Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Quote of the Year

Although I have yet to get my grubby hands on the new book by Frank Brady, Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness , I do have it on order from a local bookstore, and will, hopefully, have it in my hands in a couple of days.
I rarely read reviews before reading a book. I prefer to read the reviews after I've made my own judgement. I made an exception in this case and have read every review I've found. I even listened to an interview with the author on NPR while driving home yesterday. It can be found at:

The quote of the year is the last line of a review by Dick Cavett on Amazon: "Frank Brady’s Endgame is one of those books that makes you want your dinner guests to go the hell home so you can get back to it."
You can find the review at:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hikaru yes Chess!

That is a play on the extremely popular Japanese 'Hikaru no Go' series for children about a coming of age and the game of Go.

Hikaru Nakamura was my pick to win the Tata Steel tournament (I picked Luke McShane to win the 'B' section, and Mark Bluvshtein to win the 'C' section), as he is in every tournament in which he participates. It's not just because he plays openings like the Najdorf, which I played in my prime, and the Leningrad Dutch, my favorite opening with Black, but stems from his play at the 32nd Continental Open in Sturbridge, Mass, in 2002. I recall the tournament vividly because it was where I 'collapsed' with paramedics being called. I had been in time pressure for some time, needing desperately to make a trip to the men's room. Upon making my final move before time control, I got up to do just that, and the next thing I recall was coming to on the floor. The tournament took place after the US Open, where all the games had been played at night. The first two games of the Continental were also played at night. This game, the third, was played in the morning, and it appears I had become dehydrated by drinking only coffee during the game. It had a deleterious affect upon me when I stood up, obviously. Having won my first two games, I was still in contention after losing this one, but Brenda Goichberg convinced me to withdraw from the tournament, which I did. I therefore got to spectate and what I saw was empty top boards, as the top GM's, for the most part, decided to draw with each other and go next door and drink copious amounts of beer and eat seafood, while holding court with the younger players. But there was one top player who refused to 'join the club'. Hikaru Nakamura was there to WIN, not just to play. He was there to beat every GM placed in his path, no matter how much higher rated than he at the time, or which color he had, so I could not help but think of Bobby Fischer. I have followed Hikaru's career ever since, thinking of Bobby; thinking that the search was over, it was just that no one realized it yet. I bet they will now.
I met Hikaru and his father, Sunil, on a visit to the 2009 US Open in Indianapolis, and it was the highlight of the trip! He was there to play a simul. I was just there...
I found chess rather late, playing in my first tournament as a 20 year old adult. I never knew the wonder and excitemant I've seen in my very young students, but right now I'm as excited as a child! I simply cannot wait for the last two rounds of this tournament! David Spinks, the caretaker of the House of Pain in Atlanta once asked me who I was "pulling for." When I replied that I was just watching the game for the enjoyment of watching, he exclaimed, "YOU GOTTA PULL FOR SOMEBODY, MAN!"
You simply cannot believe how much I'm pulling for Hikaru, man!

Sarah Palin's Sputnik Moment

After watching Decoded, I flipped over to the BBC news on public tv. That's the channel without commercials. While they were showing all the different companies that support 'commercial free' tv, I flipped over to Commercial News Network. The headline you see here was prominently displayed on the screen. Below was the question, 'Is she a factual space case?'
Soledad O'brien was giggling like a young girl about the latest salvo from Mrs Palin. It seems that in response to the POTUS State of the Union speech (or was it the response to the responce to the responce to the speech? There are so many responses these days I think they oughta let the parrotheads respond!), she said th President had had a "WTF" moment. Now, I know what 'WTF' stands for, as do most other people in this country, even if we don't 'twitter'. Some old guy named Cohen, younger than me, said he had had to ask his teenaged daughter what "WTF" meant. What's that guy doing on tv? When it comes to dumb, Sarah had company last night! In case you have not heard, Sarah said, "He needs to remember what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space. Yup, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."
I will be kind and just say that she was excoriated unmercifully by the panel, which included a Republican, Ed Rollins. He said, "It shows she has a lack of knowledge, which is extraordinary in a potential presidential candidate." He said later that "We should be discussing the response by Paul Ryan, not something stupid said by Sarah Palin." Whoa, Nellie! Bet he will not obtain a position in the Palin administration! Down South, when one talks about someone like that, they always end it with something like, "That woman is so stupid, God Bless her soul." You can say anything about anyone down South as long as you know how to end it the right way.

Coincidence or Conspiracy?

The segment on Brad Meltzer's Decoded, Secret Societies, airing on the History Channel last night,(, shed some light on the Bohemian Grove, one of America's most tightly guarded gatherings of the rich and powerful. My ears perked up when I heard that one of the members who meet for two weeks each year, and pay $25,000 for the opportunity, is none other than Jimmy Buffett! That's right, the parrothead himself. Checking his website I could find nothing concerning his membership in any secret societies. Since this information comes only a day after the news of Jimmy blowing out his flip-flop and falling off of the stage while down under, I cannot help but wonder if it is only a coincidence, or part of some kind of vast conspiracy?
For those readers back home in the great state of Georgia, next weeks episode, Apocalypse in Georgia, concerns the mysterious Georgia Guidestones. Often called America's Stonehenge, this granite monument is located on a remote hilltop outside Atlanta. I will have an air-tight alibi next Thursday, Feb 3, 10/9c for any eventuality!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kissinger on Go and Chinese Strategic Thinking

Discussing China on CNN Sunday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that “One has to understand the Chinese intellectual game, which is what we call go (and) they call weiqi.” Explaining that “it’s a game of strategic encirclement,” Kissinger said that “our intellectual game is chess. Chess is about victory or defeat. Somebody wins.” Kissinger contrasted chess in which “all the pieces are in front of you at all times, so you can calculate your risk” with go, where the pieces “are not all on the board, and your opponent is always capable of introducing new pieces.” Historically, Kissinger said, the Chinese use strategic analysis based on “the go way.” Despite Kissinger’s cogent understanding of the game, CNN mistakenly used video of Chinese Chess to illustrate the segment.

This is from the American Go E-Journal, 1/24/2010, by Chris Garlock.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Impenetrable Wall of Manliness

To the anonymous person who left the the comment I would like to say that one does not get to be old by being a fool, you JACKWAD! How about being man enough to let yourself be known, my new 'frenemy'!
I will admit that you are right, sir. Having a life and other things to do, I was in 'time pressure' while writing the post. I realized it was wrong, but, being 'old', I could not pull the correct term outta the morass that is now my brain. I figured 'most people' would know what I meant. I could have gone back today and changed it, but why spend the time? I don't get paid for this; I do it for pleasure, and enjoy the feedback, usually.
That said, I have received an email from my ol' Bud, the Ironman. He writes, "I remember that I called the barrier The Impenetrable Wall of Manliness."
What can I say? It's tuff on the road. I'm just thankful I was not the one trapped in the woods with the Ironman as night began to fall, realizing I may hafta 'spoon' the Ironman that night in order to stay warm enough to survive! We have been friends for many decades now and I guess we woulda done 'whatever it takes' to come outta the woods alive just as the Ironman and Ott-Job did whatever it took to keep the wolves at bay.
Tim 'The Dude' Bond, formally known as the Rainbow Warrior until he let it be know that he never liked that moniker hung on him by the Ironman because he thought it had connotations of, shall we say to be PC, unmanliness. Which reminds me of the NM who changed his name from Dana to Kyle for what I heard were similar reasons. We thought that if he were going to change his name to a more manly name, then maybe he shoulda chosen 'Butch', or some such. The Dude used to say that the basis of friendship is "Mutual interests, mutual respect."
I can't help but wonder where GM Rowson came up with the word 'bromance'? I have never heard it before. Have you? I can't help thinking that, if a man and a woman have a 'romance' then a 'bromance' would be a romance between two happy men.
Imagine if, at the conclusion of the all time great movie Casablanca, after Captain Renault had said, "Major Strasser has been shot..... Round up the usual suspects", Rick had said, "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful bromance." Why, it coulda altered history!

Monday, January 24, 2011


The question left to my post Book of the Year is, "What other books would you recommend for enjoyment?"
Two books by GM Jonathan Rowson, The Seven Deadly Chess Sins & Chess for Zebras: Thinking Differently about Black and White, come to mind. Edwin Schlossberg wrote that, "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think." GM Rowson does this extremely well. I like the honesty with which he writes. I have always liked quotes, and I love the quotes he uses. His column in the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess, is the first article I read. From a letter to the editor in the current issue, 2010/8, it would seem one Boris Kazanski did not care for Rowson's piece in the previous issue, A Fine Bromance. Rowson writes "...that the bond between male friends is somehow different, and more intense than female friendship..." Hence, 'Bromance'
I will admit the term chosen by the GM turned my stomach, making me somewhat uncomfortable. I would have preferred the term 'friendenemy'. Enemies across the chess board; friends away from the board.
I thought about the time my long-time chess friend, my 'friendenemy', the Legendary Georgia Ironman, NM Tim Brookshear and I met in Ft Lauderdale for the US Open. Tim did not care for the location I had found, one of those extended stay places, so he went on a scouting mission, landing a place on the beach. Unfortunately it had only one bed. Upon showing the place to me I saw that Tim had taken the pillows from the couch, which happened to be shaped in such a way that they would stand up, and placed them in the middle of the bed, therefore making it like two separate beds. "Look Bacon, there's no chance we will touch!", he exclaimed. We brought FM Big Head Todd, the Monster, Andrews in to stay with us and he will attest to the veracity of this story! I think Tim still remembered the time I told him I had to share a bed at a backgammon tournament and my 'bunkmate' hugged me during the middle of the night, proclaiming his 'love' for 'Ginger'! Needless to say, I got no more sleep that night!
I am comfortable with my heterosexuality, and I am comfortable with the Ironman's as well! Just because we have been friends for going on four decades now and have shared the same hotel room far too many times to count, whether at a chess tournament or a sports card show, does not imply that we have some kind of 'bromance'!
I love books and have previously worked in several bookstores. I will admit to having a romance with books-a 'bookmance'.
I would like to mention a book I am currently reading, True Combat Chess, by IM Timothy Taylor. I have never, and will never, review a book unless I have read it cover to cover, and I have not finished this book, but I can say that I am enjoying it immensely!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cheating in Chess?

Steve Giddins has broken the story on his blog:

He writes, "The French Chess Federation has announced an investigation into "organised cheating" by three of its players - GMs Hauchard and Feller, and IM Marzolo."

Book of the Year?

Three finalists have been chosen for The Chess Cafe ( book of the year contest. I did not vote this year and have never voted in any of these book contests for the simple reason that I have not read enough books to nominate one. The reason I will not vote for one of the final three is that I have only read one of the books, Yasser's exceptional book, Chess Duels. I was so looking forward to reading it that I stopped everything else to read it! The book is everything I want from a chess book. I read for enjoyment now and there is nothing better than a book containing great games and their stories! Certainly I can recommend this book to any and everyone. Yet I cannot vote for it because I have not read the others.
Diary of a Chess Queen by Alexandra Kosteniuk has the best cover by far. (Insert smiley face here) If one were judging only by the cover...The truth is that I will never read it because, there are so many books and so little time.
Then there is the book writen by a prepubescent NM, Mastering Positional Chess, by Daniel Naroditsky. Upon seeing this book I thought of what Viktor Korchnoi said when he learned Magnus Carlsen had become the highest rated chess player in the world. "There are millions of positions he has yet to see!" Then I thought of the review by GM Jonathan Rowson in the 2010/4 issue of the best chess magazine in the world, New in Chess. The title of his article is, Who Owns Chess Ideas? He gives an example in the Naroditsky book from the book from the Karpov-Timman game from Montreal, 1979, saying, "I immediately recognised this example from the Dvoretsky/Yusupov literature..."
He then writes: "If this example were a one-off, there would be no issue, but the young suthor takes several examples that look very much like they were taken from the Dvoretsky/Yusupov literature, without attributing the source either in the text of bibliography. The author's age certainly makes this behaviour more forgivable, and if you felt generous you might even say that his interpretation of these examples is more accessible than the sources from which they derive. Certainly Naroditsky's alacritous authorial voice is not the same as Dvoretsky's more analytical jtone, but these are nonetheless the same examples used to express the same ideas, and a different tone is not really sufficient justification for the extent of the replication." He calls IM John Donaldson's preface "thoughtful." Even though this book was published by New in Chess and GM Rowson is writing in New in Chess magazine, I cannot help but feel the GM has 'pulled his punches' because the author is so young. I feel he would have written differently if it had been IM John Donaldson's book that was being reviewed.
GM Rowson closes with, "I trust Naroditsky will be more careful with his sources in the future, and I look forward to his future work because he is likely to become a strong GM..." This would seem to indicate GM Rowson believes young Mr Naroditsky is guilty of plagiarism, but that he will be able to overcome it in the future in the same way others guilty of plagiarism, such as Vice President Joe Biden, prominent historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (noted for her hagiographies of the establishment devils Lincoln and LBJ), and Martin Luther King, were able to overcome.
It does, though, beg the question of why this book was even nominated. Why would anyone purchase this book when they could buy the original source material in the Dvoretsky/Yusupov book?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Best of Chess Times

This is a great time to be a fan of the game of chess! This morning with my java I replayed the fantastic Nakamura-Shirov game with Shipov’s live commentary on Tata Steel Chess 2011 at
then booted-up the 'puter to watch the opening of round 4. During a lull in the action I watched the video Giri & Smeets show their hypersharp draw on
I thought back to the time I first became infatuated with the game of chess. It was 1970 and Bobby Fischer was on the rise. We had to wait until the next day's New York Times came out to see the game. Things had not improved much when the two K's were contesting the championship of the world in the 80's. I was driving a cab at night for Buckhead Safety Cab in Atlanta. I would go by the Lennox Inn in the wee hours of the morning because it was one of the first stops on the paperman's route. I would be the first to purchase a New York Times most mornings. I would then replay the game before going to sleep in the morning, and then play over it again upon waking in the afternoon!
The internet is the perfect venue for chess. Imagine having a GM like Sergey Shipov annotate the Fischer-Spassky match. I cannot even imagine being able to watch Fischer and Spassky go over their games in real time via the internet! For the life of me, I cannot understand why the USCF does not have ten times the members it has now. The sad fact is that the vast majority of members of that organization are children. After the meetings at the US Open the Ex Director said he would "Address the problem of the continuing lack of adult memberships." There are so many interesting chess sites on the internet, much more interesting than the official magazine of the USCF, Chess Life (it should be called 'Chess Death'), or the online content. I cannot help but think that USCF is still stuck in the past, still waiting for the next day's newspapper.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What is the chess distance between 2 arbitrary points

I found this in my inbox this afternoon:
On Mon, Jan 17, 2011 at 1:37 PM, John Linton wrote:

While in between studying for Speed School today, I was considering a chess puzzle when I suddenly realized how physical distance - as opposed to "chess distance" - applies to the game.

If one considers a 3x3 section of the board, say bounded by (a1,a3,c3,c1), and one considers a rook check given at a one-square distance, meaning say Rb3 Kb1 is the setup, the king can attack the rook within one move by either Ka2 or Kc2.

However, consider the bishop check where Ba3 Kc1 is the setup. In that case, the bishop is physically farther from the king - instead of just 2.0 units as with the rook check, the bishop is 2*sqrt(2) squares away! This farther physical distance - even though the check is still "one square between" the king and bishop - forbids the king from making a sideways motion that threatens the bishop in one move. Hence Kc2 or Kb1 or both equally useless in attacking the bishop.

Further extending this analysis, if Nb3 checks the Kc1, we can see that the knight is just physically close enough at sqrt(5) squares for the king to attack by both avenues: Kc2 or Kb2!

Of course one might note that in the bishop case King cannot go to Kb2 because that square is checked by the bishop to begin with - but it is precisely the physical distance that gives the king only the check square to attack the bishop along - where as with the rook -- the more powerful piece! -- the king can more easily attack due to physical distance!

John L.

Bobby Amback shot back with: "I always thought that given a choice on how to deliver a mate. The mate delivered with minimal space excluding adjacent squares was the best insult. This of course is second to delivering mate with the lowest ranking piece with the pawn being the greatest insult. Is this similar to the slam dunk?"

Then JDD sent this:
In math there is something called a "metric space". The notion of "distance" is allowed to be more general than the usual Euclidean distance, sqrt (x^2 +y^2). In this case the JL's "chess distance" is different than the Euclidean distance. Is it a metric space? We will need to define a metric space.

But first, let us define "chess distance" as the minimum number of king moves to "reach" a destination (in this case for the king to capture (rather than just attack) the attacking piece as in JL's examples). In the case of the bishop attack, the Euclidean distance was 2*sqrt(2) as JL noted. The chess distance was 3, if check is to be avoided along the way. If no check avoidance, the distance is 2 along the same diagonal. It would seem for consistency, the chess distance should either always use the no check rule or not. Since the check is a somewhat artificial consideration geometrically, we will use the non check avoidance distance. So, is this chess distance a metric space ? (we might later ask about the no check distance).

To be a metric space, several axioms apply.

We have points with coordinates and a distance function D, defining the distance between any 2 points, D(x,y), with x and y as points (not the usual x and y coordinates in this case). Each point has a pair of coordinates.

Then for a metric space,
D(x,y) => 0
D(x,y)=0 if and only if x=y.
D is symmetrical with D(x,y)=D(y,x)

The least trivial axiom is the "triangle inequality" where
D(x,z) =< D(x,y) +D(y,z), where D is the distance function (implicit in the above chess examples) and x, y and z are three sets of coordinates.

What is the D function for the chess distance between 2 arbitrary points (chess squares)? From all this, is "chess distance" a metric space ?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

How's the Go going?

Several people have asked me recently about my endeavor with the game of Go. I will try to answer as best I can. I became a member of the American Go Association and received several past issues of Go World magazine. I tried to spend some time everyday studying the game and played online at the Internet Go Server (IGS). Frankly, I was surprised every time I won a game. I am a very bad player, so there must be many players worse than I! Most of the games are faster than I would prefer and I do not care for 2D, but there are few players here. In an interview with GM Peter Svidler on he was asked:

Mustiz: Which logical games other than chess do you like?

"I barely play anything else – in my childhood I tried Go, but due to the absence of anyone to play against my interest soon faded."

While studying the game, I came across what was described as "the move of the year." I did not understand the move and certainly had no idea what made it 'the move of the year'. This bothered me greatly. Realizing I needed personalized instruction, but not wishing to pay for it over the internet, I became frustrated and took a break for awhile. I left the position with the 'move of the year' on my board for months, looking at it as if meditating...

I learned that the time I spent on Go had not been for naught, as it has rekindled my interest in chess. I am first and foremost a fan of the game of chess, and, as such, have been enjoying my study of the game more than ever. I believe it is because chess is something with which I am familiar. I have watched the game evolve for the past four decades and am enjoying the continuity. Although I enjoy playing over a game of Go by the Masters, they are foreign to me, and not only because most of them are Oriental. The best player in the west is Michael Redmond, and I enjoy watching his games, but he's almost as foreign to me as Harold Larwood. I knew nothing of him until reading that the book that made the greatest impression on GM Svidler was, the biography of Harold Larwood. I learned he is a famous Cricket player. Having played baseball for over a decade in my youth, taking up Go would be similar to my now turning to Cricket, I suppose. I have an understanding of baseball; not so with Cricket.

So I will continue to study and play the great game of Go, but only for enjoyment. It really is hard to 'teach old dogs new tricks' as the brain begins to ossify. It is extremely difficult to improve my understanding of the game of Go, but I will continue to do so because, 1) I enjoy it & 2) I believe it is helping my brain to learn something relatively new.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Triple Digits

With the influx of children into tournament chess in the past decade or so has come a proliferation of ratings under 1000, or as they are called, triple digits. I know you will find this hard to believe, but at one time it was extremely rare to see anyone rated in triple digits. Now the median rating, as well as the average rating of USCF players, must be in triple digits.

For decades I told anyone who asked, and some that did not, that my first rating was 1064. That is what I believed to be true. One weekend, Senior Master Klaus Pohl, the Sour Kraut, brought some copies of old Chess Life magazines to the House of Pain, aka the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. Included was a rating list. Imagine my surprise upon seeing my name, followed by triple digits! That's right, I had been wrong all those years, I'm sad to report. You see, I had lost all six of my games at my very first USCF rated tournament. The only game I recall now is a game I lost to a fellow named Al Cass. He had an extra pawn and was able to drive it to the last rank, making a queen.

I managed to cross the rubicon, changing my first digit from a '1' to a '2', something that, for some reason, makes me very proud now. I guess it's because one time I got on an elevator at a large tournament after a loss to a NM feeling down. There were two young fellows already on the elevator. Seeing how despondant I was, they asked my rating. I told them it was around 2000. "Wow, I don't think I'll ever make class 'B'," said one. "It's taken me five years to make class 'C' and I don't think I'll have the time to go further," said the other. That put it into perspective. Everything is relative.

From the time I started playing USCF rated chess until I crossed into expert territory, I gained about 1200 rating points. I wonder what the average person who began in 1970 gained during the course of his playing career?

I got to thinking about this after checking out the Graph of Xiao Cheng, whom I wrote about in my recent post:

Is Puberty Killing USCF?
Xiao began as an 1800 and made it into the 2300's. Although he did not 'earn' as many points as did I, his were much harder to come by, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is USCF Bankrupt?

In a post on the official website of the USCF,, John Menke asks, Is USCF bankrupt?
In his post of Sunday, Jan 9, he writes:

I'm trying to get a prize paid to me for winning 1st place in the 2003 Golden Knights tourney, $1500.00 due since summer 2010. Consult Alex Dunne's columns and you'll see. I've also confirmed this with him, as well as Joan DuBois since then. However USCF isn't responding, which is uncharacteristic. There has been no check in the mail!? In the past they've paid prizes due within a month or two, but in this case it's going on six months overdue. What's wrong?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is Puberty Killing USCF?

While reading GM Nigel Davies website, I found a link to an article, The Expert Mind By Philip E. Ross, from the August 2006 issue of Scientific American. Learning it would cost $7.95 to read the article, I did some research and found a copy that was free at:
After reading the article I did a little more digging, finding a blog by John Horgan, The Scientific Curmudgeon, at The Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology ( ). John writes that, " Phil Ross is an old friend, with whom I worked at Scientific American in the 1990s." He also writes, "Phil has written a lot about chess; as his bio points out, he plays himself, and his teenage daughter Laura is “a master who outranks him by 199 points.” I remember Laura Ross. She was invariably called "That cute little Laura Ross." Whatever happened to her, I wondered. Reading on I found the answer.
(Question from John Horgan) Do you think geneticists will ever find a “chess gene”? And if such a gene exists, do you think Laura might have it?
Phil responded:

If she has it, then I must conclude that its expression begins to diminish slowly at puberty and ends oh, about now. She hasn’t played a competitive game since winning $6000 at the U.S. Championship, back in February. Last week she bought a guitar, and since then, she’s been plinking away at it nonstop.
But wait! That provides a genetic explanation why so many chess masters have been good at music:
* Philidor, first master of modern times, was also a famous composer in his day, and his bust still stands in the Paris Opera
* Smyslov, World Champion 1957-58, was forced by the Commies to go into chess instead of opera singing, which is what he really wanted to do
* Taimanov, best known now for losing to Fischer 6-0, was one of the leading four-handed pianists in the world (he lost that string to his bow when the other two hands divorced him).

I was struck by the comment, "...its expression begins to diminish slowly at puberty..." I thought back to all the child chess players I've known who have given up the game during, or after puberty. There are too many to count. I thought of 2007 Georgia champion Xiao Chang in particular. A look at his USCF Ratings History Graph shows he first played in a USCF tournament in 2001 and played in his last tournament game about six years later in 2007. I recall reading a column by GM Andy Soltis in Chess Life in which he wrote that most chess players peak about six years after taking up the game. Xiao played in the 2007 US Junior Invitational in June, finishing in third place a half point behind Ray Robson and a full point behind the winner, Marc Arnold. He then entered the Under 2400 section held in conjunction with the World Open. He drew his first three games, then won his next two. Unfortunately, he then lost three in a row and withdrew before the last game. His losses were to Tegshsuren Enkhbat, who tied for first, Renard W Anderson, and Jim H Dean, all seasoned Masters.
Sometime later Xiao made a visit to the Atlanta Chess and Game Center, aka the House of Pain. Xiao Cheng had previously inflicted a great deal of the pain at the House! During conversation I asked him why he had stopped playing chess. He was honest and forthright when he told me he had given up the game because he had won in every section he had played until playing in that Under 2400 section at the World Open. The simple fact of the matter is that he had never experienced loss and he was not prepared for it when it came. If you take a look at the Rating History Graph for Xiao, you will see that his graph goes up, peaking at 2358, until his last tournament, when it heads downward.
I cannot help but wonder if the pressure placed on these children is too great at too young an age. They have not had to deal with the obstacles placed in their path and have not learned they must go over, under, around or through them. When they fall they do not get up. Is it really that big a deal to continually having ever younger Masters or Grandmasters? If you think about it, it is only a big deal if we consider it to be a big deal. It would be a much bigger deal if a player in his 50's earned the GM title!
Then again, the pain of losing can be too great even for seasoned veterans. Consider another former Georgia Champion, Stephen Muhammad, the former Stephen Booth.
Something similar happened to him around the same time Xiao experienced his crisis. He had won, or tied, for first in the Georgia State Championship in 1999, 2002, 2003, and 2007. He peaked at 2468 in late 2006. Stephen was middle-aged, finding success rather late for a chess player these days. He played in the 6th North American FIDE tournament in Oct/Nov of 2007, winning 4 games, but losing 5, something to which he was unacustomed. He then played in the Atlanta Open at the House of Pain, losing to FM 'Big Head' Todd Andrews in the last round and has not played in a USCF event since. I would really like to see the game that ended a career!
I asked a former Georgia Chess Champion, Bob Joiner, why he had stopped playing backgammon. "I was losing too much," was his honest answer. I played backgammon for one reason-money. I cannot help but think of a quote by Euwe I found on Tim Krabbe's wonderful website, Chess Curiosities ( )"Whoever sees no other aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one`s opponent will never become a good Chess player"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Credit For A Draw?

Checking out the new issue of the new Chess Life, I learned the pooh-bahs, in their wisdom, have come up with something called 'Victory Points'. These points seem to be based on Master Points from the game of Bridge in that, once earned, they cannot be taken away. But where have I encountered the word 'Victory'? Racking my brain, I came to realize it must be from World War II (no, I was not even born until after the war ended) and the Victory War Bonds.
It is written, "It will reward not only activity and success, but also aggressive play (no credit will be awarded for draws)."
Why will no credit be given for a draw? Draws are part of the game, are they not? Although I have only beaten a dozen Masters, being an underdog in each and every game, I have drawn with many times that number, including a draw in what is now considered to be a 'classical' time limit game with an IM! You mean to tell me that deserves "no credit"?!
There is no distinction made for a win with Black; one receives the same "credit" if one wins with White.
You can find the gory details at: That is, only if you are a member. Since I am NOT a member, I will await someone kind enough to send me the particulars after reading. Until then, I will be ROTFLOL!

Heartless Darth Cheney

The cover story in this week's LEO, a local tabloid, is the 7th annual not good for nothing Quiz. The very first question is: 1. What catastrophic event caused a massive oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico?
There are four choices with this being the first: A. Former Vice President Dick Cheney was shootin’ at a friend’s face and up from the gulf came a bubblin’ crude.

In an article, With New Heart Pump, Cheney Slowly Resumes Old Life,by HELENE COOPER, LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN and MICHAEL D. SHEAR published Jan 5th, they write that the heartless Darth Cheney is "...without a pulse..." It is verification for something suspected for some time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Fighting Kann/Nimzowitsch Variation

Nigel Short has been playing interesting chess of late. See this game:
Godena, Michele - Short, Nigel
53rd GM Reggio Emilia ITA (7), 2011.01.04
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nf6 5.Nxf6+ gxf6 6.c3 Qd5 7.Be3 h5 8.Qb3 Bh6 9.Nf3 Bxe3 10.fxe3 Qe4 11.Kd2 Nd7 12.Bc4 e6 13.Rhf1 h4 14.Rf2 b6 15.Raf1 Bb7 16.Qa3 c5 17.Bb5 Bc6 18.Qa4 Bxb5 19.Qxb5 O-O-O 20.Qd3 Qd5 21.c4 Qd6 22.Kc2 f5 23.Rd1 Nf6 24.Ng5 Qc7 25.d5 Rh5 26.Nf3 exd5 27.cxd5 Rxd5 28.Qa6+ Kb8 29.Rfd2 f4 30.exf4 Qxf4 31.Rxd5 Nxd5 32.Kb1 h3 33.Qe2 hxg2 34.Qxg2 Rf5 35.Ne1 Rg5 36.Qh3 Qe4+ 37.Qd3 Qxd3+ 38.Nxd3 Rh5 39.Rf1 c4 40.Nc1 Rxh2 41.Rxf7 c3 42.Nd3 cxb2 43.Nxb2 Nc3+ 44.Kc1 Nxa2+ 45.Kb1 Nc3+ 46.Kc1 Nd5 47.Nc4 Rh6 48.Kb2 Nc7 49.Kb3 Re6 50.Na3 a6 51.Nc2 Rd6 52.Nb4 b5 53.Na2 Kb7 54.Nc3 Kb6 55.Rh7 Ne6 56.Rh8 Nc5+ 57.Ka3 Rd3 58.Rh6+ Ka5 59.Kb2 b4 0-1

The move 6...Qd5 was first played over one hundred years ago by Aaron Nimzowitsch vs Paul Saladin Leonhardt at Karlsbad 1907. Should it be called the Nimzowitsch variation of the Fighting Kann? After 6 c3, I played Qd5 against none other than IM Boris Kogan! I played it against NM Brian McCarthy too. I'm honest enough to admit I lost both games. At least they were interesting! Godena varies with 7...h5. I found 2 games on that went:
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Nf6 5. Nxf6 gxf6 6. c3 Qd5 7. Be3 Bf5 8. Ne2 Nd7 9. Nf4 Qd6 then either 10 Bc4 in ½-½, Pap (2402) vs. Barnaure (2416); or 10 Bd3 in 0-1, Pavlovic (2570) vs. Efimov (2477).
Yasser even played it against Boris Spassky! Barcelona 1989

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.c3 dxe4 4.xe4 f6 5.xf6+ gxf6 6.c3 d5 7.e2 e5 8.e3 e6 9.c2 d7 10.a3 O-O-O 11.O-O-O b6 12.dxe5 xd1+ 13.xd1 xd1+ 14.xd1 fxe5 15.g3 f5 16.d3 e4 17.e2 c5 18.h5 1/2-1/2

The best game I ever played was against NM Mark Pinto at the US Open in Somerset, NJ, back in 1986. I played the Fightin' Kann and he played 6 c3, so I hit him with Qd5! Alas, I no longer have the game score, as it was lost to water damage...But somewhere out there, someone still has a copy of the bulletins from that USO! Honesty compels me to report that I lost the next game miserably. That's my chess career in a nutshell; a microcosm, as it were. Riding high in April; shot down in May...Playing like a GM in one game; a class 'Z' in the next...
So what did I learn by going to the NICbase? That Mr Pinto played 6...Qd5 himself on several occasions! That's right, imitation is the sincerest form...Unfortunately, Mark was not as fortunate as I, losing two games before drawing this one:
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.d2 dxe4 4.xe4 f6 5.xf6+ gxf6 6.c3 d5 7.f3 g4 8.e2 d7 9.h3 h5 10.c4 a5+ 11.d2 c7 12.c3 g8 13.g4 g6 14.d2 O-O-O 15.e3 e6 16.c5 g7 17.O-O-O ge8 18.h4 f5 19.f4 f6 20.f3 d5 21.xd5 exd5 22.f2 e4 23.g2 de8 24.he1 fxg4 25.hxg4 f5 26.xe4 xe4 27.g5 e7 28.d2 h5 29.e1 g4 30.e3 h6 31.xe4 xe4 32.e3 f3 33.gxh6 xh6 34.xf5 xf4+ 35.e3 h5 36.g1 g6 37.g4+ b8 38.e2 c2+ 39.e1 g3+ 40.f1 e4 41.g2 b1+ 42.e1 f5+ 43.f3 h3+ 44.g1 f5 45.g2 1/2-1/2 Gabor Pirisi-Mark Pinto, Budapest 1997

And then, a BLAST from the PAST! Although I had forgotten about this game, it came back to mind!
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.c3 dxe4 4.xe4 f6 5.xf6+ gxf6 6.c3 d5 7.e3 g8 8.e2 g4 9.d2 e6 10.f4 a5 11.d3 e5 12.e2 h5 13.O-O-O xa2 14.dxe5 d7 15.b1 a1 16.e6 xe6 17.c2 O-O-O 18.f4 h6 19.xe6 xe3+ 20.fxe3 fxe6 21.d4 a5 22.f1 g5 23.a2 xe3+ 24.b1 c5 25.b4 xd4 26.cxd4 d7 27.d5 exd5 28.xd5 g4 29.d1 xb4+ 30.a2 b6 31.b3 a5+ 32.b1 a3 0-1 Norman Rogers-Tim Brookshear, Nat-open 1991
The Legendary Georgia Ironman himself played it! Life ain't so bad!
If anyone out there in reader land happens to have a copy of the US Open bulletins from 1986, I would appreciate it if you would leave a copy of the best game I ever played in the comment section. Thank you very much!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shaking Hands With The KGB

One of the reasons I enjoyed the book The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown, by Boris Gulko, Yuri Felshtinsky, Vladimir Popov, and Viktor Kortschnoi so much is because names are NAMED! Upon reading, I learned that I had encountered two of the people named as working for the KGB. During the FIDE congress in Atlanta in 1980 there was a five minute tournament. I was paired with Viktor D. Baturinsky, one time vice president of the USSR Chess Federation and also a former director of Moscow's famous Central Chess Club. I have never been particularly good at 'speed' play. I believe that is because I came to chess rather late, as an adult. A fifteen minute game is 'speed' to me. I was blown off the board by Baturinsky, who, after I resigned, muttered something about "Weak Americans."

"What did you say!?" I said. I wanted to make sure I had heard the man right. This time he muttered something incomprehensible, which I took for Russian. "Tell me what you said, and SPEAK ENGLISH!" I demanded. He motioned to the chess pieces. The loser was supposed to replace the pieces for the start of the next game. I said, "You do it!" There was fire in my eyes. At this point the Commie KGB stooge became visibly agitated. One of the directors intervened, probably hoping to ward off an international incident! I refused to shake the man's hand.

In 1983 Thad Rogers, the driving force behind chess in Georgia, and much of the South, told the Legendary Georgia Ironman and me that, if one, or both of us made it out to the US Open on the left coast he would put us up in his room. I arrived in Pasadena, California a day late for the tournament because there was a terrible storm in Atlanta at the time my plane was supposed to leave and I decided that discretion being the better part of valor, I would take later plane and miss the first round. I would have played IM Igor Ivanov. Every time I would see Igor after that, he would grin and say, "Me lucky!"

Thad was, no doubt, shocked to see me. I did, though, obtain a room key. Upon entering the room, I saw luggage, and it did not look like anything Thad would own. I learned it belonged to none other than FIDE President Florencio Campomanes! .I was initially told that we were to share the room. Then, Campo greeted me by sticking out his hand, which I took. I have told many people over the years that his had was the most 'greasy' I have ever shaken. He gave me a smarmy grin as he informed me that it was now his room and that I would have to vacate the premises! Thad was to bunk with someone else, and I was on my own! Thank you very much and don't let the door hit you on the way out!

I once had a landlord, who was from the great state of Virginia, tell me that he had read that the NASCAR driver Jeff Burton was planning on going into politics when he stopped driving. He said he thought Jeff would make a "fine politician," asking if I agreed. "What makes you think Jeff would come out smelling like a rose after getting down into the slime pit with the rest of them?" I have shaken hands with many men in my life. I had the pleasure of shaking the hand of the President of the US, fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter. He has one of the firmest handshakes I've encountered, while looking you directly in the eye. Campo averted his shifty eyes. After shaking his hand, I went straight to the men's room and washed my hands. Campo is named in the book as working for the KGB, which explains a great deal, if you think about it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Lesser Evil

Many years ago I wrote an article about IM Boris Kogan for the Georgia Chess Magazine. I interviewed Boris, telling him I would let him read it before having it published. Boris had mentioned a certain Soviet GM who happened to be working for the KGB. I included that fact in the article. Upon learning of what I had written, Boris became very upset. I simply do not have words to describe how agitated Boris became. His fear was palpable as he said, "Mike, you not understand. KGB like octopus who reach every country. You cannot print this. KGB will kill relatives left behind!"
I thought of what Boris had said when reading about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. It was true; I did not understand. How could any American understand the situation under the KGB? As many crimes as the FBI or CIA have committed here in our country, they pale in comparison. The only organization analogous to the KGB would have to be the dreaded Nazi Gestapo!
Reading the new book, The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown, by Boris Gulko, Yuri Felshtinsky, Vladimir Popov, and Viktor Kortschnoi, brought back these memories. The battle for the leadership of the World Chess Federation, FIDE, happened to coincide with my reading of the book. I thought of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov the same way I thought about former POTUS George 'Dubya', that SOB! (That's Son Of Bush)Anyone would be better! GM Nigel Short,in New in Chess magazine, the best chess magazine in the world, in the article, (Not) Havana Good Time, writes, "...the alien-abducted Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who promised many millions (to rapturous applause), as he has so emptily done so many times before. Why anyone still believes anything this man says is one of life's great mysteries..." And that's the good part! Then again, he is a politician. Worse, he is a CHESS politician!
I liked Anatoly as a chess player. I met him in San Antonio during the Church's tournament in 1972. I did not, though, care for the fact that he was the golden boy of the Commie Party. GM Evgeny Bareev, in NIC'S CAFE of the 2010/6 issue of New in Chess magazine, the best chess magazine in the world, bar none, says about Karpov: "This man has never done anything for anybody in his life. And he will not do so in the future." Does that sound like the right guy to be heading up world chess?
After reading about Karpov in The KGB Plays Chess, I cannot help wonder if the lesser evil won the election. For example, on page 68 it is written: "But in early 1991, Bobkov had voluntarily resigned as first deputy head of the KGB and joined the scramble to appropriate the funds of the Communist Party, which, right before the collapse of the Soviet Union, were being channelled out of the country through various organizations, including the Soviet Peace Fund, whose head was the chess player, and former world champion, Anatoly Karpov." (!)