Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time to Go

This will be my last BaconLOG entry. It was started while working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center as a way of getting the word out in the way IM John Donaldson does with his excellent Mechanic’s Institute Newsletter. After leaving I used it, for the most part, to comment on the world of chess. The chess world has changed dramatically since playing in my first USCF rated tournament in 1970. One of the biggest changes has been the rise of the machine. Often called an ‘engine’, I have come to think of the computer chess program as the ‘Oracle’. The Oracle has altered the way the game is played. It used to be that the final word on a move, or position, was given by a Grandmaster. The joy in analyzing chess was to study the analysis of a GM and possibly finding a mistake. Today GM’s write in their commentary things like, “Deep Purple says this”, and no one questions the Oracle. It has been said that ‘beauty is in the flaws’ and if the Oracle makes no mistakes, where is the beauty?
Former World Champion Kasparov has been working with the young GM Magnus Carlsen recently. The pictures shown on websites and magazines all show a third entity working with them, the Oracle. World Champion Viswanathan Anand was quoted as saying recently: I use computer a lot, I must admit. I check analyses, variations, and I have to do this, because everybody else does so, and one has to check and re-check everything. But I use computers a little strangely, because while I am looking at a position with one eye, I can be watching a film or doing something else as well.
I read recently that the Oracle had produced a theoretical novelty on move 34. THIRTY-FOUR! GM Vlastimil Hort was asked in New in Chess, 2009/3: If you could change one thing in the chess world, what would it be? He answered, “I would strickly expel and forbid all computers. Using them is a surrender of the human brain.”
It is not just chess that has been altered by the Oracle. I played backgammon with Dan Heisman at a World Open earlier this decade. We only played for low stakes, only one dollar a point, as it was the first time I had played for money in almost two decades. After our session he asked about my past. I said that I had previously played professionally in the late 70’s and 80’s. He said, “I could tell. You’ve got that 80’s style.” He went on to tell me that a computer program, ‘Snowy’ had altered thinking on the game. As an example he said it was now commonly accepted that most players would make the two point with an opening roll of 6-4. I cringed at the thought of making that play, as it far too early to make that inner point as it limits one’s options considerably. I mentioned something I had read on the Chicago Point website: “Back in the 80’s players had style; now they are all techies.” Something similar could be said about chess.
Hans Berliner wrote in the NYTimes, Feb 6, 2003: "You don't have to be really good anymore to get results. What's happening with chess is that it's gradually losing it's place as the par excellence of intellectual activity. Smart people in search of a challenging game might tray a game called Go."
I have recently begun to study seriously the ancient oriental game of Go. Although I learned how to play decades ago, I have only played a few dozen games in my life. I now have two games ongoing on the Dragon Go Server. Because of the Oracle, that is simply not possible with correspondence chess. Fortunately, Go programs are not very strong, offering little, if any, help. I must think for myself and it’s the same for my opponent. Peter Shotwell writes in the forward to Go! More than a game: “It’s almost infinite complexity has defied computer programmers attempts to ‘memory crunch’ the game as they have done so successfully in chess. Low-ranked amateurs can beat any program, and the situation is unlikely to change much in the foreseeable future as it would take more than a lifetime to play a program that plays Go the way Big Blue, Fritz, and Deep Junior play chess. A chess champion who aided in the development of Deep Blue recently commented that computers have changed the way championship chess is won, because all the top players must now employ them to study complex combinations. On the other hand, only human minds can play Go well, making the Go board one of the last places on earth that has been unaffected by the incursion of modern machinery.”
I participated in many studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology psychology department, with many having to do with memory. Not only was I paid, but I also received results of the studies. One of the most important things I discovered was that, as one grows older, it is very important to try and learn new things. In the forward to Go Fundamentals by Shigemi Kishikawa, John Fairbairn writes: “Go has apparently been shown to provide beneficial intellectual stimulation that aids in staving off senile diseases. This may (like many of its benefits) be because it is a game that relies heavily on pattern recognition rather than pure analysis-right brain over left brain.”
The beauty of an idea is that it was discovered by a human mind. Computer programs do not have an idea; they only produce what it has been programmed to compute as the best move in a given position. It has been written that the difference between chess and Go is that while chess is akin ten to the twentieth power, Go is ten to the power of two hundred. Again from Peter Shotwell, “Part of the mystique of modern computer Go is the game’s sheer insolvability. Ever since Wang Ni noted in 1050 that no Go game had ever been repeated, many statistics and ‘folk lore’ have accumulated. One popular adage is that ‘There are more possible games than atoms in the universe’. Because the board is so large, even after pruning, the first 14 moves of Go produce a search tree with ten-thousand trillion leaves. It would take Deep Blue, which analyzed two-hundred million chess positions every second, over a year and a half to play one move of Go. Still, it would not know if that was a good move, because, unlike chess, Go is so vague in terms of profit-now versus influence-later calculations, and is so complex on a local scale.”
What seems now a lifetime ago when I was playing both chess and backgammon can best be summed-up by words from a Bob Dylan song, Shelter from the Storm:
'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from thestorm."

The love of my life read to me, what has now become a classic quote, from a book she was reading, by Trevanian. “What Go is to philosophers and warriors, chess is to accountants and merchants. “ The quote usually ends there, but it continues: “Ah! The bigotry of youth. It would be more kind, Nikko,to say that Go appeals to the philosopher in any man, and chess to the merchant in him." But Nicholai did not recant. “Yes, sir, that would be more kind. But less true."
She seemed to derive satisfaction from the fact that what she read bothered me...Now that I have delved more deeply into the game of Go, I have a much better understanding of what the author meant by the exchange. Players of Go consider chess in much the same way players of chess consider checkers. Zhang Yunqi lists the qualities required to excel at Go as, "The tactic of the soldier, the exactness of the mathetician, the imagination of the artist, the inspiration of the poet, the calm of the philosopher, and the greatest intelligence."
Microcomputer executive and expert Go player Nolan Bushnell said, “Those interested in impressing others with their intelligence play chess. Those who would settle for being chic play backgammon. Those who wish to become individuals of quality take up Go.”
During my studies of theology and philosophy, I have been most attracted to Taoism. Several years ago while on retreat at a monastery I read a book that changed who I am. That book is, Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. I have heard it said that you are the books you read read the people with whom you associate. My path first led me to chess, then backgammon, and now to the beautiful, nebulous, mystical game of Go. The Great Man, World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker said, "If games are played by sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go."

Sunday, December 27, 2009


The first question in Buce Pandolfini's column, The Q & A Way, on the www.chesscafe website begins: "I had some keen interest in chess at High School but after raising three children and a busy career, chess went off the radar."
I thought back to my youth spent playing baseball. When I stopped playing, baseball never 'went off the radar', and I have been a fan all my life. I wondered what it is about chess whereby it 'goes off the radar'? Why do more players not become lifelong fans of the game?
The question continues: "Now that I am in my middle age, and the children have grown up and left home, I have got interested in chess again. I attended a couple of local tournaments but was rather disheartened at the number of younger children competing in the adult grades and winning. There is much talk of children being professionally coached at ridiculously young ages now. I also noted that a competitor at the world youth championships was seven years old and had a rating of 2012, this makes my 1400 pale in comparison. I was wondering do you know of any player taking up the game in middle age ever rising to the title of IM or grandmaster or are older players like me doomed to a steady decline in ratings and brain cells (at least Korchnoi gives me hope)."
Thinking the question came from an American, I was astonished to learn it came from Savern Reweti, of New Zealand! I have heard much the same from many adults here in the states.
Since I turned fifty in 2000, I have been a strong advocate for Senior Chess. It has been my experience that, given the opportunity of playing in a Senior event, players for whom chess went 'off the radar' will come back to the game. Some of them will only compete in a Senior tournament because they do not like playing with children. In conversation several have mentioned the high energy level and the constant fidgiting, something older players, for the most part, no longer do, as the energy level has ebbed.
There seems to be a disconnect between scholastic chess and adult chess. Consider the statement by an outgoing president of a state organization about the incoming president: "He comes from the scholastic side of chess." Different people on separate occasions have said to me, "I don't know much about adult chess, as I've only been involved in scholastic chess."
Adult members of the USCF are vastly outnumbered by junior members, and there is power in larger numbers. Consider this question by larryfoushee on the forum of the Kentucky Chess Association website (, Is KCA now a puppet to scholastic chess?
It elicited this response from Ken McDonald: "The scholastic events draw a lot more people and make money. So how does it feel to be subsidized by youngsters and their parents?"
larryfoushee answered with: "it feels bad."
It sure as hell does 'feel bad', especially considering people with this kind of attitude have not been around long enough to know that at one time the situation was the reverse and it was SCHOLASTIC CHESS being SUBSIDIZED! The fact is that the rise in scholastic chess has come at the expense of adult chess! An example would be the American Foundation for Chess, which was to be used for Grandmaster chess, but was co-opted (I have heard the word 'hijacked' used), and the money diverted toward scholastic chess!
I have, unfortunately, experienced this kind of attitude from many 'on the scholastic side', especially in regard to Senior chess. Only fifty or so players attended the US Senior this year. Add two zero's on that for the attendance at the Supernationals this year. Ten times fewer attended the US Open. During an email exchange with the president of the GCA, Scott Parker, I wrote that I would like to put a zero on the number of players at the Ga Senior, US Senior, and the US Open. Mr Parker replied, "Enough of this nonsense." NONSENSE! I will admit it may be asking for too much at this time to expect to be able to put a zero on the number of participants at the US Senior, especially taking into consideration something pointed out to me in an email; that being the fact that there may not be five hundred Senior members of the USCF! Yet, could it not be a future goal for which to aspire?
I am galled and appalled, but not surprised, that anyone would write such a thing as "How does it feel". I think of the greatest Rock & Roll song of all time as I write this; that being Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. How does it feel... About having to be scrounging for your next adult tournament?
I have previously written on the BaconLOG about attending the Supernationals and the US Open this year, and the disparity between the two. I played in the Governor's Cup in Sioux Falls South Dakota in 2002. There was a scholastic tournament held in conjunction with the 'adult' tournament. Fortunately, the scholastic event was only on Saturday. It was a zoo! The disparity between Saturday & Sunday could not have been any more pronounced. I mentioned this to the organizer, Dee Knudsen, who said that, "Without the scholastic tournament, there would not have been an 'adult' tournament."
I played in a Grand-Prix tournament in Orlando some years ago at a hotel undergoing renovations. Not having one of my better tournaments, I went to the bar for an adult beverage, where I met a pretty flight attendant, and we struck-up a conversation. She was surprised to learn I was actually playing in the tournament as she thought that, with all the children and parents, it must have been a junior tournament. I recall her saying, "I always pictured a chess tournament as being quiet and dignified. This is more like Bedlum!" She also said the airline personel did not appreciate all the children running around like 'chickens with their heads cut-off' and had complained to the hotel manager and the company for whom they worked. The perception has become that chess is for children. The perception has become the reality. Is it any wonder so many adult players have gravitated toward adult games like poker?
Scholastic chess is viewed as separate and distinct from adult chess; of that there can be no dispute. Scholastic chess 'pays the freight', so to speak. Without scholastic chess, there would be no USCF. Those that derive income from chess know only too well that scholastic members buy more equipment and books, etc. than adult members. They do so not only because there are more of them, but because younger players become involved, and purchase what they need, before dropping out and moving onto something else, with the chess stuff going into the closet. It is taken for granted they will be replaced by other youngsters 'coming into the system'. Chess is, therefore, being run like a pyramid scheme. If, for whatever reason, juniors stop entering the pyramid, there are not enough adult members to support the USCF. What would happen to scholastic chess if a pedophile, like Robert Snyder, for example, were to kill a student? With the 24/7 infotainment cycle, everyone in America, and the rest of the world, would learn of it, and down would come the pyramid.
Why are there so few adult members if the object of scholastic chess is to bring in more members? Some time ago I had an adult player tell me that the influx of junior members bode well for the future of chess. He was stunned when told I had recently read on the USCF forum that only three percent of scholastic members went on to become adult members! Money and resources have been aimed at scholastic chess for a generation now. If the object were actually more adult members, then why are there vastly fewer adult members than there were when the scholastic movement began? USCF has not even retained the number of adult members it had a generation ago. Imagine how strong USCF would be if it had simply retained those members...The question has to be asked: Have adult members chosen to leave because of the children's explosian?
In theory there should be only one chess. I am reminded of a quote by Chuck Reid:
In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.
In practice there is a schism between adult and scholastic chess. If scholastic chess is bigger and stronger than adult chess, it is because it stands on the shoulders of those who have come before them.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

USCF Rating Foreign Tournaments

This was posted December 25 by NM Rex Blalock (NM Reb), who now lives in Lisbon, Portugal. Reb is from my native state, Georgia, USA.
"I recently noticed that my uscf rating had changed due to some events I had played in Portugal ! I was astonished and so wrote an email to the USCF to see if this were some sort of mistake. Their reply said they had started doing this in 2008 due to the directions of their policy board !? What kind of nonsense is this ?! I am not even a current member of the USCF and yet my uscf rating changes when I play in fide events abroad ?! Does this make any sense to anyone? It certainly makes none to me."
I was unaware USCF rated games played in other countries, especially by non-members. This is news to me. I find it quite bizarre, to say the least.
Further communication via private message continued:
Merry Christmas !
Yes, please do put it anywhere you like with my permission ! I am completely against this and wrote to the uscf about this and all they told me is they started doing this in 08 due to " policy board directions " ! If they are going to do this, against my wishes, I think I at least should be allowed to play rated chess when visiting the US without having to renew or pay a per game rating fee. I think my position is sensible.

I would like to be able to see the USCF forum if I can ? I am a lapsed member though and may not be able to.
I have also read that they now rate G/30 to G/60 as both quick and regular chess ?! This is also hogwash in my view and I wonder do they always do this or just sometimes? Is it announced in advance when an event is rated as both ? I do not wish to play in any event that affects more than one rating, its ridiculous. Are they doing this in order to make more money from rating the games ?

Reb has been an expatriate for many years, playing in tournaments in the US when he returns to visit, with the last being the 2008 Ga State Championship, where he finished in a four way tie for third place with 3 1/2 points. Although from Georgia, as were the other three players with whom he tied, he was not eligible for the title of State Champion. Checking his MSA, one finds the last three rated tournaments were in Portugal! Reb will be coming home to live soon. I have informed him of some of the many changes he can expect in the chess world, and would have to say he seems to be in a state of 'culture shock'!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2010 US Masters

It is the time of year when a chess player begins to consider tournaments he would like to attend next year. I was surprised, and elated, to learn the 2010 US Masters will be returning to Hendersonville, NC! I would like EVERY chess player to give strong consideration to attending this tournament! I say every player because there will also be a tournament for 'sub-masters', those who do not qualify for the US Masters proper, and also a 'sub-sub-masters' for the triple digit set! This will make it a real 'Chess Festival'! You can read the particulars here:

If you cannot make it to play in the tournament, I urge you to consider a trip to the mountains as a spectator. You will enjoy 'rubbing shoulders' with the Masters, and I'm sure you will enjoy the visit!
I happened to live in Hendersonville when two previous US Masters, 2006 & 2007, were held in this beautiful mountain city. Both tournaments were exceptional events. I attended as a spectator and heard absolutely no derogatory comments concerning either tournament. As a spectator, I was able to talk with many players, particularly recalling a conversation with Victors Pupols, who came all the way from the Great Northwest. He said he did not care for large cities, and loved the mountains, so Hendersonville was the place to be!
The tournament will be held in the same hotel, the Quality Inn and Suites on Four Seasons Blvd, which has an indoor pool, and a putt-putt range. I recall FM 'Big Head' Todd (The Monster) Andrews and the tournament winner, GM Jaan Ehlvest enjoying some putt-putting after agreeing to a draw in the final round of the 2007 event.
Unlike the massive tournaments, there is no 'crush' before the round, with players elbowing each other, trying to get a view of the pairing board. This is a more intimate tournament, and a more enjoyable one, too!
There are many restaurants nearby, and for those who like to stretch their legs, some are within walking distance. I recall a Golden Corral on Chimney Rock Rd, my friend NM Neal (Ol' Swindler) Harris and I used to frequent, with him usually buying! Before I'm accused of disparaging my friend, the 'Ol' Swindler' stems from the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear. After he lost to Neal for the second time, in the same line, I mentioned that maybe he should've looked at the line before playing it again. "I know, Bacon, but that Neal...he's just an Ol' Swindler!" I mentioned it to Neal later, and he laughed out loud, going on to tell me it did not bother him in the least. He's that kind of guy! And yes, the Ol' Swindler will be playing...As will the man I have called the 'Victor Korchnoi of Southern chess', SM Klaus Pohl. Knowing Klaus as I do, he would have to be dead to miss this event, and then I would not wager against him being there in spirit! I know there's a Chick-Fil-A nearby, and far too many others to recall, though I do recall with pleasure an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar, because it was the first place Neal bought my lunch!
For those who have never been to Hendersonville, I must say that one of the best features is Main Street, which will take you back in time. Walking down Main Street, one will expect to see Andy and Barney! There are many locally owned shops in Hendersonville. One of my favorites is Mountain Lore Books & More. A short walk from Main St is the Henderson County Library, at 301 N.Washington St., known for the Friends of the Library bookstore spread over three weekends in September. Booklovers come from many different states for this event. The Friends even have their own warehouse, and the proceeds help to make their library one of the best in the state. For those who would like to celebrate a victory, or maybe drown their sorrows after a tough loss, Hannah Flanagan's stays open late. It's the local 'watering hole', a place where one may fine himself sitting between the mayor and the owner of the local tatoo parlor. The Black Rose Public House, also on Main St, is a little more 'upscale'.
No trip to Atlanta is complete without visiting the Varsity. In Hendersonville, the same could be said about Hot Dog World, just off Main St. For seafood, the Bay Breeze Seafood Restaurant on Asheville Hwy was one of my favorite eating establishments. Although there are many coffee shops, the Black Bear Coffee Co on Main St is the most popular. I enjoyed the coffee at a shop just off Main St, the Terra Nova Cafe. The Cypress Cellar is located on Main St, and the Blue Water Seafood Company is only a short distance away from Main St. I must mention the Dixie Diner and Tooley's Cafe. There are so many, I do not have room for them all; these are just a few of my favorites. While researching restaurants for this article, I noticed one with which I am not familiar, but may have to try, the Crazy Lady Cafe. I had this girlfriend onetime that some of my friends called 'Crazy Debbie' behind my back. On second thought, maybe I should pass on this one!

A most popular attraction is Jump Off Rock in the neighboring city of Laurel Park. According to a 300 year old legend, a young Cherokee chieftain and the woman he loved used to meet here. He was called away to tribal wars. Returning warriors brought her news of the chieftain's death. She went to the rock, and jumped off into the 100 foot precipice. Fortunately, for the chess player doing the 'goose-egg shuffle', there is now a railing...
To get there, one simply takes 5th avenue.
Where else can one see a sign directing one to 'Bat Cave'? Also nearby is the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove, for those religious souls. Scenic Chimney Rock Park is an amazing place, it has miles of high rock hiking trails, waterfalls and wonderful scenery (Last of the Mohicans was filmed there). One can consider cruising the loop up and around Grandfather Mountain to Boone and through to the Linville Falls.
Asheville is only a short drive and it is a most beautiful city. One can take one of my favorite roads, Tunnel road, to go to the mall, with a Barnes & Noble across the street, along with a Books A Million. Downtown Asheville is an amazing place. Just walking around one finds a virtual cornucopia of sights and sounds! I recall one chess mom telling me at the state scholastic championships in Charlotte that Asheville was an "Artsy fartsy community." I liked that, for some reason. The independent bookstore, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe is worth a visit, as is the sister store, Downtown Books & News, where I was able to procure a copy of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess, that is, if I could beat Jimmy Hardy to it! I also recommend the Captain's Bookshelf for used and rare tomes.
For those who have never been, I would recommend a trip the the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa, location of the first two Land of the Sky chess tournaments, hosted by the irrepressable Wilder Wadford. Dr Karl Burger, a master who had played all over the world, once said he had never played in a more opulent venue! And then there is always the Biltmore Estate.
The tournament will be directed by Kevin Hyde, now a lieutenant colonel, who has done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a fine man and one cannot find a better TD! His wife and children will be there to make it a family affair, ensuring everyone enjoys some down home 'Southern hospitality'. The tournament will be held in early spring, before the 'snowbirds' arrive, so the room rates are very reasonable, with chess players having run of the place. There is nothing like the cool, crisp mountain air! I was at the US Open in Fort Lauderdale (to be honest, it was called Fort Lauderdale, but it was quite a distance away), in 2004, but could not play because of a bad back. I decided to take a walk during the afternoon and was about to pass out from the August heat, so I went into a shop, to soak up some cool air. The owner took one look at me and said she could tell I was not from the area, because I would have known better than to go out in the life-threatening mid-day heat! I think about that when contemplating playing in this year's US Senior in Boca Raton...There will be none of that in Hendersonville! One can get out and explore, if one desires...
One of my most vivid memories of the aforementioned US Masters is the friendship between one of Neal's students, Josh Horwitz, and Ray Robson. The Horwitz family hosted the Robson family for the tournament, a very gracious deed, indeed! Although a thousand points separated the two youngsters, their age and common interests found them as 'fast-friends'. I like to think that friendships that could last a lifetime could emanate from a visit to the US Masters in the beautiful mountains of the great state of North Carolina.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"I just got good"

From the excellent Mechanic's Institute Newsletter #472:
Bobby Fischer facts: His USCF rating was 1726 on the May 20, 1956 list2231 on May 5, 1957 2626 ( # 2 behind Reshevsky) March 1958 .
I am remined of the answer Bobby gave to a question concerning how he became so strong so quickly: "I just got good."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sign of the Times

In the excellent LA Times chess column of Nov 6, IM Jack Peters reports: "The 45th annual American Open ended in a three-way tie last Sunday at the Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles. Two favorites, GM Melikset Khachiyan and IM Andranik Matikozyan, shared first place with 20-year-old Julian Landaw. All scored 6-2 in the 36-player Open section...
Landaw, a master since 2006, achieved the greatest success yet in his chess career. He had to take a last-round bye that evening to return to college at UC Berkeley."
One cannot help but wonder what would have happened if he had played that last round game...Earning a half-point by withdrawing early would seem to cast a cloud on "the greatest success yet in his chess career."
IM Peters goes on to report: "Organizer Randy Hough described the turnout of 197 players as "rather disappointing." The tournament was one of the country's largest in the 1980s, consistently attracting over 400 entrants.
On the other hand, attendance boomed to 144 players in the American Open Scholastic."
A sign of the times...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

David Nguyen

The chess column in today's NY Times has a game played in the U1600 section of the recent National Chess Congress. It is won by the winner of that tournament, David Nguyen. He won all six of his games. His rating going in was 684. His performance rating for the tournament was 1911. He had previously played 11 rated games in 1994. The article states that Mark Glikman, in an email message, wrote that the odds are about "one in a trillion." It also says that "Goichberg said he would also ask the federation to raise Nguyen's rating, which was about 1250 after the tournament. The federation changed it to 1600."Mike Nolan has stated that he has "found evidence" that my rating was over 2000. My rating 'floor' is 1700. It should be 1800. I have been accused of using my 1700+ rating to gain advantage, although I have previously asked the USCF about this, being told it was BC-Before Computer. No one wanted to take the time to do the research, so I let it go. I have now written to Bill Hall, Mike Nolan, and, the man Mike said takes care of these things, Walter Brown, asking that my rating be changed to the 1800 floor. I have heard nothing from anyone, yet Bill Goichberg can ask that this fellow's rating be arbitrarily and capriciously changed and it happens immediately. Why is that?I know nothing other than what I have read in the NY Times, but it seems unfair to this person to be given a 350 point rating boost based on one tournament. Thirty something years ago a young man by the name of Charles Daniel entered a tournament in Atlanta for those rated under 2000, or unrated. It was his very first tournament, and he won it, and the, I think it was $1500, big money in those days, that went with it.In my four decades of playing in USCF tournaments I have seen many players work hard, and play chess that was not rated, and improve their game. Some have won money, in some cases, a considerable amount of money, in each section as their rating caught up with their playing strength. Why should this man NOT be allowed to do the same thing?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blitz Chess Means Nothing?

When I first began to play chess I was already an adult at 20. I went to the downtown YMCA in Atlanta where there would be a 'blitz', or 5-minute, tournament, with an entry fee of only a quarter. I was so bad that after the first tournament, I was not allowed to enter. That infuriated me greatly. It gave me the incentive to beat the better players who would not even take my money. Eventually I did just that with all of them I faced, but not at blitz, but at what is now called 'classical' chess. I have never been particularly proficient at any form of 'quick' chess. I played many games of 'speed' chess with a fellow named O. Al Hamilton, or, as we knew him, 'Big Al'. Usually he would win on time, with me having a better, if not won, position. Invariably I took way too much time, concentrating on trying to play quality chess in lieu of 'slinging pieces'. After what turned out to be the last game of speed chess we contested, with Big Al once again winning on time, but with a 'lost' game on the board, he looked up at me, saying, "Bacon, I beat you like a drum...But it's not satisfying."
I have always admired those who can play chess very quickly, and play it well. One of my fondest memories of over four decades of being a fan of the Royal game is watching GM Walter Browne play speed chess! No one has ever been able to put on a better show than 'Mr Six-Time!
Someone posted on the USCF forum: Nakamura Tops Carlsen in BNbank Blitz in Norway that "blitz proves nothing." Nothing could be further from the truth!
Coming, as it does, on the heels of Carlsen's victory at the recent World Blitz Championship, by three points over World Champion Anand, this is an incredibly impressive result! It is even more amazing in that Carlsen won the first game and Hikaru came back to win the next three in a row!
The quality of the games is also amazing! I am reminded of what Bobby Fischer did at Herceg Novi in 1970. It has been called "The greatest blitz tournament of the twentieth century" by many. The quality of the games there was such that if most chess players were to play over them along with games from the same period at a 'classical' time control, they would not be able to pick out the 'speed' games!

For those who think blitz chess "means nothing" I would refer you to the article: The Bobby Fischer Blitzkrieg! at the award winning website:

After the USSR versus the Rest of the World Match, the unofficial World Championship of Lightning Chess (5-minute games) was held at Herceg Novi. Petrosian and Tal were considered the favorites,[156] but Fischer overwhelmed the super-class field with 19/22 (+17=4-1), far ahead of Tal (14½), Korchnoi (14), Petrosian (13½), Bronstein (13), etc.[156][157] Fischer lost only one game, to Korchnoi, who was also the only player to achieve an even score against him in the double round robin tournament.[158][159] Fischer "crushed such blitz kings as Tal, Petrosian and Smyslov by a clean score".[160] Tal marveled that, "During the entire tournament he didn't leave a single pawn en prise!", while the other players "blundered knights and bishops galore".[160][161]In August 1971, Fischer won a strong lightning event at the Manhattan Chess Club with a "preposterous" score of 21½/22.[157]

Devious Minds

During the segment on chessmaster Robert Snyder in last nights program of AMERICA'S MOST WANTED, John Walsh said, "Experts say greatness at chess is the sign of a devious mind." Who are these "experts"?
I believe Sherlock Holmes said, about Professor Moriarty, "Skill at chess is the sign of a devious mind." Would that be the 'expert' to whom Mr Walsh refers?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Does Obama Play Chess?

The excellent new book Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker by James McManus begins: Poker skill didn't vault Barack Obama into the presidency. No cool-eyed read of a Hillary Clinton tell made it obvious he should reraise her calims to be an agent of change. Nor did he shrewdly calculate the pot odds necessary to call John McCain on his commitment to the Bush economic policies or extending the war in Iraq. At least not literally, he didn't. But when Senator Obama was asked by the Associated Press in 2007 to list a hidden talent, he said, "I'm a pretty good poker player." He seemed to be talking about the tabletop game, but the evidence also suggests he was right in the much larger sense.

Yet there have been many references to the POTUS playing 'chess'. Susan Polgar wrote on her blog of Thursday, February 14, 2008, The Obama chess background: "I was told that Barack Obama plays chess and he definitely supports chess. However, it is also known now that his wife plays chess as well." Susan does not mention who told her this, but does go on to quote from an article in the NY Times published that day, Michelle Obama Thrives in Campaign Trenches: "Mrs. Obama and her brother were expected to fill their time with books, chess, sports — and, critically important they both said, dinnertime conversations with their parents." (Source: NY Times)Bob Herbert of the NY Times titled his op-ed of Febuary 9, 2009, "The Chess Master".
A member of a British foreign policy think tank was quoted by the UPI and AP as saying : "While the U.S. has been playing poker in the region, Iran has been playing chess. Iran is playing a longer, more clever game and has been far more successful at winning hearts and minds."
I am reminded of the famous statement from the Cuban missle crisis from JFK: "They play chess. We play poker."
There is a chapter, 'Poker Ideology' in The King: Chess Pieces by J.H. Donner in which he writes: he writes (pp. 138-139):"The game of chess has never been held in great esteem by the North Americans. Their culture is steeped in deeply anti-intellectual tendencies. They pride themselves in having created the game of poker. It is their national game, springing from a tradition of westward expansion, of gun-slinging skirt chasers who slept with cows and horses. They distrust chess as a game of Central European immigrants with a homesick longing for clandestine conspiracies in quiet coffee houses. Their deepest conviction is that bluff and escalation will achieve more than scheming and patience (witness their foreign policy). "
On January 30th, 2009 tas, writing on the blog: Comments From Left Field asks: Is Obama playing chess with bankers, too? (
The asks: Obama--Playing Chess in a World of Checkers Perhaps he isn't just the best checkers player in a town of checkers players. Perhaps he is the only man playing chess in a city of checkers players?
On July 6 Spiegel Online published an interview with Henry Kissinger (see "Obama Is Like a Chess Master"). Kissinger was asked: SPIEGEL: Do you think it was helpful for Obama to deliver a speech to the Islamic world in Cairo? Or has he created a lot of illusions about what politics can deliver?
Kissinger: Obama is like a chess player who is playing simultaneous chess and has opened his game with an unusual opening. Now he's got to play his hand as he plays his various counterparts. We haven't gotten beyond the opening game move yet. I have no quarrel with the opening move.
On November 11, 2009, jaideepkhanduja writes on Technorati: Obama's Asian Chess Championship Itinerary. U.S. President Barack Obama, starting on 12th November 2009, is going for nine days to visit various Asian countries. Obama is going to play chess with the respective leaders of Japan, Singapore, China, South Korea, Russia, Indonesia, and Myanmar. The winning and losing will chalk out various resolutions and decisions with these countries in terms of their relations with U.S. and other countries.
I wonder why he is not visiting India and Pakistan? Maybe he knows there are very good chess players in India. And in Pakistan, they don’t treat well with the opponent after losing game.
Somehow I always feel that the U.S. leader’s visit to any country has a different motive always than it is stated. And the talks are never transparent and conclusive.Bon Voyage, Mr. Barack Obama. (
Like chess? Love Obama? You can even Play Obama Chess free! (
The chess reference I like best is a cartoon by Scott Stantis of the Chicago Tribune on October 28, 2009 (,0,2807119.cartoongallery
This month's German Go Journal cover features a photo of President Obama ostensibly playing go with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Board 1 at the U.S. Go Congress; the original photo was taken by Pete Souza and adapted by German Go Journal Editor Tobias Berben.
So what gift did the POTUS give the leader of China? A chess, maybe? Or playing cards, or poker chips? He gave him a Go set! Go figure...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fatigue Factor

Many years ago while playing backgammon I heard of a player by the name of 'Ezra' who was alledged to be the best money player in the world. He never played in tournaments, only cash games, so there was very little known about him. Sometime later I read an interview with him in a magazine in which he said he liked to watch novice players because they had no preconceived ideas and he could possibly learn new ideas from them.
I find it interesting to listen to those new to chess express their feelings for the same reasons. Unlike us veterans, they have nothing with which to compare their experience and, therefore, have fresh ideas. While working at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center, I always found it interesting to listen to these newcomers to the world of chess.
I listened to a gentleman in his early sixties talk about his tournament experience in the Monday night tournament at a coffee shop Thursday evening. His name is Mark Canon and he has recently moved back to his home state and decided to come back to the Royal game. What struck me was how he talked about the extreme fatigue he felt as the evening wore on, and especially after the conclusion of the tournament. I recall him saying it would take some getting used to and that he would probably have to get into better shape. Although he did not do too well, he did not use fatigue as an excuse; rather as a fact. I mentioned as a mitigating factor the fact that the time had recently changed and to his body it was one hour later than the clock.
I recall a conversation I had with one of the top players at the Monday night event some months ago in which he mentioned how early most of the players had to rise and what a hardship it is to be playing chess when one is usually winding down from the day, getting ready for the sleep period. I reflected upon a conversation I had with Daaim Shabazz, who produces the award winning website, in which he mentioned he takes a half-point bye in the first round because he has to rise early and his body is shutting down about the time his brain needs to 'gear-up' for the Friday night round.
I read with interest the comments of a chess parent who also plays in the tournaments he travels to with his son, A Parent's Perspective on King's Island by Mark Schein. His comments on how exhausting a weekend chess tournament can be brought back bad memories. For example, Mark writes, "Although Aaron was up a pawn, it was now 9:00 pm and Aaron looked exhausted." That was during the third round of the day and Aaron is quite young. The next morning brought this, "Saturday (I think he means Sunday) morning’s round was at 9:00 am and Aaron seemed somewhat tired." That's the way it is at a five round weekend swiss; one is ALWAYS tired! It requires a tremendous amount of stamina to play five games of chess in 48 hours! I whole-heartedly advocate everyone read this entire article.
The fatigue factor becomes much more pronounced as one grows older. NM Rex Blalock is living in Portugal and will be moving back home to the great state of Georgia soon. He recently questioned how he will be able to adapt to playing two games a day, as only one gamed is played there.
I have always admired the energy SM Klaus Pohl is still able to put into a chess tournament, calling him the "Victor Korchnoi of Southern Chess." From experience I know how arduous a chess tournament can be. I admire the fact that Andrew Karklins tied for first place in the recently concluded King's Island tournament. I also admire the fact that a player in his sixties, Glen O'Banion, from Louisville, tied for ninth place in the Under 1900 section at the same tournament, with a score of 3-2. Glen played in my tournaments and was one of the two players who came for what turned out to be my last tournament, playing a two game match with Gentleman David Blanton. They each won one game. Glen told me his rating had recently gone over 1800, but asked me to not put it into print until after he played at King's Island. Although he lost five rating points, at 1808 he is still over 1800! As recently as 2005 Glen was down to around 1500, which means he has gained around three hundred points since then! That's impressive for anyone, but especially so for a Senior! Glen takes his chess seriously and gives hope to all of us Seniors!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Howard Stern Plays Chess

Many try-Few Succeed

Gates On His Failure At Go: Billionaire Bill Gates (r) cites go as one of his personal failures. "When I was young . . . I wanted to be the world's best chess player and, of course, I didn't succeed. I wanted to be the world's best Go player, I've had plenty of disappointments," Gates said in his 1997 book, Bill Gates Speaks: Insight from the world's greatest entrepreneur.

Monday, November 16, 2009


My post of Nov 11, 2009, Louisville Chess , was pulled by the moderators of the USCF forum. The reason given was: There is no place on this forum for pursuing personal vendettas.Tim aka Moderator7

Moderator #7 being tsawmiller.

My post stayed on the site for many days, with a few replys. Mr Lipman wrote that I "was obviously a disturbed and confused man." He did not like the fact that I had discussed his twelve year old son "on a national forum." I felt compelled to reply:

In answer to Mr Lipman's charge that I am "obviously a troubled and confused man" I would like to say that if I had posted something like that, my post would have been pulled in a heartbeat. This illustrates the arbitrary and capricious nature of the moderation of this forum.
I admit to being "confused" in that I only reported what was said to me by Mr Lipman. I discussed what was said later with Steve Dillard, who heard the one-sided 'conversation'. I also discussed it at the Highland Coffee gathering of chessplayers the next Thursday evening. The fellows with whom I discussed the diatribe laughed, finding it amusing I was so surprised by what the gentleman had to say. You see, they have encountered Mr Lipman's 'going off' previously, describing some of the things they had heard, and read, so they were not surprised. Being new to Louisville, I obviously do not know Mr Lipman as well as the natives.
I never said his son, Andrew, was "hyper-active." Mr Lipman said, " is hard to keep hyper-active children sitting and interested for 5 hours." He never said his son was one of the children, but he did say, "Andrew never plays well in tournaments with 'long' time controls."
A statement like that does 'confuse' me, as it is generally accepted most chess players produce better moves given more time to think. It could be that young players who only play these 'quick' time limit games do not know much about the endgame, where many games with longer time controls are decided. While working at the ACC I mentioned to a young man that he should study endgames. He responded with, "Why should I waste my time; I never get to an endgame!"
I will admit that what he had to say, and the way he delivered it, disturbed me. That is a far cry from being "disturbed."
As for not "...discussing my twelve-year-old son on a national forum," I would like to ask at what age is it appropriate to discuss a player in a state championship? Twelve-year-old, and younger, players pay their entry fee (or have it paid for them), play in, and win prizes of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, while professional players go home empty-handed; yet they cannot be discussed on a national forum? Is it appropriate to discuss a player when he becomes a teen? How about 16, when one can drive a car. Or, better yet, 15, when one can obtain a learner's permit, and drive if accompanied by an adult. Most of these players at chess tournaments are accompanied by a parent. If that is too young, what about 18, when one can be drafted, and sent to die for his country, for whatever dubious reason given by those in power. Or should the age be 21, when one can drink adult beverages legally?
I played Andrew in one of the G/30 tournaments, managing a draw, and thought so much of his play, I discussed him with Mr Dillard. From my observation, he seems to be a mild-mannered young man, and a strong chessplayer.
The fact is that the discussion was not about Mr Lipman's son, but about Mr Lipman, a member of the KCA board, and his opinion on faster time controls, which are well known. Left to him, all tournaments would be G/30. His motto must be: 'Think long-think wrong'!
It appears Mr Lipman likes firing off negative salvo's, but does not care for 'incoming'!

My reply did not stay on the website long. It was pulled for the aformentioned reason.
I must say that I have absolutely no 'vendetta' against anyone. I feel my questions are legitimate. Pieter Mioch prefaces his excellent Go articles, Daigo, on ( with, "If you never question anything, you won't get very far".
Mr Lipman is on the board of the KCA, and, as such, is a public figure. His feelings concerning ever faster time limits are well known. Since he has stated that his son, Andrew, "Doesn't play well in longer games," I question what motivates his stated penchant for sppeding up the Royal game. Exactly how much is he motivated by self-interest?
I do not know Mr Lipman well, but I must say that I do admire the fact that he plays chess, attending tournaments regularly, and devotes considerable time to our beloved game. The USCF has become the USSCF, for United States Scholastic Chess Federation. Children outnumber adults by about 20-1 these days. It has not always been so. Many parents have gotten involved in chess because of their children. Most have little, if any, historical perspective. Am I, and others, wrong to question whether they have the best interests of ALL chessplayers in mind; or are they interested only in chess in relation to their children?
I had a father, who does not play chess, very involved in chess because of his son tell me that, "I don't know the difference between the King's and Queen's Gambit." Am I wrong to wonder what this man is doing and why he is so involved in chess?

Chess in the Media

In a review by MICHIKO KAKUTANI, of the new book: Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin, it is written that " ... Mr. McCain, a former Navy pilot, saw the idea of upending the chessboard as a maverick move." Bless him for giving us the gift that just keeps on giving!

In a letter to the ( published 11/15/2009, Mark Spivey writes: "Soldiers are human beings, not chess pieces. It was about time we got a president who understands that."

After reading the excellent book: Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Benson Bobrick, in which the writer makes a strong case for the Virginian as the best General of the war between the states, I thought of what he writes concerning U.S. Grant's use of soldier's as if they were chess pieces to be sacrificed at will, while General Thomas valued every man under his command, and was the most revered of all Yankee Generals for doing so...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another 'Chess Prodigy' Gone Bad

The headline from the West Palm Beach News reads: Elderly Carjacking Suspect Former Child Chess Prodigy
Suspect's Father Says Son's Involvement 'Obvious,' But Won't Turn His Back On Him

You can find the sordid details at:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Louisville Chess

My introduction to chess in Louisville was the state championship, with a time control of G/90, held at the U of Louisville campus on Shelbyville road. I decided to go by a few days before the tournament, but had trouble finding the location. It turned out the address given was wrong. I was able to locate it, finding many large earth moving vehicles with construction taking place. Because of having previously played in far too many tournaments with ongoing construction, I was filled with a feeling of trepidation.
Upon arriving at the playing site on the day of the tournament, it turned out my unease was justified, as only a small portion of the lights actually worked, because of a construction accident. I considered not playing, but decided that since I was there...It turned out to be a mistake. It was terribly difficult to play because of the glare emanating from the sunlight outside not being offset by the indoor lighting. The lighting was inadequate, causing a headache.
The tables upon which the the boards were placed were the most narrow I have ever seen in my forty years of playing tournament chess. There was no room whatsoever for one to prop his elbows, or even place his hands and forearms on the table in front of the board. I asked the winner of the tournament, IM Bryan Smith, about it after the tournament and he said, "I know. I've never seen tables that small!" Some time later I mentioned it in conversation with the former President of the KCA, Miami Fugate, and he looked perplexed, saying no one else had mentioned it...
I should have withdrawn after the first round, which I managed to draw versus a lower rated player, but decided to go eat and come back because the director said the lights would be working for the second round. Although I found the lights on upon my return, my head was killing me. I lost a 'blunder-fest' and decided to withdraw. Upon returning home, my friend, former Georgia Champion, and Louisville native, Mike Decker, said that from my description, I had a migraine headache. He gave me some strong pills which diminished the pain somewhat and I was able to sleep.
I entered a few of the Monday night tournaments at Meijers, a big-box store. The time control was G/30. The playing location was in the eating area of the store, so there were employees and patrons eating, and talking, alongside the players. To get to the restrooms, patrons would go right by the tournament. There would be the usual 'gawkers' and women with small children, some of whom would be wailing. Obviously, this is not conducive to good concentration...
I found the director, Steve Dillard, had a rule that any player could opt to play without taking notation if he would subtract five minutes from his clock. With a score of 1-1 going into the last round, I had to face a gentleman I had met previously while he played speed chess, and played quite well, at the Heine Brothers coffee shop on Bardstown road. Upon seeing he was not writing down his moves, I told him it was a rule, and he began taking notation. For this I was accused of 'using intimidation' by Ken McDonald on the KCA message board. He wrote, "I observed you forcing a player to record his moves at Meijers one night. You insisted this was part of the USCF rules and that your opponent must abide by them, despite the "house rule" commonly in effect allowing players to reduce their time by 5 minutes in leiu of recoding moves. Intimidation is a part of chess that I dislike."
Now, imagine that! Accusing a player of using intimidation simply because he insists on his opponent following the rules!
Much has been written on the KCA message board regarding these so-called 'House Rules'. Anyone interested can go to , look under Chess Discussion and read the thread Legal Devices Such as Monroi and Sensor Touch Clocks.

Steve Dillard has been involved with chess for many years and has done some good things for the Royal game in Louisville, and Kentucky. It would seem he would know better than institute his own 'House Rule' which does not conform to USCF rules. One would think that after having it pointed out to him, Steve would rescind his 'House Rule'. One would be wrong. John Linton told me recently that, since his opponent chose to not take notation, he did the same. So there we have an example of two players playing in a G/30 tournament, the minimum for having a game rated by USCF as a 'classical' game of chess, yet both opponents only having 25 minutes! Any game less than 30 minutes can only be rated as a 'quick' game. I have absolutely no idea how many games have been rated illegally at these tournaments over the years. John went on to inform me he lost that game rather quickly, telling me he would never again not take notation, as it helped to slow him down. That is exactly why children are taught to keep notation! Not to mention the fact that, without a game score, one cannot go over the game and learn from the mistakes made...Without keeping notation, it becomes a throw away game. GM David Bronstein wrote he advocated fifteen minute games be played in such a situation, as one can play four games in one evening. That kind of tournament would allow one to have an equal number of White & Black, too. One would not have to keep score at that time limit. Unfortunately, it would only affect one's 'quick' rating, and one of the reasons these G/30 tournaments are so popular is that the games do have an affect on one's 'regular' rating. The youngsters like to see the movement of their rating, hopefully upward, almost as much as some of the fathers!
There is a chess tournament held at a Barnes & Noble on the third Sunday of the month. It is a G/60 and on the website it is written: 'Slow down and think!'
Imagine that; slow down and think in relation to a G/60! I thought it funny enough to send emails sharing it with my friends.
I decided, after a conversation with Steve, to hold a G/45 quad tournament on the first Sunday at the same B&N. The conditions are not ideal, with other patrons conversing, using cellphones, etc, but it is free. I decided to make my tournament a G/45 because some of the parents did not wish to bring their children knowing they would not get home until after seven. I also decided to start later, after Mike Thomas asked me to start at 1:30, in lieu of 1pm, to allow the players who attend church time to have lunch before beginning the first round. Imagine my surprise when I saw the same 'slow down and think' on my tournament notice! I have no idea who put it there. It was embarassing to me to see it, but, in order not to 'make waves', I said nothing.
I had enough players for exactly one quad the first three tournaments, but only two players came for the last one. There were some problems with the B&N, and negative comments by some in the chess community so I decided to discontinue the tournament. Steve Dillard left a comment on the message board reading: "Sadly it is easier to give up than to dig in and work to grow an event."
If players do not wish to support an event, they do not deserve an event!
Ron Lipman left this comment: "Excellent example of the power (and results) of negative energy!"
This from a man who, during a discussion at the Monday tournament called me a 'dinosaur'. His son, Andrew, a fine young player, took a half point bye at the state championship. I asked him about it and he said his son had played not one, but two, soccer matches the morning of the Ky Open. I mentioned his son did not play very well in the event, and Ron said it was because Andrew never plays well in tournaments with 'long' time controls. I said G/90 was not a 'long' time control and was immediately lamblasted with a soliloquy about how hard it was to keep hyper-active children sitting and interested for 5 hours. (Not, for example, at the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. For example, two of the big winners at this year's Supernationals, Daniel Gurevich and Ryan Joseph Moon, never seemed to have a problem with longer time controls). Ron had won his last round game and was pumped, so I listened, without saying anything as he continued, telling me Andrew 'loses focus' in the longer games; that in twenty years all chess will be G/30; and people like me are 'dinosaurs'. I was shocked by the vehemence with which he delivered his rant, but it made me think...
Many years ago Tom Pate, one of the stronger players in Atlanta was to face Jim Allison, a weaker player, rating wise. Tom, for some reason, decided to run five miles before the game. He lost.
I wondered why any father would allow his son to exert himself physically by playing two soccer matches before playing two games of chess. I also wondered why Ron would blame the 'long' time control for his son's poor performance...Chess is strenous; no less demanding than playing even one soccer match.
Mr Lipman, a member of the KCA board wrote on the KCA message board recently, "Remember, most players in this area aren't that used to 2 or 3 day tournaments and the longer time controls." He also let his feelings be known regarding classical chess when he wrote, "Personally, I would like to see shorter time controls (G/90?),..." His full post can be read on the KCA message board in the thread: What is the current state of chess in Kentucky?, Which is posted under: KCA Issues.
Actually, I have turned out to be a very positive person as I have aged. Part of it stems from the fact that, after taking many blows during the course of my life, I am just happy to be here...
I can, though, understand Mr Lipman's position. The weaker the player, the less time used. With the median rating now at 400, most USCF members are very weak, and young, and, therefore, do not use much time. You can see this at any large tournament. The games in the lower sections end almost in class order, with the stronger players playing longer games, for the most part. Every chessplayer becomes stronger as he learns to use more time. I have advocated different time limits for different sections. Unfortunately, each time I have done so, I have been lamblasted by directors and organizers for even suggesting such a thing! They maintain it is simply unworkable; that all players MUST begin their games at the exact same time. It is not what is best for the players these people have in mind, I suspect.
I recently arrived at a scholastic tournament here in Louisville a little before noon. Imagine my surprise when I found the last round ending, with parents and players leaving! It was a four round tournament. Since chess requires thought, and thinking requires time, I wondered how much went into the tournament...
Joshua Snyder, President of the KCA, wrote on the message board, in regard to the tournaments at Meijers and B&N: "Meijers is actually a lot quieter than B&N in my experience and for local club level tournaments like this, they are fine venues.."
In my forty years of playing in USCF tournaments I have played in many different venues. I KNOW what constitutes a 'fine venue', and these do not even come close! It makes me wonder how a President of any state organization could consider such a noisy place a 'fine venue'. The St Louis Chess & Scholastic Center is a 'fine venue', as is the Nashville Chess Center, the Mechanic's Institute Chess Room in San Francisco, and many other places all over the country. Places like bookstore coffee shops, and business lunch rooms may be ok for club type skittles, but not for rated play! The outgoing President, after losing the election to Mr Snyder, told me, "He knows very little about adult chess, coming, as he does, from the scholastic world." Maybe that explains why the President of the Kentucky Chess Association would make such an outlandish comment.
At the meeting before the election, Mr Snyder said that, if elected, he intended on holding a Senior tournament in Lexington in November, to much applause by the assembled Seniors. We are still waiting...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

That Stings!

The musician Sting took questions from Weekend Edition listeners, and spoke about playing on a chess team pitted against a blindfolded Garry Kasparov.
"He said to me, 'My job as a chess player is to crush your mind,'" Sting says. "And he did."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Chess in Online Articles

In an article on the website, Lubbock Online, 'The historic connection between chess and baseball in the U.S.', Susan Polgar writes, "Between 1857 and 1860, there were only two major sports "crazes" in the United States: baseball and chess." She also writes, "Unlike other board games, chess is considered a combination of art, sport and science." This is not true. For example,the same can be said about the game of Go. The entire article can be found at:

Larrey Anderson has written an article, 'Constitutional Chess', in American Thinker online. This is what he writes in the second paragraph: "Imagine that our Constitution is the equivalent of the rules of the game of chess. How would the modern Supreme Court and our progressive Congress conduct a chess tournament? How would they interpret the rules of the game? In making this comparison, I hope to demonstrate the inanity of modern constitutional interpretation, and to portray the legislative abuses of the Constitution, since the late 1930s. Let the games begin."
If you would like to begin the games, you can do so at:

Also today, Jamie Engle, a staff writer for writes an article, 'Murphy game inventor puts moves on chess'. It is about the new game Arimaa, "launched in 2002" ( a game computers have yet to beat. She writes this, "That’s no mean feat, considering that computers have been beating human chess players for years, with no sign of humans beating computers anytime soon.
According to comments posted on, many of them like it even more than chess (
Each year there’s an online Arimaa World Championship, which (Karl) Juhnke, a Garland resident, has won twice. He recently released a book on Arimaa called “Beginning Arimaa: Chess Reborn Beyond Computer Comprehension” (Flying Camel Publications, 2009)."
What really captured my attention was this: “There are a few other games where the top human players are also better than the best computer programs, but all of these games use a much bigger board and many more pieces; also these games take much longer to finish. Arimaa is now considered the second deepest strategy game ever invented, according to,” he said."
Checking the link, I found the most complex games listed in this order: 1) Go; 2) Arimaa; 3) Shogi; 4) Amazons; 5) Quoridor; 6) Xiangqi; 7) Backgammon; 8) Chess.
The article can be found at:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Martin Gardner on Bobby Fischer

An article by Martin Gardner on Bobby Fischer has appeared on the weekend edition of Arts and Letters Daily ( ). Mr Gardner writes: "Aside from chess, Fischer came close to being a moron."
This proves that when so-called 'brilliant' people write on things of which they know so little, they become moronic.
The full article can be read at:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do they play chess, or Go?

The headline reads: Extraterrestrial Life Official Disclosure Imminentby Michael E. Salla, Ph.DHonolulu Exopolitics Examiner

World Chess Champion Emanuel Lasker once said, "If games are played by sentient beings on other planets, then they play Go."

Complex Chess Game

UFO activist Stephen Bassett was the guest on last night, sharing updates about the ET disclosure process. He said, "Disclosure is a 'complex chess game,' and there could be some false alarms before the truth is revealed, he added.
He envisions disclosure being announced by a non-partisan spokesperson, perhaps an esteemed scientist like Michio Kaku, who explains that an ET presence has been engaging with the human race, and this had been kept from the public because of security reasons.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Slaughter at Slaughters

It is always disconcerting when one learns that a person with whom one has crossed paths has 'snapped', especially when that person is a fellow player of the Royal game. The headline of the article reads: Jury sentences Young to 16 years.
The article, by Wanda Combs begins: "A jury of 6 men and 6 women found Jeffrey Martin Young guilty of all four charges in the 2008 attack of a Slaughter’s Supermarket employee and sentenced him to a total of 16 years, eight months in prison.
The jury rejected a defense contention that the 31-year-old man with a history of mental illness was insane at the time."
It goes on to report: "Young, a former chess champion and Eagle Scout, felt he had to slaughter someone at Slaughters Supermarket on January 30, 2008, and that feeling led to an unprovoked, violent attack on a 20-year-old Virginia Tech student who worked at the grocery store on U.S. 221 south of Floyd, a forensic psychologist told a jury in circuit court Tuesday.Young’s attorneys don’t dispute the attack that left Boyd scarred but they contend the 32-year-old man with a troubled past is not guilty by reason of insanity when he struck Boyd with his car in the store’s parking lot before attacking her first with a wooden log and then a club when the log broke. Young also threatened police and others with a knife.
Dr. Doris Nevin, the forensic psychologist who testified for the prosecution, said that while Young may be mentally ill she does not believe he was legally insane when he attacked Boyd.
Nevin said the name of the supermarket triggered a feeling in Young that someone had to die at the grocery store."
"Young, born in Ohio in 1977, moved to Roanoke with his mother in 1988 and graduated from Patrick Henry High School. His mother, Rebecca Young, described her son as a happy, smart student who won the city chess championship three times and a national youth chess championship. He also modeled as a teenager.
The young man went to Queens College in North Carolina after graduation but dropped out in his sophomore year after breaking up with his girlfriend, his mother testified. After a car crash that nearly killed him, she said he began to change, going into prolonged periods of depression.
Young was sent to mental hospitals in Virginia and Georgia in 2003, 2004 and 2007. In 2003, doctors at Southwest Virginia Mental Health Center in Marion diagnosed Young with a “psychotic disorder.” Other doctors later diagnosed him with schizophrenia.
Young cut off his hand with a chain saw near the Blue Ridge Parkway in 2006. The hand was reattached and he told police the incident was an accident."
The full article can be read at:

Jeff came to the Atlanta Chess and Game Center earlier this decade, where I met the young man. He seemed rather 'high-strung', not unlike many other chess players I've encountered. The Legendary Georgia Ironman told me Jeff had once been stopped for DUI in Marietta, a very conservative city to the northwest of Atlanta, driving around drunk at 2AM on expired Virginia plates. Jeff, being new to the city, should have listened to Tim when he told him 'Mayretta', as it is known locally, was not the place to be. I mentioned to Tim then that, "He ain't right."
Jeff worked for Championship Chess, going into schools for an afternoon chess program.
In answer to my email informing him of the slaughter at Slaughter's, Tim replied: "My God, man! I started reading this without paying attention to the name, but finally I realized that this was the Jeff Young who was in Atlanta for a couple of years. He worked for Schneider, was a friend of Vest and Brian Tate. The man has been in my home, Bacon. It is chilling."
I have always wondered what it is about the game that brings 'disturbed' individuals to chess. I do not believe chess makes people crazy, but the game tends to exacerbate an already tenous situation. I cannot help thinking of Richard Crespo, the tournament director for Cajun Chess, now doing life in prison for taking a woman hostage in Texas and shooting it out with the police. I gave him the moniker 'Creepy Crespo' and was told, after the news of his 'snapping', that I was "prescient."
During a conversation with the local TD, and player, Steve Dillard, he mentioned he thought of one of the chess dads, who also plays, as being "bi-polar," having had occasion to deal with the "bad" side of this man in realation to a filming incident, and others. I could not help but recall the line of the song, "Needle And The Damage Done" by Neil Young: "A little part of it in everyone."
It is true that there is a 'fine line'...

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Before going to St Louis to play in the St Louis Open at the oppulent new St Louis Chess Club & Scholastic Center, I stopped to visit a friend, and former Georgia chess champion, MPD, whom I'd not seen since 2002. He has several cats inside, and a few outside. One of the outside cats, gray and white, took and instant liking to me, and the feeling was mutual. She reminded me of one of the cats outside the abode of the Legendary Georgia Ironman, a cat I called 'lady'. This particular cat remeinded me of a cat I adopted while living in Hendersonville, NC, at a cottage on a mountain. The cat, called 'Shady Lady' by my landlords, was most affectionate; the kind of cat that, when one strokes her from head to tail, she immediately turns around so you will do it again!
After playing in the Ga State Championship and Tennessee Senior, I came to stay with MPD. I named the cat 'Meredith' because I had watched several episodes of Grey's Anatomy with my cousin, with whom I stayed after she suffered a stroke. Upon my return, I found Meredith pregnant...
I spent a great deal of time on the back porch reading, and was there when Meredith began to produce kittens. Like an excited child, I ran inside to inform MPD. I counted as each one entered the world, all five of them. I stayed up late that night, and got up early the next morning, to be informed that there were now SIX kittens!
Since I never married and never had any children, the experience of being with Meredith while she 'did her thing' was something special. I was with my two sisters when they delivered my three nephews, but on the outside, if you know what I mean!
I kept my distance while still spending time out on the back porch, keeping the other cats, opposums and raccoons away. It was not long before Meredith came over to me, and began going over to the other side to eat, leaving me 'in charge' of the kittens. MPD simply could not believe it...
Meredith would get up on my lap, or, especially after eating, hop up on the table next to me and cat-nap. Although an outdoor cat, she had the disposition of an indoor cat, being gentle and sweet. Some of the kittens took to me, especially a black and white one I called 'chess'. MPD called it 'Skunk' because it looked like a skunk, and it stuck. The three gray & white ones were somewhat indifferent, but the white one with brown splotches with black streaks I call 'BB', and the totally black cat I called 'Little Blackie', because that's what the Ironman called his black cat, where more feral. The Ironman's lady friend, Miss Pat, is an animal lover, and had informed me that most outdoor cats would not take to a human, although a few would, for some unknown reason. MPD said the same thing, telling me not all of the kittens would warm up to me... It took a long time before BB would approach me, and even longer before little blackie warmed up to me, but eventually, they all did, I'm proud to report!
I got a gig at the Kentucky state fair and had to stand all day. I was bone tired upon arriving home, but always looked forward to going outside and spending time with my 'family'.
When the kittens were ready, a lady came from Alley Cats to take Meredith and the father, Daddy-O, to be fixed. I spent much time with the kittens during the time Meredith was away...Some time after, she returned to take all the kittens to be fixed. It was my job to round-up the kittens. The first one was not difficult, lulling me into a sense of false security. The second cat, Skunk, I took through the house to the cage awaiting on the front porch turned on me, scratching me, bringing blood, before running back to the back porch. The lady from alley cats told me I needed to grab them by the scruff of the neck, which I did, having no problems with all of them. Until, that is, I nabbed Little Blackie. I could not get a good grip on him, and, as I put my left hand up to stabilize him, he turned with a look of fear, hissing, as he lashed out, ripping the flesh from my left index finger, causing blood to spurt. As if that weren't enough, he then sank his teeth into my right hand, causing much pain. Somehow I managed to not let go, and managed to get a grip on the little black devil, and put him into the cage. My hands were not completely healed by the time they were returned, and it took a full week for them to heal...I told MPD I wished to change the name from Little Blackie to Ninja Assassin, but he preferred 'Black the Ripper'!
Upon their return, all warmed up to me, especially Skunk, and BB, but not The Ripper. I noticed Meredith was acting different upon their return, but MPD told me it was natural; that mother cats want their young to be independent. Meredith took to staying on the front porch, in lieu of the back porch with the 'family'.
This morning, MPD mentioned that he had not seen Meredith that morning when he fed the family, asking me when I saw her last. I told him I had seen her on the front porch yesterday afternoon as I was leaving, recalling that I had bent down to pat her on the head as I left. I took MPD to the grocery store and Feeders Supply, for cat food. After returning, our next door neighbor came to the door, asking MPD to come outside. He came back in, calling for me. He told me CJ had seen a dead cat on the other side of the street and thought it may have been one of ours. We live on a curve, and the cars come around at too high a rate of speed. MPD could not go, so I walked over, finding the lifeless body, twisted and mangled, of my precious Meredith.
MPD gave me a trash bag, into which I had to lift and put the body, which I then took into the back yard. I used a shovel in the dismal, overcast, gray chill, to break the soft ground, where I buried the carcass, tears streaming down my face, trying the best I could to hold back the sobs. Watching me, MPD was overcome himself.
I've not been able to do much of anything today, this Halloween of 2009. I've welled up with tears for no reason, and am crying like a little baby as I sit here punchin' & pokin'...
The children are at the door and I hear laughter. I promised MPD I would come down and 'watch his back', but I really don't feel like it. My heart is not into it because it is broken. Oh, how I miss my cat!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bobby Fischer Goes To Play

Does not quite have the ring of the title Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time by David Edmonds and John Eidinow, does it?
Someone I cannot recall took exception to my writing on the USCF forum that "chess is war."
I thought of that while reading the Forward to Go Fundamentals by Shigemi Kishikawa,by John Fairbairn. He writes: "Even in the last few months of when I write, while politicians and newspapers talked of stalled arms talks with the 'evil' North Korea, ordinary North Koreans were mixing with Go players of other nations in the WMSG and events in Japan. Proof yet again that even if chess is a game of war, Go is a game of co-existence."
Then there's this from the introduction to: Go! More Than a Game by Peter Shotwell: "As a result, within the first few decades of the twentieth century while the Japanese retained their heavily spiritual attitude about the game, Go in Japan became what could only be called one of the world's first mass-market sports. The old, moribund, and quarrelling professional Go associations were reorganized and quickly became the conduits of a system of tournaments that grew to become worth millions of dollars a year, dwarfing, for example, the amount of money spent worldwide on chess tournaments."
What would it take for that to happen in the world of chess?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Women and Stress

I recently received an email from a platonic woman friend, concerning a UCLA study on friendship among women. The study suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women. Until this study was published, scientists generally believed that when people experience stress, they trigger a hormonal cascade that revs the body to either stand and fight or flee as fast as possible, explains Laura Cousin Klein, Ph.D., now an Assistant Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State University and one of the study's authors. It's an ancient survival mechanism left over from the time we were chased across the planet by saber-toothed tigers.
Now the researchers suspect that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight; In fact, says Dr. Klein, it seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone---which men produce in high levels when they're under stress---seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.
I wonder what, if anything, this has to do with how women play chess, and other games.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Serious Chess

One Saturday night I sat down to play a fellow named Oscar, originally from Cuba. He was known as Oscar 'Castro', which he hated. When I pulled out a pen and pad,, Oscar said, "Whoa! What are you gonna do, keep score?" I replied that if I tell my students to write down every game, then I should do so. "That makes it a SERIOUS game," he said.
What is 'serious' chess? Does one have to be a titled player to play 'serious' chess, as one 'billbrock' posited on the USCF forum?
I learned recently that Marshall Jaffe had passed away. Marshall played at the House of Pain in one of the lower sections. Even so, his game was usually one of the last to finish, because, unlike other players in the lower sections, he utilized most all of his time. The President of the GCA, Scott Parker, once said about Marshall, "He takes his chess seriously." I looked up Marshall on the MSA and was pleased to see he had crossed over from 'C' to 'B' recently.
Julian Ford took up the game rather late in life. He became a class 'C' player, and, even after suffering a stroke, would still come to the House to play, as difficult as it was to ascend the stairs. Mr Ford won the class 'C' section of the US Class one year, and was very proud of that fact. Mr Parker said, "Julian was serious about his chess."
Mr Brock, a self-professed 'weakie', insults the vast majority of USCF members when he says only higher rated players are capable of playing 'serious' chess. He is one of the 'nattering nabobs' who post frequently on any and all topics on the fourm, usually trying to tear down others who post, in lieu of offering anything positive himself.
Brian Mottershead is another 'nattering nabob'. In one post he 'interpreted' something I had written, as if it had been had written in a foreign language. He is one of those, 'in other words' kind of people. He, too, posts 'early and often' on every thread. He is on the MACA Board of Directors. I looked him up on the MSA and was astonished to see that he has not even played ONE rated game of chess since 1991! Yet he pontificates at length on any and every subject!
I recalled what GM Yasser Seirawan wrote in INSIDE CHESS before a USCF policy board election many years ago about the various kinds of people who ran for the board, saying there were those who loved chess, and then there were those who only ran because they wanted to run things, many of whom did not even like chess.
I was at a tournament in Florida earlier this decade when I saw Don Schultz and Al Lawrence square off in the foyer of the hotel, playing speed chess. I came back many hours later, and they were still playing. They sure looked serious about their chess! I wonder, just how serious can Brian Mottershead be about the Royal game when he does not even play?

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Last Word

Mr McDonald, in his last post on the KCA forum (, has been gracious enough to give me the last word on this subject; I will take it. The reason USCF has a rulebook is so there will be standardized rules for all players. In one of the first tournaments I entered, my first road tournament, held in Savannah, Ga, the director, a curmudgeonly character, paired the top rated player with the second highest rated player, and #3 with #4, etc. The players protested vehemently. The director answered by saying, "I'm the director and this is how I direct!" We have rules so a director cannot arbitrarily and capriciously make up the rules as he goes along.
Mr McDonald has tried to make this a 'point-counterpoint' between him and me. This is not the case. In chess, when there is a disagreement between two players concerning the merit of a particular move, they analyze the position in order to try and obtain the 'truth'.
If a player from Louisville, used to taking off five minutes from his clock and not writing down the moves went to play at the Atlanta Chess and Game Center and asked to be allowed to do exactly that, he would be laughed right out of the House!
I took the time to send emails to my friend IM John Donaldson, director of the Mechanic's Chess Club, and Steve Immitt, one of the preeminent TDs in the country, in order to ascertain the 'truth'. This is the response from IMJD:
Hi Michael,I remember Steven from a tournament of his I played in over twenty years ago. Please say hi. At the Mechanics' everyone must keep score. We do allow Monroi's but only one player has ever used one. At $350 a pop I don't see them becoming standard issue.John

The next one is from Mr Immitt:

I agree with you 100% That wouldn't work at the Marshall Club.Players must keep score unless1. They are small children who may not know how to write;2. They have a physical disability preventing them from writing;3. They are observing a religious restriction (Sabbath).
Steve Immitt

Max Roberts has played in two of my small tournaments. He is not yet six years old and cannot write, yet. If his opponent insisted Max be forced to write down the moves, I would insist he have his head examined! I believe that is what the rulebook means when it says a director must use 'judgement'.
In the last round of the Meijers tournament on May 25, I faced the 2-0 Paul Pollitt II, having a score of 1-1. I had met Paul earlier when I saw him playing 5-minute chess, and playing very well, I might add, at the Heine Bros coffee shop behind Carmichael's Bookstore. I was the reason Paul decided to come to play at Meijers. We sat down to play and he was not taking score. I told him it was the rule. Paul had previously played in a rated USCF tournament and, judging from how well he played speed chess, was no beginner. I won the game and Chris Bush came up and thanked me, which I found somewhat disconcerting.
Paul did not come back and I wondered why. I knew he had mentioned he worked strange hours, and would have to play with little or no sleep, but still...
Many weeks later I encountered Paul and his wife, once again at the Heine Bros Coffee. He greeted me very warmly, introducing me to his wife. I asked him why he had not returned to the Monday night tournament and was relieved when he told me he just did not have time for chess. I asked him if keeping score had bothered him, and he said, "Not as much as your moves!" We spent some time discussing chess before they had to leave, with him telling me he hoped to play again, time permitting. I have not seen him since, but hope to see him in the future.
I would like to add a comment left on the BaconLOG by my friend, a former student, Ed Parks, with whom I have an ongoing chess game:
Parx said...
I can't believe people actually pay 300+ dollars for a handheld chess computer game that has no game. It just tracks the moves. The technology will be downgraded to an iPhone app, then to Android (for google phones, etc), then to all phones, and the tidal wave of technology will necessitate some acceptance of the electronic scoresheet. I say, within 18 months.
October 8, 2009 5:54 AM