“It’s been a month filled with thrilling championship action. Check out the latest news and updates from Chess.com and learn all about exciting new features, events, and Twitter memes that we’re particularly proud of.
It is a long article filled with much of which those at Chess.com are proud, including myriad videos one can watch. More on that later, but for now we will focus on the Fair Play segment, which contains these numbers:
I have never played online at Chess.com and know little about it other than what others, who do, or at least have, played there have reported. The numbers above tell a story, but what story depends on other numbers, like how many humans play each day, and/or the total numbers in the month of October. Because of a background in Baseball numbers are something about which I know something. When it comes to numbers everything is relative. For example, hitting .300 in Baseball is considered an accomplishment. In the low scoring period from 1963 to 1968, when those in power at Major League Baseball changed the rules by lowering the mound and decreasing the strike zone, Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox led the American League with a batting average of only .301. Carl was the only player who stepped up to the plate enough time to qualify to hit .300 or above. The American League hitters batting average that year was only .230. Their is a reason 1968 was called “The year of the pitcher.” Flash back to “The year of the hitter”, 1930, and one finds the league Batting Average in the American league that year was .288. Keep in mind that after the expansion years of 1961 for the AL, and 1962 for the NL, there were ten teams in each league as opposed to only eight in 1930. In the latter year 41 hitters qualified for the batting title, with an astounding 29 hitters hitting .300 or above! That, folks, is 71% of the qualified batters. Simply amazin’, as Casey Stengel would have said. Al Simmons, of the Philadelphia Athletics, led the league with a .381 BA, two points higher than Lou Gehrig, of the New York Yankmees. Only three batters hit above .288, the average for the league in 1930, in the AL in 1968.
This can be found at Chess.com, and it is the only thing found to which the numbers above can be compared:
Play Chess Online on the #1 Site!
10,943,634 Games Today
260,504 Playing Now 11/13/22 12pm
Being not well informed about the workings at Chess.com caused me to reach out to some who play at the website. I did not understand the difference between “mute actions” and “accounts muted,” and I was not alone. “The latter means “Shut the Fork Up!” said one wag. Ditto for the “Fair Play closures” and “abuse closures.” And ditto for those to whom I reached out. “Chess.com is not too good with specifics,” said one. What we do know is that over one hundred thousand people have been “Shut up,” and 99,498 accounts have been closed for violating “Fair Play” rules and/or “abuse.” Which begs the question of what constitutes “abuse?” ‘Back in the day’ there was much “trash talkin'” at the House of Pain in the so-called “skittles room” prior to it being taken over by the parents of all the children flooding the House. My all-time favorite “trash talker” was none other than Dauntless Don Mullis, the player who forced me to play until the wee hours of the morning to win a game that lasted at least eight hours. You might out play the Dauntless one, but you could never out trash talk the legendary wonder!
When I think of Chess.com the words that come to mind are those spoken many decades ago by SM Brian McCarthy, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2021/04/24/brian-mccarthy-r-i-p/) who said, “It is nothing but a frivolous frivolity.” All was quiet for a few moments while it sank in before everyone erupted with laughter. The picture that follows succinctly illustrates what I mean:
Maybe much younger people like the above cartoon but it is simply silly and denigrates the Royal Game. Unfortunately, Chess.com is replete with frivolous frivolities like the above. For example, here are two videos contained in the aforementioned article that perfectly illustrate the silly nature of Chess.com:
Pleas note the ever present grin found on the face of Danny Rensch, one of the movers and shakers at Chess.com. It seems Mr. Rensch always has a smile on his face, and maybe you would too if you had his revenue stream…
Maybe silly crap like this has a place on a Chess website…maybe…but I am more like Brian McCarthy, who was famous for saying, “Just give me the MEAT!” Substitute “moves” for “meat” which is exactly what Brian did when someone criticized him for using a book sans cover. “It don’t need no cover as long as it has got the MOVES,” he said, followed by the above “MEAT!” quote. How can any self-respecting Chess player take Chess.com seriously?
Chess.com has been under the gun recently for the way the people who make decisions at the website have handled the long running and ongoing problem with cheating. Two day ago, Nov 8, 2022, Chess.com published the results of what they call their Fair Play Survey Results (https://www.chess.com/blog/CHESScom/fair-play-survey-results?page=4).
This is found at Chess.com:
“Ensuring fair play and protecting the integrity of the game is a priority for Chess.com. We believe that our members should have a voice in how we handle cheating in chess, and in an effort to understand the community’s sentiments better, we shared a fair play survey with three groups: members, titled players, and top players (the top 100 players overall as well as the top 20 women players by FIDE rating). We received 11,383 member responses, 166 titled-player responses, and 61 responses from top players.
Perhaps the most immediate insight is that on many important questions, the community is very divided. Cheating in chess is a complex problem, and there are no easy answers. We have tried to identify some useful insights from the responses and have shared them below. The full survey results are included here, and we welcome further comments and insights.”
The problem was illustrated immediately with the first few comments:
Around 11-12k respondents? Considering the player base on chess.com one could argue cheating is not as big a concern as the heated discussions on the forum would have you believe.
The next commentator hit the nail on the head:
Well bearing in mind how many people are on this site the sample size is not indicative of much. It is just far too small a percentage of overall membership to draw any valid conclusions from. It is still useful but you should not draw any definitive conclusions from it. My two cents worth…
Maybe I could have phrased it better. I’m not questioning the validity of the sample size. The data for sure will be useful.
Because of having spent far too much time pouring over the Baseball numbers with Sabermetrics this writer knows far more than the average human when it comes to sample size. After perusing the article this writer knew immediately it was so flawed as to be worthless. Although I am not the most “mathy” kinda guy, a lifetime of analyzing Baseball statistics, with more hours spent at “The reason for the internet,” Baseball Reference, or more commonly, “B-Ref”, (https://www.baseball-reference.com/) than you would believe or even imagine, I do know about sample size. For example, a rookie begins the season with a MLB team and during the first week of the season rips the cover offa the ball, and the announcers have all but given him a berth in the Hall of Fame. Then he goes zero for the second week because the MLB pitchers learn he cannot hit the curve ball, so they give him a steady diet of curve balls he cannot hit, until he is relegated to the minor leagues. Here is an article concerning sample size for your amusement (https://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/article/17659/baseball-therapy-its-a-small-sample-size-after-all/).
In an email exchange with one former Baseball player who also knows and understands sample size, who also happens to play Chess, both over the board and at Chess.com, this was received:
“I was one of the 166 titled players who responded to this survey. That’s a small sample size, no matter how you look at it.”
One of the many problems with the Chess.com article is that “titled player” is not defined. For example, I was under the impression that a “titled player” was a player who had received a “title” from FIDE. Years ago a “titled” player was someone with at least an International Master title, but that changed when FIDE, in its wisdom, foisted the “FM” (FIDE Master) title on the Chess world. With the rise of female participation in Chess tournaments there are now FIDE titles beginning with a “W”, as in WGM, which is a “Woman Grandmaster.” This is not to be confused with being a “Grandmaster,” because a “WGM” is less than a real “Grandmaster.” Hence the “W”. Confused? It is really far more complicated than that to the extent it has become comical. An example would be the recent US Chess Championships, where there were a plethora of different titles showing after the names of the female participants. One female student wanted to know if the “f” after the name of some of the female players at The Week In Chess was for “female.” I had to be honest and inform the young one that I had no idea, but did mention it could be for “FIDE Master.” She said, “Then it should be a “FM”, right?” What could I say? Teachers do not have all the answers. Is an “Expert” a titled player? The “Expert” class is the first class with a crooked number and begins at 2000 rating points, but it is not considered a “title,” yet it is considered a major step on the road to Master, and even with rating inflation, is still a goal for many players.
Foisting an immediately discredited explanation upon the Chess world by Chess.com surely is an indication of something amiss at the website. The people at Chess.com should know about limited sample size and the worthlessness of publishing such a flawed study. Nevertheless I will cut them some slack because it could be they are completely ignorant of sample size and meant well when depositing such a load of crap. The article shows Chess.com is in damage control mode and will continue to do whatever it takes to cover their collective asses. Then again, when there are so many firing salvos at you maybe it is best to “duck and cover.”
The TCEC Season 10 – Superfinal between defending Champion Komodo and challenger Houdini has begun! As I write game five has just ended and game six began immediately. Games are played 24/7 until all ONE HUNDRED games are finished. I wonder what La Bourdonnais and McDonnell, who played a series of six matches, a total of eighty-five games, between June and October 1834, would have to say about the Superfinal?
Before calling it an evening about ten o’clock last night it looked as though the Dragon would score first with the Black pieces in a MacCutcheon variation of the French defense. TCEC narrows it down further to, “Lasker, 7.bxc3.” Imagine my surprise to learn this morning that it was not the Dragon taking the lead, but the escape artist known as Houdini the Magician! Houdini managed to draw the game, with much help from Komodo, and then draw first blood by beating the Dragon’s “Sicilian: Taimanov, 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2.”
I have been following the TCEC computer program championships for years. I still enjoy watching the games played by humans, but let’s face it, if it were Baseball the only way to describe it would be akin to watching minor league baseball as opposed to Major League Baseball. The difference in the lay is so great now that humans could be described as playing at least two levels lower than computer programs, something along the line of the difference between MLB and class AA baseball, maybe even class A. Do not get me wrong, I have watched, and enjoyed, many a minor league baseball game, and, for that matter, many college baseball games, in many different cities, but if I want to watch the best baseball being played, I must go to a MLB game. That is one reason I have found it so humorous that the F.I.P.s at FIDE have decided to try and bilk the small Chess public out of all they can by charging to watch the games played during real time. Back in my day we waited until the next day for the games of the World Championship to appear in a newspaper, and WE LIKED IT! Now the fools in power charge for what one can obtain just a few hours later on the internet after the completion of the games. As far as Chess moves go this one is what GM Yasser Seriwan would call a “Howler.” The only thing FIDE has done is hurt people like Mark Crowther, who has put out The Week In Chess for decades. (http://theweekinchess.com/) I mention TWIC because Mark shows only a Chess board and the moves, without any kind of analysis whatsoever, for those of us who prefer to actually THINK about what move may come next. These FIDE people are so stupid they do not even realize they are damaging the game because the GAMES are PUBLICITY, which bring more PEOPLE into CHESS. If it were not so serious I would LAUGH. As it is, it makes one want to CRY. What FIDE is doing is reminiscent of greedy MLB owners refusing to allow radio, and then television, broadcasts thinking it would cut down on attendance, until one owner thought it could possibly be good for the game by bringing the game to the fans, thereby engendering more fans.
The Superfinal is the third stage of the Championships. I was transfixed by the first stage this season, the tenth, as what many would call “offbeat” openings were used. This was right up my alley! When playing over the board I built an opening repertoire (http://www.mark-weeks.com/aboutcom/aa02i07.htm) consisting of hand written openings kept in what one legendary player called “Bacon’s book of death lines!” Before lost in what I now call the “Crazy Cousin Linda Flood,” the BODL was intact except for the cover, which had been lost somewhere on the Chess road who knows when. Now whole books are written devoted to what were my “death lines,” such as, The Extreme Caro-Kann: Attacking Black with 3.f3, by Alexey Bezgodov. I hope to live long enough to see a book on 2 Qe2 versus the French.
The expected media follows after a data dump. Here are the games I copied from the first stage, hoping to find time to look at each and every one of them. This should give those of you asking “Who are you?” insight to my Chess character.
In his post Confusion about Facts dated 15 February 2015, Mark Weeks writes, “Despite some confusion about facts that I happen to know something about, i.e,
‘first played in Afghanistan back in 600 AD’ • ‘Dr. Robert Ferguson (a cardiologist at the Northeast Georgia Diagnostics Clinic)’; • ‘Grandmaster Chess Research Project […] collaborative effort between Israel’s University of Haifa and Grandmaster Boris Delfand’, (sic)…”
“In his 1995 study titled Chess in Education: Research Summary, Dr. Robert Ferguson (a cardiologist at the Northeast Georgia Diagnostics Clinic) had established that chess is instrumental in the enhancement of a child’s critical thinking and good judgment skills. Ferguson’s subjects, who were seventh to ninth graders, yielded a 17% improvement in the results.”
A picture of Dr. Ferguson’s is prominently displayed on the home page of the NGDC. (http://www.ngdc.com/) His study, which took place from 1979-1983, is featured in any discussion relating to chess “improving” the intelligence of children. The problem is that it has been discredited.
In the paper Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli write:
220.127.116.11 Teaching the fourth “R” (Reasoning) through chess; (Ferguson,
undated-b)7 (7 This study is referred to as “Developing critical and creative thinking through chess” in Ferguson
“This project, which took place from 1979 to 1983, aimed at providing
stimulating experiences fostering the development of critical and creative thinking.
Participants were gifted students (with an IQ equal to or higher than 130) in grades 7
through 9, in the Bradford (PA) area school district. They chose among a variety of
special activities such as chess, dungeons and dragons, Olympics of mind, problem
solving with computers, creative writing, and independent study. Each group met
once a week for 32 weeks.
Participants were tested with alternate forms of the Watson-Glaser Critical
Thinking Appraisal test (CTA) and of the Torrance test of creative thinking, both at
the beginning and at the end of the year. Results for the CTA showed that the chess
group significantly outperformed the non-chess groups (p < .001), the computer group
(p < .003), and the non-participants (p < .025). With the Torrance test of creative
thinking, the chess group showed statistically significant improvement in “fluency,”
“flexibility” and “originality” when they were compared to the population norms and
the non-chess groups. There was also a significant difference in “fluency” and “originality” (but not in “flexibility”) for the chess group compared to the computer
Ferguson used a pretest and posttest design and used more than one control
group, each carrying out activities other than chess. However, this study has an
important weakness that rules out any interpretation of the results in terms of the
contribution of chess training to critical thinking and creativity: students switched
activities either quarterly or semi-annually, and chess players participated in other
activities as well. Therefore, we do not know whether the improvement is due to chess
treatment or to the other treatments. Another limitation of this study is that it
investigated a gifted population; hence, the claims cannot be generalized to the entire
population of school students. Finally, the sample was rather small (15 students in
the school chess club)."
As a baseball Sabermetrician I know all about a small sample size; it is worthless. In the fifth game of the 1969 MLB season Don Bosch, from San Francisco, playing for the expansion Montreal Expos in their very first season, went 4 for 5, leaving his batting average for the young season a robust .571! Don had played for the Asheville Tourists in the AA Southern League in 1964 & 65, then with Columbus and Jacksonville in the AAA International League from 1966-68, and he was called one of the very best center fielders to have ever worn a glove. His problem was his hitting ability did not measure up to his defensive ability. Don had 121 plate appearances in 1969 and hit .179, which happened to be his highest batting average of any MLB season. He ended his career way below the Mendoza line at a robust without the "ro" of .164 in 346 PA's.
It pains me to have to write this about my fellow Georgian, who has, no doubt, done great things in his long life, but honesty compels me to acknowledge citing his study does a disservice to chess. To quote a discredited study, such as this, is dishonest. People do this all the time. For example, the Bushwhackers quoted bogus documents that "… seem to depict an attempt made by Saddam Hussein in Iraq to purchase yellowcake uranium powder from Niger during the Iraq disarmament crisis." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger_uranium_forgeries#Wilson_and_Plame) The Bushwhackers did this while knowing what they were saying was a lie because, "Retired ambassador Joseph C. Wilson wrote a critical op-ed in The New York Times in which he explained the nature of the documents and the government's prior knowledge of their unreliability for use in a case for war. Shortly after Wilson's op-ed, in a column by Robert Novak, in pondering why a State Dept employee was dispatched rather than a trained CIA agent, the identity of Wilson's wife, CIA analyst Valerie Plame, was revealed. The Senate Intelligence Committee report and other sources confirm that Plame "offered his name up" to her superiors." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger_uranium_forgeries#Wilson_and_Plame)
They tried to discredit Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson by outing his wife, which is a violation of Federal law, and still, no one has been prosecuted. This was despicable! Any man who would do such a thing is NOT MUCH OF A MAN!
If the chess community is going to tell parents the game of chess will increase the intelligence of their child, the least we can do is to be honest about the facts.
Thinking the match between the Kings and Ospreys began at seven I was early in arriving at Emory University, where the Kings play. The first player to arrive was Expert Lawrence White, who was to play his first game as a King. Mr. White is a tall, large man with a huge smile, which was on display when he noticed me. He is an intelligent, educated, likable person whose comportment while at the House of Pain was always that of a gentleman.After purchasing a snack, which would substitute for dinner, as he had come directly from work, Lawrence walked over to say hello.
I have known Lawrence since he first appeared at the Atlanta Chess Center in 1997. He is a friendly gentleman and a talented chess player, who is obviously serious about his game. During our conversation I was taken aback when he said he was refused entry to the recent Georgia Open. “What?” I exclaimed, and asked Lawrence to elaborate. He explained, “The registration was from eight AM until eight-thirty and I arrived just before the closing time. I saw Fun Fong standing on something giving a speech, so I found his assistant and told him I would like to enter. He looked at his watch and said it was eight-thirty two. My watch showed eight-thirty.”
It took me a few moments to wrap my head around what I had just heard. Gathering myself, I asked the name of the person he had encountered. Lawrence did not know his name, but after describing the man I said, “That was not an assistant, but the Chief TD, Ben Johnson.” Rather than making waves, Lawrence decided he would not play in the event.
Realizing something like this would never have occurred when the GCA held their events at the House of Pain, I apologized. “Why are you apologizing?” he asked, “I know you would not have done it.” He was correct because just a few years ago every accommodation was made to allow a player, any player, to participate in a GCA event held at the House of Pain. What I did not tell Lawrence, who happens to be an American of African descent, was that I immediately thought of something my friend Mr. William A. Scott, an Expert player back when there were only a few players rated over 2000, publisher of the Atlanta Daily World, a well-respected Black newspaper, and a member of the first incarnation of the Atlanta Kings, told me many decades ago when he said, “Mike, the difference between us is that to Negroes, everything is considered racial, while to White people nothing is race related.” I have heard this many times during my life and have always tried to keep it in mind in my relations with my fellow humans who happen to have been born with a darker skin pigmentation, for I know that when that skin is removed there is no difference in the human body.
I have no idea what was in the mind of Ben Johnson when he denied entry to Mr. Lawrence White. As far as I know it could have been GM Michael Rohde, who has played in Atlanta previously, asking to enter the tournament and Ben, a member of what has become known as the “Know Nothing” party who has taken control of chess in Georgia, would not have known him from Adam. I have no idea how much race played in the Chief TD’s decision. What I do know is that Ben Johnson saw a rather large Black man standing there and the pairings had already been made, so he refused to go to the trouble of making new pairings, something made quick and simple with the advent of the computer pairing programs.
Appalled at the whole situation, I asked Lawrence if I could quote him on the blog and he said, “Sure.”
There were only a few higher rated adults entered and Mr. White would have added stature to the Georgia Open, something completely lost on Ben Johnson. Who is Ben Johnson? I have come to think of him as the “Weird Hockey Guy” of chess. The Legendary Georgia Ironman shuddered at the mention of this, and this is why. Tim and I were doing sports memorabilia shows in the 90’s before the collapse of the card market. During one show a goofy fellow appeared at our table, asking if we would like to purchase a large box of unopened Hockey cards. I had no interest, but the Ironman engaged the rather strange fellow in conversation. Weird Hockey Guy told Tim he had absolutely no interest in the pieces of cardboard of any type. “I am in it only for the money.” In the best capitalist tradition the Weird Hockey Guy would “buy low and sell high.” With the possibility of the MLB strike looming and the encounter with the WHG in mind, I decided to sell everything and get out of the business because it was obvious the card market bubble had burst.
When first meeting Ben Johnson he said, “I don’t know anything about real chess; I come from the scholastic side.” Not only did he try to argue with me about what constituted stalemate, but he also said, “I’m in chess only for the money.” It was obvious I had met the Weird Chess Guy.
Ben Johnson is the Vice President of the Georgia Chess Association. The Ironman mentioned recently that Ben Johnson had organized a one day camp for children in which he would collect $90 for each child from the parents of 30 children. Ben is rated 647. Please note that as Chief TD of the Ga Open Ben Johnson played a rated game during the final round, which he won. Once this game is rated Ben will reach the stratospheric heights of, for Ben, 697.
In his forward to the wonderful book, “The Stress of Chess…and its Infinite Finesse,” by GM Walter Browne, IM Danny Kopec writes, “There is simply no reasonable living to be made in chess in this country…”
“Instead we encourage mediocrity and top players are often left in the cold. By mediocrity, I mean situations like players who have barely reached expert level (or below) making a reasonable regular salary teaching in schools, while the great players, analysts and writers must struggle to make ends meet.”
Bob Dylan Only a Pawn in Their Game March on Washington 1963
It is difficult for a woodpusher to write about the game of chess played by the best human players because, as Bob Dylan wrote, “The game is the same—it’s just on a different level.” (Po’ Boy by Bob Dylan- http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/po-boy)
We try our best to understand but from being around those at, or near, the top, it is apparent their understanding is on a higher level. The same can be said about any other game, or sport, I suppose, yet many, if not most, of the greatest writers in the history of baseball never played in the show, and some never played the game on any level. Former MLB player Harold Reynolds had the audacity to tell one famous writer that since he had not played baseball in the major league he could not understand the game. Harold has a right to his opinion only because he did play in the show. After hearing the callous remark I thought there might be some merit to his argument, but that the accomplished writer could have a different understanding of the game.
I can still recall a time when IM Boris Kogan, at a tournament in Florida, knew he would face Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne, in the next round having the black pieces. Boris was lamenting the fact that he had no chance. This left the Legendary Georgia Ironman and I flummoxed. We were having a difficult time understanding his defeatist attitude. “You not understand,” Boris kept saying, “Cannot beat him. He too strong now.” Granted, Walter was at the top of his game, and was much younger than Boris, but still…we had a difficult time wrapping our minds around seeing Boris in that condition. Boris lost that game. The players at the top do not need numbers to know chess strength.
“From London to Elista: The Inside Story of the World Chess Championship Matches that Vladimir Kramnik Won Against Garry Kasparov, Peter Leko, and Veselin Topalov,” by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov is a magnificent book. It won the English Chess Federation 2008 Book-of-the-Year Award. The Gorilla is showing a new copy priced at $221.42; a used copy will set you back $55.00. I am holding on to mine. After reviewing the 7th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik there is a discussion of chess psychology which begins with my all-time favorite quote about Bobby Fischer. “When you’re playing Fischer, the question isn’t whether or not you’ll win; the question is whether or not you’ll survive.” The quote is from the man Bobby vanquished, Boris Spassky.
“SMYSLOV explained to us: ‘It was difficult for me to play Geller for a simple reason-when we sat down at the board, hatred was written on his face, he was ready to destroy his opponent. And if someone fell into that kind of condition, I couldn’t play.”
Geller had a lifetime plus score against Bobby Fischer. Reflecting on this made me wonder about how a player as strong as Hikaru Nakamura is considered Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s “regular customer.” Magnus has beaten Hikaru like a drum, with a lifetime score of 11 wins without a defeat in the only games that count, what is now called “classical” games. How is this possible?
“LEVITOV: But now, in my opinion, all chess players have become highly-qualified psychologists, and they don’t use only chess methods in their battles. Let’s take Kasparov. It’s said that he put pressure on his opponents psychologically-he exuded such a supply of negative energy that they felt like resigning immediately. Bareev once described to me very amusingly how in time trouble Kasparov started shaking his head and making tragic grimaces, as if to say, ‘how can this be, I’ve missed such a simple idea!’ And his opponent sits and desperately tries to work out if he’s being toyed with, and his clock is ticking…In other words, you have to solve psychological problems as well as chess problems during a game.”
Has Hikaru Nakamura lost the psychological battle? Has Magnus gotten into Hikaru’s head? What else can explain such a score?
Levitov poses a question for Bareev, “Does your opponent’s energy have a strong influence on the chess player? Why, for example, did Shirov and Anand always lose to Kasparov, why did Fischer play badly against Geller, and why can’t Polgar play against Kramnik?”
Bareev answers, “It’s genuinely unknown why it’s easier to play one opponent than another, and there are also metaphysical explanations for this-a powerful energy, and unfamiliar style and so on. More often everything simply depends on the playing strengths of blondes and brunettes and their preparedness for the specific encounter. In other words, you have to investigate every specific case separately.”
“LEVITOV: How do you control your emotions, how do you avoid showing that your opponent has surprised you horribly, for example, with his choice of opening? Does everyone have their own acting methods?”
“BAREEV: To a certain extent. People sometimes get ideas on this from the good results of new players. Later they adapt their openings and style of play and stop reacting to the unexpected. It’s better to combine your acting talents with specific skills and abilities.”
After seeing the following parody on the blog of GM Kevin Spraggett (http://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/), the best chess blog on the internet, I could not help but wonder how much acting went into the lessons given by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov to current Human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. What part do histrionics play in the psychology of chess?
“Bill James is the best known baseball analyst in the world” (http://sabr.org/about/bill-james). Bill began his writing career by questioning the assumptions in baseball, something commonly called, “The Book.” For questioning some of the commonly held beliefs in baseball Bill was excoriated by the MLB establishment. His books, and the thinking contained therein, caught on with many and his books became very successful. Many other baseball fans began to question things like the sacrifice bunt, held dear by the MLB establishment. Decades later Bill was hired by the Boston Red Sox as an analyst and the Red Sox became the World Champions. Now every MLB team has an analyst, or team of analysts.
Bill’s latest book is, “Fools Rush Inn: More Detours on the Way to Conventional Wisdom.” One of the essays is, “Classical Sport.” As is often the case, while reading the essay my thoughts would drift to chess and I would substitute the word “chess” for “classical music.” Read on and you will understand why.
Bill writes, “Classical music has very, very serious problems as an industry. The number of people who enjoy classical music is small compared to the market for other kinds of music and the market is composed primarily of old people.
“Classical music survives, or has survived so far, because it has advantages over the marketplace, rather than advantage in the marketplace. Classical music is perceived by a very large cadre of musical professionals as the highest form of music, and these people have integrated themselves and their music into the society in ways that insulate it from extinction by economic forces. High schools do not teach young musicians to play rock and roll, as a rule; they teach them to play “instruments,” which are in truth the instruments of classical music. Millions of small children take violin lessons, which their parents get for them because this is how music is taught. The perception that this form of music is “classy” -widely accepted in our culture- keeps the form alive by giving it these advantages, and many similar and related advantages. At the symphony I am below the median age and, I suspect, well below the median income. Those old people who go to the symphony have more-than proportional power because they have more-than proportional wealth. There is something much more than that going on here. It has to do with the perception of rectitude, of value and of virtue.”
“Music, like sport, is instinctive to us, exists in all cultures, and will never disappear. There are primal and sophisticated forms of music and of sport, which could also be called vibrant and calcified, or youthful and moribund. There is a spectrum in these activities that runs from vibrant, primal and youthful to sophisticated, calcified and moribund. All sports and all forms of music move across that spectrum, crawling toward obsolescence.”
I have always thought of chess as a form of the “Glass Bead Game,” made popular by the greatest novel ever written, “The Glass Bead Game,” also published as “Magister Ludi,” Latin for “Master of the Game,” by Hermann Hesse, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature for the book. The Glass Bead Game takes place centuries into the future. It concerns the place the game occupies in the culture. “As the novel progresses, Knecht begins to question his loyalty to the order; he gradually comes to doubt that the intellectually gifted have a right to withdraw from life’s big problems. Knecht comes to see Castalia as a kind of ivory tower, an ethereal and protected community, devoted to pure intellectual pursuits but oblivious to the problems posed by life outside its borders.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Glass_Bead_Game)
The game of chess can be thought of in the way Bill James writes of classical music. Chess has always been thought of as important because it requires thought, something some very wealthy people have valued highly enough to become patrons of the game. I am thinking of Gregor Piatigorsky and his wife, Jacqueline, and the famous tournaments they funded in Los Angeles in 1963 and 1966, called the Piatigorsky Cup. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piatigorsky_Cup) Every chess player knows of these tournaments, and if you encounter anyone involved with chess who has never heard of the Piatigorsky tournaments the question becomes, “What is this person doing in chess?” In 1961 the Piatigorsky’s sponsored a match between Bobby Fischer and Sammy Reshevsky. It ended prematurely when the wealthy couple wanted to change the scheduled time of one of the games because of a conflict Gregor had with a musical performance. Bobby refused because he had signed a contract that specified the round time of each game. The wealthy couple must have felt like Ronald Raygun, when running for POTUS, and he was heckled from the audience. Ronnie famously yelled, “I am paying for this microphone!” In actuality he was not paying. The people contributing money toward his campaign were paying, but why quibble? It was a great sound bite for the Gypper. The Piatigorsky’s were paying and thought Bobby should jump through any hoop provided. Bobby provided them with what is called a “rude awakening” when he “just said no.” Extraordinarily wealthy people are not used to being refused. They are also not used to being told “no” because they surround themselves with “yes men.”
I mention this because without the patronage of very wealthy people there may not be future chess as we have known it until now. Consider for a moment the state of chess without the largess provided by the latest patron, billionaire Rex Sinquefield. Rather than being held in the state of the art St. Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center the US Championships may have been held in some room in a college, as has been the case previously. The STLCC&SC is an artificial construct. I mean that because St. Louis was never known as a hot-bed of chess in the way New York city was known to be a hot-bed of chess. The game of chess developed naturally in New York, San Francisco, and other cities without some fantastically wealthy individual building it so they would come. Please do not take me wrong; I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that it is a “thing.”
Chess is in a fight for its life in the marketplace. The common perception among adults is that chess is dead, and that it died when the computer program “defeated” human World Chess Champ Garry Kasparov. In order to survive chess has been “sold” as a wonderful game to help children “think.” Chess is a wonderful tool to help children learn how to think, but so are literature and math The game of Wei-Chi, popularly known as “Go” in the west, is also a wonderful game and in many ways it is better than chess because a computer program is not yet as strong as the best human players (I will discuss this in a planned future post). Go is exponentially more complicated than chess and it is much simpler to learn, with no “weird” moves such as castling or en passant. A draw in go is about as common as leap year. One of the major problems afflicting chess is non-serious games. It will be terribly difficult to explain the worth of a game in which he is asked to contribute after being shown a game such as the one played today in the British Championship:
Pert, Richard G – Pert, Nicholas
101st ch-GBR 2014 Aberystwyth WLS (8.2), 2014.07.27
1.e4 e5 ½-½
To those who may say they are related I say, “Go talk to Venus and Serena Williams.” To those who may say it is near the end of the Championship and they were tired I say, “It is only one game per day and the previous day was an OFF DAY!”
In reply to the post “Has Cheating Affected Chess?” my friend the Discman sent me an email in which he wrote, “Interesting discussion and on point. However, cheating isn’t the biggest problem facing chess. Computers have taken the mystery out of the game. GM’s used to be gods with almost super-natural powers. Now any schmo with a smartphone can figure out the best move. Technology and the public’s need for instant gratification have left chess behind. It is no longer relevant in the public consciousness. Yes, cheating and the potential of cheating are contributing factors, but not the root cause.”
These kinds of comments proliferate on the web these days.
I have no solution to offer other than those previously written. The chess world has to look toward those in positions of power, for better or worse. A quote attributed to Albert Einstein to mind: “The thinking it took to get us into this mess is not the same thinking that is going to get us out of it.”
An email making the rounds in the local chess community has reached the AW. The sources are impeccable. It appears the GCA board has decided to hold a chess tournament about every other weekend in the coming year. To set the stage one should know the players in this drama.
The GCA board consists of three women, Laura Doman, Katie Hartley, and Pam Little, who do not play chess; Ben Johnson, who thinks he plays chess; Fun Fong, who plays mediocre chess; and Tim Payne and Frank Johnson, who are, or have been, rated expert. These are the committees found on the GCA website (http://www.georgiachess.org/contact):
By-Law Task Force: Fun Fong, Katie Hartley, Mike Mulford, Scott Parker, Jeanne Ward
Communications: Laura Doman (Director)
Membership: Parnell Watkins
Open Events: WIM Carolina Blanco (Chair), Frank Johnson, Carolyn Lantelme, Greg Maness, Tim Payne, Bryan Rodeghiero, Thad Rogers, Parnell Watkins
Scholastic: Laura Doman, Katie Hartley (Co-Chair), Tricia Hill, Ben Johnson (Co-Chair), Susan Justice, Tim Payne, Steve Schneider, Ted Wieber
Volunteer Coordinator: Frank Johnson
Web Team: Laura Doman, Katie Hartley, Vijay Jayaram, Jagadeesh Rathnasabapathy, Keith Sewell
Committee members are volunteers who can commit to a year of working on the team.
In addition there the GCA has a “Task Force”:
GCA By-Law Task Force: Fun Fong (President), Katie Hartley (2nd VP), Mike Mulford (USCF delegate, Past Treasurer), Scott Parker (Past President), Jeanne Ward (Non-profit consultant)
Suggested By-Law Revisions to be voted on June 21st by GCA Members (http://www.georgiachess.org/bylaws)
These are the current “movers and shakers” of the Georgia Chess Association.
The GCA has myriad committees. The President of the GCA, Fun Fong, posted his, “From the President: GCA May 2014 Update” (http://georgiachessnews.com/2014/05/03/from-the-president-gca-may-2014-update/) on the new online magazine, “Georgia Chess News” on May 3, 2014, in which he writes about today’s committees and those to come. I asked two respected chess luminaries, NM Chris Chambers, and former GCA President and Georgia Senior Champion Scott Parker, for their thoughts on the President’s message. This was recieved from the Discman:
Happy Monday Bacon.
“Yes I’m fine with you using my stuff on blogs.
Regarding the GCA message, he sure seems to be planning to put together lots of committees.
Are there even enough dues-paying adult GCA members to man all the spots in those committees?
At this point they’re talking about forming committees to decide how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Virtually all of the passengers (actual tournament players) have boarded the life boats and are long gone, leaving only the wanna-be TD’s to train each other how to run tournaments that nobody will attend.”
Mr. Parker sent an polished, insightful and obviously well-thought-out reply:
“Fun is very high on the concept of working through committees. I am not, nor was my predecessor, Ted Wieber. That doesn’t mean it is wrong. There is more than one way to accomplish a task. My preference, and Ted’s too, I believe, was to find a committed volunteer and put a heavy workload on him/her. Committees tend to be slow and cumbersome things, and they lack direction. Each member wants to pull it in a different direction. You’ve heard the old joke, “A platypus is an animal designed by a committee.” It’s funny because there is an underlying truth to it. Committees do tend to come out with proposals that look like they ordered from a take-out menu – something from column A, something from column B, something from colunmn C, etc.
I’m also not sure that it makes sense to operate through committees in an orgainzation that has about 200 voting members. For USCF, which has over 10,000, that’s one thing, It’s another thing for GCA. We don’t have that many committed volunteers. I prefer to work with a small number of committed people rather than a large number of casually interested people.
All this being said, I will freely admit that I didn’t do a great job of identifying those committed volunteers, and ended up doing way too much of the grunt work myself. I was so busy doing the mundane stuff that I had little time to be President. It’s hard to concentrate on your plan to drain the swamp when you’re up to your a** in aligators. My impression is that as long as I was President that probably wasn’t going to change. As long as I was President and things were getting done a crisis didn’t exist. Without a crisis, not many people jumped up to volunteer. Perhaps in the long run it would have been better if I had refused to do the grunt work and let some tournaments and projects die so that a crisis situation would exist. Maybe that would have stimulated a few volunteers to step forward. For better or worse, I was not willing to do that.
Anyway, Fun’s idea of working through committees seems to be working pretty well for him. There has been some short term dislocation, and not everything is flowing smoothly, but in general the GCA is healthy. His way may not be my way, but if it works for him, that’s all that counts. “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.” – Deng Xiao Ping.
Best Wishes, Scottt
P.S. You have my permission to use any or all of this in any way you see fit, or to copy it to anyone you choose.”
Both of these replies from my friends were received May 12, 2014. Although I tend to agree with the Discman, listening to a person who has the respect of all the chess community, as does Scott Parker, gives one a different perspective. There are always two sides of an issue and one must try, as difficult as it may be, to understand the other side.
Emails are being fired at such a rate the NSA is having trouble keeping up with the heavy volume…The first email is from WIM Carolina Blanco, Georgia Chess Open Event ( Chair).
On Monday, July 7, 2014 6:24 PM, Carolina Blanco wrote:
Please find attached the update information for all the Open event tournaments to be organized by Georgia Chess Association from September 2014-July 2015.
Dates and location were verified according last Board meeting at Emory University on June 21st, 2014. Please note that the flyer still need to pass for one more review correction by the committee however with all these information we can see more organized our goal in maintain the tournaments organized in the past calendar year and adding two more new tournaments and new locations for the convenient and benefits of the chess community.
* Only event missing in this email ( but going to be added) is the Collegiate tournament. I am waiting for Ted Wieber to give us all the information for next year since he is the coordinator for this event.
* Location for Senior’s Open and Women’s Open is TBA since the Rivers Academy and Mrs. Justice proposal are in discussion, however the date that we saw more convenient at the board meeting in June for this event is September 20th, 2014.
* There are 4 tournaments to be held at the Wyndham Galleria Hotel and the dates in the flyer are the one that we are committed in the contract with the except of the Georgia State Championship that instead to be held on May 1st 2015. It was moved to April 18th 2015
* there are 2 new Class championship tournament added on February 27th and July 24th 2015. Beside the Class Championship on November 2014.
We are in the process to contact to Continental chess to try to extend our Open event activity from 6 tournaments a year to 12 tournaments a year for the next calendar period.
Questions?. Please feel free to email me.”
WIM Carolina Blanco
Georgia Chess Open Event ( Chair)
Ms. Blanco’s email evoked this response from former GCA President, International Arbiter, and chess business owner L. Thad Rogers:
On Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM, thad rogers wrote:
“Why is the Georgia Chess Association trying to put
American Chess Promotions and Championship Chess
out of business.”
I have 6 weekend tournaments scheduled with the dates
The Georgia Chess Association is to support chess in Georgia and not put other chess companies out of business.
This is the only way I try to make a meager income. I guess you all wouldn’t mind it if a nonprofit company came along and put all of your jobs and living out the window in order to satisfy them-selves.
No board in 40 years ever tried to do such a thing. I am very proud of such a caring Georgia Chess Association. I have tried tto do nothing but help the Georgia Chess Association for 40 years.
I have five or six people tell me that Fun said he is trying to put Georgia vendors out of business. If this goes through, then I guess he will get his wish.
All my tournaments are getting to have a signed contract. If Southeast holds tournaments. Then how in the heck can anybody make any money with about 26 weekend tournaments.
Like I said, the GCA Board and Volunteers don’t have to worry because you all aren’t risking any of your personal money. You are using State Association Funds. That is something to be proud of.
American Chess Promotions
I am suppose to be on the Open Events committee. I never hear a word about meetings or issues until after the fact.”
The next email is from the POTGCA:
From: Fun Fong
Date: 07/09/2014 2:49 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: thad rogers
“It seems that there’s an unfortunate – and false – rumor circulating that the GCA is looking to put you or any other Georgia chess organization out of business. I can understand why you would be upset. You have a long personal relationship with the GCA, which we all appreciate, and many of our members have enjoyed playing in American Chess tournaments for many years. As president, my mission is to serve the greater chess community by providing a full calendar of quality events for both adult and scholastic members. It is not, nor has it ever been, to destroy another’s livelihood through the power of the GCA. There is absolutely no way that the GCA could put anyone out of business, even if it wanted to, which is certainly no one’s intentions. You will not find any legitimate conversation anywhere that has even hinted of this. Somehow, facts are becoming distorted by the time they get to you, and I am greatly troubled by the prospect of a malicious rumor mill.
It is my belief that more chess is better chess, and that the chess community will eventually expand as opportunities expand, much as have road races greatly expanded in the Metro Atlanta area. GCA does endeavor to raise the bar for quality, so that other organizers will continue to innovate in their offerings, giving the Georgia player more choices and a better selection of events to participate. This initiative should provide a better experience overall for Georgia players. I know that you have been constantly thinking of new events and ways to execute them, and I think this endeavor is working for the benefit of the Georgia player.
Still, it is my responsibility as president to promote chess and to offer our players with as many opportunities to play good competitive chess as the market will support. Besides American Chess and Championship Chess, there is the North Georgia Chess Center, Vibha, and other organizations that host all sorts of tournaments, ranging from afternoon tournaments for young beginners to multi-day events for top-rated competitive players. I believe that there is room for all because we have a large, diverse community of chess players, and tournaments by virtue of their competitive level, time requirements, or location cannot all appeal to all types of players at all times. The chess community today is not the same as it was in the past. As GCA president, I must listen to our members and respond to their demands: to expand, support, and promote opportunities for competitive, quality play.
I understand and respect your concern that an outside group may be stronger or better financed, and potentially threaten your business. We will not tolerate any organization trying to drive another out of business. On the other hand, the GCA will not act as the personal agent for a business seeking to keep others out of their “turf.” I will tell you that the GCA will be advising Continental Chess (or any other organization that we may approach or that approaches us) that we must have a balanced calendar. Similar events need to be coordinated in advance, so that they don’t overlap too often.
The GCA cannot carry out its mission if we are beholden to vendor interests – any vendor. We must maintain the balance of support to our valued vendor organizations with our responsibilities to the chess playing public. If a vendor is involved in a GCA endeavor that could be perceived as a conflict of interest, then the vendor should recuse itself from voting or debate on such an issue. As an example, and I say this with due respect, it seems that whenever the GCA proposes dates in a modest expansion of our programs, we have heard you state that the GCA has no right to do so, presumably because the proposal conflicts with your own business’ plans or calendar. We cannot function as an organization if we cannot maintain impartiality. And under my leadership, this will cease to be a problem.
Thad, I continue to honor and value your long commitment and dedication to the GCA. We are all glad to have you involved and hope that you will want to do so for a long time to come. Regarding the Open Events committee meetings, there has actually not been a full meeting of the Open Events committee yet. Some committee members are changing their commitments to some degree, and while we’re managing this, I would anticipate a full meeting this month. You’ll certainly be advised when the meeting is scheduled.
As always, I welcome your feedback and look forward to talking with you about this or any other area of concern.”
The POTGCA writes about having a “balanced calendar.” Since the GCA has plans for a tournament every other weekend, that can only mean half for the GCA and half for everyone else.
As far as “…advising Continental Chess…”, I question why the GCA would want any other tournaments here along with their two dozen. Is the chess community large enough to support just the GCA tournaments? It is well known that Bill Goichberg, from New York, has intentionally stayed out of the South. Yes, he has held tournaments in Orlando, but how many tournaments has he held in other Southern states? The Ironman mentioned one in Nashville. One. The most famous was the Continental Open, a CCA tournament in Atlanta back in May of 1973 in which Mr. Six Time, GM Walter Browne flew in from the west coast. GM Browne was on the cover of the May, 1973 “Chess Life & Review.” Walter was treated to some “Southern hospitality,” drawing with Rueben Shocron and losing to Milan Momic, and Robert Burns, before leaving to catch a much earlier flight than anticipated. As GM Browne was leaving someone asked him why he was leaving. The Legendary Georgia Ironman was present to hear what came next, now Tim’s ALL-TIME FAVORITE chess quote. Walter turned on the man like a cobra, yelling, “I DID NOT COME HERE FOR YOUR BENEFIT!”
I realize the World Open was held in the Great State of Virginia this year, but how many tournaments has the CCA brought to the Deep South in the last forty plus years? Of all the tournaments the CCA has held since the 1970’s I will be kind and say that if one includes Louisville, although having lived there I cannot imagine anyone would, the CCA has held maybe five percent in the South, probably less. The “pooh-bahs” should consider leaving the CCA alone and concentrate on holding the conjectured GCA tournaments to the best of their ability. I would like to warn the GCA of over saturation. The Ironman and I were in the sports card business in the late 1980’s, early 90’s, before over saturation and the MLB strike of 1994. When we began there were only a few monthly shows in the metro area. Then a few were added, and then there were card shows every other weekend. More were added until it became a card show every weekend in many locations. In those halcyon days the action was fast and furious. I recall being involved in major deals that were so involved that when another customer would pick a card and pay the advertised price without haggling. I would stuff the bill in my pocket and carry on with the deal. Then the customers stopped coming because they knew there would be another show the next weekend, and the next. Near the end it was so bad at one show I told the Ironman I would not eat lunch until I made a sale. My stomach was growling all afternoon until after the show when Tim took pity on me and bought me a beer and a sammy at Spondivits, saying, “A man who don’t make even one sale shouldn’t have to pay the tab.”