I realize the Royal Game appears to be in its heyday, but circumstances can be deceiving. Many will scoff because Chess has been enjoying a period of incredible popularity recently, which has put chickens in the pots of many players the all over the world. Yet for several reasons there are storm clouds gathering. The pandemic caused many to spend much more time at home at a time when contact could be made with anyone in the world via the internet. When Viswanathan Anand became World Chess Champion
it kindled a firestorm in India which brought untold millions into the game. Kenneth W. Gronbach is president of KGC Direct, LLC and author of the current book, “Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead“, which was recently released in April 2017. “A demographic winter refers to locations that are seeing significant declines in their birth rates, such as China, which has “changed from an aging country to an aged country,” he commented. In practical terms, this means more people dying than being born. India, on the other hand, has a growing populace and will likely be strengthened in the years ahead.” (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2022-07-20-show/) There are many Chess teachers in the US who teach only Indian students. With Anand covered with FIDE slime, how long will that last?
One of the most pressing problems with Chess is FIDE, the world Chess organization, which is led by a Russian stooge, Arkady Dvorkovich, known as Mad Vlad Putin’s “lapdog.”
Former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand decided, for whatever reason, to join the ticket of current president of the World Chess organization, Arkady Dvorkovich,
who is running for reelection. Anand, known as “Vishy”, had a stellar reputation while being admired and respected the all over the world. That ended immediately when he chose to join the nefarious Russians, who are performing genocide against a neighboring country as this is being written. The name “Anand” has now become besmirched the world over. Why would anyone in his right mind join the perpetrators of war crimes against civilians? Need I remind anyone the Russians are not only wantonly killing innocent women and children but also bombing their wheat fields! (https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/07/15/ukraine-farms-wheat-fields-russia-shelling-crops-fire-pkg-watson-lead-vpx.cnn) The wheat grown in Ukraine formerly fed much of the world, therefore Russia has, in effect, attacked the REST OF THE WORLD! Although not acknowledged, World War III has begun, thanks to the opprobrious Russians. And Vishy Anand has joined the villains.
World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen
decided to give up HIS title and who can blame him? The title of World Champion most definitely does NOT BELONG TO FIDE. That particularly corrupt organization can bestow the title on anyone, as it has done in the past. It matters not who is called the “World Chess Champion” when every Chess player in the world knows the best player is Magnus Carlsen. Awarding the title to another player will only cheapen the title, which has lost much luster over the years as changes were made to the World Chess Championship match format. Former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik
once said, when asked, the match for the World Championship should be at least sixteen games. Even with the souped-up heebe-jeeb games, played with little time, the match for the World Championship is not played with sixteen games. Frankly, the World Championship lost luster when the match began using quick-play games to decide the Championship. It has reached a point where the Championship is virtually meaningless. The WCC cycle went from three years to a two-year cycle. Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend six months preparing for the match and do it again in little more than a year? Why would the World Champ want to face a player he defeated handily after that opponent, the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi,
melted down during the last match. The candidates tournament that Nepo won in order to face Carlsen should not have been started. After it was stopped it was certainly a terrible mistake to resume the tournament after a lapse of one whole year. The next recently completed Candidates tournament was an unmitigated DISASTER! FIDE has egg, after it has been digested, all over their faces. Fact is, FIDE is covered head to toe in STUFF. The World Chess Championship match has been a cash cow for FIDE, and you can bet your sweet bibby that, if reelected, Putin’s lapdog, the Dvork, and his second in command, Vishy, will milk that cash cow for all it is worth.
Younger people will ignore what I write because, well, you know, to them I am an old fogy. The thing about we “old fogies” is that we have been around awhile and have seen things change, sometimes in a heartbeat. I have written on this blog (or was it the forerunner, the BaconLOG? https://baconlog.blogspot.com/2008/07/) about how the game of Putt-Putt was once more popular than golf.
The players earned more cash playing Putt-Putt than did the golf professionals of the PGA (Professional Golf Association) because Putt-Putt was televised. Then the fad was over, in the beat of a heart. I have also written about how popular was Backgammon. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/paul-magriel-r-i-p/) After hitting the road to play the best I returned home to find Gammons closed. The “boom” had ended. As I write this the once popular card game of Bridge is on life support because the players have grown old(er) and not been replaced by younger players. (https://www.plumasnews.com/is-the-card-game-of-bridge-fading/) The time to worry is not after interest wanes but when interest is booming, because when interest fades it is too late to do anything but cry in your beer.
has been playing excellent Chess recently but one would not know it after watching the following game in which Lenderman snatched victory from the jaws of defeat several times against Gabriela Antova,
a FIDE Master (FM) from Bulgaria. Because of her sex she is also a “Woman International Master.” The fact that there is a separate rating list for women is an insult to Caissa.
It was a rainy day and after checking out the openings from Charlotte this writer was enthralled to see GM Lenderman play the Leningrad Dutch, which was appropriate since Alex is originally from Leningrad. The game did not begin with the usual 1 d4 f5, but transposed into a Leningrad Dutch when Lenderman decided to play 4…f5. This caused me to think…
I first began wondering about how the game was being played when Alex moved his King into the corner on move 8. Stockfish and Komodo both show 8…Na6 as best, and moves like 8…a5, or 8…Qc7, or 8…Qe8 have been popular. Maybe it would have been an OK move if the woman had played her Queen to b3 in lieu of c2 on the previous move, but still…8…Kh8 is a weak and vacillating move. It was difficult to see the move 10…Nb4? appear on the screen. It did, though, give the woman a choice of where to place her Lady, and she chose one of the, shall we say, “least best” squares for the Queen, which might have had something to do with the thinking of the GM. I was watching a few other games, and doing other things, but kept returning for more of the Antova and Lenderman show. Keep in mind I was spectating at the FollowChess.com website because there is no analysis. After seeing the woman not take the pawn on f4 but retreat her knight to e2 instead I was tempted to surf on over to ChessBomb.com to learn what Stockfish had to say about the position, but I eschewed temptation and stayed straight with no chaser. This lasted until seeing 19…Nh5? It was at this time the realization struck that the moves being shown on the screen did not appear to be coming from Masters, much less a Grandmaster. Then the realization struck that the game being followed could have been one of the games I played ‘back in the day’ when first learning how to play the Leningrad Dutch. It also caused me to question my concept of Chess as I expected the move 19…fxg3 to be played, just as I had expected the woman to play 19 gxf4. Nevertheless I again refrained from heading over to the Bomb. After seeing the move 20…Kxg7 onscreen I thought possibly there were transmission problems, like those affecting FollowChess.com recently. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, because ‘back in the day’ we had to wait months to obtain the moves that now miraculously and instantly appear after being played. Then the thought occurred that Alex knew what he was doing and wanted to trade Queens and grind her down in an endgame and maybe expected her to give the check on c3 with the Queen, which is exactly what transpired. I expected Alex to block the check with 21…Qf6 and was shocked to see 21…Qe5 appear onscreen. After 22 Nd4 I expected 22…fxg3 and was flummoxed to see Alex had retreated his King by moving it back to h8. When Alex finally played 24…fxg3 it had come too late and he had a ‘lost’ position. After playing 27…Nf6 the GM was BUSTED, Buster.
And then the fun began…I will not spoil any more of it for you and let you play over the rest of the game for yourself.
Gabriela Antova (BUL) vs Aleksandr Lenderman (USA) Charlotte Open 2021 round 04
d4 d6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 f5 5. O-O Nf6 6. c4 O-O 7. Nc3 c6 (Komodo plays this but Stockfish 011121 @depth 52 plays 7…a5. See former World Chess Champion Anatoly Karpov give a recent lesson below) 8. Qc2 (Stockfish 100221 @depth 33 would play 8 Qb3) 8…Kh8 9. b3 Na6 10. Bb2 (In this position Komodo @depth 23 would play 10…Rb8, a move not contained in the Chessbase Database. Stockfish 14.1 @depth 31 shows 10…Bd7, another move not shown at the CBDB. Stockfish 310720 @depth 33 shows 10…Qc7, yet another move not contained in the CBDB. There are three games having been played with 10…Nc7, one of which is the game below played by David Bronstein, who drew a match with Mikhail Botvinnik,contested during the first year of my life.
In a few days, I will publish a complete review of one of the most majestically beautiful Chess history books I have ever had the pleasure to read:
After having written several posts concerning the plethora of draws recently, especially short ones of less than ten moves, at the Charlotte Chess Center & Scholastic Academy, I wanted to include what follows in the review. To do so would have meant cutting some of the material, but each and every time I attempted to do so it just did not feel right. I therefore decided to publish pages 114 through 118, actually about four pages in total, in their entirety. I hope reading these few pages gives you an idea of how good is this book. This part is titled: A Skirmish With Flohr
In the second half of the 1930’s, the campaign against the “enemies of the people” gained momentum. On 31st March 1936, the Russian SFSR People’s Commissar of Justice Nikolai Krylenko
reported to Stalin
that the number of cases and convictions involving “counter-revolutionary crimes” had been steadily increasing since 1935. This was also the time of the first accusations of “sycophancy before the West” in the press. Soviet chess was also affected by the campaign. In the February 1936 issue of Shakhmaty v SSSR, Peter Romanovsky published an article “Fighting For the Concrete Line, or the Chess Dogma”. It was a vicious attack against grandmaster Salo Flohr,
who, in Romanovsky’s words, “hoisted the banner of routine over the chess world, trying to prove the inevitability of him winning the world championship in the future.” We should note that a change of power had taken place in the chess world by that point, which was also mentioned by Peter Arsenyevich: “Alekhine, the great advocate of development and deepening of the chess idea, loses an important contest to Max Euwe,
who has strictly dogmatized the strategic methods of his creativity.” The Western dogmatists and conservatives were grabbing the highest places in the chess world! This was the main concern of Peter Romanovsky’s article. But not everything was so bad, the author contended. The Soviet country had the power to direct chess thought towards creativity: “The chess community of the USSR counters Flohr’s routine with Botvinnik,
a subtle connoisseur of very diverse positions, which almost always allows him to transcend the limits of dogma when needed, while still basing his play on the said dogma, and to surprise his opponent with unexpected concrete possibilities that are often overlooked by the principal frameworks of chess creativity.” It looks like an advert for the future first Soviet world champion. While attacking Flohr, the author sympathizes with the “renegade” Alexander Alekhine at the same time. But this “paradox” is really not surprising. During his first match against Euwe, Alekhine sent a telegram to the Soviet chess officials, which was published in Izvestia and 64: “Both as a long-time chess worker and as a person who understands the huge importance of everything that was achieved by the USSR in all areas of cultural life, I send sincere greetings to the USSR chess players in honor of the 18th anniversary of the October Revolution.” There’s a version that Alekhine was planting a seed to return to his homeland with this telegram, but the loss to Euwe disrupted those plans. The harsh criticism of Flohr continued into 1937, spilling onto the pages of 64. Over three issues (Nos. 13, 15, and 19), Peter Arsenyevich published an article “Some Modern Creative Tendencies”, directly accusing the Western grandmaster of cowardice! As the starting point for his criticism, Peter Romanovsky cites his game against Botvinnik from the 1935 Moscow International Tournament. Romanovsky sacrificed a pawn for the initiative in that game, but then made a mistake and had to resign: “Grandmaster Flohr didn’t exactly mince his words about this sacrifice in one of his tournament reports. ‘I personally, he wrote concerning this game, ‘prefer to sacrifice my opponent’s pawns rather than my own.’ This small phrase, seemingly only describing a concrete chess event, actually hides a big and principle-based worldview, based on the concept of excessive caution in over-the-board chess struggle, especially against strong players.” By sticking to this concept, Flohr acts as a mouthpiece for a lot of players.” Then Peter Arsenyevich gives a rundown of the so-called “Flohr school and its followers”: “1. Opening theory is thought as all-important.Playing without creating weaknesses in your own camp.
Avoiding both offering and accepting sacrifices if clear evaluation of the compensation is not possible. Ascribing especial importance to the technical side of the struggle and thus a persistent tendency for positions that are resolved in a technical way.” After maintaining his silence for a time, Flohr finally answered Romanovsky with an article “More of Modern Creative Tendencies” ((64, No. 36): “I am not going to counter-attack the distinguished master P. A. Romanovsky, whom I deeply respect, even though he structured his article, published by 64, on a faulty basis and outright insulted me in some places; I would just like to defend my creative views. P. A. Romanovsky ridiculously simplifies my views of chess by alleging that the quote about preferring ‘to sacrifice my opponents’ pawns rather than my own’ is my credo… Romanovsky’s article contains a serious accusation that is characteristic of the ideological representatives of the so-called pure combinational school. At every opportunity, they attack the masters, accusing them of ‘betraying’ the chess art… A modern master should be a master of tactics first and foremost – he should see through his opponent’s plans, find the resulting combinations, use the slightest advantage, deeply understand the dynamics of the chess game. It’s not a purely professional technique. It’s much easier for me to calculate a forced 10-move combination than find one best move in a strategically simple position.” Then, to reaffirm his words, Flohr shows a subtle endgame from the sixth game of his 1933 match against Mikhail Botvinnik,
Flohr, Salo vs Botvinnik, Mikhail Event: Moscow/Leningrad m Site: Leningrad Date:1933 Round: 6 ECO: E38 Nimzo-Indian, classical, 4…c5
with two bishops outplaying the Soviet champion’s two knights. Alexander Alekhine valued this positional masterpiece highly.
“A young master frequently begins his career with fiery combinations. Then, influenced by his experience, he evolves towards the modern way of playing. This is an inevitable process. Other wise, the young ‘combination player’ won’t progress past the average level and will be pushed aside by better players.” (A) At the end of his article, Flohr speculated about the inevitability of chess mistakes: “The tactical player who always plays without mistakes, like a clockwork machine, has not yet been born. As soon as the players P. A. Romanovsky dreams of arrive, the art of chess will cease to exist.” It was naive to expect the opponents to change their points of view on chess. The grandmaster and the distinguished master held to their own opinions, criticizing each other at every opportunity. For instance, Salo Flohr, who moved to the USSR in 1939, played for Moscow in the traditional match against Leningrad. His opponent was Ilya Rabinovich.
Flohr wrote in an annotation to that game: “Master I. Rabinovich is a very obliging opponent.
To the joy of the distinguished master P. Romanovsky, he gives me an opportunity to finich the game in a ‘creative’ style. A combination follows – not too complicated, but the spectators liked it.” Flohr wasn’t the only “victim of Peter Arsenyevich’s criticism. Romanovsky also targeted another potential world championship candidate – the american grandmaster Reuben Fine.
He explained the American’s wins in the 1937 Leningrad and Moscow tournaments by the fact that the Soviet masters “helped him with his intentions to create familiar setups in the opening rather than trying to challenge him on unfamiliar grounds.” Peter Arsenyevich even coined the term “Fine-Flohr style”, heavily used in the Soviet chess press of the late 1930s. However, life ultimately reconciled Romanovsky and Flohr! After retiring from active competition, the opponents stopped being too categorical in questions of chess creativity. In his revised training books, published in the 1960s, Peter Arsenyevich rooted for…harmony of styles! Here’s what he wrote in the book Middlegame. Combination (Moscow 1963): “The chess circles still distinguish between positional and tactical playing styles, between positional and tactical players. Any of those ‘labels’ stuck on a player are insulting to the players themselves first and foremost, because they suggest that his chess skills and talents are limited and one-sided. You cannot execute and prepare a combination without understanding the laws of positional weakness and game planning. You also cannot execute creative plans if you haven’t mastered tactics, if you don’t have a sharp eye for combination motifs.” And what about his opponent? “Many years ago, when I lived in Prague, I developed a strategy,: Flohr recalled in 1957 in Shakhmaty v SSSR, No. 4. “At any tournament, I would try to defeat the weak players and draw with the stronger ones. My main motto was, Don’t lose! This brought some good results… Lately, I’ve been in the spectator hall a lot, listening to chess fans’ comments. Now I clearly realize that I was deservedly criticized by the spectators in my earlier days when I stopped playing on move 20. In 1937 and 1938, I was thinking that the chess world was applauding me: he’s so great, he rarely loses. Oh no, now I understand that I wasn’t great. The one who wins is great! I realized long ago that my strategy was limited, poor, defective from the creative point of view. A chess player who adopts such a style cannot be popular among chess fans, and such a player will never become a world champion. Now that I am close to retiring from competitive chess, I deeply regret the fact that I stopped dozens of my games prematurely for the sole purpose of avoiding losing a half-point. What do those several draws with Alekhine give me today? It would have been better to have lost a few more games to him, but, on the other hand, maybe I’d have managed to defeat him once?” (B) This is the key to the argument between Flohr and Romanovsky from the faraway 1930s! It was the perennial dispute between the creative and consumer approach to chess. We should remember Voltaire’s classic quote: “All genres are good except the boring kind, but boring isn’t a genre.”
(A) After reading this I stopped to reflect on the transformation of the great purveyor of ‘slash & dash’ chess, World Champion Mikhail Tal. After being forced to work with Anatoly Karpov, Tal was transformed into a much more complete player. It has been written that the latter Tal was even stronger than the young Tal.
(B) The closing lamentation of Salo Flohr brought to mind the famous words of the poet John Greenleaf Whittier: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.”
The FIDE Candidates tournament should never have been started. The tournament was begun because Russian dictator Vladimir Putin craves attention in a way only superseded by POTUS Donald John Trump.
Why is it Putin is invariably the only one smiling in pictures taken with Trump?
The Russians cheat at everything they attempt. Because of Russian interference in the previous Presidential election, Hillary Clinton
was cheated out of becoming POTUS. Everyone other than the thirty something percent of people who support the obviously deranged Trump knows this fact, including the Hitlerian thirty something percent of deranged people who support any clown foisted on them by the Republican party.
The Russians have been banned from participating in the Olympic games in the coming years for cheating. This was a terrible for the ego of Vlad the Impaler because without attention he is nothing. Other than petrol and Chess Russia has nothing. Vlad the Impaler has previously said, “Chess is our Baseball.” Putin would like nothing better than for a Russian to face World Human Chess Co-Champion of Classical Chess Magnus Carlsen.
Two of the players, one quarter of the players, currently participating in the 2020 Candidates tournament were not eligible to participate. Kirill Alekseenko,
a Russian, and by far the lowest rated player in the tournament, was a “wild card.” This was, and is, ridiculous to the point of absurdity because the Candidates tournament is played to choose a challenger for the title of World Human Chess Champion. The tournament is far too prestigious to have some local yokel battling against the very best Chess players in the world who have devoted their lives to the game and who have earned entry to the tournament with that hard work over the course of many years.
from France, was chosen to replace the only sane Chess player involved with the ill-fated Candidates, Teimur Radjabov,
from Azerbaijan, who declined to travel to Russia because of the COVID-19 virus. The tournament should have been called off at that moment. If the Chess community felt strongly enough to hold the tournament, then certainly the young player Alekseenko should have been dropped, leaving six players who did qualify to play. But why would Putin agree to such an outcome when having an extra Russian player with no chance of winning the event to possibly take orders, directly from Vlad the Impaler, to intentionally lose to whomever Putin desired? As Chess player Oscar Al Hamilton was fond of saying, “Everything is rigged.” History shows us that is certainly true of Russia.
The tournament continues even with players saying things like this:
“Referring to the worldwide crisis we are going through, Caruana expressed his doubts as to whether he will be able to return to the United States by the time the tournament is over, while Giri is putting all his hopes on the International Chess Federation:
I have faith in a private jet of FIDE, that will fly all players to their houses.
This was certainly the least exciting game of the round. Grischuk did get a little pressure with White, but Ding played it safe once he realized he could get in trouble. After the game, the players were asked about their form. The Coronavirus crisis had a strong impact on Grischuk:
My form is terrible. I don’t want to play at all with all this situation. I mean, when it was beginning I did not have a big opinion, but now for several days I have a very clear opinion: that the tournament should be stopped. I mean, the whole atmosphere is very hostile.
Ding, on the other hand, is enjoying having made an adjustment to his living conditions in Yekaterinburg:
My form is much better comparing to the first two days. Since I moved to a new hotel, I got some fresh air and life became more beautiful.”
Anyone who “…has faith in FIDE…” is a fool. Just because Anish Giri
is one of the best human Chess players on the planet does not mean he is intelligent in other facets of life.
How can Fabiano Caruana
concentrate on playing Chess when he has “…expressed his doubts as to whether he will be able to return to the United States by the time the tournament is over?” The United States government should send a plane IMMEDIATELY to bring Fabi home! If that is not possible how about the billionaire, who must be losing money as fast as a crazed gambler in Las Vegas, Rex Sinquefield,
sending a plane to Russia to save Caruana. Mr. Sinquefield could possibly pull some strings with other people from the super-wealthy class to make it happen. We are perilously close to a time like the Russian revolution of a century ago with Doctor Zhivago having to share his family mansion with the hoi poi.
Fabiano Caruana deserves a rematch with World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. I call upon Rex Sinquefield to organize a match between the two Co-Classical World Human Chess Champions, as Magnus Carlsen stated, played in the opulent St. Louis Chess Club,
in the future, if we make it out of these dire times, played OUTSIDE OF FIDE auspices. The match could be of sixteen games, the number, if memory serves, chosen by former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik,
who ought to know as he played more matches for the World Chess Championship than any other player, I believe. If tied at the end of regulation then two game mini-matches could be played until there is a winner. Only Mr. Sinquefield could do this because there would be no obstacle to having a match that goes into overtime if held in St. Louis.
We are in the early days of a revolution. Chess will having little meaning in the aftermath of the virus that is changing the world. No matter how this plays out things will NEVER be the same. Certainly Chess will never return to even the weakened status currently held in society. Chess, like other games and sports, will take a back seat to SURVIVAL.
Much was expected of Ding Liren before the tournament but he was forced into isolation because of the COVID-19 virus. That in itself should have been enough for at least a postponement of the 2020 Candidates tournament. Ding said, “My form is much better comparing to the first two days. Since I moved to a new hotel, I got some fresh air and life became more beautiful.” Consider this when considering what isolation has already done to this person:
Man falls to his death from 16th floor of luxury flats during coronavirus isolation
By Andrew Gilpin
22 MAR 2020
A man has fallen to his death from the 16th floor of a luxury apartment block as people self isolate due to coronavirus.
The horror incident in the Tribeca Park apartment block in New York saw him die instantly when he hit the courtyard.
Shocked neighbours said the 64-year-old’s death has left them shaken as they are in quarantine from the deadly disease.
One woman saw what happened when we she went outside to smoke a cigarette told the New York Post: “You have to be mentally strong to take on isolation.
“The uncertainty of what’s going to happen is scary.”
How can any human play Chess when “The uncertainty of what’s going to happen is scary.”
Where is the outrage from the American Chess community? Surf on over to the USCF website and try finding one word from any leader of US Chess concerning the sordid situation in which We The People find ourselves. I have gone to many Chess website, such as Chessbase, Chess.com, and Chess24, in a futile attempt to read the thoughts of any person in authority. The silence is deafening.
I have expected little from the current leadership of the USCF and have rarely been disappointed. That said, I now call on the Chess community to get “up in arms,” metaphorically speaking, and SPEAK OUT. Now is not the time to remain silent, people.
Anyone worth his salt teaching Chess will eventually get around to imparting the knowledge that a Chess player should examine all checks during analysis of any position. All good players do this without thinking about it, but new players need to have it reinforced that they should not only examine all possible checks to the opponent’s king but also to their own king. After this a good teacher will tell his student to examine all possible “checks”, or threats, to the Queen. For young players new to the game there is so much to consider that occasionally a student will overlook a check to the king or threat to the queen. When a world class player overlooks or does not take into consideration a possible check to the king it will be said that the player under discussion is “getting old” or “losing his powers,” or some such…
In the sixth round of the 2020 Gibraltar Masters the young, born in 2005, making him a Zero, and up and coming GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa,
from India, faced GM Veselin Topalov,
who some consider a former World Chess Champion. I am not one of them because Topalov won the FIDE World Championship, which was a match between second rate players. This is what is written about Topalov at Wikipedia:
“Topalov became FIDE World Chess Champion by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005. He lost his title in the World Chess Championship 2006 against Vladimir Kramnik.
Wiki does not even mention the name of the player Topalov bested to become FIDE WC, and, frankly, I have long since forgotten the name of the loser of the FIDE match. I can tell you the name of the opponents who played in each of the real world championship matches. I seem to recall Jan Timman losing one so-called “world championship” match, (I believe his opponent was Anatoly Karpov) but if my life depended on it I could not give you the name of Topalov’s opponent in the second rate FIDE WC match. Topalov was born in 1975, making him a member of Generation X.
22…Qd8? (Over at the Bomb this move is shown as a BRIGHT RED move, which is as bad as it gets, color wise. It is difficult to fathom a former world number one making a move this bad, no matter how old. Certainly, most, if not all, players would have analyzed the possible check on f6 before retreating the queen. Keep in mind that, “In 1984, when he was 63 and most of his contemporaries, like Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein,
had long ceased to be important players on the world stage, Mr. Smyslov
made it to the final candidates match to determine a challenger for Anatoly Karpov,
who was world champion at the time. He lost that match to Garry Kasparov,
then a prodigy in his early 20s; before the final, however, he dispatched two opponents who were both 30 years his junior.” https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/crosswords/chess/28smyslov.html ) 23. Nf6+ gxf6 24. Rad1 Nxe5 25. Rxd8 Rfxd8 26. Qxf6 Ng6 27. h4 h5 28. Rf1 f4 29. g4 Rd3 30. gxh5 Rg3+ 31. Kf2 Nxh4 32. Qxh4 Rxc4 33. Re1 1-0
25. Rd1 (This is known as “Letting go of the rope.” This is a terrible move under any circumstances. Before making a move most players would ask themselves the question, “How will my opponent reply?” Seeing the queen can be attacked by the knight would be the first thing any player would spot. Every player simply MUST be able to see the knight moving to b6 will not only attack the queen but also fork the bishop. 25 Qa5, attacking the undefended rook looks good, as does the simple 25 Bg2. With the move played in the game the player of the white pieces fell into the abyss)) 25…Nb6 26. Qa5 Rxd5 27. Rxd5 Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Nxd5 29. Qxd5 Be6 30. Qd8 Qxb3 31. Bd4 Bd5+ 32. Kh3 Qf3 33. Bc5 Be6+ 0-1
appeared in the mailbox. Yakov Vilner: First Ukrainian Chess Champion and First USSR Chess Composition Champion,
is the follow up to the aforementioned book.
Tkrachenko writes in the introduction to the latter book, “I found clear evidence that the versions that Alekhine was saved by important Soviet functionaries were incorrect. Historical facts and memoirs pointed to the undoubted fact that his salvation was down to the modest Jewish lad Yakov Vilner, who at the time the grandmaster was arrested was working as a clerk in the Odessa revolutionary tribunal.
Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.
Moreover, I collected so much material that on the advice of historians among my friends I decided to split it into two books, with the material on Alexander Alekhine’s three trips to Odessa compiled as a separate book (subsequently published later in 2016 in Russian and in 2018 in English, as Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution, which was short-listed for the 2018 English Chess Federation Book of the Year).
The book you are now reading was originally intended as a prelude to the book on Alekhine and is devoted to the first Ukrainian Chess Champion, first USSR Chess Composition Champion and first Odessa Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner, who in 1919 managed to save Alekhine from death and thereby cange the courst of chess history.”
Before reading the two books by Sergei Tkachenko what I knew about Ukraine could be summed up in the sentence, “Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR.” Because of the attempt of the Commander in Thief of the DisUnited States of America, Donald John (has any POTUS ever had a better fitting middle name?) Trumpster to gain another term as POTUS by strong arming the young President of Ukraine that country has been in the news often this year. In an attempt to learn more about Ukraine I recently watched two documentaries, Ukraine on Fire, and Revealing Ukraine. Oliver Stone
is the Executive Producer, which was all I needed to know to watch. My knowledge of Ukraine was increased exponentially by watching the films, which were viewed between reading the two aforementioned books.
From a historical perspective I enjoyed the book, yet wondered how many others would be interested in what was happening in Chess a century ago. The first book was about a former World Chess Champion with a backdrop of radical political change containing firing squads for those with a different political thought. Firing squads feature in the Vilner book but the drama is lacking. Yakov Vilner was obviously a fine Chess player, but unfortunately, his health was sometimes bad because he had asthma. Thus, his Chess results were rather erratic. The same can be said about the Chess games. For example, the second game, versus Boris Koyalovich, features 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f6? I kid you not. This is the kind of move Chess teachers of children often encounter. The author writes, “One of the weakest ways to defend the Spanish. Koyalovich clearly chooses it to avoid the well-known variations.” I’ll say! This game was played during the Tournament of Kislovodsk in 1917.
When healthy Yakov Vilner was the best player in Odessa, and Ukraine. He was good enough to finish in a three way tie for sixth place in the eighteen player 3rd tournament Championship of the USSR in 1924 played in Moscow in August/September.
Some of the games are interesting and the annotations are excellent. For example, consider this game from the 4th USSR Championship played in Leningrad 1925:
The author writes, “A game of fireworks! Interestingly, almost all of white’s moves were consistent with Rybka’s first line. In our days that might have led to allegations of cheating!” This is a sad indictment of modern Chess. Spurious allegations by Chess.com, for example, have forced former online players to go elsewhere. An example can be found at GM Kevin’s Spraggett’s wonderful blog with the post, Blogger’s Reputation Intentionally Smeared? (https://www.spraggettonchess.com/chesscom-caught-cheating/) Reading the article caused me to do some checking around and one of the things learned was that one local youngster was given the boot from chess.com for allegedly “boosting.” The youngster was accused of creating false accounts to play in order to beat them and “boost” his rating. The youngster did no such thing, yet had no recourse other than to leave chess.com and play at one of the other, more reputable, websites. How many players have been falsely accused by chess.com ?
Another game from the same tournament attests to the strength of Vilner.
The annotations to both games were provided by Yakov Vilner. The author writes, “Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.”
Vilner was very ill for a time and the title of one chapter is, How To Combine Treatment With Playing. Then came the Odessa Championship tournament of 1927.
“At first, everything went to plan. On 12 April the 12 best players of Odessa began their battle for the city championship. After round 4 Vilner headed the field with a perfect score. But then his illness returned. The tournament committee managed to postpone several of Vilner’s games so that he could complete the tournament. His short rest brought dividends. After round 8 Yakov Semionovich was still a point ahead of Sergei Ballodit and 1.5 ahead of Dmitry Russo. Vilner then had to play each of them in the final rounds. Such intrigue would have been hard to make up! A reporter hiding behind the initials AMO shared his observations in the newspaper Odessa Izvestia. The column was entitled Before the end and stated:
“Final games. Vilner-Ballodit. Two stubborn “wolf-dogs”. They will battle to the end, to the final pawn. They both possess deep theoretical preparation and have mastered the complex meandering of combinational play. Who will come out on top? So they begin. We see agile bishops slipping out. Knights crawling over the heads of pawns. Carefully feeling out the paths, the queen emerges.
A schematic position has already appeared. Vilner “presses”. With an apparently strong front, Vilner strides towards a difficult but possible victory. Vilner analyzes dozens of variations. He thinks ahrd. But the clock isn’t sleeping. Maestro, time is running out. The maestro makes his move. Then another and another. Time is running out. He needs to catch up.
Well, his opponent is “time-rich”, and coldly calculating. time-trouble disrupts the accuracy of the plan. “Enemy” pieces ahve already broken through. One blunder and it’s death. A crush is close… The game cannot be saved. Destruction…”
This reminded me of the battles between IM Boris Kogan and LM Klaus Pohl, the German Shepard, ‘back in the day’. Boris usually took the measure of Klaus, but occasionally the Krazy Kraut would do the measuring. Ballodit played second fiddle to Vilner, but took over first position in this particular tournament.
Also found is this:
“In order to popularize chess, two rounds were played at factories in the city: at the jute factory and the leather goods factory. “Chess to the masses”, as the slogan went! But of course sharp games are the best adverts for chess.” (The USSR was as full of slogans as it was full of excrement)
Vilner finished near the bottom of the Fifth championship of the USSR in 1927, but did inflict a defeat upon future World champion Botvinnik in the tournament.
“He became recognized as a top chess player in 1913 after winning the All-Russian amateurs tournament with a score of 6.5 out of 7! He edited the chess column of the newspaper Kievan Thought (Kievskaya Mysl) (1914). Graduated from the Law Faculty of the Stl Vladimir Kiev University. Fought in WWI. Served in the cavalry and was injured. A Knight of the Order of St. George. Died in the Civil War. According to one version, he served in Kiev as an investigator of the military-revolutionary tribunal and was shot by a Denikin forces’ firing squad after the latter captured the city. Another version has that Evenson actually signed up as a volunteer for Denikin’s white army and was killed in unclear circumstances. Alekhine and Capablanca considered Evenson to be one of the most talented chess players of his time.
The 6th Championship of the USSR was held in Odessa from September, 2-20, 1929. Because of the large number of participants it came to be thought of as “Odessa roulette”. There were so many players because the Communists in charge wanted to welcome “the masses.”
“A record number of players took part – 36! Of these, 14 were masters and 22 were first category players. How were such a large number of players to be paired off? Oddly enough, the tournament had no clear regulations. It was all decided on an ad hoc basis. At the opening, the organizing committee proposed two options for holding the tournament to the players: either six groups each with six players and one game per day, or four groups each with nine players and three games every two days. The majority voted for the second option, which was later subject to harsh criticism… by the very same players. That’s democracy for you!”
The infamous communist apparatchik, Nikolai Krylenko,
“The outcome of the USSR championship has given rise to a number of critical articles in our periodical publications, most of which lack sufficient objectivity.”
Objectivity being whatever Lenin or Stalin said…
“Many secrets of the championship remained backstage. The biggest one was Izmailov’s withdrawal from the final. The master’s son recalled:
This championship could well have become Izmailov’s hour in the sun. He was only 23, he was gaining ground and his game was blossoming, but alas, my father didn’t play in the final. Why? I attempted to establish this but failed to do so. In Chess List Duz-Khotimirsky wrote about “the need to take university exams”. Kan in 64 writes that Izmailov withdrew from the tournament at his own volition. Pravada and Izvestiia referred to illness, while Komsomolskaya Pravda cited exhaustion. Half a century later, recalling this episode, my mother told me that in the mid 1930’s she and my father held a conversation on this subject (they didn’t yet know each other in 1929), and he confirmed that he was healthy and ready to continue the battle, but he was forced to leave…
So who forced Izmailov to leave Odessa? Whom was this talented chess player impeding? Is fecit cui prodest (“it was done by the person for whom it was advantageous”). Seven years after the Odessa tournament ended, Piotr Izmailov was arrested by the NKVD and accused of “Trotskyist-Fascist activity”. He was eventually sentenced to the firing squad on 21 April 1937 and executed the next day.”
As for the protagonist, “At the end of October 1930, Vilner moved to live in Leningrad. Is it not surprising that a person suffering from serious asthma suddenly abandons the warm Odessa climate with its curative sea air in favor of the rainy climate of Northern Palmyra? I consulted with doctors specializing in heart and respiratory illnesses what such a change of environment could bring. They told me that it would mean serious stress on the body and was quite a suicidal step! So why did Vilner, despite his illness, prefer Leningrad? Had he planned this change of residence in advance?”
“At the end of the 1920s the political climate in Odessa worsened, as it did throughout the country. The ideological war against Trotsky and his supporters
reached an apex by the beginning of 1929. At the end of January, the former Minister for War and Naval Matters was secretly transported along with his family from exile in Almaty to Odessa. It was here that the ferry with the symbolic name Illych awaited him. On the night before 11 February the ferry set course for Constantinople accompanied by an icebreaker and government officials, and the next day Trotsky reached Turkey. With Trotsky’s expulsion, the USSR intensified its purges of his supporters and mentors. Christian Rakovsky, the protector of Alexander Alekhine and one of the leaders of Soviet power in Ukraine, was cruelly punished. He had been expelled from the party back in 1927 and then sent to internal exile in Barnaul in 1929. His party membership card was returned to him in 1935 and he was even entrusted to head the All-Union Red Cross society, but not for long. He was arrested in 1937, sentenced to 20 years in jail, and then shot at the start of the war. Vilner also suffered during the battle against Trotskyism.”
It seems Vilner chose the wrong side…
“Vilner didn’t quite live to the age of Christ – he was granted less than 32 years on this earth. Yakov Rokhlin published an obituary on the Odessite in the June edition of Chess List (1931): “Soviet chess players have endured a heavy loss. Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner died on 29 June at &pm in Leningrad after a lengthy illness…”
The book is replete with many interesting Chess games and annotations. In addition, it contains ninety five problems and studies, and if you are into that kind of thing this book is simply de rigeur.
After an email discussion with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam,
editor of New In Chess magazine, I have decided to forgo the usual star system and grade the way teachers still grade papers, even if they are written in digits now, with A+ being the top of the line and “F” as in “failure” as the bottom. This book deserves the grade “A”.
Coaching Kasparov, Year by Year and Move by Move
Volume 1: The Whizz-Kid (1973-1981)
by Alexander Nikitin
This is a meritorious book in all respects. When the book was finished I was already looking forward with anticipation to the second volume to follow. The Elk and Ruby publishing company has hit the ground running with one of the books reviewed on this blog, Checkmate!
was the coach of the young Garik Weinstein from 1973 until 1990. Simply put, the young lad had vast potential, like a diamond in the rough, but needed polishing, which was provided by his coach. The first sixty seven pages, which were read with amazement, recount what transpired in those early years. The second part of the one hundred ninety eight pages consists of annotated games played by the young Weinstein/Kasparov. The author writes about the necessity for the change of name. “His change of surname was a delicate matter. It’s usually found in women, very rarely in men, and, as a rule, only happens to men when it’s forced. Garik’s mother had to bear the main burden of stress and battle when arranging the legal formalities and, above all, when convincing all friends and relatives that this was the right decision. Klara had to endure so many unpleasant hours. So many tears were shed after conversations with relatives of her by then long departed husband. “…a year earlier, with Botvinnik’s assent, I had tenaciously started to try and convince Garry’s mother of the need to change her son’s surname from his father’s to her own-which, by the way, she had not changed upon getting married.”
In the following paragraph the author writes, “From the very beginning I had no doubt that the lad would have a fantastic chess career. I knew from my work in the Sports Committee just what inexplicable difficulties of a totally non-chess character could suddenly appear to a youth with the “wrong” surname during the development of his talent, especially at the transition to Big Chess, when somebody’s sporting career could be held back and perhaps even badly damaged, without much notice being taken at the top and without much discussion.” And, “Chess fans throughout the world quickly got used to this surname without having learnt unnecessary details. Life was to confirm the justification of my fears and the need for this difficult decision. Enough has now been written about the hidden anti-Semitism, especially in the lower corridors of the government. I am convinced that Garry Weinstein would have never got to play a world title match against Karpov in 1984 or even in 1987. He wouldn’t have been allowed. He would have been isolated in the periphery of chess. The system functioned like clockwork in those days.”
For every Weinstein/Kasparov how many other, extremely talented young boys were fodder for the “system”? Nikitin writes about one such boy, “…twelve-year-old Boris Taborov. They were both highly talented, smart and inquisitive, by my-how their lives soon panned out so differently! The phlegmatic and good-natured Boris soon became the first Soviet player to gain the master title at the age of 14. He played a couple of times in the junior championships in Europe, but failed to achieve further success and gradually faded. What happened to him? Boris was raised in a family of scientists who had little enthusiasm for their son’s chess achievements. His parents really wanted Boris to become a scientist like them and continue their work. They got quite worried at seeing that chess for their son was more than a game. Feeling no moral support from those near and dear to him, the lad was torn between two occupations at once, unable to make a definitive choice… His focus on two activities at once in fact prevented him from achieving great things in science, while he was quite unable to jump on to the steps of the prestigious carriages of the chess train as it disappeared into the distance. Caissa doesn’t favor the indecisive.”
He who hesitates is lost.
He writes, “Yet most of all, I was struck by Garry’s eyes-smart, with a kind of unusual spark in them.”
plays a large role in the saga of Garik Weinstein/Kasparov. He would say: “A lad striving to become a true chess player needs to be able to do many things. He needs to work at chess independently, prepare for every competition, analyze the outcome of each tournament, and love analysis not only in respect of the opening. He also needs to know how to relax and regain his strength after a competition. If he isn’t successful in that, chess will not become an art form bringing joy, but instead just a trade bringing sadness. Therefore, he should not play many games and should not play often.”
“As the years progressed, the union of Teacher and Favorite Pupil transposed into a comradeship of colleagues of equal playing strength.”
“Lasker’s thought: “a person is responsible for the quality of his work but not for its results” from that year on became one of the mottos driving Garry’s work.”
The author divulges the secret concerning, “Vladimir Andreevich Makogonov,
who had been one of the strongest masters of the pre-war period and a player with a subtle positional style, who had a wonder grasp of the nuances of battle and without a doubt understood the game at a grandmaster level, showed up at the Kasparov apartment. Few people knew about Garry’s contact with Makogonov-the master didn’t want to advertise it. I don’t think even Botvinnik knew about it…The two great chess elders who coached the kid had their own eccentricities: Botvinnik was overly jealous about allowing other coaches to work with Kasparov, while Makogonov had taken offense at society.”
“A big talent acts like a mighty magnet or bright star – it draws those who have discovered its strength, blinds their judgement and takes them prisoner for years to come.”
This paragraph blew my mind:
“It wasn’t just chess books that I sent him, but everything that could satisfy his curiosity, thereby further developing his logical thinking. For example, one parcel that I sent in 1975 contained the latest issue of Chess Informant, a selection of endgame articles required in order to tackle homework that Dvoretsky had set, excellent commentary by Spassky showing how to assess positions, Bronstein’s book on Zurich, accompanied by a request to study carefully how the world’s best players handled King’s Indian positions, alongside…a Go Set, (! my exclam)
photo by Phil Straus/American Go E-Journal
in order for him to better understand how to gain space, and, for dessert, interesting articles on his tory, which the boy so loved.”
If I had known Kasparov played Go I would have challenged him to a game at the Supernationals in Nashville a decade ago when he signed my copy of
“At first I did not always manage to follow the volume of work carried out by the boy independently. He found everything interesting and wanted to learn more and as quickly as possible. However, this led to information overload, leading to interesting symptoms, which I called “know-all disease”. The boy’s agile and deep memory digested everything fed to it, but the process of comprehending what he had read lagged behind. He would mechanically memorize variations, but they were not given the time to settle in his mind in the right order, and they would get mixed into a messy and, consequently, fairly useless tangle in his brain. Petrosian called this illness the symptom of “Informant children”. The majority of young players now suffer from this ailment, especially abroad, where the computerization of chess has sharply increased the volume of information available. Klara wrote to me that in those times Garik resembled an excited madman.”
Naturally, the author writes about Bobby Fischer
with words that can only be called “glowing praise.” For example, “For both me and Garry, the American genius of those years remains the benchmark of high professionalism. His independent behavior was unusual for that time, and many of his demands were considered to be whims. Now, though, the majority of those demands are considered to be the norm.”
“After Minsk it became clear that Garry’s calculation ability had developed so much further than his positional understanding that it simply “squeezed out” the latter. When playing strong this could lead to nasty problems. His technique for converting an advantage also lagged. Here we needed to work both at chess itself and on his psychology. Unlike Karpov, he wasn’t born with a killer’s instinct, and after gaining an advantage he often reduced his concentration and his earlier playing intensity, hoping that his opponent would bring about his own defeat.”
I can, unfortunately, identify with reduced concentration after gaining an advantage.
“Karpov once described a similar situation of a battle against himself, providing the apt conclusion: “you mustn’t play for a win if in spirit you’re happy to draw.” In order to rise above yourself in such circumstances you have to love chess madly, like the legendary Fischer.”
“A battle in a chess game is frequently a battle against yourself, against your doubts and prevarications.”
“The degree of his childishness, which in my opinion has not yet completely disappeared even today…”
There is a thread running through the book concerning the lack of stamina displayed by the young boy Weinstein, which, with the current youth movement, should make everyone involved with Chess pause to ask the question, “How much Chess is too much Chess?”
The author writes things like this, “At the finish the boy was very tired and incapable of working at top gear for four hours.”
“The child’s tired brain would turn on and off at will.”
“The boy only relented at the end of the fourth hour of tense battle. He didn’t have the energy left to resolve the final, quite tricky problem in a sharp endgame, and the game was drawn.”
“It’s always disappointing to lose your way when the danger appears to have passed. However, at the age of ten it’s hard to retain concentration over four hours of tense work.”
The annotations to the games are marvelous and the commentary fascinating. Game six, of forty six, is an excellent example:
Just half a year later I added this way of playing the opening for white to the list of opening systems temporarily banned from use. Garik would have to make do with 2.d4 and go for a more active setup, which was appropriate to his playing style. He was to learn with surprise that battles after 2.d4 are much richer and more interesting.
This generally OK system is not of much use for young players, in that thanks to its lack of ideas it doesn’t require much time to study compared with other, richer opening systems. If you are targeting big achievements in chess then you need to strive to learn the subtleties of as many standard positions as possible, in other words, those that frequently come up. Such positions provide support in the middle of the game, and their knowledge will significantly improve your technique. The best way to build up a solid base of such positions is to study opening systems whose content is as rich and varied as possible. The opening setup deployed by Garik here was one I called a system for idlers, as white can make all the moves automatically, often while ignoring the location of his opponent’s pieces.
16…Nf5?! 17 Bxf5 gxf5
So, here’s the first test to see if the player can think out of the box. Set up the position after move 17 and ask your pupil the simple question: “What would you play as white?” Give the young player 20 minutes to think. Will he look at 18 g4? How quickly?
Little children introduced to chess strategy don’t like pawn advances that open up their own king’s bunker. They are afflicted by the usual, childish fear of the unknown, when it’s hard to assess the approaching danger, as they don’t have life experience or precedents. Deliberately made moves such as 18 g4 are an indicator of a child mature beyond their years. Actually, Garry already had experience – he remembered the game with Alexei (now Alex Yermolinsky)
and the jokey nickname “g4”.
After playing over the game I realized the openings played “back in the day” could very well be thought of as “Bacon’s opening system for idlers!”
In conclusion, this is a superb book. It is truly “cheap at twice the price.” This is a five star book that should make it to a shortlist for the best Chess book of the year award because it will stand the test of time.
Checkmate!The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau,
is a beautiful book written about a lifelong love between two people, one of whom, Mikhail Tal,
happened to win a World Chess Championship match against the man called “the patriarch of the Soviet School of Chess,” Mikhail Botvinnik. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/botvinnik-the-patriarch)
The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (http://www.elkandruby.com/), is a wonderful history of a time long gone with the wind. The author brings to life a different time and the people who lived during the Soviet Communist period. The book, like a Chess game, has only three chapters, the opening by Sally, the middle by Gera, the son of Mikhail and Sally Tal, and the end, again by Sally.
She begins the book by writing about herself. “I am an inconsistent and impulsive person, who first does and only then thinks about what I have done. I am an ordinary, vulnerable woman, in which a womanly nature lived and lives, found joy and finds joy, suffered and suffers, in the full sense of those words. The way I see it, selfishness and a desire for independence somehow manage to coexist inside me with love for the people surrounding me and a subconscious wish to be a woman protected by a man who lives for me – protected by him from all sorts of major and minor everyday troubles.”
Later she writes, “Still sharp contradictions coexisted within me: on the one hand, this immense fear of losing my personal freedom, on the other hand, this equally immense fear of solitude and a subconscious desire to have a strong man beside me with whom I wouldn’t be afraid of falling off an overturned boat in the open seas, even if I didn’t know how to swim. These contradictions played a significant role in my life with Misha…”
She writes about her impression of what it was like being a Jew in the Soviet Union. “So it wasn’t the external appearance of the Tals’ apartment that struck me that evening. Rather, it was its anti-Soviet spirit that I sensed. I immediately inhaled this pleasant middle-class air. It was apparent straight away that the people living there were not “mass-produced” but very much “hand-crafted”, and that relations between them did not fit into the usual framework of socialist society.”
“Misha was born a frail child. He had two fingers missing from his right hand. When she (Ida, Mikhail Tal’s mother) first saw her son after he was brought to her and unwrapped from his swaddling clothes she again fainted in shock at the site of his three crooked fingers. She was unable to breastfeed. Her lack of milk was perhaps due to those shocks. She was treated for a long time after that.
“When he was just six months old, Misha was struck by a nasty meningitis-like infection with a very high temperature and convulsions. The doctor said that his chances of making it were remote, but that survivors turn out to be remarkable people. Well, Misha began to read at the age of three, and by the age of five he was multiplying three-digit numbers – while adults were still struggling to solve the math with a pencil he would tell them the answer.”
“He got “infected” with chess at the age of seven and began to spend nearly all his time at the chess club, nagging adults to play him.”
Gera was a Medical Doctor and qualified to write about Tal’s well known medical problems.
“Well, the actual start of my father’s physical ailments, however banal it may sound, was the fact of his birth. Ever since then he simply collected illnesses. But the fundamental cause of course was his totally pathological, nephrotic kidney. It tortured him relentlessly. People suffering from kidney disease know that there is nothing worse in the world than pains in the kidneys. I don’t understand how such people can even exist, let alone play chess. I’m sure that it wasn’t my father who lost the return match to Botvinnik,
but his diseased kidney.”
“My father treated his life like a chess game, somewhat philosophically. There’s the opening, then the opening transposes into the middle game, and if no disaster strikes in the middle game you get into a dull, technical endgame, in which a person ultimately has no chances. As far as I know, father didn’t gain pleasure from playing endgames – he found them boring and insipid. Force him to give up smoking, brandy, partying and female admirers – basically, the source of intense experiences in the middle game of life – and he would find himself in the endgame, when he would have nothing left to do other than passively see out the rest of his life. However, that would have been a different person just resembling Tal. And what’s the difference – to die spiritually or die physically if you can no longer be Tal?”
Throughout their life, together and apart, Mikhail and Sally had other loves and lovers, yet remained friends. A love interest of his was written about but only named by the letter “L.” Research shows this was Larisa Ivanovna Kronberg,
a Soviet/Russian actress and a KGB agent. She was named Best Actress at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in A Big Family. In 1958, she was involved in the Ambassador Dejean Affair, Kronberg lured Dejean in a honey trap. She was in a long-time relationship with World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal in the 1960s, they parted in the 1970s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larisa_Kronberg)
Sally had an affair with a man about whom she writes, “I won’t name him in the book. Why? Let’s say he was a high-up government official…I will call him “The Minister”…Let that be his name here.” Reading this caused me to reflect upon something IM Boris Kogan said decades ago about the KGB. “Mike, KGB like octopus with many tentacles that reach everywhere!” The relationship between Sally and “The Minister” was doomed to failure because a good Soviet communist did not consort with a Jew. Sally writes, ” Misha was such a unique person! I was living with Alnis; at the time he was effectively a common-law husband; and Misha understood that perfectly well. And yet, while he treated Alvis with respect, he continued to consider me his only woman and the most important woman in the world – his Saska. Alnis took quite a liking to Misha, saw what a remarkable person he was, and would say of him: “Tal isn’t a Jew. Tal is a chess genius.”
Tal playing the husband of his former wife Joe Kramarz, not only a Chess player but a HUGE fan of Mikhail Tal!
The book is replete with things like this from Yakov Damsky writing in Riga Chess, 1986. “He has a wonderful ability with language and always has a sharp wit. I remember, for example, after a lecture some tactless dude asked Tal: “Is it true you’re a morphinist?” to which Tal instantly replied: “No, I’m a chigorinets!”
“Petrosian once joked morbidly: “If I lived the way Tal does I would have died a long time ago. He’s just like Iron Felix.” (The nickname of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB)
Having worked at the House of Pain I got a kick out of this: “Chess players talk to each other in the language of notation. I was always amazed at this. Although I understood nothing of it, I listened to them as though they were aliens, observing their emotions. If, for example, Tal, Stein and Gufeld got together, their conversation could flow along the following lines:
Gufeld: What would you say to knightdfourfsixbishopg2?
Tal: Yes but you’ve forgotten about if knightfsixintermezzoqueenheight!
Gufeld: Pueenheightrookgeightwithcheckandrooktakesheight and you’re left without you mummy!
Tal: But after bishopeone you’re left without your daddy!
Stein: Bishopeone doesn’t work because of the obvious knighttakesoneecfourdekinggsevenrookasevencheck!
And this wonderful chitchat would continue endlessly, with people not “in-the-know” thinking they were in a madhouse.”
During tournaments at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center it could be, at times, a “Madhouse of Pain.”
A player would walk up talking about his game in these terms while having the position clearly in his mind. I, on the other hand, had no clue, but would nod in agreement, or frown when called for, while commiserating with the player, understanding, but not understanding, if you get my drift. The worst was when two players who had just finished their game would come downstairs talking in variations, bantering back and forth, then look at me asking, “What do you think, Mr. Bacon?!” To which my usual response was, “That’s a heckofaline!” Hopefully they would smile and nod in agreement before giving way to the next player or players wishing to tell me all about their game…
“A grandmaster said to me once: “When Misha finds himself in a hopeless position, his head tells him this but he doesn’t believe that he, Tal, has no chances. He starts to seek a saving combination, convinced that such a combination exists – it’s just a matter of locating it. And as a rule he finds it. However, despite all its beauty and numerous sacrifices, the combination turns out to be flawed, and then the defeat becomes for him even more painful and humiliating than if he had been physically dragged face down in the road.”
After reading the above I reflected upon a game recently played over contain in the latest issue of Chess Life magazine. In reply to a letter to the editor GM Andy Soltis writes, “Good point, Dr. Seda-Irizzary. Tal is a splendid example because he understood the principle of “Nothing Left to Lose.” That is, when you are truly lost, you should forget about finding a “best” move that merely minimizes your lost-ness.” The game follows:
with whom I was great friends, once showed me around the Moscow chess club, and told me, pointing at the photos of world champions on the wall: Sallynka, look at them. They are all the most normal, mad people.” Well, I’m ever thankful that I lived my life among such “normal, mad people” as Misha,
and Tolya Karpov.
(Garry Kasparov is also a genius, but not mad – that’s my opinion, anyway.)”
I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. Anyone with a love of the history of the Royal Game will be greatly rewarded for spending their time reading a beautifully written love story surrounded by the “mad men” who play the game of Chess. Please keep in mind I have told you not all the words.
I give it all the stars in the universe!
The first game of rapid Chess of the 2018 World Human Chess Championship was the first rapid game of any world championship I have ever watched. It was thrilling and exciting, something sorely lacking in the classical part of the WHCC. Rapid is perfect for current Chess fans. It is certainly perfect for Magnus Carlsen, the undisputed Rapid Champion of the Chess World.
When it comes to so-called Classical Chess and Magnus I am reminded of the famous quote by many time World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik,
who said he was, “First among equals.” Magnus did not best Fabiano Caruana in the twelve games of Classical Chess, therefore, Fabiano should have earned another shot at the Champ.
After the game concluded I stretched out, putting a dark tee shirt over my eyes to rest before the second game. I was not down long before getting up to make my second cup of coffee of the day. It was shocking to see the second game had already started. I do not know how much time there was between games but it obviously was not enough, especially for Fabiano Caruana.
I do not know how much time a player needs to gather himself after a loss but certainly there should be at least forty-five minutes before the next game begins, maybe an hour.
While resting my eyes I reflected upon the weekend tournaments at the House of Pain, aka the Atlanta Chess & (What Other?) Game Center. I envisioned a weekend tournament consisting of ten Rapid games. Each round would consist of two games between the same opponents, with each playing white and black. The first could begin at ten am Saturday morning. Game two would begin at eleven thirty. Round two would begin at one pm, with the second game of round two beginning at two thirty. Round three would begin at four pm and the second and final game of the day would begin at five thirty. The first day would end around six thirty.
Round four would begin Sunday morning at ten am, just as the previous day. After the second game of the fourth round beginning at eleven thirty the next, and final, round could begin thirty minutes later than the previous day, at one thirty pm. The last game of the day would then begin at three pm. The tournament would end around four pm.
A total of ten games of Chess could be played over the weekend, which should be enough Chess for anyone. I must point out that playing an even number of games would mean each player would have the white pieces the same number as every other player. I recall one of the stronger players in Atlanta when I was beginning to play tournament Chess, Tom Pate, withdrawing and leaving before the fifth round when he was assigned black. Tom, a 1900+ rated player, was upset because he had previously drawn the black pieces in several (I cannot recall the exact number) tournaments. Come to think of it that may have been the last time Tom played Chess…The Rapid format would obviate that possibility.
A senior tournament could eliminate the third round, allowing for more time between rounds. For example, the second round could begin at two pm, allowing more time for a decent lunch and maybe some camaraderie, one of the best things about a Senior tournament.
The Chess must adapt to changing circumstances. Rapid games may not completely eliminate cheating, but will certainly make it much more difficult for players to consult a device containing a 3500 rated Chess program. In addition, moving to a Rapid format would eliminate one half point byes and the dreaded Zombie attack of re-entries. As Captain Jean-Luc Picard was so fond of saying:
Upon learning I played tournament Chess in the late 1970’s the father of a new girlfriend mentioned a book he had read, Biorhythm: A Personal Science, by Bernard Gittelson, going on to say Bobby Fischer had been profiled during the match with Boris Spassky. Naturally this peaked my interest. I read the book, learning the importance of critical days. For example, the Japanese did not allow any professional driver to work on a double critical day, or allow any to pilot fly on those days and it cut the number of accidents tremendously. Over the course of my life while in a relationship with a woman I have charted their moods by jotting down simple notes such as, “bitchy day,” or “good mood day.” Hold off on those nasty comments and emails, please, as I have done the same for me. In addition I have focused on not only my individual day but on different periods in an attempt to understand biorhythms and whether of not they have anything to do with my state of being. I have come to the conclusion there is something to biorhythms, especially physically. A critical day is when one is changing from one phase to another. One can go from a low to a high phase, or the reverse. It has been my experience that it is much worse to go from a high phase to a low phase, and it becomes increasingly pronounced as one ages. It has been extremely difficult to understand the other two phases, emotional and intellectual. I can, though, say with authority that several woman in my life have sent me to the biorhythm chart when having a…how to describe it…let us say an “overly emotional” type of day. It has also been my experience over the last four decades that it is better to be in an emotionally low phase than a high phase. Being in a high phase is akin to being what is commonly known as “wound too tightly.” Beginning at birth everyone’s day of birth will be a critical day followed by either a peak or floor day. For example, I was born on a Monday, so every other Monday is an emotional critical day for me.
Some years ago I put something on the USCF forum concerning a World Championship match and biorhythms. The nattering nabobs ripped me a new one. I recall “pseudo-science” and “akin to astrology” among other remarks. For this reason I ask the reader to be open-minded and kind when commenting or sending an email.
When the match begins the graph shows Magnus at his physical nadir while Fabiano is near his physical zenith. It is almost the exact opposite for the two combatants intellectually. Magnus will be going through an emotional critical day, transferring from high to low. Fabi will coming off of his emotional nadir. This illustrates how different are the two players, biorhythmically speaking. This is dramatically shown with this:
The lack of compatibility between the two players in the three main facets is striking. I left the latter part in for illustration purposes only because of the 100% match in intuition. Ordinarily I only look at the ‘Big 3’ but the total match had to be shown even though I have no idea what it means. When I learned about biorhythms there were only the top three.
The physical match up shows Carlsen playing most of the match in a physical high phase, while it is the opposite for Caruana. This could be a major factor, especially in light of the fact Fabiano has played so much Chess leading up to the match. Magnus has demonstrated throughout his career just how much endurance and stamina he possesses. No current player can match Carlsen in this regard. It would be wonderful to step into an alternate universe where the physical cycles are reversed, would it not?
If FIDE president I would strongly advocate a sixteen game match. With only a twelve game match I would advocate a tie match at the end of regulation would require another match one year later. If that match was also tied after regulation, then the champion would remain the champion. The challenger would have had two chances to beat the champ. To obtain another chance the challenger would have to again win the candidates tournament.
The World Champ will begin the match intellectually high before declining into a low phase the second half of the match. The challenger will begin the match low intellectually, but spend the majority of the match in a high phase.
Magnus will play most of the match in an emotionally low phase while Fabiano will only be in an emotional low period at the beginning of the match with the latter two-thirds being in a high phase.
Simply put, the two contestants biorhythms could not be more disparate.
The critical period of the match will be games three through six. One look at the chart of the challenger vividly illustrates this fact. Caruana will be undergoing biorhythmic changes in all three phases. His biorhythms will be going every which a way…
The chart of the World Champion looks much “smoother” in contrast.
I did this comparison in an attempt to make a prediction according to biorhythm theory. After studying the charts I am unable to do so as the disparity is simply too great. How much of a factor will it be that Magnus will be physically high during the latter part of the match? How much will it matter that Fabi will be high intellectually? In a longer match of even sixteen games, the number many time World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik said was needed to determine a winner, the physical factor would play a larger part, but this is a shorter match. They are both young so the physical aspect may not mean as much as the intellectual, but how does one quantify the intellectual biorhythm? As I have grown older the physical factor is much easier to quantify, for example. Some physical critical days, especially transferring from high to low, are pronounced in a way that can be felt and understood. It may take a huge amount of information to demonstrate the kind of impact an intellectual critical day produces. I just do not know…One thing I do know, though, is that this will be an extremely interesting match, biorhythmically speaking.
If my life were on the line I would have to go with the current Champion because of the tiebreak issue. If the match is even then Magnus will be a heavy favorite.
Hypothetically speaking, if there were no tiebreak and my life depended on only the biorhythms of the players, again I would be forced to go with Magnus because of the critical period between games three and six for the challenger and his physical high phase toward the end of the match.
That was from the logical ‘Spock’ part of my brain. The ‘Captain Kirk’ emotional part from my heart will be hanging on every move Fabiano Caruana makes during the course of the match.