Chess Is In A World of Trouble

Chess is in trouble.

I realize the Royal Game appears to be in its heyday, but circumstances can be deceiving. Many will scoff because Chess has been enjoying a period of incredible popularity recently, which has put chickens in the pots of many players the all over the world. Yet for several reasons there are storm clouds gathering. The pandemic caused many to spend much more time at home at a time when contact could be made with anyone in the world via the internet. When Viswanathan Anand became World Chess Champion

Anand won the FIDE World Chess Championship in 2000 for the first time after defeating Alexei Shirov in the final at Tehran, Iran. (https://www.indiatimes.com/others/viswanathan-anands-5-big-wins-25982.html)

it kindled a firestorm in India which brought untold millions into the game. Kenneth W. Gronbach is president of KGC Direct, LLC and author of the current book, “Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead“, which was recently released in April 2017. “A demographic winter refers to locations that are seeing significant declines in their birth rates, such as China, which has “changed from an aging country to an aged country,” he commented. In practical terms, this means more people dying than being born. India, on the other hand, has a growing populace and will likely be strengthened in the years ahead.” (https://www.coasttocoastam.com/show/2022-07-20-show/) There are many Chess teachers in the US who teach only Indian students. With Anand covered with FIDE slime, how long will that last?

One of the most pressing problems with Chess is FIDE, the world Chess organization, which is led by a Russian stooge, Arkady Dvorkovich, known as Mad Vlad Putin’s “lapdog.”

Is Putin a king maker for the World Chess Federation? (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-is-putin-a-king-maker-for-chess-federation/)

Former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand decided, for whatever reason, to join the ticket of current president of the World Chess organization, Arkady Dvorkovich,

Dvorkovich and Anand sending Vlad a signal? photo: FIDE

who is running for reelection. Anand, known as “Vishy”, had a stellar reputation while being admired and respected the all over the world. That ended immediately when he chose to join the nefarious Russians, who are performing genocide against a neighboring country as this is being written. The name “Anand” has now become besmirched the world over. Why would anyone in his right mind join the perpetrators of war crimes against civilians? Need I remind anyone the Russians are not only wantonly killing innocent women and children but also bombing their wheat fields! (https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/07/15/ukraine-farms-wheat-fields-russia-shelling-crops-fire-pkg-watson-lead-vpx.cnn) The wheat grown in Ukraine formerly fed much of the world, therefore Russia has, in effect, attacked the REST OF THE WORLD! Although not acknowledged, World War III has begun, thanks to the opprobrious Russians. And Vishy Anand has joined the villains.

World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen

https://chess24.com/en/read/news/magnus-carlsen-to-give-up-world-championship-title

decided to give up HIS title and who can blame him? The title of World Champion most definitely does NOT BELONG TO FIDE. That particularly corrupt organization can bestow the title on anyone, as it has done in the past. It matters not who is called the “World Chess Champion” when every Chess player in the world knows the best player is Magnus Carlsen. Awarding the title to another player will only cheapen the title, which has lost much luster over the years as changes were made to the World Chess Championship match format. Former World Chess Champion Mikhail Botvinnik

once said, when asked, the match for the World Championship should be at least sixteen games. Even with the souped-up heebe-jeeb games, played with little time, the match for the World Championship is not played with sixteen games. Frankly, the World Championship lost luster when the match began using quick-play games to decide the Championship. It has reached a point where the Championship is virtually meaningless. The WCC cycle went from three years to a two-year cycle. Why would anyone in their right mind want to spend six months preparing for the match and do it again in little more than a year? Why would the World Champ want to face a player he defeated handily after that opponent, the Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi,

melted down during the last match. The candidates tournament that Nepo won in order to face Carlsen should not have been started. After it was stopped it was certainly a terrible mistake to resume the tournament after a lapse of one whole year. The next recently completed Candidates tournament was an unmitigated DISASTER! FIDE has egg, after it has been digested, all over their faces. Fact is, FIDE is covered head to toe in STUFF.
The World Chess Championship match has been a cash cow for FIDE, and you can bet your sweet bibby that, if reelected, Putin’s lapdog, the Dvork, and his second in command, Vishy, will milk that cash cow for all it is worth.

Younger people will ignore what I write because, well, you know, to them I am an old fogy. The thing about we “old fogies” is that we have been around awhile and have seen things change, sometimes in a heartbeat. I have written on this blog (or was it the forerunner, the BaconLOG? https://baconlog.blogspot.com/2008/07/) about how the game of Putt-Putt was once more popular than golf.

The players earned more cash playing Putt-Putt than did the golf professionals of the PGA (Professional Golf Association) because Putt-Putt was televised. Then the fad was over, in the beat of a heart. I have also written about how popular was Backgammon. (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/03/13/paul-magriel-r-i-p/) After hitting the road to play the best I returned home to find Gammons closed. The “boom” had ended. As I write this the once popular card game of Bridge is on life support because the players have grown old(er) and not been replaced by younger players. (https://www.plumasnews.com/is-the-card-game-of-bridge-fading/) The time to worry is not after interest wanes but when interest is booming, because when interest fades it is too late to do anything but cry in your beer.

IM Stuart Rachels Was The Best Alabama Saw In Chess

From prodigy to champion, Stuart Rachels was the best Alabama saw in chess

A young Stuart Rachels looks at a chess board. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

by: Tanner Brooks

Posted: Sep 17, 2021 / 10:56 AM CDT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — There was a time when Stuart Rachels seemed to have a bright future in chess. Rachels, a philosophy professor at the University of Alabama, was a chess prodigy who had become the youngest U.S. chess master in history by the time he was 11-years-old. By 1990, he was co-champion of the U.S. Chess Championship and had already played some of the best players in the world. That all changed in 1993, when Rachels decided to walk away from chess.

‘Kids didn’t play chess’

Rachels recalled one of his earliest chess memories in 1977, when he was 7 years old. “I remember trying to capture the queen of one of my father’s graduate students — his name was Greg — by moving a pawn backwards,” Rachels said in an email correspondence with CBS 42. “I was pretty irritated when he made me give him his queen back.” By the time he was 9, Rachels was constantly playing at the Birmingham Chess Club and rapidly improving. “I never played kids when I was a kid, I only played adults,” Rachels said. “Kids didn’t play chess.”

Stuart Rachels engaged in a match against his father, James. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

Rachels’ family did everything they could to support him. His father, UAB philosophy professor James Rachels, organized chess tournaments in Birmingham and gave him the means to improve his game, including books, magazines and, later, a trainer.However, Rachels said they never put any pressure on him to play. “A good player will put pressure on himself; extra pressure will only give him stomach aches,” he said. “A kid who isn’t self-motivated doesn’t have what it takes, and parents who try to provide motivation from the outside are only being bad parents.”

In 1981, Rachels became the youngest chess master in American history, beating the record previously held by chess icon Bobby Fischer. Rachels was 11 years and 10 months when he broke Fischer’s record. He remained the youngest U.S. chess master until 1994, when it was broken by Jordy Mont-Reynaud.

Rachels credits Kyle Therrell, a player from Fairfield, and trainer Boris Kogan with his early success. “Without them, forget it, I never would have become good,” Rachels said. “It’s not something you can do on your own, with just books and magazines.”

Early on, Rachels had the opportunity to play against both former and future world chess champions. He lost twice against Garry Kasparov, often referred to as the greatest chess player in history, and he lost to Boris Spassky, Fischer’s opponent in what is considered the “Match of the Century,” the 1972 World Chess Championship. Rachels also drew against future five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand. Rachels described each experience with one word. “Kasparov: Exciting. Spassky: Terrifying. Anand: Exhilarating,” he said.

Rachels faced Spassky in the 1985 U.S. Open in Hollywood, Florida. In his book, “The Best I Saw in Chess,” Rachels recalled Spassky walking over to Kogan to ask why he was so nervous. By the time Rachels collected himself, it was too late: Spassky had out-maneuvered him. When Rachels resigned, the spectators applauded. “I joined in, remembering Spassky’s sportsmanlike applause for Fischer when Fischer took the lead against him in Iceland,” Rachels wrote in his book.

Stuart Rachels facing off against former world champion Boris Spassky at the 1985 U.S. Open in Hollywood, Florida. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

Rachels went on to become U.S. co-champion in the 1989 tournament, sharing the title with grandmasters Roman Dzindzichashvili and Yasser Seirawan.

In 1993, Rachels retired from competitive chess, calling it a “whole-life decision.”

“I wasn’t good enough to compete for the world championship,” he said. “In 1993, the life of your average chess professional in the United States was pretty depressing: very little money, a lot of traveling, an all-male culture, no health insurance, no respect from the general public, etc. A lot of professional players moved to Europe, which I didn’t want to do.”

Rachels said his life didn’t change that much after he retired, gradually weaning himself from the game to focus more on his graduate studies of philosophy. “The main change was not traveling to tournaments in the summer,” he said. “Also, I could stop worrying about how to fix problems in my opening repertoire.”

In his father’s footsteps

Even before stepping away from chess, Rachels took a keen interest in philosophy, something of a family business in the Rachels’ household. His father, James, was a moral philosopher and professor at UAB. His 1971 anthology, “Moral Problems,” shifted colleges from teaching meta-ethics to teaching concrete practical issues. “When people know my father as a philosopher, I say, ‘He was an even better father,’” Rachels said.

Stuart Rachels and James Rachels at Stuart’s high school graduation in 1987. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

Rachels remembers spending a good chunk of his teenage years pestering his father with philosophical questions after he would come home from work. “He was my Boris Kogan in the realm of philosophy. I knew, even back then, how lucky I was, but I know this even better now,” said Rachels.

In addition to his father, Rachels credits people like Donald Rutherford and Robert McCauley from Emory University and Derek Parfit from Oxford University as some influences.

There was one year of graduate school that Rachels was so consumed by philosophy that he let his subscription to his favorite chess magazine lapse. But that was only for a year. Rachels said that he was consumed by chess and by philosophy, but was primarily a student first and a chess player in his spare time. “Even people who have always known me are surprised when I remind them that I never took any time off from school in order to play chess,” Rachels said.

Rachels now teaches philosophy at the University of Alabama as an associate professor specializing in ethical theory.

Returning to the game

Back in June, nearly 30 years after retiring from competitive chess, Rachels took part in the 2021 Alabama Blitz Championship and the 2021 Alabama Quick Championship in Montgomery. Rachels won all of his games to sweep the Alabama Blitz Championship. With all wins and a draw, he pulled out on top in the Alabama Quick Championship as well.

Scott Varagona,

https://www.thealabamian.com/um-professor-wins-state-chess-championship/

reigning Alabama State Chess Champion and editor for the Alabama Chess Antics magazine, said he always heard older players talk about Rachels with a sense of awe, but he had never had the chance to play him. With Rachels returning, Varagona was not going to miss the opportunity. “For him to resurface after all these years, and for me to finally get to face him in a serious tournament, was a big deal for me. After all, he was Alabama’s strongest player of the 20th century,” said Varagona. “Even though he hadn’t played competitive chess for over 25 years, whereas I was the reigning Alabama State Champion, he beat me very badly! I was impressed.” Varagona said he was too nervous and starstruck against Rachels to play at his best, but believes he would do better if he got another chance to play him.

Rachels said that going back to those tournaments after years away was like sticking his toes in the water. “For me, it was ‘sort of’ like playing in a real tournament. I didn’t consider it ‘fully real’ because the time control was accelerated, we weren’t keeping score, and it didn’t affect my classical rating,” he said. “But I enjoyed it, and I was relieved to discover that I can still push pawns okay.” When asked if he will pursue more competitions or potentially seek attaining the coveted Grandmaster title, Rachels said he will probably play more. “It’s a slow process,” he said. “I doubt I will play again seriously enough to pursue the GM title, but who knows.”

Stuart Rachels is a five-time Alabama State Champion, a U.S. Junior Champion, a U.S. Co-Champion and an International Master. He also teaches philosophy at the University of Alabama. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

Larger than life

Rachels said that today, things are different for professional players in the United States. While he still believes it to be an odd life, players can make a living on social media platforms, like Twitch, where they can livestream games to subscribers. “The internet brings grandmasters into everyone’s living room,” Rachels said, “or, indeed, everyone’s pocket.” Over the last few years, there has been a boom in the game with more people learning chess for the first time, most notably following the popularity of the Netflix miniseries “The Queen’s Gambit.” According to The New York Times, sales of chess sets in the United States rose by around 125% since the show first premiered.

Rachels said he was thrilled to see how popular the game is continuing to be. “I wish people would power down their screens and get out and play more in-person, that would make me even happier. It’s better for the culture to be in-person,” Rachels said. “Interest in chess also surged in 1972 when Bobby Fischer became world champion. This surge feels more real to me, though, because in 1972, it was about Fischer himself, and so when Fischer quit, people lost interest in chess. Now, however, it’s about people actually playing.” Last week, Rachels was inducted into the first class of the Alabama Chess Hall of Fame.

A young Stuart Rachels (center) at a chess tournament. (Courtesy of Stuart Rachels)

Bill Melvin,

https://www.al.com/living/2016/09/post_312.html

a prominent player and figure in the Alabama chess community, played Rachels a handful of times over 30 years ago. While he wasn’t able to make Rachels’ comeback tournament, Melvin was surprised that he actually participated. “Stuart’s impact on chess is simply as the greatest talent to come out of Alabama,” Melvin said. “His star was bright, but he quit chess at such an early age. He has explained his reasoning with me many times, but I still don’t understand.”

Varagona echoed Melvin, saying that Rachels proved that an Alabama player could reach the pinnacle of chess in the nation, something no Alabama player has come close to achieving since. “There have been many great Alabama chess legends — but then there is Stuart Rachels. Stuart is larger than life.”

https://www.cbs42.com/news/local/from-prodigy-to-champion-stuart-rachels-was-the-best-alabama-saw-in-chess/

Kasparov Goes Down Like Rotgut!

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov at 58 years of age continues to make news at the Chess board. Whether it being the first World Chess Champion to lose a match to a computer program, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/garry-kasparov-tangled-up-in-deep-blue/) or cheating against the strongest female Chess player of all time, Judit Polgar, (https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2020/04/26/confirmation-garry-kasparov-cheated-judit-polgar/)

Kasparov refuses to go gently into that good night…

Garry Kasparov

Garry Kasparov
Garry Kasparov | Photo: Lennart Ootes

lost in without getting out of the opening playing black against GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

https://xpertchesslessons.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/c1197-mamedyarovface.jpg

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:

[Event “GCT Blitz Croatia 2021”]
[Site “Zagreb CRO”]
[Date “2021.07.10”]
[Round “6”]
[White “Mamedyarov,S”]
[Black “Kasparov,G”]
[Result “1-0”]
[WhiteElo “2782”]
[BlackElo “2812”]
[EventDate “2021.07.05”]
[ECO “D20”]

  1. d4 d5 2. c4 dxc4 3. e3 e5 4. Nf3 exd4 5. Bxc4 Nf6 6. Qb3 Qe7 7. O-O 1-0

This was found at The Week In Chesswebsite: https://theweekinchess.com/live

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

Still got it — Vishy Anand | Photo: Lennart Ootes

to a player who now resides in the Great State of Georgia, GM Alonso Zapata,

https://georgiachessnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/CHESS-Zapata-State-Champion-2014-192x200.jpg
Play a Grandmaster at the Atlanta Chess Club | Georgia …
georgiachessnews.com

explained by the Australian GM Max Illingworth:

Illingworth Chess

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…

The Chess Grandmaster Title Limbo: How Low Can The Age Go?

In an article at Chess24.com, What it takes to be the world’s youngest Grandmaster: Abhi Mishra,


Leon Watson writes: “The youngest grandmaster in chess history has revealed two of the secrets to his success: working on the game 12 hours a day and studying hard on Chessable.”
https://chess24.com/en/read/news/what-it-takes-to-be-the-world-s-youngest-grandmaster

I found this sad, because there are only 24 hours in a day, and there is so much to learn for a preteen child who has yet to reach puberty. How much time does that leave for socialization, the necessary interacting with other children, or humans of any age? How much time is there for the child to learn the basics of education, reading, writing and arithmetic, not to mention history, and all the other facets of life each child should learn before becoming an adult.

In a recent email Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett wrote:

“In some senses I feel sorry for the lad. He has already been the focus of some very negative commentary from top players about how these tournaments are being arranged just so that he can succeed.

Too bad, because he is clearly talented. In the next couple of months a few record will appear, etc. etc. It is just another rabbit hole.”

It is also sad to realize Mishra has no chance to ever become World Chess Champion because he started two years too late. Meet the future Chess Champion of the World:

In what other game do children compete with adults? How did it become accepted, and “normal” to see young children battling seasoned professionals?

Does anyone in the Chess community question the efficacy of children competing against adults? Is there anyone in the Chess community who cares what happens to the child?

The post was written and published on July 3, 2021. I have no idea why the video was pulled, so will attempt to again today, July 4, 2021 to insert it in the post, along with a few others, while hoping at least one of them will be allowed to be remain published:

EXAMINE ALL CHECKS!

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.

He challenged Viswanathan Anand

at the World Chess Championship 2010, losing 6½–5½.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veselin_Topalov)

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.

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa vs Veselin Topalov

Gibraltar Masters 2020 round 06

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Be7 7. Be3 b6 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Be2 O-O 10. O-O cxd4 11. Nxd4 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 Nb8 13. Bf2 Ba6 14. Bxa6 Nxa6

15. f5? (15 Qe2 looks strong, and not just because the Queen is going to the e2 square)

15…exf5? (The kid shows his age. The Stockfish program at ChessBomb gives 15… Nb4 16. Rad1 Rc8 17. Be3 and only now exf5)

16. Nxd5 Nb4 17. c4 Rc8 18. a3 Nc6 19. Rfe1 Bc5 20. b4 Bxf2+ 21. Qxf2 Qd7 22. Qh4

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.html23. 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

(https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2020-gibraltar-masters/06-Praggnanandhaa_R-Topalov_Veselin)

 

EXAMINE ALL CHECKS TO THE QUEEN!

IM Pedro Antonio Gines Esteo (2284) vs GM Natalia Zhukova  (2338)

Gibraltar Masters 2020 round 05

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nd7 3. Bg2 e5 4. d3 Ngf6 5. O-O c6 6. c4 Bd6 7. a3 O-O 8. b4 Re8 9. Bb2 a5 10. c5 Bf8 11. Nbd2 b6 12. d4 exd4 13. Nxd4 bxc5 14. Nxc6 Qb6 15. Nxa5 Rxa5 16. Bxf6 cxb4 17. axb4 Bxb4 18. Rxa5 Qxa5 19. Nb3 Qb5 20. Ba1 Qxe2 21. Qxd5 Qe6 22. Qd4 Bf8 23. Bd5 Qg6 24. Qa4 Rd8

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

(https://www.chessbomb.com/arena/2020-gibraltar-masters/05-Gines_Esteo_Pedro_Antonio-Zhukova_Natalia)

 

A Track Called Jack
Armand Van Helden

Check the sound
Check it down
Check it through the underground

Check the place
Check the space
Check the track all in your face

Check the spot
Check it hot
Check with everything you got

Check the roof
Check the proof
Checks the ones that makes you move

Check, check
Check, check
Check, check
Check, check

Check the sound
Check it down
Check it through the underground

Check the place
Check the space
Check the track all in your face

Check the spot
Check it hot
Check with everything you got

Check the roof
Check the proof
Checks the one that makes you move

Check, check
Check, check
Check, check
Check, check

Check, check
Check, check
Check, check
Check, check

Check, check
Check, check
Check, check
Check, check

Check the sound
Check it down
Check it through the underground

Check the place
Check the space
Check the track all in your face

Check the spot
Check it hot
Check with everything you got

Check the roof
Check the proof
Checks the one that makes you move
https://www.lyrics.com/lyric/10507050/Armand+Van+Helden/A+Track+Called+Jack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moves That Matter Part 2: An Analogue Creature Floundering in a Digital World

An Analogue Creature Floundering in a Digital World

In chapter five, Cyborgs and Civilians: Algorithms are puppeteers, Dr. Rowson writes, “I was not yet aware that I would be a father the following year, but it was in that life context of beginning to detach from the chess world that I had the privilege of helping world champion Viswanathan Anand prepare for his match with Vladimir Kramnik.

When it became clear that the chess world was going to get the contest it wanted, I offered my services to Anand. I was a strong middleweight Grandmaster rather than a heavyweight, but analytical help is about more than chess strength. Unlike many hired guns, I had some lateral perspectives on chess, an easy rapport with Vishy, and I genuinely wanted him to win. The plan was to offer a few opening ideas for him to develop and some speculative psychological insight for him to ignore.”

“I was also eager to participate in preparation at the very highest level. I had no experience of World Championship preparation, but I had red descriptions of other matches from the seventies, eighties and nineties. Most of those matches were in pre-computer or early computer days, and what I assumed might be a slight shift in emphasis was much more fundamental. I imagined that the training would be part of over-the-board analysis session, part inquiry into the psychodynamics of competition, and part Rocky IV training montage, where Sylvester Stallone lifts huge blocks of wood and runs through the snow.

I expected the training to be roughly 20 per cent physical, 20 per cent psychological, 30 per cent on the computer. In fact, the work was about 95 per cent on the computer, and virtually all of that time was spent trying to help Vishy form new ways of achieving good positions in the opening phase of the game. Just as finding needle in a haystack is easy, if you have a metal detector, finding an important new chess move is easy, if you have the right software.”

“To give an illustration of how far the experience deviated from my expectations, I was in two minds about whether even to bring my computer to the training (a basic Sony Vaio laptop I had used for years). Very soon after arrival, before a pawn had been pushed, Vishy asked me: ‘How many cores do you have, Jon?”
‘Oh, I’m not sure,’ I said, which was clearly not a reassuring answer. Vishy talked me through finding the relevant details on my computer. When he saw it on my screen he paused ruefully and said: ‘Oh, Jon has only one core.’ Kasim (Rustam Kasimdzhanov)

and Peter (Heine Nielsen)

looked at each other, a little troubled. I had no idea what was going on, but it was as if I had arrived at the border to a new country, only to learn that my passport was not valid. Vishy looked mildly ruffled but said it did not matter, because it was possible to connect to online analysis engines – a mysterious notion at the time because I had never done that before, but is was a source of hope too. Alas, I then had painfully mundane problems relating to getting the wi-fi to work, and realized I was slowing the team down. I maintained a professional face, but inwardly I was approaching one of those childlike moments of absolute humiliation.”

There follows a description of what is a core, and what it does, culminating with, “It was only because I was literally up to speed with the others that I could enjoy several productive days at the camp. But I will never forget that feeling of being an analogue creature, floundering in a digital world.”

The author felt that way because, “The work however, happened as the four of us sat around the same table in our on worlds for several hours in a dimly lit room late into the night. The scene was like a Silicon Valley incubator house: humanoids with transfixed faces lit by the glow of computer screens.”

“Mostly we followed the best ideas according to the analysis engines with what Vishy joked was ‘space-bar preparation’ – when the analysis engines are synchronized with the position you are navigating, rather than move the pieces on the screen with your mouse, you press the space bar to keep the engine going down the line it deems to be most accurate for both sides, while watching it unfold on the position on the screen. It is a kind of thinking, I suppose.”

I found this rather sad because it sounds more like something out of a dystopian science fiction novel than real life. Some of my most interesting and enjoyable moments with Chess were those spent analyzing positions with one, or more, players. The arguments were exuberantly endless, and elevating. Maybe the variations were far from best but the interaction with fellow humans was wonderful. Something may have been gained with the coming of the digital age, but something much more important has been lost, never to return to the Royal game. As IM of GM strength Bois Kogan was fond of saying when looking at one of my games, “This is NOT CHESS!”

MVL Versus Magnus Carlsen: Fooling Caissa

Two consecutive tournament wins ahead of Carlsen

by André Schulz

Four players were at the top in the Norway Chess tournament at the start of round nine: Wesley So, Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Caruana and So met each other, while Carlsen was dealt black against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Nakamura faced off against Levon Aronian, also with black. Even Viswanathan Anand, with 3½ points, had chances jump into a tie for first with a win, although the 15th World Champion was black as well, against Sergey Karjakin.

Carlsen, was in no mood to take any chances against Vachier-Lagrave. When the game was in full swing on just move 17, the players began repeating moves in a position reached several times before. It certainly played a role that the two players trained together for Carlsen’s 2016 World Championship title defence, as Magnus himself pointed out in the “confession box” (in Norwegian):

The World Champion conceded half the point. Considering his chances to reach a tiebreak as about 50/50, he was content to watch his rivals fight it out.
https://en.chessbase.com/post/norway-chess-2018-round-9

Unfortunately, I do not understand Norwegian so the accompanying video could not be understood. What I do understand is that Magnus Carlsen, rather than fight like a World Champion, decided to be content with a draw. The decision by the HWCC was an insult to Caissa, and a disgraceful act unworthy of a World Champion. What kind of example has Magnus Carlsen set for all the children playing the Royal game? The above noted article at Chessbase seems to take the position, like most of the Chess world, that what Magnus did was perfectly acceptable. Chess is dying by draw, yet one hardly ever notices a discussion concerning the proliferation of draws. THERE ARE NO DRAWS IN THE ANCIENT ORIENTAL GAME OF GO! Before you send that nasty email, I am aware of the triple Ko situation in Go, in which the game is declared drawn. It happens about as often as a leap year, and when it does occur it makes news all around the Go world. Magnus did not have to agree to a draw; he did it because he is the HWC and can do what he wants to do when he wants to do it, without being called out by anyone involved with Chess. Magnus decided to rest on his laurels. As we say in America, Magnus CHICKENED OUT! I would have more respect for the HWCC if he had fought, and lost, while trying to win, rather than meekly acquiescing to a draw.

The moves in the game have been played so many times one cannot help but wonder if the fix was in…Was it a prearranged draw? Let us examine the “game.”

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

vs World Champ Magnus Carlsen

Altibox Norway Chess 2018

Last round, with all the marbles on the line.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. d3 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. a3 (Stockfish at the CBDB shows 8 a4 as the best move)
8…O-O (Although Komodo shows this as the best move, Houdini has 8…Na5 best)

9. Nc3 (One Stockfish program has this as best, but the other prefers 9 Ba2. Komodo shows 9 Re1 as best)

Na5 (The most often move played in this position is 9…Bg4, and it is the choice of the Dragon. Houdini would play 9…Rb8)

10. Ba2 Be6 11. b4 Bxa2 12. Rxa2 Nc6

13. Bg5 (Although the Stockfish program at ChessBomb shows this best at depth 21 after 30 seconds of ‘reflection’, the Stockfish program at the ChessBaseDataBase at depth 30 gives 13 Nd5. Komodo at depth 24 would play 13 h3)

13…Ng4 (SF at the Bomb has this in second behind 13…Nd7. The Fish and the Dragon at the CBDB would play 13…Qd7)

14. Bd2 (The SF at CBDB plays this move, but Komodo would play 13 Be3, a TN. Meanwhile, the SF at ChessBomb would play 14 Bxe7)

14…Nf6

(Let us stop here too reflect a moment. If the Royal game had the Ko rule, as does Go MVL would not be allowed to play 15 Bg5 and repeat the position. MVL would be forced to play elsewhere)

15.Bg5 (SF at CBDB plays 15 Re1; SF at DaBomb would play either 15 Qb1 or Ra1)

Ng4 16. Bd2 Nf6 17. Bg5 1/2-1/2

Pathetically pitiful…

From the above it is apparent there was a plethora of choices each player could have chosen, had they been inclined to do so. They were not so inclined, for whatever reason. To their credit, fellow countrymen Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So played a full-bodied game of Chess, with neither backing down and offering a draw. THEY PLAYED TO WIN!

Magnus Carlsen embarrassed himself and his reputation with his servile acquiescence to split the point. Magnus took a page out of the old Soviet Union Chess playbook when he decided to not fight in the last round of a major tournament held in HIS OWN COUNTRY! Oh, the SHAME…

Since the candidates tournament I have vacillated between the choice of Magnus versus Fabiano to win the upcoming World Human Chess Championship. The fact is that Caruana has shown much more fighting spirit in the tournaments in which the two have battled since the candidates tournament. Fabiano Caruana has demonstrated tremendous FIGHTING ability recently. We Chess fans can only wish the WCC were longer, as in the past. Mikhail Botvinnik considered sixteen games the optimum number of games, and who would know better than the Botvinnik? If it were a sixteen game match, without any speed games in case of a tie, I would wager on Fabi. Magnus is a much superior speed Chess player, so Magnus has draw odds going into the match, which is an unfair advantage. Speed Chess is NOT Chess! It is ABSURD to settle a WCC with speed games. I have often heard that “speed kills.” Speed Chess is killing the Royal game! The title of WCC should NOT be won by playing speed Chess!

Authorities Crack Down On Go Players Using Phones

It was just a matter of time as far as I was concerned until the Go community would be forced to take action when I posted on Go forums prophesying about the actions which would be necessary in the near future to prevent cheating with use of computer programs during play. This was before the rise of AlphaGo and I was excoriated unmercifully for even saying such a thing. After all, Go was not Chess, and most so-called “experts” were predicting it would be another decade before any computer program would rival even lower level Dan players. In reality it was closer to ten months before the Go community was in for a “rude awakening.”

Chess GM Alexander Morozevich, who has also been in the news for playing Go recently, spoke about this in a recent interview with Murad Amannazarov when he was asked, “So it’s only a hobby?” Morozevich answered the question, “Well, of course it’s a hobby. Go can’t be my profession, I understand that perfectly well. It’s not that I’ve been disappointed in chess and decided to start from scratch, because it’s clear that I’ve got neither the time, opportunity nor anything else in order to become a professional there. For me it feels more like I’ve learned a foreign language i.e. if I learned something like Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or some other language I’d also need to practice it from time to time and that, of course, would surprise no-one. It turned out that I “learned a language” – I got acquainted with playing Go, it really drew me in and it’s the first game after chess that has really enthralled me. To some extent I’ve learned to play it, which by analogy is like someone more or less acquiring a language at a beginner level. Then he travels either to the country or finds some native speakers, or he reads books i.e. he develops that in some way. I do more or less the same: I go along, I chat, sometimes I play tournaments, but it’s clear that it’s only as a hobby, of course. It’s not a new job, or a new profession, or a new path. At least from the point of view of achieving any results I don’t have any illusions. I’m 40 years old and that would be extremely naïve. I understand perfectly well that there are roughly ten thousand 10-year-old Go players who would beat me. Therefore you have to understand that if you’re competing with millions and among them you’re roughly in the 4th million, or something like that, then no doubt there’s no point having any great illusions.

A different issue is that somehow I see very similar processes in what Go is going through and what happened in chess 10-15 years ago. That’s all happening to them and is comparable to what happened to us – it’s not even retro-analysis but as if you have another view of the process that we already saw in chess. When the first computers came along they gradually gained momentum, became stronger and stronger, and the way chess players reacted to that then, what they expected of where it would lead, how they began to use them – the same is now happening, the same computer revolution, only it’s as if it’s only just begun. Until 2015 that was the only intellectual game in which professionals were stronger than machines, and only in the last year or year and a half have the first harbingers appeared saying that yes, the end of Go has come. For now it’s not quite formalized, but gradually, I think, they’ll follow the same path that we followed in chess. Machines, of course, will take up an absolutely dominant position, despite the fact that of course the calculating algorithms, the evaluation algorithms are quite different. As far as I understand it the algorithm used by AlphaGo, the most successful program, is a Monte Carlo algorithm. That was also one of the main computational approaches in chess, but it didn’t become common. Machines reached a maximum of 2400 with that. After all, our game is about more direct selection, while there it was possible even to use that algorithm, which is quite interesting.”

I highly recommend anyone interested in either game read this excellent interview with one of the more interesting minds in the world of games.
(https://chess24.com/en/read/news/morozevich-on-go-computers-and-cheating)

An article published recently in the Global Times:

Authorities getting stricter about Go players using their phones at a match in China

China’s top authority for the game Go recently announced a ban on phones at Go matches in response to the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the sport.

According to a notice released by the Chinese Weiqi Association (CWA) on Tuesday, “during matches, players are not allowed to have or watch mobile phones and any other electronic devices. If they are found with one of the devices, they will be judged losers immediately.”

Players are also forbidden to leave the room during a break in the matches, unless they have special needs and are acccompanied by a judge.

For team events, if the team leaders or coaches use AI technology in connection with the match, the entire team’s score for the round will be declared invalid.

The new regulation covers all upcoming matches of China’s professional Go league in 2017, with further expected in 2018.

AI technology has been used on some board games with great success.

On a related note, Georgian chess champion Gaioz Nigalidze was thrown out of the Dubai Open in 2015 for regularly leaving the table to check his mobile phone which he had hidden in a toilet cubicle, the Washington Post reported.

AlphaGo, a Google AI program, claimed a 3-0 clean sweep on May 27 over China’s Ke Jie, the current world No.1 Go player, after defeating many other top players.

“AlphaGo has done a splendid job,” 19-year-old Ke, a native of Lishui, Zhejiang, told a postgame press conference.

Go, or weiqi in Chinese, involves two players who take turns putting white and black stones on a grid of 19 x 19 lines. Victory over an opponent involves advancing over more territory on the grid.

http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1073115.shtml

If caught cheating I assume the perpetrator would be forced to do a “perp walk” with the only question being, “Would you like a blindfold?” There are some, if not most, officials in FIDE, such as Zurab Azmaiparashvili, who would dispense with the blindfold and even possibly even the perp walk. For those unaware, Canadian GM Anton Kovalyov, after knocking former World Human Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand out of the World Cup, was accosted by the bombastic organizer of the event, GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili for wearing Bermuda shorts even they are deemed acceptable by the world Chess organization, FIDE, a few minutes before beginning the game with his next opponent. As stated by numerous witnesses, Azmaiparashvili’s unnecessary diatribe would have rattled even the most stable Chess player.

(http://www.spraggettonchess.com/fide-psychopath-at-large/)

See also the article Psychopathy in Tbilisi, by GM Kevin Spraggett on his excellent blog in which he prints the official FIDE rule:

3 Dress code for players during games in progress

3 a. The following is acceptable for men players, captains, head of delegation.

Suits, ties, dressy pants, trousers, jeans, long-sleeve or shirt-sleeve dress shirt, alternatively T-shirts or polo, dress-shoes, loafers or dressy slip-ons, socks, shoes or sneakers, sport coat, blazer, Bermuda shorts, turtleneck, jacket, vest or sweater. Team uniforms and national costumes clothing.

http://www.spraggettonchess.com/psychopathy-in-tbilisi/

Another excellent commentary of the sordid affair is: https://laregledujeu.org/arrabal/2017/09/10/8209/a-n-t-o-n-k-o-v-a-l-y-o-v-grand-maitre-international/

Magnus Carlsen’s Brain

One of the things listed under favorites on my computer is “brain science,” a subject with which I have been fascinated most of my life. The most recent article to be included was, “Studying Oversize Brain Cells for Links to Exceptional Memory,” by Carl Zimmer, dated Febuary 12, 2015, in the New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/13/science/studying-oversize-brain-cells-for-links-to-exceptional-memory.html?hpw&rref=science&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0)

“In 2010, a graduate student named Tamar Gefen got to know a remarkable group of older people. They had volunteered for a study of memory at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. Although they were all over age 80, Ms. Gefen and her colleagues found that they scored as well on memory tests as people in their 50s. Some complained that they remembered too much. She and her colleagues referred to them as SuperAgers.”

“Recently, Ms. Gefen’s research has taken a sharp turn. At the outset of the study, the volunteers agreed to donate their brains for medical research. Some of them have died, and it has been Ms. Gefen’s job to look for anatomical clues to their extraordinary minds.”

“Ms. Gefen and her colleagues are now starting to publish the results of these post-mortem studies. Last month in The Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists reported that one of the biggest differences involves peculiar, oversize brain cells known as von Economo neurons. SuperAgers have almost five times as many of them as other people.”

“Learning what makes these brains special could help point researchers to treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of mental decline. But it is hard to say how an abundance of von Economo neurons actually helps the brain.”

“We don’t know what they’re doing yet,” said Dr. Mary Ann Raghanti, an anthropologist at Kent State University who was not involved in the new study.”

“As soon as the Northwestern scientists began enrolling SuperAgers in their study in 2007, the team took high-resolution scans of their brains. The SuperAgers had an unusually thick band of neurons in a structure called the anterior cingulate cortex, the scientists found; it was 6 percent thicker on average than those of people in their 50s.” (The anterior cingulate cortex, also known as Area 25, is a region that is located towards the front of the corpus callosum, in the medial frontal lobe. This region is involved in decision making and emotional regulation as well as vital to the regulation of physiological processes, such as blood pressure and heart rate. In particular, the key functions of the anterior cingulate cortex revolve around:

Detection of errors or shortfalls from some standard (Nieuwenhuis, Ridderinkhof, Blom, Band, &; Kok, 2001)
Anticipation and preparation before task performance
Regulation of emotions. http://www.psych-it.com.au/Psychlopedia/article.asp?id=263)

“Scientists have found von Economo neurons in only a few other mammals, such as apes, whales and cows.”

“John M. Allman of Caltech, who has studied von Economo neurons for 20 years, suspects that the neurons provide long-distance transmission of nerve impulses. The large size of the cells helps maintain electrical signals as they travel across the brain.

“My guess is they represent a fast relay,” he said.”

Noice that after “20 years” Mr. Allman “suspects” and has to “guess.” This is cutting-edge brain science in its infancy. The next paragraph jumped out, causing me to consider some of the things other elite chess players have said about World Human Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen. Consider what the former World Human Chess Champion, Viswanathan Anand, had to say after losing the second match for the Crown against Magnus, “My nerves were the first to crack.” (http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2014/11/23/magnus-carlsen-repeats-at-world-chess-championship/)

There is also this, “In a battle of nerves Norwegian World chess champion Magnus Carlsen held up his own better, said the losing challenger from India Viswanathan Anand on Sunday.” (http://ibnlive.in.com/news/magnus-carlsen-held-up-his-nerves-better-anand/514494-5-23.html)

In an interview by Colin McGourty at Chess24 GM Levon Aronian was asked, “What’s behind the phenomenon of Magnus Carlsen, who seized the chess crown?” Levon answered by saying, “I’d say it’s all about his incredible calm and nerves which, strangely enough, failed him at times in the recent World Championship match. But overall Magnus’ main secret is his composure and the absence of any soul-searching after mistakes during a game. At times, after all, you blunder and then hate yourself, saying: “You should be ashamed of yourself – children are watching”. But Carlsen doesn’t have that. He fights to the end, even if he’s playing badly.” (https://chess24.com/en/read/news/aronian-magnus-main-secret-is-his-composure)

From where does this “incredible calm and nerves” emanate? Could it be that Magnus Carlsen has oversized brain cells, specifically, brain cells known as von Economo neurons? Consider this written in New In Chess 2014/5, about Magnus, “Carlsen knows how to control his emotions, as can be gleaned from his lack of fear, no matter how tense the situation gets on the board.” This can be found in “NIC’s Cafe under “Total Control.” The article continues, “We saw a fine demonstration of his ‘mental control’ during the first free day of Norway Chess, when the players visited a school tournament and some of them were tempted to play Brainball. In Brainball, two players sit opposite each other wearing a headband that registers their brain activity. The aim is to reduce your brain activity as much as possible, as this will set a little ball moving towards your opponent. Once it reaches your opponent, you win. Of the Grandmasters that had a go at Brainball, Aronian and Carlsen were the best at relaxing their brains, but in their direct encounter the World Champion was in a class of his own. The cursor that indicated his mental activity dropped so low that an admiring colleague sighed: ‘Incredible. He seems to have total control of his brain.'”

Russian President Vladimir Putin Accused of Murder

There is an article by Jane Croft on the Financial Times website, dated Jan. 27, 2015, “Putin accused of presiding over ‘mafia state’ at Litvinenko probe.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin was on Tuesday accused at the opening of an inquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko of presiding over a “mafia state” with links to organised crime syndicates in Spain.”

This man, RasPutin, is the power behind the world chess federation known as FIDE. This is also the man seen hobnobbing with the chess elite, including the World Human Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen, and the man he vanquished for the title, Viswanathan Anand. (http://www.sochi2014.fide.com/closing-ceremony) Is it any wonder the public has tuned out the Royal game?

_MG_0601

The article continues, “Ben Emmerson QC, representing Litvinenko’s widow Marina at the public inquiry, claimed that the evidence for Litvinenko’s “horrifying assassination” by a radioactive isotope “all points in one direction” and was only likely to have happened “on the order of very senior officials in the Russian state”.

In a hard hitting speech, Mr Emmerson claimed that Litvinenko was killed “partly as an act of political revenge for speaking out, partly?.?.?.?as a message of lethal deterrence to others and partly to prevent him giving evidence in a criminal prosecution in Spain that could have exposed Putin’s direct link to an organised criminal syndicate in that country”.

Mr Emmerson claimed that the events showed the “unlawfulness and criminality at the very heart of the Russian state”.

“The intimate relationship that will be shown to exist between the Kremlin and Russian organised crime syndicates are so close as to make the two effectively indistinguishable,” Mr Emmerson claimed.

“The startling truth, which is going to be revealed in public by the evidence in this inquiry, is that a significant part of the Russian organised crime around the world is organised directly from the office of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a mafia state,” Mr Emmerson alleged to the inquiry.

Mr Emmerson added that Litvinenko had been a “marked man” since giving a press conference in Moscow alleging national security service FSB corruption and Mr Putin was a “ruthless and deadly enemy” to Litvinenko, Mr Emmerson claimed.

“The evidence all points one way,” Mr Emmerson said claiming that the two main suspects implicated in the poisoning had “links to Putin’s inner circle”.

Mr Emmerson said he believed the inquiry would show not just a trail of polonium from London to Moscow but a trail leading “directly to the door of Putin’s office” and Mr Putin would be “unmasked” by the inquiry “as a common criminal dressed up as a head of state.”

The former Russian spy, who died after ingesting radioactive polonium 210, may have been poisoned “not once but twice”, the inquiry into his death was told.

Sir Robert Owen, chairman of the public inquiry, said the circumstances of Litvinenko’s death brought in to focus issues of the “utmost gravity”, which had attracted “worldwide interest and concern”.

The inquiry, which is due to last for 10 weeks, will look at the circumstances around the death of Litvinenko who was allegedly poisoned as he sipped green tea at Mayfair’s Millennium Hotel in November 2006.

The death of Litvinenko sent relations between the UK and Russia to a post-cold war low, with diplomats expelled by both sides.

Russia has long denied claims, attributed to Litvinenko on his deathbed and repeated by his friends and family, that Moscow ordered his death after the Kremlin critic was granted asylum in the UK.

UK prosecutors had accused two Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun of the murder. They have strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Russia has refused to extradite them under the terms of its constitution.

Robin Tam QC, counsel to the public inquiry, told the hearing that scientific evidence will be presented to the inquiry that appeared to show that Litvinenko was poisoned with polonium “not once but twice”.

As well as a November 2006 meeting at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel, the hearing was told an earlier poisoning attempt may have been made at a meeting weeks earlier.

Samples from Litvinenko’s hair show that he may have been poisoned twice with the first attempt much less successful, Mr Tam told the hearing.

Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun were present at two meetings with Mr Litvinenko — including at the Pine Bar at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair.

Litvinenko, who converted to Islam before he died, claimed to police on his deathbed that he believed he had been targeted by the Russian security services on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to details of his police interview conducted just before he died and read out to the hearing.” (http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/998d690c-a62c-11e4-9bd3-00144feab7de.html)

An article, “What’s Been the Effect of Western Sanctions on Russia?” appeared on the PBS website as a companion piece to the hard hitting documentary, “Putin’s Way.”

“When Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last March, the United States and European Union responded with an economic weapon — sanctions.

The first few rounds, applied in March and April of 2014, targeted Russian and Crimean officials, as well as businessmen seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin — his “inner circle” — with travel bans and asset freezes.

Since then, the West has steadily expanded its sanctions against Russian entities, targeting major businesses and parts of Russia’s financial, energy and military industries.

FRONTLINE talked to Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, on Jan. 8, 2015 about the effects and consequences of Western sanctions on the Russian economy. Åslund served as an economic adviser to the Russian and Ukrainian governments in the 1990s.
Which round of sanctions do you think really had an effect on the Russian economy? How would you measure that?

The sanctions the U.S. imposed came in two big chunks. The first concerned Crimea, and they were only personal sanctions for Crimean and Russian leaders involved in the Crimean drama.

Then, the important sanctions were imposed on July 16, which are called sectoral sanctions.

We can see that no money has been going into Russia after July. No financial institutions dared to provide Russia with any financing more than a month after that. And that we know from talking to banks. …

The point is that the [July] financial sanctions have worked out as far more severe in their effect than anyone seems to have believed.
Would sanctions alone have damaged Russia’s economy without the current plunging oil prices?

There are three major causes for Russia’s economic troubles. The first cause is the corruption and bad economic policies that Putin pursues, which on their own would lead to stagnation, or at most 1 percent growth.

The second element is the falling oil prices. The oil prices have now fallen so much that Russia’s total export revenues this year will be two-thirds of what they have been before. That means that Russia will have to cut its imports by half. This is a big blow.

This is then reinforced by the financial sanctions, so that Russia cannot mitigate this blow by borrowing money. By ordinary standards, Russia is perfectly credit-worthy with a public debt that is only 10 percent of GDP. But if you don’t have access to financial markets, then it doesn’t matter how credit-worthy you are, because you’re not credit-worthy so-to-say.

[Editor’s Note: On Jan. 9, Fitch Ratings cut Russia’s credit rating to BBB-, one step above junk.]”
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/putins-way/whats-been-the-effect-of-western-sanctions-on-russia/

Vladimir RasPutin has become a pariah. The world will watch as he is consigned to oblivion because he, and his friends, like FIDE President Kirsan the ET, is on his way off of the world stage. He is learning first hand something a fellow Georgian, Martin Luther King Jr., said decades ago. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Garry Kasparov must be following these events closely. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “For the loser now will be later to win/
For the times they are a-changin’.