All The Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything: A Review

All The Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything

by Sasha Chapin

I liked and enjoyed reading this book immensely. Chess people who have sold Chess as some kind of panacea for helping children learn will loath this book because it contains the enemy of the fraudsters; the truth. I give it a wholehearted thumbs up. The author is a professional writer and the book flowed. The book was read in only a couple of days because it was riveting. As usual I have yet to read any review of the book but will upon completion of the review, which will be a non-traditional review in that more than one post will be written about the book. This post is part one of who knows how many posts will be written.

Malcolm Gladwell

authored the very successful book Outliers

in which he popularized the now infamous “10,000 hour rule.” As Sasha puts it, “…if you’re really good at something, it’s because you’ve spent about ten thousand hours on it.”

The first time Gladwell’s theory was encountered made me laugh out loud. “What a crock,” was my initial thought. It brought to mind a former school mate, the tall and lanky Leon Henry. Leon was the slowest runner I have ever seen. He was far too slow to play for the school basketball team. When we were high school seniors it was decided to have a basketball game between the faculty and students, but only the students who had not played on the school team were eligible. Leon wanted to play on the team but the other members were against it. The only reason there was to be a game was because a new, young teacher and sportsman had become the Baseball coach. Prior to coach Jim Jackson arriving the football coach was also the Baseball coach, and he did little coaching of the Baseball team. Coach Jackson had been offered about ten grand by the New York Mets to play Baseball but had a wife and child and the woman talked him into becoming a teacher and coach. Basically, the teacher team consisted of four old, tired, and slow men and coach Jackson. The coach made those of us on the Baseball team who would be playing later that night run extra laps to, hopefully, wear us out.

Leon begged for a chance to play, so coach Jackson decided that Leon could play that night if, and only if, Leon could beat me in a foot race. Since Leon had no chance coach Jackson altered the usual rules for a race. All Leon had to do was run from one end of the basketball court to the other end before I could run down the court and return. When the whistle blew I had to run towards Leon, who would be running hard, then turn around and run back toward the finish line. I had to run twice as far as Leon. This was a piece of cake. Leon, and everyone else, knew he had no chance. There was much laughter when we began running.

Leon won the race.

“You pulled up, Bacon,” said coach Jackson.

“I think I pulled a hammy, coach,” I said in my defense. Coach Jackson guffawed. “Hell Mike, you could out run Leon with a TORN hamstring!”

With Leon on the court there was no fast break possible. Leon had to stay on only one side of the court, so we had him stay back on defense and “stick with coach Jackson like glue.” In addition, I would also stick with coach Jackson, so he was double-teamed, which was my plan all along, and the reason I “pulled up.”

Coach Jackson made a buzzer-beater shot to win the game, but I had a new best friend…

If Leon Henry ran every day until completing ten thousand hours he would never have been able to increase his speed because of genetics. I do not care if Leon ran ten million hours, he would never have been able to run fast. There are people with brains about as slow as Leon’s legs. One of them played regularly at the House of Pain (the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, not to be confused with GM Ben Finegold’s Atlanta Chess & Scholastic Center, which is located in Roswell, Georgia, the seventh largest city in the Great State of Georgia, making the name “Atlanta” a misnomer). The man had made it to class C even though he could not locate the square to which he was moving to or from on the board without first looking at the letter and then the number located on the side of the board. He did this every move, and he had been doing it for many years because his brain could not, for whatever reason, look at the board and see the square two rows in front of the king pawn as e4. If you do not have it all the time in the world will not give it to you no matter how much or hard you try.

Sasha Chapin blows Malcolm Gladwell out of the water when he writes, “Now obviously, nobody is silly enough to think that talent doesn’t exist, period. That’s not the debate here. The existence of talent is proven by the fact of people like Strinivasa Ramanujan

(http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/history/Biographies/Ramanujan.html)-the man who, without any formal training, became one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived, effortlessly emitting utterly complicated theorems that astounded his colleagues. The debate here is about proportion. It’s about whether people like Ramanujan, the true freaks, are the only cases in which talent is a primary factor – whether talent is relevant only in the most extreme cases. Can we ordinary people blame talent for our lack of success? When we say that we don’t have talent, are we just coming up with a convenient excuse for our lack of diligence? To what extent can we transcend certain inborn aptitudes?
These are big questions. They don’t have simple answers or at least none that I’m qualified to provide. But if we limit the discussion to chess, the answer is clear. The data shows that talent matters. A lot.
Probably the most persuasive piece of evidence that talent is important in games in general is a meta-analysis conducted by Macnamara et al., published in Psychological Science in 2014. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0956797614535810) (I posted about this years ago @ https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/can-you-handle-the-truth/) After analyzing a combination of eighty eight studies of skill acquisition, the researchers concluded that, when it comes to games, only 25 percent of individual variance in skill level can be attributed to practice. Practice is valuable, but its importance is dominated by a combination of other factors, like working memory, general intelligence, and starting age. So the paper suggest that if you want to be a world-class player, you should start really, really young and be really, really lucky with your genetics. This was further corroborated by another meta-analysis conducted by the same researchers, pertaining specifically to chess players, which demonstrated the same conclusion.
Now, there’s an obvious objection here – can’t playing chess make you more intelligent, thus improving your raw talent in a roundabout way? Well, current evidence say no. According to another study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, playing chess doesn’t improve your non-chess faculties significantly. (One interesting implication here is that a lot of the chess economy is built on a fraud: lots of parents send their children to expensive chess camps in an effort to make them smarter, in the same way that some other parents enhance their babies with Mozart,

but this effort seems futile, based on the data.)
This is not nearly all of the evidence for my side of the debate. There are a lot more factors that make the deliberate practice hypothesis look even more doomed. Like the fact that the ability to practice for hours is itself genetically influenced – it relies on traits like conscientiousness, which are highly heritable. The basic case is made: talent matters. Unless all of this research somehow fails to replicate, or is fundamentally flawed in non-obvious ways – which, of course, is possible – then Gladwell’s rule does not belong on the chessboard.”
So, then, exactly how big is the gulf between the talented player and the untalented player? Quite simply: it’s huge.”

Chess and Go Made Fun

One of the things a reader of this blog can do is leave a comment. Another is to “like” a particular post. Fortunately there is no way to “hate” the AW, at least not on the site. I have received a few quite nasty emails, though…Fortunately these have been far outweighed by the favorable emails and “likes.” When someone “likes” the AW I am notified by email. For example this was received today:

Warren White liked your post on Armchair Warrior

They thought An Epidemic of Loneliness was pretty awesome.

You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!

I did and I do.

Chess Made Fun
A laboratory for learning awaits us here.

October 12, 2014 Yvonne

Marietta and Kennesaw Chess Family Fun

Our first Chess Square One, designed for absolute beginners, children and their (grand)parents.

“I think our society would benefit in many ways if parents spent the time to teach their children chess. The bonding experience alone is amazing and the skills kids get from the game will help them in life. Plus their immediate schooling would be enhanced,” Laura Sherman, Tampa, FL, author of Chess is Child’s Play.

Chess Square One idea is this, it provides (grand)parents – even those who are not familiar with chess yet – with a simple and effective method (I developed for Kennesaw State University) for teaching their kids, plus free counseling and mentoring down the road!

This is a great way everybody spends some quality time together, family bonding and having fun. Think Family Game Night! Leave your digital devices alone for a short while and have some real good time together.

Tell your family and friends about this great (and free) opportunity to learn the basics of chess, the best game ever invented.

The Chess Square One opens up next Tuesday, October 21, at 6:30 pm, at Barnes & Noble, Town Center Prado, 50 Barrett Pkwy, Marietta, GA 30066.

To promote chess and make it accessible to more people, we will be rotating places and times, covering north and northwest of metro Atlanta: Marietta, Kennesaw, Smyrna, Vinnings, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Roswell, Alpharetta (let me know if you may have in mind a specific place and time for organizing Chess Square One in your neighborhood!).

Good chess to you all!

coach Momir

http://www.iplayoochess.com

Published by Yvonne


Yvonne & Warren White

I started playing chess in 2008 and found a passion in the game to fight against cognitive dysfunction and memory loss especially in aging communities. With attention to strong family bonds, I have worked to build a presence that I truly hope will bring lasting partnerships with aging communities in multi-generational living settings commonly called the “sandwich generation” of baby boomers. Chess Made Fun has networked with chess educators and enthusiasts to better understand product applications, and developed programs that build on what groups can do naturally. Some of our opportunities have included Compassionate Care Hospice, Medford Care Center and Rachel’s Wish Foundation. If you see potential here, or have interest in holistic therapies, I stay active in recreation therapy, educational psychology and geriatrics. Find me at local chess tournaments, disc golf, ball outings or playing chess outside at my favorite park. ♟

https://chessmadefun.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/marietta-and-kennesaw-chess-family-fun/

This caused me to reflect on an article found on the American Go E-Journal:

Baum prizes a hit at congress

Friday July 27, 2018

“Can you help me find an old person who is around my rank?” and “is that guy really old?” have become popular questions at congress this year as kids compete for the new Baum prizes. Adults are enjoying the games too, and finding young folk ready and willing to play – all very much in the spirit that Leonard Baum would have wanted to encourage with the endowment in his honor. Kids must be under 16, and adults at least 40 years older than the kid. Games must be submitted Saturday afternoon by the end of the Youth Pizza party, results can be left in the box, or given to Paul Barchilon or Neil Ritter. Please remember to circle the winner, many slips have come in without the winner indicated. With 30 games played so far here are the current standings:
The Badger ( Youth under 12 who plays the largest number of adults)

24008 Duc Minh Vo with 7 games

The Grasshopper (Youth age 12 to 15 who plays the largest number of adults)

Maya Boerner with 6 games
Seowoo Wang with 6 games

The Elder Slayer (Young player who beats the largest number of adults)

Duc Minh Vo with 6 games

The Dan Destroyer (Young player who beats the largest number of dan level adults)

Seowoo Wang with 4 victories over dan players
Duc Minh Vo with 4 victories over dan players

The Old Hand (Adult who plays the most games)

Don Karns with 7 games

The Encourager (Adult who loses the most games)

Don Karns with at least 3 losses (4 games with no winner identified!)

The Teacher (Adult who gives the most 9 stone (or higher) teaching games)

Don Karns with 3 nine stone games

Story and photo by Paul Barchilon, EJ Youth Editor: Current leader Duc Minh Vo 1d, age 10, plays former AGA President Mike Lash 4k

http://www.usgo.org/news/2018/07/baum-prizes-a-hit-at-congress/

The High Planes Drifter

An excellent article, 1st Ron Finegold Memorial, by Davide Nastasio, appeared at the Chessbase website recently (https://en.chessbase.com/post/1st-ron-finegold-memorial).

5/7/2018 – “Open weekend tournaments in the United States are proof of chess as a very competitive high stakes sport. Local tournaments often celebrate the changing of seasons, recurring events, or, as in this case, memorialise (sic) a master player who dearly loved chess, and gifted such passion to his children. GM Elshan Moradiabadi took top honours (sic) in the inaugural Ron Finegold Memorial, held at the new Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta, which was founded by his son, Ben.”

Elshan Moradiabadi wins with 4½ out of 5

“From March 31st to April 1st, 2018 At the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta was held the Ron Finegold Memorial, a tournament with 4 sections and 92 players.

Ron Finegold (born in 1937), the father of GM Ben Finegold, was a National Master who died after a long illness on July 15th, 2014. His passion for chess brought him to teach the game to his children.”

“The Open weekend tournament in the USA is proof that chess is a sport. Five rounds in two days. On Saturday one can play for nine hours straight, for a total of three games, then follow on Sunday another six hours of playing. The last three hours are quite important because the last round is what divides the winner from the losers, those who will bring home the money from those who fought for nothing. The Open section of this tournament was particularly well stocked with two GMs, plus the US Women’s Champion of 2017, and a few national masters and candidate masters.”

Reading the above made me laugh. The ‘next generation’ considers the above playing schedule “grueling.” Back in the day we played five rounds over two days at a time control of 40 moves in two hours, followed by various time limits such as twenty moves in an hour, which became twenty moves in a half hour, followed by increasingly shorter time limits for the endgame. I won the Atlanta Chess Championship in 1976 at a time control of forty moves in two and one half hours, followed by twenty moves in one hour. Granted, there was only one game played at night for five weeks, but when we sat down it was known the game could possibly last well into the wee hours. During the 1980 US Open in Atlanta my opponent, Dauntless Don Mullis, finally resigned at three thirty the next morning. The game began at seven pm. And WE LIKED IT! My heart bleeds for these namby-pamby wussies…

The address given at the website of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Atlanta is, 2500 Old Alabama Rd., Suite 11, Roswell, GA 30076. Roswell is not Atlanta. It is a city far to the north of Atlanta. In 2014 the estimated population was 94,089, making it Georgia’s seventh largest city (http://www.visitroswellga.com/). Maybe it should be called the Atlanta Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Roswell?

A game Ron Finegold

lost to Bobby Fischer

at the Western Open in Bay City accompanies the article. No date is given. The other game contained in the article is by LM David Vest, aka, the High Planes Drifter, whom I have known for almost four decades. We played many speed games over the years, with Mr. Vest usually besting me. One time the Drifter informed me he intended to sacrifice the exchange in every game, which is exactly what he did, as I lost again and again… David gave me a lesson never forgotten. I used that lesson in a telephone game with the legendary one, playing an exchange sacrifice that brought the house DOWN! I proudly showed the game to Vest, who smiled with approval.

David Vest


Scott Prichard playing against Carter Peatman | Photo: Davide Nastasio (Vest is shown in the background playing Harry Le)

is the only player to hold the title of both Georgia State Chess Champion, and Georgia Senior Champion. The man from the High Planes stopped drifting and settled down at the House of Pain. Frequently heard from the younger players were things like, “Vest got me again,” and “How come I can’t beat that old man?” They knew the Chess road led through Mr. Vest, and to best Vest was a sign that, as one young player succinctly put it, “Now I’m getting somewhere!”

Mr. Vest talks with a booming voice, which was often heard, to the detriment of the other players, when he was right outside the front door, directly below the window of the main playing room, smoking his ready-rolled cigarettes. David was known for his “A.O.” theories. That’s for “Atmospheric Occupation.” As far as he was concerned, the only hope for mankind was to get off of the planet. He could not understand why everyone did not agree with him. For some reason he thought he was the first to come up with the idea of moving off planet. He told of taking his theories to the US government, and his disappointment in being rejected…Voice booming and eyes blazing, Mr. Vest would rail against our government and threaten to take his ides to the “Communist Chinese.” One time a VietNam veteran, who had listened to some of a Vest tirade, entered the HOP saying, “That man ain’t right.” He got no argument. I attempted to council Mr. Vest about toning down his traitorously inflammatory harangues, but it fell on deaf ears…Another time one of the Chess fathers, after listening to a Vest diatribe, said, “There is a fine line between sanity and insanity, and that man is on it.”

As can be seen in the photograph, Mr. Vest has a large scar in the shape of a horseshoe underneath his right eye, which was obtained when he moved to Louisville and began a job working with horses, which he loved. The horse obviously did reciprocate. Dave was fortunate as a kick to the head from a horse can be fatal. One legendary Atlanta player informed me the Drifter told them he had experience with horses to obtain the job. “What he did not say was the experience came from wagering at the track!” he said while laughing uproariously. “What the hell does Dave know about horses other than the betting odds?” he added.

Mr. Vest’s rating plummeted as he continued to play Chess while pus oozed from his wound. His Master rating fell below 2100 and the word at the House was he would never be the same player. Mr. Vest proved them wrong when, after recovering, his rating steadily climbed to over 2200 once again, where it stayed for some time. After losing yet again to Vest one promising junior came down the stairs saying, “That man OWNS this place!”

Before leaving Atlanta and moving to the country the aforementioned legendary player informed me Mr. Vest was to be interviewed on an Atlanta radio station, WGST. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked. “I wish I were, but I’m not,” he said. “I just hope he don’t give Chess in Atlanta a bad name.” We listened with trepidation to the interview, with the legendary one muttering things like, “Lordy,” and “I hope he don’t mention Championship Chess.” When they went to a break I glanced over at the legendary one to see what can only be described as an ashen face. “I don’t know if I can take any more of this,” he said. He, and we, did. “Oh God,” the legendary one exclaimed at one point, “Chess in Atlanta will never be the same.” Having listened to Mr. Vest at length over the years I was grinning while enjoying the show. “You’ve gotta admit, it’s entertaining,” I stated. “Maybe in some kinda way in your warped brain, Bacon,” he said. “It’s sad Dave don’t know he’s making a fool of himself,” the legendary one said as he sat there shaking his head. “How did the drifter get on the show?” I asked. “He called in regularly,” was the reply.

By now you should understand why I decided to put Dave’s game through the clanking digital monsters at the ChessBase DataBase.

David Vest 2200 vs Harry Le 1971

1 c4 (David’s love of the English rivaled has that of LA Master Jerry Hanken, of whom Vest spoke highly) Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 Nf3 Nc6 4 e3 Be7 5 a3 (Komodo plays 5 Qb3) O-O 6 b4 (Stockfish plays either 6 d4 or Qb3) d6 (Stockfish plays either 6…d5, or 6…e4. Houey prefers d5)

7 d4 (This move cannot be found in the databases so must me a Theoretical Novelty. Unfortunately, it is not a good one. It is the way of Chess that the best move in the position on the previous move now becomes less than desirable.) exd4 8 exd4 Bg4 9 Be2 a6 10 h3 Bh5 11 Bf4 d5 12 g4 (I am not surprised Vest played this move, but a more circumspect move such as 12 0-0 may have been better. After 12…Bxf3 13 Bxf3 dxc4 white would have the possibility of completely ruining the black pawn structure with 14 Bxc6. There is also the possibility of playing 14 d5! Granted, black does not have to play to take the pawn, as after 12 0-0 he could play 12…Re8, for example) Bg6

Look at this position from white’s perspective and imagine your student sitting across from you. What move would you suggest, and why?

13 Ne5

After seeing this move one might question a student, offering 13 0-0 as an alternative. “Look kid,” one could begin, “You have followed the rules of the Royal game by developing your four minor pieces. You need only move your king to safety before developing your major pieces.”) dxc4

14 Nxg6 (I would be strongly tempted to play 14 Nxc6 bxc6 a5 Bxc4) hxg6 15. d5 Nb8!

(Shades of the man from the High Planes! Vest was famous for playing the Brooklyn variation of the Alekhine’s defense. An example:

IM Vinay Bhat (Earned GM title in 1997)

vs David Vest

1996 American Open

Los Angeles, California

B02 Alekhine’s defence, Brooklyn defence

1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Ng8 3. d4 d5 4. exd6 cxd6 5. c4 e6 6. Be2 Nf6 7. Nc3 Be7 8. Be3 Nbd7 9. Nf3 b6 10. O-O Bb7 11. Bf4 O-O 12. Rc1 a6 13. h3 Qb8 14. Re1 Qa7 15.Qb3 Rac8 16. Na4 Rfd8 17. Bf1 h6 18. Be3 Bc6 19. Nc3 Ba8 20. Qa4 Bc6 21. Qb3 Ba8 22. Qa4 Qb7 23. b4 Nb8 24. a3 Rc7 25. Bf4 Qc8 26. Qb3 Bxf3 27. gxf3 Nc6 28.Be3 Rb7 29. f4 Rb8 30. d5 Na7 31. Na4 exd5 32. Nxb6 Qf5 33. Nxd5 Nxd5 34. cxd5 Rd7 35. Kh2 Nb5 36. Bd3 Qh5 37. Be2 Qh4 38. Qd3 Bf6 39. Rg1 Bb2 40. Rg4 Qe7 41.Rcg1 Qd8 42. Bd1 Rc7 43. Bc2 Kf8 44. Qh7 Nxa3 45. Rxg7 Bxg7 46. Rxg7 Nxc2 47.Qg8+ 1-0)

16 g5 (I would take the pawn with 16 Bxc4. The game move is more in keeping with the High Planes Drifter’s fast & loose, shoot from the hip style, but 16 Bxc4 is best) Ne8

I could not help but wonder what Mr. Vest was thinking about while looking at this position. Many years ago the Drifter said that after 1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nf8 he was “Sucking them into my vortex!” This position has Vest in the wrong plane! Now he is the one being sucking into a vortex…)

17 Qd2 (Now 17 Bxc4 is answered by 17…Bxg5) Bd6 18. Be3 Be5 (Black has driven white back and the bishop takes a dominating position. The amazing thing about the position is that black has only one piece off of the back rank but has the advantage)

19 f4 (Vest could take the pawn with 19 Bxc4, but Nd6 20 Be2 Re8 black has greatly improved his position ) Bxc3 20. Qxc3 Nd6

21 h4 (Having been outplayed Vest decides to thrust his sword, or fall on it…It was still possible to castle even though black could then play 21…b5, protecting the pawn. Still, after 23 Bf3 white would have the two bishops versus the two horses, which may have been why Vest pushed the pawn, come to think of it…You see, the Drifter LOVES the horses, so how could he possibly bet against them? I have often watched his play without Queens on the board, in which his knights shine) Re8

22 h5 Nf5 23 Bf2? (He had to try 23 Rh3 gxh5 24 Bxh5) Qxd5 24 Rh3 Qe4

25 Qb2? (Dave could have tried (25 O-O-O as 25… Qxe2 26 Re1 Qxf2 27. Rxe8+ Kh7 28. h6 Qf1+ 29. Kc2 Qg2+ 30. Kc1 Qf1+ only leads to a draw. 25…Nc6 is better, though…) gxh5 (25…Qg2! The remaining moves need no comment) 26 g6 fxg6 27 Kf1 Qxf4 28 Rf3 Qe4 29 Re1 Nc6 30 b5 Ne5 31 Rc3 Qh1+ 32 Bg1 Nd3 0-1

The High Plains Drifter was a strong Chess player; strong enough to beat many time US Women’s Champion Irina Krush

in the last round of one of the 2003 EMORY/CASTLE GRAND PRIX. The upset win translated into a first place tie with GM Julio Becerra.

The game was annotated by IM John Donaldson in the award winning Georgia Chess magazine. I will admit to being somewhat disappointed when the Drifter informed me he had “chickened out” when offering Irina a draw, which was declined.

I have met many Chess players during the course of my life. The mold was definitely broken after the Drifter came down from the High Planes. He often claimed to be “above you humans.” Fortunately, Chess kept him somewhat grounded…David Vest is definitely sui generis.