The Wesley So Forfeit

The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center was in its infancy when I played in the St. Louis Open there in the spring of 2009. In the second round I faced a young boy, Kevin Cao, who was an expert at the start of the tourney. Playing my favorite Bishop’s opening the boy did not take advantage of the opportunities my play afforded, putting him in a difficult position. My opponent had been keeping score on a gizmo called “Monroi.” When the going got tough my opponent pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and placed his gizmo on the table, eschewing the actual chessboard in order to focus only on the chessboard on his gizmo. Since this violated the rules of chess, I lodged a protest with the TD’s. The rule is simple and clear: 11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (

The tournament director’s did not see it that way. Since the Monroi was a USCF “approved” gizmo they had trouble ruling the only way they should under rule 11.3. They decided to “compromise” by asking my opponents father have his son not use the gizmo as a chessboard the rest of the game. I agreed to this, and so did the father, albeit reluctantly. This was done because I was playing a child. If my opponent had been an adult I would not have agreed, but insisted he be forfeited because the rule is clear. Things change dramatically when a child is involved.

After a few more moves my opponent’s position deteriorated, and he was in also in time pressure which happens with a G/2 time control. His father, seeing this while constantly hovering over the board, told his son to do go back to using his gizmo. The boy then pulled his hood over his head and placed his gizmo on the table and again eschewed the actual chessboard. I protested, the clocks were stopped and into the TD room we went. This time things became, shall we say, heated. Actually, the father went ballistic. Some time later the USCF issued a ruling castigating the father for “reprehensible behaviour.” The father took his son home and when his time ran out, I was declared the “winner.” The young boy dropped back into the “A” class because of the loss. He is now rated 2300+.

This was written about and discussed on the forum of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center, which no longer exists, and some have said it is no longer in existence was because of what was written on it, none of it positive toward me. Simply put, I was vilified. Much was written on the USCF forum at the time, where I was also excoriated unmercifully.

I closely followed the recent US Championship tournament, the one now called the “Open” tournament, as opposed to the one called the “Women’s” tournament. GM Wesley So is obviously a supremely talented chess player. I found the interviews with him intriguing, to say the least. After the interview early in the tournament,maybe the very first round, the one in which he mentions playing weakly in the middle game after not seeing his foster mother for some time, (She had been with Jeanne Sinquefield he said) I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman something was obviously “not right” about Mr. So. I could not put my finger on it, but knew something was wrong.

Much has been written about Wesley being forfeited, and I have read everything found on the interweb. I would like to share some of it with you, then share a few comments of my own.

“Akobian complained that this distracted him”!? What is the motive behind this statement? To me it looks like a “sucker punch” from Akopian to get an easy win. Chess referees should according to the rules always apply common sense. And the nature of this incident considering the actual writing of So does not by any means amount to such a serious offence that So should forfeit his game against Akopian.” – thomas.dyhr (Thomas Dyhr, Denmark)

“This decision is absolutely ridiculous I take it So has been writing on his scoresheet sometimes which would show on his copy handed in and is against Fide rules ok and Rich told him this.
He gets a blank piece of paper instead to write some thought positives and Akobian complains to Rich who forfeits So.
Akobian if he was distracted by So’s actions should have asked him to stop first.
Rich should have seen that this was not writing on a scoresheet which he warned him about and if he was not allowing So to write on blank paper as well told him to stop immediately and if So complied let the game continue.
Akobian and Rich do not come out of this with any credit and Akobian should be ashamed of himself as a man of integrity.” – Gilshie (Thomas Gilmore, United Kingdom)

“I guess they wanted to guarantee that an American wins the US Championship…” – Shtick (Nick Daniels, Canada)
(All of the about quotes from:

“PS: editorial comment to myself

Many chess writers and commentators seem to have little better to do this weekend than to talk about a silly forfeit incident in the US championship, so I will throw in a few of my own observations.
The first is that even though some tournament rule might give the tournament arbiter, Tony Rich, the POWER or the AUTHORITY to forfeit Wesley So , no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did. So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.
Please understand that I am not saying that Akobian–who is a perfect gentleman– acted wrongly when he drew to the arbiter’s attention So’s actions. Nor am I saying that Tony Rich acted incorrectly when he decided to act according to the written rules. And especially I am not saying that So was right when he lashed out when interviewed afterwards…there were CLEARLY better ways to have handled the situation.
What I am trying to say is that once more the game of chess DESERVES to be belittled because of this incident. ONCE MORE, mainstream media will target and make fun of us. Chess LOST some prestige on that day. When Jon Stewart recently did a humorous skit on the USCF trying to recruit F.Caruana for the national team, many–including ChessBase–thought it was also a bit insulting to the game of chess. Perhaps it was a bit insulting, even though it might not have been intended to be insulting…
But until the day we (the chess community) STOP allowing silly and poorly written rules to hurt and denigrate the noble game of chess in the eyes of normal and intelligent onlookers (and let us not forget about potential sponsors and patrons), then we deserve to be insulted a little bit more each time…” – Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett

“Guess my point is – even if he warned So, forfeiting is a staggering over-reaction. Threaten with forfeit = fine. Actually doing it = insane” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (Also from the aforementioned chess24 article, and if you click on this, you will find more comments, including this one by IM Mark Ginsburg, “Correct. Time penalty first. This action was wildly disproportionate as GM Hammer points out. Bad call.”)

GM Emil Sutovsky, President at Association of Chess Professionals, wrote this on his Facebook page (taken from the aforementioned chess24 article) “The arbiter’s decision to forfeit Wesley So for writing down irrelevant notes on his scoresheet during the game seems weird to me. Indeed, that can be seen as a violation of rules: ” 8.1 b. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.” And arbiter has repeatedly urged Wesley to stop it. But awarding a loss is way too harsh a punishment for such a minor sin. Yes, it can be disturbing for the opponent, and the arbiter could and should have deducted the time on Wesley’s clock for disturbing the opponent. And to keep deducting it (2 minutes each time), if needed after each move (warning Wesley, that a forfeit will come after 2nd or 3rd deduction). That was the most painless and logical decision. Unfortunately, the arbiter has preferred the most brutal solution. These things should not happen.”

It should be obvious from the above that the TD, Tony Rich, and the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center have not come out of this sordid incident in a favorable light. As GM Spraggett says, once again chess has suffered a black eye. I agree with Kevin when he writes, “…no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did.” The reputation of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center has been sullied.

The punishment should fit the crime. As GM Kevin Spraggett writes, “So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.”

Contrast this with how I was treated at the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center. My opponent violated the rule in order to gain an ADVANTAGE! GM Wesley So did no such thing. He is one of the elite chess players in the world and has no need to gain an advantage against any other player in the world.

If one closely examines the rule, “11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard,” it is clear the meaning is that a player cannot use any “NOTES, sources of information or advice,” to help, or assist him in regard to making his MOVES. A player cannot utilize a book, or gizmo containing chess information, or any “advice” from another person. There is no ambiguity here.

I was not there and do not know EXACTLY what Tony Rich said to Wesley, but from what I heard on the broadcast, and have now read, GM So was under the impression he could not write on his scoresheet, so he wrote on another piece of paper. How culpable is Tony Rich in this matter? Did he make himself COMPLETELY understood? Besides, as “Najdork” (Miguel Najdork, from Nepal) commented, “Also I would like to point out how from rule 8.1 you are allowed to write on the scoresheet any “relevant data”, and that is so vague that I guess you could write almost anything.” Who defines what is “relevant?” Your relevant may differ from what I consider “relevant.” For example, what if your opponent in a Senior event wrote on his scoresheet, “Take heart medication at 3 PM.” Who, other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, would complain? And who, other than Tony Rich would forfeit the man? I know Tony Rich. As Tony reminded me in 2009, I won our game at the Missouri State Championship in 2002 in Rollo. He was nice to me then, and has been every time I have encountered him, such as at the US Open in Indiana a few years ago. I liked Tony until he lost his mind. What could possibly have motivated the man to issue this stupid ruling, which will have lasting repercussions? If you were Wesley So would you join the American team at the Olympiad?

“In love with this rule: “12.2 The arbiter shall: b. act in the best interest of the competition.” Common sense.” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.

The forfeit defies common sense. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rule; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.” – John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. (
No one watches a chess tournament to see the TD. In lieu of watching Wesley So play GM Akobian, the world was instead subjected to a TD try and explain his “logic.” As many a TD has proven over the years, the less involved they are, the better the outcome.

None of this made any sense to me until reading this, “In the final reckoning Wesley So’s forfeit had no effect on the top three standings. Even a win against Akobian would only have tied So with Ray Robson on 7.5/11, and since he lost against Robson he would still have finished third. The person who has a real cause for complaint seems to be Gata Kamsky, who was edged out of 5th place – his goal in order to qualify for the World Cup later this year – by Akobian.” (

There it is, the reason for this whole debacle. It always comes down to “Who profits?”

The whole affair is disgusting, and sickening. It proves only that a TD has only one rule by witch to abide: Do What Thy Wilt! There should be some kind of punishment for a TD who oversteps his bounds. I have seen far too many tournament director’s puff out their chest while strutting around singing, “I’ve got the power,” such as Richard Crespo, the former TD spending his days in prison after abducting a woman and shooting it out with police in San Antonio, Texas a decade ago.
I am embarrassed, and ashamed, to be an American involved with chess. This putrid affair rivals anything I have written about FIDE and the nefarious Russians. United States chess has reached a new low. Tony Rich has now made everyone forget about L. Walter Stephens, the TD who awarded Sammy Reshevsky a win against Arnold Denker in the 1942 US Championship even though it was Sammy who lost on time. The game will die before the shock waves emanating from this debacle subside. The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center touts itself as the US Capital of Chess. Knowledgable players and fans know that three of the players in the Championship, Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, and Daniel Naroditsky, cut their chess teeth in the San Francisco Bay area, home of the oldest chess club in America, the venerable Mechanic’s Insitute Chess Room. If any area should be acknowledged as the “Capital of US Chess,” it is San Francisco, in lieu of the neuveau rich, faux chess club AND scholastic center in St. Louis, which has now been tarnished. No longer can it be considered a “leading light,” or “shining example.”

I can only hope this affair does not dessiccate Wesley So’s desire. If one watches the interviews with Mr. So during the US Chess Championship he will see a dramatic change in Wesley as the tournament progressed. Hopefully, this will fire him up and prod Wesley to play the kind of chess of which he is capable culminating in a match for the World Chess Championship.

Dana Mackenzie’s Key Lime Pi Openings

The interweb is a wonderful thing because I enjoy reading chess, and other, blogs. Occasionally the “other” is contained in a chess blog.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has recently been memorizing the digits of Pi.

Dana Mackenzie is “a national master, two-time former champion of North Carolina, and a regular lecturer at” He says, “Don’t let all of that stuff impress you, though. Deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary player. I don’t play chess for money or glory, just for the love of the game.” How can you not like a guy like this? His blog is dana blogs chess.

The title of his last post, dated March 14, 2015, was, Happy Pi Day… April 3? It begins, “Going off topic today!” Dana proves chess players do not live on chess alone…

This blog is mainly about chess, so I will leave Pi to Dana and the Ironman. Dana also writes about chess, except in “real life,” where he is a freelance science writer. You can read all about his scientific writing, and learn things such as his favorite writer, and poet, at:

Dana has written a most interesting three part Grading the Openings, which I wholeheartedly recommend. He begins Part One by setting the stage with, “Rob Weir, the statistician whom I mentioned in my last post, graciously shared with me a data base of the performance of all the openings, organized by ECO code. This allows us to create something that I’ve never quite seen before: a “report card” of all the chess openings. Which are best for White? Which are best for Black? Which are the most drawish? Which are the most or the least popular?”

Part two begins, “First of all, let me announce that my last post, Grading the Openings (Part One), unexpectedly turned into the biggest hit I’ve ever had on this blog. The blog had 1136 visitors yesterday, which is three times more than I have ever had in a single day (except during the 2012 World Championship match, when I was translating Sergei Shipov’s commentaries).”

In Part three I learned one of my favorite openings with White, the Closed Sicilian is one of “…the top five variations for Black.” Oh no, Mr. Bill! Unfortunately it gets worse because the line I play(ed) with 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 6. Be3, known as “B26,” is the second top scoring line for Black, with only the D01 (Richter-Veresov) scoring better for BLACK. Say it ain’t so, Joe…

I also learned, from one of the many comments, of the “Zombie Apocalypse Tournament, March 14 – 15, 2015.”
I kid you not. If the High Planes Drifter had known of this tournament I am certain he would have imitated the Nashville Strangler and driven all night in order to make it to the round on time at the Lory Student Center, CSU Campus Rooms, Grey Rock Room, on the CSU campus in Ft. Collins, Colorado, because David Vest loves all things Zombie! Bill Wall left the comment and let us know it was “Open to all USCF members and “Zombies.” I cannot make this up, folks. “First round starts at 10 AM but free pie will be served at 3/14/2015 at 9:26:53 AM following the sequence of pi. Shirley Herman has asked for Peach Pie ala mode and Philipp Ponomarev has asked for Key Lime Pie.”

Is this a great blog, or what?!

Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site

The Horse’s Ess

The Legendary Georgia Ironman recently brought in two new volumns, #’s 109 & 110, of the New In Chess Yearbook. Earlier he had procured #111 and I thought he might cry when telling me of how it had fallen out of the bag and gotten scuffed when he attempted to bring it into the Fortress. “Now it’s only VG,” I said, harkening back to our days of selling sports cards. From the look on his face I immediately realized it was an inappropriate thing to say, so I added, “At least it still has the meat.” This is an inside joke concerning something LM Brian McCarthy said when someone made a comment about an Informant that had lost its cover because of the heavy use.

While perusing the books I mentioned one contained two Survey’s of the Leningrad Dutch, and the other had one, adding that the one in the “Jobava” (#110) was on the 4 Nh3 variation, while the two in the “Magnus” (#109) were on the 7…Qe8 line with the other being on what is now being called the “improved” Lisitsin Gambit, with 2 d3!?, according to Viktor Moskalenko in his book, The Diamond Dutch. “That ought to keep you busy,” said the Ironman.

The next day Tim asked about the Leningrad games in the NIC’s and was informed I had not gotten to the Survey section because there were three Dutch games in the Forum and one included in Kuzmin’s Corner. In addition I mentioned there were two games by Moskalenko, versus Michael Krasenkow and the lovely Tania Sachdev, with both being the “improved” Lisitsin Gambit with 2 d3. That reminded the Ironman of a game he had previously played using the Lisitsin Gambit against NM Marc Esserman in the 2007 Southern Open in Orlando. This brought forth the tale of the 2004 US Open in Weston, Florida, and the first game the Ironman had contested with Esserman. That was the US Open in which I could not play because of a bad back. As we reminisced about the event the Ironman was still upset about what occurred before the first round. He asked me to locate the hotel and I found it in the phone book, providing him with the address. He went to the spot and there was the hotel, but there was no chess tournament! He was directed to another hotel of the same chain in an outlying area many miles away. As it turned out, the hotel where the US Open was held was located in Weston, not Fort Lauderdale, as the USCF had listed. This caused the Ironman to arrive late for the round, which he managed to draw. To make matters worse, the hotel in Weston had the exact same address as the one in Fort Lauderdale! All I can remember is the heat. One day I decided to go for a walk in the afternoon and went into some place seeking AC. “You must not be from around here,” the lady said. “What makes you say that?” I asked. “Because no one who lives here goes out in the afternoon.”

Then the Ironman produced the scoresheet of the Esserman game at the Southern Open, and told me about his loss to the big man with a large head at the US Open. It seems Esserman made a move that led to mate and stood up, towering over the board, while extending his hand, an egregious breach of comportment. It was with this in mind the Legendary Georgia Ironman sat down to play NM Marc Esserman in the first round of the 2007 Southern Open…

Tim Brookshear (2001) vs Marc Esserman (2256)

1. Nf3 f5 2. b3 (After glancing at the scoresheet I said, “Hey Ironman, what’s this? You played 2 b3?!” He nabbed the scoresheet saying, “Well I thought it was a Lisitsin’s Gambit. I played e4 on the next move.” I shot back, “But you never played d3.” Tim thought for a moment before saying, “That’s right, I played d4, improving on the improvement!” What could I say other than, “Well, I dunno about that. I will have to take a look at it…”) d6 3. e4 (I was unable to find this in the Chessbase Database, or at, so I will call it the “Ironman Gambit.”) e5 (Esserman did not wish to allow a real gambit with 3… fxe4 4. Ng5 Nf6 5. d3!) 4. d4 (4. exf5 Bxf5 5. Nc3 Nc6 looks reasonable) fxe4 5. Ng5 (5. Nxe5!?) exd4 6.Qxd4 (6. Nxe4!?) Nf6 (6… d5!) 7. Nc3 (7. Nxe4!) d5 8. Bb2 h6 9. Nh3 Nc6? (After 9… Bxh3 I do not need a ‘puter to know the Ironman would be holding onto the rope by his fingernails) 10. Bb5 Kf7 (Once again Black should play 10…Bxh3 and White would have only a tenuous hold on his tattered position) 11. Qd2 (The Ironman decides to “advance to the rear,” but it would have been much better to have played 11. Bxc6 bxc6 12. Nf4, saving the Knight and the pawn structure as the Queen retreat allows 11…d4!) Ne7 (I do not know what to say…Guess my understanding of chess is not deep enough to comprehend some of the moves made by Esserman.) 12. O-O-O c6 13. Be2 Ng6 (But it is deep enough to understand Black should take the Knight) 14. Nf4 (The program known as Houdini wants to play 14 f3!? obviously “thinking” along the lines of, “If the human has not taken the Knight by now, it ain’t ever gonna take that sucker!”) Nxf4 15. Qxf4 Bd6 16. Qd2 Qc7 17. Kb1 Re8 18. Rdf1 Bf5 (According to Charley Hertan, who wandered through Atlanta with a backpack decades ago, Esserman should play the Forcing Move, 18…Bf4!) 19.h3 (19. Nd1) Rad8 (Again 19… Bf4) 20. g4 Bf4 21. Qd1 (21. Qd4!?) Bg6 22. h4 (The “engine” makes a case for 22. Na4. Who am I to argue?) d4 (22… b5 !) 23. Bc4+ Kf8 24. Ne2 Bf7 (24… Be5) 25. Bxf7 Kxf7 26. Rfg1 (I am taking the Bishop offa the board with 26. Nxf4 and I don’t care what any machine says) g5 (I wanted to play a positional move like 26…c5, but Houdini advocates 26…Rh8) 27. hxg5 hxg5 (I was thinking along the lines of taking the pawn with the Prelate, and so, it turns out, was Houey. I thought the Ironman was back in the game now, after struggling all game to get a grip. After looking at the game, I plugged it in the “engine” and it, too, thought White was slightly better. It is difficult to understand why a NM would open the Rook file like this…) 28. Rh6 (This looks like a natural move, and the kind of move I would make, but Houdini likes 28. Rf1!?) Kg7 29. Rgh1 c5 30. Qf1 (30.Nxf4!) Rh8 31. Qh3 (31.Nxf4!) Rxh6 32.Qxh6+ Kf7 33. Ng3 (33.Nxf4!) Bxg3 34. fxg3 Rg8 35. Rf1 Qe7 (35…Qe5!?) 36. Qh7+ (36.c3!?) Rg7 (36…Ke8!?) 37. Qf5 e3 38. b4 b6 39. bxc5 bxc5 (The last chance to play for an advantage is 39…e2) 40. Qd5+ Ke8 41. Qc6+ Nd7 42. Qa8+ Qd8 43. Qe4+ Qe7 44.Qa8+ Qd8 45. Qe4+ 1/2-1/2

When the game ended Tim mentioned something to Marc about it being a good game, which caused Esserman to erupt with, “You played like shit! I played like shit! It was ALL SHIT!!!”
Stunned, the Ironman said something about the previous game between them at the 2004 US Open and was shocked to hear Marc say, “We have never played before!”
This caused the Ironman to give Esserman the moniker, the “Horse’s Ess.” Any time anyone mentions Marc Esserman the Ironman says, “You mean the Horse’s Ess?”

What I did not mention to the Legendary Georgia Ironman is that the now IM Marc Esserman featured prominently in an article, Where Oddballs, Hustlers and Masters Meet, by Olimpiu G. Urcan, who “went undercover as a chess junkie in Boston’s iconic Harvard Square,” in the last issue of 2014/8 of the New In Chess magazine, the best chess magazine ever published. The article culminates with a sub-heading of “A Boisterous Enfant Terrible.” This refers to IM Esserman. It is written, “If confronted on various chess matters, he gets really loud and aggressive, disturbing the other games in progress. ‘It’s unheard of to pass by the Harvard Square and not play Billy Collins!’ he exclaimed one evening trying to arrange a blitz match for stakes between Collins and a New York acquaintance. Almost unable to stand it anymore, one of my opponents exclaimed while desperate to extricate himself from a difficult position: ‘Oh, c’mon, Marc. Can you please stop being such a bitch?’


Chess Offers Low-level Gains for Society

The Legendary Georgia Ironman did not care for the conclusion drawn by the authors of Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli. The Ironman loves chess and has, on occasion, gotten his back up when I have mentioned anything negative about the Royal game. He has acted rather prickly upon hearing it said that Wei-Chi, or Go in the US, is a better game. For example, there are almost no draws in Go. It can therefore be thought of as a game with honor, something, because of the proliferation of offered draws, chess lacks. Go players do not offer a draw because to do so would show a lack of honor, which would mean a loss of face, or respect, so it is simply not done. I enjoy going over the games of the Go masters because the commentary emanates from the mind of a human, not a machine. GM Maurice Ashley has been part of the broadcast team of the US Chess Championships from the opulent St. Louis Chess Club for the past several years and I still have no clue what he thinks because he is the human informing the viewers of what the computer “thinks.” In post game interviews with the top human players in the world today one hears the word “computer” ad nauseam. It is, “computer this, computer that…here a computer, there a computer, everywhere a computer…computer, computer, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘puter, ‘PUTER!” until one is sick of hearing the word. The best human players in the world no longer tell fans what they think, because they allow the ‘puter to do the thinking for them.

The Ironman, like many in the chess community, simply refuses to believe the conclusions drawn by the authors, as they acknowledge in section 4.2: Recommendations for future research

“We realize that our conclusions are likely to disappoint many chessplayers, in particular those who have invested considerable amounts of time and energy in promoting chess in schools, and those who have actually collected data about the effect of chess instruction.”

The conclusions reached almost a decade ago by Gobet and Campitelli could have been used for future research, but as of now, this is the last word. One finds this in the previous section, 4.1 Evaluation of past and current research:

“As mentioned earlier, research in psychology and education suggests that cognitive skills do not transfer well from one domain to another. Thus, the default position for most education experts will be that skills developed during chess study and practice will not transfer to other domains. Do the empirical data on chess research refute this position? Unfortunately, the answer is: no.”

The end of the line shows this written in the conclusion to the study, given it in its entirety.

5 Conclusion

“As shown in the documents collected by the USCF, chess teachers and chess masters are sanguine about the benefits of chess instruction, proposing that chess develops, among other things, general intelligence, ability to concentrate, ego strength, self-control, analytical skills, and reading skills. De Groot (1977) is more specific and has suggested that chess instruction may provide two types of gain: first, “low-level gains,” such as improvement in concentration, learning to lose, learning that improvement comes with learning, or interest in school in underprivileged environments; and second, “high-level gains,” such as increase in intelligence, creativity, and school performance. Our review indicates that research has mostly explored the possibility of high-level gains, and this, with mixed results.
As argued in this chapter, there is a huge chasm between the strong claims often found in chess literature and the rather inconclusive findings of a limited number of studies. The extant evidence seems to indicate that (a) the possible effects of optional chess instruction are still an open question; (b) compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems; and (c) while chess instruction may be beneficial at the beginning, the benefits seem to decrease as chess skill improves, because of the amount of practice necessary and the specificity of the knowledge that is acquired.
This chapter has critically reviewed the extant literature, and has proposed avenues for further research. We hope that the somewhat negative conclusions we have reached will stimulate the next wave of empirical studies. While chess may not “make kids smarter,” it may offer what De Groot calls “low-level gains” for our society, and it would be a pity not to exploit this opportunity.”

Unless and until this is refuted this has to stand as the final answer to the question, no matter how unpalatable it may be to some in the chess world.

The Perdomo Class Championship

When the Legendary Georgia Ironman first mentioned the Georgia Class had been changed to the Perdomo Class Championship I was stunned, saying, “When did Carlos die?” Fortunately, IM Carlos Perdomo lives. The usual practice has been to name a tournament after someone, or even two former players, whose spirits have departed for the chessboard in the sky. Those in control of the GCA have seen fit to do things differently. For example, the current Fun E administration seems loathe to take entry fees at the door on the day of the tournament. It was therefore no surprise when the Ironman told me he had picked up an extra lesson on Saturday, the second day of the tournament. When Tim said to the chess dad, “But I thought your son was playing in the Perdomo.” (As in the “BoKo” which is short for the Boris Kogan Memorial. Since Carlos is still with us it is the “Perdomo.” Once his spirit heads to the sky it will, no doubt, become the “Domo.”) The chess dad said, “I could not enter online, and I tried many times, until finally giving up. Every time I tried to enter it would go back a page.” Sometimes progress ain’t…I cannot help but wonder how many others had the same problem and did not participate?

Unfortunately, I only learned some of the games were broadcast live on Chess Stream after the tournament ended. LM David Vest, who, according to Tim, also had trouble entering, had mentioned the fact to the Ironman, asking him to let me know, but it slipped the Ironmind. I had previously seen the announcement on the moribund GCA website (, but nothing was mentioned about any games being broadcast live, and having been to the GCA online magazine (, I can attest to the fact that there was no mention of this fact. What is the point of having games broadcast if the news is not advertised?

Mr. Vest mentioned something about Masters receiving free entry providing they jumped through many GCA hoops. The man from the High Planes did just that but said “Katie was in Alaska and by the time I was able to enter it was too late.” I was, therefore, pleased to see the Drifter was able to play four rounds after a first round half point bye. David is a fellow Senior and obviously not ready to drift away toward the sky.

There were seventy-five players in all sections combined, about what we used to get at the House of Pain when the usual suspects were rounded up. Unfortunately, there were only eight players in the top section. This makes me wonder about reports being received concerning a boycott of GCA tournaments by the higher rated players. I have learned it is not an “official” boycott per se, in the sense that anyone has led a boycott, but more of an unofficial type boycott. Word must not have gotten to the eight intrepid players who chose to “cross the line.”

NM Michael Coralllo, who has been playing very well the past several years, was the top rated player when he sat down in the first round to play a former student of the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Albert Liang, who is now learning from GM Alsonso Zapata. I went with Tim to the home of Albert where we double-teamed the young man during a lesson, and I can relate that after leaving, the Ironman and I were the ones who felt double teamed!

Albert Liang (2019) – Michael Corallo (2371)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O b5 8. Bb3 Be7 9. Qf3 Qb6 10. Be3 Qb7 11. Qg3 O-O 12. Bh6 Ne8 13. f3 Bd7 14. Rad1 Nc6 15. Nxc6 Bxc6 16. Ne2 Kh8 17. Be3 Nf6 18. Nd4 Be8 19. Kh1 Nd7 20. Bf4 Qb6 21. Ne2 Ne5 22. c3 Qc5 23. Nc1 Qc7 24. Nd3 Ng6 25. Be3 Rg8 26. f4 Qb7 27. f5 Nf8 28. Nf4 exf5 29. exf5 Bc6 30. Bxf7 Bh4 31. Qxh4 Qxf7 32. Rxd6 Rc8 33. Kg1 Qxf5 34. Bd4 Bb7 35. Nh5 Qc2 36. Qg3 1-0

Can you spell U-P-S-E-T? Mr. Corallo did not let this loss upset him, playing the swiss gambit the way it is supposed to be played by winning his next four games and taking clear first. That is showing your class in style!
I was surprised to see the move 6 Bc4 has only scored 48% according to the CBDB. Back in the day it was THE MOVE. White has scored 54% against 11…0-0, and it is the preferred move of the big three “engines” shown on the CBDB, but 11…b4 has held White to only 45%. After 12…Ne8 calls this the, B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Lipnitzky attack, which is a new one on me…
The game Rojas, Luis (2432) – Andaur, Claudio (2095) CHI-ch, 02/12/2002, varied with 13…Kh8 14. Bg5 Bxg5 15. Qxg5 Qb6 16. Qe3 Bd7 17. Qf2 Nc6 18. Nxc6 Qxf2+ 19. Rxf2 Bxc6 20. Rd2 Rd8 21. Rad1 g5 22. Ne2 Rg8 23. h3 Rg6 24. c4 bxc4 25. Bxc4 Bb7 26. b4 h5 27. Kf2 Kg7 28. e5 d5 29. Bd3 Rh6 30. Nd4 Nc7 31. Rc2 Rd7 32. Rdc1 Na8 33. Nb3 f6 34. Nc5 Re7 35. Nxb7 Rxb7 36. Bxa6 Rf7 37. Rc6 fxe5 38. b5 g4 39. b6 Nxb6 40. Rxb6 gxf3 41. gxf3 Rhf6 42. Rg1+ Kh6 43. Ke2 Rxf3 44. Rxe6+ R3f6 45. Rxf6+ Rxf6 46. Bb5 e4 47. Rd1 Rf3 48. Rxd5 Ra3 49. Rd2 Rxh3 50. a4 Kg5 51. Rd8 Ra3 52. Rd5+ Kf4 53. Rxh5 Ra2+ 54. Kd1 e3 55. Rh8 Ke4 56. Kc1 Kd4 57. Rd8+ Ke4 58. Kb1 Rh2 59. Rc8 Kd4 60. Rc2 Rh1+ 61. Kb2 Rh5 62. Kb3 Rh3 63. Kb4 Rh1 64. Ka5 Rh6 65. Be2 Kd5 66. Kb5 Rh1 67. a5 Rb1+ 68. Ka4 Rb8 69. a6 Ra8 70. Kb5 Rb8+ 71. Ka5 Kd6 72. Bb5 Rd8 1-0

The third round featured this game between the two Masters in the field.

David Vest (2200) – Michael Corallo (2371)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. g3 a6 4. Bg2 b5 5. O-O Bb7 6. b3 Be7 7. d3 O-O 8. e4 d6 9. Nc3 Nfd7 10. Rb1 c5 11. Qe2 Bf6 12. Bb2 Nc6 13. cxb5 axb5 14. Nxb5 Nde5 15. Bxe5 Nxe5 16. Nxe5 Bxe5 17. f4 Bf6 18. Rfc1 Qb6 19. a4 Rad8 20. Kh1 Ba6 21. Na3 g6 22. Nc4 Qb4 23. e5 dxe5 24. fxe5 Bg5 25. Rc2 Rd4 26. Be4 Rfd8 27. Qf3 Bxc4 28. Rxc4 Rxc4 29. dxc4 Qb8 30. h4 Bh6 31. Rf1 Rf8 32. a5 Bg7 33. a6 Bxe5 34. Kg2 Qb6 35. Bb7 Bb8 36. h5 Qd6 37. Rd1 Qe5 38. Rh1 Rd8 39. hxg6 Rd2 40. Kh3 hxg6 41. Rf1 Qh8 0-1

This is cutting edge theory being played here in the Deep South folks, as Bartosz Socko (2631) played 8…d5 against Hristos Banikas (2572) in Beijing at the 1st WMSG Blitz Pair, 10/08/2008, and lost. Vereslav Eingorn (2560) also played 8…d6 versus Bogomil Andonov (2415) at Uzhgorod in 1988 and won after 9. Nc3 b4 10. Ne2 c5 11. Ne1 Nc6 12. f4 a5 13. Nf3 a4 14. Rb1 axb3 15. axb3 Ra2 16. h3 Nd7 17. g4 Bf6 18. Bd2 g6 19. g5 Bg7 20. f5 Re8 21. f6 Bf8 22. Nf4 Nb6 23. Re1 d5 24. exd5 exd5 25. Rxe8 Qxe8 26. cxd5 Ne5 27. Ra1 Ra3 28. Rb1 Nxd5 29. Qe2 Nxf3+ 30. Bxf3 Qxe2 31. Bxe2 Ra2 32. Bf3 Nxf4 0-1
FYI, 365Chess calls this the, A13 English, Romanishin gambit.

The fourth round Sunday morning saw the grizzled veteran facing the new kid on the block.

David Vest (2200) – Albert Liang (2019)

1. c4 e6 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 d5 4. Nf3 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. b3 b6 7. Bb2 Bb7 8. d3 c5 9. Nbd2 Nc6 10. a3 Nd7 11. Rb1 dxc4 12. Nxc4 Qc7 13. Qc1 Rac8 14. Qe3 Bf6 15. Ng5 Bxb2 16. Rxb2 Rb8 17. b4 cxb4 18. axb4 Nce5 19. Nxe5 Qxe5 20. Qxe5 Nxe5 21. Bxb7 Rxb7 22. Rc1 h6 23. Ne4 Rd7 24. f3 Ng6 25. Rbc2 Ne7 26. Kf2 Nd5 27. b5 Rfd8 28. Rc4 Kf8 29. Ra4 Rb8 30. Nd2 Ne7 31. Nc4 Rbb7 32. Rca1 f6 33. R1a3 Nf5 34. e3 Ke7 35. Ke2 Nd6 36. Nxd6 Kxd6 37. d4 Rbc7 38. Kd2 e5 39. Rd3 Ke6 40. dxe5 Rxd3 41. Kxd3 Kxe5 42. f4 Kd6 43. Rd4 Ke6 44. e4 Rc5 45. f5 Ke7 46. Ra4 Rxb5 47. Rxa7 Kf8 48. Ke3 Re5 49. Rb7 b5 50. Kd4 Kg8 51. Rc7 Kf8 52. Rc5 Re7 53. Rxb5 Ra7 54. Rb3 Ra2 55. h3 Ra7 56. Ke3 Kf7 57. Kf4 g5 58. Kg4 Re7 59. Rb4 Kg7 60. Kh5 Kh7 61. Rb6 Kg7 62. Re6 Rd7 63. e5 fxe5 64. Rxh6 Rd3 65. Rg6 Kf7 66. Kg4 e4 67. Re6 Re3 68. Rg6 Re1 69. Kxg5 e3 70. Re6 e2 71. g4 Rh1 72. Rxe2 Rxh3 73. Ra2 1-0

As Bobby Fischer famously said, “That’s what chess is all about. One day you give your opponent a lesson, the next day he gives you one.” (
Playing over this English brings back memories of the High Planes Drifter regaling us with tales of the daze he was moving around the left coast in LA and of GM Eduard Gufeld and NM Jerry Hanken, who loved playing 1 c4. Up through 4…Be7 365Chess shows this as “A13 English opening,” but when Mr. Vest played 5 0-0 it became a, “A14 English, Neo-Catalan declined.” 10…Nd7 is the new move. Previously the two most common moves have been Qc7 and Qd7, the move of Houdini, but the new World Chess Champion thing, known as Komodo, prefers 10…Re8, but what does IT know?

Albert drew with the always dangerous Carter Peatman in the last round to finish in a three-way tie for second place with Djordje Nedeljkovic, who is a provisionally rated NM after eighteen games, and Expert Sinclair Gray, all with a score of 3-2.

Jeremy Banta took clear first in the class A section, Matt Mayhew, from Tennessee was also clear first in the B class, as was Anthony John Morse in the C class, and Sanjeev Anand did the same in class D. Not to be outdone, Harold Blackmarr also won the below section, for everyone else, a half-point ahead of the pack.

Games can be found here:

Fun with Fong and Magar the Morrible

Thomas Magar, known as “tmagchesspgh” on the USCF forum, was the first to comment on the aforementioned post by Mike Murray. He begins his comment(s) with, “Somehow, I am less inclined to believe a blog which has a personal axe to grind for authoritative analysis of a topic.” Mr. Magar is a prolific poster on the USCF forum as can be seen by this being his 2802 post. This pales in comparison to Mr. Allen Priest, writing as “Allen” on the forum, who has made an astounding 4918 posts. He joins Mr Magar by writing, “Having met and interacted with the blogger at issue multiple times, a comment that the blogger might have a personal axe to grind is certainly believable.” This is known as “kill the messenger.” This is a common practice when some cannot refute the message. I will address the axe grinding momentarily, but first I must take exception to something Mr.Magar wrote, “The “Armchair Warrior” has mischaracterized some of their work.” I have done no such thing. What I have done is to simply copy what these eminently educated people have written, and I have copied it verbatim. If Mr. Magar were writing about the JFK assassination he would be known as an “apologist” for the Warren Commission. He would probably write something along the lines of, “What do you mean you do not believe in the magic bullet theory? When I took out my vintage WWII low-powered Italian made carbine, called “junk” by expert military riflemen, and shot into a watermelon from the rear, it went back, and to the left! Not only that, when I lined up two watermelons at an angle from each other, and shot from an angle high above the melons, the bullet entered the first melon, changed direction heading from down to up, zigged to the left, then zagged back to the right and entered the melon, again zigging to the left, where it exited the watermelon, after zagging, then striking Lyndon’s Boy John, who happened to be walking by just as I was demonstrating the power of a magic bullet, in the thigh.”

As far as having an axe to grind, nothing could be further from the truth. But to be as honest as possible, and in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to relate the following. The fact is that some years ago the President of the GCA insisted on holding a Senior tournament that was thought so highly of by Seniors that only EIGHT players entered. He did this against the wishes of many members of the chess community, including the Legendary Georgia Ironman, who had advocated getting a committee of Seniors, such as the esteemed Scott Parker and the highly regarded Michael Mulford, known as “Mulfish” on the USCF forum, together to discuss what kind of tournament should be held. Fun Fong, the POTGCA, nixed that idea, “nippin’ it in the bud,” as Deputy Barney Fife would say. Fun Fong is an emergency room doctor, and as such is the man in complete control. He gives the orders in the same way a General or dictator gives orders, and expects them to be obeyed. Dr. Fong was not happy to read my criticism. When I decided to write another blog, this one, I called former POTGCA Scott Parker, a member of the Emory Castle Chess Camp board, as is Dr. Fong, and asked if it would be OK for me to post some signs for my blog at the Castle tournament which concludes the camp. Scott said he saw no problem with my doing that, as long as I checked with the Chief TD, Colonel David Hater, whom I knew from the House of Pain. I did just that and David was very gracious, shaking my hand and asking how I had been, then walking me around while discussing chess and the best places for me to post my notices. He was called away and I noticed Dr. Fong heading my way so I extended my hand, which was rebuffed rather hatefully. I will admit this was rather embarrassing with all the people around to see what had transpired. I placed a few notices before Jennifer Christianson, a lovely woman familiar to me because her sons played chess at the HOP, walked up and told me Fun Fong had asked her to tell me I would have to take the notices down. After informing Jennifer that I had discussed it with Mr. Parker, and then asked Colonel Hater, she told me to forget about what Fun had said; she would tell him I had permission.

I am a Southern man. I was born and raised in the South, as they say, “by the grace of God.” In the South if a man, any man, has a woman do his bidding for him, he is considered to be not much of a man. I have not written about the incident until now, and have not gone out of my way to spread it around, but when asked, I have discussed it with a few players, who, to a man, feel exactly as I do. There is absolutely nothing Fun Fong can do to change the fact that he is, and always will be, considered “NOT MUCH OF A MAN.”

That said, I do not have a bone to pick, or an axe to grind, with Fun Fong on a personal level. As GM Hikaru Nakamura is so fond of saying, “It is what it is.” Fun Fong is what he is. I do, though, have a problem with what Fun Fong, whom I will admit I think of as “Fun E. Fong,” has done as POTGCA. Rather than instituting changes to the format so that many more Senior players would consider playing, Fun Fong held the same tournament and only thirteen players entered the next year. In order to improve a chess player must acknowledge, and correct, his mistakes. Fun Fong let the chess community know in no uncertain terms that things were going to be his way, or the highway. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” This is, unfortunately, not the only example of Fun Fong making a mistake again and again. What lit Richard De Credico’s fuse is the GCA made the exact same mistake made at the previous tournament. ( As Mike Mulford has written, the buck has got to stop somewhere, and Fun Fong is the POTGCA, and as such, must be held accountable. I have been around chess in Georgia since 1970 and have never seen any GCA board member engender the enmity of so many.

In the most recent scholastic chess tournament the GCA, under the leadership of Fun Fong, lost a round. How is that possible you ask?

From: Georgia Chess Association
Date: Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 2:35 PM
Subject: Teams Invited to the K-8 Team State Championship

“Dear Parents, Coaches & Players,

Thank you so much for attending the 2015 State Qualifier tournament. Teams invited to the State Championship can be found on our website using this link: Details and registration will be up this week.

We’d like to apologize for the delay we had following round 3. Much time and energy was put into preparing for this event in hopes of running a smooth, on-time tournament. Few are more distressed than we are as volunteers for the technical issues we had with the K-3 section. (See below for details.)

One issue we are trying to address for the future is communication. Our pre-tournament communication with you allowed for a very smooth start. This year chess control was split into 4 sections staffed with more volunteers to help answer questions. It went very well. After the technical issues at round 3 began we had difficulty communicating with the parents. Without carpet in the exhibit halls (which is currently not an option due to the expense) the PA system is ineffective. We are working on finding alternate ways of communicating with you on tournament day in the future if we use this venue.

We would like to thank all the parents and coaches who volunteered for this event and who were supportive through out the day. We can not hold chess tournaments without you.

GCA Scholastic Team

Details of the technical issue: Files for rounds 1 & 2 & 3 were lost on the K-3 laptop with the pairing software. All results for round 1 had to be re-entered. With so many unrated players, when we paired for round 2 to enter those results, the pairings didn’t match the actual round that was played. We had to pair those boards by hand in order to input those results. The same had to be done for round 3. Once we realized how long this would take we decided to go with a 4 round tournament for K-3 and have the other sections play ASAP. Not being able to communicate this to parents was a huge problem.”

There is no explanation for how the files were lost. I have heard they were deleted. This may, or may not, be true, but it sounds like something par for the course for the GCA gang who have trouble shooting straight. I will admit to having a difficult time fathoming how this is possible because when I hit the “delete” key, a small window always appears asking me, “Are you sure you want to do this, dude?”

Upon moving back to my home state the father of a young boy told me an incredible story of how his son had been “shafted” during a scholastic tournament that was so outlandish it was difficult to believe even though I knew this man to be a fine, honest father and strong family man. Since I was newly returned and did not know the people now in charge of chess in Georgia I told the father the BaconLOG was discontinued, and was not certain I wanted to write another blog, and certainly did not wish to write about scholastic chess. There was no one else for him to turn and I do not believe he has ever forgiven me. If I had known then what I now know, I would have started another blog right then and there and published what I had been told.

I have come to think of those in charge of chess in my home state as the Roseanne Roseannadanna’s of the chess world. “Roseanne Roseannadanna” was one of several recurring characters created by Gilda Radner, who appeared on “Weekend Update” in the early seasons of Saturday Night Live airing on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC).”

“Eventually, Weekend Update co-anchor Jane Curtin would interrupt, stating, “Roseanne, you’re making me sick.” Curtin would then ask her what her comments had to do with the question. Roseannadanna’s response was, “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.” (

Mr. Magar writes, “I also know Bob Ferguson and have talked with him about his studies.”

I met Bob Dylan once, but was unable to talk with him about his song writing because, after being introduced as the Atlanta Chess Champion, our conversation consisted of him asking me about chess. What did Mr.Magar learn about the Ferguson study? Why did he mention this?

Mr. Magar drops another name, writing, “Ferdinand Gobet was at CMU in Pittsburgh for a time doing some research. I met and discussed some issues with him way back when.”

What “issues” were discussed and did it have anything at all to do with anything about which I wrote?

Mr. Magar writes, “The research by Gobet and Campitelli is not compelling. The examination and experimental framework they use is over a very short time frame. Other studies that are over the application of chess study over an extensive time are much more positive with regards to the effects of chess and scholastic achievement. I am well aware of potential structural flaws of some of the studies. However, the general trend is positive, not negative, toward the effects of chess study.”

What “other studies?” Please explain what you mean by your vague statement, “…the general trend is positive, not negative, toward the effects of chess study.” SHOW US THE EVIDENCE! “The research by Gobet and Campitelli is not compelling.” Maybe not to Thomas Magar, but it is to Dr. Zach Hambrick, and that is good enough for me.

Mr. Magar writes, “I could point to anecdotal evidence in my own practice in dealing with special education students in a school and what some of my students have achieved.”

So could I, and many other chess teachers and coaches, but still it would only be “anecdotal evidence.” The reason studies such as this are done is to obtain the big picture.

In Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli, one finds, “…compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems.” I could give you an anecdotal tale of a boy to whom I tried to teach chess, not because the boy was interested in the Royal game, but because his mother, who was originally from the home town of Garry Kasparov, Baku, Armenia, wanted him to learn. He was being home schooled after having had “problems” in public school. The time I spent trying to teach the boy, in the home city of Alan Priest, I might add, was like pulling eye teeth, and as far as I am concerned, proof positive that Gobet and Campitelli hit the nail on the head with this one. But, just for the sake of argument, let us suppose Magar and Priest decided to so a study and questioned four hundred ninety nine other chess teachers, and they all reported that “Compulsory instruction was to be recommended because it did not seem to lead to motivational problems.” My “anecdotal evidence would be an outlier, and worthless. Mr. Magar seems to acknowledge this when he goes on to write, “But since I am too busy working to teach chess and do not intend to publish an academic article, you can dismiss what I am about to say.”

And that is exactly what I did, Mr. Magar.