The Servant Who Beat His Masters at Chess ? Then Disappeared … – OZY

American chess giant Reuben Fine was excited to meet the man he considered ?the great chess master,? Mir Sultan Khan, on his 1933 visit to London. But there was a hitch: Khan was not the evening?s host, the ?maharajah? was. According to Fine, Khan was merely a waiter.

The young man from India was a servant, brought to England because of his chess talent. He faced off with the era?s best between 1928 and 1933 ? the years he played competitively ? and often won. The transplant became the British champion not once, but three times. ?Grandmaster? was not a commonly used term yet, says Dennis Monokroussos, blogger at the Chess Mind, but it might well have been used to describe Khan. ?[He] was a remarkable player, but it took him two decades to become an overnight success,? Monokroussos says.

[It was] billed as East meeting West, and the East won, making Khan nothing short of a sensation.

Born in 1905, in what was then India and now Pakistan, Khan was the youngest of 10 children. His father was a religious Muslim and a great chess player. From him, Khan was schooled in the rules of chess at a young age. By 21, he was famous in India?s chess circles, and his legendary ability attracted the attention of a wealthy fan, Umar Hayat Khan, the man who would bring Khan to Europe and pay for his chess lessons there. ?It was very rare to bring someone of a lower caste to England, even just to be there,? says Vinay Lal, a professor of history and Asian American studies at UCLA.

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Mir Sultan Khan

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In India, Khan had been one of the best; in England, he revealed a knack for refusing to draw if he had a shot at winning. Before long, he won the British Chess Championship, crushing Europeans who had started training in childhood. While Khan didn?t have as much formal training, he was among the best at endgames.

The press loved playing up his underdog image. The Glasgow Herald called him ?the Indian genius? and wrote of its surprise when Khan lost two games in a row. After all, one journalist wrote, he ?stands in a class by himself.? In 1931, Khan beat Dutch chess whiz Max Euwe and Jos? Ra?l Capablanca of Cuba, a former world champion. The latter matchup was billed as East meeting West, and the East won, making Khan nothing short of a sensation. At the time, chess was largely a European game: Some Americans were strong, but outside Western Europe and Russia, talent was rare. Both Capablanca and Khan were considered unlikely contenders.

While Khan left behind no known writing to indicate what he thought of London, one contemporary account stated that he probably led an outsider?s life in the Big Smoke. Fellow chess player Harry Golombek claimed that Khan searched for food similar to his family?s home cooking, with the two of them ending up together at a Jewish boardinghouse, where the ?cooking was indeed infinitely better? than what they had found elsewhere, Golombek said.

For fans, sadly, Khan?s reign as a chess champ was short-lived. He followed his patron back to India in 1933, and that?s where the trail seems to fizzle. No reputable documents chronicled what happened next, and while some subsequent reports cropped up, their veracity was questionable. One such report suggested that Khan was working as a concert singer in Durban, South Africa. Another rumor spread that Khan had renounced the chessboard when he lost four times in a row to an elderly man. In any case, nothing concrete surfaced as to Khan?s exact whereabouts following his return to India.

Perhaps Khan?s greatest legacy is how others remember him. ?Our top chess players should not feel neglected, and the fate of Sultan Khan ? premature retirement ? should not fall to their lot,? a 1950s Times of India article stated. Khan became the symbol of allowing for social mobility and freedom when it came to true talent, and modern-day India maintains a robust program for chess. Khan died of tuberculosis in Pakistan, in 1966; decades later, in 1988, Viswanathan Anand became India?s first official grandmaster. Perhaps, though, that record more fittingly belongs to Khan, who overcame class divides to achieve fleeting stardom in the world of chess.

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The Servant Who Beat His Masters at Chess ? Then Disappeared … – OZY

World’s biggest chess championship faces axe over ?300k tax bill –

“But the Government should recognise that. The Government pours ?300 million a year into physical sport but spends nothing on mental sport, and then goes after the guy who does.

“They should value the?Chess?Challenge. I’m not doing this for money – my profit is seeing children’s education being improved.”

This year 45,000 boys and girls nationwide have competed in the challenge, and last weekend the top 60 players gathered in Loughborough, Leics, to battle it out for the top prize of ?2,000. Former winners include Yang-Fan Zhou, who is on the brink of earning the esteemed grandmaster title and Stephen J Gordon, a grandmaster who was British Under-21 champion three years running.

“What we try to do is produce champions, the children who go on to run the country,” Mr Basman said. “We have had the top girl in England, Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, come through in the competition.”

The English?Chess?Federation argues that VAT charges risk putting children off. A spokesman said: “VAT charges on entry fees hit lower-income parents with more than one child playing chess?particularly hard when they enter large or high-profile competitions to gain the experience and skills they need to succeed at a higher level.”

An HMRC spokesman said they did not comment on individual cases.

World’s biggest chess championship faces axe over ?300k tax bill –

Why backhand slice has become ‘necessity’ in tennis – USA TODAY




A look at wins by Venus and Serena as well as an impressive showing by Simona Halep.
Tennis Channel

NEW YORK ??In the early stages of another comeback from another wrist injury in February, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro sounded almost desperate. ?I need to improve my backhand as soon as I can.?

Del Potro was protecting his surgically repaired left wrist and therefore slicing balls defensively on the backhand with one hand, presenting a Steffi Graf-like game plan: Float the ball low and deep off the backhand, pounce when you can with a wailing forehand.

Six months later, del Potro has the same game and an Olympic silver medal in hand.

?I think it?s almost become a necessity for the top players in the men?s game to have a good slice backhand,? said Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN commentator.

While del Potro has sliced out of physical necessity, numerous top men?s players ? Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and others ? have developed the one-handed backhand slice as a neutralizing shot that frustrates foes.

On the women?s side, Roberta Vinci put on a dazzling one-handed backhand slice display a year ago in her upset of Serena Williams in the U.S. Open.

?I?ve worked on that shot ad nauseam forever now,? said John Isner, who used the stroke in a five-set comeback win Monday against teenager Frances Tiafoe, a fellow American. ?It?s always going to be a pretty important shot for me.?

The shot has always been important ? ever hear of a guy named Roger Federer? ? but as tennis has become more aggressive, the focus in the sport has been on building an attacking game: big serves, sound groundstrokes and put-away weapons from anywhere in the court.

Federer?s domination has kept the shot afloat in the men?s game, and Djokovic and Murray have only strengthened their own backhand slices to become more multifaceted defensive players when they are stretched wide or pushed far behind the baseline.

?For me, it?s important as a guy with a big reach ? it helps me out,? said 2016 Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic. ?It also buys me some time if I?m out of position to get back in a situation where I have a better opportunity.?

?We?ve sort of seen a mini-comeback of the slice backhand, and I?m thrilled about it,? said Cliff Drysdale, an ESPN commentator.

?I?m just in awe of how del Potro has been able to come back basically on crutches when it comes to his tennis game. You lose one of your major shots, and usually it spells doom. I?m so fascinated by how he?s been able to do it.?

As tennis has become a sport for taller athletes including Raonic, Isner and other 6-foot-somethings, a low, spin-laden shot can be even more effective, noted John McEnroe, who spent the grass-court season as an adviser on Raonic?s team.

?It?s clearly a shot that can reset you. It can do a lot of things,? John McEnroe said. ?You try to get in the guy?s head; you try to use it in certain situations. ? Even if you can hit the ball harder than anyone, at times you have to mix it up, unless you can absolutely blow a hundred-mile-an-hour fastball by someone every time.?

?I use it as a weapon,? said Steve Johnson, the highest-seeded American man in the draw. ?Some people think I?m crazy because I don?t come over (the backhand) all the time, but I make guys adjust to what I do best.?

Del Potro and Johnson are set for the ultimate slice-off Thursday: a second-round meeting in the U.S. Open.

So who does the backhand slice best on tour? Isner has the answer.

?Roger probably,? he said of Federer. ?Yeah. Roger.?


Why backhand slice has become ‘necessity’ in tennis – USA TODAY

With program in peril, Seawolves hockey aims at raising revenues – Alaska Dispatch News

Thomas, heading into his fourth season, said UAA’s athletic administration has supported the hockey program ??he cited recent improvements like a new locker room on campus, new hockey offices and upgrades to the on-campus practice rink. Boosting season-ticket sales, Thomas said, would show the administration that fans support the Seawolves.

With program in peril, Seawolves hockey aims at raising revenues – Alaska Dispatch News

Baseball scouts on Tim Tebow range from ‘waste of time’ to ‘better than I expected’ – USA TODAY




The former NFL player and Heisman Trophy winner held an open baseball workout at the University of Southern California for professional scouts.

LOS ANGELES ? Clutching a baseball bat, Tim Tebow, the former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, strolled toward the batter?s box.

?All right, man,?? a major league scout called out. ?Just another day at the office.??

Tebow grinned, because it was anything but that.

His ?office? on Tuesday was Dedeaux Field, the baseball stadium at the University of Southern California. His task was to show he has the skills to play professional baseball, even though he last played as a high school junior. His audience included a horde of media and, according to Tebow?s agent, scouts from 28 of Major League Baseball?s 30 teams.

As the crowd watched, Tebow, at 29 a decade older than a typical baseball prospect, tightened his grip on the bat.

?There were a lot of nerves, a lot of pressure,?? he said later.

There were a lot of opinions, too, after the showcase that gave scouts a chance to evaluate Tebow?s speed, throwing arm, defensive skill and hitting ability.

?It was a complete waste of time,?? said an American League scout, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about his assessment. ?It was like watching an actor trying to portray a baseball player.

?He tried. He tried. That?s the best I can say. He is crazy strong, and could run well in one direction, but that?s it. He only had one good throw of all his throws.??

A National League scout saw things more favorably.

?Better than I expected, to be honest,” he said of the 6-3, 260-pound Tebow. ??That’s a big dude, for as fast as he can run. The power was impressive, but I wish he could have translated it maybe a little better (against live pitching).?

Tebow, who indicated he has given up on playing in the NFL after failing to make a roster each of the past two seasons, said he thought overall things went ?pretty well.? His agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, said five teams met privately with Tebow after the workout.

Here is what the group of about 40 scouts and even more media saw:

First Tebow ran the 60-yard dash, and five scouts clocked him from 6.65 seconds to 6.82 seconds ? an impressive showing, especially for an athlete his size.

Tebow?s camp envisions a major league future as a corner outfielder, and he next put his throwing arm and defensive skills on display. Drawing ho-hum appraisals, Tebow threw balls to second base, third base and home plate before cleanly fielding about 10 fly balls and chasing down a couple of line drives in the gap.

Next, after a private session in the batting cage, Tebow emerged for batting practice ? and enlivened the crowd. On his sixth pitch, he pounded the ball beyond the 365-foot sign in right-center field. It was just the start, as Tebow launched shots over the scoreboard and above the towering trees beyond the right-field fence.

In all, eight balls left the yard.

?That was big power,?? a scout said. ?He was mis-hitting the ball out of the park.??

Lastly, Tebow faced live pitching ? former major league relievers Chad Smith and David Aardsma. Of the approximately 60 pitches Tebow saw, not one cleared the fences. He did hit the top of the fence in left field, hit another ball that landed at the base of the fence and cracked some line drives. But mostly he looked overmatched, particularly against off-speed pitches.

After the workout, which critics called a publicity stunt, Tebow took one last swing ? at his detractors.

?This is something I love to do and I think when you have that mindset, it lets you be free to just go out there and compete,?? he said. ?It lets you be free to do what a lot of people think you can?t do.

?When you don?t have that (fear) it lets you be able to be free to pursue life and what you?re passionate about, not what other people think you should do.??

And that wasn?t all.

?Regardless of if you fail or fall flat on your face, if that?s the worst thing that happens, that?s OK,?? he said. ?When did that become such a bad thing???

In explaining his decision to pursue a career in professional baseball, Tebow said he agonized over giving it up in high school to focus on becoming quarterback at Florida. He said he continued to think about baseball during his career in the NFL, when he played for the Denver Broncos in 2010 and 2011 and the New York Jets in 2012 before his career stalled.

In May, when he started working with former major leaguer Chad Moeller on his swing, Tebow decided to put his focus on baseball.

Moeller, who played catcher in the big leagues between 2000 and 2010, said one of the biggest challenges is Tebow?s work ethic.

?The hardest thing I had was taking his bat away,?? Moeller said, who added too much work can be counterproductive.

Later, Tebow looked down at his calloused hands with a grin and said, ?As you can see by my hands, you know, been swinging the bat a little bit and getting after it.??

Now, he and his agent await firm offers from interested clubs. Minor league seasons wrap up next week but Tebow could proceed to instructional ball. A stint in the Arizona Fall League – typically reserved for advanced prospects – could follow, and Tebow said he?d be open to playing winter ball in Latin America.

Those details, however, were less clear than Tebow?s intention: He is swinging for the fences.

?The goal would be to have a career in the big leagues,?? he said. ?I mean, that?s the goal, right???

Contributing: Bob Nightengale


Baseball scouts on Tim Tebow range from ‘waste of time’ to ‘better than I expected’ – USA TODAY