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

Saturday, October 10, 2009

USCF Rules

There is an interesting discussion taking place on the forum at the Kentucky Chess Association website: ( ), which should be happening on the USCF forum. But, as you loyal readers know, USCF, in it's wisdom, pulled my post.
There is a practice in one of the local tournaments whereby the director allows anyone wishing NOT to keep score in the G/30 to do just that; providing the player starts with 25 minutes, in lieu of the 30 for the player who follows the rules. Mr Ken McDonald "believe(s) this would fit under the category of a "house rule". He writes: "The possibilty of a TD implementing "house rules" is covered under USCF rules 1B1 and 1B2."
I read those rules and it clearly says that 'House Rules' are only for things NOT covered in the rulebook. Rule 15A states, unequivocally, that the only exceptions to having to keep score are those with physical handicaps; religious; or beginners.
I'm reminded of the story of the gambler who came into town. As he was checking into the hotel, he asked the clerk if there was a poker game. "That depends," said the clerk. The drifter pulled out a wad of cash, and the clerk said, "Be here at 9 tonight."
The drifter arrived right on time and was led to the back room, where the game commenced. Not much happened until about midnight, when, as luck would have it, the gambler drew a straight flush. He decided to only put half of his wad in the pot, not expecting to be called. Everyone chucked their cards, except the fellow directly across from him he thought of as a weasel. When the weasel turned over his cards, a 2-4-6-8-10, of various suits, the gambler turned over his straight flush and began to rake in the pot. The weasel leapt up, pounding his fist on the table! "What?" asked the drifter, "You ain't got shit!"
"Look over your right shoulder," said the weasel. The gambler did exactly that, and saw a sign reading: O-Wa-Zoo beats anything.
"It's a lesson I shoulda learned a long time ago," the gambler thought to himself, "Learn the rules before you sit down to play."
The gambler still had half of his roll and they continued to play. As the sun was coming up, the drifter was dealt the 2-4-6-8-10 of various suits. The O-Wa-Zoo! "Just in time," he thought. He put the rest of his wad into the pot and, like before, all folded, except the weasel, who turned over trip Kings. The gambler proudly turned over the O-Wa-Zoo, and started to rake in the pot. Just like before, the weasel pounded his fist on the table. "What is it this time?" said the gambler. "I've got the O-Wa-Zoo!"
"You better look over your left shoulder, Mister," said the weasel. The gambler did exactly that, this time seeing a sign which read: O-Wa-Zoo only works once a night

Many years ago I travelled to the Tennessee Open with the Legendary Georgia Ironman. It was at that tournament I beat the DiscMan, formally known as the Hit Man, Chris Chambers, who was back from recently scoring 8 1/2 out of twelve at the US Open, thus becoming a Master. Both the Ironman and I were 2-0 when we saw the pairing for the next day. The Nashville Strangler had lost a game and, as the highest rated player at 1-1, should have been paired with Ron Burnett. The tournament director, Harry Sabine had made a different pairing. When asked why, Harry said the tournament was also some kind of team tournament, and "it is too early for them to play." The Ironman and I protested but Harry did things his way. Our contention was that the Tn Open was a USCF Grand Prix tournament and, as such, should have the same pairings as would be used in any other state in America. We withdrew and went home.
Fast forward over a decade and I was at the House of Pain on a Thanksgiving when it was closed. There was a knock on the door, and, when I peered out, imagine my surprise upon seeing orange Converse tennis shoes. It could be none other than Harry Sabine! I invited him in, showed him around, and made some coffee while we talked about, what else, chess. Harry and I have had our moments; the infamous 'slam-dunk' affair; the infamous chandelier incident, to name the most notable. I believe Harry, the TD, made a mistake. I do not hold grudges. I respect Harry for allhe has given to the Royal game. I'm proud to call Harry my friend. He always greets me with a smile on his face and a firm handshake.
There is also the problem of how to rate a game in which one player has 30 minutes, and the other only 25. USCF rules state that a game with less than 30 minutes may only be rated as a 'Quick' game. What happens when a player who only has 25 minutes insists having it NOT affect his 'regular' rating?
Mr McDonald also writes: "I believe the term 'analyze a game in progress on another chessboard' to more than simply looking at a Monroi screen."
My question is: How long does one have to 'look' at the Monroi screen for it to be analysis? I had an opponent who completely eschewed the board in front of us, looking at nothing but the screen on the Monroi. Is that considered 'looking', or 'analyzing'?
I would like to thank Terry Vibbert for posting the updated rules, which I printed out and read. Bobby Ambeck may find this interesting: 15A Paper scoresheet variation.
The player using a paper scoresheet may first make a move, and then write it on the scoresheet, or vice versa. This variation does not need to be advertised in advance.
Then comes: TD TIP: TDs may penalize a player that is in violation of 20C. "Use of notes prohibited" if the player is first writing the move and repeatedly altering that move on their scoresheet before completing a move on the board.
Nothing is said about what, exactly, constitutes 'repeatedly'.
I have never minded an opponent writing the move down before playing it, and I've never minded an opponent changing his mind 'repeatedly'. It's like being a batter and having the pitcher 'repeatedly' shaking off the catcher! I have, though, had players tell me they found it disconcerting because a player would write down a move, letting them see it, and then change it later, after spending much time considering the first move!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

USCF Forum Censorship

Re: Pulled: North American Youth no Monroi permitted as timesheet
Sent at: Wed Oct 07, 2009 12:26 pmby tanstaafl
Your post, below, was pulled because it was off-topic. As noted in the thread, the MonRoi could be used in the tournament, but not as a scorekeeping device. Concerns about "cheating" don't pertain to the discussion, in this particular case -- because the device in question was STILL allowed. The complaint is that it makes no sense to allow the device (which would seem to imply that the organizer wasn't concerned about people cheating with it) but not count it as a scoresheet.

My BaconLOG entry was about the how fair it is to allow the wealthy, who can afford this expensive device, to gain a possible advantage over those who cannot. I included the question posed by my friend Michael Decker, a former Georgia Champion, who no longer plays chess, and has never even seen the device, concerning the possibility of using the device for cheating because I find it pertinent to the overall question of whether or not this device should be allowed.
Michael Bacon

Those wishing to read more on this subject will have to go to the Kentucky Chess Assoc website, where it has not been pulled, and read the forum:

Say No To Monroi

I read with interest the thread North American Youth no Monroi permitted as timesheet listed under All Things Chess. I mentioned the post to Michael Johnson, who was at the Barnes & Noble when I arrived for the small tournament I direct. Michael enjoys studying the game immensely, as do I. He has used the Monroi for some time, and I found what he had to say extremely interesting. He said the device has given him an advantage, especially at the start of the game, as he has noticed he uses very little time, while his opponent must write down the score, which takes more time. He also said the advantage he receives is much more pronounced at the faster time controls, such as G/30.
I also found it interesting, when, during a discussion with a former player, who has not played in over two decades, the first thing he asked in relation to the Monroi, was, "Can it not be used for cheating?"
One of the things I have always liked about chess is that the playing field is level for all players. I have played chess with people from all walks of life. The game has brought to the table blue and white collar workers. I have broken bread with, while discussing the Royal game, doctors, lawyers, dump truck and cab drivers. Chess brings people from all walks of life together. I had one lower rated player, who had made a great deal of money tell me he would give it all up if he could play chess like me. I wondered what he would be willing to give up to play like a titled player!
While on duty at the House of Pain I said I thought there should not be any private schools. "What? Are you some kind of socialist!" I explained that if there were no private schools for the children of politicians they would be more inclined to put money into the public schools, giving all children an equal chance in life.
It is only natural for parents to want the best for their children. So when it comes to chess, parents naturally want their children to have the best. They also want them to have the new-new thing. If it is true that the Monroi confers an advantage to one player, does that not violate the level playing field? I have played on very expensive sets I could not afford, but my opponent did not receive an advantage, as we both played on the same set.
One remedy would be for all organizers to provide a Monroi to any player without one who wishes to use the device. Because the Georgia Chess Association used the FIDE time control of G/2, called an 'abombination' by GM Yasser Seirawan, they footed the bill for enough clocks so that all players could have one with the 30 seconds added feature.
The other course of action would be to disallow all devices not necessary to playing, keeping time, and score. All moves should be recorded with a pen on a scoresheet.
At the Supernationals this year a lady with her children saw my USCF hat as I was limping around, and asked me if I were a TD. I told her I was there to help, but was not directing, and asked her what she needed. She explained her son had just lost a game to a young player in the K-3 section who continued to look down at some kind of electronic device in his lap and wanted to know if that were legal! I told her that, without knowing exactly what kind of device it was, I could not say, and told her she should have told the TD's immediately, but, since she did not, she should do so now.
I have said it before and will say it again: The tournament hall is no place for any kind of electronic device, be it a cell-phone (How do you know your opponent is just checking to see who made the last call and not receiving a text-message with his next move!); a P-Pod; or BlueBerry, or any other 'gizmo'!

Friday, October 2, 2009


On the Chessbase website (, in the article titled, Nanjing: Carlsen strikes again, third win in four games, it is written in commentary to the Javenko-Carlsen game after 24.Nd4?!, "both Fritz and Rybka definitely prefer 24.Rf1 and show a small amount of dismay at this move."
How is it possible that machines can 'show dismay'?