Bobby Fischer Versus God

“Nobody can give God pawn odds and win. But if I played white, I bet I could play God to a draw.” – Robert J. Fischer


The Chess Book

Samuel S Copeland (2294) vs Carter F Peatman (1964)
2014 Southeastern FIDE Championship
Charlotte, North Carolina
Rd 1 11/1/2014

1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. O-O-O d5 10. Kb1 Nxd4 11. e5 Nf5 12. exf6 Bxf6 13. Nxd5 Qxd5 14. Qxd5 Nxe3 15. Qd2 Nxd1 16. Qxd1 Be6 17. Bd3 a5 18. h4 Rfd8 19. Qe2 Rd4 20. a3 Bxh4 21. Qe3 Rad8 22. Qh6 Bf6 23. Qxh7 Kf8 24. g4 b5 25. Re1 b4 26. Rxe6 fxe6 27. Qh6 Bg7 28. Qxg6 R4d6 29. Qg5 Rb8 30. axb4 axb4 31. Qf4 Ke8 32. Kc1 e5 33. Qc4 Bh6 34. Kd1 Kd7 35. Ke2 Bf4 36. g5 e4 37. fxe4 Be5 38. Qc5 Bxb2 39. Qa7 Kc8 40. Ba6 Rxa6 41. Qxa6 Kc7 42. Qc4 Kd7 43. Qd5 Kc7 44. g6 Bh8 45. Qf7 Kd7 46. g7 Bxg7 47. Qxg7 b3 48. Qd4 Ke8 49. Qh8 1-0

The engines play 13…Be6, while humans play the move in the game. The transition from opening to middle game ending with 16…Be6 looks favorable for White. After 17 Bd3 the most often played, and best, move is 17…Rfd8, but still White has a solid plus. I am reminded of the time Bobby Fischer had gone over a game his opponent lost, who was flummoxed as to just why he had lost. Bobby said, “The whole line is bad.”

What caught my attention was the second move, Ne2. Back in the day I played the Najdorf and when I beginning winning with it, opponents began playing alternative moves, not allowing me to play the Najdorf. The same thing happened a decade later when Longshot Larry “got good” playing the Dragon. Some players thought Longshot, who hovered between class ‘A’ and Expert, played two classes higher when defending while attacking with the Dragon. Longshot was strong enough to almost win with it versus “Hulk” Kogan. The Legendary Georgia Ironman and I happened to be watching the moment Boris reached for a piece but held his fingers hovering while the tension became palpable…When the Hulk retracted his hand it was like the air being let out of a balloon. The game was ultimately drawn. The Ironman adds that Longshot Larry did beat another Georgia chess legend, NM Guillermo A. Ruiz, a game that was published in the Georgia Chess magazine of the time.

Longshot Larry, a heating and air conditioning repairman, had been asked by Guillermo to come to his home and clean the system, so Longshot asked me to accompany him. Since Guillermo owned a cleaning service, considered too expensive by the owner of the Atlanta Chess Center, Thad Rogers, Longshot used Guillermo’s wet-vac. We were in the basement where a chess board was on a table, along with one book, an obviously well-used, dogged-eared copy of “The Game of Chess,” by Siegbert Tarrasch. I was positioned between Guillermo and Longshot, looking at Larry as he turned on the machine, beginning the extraction. When I asked Guillermo about his other chess books he said it was his only chess book. “You only need one book, if it is a good one.” Later Thad told me Ruiz had purchased a used copy. As we were talking black smoke began billowing from the machine. Guillermo must have seen the look on my face and turned around to see a cloud of heavy black smoke rising up the stairs. With the realization Ruiz literally jumped two feet into the air, then began screaming, but Longshot, with his head inside the closet containing the unit, could not hear. Ruiz ran over and began pounding on Larry, who then turned the machine off, but the damage had been done. The thing I recall most vividly on our way out is the light-colored drapes in the living room upstairs, which had been turned dark with soot. “How was I to know the thing did not have a bag?” Longshot asked on our way back to the House of Pain. “Ruiz is into the cleaning game, so I assumed the thing would work,” he said. I laughed when Longshot, who obviously did not get paid, said, “Man, I really needed that money.”

When faced with 2 Ne2 I played the same way as Carter, but is it best? Check out how Bobby Fischer played against 2 Ne2, and notice how he changed to 2…Nf6 after having twenty years to study the game before his return match with Boris Spassky. 2…Nf6 is the choice of both Stockfish and Houdini, but Komodo plays 2…a6.

Swank, A. – Fischer, Robert James 0-1
B20 USA-op 1956
1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 Nc6 3. b3 Nf6 4. Nbc3 e6 5. Bb2 d5 6. Ng3 Bd6 7. Bb5 O-O 8. Bd3 Ne5 9. Be2 Ng6 10. Nb5 Nxe4 11. Nxe4 dxe4 12. Nxd6 Qxd6 13. g3 e5 14. c4 Bh3 15. Bf1 Bxf1 16. Rxf1 f5 17. Qc2 Ne7 18. O-O-O Nc6 19. Bc3 Nd4 20. Bxd4 exd4 21. Kb1 Rae8 22. Rfe1 Re5 23. d3 Rfe8 24. Qd2 exd3 25. Rxe5 Qxe5 26. Qxd3 Qe2 27. Rd2 Qxd3+ 28. Rxd3 Re1+ 29. Kc2 Re2+ 30. Rd2 Rxd2+ 31. Kxd2 f4 32. Kd3 Kf7 33. a3 Kf6 34. b4 b6 35. Ke4 Kg5 36. gxf4+ Kg4 37. f3+ Kh3 38. f5 Kxh2 39. f4 Kg3 40. bxc5 bxc5 41. a4 a5 42. Kd5 d3 43. Kxc5 d2 0-1

Keres, Paul – Fischer, Robert James ½-½
B20 Candidates Tournament 1956
1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 d6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O Nc6 6. c3 e5 7. d3 Nge7 8. a3 O-O 9. b4 b6 10. f4 exf4 11. gxf4 d5 12. e5 Bg4 13. h3 Bxe2 14. Qxe2 f6 15. b5 Na5 16. Nd2 fxe5 17. fxe5 Rxf1+ 18. Nxf1 Nb3 19. Rb1 Nxc1 20. Rxc1 Qc7 21. Re1 Rd8 22. Nh2 d4 23. cxd4 cxd4 24. Nf3 Bh6 25. Qa2+ Kh8 26. Qe6 Nd5 27. Nh2 Ne3 28. Bc6 Rf8 29. Nf3 Bf4 30. Nxd4 Bxe5 31. Nf3 Bd4 32. Rxe3 Bxe3+ 33. Qxe3 Qg3+ 34. Kf1 Qxh3+ 35. Ke1 Qf5 36. d4 Kg7 37. Kf2 h5 38. Kg3 Qg4+ 39. Kh2 Rf4 40. Qe7+ Kh6 41. Qe2 Qf5 42. Qe3 g5 43. Kg2 Rg4+ 44. Kf2 Rf4 45. Kg2 Qc2+ 46. Kh1 Qb1+ 47. Kh2 Qa2+ 48. Kh3 Qf7 49. Kh2 Qf6 50. Kg2 Kg7 51. Kg3 h4+ 52. Kg2 Rg4+ 53. Kh1 Rg3 54. Qe4 g4 55. Nh2 Qg5 56. Nf1 Rh3+ 57. Kg1 Rxa3 58. d5 g3 59. Bd7 Ra1 60. Bf5 Qf6 61. Qf4 Re1 62. d6 Re5 63. Qg4+ Kf8 64. d7 Rd5 65. Kg2 Rxd7 66. Bxd7 Qf2+ 67. Kh3 Qxf1+ 68. Kxh4 g2 69. Qb4+ Kf7 70. Qb3+ Kg7 71. Qg3+ Kh7 72. Qe5 Qh1+ 73. Bh3 Qxh3+ 74. Kxh3 g1=Q 75. Qe7+ Kh8 76. Qf8+ Kh7 77. Qf7+ 1/2-1/2

Ostojic, Predrag – Fischer, Robert James 0-1
B93 Herceg Novi blitz 1970
1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. a4 Qc7 7. Bd3 g6 8. f4 Bg7 9. Nf3 O-O 10. O-O Nbd7 11. Kh1 b6 12. Qe1 Bb7 13. Qh4 Rac8 14. Bd2 e5 15. Rae1 exf4 16. Bxf4 Ne5 17. Bh6 Bxh6 18. Qxh6 Nfg4 19. Qh4 Nxf3 20. Rxf3 f5 21. Rf4 d5 22. Rxg4 fxg4 23. Qxg4 Rf4 24. Qg3 dxe4 25. Bxe4 Bxe4 26. Nxe4 Rxe4 0-1

Spassky, Boris V – Fischer, Robert James ½-½
B24 St Stefan/Belgrade m 1992
1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 Nf6 3. Nbc3 d6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Nc6 6. O-O Bg7 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg4 9. Nde2 Qc8 10. f3 Bh3 11. Bxh3 Qxh3 12. Bg5 O-O 13. Qd2 h6 14. Be3 Kh7 15. Rac1 Qd7 16. Nd5 Nxd5 17. exd5 Ne5 18. b3 b5 19. Bd4 Rac8 20. f4 Ng4 21. Bxg7 Kxg7 22. Nd4 Nf6 23. c4 bxc4 24. bxc4 e6 25. dxe6 fxe6 26. Rfe1 Rfe8 27. Nb3 a6 28. Qd4 Rc6 29. Red1 e5 30. fxe5 Rxe5 31. Qxe5 dxe5 32. Rxd7+ Nxd7 33. Rd1 Nf6 34. c5 Kf7 35. Rc1 Nd7 36. Kf2 Ke6 37. Ke3 Kd5 38. Rd1+ Ke6 39. Rc1 Kd5 1/2-1/2

Spassky, Boris V – Fischer, Robert James ½-½
B26 St Stefan/Belgrade m 1992
1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 Nf6 3. Nbc3 d6 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 g6 6. O-O Bg7 7. d3 O-O 8. h3 Rb8 9. f4 Bd7 10. Be3 b5 11. a3 Ne8 12. d4 cxd4 13. Nxd4 b4 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. axb4 Rxb4 16. Rxa7 Rxb2 17. e5 Bxg2 18. Kxg2 Nc7 19. exd6 exd6 20. Na4 Ra2 21. Bb6 Qe8 22. Rxc7 Qxa4 23. Qxd6 Rxc2+ 24. Rxc2 Qxc2+ 25. Bf2 Qe4+ 26. Kg1 1/2-1/2

1. e4 c5 2. Ne2 Nf6 3. Nbc3 e6 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 Be7 6. O-O d6 7. d3 a6 8. a3 Qc7 9. f4 b5 10. Kh1 O-O 11. Be3 Bb7 12. Bg1 Rab8 13. h3 Ba8 14. g4 b4 15. axb4 cxb4 16. Na4 Nd7 17. Qd2 Rfc8 18. b3 a5 19. g5 Bf8 20. Ra2 Ne7 21. Nd4 g6 22. Nb2 Bg7 23. Nc4 d5 24. Nxa5 dxe4 25. dxe4 e5 26. Ne2 exf4 27. Nxf4 Ne5 28. Nd3 Rb5 29. Nxe5 Qxe5 30. Nc4 Qxg5 31. Be3 Qh4 32. Nd6 Bc3 33. Qf2 Qxf2 34. Rxf2 Rbb8 35. Nxc8 Rxc8 36. Ra7 Kf8 37. Bh6+ Ke8 38. Bg5 f6 39. Bxf6 Bxf6 40. Rxf6 Bc6 41. Kg1 Bd7 42. Rd6 Bc6 43. Bf1 1-0

Sheryl Crow The Book

The Inherent Risk In Chess

Is This a “Serious” Game?
IM Pavlov, Sergey (2470) – GM Brodsky, Michail (2556)
18th Voronezh Master Open 2014 Voronezh RUS (4.9), 2014.06.15
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bc1 Nf6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bc1 ½-½
What about this one?
Fedorov, Alexei – Khalifman, Alexander
18th Voronezh Master Open 2014 Voronezh RUS (9.1), 2014.06.21
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 O-O 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Ng5 Rf8 12.Nf3 Re8 13.Ng5 Rf8 ½-½
The Discman sent me two responses to my previous post, “What Constitutes a “Serious Game?” ( These are the words of the Discman:
“6 moves? 1 move? 15 moves that are all main line theory? 30 moves that the 2 players have played before in a previous encounter? They are all the same in my book as they require no thought from the players and do not constitute a competition.
Your scenario where the Super Bowl teams agree to a draw after the 1st quarter would indeed be terrible but it could not happen, as it is not within the rules. The Super Bowl cannot (by rule) end in a tie. It’s one of the advantages the game of football has over chess.
Hockey and soccer shoot-outs are ridiculous methods of breaking a tie, as a shoot-out has nothing to do with the way the game is played. It would be like breaking a draw in chess by arm-wrestling, or seeing who could recite all the World Champions in correct order the fastest, or seeing who could throw their King into the air the highest.”
The next one:
“I hear what you’re saying but the nature of chess is such that a significant percentage of high-level games at slow time controls will end in draws.
That being the case, there are times when a draw will be beneficial (or at least will not damage) a player’s standing in an event.
If you forced GM’s not to take draws prior to move 30 or 40, they could easily do this, as opening theory extends past move 30 in many lines of the more well-trodden openings.
GM’s could simply play out one of those lines that ends in a “=” after move 35 and agree to a draw.
It is not uncommon for GM’s to play 20 or 25 moves that have all been played many times and then agree to a draw; it would be easy enough for them to extend this to move 30.
The only way I can think of to discourage draws is to award different point values for wins and draws as White vs. Black. This has been suggested by many, going back many years.
For example, 1.1 for a win as Black and .9 for White and .55 for a draw as Black and .45 for White.
Now all of a sudden that last-round quick draw to split the 1st & 2nd prize pool no longer works as planned.
This introduces all kinds of additional issues (e.g. what if there are an odd number of rounds in a tournament – is it then actually an advantage to have 3 Blacks and only 2 Whites?).”
Chris made me reflect on something I read in the stupendous book, “From London to Elista,” by Evgeny Bareev & Ilya Levitov. The fifth match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik began with the moves, 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. c4 e6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bf4 O-O 6. e3 c5 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. Nxd5 exd5 10. a3 Nc6 11. Bd3 Bb6 12. O-O Bg4 13. h3 Bh5 14. b4 Re8 15. Rc1 a6 16. Bxa6.
Imagine these same moves having been played by an IM versus a GM in an Open event. The GM, who had been out late drinking and carousing the previous evening knowing he would be paired down the next day, has been making routine moves in an opening he knows well. His opponent’s move startles him, and he is immediately awakened from his stupor. “Damn,” he thinks to himself, “I knew I should have stopped after knocking back that second Jagermiester!” He sits surveying the board thinking, “I know this position. Anand managed to hold a draw against Karpov at Moscow, 2002, but Leko ground down Kramnik after making him suffer in the match for the World Championship.” As he sits racking his brain for the next moves the thought occurs, “Why don’t I offer this lowly IM a draw? That way I can go back to the room and sober up.” Deciding that is the only course of action, he moves his hand toward the Rook in order to take the Bishop and as he touches the Rook he is struck by a spasm. His hand now holding the Rook displaces several pieces. “Ja’doube; Ja’doube!” he says, while desperately putting the pieces back in place. He then looks at his opponent to offer a draw, but before he can do so he is struck by the thought, “What if he does NOT ACCEPT?!” Meekly and plaintively he manages to mutter, “Draw?”
Kramnik blundered horribly, and instructively, in the WC game. Since he had won the first game, this brought the score to even, at 2 1/2 apiece. The next game turned out to be the most critical of the match. The subtitle of this game in the book is: “A HUNGARIAN WITH NO HUNGER”
Leko-Kramnik, WC match game #6
1.e4 e5 2.f3 c6 3.b5 a6 4.a4 f6 5.O-O e7 6.e1 b5 7.b3 O-O 8.h3 b7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 a5 11.a2 c5 12.bd2 c6 13.c3 d7 14.f1 d5 15.g5 dxe4 16.dxe4 c4 17.e3 fd8 18.f5 e6 19.e2 f8 20.b1 h6 1/2-1/2
At the end of the game it is written, “While making this move, Leko offered a draw-probably prematurely.” After providing some variations we have, “Possibly Peter reckoned that a moral victory in the opening debate was fully satisfactory for him. And most probably he was simply following the plan he had decided upon after Game 1. Match score: 3-3.” This concluded the annotations of the game.
Many words have been written about what could have possibly movitated Peter Leko to not press his advantage, not only in this game, but in the match, since he now had the “momentum.” What struck me is what was written next.
“But no one will ever prove to me that some kind of basic match strategy or overall general plan exists that is able-even in the name of a Grand Plan to become World Champion-to justify a withdrawal from the Struggle, going against the very essence and profound spirit of The Great Game which doesn’t recognise compromise and conciliationa and demands wholehearted devotion and passionate fanaticism, but lavishly rewards the chosen madmen who acknowledge and accept the Rules.”
In all my decades of reading about the Royal game those words are some of the most powerful and profound ever written. It goes to the heart of the matter. It is the answer to the question of why we play this game, or any game, for that matter. It is simply incomprehensible to believe Bobby Fischer would have even considered offering a draw to World Champion Boris Spassky in their 1972 match for the title in the exact same position Peter Leko found himself in his match. The same could be said for current World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who is undisputely the best human player on the planet.
Peter Leko lost the match, and his chance to become World Chess Champion. He has the rest of his life to answer the question. I hope is not a weak-minded person, because obsessing over “What might have been” has been known to have driven people insane.
The book, “The Magic Tactics of Mikhail Tal,” by Karsten Muller & Raymond Stolze, contains a prologue, “Knowledge? Intuition? Risk?” written by Tal. It is borrowed from issue #1/1991 of the ‘Zeitschrift fur wissenschaftlich-literarische Beitrage zum Schachspiel’.
“What then can be considered a risk in chess? Does a chess player intentionally take a risk?
If we identify the concept of ‘knowledge’ with a sort of scientific approach to chess, if we place intuition in the realms of art, then to continue with the allegory risk should be linked to sport. It can even be expressed in the terms of the proverb: ‘Whoever does not take any risks never wins anything’. I should like to add to this that in my opinion a chess player is not really taking a risk till he knows what he is risking.”
“A chess player has sacrificed a piece for an attack although that was not strictly necessary. Does that mean he is taking a risk? There is no doubt about that because his attack can be beaten off and his opponent’s extra piece comes back at him like a boomerang.
Fine then, but what about the position of the player who has accepted the sacrifice (although he should decline it) and in doing so reckons that he can beat off the attack? Is he risking something? Of course he is! After all, the attack may be successful.
Who then is taking the risk? There are no scales which are able to determine this.”
I can only add to this my feeling that any player who offers, or agrees to split the point without playing a serious game is someone who plays without risking anything. If that is the case, what then is the point of playing the game?
For the record I give the complete game score of the 5th match game for the World Championship between Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik.
Leko,Peter (2741) – Kramnik,Vladimir (2770) [D37]
World Championship Brissago (5), 02.10.2004
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0–0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 exd5 10.a3 Nc6 11.Bd3 Bb6 12.0–0 Bg4 13.h3 Bh5 14.b4 Re8 15.Rc1 a6 16.Bxa6 Rxa6 17.b5 Rxa3 18.bxc6 bxc6 19.Rxc6 Ra7 20.Rd6 Rd7 21.Qxd5 Rxd6 22.Qxd6 Qxd6 23.Bxd6 Bxf3 24.gxf3 Bd8 25.Rb1 Bf6 26.Kg2 g6 27.f4 Kg7 28.Rb7 Re6 29.Rd7 Re8 30.Ra7 Re6 31.Bc5 Rc6 32.Ra5 Bc3 33.Rb5 Ra6 34.Rb3 Bf6 35.Rb8 h5 36.Rb5 Bc3 37.Rb3 Bf6 38.e4 Ra5 39.Be3 Ra4 40.e5 Be7 41.Rb7 Kf8 42.Rb8+ Kg7 43.Kf3 Rc4 44.Ke2 Ra4 45.Kd3 Bh4 46.Bd4 Ra3+ 47.Kc2 Ra2+ 48.Kd3 Ra3+ 49.Kc4 Ra4+ 50.Kd5 Ra5+ 51.Kc6 Ra4 52.Kc5 Be7+ 53.Kd5 Ra5+ 54.Ke4 Ra4 55.Rc8 Bh4 56.e6+ Bf6 57.e7 Rxd4+ 58.Ke3 Bxe7 59.Kxd4 Bh4 60.f3 f5 61.Rc7+ Kf6 62.Kd5 Bg3 63.Rc6+ Kg7 64.Ke5 h4 65.Rc7+ Kh6 66.Rc4 Kg7 67.Ke6 Bh2 68.Rc7+ Kh6 69.Kf7 1–0

Booming Interest in Amateur Chess?

I was given a gift of a coffee mug with the logo of the Economist magazine. It was filled with java at a Borders bookstore as I awaited a student when a young fellow walked over after seeing the mug. He began talking to me as if I were an arch conservative. I mostly nodded and grinned, preferring at that time to not engage the fellow in a political discussion. Every time I saw the man after that he would smile and say hello. I always feared the offer of some kind of secret handshake to which I would not know how to respond. Fortunately, it was not forthcoming. My conservative friends find some of my views too liberal; my liberal friends think me too conservative.
Because of the upcoming World Championship there is an article about chess in the latest edition of the Economist magazine. The title is, “Professional chess has a chequered history. Fans hope to revive it.” The article comes sans byline, at least in the online edition. It is written that, “Match organizers see a chance to turn a struggling sport into a global brand.” Good luck with that…
The article continues, “Time was when the world stopped for professional chess. Millions watched Bobby Fischer, an American, beat the Soviet Union’s Boris Spassky in 1972. In the 1990s a pair of matches between Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue, a computer, recaptured some of that suspense. Yet despite booming interest in the amateur game, top-level chess has become obscure again, hobbled by squabbles and eccentric leadership.”
Come on, get real! The so-called “matches” Kasparov played versus the computer program captured none of the suspense of the Fischer-Spassky match! This is what happens when someone who was probably not alive in 1972 writes about chess. I started playing tournament chess in 1970 and am here to tell you the excitement was palpable. I have experienced nothing remotely similar since that time. Chess was in the news and on the minds of almost everyone in the world. All of a sudden it was “cool” to play chess, and I was no longer considered “weird” for playing the Royal game. Chess sets were everywhere and hardly a party I attended did not see people playing a game. The only “suspense” in the series of games between Deep Blue and Kasparov was how much bigger a fool the later would make of himself as the games continued. With the last game debacle Kasparov went out with a whimper. The “bang” was created when he made an ass of himself. Chess has never recovered from the damage done to the game by the human player known as Kasparov. When someone learns I play and teach chess they ask, “Why? I thought chess ended when that machine beat the Russian. What was his name?” Mostly they recall Kasparov’s histrionics and “sour grapes” attitude, along with the fact that he was the human that lost to a machine. People still write that Kasparov was “the greatest of all-time,” but the simple fact is that he will always and forever be known for losing to a machine. It overshadows everything he accomplished in the world of chess. There was a time when people talked in hushed tones about the possibility Kasparov took a dive in the series of games with Deep Blue. Now people speak of it overtly.
The article can be considered as gauge of public opinion concerning the state of chess today. Perception is reality and the perception is best illustrated by the following, “Critics gripe about mercurial decision-making within FIDE. The sport’s governing body gets by on some $2m a year (FIFA, football’s federation, spent more than $1 billion in 2012) and has had only two presidents in 31 years. Its boss since 1995 has been Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who also ran Kalmykia, one of Russia’s poorest regions, until 2010. That year Mr Ilyumzhinov said he was once contacted by aliens; in 2011 he played chess with Muammar Qaddafi.”
The perception meets reality when it comes to the official chess body of the world, FIDE, being led by a nut-job.
Then there is this, “A deeper challenge is that watching chess is less fun than playing it. A single game can last six hours; its most riveting moment may be a strategic nuance known as the Yugoslav variation on the Sicilian. “Good chess leads to draws,” says Maurice Ashley, an American grandmaster. Mr Ashley believes that new game and tournament formats could attract a wider audience. Competitors in blitz chess must finish their games in half an hour. Matches lasting minutes make popular footage online. Yet many players resist fast games, arguing that they reward low-quality chess. FIDE’s enthusiasm for shorter championships in the 1990s and 2000s prolonged the professional game’s split.”
I wrote recently about Jude Acers pontificating at length a quarter of a century ago about how quick games would revolutionize chess, putting money in every master’s pocket. The only thing that has put money in the pockets of master’s, and far too many who know too little about the game, is teaching chess to children, who then give up the game around puberty.
I was eating at one of my favorite spots, the Mediterranean Grill, while wearing a Chicago Open Tee-shirt from 2002. The owner, Sam Moussa, walked over and began a conversation about chess, telling me he had lived in Chicago for a couple of decades before moving to the South. “Chess is getting younger,” Sam said, before walking away. The people know. Back in the early seventies there were the same number of members of the USCF as now, except the vast majority of them were adults. Now the vast majority are children. The proliferation of children has driven most adults away from the game. There is a pronounced disparity in the ages of the competitors one can see at any large tournament. The players are either very young or very old. So-called “adult” tournaments consist of mostly children. Seniors comprise the second largest group, and they are leaving the chess world every day, because death happens. When Bobby beat Boris in 1972 the percentage of children playing in “adult” tournaments was miniscule, with only the very best children challenging the elders. Chess is now perceived, rightly, as a game for children.
The thing about being fortunate enough to grow older is one can see, upon reflection, the changes that have taken place in our world. It is common for anyone to think the way things are now is the way they have always been. Such is not the case, and especially in the world of chess. Most, if not all, of those coming into the chess world today have no clue as to how much the world of chess has changed. If all of those children who have come into the chess world had stayed I would be writing of what a huge success the move toward the United States Scholastic Chess Federation has been. Unfortunately, it has not. Statistics prove beyond any doubt that not enough children stay with chess to justify what has transpired in the world of chess. Yet, like the Republicans who still continue to advocate trickle-down economics when it has been proven in practice to work only for the very few at the top of the economic ladder, the chess F.I.P.s (Fools In Power) continue their “In for a penny, in for a pound,” moves on the chess board, even when faced with statistics proving it has not previously worked. They continue to advocate speeding up the time controls when the evidence shows it has only served to drive adult players, and members, out of the game. Even sadder is the fact that the F.I.P.s has done little for the second largest segment of members, Seniors. Granted, the latter group pales in comparison to the hefty numbers of spuds, but still Seniors do constitute the second largest group in number. What goes for Senior chess in this country is basically an insult to Seniors. Or, as one fellow Senior put it, “Senior chess in the USCF is a joke!”

Milan ‘J’adoubovic’ Matulović R.I.P.

Yugoslavian GM Milan Matulovic, 1935-2013, was better known for the nickname he earned after taking back a losing move he had just made versus István Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in 1967. From Wikipedia: “Perhaps Matulović’s most notorious transgression was against István Bilek at the Sousse Interzonal in 1967. He played a losing move but then took it back after saying “j’adoube” (“I adjust” – spoken before adjusting pieces on their square, see touch-move rule). His opponent complained to the arbiter but the move was allowed to stand. This incident earned Matulović the nickname “J’adoubovic”. This reportedly happened several times, including in a game against Bobby Fischer.” (
In his book on Bobby Fischer, “Endgame,” Frank Brady writes about a match the fifteen year old Bobby played against Matulovic before the 1958 Interzonal in Portoroz. “Bobby’s training match opponent in his first formal game on European soil was Milan Matulovic, a twenty-three-year-old master who would become infamous in the chess world for sometimes touching a piece, moving it, and then-realizing it was either a blunder or a weak move-returning the piece to its original square, saying “J’adoube,” or “I adjust,” and moving it to another square or moving another piece altogether…In his first encounter with Matulovic, Bobby ignored the Yugoslav’s mischievous disregard of the rules and lost the game. So with three games left to play, Bobby told Matulovic he’d no longer accept any bogus “j’adoubes.” Bobby won the second game, drew the third game, and won the fourth, and therefore won the match 2 ½-1 ½. Both of Bobby’s wins were hard fought and went to fifty moves before his opponent resigned. Matulovic may have been a trickster, but he was also one of his country’s finest players, not easily defeated.”
Wiki has a section on his page devoted to, “Controversies,” where one finds: Controversy in actions both over and away from the board was nothing new to Matulović. Over the board he was known for playing out hopeless positions long after grandmaster etiquette called for a resignation, allegedly in the hopes of reaching adjournment (suspension of a game for resumption the next day, common in tournament play at the time) so that the news reports would read “Matulović’s game is adjourned” rather than “Matulović lost!”[2][3]
More seriously, in the aftermath of the 1970 Interzonal tournament at Palma de Mallorca, he was accused of “throwing” his game against Mark Taimanov in return for a $400 bribe, thus allowing Taimanov to advance to the Candidates matches,[4] where he was famously defeated by Bobby Fischer 6–0. The accusations centered on Matulović’s conduct during the game[5] and the alleged feebleness of his resistance. The score of the notorious Taimanov–Matulović game follows, from which the reader can draw his or her own conclusions:
Taimanov–Matulović, Queen’s Gambit Accepted: 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.h3 Bh5 8.0-0 Bd6 9.e4 e5 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Be2 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Nxf3+ 13.Qxf3 Qe7 14.Bf4 Be5 15.Bxe5 Qxe5 16.Qe3 0-0 17.f4 Qe7 18.e5 c6 19.Rfe1 Rfe8 20.Qf3 Qc5+ 21.Qf2 Qxf2+ 22.Kxf2 Nd5 23.Nxd5 cxd5 24.Red1 Red8 25.Rac1 Rd7 26.Ke3 Rad8 27.Kd4 Kf8 28.f5 Ke7 29.Rd3 Re8 30.Rdc3 b6 31.Rc7 Rd8 32.R1c6 Ke8 33.g4 h6 34.h4 Rb8 35.g5 hxg5 36.hxg5 Rb7 37.Rc8+ Rd8 38.Rxd8+ Kxd8 39.Kxd5 a5 40.Rd6+ Ke8 41.Kc6 Re7 42.Rd5 1–0
The section culminates with, “Matulović was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served nine months in prison for a car accident in which a woman was killed.”
While on duty at the Atlanta Chess Center one would often hear a player in the skittles room cry out, “What are you, some kind of J’adoubovic?” Most were too young to know much, if anything, about the man who earned the name of infamy. Yet every chess player on earth knows what a “J’adoubovic” is because of Milan Matulovic. He will live on in the lore of chess long after much better players have been forgotten. It is an everlasting tribute to a Grandmaster of ill repute.