Thursday, March 31, 2011

We're Talkin' Baseball!

Ah, opening day in MLB! That usually means spring has sprung, but not this year. It is still winter where I live, and where most games will be played today. Opening day used to be sometime in the middle of April, but the MLB pooh-bahs, in their wisdom, moved it to the end of March. It would seem they would hold opening day in places like Florida and California where it is still warm. Playing in cold conditions after being in warm, sunny Florida and the desert of Arizona cannot be good for the players. I'm willing to wager there are many more injuries playing in the cold weather in lieu of warmer temps. I bet the sabermatricians have studied the issue; they have studied everything else! Don't get me wrong; I love the stat-heads, having read everything Bill James, the guru of stats, has written. This morning with my coffee I read an article in the NY Times by Seth Schiesel, A Game for Opening Day, With Stat Lovers in Mind, ( begins, "Pro football may be the nation’s top spectator sport, but serious baseball nerds are the most frightening fans in the country" and I thought he was talking about me! He continues with, "The guy I find terrifying is that geeky-looking dude in the stands — or, even scarier, on his couch at home — who keeps a scorecard to tally every play. Home runs, strikes and runs batted in aren’t enough for him. Oh no. This guy wants to talk about WHIP, O.P.S., WARP, DIPS, LIPS and VORP. I’m not joking; those are all actual baseball statistics for the committed (if you know what I mean)." Of course they are, and I can give you a soliloquy on each one to prove it! I am reminded of an email I received from the Discman in reply to my email lamenting the fact that I was not in Atlanta for the SABR40 meeting last summer. He wrote, "I have to say they were the biggest bunch of geeks I’ve ever been around – even worse than a bunch of chess players…" Now that's saying something!

Separated at Birth

The picture of Jeff Sonas on the Chessbase website ( looks a lot like the actor John Goodman.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Death of Chess

Computers have killed the Royal game. There is an article on Chessbase today ( titled: Cheating in chess: the problem won't go away.

The article is by Frederic Friedel, and there is a PDF of full anti-cheating proposal to FIDE I urge you to read. In the introduction, Frederic writes, "The danger is two-fold: 1) As new cases of cheating become public, players will start to believe that "everybody is doing it, so why shouldn't I." 2) The chess public will become sensitive to the subject and cease to believe any brilliant game, saying, "Okay, how did they get the moves from the computer?"

Number one reminds me of the steroid scandel in Major League Baseball. Although some (most?) players used something to enhance their prowess, some did not. I refer you to the book The Game from Where I Stand: A Ballplayer's Inside View by Doug Glanville for the opinion of one player with integrity who did not use drugs, to his own detriment.

As for number two...I hate to be the one to break it to Mr Friedel, but we are already there! I am a fan of the Royal game and have been for over four decades. The sad fact is that, from reading chess magazines, including his own Chessbase, it seems that computer programs are responsible for most, if not all, theoretical novelities in the opening phase of the game. It has become commonplace for the top level GM's to write something like, "I had this position on my COMPUTER (not BOARD) in my room before the round."

Frederic's proposed solution is,

The anti-cheating mechanism I am proposing requires that the moves of a game do not leave the playing hall for a certain period of time, typically for 15 minutes after they have been played.

I recall reading somewhere about something Bobby Fischer said concerning the fact that every game has a 'critical' point. Mr Freidel writes, "Strong players do not need a continuous stream of moves, just computer assistance in key positions in order to win a game and an event." His own words would seem to refute his proposed time delay! Provided the player has time to wait for computer assistance it would seem to matter little how long he would have to wait for the much needed help. For a time delay to work, it is rather obvious it would need to be much longer; like after the game has finished!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Did Bobby Really Say That?

John Dorfman in an article titled, Four Stocks to Hold During Treacherous Times, ( posted this on Bloomberg today: "As chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer once said, nobody ever won a chess game by resigning."

Did Bobby ever say it? If not, to whom can it be attributed?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Flip a Coin

There I was all settled in at a Books-A-Million, with a cuppa java and the new New in Chess magazine, the best chess magazine in the world today; or yesterday; or tomorrow, come to think of it. As happens sometimes, a younger fellow came up and said, "Excuse me, sir, but I could not help but notice your mini-chessboard." I will admit to being just a little peturbed, but quickly got my 'mind right' and tried my dead level best to give the man a smile. "Begging your pardon, sir (I hear that word much more often now that I am a Senior), but I would like to ask your opinion." He asked me if I would mind walking over to the games section and helping him choose a chess book. Once we got to the section I noticed there were only three, count 'em, 3, chess books in what looked to be the poker section. The three titles were: Chess For Dummies by James Eade; Chess for Idiot's, by who knows; and the Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom, by Eric Schiller. The gentleman asked me which one was the best book. "Flip a coin," I said. "But there are three books," he protested. "Doesn't matter," I said. "Well, can you at least help me to narrow it down to two books by eliminating the worse one?" he asked. "OK mister," I said. "I can quarantee you that if you purchase the Encyclopedia of Chess Wisdom you will become the same way you would become wiser if you wiped your ass with sandpaper in lieu of toilet paper. Then the only question you would have to answer is, 'Am I a dummy, or an idiot? Which one is it going to be?"

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tennessee Senior

Earlier this week I received the following email:
Hi Mike,
Have you seen the tournament announcement for the Tennessee Senior? It's not your ideal format, but it's a lot closer to it than most Senior's. First, it's one section. Second, even though it uses the typical 5 rounds, if you play the 3 day schedule you get fairly decent rest. Round 1 is at 4:00 Friday, On Sat the rounds are at 10 and 4. With a G/2 time control you get close to two hours between rounds even if your game goes the limit. I don't care much for the 9-2 schedule on Sunday with only 1 hr between rounds, but at least you didn't have to stay up until midnight the night before.

What's odd is that if you play the two day schedule you play at 10-1-4 on Saturday, which means the first two rounds are both separate from the 3 day schedule. I've never seen that. If there is much of a difference in strength between the two "sections", results could be a bit distorted.

Overall, it's relatively playable and right now the weekend looks convenient, so there is a fairly decent chance I'll play.

I sent this to Harry Sabine, the organizer of the tournament, via email, and added, "I, too, have never seen it, Harry. Seems kinda strange to me."


To which I received this reply: Mike

The first 2 rounds are G/60 if you play the 2-day schedule. The 3-day schedule has all rounds at G/120.


I then sent this reply to Harry:
I checked and the tournament announcement on the USCF website does not say anything about the first 2 rounds being truncated, Harry:

I don't like it, Harry. I don't understand why you don't just have a four round tournament. I mean, that way most players will have equal colors, at least theoretically. With five rounds, it's for damn sure the colors with not be equal! The PGA Seniors only play 3 rounds; not 4 like the younger players. G/60 compared to G/120 is only half a game! Yet it counts just as much as the longer game! This split thing may work with a large turnout, but not with the numbers you've drawn the past two years. And, as has been pointed out, you will have problems with the two separate sections.
I recall Capt Kirk saying, in my favorite Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, that he felt, "Old and worn out." Then, after doing battle with Khan, he said something like he now felt younger and ready for action. I've been looking forward to playing in your event, especially since the US Senior is a bad joke. I need to battle, 'cause I've been feeling old & worn-out since turning 60. But I don't like this format one bit, Harry. To tell you the truth, it's screwy! Hell man, for some players 40% of the games will only be one hour games! Why the hell not make the whole damn tournament quick chess?

I've heard nothing further from Harry Sabine...
I played in the first Tn Senior Harry held two years ago, which I wrote about on the BaconLOG, June 1, 2009. (
Personal issues precluded me from attending last year. I was, therefore, looking forward to playing this year. It would give me a reason to join USCF once again, for the fact of the matter is that the only reason to belong to the organization is to be able to participate in OTB tournaments.
Having played at the site previously, I can forsee a major problem on Saturday. The players in the two day schedule, playing truncated games, will play their first game at the same time those playing the three day schedule play their second game, ten am Sat morning. But, since it is only a 60 minute game, sometime between 11:30 & noon, the time scramble will ensue. It can only be disruptive for those playing a G/2. Something similar occured at the Continental Open in Sturbridge, Ma in 2002. It, too, was held in one room. While the main tournament was taking place, players were coming in for the faster time limit games. They were also using the official chess clock 'approved' by the USCF at that time, a cheap, plastic thing, with round black knobs that made a very loud "THWACK!" sound each time a player hit the damn thing. With so many games, it sounded like rapid machine gun fire! Grandmasters were getting in Bill Goichberg's face, complaining about the cacophony of noise!
If that's not bad enough, the quick players will come back into the playing hall at one pm to begin their second games, once again causing a disruption to the three day players. This does not appeal to me, for some reason...
I cannot understand why Harry would do such a thing. I realize the turnout was down last year, and he could think this may be a way to improve on the number of players. If that is the case, he is, unfortunately, mistaken. Last yeat a Senior tournament was held in Ohio. It was what could be called the 'traditional' type of 5 round swiss, with three games on Sat & two Sunday. Only a bakers dozen turned. That's right, only 13 came to play! I did not even consider it, even though it is in close enough range for me to have played. Hundreds of others must have felt the same way. If anything, having a tournament with three games aone day for Seniors will depress the turnout! What the hell was Harry thinking?
Sometine last year, IM John Donaldson sent me an email in which he wrote that I needed to save up my money in order to play in the World Senior. I found it very sad, indeed, that someone like John would write something like that because he is as aware as am I that the USCF will never put on a decent event in a nice location for Seniors, at least not in my lifetime. I flashed on an article in the NY Times magazine I had recently read about an American, Lori Berenson, incarcerated in Peru. "Berenson joined other prisoners to protest these conditions with hunger strikes, but now she underplayed the hardships and spoke warmly of the community: singing together; calling out chess moves in virtual games; the euphoria of someone’s being released." ( out chess moves to my fellow inmates does not appeal to me, for some reason. I think I better stay right here in the land of the free, and home of the Braves, because the season is about to begin!
If some players are going to play with a time limit of half that of the other players, like what will happen in Tennessee this year, then they should only receive half the score as the 'real' players! For example, the two day players would only receive 1/2 point for a win, and only 1/4 pt for a draw! Hey, if I play a G/2 and they play a G/1, why should they receive the same point(s) as me? I'm willing to wager that would put an end to tournaments that combine quick chess with 'classical' chess!

Monday, March 21, 2011

New in Chess Just Got Better

I usually do not read a review until after I have seen the movie on which the review was based; the same applies to a book, or in this case, a magazine. Since the new issue of New in Chess, the first of 2011, was tardy in arriving, so much so that I sent an inquiry to the good folks at NIC, I decided to read what Tim Harding had to say about the issue to come on the Chess Cafe website, ( The title of his piece is: New In Chess Just Got Newer.
Mr Harding begins with a history of NIC which, although I have been around since what he calls the "slim free number, issue zero...", I found interesting. He then gives a rundown on everything included in the magazine until we get to: "... Jeroen Bosch examines the North Sea Defence (1 e4 g6 2 d4 Nf6 3 e5 Nh5) which, as I showed in a recent article, cost Magnus Carlsen a point against Michael Adams at the last Olympiad. According to Bosch, Black had a good position until he became over-ambitious at moves seventeen and eighteen. My reservation is that Bosch does not mention any of the high-level correspondence games that have been played in this defence." I am old enough to know that Mr Harding is an old correspondence player from way back. It is obvious that he looks at the game from that perspective, so I will not hold it against him. Computers have dealt a death blow to correspondence chess; Mr Harding, and others, have yet to realize that fact, probably because they are still in a state of shock.
He gives two games from the magazine and then gives us this paragraph:
"I am not completely enamoured of everything New In Chess does. It virtually ignores correspondence chess, which still has many adherents, and rarely has historical articles. The "Just Checking" mini-interviews to which two pages in each issue is devoted, is, to my mind, just trivia, obviously a questionnaire which the grandmaster subjects can fill in during five idle minutes waiting to board in some airport lounge. Maybe this is just a generational thing? However, the new layout means that it is an even greater waste of space than before, space filled with fairly meaningless graphics."

Huh? "...rarely has historical articles." Has this man been reading the same magazine I have been reading for decades? What does it say about the man when he says "Just Checking" ", to my mind, just trivia." Are you kidding me? 'Just Checking' is the first thing I read! I became a fan of Peter Svidler upon reading that Bob Dylan is one of his musical favorites! When a GM answers one of these questions, he divulges something about himself. We know him a liitle better because of his answer. I turned to 'Just Checking' upon opening the New Improved Chess to find the subject was former World Champion Garry Kasparov. I was astounded to learn that we agree on two of the three movies he chose. I would trade Cool Hand Luke, my all-time favorite, for his Godfather. His choice for the best or most interesting book ever read is quite interesting. I was at the apartment of Dubious Dave Kraft one time when I saw a copy of The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, and asked if I could borrow it. The Dube told me I could take it as it had been left by someone sometime ago. I read the book and have impressed many Russians with the fact that I not only knew of the book, but also read it! You would have to read it to understand why it is so esteemed by the Russian people. I learned that two of the three books he mentions as having a profound influence on him are by David Bronstein! The third is Bobby's 60 Memorable games.

Then he gives us this paragraph:

"Its policy on book reviews is idiosyncratic to say the least. Most books are ignored and no publisher can count on a mention of a new book however worthy. Instead New In Chess has lengthy book articles by semi-retired grandmasters (nowadays Jonathan Rowson) who tend to write at length on whatever they fancy. The most recent article is a good example. Rowson writes three pages on a book, Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard by Robert Desjarlais, that was not yet in print at the time. It is extremely doubtful that this advance publicity was of as much help to the author or publisher in selling the book, interesting though it sounds, as a review of the book would have been in a future issue. For the potential reader it is very frustrating to be advised to wait for a book when they would rather be given advice on picking between books that are actually newly available."

What?! GM Rowson is GREAT! When he has an article it is the second thing to which I turn! The most amazing thing is that reviewers like GM's Rowson, and Sadler are allowed to "write at length on whatever they fancy." Could it be that Mr Harding would prefer the usual, standard, bland book review, the kind he has written for far too long? Then he criticizes the fact that the book the Grandmaster has chosen to review is "...not yet in print at the time." I thought that was the point of having a book reviewed. By the time NIC arrived, the book was available and, after reading GM Rowson's review, I ordered it immediately!

Then Mr Harding says:

"However, subscribers got a big surprise recently when the first issue of 2011 dropped through the letterbox. The number of pages was about the same, but the page format was changed to a larger size, and not to the familiar European A4 format either. Also the paper quality was improved, enabling better colour printing."

We are then given six, count'em, SIX, incredibly boring paragraphs about the minutia of the printing industry. This is an example:

"To avoid having extremely boring layouts, I sometimes typeset page spreads with asymmetric columns (and a light grey tint behind the narrower outer columns) but only certain types of features were suited to this treatment. Most A5 layouts are boring." It is a shame Mr Harding did not 'avoid' so many 'boring' paragraphs. He even resorts to the bane of all old people, "Why, back in my day," when he writes, "When I ran my own magazine, Chess Mail, I would have preferred the New In Chess format but many printers (especially in Britain and Ireland) are not geared to it, and by mailing in the corresponding (C5) envelope size, mailing costs are also kept to a minimum." Who cares? I'm of his generation, having been born in 1950, and I could care less about when he ran his own magazine, so I know the younger generation do not give a crap!

Mr Harding, in an earlier paragraph, intimated his main problem with the new format by writing, "For somebody commuting to work on buses, as I was in the magazine's first decade, the arrival of each new issue meant two or three days at least when there was no question about what reading matter to throw in the briefcase, along with a pocket chess set naturally." Then he gets to the crux of the matter near the end by writing,

"My main concern, however, is, how will I fit this on my bookshelves? Will I bother to keep every issue indefinitely, as I have done in the past? Is there not a tendency that in the future an issue will be read and then disposed of because there is nowhere convenient to keep it, except maybe in ugly piles?"

Ugly piles? Has he not seen the nice boxes, or binders, sold for magazines of all sizes? I compared the new improved NiC with a recent copy of MHQ, the Quarterly Journal for Military History ( and found it to be about the same size. I have never heard anyone ever mention a problem with the size of any magazine. Could it be what's really bothering Mr Harding is the fact that he will have to accept CHANGE? If the magazine had begun with the dimensions it now has and changed to the smaller format, Mr Harding would, most probably, be leading the charge for atavism!

Mr Harding at one point asks the question, "Maybe this is just a generational thing?" Maybe it is in that it is a natural thing for one to resist change as one grows old(er). This is something that MUST be resisted! The only constant in life is CHANGE! It would seem that it would be much easier for an old codger to change when the change is for the better! I mean, more of the very best chess magazine ever published on this planet-what's not to like?!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dark Matter

I watched the movie, Dark Matter, last night and enjoyed it immensely. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my favorite actress was a member of the cast. I'm sure that enhanced my enjoyment considerably! I've only gone out with one actress and can tell you that while not all women are actresses, all women can act!
The professor was obviously jealous of his brilliant student, holding him back by denying him of his Ph D. It is not supposed to be that way in theory, but often is in practice.
A former chessplayer I know has not one, but two, Ph D's. He said it stands for, 'Piled High & Deep'! The professor accused the brilliant student of 'not being a team player'. Brilliant people are not usually 'team' players. I have never understood 'team' events in chess. I played on a 'team' only once. There was a two-man team tournament in Atlanta back in the '70's and my teammate was none other than the Legendary Georgia Ironman. We agreed before play began that, if one of us lost, the other would, under no circumstances, agree to a draw unless there were only Kings left standing. I lost when my Tal-like sacrifice was refuted. After going over the game, I went to see how my 'teammate' was doing. Since there was no one at the board, I went looking for the Ironman. I learned that not only had he drawn, but had offered the draw! His opponent was Alison Burt, the strongest female player in Georgia at the time. The Ironman explained that the position was even and, "I did not want to lose to her again!" I vowed to NEVER, EVER play in a team event again!
I checked the movie out on the Internet Movie Database(, finding it received a rating of only 6.1. I gave it a 8.8 for the ending alone!
I recently read, The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality by Richard Panek. It is very well written and enjoyable because he "...nimbly outlines recent findings in physics, astronomy, and cosmology and evaluates rival theories in clear, comprehensible language." (From Bookmarks Magazine ) We know so very little about so very much. The sad fact is that we are ignorant. We do, though, know much more than what was known when I was in school. We do continue to acquire knowledge at what seems a snail's pace. I have tried to keep pace with the knowledge we are learning throughout my life. I feel education should never stop. Unfortunately, others feel differently when it comes to acquiring knowledge. I took a new job once and, during lunch, began to read a book. "What'cha doin'?" asked my boss. "What does it look like I'm doing," I asked. "What'cha reading a book for?" he continued. "I ain't done no reading since they made my back in school."
"I can tell," said I.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wingnut Chess

You know things are serious when the tragic events happening in the real world intrude on the chess world. When I saw the article on Chessbase, Japan: is the big one coming? (, I realized that just as reality invaded Castalia in my favorite novel, The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) A Novel by Hermann Hesse, the world of Caïssa is, unfortunately, just a very small part of a larger Reality. The fact that there is a link to what my roomate calls one of my 'wingnut' websites, is astounding! I never thought I would see a link to a website like on any chess website!
My roomate considers me to be a 'wingnut' because I listen to and surf websites like & just to mention a few. He knows one of my favorite television programs is Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory on Trutv ( His worldview does not consider anything other than what the government, by way of the 'lamestream media', tells him. Nothing happens behind the scenes, or in the shadows; everything being above board and out in the open.Yeah, right! For a picture of the 'real' wingnut' go to
The other night Major Ed Dames, a Remote Viewer Extraordinaire ( was on Coast to Coast AM and predicted the next 'Big One' would hit St Louis, with many thousands of deaths That could possibly be a death blow to USCF, since the St Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center would be in the cross-hairs. It is not just a showpiece for USCF, but has become the center of what is left of adult chess in the US.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Nordic Senior Championships 2011

Monday, March 7, 2011

Houston, We Have a Problem

As promised in my previous post, these are a few of the more pertinent comments sent me in response to my email asking for thoughts on this year's US Senior. It saddens me to report that most of the comments were not positive, with many negative in tone. No one had seen the tournament announcemant, and most thanked me for bringing it to their attention.
Round time
It is heartening to receive something like this because I know I am not alone: "I will never play in a senior event in which the rounds start after 3 pm , even if its only one round a day. For seniors I think the optimal starting time is late morning or early afternoon." Over the years I have talked with many Senior players concerning this topic and I can only think of two who said they would prefer to play at night, and one of those was an insomniac! Another wrote, "I'm not too keen on a schedule where the game can go until 1 in the morning or later, even knowing that I can sleep in in the morning. The trouble is, I know I don't have to wake up at 6:30, but my body isn't so quick to catch on."
I have found that as I grow older my energy level wanes as the day goes on. Others mentioned that fact, or something similar. The sad fact is, as I have been writing and saying for over a decade, having a start time at night will cause most Seniors to not even consider participating in the event. This has to be well known by now to those in charge of USCF and anyone considering organizing a US Senior, yet they continue to persist in having the games played at night. Go figure... It is like they actually want to keep players away from the tournament.
Several mentioned the timing of the event, coming as it does a month before the US Open. One response, "I, and most other seniors, will have to choose between the two tournaments. There will be very few, if any, seniors playing in both tournaments." The one I liked best is from a fellow from a cold climate. "I do not understand why they do not hold the tournament in some tropical paradise during the winter months, giving us a chance to escape the bitter cold. Going south is something that should be done in winter, not summer!" Then there was this one: "I have been to Houston in the heat of the summer for business and I will tell you that I will not consider spending a week in a hotel at the Houston airport." He was not the only one to mention this sad fact. In case anyone is not a baseball fan, the reason the Astrodome was built in Houston is because fans refused to come out in the heat and humidity to watch a baseball game in the middle of the summer. It will be so hot that going out during the day is out of the question, and the games are at night, so one is trapped in the airport hotel for a week. "Houston is not the Chess Hub of the US,or the "wife" hub of the US (if I was going to play,one rd a day..what exactly am I and my semi senior wife going to do in Houston?)," wrote one. Speaking of the wife..."I mentioned the possibility of a trip to Houston in July to play each night and my wife played a Tammy Wynette song, and it was not Stand By Your Man." For those of you Country Music challenged, he was referring to one of her numerous number one hits, especially popular with the women folk, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E"! This is another reason to play the games during the day. Women like to have their man at night; something that should be self-evident even to men from the world of chess.
"Clearly only people who are well off financially or have a free place to stay in Houston can consider this event. For anyone else it's cost prohibitive. I can manage a vacation like this once in a while, and the social aspects of a senior event where I may see many long time friends makes it attractive." Then there is this: " as for the format...I do not like it..too expensive for me,I am willing to do the US Open or World Open and blow $500+ on a Hotel room,but not for a mere $1250!..the prize fund is a JOKE!.." This brings up an interesting point. Why should a player like me, a class player, expect to win money at the US Senior? Would it not be better to take that 'class' money and award it to the more deserving players who score higher? If I play well enough to get into the prize fund, then I would be deserving of taking home some cash. If there were no class money, then the prize fund might be enough to get players like GM Walter Browne & GM Yasser Seirawan to play, making the tournament more prestigious. The reward for a class player should be the possibility of facing one of these legends! I do not go to a chess tournament expecting to win money. A throphy or a plaque should be sufficient for class players. After all, thousands, if not millions, of people travel to places like Reno, Nevada to bowl in leagues just for the enjoyment of it. Golfers do the same thing. No golfer not good enough to make the cut on the Senior PGA tour would expect to win money, yet they devote much time and money to the game. The most pithy response was from a titled player who could conceivably win the tournament: "The possible reward does not come close to the investment of time and money involved."
Although no one mentioned the early start time of the last round, I did read something applicable on GM Kevin Spraggett's excellent website:
"Well, the tournament ended with a very well deserved defeat in the final morning round! I got plenty of sleep the night before, did my usual routine including preparation. I felt motivated. But during the game my brain stopped functioning normally: at one move I saw the correct move, but then started to think 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes and finally 40 minutes without seeing anything special! Simply, I froze up...a morning round problem with many players."-GM Kevin Spraggett, 56, on the early morning last round at the recently concluded Cappelle-La-Grande ( )
Anything else I add would, I feel, be superfluous. I will leave the last word to a well respected NM who has given a great deal to the Royal game: ..."the USCF is totally out of touch with it's membership.. I do not predict a long life for non-junior Chess tourney in the US."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

2011 US Senior

I have eagerly awaited the tournament announcement for this year's US Senior. I found it located on the USCF website at: To find it I had to first click on Upcoming Tourneys, then click on Texas (if you had no idea where the tournament would be held, you would be, as they say, SOOL!), then skroll all the way down to Future TLA Search results: 5 matches. Seems like an awful lot of trouble to finally arrive at a National Tournament! I had been anticipating playing, since it is to be only one round a day. This would be just the incentive I would need to begin studying for a tournament again! Reviewing games just for enjoyment is not the same thing as sitting down to prepare, something I've not done in a long time. It would also give me the incentive to rejoin USCF...
I cannot tell you the extreme disappointment I felt after looking at the particulars, knowing I would not be taking part in a US Senior once again.
I wondered how other Seniors would feel about the tournament and the formate, so I sent emails to many Senior contacts. I will share the feedback, but not the names of those responding, as I promised confidentially. First I would like to share my thoughts on the format with you.
The rounds begin at seven at night, which will be eight o'clock to my eastern time zone body. If my game goes the limit, it will end at 1 am central time, which is 2 am EASTERN! Begininning a serious tournament chess game that could last six hours at seven pm, much less eight pm, is simply out of the question at my age. I mean, I will not even consider such a thing. In order to play in the event I would have to change my schedule around to the point that I would be sleeping from four am until noon for at least a week, probably more, before the event. The reason is that one needs time to wind down after a game. I would be lucky to be asleep two hours after the conclusion of the game, which would be four am to my eastern body. I am now sixty years of age and no longer capable of staying up half the night, much less all night! To try and force my body to do such a thing could potentially be life threatening. It continues to amaze me that the people who organize these things ignore the wishes of the people who would potentially play in the tournament. I have written, and spoken out about this very subject for years, yet the organizers continue to do the same thing expecting a different result. Is that not one definition of insanity?
I recall GM Larry Christiansen saying he liked to play "a little hungry." One would, therefore, look forward to something to eat after a game. Eating that late would cause me to stay awake until the sun came up. I would, therefore, have to not only play a little hungry, but also go to bed hungry, and I like to eat. The games should be played during the day. If that were the case, then a player could take time to go over the game and have time enough to go out for dinner, and possibly an adult beverage with his fellow Seniors, and get to bed at a normal hour and get a good nights sleep. After all, the best chess player, ever, Bobby Fischer said that a good nights sleep was better than knowing all the theory!
I know very little about the organizer, Francisco Guadalupe, so I looked him up on the USCF website and found that he has only played in thirteen events since 1991, most of the 'quick' variety. I doubt seriously if the man has ever had to play from seven until one am, much less eight til two am, and be back at the board ten short hours later! Yet that is exactly what is expected of SENIORS as the last round is at eleven in the morning! Which begs the question, if the last round is at eleven o'clock am, then why are not ALL the rounds at that time? As I have written previously, such a short turn around could potentially life-threatening. Almost a decade ago, when I was a much younger Senior, I played in the US Open, playing each game at night. I then drove to Sturbridge, Mass, for the Continental Open. The first few games were also at night. Then the scheduled changed and the two games a day started. During the first game I played in the morning after having playing at night for two weeks, I collapsed, with the paramedics having to be called. One of the reasons turned out to be dehydration. I drank only coffee that morning, with little or no water, because I did not want to go to the men's room constantly. Something similar happened to General David Petraeus. From the article
King David's War: How Gen. Petraeus Is Doubling Down on a Failed Strategy by Michael Hastings in the magazine

On the morning of June 15th, 2010, Gen. David Petraeus skipped breakfast. He was jetlagged from a trip earlier in the week to the Middle East, and he was due at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill at 9:30 a.m. to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. A veteran at these things — he had testified at least half a dozen times over the past three years, most famously as commander of U.S. troops at the height of the Iraq War — he decided not to drink much water that morning. He knew, as others sitting in front of the senators had learned the hard way, that once the marathon session began, he wouldn't have a chance for a bathroom break. "No one wants to be sitting there with a full bladder," a senior military official close to Petraeus tells me. "Those who ask the questions get to go in and out — but if you're the one sitting there in front of the cameras, you have to stay there the entire time."

"I understand you're supporting the policy," McCain pressed. He again pushed Petraeus for an answer, and even resorted to quoting his old foe, Vice President Joe Biden: "In July of 2011, you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out — bet on it." But a minute later, McCain's expression suddenly changed from one of exasperation to befuddlement. Petraeus had fainted, slumping forward in his chair. "Oh my God," McCain gasped.

The general regained consciousness a few seconds later, and was escorted out of the hearing room with the help of his aides. After recovering from a combination of dehydration and jet lag, he returned under his own power a half-hour later. But the committee, shaken by the unexpected turn of events, decided to adjourn for the day.

Not drinking enough water can be life-threatening, especially to Seniors. See the website As a general rule I try to do my drinking during the day and limit my intake in the evening so as to avoid having to get up during the night to urinate. For that very reason I also try to limit my coffee intake to the daytime hours. I'm sure you have seen those advertisements for benign prostatic hyperplasia, otherwise known as an enlarged prostate. Like most baby-boomers afflicted by soft cell cancer of things like the prostate gland, I have, unfortunately, most of the symptoms associated with an enlarged gland. I enjoy a good, strong cuppa Joe during the day because it gives me a lift. I like to drink a cuppa coffee during the middle part of a game of chess, but, during a game that begins at seven, or eight pm, that would put my cuppa Joe around ten or eleven o'clock, which is out of the question. I will occasionally drink an energy drink during the day, but would not consider it at night. These are a few of the concerns Seniors have about playing at night. The fact that the last round is scheduled for eleven in the morning after a night round is enough for me to not even consider playing in this Senior. I will also not consider beginning a serious game of chess at seven, or eight, in the evening.

I turned 60 last August. I have been eligible to play in the US Senior for over a decade now, and have only played in one event, which I wrote about in the award winning Georgia Chess magazine. The conditions in Ventura, California were not good, to say the least. One player, who played with Bobby Fischer 'back in the day' came to play but, after checking the condition of the lights, which were dim, decided to not play, which turned out to be a wise decision. It was so hot that I offered my third round opponent a draw and, when he refused, resigned! I then withdrew. Some years ago I sent a plantive plea to the Executive Director of the USCF, my friend Bill Hall, concerning the US Senior held in his home state, the great state of Tennessee (Nashville, if memory serves). I mentioned many of the same things I have written about here. Unfortunately it fell on deaf ears...It was 'based on' 85 and I told Bill that if he did not make changes to the format, he would be lucky to get half that. Bill said he would do it his way. Changes were not made and a total of only 43 players entered...Bill was new to the job and I figured he deserved his chance to do it his way. Unfortunately, his way did not work, and the USCF simply refuses to learn from their repeated mistakes. Can I be blamed for wondering why?

Every US Senior I miss could be the last chance I will ever have to play in a US Senior. The sad fact is that, since I have only played in one of the eleven held since I became eligible, it is most probable that I will never play in another US Senior. I fight this battle now not for myself, or those eligible now, but for those future Seniors who will come after us, and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes.

If you have read this, I urge you to pass it on to any Senior, or potential Senior, and to please leave your thoughts. My next entry into the BaconLOG will have the comments sent to me by other Seniors concerning the format of this year's US Senior. I will tell you this-no potential player who responded to my query has any plans on playing in the event, which ought to tell you something!