Some Games Leave You Scratching Your Head…

WGM  Josefine Heinemann (2317)

vs IM Pedro Antonio Gines Esteo  (2482) ( Unfortunately no picture could be found of the teenager)

Gibraltar Masters 2020 round 03

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 (6 Nf3) 6…h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. Bd3 Bxd3 9. Qxd3 e6 (Komodo plays 9…Qc7) 10. Bd2  (Although the most often played move by far, Stockfish and LcO play 10 Bf4. Komodo castles) 10… Ngf6   11. O-O-O a5 12. Qe2?! (This is a TN. Regular readers will know why I attached the exclam! 12 c4 was played in Lacau Rodean v Ozkan below) 12… Bb4 13. Kb1 O-O 14. c3 (14 Ne4) 14…Be7 15. Nf1 a4 16. g4

16…Qa5 (I cannot wonder why this young fellow refrained from playing the 16…Nxg4 in lieu of the losing move played in the game?) 17. c4 Bb4 18. Bxb4 Qxb4 19. g5 Nh5 ½-½

(What the hell is this? White is WINNING THE GAME!!! 20 gxh6 looks STRONG!)

https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2020-gibraltar-masters/03-Heinemann_Josefine-Gines_Esteo_Pedro_Antonio

Iulia Lacau Rodean (2071)

Charlie Ozkan (1903)

Canadian open 07/23/2006

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.Bd3 Bxd3 9.Qxd3 Ngf6 10.Bd2 e6 11.O-O-O a5 12.c4 Bb4 13.Ne4 Nxe4 14.Qxe4 Nf6 15.Qe2 Bxd2+ 16.Rxd2 a4 17.Ne5 Nd7 18.d5 Nxe5 19.Qxe5 Qf6 20.Qxf6 gxf6 21.dxc6 bxc6 22.Rd6 Rg8 1/2-1/2

“STOP AGREED DRAWS. THAT’S MATCH-FIXING AND CHEATING AND NOT OK.” – GM Simen Agdestein, answering the question, “If you could change one thing in the chess world what would it be?” New In Chess magazine, 2019/6.

Yakov Vilner First Ukrainian Chess Champion and First USSR Chess Composition Champion: A Review

Having earlier reviewed Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/02/24/alekhines-odessa-secrets-chess-war-and-revolution-a-review/) I was pleased when a new book, published by Elk and Ruby (http://www.elkandruby.com/) and by the same author, Sergei Tkachenko,

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:

Yakov S Vilner

vs Boris Verlinsky

URS-ch04 Leningrad 1925

E00 Queen’s pawn game

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 b6 4.e4 Bb4 5.Bd3 Bb7 6.Qc2 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 8.Ne2 c5 9.O-O Nbd7 10.Ng3 Qc7 11.f4 cxd4 12.cxd4 Rc8 13.e5 Nd5 14.Qb3 Ne7 15.Ba3 d5 16.Rac1 Qd8 17.f5 O-O 18.f6 gxf6 19.exf6 Ng6 20.Bxg6 hxg6 21.Be7 Qe8 22.Qe3 Kh7 23.Nf5 1-0

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.

Efim Bogoljubow

vs Yakov S Vilner

URS-ch04 Leningrad 1925

D49 Queen’s Gambit Declined semi-Slav, Meran, Sozin variation

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 c6 4.e3 e6 5.Nc3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Bd3 a6 9.e4 c5 10.e5 cxd4 11.Nxb5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 axb5 13.O-O Qd5 14.Qf3 Ba6 15.Bg5 Be7 16.Rfc1 O-O 17.Qh3 h6 18.Bf4 Bb7 19.Re1 Bb4 20.Re2 Rxa2 21.Rf1 Rfa8 22.f3 Bf8 23.Ng4 Nxg4 24.Qxg4 Qb3 25.Bb1 Rxb2 26.Ree1 d3 27.Rc1 Ra1 28.Bc2 Rxc1 0-1

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.

Yakov S Vilner vs Mikhail Botvinnik

URS-ch05
Moscow 1927
A45 Queen’s pawn game

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Qd3 g6 4.h3 Nc6 5.Bf4 Bf5 6.Qd2 Bg7 7.e3 O-O 8.g4 Bc8 9.Bg2 Re8 10.Nf3 Ne4 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Ne5 Be6 13.Nxc6 bxc6 14.Bxe4 Bd5 15.Qd3 e5 16.dxe5 Bxe5 17.Bxd5 cxd5 18.Bxe5 Rxe5 19.O-O-O c6 20.h4 Qd7 21.Qc3 Rae8 22.Rd4 Qd6 23.h5 c5 24.Rdd1 Re4 25.hxg6 Qxg6 26.Rxd5 Rxg4 27.Qxc5 Rg2 28.Rd2 Qg4 29.Rhd1 h5 30.Rd8 Rxd8 31.Rxd8+ Kh7 32.Rd4 Rg1+ 33.Kd2 Rd1+ 34.Kc3 Rxd4 35.Qxd4 Qg5 36.Qd7 h4 37.Kd2 Kg6 38.Qh3 Qd5+ 39.Ke2 Qe4 40.Kf1 Kh6 41.f3 Qxe3 42.Qxh4+ 1-0

We humans like to speculate about “what if?” As in, “What if Klaus Junge

had not died in World War Two?” (http://tartajubow.blogspot.com/2011/01/klaus-junge.html) How many players have died needlessly on a battlefield somewhere in yet another war without end? Hopefully, one day peace will break out… Reading this book brought another to light.

Alexander Moiseevich Evenson (1892-1919)

“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,

who in the 1930s headed the Soviet chess and checkers associations. (https://www.chess.com/blog/Spektrowski/nikolai-krylenko-the-main-goals-of-the-chess-checkers-movement-1931) (https://spartacus-educational.com/RUSkrylenko.htm), wrote in Chess List:

“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

(https://www.newyorker.com/sections/news/putins-russia-wrestles-with-the-meaning-of-trotsky-and-revolution)

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”.

Chess Match-fixing and Cheating

The “Just Checking” section which closes each issue of the best Chess magazine in the world, New In Chess, is a Q&A with people in the world of Chess. In the latest issue, 2019/6

Grandmaster Simen Agdestein

answers the questions posed.

The antepenultimate question is: “If you could change any one thing in the chess world, what would it be?”

Agdestein: “Stop agreed draws. That’s match-fixing and cheating and not OK.”

Chaos Chess

Began reading Game Changer: AlphaZero’s Groundbreaking Strategy and the Promise of AI,

by GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan

recently. I have only read a couple of chapters and have no intention of writing a review because the book has been reviewed by almost everyone but this writer.

Kaissa vs Chaos

World Computer Championship, Stockholm, 1974

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 d5 4. exd5 Qxd5 5. d4 Bg4 6.
Be2 e6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 cxd4 9. Bxd4 e5 10. h3 exd4 11. hxg4 Bd6 12. cxd4 Nxg4
13. Nc3 Qh5 14. g3

(A critical moment. Castling king side is the sensible option, with a balanced game, but Black goes crazy instead!)

14…Kd7

15. Nh4 f5 16. d5 Nce5 17. Qc2 Rhf8 18. Bd3 (A slow move which gives Black chances for a counterattack)

Nxd3 19. Qxd3 Rae8 20. Nb5 f4 21. Nxd6 Kxd6 22. Qa3+ Kc7 23. Qxa7 Qf7 24. Rfc1+ Kd6 25.
Qc5+ Ke5 26. d6+ Ke6 27. Re1+ Ne3 28. gxf4 Qd7 29. f5+ Kf6 30. Rxe3 Rd8 31. Re7
Qa4 32. Qe5+ Kg5 33. Nf3+ Kg4 34. Rxg7+ Kh5 35. Qh2+ Qh4 36. Qxh4# 1-0

For those of you who wish to read a review before purchasing the book I heartily recommend the one by GM Jacob Aagaard

in the best Chess magazine in the world, New In Chess, issue 2019/3. Kudos to the people at NIC who make the decision as to what goes into the magazine, and what stays out. Aagard was nice about ripping the authors new ones, writing, “Game Changer is an interesting but often also frustrating read.” In addition he writes, “However, the structural problems the book suffers from are certainly to do with the two authors, two voices and at least two different directions.” There is more but I will not dwell on it other than to say reading the review caused me to purchase the book after reading, “The book gets into a better flow over the next hundred pages, before becoming coherent over the last 250+ pages that look seriously at AlphaZero’s games,” which is the basic reason for buying the tome.

Just Checking The End Of The Line

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

What is your favorite city?

Decatur, Georgia, the city of my birth.

What was the last great meal you had?

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

What drink brings a smile to your face?

Which book would you give to a dear friend?

I have no “dear friend.”

What book are you currently reading?

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

What is your favorite novel?

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

Do you have a favorite artist?

Maxfield Parrish

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

What is your favorite color?

What is your all-time favorite movie?

When young it was Cool Hand Luke,

then came One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,

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

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

What is your all-time favorite TV series?

Who is your favorite actor?

Humphrey Bogart.

And actress?

Kim Basinger

and Blair Brown.



To what kind of music do you listen?

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

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

Who is your favorite composer?

Duke Ellington.

Favorite male singer/songwriter?

Bob Dylan

Female?

Joni Mitchell.

Best Rock & Roll song of all-time?

Like a Rolling Stone.

Like A Rolling Stone

Written by: Bob Dylan

Once upon a time you dressed so fine

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

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

You thought they were all kiddin’ you

You used to laugh about

Everybody that was hangin’ out

Now you don’t talk so loud

Now you don’t seem so proud

About having to be scrounging for your next meal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be without a home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

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

But you know you only used to get juiced in it

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

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

You said you’d never compromise

With the mystery tramp, but now you realize

He’s not selling any alibis

As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes

And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

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

When they all come down and did tricks for you

You never understood that it ain’t no good

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

You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat

Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat

Ain’t it hard when you discover that

He really wasn’t where it’s at

After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people

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

Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things

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

You used to be so amused

At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used

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

When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose

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

How does it feel

How does it feel

To be on your own

With no direction home

Like a complete unknown

Like a rolling stone?

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

Favorite Rock & Roll song of all-time?

The Night They Drove Old Dixe Down.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

The Band

Produced by John Simon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Rock & Roll band of all-time?

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

What is your all-time favorite album?

The Romantic Warrior.

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

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

Is there something you would love to learn?

The meaning of life.

What is your greatest fear?

Fear itself.

And your greatest regret?

Regrets? I’ve had a few…

Who is your favorite Chess player of all-time?

Robert J. Fischer.

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

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

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

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

What does it mean to be a Chess player?

Nothing.

Is a knowledge of Chess useful in everyday life?

No.

Do you have any superstitions concerning Chess?

No.

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

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

That is three things.

You want me to go on?

No.

That’s what I thought…

What is the best thing ever said about Chess?

Before the advent of the computer programs:

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

After the advent of the computer programs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your best result ever?

Winning the 1976 Atlanta Chess Championship 5-0.

What was the best game you played?

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

FM Mark Pinto

vs Bacon

1986 US Open rd 4

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

The game was annotated by GM Jon Speelman:

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

What is your most memorable game?

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

T. Thompson vs Michael Bacon

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

Nf3?!!?

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

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

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


Boris Kogan with raised hand at Lone Pine

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

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

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

Judging by the date it would appear Mr. Harris

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

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

Kevin Spraggett

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

Kevin

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

Best,
Karen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Pawn, Knight, Bishop, and Rook Save the Day

Sergei Tkachenko,

a Grandmaster of composition, is a member of the Ukrainian team that won the 5th World Chess Composition Tournament in 1997 and which came in second in 2000. 2004, 2013, and 2017, has produced four books in which white ends up with just one pawn, knight, bishop, or rook in the finale manages to win or draw.

I think of these small books as “little jewels,” as in diamonds! These amazing and fantastic studies, some classics from bygone ages, others originally published in the Soviet Union, or ex-Soviet countries, and Sergei’s own compositions, are a feast for those who enjoy expanding their minds and improve their play.

I recall reading a story about former US Chess Champion Stuart Rachels,

from Alabama, in which his father, James Rachels, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Alabama, a position in which one can now find Stuart, who followed in his father’s footsteps, said that when he came home Stuart would often greet him in the driveway while holding a Chess board with a study he had been attempting to solve. Stuart would have loved these books!

Each book contains one hundred problems. The paperback books measure four by six inches so they can be transported easily. They can also be purchased in Kindle form. Unfortunately only One Pawn and One Knight are available on Kindle now. They are free if you purchase a Kindle unlimited. How can one beat that price? In addition, the Endgame Books Available on the Forward Chess App, which can be found here: https://forwardchess.com/product-category/endgame-books/

Some examples follow:


Black to move

M.Klyatskin, 1924 (finale)

The first problem is No. 1 in the pawn book. It is one of the most well-known studies in Chess, and the solution should be known by anyone attempting to play Chess. This illustrates there are studies for everyone, from beginner to Grandmaster.


White to move and win

Authors: J. Kling and B. Horwitz, 1853

One more pawn study by the man famous for ending World Champion Jose Raul Capablanca’s

long winning streak (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1102101):


White to move and draw

Author Richard Reti, 1925 (position after black’s first move)

From One Knight Saves the Day:

“Newbies to chess problems will also find analyzing these studies useful. The diverse set of tactical ideas involving a single knight in the finale will enable them to gain a deeper understanding of the knight’s resourcefulness. The first studies appeared in the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess (VII-VIII centuries). They were called mansubat (singular: mansuba), which can be translated from Arabic as “an arrangement.” Around 700 mansubat have survived, some of which involve a lone knight n the finale.”

Mansuba No. A1 from the XII century has spawned a vast number of studies:


White to move and win

Unknown author, XII century

The next is from one of the most famous Chess players in the history of the game:


White to move and win

Author Paul Keres, 1936

I had the good fortune to meet Paul Keres


A stamp released in the USSR in 1991 to mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of Paul Keres

at the Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio, Texas in 1972. For those with a desire to learn about Paul Keres I highly recommend the magnificent six part series recently concluded @ https://chess24.com/en/read/news/paul-keres-prince-without-a-crown

The next volume, One Bishop Saves the Day,

contains a history of the development of the bishop. “In the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess, the bishop differed from its modern cousin. It could jump diagonally over both its own player’s and its opponent’s pieces. At the same time, this bishop was much weaker and more vulnerable: it moved diagonally only two squares at a time (no lese and no more)), which made it easy prey for more mobile pieces.” Examples are given, but you must purchase the book to see them, as I give only modern examples:


White to move and draw

Author Jan Timman, 1982 (Grandmaster Jan Timman

is the Honorary Editor of the best Chess magazine in the world, New In Chess)


White to move and draw

Author Pal Benko,

1967 (Everyone should be familiar with Pal Benko, the man who punched out by Bobby Fischer! http://chessmoso.blogspot.com/2010/12/getting-killed-over-chess-game.html)

In One Rook Saves the Day

we find:

“In the game of shatranj, a precursor of modern chess, the rook was the strongest piece. The rook featured frequently in ancient mansubat (singular:mansuba) – the first chess compositions. In those days, it was called a ‘rukh’ (sometimes spelt ‘roc’ or ‘rucke’), an ancient and powerful phoenix-like firebird so big that it could even carry elephants in its claws.”


Black to move. White achieves a draw

Author Sergei Tkachenko, 2000, the GM who put these wonderful books together. (http://www.gmsquare.com/composition.pdf)

Every day for I do not know how long I have gone to TWIC (http://theweekinchess.com/) every morning an attempt to solve the Daily Chess Puzzle as a way of firing my brain. Since receiving these books I attempt to solve at least one study. There have been days when I hold the position in my mind and reflect on it throughout the day. For example, yesterday I kicked back in our new recliner to rest, close my eyes, and there was the morning position. One day we were busy so I had not had time to attempt to solve the position that had been indelibly etched in my memory, but when I went to bed that night, there was the position, which I was still unable to solve. The next morning, after taking a couple of jolting slugs of coffee, I opened the book currently being read, looked at the page, and “Wa La,” there was the position! Getting up immediately I walked over to the desk graciously given to me by my friend Michael (Mulfish) Mulford when he moved to Lost Wages, set up the board, and solved the study!

The books are published by Elk and Ruby (https://twitter.com/ilan_ruby?lang=en).

‏I love these books I have come to think of as little nuggets of gold!

Programmers Attack Go With Brute Force

Last June an article by Jonathan Schaeffer, Martin Müller & Akihiro Kishimoto, AIs Have Mastered Chess. Will Go Be Next? was published. “Randomness could trump expertise in this ancient game of strategy,” followed. “Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer science professor at the University of Alberta, in Canada, had been creating game-playing artificial intelligence programs for 15 years when Martin Müller and Akihiro Kishimoto came to the university in 1999 as a professor and graduate student, respectively. Kishimoto has since left for IBM Research–Ireland, but the work goes on—and Schaeffer now finds it plausible that a computer will beat Go’s grand masters soon. “Ten years ago, I thought that wouldn’t happen in my lifetime,” he says.” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/robotics/artificial-intelligence/ais-have-mastered-chess-will-go-be-next)

Jonathan Schaeffer is the man behind Chinook, the computer program that solved Checkers. You can find the paper, Checkers is Solved, to learn about the proof here: (http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~chinook/)
He has also revised his book first published in 1997, One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers, which I read years ago. Jonathan Schaeffer is like E. F. Hutton in that when he talks about a computer game program, you listen.

For years I have followed news of computer Go programs. Before sitting down to punch & poke I searched for the latest news, coming up empty. This as good news for humans because Go is the last board game bastion holding against machine power. It is also the world’s oldest, and most complicated, board game. It “originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. It was considered one of the four essential arts of a cultured Chinese scholar in antiquity. Its earliest written reference dates back to the Confucian Analects.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go_%28game%29)

Schaeffer and his group have developed a Go-playing computer program, Fuego, an open-source program that was developed at the University of Alberta. From the article, “For decades, researchers have taught computers to play games in order to test their cognitive abilities against those of humans. In 1997, when an IBM computer called Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov, the reigning world champion, at chess, many people assumed that computer scientists would eventually develop artificial intelligences that could triumph at any game. Go, however, with its dizzying array of possible moves, continued to stymie the best efforts of AI researchers.”

In 2009 Fuego “…defeated a world-class human Go player in a no-handicap game for the first time in history. Although that game was played on a small board, not the board used in official tournaments, Fuego’s win was seen as a major milestone.”

They write, “Remarkably, the Fuego program didn’t triumph because it had a better grasp of Go strategy. And although it considered millions of possible moves during each turn, it didn’t come close to performing an exhaustive search of all the possible game paths. Instead, Fuego was a know-nothing machine that based its decisions on random choices and statistics.”

I like the part about it being a “know-nothing machine.” I have often wondered if humans, like Jonathan Schaeffer, who are devoting their lives to the development of “thinking” machines, will be reviled by future generations of humans as is the case in the Terminator movies. It could be that in the future humans will say, “Hitler was nothing compared to the evil SCHAEFFER!” If I were supreme world controller a command would be issued ending the attempts to crack Go, leaving my subjects one beautiful game not consigned to the dustbin of history, as has been the fate of checkers. I fear it is only a matter of time before chess meets the same fate. GM Parimarjan Negi was asked in the “Just Checking” Q&A of the best chess magazine in the history of the universe, New In Chess 2014/6, “What will be the nationality of the 2050 World Champion?” He answered the question by posing one of his own, “Will we still have a world championship?” Good question. I would have to live to one hundred to see that question answered. Only former President of the GCA, and Georgia Senior Champion, Scott Parker will live that long, possibly still be pushing wood in 2050, if wood is still being pushed…

The article continues, “The recipe for building a superhuman chess program is now well established. You start by listing all possible moves, the responses to the moves, and the responses to the responses, generating a branching tree that grows as big as computational resources allow. To evaluate the game positions at the end of the branches, the program needs some chess knowledge, such as the value of each piece and the utility of its location on the board. Then you refine the algorithm, say by “pruning” away branches that obviously involve bad play on either side, so that the program can search the remaining branches more deeply. Set the program to run as fast as possible on one or more computers and voilà, you have a grand master chess player. This recipe has proven successful not only for chess but also for such games as checkers and Othello. It is one of the great success stories of AI research.”

Voilà, indeed.

“Go is another matter entirely,” they write, “The game has changed little since it was invented in China thousands of years ago, and millions around the world still enjoy playing it.”

But for how long?

“Game play sounds simple in theory: Two players take turns placing stones on the board to occupy territories and surround the opponent’s stones, earning points for their successes. Yet the scope of Go makes it extremely difficult—perhaps impossible—for a program to master the game with the traditional search-and-evaluate approach.”

This is because, “For starters, the complexity of the search algorithm depends in large part on the branching factor—the number of possible moves at every turn. For chess, that factor is roughly 40, and a typical chess game lasts for about 50 moves. In Go, the branching factor can be more than 250, and a game goes on for about 350 moves. The proliferation of options in Go quickly becomes too much for a standard search algorithm.”

Hooray! That is the good news, and there is more…”There’s also a bigger problem: While it’s fairly easy to define the value of positions in chess, it’s enormously difficult to do so on a Go board. In chess-playing programs, a relatively simple evaluation function adds up the material value of pieces (a queen, for example, has a higher value than a pawn) and computes the value of their locations on the board based on their potential to attack or be attacked. Compared with that of chess pieces, the value of individual Go stones is much lower. Therefore the evaluation of a Go position is based on all the stones’ locations, and on judgments about which of them will eventually be captured and which will stay safe during the shifting course of a long game. To make this assessment, human players rely on both a deep tactical understanding of the game and a clear-eyed appraisal of the overall board situation. Go masters consider the strength of various groups of stones and look at the potential to create, expand, or conquer territories across the board.”

This sounds good so far, but then they continue, “Rather than try to teach a Go-playing program how to perform this complex assessment, we’ve found that the best solution is to skip the evaluation process entirely.”

Oh no, Mr. Bill!

“Over the past decade, several research groups have pioneered a new search paradigm for games, and the technique actually has a chance at cracking Go. Surprisingly, it’s based on sequences of random moves. In its simplest form, this approach, called Monte Carlo tree search (MCTS), eschews all knowledge of the desirability of game positions. A program that uses MCTS need only know the rules of the game.”

I do not know about you, but I am hoping, “What happens in Monte Carlo stays in Monte Carlo.” Do you get the feeling we are about to be Three Card Monte Carloed?

“From the current configuration of stones on the board, the program simulates a random sequence of legal moves (playing moves for both opponents) until the end of the game is reached, resulting in a win or loss. It automatically does this over and over. The magic comes from the use of statistics. The evaluation of a position can be defined as the frequency with which random move sequences originating in that position lead to a win. For instance, the program might determine that when move A is played, random sequences of moves result in a win 73 percent of the time, while move B leads to a win only 54 percent of the time. It’s a shockingly simple metric.”

“Shockingly simple,” my jackass. There is much more to the article, including this, “The best policies for expanding the tree also rely on a decision-making shortcut called rapid action value estimation (RAVE). The RAVE component tells the program to collect another set of statistics during each simulation.”

As in “Raving lunatic.” The article provides a list of what current computer programs have done to games, and how they rate in “…two-player games without chance or hidden information…”

TIC-TAC-TOE (Game positions, 10 to the 4th power) = Toast

OWARE (Game positions, 10 to the 11th power) = Fried

CHECKERS (Game positions, 10 to the 20th power)= Cooked

OTHELLO (Game positions, 10 to the 28th power)= Superhuman

CHESS (Game positions, 10 to the 45th power) = Superhuman

XIANGQI (CHINESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 48th power) = Best Professional

SHOGI (JAPANESE CHESS) (Game positions, 10 to the 70th power) = Strong Professional

GO = (Game positions, 10 to the 172th power) = Strong Amateur

They end the article by writing, “But there may come a day soon when an AI will be able to conquer any game we set it to, without a bit of knowledge to its name. If that day comes, we will raise a wry cheer for the triumph of ignorance.”

I would much prefer to raise a stein and drown my sorrows to that…