Wednesday coffee…


Ah, how simple it is to achieve world peace– even if only temporarily : just shut-own the American government! With the Republicans and the Democrats playing chicken and about 1,000,000 US government workers  (temporarily) out of work, the powerful American government is  completely paralyzed!  National parks and museums all over the country are closed.  Wall street is panicky…sort of reminds me what took down Alexander the Great: a lowly mosquito bite!

BUT  while I doubt the NSA is experiencing any of this inconvenience, I do feel that the rest of the free world is able to have a sigh of relief as they  take a breather from the  constant threats of implosion in Siria and consequently the entire middle-east exploding.  It still might happen before Xmas comes around, but for now military men in pressed suits will just have to wait a while before they get to test their latest over-kill toys, the new generation of Tomahawk cruise missles, 5th-generation drones and other fancy Orwellian gizmos.



The summer officially ended a week or so ago and with it the busiest season for chess activity. Seems like there were 2 or 3 major chess events going on every week!  Until things pick up again in December (around Xmas time) , it will be easier for us chess fans to actually keep pace with what is happening in the chess world.

The past couple of days has seen some rare ways to lose games:

gm  Kosteniuk,A


wgm  Muminova,A


From the final days at  the Women’s Grand Prix in Tashkent.  A known theoretical position where White was forfeited by the arbiter because… her phone rang!


FIDE rules are that if your phone rings during play then you are automatically forfeited!  Happens quite often, really.  I have played in several tournaments where this has happened on more than one occasion.  While I don’t agree with the severity of the rule (why not an initial warning!?), I was on the appeal committee in Cappelle La Grande some years back where one of those victims sought mercy: but the rule is very clear and does  not allow for much leniency.  I had to do my duty and enforce the rule.

kosteniuk11-01Kosteniuk was the recipient of a free point!

THIS INCIDENT caught some by surprise and lead to  debate on the internet about allowing the players in top-class tournaments  to carry electronic devices on their person.   Coming in the wake of the cheating controversies involving the Bulgarian B. Ivanov, many had thought that FIDE had preventatively forbidden such gizmos into the playing hall.  Apparently not!  FIDE only requires that they be switched off!

armchair warrior

You can find a really nice piece from the ARMCHAIR WARRIOR blog.  I recommend the reader to take a look at it, and it gives some links to other related discussions.   My OWN view on the cellular phone in chess tournaments issue is that NOBODY–not even the arbiters–should be allowed anything other than a pencil (or pen) when in the playing hall.  And I am really fed up with seeing spectators–and especially members of the organization team– using PCs or tablets with chess engines running while the players are doing their thing…I feel FIDE needs to do some serious work on this issue.  Cheaters get away with cheating by hiding in the cracks of our tech-ignorance…


Less controversial–but no less sensational– was HOW the great Ivanchuk lost his game against the American Nakamura at the Paris Grand Prix:


gm  Nakamura


gm Ivanchuk

Well, actually Ivanchuk  made his move but did not  technically complete it as his flag fell.  The sad part –apart from the facts that Chucky had Nakamura on the defensive for the ENTIRE game and that in the position above Black is not the least bit better–is that this is not the first time the Ukraine star lost on time…



A really strong tournament is taking place in Norway right now, with many strong players participating. (You can find the link on the side bar on the right)  GM Eric Hansen and IM Aman Hambleton are representing the Canadian flag (which is distinct from saying they are representing their national federation).    Both have 2.5 after 4 rounds of play.


I will give some tactical exericses and positions from games at this event later today!



Friday coffee


Where has the summer gone?  It seems that it was June last time I looked at the calendar and now it is already approaching Labor Day!  I have been very busy and this no doubt  explains where the time went.  Between home repairs (including painting and plastering), my teaching committments and family responsibilities, there has been little time for actually playing.


THAT is about to change.  This Friday finds me back in a coffee shop in my favourite Barcelona!  Today begins the BARCELONA SANTS international open.  The traditional tournament is one of Spain’s strongest open tournaments, and this year promises to be even stronger than usual.  Two  young Canadian talents count amongst this year’s participants, gm Eric Hansen and im Aman Hambleton.


This tournament will serve as warm up for my participation on board one in the very strong Spanish Team Championship (Honor Division) which starts on the 8th of September.  After a relatively long layoff from competitive chess, I hope to play some 70 to 80 games before the end of the year.


FEDA presidente Ochoa (left) and Linares dignitaries promoting chess. Photo courtesy of ChessBase.



Anton finally changes federations!


Former chess prodigy Anton Kovalyov (born Ukraine, 1992) has been living in Québec for the past six (6) years, all the while playing chess under the Argentine flag. Growing dis-satisfaction with the Argentine federation (FADA) , not least   FADA’s refusal/poor track record to pay players participating on the National Team, are amongst the reasons for Anton’s move over to Canada.

I am not sure that  congratulations are in order, as Anton moves to an even more dysfuntional federation (CFC) , one with a well deserved reputation for treating  its top players like SHIT! (In the CFC they never say ”NO!” when asked to pay the top players…they prefer to say ”FUCK YOU!!”). 


In any case, it is not expected that Anton will play on the National Team in 2014 unless the CFC changes its behaviour….don’t hold your breath!

canada fide


Monday coffee!


Kai Prescher collection (USA)  LINK




Whistle-blower Edward Snowden seems to have landed in Putin’s Russia at just the right time!  Both Russia and the US have recently come to realize that it  is a whole lot  easier to be enemies than friends, vis a vis Syria, Iran, broad human-rights issues, missile-defence programs in Europe, gay-rights , vodka and a slew of other stuff. 

Pictures of Obama alongside Putin in high-profile meetings seem more like  funeral gatherings than anything else.

Who died?

Who died?

So it is only natural that Snowden’s arrival in Moscow has given Putin ammunition to build up popularity at home while snubbing his nose in Obama’s face.  The month long stay in a Moscow Airport had given both the Kremlin and the White House ample time to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement (about Snowden’s fate), but the obvious polarity of both leaders only made things worse: the White House tried to bully the former KGB officer.  Threats of boycotting Sochi-2014, a September get-together and other sensitive programs is NOT the way to do diplomacy today.  No wonder Putin gave the green light for Snowden to stay in Russia.


Meanwhile, more polls held in America show increasing support–if not outright approval– for the former NSA contractor’s actions, and just last week the House of Representatives defeated by the slimmest of margins a call to reduce the NSA’s funding for some of its more controversial programs.  Then let us not forget about Germany pulling away from future cooperation regarding intelligence sharing.

No doubt Snowden will continue to be a thorn in Obama’s side for the near future, but the most ugly part of the story is that the entire Snowden affair is clearly bringing to the fore major contradictions between what the US is saying and what the US is actually doing.  Even its allies are beginning to notice and are becoming worried!



Where is Tony when we need him?

Where is Tony when we need him?



La partie d'echecs  1943

La partie d’echecs 1943


‘The Portuguese-French painter and graphic designer Maria Elena Vieira da Silva  was born in Lisbon on 13th June 1908, to a Portuguese diplomat’s family. She began drawing and painting at the age of eleven, and a short while later, began sculpting. From the beginning, the family supported her artistic leanings. Maria Eléna Vieira first attended the “Academia de Belas-Artes” in Lisbon. In 1928, she went to Paris with her mother and studied painting under Antoine Bourdelle (1861 – 1929) and Charles Despiau (1874 – 1946).’  READ MORE HERE.

Xeque-mate  1949

Xeque-mate 1949





Mirror mate by Andrew Lucas 2011

Mirror mate by Andrew Lucas 2011


Richard Meier and Alena D, though not necessarily in that order

Richard Meier and Alena D, though not necessarily in that order

‘Architecture pioneer Richard Meier & Partners is also known for its design projects, such as this minimalistic chess set which has designed for wallpaper magazine. You may find many various projects in Wallpaper Handmade Issue. I think you should take a look at it.’  LINK

Playing Chess With Tracey”, Amalie Silvani-Jones, 2012

Playing Chess With Tracey”,  2012

Cute, but not nearly as stimulating as my favourite below:



120509-ladies-playing-nude-chess-on-photoThe 2-Queens!  Not only is the board set up properly, but the scarf makes a nice impression!  Who is winning?  He is, no doubt about it!



‘Rhian Sugden apparently has a taste for chess, or at least for posing naked with a chess board. I myself do not play, though I know how, I just never found it interesting. Now, if Rhian was asking me for a game of Chess, and offered to strip during the game, then yup, I would be game.’  Think beautiful!  LINK

The difficult task of promoting chess


The  photo below of Canadian chess talent Alexandra Botez appeared in the Ottawa Citizen last week.  The lovely Alexandra is no stranger to my blog readers and any Google search will reveal that Alexandra  is as much admired for her natural beauty as for her many chess achievements, both in Canada and internationally.




HOWEVER, some corners have raised the question of the cleavage in the above photo.  ”Is this how chess should be promoted?” queried one reader.  Another  remarked ”Is ‘Any publicity for chess is good publicity’, true or not? I’m not convinced.”    Even the father of Alexandra joined in Except for the “comedy content” I don’t see any value added to Canadian chess by that picture.”

I have a different take on women-chess: VIVE LA DIFFERENCE!  Chess has for so long been maliciously stereotyped by Hollywood and popular literature as a NERDY game that often brings on madness if one plays long enough, that we should WELCOME with open arms any attempt that works to dispell the nasty stereotype that hurts our game.


If a female  has a magnificent smile or an eye-catching cleavage then what does it matter if she plays chess , tennis or is just out walking her poodle?  In the modern world–whether you agree or not with its shallow and often superficial values–IF YOU HAVE IT: FLAUNT IT!


As an aside–but not completely unrelated—  the stereotype of chess IS changing because of the increase in the number of females taking up the game. Whether we like it or not!  It is just a fact of LIFE.  Chess may be a beautiful game, AND it helps a LOT if you are also a beautiful player!


Canadian master Yeliz’ Orlova

Take the online community , for instance.  Eric Hansen has a FACEBOOK page  that has just over 200 followers.  Eric is currently the NUMBER ONE player in Canada, very close to becoming only the third Canadian ever to break 2600 (after myself and Bluvshtein). 


How does the number one player in Canada compare with Canada’s top female players?

NOT SO WELL, I AM AFRAID!  Even though Eric could probably beat them all–in a simul– blindfolded while holding his breath , Ashley Tap , Alexandra Botez and Yelitza’ Orlova  all leave poor Eric in their dust: Ashley has more than 10 times Eric’s followers: 2810. Orlova has 2007 followers, while Alexandra has just slightly less than 800 followers.

580180_403159386462588_1994392111_nAshley and fan

You go figure that out!  Everyone agrees that chess NEEDS to be promoted, but not everyone can agree on just HOW to go about doing that promoting…I suggest that beggars can not be choosers.  Pretty smiles and boobs go a long way in diplomacy: why can’t it do the same in chess?


America’s greatest (?) diplomat of the 20th century (Kissinger) admiring the generous female attributes of Dolly Parton.  “Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.”–Henry Kissinger

Monday coffee!

got coffee?

Summer is such a busy time chess-wise!  Seems like there are just TOO MANY interesting tournaments going on at the same time to follow, and this can be frustrating for those who also like bloggin‘ on chess. BUT, in chess,  there should be no such thing as too many, and every tournament-large and small- is an important opportunity to promote chess and make propaganda for your chess club.

EXCEPT, ofcourse, if you are from Ottawa…


Sometimes it is best to say very little–OR NOTHING–when you have nothing nice to say about anyone, so allow  me make a compromise and limit myself to just three (3) words: incompetent ,  self-important and arrogant.  

Now that that nasty bit of business is done with, congrats to Nigel Short and Eric Hansen for their first place tie (7.5 points out of 9)  They each won $4k.  Following close behind , at 7 points each, were Ivan Sokolov, Bruzon, Aman Hambleton, Porper and Calugar.  They each took home  slightly more than $1k


Gm Eric Hansen and Im Aman Hambelton are two of Canada’s top up and coming talents and have already started to make a name for themselves.  Later this year both will start to reside in Spain and take on the European circuit. GOOD LUCK TO BOTH!



Apparently the Ottawa organizers were satisfied with their performance!






The legendary grandmaster S.Tartakower is reputed to have told a journalist in a final interview, looking back at his career of more than 50 years, ”I have never beaten a truly healthy opponent”.  Ofcourse, what Tartakower was referring to was the seemingly inexhaustible and resourceful habit of chess players  in finding all sorts of excuses for losing a game other than ”You beat me fairly and squarely”, or ”You are just a better player than me.”


Case in point is 13 year old Canadian chess-teen sensation Ashley Tapp’s  FACEBOOK summary of her 9th round game at the Ottawa tournament:  ” I lost to a 1809. Something happened to my eye before this last game, I had to leave before the ending ceremony to get them checked. I was sad I missed the ending, having one eye that burned all day…”


Today’s talented youngsters learn all the tricks of the trade much earlier  than my generation  ever did!

Friday coffee…





I used to laugh at all  those deliciously silly  ”How many people does it take to change a light-bulb?”-type jokes  because they were just that: so silly!   Light-bulbs were designed by  genius to be used by idiots…how hard a task  can it be screw one in?  There must be something fundamentally wrong with you if this task becomes challenging…and that is what is  intrinsically FUNNY! 

Light-bulb jokes are basically about laughing at ourselves for turning something that should be relatively trivial into something that resembles the Rubik Cube.  CASE IN POINT  is FIDE’s recent ‘solution‘ towards  increased computer-aided cheating in chess tournaments.


Borislav Ivanov has turned the chess establishment on its head!

An anti-cheating committee was set up to figure out what to do.  A smart start, or so you would think, but then you would be missing my light-bulb analogy!  Not only is there NOT a single IT person on the committee who would know what hardware to look for in Ivanov’s case, but try to grasp this: any suspected cheater would have to PROVE his innocence!  The committee has decided that a cheater can be anyone who plays enough strong computer-chess moves!   Professor Ken Regan says he has the math to prove it…

Just this week there was a new  escalation to the anti-cheating question.  David Levy, a well respected individual in the chess world (founder of the Computer Olympiads and the Mind Sports Olympiads, amongst other notable achievements) decided to add his 2-cents to the issue  by suggesting to treat  chess-cheating  on par with  state sponsored TERRORISM!


David Levy getting to the heart of the matter, as usual.

I kid you not!  Levy wrote an article that was published on ChessBase that has already outraged more than a few freedom loving individuals.    Levy starts with light-bulb screwing enthusiasm:

”I believe that the problem could be solved, without too much difficulty, by the addition of a new rule, in five parts, to the FIDE Tournament Rules. Perhaps this could be inserted in Section 12: “Conduct of the Players”….

Levy then goes on and describes a horror list of civil-rights abuses ”every player must sign a standard FIDE document, presented to them in their own language together with an English translation, in which they agree to submit to airport-like security checks, immediately and on demand from the tournament organizers and/or the Chief Arbiter.   Such checks may be carried out, at the organizers’ or Chief Arbiter’s discretion …”

Later Levy adds salt to the wounds  ”A player who appears prima facie to fail such a security check is entitled to make an immediate appeal by demanding to be strip-searched by one or more medical practitioners of the same sex…”

000-0927133649-BenDoverDavid Levy, fortunately, stopped short of volunteering to conduct said searches…

I am certain that most of my readers are as shocked as I am to see suggested –by a respected opinion in the chess world–that dealing with the few cases of cheating that occur in tournaments should now result in standardized strip searches and TSA-like manhandling tactics FOR EVERYONE who wants to participate in a chess tournament! 


Is this the chess world that we want for our children?  I say it is time for FIDE, Ken Regan and David Levy to go back to the drawing board and try to discover a less anally-invasive way to screw in a light bulb!







A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University was published this week showing that most American’s view NSA/CIA turncoat Edward Snowden to be a whistleblower (ie. a hero). You can read more HERE. But the jist of the poll is that 55% of those questioned consider Snowden a whistleblower while just 34% consider him a traitor. Almost every party, gender, income, education, age and income group regards Snowden as a whistle-blower rather than a traitor. The lone exception is black voters, with 43 percent calling him a traitor and 42 percent calling him a whistle-blower.”


“The massive swing in public opinion about civil liberties and governmental anti- terrorism efforts, and the public view that Edward Snowden is more whistle-blower than traitor are the public reaction and apparent shock at the extent to which the government has gone in trying to prevent future terrorist incidents,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.




I must be getting old!  Until today I did not know that twerk was a real word, let alone a phenomenon that is all the rage amongst those with a pulse!  According to wikipedia, twerking is a dance move that involves a person shaking their upper hips and lower hips in an up and down bouncing motion, causing them to shake, ‘wobble’ and ‘jiggle.’ To “twerk” means to “dance in a sexually suggestive fashion by twisting the hips.”

HEY,  I am all for that!  Live and let live, I say!


Wednesday coffee




“Does Big Brother exist?”

“Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.”

“Does he exist in the same way as I exist?”

You do not exist.”

― George Orwell, 1984


There can not be a better adaptation of Orwell’s classic  1984 (BIG BROTHER) than what we are seeing play out in Moscow right now.  Thirty year old Edward Snowden  has gone–virtually overnight–from being a common, run of the mill, unexceptional in every way, law-abiding American worker to become  the number one news item in every newspaper in every language in every country in the world.  His story has gripped us like a soap opera where the grande finale is eagerly anticipated by a record audience.  Books and movies will soon appear, no doubt.

What is more, Edward Snowden no longer exists, at least legally.   The US   has revoked Snowden’s passport.  On the run and  currently stateless, and as such  finds himself outside of the protection and jurisdiction  of international law. What is more, the US has decided to make an example of him in case others might consider similar actions and has used excessive and disproportionate force.   Any country that might offer him safe haven has already been threatened or pressured.    Just yesterday the Bolivian president’s (Evo Morales) plane was unexpectedly –and illegally– re-routed to Vienna and not allowed to exit european space because the Americans thought that Snowden might have been on board.

What has Snowden done that is so remarkable?   Very little, really…Snowden had an attack of conscience…something that happens to most of us  from time to time. When Snowden realized that his boss was not quite the  boss  that he had signed up to work for, he  decided to become  a whistleblower.  Why?  Snowden: ”to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”


Had Snowden been an employee of a pharmaceutical manufacturer that was falsifying test results for the sake of profit margins, or of an aviation giant putting passenger safety behind meeting a deadline, then Snowden would be hailed as a hero.  BUT because Snowden’s boss is NSA–the world’s most powerful, best funded and most secretive  information gathering organization–Snowden is instead a fugitive, on the run; hunted and terrorized by the world’s most powerful country.


Ofcourse, no one can deny what Snowden did by leaking classified and ultra-secret information was illegal.  What is more, he knew this BEFORE he embarked on this adventure:  Snowden had previously signed a non-disclosure document before starting to work at the NSA.  But this is not the point of Snowden’s actions.  He knows perfectly well that he will not be able to hide indefinitely.  He knows the risk that he might soon die as a direct result of his action.  Snowden’s motivation is to stop our world from becoming what George Orwell feared it might become, before it is too late.  Maybe it is already too late…

The Edward Snowden case has become the latest in a list of high-profile whistleblower revelations  of how some of the American government’s most powerful institutions are running wild, operating outside of and at times in flagrant violation of existing laws.  Only history will be able to accurately judge Snowdon’s sacrífice.


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
― George Orwell, 1984






x-table courtesy of ChessVibes


31-year old Cuban superstar Bruzon won the 8th Edmonton International with a fantastic 8 points out of 9 games.  Congrats!  Enroute to this success, Bruzon showed real class , defeating (crushing) all of his main rivals, including Short, Mikhalevski, Hansen and Porper.

The games can be found HERE


In the OPEN section of the Edmonton Festival Alexandra Botez took first place.  Congrats.  Her prize included a cheque and a life-size rubber replica of Calgary legend Eric Hansen.  (Doesn’t even look like him!–ed.)


I have already, on more than one occasion on his blog, written about the exploits of the Cuban duo Dominguez and Bruzon and how they have elevated Cuban chess to the world elite. LINK  Both players are (or have been) rated 2700 for some time now.  Both have played in many of the world’s elite tournaments, both scoring tremendous success.

BUT LIFE AT THE TOP is not a bed of roses and Bruzon went thru a bad spell a number of years ago that saw his rating drop from 2700 to the low 2500’s.  When this happened he lost his special status, as well as his invitations.  At about the same time Dominguez started a string of successes that propelled him  into the top tournaments (rating 2700-plus).  Since there is such a competition for getting such invitations, Bruzon finds himself excluded while Dominguez gets the invitations, even though both are about the same strength.

IN ANY CASE, it is easy to explain Bruzon’s success in Edomonton:  every tournament is an attempt to prove himself, again and again.  And his results keep getting better and better!  Perhaps Bruzon  is even better today than Nakamura…my Canadian readers will be able to follow the Cuban’s games this summer as he will be in Canada, first playing in the Canadian Open in Ottawa, and then playing in an even stronger Québec Open.  I will keep the readers abreast.

Tournament organizer Hughey awarding Bruzon first prize while doing what looks like some TANGO moves.

Tournament organizer Hughey awarding Bruzon first prize while doing what looks like some TANGO moves.







Canadian teenager Ashley Tapp is something of a media sensation, having last year gone public to raise awareness of chess and to raise money for her to participate in youth chess tournaments , both in Canada and abroad.  I wrote several blog articles of her excellent marketing skills.  One such article is HERE.  As well, Ashley has started a facebook blog which is filled with photos and news of her ongoing efforts.  Just last week she launched a FOUNDATION for girls’ chess, at the DoJang Studio of Martial Arts.

SINGLE HANDEDLY Ashley has done more to promote chess in Canada in the past year than the CFC has done in the past 10 years!  Ashley is proof that if you want to get things done then it is best to do them yourself!

´The PHOTO above and those below are from the Vancouver Busker Festival (July1).  ENJOY!




New Canadian Chess Star!







Click on to enlarge

Click on to enlarge

Canadian youngster Jay Sawant of the Golden Knight Chess Club in Burnaby, BC  scored the biggest success of his LIFE  by winning the U14 section of the prestigious Las Vegas International Chess Festival.  Not only did Jay win all of his games (!) but he also participated in and won first prize  ( U1000-rated ) at the Puzzle competition!


What is even more impressive is that Jay has been playing tournament chess for only a short while.  The CFC lists only two rated chess events (both this year)– infact, Jay was UNRATED at the beginning of the year!  Clearly the youngster is making big progess,.  Jay  is slated to participate in the U12  at  the Canadian Nationals –the  CYCC — to be held in Ottawa early in July.

It is also ESPECIALLY nice to see a Canadian junior do well when he/she participates in international competition!   Competitive chess can be a ruthless experience    With very few exceptions, most Canadian youngsters crash and burn in their first exposure to international chess tournaments.   Thousands of youngsters have tried and failed.

I have no doubt that we will hear a LOT more from him in the coming years and I am certain that I speak for all of my readers when I wish Jay the very best!



When Vancouver’s Valer Eugen Demian  informed the current  CFC newsfeed  manager Félix Dumont  of  the Canadian youngster’s  achievement and asked that this be published so that all of the federation members could share the good  news,  Valer  certainly could have NEVER anticipated Dumont’s response:


”I don’t want to upset you (or him), but I’m not sure it’s worthy of publication. It sure is a nice accomplishment, and please congratulate him for me if you see him, but most readers will not really pay attention to the article if there’s no strong Canadian player or at least many young players. Unfortunately, one youngster is probably not enough, even though he won his section.”


W.T.F ???

Needless to say, Valer was shocked!  Isn’t the CFC supposed to promote chess in Canada?  Valer Demian has been involved in organized chess for most of his 50 years of life and  is a fully qualified FIDE  CM and Instructor, with many years of experience teaching and coaching chess in Canada.  As well, he holds the International Master title in correspondence chess.    Félix Dumont, on the other hand, is a 20 year-old  wannabe,  barely rated 2000. I  don’t want to judge Felix unfairly, but  he  has no life experience to speak of  and  is certainly  not qualified to speak for anybody in Canadian chess…besides, how would he know what Canadian chess players like to read or not?


“In reality punk people are usually the gentlest, kindest folks you’ll ever know. They’re like hippies, only they wear way more black.”   ― Kate Rockland, Falling Is Like This

Clearly frustrated, Valer decided  to write to me:

”Situations like this one erode, bit by bit,  our belief  that the CFC is capable to act on its responsibility to promote chess in Canada.   Over and over again,  the CFC’s  actions are  proven to be selective and arbitrarily dismissive of anyone they choose not to  associate themselves with … What I do not understand — and never will —  is how can they consider themselves above others,  while anyone else is not worthy?”


(Continued tomorrow)

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

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