Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shulman & Amanov win Michigan Chess Festival

The field at last weekend's Michigan Chess Festival in Troy was ridiculously powerful: Grandmasters Sam Shankland, Alexander Shabalov, Yury Shulman, Victor Mikhalevski, Sergey Kudrin, Ben  Finegold, and Mesgen Amanov.

The two Illinois grandmasters, Shulman and Amanov, were the only players to win their first four games.  They drew each other in the final round, and nobody caught them.  And our Carl Boor didn't win any cash, but he was the top finisher under 2400, losing only to GM Shabalov. Excellent road trip, gentlemen!

International Master Irina Krush used day one of the event as the warmup for the Women's World Championship, giving her the dubious distinction of having been in Detroit and Siberia in the same week. Tomorrow, Krush faces Alexandra Kosteniuk in round one.

Crosstables here!

Grove Avenue Game/30 in Barrington this Saturday

This Chess without Borders event has scholastic and adult sections with options for rated and unrated play.  Details on ICA website.

Game/60 event at North Shore Chess Center this weekend

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

USCF membership offer

Just got this U.S. Chess Federation membership offer in my mailbox: works for new members and current members!  But you've got to pull the trigger this month.

Dear Fellow Chess Enthusiast,

The USCF is embarking on the most significant growth campaign in our 75 year history. But we can’t do it without you. 

To help us show strength and stability to our new partners we are looking to grow and to show our members have made a long-term commitment to chess. So we are making this special Premium Membership offer.

Buy 2 Years of Premium Membership and You’ll Receive the 3rd Year Free
This Premium Membership Offer includes 36 issues of Chess Life, now in full color, mailed to you each month.

Visit or Call 800-903-8723 to take advantage of this offer.

This Offer applies to Adult Membership categories only. 36 months can be added to current memberships.
Offer expires Friday, November 30, 2012 at 12:00 midnight Central Standard Time. You may be eligible for other membership promotions. Check the link above.

Thanks for your support. Together let's grow chess across America.

Ruth Haring, President
United States Chess Federation

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jonathan Safran Foer on Bobby Fischer

Slate published a selection from an essay on Bobby Fischer by Jonathan Safran Foer, taken from the recent collection Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame.  (One of the co-editors of this book is Jonathan's brother Franklin Foer, the former editor of The New Republic).

Fischer's struggles with mental illness and his renunciation of his ethnic Jewish identity are well-known. It's an interesting and important subject, but not a very pleasant one, and not directly relevant to chess. The paradox of Fischer seems ripe for a novel, so it should be interesting to listen to a young American novelist with a personal stake in this conversation weigh in.

Foer writes:
A Jew wrote The Natural, but has there ever been a natural Jew? Free-spiritedness, joie de vivre, ease in the world—these are not what we do. We do scrappiness, resilience, hard work, self-questioning, self-consciousness, self-destruction, and unflappable will. This applies especially to our athletes, many of whom were not given the best of genetic toolboxes. Most great Jewish athletes have at least this in common: they overcome God’s gifts.
Not a jock, and not a Jew by any definition richer than heredity, Bobby Fischer was the quintessential Jewish Jock. He worked harder than any of his peers. He attempted to conceal his insecurity behind an ego built for 20, and his self-love behind self-hatred behind self-love. And perhaps more than any human who has ever lived, he kvetched [....]
I agree with Foer that Fischer outworked his competitors.  Despite the title of Frank Brady's first biography, Bobby Fischer: Profile of a Prodigy,  young Bobby was not a prodigy in the sense  of amazing achievements by age 12  (Reshevsky, Karjakin, and Carlsen in chess, Mozart in music, Pascal and Ramanujan in math).  I know several children under ten who are probably significantly stronger than the twelve-year-old Bobby; from what I've seen of Fischer's 1955 games, I'm fairly certain that one of these young players is at least two orders of magnitude stronger.  

Fischer the teenager is quite another story.  (See Wikipedia for a quick recap of his rise in the years 1955-59.)  As Kasparov has argued, a genius for hard work is a kind of genius. Fischer at age 16 (ranked by Jeff Sonas as second only to Kasparov among the sixteen-year-old players of the last century) was already an order of magnitude stronger than the 14-year-old U.S. Champion, who was in turn several classes stronger than the promising preteen. If we only knew what Bobby did in these years—Jack Collins provides some cluesand what he did prior to his next quantum leap (1968-1970), we'd know much more about the best pedagogical methods for genius.


If Fischer considered himself "not a Jew by any definition richer than heredity," why did he expend so much energy calling that presumably tenuous identity into question?  As the author of Everything Is Illuminated knows well, Fischer was born in mid-Holocaust.  To be raised by a fellow traveler of the Communist Party of the USA, and to come of age in New York City in the years after the Rosenberg trial, all at a time when American anticommunism far too often had an antisemitic undercurrent: that particular environment might make the most rational person a bit paranoid.  More so if that person is also "wired" a bit differently than you and I are. Perhaps Fischer shared characteristics with those on the Asperger end of the autism spectrum. Or perhaps he suffered from organized paranoia—compare Judge Schreber and John Forbes Nash, whose antisemitism was a function of their mental illness. If so, then a measure of compassion is certainly in order.  

Some of the things that Fischer said in the last decades of his life were unspeakably vile, and one cannot help but sympathize with the revulsion underlying Foer's curt observation, "With Jews like this, who needs Nazis?"  But some of us are old enough to remember a very different Fischer.

Evanston Tri-Level results

26 players played four games in a day and were done by 5 p.m.: very nice format, Maret!  The multiple sections produce quad-like pairings: nobody is overmatched, and every game is a challenge for both players.

FM Albert Chow and NM Ken Wallach tied for first in the Gold Section with 3-1 scores.  Vito Vitkauskas and Bill Brock tied for third with 2½-1½.

Raul Dhiman won the Silver Section 4-0; Michael Wishner took clear second with 3-1, and Julian Bendelac, Brandon Zborowski, and Matthew Ylinen took third with 2 points.

Lorenzo Sampson swept the Bronze Section 4-0, Adam Wallach (chip off the block) took second with 3-1, and Keith Ammann and Nate Tracy-Amoroso split third.

Crosstables here!