Corruption Scandal Rocks Chess World

The headline at the Chessdom website says it all:

“Corruption scandal rocks the Bulgarian Chess Federation.”
Dec 9, 2014

“Chess was once again on TV in the European Union, in a central show on Bulgarian television viewed by more than 2 million people. However, this time the news is not positive for the community, as the topic of the report was a scandal concerning election manipulation by the Bulgarian Chess Federation highest officials.

One of the most famous social-political comedy shows in Bulgaria is Gospodari na Efira (directly translated Masters of the Broadcast, or for short “The Masters”), followed daily by 2+ million people. This Monday it had as central topic the election practices in the Bulgarian Chess Federation. In a report titled “How to become a President of the chess federation with illegal moves” the investigating journalist Vladi Vassilev exposed the scheme by bringing in a hidden camera in the BCF offices.

The local Botvinnik Club President – Orlin Nikolov – was promised by the Executive Director of BCF – Nikolay Velchev – supplies for a chess tournament and arbiter positions, only if he votes for the team of Silvio Danailov at the coming elections.”

Later on one finds, “More corruption allegations around BCF”

“With the elections for President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation approaching, the corruption allegations against Silvio Danailov and his team are piling up.”

The man who gave the chess world the infamous “toiletgate” scandal during the match for the World Championship between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov in 2006 continues to heap discredit upon the chess world. In his book on the match, “Topalov-Kramnik: 2006 World Chess Championship, On the Edge in Elista,” GM Topalov writes, “The world of chess is a strange one.” Indeed it is, and Topalov and his manager, Silvio Danilov, have contributed greatly to the recent strangeness.

There is much more to the story, including a video of the case,including a transcription of the key moments. (http://www.chessdom.com/corruption-scandal-rocks-the-bulgarian-chess-federaition/)

“The World Open Has Become a Cheat Paradise”

This comment, from Jack Lee, was sent earlier this month in reply to my post of July 13, 2013, “Players Expelled from World Open!” (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/players-expelled-from-world-open/)
It has been posted there, but because cheating has been prominently featured recently I decided to publish it today.
Submitted on 2014/05/12
“I played the Under 1800 and lost to “”David Zhou”” from Quebec (QC) who was “unrated”, with 7 games in Canada, assigned under 1800 section instead of being unrated. He tied for first, clearly master strength. Wonder what his real name and rating is.
I also lost to “Michael Quan” whose moves matched Fritz 12 when I analyzed the game. For 25+ moves in a row. Quan left the hall on his move several times and talked to a guy outside, I followed him. He, Quan, has never played since World Open. Computer Cheat!
Another in the under 1800 was a Nigerian (Nwoye Nnamdi), unrated, won 6 drew 3, tied for first.
Other sections – 1600/1400/1200 had unrated players winning top prizes.
Full standings:
http://www.chesstournamentservices.com/cca/tag/world-open-2013-standings/
The whole unrated thing is a joke. There should be no prizes for unrated players, just return the entry fee.
The World Open has become a cheat paradise. I won’t be back until it’s cleaned up.”
A recent conversation at a coffee shop caused me to reflect on the comments of Mr. Lee.
The Atlanta Chess & (What other Game?) Center may have been called The Dump, but the coffee was wonderful because one of the members worked for Starbucks and would pay for his membership and other things, like books, etc., with freshly ground Starbucks coffee. I have kept in touch with the gentleman and every now and then stop by for a cuppa java and a game of chess. My friend and I have time for a quick game when he is able to take a break. After finishing a game recently a distinguished gentleman who had been watching us while reading a NY Times came over to talk. He told me he played chess in school many decades ago and had kept up with the game by reading the chess column in the NY Times. He never had time to play, but said he would break out his pocket chess set and play over the game from the Times chess column and had done so “Since before Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky the first time.” We had been talking for some time when he asked, “Why do people still play chess?” Startled, I asked what he meant by his question. He told me it was obvious to him that chess was on its way out and had been since “Kasparov lost to Deep Blue.” He went on to say there had always been a mystique about chess that was not there now that the “Best players are accusing each other of using a computer to cheat as in the ‘Toiletgate’ incident.” As we continued talking I was unsure of how to answer the gentleman’s question. I told him chess was different now because of the effect computer programs have had on the game in that it used to be the top GM’s were the final word, but now a program known as Stockfish was the final word. He said, “Now that the genie is out of the bottle, it can never be put back in. No one can ever know for certain whether or not a player has cheated because the threat will always be stronger than its execution.”

The Chess Ostrich

In an essay by Dave Cameron, “White Bred: Major League Baseball’s Intern Issue,” in the excellent book, “The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2014,” a Fangraphs production, I read, something that made me think of my writing about chess. Dave wrote, “Even within a single organization, it is valuable to have people pushing back against the accepted ideas so that traditions don’t become entrenched simply because it is the cultural norm for the majority of the employees.”
Bill James is considered to be the “father of sabermetrics,” because he questioned the accepted ideas that had become entrenched traditions in Major League Baseball. The game has changed in many ways because one man dared to question the Status-quo.
Progress is not made by conservative people who do not question. If our forefathers had accepted the Status quo we would still be subjects of the Queen of England. If Albert Einstein, and his wife Mileva (http://www.pbs.org/opb/einsteinswife/) had not questioned accepted wisdom and given us special relativity and general relativity, we would not now have GPS.
Former President of the GCA and former Senior Champion of the Great State of Georgia Scott Parker once said about my writing, “I do not often agree with you, but I will admit what you write is always interesting.” Michael Mulford, another chess “pooh-bah,” wrote in an email that he only agreed with me “about 25% of the time.” My thought was, “That much?” The Georgia Tech radio station, WREK, one of only two college stations in the world that possess 100,000 watts (WRAS, the Georgia State station being the other one, but that could change if Georgia Governor Nathan “Raw” Deal has his way: http://clatl.com/atlanta/up-in-the-air/Content?oid=11215404) used to play something that began with one bird singing, then another joining in, and culminating with many birds singing. Then a voice could be heard saying, “Here at WREK we give all the birds a chance to sing.” Everyone should be heard, no matter how outlandish one may think their opinion. Otherwise we are all “singing to the choir.”
I write this because chess is facing difficult times. There is the draw death issue, the cheating by gizmo issue, and the Kirsan the ET issue. The signs are everywhere, if one is receptive to them. For example, a decade ago chess books were crowded off the shelves at bookstores by books on poker, the latest craze. Now that the air has been let out of the poker balloon, one finds very few books on poker on the shelves (“Straight Flush: The True Story of Six College Friends Who Dealt Their Way to a Billion-Dollar Online Poker Empire” by Ben Mezrich). The space has not been replaced with books on chess. Backgammon was the “in thing” back in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, and then it faded quickly. The game is still played, and there are tournaments, but at least a zero has been taken off the number of participants.
I, and many others, believe the proliferation of short draws has diminished the stature of chess. There are enough hard fought, “serious” games ending in a draw without players agreeing to split the point before a “serious” game can be contested. What some ignorant people fail to understand is that if only one fan of chess decides he has seen enough short draws by the best players to last a lifetime and turns to something else more interesting than another boring draw, it has diminished chess and hurt the Royal game. When the news from the chess world is of yet another cheating scandal like the one now known as “Toiletgate,” it diminishes the game in the mind of the public. When the game has no credibility in the mind of the public, there is no game.
Because the issue of so many short non-game draws is so important I decided to put my post of June 6, “What Constitutes a “Serious Game?” on the USCF forum. It has, as of this writing, been read by only a couple of hundred people (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=20054&sid=b5bf1c80970edc2dd56544fdd20b3c44). A few readers have left comments, including one by tmagchesspgh, or Thomas P. Magar. His comment culminates with this paragraph: “If you want the players to be gladiators at all times, selfish spectators, pony up the cash to sponsor the event. Buy tickets. Then you can demand that the players play for blood. Otherwise, just shut up and watch. There are enough deluded professionals out there who will sacrifice health, sanity, and their economic well being to provide you with free games to watch.”
The Discman sent me this comment concerning the post by Thomas Magar:
“Well that post is over the top. Spectators just want to see hard-faught games between great players.
Free lessons & DVD’s? What the heck??”
It is difficult, if not impossible, to hear the birds sing when one has, like the ostrich, buried his head in the sand.

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!