The Laws of the Najdorf

My subscription to the best Chess magazine ever published in the history of the Royal Game, New In Chess, expired with the 2017/6 issue. Although I would like to renew financial conditions due to health issues, etc., are such that the decision was made for me. Living on a fixed income requires sacrifice. I had extra money after deciding to postpone dental work until spring and there were these two Chess books I’ve wanted to read for quite some time, Insanity, passion, and addiction: a year inside the chess world, by GM Danny Gormally, and Ivan’s Chess Journey: Games and Stories, by GM Ivan Sokolov. Greg Yanez of Chess4Less.com sent out an email announcing his Black Friday sale on Thursday evening and I was about to clear everything in order to listen to the weekly edition of Phenomenon Radio with Linda Moulton Howe (http://kgraradio.com/phenomenon-radio/) so I clicked on and examined all ninety pages of Chess items for sale, while listening to the program, ordering the above mentioned books and the new issue of New In Chess magazine because not only is it the best Chess magazine in the universe, but I am 67 and tomorrow is today. Alas, the issue contains book reviews by GM Matthew Sadler of two books on my wish list, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, and Guyla Breyer, by Jimmy Adams (published by New In Chess), both of which earned five, count’em, FIVE STARS! Two more books, or another subscription to the best Chess magazine in the universe? Oh well, I can take solace in that no matter how I choose to spend my money I cannot go wrong!

Before continuing, let me say that I met Greg at one of the National tournaments for children at the Hyatt in downtown Atlanta, Georgia some years ago. I purchased a stack of books while enjoying talking with Greg and the fellow with him, whose name I simply cannot recall. I spent most of my time while there in the book room, and returned the next day and did the same. The next year another group, USCF sales, had the book concession. I talked with Aviv Friedman, who was there to write an article for the USCF. I mentioned we had played a tournament game but he did not recall it. When told I answered his French with 2 Qe2 his face erupted in a big grin as he interjected, “And I played 2…e5!”
“You do remember it?” I asked. “No,” he said, “I always answer 2 Qe2 with 2…e5! Who won?” I told him he had won the game and that made him smile even more. “It is the only time anyone has ever played that move,” I said, “and I played 3 f4 because I had seen it recommended somewhere.”
Upon mentioning I had just returned from the book room he said, “Oh yeah? What did you think of it?”
When I replied, “Not much,” he said, “Really? Why is that?” Saying I had only purchased one book compared with a stack from Chess4Less the previous year, provoked another, “Really?”
“Yeah,” said I, “The place was moribund compared to last year. Man, that Chess4Less room was really hopping!” I said. Aviv responded, “Really?” Then some USCF official came up to Aviv and I took my leave, heading to the food court. Aviv did not mention this exchange in the article…

I sent my order that night and had it with the US Mail Monday at noon! I worked at the Oxford Bookstore on Peachtree road in the Buckhead section of Atlanta in the late 70’s-early 80’s, and at Oxford Too, a place for used and remaindered books and things like old magazines, later in the 80’s, and once managed a Mr. K’s bookstore on Peachtree road in the same area of town, before quitting to play Backgammon full time. I sold books and equipment with Thad Rogers on the road, and also at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, aka, the House of Pain, so I know more than a little about selling Chess stuff, and I am here to tell you that one simply cannot go wrong dealing with Chess4Less!

The 2017/7 issue of NIC is a wonderful issue. I recall the Nashville Strangler’s wife telling me that when a new issue of NIC arrived she would tell her children, “We have lost daddy for a couple of days.” This issue is a prime example of why.

What I would like to share with you is the opening of the very first game in this magnificent magazine, the game between former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand and GM Anton Kovalyov from the World Cup. That is the tournament in which the latter knocked out the former, but was then “knocked out” by ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili when Zurab verbally accosted and abused the young GM from Canada, who is in college in the USA, only a few minutes before the next round was to begin. Anton left for the airport immediately. From what I read at Chessbase, the bombastic Zurab brings lotsa cash into Chess so he can abuse anyone at any time with impunity and without any kind of reprimand from FIDE. Proof that, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”

Viswanathan Anand (2794) vs Anton Kovalyov (2649)
Event: FIDE World Cup 2017
Site: Tbilisi GEO Date: 09/06/2017
Round: 2.1 Score: 0-1
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Adams attack

Notes by Anish Giri

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 h5 (“This move is typical in the Najdorf, when White has a pawn of f3 and the knight on b3, stopping his pretty much only plan of g2-g4, or when White’s pawn is on h3 and the knight is on e2, hindering the g4/Ne2-g3 set-up and the natural development of the f1-bishop. With the knight on be and the pawn on h3, this move is poor. It is easy for White to prepare f4 in one go (which is more often than not his main plan in this variation anyway), and the pawn on h5 is a minor weakening of Black’s kingside pawn structure.”) 9 Be2 Nbd7 (Black’s set-up looks ‘normal’, but since it is not the 6 f3 variation but the 6 h3 variation and White gets f2-f4 in one go, Black is essentially a tempo down. You may get away with a tempo down in a Giuoco Piano, but not in a sharp Sicilian.”) 10 0-0?! (Vishy plays a little timidly, but he will get another chance to punish Black for not obeying the laws of the Najdorf later on. 10 f4! at once would have been stronger. Black has to deal with the threat of f4-f5, but neither allowing or stopping it will solve his issues: 10…Qc7!? 11 0-0 Be7 12 a4 and one doesn’t need to be Efim Petrovich Geller to see that things are not going well for Black here. To begin with, he can’t castle kingside so easily, since the h5-pawn is vulnerable.) 10…Rc8 11 Qd2 (Again, too timid. 11 f4!? was still strong. Vishy was satisfied to get a good version of the Karpov Variation in the 6 Be2 Najdorf, but the nature of that line is such that, bad version or good, the position is still perfectly playable for Black. White’s plans there are slow and manoeuvring.) 11…b5? (Another ‘normal-looking’ move that is completely out of context.)

Although I would like to give the complete game, including commentary, right out of New In Chess I must stop the comments here, because there are copyright laws and the last thing I need on my limited, fixed income is a lawyer breathing down my neck! I suggest you purchase this issue as it would truly be “cheap at twice the price.” Think of it this way…back in 1968 we would skip the awful lunch at our high school and drive to Mrs. Jackson’s, where we would obtain a meal consisting of a meat, three veggies, roll, iced tea, and dessert, all for only a buck. A meal like that will set you back ten dollars these daze, so an individual copy of the greatest Chess magazine in history will cost you about the same as that meal at Mrs. Jackson’s because that ten spot in your pocket has the purchasing power of that single dollar bill “back in the day.” If you purchase a subscription, you are making out like a bandit! I mean, where else can you obtain this kind of teaching for so little money? If you play the Najdorf, or play against it, you have just increased your understanding exponentially, and the magazine gives this to you each and every issue, plus so much more!

I will, though, provide the remaining moves of the game, sans comment, which can be found all over the internet: (This comes from 365chess.com)
9. Be2 Nbd7 10. O-O Rc8 11. Qd2 b5 12. Rfd1 Nb6 13. Bxb6 Qxb6 14. a4 b4 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. exd5 Bd7 17. a5 Qb7 18. Qe3 Be7 19. Qb6 Qxb6 20. axb6 Rb8 21. Rxa6 Bd8 22. b7 Ke7 23. Nc5 dxc5 24. d6+ Kf6 25. Bf3 Kf5 26. Bd5 e4 27. Re1 Bf6 28. Bxe4+ Kg5 29. Ra5 Bxb2 30. Rxc5+ Kf6 31. Re3 g6 32. Rf3+ Ke6 33. Rd3 Rhd8 34. Ra5 f5 35. Bf3 Bc3 36. h4 Kf6 37. g3 f4 38. Be4 Bf5 39. Bxf5 gxf5 40. Rb5 Ke6 41. Kf1 Rd7 42. gxf4 Rbxb7 43. Re3+ Kf6 0-1

I went to the Chessbase Database, a fantastic FREE resource, (http://database.chessbase.com/js/apps/database/) and learned much: 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. Be3 (Here Komodo prefers 8…Be7, expecting 9 Qf3 to which it will reply 9…0-0; Stockfish would play 8…Nc6, expecting 9 Qf3 Rc8) h5?! 9 Be2 (Stockfish plays 9 f4, while Houdini would play 9 Nd5) Nbd7 10 0-0?! (Stockfish would play an immediate 10 f4, but Komodo would play 10 0-0, as did Vishy, and after 10…Rc8 then play 11 f4)

This is the only other game (found at 365chess.com) with the line:

Ruifeng Li (2404) vs Guillermo Vazquez (2394)

Event: Spring Break UT GM
Site: Brownsville USA Date: 03/06/2015
Round: 1.3 Score: ½-½
ECO: B90 Sicilian, Najdorf, Byrne (English) attack

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be3 e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. h3 h5 9. Be2 Nbd7 10. f4 g6 11. O-O exf4 12. Bxf4 Qb6+ 13. Qd4 Be7 14. Rad1 Qxd4+ 15. Nxd4 Ne5 16. Nf3 Nfd7 17. Nd5 Rc8 18. c3 Rc5 19. Be3 Rc8 20. Ng5 Bxd5 21. Rxd5 Nc5 22. Nf3 Ned7 23. e5 dxe5 24. Nxe5 Nxe5 25. Rxe5 Rc7 26. Bc4 Rh7 27. Bg5 f5 28. Bd5 Kf8 29. Bf4 Nd3 30. Re6 Nxf4 31. Rxf4 Bc5+ 32. Kf1 Rhd7 33. c4 1/2-1/2

The Najdorf was my favorite opening with Black “back in the day.” I won the 1976 Atlanta Championship using the Najdorf in the last round, when I was 4-0 while my opponent, Earle Morrison, was a half point back. I recall someone saying, “The Najdorf is not an opening. It is a SYSTEM,” but I can no longer recall by whom it was said…

Larry (Kaufman): “We have been seeing Komodo on its own, without a book, play the Najdorf Sicilian, which of course many people would say might be the best opening in chess for both sides.” (http://www.chessdom.com/interview-with-robert-houdart-mark-lefler-and-gm-larry-kaufman/)

While researching Chess quotes about the Najdorf I found this, which is right in line with one of the books sent by Greg:

Shock and Awe 1 – Destroying the Najdorf GM Danny Gormally
https://www.gingergm.com/blog/shock-and-awe-1-destroying-the-najdorf

GM Levon Aronian and his new bride, Arianne Caoili are pictured on the cover of NIC 2017/7 in wedding garb.

In the event you do not know what part GM Gormally plays in this story surf on over to Chessbase and read all about it: https://en.chessbase.com/post/party-time-at-the-che-olympiad

or, http://www.chessninja.com/dailydirt/2006/06/swing-of-things.htm; or, http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/chess-beauty-triggers-feud/2006/06/07/1149359787726.html

Or, BUY THE MAGAZINE!

Led Zeppelin – Thank You (The Wedding Song)

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Techmate

An article, Tech mate? Top grandmaster claims chess is riddled with cheats using smartphones, By Leon Watson, appeared in The Telegraph 21 Mar 2015. It must have flown under the radar because it was not mentioned by other chess based websites. It now seems prescient because underneath the headline one reads, “Daniel Gormally suggests many chess players now disappear to the toilet with their smartphones during games to work out their next move.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11487515/Tech-mate-Top-grandmaster-claims-chess-is-riddled-with-cheats-using-smartphones.html)

“The genteel world of British chess has been rocked after a top grandmaster claimed the game of kings is riddled with cheats.”

Daniel Gormally, 38, suggested the game is facing an epidemic of people popping to the loo during competitions and using mobile phones to work out their next move.

Mobile apps such as Droidfish and Shredder have made it easy to play chess on the move and analyse complex positions with so-called “chess engines”.

But despite handsets being banned in most tournaments on the English circuit, Gormally said there is nothing to stop players hiding in cubicles with them.”

“Gormally, from Durham, said: “There’s a few players in English chess whose ‘improvement’ I’ve found a bit suspicious, to say the least. But I won’t name any names.

“The worrying thing is the amount of chess players who cheat at chess, a game with very little money in it.”

Gormally, ranked 13 by the English Chess Federation, went on to say he believes chess is no different to sports like cycling which have been embroiled major drug taking scandals.

“The problem is that computers are so powerful,” he added. “It’s just a shame because now when you see someone have a significant improvement you think ‘hang on, wait a minute’ and it shouldn’t be that way.

“Of course, you can’t prove it. If somebody wants to go to the toilet once or twice in a match you wouldn’t be suspicious, but they could easily look at their phone and gain a significant improvement.”

“I don’t think it happens at the top level because they would get found out. The top players have press conferences after their matches and have to explain all their moves. But its at the lower level where it is a problem.”

Until GM Gaioz Nigalidze was caught with his pants down and his engine up, this has been the accepted, conventional wisdom. The administrators of chess have tried to either ignore, or talk the problem to death. They failed, because it lives.

Who is Daniel Gormally? ” Gormally himself hit the headlines in 2006 – although for other reasons.

He was involved in a drunken punch-up in a nightclub after he saw a rival dancing with a female player, dubbed the “Anna Kournikova of chess”.

Gormally had struck up an email relationship with 19-year-old Aussie Arianne Caoili and was accused of hitting and shoving world number three Levon Aronian when he spotted the Armenian with her.

The day after the bust-up at a tournament in Turin, Italy, Gormally was attacked by fans of Aronian.”

That would not happen today because the best players are not old enough to drink an adult beverage.

“Telegraph chess correspondent Malcolm Pein, who runs the top level London Chess Classic tournament, said he is not aware of any allegations of cheating in the English game and the game is clamping down on the use of technology.

He added: “The chess community is very aware of the possibility of cheating and measures are being taken to prevent it.

“There are metal detectors now at some tournaments and all electronic devices are banned at most. At the London Chess Classic, which I run, the arbiters observe the audience to check for suspicious behaviour.

“Were there to be a drug invented that makes you better at chess, I would give it to my children and boost their exam results.”

Most parents would probably do the same thing with their children because they have done exactly that with all kind of psychotropic drugs without having any idea what effects the drugs will produce later in life. The next generation should be called the “guinea pig” generation. At least adult guinea pigs get paid. (http://www.gpgp.net/)

“The English Chess Federation’s chief executive Phil Ehr denied cheating is widespread in the game and said he is aware of only one English player in the past four years who was caught cheating with a mobile phone.”

This is typical of the F.I.P.s in control of chess today. They are in denial, and have been all of the early part of this century. During the broadcast of the last round of the US Open Championship, and the ancillary tournament reserved for women not strong enough to make the Open a film was played of GM Maurice Ashely interviewing Yuliya Levitan, a counselor on the FIDE anti-cheating commission. She was there to spout the party line while singing, “Everything is beautiful, in its own way”…and “Don’t worry/be happy.” The woman ran down a list of things FIDE is doing to thwart cheating, including “…players not having cellphones on them.”

The latest gizmo wizard, who will forever be known as the “Dubai Cheater,” GM Gaioz Nigalidze, did not have a gizmo on him. He beat FIDE by leaving it in the toilet, which is where some say FIDE is headed. Yuliya mentioned something about “…keeping fans separate.” Maybe that should apply to a manager like Silvio Danilov.

She mentioned something about cameras, which made me think of the old TV show, Candid Camera, as in, “Smile, you’re on candid camera! Euuww, what ARE you doing?” FIDE will go ANYWHERE to prevent cheating! Anywhere but Russia, where in a tournament like Aeroflot, players conspire to draw games in the opening and, who knows, maybe even throw games, as happened between the nefarious Russians in the last round of the recent 2015 European Championship. She also mentioned “metal detectors,” and one could not help but notice the security guard behind Maurice holding, you guessed it, a metal detector.

Ms. Levitan also mentioned something about “…investigations going on. I cannot comment on those.” Too bad someone is not investigating FIDE…

The interview comes at the 3:06 mark and you can watch it, which is exactly what I did again. I wanted to make sure I quoted the woman correctly. She said, “Once again, more concern for the open tournaments. It does not happen often in professional chess…it does happen on higher level, but usually it happens on lower levels.”

Until the “Dubai Cheater,” GM Gaioz Nigalidze, this has been the “party-line.” The cat is now out of the bag, or should I say the genie is out of the bottle. Every result the “Dubai Cheater” has ever had is now suspect. Actually, one could drop the “Dubai Cheater” and just say that every FIDE result is suspect.

Magnus Carlsen’s Brain

One of the things listed under favorites on my computer is “brain science,” a subject with which I have been fascinated most of my life. The most recent article to be included was, “Studying Oversize Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory,” by Carl Zimmer, dated Febuary 12, 2015, in the New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/science/studying-oversize-brain-cells-for-links-to-exceptional-memory.html?hpw&rref=science&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0)

“In 2010, a graduate student named Tamar Gefen got to know a remarkable group of older people. They had volunteered for a study of memory at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Although they were all over age 80, Ms. Gefen and her colleagues found that they scored as well on memory tests as people in their 50s. Some complained that they remembered too much. She and her colleagues referred to them as SuperAgers.”

“Recently, Ms. Gefen’s research has taken a sharp turn. At the outset of the study, the volunteers agreed to donate their brains for medical research. Some of them have died, and it has been Ms. Gefen’s job to look for anatomical clues to their extraordinary minds.”

“Ms. Gefen and her colleagues are now starting to publish the results of these post-mortem studies. Last month in The Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists reported that one of the biggest differences involves peculiar, oversize brain cells known as von Economo neurons. SuperAgers have almost five times as many of them as other people.”

“Learning what makes these brains special could help point researchers to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of mental decline. But it is hard to say how an abundance of von Economo neurons actually helps the brain.”

“We don’t know what they’re doing yet,” said Dr. Mary Ann Raghanti, an anthropologist at Kent State University who was not involved in the new study.”

“As soon as the Northwestern scientists began enrolling SuperAgers in their study in 2007, the team took high-resolution scans of their brains. The SuperAgers had an unusually thick band of neurons in a structure called the anterior cingulate cortex, the scientists found; it was 6 percent thicker on average than those of people in their 50s.” (The anterior cingulate cortex, also known as Area 25, is a region that is located towards the front of the corpus callosum, in the medial frontal lobe. This region is involved in decision making and emotional regulation as well as vital to the regulation of physiological processes, such as blood pressure and heart rate. In particular, the key functions of the anterior cingulate cortex revolve around:

Detection of errors or shortfalls from some standard (Nieuwenhuis, Ridderinkhof, Blom, Band, &; Kok, 2001)
Anticipation and preparation before task performance
Regulation of emotions. http://www.psych-it.com.au/Psychlopedia/article.asp?id=263)

“Scientists have found von Economo neurons in only a few other mammals, such as apes, whales and cows.”

“John M. Allman of Caltech, who has studied von Economo neurons for 20 years, suspects that the neurons provide long-distance transmission of nerve impulses. The large size of the cells helps maintain electrical signals as they travel across the brain.

“My guess is they represent a fast relay,” he said.”

Noice that after “20 years” Mr. Allman “suspects” and has to “guess.” This is cutting-edge brain science in its infancy. The next paragraph jumped out, causing me to consider some of the things other elite chess players have said about World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. Consider what the former World Human Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand, had to say after losing the second match for the Crown against Magnus, “My nerves were the first to crack.” (http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2014/11/23/magnus-carlsen-repeats-at-world-chess-championship/)

There is also this, “In a battle of nerves Norwegian World chess champion Magnus Carlsen held up his own better, said the losing challenger from India Viswanathan Anand on Sunday.” (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/magnus-carlsen-held-up-his-nerves-better-anand/514494-5-23.html)

In an interview by Colin McGourty at Chess24 GM Levon Aronian was asked, “What’s behind the phenomenon of Magnus Carlsen, who seized the chess crown?” Levon answered by saying, “I’d say it’s all about his incredible calm and nerves which, strangely enough, failed him at times in the recent World Championship match. But overall Magnus’ main secret is his composure and the absence of any soul-searching after mistakes during a game. At times, after all, you blunder and then hate yourself, saying: “You should be ashamed of yourself – children are watching”. But Carlsen doesn’t have that. He fights to the end, even if he’s playing badly.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/aronian-magnus-main-secret-is-his-composure)

From where does this “incredible calm and nerves” emanate? Could it be that Magnus Carlsen has oversized brain cells, specifically, brain cells known as von Economo neurons? Consider this written in New In Chess 2014/5, about Magnus, “Carlsen knows how to control his emotions, as can be gleaned from his lack of fear, no matter how tense the situation gets on the board.” This can be found in “NIC’s Cafe under “Total Control.” The article continues, “We saw a fine demonstration of his ‘mental control’ during the first free day of Norway Chess, when the players visited a school tournament and some of them were tempted to play Brainball. In Brainball, two players sit opposite each other wearing a headband that registers their brain activity. The aim is to reduce your brain activity as much as possible, as this will set a little ball moving towards your opponent. Once it reaches your opponent, you win. Of the grandmasters that had a go at Brainball, Aronian and Carlsen were the best at relazing their brains, but in their direct encounter the World Champion was in a class of his own. The cursor that indicated his mental activity dropped so low that an admiring colleague sighed:’Incredible. He seems to have total control of his brain.'”

What Would Mikhail Tal Do?

Levon Aronian (2777) – Sergey Karjakin (2760)
4th Zurich CC Classical Zurich SUI (1), 2015.02.14
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 Bb7 9.e4 b4 10.Na4 c5 11.e5 Nd5 12.dxc5 Nxc5 13.Nxc5 Bxc5 14.O-O Be7 15.Qe2 Qb6 16.Ng5 h6 17.Ne4 Rd8 18.Qf3 Ba6 19.Rd1 O-O 20.Qg3 Kh8 21.Qh3 Kg8 22.Bxh6 gxh6 23.Qxh6 f5 24.Qg6+ Kh8 25.Qh6+ Kg8 26.Qg6+ Kh8 27.Qh6+ ½-½

The question I would like you to answer is, “Would Mikhail Tal have taken the perpetual check?”

My favorite music program is Hearts of Space (https://www.hos.com/). It was called Music From the Hearts of Space when it began on National Public Radio back in 1983. It is still broadcast on NPR and even though the program can be heard free online all day Sunday, I like to get a head start and listen to the program of the week on Friday night at 11 pm on WCBE FM out of Central Ohio. If the program is particularly good I have been known to cut away from Jazz Classics (http://wabe.org/programs/jazz-classics-h-johnson) on my home town NPR station, WABE FM, at 11 pm to listen to it again on WMFE FM (http://www.wmfe.org/) out of Kissimmee, Florida, but please do not tell this to my man, H. Johnson. Last night I did just that and left H. because there was some exceptional music wafting from the Hearts of Space to which I wished to listen once again. I liked SERENITY, by Michael Hoppe & Harold Moses, and later found it online, but that was not the case with a mesmerizing piece, Dreamesque, by Ralph Zurmuhle. (http://www.ralphpiano.com/) This music resonated with the Warrior while sitting in his Armchair. Today I have listened to it repeatedly, and will continue to do so until midnight, I suppose…

While listening to the program I decided to catch up on some chess surfing, something I have been unable to do, having had to limit my exposure to the ‘puter screen while afflicted with a dreadful sinus infection. While perusing Spraggett on Chess I noticed an interview with GM Lubomir Ljubojevic that obviously flew below the AW radar. His comments would have fit in nicely with my last post.

Interview with Grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic – Chess now and then, through the prism of technology, physics and philosophy – on 29 July 2013.

Yugoslav chess legend, former World No. 3, one of the best chess players from these parts ever, Grandmaster Ljubomir Ljubojevic, shared with us his impressions about the current state of Serbian and international chess, the influence of computers on chess and development of chess ways of thinking, and about the specificities of the profession of the modern chess player.

Nadezda Stojanovic
I belong to the generation which wasn’t even born at the time you were at the peak of your career. So, for us, who belong to this younger generation, it is always very interesting to hear stories about the time when chess in these parts of the world had a much greater influence than nowadays.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
When it comes to chess profession, the biggest difference between these different times arises from great development of technology. In the period when chess relied on personal analyses and when it was difficult to find the information about the latest games played in tournaments worldwide, we depended on how fast we could get these pieces of information. That’s why we would analyse for days, sometimes even for months, to be sure if some line is playable or not. Nowadays, that is very easy, you turn on the computer and you can easily check if certain positions or openings are applicable or not. In terms of openings, chess has developed a lot. But, it is my impression that the middlegame and endgame are still an Achilles’ heel of professionals. This begs the question: has the quality of those game phases stagnated because people got used to relying on computer knowledge? Or could this be because people get tired faster than before, because they spend less time on exercising their mental skills leaving that to technology?

What is your view of the current world ranking?

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
I think that Carlsen is the most prepared and the most talented player in this moment. He has already reached maturity which even Fischer at his age didn’t have. However, this doesn’t mean that his talent is more brilliant than Fischer’s! Carlsen entered the world of chess at a very early age, mainly due to the big influence of computers, and managed to acquire knowledge for which one used to need a lot of experience and many years of hard work. In his time, Fischer would find simplicity in the game thanks to his ingenuity. Today, young leading players in the world overcome complicated secrets of chess faster, with the help of powerful computers. That is why the progress of young players is faster today, but the question is will they burn out as fast, like a shooting star, and will their successful career be as long as the career of the players in the past?

Nadezda Stojanovic
You were a player of attractive style. Even nowadays in analyses you seem to suggest moves which others don’t see. Many people respect you for this.

Ljubomir Ljubojevic
I wouldn’t say so. Every person has their own moment of lucidity. Even a chess player who is objectively considered as a weaker player can have ingenious ideas. The only question is if he will use that moment of lucidity to make a good result worth of that ingenious idea. During my chess development, when there were no computers to rely on their suggestions, I was trying to get to know the secrets of chess with all my being and capacities I had. There is a difference when you see some picture on the screen, and you remember it, or when you come to that picture by deduction and logical thinking.

Other parts of the full interview can be found on GM Spraggett’s website (https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/todays-insight-into-chess/) and the full interview can be found here (http://belgrade2013.org/index.php/en/).

“A Chess Engine Is NOT Your Friend!”

In their new book, “Play Unconventional Chess and Win,” Noam A. Manella and Zeev Zohar posit, “…that technological tools do contribute toward creativity of top human chess players.” This flies in the face of conventional thinking, and they mention this in the preface to the book:

“Experienced chess players, those who learned the game some decades ago (or even recently),
are sometimes puzzled while being in the tournament hall or watching a live
broadcast of a top game. Do they witness a game between two wise and experienced people,
having enormous knowledge combined with a unique creative ability, or is it rather a
battle between machines, cold, technical, mechanical super-computers which happen also
to have bodily needs, feelings and desires?
The influence of technological tools over the game of chess is controversial. Some think
that chess players become robotic, lose all creativity and avoid taking any risk. The inevitable
outcome is a lot of uninteresting games ending in a draw.
Back in our youth, when chess programs had not yet been used, the players found the
moves “over the board”. The first impression is that the game was then slightly different,
and that nowadays we witness the decay of classical chess. Our intuition suggests that top
players find it hard to play creatively, and the computer plays an important role in this
situation. The fact that those top players and their seconds spend most of their time preparing
while looking at the computer monitor surely contributes to this.
However, others think that technological advances have made a huge amount of information
available to chess players. Thus they can solve, within a short time, problems
which were hitherto considered too complex. Today’s players have more resources to look
for new creative ideas, and those emerge in abundance.
One of the co-authors, Zeev Zohar, a chess expert, has investigated this subject deeply
as part of his academic work. He looked deeply at the arguments of both sides while interviewing
professional chess players as well as chess software developers. Finally he became
convinced that technological tools do contribute toward creativity of top human chess
players. He shared his conclusions with Noam Manella, who is a well-known expert in the
field of creativity, besides being a chess national master and study composer whose works
have received many awards. Mr. Manella, author of the best-selling book The Creative Code,
was highly enthusiastic about the subject. Thus this book was born.
Chess is a game based on patterns, axioms, rules and mathematical calculations. A
computer has no psychological barriers. It is “willing” to check moves that most humans,
including top players, reject instantly as part of a psychological elimination process based
on paradigms. Computer-aided home analyses of top chess players leads to a reassessment
of all old axioms, principles and evaluations. Hence one can easily understand why work
with computers adds a new creative layer to the game.” (http://www.everymanchess.com/chess/books/Play_Unconventional_Chess_and_Win)

I have not seen the book, only an excerpt provided at the Everyman Chess website. I am not now, nor have I ever been, one to “tow the party line.” Knowledge is only advanced by those who question conventional thinking. Although it is true “…that technological advances have made a huge amount of information available to chess players,” I do not understand how that fact can be considered “creative.”

The computer chess programs have drastically altered the Royal game; this is not your father’s chess. For example, take the response to a question posed by Sergey Kim to Rafael Vaganian during an interview on the Chess24 website, “Both at the board and simply in life you met all the Soviet world champions from Botvinnik to Kasparov. The world champions of the twentieth century – of your generation – and the champions of the third millennium – first and foremost, Carlsen: how do they differ?”

GM Rafael Vaganian: “It’s hard to compare, because the chess is totally different. Those champions worked in another setting, playing another kind of chess. With no computers, they worked and created on their own, and their creativity was immense. If they found something it was with their own minds, while now there are these amazing programs. Theory has “grown” to 30-35 moves, and you simply can’t compare the two types of chess. Frankly speaking, I don’t like modern chess, and I’m not sure what’s going to happen next. After all, a person isn’t capable of remembering so much, so they simply suffer because of it. They need to remember and learn it all, but then what of creativity? They barely play at the board, but at home, and that’s bad.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/rafael-vaganian-anand-won-t-lose)

Prior to the domination of the chess “engines” knowledge was gleaned from intercourse between humans. Mikhail Tal was forced to work with Anatoly Karpov by the Soviet authorities and it changed his style of play. Contrast the games of the young Tal from the 1950’s and 60’s with that of the Tal of the 80’s and you will see an almost complete transformation. Granted, most players change as they age, but not to the drastic extent of Tal. Back in the day human players fed off of each other and learned from their human peers. Today the intercourse is between man and machine. The chess playing programs have altered the natural development of the game of chess. We will never know how chess play would have developed if humans had been left alone.

Former World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik had this to say in an “Indepth interview with Vladimir Kramnik” on Chessbase: “Chess openings are like science. It keeps evolving. Judging by the standards of the time when Garry was an active player, he indeed knew the opening extremely well. Now it is over, his preparation isn’t good anymore. It is part of the past. Chess is developing very rapidly – just like the Internet, gadgets. You know, no one cares about the first models of iPhones now. Without day-by-day opening studies it is not possible. You can’t just invent a bunch of ideas and then spend ten years capitalizing on them. In the 70s or 80s this might have been possible. Now, in the computer age, you have to keep finding more and more new ideas. This is a paramount amount of work. You can’t rely on the old databases.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/indepth-interview-with-vladimir-kramnik-120413)

Kramnik had this to say in response to a question by mishanp, on August 4, 2013, during an interview on the Chess in Translation website:

“A lot has been said recently about how super-computers will put an end to chess. Is chess really finite?”

Vlad: “It’s finite, no doubt, but it’s a number with 27 or 28 zeros – for the human mind it’s still infinite. Checkers, and particularly Russian checkers, really has been exhausted by computers, if you can put it like that. Chess is too complex: even the most powerful computers we use to train can analyse positions to a maximum of about 30 moves ahead. Games, meanwhile, can sometimes stretch to 200 moves. Yes, computers are strong, but they don’t calculate the game to the end and sometimes they make mistakes.” – Kramnik: “Intellectual effort gives me enormous pleasure.” ( http://www.chessintranslation.com/2013/08/kramnik-intellectual-effort-gives-me-enormous-pleasure/)

Computer chess programs are now two of three classes above Vladimir and have become so powerful that it is rare when Black loses a game in a match between these monsters. The same fate awaits human grandmasters as they become stronger.

Colin McGourty posed this question to GM Levon Aronian, “Is there a particular part or subject of the game you enjoy studying? (openings, middlegames, endgames, tactical combinations, etc.)” Levon answered, “I really enjoy finding new ideas in the early stages of the game. The biggest joy in the modern chess era is the discovery of good moves that are not approved by the computer.”

If the grandmasters today are “creating” anything, what is it they are creating? The young players today eschew post-game analysis so they can put the moves played into a computer in order to learn how the “engine” evaluates their moves. Things have changed in the same way things have changed for the game of Checkers. Name the current World Human Checkers Champion. As the “engines” become ever more powerful, chess will inevitably follow the same path as that of the game of Checkers.

IM Jeremy Silman wrote this recently, “The point of this article is to discuss something that needs to be addressed: CHESS ENGINES ARE OFTEN DETRIMENTAL TO THE CHESS HEALTH OF NON-MASTERS. – A Chess Engine Is NOT Your Friend!” (http://www.chess.com/article/view/chess-engines-are-not-your-friend)

You Must Be Present to Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hebrew Hammer

Before the start of the Petrosian Memorial the Legendary Georgia Ironman picked Boris Gelfand to win. I scoffed. In the previous tournament, the FIDE Grand Prix in Tashkent, GM Gelfand tied for last place without winning a game. This came on the heels of the first stage of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he tied for first place with Fabiano Caruana. With only a few days separating the tournaments, Tim said the players were being bussed around the former Soviet heartland like a circus troop. As can be seen from the play, the players obviously need a break for rest, but something as simple as that is apparently anathema to the FIDE leadership. Kirsan and the ET’s do not play, so why would they know anything about a chess player needing rest?

Decades ago Mad Dog Gordan had a collection of baseball cards that consisted of Jewish players. He called them the “Hammering Hebe’s.” Tim calls Boris Gelfand, the “Hebrew Hammer.” I can assure you this is a terrific sign of respect from the LGI! I, too, have a great deal of respect for the Hammer, but not enough to predict an obviously exhausted Gelfand to win the tournament named after the legendary Tigran Petrosian.

The Hebrew Hammer beat Peter Leko in the final round of the Petrosian Memorial today to finish tied for third place at +1, along with Levon Aronian, who also won his last round game. Alexander Grischuk finished first in an impressive performance, while Vladimir Kramnik came second, showing the good form that has eluded him recently.

Boris Gelfand did not win the tournament, but I was wrong to scoff at Tim’s suggestion that he would win. Never discount the Hebrew Hammer!