Saturday, November 26, 2011

Awonder Liang Wins Gold Medal at World Youth Championships

Oh my gosh, this is such good news!  Thanks to Chris for posting an update some days ago at the article I posted about Awonder Liang.

Link to official website.

This is really great news for Wisconsin chess fans and people who know the Liang family and the chessplaying siblings.  This is great news for U.S. scholastic chess too.  It's not too often an American chessplayer wins a gold medal at a world competition! 

The World Youth Chess Championships took place November 17 - 27, 2011 in Caldas Novas, GO, Brazil. 

Awonder played in the U-8 Open Section - here are the top 4 finishers, all completed the tournament with 7.5/9:

Classificação final após 9 rondas
Rk.NomeFEDEloIPts.Des 1 Des 2 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
1
Liang AwonderUSA18727.543.00.0321.850.15152.3
2
Ram Aravind L NIND18697.538.00.0220.901.101516.5
3
Yu KaifengCHN07.536.00.053.5
4
Thilakaratne G M HSRI15287.534.00.0110.080.923027.6

While it wasn't a necessarily a shock to fans of the young chessplayers who represented the USA in this year's World Championships, it may have come as something of a shock to the rest of the world not only that the Americans sent a large contingent of players, but that so many of them placed very well!

Another young American player, Li Rufeng, played in the U-10 Open won a Silver Medal - and honorable mention to Xie Tianming of the USA for finishing in the top 10 in this Group:
Classificação final após 9 rondas
Rk. NomeFEDEloIPts. Des 1 Des 2 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
1
Zhu YiCHN07.542.00.076
2
Li RuifengUSA19197.039.50.0764.221.781526.7
3
Rathanvel V SIND19067.038.50.0764.331.671525.0
4
Aleksandrov ZakharRUS21167.038.00.075.55.96-0.4630-13.8
5
Rakesh Kumar JenaIND18657.037.00.0754.310.691510.4
6
FMTabatabaei M AminIRI20287.036.50.064.54.65-0.1515-2.3
7
Poghosyan TigranGER17707.034.00.0421.790.21153.2
8
Xie TianmingUSA07.033.50.064.5

The top finishers in the U-12 Open:

Classificação final após 9 rondas
Rk. NomeFEDEloIPts. Des 1 Des 2 nwwew-weKrtg+/-
1
Karthikeyan MuraliIND21547.539.50.097.55.971.531523.0
2
FMGledura BenjaminHUN22307.539.00.086.56.260.24153.6
3
Song MichaelCAN20327.037.00.0975.111.891528.4
4
FMLorparizangeneh ShahinIRI21757.037.00.0977.02-0.0215-0.3
5
FMXiong JeffreyUSA20567.036.00.0975.761.241518.6
6
Haria RaviENG20457.035.50.0975.681.321519.8
7
Tari AryanNOR22277.035.00.0755.61-0.6115-9.1

A big shout-out to our neighbors to the north, Yay Canada! Nice going with that Bronze Medal won by Michael Song.  Honorable mention to USA's Jeffrey Xiong, who finished in 5th place overall with 7.0/9. 

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive report of the World Youth Chess Championship.  I do express my opinion that I find the trend of our younger players showing excellent results as extremely promising for the future of American chess, provided we can get and maintain the necessary funding for training our young promising players, whether male or female.  Other countries actively support their chessplayers with government funding, the USA does not (as far as I'm aware).  There are many promising young players, and not enough money to go around to provide all of them with the trainers and coaching they need, let alone financial assistance to travel to and from tournaments where they can gain experience against international players and perhaps earn coveted norms. 

I also noted that WGM Deysi Cori of Peru played in the U-18 Open event and finished in 10th place overall - well done!  I'm sure she was shooting for better, though. 

10
WGMCori T. DeysiPER24146.032.50.0965.620.38103.8

Her brother, GM Jorge Cori, won the gold medal in the U-16 Open!

1
GMCori JorgePER24827.535.50.097.57.110.39103.9

Koneru Humpy Still Has the Yips When It Comes to Hou Yifan

While I've been enjoying this last-minute get-away from the Wisconsin weather during this long Thanksgiving Holiday weekend (yippee!) I've been neglecting the news on the outcome of the Women's World Chess Championship Match - Koneru Humpy lost the Match to reigning champ GM Hou Yifan of China, who is all of 17 years old.  I can only speculate as to what Humpy, who is only 21, is feeling right now. 

I had such high hopes for Koneru Humpy in this Match, but it was not to be.  During the months leading up to the Match, Hou Yifan played in big event after big event, sometimes top women's events, sometimes Chinese Team events, sometimes mixed events.  She got spanked by better players plenty of times during those months, but she also finished first in many of the events she played in.  No matter what her performance was in the prior event she had played in, she just moved on to the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one.  She was in intense training - so much so that during the later part of the Match the unrelenting stress finally manifested itself in physical symptoms that could not be ignored; Hou Yifan was rushed to a local hospital for tests.  It was determined that her stomach problems were stress-related and not due to a "serious" illness.  As if stress isn't serious?  Stress in a teenager bad enough to manifest itself in such a debilitating way?

In any event - and I doubt we will never know the full story unless Hou Yifan decides to talk one day -- the next day she was back at the chessboard and won aganst Humpy.  It was all over then, except for the shouting.  Hou was touted as a heroine, stiff upper lip and all that.  Actually, I think it's all rather disgusting.  Why do we abuse our best and our brightest by subjecting them to that kind of unrelenting psychological pressure?  I guess no one has learned a damn thing from Kim Yu Na...

During the months while I was constantly reading and reporting on Hou Yifan's "preparation" for the Match, Koneru Humpy played in very few events and her training and preparation were shrouded in secrecy.

Whatever it was she was doing, it is obvious now that it did not hold a key to a Humpy victory.   Humpy has not had a good record against Hou Yifan and it seems evident that her preparation was inadequate to allow her to overcome her psychological 'yips' that somehow manifest to prevent Humpy from playing her absolute best chess against Hou Yifan.  And it would take her best chess in order to win, for certainly Hou is a formidible chessplayer.

Usually in other sports (figure-skating and golf come to mind), a disastrous outcome at a major event leads to shake-ups in the coaching/training structure of the athlete.  In the ordinary course of events, Humpy would fire her coach and start over with one or more new people on her training and support team, and perhaps spend some time with a sports psychologist.  Negative-thought loops are notoriously difficult to overcome - but they can be overcome with persistence and a dedicated professional rendering assistance.  Koneru Humpy's coach is her father.  Humpy is an Indian woman.  Indian society is very conservative.  I don't believe that Humpy is going to fire her father.

Too bad Hou Yifan can't or won't fire anyone on her team, either.  They should all be fired as far as I'm concerned. 

Congratulations to GM Hou Yifan on retaining the Women's Champion title. 

The final game scores (10 rounds were scheduled, with time for an additional four games if they had been needed to decide the title; as it was, the title was decided in Game 8):


WCh w Tirana (ALB), 14 - 30 xi 2011
NameTiNATRtng12345678910TotalPerf
Hou, Yifan g CHN 2578 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 1 ½ . . 2741
Koneru, Humpy g IND 2600 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 0 ½ . . 2437

There's no point in my saying anything further.

Sting Concert - Las Vegas

Well satisfied customers despite his not singing Roxanne.  I really liked this song:



Sacred Love

Take off those working clothes
Put on these high heeled shoes
Don't want to hear the news
Shut out the world behind us
Put on your long black dress
No one's ever gonna find us here
Just leave your hair in a mess
I've been searching long enough
I begged the moon and the stars above
For sacred love
I've been up, I've been down
I've been lonesome, in this godless town
You're my religion, you're my church
You're the holy grail at the end of my search
Have I been down on my knees for long enough?
I've been searching the planet to find
Sacred love
The spirit moves on the water
She takes the shape of this heavenly daughter
She's rising up like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood

The sky grew dark, and the earth she shook
Just like a prophecy in the Holy Book
Thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not steal
Thou shalt not doubt that this love is real
So I got down on my knees and I prayed to the skies
When I looked up could I trust my eyes?

All the saints and angels and the stars up above
They all bowed down to the flower of creation
Every man every woman
Every race every nation
It all comes down to this
Sacred love

Don't need no doctor, don't need no pills
I got a cure for the country's ills
Here she comes like a river in flood
The word got made into flesh and blood
Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not kill
But if you don't love her your best friend will
All the saints up in heaven and the stars up above
It all comes down, it all comes down
It all comes down to love,

Take off your working clothes
Put on your long black dress
And your high heeled shoes
Just leave your hair in a mess

I've been thinking 'bout religion
I've been thinking 'bout the things that we believe
I've been thinking 'bout the Bible
I've been thinking 'bout Adam and Eve
I've been thinking 'bout the garden
I've been thinking 'bout the tree of knowledge, and the tree of life
I've been thinking 'bout forbidden fruit
I've been thinking 'bout a man and his wife
I been thinking 'bout, thinking 'bout
Sacred love, sacred love...
Lyrics: www. sting.com

Friday, November 25, 2011

Las Vegas Pics

Eek!  I'm blind as a bat without my glasses, and I left that at "sis' place this afternoon.  So now I'm getting ready for the Sting concert (new hair, new outfit, entirely new makeup, new bling) and it WILL be ineresting as I can't see what I'm doing except in a Mr. Magoo sort of way, by squinting my eyes and standing 10 feet away from the keyboard.  Try typing, ha!

Easy enough to download some photographs from this afternoon - don't know what they look like, however; they're all just blurs of color to me:  All of the following were taken in and around 'Sis' place on the golf course:





High temperature today was 71 degrees F.  With only a mild breeze it was downright hot in the sun.  I sat with my feet up under the shelter of the upper deck overlooking the golf course, my feet up, shoes off, sipping wine, reading the newspaper.  Sis made lunch - I had leftovers from last night: delicious pork tenderloin, sage gravy, mashed potatoes; and fresh sliced tomatoes on the side.  For dessert later on, I had more of Michelle's delicious pumpkin pie she made yesterday, with ice cream on the side.  YUM!  I feel like I'm at an expensive spa resort, with everyone taking care of me!

It's great!





The tea roses are still blooming!  Leaves on the deciduous trees here are just beginning to turn color; the large roses out front are in full glory - I need to get photos of them tomorrow or Sunday...


The cyprus hedge by the big outdoor chessboard....

More of this excellent weather in store for my entire stay. I'm SO glad I didn't wear my winter coat from Milwakee like so many other people on the plane did!  I wore my jeans jacket and I haven't had to wear it; today I removed my short sleeve sweater and rolled up the long sleeves on my cotton shirt when I was outdoors.  Even now with the sun down the temperature is about 65 F, it won't drop down into the high 40's until well after midnight, but I'll be shooting zzzz's at the ceiling by then.

And now, to the bathroom to remake myself!  Sting, I'm coming...

Thanksgiving in Las Vegas

Here's me yesterday, arriving in the hotel room, trying to take a photo of myself.  I'm at the Excalibur with what seems like a million children running around in the hallways...  Still, I love this place, I'v visited many times before but I've never stayed here.  I saw the mirror and I couldn't resist, I mean, it's soooo like "mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"  ME, of course, darlings :)

I'm about to go out shopping - shopping shopping shopping!  I saw a houndstooth checked tote bag that I MUST have...

The weather is PERFECT!  Bright sunshine and temperatures in the 60's, sat out in the sun all yesterday afternoon.  It felt soooo good! 

This morning when I rolled back the black-out curtains in my room I couldn't resist taking this photograph out the window:

That bright blue clear sky and the sun is so intense!  My room is at the "front" of the hotel and overlooks the tramway, which is fun to watch when I'm sitting here working on my little Acer notebook.

I'm still on Milwaukee time, it's 11:29 AM time but only 9:29 AM LV time...


Later:  Back from shopping!  I scored some bling!  I bought some real bling and some fun fake bling, an Egyptian blown glass ornament to add to my Christmas tree this year from The Egypt Store at the Luxor and an unexpected gift for Mr. Don.  I wasn't even looking for one and it just jumped out at me, practically into my hands.  I fell in love with it and I hope he does, too. 

It's now 1:41 p.m. Milwaukee time, 11:41 a.m. Las Vegas time.  Going to go to lunch with Isis and Michelle.  I was going to take photos of my bling but as luck would have it my batteries ran out!  Still, got a couple of photos of one of the turquoise and silver rings I bought this morning:


Not the best photo in the world, but it gives you an idea.  The stone is about an inch long and the mounting is elegantly simple, bead and "flower" sterling silver work on either side.  I also bought a pinky ring - never thought I'd ever own one.  There is just something about this green turquoise, and the lady whose store it is.  A fascinating woman, we had a good long chat I tried on ring after ring!  Such fun.

Batteries ran out on the camera - must get some new ones.  I'll add more later. 

Tonight is the Sting concert at Caesar's Palace. I am so dehydrated!  I've been pounding down those little hotel room plastic cups of water - must get myself juiced back up!  This climate will make you into a prune if you're not careful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 Women's World Chess Championship Match: Press Coverage

From The Times of India

Humpy surrenders two-point lead


CHENNAI: Koneru Humpy courted disaster in Game 6 to hand over a two-point lead to defending champion Hou Yifan of China in the Women's Word chess championship at Tirana ( Albania) on Monday.

The Indian challenger got a playable position and even looked slightly better at times with white when she got into time trouble. She made a few weak moves during a spell of two minutes and quickly lost the position.

With this win, Yifan leads the 10-game series 4-2. The Chinese will have white on Wednesday in Game 7 after a rest day. Hou Yifan's win is all the more creditable as she was battling a severe stomach pain the previous night.

The 17-year-old was taken to the hospital. The doctors checked her medical condition and diagnosed it was a psychological problem as the tests revealed nothing conclusive.

Yifan refused to take any pain-killers, but still turned up for the game in stable condition. And in a couple of hours from then, it was Humpy who looked in pain, of course, as a result of the Chinese's moves.

Humpy could not get any tangible advantage though she got a slight advantage. The Chinese GM managed to equalise and this must have prompted the Indian to try harder.

Humpy kept the bishops against the bishop and knight and tried to find a good sequence of moves in the last five minutes before the first time control. Yifan countered by doubling the rooks in the kingfile.

In time trouble, Humpy wasted a couple of rook moves and allowed the black knight to penetrate into the white kingside. In just three moves, Yifan broke open the position and sacrificed her knight to find a mate-in-four.

It is now imperative that Humpy has to go all out in the remaining four games if she has to reverse the results.

From ibnlive.in.com
Posted on Nov 22, 2011 at 06:03pm IST

Humpy suffers second defeat; trails Yifan 2-4

Tirana: Koneru Humpy suffered her second defeat in six games on Tuesday against defending champion Yifan Hou of China in the Women's World Chess Championship here.

With two losses and four draws so far in the 10-game contest, Humpy is trailing Yifan 2-4.

And now with just four games to go, Yifan has a two-point lead over her Indian opponent.
Yifan yet again capitalised on an erroneous plan by Humpy and went on to record her second win.

The 17-year old Chinese had experienced severe stomach pains the previous night and was immediately rushed to the hospital by the organisers and FIDE officials. The doctors checked her medical condition, but the necessary tests proved there was no other problem, besides psychological pressure.

Humpy, playing with white pieces, came up with a new plan and again had the better position once the opening was over.

She expressed her fears of a draw in the post match conference, "I prepared some line and got a very decent position after the opening. I had two bishops. I wanted to press for a win. At the beginning I had a lot of time but then I was trying to find the best line. I was afraid that some variations would lead to a draw."

As it happened, the advantage slipped out of Humpy's hands in quick time and then in acute time pressure for both players, Yifan managed to snatch the initiative with her offensive manoeuvres.

It was on move 30 that Humpy had her last chance and once she let it slip, Yifan was on top and it took just eight more moves for the Chinese to trap the King.

The seventh game of the 200000 Euros prize money match will be played after the third rest day.

Investigation of All India Chess Federation Can Go Forward

AICF'S argument for its brow-beating practices toward chessplayers who compete in events put on by organizations (sponsors and organizers, it appears) other than AICF is that AICF is the only authorized chess federation by the Indian government and therefore it can do whatever it wants!  Guess we'll see about that.

From zeenews.india.com
Court refuses to stay probe against chess federation
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2011, 22:12

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to impose a stay on its earlier order asking the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to probe allegations that the All India Chess Federation (AICF) was abusing its dominant position by banning players who took part in tournaments organised by other sports associations.

Disposing off the plea of AICF that the operation of an order delivered against it by the court`s single judge bench be stayed, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said: "The single judge has only taken a prima facie view and the appellant (AICF) may approach the Competition Commisison."

The order was issued over the petition of Hemant Sharma and other chess players.

AICF`s counsel Arvind Nigam said that the court was not a "statutory body" under law, and could not direct the panel to probe the allegations against the apex body of chess.
He said that under the government guidelines, there could be only one sports federation for a game and the AICF was the only one federation for chess.

"The order for probe against the AICF was untenable," said Nigam.

Justice Vipin Sanghi earlier asked the CCI to probe whether the AICF was abusing its dominant position.

He gave the order while taking note of the plea filed by a player alleging that the AICF, recognised by the sports ministry, was prohibiting players registered with it from participating in tournaments organised by other chess federations.

It was also alleged that July 11, the AICF had written a letter to Railways Sports Promotion Board that players, who participated and won in tournaments organised by other sports associations, would have to tender an apology and give the prize money to the AICF.

Justice Sanghi took serious note of the allegation while asking the CCI to look into them.

"Since in the present case, the petitioner has brought to this court`s notice the aforesaid state of affairs in relation to the AICF, this court is of the opinion that the said aspects need a thorough investigation under provisions of the Competition Act by the Competition Commission," Justice Sanghi said.

The court asked Sharma and other chess players, claiming to be registered with AICF, to appear before the CCI Nov 28 to present a memorandum containing their grievances.

IANS

Monday, November 21, 2011

2011 Women's World Chess Championship Match

Hola darlings!

Wouldn't you know it.  I thought maybe it was just my allergies acting up over the weekend, but Saturday night I ended up sleeping sitting up in the recliner in the family room and Sunday morning my throat felt horrid; after I gargled it felt better, and then didn't bother me all day.  This morning, worse.  It's been scratchy all day and my sinuses are draining down the back of my throat as well as drip, drip, dripping constantly into an always-in-hand tissue.  Argggh!  A cold!  I knew it when I started feeling worse at the office as the morning wore on, so those aches and pains and that feeling cold -- it's a fever, Jan!  Duh!  It's not the flu, I had a shot and I'm sure it's not that.  So, at noon I went to Walgreens and got some Cold Eze and some Day Quil.  I hope I've caught it soon enough with the Cold Eze so that the zinc will moderate the symptoms and duration of the cold - we'll see.  I'm travelling in three days, I don't want to be feeling sick!  But the truth is right now I'm feeling poorly and all I want to do is go to bed.

Speaking of feeling sick, Hou Yifan was rushed to a hospital yesterday evening when she experienced stomach pains.  She was checked out -- nothing could be discovered -- and it was determined that it was most likely stress-related.  She was in form today.  She defeated Koneru Humpy in Game 6 and now holds a commanding 2 point lead with only 4 games remaining in the match. 

I'm glad she was able to rebound to play good chess.  But I'm absolutely dismayed that at 17 she is so stressed out by the events in her life/this competition that she's experiencing stomach pains strong enough to send her to a hospital.  I think that's awful.  I can't help but wonder, will Hou Yifan be the chess equivalent of figure skating's Kim Yuna? 

Here's the game from R6.  Tomorrow the ladies have a rest day, and it seems both of them need it badly.  I sure do hope the organizers just let them alone!  Let them stay in their rooms and rest and meet with their people rather than prancing them around like fillies on display.  Geez!

Information from The Week in Chess:

GM Koneru, Humpy (2600) - GM Hou, Yifan (2578)
WCh w Tirana ALB (6), 2011.11.21
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.e3 O-O 7.Bd2 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd6 9.Qc2 a6 10.a3 e5 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 13.f4 Bxc3 14.Bxc3 Qe7 15.O-O Qxe3+ 16.Kh1 Qb6 17.f5 Bd7 18.Bb4 Rfe8 19.Rad1 Qc6 20.Qb3 Kh8 21.Rc1 Qb6 22.Bxf7 Re5 23.Bc3 Qxb3 24.Bxb3 Re3 25.Bc4 Rae8 26.Bd4 R3e7 27.Ba2 Re2 28.Bf7 R8e7 29.Bc4 R2e4 30.Bc5 Re8 31.Bf7 R8e5 32.Ba2 Bc6 33.Rg1 Re2 34.Bd4 Rxf5 35.Bc4 Rd2 36.Bc3 Ne4 37.Rge1 Ng3+ 38.hxg3 Rh5+ 0-1

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chess Benefactoress Turns 100

From The New York Times

Chess
Milestone for a Benefactor of Historic Matches By  Published: November 19, 2011

Jacqueline Piatigorsky, one of the most important figures in American chess in the 1960s, turned 100 this month.       

Piatigorsky, a member of the Rothschild banking family, was married to the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, and together they sponsored three significant chess events. The first was a 1961 match between Bobby Fischer and Samuel Reshevsky, the two best American players.

It was a best-of-16 match, and after 11 games, each man had won twice and the other games were draws. And that is how it ended. Fischer quit after a fight with Mrs. Piatigorsky over the scheduling of the 12th game. (Fischer wanted an afternoon game so he could sleep in, and she wanted a morning game so she could attend a concert by her husband later in the day.)

In 1963, the Piatigorskys sponsored the Piatigorsky Cup tournament in Los Angeles, which featured eight of the top players in the world, including the new world champion, Tigran V. Petrosian, who was from Soviet Armenia. It was the first time the Soviet Union, which feared defections by its stars, allowed a world champion to travel to the United States. Petrosian and Paul Keres, who was from the Soviet republic of Estonia, tied for first.

Three years later, the second Piatigorsky Cup included another world-class field, this time of 10 players. Boris Spassky took first place, just ahead of Fischer, who had mended fences with Mrs. Piatigorsky.

She was not only a sponsor of chess events — she was also one of the country’s top female players, ranking No. 2 at one point. In 1957, at the first Women’s Chess Olympiad in Emmen, the Netherlands, she played Board 2 for the United States and won a bronze medal by scoring 7.5 points in 11 games.


Bobby Fischer vs Borislav Ivkov, 2nd Piatigorsky Cup in 1966, with Miguel Najdorf, Lajos Portisch, Bent Larsen and Wolfgang Unzicker. The second and final tournament in the series was held July to August 1966 at the Mirimar Hotel, Santa Monica. The field was increased from eight players to ten and the prize fund was doubled to $20,000 (first prize: $5000, second: $3000, third: $2500, fourth: $2000, fifth: $1750, sixth: $1500, seventh: $1300, eighth: $1150, ninth: $1050, tenth: $1000). Interest in the tournament was unusually high for a chess event in the United States, with over 500 spectators attending most sessions. The 17th round game between tournament leaders Spassky and Fischer drew over 900 spectators, with many turned away. Positions of the games in progress were displayed to the crowds using a novel projection system devised by Jacqueline Piatigorsky rather than the usual wall boards. (1. Spassky 11.5/18 - 2. Fischer 11).

From Edward Winter's Chessnotes:

Mrs. Piatigorsky wrote a memoir in 1988 Jumping in the Waves.  The book contained numerous accounts of Mrs. Piatigorsky's involvement in chess.  Yes, she supported high-powered players and high-profile chess events, but she also worked quietly behind the scenes to promote chess to disadvantaged youth "Pages 166-170: A chapter entitled ‘Chess Promotion’ describes her programme for teaching chess to disadvantaged children in Los Angeles..."

"Bat Girl" has a lengthy blog post about Jacqueline Piatigorsky. 

Chess Base has only four games in its database for Mrs. Piatigorsky.

Tartajubow on Chess II has a blog post on Mrs. Piatigorsky shortly after the time of her 100th birthday.

Growing As We Age, by Jacqueline Piatigorsky (2003)

From the Sports Illustrated Archives now online:

September 05, 1966
In Chess Piatigorsky Is Tops 
A pleasant lady who thought grand masters deserved a break sponsors the best chess tournament in the world  
Robert Cantwell

It was early on a Sunday morning this past July, the opening day of the Piatigorsky chess tournament at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, Calif., and no one had thought to vacuum the carpet in the ballroom where the tournament was to be held. Mrs. Jacqueline Piatigorsky discovered the unvacuumed expanse of carpeting at 7 a.m. That is an early hour on a flawless California midsummer Sunday. The broad waxed corridors of the hotel were shining emptily in the reflected sunlight, there was no one around the swimming pool, the wide white beach beyond the palm trees was unpeopled, and Mrs. Piatigorsky could not find a vacuum cleaner. She hastened to her home, a small mansion in Brentwood a few miles away, picked up her own vacuum and returned to clean personally the carpet in the huge room. "If you don't check on every little thing," she said later with a smile, "someone forgets."

Especially great chess players. They come equipped with built-in memory lapses. Chess masters can forget everything except all the moves they make in every game they play. In the case of the chess masters at the Piatigorsky tournament there was some reason for their indifference to trifles. There are not more than 20 men who can compete at the top level of international chess competition, and 10 of these were present in Santa Monica. It was the most brilliant gathering of grand masters in U.S. chess history. Or, for that matter, in anybody's history. The New York Times 's chess expert called it "the strongest collection of chess players ever convened."

So it was to be expected that Mrs. Piatigorsky would have a lot of checking to do on things other people forgot. Besides vacuuming the carpet and ordering milk and sandwiches for the players, she did things like answering the telephone and giving press interviews and, just before starting time, locating an electrician when the electric clocks used to time players' moves blew out the fuses in the ballroom. Then at one o'clock on Sunday afternoon, July 17, when the long tournament formally opened, she stood poised and cool in a gray flowered dress at the entrance, talking animatedly to awed journalists in whispers—everyone whispers at a chess tournament—and still worrying about last-minute details. She was present through all of the 18 rounds of the 27-day tournament, and as it came to its end, she was still there at the door, explaining with infinite patience and genuine regret to people who were trying to get in that there was no more room in the hall. In the climactic next-to-the-last round, when Bobby Fischer of the U.S. and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union—tied for first place—were pitted against each other, the crowd reached 1,300, the largest crowd ever to watch a chess match in the U.S. All those hours of checking on every detail paid off, for Mrs. Piatigorsky's tournament was a triumph.

Not that Mrs. Piatigorsky had much preparation for the housewifely duties that were required to make the tournament a success. She spent her childhood in the mansion—at 2 Rue Saint-Florentin, overlooking the Tuileries in Paris—that had been the palace of Talleyrand before her father. Baron Edouard Alphonse James de Rothschild, purchased it. He was the head of the French branch of the House of Rothschild. "It was like a museum," said Mrs. Piatigorsky, as she sat chatting one day during the tournament. "It was so big I never saw the kitchen. I lived in that house until I was married, and I never saw the kitchen."

In weekend escapes from the formal grandeur of the mansion in Paris the Rothschild family lived at Ferri�res—built in 1862 by her great-grandfather, Baron James de Rothschild—a cozy little place located on 9,000 acres just east of Paris, with lakes, parks, a private zoo, 12 gardeners, five foresters and pavilions hung with Van Dykes and other old masters. Napoleon III attended the fete at the opening of Ferri�res, Rossini composed music for the occasion, and the guests shot 1,231 head of game in one afternoon on the Rothschilds' private hunting preserve. During the Franco-Prussian war, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Chancellor Bismarck and General von Moltke took over Ferri�res for their quarters, but the Kaiser refused to sleep in the owner's bedroom. He said it was too grand.

With this background, how did Mrs. Piatigorsky become concerned with chess tournaments? And how did it come about that she was willing personally to do all the housekeeping that chess tournaments require? "If I had a hundred million dollars," one chess player said during the tournament, "I wouldn't bother with chess players."

"Chess entered my life when I was 6 years old," explained Mrs. Piatigorsky. "I had a peritonitis infection, and I was in bed for months. There was no TV then to entertain a bedridden child, and reading all the time was tiresome. I was bored, totally bored."

An English nurse taught Jacqueline and her sister to play chess when Jacqueline was convalescing. This was during World War I, when the Germans were 30 miles from Paris. Her father, a tall, thin-featured man, did not socialize with the children, and Jacqueline thought of her parents as living in a different city. "When we were very young," she said, "they would come upstairs and visit us for about 15 minutes in the evening. As we grew somewhat older we would see them every day at lunch. That was the big family event, taking lunch together, but it was not very cozy or intime; we were surrounded by servants in white gloves." Presently Jacqueline became a good enough chess player to challenge her father, who had a rudimentary knowledge of the game. She beat him, which so irritated the baron that he quit playing. One evening, when a chess-playing friend came to visit, her father said to him, "Play Jacqueline, she's good."

"Of course, I was badly beaten," Mrs. Piatigorsky said. "I was also furious, just furious." She began to play chess more thoughtfully and even took a few lessons. She became a tennis whiz playing on the family courts and a good golfer playing on the family's private golf course at Ferri�res. But her life was very restricted. She and her sister did not go anywhere alone until they married. "I wasn't allowed to go into a store alone to buy so much as a spool of thread," she said.

A vague, opaque expression seems to settle on her features when she remembers Paris, but from the bits and fragments of her recollections you can recognize something: she lived in the sort of social and intellectual world that Marcel Proust described in the early, glowing volumes of Remembrance of Things Past. Devoted students of Proust have carefully traced the connections between the Rothschilds and the originals of some of the characters in Proust's great novel, and Gaston Calmann-L�vy, Proust's publisher, was a close friend of Jacqueline's parents. Faced in reality with the sort of elegance and sumptuous grandeur that Proust evoked so brilliantly in fiction, she wanted to get the hell out of there. At 18 she married Robert Paul Michel Calmann-L�vy, the son of the publisher, but the marriage lasted only four years. "I think I was unconsciously anxious to get out of the house," she said.

A few years later, in 1937, she married again, this time Gregor Piatigorsky, the famed cellist. They came to live in—of all places—Elizabethtown, N.Y., a remote village in the Adirondack Mountains. Since she knew of no chess players in Elizabethtown, she took up postal chess, perhaps the slowest-paced sport known to mankind, in which you send your opponent a postcard with your move on it and he sends you back his move, each game taking about a year. You can play as many games simultaneously as you have time for, or money to spend on stamps. Happy with everything, Mrs. Piatigorsky was especially delighted with postal chess: it gave her ample time to think over each move while she did the housework, raised two children, painted portraits, played the bassoon, learned how to repair an automobile and took flying lessons.

The late Herman Steiner, a former U.S. champion, persuaded her to enter a real chess tournament—one with visible opponents, that is—after the Piatigorsky's moved to Los Angeles in 1949. She finished in a tie for next-to-the-last place, playing for the U.S. women's championship in 1951, and tied for second place last year. In those years she learned the facts of U.S. chess life—the lack of public support, the ceaseless scrounging for money to finance tournaments, the dingy surroundings where most chess events take place. She started the Piatigorsky Foundation to promote the game, hoping to establish something in chess equivalent to the Davis Cup in tennis. She wanted to provide ample prize money for the players ($20,000 this year) and a playing environment of good quarters, good food, good manners and good taste. Unhappily, Mrs. Piatigorsky's first promotional effort was perhaps the worst in chess history. She matched Samuel Reshevsky and Bobby Fischer in a contest that ended at the halfway point in an explosion of grandmaster temperament over the starting time of games. Her second venture, the first Piatigorsky Cup tournament held three years ago in Los Angeles, was a respectable but fairly routine international tournament, which Mrs. Piatigorsky remembers with distress because the organization was so bad. U.S. chess officials, who depended on her for much of the financial support of chess events, feared she might lose interest in chess entirely if this year's Piatigorsky tournament was not a success.

They need not have worried. The drama that unfolded in the Nautilus Room was plainly the beginning of something significant in chess, not the end. During the first few rounds you could sense it shaping up, sometimes as a foreshadowing of the battle between Spassky and Fischer, more often as a conflict between two different ways of looking at chess that involved all the players in the tournament. Isaac Kashdan, a veteran U.S. chess authority who directed the tournament, called attention to the contrast in styles in his bulletin on the fourth round, noting a difference between players who played to win and players who played to draw. "Dullsville," he wrote. "All five games were drawn in this round.... The grand master draw is unfair to sponsors, spectators, and to the world of chess in general. We expect of the masters that they will give of their best at all times."

The player who illustrated the difference best was Boris Spassky. He was on both sides. A muscular, square-jawed, well-groomed Russian, age 29, Spassky sat at his board with a rocklike solidity. He sometimes wore a dark suit and tie, sometimes gray trousers and a sport jacket, but in either case he looked relaxed and untroubled. He rarely rose from his chair and walked around between moves, as do most chess masters, and when he did he seemed to know exactly where he was going and when he was coming back.

When Spassky became a major chess figure at 16 he was hailed for his aggressive, attacking, imaginative style of play. But when he played Tigran Petrosian for the world championship earlier in 1966 (he lost) he surprised everyone by playing the same kind of cautious defensive game that Petrosian had always played. At Santa Monica, the grand old man of chess, Miguel Najdorf, asked Spassky why he had changed. Spassky said he tried to adapt his game to one that would be effective against Petrosian. "Ah, but you're no longer Spassky!" Najdorf exclaimed.

That appeared to be true; Spassky had become an inflexible, unchanging enigma, playing cautiously and defensively. He drew 13 games in all. He sat back with an almost tranquil air while his opponents grew harried. He was a kind of reformed aggressor, able to anticipate all attacks because he had formerly tried them all himself. At the opposite extreme from Spassky's amiable calm, Bobby Fischer managed to get in trouble in every round, from the first game to the last. At Santa Monica he appeared to be completely transformed in his social life. After a decade in which he became famous for his explosions of bad temper, Bobby was suddenly, in the setting that Mrs. Piatigorsky provided, a handsome, well-mannered, good-natured young man thoroughly enjoying life. He visited, exchanged pleasantries and submitted to television interviews. But as a chess player he remained the same flamboyant character he was when he won his first U.S. championship in 1957 at 14. He still seemed to put himself on a plane of absolute equality with his opponent, no matter how strong or weak his opponent happened to be. He drew four of his first five games, winning only from Borislav Ivkov, the Yugoslavian (who finished next to last). But unlike Spassky's casual, almost offhanded air when he drew his games, Fischer's desperation gave the impression that he was struggling for every draw.

Then Spassky beat him. Najdorf beat him. Bent Larsen, the Dane, defeated him in 30 moves. At the halfway point Fischer had won only one game, drawn five and lost three and was at the bottom of the standings. Then he began to move. He won his next four games in a row, drew one and then won two more—an unprecedented record against top-ranking chess masters. And with two rounds to play, Fischer was tied with Spassky for first place.

Not that these two provided the only interest, or the only indications of the growing difference in styles of chess play. The defeat of Petrosian, the most cautious of defensive players, was equally astonishing to chess fans. The world champion was beaten in the seventh round by Larsen, who did it in the grand style by sacrificing his queen. Petrosian never recovered his form, lost three games in all, drew 12 and wound up in sixth place. For his part, Larsen made chess history. Previously all but buried in the complicated procedures of international-chess red tape, Larsen flourished in the spotlight that the Piatigorsky tournament provided. Always attacking and playing with initiative and imagination, he dominated the first half of the tournament just as Fischer dominated the second half. He won four games in a row and, in his games against the Russian giants, kept them on the defensive in a way that rocketed him to the first rank of contemporary masters. There appeared to be substance to Isaac Kashdan's observations on the growing difference between playing to draw and playing to win.

In any event it brought the tournament to a dramatic conclusion, with Fischer trying desperately to win all his games and Spassky smoothly drawing all of his. Spectators lined the walls, took positions behind pillars, sat on the floor, stood on chairs and created a never-ending jam in the aisles. They kept Mrs. Piatigorsky and a special policeman busy clearing the pathways. A SOLD OUT sign stood at the door. One day a malcontent who had been turned away tried to force his way in. Jerry Hanken, a tournament official, blocked his path. The man turned as though to leave, Hanken turned back to watch the games and—"The man hit Jerry and knocked him down," whispered an outraged Mrs. Piatigorsky. "He's in jail now, but that's why we have the special officer." Removing her glasses, she adjusted the thermostat on the air conditioner and then stood quietly at the entry with the special officer to explain once again to latecomers that fire regulations prohibited any additional admissions until someone left. The latecomers gathered behind ropes, waiting silently for someone to leave. When anyone did Mrs. Piatigorsky acted as usher in guiding a fortunate newcomer to the vacated seat.

In the hall the last rounds ran their predicted course. The climactic game between Spassky and Fischer ended in a draw, and they remained tied in their struggle for first place. In the final round Fischer was pitted against Petrosian, while Spassky played Jan Hein Donner of Holland, who had won only one game, lost six and eventually finished last. This circumstance was luck, determined by the drawings. But it gave Spassky first place and $5,000 prize money; Fischer and Petrosian drew, and Spassky easily won from Donner.

"It was Fischer's tournament," Spassky said generously. "He played better than anyone else, including myself." It was a nice gesture from the victor, but he was not entirely correct. It was really Mrs. Piatigorsky's tournament. At the end of it she was still working, making notes on 3-by-5 index cards to guide her during the next tournament. "This way," she said, "I will be able to eliminate little things next time that were not right this time." She was asked how much the tournament cost. "About $60,000," she said. She looked as if she thought the House of Rothschild had never made a better investment.

2011 Women's World Chess Championship Match: News Coverage

From The Times of India
Humpy under pressure in World Chess Championship



Awonder Liang: Representing the USA and Wisconsin

I have written about Awonder Liang before.  I am very happy that adequate funds were found and/or donated or otherwise provided (by the USCF?; by private donors?; out of Liang family savings?) to send Awonder Liang to this year's World Youth Chess Championships.  Awonder also played on the United States Team at the 2010 World Youth Chess Championships, and finished in 9th place overall in his age group. Something tells me that he will improve on that performance this year...

From the USCF website:

Preparing for BraziL: Awonder Has Adream
By Alex Betaneli and Tommy Ulrich
November 17, 2011

In recent years, there has been a healthy crop of Wisconsin chess talent. However, this talent has to be nurtured and protected carefully as winter has already arrived and will last until early April. Where can one escape to avoid the bitter cold? Why, Brazil of course! The 8-year-old Awonder Liang is doing just that as he represents the country at the World Youth Championships starting this week. Awonder comes from a true chess family. His father, Yingming (Will) Liang is a strong A class player. Will has three chess playing sons: Adream, Awonder, and Able (yes, these are really their names). Adream is an A class player, Awonder is an expert (making him the top player for his age by a wide margin) and Able is a bit lower rated, but has several years to catch up to his brothers.

Awonder is the first Wisconsinite to be invited to this prestigious event for two years back to back. A few years ago Brian Luo and Alexander Velikanov were also the top Americans in their age categories and participated at the World Youth. Although Awonder is higher rated than Brian and Alexander were at his age, there is one title –that of Wisconsin Junior Champion—that has eluded him. But he has time: both Brian and Alexander won this title when they were ten.
Rest of article.
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