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. (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

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: https://chess24.com/en/read/news/us-champs-r9-so-forfeited-amid-family-turmoil)

“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
(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/it-took-a-really-long-time-but/)

“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. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/when-the-umpire-is-playing-for-the-other-team/262429/)
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.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/nakamura-and-krush-are-2015-us-champions)

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.

Can All the Talk Walk the Walk?

I read the March 27, 2015 edition of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club Newsletter, #703, by John Donaldson, the day it was published (http://www.chessclub.org/news.php?n=703). Of particular interest was this, “The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has done the chess world a favor by conducting a literature review to answer the question, “Does chess provide educational benefits?” (http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/chess-literature-review-gives-base-claim-chess-educational-benefits)

I clicked on the link to find the headline: On Chess: Literature Review Gives Base To Claim Of Chess’ Educational Benefits. The article was written by Brian Jerauld, who “is the 2014 Chess Journalist of the Year, and the communications specialist for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. He is a 2001 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and has more than a decade of experience writing about boats, sports and other ways to relax.” It was dated Feb 12, 2015. Since I had posted a series of articles on this very subject during the latter part of February I could not help but wonder how this had been missed. Further pondering brought forth the question of why no one had commented on this study on the blog or on the USCF forum thread concerning my blog posts on the subject. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=21185&sid=95eabe87ba3a5d3ce890f4237d794c88)

Mr. Jerauld writes, “By now, the claim that chess comes packaged with hidden educational perks is a hype certainly heard around the world. And how could it not be believed? Just find some random piece of research that supports such big talk, tie it together with obvious, awesome-sounding hyperbole — like “decision-making skills” and “higher-order thinking” — and boom: You’ve got yourself some Grade-A propaganda.

Over the years, all this talk has given a rather rosy-colored narrative that always ends in support of chess curriculum implementation. But recently, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, whose scholastic program branched out to more than 3,000 students and hundreds of area schools last year, dropped the rhetoric and set out to discover if chess actually has an effect on its students.

Empirically, can all the talk walk the walk?”

Good question. Brian continues, “A year ago, the CCSCSL set out to apply a rigorous and critical eye of existing chess studies by commissioning Basis Policy Research, an independent research firm that focuses on K-12 educational exploration. The goal was to survey the entire landscape of existing chess research, digging back through more than four decades of random studies, and compile a literature review of what was actually known about chess’ impact on student outcomes.”

This is exactly the kind of study I wrote about in my post of February 27, 2015, Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/does-playing-chess-make-you-smarter/) The study mentioned, Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review, by Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli, (http://www.brunel.ac.uk/~hsstffg/preprints/chess_and_education.PDF) is dated now, having been published a decade ago, so I looked forward with interest to new literature on the subject. In trying to be scientifically objective, and also being a chess player, I relish a refutation. If new information refutes previous thinking, humans advance. For example, studies were done in the middle of the last century on the amount of radiation harmful to humans. During the course of my life the amount needed has been constantly lowered until now it is an accepted fact that even the lowest amount of radiation detected is deleterious to a human being. Decades ago there were many studies done on the effects of smoking cigarettes, funded by the tobacco industry, which concluded smoking caused no problems whatsoever to a human being. Over the years I have learned how difficult it is for old(er) people to change their preconceived ideas. For example, when I was young it was an accepted fact that an ulcer was caused by stress. It is now known that an ulcer is caused by a virus. My father was unable to wrap his mind around that fact, continuing to believe stress was the cause. There are many examples in the scientific community of a scientist with stature in the community refusing to accept evidence contrary to that with which his career was built. Change is difficult, and some people will stubbornly cling to the old ways “come hell or high water.” I try not to be one of those people. I do not care who is right, or wrong, but what is right, and what is wrong.

During the telecast of the third round of the US Championships yesterday the new study was mentioned by Jennifer Shahade when she said, “St.Louis commissioned a study that showed…they didn’t know what the study was going to say. They wanted to find out what kind of connections chess had to academic performance, and surprisingly, the main connection was math and chess.” GM Yasser Seirawan said, “Really?” Jen continued, “Yes, specifically math and chess.” To which Yasser responded, “I remember the Margolis study where it was about reading.” This comes at the 3:42:30 mark of the broadcast.

I clicked on the link and downloaded the PDF in order to read the new study, Literature Review of Chess Studies, By
Anna Nicotera, and David Stuit, dated November 2014. (http://saintlouischessclub.org/sites/default/files/CCSCSL%20Literature%20Review%20of%20Chess%20Studies%20-%20November%202014.pdf)
“This literature review identified 51 studies of chess. Twenty-four of the 51 studies met a set of pre-determined criteria for eligibility and were included in analyses. Results from the literature review were categorized by the quality of the study design and organized by whether the studies examined after-school or in-school chess programs. The main findings from this literature review are:
1. After-school chess programs had a positive and statistically significant impact on student mathematics outcomes.
2. In-school chess interventions had a positive and statistically significant impact on student mathematics and cognitive outcomes.
Although the findings are interesting, they do come with this caveat, “While the two primary outcomes listed above are based on studies that used rigorous research design methodologies, the results should be interpreted cautiously given the small number of eligible studies that the pooled results encompass.”

This is a caveat huge as the Grand Canyon. It is called a “small sample size.” If a baseball player goes one for three during a single game his batting average is .333, which is outstanding. This does not mean he will finish the season with a batting average of .333. Even if the batter hits .333 for a week, or even a month, it does not mean he will finish the long season hitting .333. If a chess player wins one tournament, even a so-called “Super tournament,” it does not mean he will become World Champion. Sofia Polgar had one super outstanding result with what I seem to recall a performance rating that was higher than any her sister Judit obtained in any one tournament. Yet Sophia did not attain the status that did Judit, because that one tournament is considered to be a limited sample size.

The authors studied the same studies as did Fernand Gobet and Guillermo Campitelli. The discredited Ferguson study is included among those studied, as is the Margolis study mentioned by GM Yasser Seirawan. While considering this post and thinking about IM John Donaldson, GM Yasser Seirawan, and to an extent, NM Jennifer Shahade, I kept thinking about something Upton Sinclair wrote – “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

My thoughts also keep going back to something else written by Gobet and Campitelli: “In spite of these disagreements about the nature of transfer, some results are clear. In particular, recent research into expertise has clearly indicated that, the higher the level of expertise in a domain, the more limited the transfer will be (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). Moreover, reaching a high level of skill in domains such as chess, music or mathematics requires large amounts of practice to acquire the domain specific knowledge which determines expert performance. Inevitably, the time spent in developing such skills will impair the acquisition of other skills.”

Mr. Jerauld ends his article with, “The literature review is a huge first step for the CCSCSL, acknowledgment of the research that exists and laying the groundwork for future research that may be implemented through the club’s expansive scholastic initiative. The Basis Policy Research chess literature review has kicked off a new Research Portal, meant to serve as a repository to all global research — and to keep St. Louis on yet another forefront of chess.”

If this is truly “laying the groundwork for future research that may be implemented through the club’s expansive scholastic initiative,” I would suggest not only a rigorous, controlled, scientific, type study which would include a control group, but also a study of the same size to study the game of Go, as a counter balance to the chess study. This would obviously double the amount of money needed to fund these studies, but we are talking about a man who has a BILLION DOLLARS, so money is no object if Rex Sinquefield actually wants a fair and objective study, not one in which the scientists aim to please the man with the deep pockets.

Dana Mackenzie’s Key Lime Pi Openings

The interweb is a wonderful thing because I enjoy reading chess, and other, blogs. Occasionally the “other” is contained in a chess blog.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has recently been memorizing the digits of Pi.

Dana Mackenzie is “a national master, two-time former champion of North Carolina, and a regular lecturer at http://www.chesslecture.com.” He says, “Don’t let all of that stuff impress you, though. Deep down inside, I’m just an ordinary player. I don’t play chess for money or glory, just for the love of the game.” How can you not like a guy like this? His blog is dana blogs chess.

The title of his last post, dated March 14, 2015, was, Happy Pi Day… April 3? It begins, “Going off topic today!” Dana proves chess players do not live on chess alone…

This blog is mainly about chess, so I will leave Pi to Dana and the Ironman. Dana also writes about chess, except in “real life,” where he is a freelance science writer. You can read all about his scientific writing, and learn things such as his favorite writer, and poet, at: http://www.danamackenzie.com/blog/

Dana has written a most interesting three part Grading the Openings, which I wholeheartedly recommend. He begins Part One by setting the stage with, “Rob Weir, the statistician whom I mentioned in my last post, graciously shared with me a data base of the performance of all the openings, organized by ECO code. This allows us to create something that I’ve never quite seen before: a “report card” of all the chess openings. Which are best for White? Which are best for Black? Which are the most drawish? Which are the most or the least popular?”

Part two begins, “First of all, let me announce that my last post, Grading the Openings (Part One), unexpectedly turned into the biggest hit I’ve ever had on this blog. The blog had 1136 visitors yesterday, which is three times more than I have ever had in a single day (except during the 2012 World Championship match, when I was translating Sergei Shipov’s commentaries).”

In Part three I learned one of my favorite openings with White, the Closed Sicilian is one of “…the top five variations for Black.” Oh no, Mr. Bill! Unfortunately it gets worse because the line I play(ed) with 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. d3 d6 6. Be3, known as “B26,” is the second top scoring line for Black, with only the D01 (Richter-Veresov) scoring better for BLACK. Say it ain’t so, Joe…

I also learned, from one of the many comments, of the “Zombie Apocalypse Tournament, March 14 – 15, 2015.”
I kid you not. If the High Planes Drifter had known of this tournament I am certain he would have imitated the Nashville Strangler and driven all night in order to make it to the round on time at the Lory Student Center, CSU Campus Rooms, Grey Rock Room, on the CSU campus in Ft. Collins, Colorado, because David Vest loves all things Zombie! Bill Wall left the comment and let us know it was “Open to all USCF members and “Zombies.” I cannot make this up, folks. “First round starts at 10 AM but free pie will be served at 3/14/2015 at 9:26:53 AM following the sequence of pi. Shirley Herman has asked for Peach Pie ala mode and Philipp Ponomarev has asked for Key Lime Pie.”

Is this a great blog, or what?!

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.
http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php&f=24&t=21044

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…(http://www.ora.tv/offthegrid/senator-angus-king-vs-darth-cheney-0_4ub9v4vxhn35)

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part I
By GM Sam Shankland
February 3, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12944/798/

Shankland on his Rise From GM to Top Hundred: Part II
By GM Sam Shankland
February 12, 2015
http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12954/798/

GM Sam Shankland – Official Site
http://www.samshankland.com/index

The Daily Chess News Roundup Show

Sevan A. Muradian, International Arbiter and International Organizer, and Illinois Delegate, posted a link to a skit on The Daily Show on the USCF forum, without making any comment. (http://www.uschess.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=21282&sid=a4a1a47dac15766671e98aa586184c71)

For those who do not know, The Daily Show is a popular comedy show. I recall some years ago reading something about more young people obtaining news from Jon Stewart’s show than from what is now called “mainstream” news sources, such as the antiquated “big three,” ABC, NBC, and CBS, Cable News Network, and the “Fairly Unbalanced” FOX news network. After watching what passes for news on FOX who can blame them?

Someone using the handle “chessdad 64” in Chicago left this comment:

“I like the Daily Show a lot, but I thought this bit fell flat on its face. Rather than it’s usual clever, and creative insights, this piece relied upon the age old tired stereotypes that characterize chess culture (nerds, boredom, et al). The lameness of this sketch reflects upon the failure and laziness of the Daily Show’s writing staff as well as that of chess industrial complex in the US which has done nothing to effectively dispel the popular culture of these tired antiquated yarns.”

It has been my experience that some, if not most, of those in the chess world simply cannot understand how the players of the Royal game are perceived by those outside the world of chess. Perception is reality. For example, consider this headline from December 10, 2014, Half of Americans Don’t Want Their Sons Playing Football, Poll Shows (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2014-12-10/bloomberg-politics-poll-half-of-americans-dont-want-their-sons-playing-football). The next headline informs us of which half:
Poll: Wealthy, College-Educated Less Likely to Want Kids to Play Football (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/football-high/poll-wealthy-college-educated-less-likely-to-want-kids-to-play-football/).

Parents do not want their children maimed. This is the secondary headline in the latter article: “Women and elites in particular want to keep their boys off the gridiron.” Football is dying. It could be the game will still be played by those from the lower socioeconomic class, as is the case in boxing, but what has passed for football in this country has seen its heyday.

Chess people are quick to point out how many are playing chess these days. What they do not mention is the vast majority are children who are doing what they are told. When the children first begin to think for themselves and begin questioning, around puberty, they quit playing chess. Could the reason be they learn the perception of chess is that it is considered a strange game by the vast majority of the people in the world? Could it be the children realize there is much truth in the way chess is portrayed by the media? Could it be that many of the children want to be accepted by their peers rather than being ostracized for playing what is thought of as a “weird” game?

I laughed uproariously at the skit, especially the part about Rootin’ Tootin’ RasPootin’…Check it out for yourself here: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/oxku1b/chess-news-roundup

‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ Found Beaten and Stabbed to Death

Stephen Dillard, 55, was found beaten and stabbed to death Friday in his Jeffersontown, Kentucky, home, and police charged one of his former foster kids with murder. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/14/mr-kentucky-chess-found-stabbed-jtown/24771833/)

Police said around 11 a.m., Ronshai Jenefor beat and stabbed to death a man at his home on Thelma Lane. Jeffersontown investigators found Jenefor walking in the rain, not far from the scene, two hours after the body of the Carrithers Middle School teacher was discovered in the home. Police said Jenefor confessed to the killing and had lived there. (http://www.whas11.com/story/news/crime/2015/03/13/20-year-old-faces-murder-charge-after-teacher-killed-in-jeffersontown/70310244/)

Even in confirming the death of 55-year-old Dillard, police disclosed scant details about the events leading up to Dillard’s homicide and the arrest of Ronshai Jenefor, 21, a foster son who had lived with Dillard for several months. (http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2015/03/15/community-mourns-slain-chess-mentor-teacher/24820687/)

These are the basic facts as they are known at this time. Having lived in Louisville and having known the man everyone called Steve, I was obviously shocked upon learning of his death in such a brutal fashion. I cannot stop thinking about something former Georgia Chess Champion Michael Decker, a native of Louisville, used to say so frequently it became almost a mantra, “No good dead goes unpunished.”

During one of my first visits to the quick-play tournament Steve directed at a big box store, called Monday at Meijer’s, Steve introduced me to a woman seeking a chess teacher for her son. I did not know then, but now know, why Steve knew so much about the boy, who had been expelled from school. Before his brutal demise all I knew about Steve was that he was a school teacher. Because I tried to teach this boy for about two years, I have a practical understanding of why Fernand Gobet & Guillermo Campitelli wrote in Educational benefits of chess instruction: A critical review (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/chess-offers-low-level-gains-for-society/) “…compulsory instruction is not to be recommended, as it seems to lead to motivational problems.” Steve also gave me what turned out to be prophetic advice on a personal matter which I, being the recalcitrant type, did not take, to my detriment.

Steve and I met over the board only once, with that being a quick-play game at a Barnes & Noble. I had the black pieces and played the Dutch. We reached a locked-up position and he offered a draw, which I refused. After losing, Steve asked me why I had turned down his draw offer, and laughed uproariously when I said, “Because I play to WIN!” I did not understand his laughter then, but after reading the following, I can better understand why he laughed.

“Wow. I am stunned.

A story about Steve, as remembered nearly 30 years later:

I still tell this one from time to time. Steve told it to us during my High School days (back in the 1980s) when someone directing a tournament (Geoff McAuliffe?) ejected Steve from the tournament floor because Steve simply could not stop laughing.

What triggered that laughing fit? A rated game Steve was playing against Don Ifill, where Don had checked Steve … with his own king … and punched the clock.”

Russ Billings (http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=2)

For the first time in years I went to the Kentucky Chess Association website to read about the death, bringing back memories of some of those writing on the forum. Nothing better exemplifies why Steve Dillard was known as ‘Mr. Kentucky Chess’ than this:

“Steve paid for my first membership and encouraged me to get involved with KCA politics. He believed that I could be a positive figure in that process. The last time I spoke to him I was worried that my chess play would suffer because of my KCA board involvement. He reassured me that I could still achieve my master rating while being president.

Without Steve I wouldn’t know anyone on this thread. I probably wouldn’t even be involved in chess if Steve hadn’t left that chess club flyer at my second job in 2002. It’s funny how things turn out sometimes.

This is truly a sad day in chess.

R.I.P Steve. You will be missed.

Randas Burns

KCA President”
(http://kcachess.webs.com/apps/forums/topics/show/13151200-steve-dillard-has-passed?page=1)

In an article on the USCF website, Chess Community Loses Great Ambassador, Steve Dillard, Frank Niro writes, “He was known for his “Steve Dillard rule” where he allowed players to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score, as a way to encourage new players.” (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/12989/806/)

The rule transmogrified into any player being able to deduct five minutes from their clocks and not keep score , in contravention to USCF rules, but the chess community allowed it because of the stature held by Steve Dillard. Few reach a point when they are above the rules, but Steve Dillard had obviously reached that point in USCF. Steve had as much gravitas in the chess community as anyone has ever had in any local chess community. Steve Dillard was, first and foremost, a chess player. It is said that, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” From some of the comments on the Chess Affiliate thread concerning “threats and accusations” it is obvious the internecine war in Kentucky chess has begun, and this before Steve has been laid to rest. From what little I know about Steve Dillard it is obvious he would be appalled at some of what has been written. We can only hope the chess community in Derby City can use this tragic event to come together, not pull apart. Before they write, say, or do anything, they could ask, “What would Steve do?”

My condolences to the family, and the Kentucky chess family, of Steve Dillard. May he rest in peace.

Here is a link to Steve’s obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/louisville/obituary.aspx?n=stephen-p-dillard&pid=174427909&fhid=4753

Playing With The Polar Bear

An article on the Chessdom website published March 9, 2015, GM Danielsen publishes The Polar Bear System, caught my eye. It begins, “The famous Grandmaster from Iceland – Henrik Danielsen – has published his first edition of The Polar Bear System. GM Danielsen shared, “I have spent 15 years developing the Polar Bear system. Indeed I have turned every stone in the system and lost many games in doing so. Since there is no theory of importance I had to work hard. I read everything about the Dutch defense and used the ideas with reversed colors. So the theory in the book is mainly created with my own games and analysis.”

“The Polar Bear System starts with 1.f4 (the Bird opening) and then fianchetto of the kings, bishop as a mirror image of the Leningrad Dutch.” (http://www.chessdom.com/gm-danielsen-publishes-the-polar-bear-system/)

I have played this system without knowing it was called “The Polar Bear System.” I cannot help but wonder if the chess players down under, in Australia, have developed a Koala Bear System…

I clicked on “See the official website of The Polar Bear System” and saw this, a continuation from above, “I had to select the cream. And turn the cream into a repertoire book. Omitting lines in which I do not believe.

“Every game and every move has been checked by the chess programs Stockfish and Fritz 13. It will not be easy for the reader to find a tactical mistake in the text. It is on purpose I have chosen to comment the games with short text. Boiling the material down and letting the games speak for themselves. The repertoire is for serious club players but also professionals can get inspired.” (http://www.polarbearsystem.com/about-pbs.html)

At this point the Polar had me in a Bear hug, so I clicked on where it says, “But the book hear!” I landed in the Amazon, going from the grip of a Polar Bear into that of a Gorilla. For sixteen inflated US digits I could have purchased the “book” with one more click. Unfortunately for me the “book” only comes in digits, and I would need something named a “Kindle” to read those digits. Finding nothing about a real book, I decided to click on “contact” and sent GM Danielsen an email, asking if he had any plans for a book we e-reader challenged people could purchase. This was his reply: “On Tuesday, March 10, 2015 3:35 PM, The Polarbear System gmhenrikdanielsen wrote:

Hello Michael

thank you for your e-mail, I can hopefully publish the book later. I would like that to happen.
All the best of luck to you also.

Regards
GM Henrik Danielsen”

Oh well…Unless and until a book is published I will have to content myself with the video included in the Chessdom article and others I have located, such as this one on youtube: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXq4–F816I&list=PL0Pymw6KEu42sv0wo-pMyrBDzpcYle3Ki), and this one, Blitz Chess #1 with Live Comments – Bird Opening vs GM Hikaru Nakamura (b loss). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXq4–F816I&list=PL0Pymw6KEu42sv0wo-pMyrBDzpcYle3Ki)

And here is an article found on the USCF website, GM Joel on the Polar Bear, By GM Joel Benjamin, March 18, 2009. (http://www.uschess.org/content/view/9203/341/)