Harry Sabine R.I.P.

Former commissioner, chess champion Harry Sabine passes

“Long-time Crossville attorney and county commissioner Harry D. Sabine passed away July 31. He was 78 years old.
Sabine grew up in Cumberland County, graduating from Cumberland County High School in 1958. He attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and returned to Crossville to practice law in 1968.
He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a captain, including one tour of duty in Vietnam.

He and his wife, Michelle Ann, had two sons, Steve and Jay.
Sabine was a champion of chess in the schools and community. He organized the Scholastic Chess program for Cumberland County beginning in 1973. The program garnered more than 20 state championships for the schools and top honors in national tournaments for Martin Junior High Chess Club in 1982 and 1985.
In 2003, Sabine began working to bring the U.S. Chess Federation to Crossville. The organization moved its national headquarters to Cumberland County in 2006.

Sabine also served four terms on the Cumberland County Commission representing the First Civil District.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced by the family at this time.”

https://www.crossville-chronicle.com/news/local_news/former-commissioner-chess-champion-harry-sabine-passes/article_8d917630-b48b-11e9-9eb5-ff3cf7e3178c.html

The last time I saw Harry was at the 2009 U.S. Open in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2009. I had travelled from Louisville with one of my older students, Rick Rothenburg, for a day trip. An old friend, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, was the first to greet me in the parking lot. We talked for awhile before I walked inside. After entering the main playing hall the first person to greet me was Ryan Velez. He was playing but stood up and walked over to shake my hand and say hello. As he did so I noticed this large, hulking man break into a huge grin as he began ambling toward me from the front of the room. I, too, was grinning as I walked toward Harry Sabine, who had his outstretched hand pointing in my direction long before close enough to actually clasp hands. This was the first time we had seen each other since my publishing a post on the old, now defunct, BaconLOG, which follows.

Monday, June 1, 2009
Tennessee Senior Open

The Tennessee Senior Open was a wonderful event! Not feeling my best, I decided to play the first round Sat morning, in lieu of Fri night, but attended the opening ceremonies at the Fair Park Senior Center that evening. The Mayor, J.H. Graham III, welcomed us with open arms. I told him the following story: I left my hotel room after changing pants, as it was warm enough for shorts. After ordering a couple of burrito’s at Taco Bell, I realized the money was still in the jeans. I felt foolish, but the employee, Nan Turner, handed me the grub, saying it would be on her! I simply could not believe it! I mean, that does not happen in a large city like Atlanta. The next day I stopped by and gave her the money, which included a decent tip, which she attempted to refuse, to no avail. This is a perfect illustration of the difference between a big city and a small town. I learned that during my stay in Hendersonville, NC. My theory is that people are much more friendly in a small town because they realize the people they encounter one day at a restaurant may be the same person they encounter at the library the next day. In a big city, one thinks they will never see that person again. It is the people who constitute a community, whether Crossville, Tn., or our small chess community. This has to be one of the major reasons Crossville was chosen to be the new USCF HQ. A better place could not have been found. The next morning, upon my arrival, the Mayor greeted me, giving me his card and asking if I would send him the tale I told him the previous night via email. Then, when it came time for the picture, the Mayor asked me to stand beside him. Several others said a few words in greeting us, too, so the first round began a little late, which is very unusual for “Head ‘em up, move ‘em out” Harry Sabine, as he’s known for getting the round started on time. There was a drawing for prizes donated by the Crossville community, and I was fortunate enough to win one. There was free coffee, drinks and snacks for all the players, which was a real nice touch. Harry was the head TD, capably assisted by Susan Houston, an employee of the USCF, and her son, Charley, who kept us updated on the US Championship. Harry is training Charley; passing the torch, so to speak. Charley is quite young, and was, therefore, reluctant to tell we Seniors to be quite, so I told him he was a TD, and to say what needed to be said, since he was ‘The Man’. I smiled when Charley told a group, including me, to “keep it down.” Susan remarked the tournament had a different feel to it than any other she has attended, with the players acting more like a family reunion, or homecoming. Susan handled the ‘puter and also served as I like to think of her, as ‘Chess Mom’. She also coordinated trips for the players to the HQ. I went by earlier in the week, seeing old friends like Chuck Lovingood and Jay Sabine (and watching games from the US Championship!), Walter Brown, Alan Kantor, etc., and meeting new friends. The Fair Park Senior Center was a fine place for the tournament. The lighting was superior, far better than the recent Georgia State Championship, for example. Lighting is especially important for Senior players. Different folks from the Senior Center welcomed us, making us feel right at home. As I sat there listening to these wonderful people, I thought this is the kind of greeting I’ve read about on the web in European countries. It made me feel proud to be a chess player as they made us feel special. There were 35 players, far exceeding the small turnouts for previous Tennessee Senior tournaments, which were only a one day event with a G/60 time control. I think part of the reason was a tribute to Harry Sabine. We still miss the Fairfield Glade after all these years! One year it snowed heavily and we were stranded Sunday night but the Glade did not charge us for the room! Players came from half a dozen different states, with one player originally from England and one from the Netherlands. NM Henry Robinson took first, 4-0. The fine Chess Café historical writer, Jerry Spinrad, was clear second with 3 ½. Seven players tied for third with a score of 3-1. I was in that group, losing only to Henry. An ornate chess set was donated by the Fair Park Senior Center and it went to the biggest upset (I asked Harry if that meant the largest rating differential, or the player who got the most upset after a loss, which brought a smile to his mug). My first round opponent, Larry Grohn, rated 880, bested my third round opponent, Wieb Van Der Meer, 1420, in the last round to take the prize. Mucho Kudos to Harry Sabine for holding this event! Although Harry and I have had our differences over the years, I prefer to think of it as a disagreement with a TD, not the man. The man is someone with whom I have shared a drink of Jack Daniels (what else would Harry drink?!), and invited into the Atlanta Chess Center on a day it was closed for Thanksgiving, make a cuppa joe, and have a conversation while showing him around the House of Pain. The best part was the look on Harry’s face when I opened the door after his knock! I knew it was Harry after glancing out the window and seeing his orange tennis shoes! I must have been the last person Harry expected to see. Knowing Harry had been a Marine I mentioned a man from the old neighborhood who had also been a Marine during World War Two, Sloppy Floyd Bailey, who had said, “Once a jarhead, always a jarhead!” Harry smiled before saying, “Sloppy Floyd knew what he was talking about.”

The worst thing I heard about Harry while in Crossville was that he is a “fine man.” And I heard it not once, but many times. “Oh, you know Harry Sabine? He’s a such a nice man.” Or, “Harry Sabine is a wonderful man.” You must come to Crossville in order to understand what having the USCF HQ means to this community. These people are PROUD, and Harry Sabine, as the Mayor said, deserves much credit. The modest Harry pointed out the work of others. I can think of no one better than Harry to coordinate a Senior tournament in all 50 states! Senior chess is bringing players back to the game, in some cases after many years out of chess. I would like to thank Harry, Susan, Charley, and everyone else for a wonderful time here in the mountains…

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Just Checking The End Of The Line

Each issue of the best Chess magazine in the universe, New In Chess, culminates with Just Checking, which is a series of questions for various strong players from various parts of the world. Since I am not a titled player NIC will never interview me, yet I have sometimes fantasized about answering the questions posed. Some of the answers are surprising and each and every answer tells you something about the person providing the answer. Since it is a magazine with limited space most of the answers are short. Since this is a blog I can elaborate at length. Don’t get me started! I hope you enjoy what follows.

What is your favorite city?

Decatur, Georgia, the city of my birth.

What was the last great meal you had?

Something beautiful in its simplicity prepared by the woman with whom I was in love.

What drink brings a smile to your face?

Which book would you give to a dear friend?

I have no “dear friend.”

What book are you currently reading?

Just finished reading, Presumed Guilty: How and why the Warren Commission framed Lee Harvey Oswald, by Howard Roffman. Although it was published in the mid-seventies it had somehow escaped my attention. Although I had read a few books before beginning to work at the Oxford bookstore in Atlanta, my serious reading began a few years after the book was published, yet I missed it. I ordered the book after reading about it in Volume 20, #3 of the JFK/DEEP POLITICS QUARTERLY, published in August of 2018 by Walt Brown and Tim Smith (info @ kiasjfk@aol.com). Upon opening the package and reading the front of the dust jacket I turned to the back and was taken aback, no, ASTOUNDED, to see a picture of a young Justin Morrison, now owner of Kid Chess in Atlanta, Georgia (https://www.kidchess.com/). I kid you not! The picture of the the young man bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Justin Morrison, who was one of my opponents in the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship. From the jacket: “Howard Roffman, now 23, was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa., where he attended public school. His interest in the assassination of President Kennedy began when he was fourteen, and he read everything he could lay his hands on on the subject. By 11th grade he had bought all 26 volumes of the Warren Report ($76), and, convinced of the inadequacy of the conclusions, he went to the National Archives and studied the files – the youngest researcher ever to see them. Alarmed at what he discovered, he writes, “I can’t think of anything more threatening than when the government lies about the murder of its leader.” It is a fine book and a clear refutation of the US Government’s “official” finding that Lee Harvey Oswald murdered the POTUS, John F. Kennedy.

What is your favorite novel?

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

Do you have a favorite artist?

Maxfield Parrish

Way back in the 1970’s a girlfriend, Cecil Jordan, who was from California, and came to Atlanta to become a stewardess for Delta Air Lines, took me to some place in San Francisco where the paintings of Maxfield Parrish were being shown. The colors, especially blue, were so very vibrant it was like they jumped out at you in a spectacular way. I fell in love with the artists work. The pictures one sees in a book or magazine are nice, but absolutely nothing like what one sees if fortunate enough to see the real McCoy.

What is your favorite color?

What is your all-time favorite movie?

When young it was Cool Hand Luke,

then came One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,

but I cannot watch either of them now because they are too depressing. The English Patient

became a candidate, but only one movie has stood the test of time. When channel surfing and the movie flashes upon the screen it matters not what is on any other channel as the surfing ends immediately. That movie is Casablanca.

What is your all-time favorite TV series?

Who is your favorite actor?

Humphrey Bogart.

And actress?

Kim Basinger

and Blair Brown.



To what kind of music do you listen?

Because of tinnitus I now listen to mostly what is called “ambient,” or “electronic,” or “New Age,” or “space” music. (https://www.hos.com/)

I have, at one time or another, listened to every kind of musical genre.

Who is your favorite composer?

Duke Ellington.

Favorite male singer/songwriter?

Bob Dylan

Female?

Joni Mitchell.

Best Rock & Roll song of all-time?

Like a Rolling Stone.

Like A Rolling Stone

Written by: Bob Dylan

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn’t you?

People’d call, say, “Beware doll, you’re bound to fall”

You thought they were all kiddin’ you

You used to laugh about

Everybody that was hangin’ out

Now you don’t talk so loud

Now you don’t seem so proud

About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be without a home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

You’ve gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely

But you know you only used to get juiced in it

And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street

And now you find out you’re gonna have to get used to it

You said you’d never compromise

With the mystery tramp, but now you realize

He’s not selling any alibis

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns

When they all come down and did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat

Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat

Ain’t it hard when you discover that

He really wasn’t where it’s at

After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people

They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made

Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things

But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose

You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music
http://www.bobdylan.com/songs/rolling-stone/

Favorite Rock & Roll song of all-time?

The Night They Drove Old Dixe Down.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

The Band

Produced by John Simon

Virgil Caine is the name and I served on the Danville train
‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive
By May the tenth, Richmond had fell
It’s a time I remember, oh so well

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Back with my wife in Tennessee
When one day she called to me
“Virgil, quick, come see, there go the Robert E.Lee”
Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood
And I don’t care if the money’s no good
Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Like my father before me, I will work the land
And like my brother above me, who took a rebel stand
He was just eighteen, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the mud below my feet
You can’t raise a Caine back up when he’s in defeat

The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the bells were ringing
The night they drove old Dixie down
And the people were singing
They went, “La, la, la”

Best Rock & Roll band of all-time?

George Harrison of the Beatles said The Band was the best band in the universe. Who am I to argue with him?

What is your all-time favorite album?

The Romantic Warrior.

What is the best piece of advice ever given to you?

“Life is like the Bataan death march. Your best buddy might fall down but you cannot help him up because he will only drag you down so you gotta keep high-steppin’.”

Is there something you would love to learn?

The meaning of life.

What is your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

And your greatest regret?

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

Who is your favorite Chess player of all-time?

Robert J. Fischer.

Is there a Chess book that had a profound influence on you?

Chess Openings in Theory and Practice by I. A. Horowitz

I would also like to mention a Grandmaster for whom I much admiration, Vladimir Malaniuk,

because he devoted his entire life to playing the Leningrad Dutch, and with much success. For anyone desiring to play the Leningrad Dutch his book is de rigueur.

What does it mean to be a Chess player?

Nothing.

Is a knowledge of Chess useful in everyday life?

No.

Do you have any superstitions concerning Chess?

No.

If you could change one thing in the chess world what would it be?

End the offering of a draw, award more points for a win, especially with the black pieces, and rid Chess of all the people in positions of power who do not, and have not, played Chess, most of whom do not even like the game, and only want to “run things.”

That is three things.

You want me to go on?

No.

That’s what I thought…

What is the best thing ever said about Chess?

Before the advent of the computer programs:

I believe in magic … There is magic in the creative faculty such as great poets and philosophers conspicuously possess, and equally in the creative chessmaster. – Emanuel Lasker

After the advent of the computer programs:

“The ability to combine skillfully, the capacity to find in each given position the most expedient move, is the quickest way to execute a well-conceived plan, and is in fact the only principle in the game of chess”- Mikhail Chigorin

What is the most exciting Chess game you have ever watched?

Keep in mind we were unable to “watch” most games ‘back in the day’. Even the World Championship games were replayed from the next days newspaper, which was usually the New York Times. Therefore, I am limited in the number of games I have “seen” in real time. That said, I was working the demo board the day the following game was played at the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio 1972 and managed to watch every move. It was “exciting” to me, and some of the home town crowd, to watch Ken Smith,

who had been manhandled by the GM’s (Ken did manage to draw earlier with Mario Campos Lopez, and beat former World Junior champion Julio Kaplan in the previous round eleven) draw with GM Paul Keres.

After the game someone mentioned something about Ken drawing because Keres was old and obviously tired. I responded, “What? You think Ken was fresh as a daisy? He has probably sat at the board longer and played more moves than any other player during the event because he was the lowest rated player, and the other players were going to test him in the endgame in each and every game.” Ken, known as the “Capablanca of the cattle country,” heard this, and was nice, and gracious to me from that day forward. Some years later I entered an elevator after losing a game in a big tournament, such as the World Open, or maybe the Western States Chess festival in Reno. There were three people on the elevator, one of whom was Ken. “How did you do, Mike?” He asked. I hung my head and answered, “I lost, Ken.”
“What opening did you play?” He asked. “It was a Leningrad Dutch,” I said. “Ah, at least you played a fighting opening!” For some reason that made me feel better and as he exited I smiled in response to his smile. It is difficult to make a player who has just lost a Chess game smile.

Paul Keres vs Kenneth Ray Smith
San Antonio (1972), San Antonio, TX USA, rd 12, Dec-04
English Opening: Anglo-Indian Defense. Queen’s Knight Variation (A16)

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c6 3. e4 d5 4. e5 d4 5. exf6 dxc3 6. fxg7 cxd2+ 7. Bxd2 Bxg7
8. Qc2 Nd7 9. Ne2 Nf6 10. Ng3 Qc7 11. Bd3 Bd7 12. Bc3 O-O-O 13. O-O-O Ne8 14.
Rhe1 e6 15. Bxg7 Nxg7 16. Qc3 Nf5 17. Qf6 Rhf8 18. Re5 Kb8 19. Bxf5 exf5 20.
Qd6 Be6 21. Qxc7+ Kxc7 22. b3 Rxd1+ 23. Kxd1 Rg8 24. f4 Rg4 25. Ke2 Rxf4 26. h3
Kd6 27. Ra5 a6 28. Ke3 Rh4 29. Nxf5+ Bxf5 30. Rxf5 Ke6 31. Rg5 Rh6 32. Ke4 Rh4+
33. Ke3 Rh6 34. Kd4 Rg6 35. Re5+ Kd6 36. c5+ Kd7 37. g4 Rh6 38. Rf5 Ke6 39. Rf3
Rf6 40. Re3+ Kd7 41. Re5 Rh6 42. Re3 Rf6 43. Ke4 Ke6 44. Rd3 Rf2 45. Rd6+ Ke7
46. Rd4 Rxa2 47. Rb4 Ke6 48. Rxb7 Re2+ 49. Kd4 Rd2+ 50. Kc4 Rc2+ 51. Kb4 a5+
52. Kxa5 Rxc5+ 53. Kb4 Rc1 54. Rc7 Kf6 55. Ka3 Kg6 56. Kb2 Rc5 57. h4 h6 58.
Rd7 f6 59. Rd6 Kg7 60. h5 f5 61. Rg6+ Kh7 62. gxf5 Rxf5 63. Rxc6 Rxh5 64. b4
Rg5 65. Rc5 Rg8 66. b5 Kg6 67. Kc3 h5 68. b6 h4 69. Kd4 Rd8+ 70. Kc4 h3 71. Kb5
h2 72. Rc1 Kg5 73. b7 Rb8 1/2-1/2

What was your best result ever?

Winning the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship 5-0.

What was the best game you played?

A win with the black pieces vs Mark Pinto, or possibly a win vs the sour Kraut, LM Klaus Pohl which was published in Chess Life magazine.

FM Mark Pinto

vs Bacon

1986 US Open rd 4

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6+ gxf6
6. c3 Qd5 7. Ne2 Bg4 8. f3 Bf5 9. Ng3 Bg6 10. Qb3 Qxb3 11. axb3 e6 12. Be3 Nd7
13. b4 f5 14. Bc4 Nb6 15. Bb3 Nd5 16. Bd2 Be7 17. O-O h5 18. Ne2 h4 19. Nf4
Nxf4 20. Bxf4 h3 21. g3 a6 22. Be5 Rg8 23. Kf2 Bg5 24. f4 Be7 25. Bc7 Kd7 26.
Bb6 Bh5 27. Rfe1 Bd6 28. Rg1 Rg6 29. Bc4 Rag8 30. Rae1 Bxf4 31. gxf4 Rg2+ 32.
Rxg2 Rxg2+ 33. Ke3 Rxh2 34. Bd3 Ke7 35. Bc5+ Kf6 36. Bf8 Rg2 37. Bf1 Rg3+ 38.
Kf2 Rf3+ 39. Kg1 Bg4 40. Bh6 Kg6 41. Bg5 f6 42. Rxe6 h2+ 43. Kxh2 Rxf1 44.
Rxf6+ Kg7 45. Rd6 Rf2+ 46. Kg1 Rxb2 47. Rd7+ Kg6 48. Rxb7 Bf3 49. Rb6 Kh5 50.
Rxa6 Kg4 51. Ra1 Kg3 0-1

The game was annotated by GM Jon Speelman:

https://en.chessbase.com/post/jon-speelman-s-agony-column-23

What is your most memorable game?

You and your Chess program will have a field day with this game. After making my twenty third move, which threatened checkmate, in addition to attacking the Queen, and knowing there were four ways my knight could be taken, all of which lose, I sat back and folded my arms with a smug look on my face, expecting my opponent to resign. It is the most beautiful move I have ever played on a Chess board. Instead, he did what a player is supposed to do, he put his head in his hands and “hunkered down.” Although I do not recall, it is highly probable I got up and strutted around the room, waiting for the resignation that did not come… I should have simply taken the knight. I did, though, learn a valuable lesson which I have attempted to teach everyone to whom I have given lessons. “Examine ALL CHECKS.”
The game was played in Midland, Texas, in the Halliburton Open, 1974. If I recall correctly, it was played in the second round, after I had lost to a NM named Gary Simms. I also recall that after I came back to win my last three games Mr. Simms was nice enough to say, “You showed us something by not withdrawing.”

T. Thompson vs Michael Bacon

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qb6 8. Qd2
Qxb2 9. Nb3 Qa3 10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Be2 h5 12. f5 Nc6 13. O-O Bd7 14. fxe6 fxe6
15. Rxf6 Qb4 16. a3 Qb6+ 17. Kh1 Ne5 18. Rb1 Qc7 19. Nd4 Rc8 20. Qg5 Be7 21.
Bxh5+ Kd8 22. Rb3 Qc4 23. Rxb7

Nf3?!!?

24. Nxe6+ Bxe6 25. Rf8+ 1-0

A close second would be a game in which I drew with IM Andre Filipowicz

with the black pieces in the first round of a weekend swiss tournament in Atlanta during the FIDE congress. IM Boris Kogan


Boris Kogan with raised hand at Lone Pine

and NM Guillermo Ruiz became excited with the possibility of my nicking an IM for a half-point to begin the tournament. I graciously accepted the draw offer in an even position, which brought relief to the other titled players because they knew I usually disdained a draw, preferring to play on in what was usually a futile effort.

Going back to my first blog, the BaconLOG (http://baconlog.blogspot.com/) I have been blogging, off and on, for over a decade. You cannot please all of the people but evidently, judging from some of the comments received, you can please some of the people. An example of the former would be this email received from the Ol’ Swindler:

raj kipling
To:Michael Bacon
Jul 19 at 9:27 AM
Michael,
PLEASE remove my email address from any of you “blog” notifications…you are heading for a fall and I do not want to be dragged down with you…in fact do not email me under any circumstances…do not even respond to this email…forget that you even knew me…good luck…neal harris

Judging by the date it would appear Mr. Harris

did not care for my post of the previous day (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/07/18/fuck-you-mr-president/). When we were together politics was never discussed. Why would we discuss politics when there was Chess to discuss? I did, though, travel with the Ol’ Swindler to Waynesville to attend the Smoky Mountain Chess Club once and Neal did stop at a survivalist store where it could be gleaned from the very right of center conversation all of the votes there would go to Republican candidates…

Fortunately most of the email responses received have been positive. For example:

Kevin Spraggett

To:Michael Bacon
Nov 3 at 10:02 PM
Great Article, Michael. You have become a wonderful writer!

Kevin

Karen
To:Michael Bacon
Dec 10 at 6:05 AM
Great article! You are a very good writer ( I was an English major and went to grad school so I notice these things!).

Best,
Karen

That would be Karen Boyd, wife of GM Ben Finegold.

“A man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” I cannot recall when or where I heard, or read, that, but know it is true. I have had enough blogging. We, dead reader, have reached…

End of the Line
The Traveling Wilburys
Featuring Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne & 2 more
Produced by Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison) & Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne)
Album Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1

[Chorus 1: George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
Well it’s all right, doing the best you can
Well it’s all right, as long as you lend a hand

[Verse 1: Tom Petty]
You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring
Waiting for someone to tell you everything
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring
Maybe a diamond ring

[Chorus 2: Jeff Lynne]
Well it’s all right, even if they say you’re wrong
Well it’s all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it’s all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it’s all right, everyday is Judgement Day

[Verse 2: Tom Petty]
Maybe somewhere down the road away
You’ll think of me, and wonder where I am these days
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays
Purple haze

[Chorus 3: Roy Orbison]
Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love
Well it’s all right, everything’ll work out fine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

[Verse 3: Tom Petty]
Don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive
I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive
It don’t matter if you’re by my side
I’m satisfied

[Chorus 4: George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, even if you’re old and grey
Well it’s all right, you still got something to say

[Jeff Lynne]
Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live
Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive
Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please

[George Harrison]
Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line

https://genius.com/The-traveling-wilburys-end-of-the-line-lyrics

After a sports memorabilia show about three decades ago the self-proclaimed Legendary Georgia Ironman and I were at Spondivits, a bar with a seafood motif, when one of the songs, from the album, Tweeter and the Monkey Man began blasting from the excellent sound system. The late afternoon, early evening crowd broke into song, and we were with them. “Wow Mike,” the smiling Tim Brookshear, schooner filled with beer, said, “I’ve never been in a bar when everyone in the place sang along with the song!”

For that reason alone I nominate Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 for best Rock & Roll album of all-time.

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. (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

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: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

“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
(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/it-took-a-really-long-time-but/)

“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. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/when-the-umpire-is-playing-for-the-other-team/262429/)
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.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-and-krush-are-2015-us-champions)

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 http://www.chesslecture.com.” 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: http://www.danamackenzie.com/blog/

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.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

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…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index

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 365chess.com, 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?’

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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.