Monday, October 24, 2011

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Mental Illness

I printed out copies of the articles posted on the USCF website concerning the 82nd FIDE Congress and read every word. Having just finished reading the book, A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by S. Nassir Ghaemi, I particularly liked the article by Michael Khodarkovsky, According to Kirsan: A Billion Clever People. ( He writes, "When Mr.Ilyumzhinov started to talk about pending legal issues many were taken by surprise that he dedicated a great deal of time to demonize Garry Kasparov, “who wants to bankrupt FIDE” and glorifying Anatoly Karpov, his opponent at the 2010 FIDE Presidential election, “who joined the newly formed political party by Vladimir Putin in Russia” (Putin, Prime-Minister of Russia plans to return to his former position as President of Russia in 2012)."
It was answered by, "The audience was mute until Tomasz Sielicki, President of the Polish Chess Federation and Deputy President of the European Chess Federation, asked for the microphone and said: ”We all came here to discuss chess issues and I don’t understand why should we listen a political speech for more than an hour, which has nothing to do with the agenda.”
Why, indeed.
I read looking for information on Senior chess and found something by Sophia Rohde in her post of October 19, Sophia Rohde on the 82nd FIDE Congress. ( wrote, " Age categories for the senior World Championship of 60 and 70 was agreed on." I have absolutely no idea what that means.
Later, in the post USCF President Ruth Haring Wraps Up 82nd Fide Congress, ( found this: "The age categories for the World Senior will be changed to age 50 and 65 for both Men and Women."
It is more than a little obvious that what happened at the FIDE Congress in regard to Senior chess needs clarification.
Sophia also had this to say concerning the USCF practice of 'drop-ins'; those that 'drop-in' in the middle of a tournament playing several games at a much faster time control than those players in the 'main' tournament: "Things heated up considerably when discussing tournaments with two schedules merging to become one. Normal in many parts of the US, this is quite foreign in other parts of the world. Commission members quoted the FIDE Handbook paragraph 1.11 about requirements for title norms; “The tournament system must be a fair one. Tournaments where the composition is changed (without FIDE approval) during the tournament or those where players have different conditions in terms of rounds and pairing are not valid.”
"July 2013 will be a crucial date, that’s when FIDE expects every federation to follow the same FIDE Laws of Chess."
It is good to read that the reprehensible USCF practice of allowing many different tournaments to 'merge' into one section near the end of a tournament is "...quite foreign in other parts of the world."
Rather than leading the chess world in 'drop-ins' and half-point byes, USCF should consider leading the world by pulling out of the crooked, gansta run FIDE, led by a petty tyrant nut case.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Best Campaign Song of All Time!

Thanks, Mr G!

Please do not take this as an endorsement of this candidate. When it comes to politicians I reflect back to the time I heard a British member of Parliment interviewed on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour say, "You Americans are so naive. Democrat-Republican; left shoe-right shoe."
I will admit, though, that I have never understood anyone who votes not voting for the candidate from his home state, regardless of party affiliation. Every POTUS has brought improvement to his state. Since the Great state of Georgia is my home state, I realize that Herman Cain as POTUS would be beneficial to Georgia.
This is an UNofficial campaign song. That could be why it is one of the best of all time. Many candidates have co-opted songs for their own nefarious purposes. The most famous being the time the Reagan campaign used "Born in the U.S.A.", a song criticizing the treatment of Vietnam War veterans, as a campaign song, without permission, until Springsteen, a lifelong Democrat, insisted that they stop. It was obvious no one in the Reagan campaign listened to anything other than the title, which, come to think of it, is a fine metaphor for the whole Reagan administration. One of the first things the Reagan administration did was to cut benefits to veterans. One never hears about such things in relation to the 'Gypper', for some reason.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do Liberals Play Chess?

Kenneth Timmerman the President of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran has written a piece titled, Iranian regime plays chess, we play checkers. (
It would appear that the thing to do today is to disparage another group by saying they play an inferior game. I expect to soon read something like, "He played chess like a human, while I played the game like a computer!"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Scrabble player demands strip-search at World Championships!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


The young people are are in the streets protesting. The network minions are telling We The People that they do not know exactly what they are protesting, but one young lady on the tube summed it up best when she said she was there because of "Human need," and to end "Corporate greed." Good luck with that!

You don’t know me but I’m your brother
I was raised here in this living hell
You don’t know my kind in your world
Fairly soon the time will tell
You, telling me the things you’re gonna do for me
I ain’t blind and I don’t like what I think I see Takin’ it to the streets
Takin’ It To The Streets
by Michael McDonald

In the South we call them the 'upper crust' and the one thing they do not like is rebellion from the rable. I just hope we the people don't get fooled again.

We'll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
Won't Get Fooled Again by The Who

The song ends,
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

When young one thinks he, or we, and change the world. As one grows older he learns that the machine is just too strong and will grind you down; pulverize into nothingness, especially if one shows any sign whatsoever of becoming a leader. JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, R.I.P.

The people in the streets are asking, "What about We the People?"

You poisoned my sweet water.
You cut down my green trees.
The food you fed my children
Was the cause of their disease.
My world is slowly fallin' down
And the air's not good to breathe.
And those of us who care enough,
We have to do something...

Oh... oh What you gonna do about me?
Oh... oh What you gonna do about me?
Your newspapers,
They just put you on.
They never tell you
The whole story.
They just put your
Young ideas down.
I was wonderin' could this be the end
Of your pride and glory?

I work in your factory.
I study in your schools.
I fill your penitentiaries.
And your military too!
And I feel the future trembling,
As the word is passed around.
"If you stand up for what you do believe,
Be prepared to be shot down."

And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
And I live like an outlaw.
And I'm always on the run...
And I'm always getting busted
And I got to take a stand...
I believe the revolution
Must be mighty close at hand...

I smoke marijuana
But I can't get behind your wars.
And most of what I do believe
Is against most of your laws
I'm a fugitive from injustice
But I'm goin' to be free.
'Cause your rules and regulations
They don't do the thing for me

And I feel like a stranger
In the land where I was born
And I live just like an outlaw.
And I'm always on the run.
And though you may be stronger now, my time will come around.
You keep adding to my numbers, and you shoot my people down.
Quicksilver Messenger Service - What About Me
Written By: Jesse Oris Farrow / From The Album: "What About Me"

What We the People are feeling can best be summed up by the soliloguy by the character Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, in the 1976 movie 'Network'.
Howard Beale: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell, 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

Saturday, October 15, 2011


More proof that GM Kevin Spraggett's blog is nonpareil in the blogosphere!
Her name is Amanda Marie Manning was elected "KENTUCKIANA'S NEXT HOT MODEL 2009/10-2010/11." After you check her out at Kevin's blog, be sure to vote for the lady from LaGrange, KY, US at:
Who says I do not write good things about ol' Kentuck?

LaGrange by ZZ Top

Rumour spreadin' a-'round in that Texas town
'bout that shack outside La Grange
and you know what I'm talkin' about.
Just let me know if you wanna go
to that home out on the range.
They gotta lotta nice girls ah.

Have mercy.
A haw, haw, haw, haw, a haw.
A haw, haw, haw.

Well, I hear it's fine if you got the time
and the ten to get yourself in.
A hmm, hmm.
And I hear it's tight most ev'ry night,
but now I might be mistaken.
hmm, hmm, hmm.

Ah have mercy.

- Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill & Frank Beard

Friday, October 14, 2011

US Chess League

I have to admit I do not follow the USCL. I received the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club Newsletter #555 today via email. Coverage of the San Francisco USCL team showed that they had lost to the Chicago team by a score of 2 1/2 to 1 1/2. GMs squared off on the top two boards and both games were drawn. Two IMs faced each other on board three and that game was also drawn. Ratings were not given for the players on board four, so I went to the USCL website ( to find: Uyanga Byambaa (SF) vs NM Sam Schmakel (CHC) 0-1. So the Chicago player is a NM, but how strong is the SF player? I clicked on the game to learn that he Byambaa is rated 2080, and Schmakel is rated 2190. The match was decided by these two lower rated players. The ratings of the other players range from 2687 to 2415, a difference of 272 points. The difference between Angelo Young (2415) on board three and Byambaa (2080) on board four is 335 points.
This is like one of those 'which one does not belong' pictures. How can the USCL ever be taken seriously when there is such a FORCED disparity in the skill levels of the players? It would be better, and much more interesting, if teams consisted of the strongest players available and not much weaker players who are playing in order to fit some arbitrary rating cap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are Last Rounds More Important?

GM Nigel Davies, in a post entitled, 'Last Rounds' on his blog, The Chess Improver, has this to say about the importance of last rounds: "I’m convinced that the later rounds of a tournament carry far more weight than the early ones. How can this be when the same number of points can be scored throughout a tournament? Well in the games leading up to them players are often trying to consolidate their position in the tournament, building hopes and expectations as they pull their punches or abandon their fears. And in this highly charged atmosphere dramatic swings in fortune become much more likely." (
The GM is writing about the just concluded Bilboa Masters tournament. I have written much the same about the weekend swiss, so it is great to see my position in print, especially by a GM, who because of his numbers, has much more gravitas than I.
When half-point byes first appeared, they were only allowed in the first three rounds. That was to allow a player who had to work to miss the Friday night round; or the Saturday morning round; or even the Saturday night round, if playing to midnight, or later, and then having to be back at the board at ten am was too much. Then the half-point bye was allowed in the fourth round Sunday morning for those who believe in a myth and wish to spend their time among other 'believers'. I have always liked what the Legendary Georgia Ironman had to say about those who missed the fourth round for their 'Sunday go to meeting'. He once said, "Bacon, when I'm at the board for the fourth round Sunday morning, I AM at my church!" Now the half-point bye is even allowed in the last round! It has become a weapon to be used by those who often lose in the last round to higher rated players.
I asked a fellow named Big Jeff why he had quit chess. He was honest enough to admit that, "I am a half-point the better players as I always seem to finish a half-point behind." Too bad half-point byes were not allowed back in Big Jeff's day...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dark Stuff & Reality

Having read 'The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality' by Richard Panek, it was with great interest I learned of the awarding of the Nobel prize in Physics to Saul Permutter; Brian Schmidt; and Adam G Riess. (See: Because the book brings out their human qualities, I view them as not just cold, calculating scientists.
The Noble was awarded for their work on the accelerating universe. (See the Astronomy Picture of the Day at:
But is the universe really accelerating?
A new idea has been put forward by Edmund Schluessel of Cardiff University. He argues that gravitational waves, which are disturbances in the fabric of spacetime created by massive gravitational disturbances like colliding black holes or the Big Bang, are big enough to disrupt our observation of the distant universe. His theories are not accepted by the established physics pooh-bahs, but what if he is correct? Read all about it at: (

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2011 Georgia Senior

The Monday after the Georgia Senior I received an email from my friend Mike Mulford, aka 'Mulfish'.

You're going to have a field day with this one.


I replied to Mulfish that I had already learned of the small turnout via an email from the Legendary Georgia Ironman. Tim reported, "Fun Fong reported a total of 14 at the ill planned Georgia Senior, which conflicted with the 3rd Annual Fall Kickoff, my brainchild, as Vest told the cameraman during the interview today. We had 108 at old North DeKalb Mall and the house was rocking. Mr. G was on hand all day as one of the assistant TDs. I am planning to help Thad promote an Atlanta Senior at the ACC around the end of the year. It could well be the last dance at the HOP. Thad told me tonight that Spinks was exhibiting symptoms of a possible stroke when he was there last week."
I could not help but think of the ol' chess coach, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, when watching this video:

I wrote to Mulfish, "That's 3 Seniors (Tim and his sidekick David Vest and Mr G.)who woulda played at another time. There's a huge difference between 14 & 17!
It actually makes me quite sad, Mike. I cannot recall exactly what the turnout was last year, or the previous years, but it seems that the numbers have dwindled. This is a bad thing for Senior chess! If players do not come, they will stop having tournaments, which is, I expect, what most pooh-bahs want. Rather than take the time to ascertain why the players are not coming, I'm afraid they will concentrate on where the money is-with the kids...
Organizers continue to do goofy things-like the 'drop-ins' at Harry's Tn Senior, for example. Mostly they just continue to do the same things that have proven to not work. Is that not a sign of insanity?!
This tournament does point out what I've written about in that, like Klaus said, "A Senior tournament should be an open tournament, because at our age anyone can beat anyone!" Better to have one 14 player tournament than one 5 & one 9 player tournaments. That has been proven conclusively at the House of Pain!"
I had considered making the trip down for the Senior in the Great state of Georgia, but decided against it. I sent this to Mulfish before the tournament: "I want you to know that I had given consideration to coming down to play next weekend. I considered the cost, which is considerable. 800 miles would be about a C-note in petrol. Then there's the hotel expense with the average room being about $100 these daze, so a cheap one would be $50, making it another C-note. (If I'd known about it earlier, I could've gotten an extended stay for a week for about $50 or so more, which woulda been better) Then there's the fact that I would hafta drive all day Friday, which wipes me out for the next day, and I can't drive back Sunday night, so that's another night in a hotel...Then there's EF & United Scholastic Chess Federation dues...Not to mention the fact that I've not played chess in a coupla years, nor have I prepared at all....Then there's the time control, a time control I've never used in my life! I do not understand why you people continue to use new-fangled TC's for us 'old-timers'...I would even prefer a 40/90 with a SD of 30, or even 15, plus the time added for only the second control. Most games are over by the end of the first TC anyway...And then there's the noon start time on Sat. WTF for? I mean, do you REALLY think out of towners are gonna drive in Sat morning and look forward to playing a game at 5:30, which will end at what, 10 or 11? HeyZeus, don't you folks read the BaconLOG?! What's wrong with ending the first day at 7, or even 8, so that a SENIOR can have a decent meal and actually get a night's sleep? We are OLD, and we need REST! There is hardly any time between rounds to stuff a biggy burger in one's gullet and cram it down before having to be back at the board! So much for digestion and a nap..."
Let me say that having two sections points out a fact that with more sections there is a greater probability of having more players sitting out with a bye by being an odd man out. If this had been one 14 man section, there would have been a even number of players.
Mr Mulford was unable to play because of a serious family matter. I could not help but notice that Mark Couvillion, who won last year (or was it the year before?), did not play, which is strange since it was held at his cousin Joe's North Georgia Chess Center. There were many others I did not see on the crosstable. I cannot help but wonder why they did not play. Some interested person should make contact with every player who has played in the past to ascertain why they chose not to play this year. An effort should be make to contact those that could come, but chose to stay home. I am afraid what will happen to Senior tournaments is the same thing that Republicans are trying to do to government. They appoint lackies and toadies like 'Brownie' and his 'superior' Chertoff, who kept his job even though he proved how incompetent he was, and then say, "Government doesn't work!" The fact is that government works fine when competent people are placed in proper positions. Chess pooh-bahs will continue to foist poor tournaments on Seniors and when they do not come will say it is proof that Senior tournaments do not work.
I noticed that the 2012 US Senior is once again in Houston in July. I guess the 'drop-ins' (see who played a few games one day, took some half-point byes, and played one real game on the last day put a large enough smile on the pooh-bahs faces that they decided to stick with a 'good thing'. I can't help but think of something written to me via email by a well respected Senior about playing in Houston during July: "Spending a week at the Houston airport in July does not appeal to me." Me neither!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Risk-taking and Attractiveness in Chess

The article on Chessbase begins: "In a recent research project on expert chess players, scientists found that male chess players choose more aggressive chess openings on average when playing against good-looking female opponents compared to when playing against less attractive female opponents, although they are equally skilled, experienced and of similar age." (
I can only recall playing a couple of members of the opposite sex, and fortunately, both were too young for me to have lascivious thoughts. There is no way for me to know from experience if I would be more agressive if I crossed mental swords with a pretty woman.
One does have to face women in backgammon though. I always found it disconcerting to play any woman, whether attractive or not. I recall facing a woman in the very first round of a major tournament; that being a weekend tournament, as opposed to a nightly tournament. With only one checker left I was off the next roll. My opponent had four men left on her six point which meant only one roll-double sixes, a 35-1 shot-would win for her. When the dice landed on double sixes, I thought of something a friend used to say. "Supposed to happen."
"Oh Michael, I'm so sorry," she said. "You're a top player and have a chance to win this tournament." I looked at this woman and thought before speaking. She was nice enough when she was not drunk. She came to many tournaments for the social aspect of it and never won, but kept coming back. Players like her enhanced to prize fund considerably. She would keep coming back, telling anyone who would listen that she once beat me in an official tournament match. I smiled and said, "Do not ever say you're sorry to win! You play all the time and are bound to win sometime. It is my misfortune that it happened to be at this time. Good luck in the tournament." She was knocked-out in the next round.
The Legendary Georgia Ironman played the lovely Jennifer Shahade once. He had this to say about the experience, "I went 69 tuff moves facing down that double-barreled shotgun!" I have often wondered whether Tim was more, or less, agressive playing that game.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It Was Uggla

The Braves collapsed because they could not score runs while the Red Sox collapsed because they could not stop the opposing team from scoring runs. The Sox averaged scoring a little over five runs a game from April through August, and kept it up during September. Their downfall was that they allowed an average of two more runs per game during the last month of the season. Fortunately for the Braves, their collapse has been over shadowed by the Red Sox, especially now that 'Tito' Francona has been forced out as manager. Boston did underachieve though, coming in at 90-72 when their Pythagorean (runs scored vs runs allowed) W-L record was 94-68. The Braves, on the other hand, over performed to the tune of four games. Their 89-73 record should have been 85-77.
Terry Francona is a fine manager and I have rooted for him, not only because to root for the Red Sox means seeing the Damn Yankees lose, but also because he, along with his teammate, Buddy Bell, were in my Buckhead Safety Cab when they were both in town with the Reds to face the Braves in the mid to late 80's. Terry was amazed that I knew so much about his father, Tito, who had played for the Braves in 1969, one of my favorite seasons because the Braves won the Western division title. What the hell they were doing in the 'west' along with the Dodgers & Giants, both on the left coast is anybody's guess! I told Terry that it broke my heart when the Braves sold his father to the Oakland A's that summer. I thought it was a big mistake since Tito was a 'professional hitter', and he proved it by hitting almost .350 down the stretch with the A's, after hitting almost .300 with the Braves. He said I would get a good tip, so I told Buddy that I had several of his father's baseball cards from the early 60's, when he was over 30 and declining, but I knew from the back of the cards that Gus had put together some real good years in the early to mid 50's. Buddy said he would double the tip! They asked me to suggest a bar with good food and I took them to Aunt Charley's, where they invited me in and bought my meal while we talked baseball. And yes, the tip was HUGE!
After the Braves lost one of the tv men asked Dan Uggla, "How can you explain it, Dan?" Uggla said, "We went out and left everything on the field." Yeah, right. I thought of my favorite baseball movie, Bull Durham, when Crash is trying to tell the kid how to talk to interviewers when he gets to the show. "Just fill 'em with cliches."
Earlier they had shown the 'game changing moment' which was Uggla's 3-run homer in the third inning. That would be all the runs the Braves would score. I thought the 'game changing moment' occurred in the bottom of the sixth when Uggla failed to score when he was tagged out at the plate. There were two outs, with Uggla on second and Freddie Freeman on first, after both had drawn base on balls. Jack Wilson hit a line drive single to right field which was fielded by Hunter Pence. Uggla, not a fast or good baserunner, rounded third and I could not help but think of Pete Rose in the All Star game when he rounded third with his head down heading for home. In what has become a defining moment for 'Charley Hustle', he barreled into the catcher, Ray Fosse, who had tried to block the plate, like a torpedo, and scored. Uggla took a look at the right fielder after he rounded third, which seemed to slow him down. The Phillies catcher, Ruiz, was blocking the dish with his left leg as he awaited the one-hop throw. Uggla had two choices at this point...He could have slid in with his feet first, as is taught to every player since little league, and maybe his foot would dislodge the catchers leg. Or he could have taken the Pete Rose route and crashed into the Ruiz, the preferred method. Uggla did niether. He slid into home face first and never even touched home plate! That was an unforgivable baseball sin. He was out and it was like you could see the Braves balloon deflate. If he had come hard-charging into home and blasted Ruiz he would have made a statement and fired up his teanmates, even if he had been out. Even if he had 'slud hard' as ol' Dizzy Dean used to say, with his feet first, it would have shown something. Instead, the Braves with Uggla as an example, with down meakly, like wimps. It was the Braves season in a microcosm.
One of the tv guys said he had talked with someone in baseball who said the Braves could only score runs with the home run. No one typlfied that as much as Dan Uggla. With him it was all or nothing. He averages striking out once a game, and has done so over his career. His on base % fell to only .311 this year, below major league average. To score runs a team must have a sustained offense. The Braves OBP was only .308 this year, below average. Good things happen when a batter gets his bat on the ball as shown by the blow from which the Braves could not recover, a soft, broken-bat, floater, hit by Hunter Pence, a batter who chokes up on the bat, and still hits 20+ home runs. As pointed out by the announcers, if Freeman had not been holding the runner on first, the ball would have been caught.
Uggla salvaged his season this year with his good second half. Still, it did not make up for the abysmal first half. His defense, by any measure, is not up to major league standards. For example, defensively he rated -1.6 in Wins Above Replacement, which means some guy in triple A could field better than Uggla. An example would be when the umpire saved Uggla's butt in the top of the sixth. After Utley singled, Pence hit a ground ball to Uggla, who made a backhand flip to the SS that had nothing on it whatsoever. By the time the SS caught the ball he was way off of the bag, and the runner should have been called safe, but the ump called him out and the SS completed a double-play. The commentators mentioned it, saying, "He was in the vicinity."
Actually, losing could have been the best thing that could have happened for the Braves. The Braves were being discussed on ESPN and they were talking specifically about Greg Kimbrel's failure to close out the game and earn a 'save'. Bobby Valentine put the blame on the manager, Fredi Gonzalez, for his abuse of his young relievers all year. Kimbrel could not find the strike zone and Bobby V said, "First goes the control and then goes the arm." He also mentioned that Greg had logged more innings than any other 'closer'. I followed the Braves mostly by box score this year, watching only a dozen or so games. It sure seemed that Kimbrel and Venters were brought into far too many games in which the Braves had a 2 or 3 run, or even more, lead. Kimbral's ERA for most of the year was around 2.00, but balooned to over 4.50 in September. The last thing the young relievers needed was to have to hurl more innings in high pressure situations this year. As it is they will be fortunate if at least one of the young guns does not blow out his arm next year.
When a team collapses the manager must accept responsibility. It is kinda like the captain of a ship. The buck has gotta stop somewhere. One of the biggest decisions facing any manager is the problem of the under performing former star. An example of it would be how the Damn Yankees manager, Joe Girardi, handled the situation with 39 year-old Jorge Posada. Joe slotted Jorge in the ninth position in the batting order and the vastly over paid former star refused to play after whining like a little girl. It seems batting last was too much for his fragile ego. He should have been happy to be in the lineup in lieu of on the bench, where he belonged! Later on in the season the manager finally put him on the bench, where he was still drawing his gargantuan salary, I might add. Joe did it for the good of the team and the organization.
The Braves mamager faced a similar situation with his former star, Chipper Jones. Chipper had a damn good year considering his age, 39. His WAR was a positive 2.8. Offensively it was 3.1, but on defense it was -0.3. In the top of the 12th inning on the final day of the season the first batter hit a hot shot to Chipper's left, which went through for a base hit. One of the announcers said, "A lotta big league third basemen woulda scooped that up but Chipper's 39 year old legs cost him half a step." Someone chimed in with the fact that Chipper was playing with a knee that was "bone on bone." It hurt just to hear it...
In game number 150 on Wednesday, September 14, vs the Fish, a game the Braves won, Chipper went 0 for 4. There was an off day the next day. From game 151 until the end of the season, Fredi put Chipper's name in the lineup in every game but one, #156, a game in which Chipper pinch-hit, making an out. In the final 13 games of the season Chipper went 8 for 46, an average of .174. He went 2 for 4 in game #160, with a home run and a double. In only one other game during that stretch did Chipper get two hits, with that being in game 152, and one of the hits was a double.
In an article in the NY Times newspaper after the Braves lost to the Phils on Sept 27 it was written, "Just after Chipper Jones agonizingly lugged down the first-base line Monday on a double-play grounder in the eight inning, Braves Manager Fredi Gonzales whistled to get his attention. Gonzalez invited Jones, with a gesture, to consider leaving the game. No, came the answer, via a shaked of the head."
The thing is that the above was NOT included in the online article on the NY Times website! (
I sent this to my friend, the Discman, regarding the story: Since when did a manager hafta ask his aging 'star' if'n he wants to come outta the lineup?! What the hell kinda weak-assed manager ASKS?! If the guy cannot perform, the manager OWES it to the team and the organization to get his ass offa the field! Can you imagine Billy Martin asking anyone if'n he wants to come offa the field?!!!
It was terribly sad to read about and see Chipper play during the final stretch run. It was more than a little obvious that he was hurting, and hurting his team by playing. Chipper WAS a great player; a sure HOFer if ever there was one. But by the end of the season Chipper Jones had become Chi Jo at best. The manager had other players who could have played who were not injured, and could have helped the team, in lieu of hurting it. It was the manager's responsibility to put the best players on the field, for the good of the team and the organization. It was obvious that Chipper was not gonna come offa the field unless forced to do so. For that Fredi Gonzalez should be forced to seek employment elsewhere, for the good of the team and the organization.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ted Williams Wing Men

After what is being called the greatest night in the regular season by the media it seems as if everyone is talking about the great game of baseball, so I will drop my two cents worth into the pool. Everyone has his own way of looking at things and I am no exception. The difference between the 'talking heads' on the tube and me is that they get paid by baseball, directly or indirectly, which causes them to lead the cheers rather than take an honest and objective look at the state of the game. For example, I have heard it said that Bud Selig should be enshrined immediately in the baseball Hall of Fame because of the 'excitement' caused by the reprehensible 'wild card'. Curt Schilling, a perfect name for one leading the cheers for baseball, was on ESPN wearing a shit-eating grin, beside himself with joy as he said, "There are four cities filled with excitement because of the wild card!" The fact is that if the Red Sox and Braves had not collapsed completely there would have been no 'wild card' race and the playoff teams would have been set before Labor Day, and not much 'excitement' in Mudville. Although I realize most of the people following baseball are not old enough to remember the 1960's before the leaguse split into divisions, I still cringe when they try to foist this 'wild card' crapola on we the fans as something wonderful. I loath and detest the 'wild card'! How can a loser ever win? (How can you mend a broken heart?) Become a WILD CARD! Pitiful, ain't it? You can put lipstick on a pig... The year of the Phillies infamous collapse, 1964, saw the Cardinals take first place, with the Phils and Reds only one game behind. The Giants were only three games behind and the Braves finished only five games out of first place. Now that's what I call a pennant race! I would come home from the Boys Club and listen to the St Louis Cardinals game on the radio every night because at that time the Braves were still in Milwaukee and if you lived in the glorious South, the Cardinals were your team. If you do not understand why, you obviously do not know much about history...and probably biology too, I'm willing to wager. In the AL that year the Damn Yankees finished only one game ahead of the White Sox, with the Orioles only three back. The pennant races really did go down to the wire and there were seven excited cities in '64. It was not the only year with close races. 1967 saw the Boston Red Sox finish only one game ahead of both Detroit and Minnesota, with the White Sox three back and the surprising California Angels seven and a half back after being in contention most of the year, but fading at the end. That was the year Carl Yastrzemski put the team on his back and carried them across the finish line. He hit like Teddy Ballgame the last month of the season, with a batting average over .400. Speaking of Ted Williams, there was a fine story about him by Bill Pennington published in the NY Times Sept 17 ( is a series of pictures showing Ted swinging a bat in the clubhouse. Although he was a big man for that time, he looks positively skinny compared to today's 'juiced' players. Ted was lean. Today's players are muscle-bound, which is one reason there are so many injuries these days. The tendons and ligaments simply cannot handle the extra bulk.
From the article: "His batting average stood at .39955 with a season-finale doubleheader to be played the next day at Shibe Park, home of Connie Mack’s Athletics. Since batting averages are rounded to the next decimal, Williams could have sat out the final two games and still officially crested baseball’s imposing .400 barrier.
At the time, Williams said, “If I’m going to be a .400 hitter, I want more than my toenails on the line.”
I thought of that when reading the scrawl while watching the final night of the regular season. Jose Reyes pulled himself out of the game after a bunt single on the last day of the season, giving Ryan Braun a chance to win the title with an outstanding day. Unfortunately, he did not get a hit. I recall a Braves player, Gerald Perry, in 1988, was at .2998 going into the last game of the season and chose not to play as it would be rounded to .300. Ted Williams flew combat missions in the Big One, World War 2. I don't think Ted would have wanted either of these guys flying with him as his wing men.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Counterplay: A Review

Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard, by Robert Desjarlais, is one of the most interesting books about the game of chess I have ever read. This book made me stop reading and start thinking numerous times. Since the author questions exactly what chess is, and why we play, reading it has made me ask the same questions. Everyone involved with the Royal game brings his view to the board. The author is an anthropologist, and looks at the game from that particular perspective, which is one of the things that makes the book so interesting.
When I read a book I use post-it notes in lieu of actually writing in the book. There were a couple of dozen posted in the book upon completion. These are for things I found interesting, with a view toward writing a review.
The first chapter is entitled, 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. As you can imagine, it concerns 'blitz' chess. The author writes, "Blitz carries tones of pure immediacy. When playing blitz you're in the moment of that moment, with little time to think of anything else. It's a world of spontaneity and presence, of the "quick now, here, now, always," to use a poet's words." The footnote informs that the poet is T.S. Eliot, "Burnt Norton," The Four Quartets.
His description made me think of the Tao of chess; the Zen quality of being in the moment. On the following page we have another view of blitz chess from Kelly Atkins. "Blitz is fine for those who enjoy it, and it has its place, but it's the fast food version of our game-McChess in my book."
The author is a strong amateur tournament player. One of the things I like most about his book is that he talks with many different players and has some wonderful quotes. For example, "Many dislike playing children: "I hate playing kids in tournaments. It's terrible, because if you lose, it's obviously humiliating. But if you beat them, you feel kind of bad: you've crushed this eight-year-old kid."
Then there is this during a tournament game in which he was participating. "You step away from the board and go to the small bathroom just outside the playing room. You open the door cautiously. A few weeks back you stumbled upon a nine-year-old boy and his parents, huddled together. The parents were consoling their son, who was teary-eyed and sniffly. He had just lost a game against an international master he had good chances of defeating."
These two excerpts vividly illustrate what tournament chess has become over the past two decades with the emphasis on scholastic, or children's chess. The sniveling, whiney, children proliferate at every tournament. Who says there is no crying in chess?
Desjarlais writes about his love affair with one particular opening in the chapter entitled 'Sveshnikov Intrigues'. In a sub-heading of 'Infinite Strange Shapes', he says, "Different openings possess different qualities. The structures and energies common to a specific opening give it particular features, distinct tones of an almost metaphysical kind." He writes about what several different openings remind him of: "The pawn deposits of the Slave (sic) Defense remind me of the stalactites found in icy caves. The endgames of the Grunfeld Defense evoke an arid but fertile desert." This is one of the points where I had to put the book down and close my eyes while contemplating what I had just read. I had never thought about openings in this way. I reflected upon the openings I played, and why I chose them. I thought about the Dragon, which I had never played. It did not look like a Dragon to me. It was just called the Dragon. As far as I was concerned, it could have just as easily been called the Moon variation of the Sicilian Defense. I used to play the Grunfeld, but never thought of the endgames emanating from it as anything other than an endgame. I picked the book up again and read, "The French Defense resembles a labyrinth of forking paths..." But that could be said about any opening, I thought. Reading on, "...while the Najdorf Sicilian is a brutal street fight, with a swirl of knives slashing about." Yes! And I smiled to myself because, like a grasshopper, I had attained understanding! I played the Najdorf when I took up the game and played it until I no longer had time to keep up with the plethora of novelties. I loved the Najdorf like no other opening and felt most comfortable when it appeared on the board. The Najdorf seemed to 'fit' with my approach to chess in my early years while in my 20's. Other players picked up on this and began to play early deviations when I played 1...c5. I asked a NM, Michael Lucas, why he had played 2 c3 and he said, "Because everybody knows you get fired-up when you get to play the Najdorf!" I lost not one, but two games in which Mr Lucas moved his c-pawn on the second move, and both the same way, with him queening his c-pawn!
The author talks with Jim Santorelli, the cofounder of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. "I love teaching chess," he (Jim) says. "I love teaching kids more. Chess is what I teach. I believe in what I teach. It is a phenomenal educational tool. Chess encompasses every aspect of critical thinking skills."
Jim mentions one of the negative aspects of teaching chess when he says, "I have lost the competitiveness in me somewhat, because that's all I do," he said in 2007. "I'm teaching chess all the time. The whole rationale is, that the last thing Tiger Woods is going to want to do when he's on vacation is to play a round of golf. My hobby is not chess at the moment. Chess cannot be my hobby..."
I pondered that while thinking of something IM John Donaldson said while doing commentary on the US Championship while sitting next to Jennifer Shahade, who has given up playing chess. John said he thought it was important for those who do other things in chess, like teaching, to continue to actually play the game. Could teaching be one of the reasons more former players have given up playing tournament chess?
Some of the best thoughts come from women who play the game. For example, he writes that Elizabeth Vicary thinks "...some male chess players exhibit an orientation to the game-scrutinizing pawn endings late into the night, fretting over side variations in Petroff's Defense, competing for days on end, parsing minute differences in middlegame continuations, often to the disregard of social ties or life more generally-that smacks of "autistic obsessiveness." He quotes her as saying, "I think there's a connection here: the fact that men more readily display autistic tendencies than women, and the fact that men are more obsessive about chess than women are."
In other words, you do not have to be autistic to play chess, but it helps!
The author writes honestly about his changing feelings for the game in a chapter entitled, Ambivalence. I have already written about the chapter in the BaconLOG post, Decisions, Sunday, September 11, 2011. Mr Desjarlais writes of a conversation he had with IM Greg Shahade, who has recently started playing chess again. After reading what he had to say, one wonders why. He told the author: "It's brutal to play in these tournaments sometimes. It's just so unpleasant. They make it such hard work. I don't know why people can enjoy a game that can last six hours, followed by another game that can last six hours in one day. It's not fun...You don't want to play again after a long game." Ain't that the truth!
When the author writes, "Disillusioned is what I am," the reader can empathize because he understands from where the disillusionment emanates.
In many ways the 7th chapter, Cyberchess, is the most disquieting. What high level chess has become during the age of the 'puter is vivvidly illustrated by a quote from the former World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik, the man who dethroned the Champion known best for his Vulcan mind-meld with computer chess programs, Garry Kasparov. The author writes, "Since many potential opponents have the same information stored on databases on their own computers, a few clicks away, grandmasters are compelled to undertake the labor-intensive task of analyzing and memorizing thickets of critical lines that they might encounter during their games, to avoid walking into an opponent's computer-assisted home preparation. Vladimir Kramnik explained to an interviewer, "You have to be much more precise when you analyze positions than before. In the era before computers you had certain interesting lines, moves that looked good, and that was enough. Your preparation was done, you just went out and played the move. Basically your preparation took two hours. Now the same thing will take five hours or more. You have to check all the games of your opponent, then you check everything that happened in the line you are planning to play. Then you find out what Fritz says about the ideas you have come up with, and try to remember this all. So you are working much harder."
I am reminded of a time not so long ago when computers first appeared in the workplace. It was said that office productivity would increase exponentially because of the machines. Sometime later articles began to appear in which the so-called 'experts' were confounded because every study indicated that office productivity had actually decreased. Thinking about what Vladimir said made me envision today's GM in a room with a different computer, crunching variations, for each of his opponents in the upcoming tournament. I also thought of the famous picture of Garry Kasparov, with glasses, while looking at a 'puter when working with Magnus Carlsen, who was, at least, moving actual wooden pieces on a wooden chessboard. (
The reason this is such a good book is because of the authors honesty. Many in the world of chess would have you believe that everything is good in chess; that there is no bad. I have been told by the pooh-bahs that I should not write anything negative about chess; that there is enough negative aspects written about the game that I do not need to add to it. It is simply not possible for me to be a 'cheerleader'. The author takes an objective look at what chess has become today. For that I applaud him. When I give a chess lesson, I always think of something the Legendary Georgia Ironman told me while we were standing on the balcony looking down at the empty tournament hall before play was to begin in a World Open. "Bacon," Tim said, "Everyone here has had their life altered by the game." Chess will have a positive, and a negative, affect on everyone who steps into the arena. Everyone contemplating playing tournament chess should read this book, especially the parents of children about to enter the strange world of chess. Consider this from GM Nigel Davies, writing about his son and chess: "I must say that I’m delighted to have managed to interest him in chess because I’m convinced it’s great for developing young minds and offers a way better than average peer group. But before anyone asks I would not want him to try and do chess for a living, at least not as a professional player." ( I cannot imagine any father saying that about his son and baseball, golf, or tennis. Can you?
The author writes: "As one man explained to me, "But I do like chess. I also don't like it."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Hapley's Counter-Gambit"

GM Yasser Seirawan won an award from the Chess Journalist's of America for Best Historical Article, which is strange because his short story is FICTION! The story, A Forgotten Chess Tale: Hapley's Project, appeared in the November, 2010, issue of Northwest Chess magazine.
Mark Taylor, doing double-duty, is the editor of the award winning Georgia Chess magazine, and also editor of the Chess Journalists of America publication. Concerning Yasser's story, he writes, "For whatever reason, Seirawan's story is restricted to the print copy. I read it. It's a short story, fiction. Not bad as such. But, to my way of thinking, that cannot be an historical article, which I understand means non-fiction research. Maybe the CJA judges think differently, but that award decision does not sit well with me."
When the awards were announced, the story could not be found on the Northwest Chess website. ( The rest of the issue was available in PDF format, but not Yasser's award winning short story. It has now been posted along with the rest of the issue, which is a very good issue, indeed! You can find it here:
It is wonderful chess fiction! I urge everyone to read it and tell your friends. As a matter of fact, it is so good that you should consider burying the hatchet and tell your enemies!
The story is dedicated to Fred & Carol Kleist. I played both in the 2002 US Open, winning against Carol, but later in the tournament Fred, playing like a man possessed, got revenge!
Most of those reading this are probably not old enough to remember Yasser in his prime. I can tell you that if you mention Yasser to any of us older players most will tell you that he was known for his King-walks. Keep that in mind while reading his short story.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flip Flop Fly Ball

Just finished reading one of the most amazing baseball books I have ever had the pleasure to read. It is, Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure, by Craig Robinson. He is an Englishman who fell in love with baseball. He views the game somewhat differently, which is one of the most attractive features of the book. Even the fact that he is a fan of the Damn Yankees did not detract from my enjoyment. He has a wonderful website I suggest you go to immediately!

Friday, September 16, 2011

All The World Is A Chessboard

I am always intrigued when I spot a reference to chess in an article about something other than chess. For example, take the opening paragraph from, Doubts On “Official Story” of Bin Laden Killing by Russ Baker, on the WhoWhatWhy: Forensic Journalism: Thinking Hard, Digging Deep, website: (
"The establishment media just keep getting worse. They’re further and further from good, tough investigative journalism, and more prone to be pawns in complicated games that affect the public interest in untold ways. A significant recent example is The New Yorker’s vaunted August 8 exclusive on the vanquishing of Osama bin Laden."
I was reminded of a Bob Dylan song, Only A Pawn In Their Game.
Later on chess gets another mention: "The line about Brennan himself having been a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia is just sort of dropped in there. No recognition of what it means that a person of that background was put into that position after 9/11, no recognition that a person of that background and those fraught personal connections is controlling this narrative. He’s not just a “counterterrorism expert”—he is a longtime member of an agency whose mandate includes the frequent use of disinformation. And one who has his own historic direct links to the Saudi regime, a key and problematical player in the larger chess game playing out."

Sunday, September 11, 2011


After reading an article by John Tierney in the NY Times Magazine, Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue?, Published: August 17, 2011,
I thought of something GM Yasser Seirawan had written in his excellent blog post on WhyChess: "American tournament chess, at least in the world of the early seventies, and I don’t think it has changed that much, was the land of the Open Swiss tournament. The events I became most familiar with were the five-round Swiss. These were tournaments where we played in a single weekend, three games on Saturday and two on Sunday. The time-controls were about five hours in length. Hence for the Saturday rounds the whole day, often fourteen hours and more with meals sandwiched in between the rounds was the norm. Toss in some time to drive to the tournament hall and the whole weekend was devoted to the event."- Yasser Seirawan From PART TWO:
“Where are the Blitz Champions?” of “Why Blitz?” (
Now that I am older, I wonder why we played? I mean, you really gotta love the Royal game to suffer through more than around the clock chess. While playing in a weekend swiss, it seemed as if the time flew. But years later, while working at the House of Pain, it seemed the weeked would never end. By then there was an optional first round on Friday night or Saturday morning, and I often wondered why the weekend had been expanded. Then I recalled how I had been one of the players who advocated the expansion! My thinking then was for ONLY a five round swiss, with round one on Friday night and the second round on Saturday morning, with round three Saturday night. Someone got the bright idea to have an optional, truncated first round. I thought that, if a player could not make it Friday night, he could take a half point bye and still play four games. A player could have the option of taking a half point bye in round three Saturday night and still play four games with the 'new' format. Four games, two Saturday and Sunday, is enough chess. Thad Rogers ran a four round tournament once, with playeers complaining that it would not be enough for a clear winner. There WAS a clear winner! With fewer rounds, players had to fight in every round. So many players complaind that Thad went back to the 'traditional' five round swiss for his next tournament. There was a multiple tie for first place...
Tierney writes, "The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time."
The essay is adapted from a book Tierney has written with Roy F. Baumeister, "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," which will be published next month.
Tierney continues, "The experiments confirmed the 19th-century notion of willpower being like a muscle that was fatigued with use, a force that could be conserved by avoiding temptation.
Any decision, whether it’s what pants to buy or whether to start a war, can be broken down into what psychologists call the Rubicon model of action phases, in honor of the river that separated Italy from the Roman province of Gaul. When Caesar reached it in 49 B.C., on his way home after conquering the Gauls, he knew that a general returning to Rome was forbidden to take his legions across the river with him, lest it be considered an invasion of Rome. Waiting on the Gaul side of the river, he was in the “predecisional phase” as he contemplated the risks and benefits of starting a civil war. Then he stopped calculating and crossed the Rubicon, reaching the “postdecisional phase,” which Caesar defined much more felicitously: “The die is cast.”
Mr. Tierney has written on his blog ( a post entitled, "Why You Need To Sleep On It", "These continual exertions explain why willpower fluctuates — and why so many people feel short of it so often."

It is asking too much for a player to play so much chess in so little time. In a two day five round swiss, one must play from Saturday at ten am until midnight, and then try to obtain sleep and get back to the board for two more games, ending somewhere between eight and ten pm. That is twenty five hours at the board in the span of, at most, thirty six hours, leaving little time for sleep. Now, if one plays Friday night, it becomes about forty eight hours, which, if one can sleep sixteen of those hours, there is not much time for anything else, such as scrubbing carcass! Is it any wonder a tournament room smells like a locker room?
I once asked NM Fred Lindsey why he had given up playing tournament chess and he replied, "Twelve hours is a long time to concentrate." GM Vadim Milov said, "Twelve hours of chess is too much at any age." (Quoted from, COUNTERPLAY: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard, by Robert Desjarlais) Some tournaments have a time limit of 40/2 followed by SD/1, which works out to a six hour game. Is it any wonder short draws are played? Top players come to America and find it very difficult to play two six hour games. They are from a culture where only one game a day is the norm. IM Boris Kogan, upon coming to America and playing in a weekend swiss said, "You Americans are CRAZY!"
A chess game is one decision after another for hours on end. Here in America it requires much stamina. Young players have much more stamina than older players and that is, as GM Victor Korchnoi has pointed out, why they excell in around the clock tournaments. It is also one of the reasons older players have given up playing tournament chess. Chess organizers need to consider this in lieu of simply doing the same thing in the same way as it has been done previously. It used to be that medical interns were required to stay awake for an inordinately long time while learning their craft. The practice is changing because studies have proven that lack of sleep is worse that drinking! The brain begins to shut down and good decisions cannot be made. Consider this from Robert Desjarlais: "I could be playing right now as well, eyeing chess pieces, as I'm also enrolled in the tournament. But I decided to sit out the last round of the weekend by taking a half-point bye. I just finished a grueling, five-hour game, which began at ten in the morning, and I have neither the energy to play again today nor the interest. After my first game I felt drained, back-sore, in need of movement." He was playing in the two-weekend schedule of the World Open. He writes this after the fourth game of that first weekend: "The game ended just before four o'clock, with the next round set to begin in an hour's time. I was in no shape to play another game just then, let alone a good one. I felt strung out; my flesh yearned for physical activity. My eyes were tired. The pool beckoned. I decided to take another half-point bye, with the sad realization that I had little competitive fire just then. That itself was a disturbing thought. Where was my will to win?"
Bobby Fischer once said that sleep was more important than knowing theory. Who is going to argue with the greatest chess player ever?
I recently read an article about a secret among the world's elite, young atheletes. The secret is a power nap! Two six-hour games in one day leave little time between rounds to eat, much less rest. Around the clock chess reminds me of what a fellow named Steven Hunt used to do when he ran a tournament he called the 'Insanity Open' because there were games literally around the clock. "I was doing great until the 3 am round..."
Organizers continue to run the same format year after year even with the dwindling attendance. They have players answer questions about which format they prefer. They do not question those many players who have stopped attending.
The ongoing World Cup is using a time limit of 40/90, followed by G/30 plus 30 seconds added per move for what they are calling 'classical' games. That time limit would seem to be more appropriate for a weekend swiss. I like having a time control after 40 moves, even if it is in only 90 minutes, and I really like not having the 30 seconds added until the second time control. Each game would end after two to two and a half hours. Two games could be played in a day, with enough time between rounds to eat and rest. A normal work day is eight hours; anything after constitutes overtime, with pay at time and a half. Is it any wonder that so many players drop out of chess, suffering from 'burn-out', as they age?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Three Games

Chess, for example, the great historical game of the West, involves monarchs, armies, slaughter, and the eventual destruction of one king by another. The game appears to be entirely directed along the lines of the great myths of the West from the Mahabharata to the Song of Roland -- the overthrow of a hero and the crowning of a new hero. The pieces, from king down to pawn (peon), give a picture of a heirarchical and pyramidal society with powers strictly defined and limited.

The `Three Games' is a useful classification because taken together they make up a coherent world view. Most of philosophy boils down to speculation centered around the three basic relationships of the human species. The first is man in his relationship to the remote gods and the mysterious forces of the universe. The second is man in the society he builds up around him. The third is man in his own self. Or, to put it another way, man the backgammon-player, man the chess-player, and man the go-player.
Go and the `Three Games'
by William Pinckard

I am always intrigued when I read anything pertaining to chess. This got me reflecting about the time I found Gammons, a backgammon parlor in the Peachtree/Piedmont Crossing shopping center in the Buckhead part of Atlanta back in the late 70's. I was working at a bookstore, Mr K's, and would walk over after work. There was a bar and backgammon tables where one could play and/or eat. Usually the players would eat while playing so as to not waste time. I would eat dinner and then spectate. I did that for a week or so before trying my luck. One day a former Texas state junior chess champion, Dr Steven Moffit, walked in. I had met him in San Antonio back in '72. He was a professor of statistics and probility at Emory University. It was early and there were no backgammon players yet, so he asked if I had a chess set. I walked back to Mr K's and retrieved my set & clock and we played a 15 minute game. During the game the BG players filtered in, curious to see us playing chess. "What'cha playing for?" one asked. He was disappointed when we said we were playing for the love of the game. "Ain't worth playing if there's no money involved," he said. As I recall, it came down to an ending with little time left on the clock and we began to blitz the moves out. This piqued their interest. I remember thinking that Steve was a positional player because he had white and fianchettoed his King bishop and played an early h3. We agreed to a draw and one of the onlookers said, "You mean there ain't a winner?"
We decided to play another game to even the colors, and someone said, "I got twenty on Moffit!" Steve said, "Hold on now, Mr Bacon won the Atlanta Championship a few years ago. That caused someone to place a wager on me. More people gathered around now that money was on the table, with more money going on Steve, since they knew him, even though he told them he was sorely outta practice. We battled down to just Kings left on the board. "So who won?" They were disappointed when we told them it was another draw. "But you have more time left. Don't you win?" I was asked. Steve told them that it was a draw without enough mating material left on the board. "But can't he just keep moving his King until your time runs out?" Steve told them that it was just not done in chess. "What the hell kinda game is this with no winner?" And they walked away... Then Steve got into a chouette and I watched. As far as I know, that was the only time chess was played at Gammons.
Later, Steve and I got to talking about a board game triathlon, with chess, backgammon, and Go. "Since you play Go, you could have a chance to win," Steve told me. I told him that I knew the rules, but was not much of a Go player, losing almost every game I had played. "That's ok man, most chess and backgammon players do not even know the rules of Go!"
The British with their 'Mind Games' have the nearest thing to a board game triathlon, I suppose. Over the years I've often thought of our idea of a triathlon with The Three Games.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chess, Scrabble & Go Attendance

On Tue, Sep 08, 2009, I posted on the USCF forum, Chess vs Scrabble. I contrasted the number of players in the Chess US Open versus the number in the National Scrabble Championship. (
While researching the number of players at this years Go Congress, I decided to revisit Scrabble. What I found on Wikipedia ( revises what I posted on the USCF forum. This is the revised and updated list, with chess listed first:
1992 Dearborn 496 Atlanta 315
1994 Rosemont 470 Los Angeles 294
1996 Alexandria 515 Dallas 412
1998 Kona 304 Chicago 535
2000 St Paul 492 Providence 598
2002 Cherry Hill 506 San Diego 696
2004 Weston 434 New Orleans 837
2005 Phoenix 455 Reno 682
2006 Chicago 543 Phoenix 625
2008 Dallas 379 Orlando 662
2009 Indy 456 Dayton 486
2010 Irvine 474 Dallas 408
2011 Orlando 367 Dallas 329

It is obvious from the totals above that the transfer of wealth from the taxpayers to the banker bums late in the Bushwhacker administration has had a deleterious effect on the turnout, especially at the Scrabble National Championships. Keep in mind that the Scrabble players do not have an opportunity to 'drop-in' to their tournament later on in the tournament like chess players. If you play in the Scrabble tournament, you are there from day one. When one considers that only one hundred players played in what is now called the 'traditional' schedule of the US chess open, it makes the participation in the 2011 Scrabble tournament look much better. From 1998 through 2009 Scrabble drew more players than chess.
The US Open of Go was held recently in Santa Barbara, California, drawing about 450 players, more than either chess of Scrabble. Part of the reason could be that there are a large number of Go players on the left coast; another reason being the growing popularity in the US of the ancient game of Go, or, more properly, Wei Chi, as it is called in the rest of the world. It is difficult to find figures for Go tournaments. For example, the list on the website of the American Go Association ( ends with the 2009 US Open. There are 366 players in the crosstable for the 2009 event. Please note that Go players only play one game a day. It would seem they prefer quality over quantity. The 2008 event drew 352.
Board games are not the only recreational activities affected adversely by the moribund economy. For example, in an article in the NY Times, Neither Smurf Nor Wizard Could Save Summer Movie Attendance (, it is written that,
"Hollywood has now experienced four consecutive summers of eroding attendance, a cause for alarm for both studios and the publicly traded theater chains. One or two soft years can be dismissed as an aberration; four signal real trouble."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chess Nepotism

While reading the comments left on The Chess Mind blog post, 'The Moiseenko-Navara Draw: Honorable, Or Not?', by Dennis Monokroussos(, I found this coment: While on the subject of (dis)honorable draws, anyone notice the itty bitty little draw Ben Finegold offered to his son Spencer in the recent Missouri Championship?

Their whole game was: 1. e4, c6 1/2-1/2
To me, that stinks to the heavens.
[DM: I have no problem with this sort of draw at all - I wouldn't play a real game against a family member either. The Kosintseva sisters do this all the time (though they usually "drag" it out to 10 moves or so), and I'm sure other relations have a similar non-aggression policy. Who is hurt by this? What is problematic is players who are getting an honorarium - getting paid to play - who make a habit of short, bloodless draws. I don't see the problem in "civilian" events.]
September 4, 2011 | RuralRob

That prompted me to leave a comment of my own: I agree with you on this, Dennis. I would also like to comment on the comment by 'RuralRob', and what you have to say about it. I noticed the one move draw given by the GM to his much lower rated son and wrote about it on the BaconLOG ( I suggest you read it, and the feedback it engendered. Dennis, you ask, "Who is hurt by this?" The other players competing for second place WERE hurt by it! GM Finegold gave his son a half point that he, most probably, would not have had going into the last round. I have participated in many tournaments where the top player was much higher rated than his opponents. Sometimes the higher rated player would win his first four rounds and then offer a draw to clinch first place IN THE LAST ROUND! A draw was as good as a win in that case. In this case, the GM had to play for a win in the last round because the two players half a point behind him, ONE OF THEM BEING HIS SON, could possibly tie for first, if Ben only drew his last game, and either of them won.
As for the Kosintseva sisters, they have no honor whatsoever. Contrast this with the Williams sisters in tennis. Granted, they have no way of 'splitting the point', fortunately. The McEnroe brothers also had to battle it out on the court. IN A SPORTING COMPETITON NEPOTISM SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED! If one does not wish to play a relative, then one of them should not compete in the event.

Dixie Chess Confederacy

While reading an online article, 'Chess as a metaphor for life' in the Wednesday, August 3 edition of the Smokey Mountain News (, I read this: "That, says Hollingworth, sipping from a coffee cup emblazoned with “Dixie Chess Confederacy”, is the true genius of chess — it’s universality." I thought, "I gotta have one of those coffee mugs!"

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meet Me In St Louis

Although I have a post ready to go, I have decided to delay it in order to comment on the comments left on my post of Wednesday, August 24, 2011, The Fix Is In St Louis.
Upon reading the comment left by 'Ray', my first thought was, "Well, I've been called worse." I could not recall his last name, so I went to the website of the St Louis Chess & Scholastic Center (, but could not find him listed as an employee, and did not find a list of members. I recalled that 'Ray' had posted something on the USCF forum pertaining to what has become known as the 'infamous Monroi incident'. I found that on Mon Apr 27, 2009 10:38 am, RayKinStL posted, MonRois and how they are used...tournament question for TDs! (
When he writes on the comments section of the BaconLOG, ..."dealing with the fallout from your stupid temper tantrums when played at the club...", I can only surmise he must be referring to the 'infamous Monroi incident' because that is the only time I have had any contact with the gentleman. BTW, the 'incident' culminated with the father of the boy using his Monroi as a chessboard being reprimanded by USCF for "reprehensible conduct." I recall a "stupid temper tantrum" at that tournament, but I was not the one having a "stupid temper tantrum."
My second thought was, "That makes up my mind about going to St Louis for the opening of the Chess Hall of Fame." I have been debating whether or not to go for some time now. The price of petrol has climbed back up to nearly four bucks a gallon. Although I could not afford to stay in one of the luxury hotels near the club, they could "leave the light on for me" at the same Motel 6 I stayed at when I played in the tournament back in '09. But money is tight these days and I am not sure I can justify making the trip. Obviously, I have been in a quandry...Ray solved the dilemma for me. This messenger does not wish to be killed!
But what has really bothered me is what was left by the last person to make a comment: "If this is an example of the kind of tournament director I will find at the St. Louis Chess Club, I can assure you that I, for one, will never play, or visit, the club."
I would hope that the insensitive comments left by 'Ray' would not preclude anyone from going to St Louis. All of the people I met there treated me wonderfully. I will mention Tony Rich, the manager of the club. After the 'infamous Monroi incident' I travelled to Indianapolis to visit the US Open for a day trip. Upon entering the playing hall, one of the first people I saw was Tony Rich. He was playing, with his opponent on the move. He saw me and immediately got up and walked over to me, extending his hand, giving me a smile. "How are you?", he asked. "I'm OK," I said. "How about you?"
"I'm doing good."
My mother once told me, "Son, listen to what a man says, but watch what he does."
Several people I know saw what had happened and mentioned it to me later.
I sent Tony an email asking about the book on Duchamp, which was on sale. He asked for my address and sent it to me before he received my check. Tony is a real gentleman and he sets the tone for the club. I am sure all of the employees there are like Tony.
Rex Sinquefield has done a GREAT thing by funding the StLCC&SC. It is worth a trip there, if only for a couple of days, just to visit the club. Now the Chess Hall of Fame is about to open, which will make St Louis a 'Mecca' for all friends of chess! Please, go visit the club and HOF. Do not be deterred by what this one man has written. If you go, I am certain it will bring you wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
As for 'Ray', I am sure that, with time, he will learn that people think less of the one casting aspersions than of the one at whom he has fired his salvos.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chess Pains

Before turning in last night I watched an episode of one of my all time favorite sit-coms, FRASIER. It was 'Chess Pains' from Season 3, Episode 18. From IMDB ( "Frasier buys an elaborate antique chess set, but becomes obsessed by his inability to win against Martin."
Martin is Frasier's father. The chess set is a monstrosity. Anyone who would play on such a set should lose; both of them!
There was a line that, had I been aware of it, I would have quoted in my last post. "The King is stationary while the Queen has all the power."
After losing the first game to Martin, Frasier was sitting in the coffee shop, looking at the position on what looked like a wooden travel type board, while talking with Roz, the pretty woman with a mellifluous voice, obviously my favorite character (insert smiley face here). "Now I know how he won," blurts Frasier. "He somehow stumbled onto the Panov-Botvinnik Attack!" At least the writer used a legitimate chess term, although chess players know it as an opening, not a 'winning attack'. Hey, he could have written it as the 'Stalin-Trotsky' attack!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Equality in Chess

A woman I met mentioned a TV program she is 'hooked on' and suggested I watch a program. The one she suggested was Covert Affairs, Season 2, Episode 8: Welcome to the Occupation. I was able to watch it 'on demand' and found it to be like a comic book come to life. I mentioned this to her at our next meeting, our last, as it turns out. She did not care for what I thought about her "fave program." From IMDB ( "Eco-terrorists hold a group of oil executives hostage in Mexico City, and Ben Mercer re-emerges as part of Annie's team sent in to assess the situation."
Ben is one of the stud's on the show and he was sent along with the star, Piper Perabo and her superior at the C.I.A. to rescue another agent, a woman, who was undercover, and being held hostage. Ben and Annie (Piper) were scaling the wall, heading to the roof, when two 'bad guys', mercenaries armed with assault weapons, were 'overpowered' by the unarmed women. Excellent C.I.A. training, I presume. It strained credulity, to say the least. Hence, the comic book nature of the show.
My female friend took umbrage at my point of view. So I asked her, "If your life were on the line in real life and you had to choose either the unarmed women, or the mercenaries with assault rifles, which would you pick?" She said, "That's not fair." I retorted, "Nobody has ever said that life is fair." She evidently watches a lot of tube because she proceeded to tell me about many programs with women "kickin' men's ass." She mentioned a female character, Ziva David, a trained Mossad assasin, on the #1 rated TV show, NCIS. I don't know the name of the muscle guy on Leverage, but I recall he is called 'Hitter'. I kinda liked that. When I mentioned it was all fantasy, and only served to emasculate men, I thought she might 'kick some Bacon butt'!
This got me cogitating...
Why is it the Queen is so powerful in chess? It was not always thus. It is time to bring the Lady down a peg or more. Why should the Queen be more powerful than the King? I call for EQUALITY!
I propose the Queen be limited to only TWO moves in any direction, providing the square is unoccupied. I also propose equality for the King, who should be allowed two moves in any direction, same as the Queen. Think of it, if the King is checked by a Knight from f3 in the castled position, the King can capture the Knight if it has an open avenue to do so, unless, that is, the Knight is protected. If the Queen checks a King on e1 from, say, e3, the King can capture the Queen, unless it is protected.
This would, along with allowing pawns to 'advance to the rear' (see post, Revolutionary Proposal For Chess: Free The Pawns! Monday, July 25, 2011, alter the game drastically. It would also prevent many draws by repetition. And, more importantly, it would bring much needed equality to the game.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Queen's Gambit Job

Spent most of Sunday reading, Betrayal in Dallas: LBJ, the Pearl Street Mafia, and the Murder of President Kennedy by Mark North. "A man who knows that enough is enough will always have enough", wrote Lao Tzu, and I had enough reading for the day, so I turned on the boob tube and began to flip around searching for something to deaden the brain waves before hitting the rack. I found a title, 'The Queen's Gambit Job' that sounded interesting, thinking it may have something to do with chess. It did, unfortunately. The program was LEVERAGE on TNT. The Royal game was featured prominently in the episode. It was hilariously funny! I mean, LOLFOTCROTF FUNNY! (That's: Laughing Out Loud, Falling Off The Couch, Rolling On The Floor)
I have come to not expect much when I see chess depicted on the screen, whether samll or large. I recall an episode of Law & Order Criminal Intent that featured Robert Carridine as a 'chess master' (Season Four, episode 11: entitled 'Gone'). It made me want to cry. It is being shown again on Oxygen, Thursday, Sept 8, at 7 & 11. I will pass. I seem to recall an episode of 'Columbo' that focused on a 'chess master'. Someone mentioned that the 'master' was a cross between Bobby Fischer and Tigran Petrosian, since he was hard of hearing. Missed that one, thankfully.
Someone came to the Atlanta Chess Center and gave free passes to a screening of the movie The Luzin Defense, starring John Turturro and Emily Watson. Naturally, Turturro was out of his mind. Why is it that most, if not all, chess masters depicted on screen are 'crazy'? It used to be that, when you mentioned to someone that you played the Royal game, they would say, "You must be smart!" Now mention chess and they move away from you...
Since it was free, a group of us went to the movie. After the movie ended, thankfully, we walked outside to be met by a group of young people, pen and pad in hand. "What did you think of the movie?" I was asked. "Ridiculous," I answered. "Would you like to elaborate on that?" the pretty young woman asked. "Don't get me started." I was trying to be nice. I will never forget the look on the face of Thad Rogers, owner of the House of Pain and Mr Southern chess for many years, as he came out, hoppin' MAD! I no longer recall exactly what he said, but I will never forget how he said it! I am sure those people regretted asking Thad his opinion. I heard one of our group say, "What a load of CRAP!" I thought he summed it up rather nicely.
A lady named Meredith Jacobs has written a review of 'The Queen's Gambit Job' episode, which you can find here:
She pretty much lays it out the way she saw it. She must know little or nothing about the world of chess. It is unfortunate that the vast majority of people know so little about chess, and think what they see on screen depicts "the way it is."
If I were to write a review of the program, I would start by excoriating the writers unmercifully. They must be reasonably intelligent people, but they do not show it with their writing. It would seem that, if someone were going to write a story about a subject, any subject, they knew little about, they would, at the very least, educate themselves first. One would think...
These chowder heads continue to put this pabulum on screen because people watch it. I admit, they suckered me into watching. But hey, I got a BaconLOG post out of it! Maybe if there were enough chess players who started a movement, saying, "We are mad as hell and we are not gonna take it anymore!" they would get the message. Then again, maybe not...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fix Is In St Louis

Much is being written these days concerning the proliferation of draws in chess. For example, on the forum section of the USCF website there are three pages of comments regarding Greg Shahade's article, Greg on Chess: Stop the Draw. ( There are articles on every major chess website, and minor ones, too. Many different ideas are being proposed. The only one implemented thus far to have been proven to work seems to be the awarding of 3 points for a win and only one point for a draw. As I have written, I would prefer different points for each different result. For example, 1 1/2 points for a draw with White; 2 points for a draw with Black; 3 points for a win with White; and 4 points for a win with Black. This would end the last round 'group hugs' seen at so many large events. It would also reward the unfortunate player who has to play with the Black pieces three times in a five round swiss.
This past weekend at the Missouri State Championship GM Ben Finegold offered a draw to his opponent after 1 e4 c6. His opponent was his son, Spencer. Ben writes about it on his blog, in a post entitled, 'And the winner is...', at the St. Louis Chess & Scholastic Center website. (
Ben writes about the 'game', and I use the term very loosely, "I “played” Spencer in round 4, if you can call 1.e4 c6! draw agreed playing. I thought I pretty much equalized and did not see the point of playing any further." I guess this is his attempt at humor. I seriously doubt if any of the other competitors in contention found it amusing. Ben goes on to write about his last round game, "The last round was a Finegoldesque squeeze as my opponent, Mark Ferber, chose a dubious variation that I used to play." "Finegoldesque squeeze" could be interpeted another way, since Mr. Ferber had three points going into the last round, as did NM Richard Benjamin and Spencer Finegold. While the Finegold family rested after their 'draw' in round four, Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Ferber had to spend that time actually sitting at the board, playing chess. The last round advantage obviously rested with the Finegold's. Thus, the 'squeeze'.
Many years ago IM (of GM strength, something that used to be said about Ben Finegold)Boris Kogan emigrated with his family from what used to be part of the Soviet Union, the 'Evil Empire' according to President Ronald Reagan. He settled in Atlanta and was the strongest chess player in the South. His son, Mike, also played in chess tournaments and was strong enough to become a NM. They met many times in tournaments in Atlanta, and possibly in other tournaments in the South. I cannot recall one instance of Boris giving his son a draw, especially one in which only one move was played! I believe the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, and the impresario of Southern chess, Thad Rogers, as well as many others, will attest to that fact. Playing five games over a two days, as it was back then, or even three, beginning Friday night, was tough on Boris, who was a middle-aged man upon coming to Georgia. He could have opted for a quick draw with his son, and some much needed rest, but refused to do so. Consider what happened at the Columbia Open in the Great state of South Carolina this past weekend. GM LUBOMIR FTACNIK lost in the third round Saturday night to ALEXANDER MATROS. Lubomir is 53 years of age now, no longer a spring chicken. In the last round, two much younger players, NM Chris Mabe and the aforementioned Matros agreed to a nine move draw, probably thinking the GM would win and they would tie for first. But ALEXANDER ZELNER, with 3 1/2 points going into the last round, had other ideas. He beat the GM and finished in first place, a half point ahead of 'no guts & no glory' Mabe and Matros.
Bobby Fischer railed against Soviet collusion and his allegations have been proven correct over time, as many former Soviet players have written about how the 'fix was in'. Boris had too much integrity to stoop to such a level. Yet what we have here in St. Louis is an instance of a GM doing the exact same thing Bobby Fischer used to vilipend so vehemently!
Ben Finegold even has the audacity to write at the conclusion of his blog, "An excellent tournament for Spencer, who broke 2100 for the first time." Well, yeah, it is much easier to have "an excellent tournament" when one is able to rest Sunday morning in lieu of working hard at the board! And the rating points come quickly when your GM father donates them to you without playing a game! The Finegold cartel took two of the top prizes at the tournament with their colusion. Why would any strong player want to come to St. Louis and play having to compete with this?
At the beginning of his blog post, GM Finegold writes, "I decided to play at the last possible moment, after my long travels and moving into a new apartment almost dissuaded me from going for the $500 first prize. But, as Tatev Abrahamyan has told me on several occasions, “$500!!” He ends it with, "Tatev was right… $500 feels good!" I realize there is little money in chess, and we are in a depression the establishment calls a 'recession', but is GM Finegold not the Grandmaster in residence at the St. Louis Chess & Scholastic Center? Does he receive a stipend? If so, is it not enough for him to have to resort to collusion with his son to 'earn' an extra $500?
The St. Louis Chess Club also bills itself as a 'Scholastic Center'. Rex Sinquefield, the filthy rich man who has given the money for the place is, from what I have read, justifiably proud of what is happening with regard to scholastic chess in his city. He, and his chess & scholastic center, have won many awards from chess organizations, and no doubt others of which I am not aware. St. Louis is leading the way for the rest of the US as far as chess is concerned, according to what I read online and in foreign chess magazines. Yet, what kind of example is being set in St. Louis? What if, during the fourth round at a scholastic tournament, one young player offers his best friend, rated 500 points lower, a draw after only one move? What happens when you tell the players they cannot do that because it is against the rules of chess, and they fire back with, "GM Finegold and his son do it!"
Rule 14B6 of the USCF Official Rules of Chess is: "Premature or prearranged draws. It is unethical and unsporting to agree to a draw before a serious contest has begun. The same is true of all arrangements to prearrange game results. In case of clear violations of the moral principles of the game, penalties should be imposed at the director's discretion. See also 20L, Manipulating results." It says: "Collusion to fix or throw games, whether before or during the game, in order to manipulate prize money, title norms, ratings, or for any other purpose is illegal and may result in severe sanctions, including revocation of USCF membership. Such agreemants include arrangemants to split prize money no matter what the result of the game."
The TD should have forfeited the Finegold family for their egregious breech of the rules! But, since the GM is the 'big dog', except when Hikaru is around I suppose, and paid by the man with the deep pockets, I can see that it would be rather difficult for a TD to follow the rules. Certainly the pooh-bahs at USCF should take some kind of action, if it is to only vacate the rating result of the so-called 'game' between the Finegolds. The sad fact is that if you put all of the pooh-bahs of USCF together, you will not have enough material for even half a cojones!
When I was in the seventh grade there was a fellow class member named Clifford. He was 16 and still in grammar school, so it is obvious he was not the brighest bulb on the tree. He towered over the rest of us and got his way, since we knew he could put a hurtin' on all of us combined! One day we were outside at recess playing soft-ball when Clifford decided he wanted to play. He grabbed a bat and got in the batter's box and hit the ball over the fence. The next batter stepped up, thinking Clifford would hand him the bat. Clifford let the poor boy now in no uncertain terms that he wanted to hit a few more. "But that ain't the way we play the game," protested the little fella. "It's the way I play the game, squirt." But, as Bob Dylan wrote, "You gotta serve somebody." The principal kicked Clifford out of school and we rejoiced! Is there anyone who will step up to the plate and put an end to the big dogs of chess? Are people so afraid that Rex will stop sinquefielding money into chess that they let him do what ever he pleases? None of the man's largesse has, or will come, my way, so I will speak out. Is there anybody out there in chess land with enough cojones to do the same?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Intrinsic Chess Ratings

Forbes recently had an article on chess, 'Humans Are Getting Better At Chess - Thanks to Computers' (, written by Alex Knapp. His story begins, "A recent study suggests that there are more great chess players now than there ever have been – and that players continue to improve."
Mr. Knapp throws in a thought of his own when he writes, "The authors don’t suggest a mechanism, but if I were to guess, I’d suggest that the reason for this has to do with competitive chess software and online play." Mr. Knapp thinks that if humans continue to 'interface' with programs, " may be that humans catch back up to the best AI programs." I will not live so long...
I clicked on 'recent study' and found a PDF titled, 'Intrinsic Chess Ratings', written by Kenneth W. Regan of the University of Buffalo and Guy McC. Haworth of the University of Reading, UK. This must be the former chess player, IM Ken Regan. I put him into a search engine and found he has a chess page: Gotta be the same guy.
The first sentence lays it out: "This paper develops and tests formulas for representing playing strength at chess by the quality of moves played, rather than by the results of games."
I wondered who was to be the ultimate arbiter of "the quality of move played." My question was answered by the next sentence: "Intrinsic quality is estimated via evaluations given by computer chess programs run to high depth, ideally so that their playing strength is sufficiently far ahead of the best human players as to be a 'relatively omniscient' guide.
There it is. We have reached a point in human evolution whereby 'puters have now become our 'relatively omniscient' guides. I could not help but think of the first paragraph of an editorial by Charles M. Blow, 'Obama in the Valley' dated August 19, 2011 (
"In 1970, the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori coined the phrase “uncanny valley.” In the field of robotics, and increasingly in computer animation, it refers to the theory that people feel good about robots — up to a point. When they start to look almost real, but not quite, we experience an eerie and unsettling sense of revulsion."

In the introduction the authors say, "Our work brings new evidence on controversial questions of import to the chess community, with ramifications for skill assessment in other games: 1) Has there been 'inflation'-or deflation-in chess Elo rating system over the past forty years? 2) Were the top players of earlier times as strong as the top players of today? 3) Does a faster time control markedly reduce the quality of play? 4) Can recorded games from tournaments where high results by a player are suspected as fraudulent reveal the extent to which luck or collusion played a role?
The paper, especially page seven, contains a plethora of equations. If you had showed it to me and told me they were equations for a magnetoplasmadynamic propulsion system from aliens from planet Zud, I would have said, "OK". Fortunately, they sum it up by saying, "We conclude that there is a smooth relationship between the actual players' ELO ratings and the intrinsic quality of the move choices as measured by the chess program and the agent fitting." Got that? It continues, "The results also suppost a no answer to question 2. In the 1970's there were only two players with ratings over 2700, namely Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov, and there were years as late as 1981 when no one had a rating over 2700 (see Wee00). In the past decade there have usually been thirty or more players with such ratings. Thus lack of inflation implies that those players are better than all but Fischer and Karpov were. Extrapolated backwards, this would be consistent with the findings of (DHMG07), which however (like some recent competitions to improve on the ELO system)are based only on the results of games, not on intrinsic decision-making."
Whoa! Has the level of chess play risen to the point that ALL 2700+ players of today are better than ALL players of a generation ago other than Bobby Fischer and Anatoly Karpov? That is saying a great deal.
I recall GM Andy Soltis writing a column whereby he went back a century and compared the moves of the greats of that era with the players of today and found that the old masters made more blunders, and, frankly, I would tend to put more credence in what a HUMAN GM has to say than a COMPUTER.
I cannot help but wonder what a computer analysis of USCF ratings would conclude. Has there been inflation, or deflation? Back in the 70's the average ratting of a tournament player in the USCF was around 1500, give or take. (I believe that was where Prof Elo based his 'average') Today the average rating is around 900. I submit to you that the 'average' player of the 70's was vastly superior to the 'average' player of today. Most players knew then that, if a player made class 'B', he had stopped dropping pieces and could play a decent game of chess. In the first round of the 1980 US Open in Atlanta, a class'B' player upset GM John Fedorowicz in the first round. Consider this game played by two players in the top half of all USCF rated players at a G/30 played here in Louisville at the Monday night tournament where the score is not kept and the game is played without a clock. One of the players is my student. I will not say which to protect the guilty... 1 e4 e5 2 d4 f6? 3 d5?! I will spare you the rest...
I tied for first in the Atlanta Championship in 1974 with a score of 4-1 as a class 'B' player. It was said at the time by many that, "We have a 'B' player as champion!" At the time I was playing actively and working on my game, which needed much work, let me tell you! Although an adult, I was one of those players whose rating had not caught up with with his strength. I won the 1976 Atlanta Championship with a score of 5-0 as a low 'A' player. At that time ratings were not as up to date as they are today. One time the rating system went down for almost a year. There usd to be something called 'bonus points', then they were elimanated. I recall crossing the expert line, 2000, during a time of no bonus points, and my friend, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, took the time to figure what my rating would have been if the bonus points were still being awarded. He came to the conclusion I would have obtained a rating of over 2100. "And you did this while swimming against the tide!" he said. I mention this to give some perspective and to say that, as good as I was, I was nowhere near the level of the top players of today, such as Georgia champions NM Richard Francisco, NM Damir Studen, and FM Kazim Gulamali. At that time I was maybe 500 or 600 points higher rated than the 'average' player. A player today rated 500 or 600 points higher than the 'average' USCF player would be rated 1400 or 1500! What does that say about the current rating pool?