The Knightmare Continues

Last night, the New York Knightsa powerhouse team on paperstruggled again and couldn’t extricate themselves from their calamitous four-round slump in the U.S. Chess League. They lamely drew with the Boston Blitz. Hikaru Nakamura, the most exciting young player in American chess, couldn’t score a win in his second appearance as a Knight on Board One. At least the nineteen-year-old phenom didn’t lose, as he did last week. But his position against Boston’s Larry Christiansen looked dicey for awhile and Hikaru’s teammates were afraid that he was going down.

Hikaru’s numerous fans on the Internet love his aggression but they are waiting for him to temper it with strategic vision. There was disapproving chatter about why he made most of his moves so incredibly fast as if he were playing bullet (one-minute chess). One grandmaster who was observing the game said, “Hikaru plays at the speed of light and wonders why he almost loses. I think he’ll get less cocky if he continues to do badly.”

Manager Irina Krush was in Gmunden, Austria, yesterday for a women’s blitz tournament that’s being staged concurrently with the World Senior Open. (Originally the women players were supposed to participate in a wear-what-you-want fashion show for the entertainment of the geriatric men, but fortunately someone scuttled that sexist idea.) With Irina away, the job of motivating the New York Knights fell on her husband and assistant manager Pascal Charbonneau.

When I interviewed Pascal for King’s Gambit, we spoke at length about how hard it was for them to play in a tournament together and both do well. If he’s doing well and she’s not, he can’t just channel all his energy into continuing his winning ways, but also must try to buck her upand vice versa, if she’s doing well and he’s not.

Team play together is a bit different because there is a week between rounds and thus more time to recover from a brutal loss. I was struck, though, by how in the first round they made nearly consecutive blunders, as if they were wired too much into each other’s play. Last night, for whatever reason, Pascal seemed to be able to focus fully on his game against his old college chess teammate, fellow grandmaster Eugene Perelshtyen. “I was not happy to give up all my pawns in the endgame,” Pascal told me, but he succeeded in weaving a satisfying, Internet-crowd-pleasing mating net.

10 Responses to “The Knightmare Continues”

  1. USCL FAN Says:

    I dont know whats there to be dissapointed about, Perelshteyn missed 100 chances to hold that endgame. and Charbo came through, NY was down 2-1 and drew the match, not so bad against the Boston powerhouse.

  2. paulhoffman Says:

    As a NYer, I’m disappointed that our team never wins. I like, and know, the team members as individuals but they can’t get their act together yet as a team.

    I lived in Boston for four years (Cambridge actually), and so I have a tad of allegiance to the Blitz too.

  3. Pascal Charbonneau Says:

    Dear USCL (Boston) fan,

    First of all, while the endgame may or may not be drawn, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that black would win this against practically anyone after winning the g3-pawn. I am even close to thinking that it may be a win, theoretically. The presence of opposite-colored bishops makes the defense extremely difficult. That being said, it is clear that I missed several easier continuations prior to getting rid of all my pawns, but claiming that there were 100 chances to draw seems to be pushing it a little bit. Maybe there was a way to draw at some point, but in my opinion black kept good winning chances throughout (unless there’s a tactic that forces a draw, but A) I did not see one and B) there could not have been 100!); if it’s just moving the king around, then I can say again that black should win.


  4. anonymous Says:

    Yes, the idea of having a wear-what-you-want fashion show sounds a little crude. But what is really sexist in the chess community is the fast disparity of income and opportunities between the genders. No 2479-rated male player could ever even DREAM of being invited to Austria to play in a—presumably—highly compensated (by chess standards) blitz tournament; whether to entertain geriatric men or not. This is a sexism that doesn’t just make people feel insulted, but also deeply affects the quality of their life. It also can’t be avoided by simply refusing to take part.

    A male player of Krush’s level in the US has three options:

    1) Find a job outside of chess. Not so easy when you have sacrificed a lot of time and effort for chess, and do not know many people outside of the chess community. And if you succeed, it means for the most part leaving what you love.

    2) Make some sort of living in unfulfilling and frustrating work teaching little kids how the pieces move. Not really what you thought your life would turn out to be—oh, and yeah, they might prefer to hire someone rated 1000 points less than you. And by the way, a female of your level will get paid 3 times as much—because she is a “celebrity”.

    3) Try to make a living from playing in open tournaments. And starve.

    That’s it. If you know the right people you have a chance to write books, for which you will not be paid much. But there is no way you are going to make a living playing chess, as all the special women’s events allow Krush or another female of her level to do. And you will not get any respect either.

    No offense meant toward anybody; I just think this injustice needs to be addressed. It is making some people’s lives bitter and unhappy.

  5. Derek Slater Says:

    Dear Pascal: Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts on the game. Now please stop beating the Blitz players match after match. It’s quite wearying. 🙂

  6. patrick bollig Says:

    anon is right about one thing: some people’s lives are bitter and unhappy. cheer up, please.

    women in chess, especially somewhat attractive young ones, add value to chess events in terms of attention from media and sponsors. this is the something like the Anna Kournikova effect, whose income dwarfed that of a male tennis player at her same skill level. welcome to capitalism.

    furthermore, women in chess add value in terms of rehabilitating negative “nerd” stereotypes. this ultimately benefits the game far more than some obscure novelty in the poisoned pawn variation. if chess is associated with pretty faces, it will get more mainstream attention. ultimately even the geriatric curmudgeons will profit too.

  7. anonymous Says:

    Patrick bollig, Simply saying “that’s capitalism” is not an justification of an injustice. Injustice is injustice, regardless of what economic system it occured under. Employers doubtless had their reasons why they would not hire women, or blacks; but people saw that it was wrong that whole groups of people were denied opportunities and had a worse life because of some superficial characteristic, and enacted laws to try to correct the situation. You think that the chess world is better off that female players are given special opportunities and more money. Some people make the argument that the world would be better off if women stayed at home and raised their children, rather than having them be raised by the tv. So should employers go back to not hiring women? No, because even if it is probably true (society would be better off) the affect on the individuals would be unjust.

    In addition, I think that chess is different from tennis. I don’t like to think that chess should turn into modelling. If that is what you have to do to attract mainstream attention, then forget it. Chess players are attracted to chess because they like those “obscure novelties in the poisoned pawn variation”. Chess is an art and a world of ideas. Maybe that ‘obscure novelty’ was a very beautiful idea? Also, chess players are attracted to chess because it (at least seems) like something where you will be judged by what you do, not who you are or who you know. But apparently this is not the case.

    And this has been going on for a long time, by the way, and I have seen no improvement in the opportunities for a professional player (a male one, that is). In fact the situation is worse than 5 years ago, I think.

  8. Elizabeth Vicary Says:

    While I don’t completely agree with the argument that women shouldn’t get any special treatment whatsoever in chess, I acknowledge that it is a reasonable, logically consistent point of view.

    However, I think it’s incumbent on anyone who takes this point of view to boycott completely the website. If you even *occassionally* click on their big photo reports of women’s tournamants, then your position is a complete joke.

  9. USCL FAN Says:

    I bet that long post about the inequalities of women and men in chess was posted by David Vigorito, of course I could be wrong…

  10. patrick bollig Says:

    interesting that “anonymous” believes that competitive chess is more akin to the civil rights movement than competitive tennis. wow.

    rather than a human rights or a civil rights issue, i believe this is a solely a practical, economic issue relating to supply/demand as driven by sponsorship and/or media attention– the engines of capitalism. only the influx of big money into chess– not vague feelings of indignation– will begin to generate financial opportunities for the chess professionals of ANY gender. this money you seek has to come from somewhere! rather than fight for a strictly equal slice of a very small pie, why not seek to make the whole pie MUCH bigger? please consider, and have a great day.

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