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The History and The Culture of Chess

Chess in the Press - Issue #9
    May  2006

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Volume 1 Number 9 CHESS IN THE PRESS August 22, 1993
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Existentialist Chess Thoughts

"Moves and Countermoves." Goldston, Linda & Mike Weiss. San Jose Mercury
News (Mar 21, 1993), sec. west, p. 12+.
Fairfield (CA) police detective Harold Sagan has been searching for
Amanda "Nikki" Campbell, a 4-year-old girl, since she disappeared two days
after Christmas in 1991. Sagan suspects Timothy Bindner of the crime.
Bindner is an honors graduate in forestry from UC-Berkeley and works at a
sewage treatment plant. Bindner says he studies cases of men who kidnap and
kill young girls. He keeps large files on cases and the walls of his home
are lined with photos of missing children. Bindner wants to help solve some
of the cases. Sagan has been unable to find enough evidence to arrest
Bindner, but the two have exchanged numerous letters, and the battle of
intellects led to a chess match. Bindner started with 1. e4. Sagan responded
1...e6. "We were in a beginning game situation," Bindner recalled. "He had
a strong attack on my queenside...I was on the defensive." The prospect of
losing a pawn presented him with "an interesting challenge" and Bindner
abruptly withdrew from the game. Sagan said, "There wasn't any need for it.
It wasn't like I checkmated his butt. He overreacted." The suspended game
lasted 6 moves. But Bindner said he's ready to resume play. "If he was
doing it on his own, he's a pretty good player. I don't know if he was using
a computer or not. I wasn't." Sagan responded, "Tim forgets his own rules--
referral to chess books or other players are allowed. We'll get back into
it when all the media goes away because I'd really like Tim to have a clear
head when he plays." Nikki Campbell was the fourth blond girl to be abducted
along the I-80/580 corridor in the East Bay since 1983.

"Where is the Black Queen?" Time (Aug 6, 1990), p. 37.
Theresa Terry, 43, was a computer programmer from Lancashire who had
returned from Australia to England to investigate the disappearance of funds
from her bank account. Not long after, she vanished. Police arrested Terry's
traveling companion and charged him with fraud related to her $48,500
savings account. The companion announced that Terry had committed suicide
and he had buried her body. He refused to say where; instead handing the
police a map with rough drawings, and a piece of paper which listed what
looked like obscure chess moves. GM Raymond Keene, chess columnist for the
London Times, was called in to focus his intellect on the puzzle. Keene
read the map as a drawing of the British Isles with mirror images of towns
on opposite sides of a blank, gridless chessboard, which he said was
Ireland. WK meant white king (the suspect); BQ was black queen (Terry), and
WK meant white king, the police. Using these clues, Keene concluded that
Terry must be buried in the Irish town of Limerick. Keene's readers have also
offered dozens of solutions. William Hartston, chess correspondent for the
rival Independent, gave his own reading of the map and concluded that Terry's
body had been thrown from a ferry into the Bay of Naples.

"Death Row Escape Foiled in Nevada." Sacramento Bee (Aug 31, 1991), p. B5.
An elaborate escape plot by death row inmates was discovered at the Ely
State Prison. Guards found paper-mache heads and arms and other items in a
ventilation area above the convicts' cells. The plot was apparently to put
the dummies in bunks during a night-time escape attempt. The only inmate
named in the plot was Patrick McKenna, who was sentenced to die for killing
a jail cellmate after an argument over a chess game.

"Kid With a Killer Game." Lidz, Franz. Sports Illustrated (Feb 12, 1990),
p. 16.
The Polgar sisters are products of an experiment conducted by their
father, Laszlo. "The secret is specialization," he said. From age 4, all 3
girls studied chess, math, and languages. The biggest obstacle for Judit,
the most talented of the 3, is male chauvinism. "It's inevitable that nature
will work against her, and very soon," said Garry Kasparov. "She has
fantastic chess talent, but she is, after all, a woman. It all comes down to
the imperfections of the feminine psyche. No woman can sustain a prolonged
battle. She's fighting a habit of centuries and centuries and centuries
from the beginning of the world. She will be a great grandmaster, but she
will never be a *great* grandmaster." At the 1989 New York Open, GM
Alonso Zapata of Colombia refused to concede defeat long after his position
was hopeless. After the game, he sat at the board for 10 more minutes with
his head down.

"With Official Permission, Change Stirs Mongolia." Kristof, Nicholas.
New York Times (Jan 5, 1990), p. 6.
During an interview with Playboy magazine, Garry Kasparov proposed that
Mongolia might be sold to China to raise money for the Soviet Union.
Soviet spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said that Kasparov's "fantastic idea"
had resulted in a deluge of protest letters and petitions arriving at
Soviet diplomatic missions in Mongolia. Gerasimov said Kasparov's proposal
had nothing in common with Soviet policy.

"Westchester Q&A: Sunil Weeramantry; How Chess Helps Youngsters Think."
Greene, Donna. New York Times (May 23, 1993), Sec. 13WC, p. 3.
An interview with Sunil Weeramantry, executive director of the National
Scholastic Chess Foundation. Five school teams coached by the Foundation
took first in their divisions at the national competitions. Weeramantry, 41,
coached teams from Hunter Elementary in Manhattan. Once rated over 2400,
he had intended to be a lawyer but got into teaching chess by accident. His
first student was John Jarecki, who became a master at age 12. "Chess
introduces higher-level thinking skills at a very early age: knowledge,
comprehension, evaluation and decision making," Weeramantry said. "I
realized a long time ago that one of the reasons the children moved so fast
is that they were not sure what they should be thinking about. You have to
explain to them the steps to go through, highlight the process." Not many
girls participate in tournaments because they get intimidated. An aggressive
personality is needed, or tremendous determination. Weeramantry formed a
girls-only group so they could gain confidence to compete in tournaments.
Computer programs are good and bad. They give the kids a good sparring
partner but "it is incredibly boring to play against an inanimate object."

"The Harlem Gambit." Lidz, Franz. Sports Illustrated (Nov 11, 1991), p. 16+.
The Raging Rooks of Adam Clayton Powell Junior High School in Harlem have
proven a lot of people wrong. "Nobody expects young blacks from Harlem to
do well at anything but basketball," said Maurice Ashley, an instructor from
the Manhattan Chess Club School. "But these kids have checkmated all sorts
of facile assumptions--that inner city black kids can't learn, that they're
not as smart as whites." Ashley helped the Rooks tie for first at the junior
high USCF championships in Dearborn, MI. Falling by the wayside were
the defending champs from NYC's Dalton School, whose $12,000 tuition
exceeds the yearly salary of many of the Rooks' parents. When they returned
home, Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, threw a party for them in his
Upper East Side townhouse. Said Richard Gudonsky, coach of the Rooks: "These
kids can achieve at anything, given half a chance." Rook Michael Johnson
said: "The neighborhood I live in has a lot of dope--a lot of people pushing
it, a lot of people killing each other for it. Chess kind of takes my mind
away from all that." Ashley hopes to become the first black grandmaster.
"Maurice is the perfect role model for these kids," said Gudonsky. "He shows
them what is possible."

"A Father's Pawn." Waitzkin, Fred. New York Times Magazine (May 13, 1990),
p. 44+.
Gata and Rustam Kamsky at the Youth World Championship in Timisoara,
Romania. Each country was assigned a table, but the Kamskys ate apart from
the Russians: "a country unto themselves." They kept to themselves, except
a few conversations Rustam engaged with some Americans, during which he
conceived his plan to defect. Gata wasn't playing well. At the hotel,
players heard furniture crashing against the wall and Gata weeping. The
best US players barely eke out a living; there is some bitterness because
their counterparts in eastern europe are affluent and admired by a large,
chess-savvy public. Allen Kaufman, executive director of the ACF, said:
"There has to be resentment when a foreigner comes in here and all of a
sudden an American is one notch lower and earning hundreds or even thousands
less. But I have the responsibility of looking at the long term, and
bringing someone like Kamsky in to American chess is eventually going to
strengthen it." James Cayne, president of Bears, Stearns, gave the Kamskys
$35,000/year for living, travel, and chess-related expenses. No ACF money
was given to Kamsky, who spends 14 hours a day studying chess. No TV. He
jogs for 35 minutes. GM Leonid Shamkovich said: "He visited me for 2 hours.
It was impossible teaching Gata with Rustam standing over us. He was trying
to tell me things he knows nothing about." Garry Kasparov said: "He has no
potential to be world champion. There are many GMs, but to be world champion,
you need that last component. I don't think he has it."

"A Father's Pawn." Kamsky, Rustam. New York Times (Jun 10, 1990),
Sec. 6, p. 10.
In a letter to the editor, Rustam replies to Fred Waitzkin's article.
Rustam said he was very hurt by the story, and the negative publicity will
make it more difficult for Gata to succeed. Gata's path is already blocked
"by envy on the part of many American and Soviet emigre chess players who
resent the competition." Rustam denies ever beating his son after a loss.
He claims to have left a high-paying job in the Soviet Union so that Gata's
aspirations could come true. He says the charge that they live comfortably
on money from a sponsor is untrue, and that their financial situation is
extremely difficult. "Year after year, the Samford Fellowship for
promising young chess players goes to someone else, although Gata is
undoubtedly the strongest chess player in America."

"Boxing Mastermind Spurs British Pride." Matthews, Wallace (of Newsday).
San Francisco Chronicle (May 7, 1993), p. E2+.
WBC Heavyweight Boxing Champion Lennox Lewis plays chess nearly every day
while in training. "It's an ego thing with me. I love to win. I love to
force my opponent to do what I want him to do. You can look at it like
boxing. It's all strategy. If you leave yourself open you can lose quite
quickly." Lewis always plays his brother the day of a fight. He finds it
unbelievable that chess will have two world champions: "Just like boxing.
Quite shocking, really."

"The King of Games Conquers the Playground." Recreation (Jun 1935),
p. 157-158.
The Milwaukee [Wisconsin] Public Schools experimented with teaching chess
to children on playgrounds. Chess had been taught successfully in social
centers, but there was some doubt whether the children would be interested
in learning it on playgrounds. Fifteen playgrounds were selected for the
test. An instructor was sent to each to give 4 lessons. Boys and girls
aged 8-23 dropped their bats and balls to take chess lessons. 900 were
instructed. Classes were organized through bulletin boards and announcements
during story hour. The first lesson was so well received, many newcomers
heard about it and signed up. For the first lesson, the kids learned the
moves of the pieces, en passant, and the object of the game. Lesson 2:
consisted of lesson 1 and castling, notation, piece values, stalemate, and
perpetual check. Lesson 3: queening pawns and simple game playing. Lesson
4: the Ruy Lopez and Guioco Piano. Chess equipment was "expensive" [in
1935, *everything* was expensive]. The lack of sets was solved when kids
made their own during playground handicrafts period. Several playgrounds
organized teams and competed with each other. There was an all-girls team
with 23 members.

"More About Chess." Recreation (Mar 1937), p. 593-4+.
A brief history of chess in Milwaukee. Before the 1930s, there were very
few players in the area. In 1931, the Milwaukee Public Schools Dept of
Municipal Recreation & Adult Education began its chess instruction program
for adults at local social centers. The results were encouraging. Classes
were offered for beginners, advanced players, and masters. 15 exhibitions
by national masters attracted 308 participants in 1935-36. A large chess
room was provided at the Lapham Park Social Center. It was furnished with
chess pictures, a trophy case, league plaques, sets, boards, clocks, and

"`Miniatures for the Big Kids." Rubenstein, Steve. San Francisco Chronicle
(Apr 21, 1993), p. E10.
The world of big-time dollhouse collecting brought hundreds of collectors,
mostly older women, to San Francisco to buy, sell, trade, and rhapsodize.
Some of the hottest new furnishings are 2-inch-high pinball machines with
flashing lights, and 2-inch-wide chess tables with all 32 pieces.

Editor: Stephen Leary []
Chess in the Press, a bi-weekly electronic chess magazine, is cross-posted
to RGC on Usenet & Chess-L on Bitnet. Back issues are available via anonymous
ftp at in the path /pub/chess/texts/ChessInThePress.

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