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'...