Mind Control, Chess, and the Race to Find a Superman in Sport

The following excerpts are from: Mind control, levitation and no pain: the race to find a superman in sport published April 18 in The Guardian.

The US and Soviet Union both believed people could develop superpowers. And, reveals The Men on Magic Carpets,

their psychic experiments played out in the sporting arena, by Ed Hawkins.

Baguio City, the Philippines, 14 years later. Mental combat has begun for the World Chess Championship. Anatoly Karpov, the golden boy of the Soviet Union, is playing Viktor Korchnoi, a defector the regime loves to hate. Despite sitting opposite each other for hour after hour, day after day, they have not spoken. But somebody is talking to Korchnoi. There is a voice inside his head. It is incessant. Over and over and over it berates him: “YOU. MUST. LOSE.”


Viktor Korchnoi and Anatoly Karpov compete for the 1978 World Chess Championship. Photograph: Jerry Cooke/Corbis via Getty Images

Korchnoi recognises the voice. It’s not his. It belongs to the man sitting in the front row of the audience since the match began. His heart starts to beat a little faster. He begins to sweat.

“YOU. SHOULD. STOP. FIGHT. AGAINST. KARPOV.”

The demands keep coming. Korchnoi is not afraid but he is angry. He understands perfectly what is happening. The man is trying to control his thoughts.

“YOU. ARE. TRAITOR. OF. SOVIET. PEOPLE.”

The man sits cross-legged, dressed immaculately in a white shirt and dark brown suit, reclining with a hint of arrogance. He looks like an accountant, albeit a somewhat demented one. A slight smirk plays across his face. His eyes are terrifying, bearing into Korchnoi. He does not blink until Korchnoi is defeated.

Both of these stories are true. Murphy, the zany hippy in bell-bottom jeans warbling occult orders, would, in time, have the US government dancing to his tune. And Dr Vladimir Zoukhar, the immaculately dressed communist spook, staring demonically for comrade and country, was considered the KGB’s mind control expert. Both men were protagonists in an extraordinarily paranoid chapter of human history: the cold war.

Murphy was no regular football fan. Known as “the godfather of the human potential movement”, he co-founded the Esalen Institute, a famed new age retreat and pillar of the counterculture movement in 60s California. It was a centre for eastern religions, philosophy, alternative medicines, and a fair amount of nude hot-tub bathing. Controversial eroticist Henry Miller swam at the hot springs in the grounds, Beatle George Harrison once landed his helicopter there to jam with Ravi Shankar, and Timothy Leary, whom Richard Nixon called “the most dangerous man in America”, taught regular workshops on the benefits of LSD, claiming that women could orgasm hundreds of times during sex when under the influence. And most recently, in the final frames of Mad Men, advertising executive Don Draper was seen smiling on Esalen’s lawn.

While Murphy was establishing Esalen, if Soviet state security wanted to place a negative or damaging thought in someone’s head, they called Zoukhar. That’s why Zoukhar was at Korchnoi’s match; communism trumped capitalism if it could produce a world chess champion. Korchnoi, hang-dogged and pot-bellied with his mistress in tow, was not the image they were going for. He could not be allowed to win against Karpov, the poster boy for true Soviet values.

Murphy and Zoukhar hailed from opposite cultures teetering on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. But for all their differences, America and the Soviet Union held a common belief: the existence of superhumans. Both world powers believed in a race of cosmic beings who could, just like in the sci-fi movies, slow down time, speed it up, change their body shape, feel no pain, levitate, see into the future, and more. With boggle-eyed mind control and harnessing the occult, both nations believed they could put a thought in someone’s head, or stop a man’s heart at 100 paces. Both nations thought these powers would win them the war. From the west coast of America to the far corners of the Soviet Union, yogis, shamans and psychics were sought out to aid these alternative war efforts, with millions spent on attempts to create a real life Superman or Wonder Woman.

In 1975, the Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA was attempting to develop a new kind of “spook”, after finding a man who could “see” what was going on anywhere in the world. CIA scientists would show the man a picture of a place, and he would then describe any activity going on there at that time.

In fact, there was more than one of these men. Russell Targ, who had taught this psychic power at Esalen, was one; another was Uri Geller. (You might have heard of him and his bendy spoons.) There was a whole team of psychics based at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California, as part of the CIA’s Stargate programme to find psychic warriors. Targ and Geller would sit in that office, close their eyes, breathe deeply and then after a few minutes draw the location of Soviet missiles. Sometimes, they were right.

By contrast to the Soviet plan, Targ and Geller seemed harmless. “They were using it to kill people,” Targ said. The Russian term for superpowers was “Hidden Human Reserves”.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/18/superhuman-sport-cold-war-mind-power-men-on-magic-carpets-ed-hawkins-extract?fbclid=IwAR3IAsmcuth_VhCadNCMFGmKMcAG56NgEiTPltDNzM00Ikp7zjYP-L5AtIw

Russell Targ

is the brother-in-law of Bobby Fischer.

Mind and Matter with Russell Targ

Russell Targ | CONTACT in the DESERT 2019

Indian Wells May 31 – June 3 2019

Russell Targ

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Stinking It Up At The Sinquefield Cup

The trio of announcers at the Sinquefield Cup were effusive during every round, especially during the final round. They did the best they could to put lipstick on a pig

but in the final analysis it was still a stinking pig. The gang mentioned the high percentage of draws and GM Yasser Seirawan said something like, “We haven’t noticed because of the quality of the draws.” Forty five games were played during the tournament with only eight of them ending decisively, which is 17.7%. There were nine rounds so the average was less than one win per round.

The announcers for MLBaseball teams are called “homers” for a reason. They are paid by the ball club so it is in their interest to put lipstick on their particular pig.

I am uncertain about who pays the announcers at the Sinquefield Cup, but it is more than a little obvious they want to continue being paid. It is in their interest to put as much lipstick on the Chess pig as possible. Because of this they lack objectivity. I am not being paid by anyone so can be objective. The tournament was B-O-R-I-N-G. To their credit, the announcing team of Yaz, Maurice, and Jen did the best they could to inject some excitement into the moribund tournament. The excitement certainly did not come from the players. The pigs were in full force and there was some reeking Chess played at what I have come to consider the Stinkfield Cup.

Hikaru Nakamura lost the last round game to World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen


Photo: Saint Louis Chess Club / Lennart Ootes

by first needlessly allowing Magnus a protected passed pawn. Later he exacerbated an already tenuous position by jettisoning a pawn for absolutely nothing, and was deservedly ground down by the ultimate grinder.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave managed to turn what should have been a win into a draw against Sergey Karjakin because he did not know how to play the endgame.

Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana played what was arguably the most boring game of the tournament in the last round and, guess what, it ended in a draw. Watching lipstick being put on a pig was better than watching the “game.” Here is what two Chess fans posted on the ChessBomb chat at the game:

Abraxas79: So will drop out of sight soon. Will be playing open tournaments with Kamsky
eddiemac: was being interviewed and said he be in a chess960 tourney in a few weeks. Should be more exciting than this dreary tourney.
(https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/09-So_Wesley-Caruana_Fabiano)

The 71st Russian Chess Championship began less than a week ago with twelve players competing. After four rounds twenty four games have been played and seven of them have ended decisively. That is 29%. Not great, but much better than the paltry 18% of the Stinkfield Cup. At least there has been a decisive game in each of the four rounds of the Russian Championship. In the third round three games were decisive. Three of the rounds of the Stinkfield Cup finished without any decisive games.

Yaz can talk all he wants about “…the quality of the draws,” but the fact remains the games ended in yet another draw. There is not enough lipstick Yaz can smear to obviate the fact that pigs were stinking it up at the Sinquefield Cup. Chess fans want winners. Potential Chess fans do not understand the proliferation of draws; they want to see a WINNER.

The last round game causing much excitement was the game between Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk. Levon unsoundly sacrificed a rook on f7 and the game was all for Grischuk’s taking, but he had previously spent almost three quarters of an hour on one move which left him short of time. Still, I cannot imagine Bobby Fischer losing the game with the black pieces after 18 Rxf7 no matter how little time he had left. Give Bobby two or three minutes, maybe only one, and he would have won the game. Seriously, give Bobby only the thirty seconds added and he would have won that game!

“The Herceg Novi blitz event was the speed tournament of the 20th century. It had four world champions competing, and Bobby not only finished 4½ points ahead of Tal in second place, he also obliterated the Soviet contingent, 8½-1½, whitewashing Tal, Tigran Petrosian and Vasily Smyslov, six-zip; breaking even with Viktor Korchnoi; and defeating David Bronstein with a win and draw.” (http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2012/03/16/bobbys-blitz-chess/)

This was with a time limit of only FIVE minutes for the whole game! When I hear people talking about how strong are today’s Grandmasters and how the players of the 20th century would not stand a chance against the current top players I laugh. In his prime Bobby would have OBLITERATED these posers no matter the time control. Bobby played each and every game to WIN.

Because I played the Bird opening often, but not as many as the Atlanta player who became a NM using it exclusively, Adam Cavaney, who became an attorney and moved to New Orleans before hurricane Katrina, I paid close attention to the following game.

Let us review the aforementioned game between Alexander Grischuk and Wesley So from the penultimate round:

Alexander Grischuk vs Wesley So


Photo: V. Saravanan

Sinquefield Cup 2018 round 08

1. f4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. b3 Bb7 4. e3 g6 5. Bb2 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. c4 d5 9. O-O Nc6 10. Qe2 Rc8 11. d3 d4 12. exd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 cxd4 15. Na3 Nd7 16. Nc2 Nc5 17. f5 Qd7 18. g4 b5 19. Ba3 a5 20. Bxc5 Rxc5 21. Rae1 bxc4 22. bxc4 gxf5 23. gxf5 Rxf5 24. Rxf5 Qxf5 25. Qf3 Qg5+ 26. Kh1 Kh8 27. Rg1 Qh6 28. Qd5 Qd2 29. Nxd4 Qxa2 30. Qe4 Qb2 31. Nf5 Be5 32. Rg2 Qc1+ 33. Rg1 Qb2 34. Rg2 Qc1+ 35. Rg1 Qb2 36. Rg2 1/2-1/2

An analogous position after 7…c5 was reached by a different move order in this game:

David Bronstein (2585)

v Vladimir Tukmakov (2560)

Event: URS-ch40
Site: Baku Date: 11/23/1972
Round: 6
ECO: A01 Nimzovich-Larsen attack, symmetrical variation

1. b3 b6 2. Bb2 Bb7 3. e3 Nf6 4. f4 g6 5. Nf3 Bg7 6. g3 O-O 7. Bg2 c5 8. O-O Nc6 9. a4 d6 10. Na3 a6 11. Qe2 Rb8 12. d3 Ba8 13. c4 e6 14. Rfd1 Qe7 15. e4 Nd7 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. Nc2 e5 1/2-1/2
(https://www.365chess.com/game.php?back=1&gid=2419289&m=15)

After 13 moves this position appeared on the board:

I was certain Grischuk would play 14 Qxg2. He took with the King. In the old BC (before computer) days if one disagreed with a move a GM played we would defer to the GMs move because, well, you know, he was a Grandmaster. Still, with my limited understanding of the Royal game, my thinking was that now that the white squared bishop has left the board, what better piece to take it’s place than the Queen? Stockfish agrees.

This position was reached after 16 moves:

While Grischuk was thinking I thought he would first play 17 Ne1 followed by 18 Nf3, considerably improving the position of the woeful knight. After the game the Stockfish program at the ChessBomb made me feel like I knew something about how to play the Bird as it gives this variation as equal: 17. Ne1 e6 18. Nf3 Qd7 19. Kg1 Rfd8 20. Ba3 Qb7 21. Rae1 Bf8 22. Bb2 Bg7 23. Ba3. The clanking digital monster also shows 17 Ba3 as equal. The move Grishuk played, 17 f5, is not shown as one of the top four moves. His choice gives the advantage to black.

This position was reached after 22 moves:

SF shows 23. Qxe7 Qc6+ as best, but Grischuk played 23 gxf5. It is easy to see black has an increased advantage. After a few more moves were played we reach this position after white played 25 Qf3:

Wesley So could have simply dropped his queen back to e7 with a by now large advantage. IM Boris Kogan said, “Chess is simple. He attack, you defend. You attack, he defend. My retort was, “Maybe for you, Boris.” Wesley played 25…Qg5+, which still left him with an advantage. I was thinking, “Patzer sees a check and gives a check.”

We move along until his position was reached after 28 Qd5:

The two best moves according to SF are 28…Qf4 and/or Qb6. So played the fourth best move, 28…Qd2.

After 29…Qxa2 we come to this position:

30 Nc6 is the best move. Grischuk played the second best move, 30 Qe4.

Bobby Fischer

spoke of “critical positions.” This is one of them.

Wesley had far more time than his opponent at this point. I was therefore shocked when he took very little time to play 30…Qb2. I will admit the moved played was my first choice, but then I am not a GM. Faced with the same position Wesley So had on the board I would have probably played 30…Qb2. I followed the games at Mark Crowther’s wonderful site, The Week in Chess (http://theweekinchess.com/), because it has no engine analysis. After the game was concluded I went to the ChessBomb to see StockFish had given the move 30…Qf2 as much superior to the move played in the game. Initially flummoxed, I wondered if Wesley had taken more time, which would have meant more time for me to cogitate, would I have seen the much better 30…Qf2? Honesty compels me to think not, as 30…Qb2 attacks the knight and makes way for the passed a-pawn. What’s not to like? SF only gives 30…Qf2 followed by 31 Nc6, so I had to “dig deep” to understand the efficacy of moving the queen to f2. Fortunately for this old grasshopper there was understanding. Later I watched some of the coverage by Yaz, Maurice, and Jen. Maurice showed the engine they were using gave it as best. This begs the question, which engine were they using? I have yet to hear a name used for the “engine.” There are many “engines,” so why do they not inform we Chess fans which “engine” they utilize?

After 30…Qb2 Grischuk played 31 Nf5 (SF says Nf3 is a little better) and this position was reached:

I was thinking Wesley would play 31…Bf6, later learning SF shows it best. As a matter of fact, it is the only move to retain an advantage. Wesley So played the second choice of SF, 31…Be5, and the game sputtered to a draw, a fitting conclusion to a poorly played game by both players. So much for Yasser’s comment about “…quality of the draws.”

This is what Chess fans who chat at the ChessBomb thought about the ending of the game:

CunningPlan: I suspect draw agreed
dondiegodelavega: WTF???
BadHabitMarco: this cant have happened
rfa: yup draw
poppy_dove: BUG
dondiegodelavega: moving to twitter
CunningPlan: Maybe So missed Kxg1
jim: mdr
jim: Qxg1 wow
Frank200: hahahaha somebody was trolling
LarsBrobakken: no takebacks!
CunningPlan: So is a dirty rotten cheat
CunningPlan: Oh So. What a cop out.
rfa: 🙂
BadHabitMarco: devine intervention
Vladacval: phhhooogh
BadHabitMarco: divine
Vladacval: nice save!
jim: So touched accidentally the rook
poppy_dove: draw
dondiegodelavega: what a pussy!
CunningPlan: Grischuk deliberately dropped an eyelash on it to tempt So to brush it off
CunningPlan: Oldest trick in the book
CunningPlan: I’ve won many a game that way
BadHabitMarco: he was like “did you see that the felt was missing under my rook?”
https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2018-sinquefield-cup/08-Grischuk_Alexander-So_Wesley

Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi: A Review

“The “Evil-Doer”, as the Soviet chess players now called Korchnoi, had turned chess into a matter of state urgency. The Soviet leadership received real time accounts of the world title matches as though they were dispatches from the front in time of war.”

It is difficult for anyone not living when Viktor Korchnoi

defected to understand what his leaving the “Mother country” meant to the Chess world at that time.

“…in taking a one-man stance against the hulking Soviet monster, he gained the entire world’s attention and imprinted his name in the history of the game forever. Just as a poet in Russia was much more than a writer, a grandmaster in the Soviet Union was much more than a chess player.”

“Chess’s next wave of popularity was exclusively down to Viktor Korchnoi. He represented quite a melting pot: the conflict between two opposing systems, the international tension caused by that very Cold War, and his personal drama, with the Soviet authorities refusing to allow his family to leave for the West. News of this standoff made chess front-page news again, and it was even the subject of the madly popular musical Chess, which ran for years in London and New York.”

Thus the stage is set by the author, GM Genna Sosonko in his magnificent new book, Evil-Doer: Half a Century with Viktor Korchnoi.

“Almost half a century later, it is not easy to appreciate what such a decision by Korchnoi meant for a Soviet citizen, and how incredibly hard it was to make that final leap to freedom.”

Sosonko emigrated from the Soviet Union before Korchnoi, but he left after receiving permission from the monolithic State; Korchnoi defected, thus earning the opprobrium and enmity of not only the Soviet authorities, but also of the citizens of Russia. Korchnoi was considered a renegade; a traitor.

The following paragraphs explain the author’s aim in writing the book:

“There was a time when Sigmund Freud

dissuaded the writer Stephan Zweig

Stefan Zweig in seinem Salzburger Domizil am Kapuzinerberg. 1931. Photographie von Trude Fleischmann. [ Rechtehinweis: picture alliance/IMAGNO ]

from attempting to compile the former’s biography: “Whoever becomes a biographer forces himself to tell lies, conceal facts, commit fraud, embellish the truth and even mask their lack of understanding – it’s impossible to achieve the truth in a biography, and even if it were possible, that truth would be useless and you could do nothing with it.”

“I have to agree with the father of psychoanalysis and I have not attempted to write Korchnoi’s biography as such. Rather, this is a collection of memories, or to be more precise still: a collection of explanatory notes and interpretations of incomprehensible or misunderstood events from the complex life of a man whom I knew for nearly half a century, and alongside whom I spent in total many months – indeed years. I want to believe that these recollections will not only uncover the motives behind his controversial actions, but will also shed light on his approach to the game, his personality and behavior in everyday life. In any event, a portrayal of Korchnoi must obviously highlight the most important feature of his life – his dedication to chess – which grew into an obsession.”

“When he turned seventy, he asked me to write the foreword to his collected games. Naturally, I hardly imbued my text written for his big occasion with “plain speaking.”

“Yet, in the book you are now holding, I have attempted to do just that: in my reflections on this great player, I wanted to display him, as the English say, warts and all.”

The author has achieved his goal. It must have been painful at times to write so openly and honestly about someone with whom one spent so much time, and about someone for whom he obviously had so much affection, but Sosonko has done a masterful job in this outstanding work of art. I lived during the era of which the author writes, but did not play Chess seriously until 1970. Therefore I learned much from the early, pre-1970, period of Viktor the Terrible. Even though I have read extensively about the Chess world much of what I read in this book shed light on some of the dark spots.

“This is how Canadian grandmaster Kevin Spraggett

described a conversation with (Boris) Spassky:

He began to list Korchnoi’s many qualities:

…Killer Instinct (nobody can even compare with Viktor’s ‘gift’)

…Phenomenal capacity to work (both on the board and off the board)

…Iron nerves (even with seconds left on the clock)

…Ability to calculate (maybe only Fischer was better in this department)

…Tenacity and perseverance in defense (unmatched by anyone)

…The ability to counterattack (unrivaled in chess history)”…Impeccable technique (flawless, even better than Capa’s)

…Capacity to concentrate (unreal)

…Impervious to distractions during the game

…Brilliant understanding of strategy

…Superb tactician (only a few in history can compare with Viktor)

…Possessing the most profound opening preparation of any GM of his generation

…Subtle psychologist

…Super-human will to win (matched only by Fischer)

…Deep knowledge of all of his adversaries

…Enormous energy and self-discipline

Then Boris stopped, and just looked at me, begging me to ask the question that needed to be asked…I asked: “But, Boris, what does Viktor lack to become world champion?” Boris’s answer floored me: “He has no chess talent!”

And then Spassky roared with laughter…(https://kevinspraggettonchess.wordpress.com/author/kevinspraggettonchess/page/366/)

Viktor Korchoi was what is popularly known as a “late bloomer.” He may have had little, or no, talent for Chess, but no Grandmaster ever out worked the Evil Doer. He rose to the rarefied heights attained by strong determination, and an indomitable will to win.

“Korchnoi was born in Leningrad into a Jewish family on 23 March 1931. Lev Korchnoi (Viktor’s father) was killed at the very beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War II, and Rosa Abramova (his mother) took Vitya’s upbringing upon herself. The little boy lived through the Blockade of Leningrad, the death of many nearest and dearest, cold and hunger, and at one point was hospitalized with dystrophy.”

“Graham Greene

claimed that a difficult childhood was a priceless gift for a writer, while Soviet grandmaster Alexander Tolush

asserted that you needed to be poor, hungry and angry to be good at chess. There is no doubt that being brought up without his father and his tough childhood contributed to Korchnoi’s difficult personality, and were the reasons for complexes that it took him many years to shed.”

Viktor overcame the obstacles in his path to challenge for the World Chess Championship, becoming the second best Chess player in the world.

“If he noticed somebody voluntarily choosing a passive or quite unpromising opening line, he would shake his head: “What can we say here? X had a difficult childhood, a difficult childhood.” He would repeat this at a training session of the Dutch team prior to the Haifa Olympiad (1976) when we were analyzing some opening of Polugaevsky’s. This expression caught on, and became part of Dutch chess folklore for many years: what, did you have a difficult childhood or something?”

“Vladimir Tukmakov,

who worked with Korchnoi in the early 1990’s, was also amazed at the famous veteran’s energy and emotional state:

The several days that we spent analyzing together during his candidates quarter-final again(st) Gyula Sax

(Wijk-aan-Zee 1991) enabled me to understand him much better than the ten or so games that we had played against each other until then. Korchnoi was spewing out ideas like a fountain. Sometimes we would spend almost an entire day on chess, yet like a child he would then continue to play around with the chess pieces, trying out various positions.

Vasily Ivanchuk

also noticed this quality:

Sometimes you ask somebody to look at a position and they refuse – “I’m not interested, I don’t play that line.” Well, you would never hear such words from Viktor Lvovich. He would analyze any position, attempting to grasp it and suggesting ideas. For example, we would look at a position where we needed to find a way for black to equalize or for white to gain an advantage. When it looked like we had found it, everything seemed to work, and we had checked the variations, I would have stopped there. Yet Korchnoi always tried to penetrate the position more deeply, and to see if there was another way.

Jan Timman,

who had composed studies since he was young (http://www.arves.org/arves/index.php/en/halloffame/264-timman-jan), recalled: Viktor, unlike many colleagues, always took an interest in my compositions, and we would often spend hours analyzing together.”

Now the players no longer analyze, they head for the nearest computer for the answer.

“Korchnoi was sixteen when he managed to draw a game against Estonian master Ivo Nei

after escaping from the jaws of defeat. “This was the first time that I felt pleasure from a difficult, tiresome defense! But if, in my youth, the desire to defend was driven by mischief, a love for risk, then in the subsequent years defense became my serious, practical and psychological weapon. I enjoy drawing my opponent forward, allowing him the taste of attack during which he might get carried away, drop his guard, sacrifice some material. I often exploit those episodes to launch a counterattack, and that’s when the real battle begins,” Korchnoi said at the start of the 1960’s. He concluded: “Masters of defense have contributed no less to chess history than masters with an attacking style!”

“Only Korchnoi can capture that pawn!” became a widely-used cliche to describe position where any sane chess player would not even consider accepting a sacrifice.

“Shall we ‘Korchnoi’ a bit?” I had heard masters and even grandmasters suggest this during analysis back tn the Soviet Union, when they considered capturing material that appeared particularly dangerous to accept.

Journalists of course lapped up the Leningrad grandmaster’s attitude to the game: “A man of courage who chose defense as his weapon!”…”Korchnoi captured the poisoned pawn and chalked up another win!”…”After the Leningrader accepted everything thrown at him in sacrifice, his opponent found himself without a mating attack and raised the white flag.” Phrases like these were often found in tournament reports.

“At the end of his life, Francois Mauriac wrote” “I’m not brave enough to revise my technique, as Verdi did after Wagner appeared.”

“Well, Korchnoi did have enough bravery. Middle aged, he decided to review his approach to the game, to become broader minded, to throw off his focus on material, to learn to play positions with the initiative, with sacrifices and with material imbalances. He managed to do this in the prime of a successful career. Only professionals are capable of appreciating the gigantic effort that Korchnoi made.”

“He said one day: “You know, I have a son in Ukraine, he’s 32 years old. Recently, he wrote to me that he had just realized that he had lived half his life. Well, at that age I suddenly realized that I didn’t know how to play chess!
Even though that’s when I won the national championship for the second time! I suppose you need a great deal of talent to win the championship of the Soviet Union without knowing many of the laws of chess! After all, all sorts of things have been written about me! I’m a great defender, that my play resembles Dostoevsky and all sorts of nonsense. Yet I couldn’t have played any differently, I didn’t know how to! So I started to work. I analyzed thousands of games. I mastered the most important skill of all – to wield the initiative!”

“Yet, after changing his style, he retained his won, original way of looking at the game. Korchnoi’s deliberations about chess were always to the point, yet unexpected.”

I end the review here. I could continue, going on and on, ad infinitum. I have attempted to convey the tenor of the book to the reader to the best of my ability. You, the reader, will decide if I managed to impart a glimmer of what this marvelous book contains.

A personal note: While reading a book to review I never write in the book; any book. To do so would be to deface the book. A book is sacrosanct. I place paper in the book, and then reread the pages containing the inserted slips of paper. It is almost like reading it twice. I agonized on what to include, which caused much anguish after deciding to exclude parts for the review. While rereading parts of the book I cogitated on how to begin the review. This, too, caused much anguish. There is so much contained in the book that I could write other, totally different, reviews, using none of the above.

I have read every book written by the author, one of the very best writer’s on the Royal game, not to mention his many articles. My admiration for Genna Sosonko is unbounded. This work is his pièce de résistance.

The Rise and Fall of David Bronstein: A Review

Ilan Rubin, founder and CEO, LLC Elk and Ruby Publishing House (www.elkand ruby.ru) read the post, The Laws of the Najdorf (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/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

recalled.

"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.” (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:

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

Chess and Luck

Is there luck in chess? After receiving a “gift” from former World Champion Viswanathan Anand in sixth game of the current match for the championship of the world, World Champion Magnus Carlsen admitted he was “lucky.” When playing backgammon professionally decades ago some of my vanquished opponents would say, “You were lucky.” My response was invariably the same, “I had rather be lucky than good, because when I am good and lucky, I cannot be beat!”

I found this on the “Sabermetric Research” blog by Phil Birnbaum: Monday, January 14, 2013

Chess and luck

“In previous posts, I argued about how there’s luck in golf, and how there’s luck in foul shooting in basketball. But what about games of pure mental performance, like chess? Is there luck involved in chess? Can you win a chess game because you were lucky?

Yes.” (http://blog.philbirnbaum.com/2013/01/chess-and-luck.html) Read the post to understand why Phil thinks there is luck involved in chess.

Later in the post Phil writes, “On an old thread (http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/poker_is_a_game_of_skill_not_luck/#27) over at Tango’s blog, someone pointed this out: if you get two chess players of exactly equal skill, it’s 100 percent a matter of luck which one wins. That’s got to be true, right?”

In #27 James writes, “I think it comes down to what is the relative difference in skill between players and the role of skill vs luck in a game.

If a game is 100% skill (say chess) and say for the sake of argument that the two players are perfectly equally skilled then who wins a single game is purely luck. Regardless of whether they are two unskilled beginners or the two best players in the world.

How do you differentiate between that and the two of them tossing a coin.”

Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov were “the two players perfectly equally skilled.” Garry was obviously not the equal of Anatoly when they first met in the ill-fated match that went on for many months, with one short draw after another after Kasparov was down 0-5, until the slight Karpov neared collapse, when Kasparov won 3 games before FIDE President Florencio Campomanes ended the match, fearing one of the players may “drop dead at the board.” From the second match on, Kasparov was ever so slightly better than the much older Karpov. We know this because they played hundreds of games in many matches for the title. Games are played to determine who is the better player, and by what margin.

Because my friend the Discman played, and has followed, baseball, and because Sabermetrics emanates from the field of dreams, I asked him to read the post and let me know what he thought of luck in chess. This is his response:

“I have a much less esoteric and simplistic example of luck in chess. This happens frequently in over-the-board tournament games where neither player is being assisted by a computer. The frequency is directly correlated to the strength of the players, occurring less frequently the stronger the players are. At my level of play when facing competition of similar strength it occurred maybe once every 20-25 games. Here goes:

I’m sure you have heard it said that chess is 98% tactics and I generally agree with that. How many times have you gone back over your games and realized that you had made a significant oversight that your opponent could have taken advantage of, but also missed?

In many cases, seeing the correct combination to punish you was well within the skill level of your opponent, but for any number of reasons (he was having a bad day, he was distracted at that moment, his biorhythm’s were off, etc.) he just missed it.

If he had been put in that same situation next Tuesday instead of today he may very well have seen it. You were lucky that he missed it – he didn’t miss it because you were a stronger player than he was.

Sometimes the oversight is so simple a 1200 player could see it, like the time Leonard Dickerson missed a mate in 1 and got checkmated by a 1500 player. There was a simple defense to the checkmate – in fact the move Leonard made allowed the mate so it was truly a Helpmate. You could put Leonard in similar situations 10,000 times and he would make a similar mistake 1 time.

Did his opponent get lucky? Hell yes he did. You might argue that the 1500 player was better than the master at that one point in time but I don’t think so – he got extremely lucky that Leonard had a brain-fart that allowed a mate in 1.”

Luck in Chess?

‘Chess,’ said the Dutch grandmaster, Jan Hein Donner, ‘is as much a game of chance as blackjack; or tossing cards into a top hat.’ There was a pained silence, then a polite babel of disagreement: it was a game of the utmost skill; a conflict between disciplined minds in which victory would inexorably go to the more perceptive, the more analytical player; a duel of the intellect in which luck played no part. Donner shrugged, lit another cigarette and said: ‘Believe that if you like.’ Bent Larsen smiled the smile of a man who had heard his friend air such iconoclastic arguments in the past but was quite happy to contest them again, when the score of the fifth game of the World Championship match between Karpov and Korchnoi was brought in. Both men pulled out of their inside pockets the wallet sets all grandmasters seem to carry at all times and began to skim through the moves.

It happened that the teleprinter tape had been torn off after Karpov’s 54th move as Black […]. They studied the position for a few moments, mated Karpov in four moves and were surprised when another whole sheet of moves was brought from the teleprinter.

When they saw Korchnoi’s 55th move – Be4+ – Larsen’s eyebrows went up.

‘There you are,’ Donner said, quietly and without triumph as though some self-evident truth had been revealed, ‘pure luck’.

KORTSCHNOJ,V (2665) – KARPOV,AN (2725) (05) [E42]
WCH29-BAGUIO CITY, 1978

1. c4 Nf6 2. d4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Nge2 d5 6. a3 Bxc3+ 7. Nxc3
cxd4 8. exd4 dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nc6 10. Be3 O-O 11. O-O b6 12. Qd3 Bb7 13.
Rad1 h6 14. f3 Ne7 15. Bf2 Nfd5 16. Ba2 Nf4 17. Qd2 Nfg6 18. Bb1 Qd7
19. h4 Rfd8 20. h5 Nf8 21. Bh4 f6 22. Ne4 Nd5 23. g4 Rac8 24. Bg3 Ba6
25. Rfe1 Rc6 26. Rc1 Ne7 27. Rxc6 Qxc6 28. Ba2 Qd7 29. Nd6 Bb7 30.
Nxb7 Qxb7 31. Qe3 Kh8 32. Rc1 Nd5 33. Qe4 Qd7 34. Bb1 Qb5 35. b4 Qd7
36. Qd3 Qe7 37. Kf2 f5 38. gxf5 exf5 39. Re1 Qf6 40. Be5 Qh4+ 41. Bg3
Qf6 42. Rh1 Nh7 43. Be5 Qg5 44. Qxf5 Qd2+ 45. Kg3 Nhf6 46. Rg1 Re8
47. Be4 Ne7 48. Qh3 Rc8 49. Kh4 Rc1 50. Qg3 Rxg1 51. Qxg1 Kg8 52. Qg3
Kf7 53. Bg6+ Ke6 54. Qh3+ Kd5
55. Be4+
[55. Bf7+ Kc6 56. Qe6+ Kb7 [56… Kb5 57. Qc4+ Ka4 58. Qa6#] 57. Qxe7+
Ka8 58. Qd8+ Kb7 59. Qc7+ Ka6 [59… Ka8 60. Qb8#] 60. Bc4+ b5 61.
Qc6#]

55… Nxe4 56. fxe4+ Kxe4 57. Qg4+ Kd3 58. Qf3+ Qe3 59. Kg4 Qxf3+ 60.
Kxf3 g6 61. Bd6 Nf5 62. Kf4 Nh4 63. Kg4 gxh5+ 64. Kxh4 Kxd4 65. Bb8
a5 66. Bd6 Kc4 67. Kxh5 a4 68. Kxh6 Kb3 69. b5 Kc4 70. Kg5 Kxb5 71.
Kf5 Ka6 72. Ke6 Ka7 73. Kd7 Kb7 74. Be7 Ka7 75. Kc7 Ka8 76. Bd6 Ka7
77. Kc8 Ka6 78. Kb8 b5 79. Bb4 Kb6 80. Kc8 Kc6 81. Kd8 Kd5 82. Ke7
Ke5 83. Kf7 Kd5 84. Kf6 Kd4 85. Ke6 Ke4 86. Bf8 Kd4 87. Kd6 Ke4 88.
Bg7 Kf4 89. Ke6 Kf3 90. Ke5 Kg4 91. Bf6 Kh5 92. Kf5 Kh6 93. Bd4 Kh7
94. Kf6 Kh6 95. Be3+ Kh5 96. Kf5 Kh4 97. Bd2 Kg3 98. Bg5 Kf3 99. Bf4
Kg2 100. Bd6 Kf3 101. Bh2 Kg2 102. Bc7 Kf3 103. Bd6 Ke3 104. Ke5 Kf3
105. Kd5 Kg4 106. Kc5 Kf5 107. Kxb5 Ke6 108. Kc6 Kf6 109. Kd7 Kg7
110. Be7 Kg8 111. Ke6 Kg7 112. Bc5 Kg8 113. Kf6 Kh7 114. Kf7 Kh8 115.
Bd4+ Kh7 116. Bb2 Kh6 117. Kg8 Kg6 118. Bg7 Kf5 119. Kf7 Kg5 120. Bb2
Kh6 121. Bc1+ Kh7 122. Bd2 Kh8 123. Bc3+ Kh7 124. Bg7 1/2-1/2

From The Master Game, Book 2, Jeremy James and William Hartston (1981). London: BBC.
(http://chess.eusa.ed.ac.uk/Chess/Trivia/Chessluck.html)

Smokey Mountain Smith-Morra

Bruce Goodwin is a Chess Cat who also happens to be the President of the Smokey Mountain Chess Club (https://www.facebook.com/SmokyMountainChessClub), which meets every Thursday afternoon at a wonderful place, Blue Ridge Books (www.blueridgebooksnc.com/). Check out this article from a local tabloid: http://themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/smoky-mountain-chess-club/899436/127569
The Chess Cat likes the Smith-Morra Gambit. Over time I have sent Bruce a few games, and articles, via email, such as this one:
Deming – Cornell (Indiana, 1980)
1. e4 c5 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 de4 4. Ne4 Nd7 5. Qe2 Ngf6 6. Nd6#

His response was, “Thanks, dude!” This put a smile on my face and also caused me to sit back an reflect upon good times and good people, who can be found at a good place. Keep this in mind if you ever happen to be anywhere the glorious mountains of Western North Carolina. I dedicate this post to the Chess Cat, and all the men of the Dixie Chess Confederacy who meet to play the Royal game every Thursday afternoon.

FM Kazim Gulamali also likes the Smith-Morra. The motto of St. Pauli Girl beer is, “You never forget your first girl.” The SM was Kazim’s first love, and he has never forgotten it, as can be ascertained from the fact that he still plays it, as in this game:

Gulamali, Kazim (2293) vs Kanter, Eduard (2406)
16th Dubai Open 2014 04/15/2014 Rd 9
ECO: B21 Sicilian, Smith-Morra gambit

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 Nc6 5. Bxd3 g6 6. Nc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 d6 8. h3 Nf6 9. O-O Nd7 10. Qe2 Nc5 11. Rd1 O-O 12. Bc2 Bxc3 13. bxc3 Qc7 14. Bh6 Re8 15. Nd4 a6 16. f4 e5 17. Nxc6 Qxc6 18. f5 f6 19. Rd5 Qc7 20. Rad1 Rd8 21. Qf2 Qe7 (White to move. Answer at the end of article.)

While researching the opening I discovered a game by a long-time habitue of the House of Pain, Lester Bedell. It was surprising to find his highly rated opponent is also a big fan of the Smith-Morra gambit.

Alex Lenderman (2327) vs Lester B Bedell (1903)
6th Foxwoods 2004 Rd 9

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 g6 5. Bxd3 Bg7 6. Nf3 d6 7. h3 Nc6 8. O-O Nf6 9. Nc3 O-O 10. Be3 Nd7 11. Qd2 Nde5 12. Nxe5 Nxe5 (SF & Hou prefer Qa5) 13. Be2 Be6 (Nc6-Hou) 14. Nd5 Bxd5 (Nd7-Hou) 15. cxd5 b6 16. Rac1 Nd7 17. Rc6 Nc5 18. Qc2 a5 19. b3 Qb8 20. a3 f5 21. exf5 gxf5 22. b4 axb4 23. axb4 f4 24. Bxc5 bxc5 25. bxc5 dxc5 26. Qxc5 Qb2 27. Re6 Ra1 28. Qxe7 Rxf1+ 29. Bxf1 Bf6 30. Qd6 Bd4 31. Re2 Qc1 32. Qe6+ Kh8 33. Qe4 Bc5 34. Rc2 Qa3 35. Qe5+ Kg8 36. d6 Bxd6 37. Bc4+ Rf7 38. Qe8+ Kg7 39. Qxf7+ 1-0

Lester was punished for his weakening 20th move. Wondering about Lester sent me to the USCF website where I discovered he has not played since the Atlanta Winter Congress in Feburary of 2009, and that his USCF membership expired a year later. I recall receiving a message from Lester after he won a chess tournament in his home, which I wrote about on the defunct BaconLOG (http://baconlog.blogspot.com/2008/08/house-member-makes-google-chess-news.html).

Here is another game, a blitz match on playchess.com on 2/28/2007:
Nepomniashchy (2587) vs Nakamura (2651)
1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 d3 4. c4 g6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Bxd3 Bg4 9. Be2 Bxf3 10. Bxf3 Nf6 11. Be2 Rc8 12. O-O a6 13. Rc1 O-O 14. b3 Nd7 15. Nd5 e6 16. Nf4 Qe7 17. Rc2 Rfd8 18. Rd2 Nc5 19. f3 Bh6 20. Kh1 Qf8 21. Re1 e522. Nd5 Bxe3 23. Nxe3 Ne6 24. Bf1 Ncd4 25. Nd5 f5 26. exf5 gxf5 27. f4 Qg7 28. Rd3 Kh8 29. Rg3 Qf7 30. fxe5 f4 31. Rd3 dxe5 32. Rxe5 Nc6 33. Re1 Re8 34. Rd2 Ng5 35. Rxe8+ Rxe8 36. Rf2 Ne4 37. Rf3 Ne5 38. Qd4 Ng5 39. Rxf4 Qg7 40. Nf6 Nc6 41. Nxe8 Qxd4 42. Rf8# 1-0

I also discovered a blog entry devoted to the Smith-Morra, ENYCA, the blog of the Eastern New York Chess Association. The title is, “A tale of two titles: Morra gambit and the romantic school of chess,” and it was posted on August 10, 2014, by M Walter Mockler. (http://www.enyca.org/home/2014/08/10/a-tale-of-two-titles-morra-gambit-and-the-romantic-school-of-chess/) He writes, “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.”
“I have spent decades rejecting the Morra gambit on the grounds of materialism, an unnecessary squandering of material in response to the Sicilian. I purchased a book by Marc Esserman, Mayhem In The Morra, to introduce a volatile option for blitz and rapid play. What I found instead was a compelling appeal by a zealot, urging a return to the true faith, romantic chess.”
From the Introduction – The Much Maligned Morra:
After 1. e4 c5 2. d4 cd 3. c3, we reach the starting position of the much maligned Morra Gambit. I must confess that this is often the moment in my chess praxis when my heart thumps most – will my opponent accept the sacrifice in the spirit of the Romantics, or will he shun the most honorable path and meekly decline? Sometimes I wait for the critical decision for many minutes as my grandmaster foe flashes me an incredulous, bordering on insulted, loo. Other times, I receive the answer almost instantaneously. Yet every time I am greeted with 3 …dc, I could not be happier. My knight freely flows to c3, the Morra accepted appears, and we travel back in time to the 19th century.”

Is that not beautiful? Kind of makes one want to play the Smith-Morra gambit, does it not? It makes me think of Ken Smith, whom I first met at the 1972 Church’s Fried Chicken tournament in San Antonio. Wiki has this to say:
“The Smith–Morra is named after Pierre Morra (1900–1969) from France, and Ken Smith (1930–1999) of the Dallas Chess Club. Hence in Europe the name Morra Gambit is preferred; names like Tartakower Gambit and Matulovic Gambit have disappeared.
Morra published a booklet and several articles about the Smith–Morra around 1950. Smith wrote a total of nine books and forty-nine articles about the gambit. When Smith participated in an international tournament against several top grandmasters in San Antonio in 1972, he essayed the opening three times, against Donald Byrne, Larry Evans, and Henrique Mecking, but lost all three games.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith%E2%80%93Morra_Gambit)

What Wiki does not say is that in the book, “San Antonio: Church’s Fried Chicken First International Chess Tournament,” GM Bent Larsen writes in the notes to the second round game between Ken and NM Mario Campos-Lopez, after 1 e4 e6, “Stronger is P-QB4, which wins a pawn (Smith always plays the Morra Gambit, in this tournament with disastrous results.)”

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Donald Byrne (2470)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 4

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 e6 7. O-O Nge7 (“By this piece arrangement Black demonstrates ambitious intentions. He wants not only to blunt White’s usual P-K5, …but Black also wants to contest the dark squares (his K4 and KB5).”- Ken Smith in his book “Sicilian: Smith-Morra Gambit Accepted.”) 8. Bg5 a6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Bh4 (In his book, Smith criticizes this move, giving as its refutation 10… P-KN4 11 B-KN3 B-N2 12 QR-Q1 P-K4 when “the threat of 13…B-N5 is strong.” Instead he recommends 10 B-K3 N-N3 11 QR-Q1. One can only surmise that in playing the text he had in mind an improvement on the analysis in the book, but Byrne is the first to vary.) Qa5 11. Bg3 Ng6 12. Qd2 (A scandalous waste of a tempo in a variation where White’s only real compensation is his slight initiative. 12 P-Q3 was probably best.) Nge5 13. Nxe5 dxe5 14. a3 Be7 15. b4 Qd8 16. Qa2 b5 17. Bb3 O-O 18. Qb2 Bb7 19. Ne2 Bf6 20. f3 Qc7 21. Rac1 Rfd8 22. Kh1 Rd3 23. Nd4 Qd7 24. Nxc6 Bxc6 25. Rc5 Be7 26. Rcc1 Bg5 27. Rcd1 Rd8 28. h4 (“White had almost equalized, but this move is terrible. 28 P-R3 was much better.” – Browne) Bf6 29. Bxe5 Bxe5 30. Qxe5 Qe7 31. Qb2 Qxh4+ 32. Kg1 Qg5 33. Qc2 Rd2 34. Rxd2 Rxd2 0-1

Some of the notes by IM David Levy in the tournament book.

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Larry Melvyn Evans (2545)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 9

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 (“The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it,” so it is writ. Black can decline with 3…P-Q6, or 3…P-Q4 or 3…N-KB3, but why?) 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Bg5 e6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Bh4 (Loses the initiative. On 10 B-K3 N-KN5! [the point] 11 B-Q2 KN-K4 Black’s position is very solid anyway.) g5 11. Bg3 Nh5 12Rfd1 Nxg3 13. hxg3 g4 14. Ne1 Ne5 15. Bb3 h5 16. Nd3 Bg7 17. Nf4 h4 18. Qd2 hxg3 19. fxg3 Qb6+ 20. Kf1 Bd7 21. Rac1 Rd8 22. Ke2 Nf3 23. Qd3 Nd4+ 24. Kd2 Nxb3+ 25. axb3 Qf2+ 26. Nce2 Bb5 27. Qe3 Qxe3+ 28. Kxe3 e5 29. Nd5 Bh6+ 30. Kf2 Bxc1 31. Rxc1 Bc6 32. Nec3 Kd7 33. Nf6+ Ke6 34. Nxg4 f5 35. exf5+ Kxf5 36. Ne3+ Ke6 37. g4 d5 38. Ne2 d4 39. Nc4 Rdg8 40. Kg3 Rg5 0-1 (Notes by GM Larry Evans)

Ken’s next opponent the youngest participant in the tournament, eight months younger than future World Champion, Anatoly Karpov. Because of the similarity in age, I got to know Henrique better than the other players. He rented a car and took me along for a “drive” around San Antonio. It was one of the most harrowing rides I have ever experienced. Mecking was missing cars on my side by an inch, smiling and laughing all the while, as I cringed and moved ever to my left, away from the door. I mentioned this to Brian McCarthy on the way back from the recent scholastic tournament here in Atlanta at the downtown Hyatt and he said it reminded him of a former NM, Michael Lucas. “Yeah,” I said, “he scared the hell out of me. One time he took off a mirror and kept on driving. ” Brian, who was driving, began to laugh uproariously, saying, “That’s how he got the name “Crazy Lucas!”

Kenneth R Smith (2395) vs Henrique Mecking (2570)
San Antonio 1972 Rd 13

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. c3 dxc3 4. Nxc3 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. a3 (What kind of move is this? Normal is 8 B-KN5) e6 9. Qe2 h6 10. Rd1 e5 11. Nd5 Be7 12. Be3 Nxd5 13. exd5 Nb8 14. Nxe5 (Totally unsound. White should have tried doubling Rooks on the QB file.) dxe5 15. f4 exf4 16. d6 fxe3 17. Qxe3 Nc6 18. Bd5 O-O 19. Bxc6 Bg5 0-1 (Notes by IM David Levy)

Bobby Fischer vs Viktor Korchnoi
Buenos Aires 1960 Rd 14

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 a6 3. d4 cxd4 4. c3 dxc3 5. Nxc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 d6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Bg5 e6 9. Qe2 Be7 10. Rfd1 Qc7 11. Rac1 O-O 12. Bb3 h6 13. Bf4 e5 14. Be3 Qd8 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. Bxd5 Bd7 17. Nd2 Nb4 18. Bb3 Bg5 19. Bxg5 Qxg5 20. Nf3 Bg4 21. Rc7 Qd8 22. Rxb7 Rb8 23. Rxb8 Qxb8 24. h3 Bxf3 25. Qxf3 Nc6 26. Qd3 Nd4 27. Bc4 a5 28. b3 Qb4 29. f4 Kh7 1/2-1/2

What? You were unaware Bobby played the Smith-Morra?

Answer: 22. Qxc5! 1-0