Today’s INSIGHT into the meaning of LIFE


“If people bring so much courage to this world  that the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”  

―     Ernest Hemingway,     A Farewell to Arms

James Gandolfini R.I.P

September 18, 1961 —-  June 19, 2013


American TV icon James Gandolfini died suddently yesterday while attending a film festival in Rome, Italy.   First reports say the cause of death was a massive heart-attack.  Gandolfini was 51 years old and at the height of his career.     While a very versatile actor in his own right, he is best known for his role as the crime-boss Tony Soprano  in the mega-hit The  Sopranos (1999–2007) , he is rumoured to have been earning more than one million dollars per episode in the final season. Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah, and their 9-month-old daughter, Liliana. He is also survived by a son, Michael, from another marriage.


The Sopranos put Cappola’s GodFather into a more modern American context…Tony Soprano was almost the ‘ordinary guy next door’.   Likeable, vulnerable  and with all of the vices that we have.  James Gandolfini’s  calm, cool and laid back interpretation of   Tony Soprano quickly became another great  American iconic symbol.

“The older I get, the funnier-looking I get, the more comedies I’m offered. I’m starting to look like a toad, so I’ll probably be getting even more soon.”


You will be missed

Wednesday’s 5-second tactics!


Solutions later today!

gm  Danielian


gm Koneru

From the Dilijan Grand Prix the day before yesterday.  Position after 27 moves of play.  The Black King is wide open and very exposed on the Queenside.  This gives rise to several tactical motifs…are you up to it?




gm  Eljanov


gm  Ponomariov

From the Ukraine Championship, Kiev, just a couple of days ago.  Position after 25 moves of play.  Clearly White has a strong attack in progress on the Kingside, but Black has aligned his pieces along the second rank, ready to block on g7 if necessary.  TEMPTING, but wrong, would now be 26.Bxg6 PxB  27.Rxg6+ Rg7 and it is not clear what White has gained.

HOWEVER, sometimes chess is like a good mystery story: the target might appear to be the King, but is infact the Queen!  A word to the wise…no other hint forthcoming!




gm  Morozevich


gm  Gelfand

From yesterday’s round of the Tal Memorial.  Morozevich, once more, has played too much to please the spectators and now finds himself 2 pawns down for nothing.  And notice that one of those pawns is well advanced already!  This gives motif for a tactical finish…


Saskatchewan Chess Association calls it quits!

Provincial  Chess Federation closes shop permanently


Sad news for my fellow Canadian chess players.  The province of Saskatchewan, with a population of slightly more than one million, no longer has a provincial chess association, nor does it have any official representation within the Canadian Chess Federation (CFC).  In April of this year, the  existing provincial association legally dissolved itself –allegedly because of years of CFC tournament inactivity–and donated whatever monies it still had–some $5,000 –to the CFC’s coffers.  The donation was accepted with open arms…but not everyone is pleased.


According to the CFC’s own HANDBOOK , the CFC is responsible for:

1. TO promote the formation and development of a Provincial Association, in each Province of Canada, where such Association does not presently exist, and to this end, to cooperate with existing clubs and leagues within such Province;

 2. TO cooperate with existing Provincial Associations, in all matters pertaining to the development of organized chess within their Province, and to this end to encourage matches, tournaments, competitions, correspondence or telegraphic or radio matches, at all levels in Canada, and simultaneous, blindfold or other displays by chess masters;


Checking the CFC’s own website stats, I found that some 25 players are listed from Saskatchewan.  I have played the province’s top player–Robert Sasata (a strong master level player)–once before at a Canadian Open in the 1990’s, but do not recall meeting any other Saskatchewan based players in over the board play.  Taking a look at Sasata’s own tournament record within the CFC’s database, I found that Robert had last played in a CFC rated tournament in Saskatchewan in 2004!


Saskatoon, with a population of approximately 400,000 (including suburbs) is Saskatchewan’s largest city.  My mother was born there on June 18, 1921. Her family later moved to Montreal, where I was born in 1954.

It is always sad to hear tough luck stories of Canadian chess organizers trying their best to promote chess but encountering  many discouraging obstacles and difficulties.  It must be especially frustrating for Saskatchewan organizers since the CFC has effectively become little more than an Ontario-based chess organization, investing absolutely nothing into promotional projects outside of that province.  I am certain that the decision to legally dissolve the Saskatchewan Chess Association was not an easy one to make.  The CFC should take this decision as a statement of profound dissatisfaction with its performance as a national organization.

(You can read about the late Nathan Divinsky’s ‘3rd rate charlatans’ characterization of the CFC leadership HERE.)

Late last year a Saskatchewan chess organizer, David Steer, wrote a friendly letter  to me explaining some of the problems and frustrations he was encountering.  I do not know if it was David who was part of the final decision to close shop, but I hope David will not mind if I reproduce part of his letter to me, as well as my reply:

Hello GM Spraggett,

First of all, I should say that I really enjoy your blog – in my opinion one of the best of its type anywhere in the world.  So, thank you for your hard work and expertise.  The chess world is richer for your efforts.

I’m a Canadian chess player from the backwoods of chess in Canada: Saskatchewan.  I love the game, and for several years I tried my best to popularize chess in the province via promoting local events, directing tournaments, serving on various and sundry chess executives committees, and so on.  My efforts, however, were for the most part in vain.  Chess in Saskatchewan is at an all-time low ebb.

In fact, it’s been a couple of years since we hosted a CFC-rated tournament!  Given your expertise and your vast experience in chess, what in your opinion is the best way of promoting chess in a cultural environment inimical to the game?  There’s no magical solution, of course, but any advice about how to nudge my chess averse province in the right direction would be much appreciated.

Also, I am currently the CFC Governor from Saskatchewan – more by default than by any particular merit, however.  I serve in this capacity because, well, there are very few in Saskatchewan willing to do so.  Sad but true.  Which brings me to my next question…

I am hardly a chess insider in Canada.  In fact, truth be told, I am a rank outsider, and I don’t claim to know anything about the machinations of the CFC.  But I know the game well enough to realize that given the opportunity you would be a wonderful ambassador for chess in Canada.  However, your disdain for the CFC is hardly a secret.  There are fools within the CFC, of course, just as there are fools within any large organization.  But if my limited experience has taught me anything about the CFC it is that there are also a great number of reasonable individuals in positions of authority who genuinely care about chess in Canada and who are willing to work hard to help it succeed.  Is there any possibility that past grievances might be put aside one day, and that you might be willing to work with the CFC?

If you’re wondering about my motives for asking…well, I’m just curious.  Please know that I am not writing in an official capacity as a CFC Governor.  I am writing as an avid Canadian chess player who believes that chess has the capacity to enrich the lives of millions of Canadians.  I am writing as an avid Saskatchewan chess player who believes that there is an opportunity being missed, that given the right impetus chess can become a small but vital part of the cultural environment.

In short, I want to see my sport succeed, and if you have any suggestions, recommendations, or advice, I would be grateful.

Many thanks,  David Steer.

I replied:

Thankyou David, for your email.

I suppose the big part of promoting chess is about finding one person/leader who is interested enough to open a club or do simuls at a school , or organizing tournaments at the local rec centre.  Normally one person can make all the difference.  Chess communities have been known to thrive because of the work of just one person.  Curiously, one person is enough in chess.

So the question is why is chess failing in Canada?   The CFC  (to name just one obvious chess organization) , when it does not have that one special leader/ person amongst them, becomes just an empty shell, a bureaucracy When power hungry individuals then fill in the empty space, then you get a situation similar to what is happening today in Canada.

Without that special person in charge, what kind of people want to become involved in a bankrupt, often corrupt and completely hopeless organiztion?  ANSWER:  Only the worse type of person.

No, David, the days of an effective CFC are over.  The skilled people–such as those amongst the strong players who have dedicated their adult lives to chess–no longer want to associate themselves with the malt involved today in the CFC.  What is worse, those in the CFC do NOT want someone who will upset the apple cart.

So my advice to you is this: don’t put great hope in the CFC.  Do you own little bit in Saskatchewan and promote the game person by person

Best regards; Kevin Spraggett

Tuesday’s 5-second tactics!





Vienna, 1898!  An oldie but goodie.  Position after 24 moves of play.  Curiously, Steinitz was doing well up to a couple of moves ago…but advancing age had reduced his ability to maintain the same level of play for the duration of  the entire game.  Here, in the position above, the ex-world champion overlooked a shot.  Do you see it?




Harry Pillsbury was America’s greatest player after Paul Morphy and before Bobby Fischer.  He died young, at age 33.  June 17  1905.

gm  LASKER, Em



Cambridge Springs, 1904.  The greatest American tournament of the first part of the 20th century!  You can find an old blog article on this magnificent tournament HERE.

Position after  24 moves of play.  Pillsbury was always a difficult opponent for the world champion!  Here Lasker’s King is very exposed.  Too exposed.  White can maintain the upper hand with the pedestrian 25. Rxf5+ followed by 26.Rf1—the Queen is more important here than the two Rooks.  HOWEVER, Pillsbury was an artiste!  He  found much better than this!


Monday coffee




The world’s number one player (b.Nov 30,1990)  is a brilliant practical player who prides himself that he is not a child of  computer-chess.  Proof of this is not difficult to find:  unlike 99% of his colleagues at the top,  the Opening is not the strongest part of his game.  Instead, Carlsen specializes in grinding down his opponents , often from  balanced positions where there is no clear cut road to a draw. 

It surprises no one that  Carlsen’s games are usually the last to finish:  the  Norwegian prodigy likes to play long, protracted games  where he usually nurses a microscopic advantage.  Given Carlsen’s talent, his youthful energy and  a remarkable confidence in himself, this strategy  often pays dividends as his adversaries  are the first to tire and start to make mistakes.

HOWEVER, unlike the great Tigran Petrosian–for whom much of the above description would also apply to his style of play–Carlsen’s play lacks the necessary precision that is characteristic of  a true technician.  He does not (yet) play endings nearly as well as his predecessors. Case in point are two  theoretically drawn Rook and Pawn endings from tournaments this year: the Norwegian scored 0-points when most grandmasters would have scored two draws.

From  the Norway  Super tournament last month.  Position after 38 moves of play:

gm  Wang Hao


gm  Carlsen,Magnus

(You can see the entire game HERE.)

From the Tal Memorial just a couple of days ago.  Position after  32 moves:

gm  Caruana,Fab


gm Carlsen, Magnus

(You can see the entire game HERE.)


Three great Rook and Pawn endgame artists.  Rubinstein (left)  is said to have won an ending that, had it been played 100 years earlier, he would have been accused of witchcraft!  Capablanca (right)  said that he learned chess when a child by studying Rook and Pawn endings.

Of course, there is still much play in both positions above before White can get a draw, and while it must be admitted that Carlsen played both reasonably well to get within a hair of the draw, the fact is that Carlsen failed both times.  Some have speculated that Carlsen was tired and lost his concentration.  I would argue that the youngster needs to work a bit harder on defending inferior Rook and Pawn endings.






CFC  annual general meeting (AGM) begins today!


Today begins another online meeting where the  CFC  leadership will bare its ass !  This one promises to be yet  one more circus where the fundamental principles of democracy will be flogged and/or sodomized. (You can read my blog reports on previous online meetings this year here, here and here.)  The link for these online meetings is THIS.




coffee asb



Man jailed 3 years for not paying $70 restaurant bill


You have to love this story!  Makes me want to both laugh and cry at the same time.  Bankers, corrupt politicians and all sorts of whitecollar criminals rob up to tens of millions of dollars at a time and barely receive a slap on the wrist…poor Illinois Tony Malabehar gets 3-years in prison for not paying his restaurant bill!    What is wrong, America?  Rapists and murderers get that kind of sentence…OFCOURSE, the man had a record for trying to skip out of paying his restaurant tab, but isn’t this the kind of thing a psychiatrist or therapist could deal with?




(CNN) — An unpaid $70 dinner bill — plus a record of walking out on previous meal bills — has landed an Illinois man in jail for three years.

Anthony M. Malabehar, 47, ordered appetizers, steak, lobster tail, and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade at the Alamo Steak House in Mattoon, Illinois. But when his server asked him to pay the bill, “He told her with a smile on his face, ‘I need to tell you a secret — I don’t have any money,'” the restaurant’s general manager, Alex Schmink told CNN.

Schmink called police, and with Malabehar and his full stomach were carted off to jail.

Coles County Assistant States Attorney Rob Scales told CNN that when the Alamo Steak House incident occurred on April 4, Malabehar had been out of jail for just one day after serving a 60-day sentence for the same crime. In February, he had eaten at another local restaurant and racked up a bill for approximately $100. On that occasion, he also told the staff he could not pay before being arrested.

Malabehar’s criminal record includes at least 13 prior convictions for theft or burglary and about 70 prior arrests for theft, Scales said.   He was sentenced to three years for theft in the Coles County jail — a longer-than-usual sentence because of his prior criminal record, Scales said. He also was ordered to pay restitution and fines.

Scales said Malabehar likely will likely serve about a year of his sentence if he is eligible for time-reduction credits.


Another food-related miscarriage of justice in America is the following: