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Friday, September 30, 2016

Walter Harris, Another Talent Lost

18-year old Walter Harris
     When they were both teenagers Bobby Fischer grudgingly told Harris, "You have some talent." Fischer went on to become great chessplayer and a first class jerk. Harris studied at UCLA and went on to become a physicist a true gentleman. 
     Harris, born about 1942, made history by becoming the first black player to obtain a US Master rating in 1959. He gave up chess the late 70s or early 80s and when interviewed by Dr. Daaim Shabazz of the Chess Drum back in 2014, he was unaware of the progress of black players and GM Maurice Ashley and Emory Tate were unknown to him. 
     Earlier in the week before the 1959 U.S. Open, Harris placed 5th in the U.S. Junior Open in Omaha, Nebraska with 6-3 behind Robin Ault and Gilbert Ramirez (tied, Ault getting the nod on tie breaks) and Larry Gilden and Raymond Weinstein (tied). 
     He stayed in town for the Open itself where he scored a credible 7-5. Harris himself was disgusted with the tournament even though he finished in 5th place. After defeating the up-and-coming Raymond Weinstein in the first round, he went on to rack up an excellent 7-2 score then lost his last three games (to James Sherwin, Hans Berliner and Eleazar Jimenez).
     Originally from New York, Harris was a scholarship winner and studied physics at Hunter College in New York City. He honed his skills at the Manhattan and Hawthorne chess clubs and won the Junior Championship of the Marshall Chess Club. However, most of his chess career was spent in the Bay area of California where he won the Sacramento City Championship at least twice (1964 and 1967). Harris served with the Air Force during the early to mid-1960s and was stationed at Mather Air Force Base in California. In the late 1990s he relocated to Virginia where he worked as scientist at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Frank Marshall in Cleveland, Ohio

     I recently received an e-mail from Mr. Don Collins who was editor of the Cleveland Chess Bulletin from 1981 to 1984 which contained an article about Frank J. Marshall that is of historical interest. He discovered the article while reading through a database of old Cleveland Plain Dealer newspapers and was kind enough to send me the following Note: Mr. Collins is the author of this article.

The day Frank J. Marshall gave up playing the Danish Gambit in Cleveland! 

     For Clevelanders it was a mildly pleasant day; high 45, low 34 with not a speck of precipitation to be found. It was Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the year 1921, when U.S. Champion F. J. Marshall appeared at the Hollenden Hotel for a chess demonstration of sportsmanship and skill. Cleveland, Ohio, with a population of almost 800,000 was ranked 5th in the U.S among other cities and boasted a very strong chess contingent. Native journalists were proud of the city’s standing and fondly referred to her as the “Fifth City.”
     Mr. Marshall had visited the previous year and left an indelible mark of his prowess in giving a Simultaneous exhibition.
     From the Cleveland Plain Dealer

     About this time last year, Marshall--although not in good form, played 65 boards simultaneously, winning 62 games, drawing 2 and losing but one. At that time, he was in poor health. The spectacular feat was said to be unique in the annals of chess in this country. 
     "Marshall however, expects to better his record when he comes to Cleveland this time”, says Francis T. Hayes, secretary of the City Club. “He will engage 75 of the city’s best players and he promises to give a good account of himself. If he does better than he did the last time he was here--and he is confident that he will--he certainly will be in wonderful form and his performance will be a memorable one.” 
     
     Cleveland players were not particularly pleased to hear this bold prediction. Yes, they remembered many of the Danish Gambits the Fox had played, and how easily he defeated player after player. But this time they worked out a strategy - and hoped it would carry the day. They would band together and work out what systems they could, to prepare them for the trial.
     It is doubtful Mr. Marshall would have any difficulty dispatching his opponents man to man; but this was a simultaneous. How would he fare against players who pooled their resources and prepared for him and his gambit exclusively? 
     Boards were readied for play while the players conversed with one another sharing their strategies and secrets: Secrets which Mr. Marshall could not have imagined, but secrets which would be revealed later to his dismay. 
     F. J. stopped talking to the organizers and walked over to board one and made the first move. It was 1. P-K4… 
     The Simultaneous commenced and seventy-one hunched bodies with determined faces began concentrating over their black pieces, desperately searching for a plan that would grant a memory which would last forever. 
     Several hours later after the final moves were played, the score was 62 wins, 7 draws, and 2 defeats. An embarrassing result for the great Frank Marshall, but made even more so because of the ‘boasting’ during finalizing of terms for the simultaneous exhibition.
     To put it into perspective, you have to acknowledge how many countless hundreds of ‘Danish Gambits’ Marshall had played previously, and how ‘automatic’ they must have been. He would arrive at positions he knew by heart with no analyzing necessary. Play here, he plays…take the ‘shot’, checkmate-or win material. All so simple and all from memory. 
     But here, because of the players pooling their resources beforehand, ‘shots’ were not easy to find and the grueling pace had taken its toll on the United States Chess Champion. 

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

     “I’ll not play Danish Gambit in Cleveland Again” “One of the biggest jolts I ever received in my life.” Was the terse comment of Champion Marshall after his remarkable simultaneous exhibition of chess a week ago Friday evening at the City Club. He referred to the two losses and seven draws made against him out of the 71 games that were played up until after 2 in the morning. He attributed what he called his poor showing to the fact that Cleveland players were “all primed” on the Danish Gambit which he proffered and was accepted on about nine boards out of ten."
      “Let me give full credit, however.” He hastened to add “Your players showed a wonderful-almost an unbelievable-improvement in chess playing ability since my last visit here a year ago. Had I been told to prepare for such an array of talent and skill I should have smiled. Frankly, I would have been skeptical. But I’m convinced. As for the Danish Gambit-never again. When I come to Cleveland, I shall try something to which your chess devotees have given less study. That is mere prudence on my part-a measure of self-defense. Why, one of your men here made not less than ten book plays against me.”

    Up to Mr. Marshall’s arrival in Cleveland, he had but one draw and no loss on his tour with 151 games played. Hence he felt the sting of losing two and drawing seven more severely. 
     One has to marvel at the demeanor of the U.S. Champion being a perfect gentleman, politically correct decades before his time. He was a true champion in every respect. 
     A last note. Frank J. got a measure of revenge about a year later when he gave another simul and scored forty wins with only two draws.
      Cleveland, Ohio had a very active chess club in those glory days; hosting lectures, exhibitions and simultaneous play by such luminaries of chess as: Dr. Emanuel Lasker, Jose Capablanca, Alexander Alekhine, Geza Maroczy, Sammy Rzeschewski, Isaac Kashdan, Lajos Steiner, Edward Lasker and many more. 
     Edward Lasker once gave a brilliant lecture on Fundamental laws of chess of mobilization and a blindfold exhibition, winning 24 games and drawing one. 
     During the Marshall/Ed Lasker U.S. Championship of 1923, three games were played in Cleveland for the local gentry to observe. 
     It must have been wonderful to have lived in those days and witnessed the truly great players, who trailblazed a path for us to appreciate the finer points of the finest game. Imagine!

     Following is one of the two wins against the Marshall. Annotations are by Don Collins.  Mr. Collins is a USCF Expert with a rating of over 2100 and a correspondence rating of over 2500. Any additional comments by me are indicated as such. Wikipedia has a good article on the Danish Gambit.
 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

So, this is what modern chess has come to

     Just one more reason why I'm not too interested in modern chess... 

Black to play and win
     Because of a cheating incident by Sebastien Feller at the 2010 Chess Olympiad, plus a lot of other well-known cheating incidents, at the recently completed Baku Olympiad FIDE greatly enhanced security. Some of the rules enforced were: a transmission delay of some games, random security checks of players, a ban on bringing pens and watches into the playing hall (!) and installment of electronic checkpoints for players at the entrance of the playing hall.
     Prior to the event Israel Gelfer, Chairman of FIDE's Anti-cheating Committee, said that the issue of cheating cannot be ignored and at Baku the usual electronic scans before and after the game as well as novel procedures would be used, to include: having a special anti-cheating arbiter with approximately 15 arbiters under his authority who would carry out 30-40 checks per round and that players MUST inform their Match Arbiter when leaving the playing area. e.g. for trips to the bathroom. 
     Nigel Short ran into problems and Japanese player Tang Tang was forfeited after he was caught with an electronic device in a random check conducted prior to leaving the venue;  despite security precautions an iPhone and an iPad were found on him. The game result was reversed from a win to a loss, which also resulted in a change in the match score. 

GM Alex Colovic's Blog 
Nigel Short Warned 
Baku 2016 Website 

     There's a famous story about the Lasker vs. Botvinnik game at Nottingham 1936. The game was adjourned and after both sides had done some analysis, Botvinnik decided the game was a draw so he went to Lasker to propose a draw, but only if Lasker had played a certain move. Lasker said he played another move, but he was sure the game was still drawn. The problem was that Lasker's sealed move was no longer a secret.  What did Botvinik do? He offered Lasker his pocket chess set as a good faith pledge that he would not continue his analysis. What did Lasker do? He refused saying that he completely trusted Botvinnik. Times have changed, haven't they?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Can You Force the Win?

White to move and win
     There's an interesting site called Elometer that uses Item Response Theory to derive an estimate of your playing strength based on your answers to a set of 76 chess problems. The set of problems was taken from the "Amsterdam Chess Test" developed by van der Maas & Wagenmakers who presented the problems to a sample of 259 participants at a Dutch open tournament. The national Elo rating of these participants ranged from 1169 to 2629 and the claim is that the test results yield a 95 percent confidence level for the accuracy of the rating. 
     I blitzed through the test, spending about 5-15 seconds per problem and the estimate of my Elo rating is 1998 (with a point spread from 1868 to 2128 which seems a tad big). As for the accuracy of the rating, who knows? I have not played tournament chess for nigh on to 40 years and my last pre-engine postal rating was around 2050. 
     The site also allows you to test your endgame knowledge. In this test of 24 positions you are simply asked to judge whether white can force a win. Afterward, you are given feedback on your answers. Again, I just gave answers off the top of my head and got half of them correct. It seems that, probably thanks to a cookie, once you take the test you can't take it again.
     Anyway, one position on the endgame test that I found intriguing was from the Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation.
     Can white force a win? My response was no. I know the ending favors white, but with only Kings on the board I did not think it was possible for white to FORCE the win. My thought was that for white to win the ending he would need at least one additional piece in order to take advantage of (or create) a second weakness in black's position.  I was totally wrong!
     White CAN win by force. The site's explanation is white wins because his superior P-structure allows him to create a passed pawn on the K-side. Their solution runs 1.Ke2 Ke7 2.Ke3 Ke6 3.f4 f6 4.Kd4 g6 5.g4 h6 6.h4 Kd6 7.e5+ fxe5+ 8.fxe5+ Ke6 9.b4. I am not sure how accurate this solution is though or what the source is, but in a Shootout at 17-25 plies Stockfish scored +5 -0 =0. 
     After checking a couple of sources I found Max Euwe gave the pure pawn ending (without pieces) as a win for white, and that the winning procedure is detailed in Secrets of Pawn Endings by Karsten Muller and Frank Lamprecht, but I don't have the book. 
     The Exeter Chess Club has excellent material on this ending and you can also go to Chessvideos and play this position against Crafty. Or, as an alternative you, could set it up against Stockfish on your GUI and practice trying to win it...good luck! 
     Just messing around with this Ruy Lopez position was both fun and frustrating, but if you are seriously interested in actually studying chess and maybe even learning something, this type of practice could be very useful...playing out positions from your openings or practicing various endgames.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An Impressive Game by Fenny Heemskerk

     Fenny Heemskerk was born December 3, 1919 in Amsterdam. She won the Dutch Women's Championship ten times (1937, 1939, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1958 and 1961). She played in the first Women's Chess Olympiad at Emmen 1957, but had to withdraw after only two days after learning that her father had died. Heemskerk was awarded the Woman International Master title in 1950 and the Woman Grandmaster title in 1977. 
     In January 1940 Heemskerk married FIDE Master Willem Koomen who worked for the Dutch Central Bank and gave birth to a daughter, who was also a player of note, but the marriage broke up in 1944. 
     Heemskerk grew up in Amsterdam, where her parents had a flower shop. Her father was an avid billiard and chess player. As a child she loved soccer and playing outside and at the age of eleven came down with the flu. During her recovery her father taught her to play chess. 
     When a hometown player named Max Euwe won the world championship in 1935 she was really bitten by the chess bug and only a year later both Fenny, who finished second, and her mother participated in the Amsterdam ladies championship. Two years later she won both the Amsterdam and Dutch women's championship when she defeated Catherine Roodzant who recaptured the title in 1938. In 1939 Heemskerk defeated her in the return match and until 1960 theses two ladies would dominate Dutch women's chess. To earn a living, she and her parents had begun running a shop where they did sewing and later sold curtains and drapes. 
     Heemskerk took part in the first world championship for women after the war in 1949/50 in Moscow. The title was vacant because Vera Menchick had been killed in 1944 during a London bombing. She finished in eighth place. Lyudmila Rudenko was the winner. 
     In 1951 she won the zonal tournament in Venice, which qualified her for the candidates tournament in Moscow in 1952. In Moscow when one of the Russian participants became ill her game with Heemskerk was postponed, but then Heemskerk herself got sick. Russian officials wanted her to play from a hospital but she refused and won the postponed game. Although she played very well, she had problems against some of the lower rated players and ended up tying for second and third behind Elizabeta Bykova. After that, her results began to fall off and she finished in ninth place in the Candidates Tournament at Moscow 1955 and only tied for 15–16th in the Candidates Tournament at Vrnjacka Banja 1961. Despite her lowly finish she did manage to defeat the third place finisher. 
With her daughter in 1951
     However, she remained the strongest lady player in The Netherlands and between 1939 and 1958 won eight women's championships in a row. In 1958, returning from a billiards match in which her father had taken part, Heemskerk and her daughter were injured in a car accident. Both suffered concussions that required some time in the hospital. Later that year both mother and daughter played in the women's championship and because they were still recovering, they were allowed to play their games from home. The other participants saw this as preferential treatment and filed a formal protest, but it was rejected and Heemskerk captured her tenth national title. 
     In 1968 the Chess Society of Amersfoort appointed her an honorary member and named the Fenny Heemskerk Women's Tournament after her.  A WIM since 1950, FIDE awarded her the WGM title in 1977.  In 1985  she was made a Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau
     In 1970 it was found that Heemskerk was manic depressive and suffering from delusions. She refused to learn anything about her illness and refused to take her medications. As a result, during one manic episode, she left to play chess in Mongolia without informing anyone. 
     Regularly a patient in psychiatric institutions, by the late sixties she had to give up her business and began receiving State benefits though she was able to work as a chess instructor for adult education classes, give chess lessons in schools, rehabilitation centers and in women's chess. Heemskerk was treated with great respect because of her performances and was guest of honor at many chess events. 
     Even at the age of 80 she played at the local chess club, but when she decided to stop all her medication her condition worsened and she died in a nursing home in Amersfoort on June 8, 2007 at the age of 87.
     Heemskerk's opponent in this game was Ingrid Larsen (July 1, 1909 - February 25, 1990, 80 years old) was a Danish WIM (no relation to Bent Larsen) who was a challenger for the Women's World Championship in 1937, 1939 and 1949-50. She also won the Danish Women's National Championship title 17 times. 
     The game looks pretty calm on the surface, but the engines disclosed some really wild complications which the players avoided. That's understandable because it would not have been possible to calculate such deeply hidden and complex variations over the board. Heemskerk's finish was very nice.
 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Adolph J. Fink

     One neglected "minor master" in the history of U.S. chess is Adolph J. Fink of San Francisco, California. Fink was an internationally-known chess problem composer and a prominent figure in California chess for many years. During his lifetime he had more than one thousand chess problems published and won approximately one hundred prizes. He was also one of San Francisco's top players for many years. During World War One, Fink served as a corporal in the U.S. Army in France and upon his return was Vice-President of the Good Companion Chess Problem Club. 
     Like most problemists Fink excelled in the ending and for many years he performed adjudications for California tournament and team matches, never asking for a fee. He won the California State Championship in 1922, 1928, and 1929, tied for first in 1945, and finished in second place in 1923, 1925, 1926 and tied in 1948. In 1932, in the Pasadena international tournament Fink finished last, scoring 3-8, but that was a creditable score against players like Alekhine, Kasdan, Dake, Reshevsky and Fine. 
     Fink was born July 19, 1890 in San Francisco and became interested in checkers and chess a few months before the earthquake and fire of 1906.
     After the earthquake Fink, along with his family and thousands of others, sought refuge and camped out in the hills surrounding the city. It was during that time that he began studying both games, but chess proved to be the more interesting. During the rebuilding process Fink learned the openings and improved his play by joining the Mechanics' Institute. He was strong enough to have drawn Capablanca, Marshall and Kostic in simultaneous games. 
      It was in about 1908 that he also began delving into problem composing though he had no technical knowledge of that aspect of the game. Even though he had many published and won many prizes Fink never kept a complete record of the problems he composed, but only recorded the ones he considered to be the best. 
     Fink died on December 15, 1956 in San Francisco.
 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stockfish 250816 Tournament Results

     On August 27th I reported that I had been experimenting with a tweaked version of Stockfish, Stockfish 250816 64, and it had performed well against the regular version. Earlier in July I had decided to test it out in some rapid games (10 basic plus 1 day per move, no vacations) on Lechenicher SchachServer. 
     Of course you have no idea what engines your opponent is using, what hardware they are running or how much time and effort they put into their analysis, but it's pretty safe to assume that in these rapids most of them are using home laptops and one of the usual engines: Houdini, Stockfish or Komodo and they are not conducting a lot of lengthy analysis because they are "rapid" events. 
     In the section I entered to test this engine, I lost one game fairly quickly, but that was in no way the engine's fault. 
     As black in the King's Gambit I failed to check the opening book and omitted a move with the result that white came out of the opening with a clear positional advantage. By move 18, I had a weak c-Pawn, a lack of space and discombobulated pieces and by move 26 the position favored white by about 1.5 Ps. After some fairly long analysis sessions and several Shootouts using different engines almost all the games were lost...no point in continuing. 
     As white, a Belgrade Gambit in the Four Knights Game fizzled out to 0.00 by move 13 so we agreed to a draw. 
     As black in the Chebanenko Variation of the Queen's Gambit Declined (1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 c6 3.c4 Nf6 4.e3 a6) black has a solid structure and we reached a dead even ending after 26 moves and agreed to a draw. 
     As white I varied in the Sicilian just a tad. After 1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 I played 3.Nc3 and got surprised by 3...e5. The resulting closed position fizzled out to a 0.00 evaluation and a 30-move draw. 
     In the other finished game, in the early middlegame I did not go with Stockfish's top choice, but tried a move that looked promising and within a few moves my advantage was clear...about one Pawn. Black tried to hang on, but it soon became apparent that after we traded down to the ending that black was lost, so he resigned. 
     There's one game unfinished, but my opponent is a slow mover with 49 running games and we aren't even out of the opening yet. So, in this brief test in actual play it doesn't appear that Stockfish 250816 64 has given me any marked advantage. 
     Next on the agenda is a test of SugaR Pro.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Playing Second Fiddle to Montreal 1979

     In 1979, Lubomir Kavalek, along with Czech filmmakers Milos Forman and Ivan Passer, organized a double round robin tournament held in Montreal, Quebec from April 10th to May 7th. Dubbed "The Tournament of Stars," the event was attended by ten of the strongest GMs of the day: Anatoly Karpov, Lajos Portisch, Boris Spassky, Bent Larsen, Jan Timman, Mikhail Tahl, Vlastimil Hort, Robert Huebner, Lubomir Kavalek and Ljubomir Ljubojevic. The only two top-ten rated players missing were Bobby Fischer who was hiding somewhere and Viktor Korchnoi who was being boycotted by the Soviets. The world champion Karpov and the then Soviet champion Tahl tied for first with 12-6. 
     Meanwhile, over in Bankja Luka, Yugoslavia another tournament was taking place. It had 14 GMs and two untitled players, one of whom didn't even have an FIDE rating. The GMs were Tigran Petrosian, Ulf Andersson, Jan Smejkal, Walter Browne, Andras Adorjan, Bojan Kurajica, Slavoljub Marjanovic, Roman Hernandez, Milorad Knezevic, Enver Bukic, Aleksandar Matanovic, Milan Vukic and Drazen Marovic. The untitled player was Milenko Sibarevic and the unrated player was Gary Kasparov. 
     Kasparov had performed remarkably well in the previous Soviet Championship where he had finished in ninth place and Botvinnik had described him as the most promising student he had ever coached, Karpov included. 
     At the start of the tournament Kasprvov was only 15 years old (he celebrated his 16th birthday after the first round) and this was his first international event. After 10 (out of 15) rounds Kasparov made his IM norm, and three rounds later assured himself of first place and earned his first GM norm. He finished the tournament undefeated and two full points ahead of Andersson and Smejkal. The other unrated guy finished last with 4 points, a full two points behind the 14th and 15th place finishers. 
     The following impressive positional and tactical crush of Walter Browne was typical of Kasparov's play even as a young player. At the time this game was played Browne was a dominant presence in U.S. chess, winning many U.S. Championships, major open tournaments and was having many international successes. He had finished first in Venice 1971, Wijk aan Zee 1974, Winnipeg 1974, Lone Pine 1974, Mannheim 1975 and Reykjav√≠k 1978. At Bankja Luka he only managed an even score, +2 -2 =11 which tied for places 7-8 with Matanovic who had 15 draws.
 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bill Wall's Chess Page

     The World's Largest Online Chess Collection... Bill Wall is a master, chess author and historian who has been on the Internet almost since its beginning. His site covers everything from openings to history and this page is a valuable resource that has articles, resources and games in pgn for miscellaneous stuff, players, openings, tournaments and e-books. e.g. brief articles by year on chess history from 1800 to 2014, links to various web sites, pgn game collections on players from Adhiban to Zvjaginsev, pgn analysis on about every opening to can think of, pgn games from many well-known and not-so-well-known tournaments and games that are included in a ton of chess books. Be sure to pay the site a visit HERE.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Henrique Mecking's Fight for Life


     
     One may or may not agree with Mecking's religious beliefs or his theology, but his story is an inspiring one about a man fighting back against great odds. 
     In 1977 Henrique Mecking was the world's third rated player behind Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi. He was so popular that in Brazil he was compared to the great soccer player Pele and the race car driver Emerson Fittipaldi. 
     At the peak of his career, right after Fischer had quit, Mecking was being hailed by some as the next Fischer. Then disaster struck. At the beginning of the Interzonal in 1979 in Rio de Janeiro he withdrew on medical advice after the 2nd round. He was subsequently diagnosed with a serious disease called myasthenia gravis which affects the nervous system and muscles. 
     The disease is considered incurable and he was forced to withdraw from chess and begin a fight for his life. He returned to the Catholic religion and over the next 12 years studied theology and Catholic philosophy and practiced his faith with great fervor and was able to return to chess is 1991. 
     Speaking of his experience, Mecking said, "Jesus saved my life. But God’s will was such that he did not want me to recover 100 percent. I still have the occasional crisis, but nothing that is life threatening and in essence I have the disease under control.” Mecking wrote of his experience in a book titled Como Jesus Cristo Salvou A Minha Vida (As Jesus Christ Saved My Life).
     Mecking was already quite ill when he left the Interzonal in 1979; he wore layers of clothing, but could not get warm and a special rest area that had been set up for him backstage, but it did not help relieve his fatigue. After he withdrew from chess there were only occasional rumors and they were not good...he would never play again and his demise was immanent. 
     Then in 1991 the chess world received stunning news. Mecking was telling everyone that he was cured by Jesus Christ and was studying to be a priest and...he was going to play a match against Predrag Nikolic. He never returned to his pre-illness chess strength, but that is not his real story. 
     In the beginning of 1978 Mecking was in the U.S. and was informed by doctors that in its acute stage they could do nothing to save his life and he would probably die within days. Within a year he had a crises as things got worse. By 1979 he was unable to chew and was reduced to a liquid diet and after six weeks it was believed he was going to die. By that time there was no strength left in his arms and he was so weak he could not even brush his teeth. He also suffered terribly from the cold and despite the warm weather, he had to cover himself with four blankets. 
      Mecking had been raised as a Catholic and at the age of 18 or 19 he left the church, but after becoming ill, in 1977 he returned to it.  Then in 1978 he heard of a group called Catholic Charismatic Revival that prayed for the sick and some claimed to have been healed. So, because he was dying, he began to pray with this group. Three persons came to his house, one of whom was well-known in Brazil, a lady known as Zia (Aunt) Laura, and they prayed for him. While Mecking was not immediately healed, his condition greatly improved.
     Mecking wrote that in Brazil Our Lady had appeared in two places and after he visited those two locations, he was again able to play chess and even gave a simultaneous.  Then in 1986 he visited the city of Pesquiera where Our Lady had appeared nine times and he was completely healed. 
     During the time of his illness he took no Western medicine, but used homeopathic medicine and after he was healed he was able to quit even that and he called his homeopathic doctor to tell him that his services were no longer needed. He still adheres to a special diet in which he rarely eats meat.
     When asked if he was able to pray for others and they would be healed, Mecking replied that he could not. He explained that one would not always be healed because one day everyone must die and that Jesus heals when He wants to, not when the person wants. 
     After he finished his theological studies he prayed a lot and asked the advice of a priest to try and determine what Jesus wanted of his life: be a priest, play chess only against weak players, play at a low level without preparation, or return to serious chess at a high level. He felt he wanted to be a priest, but was determined to do what Jesus wanted, not what he wanted. After much prayer he was positive that Jesus wanted him to play chess seriously again and in 1991 matches against Predrag Nikolic and Yasser Seirawan were arranged. He said that he realized that he cannot win every game and he was OK with that, nor did he know what's in the future regarding chess, but whatever it is he was at peace about it. Speaking of his faith, Mecking has said, "I detest being seen as a religious fanatic. I am not - I am devoted to religion like I am devoted to chess." 
     While he did not reached his pre-illness level, according to FIDE records he has played no rated games since February 2013 and rating is a hefty 2606.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Unique "Chess" Book

     

     Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing by Susan Polgar and Douglas Goldstein. 
     I’m not fond of self-help books and don't know much about investing, but when I saw Susan Polgar's name it caught my interest. Then I discovered that 93 percent of the reviewers gave if 5 stars, so it must be a good book, right? 
     Still, how does a knowledge of chess help with investing? It sounds like a lot of the hype found in self-help books. Self-help books have become hugely popular in recent years, but I have always suspected these books are worse than useless. Of course, at some point we all need inspiration or a confidence booster, but pithy sayings, anecdotes and somebody saying, “Yes, you can!” for a couple of hundred pages doesn't seem very likely to bring about the promised amazing results. 
     The blurb says this book unlocks the secrets of chess in a tangible way so you can apply them to managing your own finances and thanks to Polgar and Goldstein, you can learn how to apply the wisdom of chess to make you a grandmaster of your investments. The book promises to show you what has been holding you back from success and show strategies which you can start using right now to manage your money...64 strategies that can make you rich as a king! Wow! 
     I was pleasantly surprised to find there is a lot of information in this book. Both the chess material and the investment information are presented in a way that is equally interesting. Even if you don't have any money to invest, the chess content alone will keep you entertained. As for the investment instruction, it sounds reasonable.  Unfortunately for me, I am both as good at chess and as rich as I am ever going to be.  At least there wasn't any buyer's remorse over the $17 the book cost which is more than I can say of some chess books I've bought.