Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hitler vs Lenin

An article in the NY Times, Based on Life or Fantasy, a Picture Goes to Auction, by Dylan Loeb McClain, is about an etching depicting Hitler, with the White pieces, and Lenin playing Black, will be sold at auction. The etching is signed by Emma Lowenstramm, the artist, and that on the back are “pencil markings which have been identified as being the signatures of Hitler and Lenin.” It is estimated to bring about $63,000 to $95,000. See the picture and read the story at:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

G/90+30 seconds is an abomination!

I recently sent an email back to my home state of Georgia, informing them I have decided to not play in the upcoming Georgia Senior. I wrote, " I want to support Senior chess, especially in the South, but now is not the most propitious time." Although there are many reasons, the main one is the time control. Although the organizers changed it from the FIDE time control of G/90 with 30 seconds added, to G/100 with 30 seconds added, I am simply not comfortable playing a totally new time control with which I have no experience.
Since I was told by a FM from Tennessee, a man whom I beat when he was a NM, I might add, that my opinion carries little weight because of my low rating, with him going on to tell me to "raise your rating, and you will have then have credibility," I will let others speak on the matter.
I sent out emails to many players, most Seniors, others who will be Seniors in the future, asking if they had played in a tournament with a G/90+30 seconds added time control. I received only one, that from Rex Blalock, a Master, via Rex is originally from the great state of Georgia, and will be returning next year. This is what he had to say: "You mention in one entry that an event was going to have G/90 but with 30 sec increments from move 1 and asked if anyone had ever played such a control. I have often played with that time control here in Europe in fide events. It is one of the 2 most popular controls here for Open tournaments. The other is G/2 hours. I can tell you from experience that G/90 +30sec normally equals about 4 hours/game. There is no significant difference in it and G/2 hours imo. Like you, I am upset that the game is speeding up but here I usually dont play more than 1 round a day so its not as bad as when you play more than 1 round a day."
This was posted as a reply on the USCF website in reply to my post: Teaching old dogs new tricks, by Thomas Magar, a NM from Pa.: "I played in several tournaments in Canada with the increment time control. The increment is fine for juniors, but it tends to lead to extended periods of time pressure or perceived time pressure. This can lead to potentially disastrous consequences for senior players.One tournament was at Game 60 + 30sec. Many of the players disliked it as there seemed to be little time to think because of the requirement of having to write out your moves. It seemed like time pressure lasted for about 45 minutes of the game and was very stressful. The tournament that was at Game 90 + 30sec was a little better, but the last half hour left some players exhausted. There was general agreement that the most fair time control with increment was Game 120 + 30sec. This would provide a 4 1/2 to 5 hour session with time for the normal number of "thinks" necessary to play a quality game. I don't think it is healthy to stress seniors out with a fast time control. We would like to play a good game rather than one filled with time pressure blunders. FIDE's messing around with traditional chess is insane."
Finally, I would like to submit a question to, and the answer by GM Yasser Seirwan in an interview on
Do you like the trend towards faster time controls, or do you long for the good old days when 40 in 2 was the norm?
"I strongly dislike the faster time controls. I prefer Blitz, Rapid and Classical controls. For the latter, 40/2, 20/1, 15 + 30 seconds is best. 90+30 seconds, the time control used in Bled is an abomination. It completely ruins the endgame and hence the whole quality of the games. Unfortunately, this fast time control of 90+30 is ideal for organizers as the rounds end quickly and efficiently. Unless the players revolt and explain that the games are being ruined, the organizers will contentedly keep this time control. There are very few memorable games played at this time control."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One pill makes you larger

For those who would like to read more on 'cognitive enhancers' there is an interesting article at:

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Beast

I have just finished reading all 83 comments on the thread started by Joe Lux on the USCF website, USCF Rating System, which can be found under USCF Issues.
Some years ago, during a discussion at the House of Pain, a Master decried the use of 'numbers', going on to say that assigning a number to a human was 'demeaning'. It was extremely ironic when, a little later, someone asked who he had beaten in the last round and he replied, "Some 1800."
After a tournament players will stick around to learn how their rating has changed, some even calling the House after arriving home! This is especially true for the younger players on their way up.
During another discussion in Hendersonville, NC, NM Neal Harris said he considered me a '1900'. Players who have been around awhile get pegged, like it or not. And yes, players do lose playing strength as they age. Yet, no matter how low my rating goes, those who have known me for decades will still tend to think of me as a '1900'.
One of the reasons an older player will lose rating points, if he continues to play, is the game has 'speeded-up'. I recall GM Smekal lost rating points when the FIDE time control was reduced from 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours many years ago, and his results were never as good as before.
For many decades I told everyone my first rating was 1064. I lost all 6 games in my first USCF rated tournament. I was shocked when SM Klaus Pohl brought copies of old CHESS LIFE magazines to the House and I saw my first rating was in the dreaded triple digits, 874, I believe. I had never seen that issue, for whatever reason. It was extremely rare to see a rating below 1000 back then. Now it is commonplace.
Two players playing in the same section may have exactly the same rating, but one could be young and on his way up, while the other could be a solid 'A' player, or even on his way down. An example: Many years ago I played in the 'A' section of the World Open and faced a young man named Vinny Puri. It was a long game ultimately drawn. He was not pleased, to say the least. Some time later (not sure how long) I read in a Canadian chess magazine about 'International Master' Vinny Puri! I was still '1900'.
I have talked with a great many players who have stopped playing because they teach chess, and would like to keep their current rating, as the perception is that 'the higher the rating, the better the teacher'. They see older players who still push pawns falling to the floor, and not getting up!
The problem is that of the rapidly improving player ("I just got good"-Bobby Fischer). Say a young player I'll call 'Beast', is rated 666, but really playing a thousand points higher. He plays an established 'B' player, rated 1666, four times over the course of a few months. It's like the HIGHLANDER, whereby the 'Beast' takes the 'B' players ratings. It's not that the 1666 player is not still playing at his level, but the 'Beast' is playing at a much higher level.
The solution would seem to be that the system should be changed so the 'Beast' can still gain points, but the established player can only lose, say, one half as many points.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And the white knight is talking backwards

Interesting lead story, Pills to Make You Smarter, on the cover of the current October SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. It makes one wonder whether the proposed drug testing for chess players in the Olympics were the right drugs for which to be tested. The thing is, this is not only a story about 'cognitive enhancers' to come, but ones already in use. For example, beta blockers are used for stage fright.
(I've got fire water right on my breath And the doctor warned me I might catch a death. Said, "You can make it in your disguise, Just never show the fear that's in your eyes."
Your brow is sweatin' and your mouth gets dry,Fancy people go driftin' by.The moment of truth is right at hand, Just one more nightmare you can stand.
See the man with the stage fright Just standin' up there to give it all his might. And he got caught in the spotlight, But when we get to the end He wants to start all over again...)

Ah, yes, the best Rock & Roll band of all time-THE BAND! This from their song, appropriately named, Stage Fright. Brings back memories, real good memories. They did not have beta blockers back then, so they use the 'cognitive enhancers' available at the time!
Watched this program on public tube some time ago about a pianist who was simply unable to perform until he was turned-on to 'cognitive enhancers'. He's now considered to be one of the very best. The program focused on the ethics of taking 'cognitive enhancers' and whether or not it is ethical, in the way society is debating the use of steroids among athletes.
Which got me to cogitating...What happens when a chess player is 'hit with a shot'? His heart rate increases and starts pounding like a jack-hammer in his chest. That is not the case if one has taken a beta blocker; one stays cool as a cucumber.
The article says, '...more than 1.6 million people in the US had used prescription stimulants nonmedically in the previous 12 months'. I wondered how many of them play chess? Also, 'On college campuses, one quarter of students have reported using the drugs.'
What really got me was this, by James Cascio, an associate of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California: "The perceived increased cognitive focus and clarity was very much of a surprise. My experience was not that I'd become a superbrain, It was more an experience of more easily slipping into a state of cognitive flow, a state of being able to work without distraction."
I do not know about you, but that 'state of cognitive flow' sounds like something I would like to be in while sitting at the chess board!
Then my balloon was deflated upon reading: 'The same researchers found little cognitive benefit in healthy elderly males.' I had the same kind of feeling upon being informed I was too old to donate sperm!
All this reminds me of my favorite Science Fiction novel, THE PLAYER OF GAMES, by Iain M Banks. The players prepare for the game ahead by 'glanding'. It could be my peak rating would have been much higher if I had done the right 'glanding' years ago!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ironman Chess Club

I've often heard that "All politics is local." I've thought the same thing about chess.
The Legendary Georgia Ironman, NM Tim Brookshear, has hosted the most unique chess club I've encountered in my almost 40 years of chess. Held on the first and third Tuesday evening of the month at The Community Room of a church at 735 Sycamore Dr., Decatur, it has been going strong for eight years. Parents bring their children and all are welcome. There are people of all nationalities, races, and creeds. It opens a six, and closes when the people leave, which, being a school night, usually means between nine and ten. One of the best things about the club is that it is FREE! The only time any money was charged was when the only man to hold both the Ga State Championship, and the Ga State Senior Championship simultaneously, Life Master David Vest, gave a simul to benefit the church.
The children play other children, with the coaches trying to match them up so the skill level is close enough to have a good game, and when they become strong enough, they play adults. Some even 'graduate' to making the trip to the nearby 'House of Pain' for the
Tuesday Night Fights. Some of the parents learn to play because of the club, with both fathers, and mothers, trying their hand at the Royal game. Other parents bring a laptop and work, while some read, and others talk. It is a wonderful place for the home-schooled children, giving them a place to socialize. Later on in the evening Tim, or one of the other stronger players will break out a demo board and go over a game, or look at an endgame position. Everyone has a good time.
Every community can do this. I have noticed that in every community there is a driving force. For example, in the small town of Hendersonville, NC, that person is my friend, NM Neal Harris. The chess club meets every Thursday evening, also at a church. My mother once told me that the most important thing one can give is their time. If chess is to grow stronger, it could be because more players take it upon themselves to do just what the Legendary Georgia Ironman, and many others, has done and 'give back' to the community.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Did Bobby Fischer have Asperger's Syndrome?

I was told by a chess playing friend who has Asperger's Syndrome-an autistic disorder characterized by often superior intellectual abilities but also by obsessive behavior, ineffective communication, and social awkwardness- he believed I too could have a mild form. Having read, Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us by John J. Ratey earlier, I did not discount the possibility. I have read a great deal about Asperger's since then. Recently I finished reading a novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, after being told the way the protagonist thought was the way my friend thought.
Asperger's did not have a name until the mid-90's, yet now the books and movies proliferate. For example, the movie, ADAM: A LOVE STORY ABOUT ASHPERGER'S made a showing earlier this year, and the just published book: Parallel Play: Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's by Tim Page. The NYTimes review ( begins: When Tim Page was a teenager, he thought of Howard Hughes, Glenn Gould, Bobby Fischer and J. D. Salinger as role models.
Having read extensively on Bobby Fischer, I cannot help but wonder if he, too, would have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome?

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Most Extraordinary Event

Mike Thomas was gracious enough to give me a ride to direct the tournament at the Barnes & Noble. His lovely daughter, Katie, was with him. 'Gentleman' David Blanton was there upon our arrival, so that was three of the four needed for a quad. As the round time neared, someone mentioned I may have to play. About this time, a family, father, mother, two daughters and a son, appeared. The little red haired boy walked right over to our tables, got up on a chair opposite Mr Blanton, and moved the king pawn to e4! David responded with e5 and the little fellow made his second move, Nf3, immediately. The game was on! I asked his age, learning he was only five, not even in school! He continued to produce moves, good moves, at a rapid pace, all the while talking, obviously brimming with confidence. Upon further questioning I learned he actually had a USCF rating! He had to ask his father, who held up fingers, which I took to be '337', but after consulting the USCF, found it to be '887'! It took us a few moments to ascertain the little fellow was there to play in the quad! That meant there were enough players, and, more importantly, I would not have to play.
With Katie saying she wished to play Max, I had to stop the game in order for the first round of the quad to begin. Max gave his ascessment of the position, with him having a rook with Mr Blanton having two bishops. I was astonished at his judgement of the position, which could have come from someone much older and accomplished. I could see in David's face that he was as amazed as I.
When the tournament began I had a chance to talk with Max's parents, Rob and Shelley. I heard Max learned to play by watching as his sisters took lessons at a school program, with Ryan Velez involved. When it was mentioned that Steve Dillard had written about Max on the Kentucky chess association website, (, under Awards and Recognition, in the post: August 31, 2009 I went over to my chess bag, producing a copy of the post. I made a copy of it because I have a young student with parents from Gary Kasparov's country of origin, Azerbaijan. His mother wants him to learn chess, but, although he seems bright enough, his heart is just not in it. I wanted them to read it, in hopes it could possibly kindle a spark. I have tried just about everything else...
Max did not fare well versus the veteran Mike Thomas in round one, while David beat Katie. As I talked with the parents, I watched the beginning of the second round. I had to get up to look at the position when I saw Mr Blanton hunkered down right out of the opening, looking distressed. And the look was with reason! Max had won a pawn right out of the opening! Later David said, "He won the opening." But, alas, Max did not win the game, and was none too happy with the result! I suggested they go over the game after Max took a break. The reason I asked David to go over the game is that Max is so young, he cannot write down the moves! His mother mentioned getting him one of the devices (I took it to mean a Monroi), but that, as she put it, "It's so expensive."
Meanwhile, Mike dropped a rook to Katie, I later learned. When I saw the position, Katie was up an exchange for a pawn, with a good position. Unfortunately, she proved how hard it can be to win a 'won' poisition, something with witch we can all identify!
I mentioned several books for Shelley to read, including KING'S GAMBIT, by Paul Hoffman; THE ART OF LEARNING, by Josh Waitzkin; THE KING'S OF NEW YORK by Michael Weinreb; and CHESS BITCH by Jennifer Shahade.
I was amazed at how quickly Max played good moves in his last round game with Katie. When he threatened Nc7 she moved her King to d7 and he immediately moved his Knight to d6, threatening the unprotected pawn on f7, and with that, the rook on h8. I was distracted and, when I looked back, Max had lost a won game! Obviously, not all moves produced quickly are good!
Mike dropped a Knight to David and it was not looking too good, but the Gentleman failed to take a pawn, thereby getting the Queens off of the board, and Mike's threats to David's King were too strong. Mike Thomas won the event, but Max won our hearts! I passed Gentleman David Blanton on the way to the men's room and he had this big smile on his face, saying, "I like this kid!" I walked on thinking, "We all do!"
Shelley sent me a video of Max today I would like you to see:

It has been a long and winding road that has brought me to Louisville, a city with the motto of 'Keep Louisville Weird'. Guess that's why I seem to fit right in! Most chess trainer's would salivate at the prospect of having a student like Max, thinking only of self-aggrandizement. I would love to train Max, not because of what it could possibly do for my reputation as a chess coach, but because of his wonderful personality and infectious enthusiasm. It is obvious he loves whatever it is he does! Yet honesty compells me to admit I am filled at trepidation at the prospect; not feeling worthy. You see, I only attained the rank of expert. I can teach the basics, and feel my understanding of the game is much higher than my rating, because, as one grows older, as GM Viktor Korchnoi said, "Elo points have as much to do with energy as with knowledge." I fear what I taught someone like Max would have to be 'unlearned' later! Max is like a flower that needs to be nurtured, with only the best care. The better his trainer now, the better he will be in the future. I base that on what former US Chess Champion Stuart Rachels has said previously about his work with IM of GM strength Boris Kogan.
The road to Grandmaster is long and arduous, with many pitfalls. Many try and most fail. Chess has been called an art; science; and sport. My friend Michael Decker, former Champion of my home state, Georgia, once wrote a paper in which he posited chess is a language, in that it must be learned young. After watching many youngsters go into the playing room and return after making the first move that popped into their little heads, I said that only ten percent should even be playing a tournament. That, to the people who derive their income from teaching, and selling equipment to the parents, did not go over well. The thing about Max is that the first move that pops into his head is, most often, a good one. Once he learns to sit and think, the sky's the limit for him! I hope I got him off to a start by telling him to ask himself the three questions every chess player should answer before making a move. One: Why did my opponent make that move? Two: What move do I want to make, and why? Three: Am I leaving anything en prise?
I would like to bring to your attention an article by GM Jonathan Rowson in the 2009/5 issue of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess, entitled, THOSE WHO CAN, TEACH. He reviews the book, THE CHESS INSTRUCTOR 2009, published by New in Chess. It is a book on my list if, and when, I have the money to purchase it. It would appear to be essential for every chess coach. GM Rowson writes, "I learned chess at the age of five, and we now know that not only are many young children capable of complex logic, but some children reach international standard before they reach double figures. However, such instances are still fairly rare, and I think Richard James makes a very important point that much effort can be wasted in investing chess resources into children who are not yet capable of complex logic, because they are very unlikely to be charmed by the game for long, and will invariably give it up."
I mentiond Mozart to Max's parents and Rob said, "That makes my flesh crawl." I cannot help but wonder about reincarnation when I see someone so young play as if it is the most natural thing in the world; as if he were 'born' to play. I have absolutely no doubt Max is exceptionally extraordinary. I can only hope the chess community recognizes this and can find the 'resources' required to see this flower grow!
I cannot help but think of the young Matthew Puckett. I watched him beat GM Sam Palatnik with the Leningrad Dutch at the House of Pain (the Atlanta Chess & Game Center) while working there, and then stop playing. During that weekend I had a chance to talk with his mother, who told me they were not of the circumstances as Stuart Rachels (his father was a professor of philosophy and wrote books that have been quoted by many philosophers, including Peter Singer), but were 'blue-collar'. She went on to tell me that Matthew had to win to continue to play. I thought that was a tremendous pressure to put on any youngster. It was with pleasure when I went to the USCF ratings page and saw Matthew returned to chess in 2007 after a six year hiatus, climbing back over the 2200 barrier! How many promising youngsters fall by the wayside for lack of 'resources'?
As a fan of baseball, I previously had the thought that I will not be around to see the career of today's future stars. The same applies to chess players like Ray Robson, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the US Masters in Hendersonville, NC, while living there. In a decade, Max will be the same age as Ray now. The odds are that I will not be around then; something with witch we must all comes to terms if lucky enough to live past 'middle age'. Although the fact saddens me, I take pleasure in 'now'. It was a most extraordinary event!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why do you play chess?

IM of GM strength Boris Kogan once asked me, "Mike, why do you play chess?" I recall reading the best golfer ever, Bobby Jones was asked why he played golf. While reading the discussion forum on the American Go Assoc website ( I came across the thread: Why do you play? I found this remarkable: Why inigo-weiqi plays Go
Go mimics life - very closely. Playing it on a constant basis has affected my thinking very profoundly. Somehow I've gone beyond the good vs. bad distinction when judgeing certain situations. Now, I've learned to first think before I act, and think profoundly before I act profoundly - especially when I encounter hostility from a person or group. And even when I encounter (suspicious) kindness from the same.Not only that, but also I've learned to conclude that every action has a story behind it. Just like the opening influences the middle game and the middle game influences the endgame, what a person does today is influenced by what happened yesterday and the day before - even if responsibility for an action lies with the person and not the event. Finally, Go has improved my social life a little. At least I've learned to be more subtle when introducing myself to a stranger for the first time, and when making friends. Even with my family and closest friends I take time to practice said subtlety.Go has so many merits, it's somewhat surprising that it has not been popularized here in the US or in other Western countries.I could continue posting more and more reasons as to why I play Go, but the space here is limited.

Other reasons...

There is an interesting thread on the USCF website ( concerning Membership Retention Data in the USCF ISSUES catagory. Someone recently mentioned how many scholastic players were becoming adult USCF members. I said I had read, somewhere, but could not recall where, that was not the case. I've been racking my brain, or, should I say, what's left of it, trying to recall where I read it. It was, therefore, good to see this thread in a part of the forum I rarely read. I suggest everyone take time to read it.
The part that jumped out at me is a post by Mike Nolan in which he writes, "On a year-to-year basis, senior members have the highest renewal rate, but we lose them for other reasons." Whoa! That hits a Senior HARD!

Another brick in the wall

Upon walking up to the front door of USCF HQ in Crossville, Tennessee, one sees inscribed bricks on either side of the walkway. The one I recall most vividly is donated by former Georgia State chess champion, Bob Joiner. Matter of fact, the inscription tells you that he won the tournament in 1969 with a score of 5-0.I learned to play in 1966, when my father taught me. He beat me the first few games, so I purchased HOW TO PLAY CHESS, by Fred Reinfeld for a quarter and read it before playing again. I surprised my father by winning, so he wanted another game. When I won again, my father became enraged, sweeping the pieces off of the table. I beat everyone in the neighborhood, then stopped playing to continue playing baseball. Some years later I learned one of my cousins, Carl Hendrix, had worked with Bob at Southern Airways, before Bob became a prominent public defender in Atlanta. I've often wondered what would have happened if I had met Mr Robert Joiner upon first learning chess.Like me, Bob also played serious backgammon, winning many tournaments. He came by the House of Pain after retiring from the law, playing in the Tuesday night fights. He didn't do well and has not been seen since. I hope he finds his way back to our world.If I ever get to the point I have an extra $50, I intend on purchasing a brick, upon which I will inscribe: Atlanta Champion, 1974-76, winning the 1976 tournament 5-0. I would like it to go right below Bob's brick.

Ain't it the truth

There is talk of having GM Vladislav Tkachiev banned from chess for appearing inebriated for his game. The article can be found on the excellent online chess magazine,
Are you kidding me?! Give any GM too drunk to play free entry fee and pair him with ME! I'm still looking for my first GM scalp...
Seriously, let us not condem our fellow players. Stories of inebriated players abound. Many years ago a very strong player in Atlanta, who was on a rather long unbeaten streak went to the infamous world-class dive, the STEIN CLUB, between rounds. Upon returning, he lost. Yet, he is revered by those of us old enough to remember.I once mentioned to the supervisor at Checker Cab Co, in Atlanta, that one of the owner-operators, "Had a drinking problem." Slick replied, "We all have problems, Mike."
Ain't it the truth...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nattering nabob of negativism

After reading an article in the Tuesday, Sept 1 WSJ entitled, OLDER, WISER, SLOWER by Kevin Helliker ), I received an email from a person who had read my latest and took exception, calling me a "Nattering nabob of negativism!" Shades of Spiro Agnew...At least he did not call me a 'pusillanimous pussyfooter'. To that I may have taken exception!
Since I have been challenged to produce a better US Senior, here goes...If I had the means I would hold a US Senior in a venue close to an extended stay hotel. It comes equipped with a full kitchen. There is one within a short walk of the hotel where the Southern Open has been held in recent years. One can stay at an extended stay for a week for the same price one will pay for two days at a hotel.
The tournament would begin on a Monday, with players arriving and getting ensconced Sunday. The rounds would begin at ten am, with a time control of 40/2, followed by an additional hour AND with thirty seconds added only in the secondary time control. There would be only one game per day, as two per day for a Senior is one too many! Games would be played each day thru Saturday, with an awards ceremony and banquet Saturday evening. Players could leave Sunday to return home.
I would do 'whatever it takes' to find sponsorship. There are a great many companies catering to the 'baby-boomers' who would be willing to sponsor something as worthy as the US Senior Championship! There would, therefore, be no entry-fee for the players.
I would pay Harry Sabine to direct the event for obvious reasons!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaching old dogs new tricks

I have played at least one USCF rated game in 25 different states, more than any other native born Georgian. The Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, is catching up to me, but since he was born in the great neighboring state of Tennessee, my record will still be safe for some time. I had hoped to participate in the US Senior in Oklahoma this year, as it would give me another state and keep the Ironman at bay.
I went through Oklahoma in 2002 in my van and was pulled over by the state troopers for not wearing a seatbelt. The thing is, I WAS wearing my seatbelt! I gave them permission to search the van because the alternative was to be taken to jail while they found another pretext to search. Another trooper was called to keep watch on me, so I was, for all intents and purposes, 'detained'. After taking everything out of the van ("You sure gotta lotta chess books, boy. Why you got so many?" After explaining I was headed to a chess torunament, I was asked, "Ain't they got no chest toonuments in Georgia?") they found no contraband and told me I was free to go. This as it began to rain. They laughed when I asked if they were going to help me put everything back in the van! After an experience like that, I'm sure readers can understand my trepidation about going back into the 'belly of the beast'.
Oklahoma is in the middle of the country, so the cost just to get there will be great for everyone. Since it is not near any large metropolitan area, it cannot draw from a local 'crowd' of chessplayers. The prize fund is not really an inducement to travel to the tournament.
There are two rounds per day. Writing about IM Jack Peters column in the LA Times (Jack Peters (LA Times)), IM John Donaldson, in his fine Mechanic's Institute Newsletter (Mechanics' Institute Chess Room) says: Peters questioned seven titled players, all in their late 40s or older, how they had been affected by aging. Most of the respondents cited fatigue as a significant factor, particularly playing two games a day ( by far the norm in the US).
If two rounds a day are mandatory, and I question whether there should be two rounds a day for Seniors, then there should be at least two hours between rounds. A Senior needs that time to replinish the drained energy supplies and to rest, while having the food ingested have time to begin to digest. With two hours, at minimum, between rounds, A Senior would have time to go over the game he has just finished without constantly checking the time to ascertain how many minutes remain until the next round.
The Legendary Georgia Ironman has taken a stand; drawn a line in the sand. He refuses to play in a tournament in which the time limit is faster than what in total would be a five hour game. Many times I've heard him quote IM of GM strength Boris Kogan, "You must be strong in the fifth hour!"
I have decided I would not play in a tournament in which the time control is faster than G/2. I have discussed it with Tim, and others, with my point being four hours is long enough for a 'real' game of chess, if one has to play two games in one day. My thinking has been that if one goes to work at an eight hour job, one usually works half a day, takes a break for lunch, and works the other half of the day. Also, I will admit to a great deal of fatigue in the 'fifth hour', especially in the second game of the day. When players are evenly matched the game is usually decided in the endgame, which takes place, most often, in the fifth hour of play. The unfortunate thing is that my brain, like my body, is not as quick as it once was, and that means it takes me longer to work things out, putting me into time pressure and seeing me blunder away a better, if not won, position.
I have never played in the time control that will be used at this years US Senior. I believe it is the new FIDE time control of G/90 plus 30 seconds added after every move. If you figure an average game to be 40 moves, then 90+20=110, which is less than G/120, my minimum time control. I do not know who came up with this time control, but, since Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the gangster in charge of FIDE (do you really believe his 'body guards' took it upon themselves to murder Anna Politkovskaya?), and he has come up with many other absurd ideas, the possibility exists that USCF pooh-bahs are marching in lock-step with him by using this ridiculous time control.
Seniors 'cut their teeth' by playing in tournaments with a secondary time control. I won the Atlanta Championship in 1976 with a time control of 40/2 1/2, followed by a secondary time control of the sort Jerry Weikel uses in Reno. Granted, there was only one game a night for five weeks...IM of GM strength Boris Kogan strongly advised getting up from the board after the time control and going to the men's room, if necessary, to refresh one's mind. This is not possible with this time control. Not to mention the fact that one can never be certain when the game will end, especially in a, say, Queen & Pawn ending...
I sent out an email asking Seniors, and future Seniors, if they had ever played in a tournament with this time control. Not one responded in the affimative!
After being informed the Georgia Chess Association planned on using the very same FIDE time control at their Senior tournament next month, I queried the Legendary Ga Ironman and was astonished to read he intended on playing, writing, "You at least get into the fifth hour." His desire to play had caused him to compromise his principles. I informed my friends back home I would not play. Some time later I received an email from the President of the GCA, Mr Scott Parker, informing me they had decided to change the time control to G/100, with the 30 second increment! A game of 40 moves will now translate to a G/2, and I hope to play. It is not what I consider ideal for a Senior tournament, but then, it does conform to my stated minimum. A chessplayer who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
As the time ticks away, a Senior realizes each event could possibility be the last in which he participates. I've missed so many US Seniors for various reasons, and hate to miss another...I will NOT attend the US Senior this year, and the time control is the main reason.