

“Sammy Reshevsky,

who played not only in the 1948 world championship but in subsequent candidates tournaments as well, noted that the Russians always played as a team.”

There are wonderful tidbits in the book. Two of my favorite concern Chess books. “When Judit Polgar was asked about her favorite chess book, she replied almost instantly: “Levenfish and Smylov’s Rook Endings. Those endings arise more often than any of the others. Everything is explained so simply in the book.”

Smyslov, “By the way, have you read Tarrasch?

Tarrasch fell out of favor in the Soviet Union, later on, like so many other people did. He was banned, but his book The Game of Chess

is excellent. He explained everything in a very accessible way. You haven’t read it? I really recommend you do. It’s never too late.”

The Tarrasch book always brings to mind NM Guillermo Ruiz and the Chess book. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/11/02/the-chess-book/)

The last part of the book, Part 3, is, The Final Years.

The part about Judit Polgar’s

favorite Chess book is in the final part of the book. “When Judit Polgar was asked about her favorite chess book, she replied instantly: “Levenfish and Smyslov’s Rook Endings.

Those endings arise more than any of the others. Everything is explained so simply in the book.”

This, too, is included in the final part of the book: “July 22, 2004. “You know, whenever I think about Fischer, I start feeling sorry for him. I’m afraid he’ll get sent back to America.He just always needed someone who’d be there for him, take care of him, look after him. He was always a Don Quixote, if you see what I’m getting at.”

Other than a few things, reading the final part of the book was terribly depressing. Since at my age I am knocking on heaven’s door, I may not be the most objective person to review the latter part of the otherwise excellent book. The fact is, I do not even want to review it. The final section detracts from the book and the less said about it, the better. Read the book and judge for yourself, and leave a comment on the Armchair Warrior blog.

I give the first two parts five points each, making a total of ten points. Unfortunately I can only give a couple of points to the final part, so divide twelve by three and…you do the math.

“Tal wins by tricks. I consider it my duty as a grandmaster to beat him properly” ~ Vasily Smyslov

Chess with Suren
Published on Apr 10, 2019

In the autumn of 1959, in the Yugoslav towns of Bled, Zagreb and Belgrade the four cycle tournament of eight candidates for the world crown took place: The candidates were Smyslov, Keres, Petrosian, Tal, Gligoric, Olafsson, Benko and the 16 year old Fischer. Tal was not regarded as one of the favorites. Moreover, a couple of weeks before the start he underwent an operation for appendicitis (later it transpired that the pain he was suffering was caused by a kidney illness). When Mikhail Tal started his rise to the world championship crown, his risky style of play was viewed with disdain by most grandmasters; for example, former world champion Vassily Smyslov commented that Tal wins by tricks. “I consider it my duty as a grandmaster to beat him properly.” What happens next is from “must watch” series. In their first ever encounter Tal chooses an offbeat line in Caro-Kann defense and soon by going for a bishop sacrifice manages to unleash a dangerous attack. Although for some time Smyslov manages to find the most accurate defensive moves but soon he fails to withstand Tal’s devilish pressure and makes a mistake. Using his chance Tal goes for a queen sacrifice, exploiting the back-rank weakness and soon Smyslov’s position goes down quickly!
_________________
Mikhail Tal vs Vasily Smyslov
Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959), Bled, Zagreb & Belgrade YUG, rd 8, Sep-18
Caro-Kann Defense: Breyer Variation (B10)
1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 e5 4.Ngf3 Nd7 5.d4 dxe4 6.Nxe4 exd4
7.Qxd4 Ngf6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.O-O-O O-O 10.Nd6 Qa5 11.Bc4 b5 12.Bd2
Qa6 13.Nf5 Bd8 14.Qh4 bxc4 15.Qg5 Nh5 16.Nh6+ Kh8 17.Qxh5 Qxa2 18.Bc3 Nf6 19.Qxf7 Qa1+ 20.Kd2 Rxf7 21.Nxf7+ Kg8 22.Rxa1 Kxf7 23.Ne5+ Ke6 24.Nxc6 Ne4+ 25.Ke3 Bb6+ 26.Bd4 1-0

The Magic Bus to the 2018 World Human Chess Championship

Because the World Human World Championship has been, for the most part, sort of boring I have spent a considerable amount of time watching the games of the concurrent World Senior tournament. While so doing I have listened to some of the patter from Yaz, Maurice, and Jen,

in the event some kind of action breaks out on the board between Maggie and Fabi. Although there were a few games worth following, the fact is that much of the time has been spent with special guests whom drone on and on until I simply can no longer stand it and I turn off the sound.

During one of the obviously much needed breaks for the human commentators filmed “fireside chats” have filled the time, and they have been much appreciated because they have been far more interesting than the non action filled WHCC. I have lived through much of the history that was discussed but still found it interesting, while thinking how wonderful it must be for younger Chess fans who know little, if anything, about the history of the Royal game.

During one segment the topic was Magnus Carlsen and I believe it was Yasser and Maurice discussing the performance of Magnus in one of the Sinquefield Cups. I believe it was Yasser who mentioned a last round game in which Levon Aronian offered Magnus a draw which would win the tournament for Carlsen. Magnus refused the offer and that made a huge impression on Yasser. I seem to recall Yaz saying something about it telling him what kind of player was Mr. Carlsen.

What happened to that Magnus Carlsen? Who is the imposter taking his place in this World Championship?

Reading some of the comments Magnus made before the tournament, such as lamenting the fact he does not have the energy he had a few years ago, caused me to wonder if Magnus is simply burned out and needs to take a long break from the game. His play over the past twelve games reminded me of something heard when young. “Listen to what a man says, but watch what he does,” my Mother was fond of saying.

Magnus has been playing “tired” Chess for some time now. Maurice mentioned the fact that when it came time for Magnus to “dig deeply into the position,” Magnus was taking only a few minutes before producing a move. There is always a reason this happens to any Chess player. We can only speculate until Magnus produces the reason for his inability to concentrate and “grind.” A short time ago Magnus was known as the ultimate “grinder” because he was willing to sit for hour after hour grinding out a win from a small advantage. In the last real game of the current world championship match Magnus was incapable of grinding out a won game.

I spent an inordinate amount of time today reading, watching and listening, to commentary about game twelve.

After the players were interviewed by GM Daniel King,

and answered questions from reporters, the strongest female Chess player of all time, Judit Polgar,

said this to her co-host Anna Rudolf

about eighteen minutes into the film below. “In his (Magnus Carsen) head he was not ready to win today’s game. He just wanted to move on to the playoffs and I think it can cost him the crown because this mistake will maybe will not be forgiven to him. That he did not try/ He did not want it anymore to win in classical game because this shows something we’ve never seen before by Magnus, and it’s not a good sign necessarily.”

Decades ago a young female Chess player to whom I had given lessons, Alison Bert, was about to battle a legendary Georgia player. She came to me and asked, “Who will win?” I thought for a few moments because at that time I considered the man a friend. The reply was, “The one who wants it the most.” She walked to the board with a purpose and beat that man down.

Magnus Carlsen is a great Chess player, one of the best of all time. The Magnus who is playing in this match is a shadow of the younger Magnus, and Carlsen has said as much recently. Yet Fabiano Caruana was unable to beat an obviously weakened Magnus Carlsen once. That fact attests to just how great is Magnus Carlsen.

Fabiano Caruana showed nervousness in the first game but Magnus was unable to finish him off. The same thing happened in the last game of the real match, the so-called “classical” games. The World Human Chess Championship is there for Caruana’s taking. To take the title he must want it more than Magnus.

Every day I get in the queue (Too much, Magic Bus)
To get on the bus that takes me to you (Too much, Magic Bus)
I’m so nervous, I just sit and smile (Too much, Magic Bus)
Your house is only another mile (Too much, Magic Bus)
Thank you, driver, for getting me here (Too much, Magic Bus)
You’ll be an inspector, have no fear (Too much, Magic Bus)
I don’t want to cause no fuss (Too much, Magic Bus)
But can I buy your Magic Bus? (Too much, Magic Bus)
Nooooooooo!
I don’t care how much I pay (Too much, Magic Bus)
I want to drive my bus to my baby each day (Too much, Magic Bus)
I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it … (You can’t have it!)
Thruppence and sixpence every day
Just to drive to my baby
Thruppence and sixpence each day
Because I drive my baby every way
Magic Bus, Magic Bus, Magic Bus
I said, now I’ve got my Magic Bus (Too much, Magic Bus)
I said, now I’ve got my Magic Bus (Too much, Magic Bus)
I drive my baby every way (Too much, Magic Bus)
Each time I go a different way (Too much, Magic Bus)
I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it

[Outro]
Every day you’ll see the dust (Too much, Magic Bus)
As I drive my baby in my Magic Bus (Too much, Magic Bus)

The Computer: A Phantom Specter Haunting Chess

Computers Are Haunting The World Chess Championship (Which, Yes, Is Still Tied)

By Oliver Roeder

Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.

On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black.

The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.

A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man:

one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan.


Fabiano Caruana at the Marshall Chess Club


http://www.marshallchessclub.org/


Magnus Carlsen at the Marshall Chess Club

https://www.chess-site.com/chess-clubs/marshall-chess-club/

There is another figure, aside from the colorful Rossolimo, casting its shadow over this championship: The Computer. Most livestreams of the match feature instant computer engine analyses, whose cold numbers instantly assess the humans’ tiniest inaccuracies down to hundredths of a pawn. Those judgments ripple through the commentary. Full disclosure, I rely heavily on a chess engine running on my laptop to aid my understanding as I watch the games. One popular site during recent world championships features live analysis showing arrows pointing out a supercomputer’s favored moves. (http://analysis.sesse.net/)

The principals in the match have also commented on The Computer’s somewhat spooky influence.

“I’m facing not only Fabiano and his helpers, but also his computer help,” Carlsen said in a press conference after Game 2. (He was referring to Caruana’s deep preparation for the game, although Carlsen surely uses a computer to prep, too.)

“It’s like you’re playing against a phantom,” Judit Polgar,

a grandmaster providing official commentary on the match, said today.

The Computer can often seem like a phantom, a specter haunting the games. It can seem like an overlord that has rendered the human game obsolete and small. But it’s important to remember that man made the machines. Garry Kasparov lost to the supercomputer Deep Blue,


World Chess champion Garry Kasparov barely acknowledges the handshake from Dr. C.J. Tan head of the IBM Deep Blue computer team which defeated Kasparov in the six-game series that ended on May 11, 1997.
Credit: Roger Celestin/Newscom

but a team of humans sweated and bled to built it. In these technological gaming battles, man plays two roles: builder and performer.

At the world championship in London, we are witnessing the performance of two of the best players in the history of the game. That stronger computers exist, and have helped Caruana and Carlsen get to London, does not detract from their feat.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/computers-are-haunting-the-world-chess-championship-which-yes-is-still-tied/

The Najdorf in Black and White: A Review

Because of having played the Najdorf system during my formative years in the last century I was interested in learning about GM Bryan Smith’s new book on the opening (https://mongoosepress.com/the-najdorf-in-black-and-white/).

I met Bryan

at the 2009 Kentucky Open where he took first place by a half point. There were myriad problems with the tournament, directed by Alan Priest, which included no electricity for the lighting in the first couple of rounds, so it was played in semi-darkness, which seemed to not bother Mr. Priest. After developing a splitting headache, due to the poor lighting, and losing a game, I withdrew from the tournament, but returned the following day to spectate. While Bryan was waiting on the last round games to finish a conversation developed. Bryan is a quite, taciturn young man, the kind of fellow who lets his moves do his talking. I learned he was from Anchorage Alaska, and he is now the first-ever Grandmaster from Alaska. My home state of Georgia has yet to produce a home-grown GM. I recall asking Bryan why he decided to travel to Louisville in lieu of playing in one of the other, larger, tournaments in his area. He answered in a way that said he would rather be a big fish in a small pond that weekend rather than being a smaller fish in a much larger pond. “Better odds of taking home money?” I asked, and he produced a grin. We talked for some time and I transcribed what was recalled of the conversation later that day, but never used it, much to my regret. Bryan graciously answered my questions so what I recall was an enjoyable afternoon conversation with one of the nicest GM’s with whom I have conversed.

I have replayed many Nadjorf games since moving on to playing other openings, but have not devoted time studying the Nadjorf system with the intensity shown earlier when playing the system. For some time I have wanted a book to read on the system in order to compare the way the system is played now as opposed to how it was played last century, but the books are usually dense and voluminous, with a heavy emphasis on variations. Some of the books could be used as a doorstop. When my review copy, published by Mongoose Press (https://mongoosepress.com/), arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see it was only a small volume of 162 pages. The book is heavy on words, and ideas, rather than being yet another “data-dump.” Some have written books like the magnificent Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953,

by David Bronstein,

et al, cannot be published today because words, conveying ideas, are predominate. This book proves those writers wrong. Most of the variations included are short enough one does not need a board with which to visualize them. One of the players from my early days told me he liked to read a Chess book without using a board. There are enough diagrams for one to utilize this book in that way, which is exactly how I read the book. Then I read it again using a board and pieces because it is that good.

The book begins with an Introduction: The Cadillac of Openings.

“With this book, I present a collection of games played in the Najdorf Sicilian. The purpose of this book is not to be exhaustive – that would require at least ten times the content, and even then it would not encompass a fraction of the analysis and relevant games played in the Najdorf. This book also does not suggest a repertoire for either White or Black – although players can glean some ideas, since I have generally picked games played in the lines I favor. I think it is dishonest for a writer to try to portray an opening in only a positive light: ultimately, even the most objective writers of repertoire books have to massage the facts and minimize the problems of an opening – and every opening has them.

The purpose of this book, rather, is to show how to play the Najdorf, with White or Black, through archetypal games. I believe that by studying the games in this book, one can develop a solid general sense of the different types of game resulting from the Najdorf as played in the twenty-first century. It is my hope that readers will also gain some degree of enjoyment or entertainment from the games, which have been selected not only on their instructional merits, but also for their aesthetic value.”

The book will be judged by the criteria chosen by the author. The question is whether Bryan delivered on his promise. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” In Baseball terms this book is like hitting a walk-off grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game of the World Series!

Bryan continues the introduction. “Having a lifelong opening that one knows inside and out like one’s own house is a major advantage to a chess player. It means that the player can always rely on reaching position that he understands in general terms and knows something about. Perhaps more importantly, though, it gives confidence.”

Reading the above caused me to reflect upon my early days playing the Najdorf. I have never felt as confident playing any opening as I did when playing the Najdorf system. Why did I stop playing the Najdorf system? Bryan continues the introduction, “A sufficiently rich opening will provide immunity against the winds of theory – if one variation is refuted, another can be found, so long as the opening is built on proper principles. I believe the Najdorf can be such an opening. Some may imagine that is is a theoretical labyrinth, suitable only for those with an incredible memory and a willingness to play twenty or more moves of known theory before beginning the game. It is true that there are certain lines in the Najdorf where this is the norm – for instance, the Poisoned Pawn Variation (6.Bg5 e6 7,f4 Qb6). However, the reader will see in this book that these variations can be sidestepped, and that it is indeed possible to play the Najdorf “by the light of nature,” with experience providing a guide. Most of the games I have chosen feature ways of avoiding these quagmires. Despite its sharpness, the Najdorf is an opening built on solid positional principles. It is basically a positional opening.”

When first beginning the Chess road the Dragon variation was very popular. Once a strong player advocated against purchasing a book on the Dragon because “It is written in disappearing ink.” He said that because the theory was changing so fast by the time you read the book, much of it had been refuted. The same could have been said about the Najdorf system. I also recall reading something about there being players who knew the Najdorf, but did not know Chess. I was one of those people, because like others, I knew the Najdorf, but not Chess. After leaving Chess for Backgammon, upon my return to Chess I simply did not have time to keep abreast of the constantly changing theory of the Najdorf system, so decided to learn, and play, other openings. Yet what I learned about Bobby Fischer’s favorite opening has stuck with me, while the other openings never infused me with the confidence felt when playing the Najdorf system.

After the introduction, and before the first chapter, one finds, The Development Of the Najdorf Sicilian, a seven page historical perspective of the Najdorf system. It begins, “The Najdorf can trace its origins to the nineteenth-century German master Louis Paulsen.

Paulsen was an innovator of defense. In an era when 1.e4 e5 was the dominant opening and direct attacking play was the main method of winning, Paulsen understood the concept of asymmetrical play and counterattack. His openings and positional play were often a full century ahead of their time.”

Louis Paulsen was one of the most interesting, and underappreciated, players from the early days of the nineteenth century. Paulsen’s ideas influenced the development of the Royal game greatly. I played openings such as the C26 Vienna, Paulsen-Mieses variation, for example.

Bryan gives a game between Lewis Isaacs and Abraham Kupchick played at Bradley Beach in 1928, writing, “A forgotten 1928 game from a tournament in the U. S. might be the first use of the “real” Najdorf.”

Lewis Isaacs vs Abraham Kupchik

Bradley Beach 1928

ECO: B92 Sicilian, Najdorf, Opovcensky variation

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 b5 7. Bf3 e5 8. Nb3 Bb7 9. O-O Nbd7 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Re1 O-O 12. Rc1 Nb6 13. Na5 Rb8 14. Nxb7 Rxb7 15. b3 Rc7 16. Qd3 Nbd7 17. Be3 Nc5 18. Qd1 Qa8 19. Bg5 Ncd7 20. Nb1 h6 21. Bd2 Rfc8 22. Ba5 Rc6 23. g3 Nc5 24. Nc3 Bd8 25. Bxd8 Rxd8 26. Nd5 Nxd5 27. Qxd5 Qc8 28. Red1 Ne6 29. Bg4 Rc5 30. Qd2 Rc3 31. Re1 Qc5 32. Re3 Rxe3 33. fxe3 Ng5 34. Qd3 d5 35. exd5 Rxd5 36. Qe2 Qc3 37. h4 Rd2 38. Qe1 Ne4 39. Bf5 Nf2 40. Bd3 Nxd3 41. cxd3 Qxd3 42. Rc8+ Kh7 43. Rc1 f5 44. a4 b4 45. g4 Re2 0-1

He culminates the chapter with, “Despite the opening’s great popularity and constant use at the top level for many decades, the Najdorf remains mysterious and has its unexplored areas, with the new ideas waiting to be born. Its attraction for the chess professional today is easy to understand, since it is an opening where it is possible to play for a win with Black, while it is also unquestionably sound. Although positionally and tactically very sharp, the Najdorf player still controls his own fate.”

Chapter one is titled, Va Banque: 6.Bg5. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 the author advocates Qc7. I never played any move other than 7…Be7 because, well, you know, that is the move played by Bobby Fischer. After studying the games, and positions, I came to understand why the author would advocate the move Qc7 for those taking their first Najdorf steps. The amount of material in the main line can be daunting for a neophyte. The fourth game of the chapter is one in which the author had white against Hristos Banikas at Retymnon in 2009. After the obligatory first five moves of the Najdorf Bryan played 6 Bg5, which was answered with Nbd7. “An old and new move – it was played frequently in the 1950s and again in the 2010s – and not so much in-between.” After 7 f4 we have Qc7.

The other chapters are:

2) The Classicist’s Preference: 6 Be2
3) Add Some English: 6 Be3
4) In Morphy’s Style: 6 Bc4
5) White to Play and Win: 6 h3
6) Systematic: g3
7) Healthy Aggression: 6 f4
8) Action-Reaction: 6 a4
9) Odds and Ends

To illustrate what I mean by the use of words, in lieu of variations, to explain what is happening on both sides of the board, look at the position from Game 11: Zaven Andriasian-Ian Nepomniachtchi, played at the 2010 Aeroflot Open in Moscow. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nf3

The reader finds, “The retreat of the knight to f3 rather than b3 changes nothing in the structure (at least not right away), but the choice of this square has a dramatic effect on the course of the game. In contrast to 7. Nb3, putting the knight on f3 leads to much quieter, more positional play, where White tries t dominate the d5 square. And why is this? Whereas 7.Nb3 allows for White to play f2-f3 with queen-side castling and a king-side pawn storm, after 7,Nf3 this is not possible. White will almost certainly castle king-side. In the meantime, b3 is left free as a retreat square for the bishop from c4. Consequently, rather than opposite-side castling and mutual attacks, you get a more positional struggle.”

Another fine example is from Game 14, Nigel Short

vs Garry Kasparov,

PCA World Championship, game 8, London 1993: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Nbd7 8. f4 Nc5 9. e5 dxe5 10. fxe5 Nfd7 11. Bf4 b5

“In this way, Black places the bishop on its best diagonal (the long diagonal) before White can prevent it by Qd1-f3. Such a position might look good for White on the surface-the e5-pawn confers some space advantage and White has rapid development, plus the f-file is open and the white pieces are placed in threatening-looking positions. But such is the poison of the Sicilian. Black too has his advantages, and they tend to be more long-lasting. The bishop which will come to b7 will be very well placed. The advanced e5-pawn is not only a strength, but a weakness. And most importantly, Black has a well placed knight on c5 and a substantial advantage in space on the queen-side – the advance…b5-b4 is constantly looming over White, and the b3-bishop, if not activated in some dramatic fashion, could turn out to be a complete dud.”

One can turn to almost any page and find nuggets of wisdom such as the above illustrating the aims of BOTH SIDES! If one wishes to play the Najdorf system, or play against it, this is the book for you.

The author has dug deep, unearthing this game, found in the notes to Game 24, Judit Polgar

vs Dariusz Swiercz,

which I was unable to locate in any database. Bryan writes, “6…e6 is likely to be met by 7.g4, which looks like a fairly promising line for White – although 7…Nc6 is another possibility for Black to look into. Instead, the originator of 6.Qf3, American master Andrew Karklins, liked to continue with 7.b3. His record against grandmasters with this line was not very good, but he did have one major scalp:

Andrew Karklins

vs Peter Svidler,

World Open 1995

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6.Qf3 e6 7. b3 Qb6 8. Nde2 Qc7 9. Bb2 b5 10. a3 Bb7 11. g4 d5 12. exd5 Nxd5 13.
Bg2 Nd7 14. O-O Bd6 15. Qh3 Nxc3 16. Nxc3 Be5 17. Bxb7 Qxb7 18. Rad1 O-O 19.Qe3 Bb8 20. Ne4 Ne5 21. Bxe5 Bxe5 22. Nc5 Qc7 23. f4 Bf6 24. Rd7 Qb6 25. Rfd1 Rfd8 26. b4 a5 27. Qf3 axb4 28. axb4 Kf8 29. Kg2 Rdc8 30. R1d6 Qb8 31. Qd3 1-0

This book achieves its aim, hitting the target with a bullseye!

Garry Kasparov Cheated Judit Polgar

At the 1994 Linares Chess tournament World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov “…brought down shame” on himself, and the Royal game, when he cheated GM Judit Polgar by violating the touch move rule.

Please watch this before reading further:

Because Kasparov cheated Judit he altered Chess history. Imagine the headlines if he had been true to the game, as so many golf professionals have historically been, and Judit, the highest ranking woman player ever in the game of Chess, had been victorious. Imagine what it could have done for the Royal game with the interest of females piqued. Imagine what it would have done for Kasparov’s reputation if he had acted honorably. If he had done so he would have been applauded and there would not have been a black cloud hovering above him for almost a quarter of a century.

https://www.chess.com/blog/love_romance13/is-garry-kasparov-cheater

Garry said he did not do it but no one ever really believed him. Now modern science has proven the World Chess Champion cheated a seventeen year old GIRL!

Consider a recently released paper in Neuron:

Neural Basis of Cognitive Control over Movement Inhibition: Human fMRI and Primate Electrophysiology Evidence

Summary

Executive control involves the ability to flexibly inhibit or change an action when it is contextually inappropriate. Using the complimentary techniques of human fMRI and monkey electrophysiology in a context-dependent stop signal task, we found a functional double dissociation between the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rVLPFC) and the bi-lateral frontal eye field (FEF). Different regions of rVLPFC were associated with context-based signal meaning versus intention to inhibit a response, while FEF activity corresponded to success or failure of the response inhibition regardless of the stimulus response mapping or the context. These results were validated by electrophysiological recordings in rVLPFC and FEF from one monkey. Inhibition of a planned behavior is therefore likely not governed by a single brain system as had been previously proposed, but instead depends on two distinct neural processes involving different sub-regions of the rVLPFC and their interactions with other motor-related brain regions.

http://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(17)31063-2?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0896627317310632%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

An article at Medical Express puts it into words somewhat more understandable words:

Why we can’t always stop what we’ve started


The three key brain areas involved in stopping what you’ve started are circled. Credit: Johns Hopkins University

When we try to stop a body movement at the last second, perhaps to keep ourselves from stepping on what we just realized was ice, we can’t always do it—and Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists have figured out why.

Stopping a planned behavior requires extremely fast choreography between several distinct areas of the brain, the researchers found. If we change our mind about taking that step even a few milliseconds after the original “go” message has been sent to our muscles, we simply can’t stop our feet.

“We have to process all of these pieces of information quickly,” said senior author Susan Courtney, a professor of psychological and brain sciences. “The question is: When we do succeed, how do we do that? What needs to happen in order for us to stop in time?”

These findings, which will appear Dec. 20 in the journal Neuron, map the neural basis for inhibiting movement. They help explain what’s going wrong in the brain when people fall more as they age and when addicts can’t stop binge behavior.

Scientists had believed only one brain region was active when people changed plans. But the findings of Courtney’s team suggest it takes a lightning-fast interaction between two areas in the prefrontal cortex and another in the pre-motor cortex to stop, reverse or otherwise change a plan already in progress.

There is even another brain area, Courtney says, that continues to process what we should have done if we are unable to stop. She jokingly calls it the “oops” area.

In addition to all three areas of the brain communicating successfully, the key to being able to stop, the researchers found, is timing.

Suppose you’re driving and approaching an intersection when the light turns yellow. You decide to accelerate and speed though. But just after you send that decision to the part of the brain that will move your foot to hit the gas, you notice a police car and change your mind.

“Which plan is going to win?” said first author Kitty Z. Xu, a former Johns Hopkins graduate student who is now a researcher at Pinterest. “The sooner you see the police car after deciding to go through the light, the better your chance of being able to move your foot to the break instead.”

And by soon, Xu means milliseconds.

If you attempt to change your mind after 100 milliseconds or less, you most likely can. If it takes you 200 milliseconds or more—that’s less than a quarter of a second—you’re still going through with the original plan. That’s because the original signal is already on its way to the muscles by then—past the point of no return.

“If you’re already executing the plan when you see the police car,” Xu said, “you’re going to go through the light.”

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-weve.html

If we change our mind about taking that step even a few milliseconds after the original “go” message has been sent to our muscles, we simply can’t stop our feet.

Or our fingers.

“In one famous instance, Garry Kasparov changed his move against Judit Polgár in 1994 after momentarily letting go of a piece. Kasparov went on to win the game. The tournament officials had video records proving that his hand left the piece, but refused to release the evidence. A factor counting against Polgár was that she waited a whole day before complaining, and such claims must be made during the game. The videotape revealed that Kasparov did let go of the piece for one quarter of a second. Cognitive psychologist Robert Solso stated that it is too short a time to make a conscious decision.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_in_chess)

https://en.chessbase.com/post/judit-polgar-the-greatest-prodigy-ever

http://www.controltheweb.com/polgar/video.htm

Judit Polgar BEATS Garry Kasparov – Sensational Game!!

Uriah Heep-Cheater

Debunking the Polgar Sisters Case

Mark Weeks writes the “Chess For All Ages” blog, and he is confused about the facts (http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2015/02/confusion-about-facts.html) when it comes to the statement, “‘chess makes you smarter.” Many are confused when it comes to chess and intelligence because much has been written, but little understood, about the role chess has played in improving the “smarts” of a human being. Inquiring minds what to know so I asked for a little help from my friends in order to learn what is known by the most intelligent and learned people who study these kinds of questions. Numerous papers have been published concerning the issue and they are quite expensive. In my impecunious situation I would not have been able to read the papers except for the fact that friends in the world of academia gave me a helping hand. I profusely thank them for their kindness. I have read numerous papers recently, which made my eyes bleed…For the next several days I will share what I have learned with the chess community.

Judit Polgar retired from chess recently, bringing an end to the experiment conducted by the Polgar sisters father, Laszlo. Many women have written that if only there were more female chess players there would be more women in the top echelon of chess. For example, see “USCF President Ruth Haring’s “Numbers Game” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/?s=USCF+President+Ruth+Haring%27s+%22Numbers+Game%22). Anjelina Belakovskaia is planning on a run for the USCF policy board and has written, ” I know that there is much more needs to be done and as a professional chess player myself (WGM), a business person, a Mom of 3 chess playing kids and a coach running Belakovskaia Chess Academy, I feel I can bring a lot to the table. From improving professional chess image, to attracting more girls into chess…” (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=20700&sid=be60acd8a7253d079b536fc53c4dad14) She wants more girls in spite of the fact that the USCF’s own numbers show that girls drop out of chess at, or near, puberty. These women play, or have played chess, so they seem to think that if it was good for them, it will be even better for the game if many more girls play chess, and it will translate into many more elite female chess players. What I wanted to know is what the empirical evidence shows. I found the answer in a paper published in 2011 by Robert Howard of the School of Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052, Australia, Does high-level intellectual performance depend on
practice alone? Debunking the Polgar sisters case.

“The Polgar sisters case often is cited as evidence that practice alone is key to chess skill and that
almost anyone can become a grandmaster (Ericsson & Charness, 1994; Forbes, 1992; Vinkhuyzen, van
der Sluis, Posthuma, & Boomsma, 2009). It has featured in the popular media, with the suggestion of
major educational implications (Colvin, 2008; Flora, 2005; Gladwell, 2008; Ross, 2006). As described
by Hearst and Knott (2009, pp. 136–137), “The Polgars’ father, Laszlo, was a teacher who believed that
there is really no such thing as innate talent or genius and that any reasonably normal intelligent person could achieve great success in a specialized field if he or she were given extensive and concentrated training in that field from an early age, starting particularly before they were six years old. . .”. The three sisters (born in 1969, 1974, and 1976) were raised in Hungary and home-schooled. They learned chess at a very young age and reportedly studied chess many hours a day (Forbes, 1992; Polgar & Truong, 2005). They excelled, two becoming grandmasters, and one still is the strongest-ever female player.
The Polgar case often is regarded as if it had been scrutinized carefully by expert reviewers and
reported in a scientific journal. But it never has been. If so submitted with the bare-bones facts cited by researchers (e.g. early starting ages, many daily practice hours, two becoming grandmasters), would the usual claims for it pass reviewer scrutiny?”

Examination method

“Here, the Polgar case was examined closely. Each sister’s expertise development was quantified
and compared with the other sisters’ development and with other groups and an individual. Two
data sets were used; longitudinal rating data from the international chess federation (FIDE) and data
from an online survey. Practice in chess is defined here as playing games and studying chess material
(Howard, 2009).
One comparison group was other players entering the international chess domain around the same
time; between the sisters’ entry dates of July 1980 and January 1987. The sisters had much more
practice on average because the other players mostly attended school, and there are no reports of
others having a Polgar-type upbringing. Most players do not study a lot. Charness, Tuffiash, Krampe,
Reingold, and Vasyukova (2005) reported a mean 6.3 h per week of “serious study” in chess players.
A second comparison was with an archetypal chess prodigy (ACP, born in 1990). He entered the
domain in January 2001, with a later start than the sisters (he reports taking up the game seriously at
age 8), gained the grandmaster title at age 13, and reached the number one ranking spot at age 19 in
2010. He lacked a Polgar upbringing and must have received much less practice, as detailed below.”

“The sisters started serious practice around the same age and studied about the same number of
hours daily, often being coached together (Polgar & Truong, 2005). Yet there are wide differences in
their rating development and their peak ratings.”

Conclusions

When examined closely, the Polgar case does not show that almost anyone can become a grandmaster
and that practice alone is key. From starting age to the late 1990s, the Polgars probably received
more practice than anyone ever has. Despite their much greater practice levels, two sisters’ peak ratings
are quite comparable to those of other players first on the list around the same time and to those
of eight surveyed and much less practiced grandmasters, and are well below that of less-practiced
ACP. If only practice and an early start were important, there should have been little difference among
them in their rating trajectories and peak ratings. All should have made the top ten and they should
have had a lasting stranglehold on the open world championship. A plausible alternative account is
that the Polgars have much natural talent for chess, one sister has more than the others, and ACP has
more than all three. No claim is being made here that the data presented show the existence of natural
talent, only that this interpretation is plausible.
The present study has limitations. It was not possible to directly survey the Polgars or ACP nor
to administer any tests to them. One might argue that some kind of practice really was key, that
training methods have improved and this somehow accounts for the results, or that everyone in the
present study on the list from 1980 to 1987 really had a Polgar upbringing. One could argue that too
many variables are confounded, or that ACP received some very special type of practice. Nature and
nurture are notoriously difficult to separate and there is no claim that they were separated here. Such
objections are irrelevant to the present purposes of demonstrating that an interpretation of the Polgar
evidence that invokes natural talent is plausible. In conclusion, the Polgar case does not stand up to
the claims often made for it.”