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The History and The Culture of Chess

Chess in the Press - Issue #2
    May  2006

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Volume 1 Number 2 CHESS IN THE PRESS May 24, 1993
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The electronic shareware chess magazine

The _Chess in the Press_ team of researchers combs the literature
of the world to bring you the most scholarly and entertaining
references to chess; no matter how obscure the journal, no matter
how unknown the writer: we find it, we print it, you enjoy it.

In this issue, we present summaries of articles including
the bizarre home-life of prodigy Jeff Sarwer; a police raid on a
nightly chess gathering in Los Angeles; the National Chess League;
Ray Charles and chess; classical music and chess; and the most
astonishing collection of chessmen ever found--on the barren isle
of Lewis, near Scotland.

"Police Take Chess Move Back, Tear Up Tickets." Pool, Bob. Los Angeles
Times (Jan 27 1990).
L.A. Police Dept vice officers who raided a nightly chess tournament
that draws dozens of players to Dad's Donuts were ordered to tear up
gambling citations issued earlier this week in undercover operations.
Three men were cited for gambling after officers infiltrated a match
and found $1.50 on the table. "It disappointed me," said one chess
player. "Right outside around here they have real murders and purse
snatchings. Why bother people who are developing their minds, not
doing crimes?" Police officials apparently agreed, adding that officers
would issue informal warnings in the future.
Plainclothes detectives staged a raid after one tried unsuccessfully
to join a game. The detective "pulled out a badge and said `You're
under arrest,' and the others swooped in." Night manager Sovan Kuoy
welcomed the chess players back, saying he's happy they're around
because they scare away real criminals such as night-time robbers.

"Freedom of the Chessboard; Jewish Achievement in the Royal Game."
Finkelstein, Michael. Commentary (March 1946), p. 46-49.
Apparently written as a rebuttal to the articles which appeared
under Alekhine's signature in _Deutsche Schachzeitung_ in 1941.
It was asserted that Jewish chess was lacking in courage and devoid
of creative ability. The author notes that Jews were prominent in
chess: world champs Steinitz and Lasker, US national champs Fine,
Reshevsky, and Denker; Botvinnik and Levenfish from Russia, etc.
At Nottingham 1936, 5 of the 15 players were Jewish; at the 1938 US
Championship, 15 of 17 players were Jewish, including the top 10
finishers; in the 1945 radio match between the US and USSR, 9 of
the 10 US players and 4 of the 10 Soviets were Jewish as well.
The author suggests that Jews excelled in chess in Europe
because chess was one of the few fields that provided equal
opportunities for them, and no special advantages were required to
become the better player. Few Jews could be expected to be invited
into the homes of the local gentry, government officials, etc., but
Jewish chessplayers frequently were. The Rothschild family donated
prizes to many tournaments before WWI.

"Sorry, Wrong Number." Grossberger, Lewis. Sports Illustrated
(July 18 1977), p. 42-44+.
A lighthearted look at the National Chess League, whose teams
competed against each other over the telephone. League founder
Bill Goichberg expected the league to expand to hundreds of teams in
a few years. This year, it had 16. The Berwick Browns represented a
town of 5,000 in Louisiana. Browns' director Rand Nini said that
players in his area aren't numerous but they're avid. "In New York,
you've got grandmasters falling out of trees. Down here, there's one
master in the whole state. Guys here just don't get the opportunity
to play top-notch players. So when we said we had a team, everybody
was just sky-high." Other teams featured are from Cleveland and
New York City.

"Point Zero." Colapinto, John. Vanity Fair (Nov 1989), p. 210-217+.
The bizarre home-life of 11-year-old prodigy Jeff Sarwer is
detailed. The author interviewed Jeff, his father Michael, Jeff's
sister Julia, and others to arrive at a chilling portrait of
Michael Sarwer as a child abuser, wife-beater, and head-case to
boot. Michael's weird child-rearing practices landed him a conviction
of child abuse; the sentence ended up as one-year probation
when he convinced his parole officer that he'd learned his lesson.
The author disagrees. Included is an eerie photo of Michael and Jeff,
both with their shirts off and their heads shaved, an annual ritual
intended as a "statement against vanity." When Jeff was eight, he
was believed by many to be one of the strongest prodigies in the
history of the game. Allen Kaufman, head of the American Chess
Foundation, said, "Jeff at nine is stronger than Bobby was at 11."
Bruce Pandolfini said, "Of the several thousand kids I've taught,
Jeff is certainly the most amazing young player I've ever seen."
[That was four years ago. Neither Jeff nor Julia appears on the
1992 _Chess Life_ annual ratings list.]

"Blue Genius." Martin, Guy. Esquire (May 1986), p. 92-102.
Ray Charles, the legendary Genius of Soul, has been playing chess
since 1965, when he decided, having been busted twice, to give up his
heroin addiction after 17 years on the drug. He learned chess in the
hospital where he went cold turkey. Before playing Charles, the author
asked his band members for advice. "You got to go after him first. If
you let him set his defense up, it's over, man, forget it, you can
look forward to a slow, painful death." The two players called out their
moves; on the chess set, each piece had a peg on its bottom that fit
into a hole drilled in each square, so that Ray wouldn't tip them over
as he "looked" at the board with his hands. Ray won.

"Music and Chess." Mansfield, Orlando A. Musical Quarterly (July 1928),
p. 358-365.
A listing of the more famous musician-chessplayers throughout history.
Robert Schumann declared that music might be compared to chess: the
queen might symbolize melody, because it has "supreme power", and the
king represents harmony--"the final issue." Others noted are Philidor,
Adam Kirnberger (violinist for the private band of Frederick the Great),
Sir Walter Parratt, Artur Rubinstein, and Arnold Bax.

"Philidor's Defense." Reif, Paul. Opera News (Aug 1972), p. 8-9.
The author recounts how he got the idea for setting a chess game to
music. He had been commissioned to write a work for the Philharmonia of
New York; the condition was that it had to be extraordinarily original.
One night at the Manhattan Chess Club, he had been losing to a jovial
gent who had violated the rules of silence for players & kibitzers.
Each of his moves was accompanied by a soft humming of a certain melody.
Though he had spoiled the author's games, he gave him the inspiration for a
new musical idea: "I went to work on my composition [based on the game
Morphy-Duke of Brunswick & Count Isouard], which starts with
the overture to _The Barber of Seville_. Then the chess pieces are
introduced in their musical form [king=French horn; queen=clarinet-viola-
cello-bass; knight=oboe-clarinet-bassoon; bishop=flute-bassoon; rook=
strings; pawns=strings pizzicato]. The first movement
continues with the ticking of the chess clock...The second movement,
middle game, mirrors Morphy's mood as he quietly and with precision, sets
the `bass' of his winning sequence. The third movement, end game, is
dominated by a fugue based on the theme of the rook. The composition ends
with humorous further references to Rossini's opera."

"Johnson and Shakespeare At Chess?" Loughrey, Bryan and Neil Taylor.
Shakespeare Quarterly (Winter 1983), p. 440-448.
Discusses the famous painting of these two individuals playing
a chess game, and tries to provide evidence on the attribution of the
painting; is it really Shakespeare, and what is the exact position
on the chessboard they are studying. It seems clear that Shakespeare
is winning. Unfortunately, most of the arguments that have been advanced
in the painting's favor, regarding the likenesses of the two players,
are untenable.

"The Enchanted Chessmen." Grunfeld, Frederic V. Horizon (Winter 1970),
p. 100-103.
The isle of Lewis off the Scottish coast is a barren, wind-blasted
land of rocks and swamps. As at Stonehenge, the early inhabitants
left immense circles of hewn stone, as well as a legacy of spirits
and ghosts. In 1831, a peasant discovered a mysterious stone
building that had been buried under several feet of sand. Inside,
he found several sets of chessmen carved from walrus tusks. Now
residing in the British Museum and the National Museum in Edinburgh,
art experts agree that the pieces are "the most astonishing
collection of ancient chessmen in existence." They were carved
between A.D. 1150 and 1170. The most striking piece is the rook, which
is the form of a captain afoot, rather than a castle. The history of
chess in the Middle Ages is recounted. [A replica of this set is
for sale by the USCF in its latest catalog, page C20, for $149

"Losing the Human Edge." Berliner, Hans. Byte (May 1993), p. 282.
In many games, computers are near the forefront or have already
surpassed the best humans. Berliner explains his new "B*" search
algorithm used by the Hitech chess machine. This algorithm is "more
humanlike. For every move examined, it computes an optimistic value,
which measures threat potential, and a realistic value, which
measures the likely short-term outcome. It assumes that the real value
of a move lies between these limits....The B* algorithm usually examines
90% of its search nodes only once, indicating that these failed to prove
`interesting' for further pursuit." Hitech competed in the recent
AEGON tournament in Holland.

"From Tutankhamun to Nigel Short: The Story of Chess." Nottingham,
Ted. Contemporary Review (Dec 1992), p. 314-318.
A highly entertaining overview of the history of chess, from the
Sennet board in Tut's tomb to Short's victory over Karpov. In between
are some exciting tales of royalty and their love of the game; also,
during WWII, in an underground air-raid shelter, a 14-year-old
Hungarian boy was playing a game with a German soldier.
Fierce street fighting developed outside. The German left. A few
minutes later, a Red Army soldier burst in, waving a machine-gun. A
woman screamed. Then he saw the chessboard, and sat down opposite
the boy, and won the game which his enemy, the German, had started.

Editor: Stephen Leary []
Publisher: Shi Wei
Literary Consultant: Vivian Darkbloom
Grandmaster Liaison: Terri F. Bochers
Research Chief: Roy Lup Pham

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Sarah's Serendipitous Chess Page
The Life and Chess of Paul Morphy

Chess - in  general

Chesslinks Worldwide
Rythmomachy Chess Links

Chess History

Mark Week's History on the Web
Chess Journalists of America
Chess History Newsgroup
Hebrew Chess
Chess Tourn. & Match History
Super Tournaments of the Past
La grande storia degli scacchi
Bobby Fischer
Bill Wall's Chess Pages
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Schaaklinks - biographical links
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My Chess Biographies

Carlos Repetto Torre
Gioacchino Greco
Henry Thomas Buckle
La Bourdonnais
Francois Andre Philidor
Philidor's Opponents
Rashid  Nezhmetdinov
Rudolf Charousek
William E. Napier
G. H. Mackenzie
Lisa Lane
Karl Schlechter
Prince André Dadian
Henry Thomas Buckle
Joseph Blackburne
Isodore Gunsberg
James Mason
William Lewis
George Walker
Augustus Mongredien
Adolf Anderssen
Saint Amant
Daniel Harrwitz
Samuel Boden
Johann  Löwenthal
Howard Staunton
The Duke of Brunswick Charles Henry Stanley
Louis Paulsen
Jacob Henry Sarratt
Alexander McDonnell
Joszef Szen
Vincent Grimm
John Cochrane
George Atwood
del Rio, Lolli, Ponziani
Arpad Elo
Sultan Khan

My Historical Explorations

    Seeds to the Renaissance
    The Catalysts
    Chess Literature
    Chess Players

    Sofonisba Anguissola
    Schaccia, Ludus by Vida
    The Black Death
    Da Vinci
William Jones
    Aristotle's Children

Chess Automatons
The Origins of Chess
Chess History is a Pain!
Girl Chess I
The Forgotten Philidor



Franklin's Morales of Chess Pandolfini's Comandments
Six Chess Vignettes
Fischer's 10 Greatest
My Life as a Chess Criminal Celebrities Playing Chess
Mis/Dis Information
Morphy's Brilliant Moves
What is Chess
Schachdorf Ströbeck


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