IM Boris Kogan was The Trainer

After publishing the two posts concerning IM Stuart Rachels I wanted to notify someone next door in the Great State of Alabama so I went to the Alabama Chess Federation website ( where a picture of NM Bill Melvin,

the Secretary of the ACF, was found. Although I never knew Bill other than the time we sat across from each other over the board the decision was made to reach out with an email:

“In the event you do not remember me I was fortunate enough to defeat you at the Lincoln Memorial U Open decades ago. I can tell you now that immediately prior to the game, after learning we were paired, Tim Brookshear said, “Bacon, you’re paired with the Oleg Romanishin of Southern Chess!” You lived up to the rep when sacking a pawn in the opening. I believe the opening was 1 e4 d5 2 exd5 c6 3 dxc6, etc. In lieu of playing in my customary “fire on the board” style I played my pawns close to my chest, or maybe it would be better to have written “Vest”, while hanging onto the pawn like it was a Titanic life raft!”

Part of the reply:


I understand procrastinating over reading chess books. I have a shelf full of unread ones. It took me only a year to get around to reading Stuart’s book.

I’m more interested in your stories about Boris than about Stuart’s short career. Boris played a lot in area tournaments and was always a bit of a mystery. Most of the anecdotes I heard came from the late Brian McCarthy (I played him a couple years ago at Castle Chess shortly before his passing).

Best Regards,


My first thought was, “A year?!” From the moment the book arrived it was opened and not put down until finished. The first post of the quasi review of Stuart’s book was ready to go but Bill’s words had resonated and it became apparent a preface of sorts was needed because IM Boris Kogan

Boris Kogan

was The Trainer. On page ten of the book it is written:

“Two players were vital for my development: Kyle Therrell (then called Dana), my best friend and local rival; and my trainer from the age of 12, IM Boris Kogan. From Kyle I learned all of my openings, one pairing at a time. Here was our drill: When the pairings were posted before a round, we’d hurry over to a quiet spot. ‘What does so-and-so play?’ I’d ask. My next question was, ‘What do I do against that?’ And finally I’d ask: ‘How is that supposed to be for White//Black?’ Without Kyle, I would have been lost – especially because Boris Kogan had no interest in opening theory. From Boris, I learned the finer points of position evaluation. Kogan played like Petrosian. ‘You must play seemple (itl) chess,’ he always told me. ‘Kviet(itl) moves.’ Thanks to Boris, I eventually became a weak strong player. Without him, I would only have become a dangerous patzer.”

The last two words stopped me in my tracks, causing me to recall a time when walking to the pairing board for the about to begin round and hearing someone say, “What do you mean? The guy is rated over two hundred points below you.” Then Dana Therrell replied, “Yeah, but the guy is dangerous because one round he can beat a master and then lose to a class C player the next round.” After seeing me they both left in a hurry. It was then I learned Dana would be my opponent. The game ended in a long, hard fought draw.

Who was Boris Kogan?

“International Master Boris Kogan, who died of colon cancer on Christmas Day in 1993, is best remembered for playing in three U.S. Championships and winning the Georgia state championship seven years in a row (1980-1986). He was also the coach of Stuart Rachels, helping him advance from being a young national master to sharing the U.S. Chess Championship. What isn’t so well known is that Kogan was a very promising player (Soviet Junior Champion in 1956 and 1957), before making the transition from player to coach at a very early age.”
Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club #696
January 23, 2015

The best way to illustrate how strong a player was IM Boris Kogan is this result:

New York open New York 1984

Apr, 1984 67 (players) 2427 (avg ELO) 276 (games) 9 (rounds)

GM Dzindzichashvili, Roman 2485 7.0
GM Portisch, Lajos 2625 6.5
GM Adorjan, Andras 2570 6.5
GM Sosonko, Gennadi 2560 6.5
GM Kavalek, Lubomir 2545 6.5
Kogan, Boris 2450 6.5
GM Browne, Walter S 2585 6.0
GM Gurevich, Dmitry 2545 6.0
GM Kudrin, Sergey 2520 6.0
GM Gheorghiu, Florin 2495 6.0
GM Hjartarson, Johann 2415 6.0
GM Ljubojevic, Ljubomir 2635 5.5
GM Fedorowicz, John P 2475 5.5
GM Lein, Anatoly 2475 5.5
GM Benko, Pal C 2450 5.5
Frias Pablaza, Victor J 2425 5.5
IM Haik, Aldo 2405 5.5
GM Alburt, Lev O 2515 5.0
GM De Firmian, Nick E 2515 5.0
IM McCambridge, Vincent 2465 5.0

One of the opponents Boris faced in this tournament was Canadian Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett:

Kevin Spraggett (2540) vs Boris Kogan (2450)
Event: New York op
Site: New York Date: ??/??/1984
Round: 5
ECO: A20 English opening
1.c4 e5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nc3 Ne7 5.e4 Nbc6 6.Nge2 d6 7.d3 O-O 8.O-O f5 9.exf5 Nxf5 10.Rb1 Nfd4 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.b4 a6 13.Be3 Rb8 14.a4 Be6 15.h3 h6 16.Kh2 g5 17.b5 a5 18.b6 c6 19.Ne4 Qd7 20.Bc1 Rf7 21.Ba3 Bf8 22.Qh5 Bf5 23.f4 exf4 24.gxf4 d5 25.Bxf8 Rbxf8 26.cxd5 cxd5 27.Nc3 Bxd3 28.Qxh6 Bxb1 29.Rxb1 Nf5 30.Qxg5+ Kh8 31.Nxd5 Qxa4 32.Rc1 Qd4 33.Rc7 a4 34.Qh5+ Kg8 35.Qg6+ Rg7 36.Qe6+ Kh7 37.Qe2 a3 38.Qh5+ Kg8 39.Rxg7+ Qxg7 40.Qe2 Qb2 41.Qg4+ Kh7 42.Qh5+ Nh6 43.Ne7 Rf6 44.Nd5 Rg6 0-1

Who is Kevin Spraggett?

Full name Kevin Spraggett
Country Canada
Born 10 November 1954
Montreal, Canada
Title GM

Kevin Spraggett (born 10 November 1954) is a Canadian chess grandmaster. He is the fourth Canadian to earn the grandmaster title, after Abe Yanofsky, Duncan Suttles and Peter Biyiasas. Spraggett is the only Canadian to have qualified for the Candidates’ level, having done so in 1985 and 1988. He has won a total of eight Canadian Open Chess Championships, seven Closed Canadian Chess Championships, and has represented Canada eight times in Olympiad play. Spraggett has also written for Canadian chess publications.

These days Kevin is probably better known for his excellent blog,, though it has been quite some time since Kevin has posted. GM Spraggett wrote that he, and other GMs, considered Boris a fellow Grandmaster without the title. Please note that the above game, and the one below, were played when Kevin was at the top of his game. The next year he qualified as a contender for the right to play the World Champion by qualifying for the Candidates matches.

The only Canadian ever to have qualified for a candidates tournament was Kevin Spraggett of Montreal, who played in the 1985 and 1988-89 tournaments. He made it to the quarter-finals in his second attempt.

Kevin Spraggett (2540) vs Boris M Kogan (2450)
Date: 1984
Event: World Open
Round: 1
Opening: English Opening, Anglo-Slav Variation, General (A11)
Problems: 53159

  1. c4 c6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. d4 d5 4. Qc2 g6 5. e3 Bg7 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. Bd3 c5 8. cxd5 cxd4 9. e4 e6 10. dxe6 Bxe6 11. O-O Nc6 12. a3 Rc8 13. Qb1 Ng4 14. b4 Nce5 15. Bb2 Nxd3 16. Qxd3 Rc3 17. Qb1 Qb6 18. Bxc3 dxc3 19. Nb3 c2 20. Qxc2 Bxb3 21. Qxb3 Bxa1 22. h3 Nxf2 23. Rxf2 Rc8 24. Qa2 Bg7 25. Kh2 Qd6+ 26. g3 Rc3 27. e5 Qe6 28. Qd2 Bxe5 29. Re2 Rxf3 0-1

Boris died without being awarded the title of Grandmaster, which is a shame because many Grandmasters told me he was a Grandmaster, including but not limited to, Walter Browne, Larry Christiansen, and John Fedorowicz. If your peers consider you to be a Grandmaster who cares what some antiquated organization says or does?

I thought of Boris when reading an excellent article in the 2020 #1 issue of New In Chess entitled, Kamran Shirazi ‘I Never Stopped Loving This Game’: A legendary player still chasing the Grandmaster title, by Dylan Loeb McClain. In the article Shirazi said, ‘I put my whole spirit into this and not to be a grandmaster is a little bit too much.’

‘I put my whole spirit into this and not to be a grandmaster is a little bit too much.’

In order to earn the Grandmaster title a player must jump through many hoops. FIDE, the world governing body of Chess, has instituted many picayune rules and In order to earn the Grandmaster title a player must jump through many hoops.

Cruel twist of fate

Frustrated with the relatively few tournaments that offered grandmaster norms, Shirazi moved to France, in 1994. Though he was already in his 40s, he experienced a rebirth and his results in tournaments with grandmaster norms improved.

In a 1998 tournament in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, a seaside town in Northern France, he gained his first norm. Four years later, in Cannes, he earned his second. And then, another four years later, in 2006, in Metz, he earned his third and final norm needed for the title. That should have been enough, but for a cruel twist of fate. During the Cannes tournament, in the penultimate round, he reached his peak rating: 2499, only a point shy of what he needed for the title. According to the rules, achieving a rating of 2500 once in a lifetime is sufficient, even if the required norms are gained later. If Shirazi had won or drawn his final game, his rating would have been over 2500. But he did not know how close he was – it was still a time before rating updates were done after each round. So, in the final round, Shirazi overpressed in a good position and lost. He ended the tournament with a rating of 2486. ‘I missed by one point’, he said, with a hint of incredulity.

I mention this because of something seen in the last round of a Chess tournament in New Orleans, the Plaza in Lake Forest tournament, if memory serves. The two top rated players were Kamran Shirazi and Boris Kogan, and it came down to a battle with only seconds on the clock. The two combatants were moving with such speed it was difficult to follow the moves. Boris had a time advantage and the players were moving at blitz speed when, all of a sudden, Shirazi STOPPED THE CLOCK! Boris took that as a resignation, but Shirazi said he stopped the clock because it was obvious they were only moving the same pieces around and the tournament director should have stepped in and declared the game a draw by repetition. Boris scoffed, but honesty compels me to agree that Shirazi had a point. The problem was that the TD was unqualified and had absolutely no clue what to do. There had been a group of at least a couple of dozen players watching who had been electrified by what they had just witnessed. Although Boris could speak English, it was somewhat mangled, and I became his spokesman. Shirazi also had his spokesman and there was a shouting match between the two of us. Keep in mind this was a time when the Iranians had defied convention and taken United States citizens working at the embassy hostage. My counterpart invited me to “step outside.” The answer was fired immediately. “Let’s go, dude. I’ve got at least a couple of dozen red-blooded Americans right here, right now, ready to step outside with a couple of IRANIANS!!!” Kamran and his buddy beat a hasty retreat to the hotel… The tournament director later paid out the prize money as if the game had been drawn, and the USCF backed him up. Boris never got over it, lamenting, “He stopped the clock…”

If one did not know how FIDE has operated over the decades it would be difficult to understand why neither player became a Grandmaster. Certainly both players were of Grandmaster caliber and both should have been awarded the title because the title has been awarded to much lesser players. Because of things like this the title has lost its luster.

US Senior: Larry C. vs The Kentucky Lion

While the majority of the attention of the Chess World has been focused on the World Cup I have been focusing my attention on the US Senior, and US Junior, championships being contested in St. Louis, which is now considered a Covid “hot spot.” St. Louis County Is Now A ‘Red Zone’ For COVID-19, According To The CDC. A third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is coming, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force warned yesterday. (

The hottest Chess spot in the USA is at the St. Louis Chess Club, where the intrepid boys, girls, and Men are battling it out over a Chess board in three separate tournaments, the US Senior; US Junior; and a completely separate “US Girls Junior Championship.”

Before the US Senior began I predicted the winner to be either Alexander Shabalov, or Larry Christiansen,

a man with whom I stayed up all night playing Backgammon, after he beat me handily at a simultaneous exhibition sponsored by Church’s Fried Chicken in the 1970s. I won the Backgammon battle. Larry kept looking at me with a look that said, “I beat this chumpy-lumpy like a drum at Chess. Why am I losing to the guy at Backgammon?” The stake was only a quarter a point, far below the stake for which I usually played, but it was Larry C., and Chess players don’t have much money, even those traveling the country giving simuls. Larry spent the night at the home of former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker, which is where we “rolled the bones.” Still, that twenty five cents would now be worth about two bucks, Chuck, if you get my drift…

Yesterday Larry had to face the Kentucky Lion, Gregory Kaidanov,!/quality/90/? Photo by: Claire Crouch

who had run away from the field, scoring 5 1/2 points in the first 6 rounds! He was a full point ahead of Larry C. at 4 1/2, who was a point and a half ahead of the four players with 3 points. Larry C. was in need of a victory. What do you play against an opponent who is obviously in form in that situation? You bring out “The truth as it was known in those far off days.”

Larry Christiansen (2634) Age: 65 vs Gregory Kaidanov (2626) Age: 61

U.S. Senior Championship 2021 round 07

C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

  1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 Nc6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Ne2 d5 6. exd5 Nxd5 7. O-O Be6 8. Bxd5 Bxd5 9. f4 f6 10. fxe5 Nxe5 11. Nxd5 Qxd5 12. c3 Bd6 13. Nf4 Qf7 14. d4 O-O-O 15. Qa4 a6 16. dxe5 Bc5+ 17. Kh1 fxe5 18. Re1 exf4 19. Bxf4 Rhf8 20. Be5 g6 21. Qg4+ Qd7 22. Qc4 Qd5 23. Qg4+ Qd7 24. Qc4 Qd5 25. Qg4+ ½-½
  1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 Nc6 (SF plays 3…c6) 4. Nc3 (SF plays 4 Nf3) 4….Bb4 5. Ne2 (SF 080221 @depth50 plays this move, but the same engine chuggin’ only one more ply would play 5 Nf3) 5…d5 6. exd5 Nxd5 7. O-O Be6 8. Bxd5 Bxd5 9. f4 f6 (SF 13 @depth 41 plays the game move, but SF 14 @depth 33 would play 9…Bxc3) 10. fxe5 Nxe5 (SF takes with the knight, but Houdini would take with the pawn. There is only one game, found at 365Chess, with 10…fxe5, which can be found below) 11. Nxd5

(Komodo shows this move, but Deep Fritz would play 11 d4, which was played in:

GM Alexander Zaitsev 2473 RUS vs GM Klementy Sychev 2537 RUS

Wch Blitz 2018

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bc4 Nc6 4.d3 Bb4 5.Ne2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.O-O Be6 8.Bxd5 Bxd5 9.f4 f6 10.fxe5 Nxe5 11.d4 Nc6 12.Nxd5 Qxd5 13.c3 Bd6 14.Nf4 Bxf4 15.Bxf4 O-O-O 16.Qf3 Qxf3 17.Rxf3 Rhe8 18.Kf2 Rd7 19.Re3 Rxe3 20.Bxe3 a5 21.a4 Re7 22.g4 Kd7 23.Rg1 Rf7 24.h4 Ne7 25.c4 Nc6 26.Bd2 Nxd4 27.Bxa5 Nc6 28.Bc3 f5 29.g5 g6 30.b4 Re7 31.Rd1+ Kc8 32.Bf6 Re8 33.b5 Ne5 34.c5 Ng4+ 35.Kf3 Ne5+ 36.Kf2 c6 37.h5 Nd7 38.Bd4 Re4 39.hxg6 hxg6 40.Kf3 Rg4 41.bxc6 bxc6 42.Bf6 Nxc5 43.Rc1 Ne6 44.Rxc6+ Kd7 45.Ra6 Nxg5+ 46.Ke2 Ne4 47.Be5 Nc5 48.Rd6+ Ke7 49.a5 Re4+ 50.Kf3 Rxe5 51.Rxg6 Ne6 52.Rg8 Rxa5 0-1) 11.Qxd5 12. c3 Bd6 13. Nf4 (SF and Houey play 13 d4) 13….Qf7 14. d4 O-O-O 15. Qa4 (SF 12 @depth 43 would play a move near and dear to my heart, 15 Qe2!) 15…a6 16. dxe5 (SF 31 @depth 31 would play 16 Qb3, but the SF program churning at ChessBomb would play the move Larry played in the game)
16…Bc5+ 17. Kh1 fxe5 18. Re1 (This is a TN, but not the best move. 18 Qe4 was played in the Mons vs Raggar game given below. Given the chance SF 170521 @depth 49 would play 18 Rf3)

Risto Eskola (2153) vs Antti Lehto
Event: FIN-chT 0203
Site: Finland Date: 10/20/2002
Round: 3
ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Ne2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.O-O Be6 8.Bxd5 Bxd5 9.f4 f6 10.fxe5 fxe5 11.Ng3 Bf7 12.Nce4 O-O 13.Qg4 Bg6 14.Be3 Qc8 15.Qxc8 Raxc8 16.a3 Be7 17.Rxf8+ Bxf8 18.Rf1 Nd4 19.Rf2 b6 20.Nc3 c6 21.Nge4 Rd8 22.Ng5 h6 23.Nge4 Be7 24.Kf1 Rd7 25.Kg1 Nf5 26.Bc1 Bh4 27.g3 Be7 28.Kg2 Nd4 29.Be3 Rd8 30.h3 Be8 31.g4 c5 32.g5 h5 33.Ng3 Bc6+ 34.Nce4 g6 35.Kf1 Kg7 36.Ke1 Rf8 37.Bxd4 exd4 38.h4 Rxf2 39.Kxf2 Kf7 40.b3 Ke6 41.a4 Ke5 42.Kf3 Bd5 43.Nf1 a6 44.Nd2 b5 45.axb5 axb5 46.Kg3 Ke6 47.Kf4 Bc6 48.Nf1 Be8 49.Nfd2 Bf7 50.Nf3 Be8 51.b4 cxb4 52.Nxd4+ Kd5 53.Nf3 ½-½

Leon Mons (2554) vs Markus Ragger (2701)
Event: TCh-AUT 2018-19
Site: Austria AUT Date: 01/18/2019
Round: 6.5
ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defence

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 Nc6 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Ne2 d5 6.exd5 Nxd5 7.O-O Be6 8.Bxd5 Bxd5 9.f4 f6 10.fxe5 Nxe5 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 12.Nf4 Qf7 13.c3 Bd6 14.d4 O-O-O 15.Qa4 a6 16.dxe5 Bc5+ 17.Kh1 fxe5 18.Qe4 Bd6 19.Rf3 exf4 20.Bxf4 Bxf4 21.Rxf4 Qd5 22.Qxd5 Rxd5 23.Raf1 Re8 24.R4f2 Kd7 25.g3 a5 26.Kg2 Re7 27.Rf7 a4 28.h4 h5 29.Rxe7+ Kxe7 30.Rf4 Rd2+ 31.Rf2 Rd1 32.Rf1 Rd5 33.Rf4 Rd2+ 34.Rf2 Rd1 35.Rf1 Rd6 36.Rf4 b5 37.Re4+ Kf6 38.Kf3 Rd3+ 39.Re3 Rd1 40.Re4 c5 41.Re2 Kf5 42.Rf2 Ke5 43.g4 Rh1 44.Kg2 Rxh4 45.Rf5+ Ke4 46.Rxc5 Rxg4+ 47.Kh3 g6 48.Rxb5 Kf3 49.Rd5 Rg3+ 50.Kh4 Rg2 51.Rd3+ Kf4 52.Rd4+ Kf5 53.Rd5+ Kf6 54.Rd6+ Ke5 55.Rb6 Kf5 56.Rb5+ Kf4 57.Rb4+ Kf3 58.Rb5 Rg4+ 59.Kh3 Rg1 60.Kh4 Rg4+ 61.Kh3 Kf2 62.Rd5 Rg3+ 63.Kh4 Rg4+ 64.Kh3 g5 65.Rf5+ Ke3 66.b4 Kd3 67.Rc5 a3 68.b5 Rg1 69.b6 g4+ 70.Kh4 Rb1 71.Rxh5 Rxb6 72.Ra5 Kxc3 73.Rxa3+ Kb4 74.Rb3+ Ka5 75.Rxb6 Kxb6 76.Kxg4 Ka5 77.Kf3 Ka4 78.Ke4 Ka3 79.Kd5 Kxa2 ½-½

Charles Krauthammer: Leaving Life, and Chess, with No Regrets

Charles Krauthammer, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and intellectual provocateur, dies at 68

by Adam Bernstein June 21

Charles Krauthammer,

a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist and intellectual provocateur who championed the muscular foreign policy of neoconservatism that helped lay the ideological groundwork for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, died June 21 at 68.

The cause was cancer of the small intestine, said his son, Daniel Krauthammer. He declined to provide further information.

“I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking,” Dr. Krauthammer wrote in a June 8 farewell note. “I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny. I leave this life with no regrets.”

Charles was a conservative thinker who loved Chess. Decades ago, after learning of his love for the Royal game I began to read his column on a regular basis, something mentioned at a small gathering of Chess players, some of whom were Republicans, one of whom asked why I read Krauthammer. “Because he plays Chess,” was the reply. He seemed unable to grasp the fact that I read a conservative columnist until one legendary Georgia player spoke up, saying, “On some issues Bacon is to the left of Jane Fonda, but on others he is to the right of Attila the Hun!” Uproarious laughter ensued…I mentioned reading George Will because he had written several books on Baseball. “Sometimes I agree with him, and sometimes I don’t,” I said, “But I take what he has to say in consideration, just as with Krauthammer.”

Chess: It’s like alcohol. It’s a drug. I have to control it, or it could overwhelm me. I have a regular Monday night game at my home, and I do play a little online.
Charles Krauthammer (

The Pariah Chess Club

By Charles Krauthammer December 27, 2002

I once met a physicist who as a child had been something of a chess prodigy. He loved the game and loved the role. He took particular delight in the mortification older players felt upon losing to a kid in short pants.

“Still play?” I asked.


“What happened?”

“Quit when I was 21.”


“Lost to a kid in short pants.”

The Pariah Chess Club, where I play every Monday night, admits no one in short pants. Even our youngest member, in his twenties, wears trousers. The rest of us are more grizzled veterans numbering about a dozen, mostly journalists and writers, with three lawyers, an academic and a diplomat for ballast. We’ve been meeting at my house for almost a decade for our weekly fix.

Oh, yes, the club’s name. Of the four founding members, two were social scientists who, at the time we started playing, had just written books that had made their college lecture tours rather physically hazardous. I too sported a respectable enemies list (it was the heady Clinton years). And we figured that the fourth member, a music critic and perfectly well-liked, could be grandfathered in as a pariah because of his association with the three of us.

Pariah status has not been required of subsequent members, though it is encouraged. Being a chess player already makes you suspect enough in polite society, and not without reason. Any endeavor that has given the world Paul Morphy, the first American champion, who spent the last 17-odd years of his life wandering the streets of New Orleans, and Bobby Fischer, the last American champion, now descended John Nash-like into raving paranoia, cannot be expected to be a boon to one’s social status.

Our friends think us odd. They can understand poker night or bridge night. They’re not sure about chess. When I tell friends that three of us once drove from Washington to New York to see Garry Kasparov play a game, it elicits a look as uncomprehending as if we had driven 200 miles for an egg-eating contest.

True, we chess players can claim Benjamin Franklin as one of our own. He spent much of his time as ambassador to France playing chess at the Cafe de la Regence, where he fended off complaints that he was not being seen enough at the opera by explaining, “I call this my opera.” But for every Franklin, there is an Alexander Alekhine, who in 1935 was stopped trying to cross the Polish-German frontier without any papers. He offered this declaration instead: “I am Alekhine, chess champion of the world. This is my cat. Her name is Chess. I need no passport.” He was arrested.

Or Aron Nimzovich, author of perhaps the greatest book on chess theory ever written, who, upon being defeated in a game, threw the pieces to the floor and jumped on the table screaming, “Why must I lose to this idiot?”

I know the feeling, but at our club, when you lose with a blunder that instantly illuminates the virtues of assisted suicide, we have a cure. Rack ’em up again. Like pool. A new game, right away. We play fast, very fast, so that memories can be erased and defeats immediately avenged.

I try to explain to friends that we do not sit in overstuffed chairs smoking pipes in five-hour games. We play like the vagrants in the park — at high speed with clocks ticking so that thinking more than 10 or 20 seconds can be a fatal extravagance. In speed (“blitz”) chess, you’ve got five or 10 minutes to play your entire game. Some Mondays we get in a dozen games each. No time to recriminate, let alone ruminate.

And we have amenities. It’s a wood-paneled library, chess books only. The bulletin board has the latest news from around the world, this month a London newspaper article with a picture of a doe-eyed brunette languishing over a board, under the headline “Kournikova of Chess Makes Her Move.” The mini-jukebox plays k.d. lang and Mahler. (We like lush. We had Roy Orbison one night, till our lone Iowan begged for mercy.) “Monday Night Football” in the background, no sound. Barbecue chips. Sourdough pretzels. Sushi when we’re feeling extravagant. And in a unique concession to good health, Nantucket Nectar. I’m partial to orange mango.

No alcohol, though. Not even a beer. It’s not a prohibition. You can have a swig if you want, but no one ever does. The reason is not ascetic but aesthetic. Chess is a beautiful game, and though amateurs playing fast can occasionally make it sing, we know there are riffs — magical symphonic combinations — that we either entirely miss or muck up halfway through. Fruit juice keeps the ugliness to a minimum.

Charles Krauthammer playing chess with Natan Sharansky at Krauthammer’s office in an undated photo. (FAMILY PHOTO)

Charles was as comfortable with Presidents as he was with Chess players.

Charles Krauthammer with President Ronald Reagan in an undated photo.

Charles Krauthammer with President Jimmy Carter in an undated photo. (PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)

Charles Krauthammer with President George W. Bush in 2008. (COURTESY OF THE KRAUTHAMMER FAMILY)

When Chess Becomes Class Warfare

By Charles Krauthammer March 1, 1985

Capitalism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, a woman’s first historic run for the White House — into cash. Communism’s vice is that it turns everything — even, say, chess — into politics.

Chess? You may have trouble seeing chess as politics. Americans think chess is a game. The “Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” in one of its few correct entries, defines chess as “an art appearing in the form of a game.” And like all art under socialism, it is to be turned into an instrument of the state.

You think I exaggerate. If I quoted you Nikolai Krylenko, commissar of justice, in 1932 — “We must finish once and for all with the neutrality of chess. . . . We must organize shock-brigades of chess players, and begin the immediate realization of a Five Year Plan for chess” — you’d say I was dredging the history books for Stalinist lunacies. So I bring you fresh evidence of communism’s penchant for politicizing everything, for controlling everything it politicizes, and for letting nothing — shame least of all — jeopardize that control. I bring you L’affaire Karpov, a tempest for a teapot.

The story is this. On Sept. 10, 1984, the world chess championship begins in Moscow. Both players are Soviet citizens: champion Anatoly Karpov and challenger Gary Kasparov. To win, one must win six games. Draws don’t count. After nine games Karpov is ahead 4-0. An astonishing lead.

Kasparov then launches the most relentless war of attrition in the history of championship chess. He deliberately forces draw after draw, at one point 17 in a row, to one purpose: to exhaust the older and frailer champion.

On Nov. 24, Karpov does win a fifth game, but he will not win again. On Dec. 12, Kasparov wins his first. The score is 5-1. Then 14 more draws.

Then something extraordinary happens. Karpov, known for his metronomic logic and unshakable composure, loses game 47, playing “as though in a daze,” writes chess master Robert Byrne. Game 48: Karpov loses again. The score is 5-3.

By now, says another expert, Karpov “looks like Chernenko.” Chernenko looks bad, but Karpov is 33. He has lost 22 pounds and did not have very many to start with. He is close to collapse. He is about to fall — as Nabokov’s fictional champion, Luzhin, fell — into what Nabokov called “the abysmal depths of chess.” Kasparov is on the brink of the greatest chess comeback ever.

And on the brink both will stay. Six days later, on Feb. 15, the president of the International Chess Federation, under enormous pressure from Soviet authorities, shows up in Moscow and declares the match a draw — and over. Karpov is saved by the bell, except that here the referee rang it in the middle of a round and at an eight count.

Why? One can understand the Party wanting Karpov to win in 1978 and 1981, when the challenger was Victor Korchnoi — defector, Jew, all around troublemaker, Trotsky at the chessboard. But Kasparov is not Korchnoi. He is a good Soviet citizen, a party member, and not known for any politics. He is, however, half Armenian, half Jewish. Until age 12, his name was Gary Weinstein. He is no dissident, but he is young (21) and independent. Above all, he is not reliable.

Karpov, a man who needed to be named only once, is. Conqueror of Korchnoi (twice), receiver of the Order of Lenin, ethnically pure (Russian) and politically pliant (a leader of the Soviet Peace Committee), he is the new Soviet man. And he receives the attention fitting so rare a political commodity: he says he was told of the match’s cancellation over the phone in his car. Cellular service is not widely available in the Soviet Union.

Now, this is the third time that Soviet authorities have tried to undermine Kasparov’s shot at the championsh. In 1983 they stopped him from traveling to his quarterfinal match in Pasadena, Calif. The official reason (later pressed into service for the Olympics) was “lack of security.” Only a sportsmanlike opponent and accommodating chess officials (they rescheduled the match without penalty) saved Kasparov from defaulting in the candidates’ round and losing his chance to challenge Karpov.

But challenge he did. The finals were held in the prestigious Hall of Columns in the House of Unions. That is, until Kasparov’s rally in the 47th game. Soviet authorities then suddenly moved the match to the Hotel Sport outside the city center. “Like moving from Carnegie Hall to a gin mill in Poughkeepsie,” says Larry Parr, editor of Chess Life magazine.

I interpreted the move to mean that Chernenko was about to die, since the Hall of Columns is where Soviet leaders (like Dmitri Ustinov) lie in state. Silly me. I was insufficiently cynical about Soviet behavior. The reason for the move was not to bury Chernenko (he continues to be propped up like a Potemkin villain), but to save Karpov. The move took eight days — eight otherwise illegal days of rest for Karpov.

It didn’t help. Karpov was too far gone. Kasparov destroyed him the very next day in the 48th game. Soviet officials then made sure it was the last.

Now do you believe me?

A month ago I would not have believed it myself. (Kasparov still does not believe it.) Fix the biggest chess match in the world? Steal the championship from one Soviet citizen for a marginal propaganda gain? In broad daylight?

Still, we must be careful. Unfortunate episodes like these tend to fuel native American paranoia about how far the Soviets will go in relentless pursuit of even the most speculative political advantage. We must resist such facile reactions. Next thing you know someone will claim that the KGB got the Bulgarians to hire a Turk to shoot the pope to pacify Poland.


By Charles Krauthammer October 16, 1998

Not all chess players are crazy. I’m willing to venture that. But not much more. Eccentricity does reign in our precincts. In my 20s, I used to hang out at the Boston Chess Club. The front of the club was a bookstore in which you’d mill around, choose a partner, put your money down with the manager and go to the back room — 20 or so boards set up in utter barrenness — for some action. (At five bucks an hour it was cheaper than a bordello, but the principle seemed disturbingly similar to me.)

I remember one back room encounter quite vividly. The stranger and I sat down to the board together. I held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Charles.” He pushed his white king’s pawn and said, “I’m white,” fixing me with a glare that said, “Don’t you dare intrude into my space with names.” It was dead silence from then on.

A psychiatrist colleague of mine came by to fetch me a few hours later. He surveyed the clientele — intense, disheveled, autistic — and declared, “I could run a group in here.”

Don’t get me wrong. Most chess players are sane. In fact, a group of the saner ones, mostly journalists and writers, meets at my house every Monday night for speed chess. (You make all your moves in under nine minutes total, or you lose.) But all sane chess players know its dangers. Chess is an addiction. Like alcohol, it must be taken in moderation. Overindulgence can lead to a rapid downward spiral.

Vladimir Nabokov (a gifted creator of chess problems and a fine player, by the way) wrote a novel based on the premise of the psychic peril of too close an encounter with “the full horror and abysmal depths” of chess, as he called its closed, looking-glass world. (Nabokov’s chess champion hero, naturally, goes bonkers.)

Chess players, says former U.S. champion Larry Christiansen, inhabit a “subterranean, surreal world. It is not the real world, not even close.” So what happens when a creature of that nether world seizes political power?

Impossible, you say: Sure, there have been dictators — Lenin, for example — who played serious chess, but there has never been a real chess player who became a dictator.

And no wonder, considering the alarming number of great players who were so certifiably nuts they’d have trouble tying their shoelaces, let alone running a country. Wilhelm Steinitz, the first world champion, claimed to have played against God, given Him an extra pawn, and won. Bobby Fischer had the fillings in his teeth removed to stop the radio transmissions.

Well, in some Godforsaken corner of the Russian empire, Kalmykia on the Caspian, where the sheep outnumber people 2 to 1, the impossible has happened. A chess fanatic has seized power. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former boy chess champion, current president of the International Chess Federation, was elected president of Kalmykia two years ago on the promise of a cell phone for every sheepherder and $100 for every voter in his destitute republic.

Naturally, nothing came of these promises. But once elected, he seized all the instruments of power including the police, the schools and the media.

Result? Ilyumzhinov calls it the world’s first “chess state.” God help us. Compulsory chess classes in all schools. Prime-time chess on TV. And in the midst of crushing poverty, a just erected “Chess City,” a surreal Potemkin village topped by a five-story glass-pavilioned chess palace where Ilyumzhinov has just staged an international chess tournament.

This scene (drolly described by Andrew Higgins in the Wall Street Journal) would be Groucho running Fredonia if it weren’t for the little matter of the opposition journalist recently murdered after being lured to a meeting where she was promised evidence of Ilyumzhinov’s corruption. (Ilyumzhinov denies involvement. Perhaps it depends on how you define the word “involve.”) Kalmykia is beginning to look less like Woody Allen’s “Bananas” than Nurse Ratched’s “Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Ilyumzhinov rides around in his Rolls-Royces, presiding over a state that specializes in corruption and tax evasion. The Washington Post reports that he paved the road from the airport to the capital and painted every building along the way, but only the side that faces the road. So now the world knows what chess players have known all along: A passion for chess, like a drug addiction or a criminal record, should be automatic disqualification for any serious public activity. Column writing excepted, of course.

Charles Krauthammer: Chess is not an Olympic sport. But it should be

Viva Las Vegas!

Jennifer Shahade posted a fine article on Chess Life online (, “Kazim’s Back: Gulamali on Taking Down Vegas.” By now the Millionaire Open is yesterday’s news, and it shows because many other articles appeared almost immediately after this article, pushing it to the back of the line, which is unfortunate. It is a shame the producers did not switch coverage from the Wesley So vs Ray Robson debacle to the match between IM Burnett and FM Gulamali. It would have been amazing to watch. I am grateful, though, that USCF has given it some attention.

Being a Dutch aficionado, I want to concentrate on the two Dutch games played in the match. With his back to the wall, having lost the first game, and having to win the next game to even the match, Kazim Gulamali answered IM Ron Burnett’s 1 d4 with f5! When you absolutely, positively must win, play the Dutch! The time limit for the following game was G/25+.

Millionaire Chess, Las Vegas 2014
White: IM Burnett, Ronald
Black: FM Gulamali, Kazim

1.d4 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.Nh3 Bg7 5.O-O O-O 6.c4 d6 7.d5 Na6 8.Nd2 Bd7 9.Rb1 c6 10.dxc6 Bxc6 11.Nf4 Bxg2 12.Kxg2 Qd7 13.b4 Nc7 14.Qb3 e5 15.Nd3 e4 16.Nf4 g5 17.Nh3 Ne6 18.Bb2 Rae8 19.f4 g4 20.Ng1 e3 21.Qxe3 Qc6+ 22.Kf2 Nc5 23.Qa3 Nce4+ 24.Nxe4 Nxe4+ 25.Ke1 Bxb2 26.Qxb2 Qxc4 27.Rc1 Qd5 28.Rd1 Qf7 29.e3 Qh5 30.Qb3+ Rf7 31.Qb2 Rfe7 32.Rd3 Rc7 33.Qb3+ Kf8 34.Ne2 Rec8 35.Qe6 Rc2 36.Nd4 Qf7 37.Qxf7+ Kxf7 38.Nxc2 Rxc2 39.Ra3 a6 40.Ra5 Ke6 41.b5 axb5 42.Rxb5 Nc3 43.Rh1 0-1

Ron’s tenth move is a new one. The more standard Nf4 was seen in this game:

Purnama,T (2337)-Reyes Lopez,D (2072)
Castelldefels 2005

1. d4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nh3 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. d5 Na6 8. Nd2 Bd7 9. Rb1 c6 10. Nf4 Nc7 11. Nf3 Qe8 12. h4 Rb8 13. Nd4 c5 14. Nde6 Bxe6 15. dxe6 b5 16. Bd2 Ne4 17. Ba5 Na8 18. Bxe4 fxe4 19. Nd5 bxc4 20. Qc2 Nb6 21. Bxb6 axb6 22. Qxc4 Rf5 23. Qxe4 Re5 24. Qd3 g5 25. hxg5 Rxg5 26. Kg2 Qc6 27. e4 Qc8 28. f4 (Missing 28 Nxe7+) Rg6 29. f5 (29 Nxe7+ still looks strong) Rg5 30. Rf3 (Third time..) Ra8? (Maybe he was afraid White would finally see it?) 31. Nxb6 Qa6 32. Nxa8 Qxa8 1-0 (Proving there are several ways to skin a cat)

The next set was played at G/15+. Kazim won the first game so now Ron had his back to the wall in a must win situation. Once again Kazim played the Dutch, answering 1 Nf3 with f5. Not to be outdone, Ron played 2 e4!?, the Lisitsin Gambit! Back in the day there was scant information on this opening. It was big news when “Inside Chess,” the wonderful magazine produced by GM Yasser Seirawan and the gang from the Great Northwest, contained an article by, was it GM Michael Rohde, or was it GM Larry Christiansen? Memory fails…I only faced the Lisitsin Gambit a few times, the last a draw with Tim “The Dude” Bond. I had seen a way to win a piece in the middle game, but The Dude avoided the line. Some moves later the possibility appeared on the board, but I missed it! The game was drawn, and when I showed The Dude how I could have won a piece, he went into a funk, morose over the fact that he was obviously quite lost at one point. I will be the first to admit my memory is not what it used to be, but I have a vague recollection of losing to The Dude in a previous game featuring the Lisitsin Gambit…

Millionaire Chess, Las Vegas 2014
White: IM Burnett, Ronald
Black: FM Gulamali, Kazim

1.Nf3 f5 2.e4 fxe4 3.Ng5 Nf6 4.d3 e5 5.Nc3 e3 6.fxe3 d5 7.e4 c6 8.d4 Bd6 9.exd5 Qe7 10.Be3 cxd5 11.Bb5+ Bd7 12.O-O Bxb5 13.Nxb5 e4 14.Rxf6 Qxf6 15.Qh5+ g6 16.Qh3 h6 17.Nxd6+ Qxd6 18.Qc8+ Qd8 19.Qxd8+ Kxd8 20.Nf7+ Ke7 21.Nxh8 g5 22.Ng6+ Ke6 23.Ne5 Na6 24.c3 Nc7 25.Rf1 Nb5 26.Nf7 a5 27.Nxh6 a4 28.a3 Nd6 29.Bxg5 Nc4 30.Rf6+ Kd7 31.Nf5 Ra5 32.Bc1 Rb5 33.h4 Nxb2 34.Bxb2 Rxb2 35.h5 Rb1+ 36.Kh2 Rf1 37.g4 Rf4 38.h6 e3 39.h7 e2 40.h8=Q 1-0

5 Nc3 is a rather rare move, but 5…e3 is a TN. I found this old game, played before most players were born. Come to think about it, the game was played before many of the parents of today’s players were born…

Pavlovic, Dejan S (2340) vs Maksimovic, Branimir (2265)
Nis 1979
1. Nf3 f5 2. e4 fxe4 3. Ng5 Nf6 4. d3 e5 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. dxe4 h6 7. Nf3 Bc5 8. Bc4 d6 9. h3 Na5 10. Be2 Be6 11. a3 Nc6 12. Qd3 a6 13. Be3 O-O 14. g4 Bxe3 15. Qxe3 Nh7 16. O-O-O Qf6 17. Rh2 Ne7 18. Nd2 Qf4 19. Qxf4 Rxf4 20. f3 Nf8 21. Nf1 Rf7 22. Ne3 Nfg6 23. Nf5 Nf4 24. h4 Kh7 25. h5 b5 26. Rg1 Ng8 27. Nh4 Rb8 28. b4 c5 29. Bf1 Rc7 30. Ne2 Nxe2+ 31. Rxe2 cxb4 32. axb4 Ne7 33. Rd2 Rbc8 34. Rgg2 d5 35. Bd3 d4 36. g5 hxg5 37. Rxg5 Nc6 38. Kb2 Bc4 39. Ka3 a5 40. bxa5 Ra8 41. Rdg2 Rxa5+ 42. Kb2 Bxd3 43. Nf5 Raa7 44. h6 g6 45. Rxg6 Bc4 46. Rf6 Nb4 47. Rg7+ Rxg7 48. hxg7 Rxg7 49. Rh6+ Kg8 50. Nxg7 Kxg7 51. Rh2 Kf6 52. Rg2 Na2 53. Kb1 Nc3+ 54. Kc1 Ne2+ 55. Kd2 Nf4 56. Rg3 Ke6 57. Rg1 Be2 58. Rg3 Kd6 59. Kc1 Kc5 60. Kd2 b4 61. Rg5 Kd6 62. Rg3 Ke6 63. Kc1 Kf6 64. Kd2 Bc4 65. Rg1 b3 66. cxb3 Bxb3 67. Rg3 Bf7 68. Ke1 Ne6 69. Rg1 Ng5 70. Ke2 Bh5 71. Ra1 Bxf3+ 0-1

It came down to a “game” in which one player had more time with the other having draw odds in something called an “Apocalypse” game, or some such. I urge you to click on the link and go to the USCF website and read Jennifer’s article for much more detail.
I have it on good authority that as Kazim was heading to his plane, leaving “Lost Wages,” he could be heard singing this song in his best imitation Elvis Presley voice…

Reece Thompson Battles the Restless Queens

In the fourth round of the move first, think later, Ga Open, Reece Thompson faced the veteran Senior Alan Piper and once again faced the Caro-Kann defense, and again drew his f3 sword. The Pipe responded with the currently poplar 3…Qb6, which has scored the best for Black recently, holding White to an astounding 41%! White has scored 56% versus the choice of both SF & Houey, 3…e6. The third most played move, 3…g6, has scored 57%, while the second most played move, 3…dxe4 has been hammers to the tune of 66%!

In his new book, “The Extreme Caro-Kann: Attacking Black with 3. f3,” Alexey Bezgodov titles chapter four, “3…Qb6: The Restless Queen Variation.” Reece answered with the most popular move, 4 Nc3, which has held White to only 41%. Houdini prefers the little played 4 c3, which has held White to an astoundingly low 31%, albeit in a limited number of games. I have previously seen the set-up with c3 used when Black opts for g6. Alan took a pawn with 4…dxe4. There is much disagreement about how to recapture. In the book Bezgodov writes about 5 Nxe4, “I think taking with the pawn is better.” That may be so, but Komodo takes with the Knight, after which White has scored 50% in practice. SF takes with the pawn, 5 fxe4, after which White has scored only 36%. The Pipe then plays 5…e5, about which Bezdodov says, “The whole of Black’s play is based n the possibility of this counterblow. Otherwise he is simply worse.” Reece played 6 Nf3, the most frequently played move, which also happens to be the choice of both SF & Houey, but it has only scored 32%! GM Larry Christiansen played 6 dxe5, a move not for the faint of heart, but possibly the best move, against GM Joel Benjamin at the 2010 US Championship. In a limited number of games Larry C’s move has scored far better, 54%, than 6 Nf3, which is not discussed in the book. After 6…exd4 one Stockfish plays 7 Nxd4, while the other SF plays 7 Qxd4. My antiquated Houdi plays the latter move. The Pipe responded with ‘s 7…Nf6. At this point Reece played a TN, 8 Bc4. The usual move, 8 e5, is also the choice of SF. Alan responded to the new move with 8…Bc5, with advantage. 8…Bg4 is the first choice of both Houdini & Komodo. After the young man checked the Queen with 9 Na4, the older veteran played 9…Qb4, when both Komodo & Houdini prefer 9…Qa5+. Like Lewis & Clark, the players were now exploring new territory.

Reece Thompson (2116) vs Alan Piper (2055)
Georgia Open Rd 4 Hurry up time control
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6 4. Nc3 dxe4 5. fxe4 e5 6. Nf3 exd4 7. Nxd4 Nf6 8. Bc4 Bc5 9. Na4 Qb4 10. c3 Qxc4 11. b3 Qa6 12. Nxc5 Qb6 13. Na4 Qc7 14. O-O O-O 15. Bf4 Qa5 16. Bd6 Re8 17. e5 Ne4 18. Qf3 Nxd6 19. exd6 f6 20. Rae1 Rf8 21. Re7 c5 22. Qg3 g6 23. Qh4 h5 24. Rxf6 Bg4 25. Rxf8 1-0

Nikita Vitiugov (2555) – Lasha Janjgava (2479)
B12 Sevan Blue

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6 4. Nc3 dxe4 5. fxe4 e5 6. Nf3 exd4 7. Nxd4 Bc5 8. Na4 Qa5+ 9. c3 Be7 10. b4 Qe5 11. Bd3 Nf6 12. O-O O-O 13. Bf4 Qh5 14. Qe1 Re8 15. Qg3 Nbd7 16. e5 Nd5 17. Nf5 Bf8 18. Bh6 g6 19. Bxf8 Nxf8 20. Nd6 Re7 21. Rae1 b6 22. Ne4 Qh6 23. Nb2 b5 24. Bc2 Be6 25. Bb3 a5 26. bxa5 Rxa5 27. Nd3 Kh8 28. Ndc5 Raa7 29. Nd6 Qg7 30. Qf2 Ra8 31. Qd4 Nc7 32. Qh4 g5 33. Qd4 Ng6 34. Nxe6 Nxe6 35. Qb6 1-0

Mr. Thompson faced yet another Caro-Kann in the sixth round and his opponent once again had a restless Queen. Neo chose the wrong color pill.

Reece Thompson (2116) vs Neo Zhu (1780)
Georgia Open Rd 6

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 Qb6 4. Nc3 e6 5. a3 Nf6 6. Bf4 Be7 7. Nh3 h6 8. Be2 Nbd7 9. O-O Nh5 10. Be3 Nhf6 11. Qd2 Nf8 12. e5 N6d7 13. f4 c5 14. Kh1 a6 15. f5 cxd4 16. Bxd4 Qd8 17. Bh5 exf5 18. Nf4 Nb8 19. Ncxd5 Bg5 20. Bb6 Bxf4 21. Rxf4 Qd7 22. Nc7 Ke7 23. Qb4 Kd8 24. Ne6 Ke8 25. Nxg7 1-0

Once again Reese plays a TN with 6 Bf4. SF plays 6 e5, which could be considered the “normal” move.

Yangyi Yu ( 2585) vs Weiqi Zhou (2585)
Danzhou 1st 2010

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. f3 e6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. Bf4 Qb6 6. a3 c5 7. Qd2 cxd4 8. Nb5 Na6 9. O-O-O Bd7 10. Nxd4 dxe4 11. fxe4 Nc5 12. Ngf3 Ncxe4 13. Qe1 Bc5 14. b4 Bd6 15. Bxd6 Nxd6 16. Ne5 Rd8 17. g4 h6 18. Bg2 Ba4 19. h4 Nb5 20. Nxb5 Rxd1+ 21. Qxd1 Bxb5 22. Kb1 Nd7 23. Nxd7 Bxd7 24. Rh3 Ke7 25. Rd3 Rd8 26. Qd2 Bc6 27. Bxc6 Rxd3 28. Qxd3 Qxc6 29. Qd4 Qh1+ 30. Kb2 b6 31. Qe5 Qd5 32. Qxg7 e5 33. g5 hxg5 34. Qxg5+ Ke6 35. Qg4+ Kf6 36. Qg5+ Ke6 37. Qg4+ Kf6 38. Qg5+ Ke6 39. Qg4+ 1/2-1/2

Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People

Litsitsin’s Gambit

This game was played in the sixth round of the Chess Championship of the Netherlands:
GM Van Wely, Loek (2657) – GM L’Ami, Erwin (2650)
ch-NED 2014 Amsterdam NED 2014.07.12
1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 Nc6 3.e4 e5 4.g3 Nf6 5.Bg2 fxe4 6.dxe4 Bc5 7.Nc3 O-O 8.O-O a6 9.Nd5 Nxe4 10.Qe2 Nxf2 11.Qc4 Ba7 12.Bg5 b5 13.Ne7+ Kh8 14.Ng6+ 1-0
In his remarks to the opening of his game with WFM Y. Cardona (2270), IM Mark Ginsburg writes:
“1. Nf3 f5?! An inaccuracy on the first move! To get to a Leningrad Dutch, much more circumspect is 1…g6 2. c4 and only now 2….f5 to avoid a nasty pitfall in this particular move order.”
This leaves open the possibility of White playing 2 e4 and there is no Dutch. IM Ginsburg continues:
“The problem here is that white has the surprisingly strong 2. d3! as demonstrated by GM Magnus Carlsen recently in a crushing win versus veteran Russian GM Sergei Dolmatov. As a New In Chess Secrets of Opening Surprises (SOS) book analysis noted, “this move argues that 1…f5 is weakening.” So it does! That game went 2…d6 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. exf5 Bxf5 6. d4! and white had an obvious plus. After 2. d3, black is not having any fun at all. Why didn’t I play it? I knew about it, but didn’t really remember how the Carlsen game went. Still, 2. d3! is strongest and I should have played it.
Side note. There is another attempt for white – in the 1980s and 1990s, GM Michael Rohde revived the Lisitsin Gambit (2. e4 fxe4 3. Ng5) with success but in the intervening years, methods were found by black to combat that try. Nevertheless, 2. e4 is exceedingly dangerous and black has to be well prepared for it. This is moot, though, given the strength of the apparently modest 2. d3!
In the game, I played the insipid 2. g3?! and play reverted back to the Leningrad proper.” (
Why should Black fear the attempt to improve on Litsitsin’s Gambit with 2 d3? The human World Champion, Magnus Carlsen has played the move, and so does the number three program, Houdini, but numbers two, Komodo, and three, Stockfish, opt for different moves, so the jury is still out on the best second move for White.
I “annotated” the Van Wely- L’Ami game above, using the three programs used on Chess Arena at Chessdom (, and at the Chessbase database (
1.Nf3 f5 2.d3 (SF has c4 & e3 tied while Komodo plays d4; only Houdini plays the move in the game) Nc6 (SF has the game move tied with Nf6 & d6; Komodo plays d5, while Hou plays d6. The databases show Nc6 scoring best.) 3.e4 (SF-e3 or c4; Kom-Nc3; Hou-e4. The Houdini shown on the CBDB plays c4. e4 has been played most often, but has scored less well than the other choices.) e5 (Total agreement this is the best move) 4.g3 (Nc3 has been played most often with poor results. SF plays d4; Kom Nc3; & Hou exf5) Nf6 (SF & Kom play d6, with Hou opting for d5) 5.Bg2 (Total agreement on 5 exf5) fxe4 (All agree) 6.dxe4 (Ditto) Bc5 (Ditto) 7.Nc3 (SF has this move tied with Qd3 & O-O; Kom has it tied with O-O; while Hou simply castles) O-O (I can find no games with this move at the CBDB. SF & Hou play d6; Kom O-O) 8 O-O (SF has Qd3 tied with the game move; Kom plays Be3; Houdini shows a3) a6 (Universal agreement d6 is the best move) 9.Nd5 (SF & Komodo have this tied with Bg5 while Houdini has it best) Nxe4 (Hou plays this move, but SF & Kom play d6) 10.Qe2 (All agree) Nxf2 (Ditto) 11.Qc4 (SF-Be3; Kom-Rf2; Hou-Bg5) Ba7 (SF & Kom play this move, but Hou prefers Ne4+) 12.Bg5 (Total agreement. Imagine that…) b5 13.Ne7+ Kh8 14.Ng6+ 1-0
In addition this game was found on 365Chess. Although a different opening, we have the same position after six moves.
Buchicchio, Giancarlo vs Tribuiani, Renato (2146)
Nereto op 8/16/2000 rd 6
ECO has it listed as B00, while 365Chess calls this the “Colorado counter.” If anyone knows why, please leave a comment.
1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 f5 3. d3 e5 4. g3 Nf6 5. Bg2 fxe4 6. dxe4 Bc5 7. O-O d6 8. Bg5 h6 9. Bxf6 Qxf6 10. Nc3 Bg4 11. Nd5 Qf7 12. h3 Bh5 13. g4 Bg6 14. Nh4 O-O-O 15. c3 Bh7 16. a4 a5 17. Nf5 g6 18. Nxh6 Qg7 19. g5 Bg8 20. Nxg8 Rdxg8 21. Qd2 Rh4 22. Bf3 Qd7 23. Bg2 Rgh8 24. Nf6 Qe7 25. Bf3 Nd8 26. Bg4+ Rxg4+ 27. hxg4 Ne6 28. Rab1 Nf4 29. b4 Ba7 30. Rb3 Rh3 31. Rfb1 Qd8 32. c4 Qh8 33. Nh5 gxh5 34. Qxf4 exf4 35. Rxh3 h4 36. bxa5 Qd4 37. Rf3 Qxe4 38. Rbb3 Qe1+ 39. Kh2 Bxf2 40. Rxf2 Qxf2+ 0-1
Rarely have I had to face the Litsitsin Gambit. The last time was some years ago against Tim Bond, one of the Road Warriors and fellow Senior, the “Dude” from LA, which means “Lower Alabama” to Southern folk. The game was a hard fought draw. The Dude became dejected upon discovering I had missed a King move that would have won a piece. It was strange to me because I had seen the move in earlier deliberations, but missed it when given the opportunity later. Little has been written about the Litsitsin Gambit, but I seem to recall an article in “Inside Chess” by GM Michael Rhode, or was it Larry Christiansen? Maybe Michael used one of Larry’s games…Whatever… It is easy to recall because of the fact that I have faced both GM’s over a backgammon board.
This is the game that caused interest in the move 2 d3, and a game played a decade later:
Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Dolmatov
3rd Aeroflot Festival (2004)
Zukertort Opening: Dutch Variation (A04)
1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 d6 3. e4 e5 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. ef5 Bf5 6. d4 Nd4 7. Nd4 ed4 8. Qd4 Nf6 9. Bc4 c6 10. Bg5 b5 11. Bb3 Be7 12. O-O-O Qd7 13. Rhe1 Kd8 14. Re7 Qe7 15. Qf4 Bd7 16. Ne4 d5 17. Nf6 h6 18. Bh4 g5 19. Qd4 1-0

Carlsen, Magnus (2881) – Rodriguez Vila, Andres (2437)
Four Player Rapid KO/Caxias do Sul (1) 2014
1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 Nf6 3. e4 d6 4. exf5 Bxf5 5. d4 Qd7 6. Nc3 g6 7. Bd3 Bg7 8. O-O Nc6 9. d5 Nb4 10. Bxf5 gxf5 11. a3 Na6 12. Nd4 Nc5 13. b4 Nce4 14. Nxe4 fxe4 15. Ne6 Rg8 16. Bb2 c6 17. c4 Bh8 18. Re1 Rg6 19. Bxf6 exf6 20. Qh5 Qf7 21. Qf5 Qg8 22. g3 Kf7 23. Rxe4 1-0
And for the one (because there is always one) player out there somewhere in the one hundred plus countries reading the AW who now has to have more about Georgy Lisitsin and his gambit, I provide enough links to more than whet your appetite.

Click to access lane43.pdf