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…


You Must Be Present to Win

Having awakened with a headache Saturday morning the last thing I wanted to do was look at a computer screen. Because light and sound caused pain I stayed in a quiet, dark room most of the day. After taking a handful of 81 mg aspirin, and several naps, the pain diminished to a point nearing evening where it was possible to crank-up Toby and watch a replay of the sixth game of the WC match. As I watched, and listened to the commentary of GM Peter Svidler, and the incessant giggling and tittering of Sopiko, which grates on the nerves like someone scratching a blackboard with fingernails, a decision was made to take a break. Upon resumption of the coverage it was blatantly obvious by the demeanor of Peter that something dramatic had happened, but what? Rather than informing we viewers of exactly what had transpired, Svid “drug it out,” as we say in the South, until I was screaming at the screen, “Get on with it!” Finally, the blunder by the World Champion was shown. It was what Yasser Seirawan would call a “howler.” It was the kind of blunder one would expect from someone rated in the triple digits. When that was followed by a blunder by the former World Champion I yelled, “Oh Nooooooooooooo!!!” This was like watching a game between GCA VP Ben Johnson and USCF board member Alan Priest, both of whom sport triple-digit ratings.

As if it were not bad enough to break away from the action at what turned out to be the most critical part of the game, and possibly the match, the people in charge of the “live” coverage did NOT continue filming, but also took a break. This is absurd! Upon resumption of the coverage all we were left with is the description of GM Sivdler. This is reminiscent of the now infamous “Heidi game,” as it is called. “The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, with the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone.” ( The blunders on the board were nothing compared to the decision made by someone producing coverage of the game.

When teaching children to play chess one of the things I have said is, “You must be present to win.” I tell the children that in Las Vegas if one enters a drawing the rules state “you must be present to win.” If your name is called and you are not there, another name will be drawn. “You snooze, you lose,” I say in hopes this will stay with the children. I add that it is imperative they stay focused at whatever is is they are doing and “be present.”

The blunder Viswanathan Anand made is the same kind of move all players have made; he moved too quickly. Peter Svidler said, “If Vishy had taken thirty seconds to look at the position he would not have played that move,” adding, “It is always the quick move that kills you,” or some such. I know that is true from first-hand experience. Vishy was so focused on his plan he neglected to ask himself how the position had changed after the blunder made by Magnus.

I have taught the children what I call the “cardinal” rules of chess. 1) Why did my opponent make that move? 2) What move do I want, or need, to make? 3) Am I leaving anything en prise? Anand obviously did not ask himself any questions, much to his regret. Vishy was so “not there” that he did not watch Magnus play one of the worse moves ever made in a match for the championship of the world. Vishy was not present and did not win.

But what about Magnus Carlsen? He violated cardinal rule number three. I am having trouble getting my mind around the fact that Magnus did not even ask himself the question, “If I play my King to d2, how will my opponent respond?” These are the best players in the world and both drifted away at the same moment. This is INCREDIBLE! This type of double-blunder has happened previously in the games of Magnus. The Legendary Georgia Ironman mentioned the back to back “red moves” (Chessbomb displays the move in red if it is what GM Yassser Seiriwan would call a “howler”) played by Magnus and Levon Aronian recently, adding, “Somehow it is always the opponent of Magnus who makes the second “howler.” Maybe they just do not expect Magnus to make a mistake.” Maybe so, but a wise man always expects the unexpected.

It was so bad during the press conference the moderator, Anastasiya Karlovich, said, “Are there any questions not about the move Kd2?” Everyone wanted to know how Magnus could have played such a horrible move. He had no explanation. It is more than a little obvious things are not right with team Carlsen. This is the main reason I thought Vishy would win the match. Magnus has not played well since winning the title, and his poor play has continued. Vishy had not played particularly well in the year(s) leading up to the first match. Some thought he may “get it together,” but I was not inclined to believe it possible to reverse such poor play, which proved to be the case.

How much did the fact that Magnus would play White two games in a row during the middle of the match factor into the game? I recall reading about a group of mathematicians who “proved” it is much more fair during a shootout in football that the team who goes second will also have the third attempt, and then revert to alternating. This would seem to be inherently better than to have one player play the White pieces twice in the middle of a World Championship match. Who thought of, and implemented this ridiculous format? Could it have been the FIDE ETs”? Back in the day games were played every other day, but now it is two games and then a break. Things were better “back in the day.”

Most have wondered how Vishy will respond to such an oversight, forgetting that Magnus is the one who made one of the worst blunders ever made in a WC match. Magnus has to know that he missed his chance to put the hammer down in the first game by playing 42…Re3. If he had won that game, and also won the second, as he did, the match would have been all over but the shouting. He knows he has only himself to blame for being in a contest. He also knows that even with a win in the first game the match could now be tied, if Vishy had won the most recent game. He also knows it is possible that Vishy could very well be leading the match at the halfway point. Vishy is not the only one seeing ghosts at this point in the match.

I have no idea what to expect tomorrow; probably more of the same. I do, though, expect the players to take a page out of the book of former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura ( and “stay vigilant.” Although down, I still have faith in Viswanathan Anand, and expect him to win the match.

Millionaire Open Downer

Last night I attended what turned out to be a reading at the library by the famous historian James McPherson, who writes about the War Between The States. He is the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University, and received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for “Battle Cry of Freedom”, his most famous book. The author is on a book tour touting his new book, “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief.” During a phone call with the Legendary Georgia Ironman, who decided to take a well-earned, and much needed, day off to visit his ladyfriend, the Princess, I mentioned the author read from the book only, until taking a few questions. I was in hopes the author would explain why he decided to write the book and some of the things he learned while writing.

LM Brian McCarthy, up from Butler for the night and next day, was waiting to return me to the Fortress. The first thing Brian did upon entering was plug in his ‘puter and turn on the $,$$$,$$$ Open. He let me know the next game would begin in about a half hour, then went back to the car to bring his other things. I am of the same mind as another chess blogger, Dana Mackenzie, of “Dana blogs chess,” who wrote in his post, “Millionaire Chess Preview,” of October 3, 2014, “Oh yes, I should mention the quirky format of the tournament. The first seven rounds are a normal Swiss system. But then the top four players will qualify for a two-round knockout tournament on Monday. Each round of the knockout will consist of a pair of 25-minute games; followed by a pair of 15-minute games if they are tied; followed by a pair of 5-minute games if the match is still tied; followed by a single Armageddon game.

Anyone who’s read my blog in the past knows what I think of this idea. I think it stinks. Rapid chess is only somewhat like chess, blitz chess is even less like chess, and Armageddon is a completely different game entirely. This kind of playoff is like breaking a tie for the Pulitzer Prize with a spelling bee. For that reason I don’t care who wins. I only care who finishes in the top four.” (

Because the Big Mac was here I decided to check out the coverage. I had earlier attempted to access the live coverage a couple of times, but every time there was music and a count-down clock informing me the live coverage would begin in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes later there was a count-down clock informing me the live coverage would begin in twenty minutes. I gave up. This time it was live and the game was about to begin. And what a game it wasn’t…GM Ray Robson blundered a pawn in the opening, something most every chess player has done. What made this so bad was that $50,000 was on the line. As poor Ray sat there stewing in his juices, not moving minute after long, torturous, minute, the commentators kept up their inane patter. Suddenly there was a shot of IM Ron Burnett playing FM Kazim Gulamali! I burst out of my room to tell the McAroon, who immediately found the live coverage, but there was no longer any Burnett vs Gulamali coverage. At least we knew our friend was playing on “Millionaire Monday.” I mentioned Lawrence Trent, “The New Voice of Chess”, according to his website (, said something about $40,000 on the line, with Kazim needing to win to send it to even quicker games, and “with the look on Ron’s face, it looks like that’s just what’s going to happen.” Having known both players since they were youths, and having been on the road with IM Burnett, while knowing Kazim as he cut his teeth at the House of Pain, I told Brian my heart was with Ron, but my head said Kazim. Here it is the next afternoon and I still have no clue who won…And I am not the only one, because Tim asked me what I knew, and Brian searched, even going to ICC, but still no result could be found. Evidently, we are not the only ones, because Dana has written this on his blog today, “I tried to look up the winner of the Millionaire Open in Las Vegas this morning, and it wasn’t as easy as I expected to find out who won. When I went to, usually my first source, there was nothing about the playoffs. Next I went to the tournament page itself — but that page is a navigational disaster. There was no apparent way to find out who won the tournament!

Finally I had to resort to Google, which took me to Susan Polgar’s blog, which took me to the Chess24 website, which had an excellent article on the dramatic playoffs. The bottom line is that Wesley So, the Phillippine grandmaster who was the #1 seed in the tournament, beat Ray Robson. It was a lifetime achievement for both of them. So earns $100,000, the largest payday ever for a chess player in an open tournament. Robson wins $50,000, which is unbelievable, especially when you see how he earned it.” (

We continued to watch, and listen, in hopes that after Robson’s blunder they would go back to showing Ron vs Kazim, or what looked like another game currently underway. But Noooooooooo…Minute after agonizing minute we had to suffer along with poor Ray. Needless to say, we felt his pain in the way people felt the pain of Joe Thiesman when his leg was broken on Monday Night Maimball, while O.J. Simpson added “color” to the telecast. A better example could be when the catcher, Jason Kendall, broke his ankle running to first base when his foot hit the bag awkardly, while he continued to run with his broken ankle flopping like a fish out of water. As poor Ray continued to flop they would still not move to one of the other games. Brian mentioned something about this being “real bad,” because “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” I said, “This is supposed to be the high point of the tournament but it has become a low ebb.”
“Yeah,” Brian said, “what a downer.”

Lawrence Taylor breaks Joe Theismann’s leg on MNF

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

I just finished reading the new article on Chessbase,
“Explaining male predominance in chess” by Robert Howard
( Judging from the few comments posted Mr. Howard has started a firestorm. He writes, “If the male predominance in chess was due just to social factors it should have greatly lessened or disappeared by now.” He concludes with, “This conclusion is unpalatable to many but it is best to acknowledge how the world actually is.”
Ruth Haring is the President of the USCF. She sent me this email Sat, May 24, 2014:
Hi again. I do have strong opinions, but the reason I do not blog is that I am too busy to keep up.

What do you suggest ? I could write something.

I view it as a statistical problem. When we get 50% women tournament players we can expect parity. I am working to encourage more women to play so as to increase the numbers, and thereby representation at the highest levels. If you take a random 4% of a population, you might find women tournament players outperform that random group.
Robert Howard simply refutes Ruth Haring. Actually, what he does is blow her thinking out of the water!
I lived with two sisters and a mother and from that experience I learned there is a difference between the sexes. All I have written is that there is a difference between males and females. I have always thought it a wonderful thing. I cannot imagine what kind of place this would be if we were all the same.
The world of chess has changed because of the influx of girls. Because of the vast number of children there are more women involved with chess because of what is now called the “Chess Mom.” When I write something like this there are those who mistakenly think I am negative when it comes to female participation in chess, when all I am doing is pointing out a fact. Women bring something different to the table. I am not making any value judgement, just stating a fact. I have no idea whether or not it is a good, or bad, thing. I urge you to read the article on Georgia Chess News, “From the New GCA Director of Communications” by Laura Doman, the new board member ( This more than anything I can write illustrates what a woman brings to the chess world. Make no mistake, I mean this in a positive way. Women bring a social aspect to chess that men lack. I saw this when I played backgammon, where the percentage of women was exponentially larger than in chess. Yet the fact is that the women were not as strong as men. For example, the two strongest female players in Atlanta were Kathy and Debbie. They both won a fair number of Monday night tournaments. The matches were only seven points and the duration of the tournament was only three or four hours. But when it came to the two or three day weekend events, and longer matches, neither of them ever did well. I played in the World Amateur Backgammon Championship in Las Vegas twice, and female players never fared well. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, but it is all I have to give.
When men are in a room with other men and a woman enters the dynamic is changed. When I first began playing chess the Atlanta chess club met at the downtown YMCA on Lucky street. One night two women entered. They were the first women I had ever seen at the club. They were treated rudely and left. I left my game and went outside to apologize even though I had not been involved. One was terribly upset, but the other smiled and thanked me. We played later, but not chess! That was the last time I saw a woman at the ACC. Years later a girl, Alison Bert, began playing chess. I gave her a few lessons, not for money, as is the case today, but because I liked her and wanted to help her. I must have done a good job because Alison beat me in a USCF rated game.
When it comes to women being involved in anything, I always think of something I read about the advantage Western civilization has over those of the Muslim faith because the latter suppress women. They do not allow women to bring anything to the table, and are therefore missing half of their being. Even if it is true that women are not, and may never be, as good at playing a game, it does not mean that what they bring to the board is not just as valuable as what a man brings. Not to mention the fact that they look so much better bringing it to the table!