My View: Retreating to chess after a dauber drubbing – Buffalo News


By Robert P. Simpson

There is nothing like the game of bingo to demonstrate the superiority of the female mind. Sure, my wife and mom always invited me to go with them, but I always declined in favor of the more challenging game of chess. They just smiled when I told them I would rather play a difficult game like chess.

And then it happened …

My Wednesday chess club meeting was canceled. My wife felt sorry and invited me to join her and her mom for a fun evening of “daubing.”

It was a mind-numbing experience. There were 1,000 people packed into the church hall, each heavily armed with bingo supplies. I didn’t know there were bingo supplies. There was pizza and doughnuts and soft drinks and coffee. There were scoreboards like in a football stadium. There were numbered pingpong balls bouncing around like popcorn in a big fish aquarium. There was a grand knight of the Knights of Columbus announcing numbers into the public address system. There was excitement in the air.

My wife and her mom each bought nine cards for each game. I confidently handed the lady a $100 bill and asked for 20 cards for each game. My wife intervened and told her to give me only four.

Robert P. Simpson.

We took our seats and lined up our cards in front of us. I was in the middle between the two of them. Ellen had nine cards in front of her and her mom had nine in front of her. I had four lonely cards in front of me. It was sort of embarrassing.

My wife gave me a package of bingo daubers. I spent most of the evening trying to use the word “daub” in a sentence. Then I just started playing with the daubers. I was daubing everything I could – my bingo card, my forearm, a hot dog, a piece of pizza, and the forehead of a sweet old lady sitting across from me. I gave her the measles with my red dauber.

I spent the first 15 minutes figuring out which color dauber to use – there were so many choices. I devised a daubing system – I would use red for even numbers, blue for odd numbers. I would show them what a chess player could do.

I got so distracted by the daubers that I didn’t notice the grand knight announcing the numbers. The hall quieted down. His voice was soothing as he announced an unending sequence of letters and numbers: “B-13, G-55, O-70 … ”

I started to dream about how many possible combinations of letters and numbers there were on all the cards. Just as I figured out that there were 5.52×10e26 combinations, I was jolted by hands and daubers flying in front of my face from my right and my left. Blue, green, pink, yellow and red daubers, all the colors of the rainbow – flying in like jet planes with pinpoint accuracy to daub my cards. They daubed their own nine cards and all four of mine at the same time. All this time I was searching my cards for B-9. I couldn’t find it anywhere. My friend with the measles gently whispered – “Top left card, dear, first column, two numbers from the top!” She found it reading upside down.

By the third game, I got the hang of it. I was daubing like a veteran. I was holding pizza in my left hand, sipping a Coke through a straw, and daubing with my right hand at the same time. I was “On the Bubble” when the hallucination hit me. I got so excited I yelled, “Bingo!” with the confidence of a chess player delivering checkmate. Sighs of disappointment murmured through the hall as my family members looked over my cards.

It only took a few seconds for my wife to give me the, “I am sorry for the embarrassment you are about to experience” look. I had misdaubed. My wife apologized to the grand knight, “He was just practicing!”

I called an Uber and headed home. I dreamed that night about fianchettoing my bishop in the Sicilian defense. I would never play bingo again. That game was just too damn hard!

Robert P. Simpson, a Williamsville attorney, does not plan a return engagement to a bingo game anytime soon.



Eugene Torre seizes solo top spot in Asian Seniors Chess Championships – Rappler


Asia’s first Grandmaster improves to a perfect 3.0 points to separate himself from his erstwhile co-leaders in the 34-man event

Published 9:25 AM, November 06, 2018

Updated 9:25 AM, November 06, 2018

OLD BUT GOLD. Despite turning 67, Eugene Torre remains sharp. File photo from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines

OLD BUT GOLD. Despite turning 67, Eugene Torre remains sharp. File photo from the National Chess Federation of the Philippines

TAGAYTAY, Philippines – Eugene Torre subdued International Master Angelo Young on Monday night, November 5, to seize the solo top spot in the 9th Asian Seniors Chess Championships at the Tagaytay International Convention Center.

His third straight victory gave Asia’s first Grandmaster a perfect 3.0 points, separating him from his erstwhile co-leaders in the event that lured 34 players – aged 50 and over – from 8 countries.

Trailing Torre, the runaway winner in last year’s Asian Seniors held in Auckland, New Zealand, at 2.5 points were IMs Chito Garma and Petronio Roca, Cesar Caturla, Carlo Lorena, unheralded Rolzon Roullo, and Than Khin of Myanmar.

“I hope to sustain my form,” said Torre, who turned 67 in the two-round inaugurals on Sunday, November 4.

Roca bested Kazakh IM Aitkazy Bairmuzin, while Garma was held to a draw by Khin.

Continuing his solid play, Caturla downed Efren Bagamasbad to keep pace with Lorena, who thwarted retired Judge Rosendo Bandal.

Seeded just 23rd, Roullo toppled eighth-ranked Kuanishbek Jumadullayev of Kazakhstan.

Torre, now head coach of the Philippine chess teams, will handle the black pieces when he tangles with Roca in the fourth round on Tuesday, November 6.

Other key matches of the tournament being hosted by the Tagaytay City government pit Garma against Lorena, Roullo against Caturla, and Fide Master Oleg Rinas (2.0 points) against Khin. – Rappler.com



Asian Seniors Chess: Eugene Torre wins twice on birthday – Rappler


Grandmaster Eugene Torre gets his title defense off to a strong right on his 67th birthday

Published 10:15 PM, November 04, 2018

Updated 10:44 AM, November 05, 2018

TWIN WINS. Eugene Torre opens his campaign with victories over an Australian foe and a former teammate. Photo from Chesshive

TWIN WINS. Eugene Torre opens his campaign with victories over an Australian foe and a former teammate. Photo from Chesshive

TAGAYTAY CITY, Philippines – Top seed Eugene Torre gifted himself with a pair of wins on Sunday, November 4, sharing the lead in the 9th Asian Seniors Chess Championships at Tagaytay International Convention Center.

Torre, Asia’s first Grandmaster trounced Australian Angelito Camer in 19 moves of the London opening and less than one hour of play in the morning inaugurals then beat former teammate and retired Judge Rosendo Bandal in the afternoon for 2.0 points on his 67th birthday.

Tied with Torre were International Masters Chito Garma and Angelo Young and Than Khin of Myanmar.

Garma subdued Fide Masters Amad Ismail of Malaysia and Adrian Pacis; while Young, who topped the rapid competition held Saturday, bested Timur Kassymov of Kazakhstan and FM Syarif Mahmud in succession.

Khin kept pace with victories over Mahmood Dodean of Palestine and Hendry Jamal.

Torre was upbeat with his performance and the birthday greetings he received.

“This is a good start for me,” said Torre, the defending champion in the nine-round tournament which lured a total of 34 players from 8 countries.

Tailing the pacesetters with 1.5 points were FM Oleg Rinas, Olympian Cesar Caturla, Kunishber Jumadullayev, Stewart Manaog, IM Petronio Roca, Carlo Lorena, Efren Bagamasbad, IM Aitkazy Baimurzin and Roizon Rollo, who downed Olympian Mila Emperado.

Caturla, former coach of the national women’s team, tamed three-time women’s champion Hellen Milligan of New Zealand before holding IM Aitkazy Baimurzin to a draw.

The top board matches in the 3rd round on Monday pit Torre against Young ad Khin against Garma.

The tournament Is being hosted by the Tagaytay City government through Mayor Agnes Tolentino and Cavite 7th District Cong. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino.

According to tournament director Mike Lapitan, the champion in the over-50 category will receive $500, while the over-65, titlist will pocket $350. The top female performers will receive $300 (over-50) and over-65 ($100). – Rappler.com



Commentary: The global economy's three chess games – Channel NewsAsia


PARIS: Chess masters are able to play simultaneously on several boards with several partners.

And the more time passes, the more US President Donald Trump’s international economic strategy looks like such a match.

There are three major players: The United States, China, and a loose coalition formed by the other members of the G7. And there are three games, each of which involves all three players.

Unlike chess, however, these games are interdependent. And no one – perhaps not even Trump – knows which game will take precedence.

GAME #1: BREAK THE RULES OF TRADE

On Trump’s first board is the break the rules of trade game. Many in his administration regard the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) principles and procedures as an obstacle to bilateral negotiations.

They would prefer to clinch deals with partners one by one, without being bound by the obligation to apply liberalisation measures across the board and without being forced to abide by the rulings of the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism. Their aim is to restructure the trade relationships along a hub-and-spoke model, with the US at the centre.

The underlying reasoning is fairly simple: Multilateral rules always protect the weakest players. Why should the US refrain from using its overwhelming bargaining power?

U.S. President Trump walks down the White House colonnade before announcing trade deal in the Rose

U.S. President Donald Trump walks down the White House colonnade prior to holding a news conference on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The recent United States-Mexico-Canada agreement (USMCA) shows the way, by imposing US-determined national content obligations on the other two countries and restraining their own trade policy options. More such deals should follow.

Europe, Japan, and China have all criticised the US stance and portray themselves as champions of multilateralism. This is only half true: Europe has built its own web of trade agreements, and China, itself a fairly transactional power, regards global rules as an embodiment of yesterday’s Western dominance.

But on this issue (as on climate change), there is currently more commonality among non-US partners than there is between them and the US.

READ: China has outgrown the world market, needs to rebalance economy, a commentary

GAME #2: DISCIPLINE CHINA

On the second board is the discipline China game. For a decade or so, many in the US have claimed that China’s categorisation as a developing country, and the resulting favourable treatment it enjoys at the WTO, do not reflect the true strength of an economy whose goods exports amount to US$2 trillion, or 11 per cent of world trade.

As Susan Schwab, President George W Bush’s Trade Representative, put it back in 2011, in trade discussions elephants were hiding behind mice. The Trump administration now wants to trap the Chinese elephant.

The internal heterogeneity of China’s economy is indeed exceptionally high for a developing country. Parts of China are poor, and parts wealthy. Some industries are unsophisticated, while others are at the cutting edge of innovation. The latter shouldn’t hide behind the former.

America’s grievances regarding China’s behaviour, from its treatment of intellectual property to its implicit and explicit subsidies and policy-motivated takeovers of foreign industrial jewels, are essentially shared by its G7 partners.

The trade war between the US and China deepened  when President Donald Trump announced he would push

The trade war between the US and China deepened when President Donald Trump announced he would push ahead with tariffs on US$200 billion in Chinese goods. (File photo: AFP/Paul J. RICHARDS)

Many Chinese experts also agree that ending the wholesale subsidisation of industrial behemoths and letting market signals play a stronger role in investment choices is in their country’s best interest.

More generally, China’s partners argue that trade rules conceived for market economies are not adequate when dealing with a centrally-directed economy. This claim is more contentious, because leaders in Beijing regard state ownership of enterprises as a matter of sovereign choice, and do not want to renounce big industrial policy endeavours. But there is room for discussion.

READ: From Xi to Trump, solving the US-China trade war with a phonecall, a commentary

GAME #3: ROLL BACK CHINA

All in all, the discipline China game is one in which the US, Europe, Japan, and Canada are largely aligned. All look forward to a robust negotiation with the Chinese.

This makes the discipline China game very different from the third contest, the roll back China game. This game is not about the enforcement of trade rules, or their design, but about the sheer geopolitical rivalry between the incumbent superpower and a rising challenger.

As Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister, noted in a remarkable speech a few weeks ago, the US security establishment has become convinced that strategic engagement with China has not paid off and should give way to strategic competition – a stance that would encompass all dimensions of the bilateral relationship.

In early October, a particularly harsh speech by US Vice-President Mike Pence illustrated Rudd’s point.

Europe, Japan, and Canada are not part of this rivalry – they simply do not matter in the same way that the US and China do. But they are inevitably part of its diplomatic, economic, and, for Japan at least, security components.

US Vice President Mike Pence lashes out at China in a speech accusing it of seeking to turn US

US Vice President Mike Pence lashes out at China in a speech accusing it of seeking to turn US President Donald Trump out of office. (Photo: AFP/Jim WATSON)

If the tension between the two powers dominates global politics in the decades to come, they won’t be able to avoid taking a stance. And, for all their reluctance, they may well end up aligned with the US, for two reasons: A hardening of the rivalry with the US would drive the Chinese leadership further from Western values, and they ultimately depend on the US for their own security.

READ: Can China-US relations step back from the brink? A commentary

The problem, however, is that it is still not clear in which game President Trump intends to score a victory. Does he intend to play a long game? And, if so, what are his aims? Nobody really knows.

A DILEMMA

For the non-US G7 countries, this uncertainty creates a dilemma. Should they engage with China on WTO reform and the strengthening of the associated disciplines? This is a topic on which they could help pave the way for an eventual global compromise.

The risk, however, is that if China fears that the US really aims at winning the rollback game, and expects the rest of the West to fall in line eventually, it will refuse to make meaningful concessions.

Alternatively, the rest of the G7 could align with the US, at the risk of antagonising China and eventually being strategically demoted if Trump ultimately settles on a bilateral deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping. If that game prevails, the non-US G7 will end up being the losers.

Absent a no-risk strategy, Europe, Japan, and Canada might well choose to wait and see. This would be the surest way to be sidelined in all possible circumstances and provide a demonstration that only the US-Chinese “G2” matters.

What these countries are facing is a test of leadership, which they may pass or fail. There is no third possibility.

Jean Pisani-Ferry, a professor at the Hertie School of Governance (Berlin) and Sciences Po (Paris), holds the Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa chair at the European University Institute and is a senior fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank.



The Torturous Stress of Chess: An Interview with Brin-Jonathan Butler – lareviewofbooks


IF YOU MISSED the 2016 World Chess Championship, held in New York City in November, you were probably busy reacting to the recent presidential election. Amid that political chaos, two great chess minds — Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the defending champion and heavy favorite, and Sergey Karjakin of Russia — met in the city’s South Street Seaport, where they waged a quietly furious battle for a title that hadn’t been bestowed in New York for over two decades.

Beneath the surface struggle between two obsessively focused players lurked significant geopolitical implications. Karjakin, originally from Crimea, had only recently repatriated to Russia with the help of Vladimir Putin. For his part, Carlsen had expressed admiration for President Trump. Added to this was the absence of the Russian head of the World Chess Federation, who was banned from the tournament due to US sanctions. The ghost of Bobby Fischer was always nearby, and the match was fought to a surprising end. 

In his new book, The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again, Brin-Jonathan Butler covers the contest with an unerring eye, providing insight into both game strategy and the encompassing sociopolitical context. I recently exchanged emails with Butler about his new book and what it was like to witness the epic chess battle.

¤

DAVID BREITHAUPT: I was struck by the intensity of obsession some chess players display, the all-or-nothing attitude you describe in your book. I was hoping you could expand on this topic. Is there a link, for example, between problem gambling and obsessive chess playing?

BRIN-JONATHAN BUTLER: In any walk of life, I don’t believe you can find more preoccupied people on the planet than among elite chess players. If Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour theory sells any genius short, it’s the chess genius. Many chess prodigies breeze past 10,000 hours while they’re barely into their teens. Even if Bobby Fischer was the most naturally gifted player who ever lived, we have to remember he also put in more hours studying and practicing than anyone who had ever played.

I think the most obvious link between great chess players and gambling is that the vast majority of players can’t make any money. I don’t mean the kind of serious money that’s thrown around to professional athletes — I’m talking about rent money, food money. Aside from the top 30, the world’s 600 million active chess players can’t make a living exclusively by playing chess. Gambling is a place where they can earn their keep, whether that involves playing poker or being recruited by Wall Street hedge fund managers.

The much-discussed link between chess at the highest levels and mental illness might have a lot more to do with the effects of poverty more than anything intrinsically destructive to the human mind in the game itself. But certainly I found, from the many chess experts I interviewed, that the game was viewed as a far more addictive drug than alcohol or cigarettes or any illicit narcotic. If chess players could make a living wage by devoting their lives to the game, I don’t think gambling would be as prevalent as it is today.

Fifteen hundred years after the game’s invention, it’s clear that chess offers many useful learning tools to children, but it’s not entirely clear that these skills are transferable off the board. There were five grandmasters originally; now there are around 1,600. They may enjoy that distinguished title, but they’re not rewarded with fat incomes. That was why one of the characters I was most interested in interviewing was a Washington Park chess hustler who rarely made over $50 a day playing against tourists, yet he was able to become the best backgammon player in the world making, in some instances, over $10,000 an hour gambling. Online poker is just a click away, too. Jeff Sarwer was a chess prodigy and world champion at only eight years of age, and he reemerged not all that long ago on the poker circuit. He told me he loves the money he can earn yet misses his first love. But he just can’t support his family with chess.

Poverty aside, I wonder if these cantankerous grandmasters were already on their way to being a bit “different” when they picked up the game. I can certainly see how the pressure of being a champion could drive a fragile psyche over the edge.

Watching the championship players up close for the book, I can say that the pressure is such that you could actually see Magnus Carlsen age almost a decade over the course of a day’s play. I’ve never seen anything like it before. On some dark level, it’s as grueling as anything I’ve witnessed ringside for hundreds of title fights in boxing. The neuroscientists I interviewed for the book are very interested in the question you pose. But we don’t have the data at this point. And we’re left with the old chicken-and-egg situation with elite players who famously did crack up. The torturous stress of chess is obvious if you’re watching it live — it’s unbearable. But it was a subject that made people within the chess community very uncomfortable discussing.

Of course, there are many highly functional players who are remarkably well adjusted and even quite social. I met many. But there’s also a common theme with many of the greats that they either lost a father early on or their father was their first victim. Like writing, chess is a notoriously isolating endeavor. Intense isolation has its rewards but certainly also its drawbacks.

Another feature of the most dominant players — and this is common with most champions in other sports whom I’ve interviewed — is a remarkable degree of sadism in the competitiveness they’ve had to hone since early childhood. Bobby Fischer didn’t just want to beat his opponents, he wanted to crush their egos, he wanted them to cave in. Magnus Carlsen has admitted similar sentiments in several interviews — a deep pleasure in savoring the opposing player’s agony. I wonder what this kind of mindset does to you when you’ve given so much of your energies toward such a narrow pursuit, to the point of being unable to attain a rounded identity in other areas.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the issue you raise is a tremendously complex one that doesn’t lend itself to a simple answer. I certainly tried to explore it in my book from many different angles, including character studies of famous and obscure players alike.

How does the role of gender fit into this complicated mix? Toward the end of your book, you discuss the rising participation of women in what has been a male-dominated pursuit. I had occasion to play chess with some Russians a few years ago, one of whom said he had quit playing for a few years after he was “beaten by a girl.”

Gender was one of the most fascinating elements I explored in writing this book. I don’t think you’ll find a better case study anywhere than that of Judit Polgár. Polgár is to chess what Serena Williams is to tennis, except from the beginning she insisted on only playing men. And she destroyed almost all of them on her legendary path.

Her father created a kind of controlled experiment to prove that a genius could be made rather than born. The rampant misogyny in the chess world provided the ideal context to do it with all three of his daughters, but Judit’s dominance was on a different scale. The story she shared with me for the book was one of the most exciting narratives I encountered. I was astonished by the gleeful hostility and dismissals she received, not just from chess fans but from many of the game’s most famous ambassadors — Kasparov, Fischer, Nigel Short. And she proved them all embarrassingly wrong, not just about her own ascent but about the status of women in the game. Polgár was such a tremendous trailblazer, debunking the snide sexism that prevails in the chess world. Her contribution and her legacy are incalculable.

Particular sports have been used with varying degrees of success as a means of cultural détente over the years — e.g., baseball with Japan before World War II or table tennis with China. How powerful a geopolitical tool are these high-stakes games of chess?

One of the most interesting aspects of chess is how, with Bobby Fischer’s rise and his championship match against Boris Spassky, the game managed to encapsulate the tensions of the Cold War better than almost anything else. Walter Cronkite led the news with Fischer’s victory in Iceland before addressing Watergate or the rising death toll in Vietnam. The two emblematic symbols of America’s victory over the Russians during the Cold War were the Apollo moon landing and Fischer becoming world champion.

Chess first captured the American imagination with Paul Morphy just before our Civil War, but that war killed the game’s momentum in the United States. Then the other major sports — basically intra-national competitions — were created and took over in the American consciousness. But the Cold War did the opposite for Fischer and chess, firing the popular imagination and turning the 1972 championship into a global media event. Chess has never been able to achieve anywhere near the popularity it did with Fischer, before or since.

The 2016 World Chess Championship came with a vast amount of baggage, with Sergey Karjakin being backed by Putin and Magnus Carlsen a Trump supporter. The Russian leader of the World Chess Federation was unable to attend because of sanctions, so the actor Woody Harrelson kicked off the opening ceremony. This was the first time in a couple of decades that the match was held in New York City, which adds a twist to anything. What was left when the smoke cleared?

Carlsen’s struggle to defend his crown against Karjakin caught most experts by surprise. And the dominant theme of the championship was a long series of grueling draws. Karjakin drew first blood in the eighth game and Carlsen was greatly shaken. The tension swelled, and it was unclear who would emerge victorious until the match found its way into overtime. Carlsen’s dazzling final move to retain his title might be the greatest finish to a championship ever seen.

One of the strange pleasures of watching chess up close is the realization that you’re witnessing two people whose lives might be further from yours than anyone else you’ve ever met. Carlsen is a genius, both in his endowment of talent and in the application he’s devoted to developing it. If all the chess players in history had faced the situation Carlsen did just before his last move, likely none of them would have been able to see what he was able to in that beautiful queen sacrifice.

I was left with the realization that Carlsen will never captivate the world the way Bobby Fischer did, but I also don’t believe he will crack up like him either. He will find his own way in his own time. His genius at chess can’t communicate the way a Beethoven might with music or a Picasso with painting, but he’s no less brilliant, and in mastering his craft he’s given just as much of himself to his art. The enigma of chess remains as mysterious as it ever has with Magnus Carlsen as the world’s finest living player.

How big a role do personalities play in championship chess matches? You mentioned the tremendous following Bobby Fischer had — was it because of curiosity about his personal antics?

Bobby Fischer was so preposterously gifted and tormented, it’s impossible to imagine any great novelist inventing him. His speech patterns and his peculiar role in American life seem like something out of J. D. Salinger. It’s quite something for someone working on a chessboard to make the world stop and look on in awe. He was one of the most famous people on earth even for a public that has rarely cared before or since about anything to do with chess.

Harry Benson, who photographed everybody in the second half of the 20th century, told me that Fischer was, bar none, the most fascinating person he had ever photographed or met in his life. For my book, I interviewed several people who knew Fischer quite closely in a variety of ways. It’s just so rare for someone to embody such extremes — the supreme elegance of his genius and the sheer depravity of his madness. How can any of the major characters in public life not seem one-note or pedestrian by comparison?

¤

David Breithaupt has written for The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, Exquisite Corpse, and other venues.