Monday, February 28, 2011

Thought for the Day

To see the unseeable, make the visible invisible. From the outstanding book: The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality - by Richard Panek.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Truer Words Have Never Been Spoken

“There will be some lunatic screaming at you on Sunday nights,” Selig told Torre at the news conference, “and that lunatic will be me.” From the article, Torre Selected by Selig as a Top Lieutenant by Tyler Kepner in today's NYTimes.
Now we know who Billy Joel was looking for when he wrote:
You may be right
Bud may be crazy
But it just might be a lunatic you're looking for...
Could it be Billy had the Bud & the Mets in mind way back when?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sportsmen Play Chess

I have always been amazed when reading about the many people in the public eye who play chess but choose to not belong to the main chess organization, USCF. It seems that not a week goes by when I do not read about another sportsman who plays the game. For example, I read that the Hall of Fame bowler, Walter Ray Williams plays chess. He was described in an article in the NYTimes:

“Walter is a cerebral kind of guy, so he does stay to himself more,” said the Hall of Famer John Petraglia, 63. “He’s not particularly funny or things like that, but he loves to play chess and he loves to analyze, and I think because of that he gets misunderstood sometimes as being aloof or standoffish. You just got to get to know him. He’s not really that way.”

When asked to describe himself, Williams mentioned his love for comedy. (“I think I have a pretty good sense of humor,” he said, “if you ask me about the right things, I guess.”) His favorite show is “The Big Bang Theory.” He tinkers with computers. He is partial to Pink Floyd. He is a 2-handicap golfer. His start in bowling really came from horseshoes, where he won six men’s world championships (from 1978 to 1994) and three junior world championships.

He sounds like the kind of guy who would like to play Senior chess after he retires from bowling. I have often wondered why, after the Bobby Fischer 'boom' the USCF was not able to build upon that increase and keep it going. There were over 70,000 adult members back in the 1970's. It would seem that, after 30 plus years, at least a zero would have been placed on that number. If that had been the case, the US Senior might have 490 players in lieu of the 49 it draws with regularity. If, that is, the USCF held a tournament in which players actually wanted to participate. One would think the USCF would be trying hard to recruit Seniors because they are retiring in large numbers (and, I might add, being laid off!), and therefore have the time to devote to chess. Seniors would also be great teachers for the youngsters, therefore bringing not only Seniors, but many more youngsters into the fold!

Just this morning I noticed an article on 'Kinsler reigns supreme on the chessboard' by T.R. Sullivan

Cliff Lee is gone. Ian Kinsler is now No. 1.

Or as Tommy Hunter calls him, "top chef."

This has nothing to do with the starting rotation. This is something far more important: chess.

Frank Francisco, the original Bobby Fischer of the Rangers, has been traded to the Blue Jays, but chess remains one of the more popular pastimes in the Surprise clubhouse.

"I can see that," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "They play every day. Every morning I come in here there are a couple of guys playing."

That includes Torrealba. The early scouting report says he could be a threat to Kinsler's throne.

"I can play a little bit," Torrealba said. "I'm not that great. My cousin and uncle were really good and they taught me. I can play a little bit."

Not that Kinsler is worried about Torrealba, or anybody else for that matter. He has already laid claim to the king of the Rangers chessboard, relegating all others to mere pawns.

"Yeah, by far," Kinsler said. "Cliff and Frankie are now obsolete. I have taken over."

Yeah, but by default?

"A little bit, which is fine by me," Kinsler said. "I have bragging rights."

He also has an X on his back from those out to topple the king.

"Some days I feel like it," Kinsler said. "But I don't think anybody can catch me, so the X is pretty small."

Torrealba is one threat. Matt Harrison and Craig Gentry are among the others who aspire to be Rangers grandmaster.

"Craig beat me the first game we played down here, but I've downed him four times since then," Kinsler said.

But who's keeping score? Harrison, by the way, has the age-old excuse used by chess players since the days of Paul Morphy, Emanuel Lasker and Jose Capablanca.

"I haven't played in awhile," Harrison said before sitting down to face Hunter on Friday morning.

"I need to get some games in and take Ian down," Harrison said.

Hunter, by his own admission, is no threat to anybody.

"I'm terrible, awful," said Hunter. "I just like to play. It's good mental exercise."

Hunter is a two-time judo champion, but apparently has never mastered those intricate chess openings like the Ruy Lopez or the Sicilian Defense. He has just one basic strategy.

"Get it out there," Hunter said. "Attack, attack, attack."

Harrison is the same way.

"My favorite move is the pawn in front of the king, and get the bishop and the queen out there in three moves," Harrison said.

Sounds like he's trying to snag somebody in the old "fool's mate" trap.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Teaching Chess is Subversive

Teaching a game like chess, or Go, is one of the best ways to teach children to think logically about problems. Thomas Jefferson maintained that in order to preserve liberty, it was essential that the citizens be educated. He wrote, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." On page 195, of The Trillion-Dollar Conspiracy: How the New World Order, Man-Made Diseases, and Zombie Banks Are Destroying America by Jim Marrs, in a chapter titled 'How to Create Zombies', he writes, "The current education system seems to have forgotten about developing students critical thinking. John Taylor Gatto, who taught school in New York City for more than two decades, summed up this fact of modern life in his 1992 book, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. After teaching for some years, Gatto grew to understand that the education system does not exist to increase students' knowledge and power, but to diminish it."
Neil Postman, along with Charles Weingartner, in their book, Teaching As a Subversive Activity, writes, "Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly they sit and listen to the teacher. Mostly, they are required to believe in authorities, or at least pretend to such belief when they take tests. Mostly they are required to 'remember'. They are almost never required to make observations, formulate definitions, or perform any intellectual operations that go beyond repeating what someone else says is true. They are rarely encouraged to ask substantial questions, although they are permitted to ask about administrative and techical details (How long should the paper be? Does spelling count? When is the assignment due?)." From Marrs, pg 205-6: (They) concluded that contempory curriculums are designed as a distraction to prevent students from knowing themselves and the world about them. And the dificiencies of a weakened education system are passed along to future teachers. "It starts almost immediately," noted the two authors, "because the (teachers) have been victims-in this case for almost 16 years-of the kind of schooling we have producing intellectual paraplegics. The college students (future teachers) we are now talking about are the ones who were most 'successful' in conventional school terms. That is, they are the ones who learned best what they were required to do: to sit quietly, to accept without question whatever nonsense was inflicted upon them, to ventriloquize on demand with a high degree of fidelity, to go down only on the down staircase, to speak only on signal from the teacher and so on. All during these 16 years, they learned not to think, not to ask questions, not to figure out for themselves. They learned to become totally dependent on teacher authority and they learned it with dedication."
A generation of Zombies has been taught to "accept without question." Contrast the investigative reporting of Woodward & Bernstein during the Presidential crisis known as 'Watergate' with the so-called 'reporters' such as Judith Miller of the venerable New York Times, who printed whatever lies presented her, without question, by the Bushwhacker administration. Day after day the Times was used as a shill by the Bushwhackers while it printed "All the news that's fit to print." Bogus 'evidence' of 'weapons of mass destruction' was printed constantly because the Bushwhackers said, "Trust me." This while the Bushwhacker in chief looked under his table for WMD he knew to be nonexistant, while smirking with a shit eating grin on his Alfred E. Newman (What, me worry?) face! Where were the reporters questioning authority?
That could be the reason so many parents are looking elsewhere to have their children taught how to think for themselves. For those who believe in a future for the human race, what could be better to help those who come after than teaching children to think for themselves by questioning everything? The Dalai Lama said, "Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality."
"...rugged individualism is an expression nobody hears much anymore, but folks used to hear with regularity. Rugged individualism encompassed a range of characteristics-independence, self-sufficiency, thinking for oneself. In the 1970's the axe was laid to all three. Negative terminologies like 'loner' and 'misfit' redefined the individualist. 'Independence' was scrapped for interdependency, self-sufficiency for redistribution, and 'thinking for oneself' was equated with intolerance. Today, any close reading of the newspaper reminds us daily that the 'loner' requires psychiatric intervention, and maybe drugs as well..."-Beverly Eakman, Walking Targets: How our Psychologized Classrooms are Producing a Nation of Sitting Ducks (
I thought of Bobby Fischer upon reading the following quote on Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett's excellent website
"The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don't know how to be submissive, and so on-because they're dysfunctional to the institutions."-Noam Chomsky
No matter where, or how much, we search, we will be unable to find another Bobby Fischer produced by our zombie producing teaching system. If another Bobby Fischer were to come along, we would never know it. The reason is stated very eloquently by Jim Marrs on page 148 when he writes, "In years past, if a child was acting up or caught staring out the window, he or she received a rap on the knuckles with a ruler and was told to stay with the rest of the class. Today, the child is sent to the school nurse, who often tells the parents the student has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and advises them to see a psychiatrist, who usually recommends the administration of Prozac (94 percent sodium flouride), Ritalin, or zoloft-psychotropic drugs that have been shown to produce psychosis in lab rats."
From my sixty year old perspective, if there is any hope for our society, it will come from those who teach youngsters to think critically through the teaching of games like chess, and Go. The reason is that a student, if told this is the best move, will often begin the process of thinking for himself by asking, "But what about THAT move, Coach?"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bobby Fischer on Book TV

Actually, it is Frank Brady on this weekend, talking about his book on Mr Fischer. He is scheduled for 2:45 pm Saturday & 8:15 pm Sunday, if, that is, he does not become stuck in an air conditioning duct.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Naked Chess

While at the World Open in the early 2oughts to help sell books & equipment, a friend asked me to go outside to the smoking area. I told him I did not smoke, but he insisted I go outside, not for a cigarette, but to listen to the cellphone conversations. Out I went to hear things like, "But what if he plays Bd5?", and, "You mean I can't play Bishop takes on f7? Shit!" Players would burst out the door with phone in hand, held next to an ear. Some would light-up; some not. There were so many doing it that no one tried to hide what they were doing.

It was then I began to tell chess people that the only way to stop cheating would be to have 'nekkid' chess tournaments. I was only half joking. There is no orafice large enough to accommadate hiding a cellphone. Then came bluetooth...Now there are Grandmaster rated free programs on the internet that can be held in your hand. I have written that all 'gizmos' should be eradicated from the playing hall if tournament chess is to survive. After listening to Michio Kaku, the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics in the City College of New York of City University of New York, and the co-founder of string field theory, on Coast to Coast AM a few nights ago, I realize that will not work. Not even 'nekkid' chess can stop the future. You see, in his new book, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100, Professor Kaku writes that in the near future the internet will be brougt to you on a contact lens! Talk about hiding in plain site...Tournament chess is doomed. DOOMED!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Where Have All the Chessplayers Gone?

Just returned from a Barnes & Noble where there were so many players for the Sunday afternoon 'board game' meeting not a seat was available in the coffee shop. I counted three dozen people and was informed there had been more! This is the very same B&N in which I held a chess tournament on Sunday afternoon upon first moving to Derby city. It died from lack of support. Another fellow was holding a tournament once a month at the same B&N, but, shortly after I announced the end of my tournament, he did the same. Chess people being what they are, I was, naturally, blamed for the demise of his tournament.

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

words and music by Pete Seeger

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Insecure Chess Set

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Put Your Thinking Cap On!

I am thinking about wearing one of these at the US Senior this year. Wonder if it's legal?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

US vs Canada

For a contrast of chess in the USA vs Canada, please see one Grandmaster's opinion @

Monday, February 7, 2011


I see on the website of the North Carolina Chess Association ( that, "Next year’s version will be the 25th consecutive LOTS. Early rumors are that tournament organizer W. Wadford is going to make it an extra special event."
I played in the first one, I believe, or was it the second? It was held at the opulent Grove Park Inn for the first two tournaments, or was it only the very first one? I have had some memorable experiences there, but cannot recall them all now. I believe I managed to win money once or twice. Several years ago the organizer, Wilder Wadford, invited me to come up and man the demo board, as the fellow who had the job for years was going on a cruise, booked by his wife. Needless to say, I had the time of my life! Thanks, Wilder, ol' friend! Organizers like Wilder deserve our thanks and should be commended.
But what I want to talk about is the outstanding performance of three players from Georgia, Kazim Gulamali, Damir Studen, and Richard Francisco. The first two faced each other in the second round and a draw was the outcome. I sure wish the crosstable showed who had which color. They each finished undefeated and tied for second place with a 4-1 score. Damir, the current Georgia champion, had a lofty performance rating of 2505, while Kazim's PR was 2435.
Richard finished in a tie for 6-8, with a score of 3 1/2-1 1/2, losing only to GM Sergey Kudrin in round three. His PR was a not too shabby 2377.
All three of these young men 'cut their teeth' at the House of Pain, aka, the Atlanta Chess & Game Center. I have fond memories of Saturday nights when Kazim's father, Mumtaz Yusef, would order Oriental food and have it delivered, while the 'Little Grandmaster', for that's what Kazim was called, would take on all comers, as would his dad. The House was ROCKIN'! I actually played the 'little GM' once while on duty. We played standing up while I manned the counter, and I am proud to report it ended in a draw!
Damir has been a fixture from the first time he walked into the House. He has, no doubt, played thousands of games at the ACC. I recall one week night we faced off in a quick game in which he played his beloved Scandinavian. We were, fortunately, playing with a clock allowing a three second delay, as I got down to only one second on the clock! I had to make many moves, which I was fortunate enough to do. Damir did not think an old(er) guy like me could do it, but I did, and he did not like it one bit! It was one of the most exciting games I have ever played. Damir is a worthy Champion. He has worked as hard, if not harder, than anyone I have ever known.
The personable Richard Francisco has played in too many tournaments at the House to count. These guys have become a FORCE in Southern chess and one of the reasons is that they had a place to PRACTICE. I recall the great baseball Hall of Famer, and war hero, Ted Williams saying, in answer to a question about how he became such a great hitter, "Don't discount PRACTICE!" The Southern chess impresario Thad Rogers deserves much credit for opening, and keeping open, the House of Pain! I recall that, after winning big bucks in an expert tournament held in conjunction with the World Open, the Nashville Strangler, now FM Jerry Wheeler, in an interview in Chess Life magazine made a point to thank Thad for holding all the tournaments through the years.
There is nothing better for the development of young talent than a full time chess club. For example, contrast the city of St Louis, with their new, state of the art chess club, and a city a few hundred miles to the east, Louisville. I am told the latter had a full time chess club at one time, but there was not enough support and it folded. The 'official' Louisville chess club now meets on a week night at a run down fast food place with a sign out front proudly proclaiming, BURRITOS AS BIG AS YOUR HEAD! A decade from now which city do you think will have produced the 'young guns' shooting up the weekend swiss tournaments like the Land of the Sky?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Real Ronald Reagan

I received an email from the irrepressible John Linton directing me to an essay by Christopher Hitchens by writing, "Hitchens on Reagan is a joy to read." You can find it @
It being one hundred years since Ronnie RayGunZap, as we called him back in the 60's & 70's, was born, there is a plethora of all things RayGun in the so-called 'lamestream media'.
When I think of Reagan, which is hardly ever, come to think of it, the first thing that comes to mind is his infamous quote, "Trees cause polution." He said it seriously and with a straight face. The next thing is the comment his 'handlers' attributed to him, while in hospital after being shot, near death and awaiting an operation. He alledgedly looked up at the doctor saying, "I hope you're a Republican." Thing is, Reagan had what is known as a 'sucking chest wound'. No one, not even the Gipper, can speak with a wound of that type.
I was at a coffee shop recently where I heard a vehement argument. One older gentleman said that Reagan should be placed on Mount Rushmore; the other maintained it was a travesty he was not already "up there." A younger fellow, overhearing the conversation chimed in with, "To hear you gentlemen talk, you would think Reagan's shit didn't stink."
"What the hell you mean, young fella, Reagan did NOT shit!" said one of the old gents.
Ronald Reagan was a 'rat', as it was known back in his day. Or, should I say, a 'rat-fink'. Now he would be called a 'snitch'. According to the article, Remembering the Reagan We May Never Know, by ALESSANDRA STANLEY,in the NYTimes 2/4/11, about The History channel’s biography “Reagan,” on Tuesday, "The film notes that while Reagan declined to name names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in public when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild, he did privately cooperate with F.B.I. investigators under the code name Informant T-10."
Something the folks at Fox News will not tell you is that RR started out as a left winger. Because of that he was not trusted by true right-wingers, like J Edgar Hoover, the cross-dressing head of the FBI, who kept his position for decades because he had the dirt on everyone. In chess there is a saying, "The threat is stronger than it's execution." Hoover did not have to blackmail anyone because the threat would suffice. To become POTUS, Reagan would have to 'prove' he was 'worthy'. What better way than to turn in people with whom you worked?
In the article, Secret FBI files reveal covert activities at UC
Bureau's campus operations involved Reagan, CIA, at the website,, it is written, "And after he was elected (governor of California), the FBI failed to report that Reagan falsely stated on a federal security clearance form that he never had been a member of any group officially deemed subversive, an omission that could have been prosecuted as a felony." Guess he got on Hoover's good side...
No one gets to the top of the ladder without climbing over others, but with RR, he not only climbed over the University of California President, Clark Kerr, but put on spikes, grinding them into Mr Kerr's back, ripping him to shreads, and causing blood to gush forth!
I quote from the article: "According to thousands of pages of FBI records obtained by The Chronicle after a 17-year legal fight, the FBI unlawfully schemed with the head of the CIA to harass students, faculty and members of the Board of Regents, and mounted a concerted campaign to destroy the career of UC President Clark Kerr, which included sending the White House derogatory allegations about him that the bureau knew were false.

The FBI, in contrast, developed a "close and cordial" relationship with Reagan, who made campus unrest a major issue and vowed to fire Kerr during his 1966 gubernatorial campaign."

Reagan is probably known most for his so-called 'Trickle-down economic' theory. His VP, George H W Bush called it "voodoo economics" when he ran against RR for the Republican nomination, and that ought to tell you something. From Ms Stanley's article: "Many of the biographers, journalists and policy experts who appear in the film are critical of Reagan’s social policies. But one of the most damning testimonials comes from a fan, the economist Arthur Laffer, ardent proponent of supply-side economics and father of the Laffer Curve.

“Trickle-down economics is if you feed the horse enough oats, the sparrow will survive on the highway,” he explains cheerfully."
Now that's Lafferable! A real knee-slapper, ain't it? That's how the 'elite' feel about the hoi polloi!

At least the French people got to eat cake! "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche."

Frank Brady is an Idiot

I purchased the new book by Frank Brady, Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness, a few days ago, intending on reading it immediately. Unfortunately, I noticed a link on the USCF website, Dr. Frank Brady on Bobby Fischer, and clicked on it to find a page by Crown Publishing Group with sound clips of Dr Brady talking about Bobby, and have not been able to begin the book because every time I try, I think of what I heard on clip #2. I simply could not believe my ears when I heard Brady admit that, while in Reykjavik for the world championship match in 1972, in order to see Bobby play game three, the game moved into a small room at Bobby's request for PRIVACY, he crawled through an air conditioning duct to spy on Bobby!
The first thought that came to my mind was, "What an idiot!" Not because he did something so stupid, but because he has told the world about the stupid thing he did so long ago. Brady says he is a large man. What if the duct had given way under his weight and come crashing down? Bobby would, most probably, have been so spooked that he would have left immediately, and all we would have from the match would be the lost first game, and a truncated third game. Hell, a good FART from the Doctor could have done it! What the hell was the man thinking? It was people who would do idiotic things such as this that made Bobby paranoid.
You can listen to the man admit what a fool he was for yourself @

Friday, February 4, 2011

John & Miami

It is my pleasure to present for your enjoyment an email conversation between my friends John Linton and the President of the Kentucky Chess Association, Miami Fugate. Mr Linton started the conversation with his email, published in my last post, Speed Chess: A Fatwah on My Brain.

Well written my good sir. As you have placed such fine thoughts for the public to digest and enrich, please allow me to offer something of a... discussion of your musings. I am tempted to swim along with your words, as they are convincing and captivating to a purist such as myself. I must find the strength to pry away from my idealism and expose these notions to the world in a light that cast no shadow over them.

I will compare your ideas to Marx, surely the first time such a parallel has been made, as his writings spin such an idealistic maelstrom that it engulfed the minds of whole countries. It is only the implementation of such ideas that allow most to see the folly within the excitement. I will ask of you this, do you fear death?

It is an inevitable truth that there is a clock on us all. Your writings strike at this notion as an atheist with cancer. It would seem that you wish to remove it and stare forever into the creative abyss of the board. While we may delay the outcome, the board is limited with a limited number of moves. The game will end, logic tells us this. You seem content to turn Bodhisattva and eat the very concept of time (as do all who use time delay).

It is not the speed at which we perform that determines the artistry of the game. Is not the measured soul of a man confined to his time here? Can there be no beauty in depravity or Clementi? Must a man know the present to achieve and create while in it? I submit to you, Mr Linton, that many a musician or artist created and passed without knowing their greatness. I submit to you, Mr Linton, that a man may put more of his heart into a speed game than into a 6 hour game. It is not everyone that finds "panic-stricken spastic" ejaculations in their speed chess. It is the endless notion of perfection that devours the soul of both the game and the heart of man. If we were to compare this to other arts, I would say your argument compares to someone stating that Leonardo should have taken a picture of that Lisa woman because it would have been more perfect than his stupid spastic ejaculation of paint into an image you can really only make out if you aren't too close or too far away. Perhaps we are too hasty to even play the games at all Mr Linton? Perhaps we should plug in the finest computers and let them calculate until they solve it.

Mr Linton, I should like very much to remove the safety net of the delay clock. A man must be accountable for his actions, including forgetting his mortality, and allowing the time to slip through his fingers as do the memories of wasted youth. To place the limit of time true to the circumstance of life. A master chef may produce the finest meal created in 4 hours, but most diners need to have their food within an hour. Is this chef no less a master in 30 minutes? Even if we cannot touch our greatest games in such limited time, is their not still beauty?

I invite you good sir, to sit with me and drink merrily from a fine bottle of merlot. We shall play ruinous moves the scourge of all studied players (it matters not how much time we put on the clock). We can turn off the delay and drop the time to 5 minutes each. I should like very much to listen to Clementi... sonata in g minor. Perhaps even an assassination could occur... new world war? Or another possibility. If we develop sudden unemployment and loss of our loved ones, we could find a place to play a game with no time control. Perhaps several adjournments would be in order. On day 5 I would hang my rook followed by myself for having spent that much time only to do what I could have done in 7 minutes. At least we wouldn't have thusly whittled away our minds...


One must always pause in deferential wonder when the President of Kentucky Chess speaks. As I've said many times before, President Fugatte remains the only president of Kentucky Chess for whom I would give my life.

To limit the discussion (for clarity's sake) to 5-minute speed chess without a delay, several points become clear:

1. Standard drawing techniques in the endgame will not be permitted, save by mechanically outlasting one's opponent in clock-swatting speed. Hence the game tree is essentially warped away from a huge subset of possible play.
2. Whereas chess is normally a game of addition, whereby players expand into complexity at the outset of every game, 5-minute speed without a delay starts immediately with a fixation on avoiding error, and aims at a minimalist survival and not anything besides a minimal creativity. Most lines of thought are drastically linear and short, despite boasts to the contrary.
3. President Fugatte talks of courage. Imagine then, for a moment, a clock time of 20 seconds per game with no delay: One can immediately see the looming absurdity in equating courage for all time controls. The game itself breaks down and little virtue can be posited in such a context. It would be analogous to asking a man to fight a prize fight, and declaring victory on the first hit sustained by either side.

Of course these are subjective judgments and there will always be devotees of five-minute chess, or even bullet chess. And I suppose there is a virility of a sort in attempting to beat the clock, or drub the other man.

But let's recall one salient point, gentlemen: The reason chess is famous for winning women, and for expressing that deepest aspect of manly courage -- whereas checkers is manifestly not -- is because the size of the game tree for checkers is the square root of the size of the game tree for chess.

What is eminently (nay, painfully) clear is that when clock time is so narrowed that chess's game tree effectively becomes a square root of its former glory, then we have emasculated chess's inner beauty.

Most people would equate the Mona Lisa precisely with slow-stroke dedication, and not something tossed off like a Clementi sonata. In fact, the work confounds the world because a singular consciousness made this painting a fulcrum of its inner brilliance, over a period of much time. It is meditative, timeless, deep, profound. Just like Fischer's game with Byrne.

Would one play a Mozart symphony in five minutes? I should pray not.

You ask, "Can there be no beauty in depravity or Clementi?" -- and I would agree with you that there can be depravity in Clementi. There can also be beauty in depravity. But to ask a strong man to catch a piano, and then to see him fail -- this is not a manly test.

With respect for My President,

John L.

Thank you for the kind words, Senator Linton. I must note that Clementi could not say the same to you. I accept the premise of limiting the discussion, but your points seem as disjointed as a UN peace banquet.

1. You have stated no rationale how standard endgame technique is disallowed. 5 min chess allows for a variety of endgames and variants (excepting when you arrive there with less than 30 seconds on your clock).
2. The premise that speed chess is simply avoiding error is flatly wrong. It may be for you on a personal level, but for myself and many others, there exist a tremendous amount of creative play. Minimalist survival is never on the agenda. I have never hid in the corner hoping not to hang a piece. The lines are sometimes more forcing, but with any luck, hold all of the beauty of a standard game.
3. This one confuses me most. At no point in my reply did I mention courage. Courage is not relevant to this topic, so I cannot see why you would paint it to me. I will not envision a 20 second game with no delay, nor will I argue your valid and truthful comments on the nature of "bullet" chess. Chess need to have enough time for players to spawn ideas and to physically manipulate the pieces. 1 minute allows for neither.

I have no experience with women in chess. I have dated several women over the years and none have attempted to learn even up to my modest level of ability. Some have outright turned away from the game in disgust (not a keeper). If the notion that the tree of speed chess is trimmed in comparison to the tree of standard or delay chess (and I do not concede this argument), I ask this. Can not the trimmed bush be more beautiful than the wild one?

I feel that you have missed the point with the Mona Lisa reference. I agree that there is a precision and amount of time gone into the artwork, as I believe there is in the faster chess game. Ask this Senator Linton, how much time went into the perfecting of the machines that through Asia, to a distributor, to a retail store, to your living room, and back to the photo lab (or computer these days)? The size and scope of the magic of a perfect image produced instantly is jaw dropping and taken for granted by most today. In Leonardo's time it would not have been. Face it, Leo was good, but his "tree" was much smaller than Kodak. The things that can be done that he cannot do is tremendous. Ask yourself, which is greater in artistic value?

I believe I heard Glenn Gould play 2 Mozart symphonies in 7 minutes 43 seconds. It just saved me the trouble of having to listen to Mozart's soulless music for any great length of time.

If you believe the game of chess to be depraved if constraints of time are placed upon the game which impede the full consciousness of the players, I can respect that from a purist standpoint. You do agree though that there can be beauty in depravity (though not Clementi), therefore do not dismiss the beauty in the "depraved" game of speed chess simply because you cannot understand it. This is a mistake that many a religious group and empire have made throughout time, and we are left with but a broken history of mankind for it.

With eager respect,

Miami Fugatte
Kentucky Chess Association
President Fugatte,
I am duly mortified and edified, as were the early Christians.

I think perhaps you and I are not so far apart on this; individuals vary greatly in how they experience the flow of time. Just as you would admit that bullet chess is overly astringent for you, so too may five minutes be overly astringent for me.

One final way to put my point is that it is not hard to envisage endgames that are won in the mind, but which are lost physically because a person cannot execute a sequence of ten moves in time. To have achieved the feat of seeing a winning line ten moves in advance is no mean feat, yet not to be allowed to execute this sequence -- it's all a bit much for me, you see. Certainly you would hold that this is because there was inadequate budgeting of time to begin with, and there is a pedigree to your rectitude. Yet I would hold that cramming an opening, middle game, endgame, and physical hand movements into five minutes requires a Houdini-like pliancy -- which you may have sir, and I may not. (Nor do I mean to insinuate a moral pliancy: quite the contrary.)

I was touched by your comments on Mozart and perhaps was overly hard on Muzio. You must understand that as a piano teacher it's more natural to revile certain composers.

Sometime soon let us meet in a large chess party at my house, along with Brothers Amback, Burns, Pollitt, and Friar Edwards. Let us all drink much red wine, and let us play a time control somewhere between G5 and G5000, and let us listen to the neglected classical masters.

Yours in chess,

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Speed Chess: A Fatwah on My Brain

One of the best things about being a player of the Royal Game is the people I have been fortunate enough to meet these past four decades. In some respects it is like the gift that keeps on giving. I received a most interesting email from one of those chess playing friends today. I asked if I could post it on the BaconLOG and he responded: "Thank you Michael. You are free to reproduce my article."
Without further adieu, from the fertile mind of John V. Linton:

Speed Chess: A Fatwah on My Brain
John Linton

Tonight as I sit here at Highland Coffee and the music spirals outward in New Age wisps of touching incompetence, the attractive young lady now having left, my mind suddenly contracts upon the deleterious impact of speed chess.

It occurs to me that in speed chess we are seeing a sublimation of the chess impulse, a canalization of that greatest of all human appetites, into a caricature that simulates the real thing only insofar as pornography approximates that celestial intercourse between man and woman in most wedded bliss.

If in true chess the mind expands down endless digression trees like a London taxi driver searching for a lost love, in speed chess the mind constantly prunes fresh roses from the vine, practicing triage like a mother asked to choose between the lives of her children. So many good things are thrown away at one time for such small cause, it is as if an elephant had just been perforated to garnish ivory for a Steinway -- to stock a country music piano bar.

There is an assiduous haste, a creeping insurrection into the innermost vessels of the brain, a tendency towards wholesale amputation and mutilation of the game. The clock becomes the pivot of a black hole which sucks the soul of both men from each side of the board, into a maelstrom of blind fury and a pit of fire beyond the confines of Dante. And if no delay is endeavored, the foreshortening of time becomes so great that one knows the future before the past, and the present not at all.

Now granted, some of my best friends are speed chess devotees. And granted further, my results of late have been less than eschatological. (In fact, more scatological.) Hence a red herring must be deposed before it is nailed upon my door. My response: May not a man on death row present sound arguments against the death penalty, or a politician with a vested interest advance a worthy cause? Must all approaches to truth find only tribunes in bleached vessels of immaculate, sinless humanity?

I note within myself of late a tired and fetid Pavlovian response to the push of the pieces: a muddle of mind that most recalls being asked to do a crossword after having been subjected to the waterboard. Again I profess that I do verily love my chess brothers, and yet I find my mind unraveling as if forced to listen to Clementi sonatas played over and over on period instruments, with all the repeats thrown in for good measure. (Worse: played well.)

A mathematical question obtains: If bullet chess (that gravest of perversions of the game upon this earth) clocks in at an obscene one minute per side per game, with no attendant delay, then what is the precise wave function, or curve, or recursion tree, of the optimal chess match time?

I myself would not dare to adduce such an answer.

But let me be circumspect: I would gander that somewhere between two hours and twenty hours is most humane, most dignified, most respectful of the metaphysical grandeur of the game.

Certainly it might be remarked with a derisive smirk that, Mr. Linton, we shall all be dead one day, and many of us do not have the time to indulge in the onanistic vicissitudes of postal chess. To which it can only be replied, in a vein similar to that of St. Anselm, that either the entire universe consists of but a single magnitude, or else the entire universe admits quantum gradations that give rise to various energy and mass densities.

I think, my friends, that the answer must lie with the latter. In other words, our chess destiny lies in the stars, and not, not, not I fear, in the panic-stricken spastic ejaculatory moves of the speed chess player, who consults not even his own heart. Man is a mere machine in such a game, with a molten orb where once stood a soul, and a disposition so quick, so primed, so ever-alert, so hyper-vigilant -- that it cannot rise to the level of human consciousness. One thinks of the meth addicts of Eastern Kentucky. Shall we thusly whittle away our minds?

And let us finally not tonight forget the violence that has happened over the centuries that derived from over-hasty moves. There is now a strong case, if one consults the History Channel, that it was not the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that precipitated the first world war, but rather a speed chess game gone awry.

But no doubt this is still an open question, subject to theological vagaries that have not troubled my mind tonight.

Oh, there's that woman...