Kasparov refuses to go gently into that good night…
lost in without getting out of the opening playing black against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
A phone call from an excited Ironman, who happened to be between online lessons, and was watching some of the “action,” gave notice that something big was happening in the world of Chess. I care nothing for blitz Chess, or anything other than what has come to be called “classical” Chess, because playing good Chess requires thought, and if you do not have time to cogitate what is the point? Nevertheless, when a former World Chess Champ losses like a beginner it makes news all around the world. I decided to wait until after having my morning cuppa coffee before checking the usual suspects, TWIC, Chessbase, Chess24, and Chessdom. Sometimes I surf on over to Chess.com and today was one of those days, which was a good thing because the first video found during a search at duckduckgo.com proclaimed erroneously that Kasparov had lost in 10 moves:
This is false. As ignominious as it sounds, Garry Kasparov actually lost after playing only 6 moves:
Below you can find all the gory details, which was located at Chess.com, including a very short loss by former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand
to a player who now resides in the Great State of Georgia, GM Alonso Zapata,
explained by the Australian GM Max Illingworth:
Garry Kasparov was born in 1963. He was eligible to play in the World Senior Championship eight years ago. I have often wondered why a player such as Kasparov, or Anatoly Karpov, has not deigned to participate in a Senior event for the good of Chess. Maybe it is time Garry consider playing in a Senior event.
In the 1983 Candidates Finals a young Garry Kasparov faced former World Chess Champion Vassily Smyslov for the right to contest a World Championship match with the then World Champ Anatoly Karpov. The fact that Smyslov made it to the final was almost beyond belief. The Chess world was astounded that someone so old could play well enough to face the young whipper-snapper, Kasparov. Granted, Smyslov was given no chance of defeating Kasparov by the pundits, but just getting to the finals was a victory of sorts. The older I have become the more amazing it seems…
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 d5 4. Qc2 (Komodo plays 4 Nc3, the most often played move according to the CBDB. Stockfish prefers 4 e3, played a little less than half as many times as 4 Nc3) 4…g6 (Although 4…d6 and 4…dxc4 have been played far more than the game move, both SF & Komodo choose the move played by Spinks) 5 Bf4 (The most often move seen in practice, but Komodo prefers 5 Nc3) 5…Bf5 (Deep Fritz @depth 28 plays this move, but SF @depth 55 plays 5…dxc4) 6 Qb3 Qb6 7 c5 (SF plays the most often played move, 7 e3) 7…Qxb3 8 axb3 Nbd7 (Both SF & Komodo prefer 8…Na6) 9 b4 (Komodo & Houdini play 9 Nc3) 9…Bg7 (Komodo plays this but SF produces a TN with 9…Nh5) 10 Nc3 (Although SF 7 plays the game move SF 10 chooses 10 Nbd2. The only game found saw Lein play 10 h3 versus Smyslov:
After spending far too much time analyzing the game while making notes, the decision was made to surf over to 365Chess and utilize the free Stockfish engine to correct the “Beeg Mistakes” made in analysis. Frankly, after burning the midnight oil, my analysis was far better than expected, excepting for the “HH” moves, as in Horrendous Howlers, from which you will be spared.
39. h4 (Wonder why Boris did not play 39 Ra7+?) 39…h6 (39…gxh4 is much better…) 40. Ra7+ Ke8 41. Ra8+ Kd7 42. Kg3?
(This is a, as Boris was so fond of saying about one of my moves, “Beeg Mistake.” 42 Ra7+ looks like a winner…) 42…Rf6 (This is certainly a really BEEG MISTAKE! David could have possibly drawn the game with 42…Rxd6!) 43. hxg5 (43 Ra7+ is a winner…43 h5 could be better than the move played in the game.) hxg5 44. Rg8
Anyone worth his salt teaching Chess will eventually get around to imparting the knowledge that a Chess player should examine all checks during analysis of any position. All good players do this without thinking about it, but new players need to have it reinforced that they should not only examine all possible checks to the opponent’s king but also to their own king. After this a good teacher will tell his student to examine all possible “checks”, or threats, to the Queen. For young players new to the game there is so much to consider that occasionally a student will overlook a check to the king or threat to the queen. When a world class player overlooks or does not take into consideration a possible check to the king it will be said that the player under discussion is “getting old” or “losing his powers,” or some such…
In the sixth round of the 2020 Gibraltar Masters the young, born in 2005, making him a Zero, and up and coming GM Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa,
from India, faced GM Veselin Topalov,
who some consider a former World Chess Champion. I am not one of them because Topalov won the FIDE World Championship, which was a match between second rate players. This is what is written about Topalov at Wikipedia:
“Topalov became FIDE World Chess Champion by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005. He lost his title in the World Chess Championship 2006 against Vladimir Kramnik.
Wiki does not even mention the name of the player Topalov bested to become FIDE WC, and, frankly, I have long since forgotten the name of the loser of the FIDE match. I can tell you the name of the opponents who played in each of the real world championship matches. I seem to recall Jan Timman losing one so-called “world championship” match, (I believe his opponent was Anatoly Karpov) but if my life depended on it I could not give you the name of Topalov’s opponent in the second rate FIDE WC match. Topalov was born in 1975, making him a member of Generation X.
22…Qd8? (Over at the Bomb this move is shown as a BRIGHT RED move, which is as bad as it gets, color wise. It is difficult to fathom a former world number one making a move this bad, no matter how old. Certainly, most, if not all, players would have analyzed the possible check on f6 before retreating the queen. Keep in mind that, “In 1984, when he was 63 and most of his contemporaries, like Mikhail Botvinnik and David Bronstein,
had long ceased to be important players on the world stage, Mr. Smyslov
made it to the final candidates match to determine a challenger for Anatoly Karpov,
who was world champion at the time. He lost that match to Garry Kasparov,
then a prodigy in his early 20s; before the final, however, he dispatched two opponents who were both 30 years his junior.” https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/crosswords/chess/28smyslov.html ) 23. Nf6+ gxf6 24. Rad1 Nxe5 25. Rxd8 Rfxd8 26. Qxf6 Ng6 27. h4 h5 28. Rf1 f4 29. g4 Rd3 30. gxh5 Rg3+ 31. Kf2 Nxh4 32. Qxh4 Rxc4 33. Re1 1-0
25. Rd1 (This is known as “Letting go of the rope.” This is a terrible move under any circumstances. Before making a move most players would ask themselves the question, “How will my opponent reply?” Seeing the queen can be attacked by the knight would be the first thing any player would spot. Every player simply MUST be able to see the knight moving to b6 will not only attack the queen but also fork the bishop. 25 Qa5, attacking the undefended rook looks good, as does the simple 25 Bg2. With the move played in the game the player of the white pieces fell into the abyss)) 25…Nb6 26. Qa5 Rxd5 27. Rxd5 Qb1+ 28. Kg2 Nxd5 29. Qxd5 Be6 30. Qd8 Qxb3 31. Bd4 Bd5+ 32. Kh3 Qf3 33. Bc5 Be6+ 0-1
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. (https://en.chessbase.com/post/botvinnik-the-patriarch)
The book, written by Sally Landau, and published by Elk and Ruby Publishing Company (http://www.elkandruby.com/), 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. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larisa_Kronberg)
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?
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:
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.” (http://www.chess.com/article/view/kasparov-on-berlin-defense)
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.” (http://en.chessbase.com/post/kasparov-the-quality-of-the-games-was-not-so-high)
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:
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
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
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- http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/po-boy)
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 (http://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/), 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?
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.