Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau: A Review

Checkmate! The Love Story of Mikhail Tal and Sally Landau,

is a beautiful book written about a lifelong love between two people, one of whom, Mikhail Tal,
happened to win a World Chess Championship match against the man called “the patriarch of the Soviet School of Chess,” Mikhail Botvinnik. (

The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (, is a wonderful history of a time long gone with the wind. The author brings to life a different time and the people who lived during the Soviet Communist period. The book, like a Chess game, has only three chapters, the opening by Sally, the middle by Gera, the son of Mikhail and Sally Tal, and the end, again by Sally.

She begins the book by writing about herself. “I am an inconsistent and impulsive person, who first does and only then thinks about what I have done. I am an ordinary, vulnerable woman, in which a womanly nature lived and lives, found joy and finds joy, suffered and suffers, in the full sense of those words. The way I see it, selfishness and a desire for independence somehow manage to coexist inside me with love for the people surrounding me and a subconscious wish to be a woman protected by a man who lives for me – protected by him from all sorts of major and minor everyday troubles.”

Later she writes, “Still sharp contradictions coexisted within me: on the one hand, this immense fear of losing my personal freedom, on the other hand, this equally immense fear of solitude and a subconscious desire to have a strong man beside me with whom I wouldn’t be afraid of falling off an overturned boat in the open seas, even if I didn’t know how to swim. These contradictions played a significant role in my life with Misha…”

She writes about her impression of what it was like being a Jew in the Soviet Union. “So it wasn’t the external appearance of the Tals’ apartment that struck me that evening. Rather, it was its anti-Soviet spirit that I sensed. I immediately inhaled this pleasant middle-class air. It was apparent straight away that the people living there were not “mass-produced” but very much “hand-crafted”, and that relations between them did not fit into the usual framework of socialist society.”

“Misha was born a frail child. He had two fingers missing from his right hand. When she (Ida, Mikhail Tal’s mother) first saw her son after he was brought to her and unwrapped from his swaddling clothes she again fainted in shock at the site of his three crooked fingers. She was unable to breastfeed. Her lack of milk was perhaps due to those shocks. She was treated for a long time after that.

“When he was just six months old, Misha was struck by a nasty meningitis-like infection with a very high temperature and convulsions. The doctor said that his chances of making it were remote, but that survivors turn out to be remarkable people. Well, Misha began to read at the age of three, and by the age of five he was multiplying three-digit numbers – while adults were still struggling to solve the math with a pencil he would tell them the answer.”

“He got “infected” with chess at the age of seven and began to spend nearly all his time at the chess club, nagging adults to play him.”

Gera was a Medical Doctor and qualified to write about Tal’s well known medical problems.

“Well, the actual start of my father’s physical ailments, however banal it may sound, was the fact of his birth. Ever since then he simply collected illnesses. But the fundamental cause of course was his totally pathological, nephrotic kidney. It tortured him relentlessly. People suffering from kidney disease know that there is nothing worse in the world than pains in the kidneys. I don’t understand how such people can even exist, let alone play chess. I’m sure that it wasn’t my father who lost the return match to Botvinnik,

but his diseased kidney.”

“My father treated his life like a chess game, somewhat philosophically. There’s the opening, then the opening transposes into the middle game, and if no disaster strikes in the middle game you get into a dull, technical endgame, in which a person ultimately has no chances. As far as I know, father didn’t gain pleasure from playing endgames – he found them boring and insipid. Force him to give up smoking, brandy, partying and female admirers – basically, the source of intense experiences in the middle game of life – and he would find himself in the endgame, when he would have nothing left to do other than passively see out the rest of his life. However, that would have been a different person just resembling Tal. And what’s the difference – to die spiritually or die physically if you can no longer be Tal?”

Throughout their life, together and apart, Mikhail and Sally had other loves and lovers, yet remained friends. A love interest of his was written about but only named by the letter “L.” Research shows this was Larisa Ivanovna Kronberg,

a Soviet/Russian actress and a KGB agent. She was named Best Actress at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in A Big Family. In 1958, she was involved in the Ambassador Dejean Affair, Kronberg lured Dejean in a honey trap. She was in a long-time relationship with World Chess Champion Mikhail Tal in the 1960s, they parted in the 1970s. (

Sally had an affair with a man about whom she writes, “I won’t name him in the book. Why? Let’s say he was a high-up government official…I will call him “The Minister”…Let that be his name here.” Reading this caused me to reflect upon something IM Boris Kogan said decades ago about the KGB. “Mike, KGB like octopus with many tentacles that reach everywhere!” The relationship between Sally and “The Minister” was doomed to failure because a good Soviet communist did not consort with a Jew. Sally writes, ” Misha was such a unique person! I was living with Alnis; at the time he was effectively a common-law husband; and Misha understood that perfectly well. And yet, while he treated Alvis with respect, he continued to consider me his only woman and the most important woman in the world – his Saska. Alnis took quite a liking to Misha, saw what a remarkable person he was, and would say of him: “Tal isn’t a Jew. Tal is a chess genius.”

Tal playing the husband of his former wife Joe Kramarz, not only a Chess player but a HUGE fan of Mikhail Tal!

The book is replete with things like this from Yakov Damsky writing in Riga Chess, 1986. “He has a wonderful ability with language and always has a sharp wit. I remember, for example, after a lecture some tactless dude asked Tal: “Is it true you’re a morphinist?” to which Tal instantly replied: “No, I’m a chigorinets!”

“Petrosian once joked morbidly: “If I lived the way Tal does I would have died a long time ago. He’s just like Iron Felix.” (The nickname of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the KGB)

Having worked at the House of Pain I got a kick out of this: “Chess players talk to each other in the language of notation. I was always amazed at this. Although I understood nothing of it, I listened to them as though they were aliens, observing their emotions. If, for example, Tal, Stein and Gufeld got together, their conversation could flow along the following lines:

Gufeld: What would you say to knightdfourfsixbishopg2?
Stein: Bishopgsevenfgknightdefivecheck!
Tal: Yes but you’ve forgotten about if knightfsixintermezzoqueenheight!
Gufeld: Pueenheightrookgeightwithcheckandrooktakesheight and you’re left without you mummy!
Tal: But after bishopeone you’re left without your daddy!
Stein: Bishopeone doesn’t work because of the obvious knighttakesoneecfourdekinggsevenrookasevencheck!

And this wonderful chitchat would continue endlessly, with people not “in-the-know” thinking they were in a madhouse.”

During tournaments at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center it could be, at times, a “Madhouse of Pain.”

A player would walk up talking about his game in these terms while having the position clearly in his mind. I, on the other hand, had no clue, but would nod in agreement, or frown when called for, while commiserating with the player, understanding, but not understanding, if you get my drift. The worst was when two players who had just finished their game would come downstairs talking in variations, bantering back and forth, then look at me asking, “What do you think, Mr. Bacon?!” To which my usual response was, “That’s a heckofaline!” Hopefully they would smile and nod in agreement before giving way to the next player or players wishing to tell me all about their game…

“A grandmaster said to me once: “When Misha finds himself in a hopeless position, his head tells him this but he doesn’t believe that he, Tal, has no chances. He starts to seek a saving combination, convinced that such a combination exists – it’s just a matter of locating it. And as a rule he finds it. However, despite all its beauty and numerous sacrifices, the combination turns out to be flawed, and then the defeat becomes for him even more painful and humiliating than if he had been physically dragged face down in the road.”

After reading the above I reflected upon a game recently played over contain in the latest issue of Chess Life magazine. In reply to a letter to the editor GM Andy Soltis writes, “Good point, Dr. Seda-Irizzary. Tal is a splendid example because he understood the principle of “Nothing Left to Lose.” That is, when you are truly lost, you should forget about finding a “best” move that merely minimizes your lost-ness.” The game follows:

Vassily Smyslov

vs Mikhail Tal

Candidates Tournament Bled/Zagreb/Belgrade 10/03/1959 round 15

B42 Sicilian, Kan, 5.Bd3

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.O-O d5 8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Qe2 Be7 10.Re1 O-O 11.b3 a5 12.Bb2 a4 13.a3 axb3 14.cxb3 Qb6 15.exd5 cxd5 16.b4 Nd7 17.Nb3 e5 18.Bf5 e4 19.Rec1 Qd6 20.Nd4 Bf6 21.Rc6 Qe7 22.Rac1 h6 23.Rc7 Be5 24.Nc6 Qg5 25.h4 Qxh4 26.Nxe5 Nxe5 27.Rxc8 Nf3+ 28.gxf3 Qg5+ 29.Kf1 Qxf5 30.Rxf8+ Rxf8 31.fxe4 dxe4 32.Qe3 Rd8 33.Qg3 g5 34.Rc5 Rd1+ 35.Kg2 Qe6 36.b5 Kh7 37.Rc6 Qd5

38.Qe5 Rg1+ 39.Kh2 Rh1+ 40.Kg2 Rg1+ ½-½

I conclude the review with this paragraph:

“Salo Flohr,

with whom I was great friends, once showed me around the Moscow chess club, and told me, pointing at the photos of world champions on the wall: Sallynka, look at them. They are all the most normal, mad people.” Well, I’m ever thankful that I lived my life among such “normal, mad people” as Misha,



and Tolya Karpov.

(Garry Kasparov is also a genius, but not mad – that’s my opinion, anyway.)”

I enjoyed this wonderful book immensely. Anyone with a love of the history of the Royal Game will be greatly rewarded for spending their time reading a beautifully written love story surrounded by the “mad men” who play the game of Chess. Please keep in mind I have told you not all the words.
I give it all the stars in the universe!


The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein: A Review

Ilan Rubin, founder and CEO, LLC Elk and Ruby Publishing House (www.elkand read the post, The Laws of the Najdorf ( in which I mentioned having a desire to read the book published by his company, The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein,

by Genna Sosonko

then contacted me wanting to know if I would be interested in writing a book review. I answered in the affirmative and the book was on its way. I have recently purchased another book published by his company, Team Tal: An Inside Story,

by Valentin Kirillov

and Alexei Shirov,

which has arrived and is on top of a stack of books to be read. So many books, so little time…

David Bronstein

gave a simul at the House of Pain which I have always regretted missing. The owner of the Atlanta Chess Center, Thad Rogers, had some awful things to say about the Bronstein visit. After reading the book I have a better understanding of why Mr. Rogers said those things.

The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein, by Genna Sosonko, is a extremely disquieting book. Yet I was riveted, reading all two hundred seventy one pages in only a few days. I have spent much more time thinking about the book than time spent reading it.

I have read all of the books by the author, and in addition, many articles. Genna is one of the best writers on the game of Chess. This book could be his best work. I write that knowing some may find the subject matter upsetting. The book concerns the aging of a Giant of the Chess world. “Colleague champion” was how former World Chess Champion Max Euwe

addressed David Bronstein in a telegram after the 1951 World Championship match between Bronstein and Mikhail Botvinnik,

the man who called himself, “First among peers,” which ended in a 12-12 tie. There can be no higher compliment.

Certainly there should have been a return match for the crown, but there was no match. When Botvinnik lost his crown, first to Mikhail Tal,

then to Vassily Smyslov,

there was a return match in which Botvinnik regained the title.

“You know, Botvinnik should have allowed me a return match; he was obliged to. In truth, though, I’m glad that I’m not hanging in the gallery at the chess club. Do you realize it was just half a point, half a point? And then, everything would have been completely different. Chess history and everything else. You see, Botvinnik and I had totally different outlooks on chess, and we were quite different people, too.”

The book left me wondering if Bronstein would have won a return match. Bronstein was afraid to win the match with Botvinnik for many of the same reasons Bobby Fischer

was afraid to play a match for the Chess championship of the world against any Russian. At the time of the 1951 match Bronstein’s father was being held in a Soviet gulag. How can one play his best while wondering what the “authorities” might do in reprisal if one wins? When living in a totalitarian system one tends to want to appease those who run the system, or at least not upset the Darth Vader’s in control.

One of the themes of the book considers the mental health of the Colleague champion. It caused me to consider a book read many years ago: Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John J. Ratey.

No human is perfect; we all have a certain percentage of different kinds of mental illness. The question is what percentage constitutes a full blown mental illness? Those who judge must determine if, for example, someone who has 49% of a particular mental illness, is considered mentally ill. What if that person rates in at 51%? Where is the line drawn? Who draws the line? While working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center I had several people ask me if I thought this or that person was mentally ill. My answer was invariably the same. “I am not the one to ask that question.” When asked why, the reply would be, “On more than one occasion I have heard it said in the skittles room, “That guy Bacon is NUTS!”

“Botvinnik never took Bronstein seriously. His diary was full of negative and sarcastic commentary on his future opponent’s style: “neurotic and probably plagued by obsessive thoughts, but hard-working,” is one comment.

“Disregarding the fundamental truth that several different excuses always sound less convincing than one, Bronstein found a number of scapegoats and reasons for his loss: his hatred-filled opponent, the atmosphere of that time, fear for his father, his seconds, who neglected their duties, walks with a girlfriend who didn’t care about his career, and the hardships he had endured.”

“Psychologists say that you need to separate the ‘here and now’ from the ‘there and then’. They advise you to stop feeling regret about what was in the past and not to fool yourself. Bronstein didn’t want to come to terms with his past and nobody close to him dared to tell him that the match with Botvinnik was in the past, that life hadn’t stopped, and it was time to move on. Nobody dared to hit him over the head with the facts, to bring him back to reality. I admit to not knowing how such an attempt would have turned out, but nobody even attempted it, and everybody who regularly interacted with him shares responsibility for him remaining in such a state until the very end.”

“Bronstein the philosopher and Bronstein the talker had pushed aside Bronstein the chess player, and he increasingly seemed to be almost at odds with himself.”

“Ideas were bubbling in his head,” Yuri Averbakh

recalled. “He literally breathed them, couldn’t stop talking about everything that came to his mind. ‘How does your wife put up with your fountain of language?’ I once asked him. ‘She goes to visit the neighbours once she can’t put up with it any longer,’ David admitted with a guilty smile.”

Tom Furstenberg wrote: “David has so much to talk about he constantly ‘harasses’ organisers, sponsors, arbiters, and players with his ideas, even to the point of annoying them. This is why organisers occasionally do not want him in their tournaments and people sometimes do not take him seriously.”

“Furstenberg states that Bronstein also had other offers at the time, but none of them came to anything for the same reason. When Tom strongly recommended that he speak less, and especially stop repeating himself, Davy would answer, “I like people.” Of course, that wasn’t quite true. He liked people when they listened to him in admiration. Others, though, interested him only as an outlet to revisit Davy’s past.”

“It would probably have been useful for him to visit a therapist. The latter would have asked about something, and Davy would have talked for hours without even politely inquiring “how are you?” He never asked anybody that question. I can’t ever recall him asking me how things were or what plans I had. It was always about him, himself, and his chess. His place in chess was the meaning and substance of his entire life.”

“His listeners (including me) wouldn’t ask difficult questions out of respect for this great chess player and highly insecure person. As such, we strengthened his conceit and intoxication with his own uniqueness. If my opinion wasn’t the same as his, I would rarely disagree with him openly, although I could have argued frequently. I was constantly aware that I was talking with an outstanding chess player and, at the same time, a slightly unhinged person.”

“Psychotic symptoms are a normal part of human development, and everybody has a genetic inclination to experience them. Particular risk factors, though, are childhood traumas, and a psychotic state or neurosis may fuel or intensify genius.”

It got back to me that the owner of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, Thad Rogers, said I was a “Small, insecure man.” I have probably been called worse. It made me wonder why someone would say that about me. I am, like Bronstein, a small man. Like most children who were bullied I have reason to be insecure. Bullies pick smaller boys as their targets because they are cowards. I learned boxing at a Boys Club and fought back against the cowards, and feel I have been fighting all my life. Reading this book caused empathetic feelings to be evoked.

“Viktor Korchnoi

invited Bronstein to Brussels in 1991 to his match with Jan Timman,

but he never engaged his services. “He talks so much that it gives me a headache,” Viktor explained to his seconds.

“He would trustingly take his ‘victim’ aside and he would start to fire off his ideas, thoughts, and views in a quiet, nearly toneless voice. Sometimes, they were interesting, sometimes amusing or moralizing, but always original, unexpected, and paradoxical, and Bronstein would experience genuine satisfaction if he sensed he had been able to ensnare his listener in a web of his monologue, filled with complicated twists and turns,” Mark Taimanov


"Among his repeat stories, the endless refrain was, of course, his match with Botvinnik, and he constantly talked about what had been and what might have been had what happened not happened. His other monologue subjects included: reforming the rules of chess, including allowing the pieces to be set up freely behind the row of pawns, reducing the time allowed for thinking, the compulsory use of charts showing how much time is spent on thinking, as well as the idea that young players who think that they are the first to comprehend the game's subtleties and who receive enormous prized for doing so, dance on living classics' graves."

I could not help but wonder if a better word would have been "soliloquy" in lieu of "monologue."

"Although conversing with Bronstein was a tough challenge, the reward, when the grandmaster was in the mood, came in the form of brilliant flashes of colorful comparisons, clever thoughts and unusual conclusions that his listeners would never forget."

"Bronstein didn't like the fact that computers brought the truth in chess closer, that memorization had replaced improvisation: "By inventing computers, they wiped the wonderful game of chess from the face of the Earth. Chess is in crisis because it has been analyzed to death. The sense of mystery has disappeared. Chess today has nothing to do with the chess that my generation played."

A friend who stopped playing Chess, turning to Poker, said much the same thing, "GMs used to be thought of as some kind of mysterious Gods. Now there are considered to be nothing more than mere mortals."

Botvinnik was Bronstein's bête noire.

"Moreover, just like in all of Bronstein's deliberations, there was no avoiding the main wrongdoer. He criticized the 'computer' way of Botvinnik's thinking, claiming that the latter "reacted painfully to another man's genius and wrote with pretend disdain about chess as an art. Let's quote Botvinnik here: "Sometimes (and maybe often!) the thinking of a chess player is surrounded by mystique: the workings of a player's brains are presented as some sort of wonder, a magical and totally inexplicable phenomenon. Further, it is claimed that not only is the thinking of chess 'geniuses' a mystery, but that advantage is gained at the board thanks to some magical laws of chess art. We need to accept that unidentified laws of the chess battle do indeed exist, but that they can and will be identified just like the as yet unidentified way a grandmaster thinks. Moreover, it's fair to assume that these laws and the ways of thinking are relatively elementary – after all, youngsters play chess, and fairly well?" Botvinnik wrote in 1960."

"When he began, yet again, to claim: Believe me, that champion's title was of no interest to me," I said, "do you know David, how Toulouse-Latrec's grandfather informed his wife, born a duchess, at the breakfast table just what they had lost in the revolution of 1789?"
Bronstein looked at me nonplussed. "When his wife replied that she didn't give a damn, the artist's grandfather smiled sarcastically and stated, 'you certainly do give a damn, Citizen Duchess, because you wouldn't have talked about it every day if you didn't give a damn.' "
"Let me assure you," said David pulling me by the arm, "that I really don't care at all about this. Do you really think that I missed Na7 in game 23? Such an obvious move? Do you really believe that?"
I realized that any criticism on this matter was pointless and never again interrupted him when he got going about his match with Botvinnik.
The fear embedded in the minds of Soviet citizens who had lived through that terrible era was one reason for his unfinished thoughts, his hints, and his reticence…
How can one express the atmosphere of 1951 – when he was already an adult and a public figure – in words? How much willpower and which subtle hints are required to recreate the darkness of the time?"

Another time, "What ideas did Botvinnik have, I ask? Do you really think I didn't see that I shouldn't have taken the pawn and given white the advantage of two bishops versus two knights in game 23? Do you really think I missed that?"

Still later, "How was I supposed to play chess anyway, when I had this constant feeling of terror? Not facing Botvinnik, although I overestimated him at the time, I thought he was better than he turned out to be. No, it was terror facing my personal situation, the country I lived in, everything together. You experienced something similar, even if it wasn't for long. So you must understand what I'm talking about."

Reading the book made me think of David Bronstein as the Don Quixote of Chess.

"The functionaries did indeed dislike this now professional troublemaker, but realizing he was an oddball, they allowed him to play the role of frondeur, dreamer, village idiot, and eccentric maverick waving a toy sword.”

“That was the case with David Bronstein, too. In the half-century that followed, his tournaments included some brilliant games, elegant moves and original ideas, but there were no consistently strong results, or continual flow of inspiration. The formidable, ingenious player left him long before his actual death.You could perceive his abilities of old here and there in the games, but most of them were lacking in both joy and vigour.”

“At the very end, he became even more irritable and complained about everything. About his life ruined by chess and lived in vain. And of course, Davy complained about this Sosonko dude, who was just waiting pen in hand for him to kick the bucket so that he could publish his memoirs about the near world champion. The interesting thing, though, is that all of Davy’s complaints, although frequently unfair and exaggerated, and sometimes even absurd, had a grain of truth to them.”

“The fate of those long in the tooth is loneliness. Besides illnesses and adversity, the loss of friends and relatives, the horror of living without witnesses was tougher for him to bear than perhaps for anybody else. After all, there is no soul more desolate than an idol whose name was once on everybody’s lips.”

“Once, however, after repeating for the umpteenth time that Botvinnik had been utterly right all along, he added with a childlike smile: “Though that was still one hell of an imagination I possessed.”

“My heart began to ache at those words, however, and a powerful thought pierced my mind: “why did I write all that stuff about this great chess player who suffered so much at the end of his life? Why? What was the point of all that philosophizing and those attempted explanations? Who was all that for?” You see, I knew deep own that I shouldn’t have tried to recall anything. I should have left the departed alone in their graves and should have allowed the living to keep their illusions.”

This “Sosonko dude” was obviously troubled and full of doubt. In deciding to publish the book he has done the Chess world a great service.

“When Vladimir Nabokov

died, his niece scolded his wife, Vera, for apparently allowing her husband to die. The writer’s wife responded: “Vladimir died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed: thinking and writing.”

After reading those words I realized my life, too, will end when I am unable to do those things.

“Let’s repeat these harsh words here: David Bronstein died exactly when he was supposed to die. He was no longer able to do what he enjoyed most of all – to play, discuss, and think about chess.”

This is a magnificent book, written with love for the subject. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Purchase and read this stunning, thought provoking book.

Up Against the Berlin Wall

In Chess Informant 118 Garry Kasparov writes, “The sharp character of these games shows the Berlin is indeed a rich and subtle middlegame, and not an endgame. And if White pushes too hard, the absence of queens from the board does not offer him any safety.” (

In a recent article on the Chessbase website, “Kasparov: The quality of the games was not so high,” Garry wrote, “On a personal note, I find it ironic that 14 years after I was criticized for not beating Vladimir Kramnik’s Berlin Defense, when I lost my title in London, the Berlin has become an absolute standard at the highest level. Amateurs may find it boring, but it is really not an endgame at all, but a complex queenless middlegame that can be very sharp, as we saw in the final Carlsen-Anand game.” (

As an amateur, I concur with Garry. The Berlin, with its concomitant early Queen exchange, is boring. The elite players play a different game from that played by the hoi poi. The commentators know this and go overboard in trying to inject some “excitement” into the Berlin for the fans, or at least the ones still awake.

The Legendary Georgia Ironman has for decades told students that an early Queen trade usually, in general terms, favors Black. Understood is the fact that, sans Queen, Black will not be checkmated early in the game. It goes without saying that the Berlin, as Tim has been heard to say, “Fits my style.” Why then give Black what he wants by trading Queens?

There are many ways of battling the Berlin without trading Queens. The Great man, Emanuel Lasker, showed the way in an 1892 match played in the USA:

Emanuel Lasker vs Jackson Whipps Showalter

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bc5 5. Bxc6 bxc6 6. Nxe5 O-O 7. c3 a5 8. d4 Ba6 9. Qf3 Re8 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Nd2 Rb8 12. b3 Qc8 13. c4 Bd8 14. O-O c5 15. Qh3 Re6 16. Nef3 Nxe4 17. Nxe4 Rxe4 18. Bxd8 Qxd8 19. Qf5 Qe7 20. Rae1 Re6 21. d5 g6 22. Qf4 Qd6 23. Qxd6 Rxd6 24. Ng5 a4 25. Ne4 axb3 26. axb3 Rxb3 27. Nxd6 cxd6 28. Rc1 Rb4 29. Rb1 Bxc4 30. Rxb4 cxb4 31. Rd1 Ba2 32. Rd2 b3 33. Rb2 Kg7 34. f4 Kf6 35. Kf2 g5 36. Kf3 h6 37. Ke4 Kg6 38. f5+ Kf6 39. g4 Ke7 40. Kd4 Kf6 41. Ke4 Ke7 42. Kd3 Kf6 43. Kd4 Kg7 44. Kc3 h5 45. gxh5 Kh6 46. Re2 b2 47. Rxb2 Bxd5 48. Rd2 Be4 49. Rxd6+ Kxh5 50. f6 Bf5 51. Kd4 Be6 52. Ke5 g4 53. Rd3 Kg6 54. Rd2 Kg5 55. Rf2 Kg6 56. Kd6 Kg5 57. Ke7 Kh5 58. Re2 Kg6 59. Re5 Bb3 60. Rb5 Be6 61. Rb6 Bc4 62. Rb8 Be6 63. Rh8 Kg5 64. Rh7 d5 65. Rxf7 Bxf7 66. Kxf7 d4 67. Kg7 d3 68. f7 1-0

4 Qe2 versus the Berlin should be called the “Lasker variation” against the Berlin. Here is another game with the Lasker variation in which a player well-known for playing Qe2 against the French tried it versus the Berlin:

Mikhail Chigorin vs Siegbert Tarrasch
Budapest 1896

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 exd4 6. e5 d3 7. cxd3 dxe5 8.
Nxe5 Bb4+ 9. Bd2 O-O 10. Bxc6 Bxd2+ 11. Nxd2 bxc6 12. Nxc6 Qd6 13. Ne7+ Kh8 14.
Nxc8 Raxc8 15. O-O Rfd8 16. Ne4 Qxd3 17. Qxd3 Rxd3 18. Nxf6 gxf6 19. Rfd1 Rcd8
20. Rxd3 Rxd3 21. g3 Rd2 22. Rc1 Rxb2 23. Rxc7 Rxa2 24. Rxf7 Ra6 25. Kg2 Kg8
26. Rb7 Ra2 27. h4 a6 28. Kf3 h5 29. Rc7 Ra5 30. Kf4 Kf8 31. f3 Kg8 32. Ra7 Kf8
33. g4 hxg4 34. fxg4 Ra1 35. Kf5 Rf1+ 36. Kg6 Rf4 37. g5 fxg5 38. hxg5 Ra4 39.
Ra8+ Ke7 40. Kh6 a5 41. g6 Ra1 42. g7 Rh1+ 43. Kg6 Rg1+ 44. Kh7 Rh1+ 45. Kg8
Ra1 46. Ra7+ Ke8 47. Ra6 Rh1 48. Rxa5 Re1 49. Rh5 Rg1 50. Re5+ Kd7 51. Kh7 1-0

A few more games in chronological order:

Mikhail Tal vs Viktor Korchnoi
Candidates SF, Moscow, 1968

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Ba4 Be7 6. O-O b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a4 b4 9. d3 d6 10. Nbd2 Bg4 11. Qe3 Na5 12. Ba2 c5 13. Nc4 Nc6 14. h3 Bd7 15. Qe2 Rb8 16. Bb3 Ne8 17. Ne3 Na5 18. Bd5 Nc7 19. Bd2 Nxd5 20. Nxd5 Be6 21. Nxe7+ Qxe7 22. Ng5 f6 23. Nxe6 Qxe6 24. f4 Nc6 25. Be3 Nd4 26. Bxd4 cxd4 27. b3 Rbc8 28. Rad1 Rc5 29. Rd2 Rfc8 30. Rf2 a5 31. Qf3 exf4 32. Qxf4 Re5 33. Rfe2 Qe7 34. Qf2 Qa7 35. Kh1 Rce8 36. Kg1 Qc5 37. Qf3 R8e7 38. Kh1 h6 39. Kg1 Re8 40. Kh1 R8e7 41. Kg1 Kf8 42. Rd1 d5 43. Rde1 Kf7 44. h4 dxe4 45. Rxe4 h5 46. Qf4 Rxe4 1/2-1/2

Anatoly Karpov vs Art Bisguier
Caracas 1970

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. c3 d6 6. d4 Nd7 7. O-O O-O 8. Nbd2 Bf6 9. d5 Ne7 10. Bd3 c6 11. c4 a5 12. b3 g6 13. Ba3 c5 14. Bb2 Bg7 15. g3 Kh8 16. Rae1 Nf6 17. Nh4 Nfg8 18. Ng2 a4 19. f4 f6 20. Ne3 Nh6 21. Bc3 axb3 22. axb3 Bh3 23. Rf2 Bd7 24. Qf1 Nf7 25. f5 g5 26. Be2 Ng8 27. h4 gxh4 28. gxh4 Bh6 29. Bh5 Qe7 30. Kh1 Bf4 31. Qh3 b5 32. cxb5 Bxb5 33. Ndc4 Bxe3 34. Nxe3 Ra3 35. Bd1 Ngh6 36. Bb2 Ra2 37. Bh5 Rg8 38. Nd1 Raa8 39. Nc3 Bd7 40. Bc1 Rab8 41. Bd1 Ra8 42. Ne2 Ra2 43. Rg1 Rxg1+ 44. Kxg1 Bb5 45. Nc3 Rxf2 46. Kxf2 Ba6 47. Nb1 Qb7 48. Qc3 Ng8 49. Bh5 Ngh6 50. Nd2 Ng8 51. Ke1 Ngh6 52. Kd1 Bb5 53. Nf3 Qa6 54. Ng5 Be8 55. Be2 Bb5 56. Bh5 Be8 57. Nf3 Bb5 58. Ne1 Qa2 59. Qb2 Qa5 60. Bd2 Qa7 61. Qc3 Qa2 62. Nc2 c4 63. bxc4 Bxc4 64. Qa3 Qb1+ 65. Qc1 Qb3 66. Bxh6 Qd3+ 67. Bd2 Qxe4 68. Qa3 Bxd5 69. Ne3 Qxh4 70. Bxf7 Bxf7 71. Qxd6 Qa4+ 72. Ke1 Qh4+ 73. Kd1 Qa4+ 74. Kc1 Qa1+ 75. Kc2 Qa4+ 76. Kd3 Qb5+ 77. Ke4 Qb7+ 78. Nd5 Qb1+ 79. Ke3 Qg1+ 80. Kd3 Bxd5 81. Qxf6+ Qg7 82. Qd8+ Qg8 83. Qe7 Qg3+ 84. Be3 h5 1/2-1/2

Robert Byrne vs Vassily Smyslov
Alekhine Memorial, Moscow 1971

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 a6 5. Bxc6 dxc6 6. Nc3 Bd6 7. d4 exd4 8. Nxd4 O-O 9. Bd2 Bb4 10. Nf3 Qe7 11. O-O-O Bxc3 12. Bxc3 Qxe4 13. Rhe1 Qxe2 14. Rxe2 Nd5 15. Be5 b5 16. Nd4 Bd7 17. Nb3 Rfe8 18. Rde1 f6 19. Bg3 Rxe2 20. Rxe2 Kf7 21. a3 g5 22. Nc5 Bf5 23. f3 a5 24. h3 h5 25. Re1 Rg8 26. Re2 Bc8 27. Nb3 a4 28. Nc5 Bf5 29. Na6 Rc8 30. Re1 h4 31. Bh2 Be6 32. Nc5 Re8 33. Na6 Re7 34. b3 f5 35. Kd2 f4 36. Bg1 Bf5 37. Rxe7+ Kxe7 38. Nb4 Nxb4 39. Bc5+ Ke6 40. Bxb4 1/2-1/2

Kenneth Rogoff vs William Martz
Lone Pine 1976

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. d5 Nb8 7. Bd3 g6 8. c4 c5 9. Nc3 Na6 10. h3 Nc7 11. a3 h5 12. O-O Bh6 13. Bxh6 Rxh6 14. Qe3 Ng8 15. b4 b6 16. Rab1 f6 17. Rb2 Rh7 18. bxc5 bxc5 19. Nh4 Rg7 20. f4 Rb8 21. Rxb8 Qxb8 22. fxe5 fxe5 23. Qg5 Qb2 24. Nxg6 Rf7 25. Nxe5 Rxf1+ 26. Bxf1 dxe5 27. Qxg8+ Ke7 28. Qg5+ 1-0

Kevin Spraggett vs Robert South
Canada Championship 1978

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. d4 Bd7 6. d5 Nb8 7. Bd3 g6 8. c4 Na6 9. Nc3 Nc5 10. Bc2 a5 11. h3 Bg7 12. Bg5 h6 13. Be3 Nh5 14. g3 Qc8 15. Nh4 Bf6 16. Nf5 Bg5 17. Bxc5 dxc5 18. h4 Bd8 19. Ba4 Nf6 20. Bxd7+ Qxd7 21. Ne3 Kf8 22. O-O-O Ne8 23. f4 Bf6 24. Ng4 Qe7 25. Rhf1 Kg7 26. d6 cxd6 27. Nd5 Qe6 28. f5 gxf5 29. Ngxf6 Nxf6 30. Nc7 Qd7 31. Nxa8 Rxa8 32. Rxf5 1-0

It always hurts to see the South go down…

Viswanathan Anand vs Susan Polgar
Amber-rapid, Monte Carlo 1994

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O O-O 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. Nxe5 Re8 8. d3 Bc5 9. Nf3 Bg4 10. Be3 Bd6 11. Nbd2 b5 12. h3 Bh5 13. a4 a6 14. Rfe1 c5 15. axb5 axb5 16. Qf1 c4 17. dxc4 bxc4 18. Qxc4 Bxf3 19. Nxf3 Rxe4 20. Qd3 Re8 21. Bd4 Rxa1 22. Rxa1 Nd5 23. Re1 Nf4 24. Qd2 Rxe1+ 25. Qxe1 h6 26. Qe4 Ne6 27. Be3 Qb8 28. b3 Qb5 29. g3 Qe2 30. Nd2 Be7 31. Qa8+ Kh7 32. Qf3 Qe1+ 33. Kg2 Kg8 34. Qa8+ Kh7 35. Nf3 Qc3 36. Qe4+ Kg8 37. Nd4 Nxd4 38. Bxd4 Qb4 39. c3 Qd6 40. b4 Qd7 41. b5 f5 42. Qb7 Bd6 43. c4 Kh7 44. Qd5 Qc8 45. c5 Bf8 46. c6 Kh8 47. Qd7 Qa8 48. Qxf5 Qe8 49. Be5 Qd8 50. Bxc7 1-0

Judit Polgar vs Boris Spassky
Veterans-Women 1994

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 d6 5. O-O Bd7 6. c3 g6 7. d4 Qe7 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. a4 Bg7 10. b3 Nh5 11. g3 Qf6 12. Bg5 Qe6 13. Nbd2 Qg4 14. Kh1 O-O 15. Be3 Nf6 16. Rad1 Rad8 17. Ng1 Qxe2 18. Bxe2 b6 19. f3 Nh5 20. b4 f5 21. a5 f4 22. Bf2 fxg3 23. hxg3 g5 24. Nc4 g4 25. Ne3 Nf6 26. Kg2 gxf3+ 27. Bxf3 bxa5 28. b5 Ne7 29. c4 c6 30. bxc6 Nxc6 31. Nd5 Rf7 32. Ne2 Ng4 33. Bg1 h5 34. Rb1 Be6 35. Nec3 Nd4 36. Bd1 Rxf1 37. Kxf1 Bf8 38. Rb7 Rd7 39. Rb8 Kg7 40. Kg2 Rf7 41. Nf4 Bd7 42. Rb7 Nf6 43. Rb1 Bb4 44. Ncd5 Nxe4 45. Bxh5 Rf8 46. Ng6 Rf5 47. Nxe5 Nc2 48. Nxd7 Rxh5 49. g4 Ne1+ 50. Rxe1 Rxd5 51. Rxe4 Rxd7 52. c5 Rd2+ 53. Kf3 Rc2 54. Re7+ Kg6 55. Bd4 Rc4 56. Rg7+ Kh6 57. g5+ Kh5 58. Be3 Bxc5 59. Rh7+ Kg6 60. Rh6+ Kg7 61. Rc6 Bxe3 62. Rxc4 Bxg5 1/2-1/2

Alexandra Kosteniuk vs Elena Zayac
8th EU-Cup (women) 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bd6 5. c3 O-O 6. d3 Re8 7. Bg5 a6 8. Ba4 Bf8 9. Nbd2 d6 10. Nf1 h6 11. Bh4 g6 12. Ne3 Bg7 13. O-O Bd7 14. Bb3 Qc8 15. Nd2 Nh5 16. g3 Bh3 17. Ng2 Na5 18. Bd1 Nf6 19. f4 Bg4 20. Qf2 Be6 21. fxe5 Nh7 22. Bf6 dxe5 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. b4 Nc6 25. d4 exd4 26. cxd4 Ng5 27. Qf6+ Kg8 28. d5 Qd8 29. Qc3 Bxd5 30. exd5 Qxd5 31. h4 Ne6 32. Rf2 Qd4 33. Qxd4 Nexd4 34. Nb3 Nf5 35. g4 Nd6 36. a3 Ne5 37. Nd2 Kg7 38. Be2 f5 39. gxf5 Nxf5 40. Nc4 Rad8 41. Nxe5 Rxe5 42. Bg4 Ne3 43. Nxe3 Rxe3 44. Raf1 Re7 45. h5 Rd4 46. Rg2 g5 47. Bf5 Rc4 48. Rg3 c5 49. bxc5 Rxc5 50. Bg6 Rce5 51. Rgf3 Re1 52. Rf7+ Rxf7 53. Rxe1 Rc7 54. Re6 Rc3 55. a4 Rc4 56. a5 Rc5 57. Be4 Rxa5 58. Rg6+ Kf7 59. Rxh6 Re5 60. Bg6+ Kf6 61. Bd3+ Kg7 62. Rh7+ Kf6 63. Rxb7 Re7 64. Rb8 Kg7 65. Rb6 Re8 66. h6+ Kh8 67. Rxa6 Rd8 68. Bg6 Rb8 69. Kg2 Rd8 70. Kg3 Rb8 71. Kg4 Rb4+ 72. Kh5 Rb8 73. Ra7 g4 74. Rh7+ Kg8 75. Rg7+ Kh8 76. Be4 Rb5+ 77. Kg6 Rg5+ 78. Kxg5 1-0

Magnus Carlsen vs Can Arduman
19th EU-Cup 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O d6 6. d4 Bd7 7. Bxc6 Bxc6 8.
Nc3 exd4 9. Nxd4 Bd7 10. f4 O-O 11. Kh1 Re8 12. e5 dxe5 13. fxe5 Bd6 14. Bf4
Bg4 15. Qb5 Bd7 16. Qxb7 Bxe5 17. Bxe5 Rxe5 18. Rad1 Qc8 19. Qf3 c5 20. Nb3 Bc6
21. Qg3 Qg4 22. Qxg4 Nxg4 23. Na5 Be8 24. Nc4 Re6 25. h3 Nf6 26. Rf5 Rc8 27.
Nd6 Rc6 28. Nb7 g6 29. Rxc5 Rb6 30. Nd8 Red6 31. Rxd6 Rxd6 32. Rc8 Rd2 33. Nc6
Rxc2 34. Nxa7 Rxb2 35. Ne4 Kg7 36. Nxf6 Ba4 37. Ne8+ Kh6 38. Nd6 f5 39. a3 Rb3
40. Nf7+ Kh5 41. Rh8 g5 42. Ne5 g4 43. Rxh7+ Kg5 44. hxg4 fxg4 45. Rg7+ Kf6 46.
Rxg4 Rxa3 47. Nac6 1-0

Magnus Carlsen vs Davide Isonzo
Claude Pecaut Memorial 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Be7 5. O-O d6 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Bd7 8.
Bxc6 bxc6 9. Rd1 O-O 10. e5 dxe5 11. Nxc6 Qe8 12. Nxe7+ Qxe7 13. Bg5 Bc6 14.
Qc4 Qe6 15. Qxe6 fxe6 16. Nd2 Rab8 17. b3 Nd5 18. Nc4 Rf5 19. Be3 Nf4 20. Bxf4
exf4 21. Re1 Rg5 22. g3 Bd5 23. Ne5 Rf8 24. c4 Bb7 25. Nd7 Rf7 26. Re5 Rgf5 27.
g4 Rxe5 28. Nxe5 Rf8 29. Rd1 h5 30. Ng6 Re8 31. Nxf4 hxg4 32. Rd7 Bf3 33. Nh5
Rf8 34. Rxg7+ Kh8 35. Rd7 Rf5 36. Ng3 Re5 37. Kf1 Ra5 38. a4 Ra6 39. Ke1 Rb6
40. Rd3 e5 41. Kd2 a5 42. h4 Kh7 43. Re3 Re6 44. Ne4 Kg6 45. Ng5 Rd6+ 46. Kc3
e4 47. Nxe4 Rd1 48. Ng3 Rc1+ 49. Kd2 Ra1 50. h5+ Kf6 51. Re8 Ra2+ 52. Ke3 Rb2
53. h6 Kg6 54. Re6+ Kh7 55. Kf4 Rxb3 56. Nf5 Rb6 57. Re7+ Kh8 58. Kg5 Rc6 59.
Nd4 Rxc4 60. Re8+ Kh7 61. Ne6 Re4 62. Re7+ Kh8 63. Kg6 1-0

I leave you with this game, played by a young boy from the Great State of Florida, who was one of the highly-touted junior players that left chess. I used a quote on this blog some time ago about an Emory student who told his frat brothers he was, at one time, a junior chess champion. I confirmed this before being told that AJ said he quit chess because “It has become a game for children.” Who am I to argue with AJ’s astute insight?

AJ Steigman (2242) vs Alex Sherzer (2494)
Philadelphia NCC 2003

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. Qe2 Bc5 5. O-O O-O 6. d3 d6 7. h3 Bd7 8. Nc3
a6 9. Ba4 Ba7 10. Bb3 Re8 11. Nd5 h6 12. c3 Be6 13. Be3 Bxd5 14. Bxd5 Nxd5 15.
exd5 Ne7 16. Bxa7 Rxa7 17. c4 Ng6 18. g3 f5 19. Nh2 c5 20. Rab1 a5 21. Rfe1 b6
22. f4 Qf6 23. fxe5 Rxe5 24. Qf2 f4 25. g4 Rae7 26. Rxe5 Nxe5 27. Rd1 f3 28. b3
Rf7 29. d4 cxd4 30. Rxd4 Qg6 31. Rd1 h5 32. Rd4 Qb1+ 33. Nf1 hxg4 34. hxg4 Nd3
35. Qe3 f2+ 36. Kg2 Ne1+ 37. Kh2 Qh7+ 38. Kg3 Qh1 39. Qe8+ Rf8 40. Qe6+ Kh8 41.
Rf4 Qg1+ 42. Kh3 Qxf1+ 43. Kh4 Qh1+ 44. Kg5 Qh6+ 0-1

The Psychology of Chess

It is difficult for a woodpusher to write about the game of chess played by the best human players because, as Bob Dylan wrote, “The game is the same—it’s just on a different level.” (Po’ Boy by Bob Dylan-

We try our best to understand but from being around those at, or near, the top, it is apparent their understanding is on a higher level. The same can be said about any other game, or sport, I suppose, yet many, if not most, of the greatest writers in the history of baseball never played in the show, and some never played the game on any level. Former MLB player Harold Reynolds had the audacity to tell one famous writer that since he had not played baseball in the major league he could not understand the game. Harold has a right to his opinion only because he did play in the show. After hearing the callous remark I thought there might be some merit to his argument, but that the accomplished writer could have a different understanding of the game.

I can still recall a time when IM Boris Kogan, at a tournament in Florida, knew he would face Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne, in the next round having the black pieces. Boris was lamenting the fact that he had no chance. This left the Legendary Georgia Ironman and I flummoxed. We were having a difficult time understanding his defeatist attitude. “You not understand,” Boris kept saying, “Cannot beat him. He too strong now.” Granted, Walter was at the top of his game, and was much younger than Boris, but still…we had a difficult time wrapping our minds around seeing Boris in that condition. Boris lost that game. The players at the top do not need numbers to know chess strength.

“From London to Elista: The Inside Story of the World Chess Championship Matches that Vladimir Kramnik Won Against Garry Kasparov, Peter Leko, and Veselin Topalov,” by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov is a magnificent book. It won the English Chess Federation 2008 Book-of-the-Year Award. The Gorilla is showing a new copy priced at $221.42; a used copy will set you back $55.00. I am holding on to mine. After reviewing the 7th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik there is a discussion of chess psychology which begins with my all-time favorite quote about Bobby Fischer. “When you’re playing Fischer, the question isn’t whether or not you’ll win; the question is whether or not you’ll survive.” The quote is from the man Bobby vanquished, Boris Spassky.
“SMYSLOV explained to us: ‘It was difficult for me to play Geller for a simple reason-when we sat down at the board, hatred was written on his face, he was ready to destroy his opponent. And if someone fell into that kind of condition, I couldn’t play.”

Geller had a lifetime plus score against Bobby Fischer. Reflecting on this made me wonder about how a player as strong as Hikaru Nakamura is considered Human World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s “regular customer.” Magnus has beaten Hikaru like a drum, with a lifetime score of 11 wins without a defeat in the only games that count, what is now called “classical” games. How is this possible?

“LEVITOV: But now, in my opinion, all chess players have become highly-qualified psychologists, and they don’t use only chess methods in their battles. Let’s take Kasparov. It’s said that he put pressure on his opponents psychologically-he exuded such a supply of negative energy that they felt like resigning immediately. Bareev once described to me very amusingly how in time trouble Kasparov started shaking his head and making tragic grimaces, as if to say, ‘how can this be, I’ve missed such a simple idea!’ And his opponent sits and desperately tries to work out if he’s being toyed with, and his clock is ticking…In other words, you have to solve psychological problems as well as chess problems during a game.”

Has Hikaru Nakamura lost the psychological battle? Has Magnus gotten into Hikaru’s head? What else can explain such a score?

Levitov poses a question for Bareev, “Does your opponent’s energy have a strong influence on the chess player? Why, for example, did Shirov and Anand always lose to Kasparov, why did Fischer play badly against Geller, and why can’t Polgar play against Kramnik?”

Bareev answers, “It’s genuinely unknown why it’s easier to play one opponent than another, and there are also metaphysical explanations for this-a powerful energy, and unfamiliar style and so on. More often everything simply depends on the playing strengths of blondes and brunettes and their preparedness for the specific encounter. In other words, you have to investigate every specific case separately.”
“LEVITOV: How do you control your emotions, how do you avoid showing that your opponent has surprised you horribly, for example, with his choice of opening? Does everyone have their own acting methods?”
“BAREEV: To a certain extent. People sometimes get ideas on this from the good results of new players. Later they adapt their openings and style of play and stop reacting to the unexpected. It’s better to combine your acting talents with specific skills and abilities.”

After seeing the following parody on the blog of GM Kevin Spraggett (, the best chess blog on the internet, I could not help but wonder how much acting went into the lessons given by former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov to current Human World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. What part do histrionics play in the psychology of chess?

HMS – SjakkVM – Magnus Carlsen parodi

NM Sanjay Ghatti Battles French With 2 Qe2!

NM Sanjay Ghatti finished undefeated, with a score of 6-3, at the 2014 US Open, winning three games while drawing six. He tied with GM Alonso Zapata and FM Kazim Gulamali for the honor of being the top scorer from Georgia. For this fine result Sanjay lost eight rating points. More importantly he played my favorite move against the French defense, 2 Qe2! This was one of the few games I was able to follow on Monroi, which had its usual problems. For some reason I find it appropriate USCF uses Monroi in lieu of one of the obviously better methods of broadcasting chess games.
Sanjay’s opponent in this game was an Expert, Jessica Regam, who had upset GM Zapata in the second round. The ratings are taken from the CBDB and must be FIDE, because the ratings shown on the USCF website are considerably higher. The post tournament rating is 2194 for Sanjay and 2145 for Jessica.

Sanjay Ghatti (2024 )vs Jessica Regam (2031)
2014 US Open 7/26/14
1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. d3 g6 5. g3 Bg7 6. c3 Nge7 7. Bg2 0-0 8 0-0 d6 9 Nbd2 Qc7 10 a4 a6 11. Nc4 b6 12. Bf4 e5 13. Bd2 h6 14. b4 Bd7 15. a5 bxa5 16. bxa5 Be6 17. Nb6 Rab8 18. c4 Nb4 19. Bxb4 cxb4 20. Rfc1 Bg4 21. Qd2 Bxf3 22. Bxf3 Nc6 23. Nd5 Qa7 24. Qe3 Nd4 25. Rcb1 Qc5 26. Bd1 Rb7 27. Ra4 Nc6 28. Ra2 Rfb8 29. Nb6 Nd4 30. Ra4 Nc6 31. Bg4 Rd8 1/2-1/2

Sanjay’s tenth move appears to be a novelty. Many ninth moves have been tried and all score better than 9…Qc7. This is the oldest game I discovered with this particular variation:

Istvan Bilek (2485) Wolfgan Heidenfeld
Lugano ol (Men) 1968
1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 d6 5. Bg2 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. c3 Nge7 8. d3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Qc7 10. Rd1 b6 11. Nc4 Ba6 12. Bf4 e5 13. Bc1 Rad8 14. a4 d5 15. exd5 Nxd5 16. Nfd2 Rfe8 17. Re1 f5 18. Na3 Na5 19. Nb5 Qb8 20. Nc4 Nxc4 21. dxc4 Nf6 22. a5 Bb7 23. Bxb7 Qxb7 24. axb6 axb6 25. Bg5 Rd7 26. Bxf6 Bxf6 27. Ra7 Qxa7 28. Nxa7 Rxa7 29. Rd1 Re6 30. Rd5 e4 31. Qd1 Be7 32. Rd7 Rxd7 33. Qxd7 Kf7 34. Qd5 h5 35. Kf1 Kf6 36. Ke2 Bf8 37. Qa8 Kf7 38. h3 Be7 39. Qd5 Kf6 40. Qa8 Kf7 41. Qb7 Kf6 42. Qc7 Kf7 43. Kd2 Rd6+ 44. Kc2 Re6 45. Qf4 Kg7 46. Qc7 Kf7 47. Kd1 Rd6+ 48. Kc2 Re6 49. g4 fxg4 50. hxg4 hxg4 51. Qf4+ Kg7 52. Qxg4 Kf7 53. Qh3 Kf6 54. Kd2 Kf7 55. Kc2 Bf8 56. Kb3 Be7 57. Ka4 Bf8 58. Kb5 Be7 59. Ka6 Kf6 60. Kb7 Kf7 61. Kc7 Kf6 62. Qh6 Kf7 63. Qd2 Bf8 64. b4 Be7 65. b5 Bf8 66. Qf4+ Ke8 67. Kc8 Be7 68. Qh2 Kf7 69. Qh7+ Kf6 70. Kc7 Bf8 71. Qh8+ Kf7 72. Qh4 Be7 73. Qh6 Bf8 74. Qf4+ Ke8 75. Kc8 Ke7 76. Qh2 Bg7 77. Qh4+ Ke8 78. Qh3 Ke7 79. Kc7 Be5+ 80. Kb7 Bg7 81. Kc8 Bf8 82. Qh8 Kf7 83. Qh4 Be7 84. Qh7+ Kf8 85. Qh2 Bf6 86. Kd7 Re7+ 87. Kc6 Re6+ 88. Kd5 Re5+ 89. Kd6 Kf7 90. Qh7+ Bg7 91. Qxg7+ Kxg7 92. Kxe5 Kf7 93. Kd5 Kf6 94. Kc6 g5 95. Kxb6 g4 96. Kxc5 e3 97. fxe3 g3 98. b6 g2 99. b7 g1=Q 100. b8=Q Qxe3+ 101. Kb4 Qc1 102. Qd6+ Kg5 103. Qd5+ Kh4 104. c5 Qb2+ 105. Qb3 Qf2 106. Qc4+ Kh3 107. Kb3 Qe3 108. Qd5 Kh2 109. Kc2 Qf2+ 110. Qd2 Kh1 111. c6 Qf5+ 112. Kc1 Qe5 113. Qd1+ Kh2 114. Qf3 Qg5+ 115. Kc2 Qg6+ 116. Kb2 Qd6 117. Kb3 Qc7 118. Kc4 Kg1 119. Qd5 Kh2 120. Qd2+ Kh1 121. Qd1+ Kh2 122. Qd7 Qf4+ 123. Kb3 Qb8+ 124. Kc2 Qg8 125. Qd6+ Kh1 126. Kb2 Qg2+ 127. Kb3 Qg8+ 128. c4 Qg3+ 1/2-1/2

It was a great surprise to find during research that another World Champion, Mikhail Tal, played 2 Qe2. His opponent tried 9…Rb8.

Mikhail Tal (2635)- Heinz Liebert (2445)
C00 Lublin 1974
1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Rb8 10. Nb3 e5 11. Nh4 Be6 12. f4 Qd7 13. Be3 Rbe8 14. Rad1 Kh8 15. Nd2 f5 16. a3 b6 17. Ndf3 exf4 18. gxf4 d5 19. e5 d4 20. Bc1 Bb3 21. Rde1 c4 22. dxc4 dxc3 23. bxc3 Na5 24. Nd2 Bc2 25. Rf3 Rc8 26. Rh3 Rfd8 27. Bd5 Qe8 28. Qg2 Ba4 29. Ndf3 Nxc4 30. Be6 Bd7 31. Bxd7 Rxd7 32. Ng5 Rcd8 33. Qe2 Rc8 34. Kf2 Rdc7 35. Rg1 h6 36. Ne6 Rc6 37. Nd4 Rc5 38. Rhg3 Kh7 39. Nxg6 Nxg6 40. Rxg6 Qxg6 41. Rxg6 Kxg6 42. Qd3 Nd6 43. exd6 1-0

Pia Cramling faced former World Champion Vassily Smyslov twice last century in Veterans vs Women tournaments, first trying e5, then h6.
Vassily Smyslov (2540) – Pia Cramling (2510)
C00 Women-Veterans 1995
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Qe2 Nc6 4. g3 d6 5. Bg2 g6 6. d3 Bg7 7. O-O Nge7 8. c3 O-O 9. Nbd2 e5 10. a3 h6 11. b4 Be6 12. b5 Na5 13. Bb2 f5 14. exf5 gxf5 15. Nh4 d5 16. c4 d4 17. Rab1 Qd7 18. f4 exf4 19. Rbe1 Rf6 20. Rxf4 Re8 21. Bh3 Ref8 22. Ndf3 b6 23. Ne5 Qc7 24. Qh5 Nb7 25. Bc1 Nd6 26. Bg2 Nf7 27. Neg6 Nxg6 28. Nxg6 Re8 29. Rf2 Nd6 30. Nf4 Bf7 31. Rxe8+ Nxe8 32. Qf3 Nd6 33. Re2 Qd7 34. Qa8+ Kh7 35. Qb8 Nxc4 36. dxc4 d3 37. Rf2 Bxc4 38. Bc6 Qe7 39. Qe8 Qxe8 40. Bxe8 Rd6 41. Be3 Bc3 42. Bd2 Bd4 43. Kg2 Bxf2 44. Kxf2 1/2-1/2

Vassily Smyslov (2500)- Pia Cramling (2505)
C00 Cancan Veterans-Women 1998
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Qe2 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. d3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. Nbd2 h6 10. Rb1 Qc7 11. Rd1 b6 12. Nf1 e5 13. Ne3 Be6 14. b4 cxb4 15. cxb4 b5 16. a3 a5 17. Bd2 axb4 18. axb4 Ra2 19. Qe1 Rfa8 20. Ra1 R8a4 21. Rxa2 Rxa2 22. Ra1 Qa7 23. Rxa2 Qxa2 24. Qc1 Qb3 25. Qc2 Qa3 26. Qc3 Qa2 27. Qc1 Qb3 28. Qc2 Qa3 29. Qc3 Qa4 30. Nc2 d5 31. Nfe1 dxe4 32. dxe4 Nd4 33. Nxd4 exd4 34. Qc1 Bc4 35. Bf1 Qb3 36. Qc2 Qxc2 37. Nxc2 Nc6 38. Ne1 Bf8 39. Nd3 Bxd3 40. Bxd3 Ne5 41. Be2 d3 42. Bd1 Nc4 43. Bc3 Na3 44. Kg2 Nb1 45. Bd4 Bxb4 46. Kf3 Bd2 47. e5 Nc3 48. Bxc3 Bxc3 49. Ke4 d2 50. f4 Kf8 51. g4 Ke7 52. h4 f6 53. exf6+ Kxf6 54. g5+ hxg5 55. fxg5+ Ke6 56. h5 gxh5 57. Bxh5 Kd6 58. Kd3 b4 1/2-1/2

Other games:

Antonio Fernandes (2440) – Joaquim Durao (2225)
Lisbon BNU op 1992
1. e4 e6 2. Qe2 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. c3 Bg7 6. d3 Nge7 7. h4 h6 8. Na3 d5 9. Bg2 b6 10. O-O Ba6 11. e5 Rc8 12. Nc2 Nf5 13. Bf4 d4 14. Rad1 O-O 15. Rfe1 Qd7 16. Qd2 Kh7 17. c4 Bb7 18. Re2 Nb8 19. Nce1 Ne7 20. Nh2 Bxg2 21. Nxg2 Qb7 22. Ne1 Nd7 23. Nef3 b5 24. b3 b4 25. Qe1 a5 26. Nd2 Qa6 27. Ne4 Nxe5 28. Bxe5 Bxe5 29. Nxc5 Rxc5 30. Rxe5 Qd6 31. Rxc5 Qxc5 32. Ng4 Qf5 33. Qe2 Nc6 34. f3 h5 35. Nf2 Ne5 36. Kg2 Rg8 37. Nh3 f6 38. Qe4 Qxe4 39. dxe4 Nc6 40. Nf4 Re8 41. Ra1 Kh6 42. a3 g5 43. hxg5+ fxg5 44. Nd3 Rb8 45. axb4 Nxb4 46. Nxb4 Rxb4 47. Rxa5 Rxb3 48. Ra6 Rc3 49. Rxe6+ Kg7 50. Re5 Kg6 51. c5 d3 52. Rd5 g4 53. fxg4 hxg4 54. Kf2 d2 55. Rxd2 Rxc5 56. Ke3 1-0

Leaving no stone unturned, I found the next two games which began with the Sicilian defense before transposing:

Anastasija Polivoda – Maritsa Tsirulnik
UKR-ch sf U14 Girls Kiev 2003
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. Nbd2 Nge7 7. O-O O-O 8. c3 d6 9. Qe2 Qc7 10. h4 a6 11. a4 b6 12. Nh2 Rb8 13. g4 b5 14. axb5 axb5 15. Nb1 b4 16. h5 bxc3 17. Nxc3 Nd4 18. Qd1 Nb3 19. Ra3 Nxc1 20. Qxc1 Nc6 21. h6 Bh8 22. Qd2 Bd7 23. g5 Qb6 24. Rb1 Nd4 25. Ng4 Qd8 26. Qf4 Bc6 27. e5 Bxg2 28. Kxg2 dxe5 29. Nxe5 Qd6 30. Nxg6 Qc6+ 31. Qe4 fxg6 32. Qxc6 Nxc6 33. Na4 Rf5 34. Rc1 Bd4 35. Rc2 Rxg5+ 36. Kf1 Nb4 37. Re2 Rf8 38. Nb6 Rgf5 39. Nc4 Rxf2+ 40. Rxf2 Rxf2+ 41. Ke1 Nc2+ 42. Kd1 Nxa3 0-1

Simon Hiller (1958) – Norbert Soelker (1967)
Verbandsliga Muensterland 0506
Germany 2006
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O e6 7. Nbd2 Nge7 8. c3 O-O 9. Qe2 Qc7 10. Re1 a6 11. h4 b5 12. Nf1 Bb7 13. N1h2 Rae8 14. Be3 e5 15. Qd2 Kh8 16. h5 gxh5 17. Bh6 Ng6 18. Nh4 Nxh4 19. gxh4 Rg8 20. Kh1 Re6 21. Bxg7+ Rxg7 22. Bh3 Re8 23. Rg1 Reg8 24. Qh6 Bc8 25. Rxg7 Rxg7 26. Rg1 Rxg1+ 27. Kxg1 Kg8 28. Bxc8 Qxc8 29. Qxd6 c4 30. dxc4 bxc4 31. Qh6 Qb7 32. Nf3 f5 33. Qe6+ Kg7 34. exf5 1-0