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I came across this in online play.  It’s called the Romford Counter-Gambit, played against the Grob Attack.

Can anyone tell me what black gets for the exchange?  Believe it or not, it’s white’s turn and he or she will capture at b7 and then a8, and this is considered a viable opening for black.

I guess.

The fish symbolism below was popular with left activist newsletters during the 1980s, the bottom one actually being based upon a children’s book with a title I don’t remember about a pariah black fish among red fish eventually serving as an eye in the revolutionary formation.

The image comes from this American Friends Service Committee site – always loved the Quakers.

Well, some chess geek came up with an even better image. It comes from imageshack, and I’ve found it on various sites, but I can’t find an attribution.

A few years back I posted about a less than productive post-game exchange following a defeat by famed chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi at the hands of one of the Polgar sisters.  Well, Korchnoi never liked losing.  He certainly didn’t like losing two opportunities for the world championship against his arch-enemy Anatoly Karpov a few decades back.  He especially doesn’t like losing to women.  Well, a few months before my prior post, he had lost to another woman – Irina Krush.  And as she blogged, the post-game exchange wasn’t any prettier.

The photo was posted on Ms. Krush’s blog, and I assume was taken by her.


Odd thing.  Of the players who are regularly in competition in the U.S. only about 3 percent are women – less than half the world average and much lower than countries such as Russia, Georgia, and lately China.  Women in the U.S. do tend to excel here in other games and sports traditionally male dominated, but for some reason we are way behind in chess.  Most of the very best female players here are immigrants.  Women in the poker at higher rates.  Even boxing.  But not chess.  Any theories?

I’ll let the youtube-posted info speak for itself.

Jennifer Shahade’s submission for YouTube Play Biennial: Project with Guggenheim Museum. Hulachess explores themes of multitasking, the feminine, circular side of chess and the surprising parallels between chess and hooping. The chess moves are based on a game Duchamp lost against the Romanian master Davidescu. The video features a possible improvement by Duchamp, which would have led the game to perpetual check.

The video, created by chess champion and artist Jennifer Shahade and filmmaker Daniel Meirom, features Shahade playing red and choreographer & dancer Gabrielle Revlock playing White. Cinematography by Blake Eichenseer.

I initially found the video at Ms. Shahade’s blog.  She was twice the US Woman’s Champion.

My son participated in the Jacoby Creek School sponsored “Fun and Glory Chess Tournament” in Arcata today. It was a Swiss format tournament in which each round pairings are determined by equivalent wins/losses, and four different age divisions play in one competition. My 6 year old son only won two of his five games. I didn’t understand the scoring system, so both my son and I were shocked at the end when he was announced as the Division 4 (second grade and under) champion. Apparently there were others in his age group who won 2 games as well, but his opposition was the toughest among them. So he’s basking in the glory of a trophy for his first ever tournament.

Thanks to Brad Morin and Jacoby Creek for putting on a fun event at the Arcata Community Center. He holds a youth chess club every Wednesday afternoon at the same location. I’m not sure of the time. When I get home I’ll post more information.

Meanwhile, my kid is floating in the glory. He won’t stop talking about it. Now he wants a chess clock. I have an old wooden analog (where the minute hand drops the flag) one somewhere at home, but I guess those aren’t regulation anymore.

Photo comes from the Easton Area High School site.

The back of my head anyway. My son’s in full view however. We were at the chess event in Arcata. A friend saw us on the 6:00 news.

We may also be in tomorrow’s Times Standard.

It’s the first time I’ve been in the Arcata Community Center. Nice facility, although my son thought the bathroom was “scary” because everything was invisible light automated.

Thanks to Jacoby Creek School and the Arcata Chess Club, especially Brad (didn’t catch his last name) who engaged a daunting task of trying to create a chess teaching plan with multi-skill level kids. It was a little chaotic at first, but once the grown-up volunteers and parents understood the program everyone bore down and I think most of the kids got a lot out of it.

In contrast to my childhood, I’d estimate that a fourth of the participants were girls. The ratio would have been higher if I hadn’t brought four boys.

Some of the younger kids opted out of the blitz tournament afterwards (speed chess can be a little too much pressure on them). Fortunately there was a great playground outside and… snow!

The drive home was a bit of a challenge, though gorgeous while we had daylight. I had four kids in the car who weren’t nervous about the conditions as I, and I had to quiet them down a few times. By the time we reached Scotia the road was covered with snow. By Redcrest it was all rain. Kind of an odd little pocket of weather today, because it wasn’t snowing in Eureka when we left.

At about the Miranda exit the kids started playing a game where they all stared at each other in silence, the loser being the first to make a noise. I kicked myself for not suggesting that game back in Eureka.

We got home to a warm house safely. My wife, who is on a remodeling tear, had torn away some of the gaudy wood wall paneling to reveal a pea soup colored wall paper with flowers and a kind of Currier and Ives version of abstract art in pattern. She actually likes it. For me it lacks context. Maybe if we buy an old plastic bread box and a Formica table with tin strip trim.

Update: Yep. That was my head. And my kid.

Addendum: We are also in this morning’s Times Standard.

I’ll be there with four kids from Beginnings. Unfortunately my car’s full, but there are other local kids who want to go. If you’re kid is interested and you have space in a car, please contact me.

Chess Lover’s Carnival
Winter 2008
January 27, 1:00 – 3:15 PM

Arcata Community Center
321 Community Park Way
Arcata, CA

INVITATION: This family event is geared for kids from Kindergarten through HIgh School who enjoy chess. Adults who want to help, compete, or learn some chess with the kids are also encouraged to participate. Beginners and experienced players will all be accommodated. Expect a motivating environment, interesting challenges, and a variety of resources from which to learn chess tactics and strategies for openings, middle games, and end games.

PRIZES: Chess sets, chess clocks, and other prizes will be awarded for participation or performance of teams/schools, families, and individuals.

CHALLENGE TABLES: Various puzzles, quizzes, timed exercises, and one-on-one challenges await participants at each Challenge Table, where points will be awarded.

RESOURCE TABLES: Printed material, exercises, tutors, and practice boards will be available at Resource Tables. Parents are encouraged to take part with younger and inexperienced children to help them learn chess basics at the Resource Tables.

REGISTRATION: Register at the door. For a discount, pre-register by Saturday, Jan 26 by notifying us of your intent to come. Send an email to, or phone (707) 825-8793, with the following information: Name, Grade, School, and Contact Info (email or phone number).

Fees will be collected at final registration upon arrival at the tournament.

ENTRY FEE: The cost is $10.00 per participant ($5.00 if pre-registered) or $25.00 per family ($15.00 if pre-registered). Parents can pay and compete for family prizes and school team prizes, or they can come free to learn and help their kids at the Resource Tables.

OPTIONAL “INVERTED BLITZ TOURNAMENT“: After the carnival, a short blitz tournament will take place from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Stronger players will be time handicapped, giving inexperienced players better odds of winning. The action will be fast and furious, fitting eight rounds in the ninety minute period. The tournament will be free for anyone bringing a digital chess clock; otherwise, it will cost $2.00. Trophies will be awarded, mostly to the younger participants, thanks to the generosity of Robert Snyder.

GENERAL INFO: A limited selection of snacks will be provided at reasonable costs. Contact Brad Morin at or 825-8793 with questions. This event is sponsered by Jacoby Creek School, Arcata Chess Club, and Arcata Recreation Department.

Bobby Fischer who was the only non-Soviet to win the world chess championship from World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union died of “illness” so far unreported. After beating Boris Spassky in 1972 he never played another professional chess game in his life (unless you count a rather strange “rematch” with Spaasky in Belgrade which got him into trouble with U.S. authorities), forfeiting his championship three years later because FIDE refused to alter the rules to give him an advantage. His IQ was higher than Einstein’s, but it led him into a religious fanaticism which in turn brought him into a very weird space which I’ll discuss later.

He is often considered to have been the best player in history. He was certainly in the top 5.

There’s more at this blog where I grabbed the photo of the a game between Spassky and Fischer. Fischer’s on the right. It’s not from the big match, but rather an earlier tournament. Fischer looked more like Saddam Hussein immediately following the capture in recent years.

Update: The Times Standard has the story. In contradiction to another story I read, they say he was 64.

I discovered this by accident. Some days ago somebody e-mailed this video of 911 conspiracy theorists trying to make some sort of point on the Bill Maher show. Pat Scott, former manager of KPFA, once remarked, “you had the old left, we were the new left, and now we’re stuck with the what’s left.” I won’t go on, but between the video I posted below and the “truthers” yelling at Maher, Scott’s comment popped into my head after a decade.

Is the left intellectually dying on the vine? I mean, what are we offering of late in terms of new ideas? Original thoughts? There are a few outlets, but anybody who even deviates from the line on major points is slammed as a “neo-con.”

I decided I’ve been riding the left a little too hard in recent months, and the Truther/Maher video was too easy a shot. I drafted up a piece, but never posted it.

So then somebody sent me a chess video link which I’m not going to bother to post because it might interest the two or three bloggers here who play chess. The way Youtube works is you watch your video and then in a column near the mini-screen is a list of “similar” videos that might interest the viewer. I found one entitled “Gary Kasparov explains the political nature of oil.” All of the sudden I’m back on the Bill Maher show and immediately there’s a reference to the downside of live TV. I thought “how many times are the truthers going to be able to pull this?”

You’re then treated to a very refreshing interview with Kasparov who is running for president of Russia. He’s already been arrested in pro-democracy demonstrations, and has written a book which blends chess and politics. Granted his constituency won’t see this video, not many of them anyway. But he actually listens to the questions, thinks about them, and responds – sometimes with clever humor. Very articulate despite a mild language barrier, and an interesting take on the impact of oil politics on his situation. I mean, it’s about as deep as you can get in a five minute television interview, and unlike most pols and activists he was critically examining the questions and thinking about answers that aren’t necessarily tailored to his agenda. As I said: refreshing.

After the interview the camera moves to the in-studio guests and what do you know? It’s the Chris Matthews panel from the first video. What a better basis for comparison and contrast? And it concludes with Maher giving Matthews a dig. Of course, Matthews is used to interviews where his subjects challenge him to duels and whatnot.

Susan Polgar discusses the interview on her blog.

Photo source.

The chess thread below kind of spurred some net surfing on the topic (I may have to start playing again). Most of the material is of no interest to anyone not into the game, but I came across this video of Sophia Polgar beating Victor Korchnoi in a blitz game (speed chess). I think some of you may find the dynamics interesting as they’re classic to the occurrence of women moving into a traditionally male-exclusive milieu.

Korchnoi is the senior would-be world champion who challenged Anatoly Karpov for the world championship on two occasions. He was a defector from the U.S.S.R. playing against the Soviet golden boy and all the cold war intrigue that had surrounding the Fischer-Spaasky match made the story sell outside the chess world. That and Korchnoi’s antics. He’s never been known for his sportsmanship. The following description of the 1978 match comes from Wikipedia.

The World Championship match of 1978 was held in Baguio in the Philippines, and deserves its reputation as the most bizarre World Championship match ever played. Karpov’s team included a Dr. Zukhar (a well known hypnotist), while Korchnoi adopted two local renegades currently on bail for attempted murder (Source: Karpov — Korchnoi 1978, by Raymond Keene). There was more controversy off the board, with histrionics ranging from X-raying of chairs, protests about the flags used on the board, the inevitable hypnotism complaints and the mirror glasses used by Korchnoi. When Karpov’s team sent him a blueberry yogurt during a game without any request for one by Karpov, the Korchnoi team protested, claiming it could be some kind of code. They later said this was intended as a parody of earlier protests, but it was taken seriously at the time.[5]

Karpov’s team wasn’t particularly gracious either. The Soviets objected to Korchnoi playing under the Swiss flag and instead wanted his flag to be white and read “stateless.” Korchnoi’s support team showed a sense of humor and offered to switch his flag to the Jolly Roger.

Sophia is one of the famed Polgar sisters from Hungary. They were the first women to achieve authentic grandmaster status and Sophia’s older sister Judit is ranked among the top 10 players and competed in this last world championship tournament. The oldest sister Susan is living in the US and is into politics more than chess of late (she even has a blog).

Not all the male grandmasters are happy about the intrusion, which is bound to get bigger as made evident by the account in the first book on the history of women in chess entitled Chess Bitch and written by another rising female star Jennifer Shahade. In this game, which took place recently in San Francisco, Korchnoi loses and immediately he gets up to leave without offering the customary handshake. She attempts to strike up a conversation I think, based on her tone and body language, trying to say she was afraid she would lose his respect, though her English isn’t clear and it’s hard to know what she meant. He either hears it in the worst way or doesn’t care – he is clearly angry before she speaks. Either way he smugly tells her that she’s never going to win a game from him again in her life, which probably means he’ll have to refuse to play her as she is only going to improve.

The accents make it hard to make out the dialogue but with several listens and some transcripts to compare, this transcript offered by one of the Youtube commenters is probably pretty close to the exchange, with some modifications as I hear it.

SP: I was afraid to lose the…the res
VK: excuse me?

SP: I was afraid to lose the respect that now I have others/elders (?)…

VK: It was the very first and the very last you ever won(ed) a game against me
. I’m sorry.
SP: Could be but I won it anyway
VK: You won it…you won it, the very first and very last in your life. Yah.

SP: Really! One time does in you.

Don’t let him get to you Sophia.

Polgar’s photo comes from Steffen’s Chess Gallery. Korchnoi’s comes from his Wikipedia entry.

Addendum: Came across a simultaneous exhibition Judit Polgar performed at a chess club in Germany. She played against 30 and lost 1. I was trying to figure out which one she lost. I thought it might be to the kid, but then I went back and looked at the position when they first homed in on him and it’s not likely.

Judit was also interviewed about attitudes she’s run into in her professional life.


July 2020