Flowing With Intuition

After moving to Hendersonville, NC, I found myself sitting across the chess board playing a speed game at the weekly chess club from Expert Jimmy Hardy. It was my move. I saw the opportunity to retreat my Queen, bringing it back to the center of the board where it would be surrounded by enemy pieces. Nevertheless, it looked like a strong move.
I was never much of a speed chess player and have always thought the reason was because I began playing chess as an adult. While playing speed chess I would often see what to me was a beautiful position and wish there were more time to look into the depths of the position. Sometimes I would try to remember the position so it could be looked at later. When I mentioned this to Big Al after losing yet another speed game after my flag fell, he said, “That’s crazy.” The last time we played speed chess Al won again. He got up from the board saying, “It happens every game…You have a winning position and I win on time. This is no fun.” I beat Oscar Al Hamilton in only twenty moves in what would now be called a “classical” game at a Thad Rogers event, called by the Legendary Georgia Ironman “another nameless, faceless weekend swiss.” Big Al got up after resigning saying, “Nobody beats me like that. NOBODY!” It was only years later I realized how much the loss had affected our relationship.
Another time I was facing Uylsses Martin, a man who had served seven years in the state penitentiary for murder before being paroled. I sat there contemplating whether of not to move my h-pawn and launch an attack. The logical, “Mr. Spock” side of my brain was arguing with the intuitive, “Captain Kirk” side and I went with Spock holding back the pawn move, hoping to make the pawn move next. Without even writing down my move, Uylsses immediately played a move to prevent my moving the wing pawn. I looked at him and sort of grinned. He looked back at me as if to say, “What?” I went on to win that game, but it took much longer than it would have if I had listened to Kirk. As an aside, I won another game against Uylsses, one of the nicest fellows you could ever meet, when his flag fell before he made his twenty fifth move!
I could give many more examples, but you get my drift. Because of the battle between Spock and Kirk that has raged in my brain over the course of my chess career I have been interested in reading about chess intuition. Just this week a new book, “The Enigma of Chess Intuition,” by Valeri Beim, arrived. The book, in excellent condition, cost only $7.95, plus shipping.
The Ironman has a book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymund Stolze. Like the aforementioned book, it too is published by New in Chess. I allowed Tim to open “Enigma” and the first thing he said was, “If it’s published by New in Chess you know it has got to be good!” When young and on his way toward the battle for the World Championship with Mikhail Botvinnik, Tal was a creative genius who was an intuitive player. He played moves that defied calculation by humans of the day. Computer programs may be able to refute some of Tal’s moves now, but human players were unable to do so “back in the day.” Just how much chess programs have affected the game of chess is illustrated by this from GM Rafael Vaganian in an interview with Sergey Kim on the chess24.com website:
“Sergey Kim: Both at the board and simply in life you met all the Soviet world champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov. The world champions of the twentieth century – of your generation – and the champions of the third millennium – first and foremost, Carlsen: how do they differ?
Rafael Vaganian: It’s hard to compare, because the chess is totally different. Those champions worked in another setting, playing another kind of chess. With no computers, they worked and created on their own, and their creativity was immense. If they found something it was with their own minds, while now there are these amazing programs. Theory has “grown” to 30-35 moves, and you simply can’t compare the two types of chess. Frankly speaking, I don’t like modern chess, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. After all, a person isn’t capable of remembering so much, so they simply suffer because of it. They need to remember and learn it all, but then what of creativity? They barely play at the board, but at home, and that’s bad.
I consider those champions to have been greats, though perhaps that’s natural, since I’m a chess player of that generation – the Soviet School – and it all means a lot to me. I find modern chess alien, so it’s possible I’m not objective. Botvinnik, Karpov, Kasparov – they beat everyone for 10-12 years in a row, while for me the thirteenth champion is a separate topic. The way Kasparov and his group worked was incredible. They were a class above the rest and therefore he crushed everyone. Garry won a huge number of games in the opening. His preparation was colossal! But he found moves himself at the board rather than the computer coming up with them. Back then people still beat computers, while now even the world champion can’t beat a computer.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/rafael-vaganian-anand-won-t-lose)
After one tournament Gail told me Big Al had mentioned to her that I was “trying too hard.” I gave his words considerable thought, coming to the conclusion Al was right. When at my best I did not have to try so hard because it seemed easy and just kind of flowed. Many years later, after devoting all my time and energy to backgammon, chess was anything but easy. When playing baseball I had to give it my all since I was smaller than the other players. When a senior in high school I was awarded a small trophy that meant all the world to me because my teammates had voted it to me for being the player that best showed what our coach called the “105” spirit. We chattered “105” on the field that year, which meant giving that little extra. It was the only way I knew to play, and it carried over into my chess.
I read something earlier this year by a Go player, Michael Redmond, that seems applicable to a discussion of intuition. “The charismatic Redmond, an American, is one of very few non-Asian Go celebrities. He began playing professionally in Japan at the age of 18, and remains the only Westerner to ever reach 9-dan, the game’s highest rank.”
“The trouble is that identifying Go moves that deserve attention is often a mysterious process. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know,” Redmond told me, as we stood in front of the projector screen watching Crazy Stone take back Nomitan’s initial lead. “It’s something subconscious, that you train through years and years of playing. I’ll see a move and be sure it’s the right one, but won’t be able to tell you exactly how I know. I just see it.” (From-The Mystery of Go, the Ancient Game That Computers Still Can’t Win, by Alan Levinovitz 05.12.14)
http://www.wired.com/2014/05/the-world-of-computer-go/
Substitute “chess” for “Go” above and you will understand, grasshopper. “You’ll be looking at the board and just know.” You do not have to calculate, and sometimes it will not matter because no matter how long you calculate you will never to be completely certain as there are just too many possibilities.
Intuition can be found in every endeavor. For example, in a 1997 interview with Robert Hilburn, found in the “Dylan Companion,” while referring to Neil Young in the song “Highlands” from the “Time Out of Mind” album, Bob says, “It’s anything you want it to be. I don’t give much thought to individual lines. If I thought about them in any kind of deep way, maybe I wouldn’t use them because I’d always be second-guessing myself. I learned a long time ago to trust my intuition.”
In a 1995 interview in the USA TODAY not long after his “Unplugged” performance, Dylan said, “As you get older, you get smarter and that can hinder you because you try to gain control over the creative impulse. Creativity is not like a freight train going down the tracks. It’s something that has to be caressed and treated with a great deal of respect. If your mind is intellectually in the way, it will stop you. You’ve got to program your brain not to think too much.”
The first line reminds me of Mikhail Tal. His style of play changed as he grew older. Part of it may have been a natural process, but being forced to work with Karpov also had a lasting effect on his style of play.
What it all boils down to is that one must go with the flow and play what you know, Joe. This is exactly what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a “Positive psychologist,” means when he says that flow is, “A state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.” (http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en)
Viswanathan Anand lost his “flow” but somehow managed to get back into the flow for the Candidates tournament, one of the most amazing things in the history of chess.
After losing the game to Jimmy, our friend NM Neal Harris walked over, asking the result. Jimmy said, “I won, but take a look at this position!” He immediately set up the position to which I referred at the beginning of this article. Jimmy looked at Neal with blazing eyes and said, while moving the Queen to the middle of the board, “Mike missed this crushing blow. I don’t see how I can continue after this move.” The two mountain men continued moving the pieces around while I debated telling them I had actually seen the move, but rejected it. Instead I said, “Yeah, that looks like a real strong move.”

Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan

What’s the matter with me
I don’t have much to say
Daylight sneakin’ through the window
And I’m still in this all-night café
Walkin’ to and fro beneath the moon
Out to where the trucks are rollin’ slow
To sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow

Wish I was back in the city
Instead of this old bank of sand
With the sun beating down over the chimney tops
And the one I love so close at hand
If I had wings and I could fly
I know where I would go
But right now I’ll just sit here so contentedly
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing on all just about everything, yeah
Makes you stop and all wonder why
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
Who just couldn’t help but cry
Oh, this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

People disagreeing everywhere you look
Makes you wanna stop and read a book
Why only yesterday I saw somebody on the street
That was really shook
But this ol’ river keeps on rollin’, though
No matter what gets in the way and which way the wind does blow
And as long as it does I’ll just sit here
And watch the river flow

Watch the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
Watchin’ the river flow
But I’ll sit down on this bank of sand
And watch the river flow
Copyright © 1971 by Big Sky Music; renewed 1999 by Big Sky Music

Bob Dylan Watching The River Flow

http://njnnetwork.com/2010/01/bob-dylan-watching-the-river-flow/

LEON RUSSELL, WATCHING THE RIVER FLOW

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The Escape Artist

The Legendary Georgia Ironman and I had time last night for a brief discussion of the chess action happening this weekend. One of the topics discussed was the fact that the human World Champion played the Bishop’s Opening proper yesterday against Fabiano Caruano. As regular readers know, the BO, “The truth– as it was known in those far-off days,” according to Savielly Tartakower, has been one of my favorite openings ever since reading his quote in “500 Hundred Master games of Chess.” (see the book in GM Bryan Smith’s excellent article http://www.chess.com/article/view/my-bookshelf-quot500-master-games-of-chessquot-by-savielly-tartakower-and-j-du-mont). Magnus played the opening horribly, and lost. GM Yasser Seirawan questioned the moves of the World Human Champion, especially the move 11 Bg3. I questioned 13 h3, which allowed the Bishop to take the Knight, forcing White to capture with the f-pawn, disrupting the pawn structure in a horrible way. It is obvious things have gone terribly wrong after 14 fxg3. When Magnus played the move Qd8, after 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3, against Caruano at the Olympiad, I mentioned to Tim that players would now start playing the move, long discredited since Bobby Fischer beat Karl Robatsch in 20 moves at the Olympiad in Varna in 1962 and William Addison in 24 moves at the Interzonal at Palma de Mallorca in 1970, since Magnus had won the game. I also brought up the fact that before the HWC played the move, I had mentioned the possibility of purchasing the book, “The 3…Qd8 Scandinavian: Simple and Strong” by Daniel Lowinger and Karsten Müller, which brought ridicule from the Ironman. Last night I wondered aloud if players would now begin to play the BO because Magnus had played it. Before the Ironman could respond, I added, “Probably not since he lost.” Tim said, “The opening did not let Magnus down, Magnus let the opening down.”
One of the great things about chess is that a lesser player can question the moves of the great players. We may not often be right, but like that blind squirrel, we will occasionally find an acorn. Back in the day “BC” (before computers), we had to try and figure it out for ourselves. If a GM played a move, we accepted it as gospel. Today we turn on our “engine” and the “truth” is right in front of us. In a way this is a wonderful thing in that we now know if our move is better than the human World Champion. On the other hand, we now know that even the best human player is, well, human, and we humans make mistakes. As the Discman said, back in the day Grandmasters were “Gods.” Which makes me think of the famous speech by JFK in which he said, “…and we are all mortal.”

Schmuggy sent me an email last night after his game with Damir Studen, which I opened after noon:
Kevin Schmuggerow
Today at 1:09 AM
I had this one Michael, let it get away….
> e4 d5 ed Qd5 Nc3 Qa5 d4 c6 Bc4 Nf6 Ne2 g6 Bf4 Nd7 Qd2 Nb6 Bb3 Nbd4 Be5 Nc3 Nc3 Bg7 OOO OO h4 h5 f3 Ne8 Qg5 e6 Rhe1 Kh7 Qe7 Kg8 g4 Be5 Re5 Qc7 Qg5 Kg7 gh5 Rh8 Qg2 Rh6 Rg5 Qf4+ Kb1 Qh4 hg6 Rg6 Ne4 Rg5 Ng5 Kf6 f4 Nd6 Qf3 Qh6 Rh8 a5 a4 Ra6 Qc3 Ke7 Qc5 Bd7….Ne4 wins!! Mate in 7 (I played Rb8 and eventually got my rook trapped)

Looks strange without the numbers, does it not? Thinking the game would most likely have to be transcribed, I decided to hold off on going to the US Masters website until later. Fortunately, the whole game was provided. I broke out my trusty small wooden board and pieces and played over the game. Here are my thoughts…

Kevin Schmuggerow (1971) vs Damir Studen (2264)
USM Rd 3
1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 c6 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. Nge2 g6 7. Bf4 Nbd7 8. Qd2 Nb6 9. Bb3 Nbd5 10. Be5 Nxc3 11. Nxc3 Bg7 12. O-O-O O-O 13. h4 h5 14. f3 Ne8 15. Qg5 e6 16. Rhe1 Kh7 17. Qe7 Kg8 18. g4 Bxe5 19. Rxe5 Qc7 20. Qg5 Kg7 21. gxh5 Rh8 22. Qg2 Rh6 23. Rg5 Qf4 24. Kb1 Qxh4 25. hxg6 Rxg6 26. Ne4 Rxg5 27. Nxg5 Kf6 28. f4 Nd6 29. Qf3 Qh6 30. Rh1 Qg6 31. Rh8 a5 32. a4 Ra6 33. Qc3 Ke7 34. Qc5 Bd7 35. Rb8 Qf5 36. Qe5 f6 37. Qxf5 exf5 38. Nh7 Bc8 39. c4 Be6 40. d5 cxd5 41. c5 Ne4 42. Rxb7 Bd7 43. c6 Rxc6 44. Nf8 Nc5 45. Ng6 Kd6 46. Rb5 Ra6 47. Bc2 Bxb5 48. axb5 Rb6 0-1

Wow, Damir was sooooooo busted! Poor Schmuggy…This game reminds me of many I played. If only IM Charles Hertan’s award winning book, “Forcing Moves” had been published in the 1970’s… Two things kept me from becoming a stronger player, one is not winning enough “won” games. The other will be discussed in a future post.
Damir’s 14th move looks weak. After 15 Qg5, white is all over him. After the obligatory 15…e6 Schmuggy played 16 Rhe1. I have to question this move. I mean, White is attacking the Kingside and threatening to open up the castled King position, so why move the Rook? I sat looking at this position quite a while…Obviously 16 g4 must be considered, but I wonder if this is one of those positions where a world class player would simply make a move like 16 Kb1? Then the thought hit me that Schmuggy could have played maybe 16 a3, but I like Kb1 better, but what do I know? One thing I have always taught my students is to count the total number of points one has in a sector, especially when one is on the attack. As it now stands White has a Queen, Rook, and Bishop, or 17 points, on the Kingside. Black has only a Rook, Bishop, and Knight, or 11 points. If White were to play 16 Ne4 he would have an additional 3 points, for a total of 20 points, versus 11. That is a huge disparity. And since Black has been forced to weaken himself with his last move, the Knight move takes advantage of the weakened dark squares. 16 Ne4 would be my move. Black would then be in “deep do.”
Schmuggy is right, 35 Ne4 brings the house down. It wins because it is a FORCING MOVE. The knight on d6 is PINNED. Another thing all chess teachers say is, “Pin to win.”

After going over the game I first went to the Chess Base database (http://database.chessbase.com/js/apps/onlinedb/) and 365chess (http://www.365chess.com/) to check out the opening. What I found was that Damir’s 7…Nbd7 is a TN. All games show 7…Bg7. Since the Scandinavian is Damir’s main (only?) defense to 1 e4 it is difficult to believe he came up with this move over the board. I must assume it was “home cooking.” It often happens that one can be burned while cooking at home.
Next it was put it into my now antiquated Houdini. I am sure you will do the same because that is what is done these daze. Some even put it into the machine before looking at it and thinking for themselves. Where is the fun in that? I find it shameful. After analyzing the game, my Houdini said, “The player with the Black pieces was the real Houdini in this game!”
What? Your computer program does not talk to you?

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) – Rupert Holmes

Do you, Mister Jones?

I am usually shocked when receiving praise for my writing. I would not be shocked if someone said, “Mr. Bacon, I knew a writer. He was a friend of mine. Mr. Bacon, you are no writer.” All my life I have been an avid reader, and admire those who can actually write. As a writer I think of myself in the same way I think of Dubious Dave Kraft, a career class “B” player good enough to have crossed into the “A” class. One time the Legendary Georgia Ironman was at the Dube’s apartment, a place we called the “Love Shack.” The Ironman was showing the Dube and I one of his games from a recent tournament, a game Tim had won. While analyzing the Dubious wonder continually kept making outlandishly ridiculous suggestions, some so inept they would lose a piece, or worse. “Come on Dave, that’s absurd,” Tim would say. After half an hour of this the Dube found a move for Tim’s opponent. It was a killer and if played it would have brought the Ironman’s house down. Try as he might, the Ironman could not refute Dubious Dave’s move. Dave got up from the board and did his best impression of Gene Wilder, in the movie with co-star Richard Pryor “Stir Crazy,” when they entered jail and were strutting around saying, “We bad. We BAD!” It was hilarious. This was more than the Ironman could take, so he left in a huff.
Marlene Dietrich said, “I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself.” I too have always had an affinity for quotations. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” I cannot recall the exact quote, but it went something like, “One must speak up as otherwise the universe will not know you exist.” Harriet Martineau said, “Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.” I spend a great deal of time thinking, and am thankful to have people read, and hopefully discuss, my thoughts. John Kenneth Galbraith said, “The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” Paul Valery said, “That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false.”
If I write what is expected readers will not think because I will have given them nothing about which to cogitate. With that in mind I cannot help but think of a quote from Malaclypse the Younger, “‘Tis an ill wind that blows no minds.”
Every writer has his critics, which reminds me of another quote, “Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.” Christopher Hampton said that, bless his heart!
I will admit being stung when reading a reply to my post which was posted on the USCF website, “What Constitutes a “Serious Game?” (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=20054&sid=ab4e81666a42c1a494cd3f3cdb98879e), when Thomas Magar wrote, ” Otherwise, just shut up and watch.” Reading that hit me like a cold slap in the face. In another time and different circumstances, say the decade before the War For Southern Independence, circa 1856, and Mr. Magar and I were in the US Congress and Senate, it might cause one to take up a cane, as Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina did when he strode into the United States Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C., and began beating Senator Charles Sumner with a gold-topped walking cane. (see: The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War by Stephen Puleo)
In the epilogue (“The text in the epilogue by Mikhail Tal was taken from the article ‘The puzzle that is Tal’ The manuscript was given in autumn 1993 by the then 77 year old trainer and friend of the eighth World Chess Champion Alexander Koblents to the co-author of this book Raymond Stolze for publication”), titled, “An unbroken love for chess,” by Mikhail Tal, in the five star book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymond Stolze, Misha writes:
“Chess is my world. It is not a house or a fortress in which I barricade myself against human cares, but the world which I enjoy to the full, because I am active in it. I love the atmosphere of tournaments, the matches and last but not least discussions about the art of chess, although not everyone is of the same opinion. Many of my friends, perhaps the majority of them, do not play chess or only have a lay person’s understanding of it. And yet I have above all one thing in common with them-the love of chess! And in this sense we grandmasters are necessary for them-just as they are for us…”

This is the best answer ever given to a critic:

Bob Dylan – Ballad Of A Thin Man (Vinyl rip)

The Inherent Risk In Chess

Is This a “Serious” Game?
IM Pavlov, Sergey (2470) – GM Brodsky, Michail (2556)
18th Voronezh Master Open 2014 Voronezh RUS (4.9), 2014.06.15
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bc1 Nf6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bc1 ½-½
What about this one?
Fedorov, Alexei – Khalifman, Alexander
18th Voronezh Master Open 2014 Voronezh RUS (9.1), 2014.06.21
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Ng5 Rf8 12.Nf3 Re8 13.Ng5 Rf8 ½-½
(From: http://www.theweekinchess.com/chessnews/events/18th-voronezh-chess-festival-2014)
The Discman sent me two responses to my previous post, “What Constitutes a “Serious Game?” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/what-constitutes-a-serious-game/) These are the words of the Discman:
“6 moves? 1 move? 15 moves that are all main line theory? 30 moves that the 2 players have played before in a previous encounter? They are all the same in my book as they require no thought from the players and do not constitute a competition.
Your scenario where the Super Bowl teams agree to a draw after the 1st quarter would indeed be terrible but it could not happen, as it is not within the rules. The Super Bowl cannot (by rule) end in a tie. It’s one of the advantages the game of football has over chess.
Hockey and soccer shoot-outs are ridiculous methods of breaking a tie, as a shoot-out has nothing to do with the way the game is played. It would be like breaking a draw in chess by arm-wrestling, or seeing who could recite all the World Champions in correct order the fastest, or seeing who could throw their King into the air the highest.”
The next one:
“I hear what you’re saying but the nature of chess is such that a significant percentage of high-level games at slow time controls will end in draws.
That being the case, there are times when a draw will be beneficial (or at least will not damage) a player’s standing in an event.
If you forced GM’s not to take draws prior to move 30 or 40, they could easily do this, as opening theory extends past move 30 in many lines of the more well-trodden openings.
GM’s could simply play out one of those lines that ends in a “=” after move 35 and agree to a draw.
It is not uncommon for GM’s to play 20 or 25 moves that have all been played many times and then agree to a draw; it would be easy enough for them to extend this to move 30.
The only way I can think of to discourage draws is to award different point values for wins and draws as White vs. Black. This has been suggested by many, going back many years.
For example, 1.1 for a win as Black and .9 for White and .55 for a draw as Black and .45 for White.
Now all of a sudden that last-round quick draw to split the 1st & 2nd prize pool no longer works as planned.
This introduces all kinds of additional issues (e.g. what if there are an odd number of rounds in a tournament – is it then actually an advantage to have 3 Blacks and only 2 Whites?).”
Chris made me reflect on something I read in the stupendous book, “From London to Elista,” by Evgeny Bareev & Ilya Levitov. The fifth match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik began with the moves, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. a3 Nc6 11. Bd3 Bb6 12. O-O Bg4 13. h3 Bh5 14. b4 Re8 15. Rc1 a6 16. Bxa6.
Imagine these same moves having been played by an IM versus a GM in an Open event. The GM, who had been out late drinking and carousing the previous evening knowing he would be paired down the next day, has been making routine moves in an opening he knows well. His opponent’s move startles him, and he is immediately awakened from his stupor. “Damn,” he thinks to himself, “I knew I should have stopped after knocking back that second Jagermiester!” He sits surveying the board thinking, “I know this position. Anand managed to hold a draw against Karpov at Moscow, 2002, but Leko ground down Kramnik after making him suffer in the match for the World Championship.” As he sits racking his brain for the next moves the thought occurs, “Why don’t I offer this lowly IM a draw? That way I can go back to the room and sober up.” Deciding that is the only course of action, he moves his hand toward the Rook in order to take the Bishop and as he touches the Rook he is struck by a spasm. His hand now holding the Rook displaces several pieces. “Ja’doube; Ja’doube!” he says, while desperately putting the pieces back in place. He then looks at his opponent to offer a draw, but before he can do so he is struck by the thought, “What if he does NOT ACCEPT?!” Meekly and plaintively he manages to mutter, “Draw?”
Kramnik blundered horribly, and instructively, in the WC game. Since he had won the first game, this brought the score to even, at 2 1/2 apiece. The next game turned out to be the most critical of the match. The subtitle of this game in the book is: “A HUNGARIAN WITH NO HUNGER”
Leko-Kramnik, WC match game #6
1.e4 e5 2.f3 c6 3.b5 a6 4.a4 f6 5.O-O e7 6.e1 b5 7.b3 O-O 8.h3 b7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 a5 11.a2 c5 12.bd2 c6 13.c3 d7 14.f1 d5 15.g5 dxe4 16.dxe4 c4 17.e3 fd8 18.f5 e6 19.e2 f8 20.b1 h6 1/2-1/2
At the end of the game it is written, “While making this move, Leko offered a draw-probably prematurely.” After providing some variations we have, “Possibly Peter reckoned that a moral victory in the opening debate was fully satisfactory for him. And most probably he was simply following the plan he had decided upon after Game 1. Match score: 3-3.” This concluded the annotations of the game.
Many words have been written about what could have possibly movitated Peter Leko to not press his advantage, not only in this game, but in the match, since he now had the “momentum.” What struck me is what was written next.
“But no one will ever prove to me that some kind of basic match strategy or overall general plan exists that is able-even in the name of a Grand Plan to become World Champion-to justify a withdrawal from the Struggle, going against the very essence and profound spirit of The Great Game which doesn’t recognise compromise and conciliationa and demands wholehearted devotion and passionate fanaticism, but lavishly rewards the chosen madmen who acknowledge and accept the Rules.”
In all my decades of reading about the Royal game those words are some of the most powerful and profound ever written. It goes to the heart of the matter. It is the answer to the question of why we play this game, or any game, for that matter. It is simply incomprehensible to believe Bobby Fischer would have even considered offering a draw to World Champion Boris Spassky in their 1972 match for the title in the exact same position Peter Leko found himself in his match. The same could be said for current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who is undisputely the best human player on the planet.
Peter Leko lost the match, and his chance to become World Chess Champion. He has the rest of his life to answer the question. I hope is not a weak-minded person, because obsessing over “What might have been” has been known to have driven people insane.
The book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymond Stolze, contains a prologue, “Knowledge? Intuition? Risk?” written by Tal. It is borrowed from issue #1/1991 of the ‘Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftlich-literarische Beitrage zum Schachspiel’.
“What then can be considered a risk in chess? Does a chess player intentionally take a risk?
If we identify the concept of ‘knowledge’ with a sort of scientific approach to chess, if we place intuition in the realms of art, then to continue with the allegory risk should be linked to sport. It can even be expressed in the terms of the proverb: ‘Whoever does not take any risks never wins anything’. I should like to add to this that in my opinion a chess player is not really taking a risk till he knows what he is risking.”
“A chess player has sacrificed a piece for an attack although that was not strictly necessary. Does that mean he is taking a risk? There is no doubt about that because his attack can be beaten off and his opponent’s extra piece comes back at him like a boomerang.
Fine then, but what about the position of the player who has accepted the sacrifice (although he should decline it) and in doing so reckons that he can beat off the attack? Is he risking something? Of course he is! After all, the attack may be successful.
Who then is taking the risk? There are no scales which are able to determine this.”
I can only add to this my feeling that any player who offers, or agrees to split the point without playing a serious game is someone who plays without risking anything. If that is the case, what then is the point of playing the game?
For the record I give the complete game score of the 5th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik.
Leko,Peter (2741) – Kramnik,Vladimir (2770) [D37]
World Championship Brissago (5), 02.10.2004
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 exd5 10.a3 Nc6 11.Bd3 Bb6 12.0–0 Bg4 13.h3 Bh5 14.b4 Re8 15.Rc1 a6 16.Bxa6 Rxa6 17.b5 Rxa3 18.bxc6 bxc6 19.Rxc6 Ra7 20.Rd6 Rd7 21.Qxd5 Rxd6 22.Qxd6 Qxd6 23.Bxd6 Bxf3 24.gxf3 Bd8 25.Rb1 Bf6 26.Kg2 g6 27.f4 Kg7 28.Rb7 Re6 29.Rd7 Re8 30.Ra7 Re6 31.Bc5 Rc6 32.Ra5 Bc3 33.Rb5 Ra6 34.Rb3 Bf6 35.Rb8 h5 36.Rb5 Bc3 37.Rb3 Bf6 38.e4 Ra5 39.Be3 Ra4 40.e5 Be7 41.Rb7 Kf8 42.Rb8+ Kg7 43.Kf3 Rc4 44.Ke2 Ra4 45.Kd3 Bh4 46.Bd4 Ra3+ 47.Kc2 Ra2+ 48.Kd3 Ra3+ 49.Kc4 Ra4+ 50.Kd5 Ra5+ 51.Kc6 Ra4 52.Kc5 Be7+ 53.Kd5 Ra5+ 54.Ke4 Ra4 55.Rc8 Bh4 56.e6+ Bf6 57.e7 Rxd4+ 58.Ke3 Bxe7 59.Kxd4 Bh4 60.f3 f5 61.Rc7+ Kf6 62.Kd5 Bg3 63.Rc6+ Kg7 64.Ke5 h4 65.Rc7+ Kh6 66.Rc4 Kg7 67.Ke6 Bh2 68.Rc7+ Kh6 69.Kf7 1–0