The evolution of chess match strategies


”Winning is the not the most important thing, it is the ONLY thing!”
–Vince Lombardi

Who said that chess is fun? The marathon 21st game of the 1843 Staunton vs St. Amant  match (depicted above)  lasted 66 moves and took 14 and a half hours!  A record, even in those times before the use of chess clocks! (The average game lasted slightly more than 9 hours, if we are to believe the historians.)  While the loser was thoroughly exhausted in the final hours, it was considered to be perfectly gentlemanly — hence  fair play– to fatigue and wear out the opponent. 
All  of this is clearly about the psychology of winning applied to the game of chess:  psyching out the opponent; out-sitting him in an effort to get him to become impatient or to provoke him to make a rash decision, wearing him down, and so on.   Chess history records the strong Spanish master Ruy Lopez in 1561 advising his students  to place the board so that  the sun would be in the eyes of his opponent.  And Lopez was a priest, so we must measure his ethics carefully!

The game of chess has always been about winning and out-witting your opponent–on the board or  off of it.  Technology may have introduced chess clocks and artificial lighting (and hence eliminated some of these earlier off-board strategems) but the infinitely creative mind of some chess players has not desisted in seeking new paths  to get some sort of a competitive edge…

The 1978 Candidates Final match between Spassky and Korchnoi witnessed Spassky (who was trailing the match by a big score) engage in circus-like behaviour, often provoking laughter from the audience of some 2,000.  More than once Spassky showed up for the game with a large silver visor that one often sees in poker games.  In addition, while Spassky preferred to study the demonstration board (instead of the normal board) Korchnoi started to lose his patience and spent little time at the board.  The result: Korchnoi lost 4 games in a row before he could re-establish his winning ways!

I think that the general public implicitly accepts a certain element of modified behaviour on the part of one or both players in any important chess encounter, provided it is done in good faith and within established sporting norms.  Perhaps the public even anticipates and secretly hopes for such  colourful antics: merely pushing pieces around the board rarely excites a crowd or attracts the media…

The Kazan Candidates Matches (May 4-26) is probably the most important chess meet this year.  The winner of this knock-out competition between 8 of the very elite of world chess will go on to challenge Anand for the title of World Champion sometime next year, with several millions of dollars in prize money at stake.

In recent years FIDE had failed to establish a system for determining the challenger in a manner that has satisfied everyone– especially those who consider themselves the most worthy– and  even the Kazan meet was embroiled in controversy months before it even began!  Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian boywonder of the chess world , shocked  his colleagues and the chess world when he suddenly withdrew:

”After careful consideration I have reached the conclusion that the ongoing 2008 – 2012 cycle does not represent a system, sufficiently modern and fair, to provide the motivation I need to go through a lengthy process of preparations and matches and, to perform at my best.

Reigning champion privileges, the long (5 yr) span of the cycle, changes made during the cycle resulting in a new format (Candidates) that no World Champion has had to go through since Kasparov, puzzling ranking criteria as well as the shallow ceaseless match-after-match concept are all less than satisfactory in my opinion”

Neither was Carlsen  pleased with  the format ( knock-out mini-matches at regulation time controls  followed by play-offs (if necessary) at rapid and blitz time controls) or the schedule, which only allows 5 rest days in the entire event!

In essence, the ultimate winner of the Candidates would be playing non-stop for the better part of a month!

A good question is how a serious contender should approach such a gruelling championship, and especially if it would not be a wise thing to change one’s normal approach to competitions.  Other questions are of no less importance: energy,  match preparation and strategy, health and diet, and psychology need to be addressed.  Success rarely goes to the one who plays the best chess in such circumstances, but rather to the one who most successfully adapts to the difficulties that arise along the way….

As we know, the 2-finalists are surprises for the majority of chess pundits:  Israel’s Boris Gelfand (age 42–the oldest participant in Kazan) and  Russia’s Alexander Grischuk (age 27), the current champion of Russia.  In particular, both players do not fit the flashy stereotypes that  champions like Kasparov or Carlsen represent; infact, both Gelfand and Grischuk seem to lead perfectly normal lives far away from scandal and the media!

No doubt the early exit of the chess-public’s  favourites Lev Aronian (Armenia) , Vlad Kramnik (Russia) and V. Topalov (Bulgaria) has been a bitter pill for the Kazan organizers to swallow, but the lack of decisive games (this should not be mistaken for lack of hard fought games, however) in the regulation time controls has attracted the wrath of a small, but vocal, segment of the online chess community.

In particular, the Russian superstar Grischuk has been the target of much unfair and mean-spirited criticism by fans.  While not exactly an unknown in the chess world at the top (he has been playing in these top-level knockout events since 2000, even once reaching the semi-finals!), Alexander is considered by most to be an under-dog and also something of an anti-hero.

Nor is Grischuk  outspoken or charismatic, and he does little to attract attention or want to improve his image.  (Alexander is also a world class poker player.)  Perhaps most prejudicial to his cause: Grischuk was the last-minute replacement for Magnus Carlsen when he withdrew!  And when he successively knocked-out Aronian and Kramnik without winning a single regulation-time game, the fans went ballistic…

Grischuk’s critics have been asking if Grischuk will qualify for the World Title match next year without winning a single slow game of chess!

So far the finals match with Gelfand  has been very difficult but all 5 games have ended in draws.  While games 1,2 and 5 were exceptionally hard fought affairs that saw Grischuk let escape winning opportunities, chess fans really criticized both players for the  short strategic draws (under 20 moves each!) in games 3 and 4.  One chessbase report wrote of a GM commentator describing the attitude of both GMs as being ‘disgusting’!

Certainly I have never witnessed such a blatant lack of respect for  great players in my many years as a chess player and fan.  Merely  taking into account  the enormous stress and fatigue that both superstars have been subjected to these past weeks, one would think that any rational fan would just shut up and not say anything negative or hurtful. 


Be that as it may, one should not take  fans seriously, ever.  This is certainly not a boxing match nor is this Fischer vs Spassky (1972) at the height of the Cold War.  This is a chess match–albeit a very important one–but the only thing that really matters is qualifying for the World Championship next year.

As such, I think that Grischuk’s match strategy for the Kazen Candidates is exceptionally intelligent and rational, and not at all well understood by the chess fans out there who are following. In essence, Grischuk studied the rules for this event long before it took place and understood perfectly why Carlsen did not want to take part: too much luck (short matches) and too many rapid and blitz play-offs.

Drawing upon his experience as a poker player, Grischuk decided to treat every game (hand)–regardless of time control–as of equal worth and of the same importance.  He was not going to try harder or take more risks simply because the time control is slower.  If he did not like his position or his chances, he would simply make a draw (throw in his hand).

 And because Grischuk is such a great player at faster time controls he has no need to fear the play-offs.  Instead, he looks upon the play-offs with confidence and objectivity.  He does not over-rate his chances, ever, and this been the secret to his phenomenal success so far in Kazen.

The world has changed a lot since the time of Staunton and St. Amant, and in many ways has become more sophisticated and competitive.  Success does not always come by repeating what has worked in the past.  Infact, when the stakes are the highest, only the smartest and brightest can adapt.  And even then, only the cream can come up with new ways to win.


Good news for followers of Harold Camping!


Inspiring news for followers!  Camping urges not to give up hope…the world will definitely end on October 21st of this year!

Harold Egbert Camping (born July 19, 1921), an American Christian radio broadcaster and  president of Family Radio, a California-based radio station that spans more than 150 markets in the United States, had long predicted that the world would end this past weekend (Saturday, May 21). 
Unfortunately for most of his followers and fans, that did not quite pan out and for several days Camping disappeared, creating some uncertainty about the future of his multi-million dollar empire and its many  members. 

Well, yesterday Camping came out of hiding and explained what had happened:  he had miscalculated the math and now assures his members that the world will indeed come to an end, but this time only on October 21st of this year! 
Can there ever be a better time for rejoicing?  Hallejuah!  Praise the Lord!  Almost makes you want to take up religion, doesn’t it?

Preacher says world will actually end in October

By GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Tue May 24
OAKLAND, Calif. – A California preacher who foretold of the world’s end only to see the appointed day pass with no extraordinarily cataclysmic event has revised his apocalyptic prophecy, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.
Harold Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before catastrophe struck the planet, apologized Monday evening for not having the dates “worked out as accurately as I could have.”
He spoke to the media at the Oakland headquarters of his Family Radio International, which spent millions of dollars_ some of it from donations made by followers — on more than 5,000 billboards and 20 RVs plastered with the Judgment Day message.
It was not the first time Camping was forced to explain when his prediction didn’t come to pass. The 89-year-old retired civil engineer also prophesied the Apocalypse would come in 1994, but said later that didn’t happen then because of a mathematical error.

Through chatting with a friend over what he acknowledged was a very difficult weekend, it dawned on him that instead of the biblical Rapture in which the faithful would be swept up to the heavens, May 21 had instead been a “spiritual” Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment, he said.

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God’s judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there’s no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

“We’ve always said May 21 was the day, but we didn’t understand altogether the spiritual meaning,” he said. “The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven … if God has saved them they’re going to be caught up.”

Josh Ocasion, who works the teleprompter during Camping’s live broadcasts in the group’s threadbare studio sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business, said he enjoyed the production work but never fully believed the May 21 prophecy would come true.

“I thought he would show some more human decency in admitting he made a mistake,” he said Monday. “We didn’t really see that.”

Follower Jeff Hopkins said he spent a good deal of his own retirement savings on gas money to power his car so people would see its ominous lighted sign showcasing Camping’s May 21 warning. As the appointed day drew nearer, Hopkins started making the 100-mile round trip from Long Island to New York City twice a day, spending at least $15 on gas each trip.

“I’ve been mocked and scoffed and cursed at and I’ve been through a lot with this lighted sign on top of my car,” said Hopkins, 52, a former television producer who lives in Great River, NY. “I was doing what I’ve been instructed to do through the Bible, but now I’ve been stymied. It’s like getting slapped in the face.”

Camping’s hands shook slightly as he pinned his microphone to his lapel, and as he clutched a worn Bible he spoke in a quivery monotone about some listeners’ earthly concerns after giving away possessions in expectation of the Rapture.

Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their belongings, and those who had fewer would cope, Camping said.

“We’re not in the business of financial advice,” he said. “We’re in the business of telling people there’s someone who you can maybe talk to, maybe pray to, and that’s God.”

But he also said that he wouldn’t give away all his possessions ahead of Oct 21.

“I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car,” he said. “What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?”

Apocalyptic thinking has always been part of American religious life and popular culture. Teachings about the end of the world vary dramatically — even within faith traditions — about how they will occur.

Still, the overwhelming majority of Christians reject the idea that the exact date or time of Jesus’ return can be predicted.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the best-selling “Left Behind” novels about the end times, recently called Camping’s prediction “not only bizarre but 100 percent wrong!” He cited the Bible verse Matthew 24:36, “but about that day or hour no one knows” except God.

Camping offered no clues about Family Radio’s finances Monday, saying he could not estimate how much had been spent advertising his prediction nor how much money the nonprofit had taken in as a result. In 2009, the nonprofit reported in IRS filings that it received $18.3 million in donations, and had assets of more than $104 million, including $34 million in stocks or other publicly traded securities.

There has been no word as yet from Reverend Fred McKim as to whether Pastor Camping’s calculations are infact correct or statistically provable.
However, CFC Prez Gillanders has proposed a motion to offer chess-playing followers of Pastor Camping a one-time 6 month adult membership fee, expiring on October 21.


Find the winning move





GM Tatiana  Kosintseva
Nelly Aginian
With White’s last move a new threat is created: 38.Bxh7-ch, winning the Black Queen.  How did Black defend against this threat? 




“Well you see, Norm, it’s like this …a herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive intake of alcohol kills brain cells, but naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, that is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”
(Thx, Roots!)
(Official 2011 CFC  BIBLE   Handbook)
Anyone who has half a brain must have noticed  that the CFC rating system has become contaminated since the introduction of an ill-thoughout and mis-guided motion by the late CFC President P.Stockhausen and his lapdog-Lyle Craver (CFC Motion 2008-10).  In essence, any GM or IM  player who plays in a weekend tournament where his rating is several hundreds of points higher than the average of his opponents (which is typical in Canadian swiss weekenders) would receive a result bonus of up to 15 rating points if he won the tournament (which is the average case).
The result is that most of the top players who play in Canadian weekenders have seen their CFC rating go thru the roof:  Sambuev, for example has gained more than 100 bonus points in the past year alone!  (And now the difference between his FIDE rating and his CFC rating is more than 200 points!).
I brought this discrepancy up a couple of months ago to the current  CFC High Priest of Statistics and other Lies, Reverend Fred McKim, and while he acknowledged the growing rating difference, he failed to see the problem, arguing that Sambuev had simply improved so much that his FIDE rating had not yet caught up to recognize this amazing jump in strength.
However, if you go to the CFC rating page of GM Sambuev and compare it to his FIDE rating page, you will find a glaring truth: that since January 2009 (and up to and including his most recent success in the Canadian Zonal), virtually every single tournament that Sambuev had played in in Canada was also FIDE rated;  in that time Sambuev’s CFC rating had grown exponentially from 2590 to 2753  (!!)  while his FIDE rating had  increased  ONLY  23 points  (from 2501 to 2524)!
That is, his CFC rating had increased a staggering 140 points more that his FIDE rating , from the same tournaments!  In truth, all of this rating gain  comes DIRECTLY from the fine print of the   2008-10 motion.  Bonus points  don’t exist in the FIDE rating system; FIDE rating points must be earned (and up until the Stockhausen motion the same was true of CFC ratings).
What does Reverend McKim intend to do about it?  NOTHING!  He refuses to believe that there is anything wrong with the CFC rating system….(!)…..the world is still flat to many of the mediocre.
Jayne Mansfield has CFC-rated breasts !
New CFC-RATED version of BARBIE

Highest rated Canadian female player sporting her new CFC rating


Roswell for Idiots


Now we can all sleep better at night: Roswell has finally been de-bunked!  It was not the aliens we like to give credit every time we don’t understand things or to explain why we should not be paranoid of the US goverment every time they lie (which is all the time).
It turns out to be old uncle Josef….
The devil spawn of Dr. Mengele
by Billy Cox

OK, so now we know the UFOnauts who plummeted into a desert ranch outside Roswell, N.M., in 1947 weren’t USAF crash-test dummies from 1950s, as the Pentagon asserted in its “final report” in 1997. And no, they weren’t experimental mutants from a secret World War II Japanese balloon project advocated in 2005 by Nick Redfern in Body Snatchers in the Desert: The Horrible Truth at the Heart of the Roswell Story.
They were child victims of Nazi quack doctor Joseph Mengele, who was in cahoots with Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Hey, yo, wait a minute. There’s something I forgot to do. Hang on. Back in a blink.
So anyway. Yeah, when I heard about how Annie Jacobsen’s Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base had solved the riddle, it was definitely refreshing because it made perfect sense. Stalin and Mengele conspiring to trigger a “War of the Worlds”-like panic in the U.S. by stuffing surgically deformed children into a captured Nazi Horten flying wing disguised as an ET spacecraft – that’d be just like something those two madcap yo-yos would do.
Jacobsen’s broader history of America’s murky military base is drawing kudos from the MSM, like the New York Times, whose reviewer offered only a minor caveat. The UFO stuff, she wrote, “is only a hasty sounding addendum to an otherwise straightforward investigative book” that “is liable to become best known for sci-fi provocation.”
Ya think?

Jacobsen provides the Stalin/Mengele/freak-kid alien scenario courtesy of a single unnamed source, a retired EG&G engineer. Which naturally agitates a guy like Thomas Carey, co-author of Witness to Roswell with Don Schmitt. Over two decades, Carey reckons he and Schmitt interviewed 600 people in the witness pool — military personnel involved with debris-recovery operations, civilians, and/or their survivors — who testified to what they saw. Unlike Jacobsen, the authors named names when they went to press in 2007. But none of the media big boys reviewed Witness to Roswell, says the Pennsylvania businessman with an anthropology background.
“This whole Nazi thing, disfigured children — that’s not what people described to us,” Carey says from his home in Huntington Valley, Pa. “I guess if you’re a journalist, people tend to take your word more than if you’re not. But there’s just more crap that passes for journalism these days …”
Jacobsen is a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine. The first bio blurb that pops up on a Google search is a reference on the reality-check Web site Snopes.
In 2004, Jacobsen wrote a first-person piece called “Terror in the Skies — Again?” stemming from her Detroit-to-LA flight in which 14 suspicious looking Middle Eastern men caused her to think maybe they were rehearsing for a skyjacking. Federal air marshals would identify the men as Syrian musicians bound for a legitimate gig in San Diego. No arrests were made. The feds said Jacobsen not only overreacted, but her behavior was “in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane.” A review of Jacobsen’s article by the online magazine Salon called it “six pages of the worst grade-school prose, spring-loaded with mindless hysterics and bigoted provocation.”
Ahh whatever. The Stalin-Mengele-Roswell thing is cool.

Credit to Michael Bacon on  for finding this article!


The week in review


The 46th edition of Cuba’s most prestigeous tournament came to an end just the other day and saw Ukraine superstar Ivanchuk edge out  on tie-break Vietnam’s Le , thanks to a last round victory of this latter.

Ivanchuk was a bit lucky to win against Le (who could have drawn at several points), but by doing so he managed to win the tournament on tie-break.

Meanwhile, in the ‘premier’ section, Toronto’s Mark Bluvshtein and Peru’s Emilio Cordova tied for first place with 6 points each (out of 9 games), with Cordova narrowly edging out Mark in tie-break.  Congrats to both players!  Mark was top rated in the event.
This tournament is the second excellent result in as many events in recent months for the Canadian.  Mark qualified for the World Cup in Mexico last month, also tieing for first place. These results should push his FIDE elo above 2600, becoming only the 2nd Canadian to have achieved this.

Mark Bluvshtein (born 20 April 1988, in Yaroslavl, Russia) is a Russian-born Canadian chess player, a Grandmaster, who resides in Canada. He became the youngest Canadian International Grandmaster (GM) ever in 2004, at the age of 16, having become an International Master (IM) at the age of 13. (wiki)


Mark has a solid position, typical of the Berlin defence, but no more.  The question is how to beat a weaker player starting from this position.  Mark answers this question by advancing his h-pawn, creating some problems that his opponent tripped over.  A nice win!



Our man in Kazan

The finals of the Candidates began last Thursday between Grischuk and Gelfand.  The best of 6 regulation tme games to decide who will play against Anand next summer for the World Title.  Neither player was a favourite to have gotten this far, but what do the fans really know about chess?  In football–a much more serious game than chess–the fans are always right, even when they are wrong.
The reader already knows my opinion on this match.  Both players are great players and have chances.  I believe who ever wins this match will win against Anand (but not without a tough fight!), but that the Russian born Alexander Grischuk is the favourite to win in Kazan. 
After some boring and listless chess in the matches against Aronian and Kramnik, it appears that Grischuk has finally found his confidence and is starting to get ambitious.  No doubt just beginning to realize  what he had achieved by beating  both Aronian and Kramnik, how can this man not believe he is the strongest player in the world at this moment in time?  In the first 2 games against Gelfand, Grischuk had some serious winning chances.  It rests to see what happens today (Grischuk has Black), and whether Gelfand will be able to reduce the growing momentum of the Russian superstar.
The official match website  contains a lot of  interesting material, and you can find great analysis at Chess In Translation.  As well , LIVE coverage is available here

4th Calgary International Chess Classic

From May 19th through May 23rd, the Calgary Chess Club will be hosting the Calgary International Chess Classic. Now in it’s 4th year, the Calgary International provides a unique opportunity for Alberta’s strongest players to meet high caliber competition from around the world and compete for prize money and perhaps an IM norm. In 2009 and 2010, Calgary’s Eric Hansen–2011 co-Canadian Champion– performed very well and earned IM norms in both events. His norm in 2010 earned him the IM title.
It is nice to see how active Alberta chess has become in recent times. While the CFC is always crying buckets of tears while making all sorts of excuses for not doing anything for elite chess in Canada, the Calgary Chess Association and the Alberta Chess Association are showing that all it takes is dedicated people to get the job done!  Congrats to everyone involved!
The games can be followed LIVE  at this link



Cory Evans – Chess Master  • The United States kindergarten chess champion said, ‘There was over five thousand million kids in the tournament.’  The son of IM Larry D. Evans, Cory became famous in 1992 and appeared on Leno’s TV program.  The original news article no doubt got the ball rolling, but the video is great entertainment!


Cory ,like many children of famous chess-dads, never really took to the game as he matured.  He achieved a 2140 FIDE rating (link) and gave up competiton for many years.  He has only recently started to play again…Cory is today a well adjusted adult with a FACEBOOK page worth exploring

Upcoming articles in the pipeline



Who is responsible for the mess today?

An indepth article, sometimes humourous, sometimes satirical, and carefully scrutinized by my personal legal counsel. A brief history of the myths, the lies and the corruption behind chess politics in Canada during the past 25 years. A sincere attempt to explain why the CFC has been turned into an empty shell. Carefully researched , based on little known facts and insider information.

The true story of the ‘success’ behind CMA. Of the corruption in the general Canadian Chess Community. Of the dirty war that CMA Executive Director Larry Bevand waged against the CFC and Canadian Chess Legend Kevin Spraggett.

An indepth report on Canadian Chess during the past 25 years that will have you questioning your loyalties in chess. Blending humour, satire and truth of the politics of Canadian Chess, this article will change the way you look at organized chess in Canada. Controversial, provocative and stimulating, this report will have been screened before publication by Canadian lawyers.

Of the often bizarre/incestuous legacy of the corrupted leadership in Canadian chess. This is the story that will be remembered by future generations of Canadians of what really happened, long after we are all gone.

There will be no hiding the truth this time! Absolutely uncensored!
The amazing story of how the OCA applied for and got a $120,000 grant from Trillium, and how the OCA can not account for it!  Once more, no paper trail
No supervision.  No oversight. No control. No accountability.  Nothing but deception and incompetence!  Why Trillium washed its hands of the OCA…and how OCA/CFC politicos are covering up the truth.

Divided into 5 parts, the article will be presented as a series:

1) The Kevin Spraggett Foundation for Chess (1988-1992) and the FQE

2) Larry Bevand’s personal war on organized chess ( 1996-present)

3) The ChessTalk fiasco (especially the dirty war)

4) The sale of Canada’s National Team (especially the Yves Charbonneau saga)

5) The last days of the CFC.

This much anticipated chronicle will soon be published on this blog!

Sunday’s chess puzzle


Good morning Sunday! The following composition is a delicate blend of themes whose solution will put a smile on your face. Domination of the Rook and Knight over the Black Queen is predominant, of course, but how White is able to switch the threats from the King-side to the Queen-side (and back!) is no less impressive.

Enough said, already! White to play and win. Good luck!
(time to solve: 20 minutes)


Kasparian, 1910-1995

Sunday’s wisdom


”For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”-Virginia Woolf

”I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”-Agatha Christie

”The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.”-Simone de Beauvoir