Sam Shankland Is Back On Track

What you are about to read is one of the most remarkable things I have read in my fifty years in Chess.  It was found at After checking it is no longer on the main page of Chess Today. Therefore, I decided to publish every word just as it appeared at, and earlier, according to the article, Facebook. Every Chess player should read this, so I ask you, if you feel the same, to bring it to the attention of your Chess friend(s). It matters not where they read it, just that it is read.

Me with Markus Ragger, David Navara and Pentala Harikrishna. Photo: Petr Vrabec/Prague Chess Festival

Back on track

Updated: Feb 24, 2020, 7:17 AM

I finally got my life back on track.

One of my many shortcomings is being totally unable to fake a smile to show the world when I’m dying inside. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, so I tasked my team to take over my facebook page and post my tournament results, book and lecture information, and general updates while I was going through the worst phase of my adult life. They did a great job, but the time has come for me, Sam Shankland, in the flesh and blood, to get behind my computer screen and address my fans that have been so supportive of me.

More or less everything that could have gone wrong last year did go wrong. A last minute change to the qualification rules for the FIDE Grand Prix left me stranded on the sidelines when I was counting on playing, watching in total disgust as most of the guys who did get invited made 15 move draws every other game. Yet another top-10 player switched federations to the USA, probably costing me my spot on the Olympic team that I had played so well and proudly for in the past. The packed tournament schedule led a lot of top players to decline some invitations, leaving me the top seed in multiple round robins where I was expecting a chance to play up, and instead watched my rating bleed away as I faced off with the drawish nature of the game itself. Away from the ugly world of chess politics, both of my parents had major health scares, I went through a heartbreak in my personal life, and a thick glass shard of a broken Pyrex container slashed through the flexor tendons of my left hand, leaving me disabled, in pain, and sleeping poorly for two months even after surgery, and during the two most important events of the year. When my suitcase mysteriously went missing at the transferring airport en route to the European Club Cup, costing me most of my wardrobe, I oddly felt elated and relieved to finally have a problem in my life that money could fix.

It would be easy to get complacent and blame my circumstances for what happened. After my early exit from Khanty-Mansisyk, one of my friends quipped to me something along the lines of “Cheer up, it’s not your fault. How could you expect to play well in the World Cup when you traveled against medical advice and couldn’t even tie your own shoes?” While I appreciated that he was trying to make me feel better, I had to disagree with him.

Adversity, even extreme adversity, is part of the human experience. I doubt there has ever been a person on earth who led such a blessed existence that they were never held back by factors outside of their control. When life smacks you in the face, there is a clear divide between how champions and losers handle themselves. Losers whine, make excuses, convince themselves that the world is out to get them, become envious of those more fortunate, and ultimately blame their circumstances for their inevitable failures, accepting no responsibility themselves. Champions grit their teeth, put on their big boy pants, fight through the adversity, and prevail despite whatever challenges they may face. This was the test placed before me last year.

And I failed. Not only did I fail, I failed spectacularly. Not only did I not win any tournaments, I hardly won any games. My rating took a plunge twice as big as anything it had done before. I found myself questioning my most core beliefs– that hard work eventually would always prevail over natural talent, that my destiny as a player was within my control, that age is just a number and that improvement can be found at any phase in life.

2019 broke my heart. But it’s a new year now. For nearly a decade, I have had mediocre or bad odd numbered years and good or great even numbered ones, and I think I should wait until 2021 to buck this trend. Today I won in the final round of the Prague Masters, joining a 5-way tie for first place. The tournament had its challenges and I left some very painful points on the table, but despite the mishaps, I finally played a decent event where I showed some degree of the strength I know I am capable of. My tiebreak math didn’t work out, but I’m still counting this as a tournament victory, and more importantly, as a personal victory. I can only hope the same positive trend continues throughout the rest of the year. After a month off, next up is the US Championship, the tournament that created my legacy in 2018. With any luck, I’ll be able to bring the same level I did here in Prague and then some.

Thanks to all of my fans for supporting me through thick and thin. I’m not a big social media guy, but seeing positive comments and encouragement on my page often brought a smile to my face when it was most needed and hardest to come by.

This blog was cross-posted from Facebook.




Jeffery Xiong Teaches The Truth

GM Jeffery Xiong

Jeffery Xiong is a fighter at heart | Photo: FIDE

had his back to the wall and was in a must win situation facing GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda

in the FIDE World Cup. Fortunately, the American had the white pieces for the coming battle. In that situation, after the opening moves of 1 e4 e5, what would you play? Jeffery Xiong decided to play “The truth-as it was known in those far-off days.” (

Jeffery Xiong (2707) vs Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2730)

2019 FIDE World Cup

C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d3 c6 4 Nf3 d5 5 Bb3 Bb4+ (SF plays 5…a5 first, with 6 a4 then Bb4+) 6 Bd2 (Komodo prefers 6 c3, but the Fish goes with the move played in the game) 6…Bxd2+ 7 Qxd2 (SF 010719 @ Depth 38 plays the game move, but SF 010119 @D 44 prefers 7 Nbxd2) 7…Qd6 (Fritz 15 @D 15 plays this move, but Komodo @D 41 castles) 8 Qg5 Nbd7 9 exd5 cxd5 10 d4 e4 (Both Stockfish and Komodo would play 10…exd4, a move that does not appear at the CBDB or 365Chess!)

11 Ne5 O-O 12 Nc3 Nb6 13 f3 Be6 14 O-O-O Rac8 15 Qd2 a6 16 Rhe1 exf3 17 gxf3 Nfd7 18 h4

18… f6? (Former US Chess champ Sam Shankland writes in his book


that one should be extremely careful about moving a pawn forward because it cannot retreat. Maybe Duda should have read the book?

19 Nd3 Bf7 20 Qf4 Rc6 21 Qxd6 Rxd6 22 Nc5 Rb8 23 Re7 Kf8 24 Rde1 Nxc5 25 dxc5 Rd7 26 Rxf7+ Kxf7 27 cxb6 Rbd8 28 Nxd5 Kg6 29 c4 Kh5 30 Re4 Rc8 31 Kd2 g5 32 Ke3 Rf7 33 hxg5 fxg5 34 Ba4 Kh6 35 Be8 Rf8 36 Bd7 Rb8 37 b4 Kg6 38 Nc7 Rfd8 39 Re7 Rh8 40 Be8+ Kf6 41 Nd5+ 1-0

Duda had recent experience facing “The Truth”:

Peter Svidler (2737) vs Jan Krzysztof Duda (2729)

Riga FIDE Grand Prix 2019

C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.exd5 cxd5 10.d4 e4 11.Nh4 Nb6 12.Qxg7 Qf4 13.Qxh8+ Ke7 14.Nc3 Qxh4 15.Qg7 Bg4 16.Bxd5 Nbxd5 17.Nxd5+ Nxd5 18.Qe5+ Be6 19.c4 f6 20.Qg3 Nf4 21.d5 Nd3+ 22.Kd2 Qxg3 23.hxg3 Bf5 24.f3 exf3 25.gxf3 Nxb2 26.Rae1+ Kd7 27.g4 Bg6 28.Kc3 Nd3 29.Re6 Rf8 30.g5 fxg5 31.Rxg6 hxg6 32.Rh7+ Kd6 33.Kxd3 Rxf3+ 34.Ke2 Rc3 35.Rxb7 Rxc4 36.Rxa7 Kxd5 37.Ra5+ Rc5 38.Rxc5+ Kxc5 39.Kf3 Kb4 40.Kg4 Ka3 41.Kxg5 Kxa2 42.Kxg6 ½-½

Dejan Pikula (2461) vs Ivan Leventic (2454)

E TCh-CRO Div 1a 2014

ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.Qxg7 Rg8 10.Qh6 Rxg2 11.Nh4 Rxf2 12.Nf5 Qc5 13.Nc3 Ng4 14.Ng7+ Ke7 15.Qh4+ Ndf6 16.O-O-O Qe3+ 17.Kb1 Qh6 18.Qxh6 Nxh6 19.exd5 Bg4 20.Rde1 Rg8 21.Rxe5+ Kf8 22.dxc6 bxc6 23.h3 Bf3 24.Ne6+ fxe6 25.Rhe1 Rg7 26.Rxe6 Nhg8 27.R6e5 Re7 28.a4 Bg2 29.R1e3 Nd7 30.Rxe7 Nxe7 31.Rg3 Nf6 32.Ka2 Nf5 33.Rg5 Bxh3 34.Ne4 Nxe4 35.dxe4 Ne7 36.Rh5 Bg4 37.Rxh7 Ke8 38.Rh8+ Kd7 39.Rb8 Kc7 40.Re8 Nc8 41.Rg8 Rf4 42.e5 Re4 43.Rg7+ Kd8 44.Rg8+ Kd7 45.Ka3 Bf5 46.c3 Rxe5 47.Bc4 Nb6 48.Bb3 Kd6 49.Rd8+ Kc7 50.Rg8 Be6 51.Rg7+ Nd7 52.Bc2 Kd6 53.Bh7 Re1 54.Kb4 Ra1 55.Rg6 Nf8 56.Rh6 Ra2 57.b3 Nxh7 58.Rxh7 a5+ 59.Kxa5 Bxb3 60.Rh4 Kc5 61.Rg4 Bc4 62.Rg5+ Bd5 63.Rg4 Rg2 64.Rxg2 Bxg2 65.Ka6 Kc4 66.Kb6 c5 67.a5 Bh1 0-1

Igor Malakhov (2425) vs Alexander Beliavsky (2657)

11th EICC Men
Round 2
ECO: C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.exd5 cxd5 10.Qxg7 Rg8 11.Qh6 Rxg2 12.Nc3 d4 13.Nh4 Rg4 14.Nf5 Qc6 15.Ne4 Rxe4+ 16.dxe4 Qxe4+ 17.Kd2 Qxf5 18.Rae1 Ng4 19.Qg7 Qf4+ 20.Ke2 b6 21.Bxf7+ Kd8 22.Bc4 Bb7 23.Bb5 Bf3+ 24.Kd3 Nc5+ 0-1

Nikita Vitiugov (2721) vs Alexander Zubov (2612)

17th ch-EUR Indiv 2016

Round: 7.4

C24 Bishop’s opening, Berlin defense

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 d5 5.Bb3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Bxd2+ 7.Qxd2 Qd6 8.Qg5 Nbd7 9.exd5 cxd5 10.d4 e4 11.Ne5 O-O 12.Nc3 Nb6 13.f3 Be6 14.Qe3 exf3 15.gxf3 Nh5 16.Qg5 f6 17.Qxh5 fxe5 18.Qxe5 Qxe5+ 19.dxe5 Rxf3 20.O-O-O Rd8 21.Nb5 Re3 22.Rde1 Rxe1+ 23.Rxe1 a5 24.c3 Kf8 25.Nd6 Rb8 26.Kd2 Ke7 27.Ke3 Rf8 28.Bc2 Nc4+ 29.Nxc4 dxc4 30.Be4 Bf5 31.Bd5 Be6 32.Be4 Bf5 33.Bd5 Be6 34.Be4 ½-½

American Chess Magazine #11: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

When the first issue of the American Chess Magazine debuted I mentioned something about it being expensive, writing the price of the magazine, twenty five dollars, was as much as a book. My intention was to read, and then review, the first issue. After contacting someone at the ACM about receiving a review copy I was informed it would only be possible to receive the first copy if I anted up twenty five dollars, for which I would receive the first two issues. I turned down the “offer.”

It was only a few months ago upon returning to the Atlanta area that I got a chance to peruse past issues, which were wonderful. The new issue, issue #11, the second issue of 2019,

was the second issue after increasing from four issues to six issues per year. The new US Women’s Chess Champion, Jennifer Yu, graces the cover, surrounded by a pink background. This is my review.

I will be completely honest and say that before taking the magazine out of the plastic wrap I was hooked, and not because of the picture of a very pretty young lady on the cover, although I can see what a wonderful hook is Jennifer Yu!

It is a shame the ACM is not sold at book stores or newspaper and magazine stands because the cover would attract much interest. This on the cover is what “hooked” me:

American Civil War
A Dying Southern Diarist
Theodore P. Savas

I read the article immediately before even scanning the magazine and it brought tears to my eyes. I was born in the back seat of a ’49 Ford convertible on the way to Emory University Hospital in Decatur, Georgia, which means I was born a Southerner, as is often heard in the South, “By the grace of God.” The diarist, “Leroy Wiley Gresham, was born in 1847 to an affluent family in Macon, Georgia.” His mother’s name, Mary, was the same as my Mother’s name. The title of the article is, An Elegant Game: The American Civil War, a Dying Southern Diarist, and a Fascination with Chess. Leroy Wiley Gresham wrote his diary during the War of Northern Aggression, while he was dying. It is an elegant piece. I could end the review now and give it five stars, but there is more, much more, contained in this elegant issue!

Although I have read extensively about the War Between the States during the course of my life, it has been some time since I have read a book on the subject. This will be remedied when the book upon which the article is based, The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of Leroy Wiley Gresham, 1860-1864, edited by Janet Kroon, which I have ordered, arrives.

The focus of the magazine is the most recent US Chess Championships. The annotations of the final round game are by the loser, Jeffery Xiong,

Isle of Man Chess International, Round 5, 24 October 2018. Photo by John Saunders

and they are excellent! For example, look at this position:

Jeffery writes, “21. Qb1 Preventing any …a4xb3 and Ra8-a2 ideas. But 21 Rfe1, quickly preparing Nf1-d2 and e2-e4, might have been more to the point.” Some annotators provide Lubomir Ftacnik

style reams of analysis when all that is needed is something simple. At the conclusion of the game Jeffery writes, “It was as clean a win as you can get with the black pieces. The opening experiment proved to be golden as my inexperience in this type of position was revealed to its fullest extent. Nakamura

played truly inspiring chess, especially with the black pieces, and his will to win in this game made him the deserved champion. He has amply demonstrated his greatness, being one of the perennial top-10 players in the world. Any player can win games, but at top level only great players are capable of consistently winning must-win games!”

GM Jeffery Xiong has shown his class as a gentleman with what he has written about what must have been a tough game to lose.

The honesty continues when Xiong annotates his win with the black pieces against the now dethroned US Chess Champion, Sam Shankland,

when Jeffery writes at the end of the game, “At first I was quite pleased with my play as I felt I had found some nice ideas. However after heading back to my hotel room and opening ChessBomb, I saw a sea of red moves! Nonetheless, I was now leading the tournament with 2 1/2/3, yet fully aware that the quality of my play was not entirely satisfactory.”

This is amazingly honest writing.

A few pages further into the magazine one turns the page to see a beautiful picture of the new US Women’s Champion, Jennifer Yu, sitting at a Chessboard behind the black pieces while flashing a gorgeous smile. The title above reads, Lady With A Torch, which is appropriate because Jennifer torched the field this year! One reads, “Exclusive annotations and an interview by WGM Jennifer Yu.” The following page contains the game between former many time Women’s Champion Irina Krush,

playing white, and Jennifer, which happens to be an opening I have played, the B13 Caro-Kann, which begins 1 c4 c6 2 e4 d5 3 exd5 cxd5 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 Be6. While visiting the Nashville Chess Center ( earlier this decade FM Todd Andrews,

the Music City Master, gave a lecture which happened to be this very variation. After 7 a3 Qd7 Jennifer writes, “Not 7…dxc4?, when after 8 Bxf6! exf6 9 d5 Black loses a piece.” I recall raising my hand during the early part of Todd’s lecture asking about the early move c5 for White. Todd was nice enough to illustrate what was behind the move c5 for the audience, while letting me know in a nice way it was a lecture, not a Q&A. The game continued, 8 Be2 Rd8 9 Bxf6 exf6 10 c5. Ms. Yu writes, “Although a general principle of chess is to maintain tension in the center during the opening, this is a good move that prevents any…dxc4 tricks. It locks up the center and challenges the wisdom of my piece placement, making the bishop on e6 and the rook on d8 look silly, since these pieces no longer have any prospects against c4 and d4. 10 Bf3 doesn’t work because after 10…dxc4 11 d5 Qe7! the threat to the white king, as well as the pin on the white d-pawn, provides the black knight and bishop with immunity against the fork.” The annotations are exceptional.

I could go on and on, but this is a blog post. Still, I must mention an article by GM Alex Fishbein,

Secrets Of Same-Color Bishop Endings, which is superlative! And then there is the wonderful article, Beauties of Underpromotion, by IM Boroljub Zlatanovic, which was enjoyed immensely!

Unfortunately, not everything included in the magazine is rosy. Fresh Leaves from the Bookshelf is the title of the book review column by FM Carsten Hansen.

In this issue the FM has “reviewed,” and I use the word rather loosely, ten books. As he did in the previous issue Mr. Hansen reviewed ten books for the ACM. Beginning with the previous issue the ACM went from being published quarterly to bi-monthly. It may have been possible to review ten books quarterly, but how is it possible for anyone to read ten Chess books every other month? The answer is contained in the review of Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Korchnoi,

by Andy Soltis,

published by McFarland. ( Hansen writes, “When I first saw the description of this book, (There is no need for the comma) I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. (“Upon first seeing description I did not know how to feel about the book.” THE ACM needs a good editor.) However, having now received a copy and read a fair amount of the text…” Let us pause in the middle of the sentence to reflect. Many years ago someone mentioned something about coming to the House of Pain “soon.” This caused David Vest, the only man to have won both the Georgia Chess Championhip and Georgia Senior Championship, to pose the question, “How long, exactly, is soon?” He added, “I hate those nebulous words…” This began a discussion concerning nebulous words. A short time (Nebulous!) later Mr. Vest, heading out the door, said, “Tell Murphy I will be back in a little while.” He was half way out of the door when someone asked, “How long is ‘a little while’, Dave?” This brought the House down! What is a “fair amount” of the book? Your “fair amount” may not be the same as my “fair amount.” Can you imagine a New York Times book reviewer revealing they only read a “fair amount” of a book? I usually pay little attention to these short book reviews by writers who obviously simply scan the book reviewed. It would be better for Mr. Hansen to review only a few books he has actually read as opposed to scanning ten books before writing a review. It seems many reviewers spend more time writing the review than actually reading the book being reviewed.

Then there is the article, 50 is the new 40, by Jon Edwards, an ICCF Senior IM. Reading the article caused me to reflect upon the words written by GM Nigel Short

in New In Chess magazine 2019 #2

in his piece, Obsolescence, which concerns correspondence chess. “If ever an activity should have long ago expired and been buried with dignity, it is surely correspondence chess.” This caused Kirill Oseledets to write a letter to the editor of NIC in which he expressed his unfavorable opinion of NIC for publishing the Short column. Kirill wrote, “I was sincerely surprised and deeply disappointed to see that in New In Chess 2018/2 you published Nigel Short’s article with the provocative title ‘Obsolescence.’ Later he writes, “One thing that Nigel Short fails to recognize is that correspondence chess is first of all a research laboratory for chess.”

Mr. Edwards begins, “Chess players do not yet have access to AlphaZero and so we are left to peruse more conventional chess technologies. It is tempting to focus primarily upon new databases, new videos, and new online chess services, all of which keep me feeling young and invigorated, but the fact is that chess is experiencing another profound change that has gradually but inexorably changed chess forever.” Then the article begins and Jon writes, “Just a few years ago, patiently permitting a desktop computer to run for day or longer might net an evaluation depth of 35-40 ply, each ply representing a single half move.”

He continues, “With new hardware , it is not uncommon (Don’t ‘cha just hate it when a writer uses a double negative and the editor prints it?) today for such runs to reach a depth of 50 ply or even much higher, depending obviously upon the position, the number of viable moves for each player, and the chess engine being employed. Those depths are high enough to predict accurately the future endgames, which themselves become trivial to evaluate. These long runs in typical positions are producing a slew of draws in Correspondence chess. I present here the current crosstable of the Spanish Masters, a tournament in which I am competing. With just 8 games still unfinished, the crosstable creates quite an impression, a veritable sea of draws.”

The crosstable shows a tournament with fifteen players almost complete. There is only one decisive result, and the only ‘1’ and lonely ‘0’ stand out like Bo Derek!

Jon continues, “You might indeed conclude prematurely that correspondence chess is therefore fully dead or dying.”

Duh, ya think?!

“But that’s not the point or the end of the story. The reality is that it is becoming very hard to win, but it is still possible!”

The CC IM writes this because the only game won in the “veritable sea of draws,” was won by the author…

He continues, “Those long runs are turning up interesting finds.”


“I parlayed one such discovery into a win over the reigning Russian correspondence chess champion, the only win so far in this crosstable.”

The game is given, along with a game played later by former World Chess Champion Vishy Anand,

who was unable to produce the move found by a computer Chess program after a “long run.” At the Isle of Man Anand faced Artemiev

with white and these moves were played: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be2 e6 7 f4 Be7 8 Be3 0-0 9 g4 d5 10 e5 Nfd7 11 g5 Nc6.

“Undoubtedly unaware of the game I had recently completed, Anand tried 12 Qd2.”

“I reached the diagram position through a different move order: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6 7 Be2 Be7 8 f4 0-0 9 g4 d5 10 e5 Nfd7 11 g5 Nc6

Edwards continues, “I reached the diagramed position in December 2017 through a different move order: : 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6 6 Be3 e6 7 Be2 Be7 8 f4 0-0 9 g4 d5 10 e5 Nfd7 11 g5 Nc6. Sensing an opportunity for White, I ran Robert Houdart’s Houdini 6.02 Pro x64 for 35 days(!) on an Intel Xeon CPU E5-2687W @3.00 GHz with 32 GB of installed RAM. At depth 45, 12 Bd3 emerged not simply as the best move, as I had anticipated (Where is that darn comma when you need it?) but also with a completely winning advantage!”

“Edwards – Lobanov instead continued: 12 Bd3!! (Please note the ICCF Senior International Master gives not one but TWO exclamation marks for a move found by a Chess engine after doing whatever it is it does for over a MONTH of computing!!) Qb6 13 Na4 Qa5+ 14 c3

“I suspect the engines at lower depth had rejected this line owing to 14…Nxd4 15 Bxd4 b5 trapping the knight, but at higher depth, the engines easily find: 16 Bxh7+!! (Once again one exclam is not enough!!) 16…Kxh7 17 Qh5+ Kg8 18 0-0+ with a transfer of the Rf1 to h3. On 18…g6 (the toughest defense) 19 Qh4 Re8 20 Rf3 Bf8 21 Rh3 Bg7 22 f5! gxf5 23 Nb6 Nxb6 24 B5 with mate to follow. Without that line at his disposal, Lobanov chose instead to sacrifice a knight for two pawns but achieved insufficient compensation. Here’s the rest of the game.”

I will spare you the remainder of the game. Mr. Edwards adds this at the end of the game: “Not long after the game ended, I shared it with a GM friend of mine, the second for a world top-player, who ran 12 Bd3 on a very powerful mainframe overnight. He concluded that Black was already lost and he added White’s new idea into their collective repertoire. The translation: Our world’s best players fully understand the need for world class computing. He was able to do in half a day what took me more than a month! I do not know what hardware they are running but it clearly surpasses my setup. I am also proud that analysis of this game appeared in New in Chess Yearbook 129 (itl), pp33-35.
While it is clearly getting much tougher to win correspondence games and to achieve Correspondence IM and GM norms, any correspondence wins that doe occur clearly deserve considerable attention. Just ask Anand. I therefore recommend that strong players involve the Games Archive at as a key part of their opening preparation. You will gain access to the archive after you sign up (for free).”

What, no double exclam after “free?”

Reading, “…correspondence chess is first of all a research laboratory for chess,” caused me to stop reading and start thinking about what was being read. I thought the computer championships, such as the TCEC Chess tournaments, were Chess laboratories. Jon and his ilk input a position into a computer and let it do it’s thing for a month and call it Chess. Jon, and all other correspondence players would be much better off if they would go to a club or tournament and use their brain to actually play CHESS!

Jon was right when he wrote, “…chess is experiencing another profound change that has gradually but inexorably changed chess forever.”

With that sentence Jon Edwards just KILLED CHESS!

Consider the last theoretical novelty you saw from one of the top ten players in the world. Did it spring from the fertile imagination of a human like, for instance, the Magician of Riga, Mikhail Tal?

Or did it emanate from the bowels of some hellish mainframe? If it has gotten to the point where a computer can provide a world class Chess player a move early in the game with which any world class player will win, what is the point of Chess? Has it gotten to the point where, “Those depths are high enough to predict accurately the future endgames, which themselves become trivial to evaluate?”

If Jon is correct there is no point in watching Chess because one will never know how the ‘beautiful’ move was produced. A Chess fan will never know if the “tremendous move” emanated from a human brain or from the machinations of a computer program. What we currently have is some kind of symbiotic relationship between human and machine kind of like the ‘Borg’ depicted in the television show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The first World Chess Champion to lose a match to a computer program, Garry Kasparov,

became an advocate of some kind of Chess in which both players have access to a program, which, thankfully, did not become popular. It appears what happened is the symbiotic relationship was kept behind closed doors. The computers and programs were there all the time, like some kind of Wizard of Oz.

Because they were out of sight they were also out of mind.

What is the point of the folks at the Chess Informant awarding a prize for the “best” theoretical novelty if the TN was found by a computer program? It has reached the point where a Grandmaster without access to a mainframe computer has little chance against another GM with access to a powerful computer. Who is actually winning the Chess game, the human or the program?

Chess will continue to be played just as Checkers continues to be played by a small number of people. When was the last time you were aware of the world Checkers champion?

Then there is the last page, 5×5 Q&A “Where Grandmasters Advise Young Players.”

The advice being given is by Susan Polgar. What the woman did to the USCF was UGLY!

Leningrad Dutch Wins 2019 US Chess Championship!

When four time US Chess Champion Hikaru Nakamura

absolutely, positively had to win with the black pieces in the final round of the 2019 US Championship he played the Leningrad Dutch

against Jeffrey Xiong

and won in style. Since Fabiano Caruana,

the world co-champion of classical Chess according to World Rapid Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen,

could only draw with the 2018 US Chess champion Sam Shankland

in the last round, and newcomer Lenier Dominguez Perez

managed to draw a won game versus tournament clown Timur Gareyev,

included only because he won the US Open, which is not and has not been an elite tournament for many years, Hikaru Nakamura, by winning became a five time winner of what he called, “…a super event, almost.” The inclusion of Timur the clown and Varuzhan Akobian,

a “fan favorite” at the St. Louis Chess Club we were informed by GM Maurice Ashley, made the event “almost” a super event. It is time the people in the heartland stop with the gimmicks and include only the best players on merit in the US Chess championship.

I have spent many hours this decade watching the broadcast via computer of the US Chess championships. The broadcasts have gotten better each year and now can be considered “World Class.” Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan,

Maurice Ashley,

and “Woman” Grandmaster (inferior to “Grandmaster” as she is only a Life Master according to the USCF), Jennifer Shahade

do an excellent job of covering the US Chess championships. The manager of the old Atlanta Chess Center, aka the “House of Pain,” David Spinks was fond of saying “You gotta pull for SOMEBODY, man!” He found it difficult to believe anyone could watch anything, like Baseball or Golf, and not “pull” for someone, anyone, to win. I will admit to “pulling” for Bobby Fischer

to beat Boris Spassky

in 1972 World Chess championship, which he did, but now simply enjoy watching the event unfold. Every round is a different story, a story told well by Yaz, Maurice and Jen. But when Hikaru Nakamura moved his f-pawn two squares in reply to his opponent’s move of 1 d4 I unashamedly admit I began to “pull” for Hikaru to win the game and the championship. I was riveted to the screen for many hours this afternoon as the last round unfolded.

One of the best things about traveling to San Antonio in 1972 was being able to watch some of the best Chess players in the world, such as former World Champion Tigran Petrosian

and future WC Anatoly Karpov,

make their moves. I also remember the flair with which Paul Keres

made his moves. All of the players made what can only be called “deliberate” type moves as they paused to think before moving. IM Boris Kogan gave anyone who would listen the advice to take at least a minute before making a move because your opponent’s move has changed the game.

Lenier Dominguez Perez took all of eleven seconds to make his ill-fated twenty sixth move. If he had stopped to cogitate in lieu of making a predetermined move he might be at this moment preparing to face Nakamura in a quick play playoff tomorrow. I’m glad he moved too quickly, frankly, because I loathe and detest quick playoffs to decide a champion. Classical type Chess is completely different from quick play hebe jebe Chess. Wesley So obviously lacks something I will call “fire.” He took no time, literally, to make his game losing blunder at move thirty. Maybe someone will ask them why and report it in one of the many Chess magazines published these days.

What can one say about Jennifer Yu

other than she has obviously elevated her game to a world class level. She is young and very pretty so the world is her oyster. It was a pleasure to watch her demolish the competition this year. Often when a player has the tournament won he will lost the last round. Jennifer crowned her crown by winning her last round game, which was impressive.

The quote of the tournament goes to Maurice Ashley, who said, “When you’re busted, you’re busted.”

Best interview of this years championships:

Jeffery Xiong (2663) – Hikaru Nakamura (2746)

US Chess Championship 2019 round 11

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5 Na5 9. b3 c5 10. Bb2 a6 11. Ng5 Rb8 12. Qd3 Qe8 13. Nd1 b5 14. Qd2 Nb7 15. Ne3 Nd8 16. Nh3 Bd7 17. Rad1 b4 18. Qc2 a5 19. Nf4 a4 20. h4 Ra8 21. Qb1 Ra6 22. Bf3 Qf7 23. Neg2 Ng4 24. Bxg4 fxg4 25. e4 Bxb2 26. Qxb2 Qg7 27. Qxg7+ Kxg7 28. e5 Bf5 29. exd6 exd6 30. Rfe1 Nf7 31. Re7 Kf6 32. Rb7 axb3 33. axb3 Rfa8 34. Ne3 Ra1 35. Kf1 Ne5 36. Rxa1 Rxa1+ 37. Ke2 Nf3 38. Nxf5 Kxf5 39. Ke3 Re1+ 40. Kd3 Ne5+ 41. Kd2 Ra1 42. Ne6 h6 43. Rb6 Ra3 44. Kc2 Ra2+ 45. Kd1 Nd3 46. Rxd6 Nxf2+ 47. Ke1 Nd3+ 48. Kd1 Ke4 49. Nc7 Nf2+ 50. Ke1 Kd3 51. Rxg6 Ne4 52. Kf1 Nxg3+ 53. Kg1 Ne2+ 54. Kh1 Ke3 55. Rf6 Ra1+ 56. Kg2 Rg1+ 57. Kh2 g3+ 58. Kh3 Rh1+ 0-1

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 g6 4. g3 Bg7 5. Bg2 O-O 6. O-O d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 (Stockfish 181218 at depth 50 considers 7…c6 the best move. The game move has been my move of choice)

8. d5 Na5 (An older version of SF plays this but the newer versions prefer 8…Ne5, the only move I played because as a general rule I do not like moving my knight to the rim, where it is dim, much preferring to move it toward the middle of the board)

9. b3 c5 (9…a6, a move yet to be played, is the move preferred by Stockfish at the CBDB, while Houdini plays 9…Ne4)

10. Bb2 (SF 10 shows 10 Bd2 best followed by 10 Rb1 and Qc2) a6 11. Ng5 TN (SF has 11 Rb1 best, while Komodo shows 11 e3, a move yet to be played, but Houdini shows 11 Qd3 best and it has been the most often played move. There is a reason why the game move has not been seen in practice)

Torbjorn Ringdal Hansen (2469) vs Andres Rodriguez Vila (2536)

40th Olympiad Open 08/30/2012

1.Nf3 f5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 g6 4.O-O Bg7 5.c4 O-O 6.Nc3 d6 7.d4 Nc6 8.d5 Na5 9.b3 c5 10.Qc2 a6 11.Bb2 Rb8 12.Rae1 b5 13.Nd1 bxc4 14.bxc4 Bh6 15.e3 Ne4 16.Ba1 Rb4 17.Nd2 Nxd2 18.Qxd2 Rf7 19.Nb2 Bg7 20.Nd3 Nxc4 21.Qc2 Na3 22.Qc1 Ra4 23.Bxg7 Rxg7 24.Nb2 Ra5 25.e4 Nb5 26.a4 Nd4 27.e5 Bd7 28.exd6 exd6 29.Nc4 Rxa4 30.Nxd6 Qb6 31.Ne8 Rf7 32.d6 Bc6 33.Qh6 Qd8 34.Bxc6 Nxc6 35.Nc7 Re4 36.f3 Re5 37.Qd2 Rxe1 38.Rxe1 Nd4 39.Qf4 g5 40.Qe3 f4 41.Qe7 Nxf3+ 42.Kh1 Qf8 43.Qxf8+ Rxf8 44.Re7 Nd4 45.gxf4 gxf4 46.d7 Nc6 47.Re8 Nd8 48.Nxa6 c4 49.Re4 c3 ½-½

Z. Ilincic (2465) vs D. Sharma (2344)

Kecskemet Caissa GM 02

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. d5 Na5 9. b3 c5 10. Bb2 a6 11. Rb1 Rb8 12. Ba1 Bd7 13. Qd3 b5 14. h3 bxc4 15. bxc4 Rb4 16. Nd2 Qc7 17. Kh2 Rfb8 18. f4 Rxb1 19. Rxb1 Rxb1 20. Qxb1 Qb7 21. Qxb7 Nxb7 22. e3 Na5 1/2-1/2

The headline, Bearded men look angrier than clean-shaven types when they are angry made me think of Hikaru Nakamura:

I could not help but wonder if the beard had anything to do with his play in this tournament?

Pawns are the Rubber Soul of the World Human Chess Championship

‘Pawns are the soul of chess’ wrote François-André Danican Philidor;

or did he? According to Edward Winter, Philidor wrote something to that effect. It is now commonly accepted in the English speaking Chess world as what François-André meant. (

The eighth game of the ongoing World Human Chess Championship reached this position with the current champion, Magnus Carsen

of Norway, to move:

The champ moved his bishop from e7 to d6 in order to institute a blockade of the passed white d pawn. This is all according to the rules of Chess every chess player learns when beginning to play the game. This position was reached:

It is now the challenger, Fabiano Caruana,

to move. When little Fabi was learning how to play the Royal game one of his first teachers, such as Bruce Pandolfini,

certainly taught Caruana about eliminating a blockading minor piece especially if the piece taking its place is the Queen because the Queen is the very worst piece to maintain a blockade. Any Chess teacher seeing this position from a student would explain this Chess principle while hoping the student would then see the obvious move Nbc4.

Unfortunately for Fabi fans this was not played…Caruana played 24 h3:

Say it ain’t so, Fab!

If a Chess teacher were reviewing a game and the student produced the move h3 the teacher would patiently explain the Chess axiom about never moving a pawn in front of the King when under attack.

In the tenth game of the WHCC Caruana again sat behind the white pieces and after Carlsen played 23…Qg5, a vacillating move, this position was reached:

Fabiano Caruana produced the move 24 g3. Current US Chess Champion Sam Shankland

annotated the game for Chessbase. After 23…Qg5 Sam writes, “Technically, this move loses the game against best play, but it comes with a very nasty idea of playing Rf6-h6 and delivering mate on the h-file. A machine with its nerves of steel would have no trouble grabbing h5, but for a human, it looks absurdly dangerous.”

After 24 g3 Sam writes, “Caruana’s move makes a lot of sense. Taking on f4 and bringing the rook to g3 should dispel any mating dreams.” (

Does this sound like an objective comment to the reader? The best Chess players on the planet at the moment are called “engines,” and all of the “engines” consider 24 g3 a mistake. What makes Sam’s comment strange is that he has written a book recently about how to “Master Pawn Play in Chess.”

Fabiano Caruana is one of the two best human Chess players on the planet at the moment. Only he can explain why he unnecessarily moved his pawns in the two critical games.

Not to be outdone, the human champion of the world reached this position sitting behind the white pieces:

and decided to jettison his h-pawn by moving it forward one square. I kid you not. The challenger accepted the Norwegian gift with alacrity and managed to draw the game.

ECF Book of the Year 2018 shortlist

One of the books reviewed on this blog, Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution
by Sergei Tkachenko, Elk and Ruby Publishing House, has made it to the English Chess Federation shortlist. (

I have a vague memory of someone, possibly David Spinks, saying something about what counted was not how many times an actor won the award, but how many times he or she were nominated. I feel the same about books.

This brought to mind an email received concerning the book from former California Chess Champion Dennis Fritzinger:

Dennis Fritzinger
To:Michael Bacon
Feb 24 at 3:28 PM

Hi Michael,

You definitely read widely! I would never have heard of this book I’m sure but for your review. Somehow I thought my eyes were going to glaze over reading about such past happenings but they didn’t. I was swept along to the very end. The book reminded me of a certain author, Ian Fleming. It certainly gives him a run for his money!


Book of the Year 2018 shortlist

Posted By: WebAdmin 28th August 2018

The large number of varied and interesting books this year made the selection particularly difficult, but the choice came down to books by two new chess publishers and two excellent instruction manuals (beautifully printed by Quality Chess) which the judges had great difficulty in separating, so included both!

Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution
Sergei Tkachenko, Elk and Ruby Publishing House, paperback, pp213, £19.99
The cover alone indicates this is not a conventional chess book. It vividly covers the chess community in Odessa, how it and they coped with the rapidly changing governments 1916 to1919. Alekhine was a frequent visitor to Odessa. When the Bolsheviks captured the town in 1919, they shot an estimated 1,200 “traitors”. Alekhine was arrested, imprisoned and was on the list to be executed. Why he was released remains a mystery. Amongst the narrative drama are the chess games he played in Odessa which show his outstanding chess imagination.

Carlsen vs Kajarkin World Chess Championship 2016
Lev Alburt and Jon Crumiller, Chess Information and Research Centre, paperback, pp336, £22.50
World championship matches are the summit of the chess world. Whilst there is extensive short-term media coverage during the match, there are surprisingly few books published after the event giving a considered view. This book is one, with the usual photos, atmospheric background and computer analysis all well done. What lifts the book to an exceptional level is ‘Vlad’s Viewpoint’ which occurs throughout the book. The former world champion Vladimir Kramnik is able, from his unique experience, to give a wider and deeper insight into the play and players. Essential reading for Caruana!

Small Steps to Giant Improvement

Sam Shankland, Quality Chess, hardback, pp 331, £23.99
Shankland had a setback in his chess playing activities so had some free time. He decided to study and write about pawn play which he identified as one of his weaknesses. Written in a refreshing and open style he gives pointed examples of various issues eg advanced pawns can be strong, but they can also be weak. There is much to learn in this book as Shankland himself showed: he won his next three tournaments including the USA championship and raised his grading over 2700!

Under the Surface
Jan Markos, Quality Chess, hardback, pp276, £23.99
Markos has not written a standard text book, rather an exploration of the other factors that affect chess play. A sample of the chapter headings give an impression of his unusual approach – ‘Anatoly’s billiard balls’, ‘What Rybka couldn’t tell’, ‘Understanding the Beast’ and so on. Markos writes in an original way bringing in applicable concepts from the none chess world. There are four fascinating chapters on computer chess. All in all players of every level will find something original or instructive in this book.

— Ray Edwards, Julian Farrand, Sean Marsh – 20th August 2018

Annie Wang/Nazi Paikidze Co-US Women Champions

Congratulations to Annie Wang

and Nazi Paikidze,

the new Co-Champions of the Women’s US Chess Championship!

Before sending emails and leaving comments, I am aware of the so-called “playoff” which was “won” by Nazi. The idea of some kind of “hurry-up and get it over” playoff in Chess is anathema to me. The two women tied for first in the only games that matter, serious games in which they spend hours playing. To my mind that is all that counts. I am aware that most people do not agree with my way of thinking. They are wrong. Back in the day playoffs consisting of serious games were held. I would prefer to see a match using the same time limit as the eleven games played during the tournament to settle the matter. Some players who are extremely strong at Chess played with longer time limits are not as proficient when forced to play “hurry-up” Chess. The challenger for the title of World Chess Champion falls into that category. Fabiano Caruana is no match for Magnus Carlsen in any kind of “hurry-up” playoff, which makes Magnus the favorite in the upcoming match. If Fabi is to win he MUST win in the much longer, much more serious, real games.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having Co-Champions, other than the driving forces prefer to have only one winner of each tournament to put on the cover of the magazine as the “face” of US Chess. Never thought I would live to see “speed” Chess settle a World Championship match…

At the beginning of his interview with Maurice Ashley, the new US Chess Champ, Sam Shankland, said about his play, “I played really well and got really lucky and that’s a tough combination to beat.” I was reminded of my days playing Backgammon. Many times after beating an opponent he would say, “You were lucky.” My response would invariably be, “I would rather be lucky than good, because when I am good and lucky, I cannot be beat!”

Yes, there IS luck in Chess. Ask Nazi…In the penultimate round she was dead lost, but due to a horrendous blunder by her opponent, Tatev Abrahamyan, she won the game. That is the kind of luck to which Sam was referring. She was also lucky in that Annie collapsed in the last round, which brings to mind one of the most, if not the most, famous collapse by a woman in the history of sport. That would be Julie Moss competing in the 1982 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

Nazi also had to overcome the unfair extra game with the black pieces. She had the white pieces five times while Annie sat behind the white pieces six times. On the other hand, Annie’s performance rating overall was slightly higher than Nazi, 2506 to 2503. If there must be a playoff I would like to see a playoff between the two using the same time control used during the Championship.

Finally, why is there a separate US Chess Championship for women? To have such a tournament is, quite simply, segregation.

Drifting Away at the 2018 US Chess Championship

Alexander Onischuk

v Sam Shankland

U.S. Championship 2018 round 10

D38 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Ragozin variation

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 O-O 8. e3 Bf5 9. a3 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 Nbd7 11. Be2 c5 12. O-O g5 13. Bg3 Ne4 14. c4 dxc4 15. Bxc4 Rc8 16. Rc1 Qe7 17. Bd3 Rfd8 18. Qe2 Nb6 19. Bxe4 Bxe4 20. Ne5 cxd4 21. Rxc8 Rxc8 22. exd4 Bf5 23. Qh5 f6 24. Ng4 Bxg4 25. Qxg4 Qd7 26. Qf3 Nd5 27. Qh5 Kg7 28. f4 Qe8 29. Qf3 Qe3+ 30. Qxe3 Nxe3 31. Rf3 Nd5 32. fxg5 hxg5 33. h4 gxh4 34. Bxh4 Kf7 35. Be1 b6 36. Bd2 Rc2 37. Rd3 Ke6 38. g4 Kd6 39. Kf1 Kc6 40. Ke1 Kb5 41. g5 fxg5 42. Bxg5 Kc4 43. Rg3 Nc3 44. d5 Nxd5 45. Kd1 Rc3 46. Rg4+ Kb3 47. Rd4 Ne3+ 48. Bxe3 Rxe3 49. Kd2 Rh3 0-1

This was a well-played game except for a single move pair when both moves were “colorful” over at the ChessBomb. After 27 moves this position was reached:

Because of the pawn structure black has a minor advantage. According to Stockfish white should now play the move 28 Re1. The second choice of 28 h4 also looks reasonable. Unfortunately, Onischuk produced a RED MOVE with the awful 28 f4?

This is a losing move. All Sam needs to do is take the pawn with the knight and it’s “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.” There is really nothing else to consider…Unfortunately, Shankland did consider an alternative, producing another RED MOVE, with 28…Qe8?

After seeing his move I had to go back to the board containing pieces and look at 28…Nxf4 again and again. During the tournament I have awaited going to the ChessBomb for Stockfish analysis until after the game has ended. Inquiring minds want to know, so I “just had” to learn if there was something I was missing. There was not…The Fish gives 28… Nxf4 29. Qd1 Qxd4+ 30. Qxd4 Ne2+ 31. Kf2 Nxd4, along with more moves you can find if you check out the game at Da Bomb. This is another example of Shankland “drifting away,” like Dobie Gray. Fortunately for Sam, Al’s move was so bad Sam still retained an advantage with which he ground Onischuk down.

I have absolutely no idea why we Chess fans have seen such a proliferation of back-to-back blunders recently. Any readers have any ideas?

The Wesley So Forfeit

The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center was in its infancy when I played in the St. Louis Open there in the spring of 2009. In the second round I faced a young boy, Kevin Cao, who was an expert at the start of the tourney. Playing my favorite Bishop’s opening the boy did not take advantage of the opportunities my play afforded, putting him in a difficult position. My opponent had been keeping score on a gizmo called “Monroi.” When the going got tough my opponent pulled the hood of his jacket over his head and placed his gizmo on the table, eschewing the actual chessboard in order to focus only on the chessboard on his gizmo. Since this violated the rules of chess, I lodged a protest with the TD’s. The rule is simple and clear: 11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard. (

The tournament director’s did not see it that way. Since the Monroi was a USCF “approved” gizmo they had trouble ruling the only way they should under rule 11.3. They decided to “compromise” by asking my opponents father have his son not use the gizmo as a chessboard the rest of the game. I agreed to this, and so did the father, albeit reluctantly. This was done because I was playing a child. If my opponent had been an adult I would not have agreed, but insisted he be forfeited because the rule is clear. Things change dramatically when a child is involved.

After a few more moves my opponent’s position deteriorated, and he was in also in time pressure which happens with a G/2 time control. His father, seeing this while constantly hovering over the board, told his son to do go back to using his gizmo. The boy then pulled his hood over his head and placed his gizmo on the table and again eschewed the actual chessboard. I protested, the clocks were stopped and into the TD room we went. This time things became, shall we say, heated. Actually, the father went ballistic. Some time later the USCF issued a ruling castigating the father for “reprehensible behaviour.” The father took his son home and when his time ran out, I was declared the “winner.” The young boy dropped back into the “A” class because of the loss. He is now rated 2300+.

This was written about and discussed on the forum of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center, which no longer exists, and some have said it is no longer in existence was because of what was written on it, none of it positive toward me. Simply put, I was vilified. Much was written on the USCF forum at the time, where I was also excoriated unmercifully.

I closely followed the recent US Championship tournament, the one now called the “Open” tournament, as opposed to the one called the “Women’s” tournament. GM Wesley So is obviously a supremely talented chess player. I found the interviews with him intriguing, to say the least. After the interview early in the tournament,maybe the very first round, the one in which he mentions playing weakly in the middle game after not seeing his foster mother for some time, (She had been with Jeanne Sinquefield he said) I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman something was obviously “not right” about Mr. So. I could not put my finger on it, but knew something was wrong.

Much has been written about Wesley being forfeited, and I have read everything found on the interweb. I would like to share some of it with you, then share a few comments of my own.

“Akobian complained that this distracted him”!? What is the motive behind this statement? To me it looks like a “sucker punch” from Akopian to get an easy win. Chess referees should according to the rules always apply common sense. And the nature of this incident considering the actual writing of So does not by any means amount to such a serious offence that So should forfeit his game against Akopian.” – thomas.dyhr (Thomas Dyhr, Denmark)

“This decision is absolutely ridiculous I take it So has been writing on his scoresheet sometimes which would show on his copy handed in and is against Fide rules ok and Rich told him this.
He gets a blank piece of paper instead to write some thought positives and Akobian complains to Rich who forfeits So.
Akobian if he was distracted by So’s actions should have asked him to stop first.
Rich should have seen that this was not writing on a scoresheet which he warned him about and if he was not allowing So to write on blank paper as well told him to stop immediately and if So complied let the game continue.
Akobian and Rich do not come out of this with any credit and Akobian should be ashamed of himself as a man of integrity.” – Gilshie (Thomas Gilmore, United Kingdom)

“I guess they wanted to guarantee that an American wins the US Championship…” – Shtick (Nick Daniels, Canada)
(All of the about quotes from:

“PS: editorial comment to myself

Many chess writers and commentators seem to have little better to do this weekend than to talk about a silly forfeit incident in the US championship, so I will throw in a few of my own observations.
The first is that even though some tournament rule might give the tournament arbiter, Tony Rich, the POWER or the AUTHORITY to forfeit Wesley So , no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did. So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.
Please understand that I am not saying that Akobian–who is a perfect gentleman– acted wrongly when he drew to the arbiter’s attention So’s actions. Nor am I saying that Tony Rich acted incorrectly when he decided to act according to the written rules. And especially I am not saying that So was right when he lashed out when interviewed afterwards…there were CLEARLY better ways to have handled the situation.
What I am trying to say is that once more the game of chess DESERVES to be belittled because of this incident. ONCE MORE, mainstream media will target and make fun of us. Chess LOST some prestige on that day. When Jon Stewart recently did a humorous skit on the USCF trying to recruit F.Caruana for the national team, many–including ChessBase–thought it was also a bit insulting to the game of chess. Perhaps it was a bit insulting, even though it might not have been intended to be insulting…
But until the day we (the chess community) STOP allowing silly and poorly written rules to hurt and denigrate the noble game of chess in the eyes of normal and intelligent onlookers (and let us not forget about potential sponsors and patrons), then we deserve to be insulted a little bit more each time…” – Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett

“Guess my point is – even if he warned So, forfeiting is a staggering over-reaction. Threaten with forfeit = fine. Actually doing it = insane” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (Also from the aforementioned chess24 article, and if you click on this, you will find more comments, including this one by IM Mark Ginsburg, “Correct. Time penalty first. This action was wildly disproportionate as GM Hammer points out. Bad call.”)

GM Emil Sutovsky, President at Association of Chess Professionals, wrote this on his Facebook page (taken from the aforementioned chess24 article) “The arbiter’s decision to forfeit Wesley So for writing down irrelevant notes on his scoresheet during the game seems weird to me. Indeed, that can be seen as a violation of rules: ” 8.1 b. The scoresheet shall be used only for recording the moves, the times of the clocks, offers of a draw, matters relating to a claim and other relevant data.” And arbiter has repeatedly urged Wesley to stop it. But awarding a loss is way too harsh a punishment for such a minor sin. Yes, it can be disturbing for the opponent, and the arbiter could and should have deducted the time on Wesley’s clock for disturbing the opponent. And to keep deducting it (2 minutes each time), if needed after each move (warning Wesley, that a forfeit will come after 2nd or 3rd deduction). That was the most painless and logical decision. Unfortunately, the arbiter has preferred the most brutal solution. These things should not happen.”

It should be obvious from the above that the TD, Tony Rich, and the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center have not come out of this sordid incident in a favorable light. As GM Spraggett says, once again chess has suffered a black eye. I agree with Kevin when he writes, “…no rule –just because it is written–gave Tony Rich the RIGHT to forfeit Wesley So for doing what he did.” The reputation of the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center has been sullied.

The punishment should fit the crime. As GM Kevin Spraggett writes, “So offended no one nor did he disrespect his opponent; he caused no disturbence, nor did he cheat. Wesley So’s actions were not designed to give him anything other than peace of mind and a calm spirit.”

Contrast this with how I was treated at the St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center. My opponent violated the rule in order to gain an ADVANTAGE! GM Wesley So did no such thing. He is one of the elite chess players in the world and has no need to gain an advantage against any other player in the world.

If one closely examines the rule, “11.3 a) During play the players are forbidden to use any notes, sources of information or advice, or analyse any game on another chessboard,” it is clear the meaning is that a player cannot use any “NOTES, sources of information or advice,” to help, or assist him in regard to making his MOVES. A player cannot utilize a book, or gizmo containing chess information, or any “advice” from another person. There is no ambiguity here.

I was not there and do not know EXACTLY what Tony Rich said to Wesley, but from what I heard on the broadcast, and have now read, GM So was under the impression he could not write on his scoresheet, so he wrote on another piece of paper. How culpable is Tony Rich in this matter? Did he make himself COMPLETELY understood? Besides, as “Najdork” (Miguel Najdork, from Nepal) commented, “Also I would like to point out how from rule 8.1 you are allowed to write on the scoresheet any “relevant data”, and that is so vague that I guess you could write almost anything.” Who defines what is “relevant?” Your relevant may differ from what I consider “relevant.” For example, what if your opponent in a Senior event wrote on his scoresheet, “Take heart medication at 3 PM.” Who, other than GM Varuzhan Akobian, would complain? And who, other than Tony Rich would forfeit the man? I know Tony Rich. As Tony reminded me in 2009, I won our game at the Missouri State Championship in 2002 in Rollo. He was nice to me then, and has been every time I have encountered him, such as at the US Open in Indiana a few years ago. I liked Tony until he lost his mind. What could possibly have motivated the man to issue this stupid ruling, which will have lasting repercussions? If you were Wesley So would you join the American team at the Olympiad?

“In love with this rule: “12.2 The arbiter shall: b. act in the best interest of the competition.” Common sense.” – GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.

The forfeit defies common sense. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rule; they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is limited role. Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.” – John Roberts, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court to the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2005. (
No one watches a chess tournament to see the TD. In lieu of watching Wesley So play GM Akobian, the world was instead subjected to a TD try and explain his “logic.” As many a TD has proven over the years, the less involved they are, the better the outcome.

None of this made any sense to me until reading this, “In the final reckoning Wesley So’s forfeit had no effect on the top three standings. Even a win against Akobian would only have tied So with Ray Robson on 7.5/11, and since he lost against Robson he would still have finished third. The person who has a real cause for complaint seems to be Gata Kamsky, who was edged out of 5th place – his goal in order to qualify for the World Cup later this year – by Akobian.” (

There it is, the reason for this whole debacle. It always comes down to “Who profits?”

The whole affair is disgusting, and sickening. It proves only that a TD has only one rule by witch to abide: Do What Thy Wilt! There should be some kind of punishment for a TD who oversteps his bounds. I have seen far too many tournament director’s puff out their chest while strutting around singing, “I’ve got the power,” such as Richard Crespo, the former TD spending his days in prison after abducting a woman and shooting it out with police in San Antonio, Texas a decade ago.
I am embarrassed, and ashamed, to be an American involved with chess. This putrid affair rivals anything I have written about FIDE and the nefarious Russians. United States chess has reached a new low. Tony Rich has now made everyone forget about L. Walter Stephens, the TD who awarded Sammy Reshevsky a win against Arnold Denker in the 1942 US Championship even though it was Sammy who lost on time. The game will die before the shock waves emanating from this debacle subside. The St. Louis Chess Club AND Scholastic Center touts itself as the US Capital of Chess. Knowledgable players and fans know that three of the players in the Championship, Sam Shankland, Sam Sevian, and Daniel Naroditsky, cut their chess teeth in the San Francisco Bay area, home of the oldest chess club in America, the venerable Mechanic’s Insitute Chess Room. If any area should be acknowledged as the “Capital of US Chess,” it is San Francisco, in lieu of the neuveau rich, faux chess club AND scholastic center in St. Louis, which has now been tarnished. No longer can it be considered a “leading light,” or “shining example.”

I can only hope this affair does not dessiccate Wesley So’s desire. If one watches the interviews with Mr. So during the US Chess Championship he will see a dramatic change in Wesley as the tournament progressed. Hopefully, this will fire him up and prod Wesley to play the kind of chess of which he is capable culminating in a match for the World Chess Championship.

Dark Side of the 2015 US Chess Championship

At the beginning of February an interesting article appeared on the USCF website, “Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I” By GM Sam Shankland, dated February 3, 2015. After perusing the article I went to the trouble of cutting and pasting it in order to save it in hopes of being able to read it later. Part II appeared February 12, 2015 and I once again copied and saved the article. Although I have had the time I have yet to go back to it, but it has been on my mind.

I brought the article to the attention of the Legendary Georgia Ironman. When I mentioned the games were not complete, but truncated, with diagrams, Tim related something he had seen decades ago at a major tournament such as the New York or World Open. The Ironman recalled being near when now FM Miles Ardaman wanted GM William Lombardy to look at a position. “Do you have the moves leading up to the position?” asked Father Lombardy. Miles said he did not, and the GM said, “In that case I have no interest in the position whatsoever,” and walked away.

I was gratified to here this because I, too, have always felt that past is prologue, and if you do not know where you have been, you do not know where you are going. It means something because there is the “chess door” principle. The higher rated players walk through the door first and a Grandmaster enters before a floored Expert. One of the wonderful things about the game of chess is that it matters not what title one has in the world outside of chess. It does not matter what elected office one holds in the chess world, or how many times one posts on any chess forum, the only thing that matters is one’s strength at playing the Royal game.

The Ironman said he could not understand why the opening moves had not been given in light of the fact that an article on the endgame in a recent Chess Life by IM Danny Kopec on the “Browne Endgame” contained the moves leading up to the position in the diagram, “Just like the endgame book Smitty had squirreled away you found at that downtown library book sale.” The Ironman was referring to, Exploring the Endgame by Peter Griffiths. He also made a comment about how the USCF does not have an interactive feature as do most, if not all, chess websites. “The USCF is so far behind the times it has 1995 type features,” he said. The Ironman is correct because it is a fact the USCF has been behind the curve when it comes to anything computer for the past quarter century, if not longer.

The Ironman also decried that such an article would be posted on the scroll at the USCF online website in lieu of in the magazine. I concur with the Ironman’s astute assessment of the situation. Chess Life proudly boasts on the cover that it is, “The World’s Most Widely Read Chess Magazine.” Would that not seem to be reason enough to have the article included in the moribund magazine? As it is, to read the article I would need to have my computer sitting next to my chessboard, which is possible with a laptop, but not for someone like Tim who has a much larger home unit. Even with a laptop it is unwieldy with a board, and I have never done so. When I have my board on the table I have a book or magazine, open.
I realize it is possible to print out the article, but I have no printer. I also realize it would be possible to obtain the missing moves by finding the games online, but why should I have to go to all the trouble, especially when there is so much chess readily available online, and all I have to do is plug in and turn on without having to jump through all those hoops?

I mention this because the US Championship is only about a week away, and there may not be any better article to read before the first round begins. “I did not know Wesley So was playing this year,” the Legendary one exclaimed the other day. “Now I am really FIRED UP!” The Ironman is not the only one…it is almost time for Yaz & Jen, not to mention Maurice & the ‘puter…I can hardly wait!

Yet there is a dark side to the tournament…This can be found on the USCF forum:

Post: #289601 by sunmaid on Wed Feb 04, 2015 10:58 pm
Last year Kamsky, Akobian and Lenderman tied for first place at the US championship and it was only through a very unfair playoff system that Gata Kamsky was ultimately crowned champion. Since Kamsky and Akobian are in, I think it would have been a wise decision to give the wild card entry to Alex Lenderman. Sam Sevian is an exciting young player, but he will get his chance in many years to come to play in this tournament.

It is a travesty that one of the players who TIED FOR FIRST PLACE last year is not included in the field this year. This brings SHAME on all involved with the tournament, and especially on the pooh-bahs of the USCF, who obviously have no shame. Only someone like Darth Cheney would be content with this sorry state of affairs…(

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site