Archive for May, 2007

Krushing Victory

May 21, 2007

Pascal Charbonneau and Irina Krush 

In the sixth round of the 2007 U.S. Chess Championship, Irina Krush of Brooklyn defeated Bay Area resident and rising star Joshua Friedel.  Krush, one of the players on my fantasy chess team, is profiled in my forthcoming book, King’s Gambit: a Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.   

An excerpt from King’s Gambit:

Irina’s life revolves around the game.  “I am very chessy,” she told me.  Irina is uncomfortable giving interviews—she’d rather be playing chess than talking about the game.   But one morning at 3:00 A.M., when I was driving home from a tournament with her and Pascal, she was unusually philosophical.  Of all the top players I know, she is the most idealistic about the power of chess to give meaning to life.  “Chess is a gift that civilization handed us,” she told me.   “I believe chess can bring me closer to the spiritual part of this world in a way that simple material stuff can’t.” 

Annals of Innocence

May 21, 2007

On my ride up the BQE today, I noticed that the billboards on the side of the highway had changed.  One of them used to show a scantily clad woman whose skimpy thong was nearly the same color as her skin, and so—as I whizzed past the signit was hard to know exactly what was going on.

Once my curious seven-year-old, who wondered what the billboard was advertising (perhaps it was for a men’s club or a Caribbean resort), pointed out that the woman may have been naked and showing her “girl stuff.”  Now I love the phrase, “girl stuff,”  so sweet and innocent in light of the vulgar terms for female genitalia that he’d undoubtedly be learning any day now from the older kids on the playground.

Fantasy Update

May 20, 2007

We are just past the halfway mark of the fantasy chess season.  Despite the fact that my No. 2 player, Alexander Shabalov, is leading the 2007 U.S. Championship 5-0, my fantasy team is tied only for 43rd to 74th out of 387 places.  My team has 18.5 points, and the leader has 20 points.  There are four rounds left.

Hikaru Nakamura  3.5
Alexander Shabalov  5
Eugene Perelshteyn  2.5
Irina Krush  2.5
David Pruess  1.5
Jay Bonin  1.5
Irina Zenyuk  2

“All the NEWS That’s Fit to Print”

May 19, 2007

The What’s Offline department in today’s New York Times reported the news that Working Mother magazine has reported the news that The European Journal of Social Psychology has reported the news that scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia have found that coffee is medicinally goodif it’s the other person who is drinking it.  Two cups of coffee apparently make someone to whom you’re talking more open-minded to your point of view. 

Okay, this is an amusing research result but the report in the aforementioned European journal is not newsit’s a year old.  So now my blog has reported the news that today’s New York Times has reported the news that Working Mother magazine has reported the news that The European Journal of Social Psychology has reported the news that scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia have found that coffee is medicinally goodif it’s the other person who is drinking it. 

The researchers down under found that “with caffeine consumption we are more likely to attend to, and agree with, persuasive arguments.  The experiments involved asking people their attitudes about voluntary euthanasia before and after reading persuasive arguments against their initial beliefs. Prior to reading the arguments, the participants consumed orange juice with either caffeine (equivalent to two cups of coffee) or no caffeine (placebo).”

Windows Expert Needed in Bulgaria

May 19, 2007

Mig Greengard’s Daily Dirt blog at, which has the superb tag-line “Because losing sucks,” is a must read for chess professionals and their fans.  On Wednesday, May 16, a curious posting stream appeared called “Help Wanted! Elista or Bust”—a general plea for assistance in replacing grandmaster Gata Kamsky’s malfunctioning laptop in Bulgaria—and then curiously disappeared.  Kamsky, a Siberian turned New Yorker who graduated from law school, is America’s best hope since Bobby Fischer for winning the world chess championship.  To play for the world title in September in Mexico City, he must first do well in a qualifying tournament that starts in a week in Elista “help-me-Map-Quest” Kalmykia.  

Kamksy is now warming up in the M-Tel Masters tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, and can’t use his computer, which houses his all-important chess-opening preparation and a database of his past games as well as his opponents’.  Hence the Daily Dirt plea, which suggested that Kamsky faced the same dilemma as a working mom: he could not shop for a computer in Bulgaria because he had to play chess during the hours when the stores were normally open. 

The fact that the No. 1 ranked U.S. player and his supporters have to scramble for a computer on the eve of his representing our country in a world-championship-qualifying match says something very pathetic about the state of American chess.  Can you imagine Tiger Woods or his manager having to post an ad on Craigslist because the champ misplaced his clubs?  Or Lance Armstrong, because he couldn’t find his bicycle? 

Doesn’t Kamsky have a back-up of his preparation on hand? 

In 2004, I accompanied Pascal Charbonneau to the world championship in Tripoli, and the Canadian Champion installed a copy of his opening preparation on my PC—and he almost needed it after he plugged his laptop into an outlet in the hotel room and the outlet kind of exploded and the electricity in the entire wall blew out!  (I could have provided Pascal with more support in Libya if I hadn’t been taken into custody and harassed on suspicion of being CIA, but that’s a long harrowing story, which will have to wait until the publication of King’s Gambit.)

Why can’t Kamsky just ask the  M-Tel organizers to help him get a new laptop? A world-class competitor like Kamsky customarily employs a “second”—a strong player to help him come up with opening-move novelties and lend moral support.  Can’t Kamsky’s sous-chef take an hour out from cooking up novelties in the Queen’s Indian Defense and go shopping in Sofia for a computer?  Or does Kamsky not have a second? 

And why doesn’t the United States Chess Federation, which has 80,000 dues-paying woodpushers like myself, just step in and buy him a new laptop or fix him up with someone who can reinstall Windows?  I can’t think of a better use for our dues than to support our very best player. 

After a few posters on ChessNinja ridiculed Kamsky because of the Help Wanted request (someone named Eoa slighted Bulgarian, perhaps?wrote, “Lets see a lawyer that can easily earn over a hundred thousand a year easily in the USA needs help from chess peasants laughable. If He is going to play pro let him act pro.”), Kamsky himself wrote to explain that the matter would be dealt with privately and that “Everything is fine:)”.  The Help Wanted thread subsequently came down. 

The latest Daily Dirt blog entry indicates that Kamsky now has a new laptop and new software because good Samaritans intervened and shipped them to him.

Mig’s site does a dynamite job of tracking Kamsky’s progress in Bulgaria (he’s now tied for second place).  News about the M-Tel tournament and his progress can also be found at ChessBase News and Chess Life Online.


May 19, 2007


Four-story Flatland habitat (courtesy of

Although the Flatlanders are emerging from their two-dimensional world tomorrow, my e-mail chess with one of the artists will happily continue.  Four of the six artists have already abandoned their two-dimensional transparent habitat, and my e-pal is one of those MIA.  It’s still not too late to visit the Flatland Project at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City. 

You can attend the exit party on Sunday from 4:00-6:00 PM, when the remaining two flatigued inhabitants will rejoin the three-dimensional world.  At times like this, I wish I had a doppelgänger: I can’t participate in the exit bash because I’ll be upstate at a birthday party.

Copy Editing Confidential

May 19, 2007

I’ve been poring over (it’s poring not pouring, right?) a type-set proof of King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game in search of annoying typos. 


Gremlins are inevitable in a work of 150,000 words (yes, I have a lot to say!) but I’m hell-bent on reducing them to a minimum.  I’ve had nightmares ever since a well-intentioned copy-editor  inexplicably changed Veselin Topalov’s first name, which I had corretly spelled, to Vaselin.  Now maybe Vaseline is an apt nickname for a grandmaster who is as oily as petroleum jelly (after being down two games in last year’s world-championship match, the slippery Bulgarian tried to distract the chess world from his pathetic 0-2 score by charging his opponent with going to the bathroom too frequently and consulting a chess-playing computer while on the privy).   

Now Vaseline does figure in King’s Gambit, but not as someone’s first name.  In Chapter 8, “I’m Not the World’s Biggest Geek,”  I describe the late Alexander Wojtkiewicz, who was perhaps the most active grandmaster on the U.S. weekend tournament circuit.

“In a chess world full of oversized characters, Wojtkiewicz was still a stand-out.  He was equal part hustler and naïf, and the stories about him were endless and amusing.  Like the time he wondered unknowingly into a gay bar with a male friend and a woman.  At some point the woman had a nose bleed and Wojt got the attention of the place when he anxiously and loudly asked the bartender for Vaseline, an old Polish remedy for her affliction.  There was also the time that he was staying with friends in Chicago, disappeared for a weekend without telling them, and returned with no explanation, as if he had just stepped out to buy a paper, except that he was now on crutches.”

Go Girl, Go!

May 19, 2007

 “Women could be just as good at chess,” said anthropologist Margaret Mead, “but why would they want to be?”

How about to get the same endorphin rush and incomparable feeling of competence that men get when they shine on the chessboard?  That’s what twenty-year-old Irina Zenyuk, a key member of my fantasy chess team, did yesterday: she shined like a supernova.   

Zenyuk, who was seeded in the cellar of the 2007 U.S. Chess Championship (No. 35 out of 36 players), scored a huge upset by defeating international master and rising star Josh Friedel, the No. 19 seed. 


First Look

May 18, 2007

I need to start breaking news on my blog.  So here, never before published on the Web, is the cover of my forthcoming book, King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.  The pub date is Sept. 11not, I hope, an ominous sign. 

Go Team!

May 18, 2007

Below is my fantasy chess team for the 2007 United States Chess Championship, in which 36 wood-shifters are duking it out over the board.  The fantasy competition is clever.  You choose seven players, and the rules prevent you from simply selecting the seven highest ranked players: your team’s average rating can’t exceed 2510.  After three of nine rounds, my team has scored twelve points.  Today won’t be good because two of my players are facing each other.

Hikaru Nakamura 2755
Alexander Shabalov 2656
Eugene Perelshteyn 2612
Irina Krush 2480
David Pruess 2461
Jay Bonin 2381
Irina Zenyuk 2186