Archive for October, 2007

Knights’ Last Stand

October 31, 2007

My loyalties are torn tonight. I’ll be in Woodstock trick-or-treating with my eight-year-old, while the New York Knights have their last, up-hill shot of making it into the playoffs of the U.S. Chess League. So I won’t be watching them play live at the Marshall Chess Club tonight, but will be observing them online as they down the New Jersey Knockouts. Go Knights!


Spurious Cheating Charge Against Chess Child

October 29, 2007

In the infamous Toiletgate scandal in last year’s world chess championship, challenger Veselin Topalov insinuated that champion Vladimir Kramnik was somehow cheating during his frequent trips to the restroom. The implication was that, when Kramnik was on the throne, he was consulting a computer or receiving move suggestions through a wireless earpiece.

Now similar vague cheating charges have been made at the European Union championship for young children in Batumi, Georgia. Entry was restricted to the age of eight and below, and Nikita Ayvazyan of Moscow won last week with a score of 8 to 1. Andy Soltis wrote in yesterday’s New York Post (the article is not yet posted online) that the Azerbaijani delegation of parents and chess teachers accused Ayvazyan of receiving secret help during the game. The tournament organizers found no basis to the accusation and blasted the Azerbaijanis for making it.

“Sets a New Standard for Serious Nonfiction Writing on Chess”

October 28, 2007

Today’s Dallas Morning News has a review of my book by Tim Redman, founder of the Chess Program at the University of Texas at Dallas and former president of the U.S. Chess Federation:

“Paul Hoffman’s engaging memoir relates how chess rescued him from a troubled adolescence and then offered solace to him as an adult: ‘Chess offered a tidy black-and-white sanctuary from the turmoil in the rest of my life.’

“Such a tale is typical for serious adult chess players…. But Mr. Hoffman’s writing skills and close access to the top echelons of chess make this book stand out.

“And what a group these players be! As a teenager, Mr. Hoffman beats his first grandmaster, Nicholas Rossolimo, at the latter’s small chess studio in Greenwich Village. During the course of the evening, Nick served a supper of steamed mussels with garlic, conversed with Paul’s father about Nabokov and Sartre, played chess with Paul, and consumed five bottles of white wine before resigning a lost game by dipping his king in the mussel broth and scattering the rest of the pieces.

“Mr. Hoffman’s descriptions are letter-perfect, and he doesn’t shy away from the game’s negative effects on some: its addictive nature and its frequent association with insanity and obsession. Indeed, as he notes, the chess world readily accepts eccentric behavior. For some, regrettably, chess is the Sargasso Sea of intellect.

“…Mr. Hoffman has sought to comprehend ‘the inner life of chess players.’ Whether nonfiction can accomplish this goal as well as fiction… remains to be seen. But Mr. Hoffman has come closer than anyone so far.

“The book’s great strength lies in its many interviews with key players…. His account of his encounter with the Keystone Kops of the Libyan security state, where he went to report on the World Chess Championship, is harrowing though comical in retrospect. The book is rich in such narrative treasures.

King’s Gambit, in short, sets a new standard for serious nonfiction writing on chess.”

The entire review is here.

Knights Need Help from Queens

October 25, 2007

Alas, the New York Knights went down to defeat last night in the US Chess League at the hands of the Philadelphia Inventors. The first two boards, Irina Krush and Yuri Lapshun, lost; Robert Hess drew, and Irina Zenyuk won. The last round of the regular season is next week, and the Knights have an outside chance of reaching the playoffs. They will need to defeat the New Jersey Knockouts and score at least a full win more than the Baltimore Kingfishers achieve against the Queens Pioneers. So how about a little cross-borough cooperation, with the Pioneers doing their part to help their Manhattan brethren?

The Knights can’t yet get it together when their star Hikaru Nakamura is otherwise occupied. He is off in Barcelona crushing grandmasters by making his moves at his usual breakneck speed.

As If Chess Didn’t Already Have an Image Problem…

October 25, 2007

Yesterday the Moscow “chess killer,” who once said he planned to murder 64 people (and actually killed “only” 48, in the Bittsa Park in Moscow’s southern suburbs), one for each square on the chessboard, was convicted by a Moscow jury.

OK, I write about chess and insanity in King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, but this takes the cake. At least there’s no evidence that the murderer was actually a chess player.

New York Pins Hope on Wild Knight

October 24, 2007


The New York Knights have to win tonight if they are going to have a shot at the playoffs in the US Chess League, but their top man, Hikaru Nakamura, is in Barcelona kicking butt in the nine-round Casino de Barcelona tournament there (the Web site is in Catalan!). The White Plains wonder is in uncontested first place in Spain after five rounds, with three wins and two draws.

Filling in for Hikaru in New York is not No. 2 Knight Pascal Charbonneau but wild-man alternate Yuri Lapshun (shown above), whose outre openings are often crowd-pleasers. He is one of the few international masters to venture the Orangutan, the shoving of the queen-knight pawn two squares on move one. He’ll have Black tonight against the Philadelphia Inventors, and the action starts at 7:00 PM on the Internet Chess Club.

The Knights will have to break the spell of needing Nakamura in order to win.

Next King’s Gambit Signing

October 18, 2007

I’ll be doing my next talk and book signing at the historic Marshall Chess Club on Tuesday, November 13, at 7:00 PM. If you haven’t been to the Marshall, you should check it out. It’s in a brownstone at 23 West 10th Street in New York City, and there are great black and white photos on the walls of chess giants of yesteryear. At my talk, Dr. Frank Brady, the president of the Marshall, will lead a Q & A about King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game.

Last Sunday’s San Diego Union-Tribune ran a piece called “SO MANY BOOKS…” It began “…and so little time. Every year in this country some 60,000 tomes are published, and [we] can’t get to most of them. Nonetheless, we’ve culled some from the herd that might be worth a look. These are not reviews—they are book alerts.” Thankfully, one of the four books culled was King’s Gambit, for which the Union-Tribune offered a sweet tag line: “The blood sport through the lens of an expert observer of the game, and of life.”

Nakamura Breaks Out

October 17, 2007

The New York Knights beat the Queens Pioneers in the US Chess League when Hikaru Nakamura, the White Plains wonder, broke the Nakamura paradox and won his first game as a Knight. Maybe it was the inspiration teammate Jay Bonin provided when he arrived at the Marshall Chess Club donning a shield and sword and shouting, “Go Knights!” New York still has a chance to reach the playoffs. The Knights played their match early this week. The other teams play tonight.

The new world chess champion Vishy Anand said yesterday that he hopes to see chess as an Olympic sport. Now, I too would welcome all the attention chess might get if it were part of the Olympic games. But, as one wag said, “I don’t consider something to be a sport if I can do it better while smoking.”

Royal Error

October 16, 2007


In an early post, I good-naturedly ragged on Robert Hess, the chess-master athlete on the New York Knights, for not making sure the board was set up correctly in his fifteen minutes of fame in the New York Daily News. Now Kenyan Chess Blog provides several amusing examples of incorrect boards in promotional material for the highest levels of chess. Like the above poster for none other than the 2004 World Chess Championship, in which the positions of the White king and queen are reversed.

It’s Tough Being an Author

October 15, 2007

Mediabistro threw a publishing party at Bar Martignetti at which I was the guest of honor (I’m the guy in the bottom photo with the wine glass). I enjoyed telling the assembled literary celebrants about King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game and raffling off three copies of the book.