Will Confusion Be Our Epitaph

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)…”

Mark provides a link to an article, Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? on the Examined Existance website (http://examinedexistence.com/does-playing-chess-make-you-smarter/), where one finds this:

Chess sharpens critical thinking skills.

“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.

Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time. A newspaper prints an attention grabbing headline about something negative about a person on the front page, then places a retraction on a page in the rear of the next day’s paper which hardly anyone reads. Time passes and the only thing left in the memory is the headline. The mistake is rarely acknowledged, unless it is as egregious as was the mistake made by former chess GM Kenneth Rogoff. See: “The Rogoff-Reinhart data scandal reminds us economists aren’t gods,” by Heidi Moore (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/18/rogoff-reinhart-deficit-research-false); “Reinhart, Rogoff… and Herndon: The student who caught out the profs,” By Ruth Alexander, BBC News (http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22223190); “The Reinhart and Rogoff Controversy: A Summing Up,” (http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-reinhart-and-rogoff-controversy-a-summing-up); “Ken Rogoff, Author Of Discredited Austerity Research, Angrily Blasts Keynesians,” by
Mark Gongloff…This one begins, “Kenneth Rogoff is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it any more.” Unfortunately for the former GM, he has had to continue to take it…(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/23/ken-rogoff-keynesians_n_3325865.html?); “How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled,” by Paul Krugman (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/06/how-case-austerity-has-crumbled/); “Republicans’ Favorite National-Debt Researchers Are Now Even More Discredited,” By Danny Vinik (http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116664/imf-study-futher-discredits-reinhart-rogoff-debt-study-austerity). There is much more and it can be found using any search engine by typing in, “Ken Rogoff discredited,” but this will suffice for now because I do not wish to make the former chess GM any madder than he already seems to be…

In the paper Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli write: Teaching the fourth “R” (Reasoning) through chess; (Ferguson,
(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.


The Kalmykian Bullshitter

FIDE is a corrupt organization. The President of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is a despotic President of a small, impoverished country of which he has said, “Kalmykia is a Mongolian-speaking, Buddhist Republic…in Europe.” As GM Nigel Short points out in the article, “Tyranny,” in New In Chess 2014 #5, “The most revealing thing about Kirsan’s statement is that it is false. The dominant language in Kalmykia is Russian, and not Mongolian. Alas, it would soon becomes clear that a cavalier disregard for veracity is very much Kirsan’s hallmark…Misrepresentations, distortions, false promises and even downright lies all regularly flow from the lips of his cherubic face.”

Nigel continues, “Warning signs were all there for any who cared to notice. The announcement that the 1996 Kamsky-Karpov World Championship would take place in Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad should have jolted and worried even the most apathetic observer. Indeed, the backlash against this planned move was so great that Kirsan was obliged to recant and implausibly claim that the whole idea had been a joke. That same year, Hans Ree wrote (in New In Chess, issue 1 p.40-44) about Kirsan’s despotic abolition of the Kalmykian constitution. He also reported the detailed allegations of Larisa Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper Sovietskaya Kalmykia, that Kirsan was looting the state cofers, In 1998, shortly before the Elista Olympiad, Ms. Yudina would be found murdered in a ditch, with multiple knife wounds. Two of Kirsan’s aides would be convicted of this horrific crime. Criticism of Ilyumzhinov could literally be fatal. By macabre coincidence, one chapter of Kirsan’s autobiography published that same year was entitled ‘It only takes two weeks to have a man killed.’

GM Short ends the article, written before the election, “After 19 years in office, the morally bankrupt Kirsan regime has shown that it will stop at nothing to remain in power. I have deliberately refrained from emphasising that Kirsan enjoys the full backing, with attendant diplomatic support, of his controversial President, Vladimir Putin. There is more than ample reason to vote for change without needing to take a stand on internal Russian politics.”

In the next issue of New In Chess, 2014 #6, the best chess magazine ever published, the title of Nigel’s article, written after the election, is “Long Walk to Freedom.” It begins, “Unless you are on the FIDE payroll, it is hard to take any positives out of the 2014 Presidental Election.”

After reading, “The election is held by secret ballot, so any attempt to break down support by region comes with the important caveat that no one can be absolutely certain how votes were cast…,” my thoughts drifted back to something written in the aforementioned piece, “The truth of the matter is that Kirsan is only certain to win one continent-America.”

How can this be? What kind of inducements would cause my continent to vote for such a reprehensible candidate? Did the US vote for this petty tyrant?

Concerning the role of Russian Czar Vladimir Putin in this Nigel writes, “Russian intervention had been a factor in previous elections, but to nowhere near the same degree. On this occasion, the entire diplomatic service had been mobilised to ensure a Kirsan victory. In several federations it was the decisive factor. Kasparov had known all along that he would be up against the machinery of the Russian state, but even he underestimated its force and how important this would become.”

In life, like chess, there is a winner and there is a loser. In this case the despotic dictators won; the Royal game lost.

Nigel ends the aftermath by writing, “Curiously, for a man who has been re-elected by a thumping margin, the position of Kirsan is perhaps the least secure of all. The smart money is now on him being replaced by Filatov well before 2018. There have been previous, abortive plots to remove Kirsan, even by his supposedly loyal lieutenants. Already on the 27th May 2013, Makropoulos and Vega were at the Ararat Park Hyatt Hotel in Moscow negotiating with David Kaplan, FIDE’s CEO of Development, on behalf of an un-named oligarch, to replace the ‘Kalmykian bullshitter.’ The proposed price? A cool $26 million.”

One glance at the price of petrol tells you that little man Putin is on his way out. A war is being waged between Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin and the rest of the world. It is an economic war and with every drop in the price at the pump another nail is driven into the coffin of the Russian economy. Putin is a dead man walking. This is great news for chess because when putrid Putin goes, so goes Kirsan the E.T.

It has been written that the World Human Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, agonized over signing the contract to defend his recently won championship over former World Human Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand. In the end he did sign on the dotted line. It would have been better if he had not gotten into bed with the Russian call girls, Vladie and Etta. The two former World Human Chess Champions were used and their reputations have been besmirched, while the credibility of the Royal game has been tarnished.


Hail ToThe King of Fish!

The chess program known as Stockfish defeated the chess program known as Komodo after what would be called a grueling 64 game match if played by humans. The chess world had looked forward with great anticipation to a close fight after the one-sided match between World Human Chess Champion Vishy Anand and New World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. It was written that Magnus won because he “played like a machine.” After the humiliating defeat Anand won the right to play Carlsen in a rematch by winning the tournament to determine a challenger. This turn about was a tremendous feat, proving, as if any proof were needed, what a truly great player is Viswanathan Anand. The chess world has responded with a collective yawn…An example is an article published yesterday entitled, “Major chess tournaments in trouble,” by Frank ‘Boy’ Pestaño (http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/sports/2014/05/29/pestano-major-chess-tournaments-trouble-345428). The article begins, “THE two biggest tournaments in chess are in trouble.
I am referring to the world championship rematch between former champion Vishy Anand of India and current world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and the World Chess Olympiad this August in Tromso, Norway.”
Articles like this have proliferated recently, as well they should. What the chess world would like to see is a match between players like Hikaru Nakamura and/or Fabiano Caruana, but they were not invited to play for a chance to battle Magnus. So we are faced with another battle between young and old, and the chess world could care less. I, on he other hand, think this one may turn out to be a close match, possibly one for the ages. I am looking forward to the match with great anticipation, if interest and money can be found. I am “pulling” for the Madras Tiger.
As for the Olympiad…After decades of publicity about the head of FIDE, Kirsan from Ork, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mork_%26_Mindy) talking about having intellectual intercourse with Extraterrestrials, is anyone surprised? For example, see the article, “Out of this world: Russian region leader’s alien abduction story shakes officials” ( http://www.smh.com.au/world/strangebuttrue/out-of-this-world-russian-region-leaders-alien-abduction-story-shakes-officials-20100506-ucw9.html#ixzz33DRmyqaQ ), in which it is written, “They put a spacesuit on me, told me many things and showed me around. They wanted to demonstrate that UFOs do exist.” And, “I am often asked which language I used to talk to them. Perhaps it was on a level of the exchange of the ideas,” he told the television program host.
Kirsan may have actually been abducted for all I know. Many humans now claim to have been abducted. I will give Kirsan the benefit of doubt for his alien claims, but how can one disregard the pictures of the man with brutal dictators, about whom he said, Saddam Hussein was “a normal person, a politician who cheered for his republic and wanted to do good things for people” and calls eccentric Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi a friend, The Guardian reported. (From the aforementioned article)
How much interest is left in chess after negative publicity like this, and multiple cheating scandals with names like “toiletgate?” Most articles concerning the man called the “greatest chessplayer of all-time,” Garry Kasparov, go on to mention the match he “lost” to a computer chess program called, “Deep Blue.” The gizmo had Kasparov singing the blues. An exception is an article, “Cranial knowledge” by Arnaud de Borchgrave (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/de-Borchgrave/2014/05/28/Cranial-knowledge/1821401283996/). There one finds a picture of Garry deep in thought while playing a thing called, “Deep Junior” with a caption, “Kasparov and the Deep Junior computer concluded their match in a tie.” Most people have completely forgotten that particular match, remembering only the lost match. The article focuses more on the attempt to have programs “think” more like humans. That is something called “selective search,” championed by former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik when he devoted his time to producing a chess playing program. He failed, losing out to a method called “brute force.”
“Real brains are so impressive to computer scientists,” says Dr. Olds, “so instead of banging our heads against Moore’s Law, why not build computers more like the brain and get them to solve problems the way the brain does?”
Good luck with that!