Friday, May 31, 2013

Letter from GM Kevin Spraggett

Hi Michael You can post this on your blog if you want.... Yesterday blogger closed down my popular blog for reasons that Blogger itself knows. I was informed only after the fact that my blog contained ''malicious javascript'' and that the powers that be deemed this sufficient cause to close a blog that had millions of pageviews over the past 4 years. Ofcourse, Blogger can do as it wishes. No doubt complaints about the often controversial political commentary must be factored into the equation. As must the fact that my blog is NOT for children, but aimed precisely towards a very much neglected segment of our population: adults. However, as I have said time and again, anyone who wishes to challenge my opinions or actions is free to do so in a court of law...My blog has always operated within the policy guideline of Blogger as well as legal principles concerning freedom of expression. In any case, this is all a small issue, as I have been planning to move my blog over to Tumblr or/and Wordpress. Yesterday's action only speeds it up. My popular blog ''Spraggett on Chess'' will start up tonight or tomorrow. 100% of the Blogger content will also follow in the coming days. I have no doubt that my tens of thousands of blog readers will continue to receive the same high quality content and service. And I can asure you that my political commentary will continue to be as much a thorn in the side of some inside our chess community. My new blog would have already been up and running today, except that today is the final day for me to submit my tax returns here in Portugal, and this takes priority. Yesterday's action by Blogger is just a minor affair... best regards Kevin Spraggett I just received this from the chess Grand Master. This will be my last post here at the BaconLOG. I urge you to surf on over to my new Armchair Warrior blog at:

Bobby Fischer 60 More Memorable Games

Bobby Fischer 60 More Memorable By Paul Powell I found this book while checking out the books in the previous post. I use the term “book” loosely, since it comes only in digits in a machine called a “Kindle edition.” E-readers are the newest new thing, and everyone “must” have one. Not me though, because I am a “square.” It happens if one is lucky enough to live to be considered “old.” I was never one to follow the herd anyway. It seemed to me many of those that chose to run with the herd sometimes got trampled. I will admit the machines with digits are useful for old(er) people in that the digits can be enlarged. On the other hand, how does a reader know the digits being downloaded were the ones actually written by the author? Totalitarian regimes would have had a field day with these machines. I am not certain how much written about the past is true, but I know what will be written in the future will be blowing with the winds of change. When Thad Rogers, the owner of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center (the official name; it was called many things at different times) would bring a box of new books up from Macon to the House of Pain, David Spinks would nab one and sniff it, giving it the ol’ smell test. Like one of the most famous movie quotes of all time by Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, played by the excellent actor Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, who said, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” Mr. Spinks loved the smell of a new book any time of the day. Who is Paul Powell you ask? From the Book Description provided on the Gorilla website: National Master and Top Selling Amazon author Paul Powell explores the games of Bobby Fischer from a unique point of view. Focusing on his own personal journey and taking up the mission statement of his bestselling book “Chess Patzer to Master - How an Everyday Joe Does it” he continues the battle to help the average player become a chess master. What’s truly unique about these sixty games is they are the games he came back to over and over as a young man studying the games of Bobby Fischer and they are presented with the be wonderment and lessons that he learned on the road from Patzer to Master. The author’s goal is to instruct, entertain and deliver the tools that you can use to grow into a future chess master. Features: A fresh look at Fischer's games Character illustrations of famous chess players Over 90 additional games from Fischer’s opponents Geared towards helping you think about chess not memorize it Concepts to challenge your perceptions Theory of “Diminishing and Increasing Values” And more... Show less I like the “Show less” coming as it does right after “And more…” Maybe “No mas” would have been more appropriate. I did some research on Mr. Powell, finding a Paul J Powell Jr at the MSA page on the USCF website. I found “There are a total of 15 events for this player since late 1991.” He is rated, or should I say, was rated, 2218 in his last event regular rated event back in 1994. He did play in a quick rated event in 2003 and another in 2010, in which his rating took a nose dive, going from 2181 to 2083. Could this possibly be the very same Paul Powell who is now writing chess E-books? I say books because his first book, Chess Patzer to Master, is called “bestselling” on the website. Thinking back to the Cold War I decided to “Trust, but verify,” finding the bestselling book ranked #30,998. And I thought a book had to be in the top 30,000 to be considered a best seller…By the way, I did a search of the term “trust but verify” on and found this on Wikipedia: Trust, but verify is a form of advice given which recommends that while a source of information might be considered reliable, one should perform additional research to verify that such information is accurate, or trustworthy. The original Russian proverb is a short rhyme which states, Доверяй, но проверяй (doveryai, no proveryai). Suzanne Massie, a writer on Russia advised President Ronald Reagan, "The Russians like to talk in proverbs. It would be nice of you to know a few. You are an actor – you can learn them very quickly".[1] The proverb was adopted as a signature phrase by Reagan, who subsequently used it frequently when discussing U.S. relations with the Soviet Union. After Reagan used the phrase at the signing of the INF Treaty, his counterpart Mikhail Gorbachev responded: "You repeat that at every meeting," to which Reagan answered "I like it."[2] 1. ^ Suzanne Massie speaking on the 22nd Episode of the television documentary, Cold War (TV series). 2. ^ "Remarks on Signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty", 1987-12-8. Retrieved on 2009-4-8. There you go again, Ronnie! I miss Gorby playing straight man to Raygun. Those were the daze! Speaking of the old Soviet Union, the old hot-bed of chess “back in the day,” I will tell you that a book like either one of these would have had less chance of being published there than an escape from the gulag! And I am certain that Ronnie Raygun would have backed me up, before his brain turned into a sponge during his first debate with Walter Mondale, when I say that is the thing that makes our country, as Tony the Tiger would say, Greatttttttttttt! There are chess books being written and published by players who never made it to class ’B’ here in America. Do you think some chumpy-lumpy could have had his book published in the Soviet Union “back in the day?” Hell no! If one of these so-called “writers” had the chutzpah to even try and have his book published he would have been lucky to have only been laughed into the gulag! But here in America anyone who can punch and poke long enough can become a “best-selling” chess author. Is this a great country, or what?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A New Method for Discovering The Strongest Move

This is a tale of two new chess books I found on the Gorilla (it is good for something). The first is: Best Play: A New Method For Discovering The Strongest Move by Alexander Shashin. This is what it says about the book: Publication Date: July 16, 2013 “Have you ever wished for a “formula” to help you decide what move to make in any given chess position? In this ambitious and groundbreaking work, physicist and chess master Alexander Shashin presents the fruit of three decades of research into the elements of the game. He breaks down the position into mathematical ratios that compare the fundamental factors of material, mobility, safety, and space for each side, leading you to the proper plan and the mental attitude to adopt in light of what’s happening on the board. Relying on the games of three world champions with distinctive playing styles – Tal, Capablanca, and Petrosian – and backed up by personal and computer-aided analysis, Best Play explains how Shashin’s approach works in practice to guide your decisions in all kinds of situations, including those too wild and murky to provide clear-cut conclusions. Some 125 high-level examples are followed by 125 exercises with solutions to help you learn the method. Not just a textbook for the chess scientist to ponder in the lab, Best Play offers a fully formed philosophy of the game to prepare the chess warrior for any kind of battle.” Although I may have seen other chess books with a “formula” I cannot recall one, and I do not believe I have ever heard of a book breaking down the position into mathematical ratios. I did, though, read a book, and listen to a lecture via DVD, by Berkeley professor Elwyn Berlekamp, breaking down a Go board into four quadrants and using math to play better Go. I believe his theories are now being used with computer Go programs. Check it out at, Mathematical Go: The Gorilla informs that this book and another book are “Frequently Bought Together.” The other book is, “Master the grand art of Chess Calculation: Improve your chess now by Accurate visualization & analysis by Mr William Friend.” I kid you not…Having never heard of the fellow I did a search on I was unable to learn about the author, so I surfed on over to the USCF website but found no William Friend. During the course of my life I have developed rules to live by, such as Rule #1; No Married Women! Rule # 222 is, Never Purchase a Chess Book by an unknown writer. The Gorilla does inform me that, “The author holds concurrent Bsc-degrees in both Mathematics and Geology and chess is his passion.” Make of it what you will, but I must tell you that the book is written for, I cannot make this up, “…beginners as well as players right up to grandmaster level.” Guess one could say it is a book for EVERYBODY! Here is the Book Description: Publication Date: April 30, 2013 The 3 golden pillars of winning chess are undoubtedly TACTICAL sharpness, STRATEGICAL insight, and CALCULATION accuracy. This book dedicates 320 pages exclusively to developing the students ability to calculate accurately. Visualising future positions accurately is fundamental to playing winning chess. STEP by STEP methodology is combined with playing through 94 marvelous games starting with Morphy-> Capablanca-> Fischer-> Kasparov-> working up towards modern day grandmaster games. (from 1 move ahead[two 1/2 moves] to 10 moves ahead [twenty 1/2 moves] ). Thus the book is written for beginners as well as players right up to grandmaster level. If the student is serious about developing his/her calculation accuracy, then this book is a MUST HAVE. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. In this extraordinary book, the author also recognises the importance of ethics BEYOND the chess board {chapter 8}. Wonder who is recommending the book so highly? Don’t know about you, but I do not feel like I must have it.

On Another Level

By the time I cranked up the old ‘puter yesterday and took a look at the position in the game between Kasimdzhanov and Kamsky 17 moves had been played and Black had thrust the pawns in front of his King forward. Since I thought Gata had the Black pieces I figured the names had been transposed. But no, Gata had essayed the Leningrad Dutch! Oh happy day! I told the Legendary Georgia Ironman that Gata was playing to win, for just as moving the c-pawn forward two squares after white opens with 1 e4 signals the intention to fight and play for a win, moving the f-pawn forward two squares in response to 1 d4 signals the same thing, only much LOUDER! Gata won the game rather easily, setting up a meeting with Hikaru Nakamura the next day. Since Hikaru would have the Black pieces I told the Ironman my prediction was that he would probably respond to Gata’s 1 d4 with f5! Alas, Gata did not give him the opportunity because he opened with, “Best by test,” 1 e4! This sent a signal to the other players that Gata Kamsky was here to win the tournament, whatever it takes. You go, Gata! Nakamura has previously played the Leningrad Dutch. It seems suited to his style, as does the Najdorf Sicilian, yet he plays them rarely. I would like to ask him why he does not play them more. Since he told me he read the BaconLOG, I decided to resume writing just so I could plant a seed in his noggin. I seem to recall Hikaru, my favorite player (Sorry Svid, I know you listen to Bob Dylan, but…), mentioning he was the only top player playing the Leningrad. It would seem that is no longer the case. If anyone out there in reader land can get a message to Naka, please tell him he should replay every Leningrad Dutch played by Vladimir P Malaniuk, who has played the Leningrad almost exclusively. I can only imagine the improvements Hikaru would make to some of the variations. I already have a name for the future book that would come out of his research: The Next Generation Leningrad Dutch, by Hikaru Nakamura! Gata beat Naka’s French today. Hikaru left his knight on h6 to be taken and Gata obliged him. Allowing the pawns to be ruptured like that would not have occurred when I first began playing. If I, or anyone, would have tried something like that he would have been ridiculed unmercifully. A chess teacher would point out exactly why such a thing is not to be allowed. Yet Hikaru had the opportunity to move the knight to f5 but eschewed it. Like Dierks Bentley, I would like to know what he was thinking. The game has changed. It is not your father’s chess anymore. “The game is the same, it’s just up on another level,” Bob Dylan wrote in the song “Po’ boy.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tenacious Defense

While writing this I am sitting here looking at a book I’ve wanted to read for a decade, How to Defend in Chess by Colin Crouch. I had a copy at one time, and there was always one on the shelves at the Atlanta Chess Center. Although it was on my roundtoit list I never seemed to find the time to read it. The Legendary Georgia Ironman has a copy of Secrets of Chess Defence by Mihail Marin, whom I know to be a fine writer on chess. I will, hopefully, live long enough to read each of them. Hikaru Nakamura did not play particularly well against Caruana in the sixth round of the FIDE Gran Prix, drifting into a bad position by move 30. Will a little help from his opponent Hikaru battled back to even in the mid-30’s, but by move 40 Caruana could have pocketed a pawn, and the game, but refused, for some reason, to take the proffered gift. Still, he had a hammer lock on the game. Two moves later Hikaru was losing. Two moves after that he was down 2 pawns and DOOMED; the game a foregone conclusion. Hanging on the wall just to the right of the steps upstairs to the playing rooms of the Atlanta Chess & Game Center was a copy of a pelican that had swallowed another creature. It was placed there by the owner, Thad Rogers, who loved it. The only thing that could be seen of the other creature was the arms; the rest had been swallowed. The hands were around the neck of the pelican. The caption below read: NEVER GIVE UP! I thought of it while watching Nakamura doing battle in this endgame. He was, as is often the case when one refuses to give up, helped by his opponent. When Caruana played 57…c4 in lieu of d4 (because passed pawns must be pushed) I reflected on something IM Boris Kogan used to say to me, “Mike, why you make it hard. Chess is simple game.” One time I said, “Maybe to you, Boris,” causing him to erupt in laughter. They battled on move after move until Hikaru made an inferior move 74 (Ke3) when he had four better moves (h5; Bd7; Bb5; & Kd1) to keep the game close. It looked like Nakamura might be going down until Caruana put his bishop on b3 in lieu of e4 with his 78th move. The game concluded on move 84 with the point being split. It is one thing in chess to be known as a slashing and dashing player, but a true professional is one who is known as being tough to beat. The best reputation one can have in chess is to have it said about you that “He goes down like rotgut… HARD!” Today Nakamura faced the tournament leader, Dominguez Perez, with the Black pieces. He must have pleased current the Georgia State Champion, Damir Studen, when he chose to play the Mieses-Kotroc variation of the Scandinavian defense. Blazing new trails, Hikaru made a questionable twelfth move and was back on the defensive again. After Dominguez made his nineteenth move Nakamura was a clear pawn down. His own nineteenth move only tended to exacerbate and already tenuous situation. Hikaru battled on but did not give up. He did, though, let go of the rope with one hand when he played his 58th move of b5, when Kc5 would have kept him in the game. After 59 cxb5 Hikaru let go with the other hand by playing Qxb5, which gave White a mate in FORTY NINE, according to the program known as Houdini. Fortunately Nakamura was not playing a program but a human being because the human played 60 h5 rather than the first of the 49 moves leading to checkmate, Kg7. The game was ultimately drawn on move 80. What Hikaru Nakamura has done in the last two games by saving those two half points is tantamount to winning a game. The flashy games make the columns in newspapers, and now online, but it is games like this that prove the mastery of a player. I have followed Hikaru, not only because he had some nice things to say about my BaconLOG at the US Open in Indianapolis back in ’09, but ever since playing in one of the ancillary tournaments at the Continental Open in Sturbridge, Massachusetts in 2002, when the other GM’s were making quick draws with each other and going next door to eat seafood and drink copious amounts of adult beverages. It was strange to see no players on the first few empty boards until Hikaru made his way toward the top. The drawing masters were forced to play, and lose, until Kamil Miton managed a draw in the last round. If you go to the USCF MSA page for the tournament you will see something I have never seen before: Show ALL Sections Section 1 HIKARU Section 2 UNDER 2200 Section 3 UNDER 2000 Section 4 UNDER 1800 Section 5 UNDER 1600 Section 6 UNDER 1400 Section 7 UNDER 1200 Section 8 UNRATEDS'! What a tribute to a great player. Guess that says it all! Armchair Warrior