Archive for October, 2007

Children Should Have Rights, Too

October 14, 2007

“Safford Middle School officials did not violate the civil rights of a 13-year-old Safford girl when they forced her to disrobe and expose her breasts and pubic area four years ago while looking for a drug, according to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling,” begins an article in the Eastern Arizona Courier.

And what was the dangerous drug, the scourge of our nation’s youth, that the school authorities thought she was concealing? Ibuprofen (aka Advil), which is well known as a prelude to harder stuff like milk and cookies.

All the News That Fits in a Trunk

October 13, 2007

I am a fairly faithful reader of The New York Times but I missed this awesome correction to an article about the jury award in the Knicks sexual-harassment lawsuit: “An earlier version of this article misstated the location of a 2005 sexual encounter between Stephon Marbury of the Knicks and a team intern. Mr. Marbury testified that it took place in his truck, not in the trunk of his car.”

Thanks to Elizabeth Vicary’s chess blog, I learned of the correction.

King’s Gambit Book Party

October 12, 2007

I should have posted this earlier.  Jennifer Shahade took some great photos at my Barnes and Noble reading for King’s Gambit and put them on her blog at Chess Life Online.

The first picture proves that chess masters can be very happy: GM Pascal Charbonneau, two-time champion of Canada, and IM Irina Krush, two-time U.S. Women’s Champion. The second shows that they can be serious: flanked by Marshall Chess Club president Frank Brady, I wait (in my designer T-shirt—I dressed up out of respect for my audience) to field a tricky question from a listener. The third shows the crowd that assembled for the book signing.


The Nakamura Paradox

October 11, 2007

The New York Knights kept their playoff chances alive by defeating the Boston Blitz 2.5- 1.5 last night in the U.S. Chess League—just as top Knight Hikaru Nakamura had cockily guaranteed. Pascal Charbonneau and Irina Zenyuk both won for the Knights, Hikaru drew, and Jay Bonin lost.

The four occasions on which Hikaru, who’s arguably the most exciting teenage talent in U.S. chess, played first board for New York, the Knights won (twice) or drew (twice). And all three times that he sat out the match, the Knights lost. Now here’s the paradox: Hikaru’s individual record so far is subpar, one loss and three draws. So why does the team only do well when he’s playing?

“It’s his comforting presence and great team spirit,” explained one wag who was watching the game on the Internet Chess Club.

When Hikaru pulls himself out of this slump and gets on a winning roll—and I’m sure he will—the Knights will be unstoppable.


A new review of my book King’s Gambit has appeared in an upstate New York arts publication. Click here for a look.

King’s Gambit Accepted

October 11, 2007

Today marks the one-month anniversary of the publication of my new book, King’s Gambit: A Son, a Father, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game. I’m happy with the response of readers and reviewers to the book, and have gotten feedback from far-flung regions of the world. So thank you all.

As a writer who holed himself up for two years in Internet cafes (after a couple of years of solid research), it was gratifying for me to read a review in Newsday that acknowledged the complexity of the book and responded to my portrayal of chess as a passionate activity.”Chess is truly a great subject,” Emily Gordon wrote in Newsday. “There’s nothing sedentary about the players of this seated game. Hoffman – who once played Kasparov himself – seems to have met most of them, and he has a terrific ear for dialogue. He shows us that chess rivals can be close as lovers: “After he downed another vodka, Karpov looked a bit wistful. ‘I know Kasparov as well as I know anyone,’ he told me. ‘I know his smell. I can read him by that.’ Indeed, the two men had sat face-to-face for a total of perhaps 750 hours, their foreheads sometimes only millimeters apart as they leaned in over the chessboard. ‘I recognize the smell when he is excited and I know it when he is scared. We may be enemies, but we are intimate enemies.'”

You can read the entire review here.

Advice for Boston Blitz

October 10, 2007

With the Yankees and Mets disgraced, the New York Knights hope to restore the Big Apple’s winning way by demolishing the Boston Blitz tonight in the United States Chess League. Hikaru Nakamura, on Board One for the Knights, has made public his plan to “crush” Beantown’s Jorge Sammour-Hasbun. My advice to Jorge is not only to brush up on irregular chess openings but also to review simple endings.

For instance, after a tense see-saw battle, Jorge as White may be happy to take a draw in the following, apparently sterile position:

But Hikaru will want to play on, hoping to wear him down before the 50-move draw rule applies. Now, Jorge, try to keep your king centralized. Hikaru will try to intimidate you into tucking the king away on h1:

If you reach the above position, Jorge, it would not be good to withdraw your bishop to g1:

Because then Hikaru will mate you!

Let’s go Knights!

Economic Fallout from Chess Scandal

October 10, 2007

Dylan McClain reports today in his chess blog for The New York Times that there are already repercussions from the lawsuit between a former board member of the United States Chess Federation and two current members. One sponsor is so disgusted with the infighting among chess politicians that he has withdrawn his support: “Dr. Eric Moskow, a Florida doctor specializing in internal medicine, who had pledged to contribute up to $1 million over the next few years to sponsor tournaments, has decided that he does not want to put money into chess in the United States at this time.”

It is sad that the royal game is once again falling victim to the sliminess of chess politics.

Part of my unwelcome maturation as a tournament chess player, which I wrote about in King’s Gambit, was my realization that this noble abstract game was a magnet—particularly at the organizational level—for deceptive, small-minded people.

Latest Chess PR Nightmare

October 9, 2007

The politics of organized chess are often brutal and sleazy but now they have sunk completely into the sewer.

As reported in The New York Times, “A lawsuit filed in federal court last week accuses two officers of the nation’s leading chess organization of posting inflammatory remarks on the Internet under false names in order to win election to the group’s board. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, says that Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, who are married and who were elected to the board of the United States Chess Federation in July, posted thousands of remarks, many obscene or defamatory, over the last two years on two public Internet bulletin boards. The suit was filed by Samuel H. Sloan of the Bronx, who ran unsuccessfully for re-election to the board. He said more than 2,000 of the fake remarks were posted under his name.”

Susan Polgar, who is the chair person of the USCF and a former women’s world chess champion, denied the accusations, as did Paul Truong.

“Mr. Sloan is no stranger to the legal system,” the Times explained. “In 1978, the United States Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Sloan that the Securities and Exchange Commission had improperly suspended trading in stocks that he handled. Then, as now, he represented himself. In 1992, he was convicted of attempted kidnapping in a case involving his daughter, Shamema, who was living with guardians. Mr. Sloan spent 18 months in a Virginia prison.”

The thicket of charges and counter-charges is hard to wade through. Pending an internal investigation, the USCF executive board has gagged its tens of thousands of members from discussing the sordid matter on its message boards. A reluctant Mig Greengard (“my keyboard tends to smell funny after writing about the USCF so I try to do it as rarely as possible”) has provided a forum where the matter is being debated.

Deadest Draw But Knights Finally Rally

October 4, 2007

It doesn’t get any more drawish in chess than two lone kings. This is the position in which Hikaru Nakamura, playing Board 1 for the New York Knights, finally agreed to a cessation of hostilities with grandmaster Gregory Serper of the Seattle Sluggers. They could have called it quits earlier, but the feisty Nakamura, fresh from a satisfying first-place finish in this past weekend’s Miami Open, always tries to squeeze the juice out of any position even when there is not a drop of juice to be had.

The funny thing about the final position is that it is impossible to lose, even for someone entirely new to the game. You could draw this, dear reader, even if you don’t know how to play chess. So feel good about yourself for being able to hold your own in this position against the hottest and most aggressive young player on the U.S. chess scene.

Last night, the New York Knights finally won their first match in the U.S. Chess League. They whupped Seattle 3-1, with international masters Irina Krush and Jay Bonin scoring easy wins and Irina Zenyuk joining Hikaru in drawing.

Rat Nose Best

October 3, 2007

If the Rat Anti-Defamation League was happy with “Ratatouille” (a word, incidentally, whose spelling I butchered beyond recognition for my spell checker and was correctly ascertained by Googling “Disney rat movie”), it will be ecstatic with the study reported by cooking-science expert Harold McGee. Remy, it seems, can not only cook, he can taste the difference between organic and nonorganic food, and has a clear preference for the former.

When given a choice between biscuits made from organic wheat and ones made from conventional wheat, Swiss lab rats consumed the organic biscuits in greater numbers. Score one for the natural foodies of our species who claim that organic chow is not only healthier but tastier, too.