Sunday, September 25, 2011

Counterplay: A Review

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Hapley's Counter-Gambit"

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

Monday, September 19, 2011

Flip Flop Fly Ball

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

Friday, September 16, 2011

All The World Is A Chessboard

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011


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

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Three Games

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chess, Scrabble & Go Attendance

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

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

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chess Nepotism

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

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

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

Dixie Chess Confederacy

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

Friday, September 2, 2011

Meet Me In St Louis

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