Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Our Christmas

We finally got a digital camera for Christmas! Santa gave us a visit.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December Blog Carnival

The December Carnival of Chess Blogs is now up and running at ChessUSA.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November Carnival of Chess Blogs

The November edition of the Chess Blog Carnival is now up and done on Susan Polgar's Chess Discussion Forum. We had lots of good submittals this month.

Steve Owens of ChessUSA will host the December edition.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Last Call for Chess Blog Carnival

The November Carnival of Chess Blogs will be published on Susan Polgar’s Chess Discussion Forums. Bloggers can submit a sample from their work here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

USCF and the International Chess Scene

Last April, I put a thread up on the USCF Forum. Here is what initially wrote.

One thing that has not been discussed in this election so far has been USCF policy towards FIDE and international chess. I see in the yearbook that there is a committee on this topic.

I have been a life member since the 1970's. I have been reading Chess Life since that time. From what I've read over the years, the USCF's record towards protecting the human rights of chessplayers has been pretty bad.

The Ludek Pachman case comes to mind. He was one of the prominent Czech intellectuals who had opposed the Soviet invasion of his country in 1968. He was imprisoned and tortured for many years. When he was finally let go, the Soviet Chess Federation told the world that no player from the Communist bloc would participate in any chess event Pachman played in.
I remember being very discouraged and angry at the reaction of the USCF and the other chess federations in the west towards this. I was particularly unhappy with the anti-Pachman comments that appeared in Chess Life in those years. As if he was to blame by trying to renew his career in chess instead of retiring as the Soviets wished.

Then Korchnoi defected and had the effontery to be the challenger to the World Champion for 2 cycles. He was blacklisted, too. I was particularly mad when the blacklist was kinda, sorta complied with by the USCF, too. I recall the politicians of the period did a lot of covering, but the end result of their policy was that Korchnoi did not get any invitationals in the US. My memory get hazy due to the distance in years, but I recall he was discouraged from playing in the US, not outright blacklisted. I remember people making a big deal that it was still okay for him to play in Opens though not Invitationals. These were the years when he was the #2 rated player in the world.

Then there was the Arab boycott of the Israeli Olympiads. Israel had had a long history of sponsoring Olympiads until the boycott and the Anti-Israel Olympiad. The USCF commendably played in the official Olympiad in Israel but Chess Life made a lot of noises about Israel not causing any more problems by bidding on future FIDE events.

Then there was the Larry Parr firing. Now I gather Parr has gotten kind of crazy since he was fired as Editor of Chess Life. I don't know about any of that. I just know what I read of in the magazine while he was editor. He insisted on reporting on these events that affected Chess Players. For example, on his article on Boris Gulko, on his immigration to the US, he covered his time in the Soviet prisons and the kind of things the Soviets had done to him as well as the rest of his chess career. That upset a lot of people. But this was important to Gulko's bio; it was important to understand what kind of player he was. When Parr was fired, prominent among the reasons that were cited was that he covered too much politics. I remember the new editor saying that he would drop such coverage.

The Soviets are gone, but the challenges facing chess players in the new century are even more severe, if anything. The Arab boycott of Israeli chess players is one issue that the USCF will have to deal with.

Then there is the growing role of internet chess. Already clouds loom on our horizon. Google has altered its search engines and dropped its company motto in the face of Chinese demands. Yahoo has turned over client's private e-mails and people are now in jail as a result.

To take one challenge that the USCF may very well face in the next few years, say a foreign country contacts the USCF office and demands we turn over the private mails of people who participate on this Chess Bulletin Board, citing the Yahoo precident? What about USCF members who live abroad? What will our policy be? Will it be like the policies the USCF has had in the past?

What if a foreign country contacts a USCF partner like the ICC and demands that certain players be banned? Will the USCF treat the demand any different than it has the OTB scene in the past?

I could go on but I know this post is already too long. How do the candidates stand philosphically on these issues? Do they support the approach the USCF has taken in the past or would they advocate a new one?


Paul Truong replied,

As Mr. Schultz has stated, the emergence of Mr. Bessel Kok will help FIDE straighten a few things out. We have a very good new zonal president in IM John Donaldson. This is a credit to Mr. Schultz as we all know he has done a lot for the USCF and he knows the FIDE system real well. I think Mr. Schultz knows just about EVERYBODY!

I will be having a prominent role with the organizer of the 2007 World Championship in Mexico City and most likely with the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden as well. I will be bringing something unique to these events and I am confident that they will be spectacular on a global scale. GM Polgar will also have prominent roles in both of these events.

GM Polgar was also recently asked by some officials of FIDE to meet and discuss a few very important issues. They are seeking help in improving a few areas. She agreed. Unfortunately, her current schedule is very hectic and as soon as they clear up, she will meet with them.

It is very important for FIDE to know where the USCF stands on a number of issues. But we must do it firmly and diplomatically. We want positive changes, not war. If you think the USCF politics is bad, it is much worse with FIDE. However, I strongly believe that there will be many changes in the near future for the better.

Best regards,


Another person objected to my inclusion of the Korchnoi boycott because the Soviet government blacklisted him, not FIDE. I responded:

As for the issue of banned players, they may not be officially banned but they can sure be effectively banned. They can just not be invited to tournaments. Isn't that what happenned to Korchnoi? He wasn't invited to US invitationals because the Soviets would not have sent anybody?

But even more important is what USCF policy towards international boycotts should be going forwards? Is it going to be the same kind of policy as it was in the past?


Duncan Oxley, an moderator for Internet Chess Club asked this:

I don't understand this question.

How could the USCF ever consider ordering ICC (a private club with its own rules and policies firmly established) to ban someone?

Could you elaborate please Jack?


I replied,

Duncan, my question posits the reverse.

1) A foreign government demands the ICC ban a player from its tournaments.

2) The ICC complies and bans said player.

3) Should the USCF still sanction and rate tournaments that discriminate against players for political reasons? How about for religious reasons? Or race, or something like this?

4) Should the USCF still partner with an organization like the ICC that were to do this?

5) Should the fact that the discrimination is at the behest of a foreign government, and even possibly approved by FIDE, a valid excuse that a partner organization like ICC could use?

The reason I am going into this now, is that I believe that we should be ahead of the curve on this. The challenges facing the USCF in the 21st century are going to be ever so much greater than what faced us in the last one. And let's face it Duncan. The USCF did not handle those very well.

So let's do better now.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

USCF EB Meeting

Just a quick note about my impressions before I leave. First, I've had a cold with persistent coughing all month. It had died down the last week and I had thought I was getting better but last night I started coughing again. I left the meeting this morning because it was getting to be a distraction to the other people in it.

I met Susan and Paul yesterday for the first time. We had breakfast together. In my mind I was anxious to not come across as some kind of groupie and so I kept a reserved manner. Here I was with someone who is famous because she had legitimately accomplished something - first woman grandmaster in history (you know what I mean) - former woman's world champion, and so on. I've met famous politicians. Being tops in chess is special.

Paul arrived late. Susan and I had already started eating. Paul was by far the more animated of the two. He'll talk a mile a minute and about every subject. Other chess people came in and gravitated to our table. Susan introduced me to them. It was kind of interesting basking in her reflected celebrity.

As for the meeting itself the one theme that ran throughout was the hostility for the USCF Forum. I must admit that I sympathize and share some of that hostility myself. This came up in several different discussions.

In the finances, I couldn't help myself from raising my hand and asking to respond to statements that there was nothing of value in the financial disussions that we have engaged in here from time from time. I tried to give just one example of a valid point. So, I went to the issue that cash did not match up in the reports. Bill H and Joe Nanna strongly challenged my statement. Bill G asked me what time frame the statements did not match. Put on the spot, I couldn't remember exactly, so I just lamely said last spring. Joe said that would never have put out such financial statements. He said that these must have been before his time.

While, this is all water under the bridge now, I believe my statements to be accurate. I think that if folks go to the March, April, and May Financials, they will be able to see for themselves. Moreover, I was not comparing historical with prospective information. The larger point is that while I now think (see my latest exchange with Donna earlier on the finance - shhh! thread at the USCF Forum) that there is a whole lot of stuff that is just noise, there are valid points raised in that forum, too. Her point (she originally raised it long ago) that the the cash amounts do not match was one of them.

The rest of the fireworks was at the end just before the end of the open session. They were talking about the retirement fund issue and I was struck with the large difference between was had been posted at the USCF Forum and what they were saying. Also, I was thinking of my criticism of Donna - her being a tiger on the internet and a wuss when in an official meeting. With that in mind, I decided to let them have it.

To summarize their response ("they" seemed to be practically everyone else in the room) Donna has not been telling the whole story of what happened. Before people should judge, they need to know the rest of the facts. Facts which cannot be disclosed right now. It is difficult for me to challenge this because for all I know, this may be true.

The solid information that is being disclosed is that the service is working on the matter and it is taking them 3 weeks per year. At this rate, the ED expects them to not be done before early 2008.

This was new information to me. Bill G said that all this had been disclosed before. I must have missed it.

Then they went into closed session.

Bill Hall took me aside and spoke earnestly to me that they were really making a sincere effort to do the best that can be done. I didn't want to hold him from the closed meeting so if it appeared that I was short with him, it was for that reason, only.

That night we all had dinner together. Susan sat to my right. Jim Berry sat across from me. Everybody was there except for Randy Bauer who had to work in his room. I found out that Jim loves to argue. he got into a spirited argument with Mike Nolan about the meaning of the words "and" and "or". The two Bills and Joel were drawn into the argument. I turned to Susan and whispered that this dinner was starting to resemble the USCF Forum and she giggled.

It was all in good fun and we were all in a relaxed mood. Other items we discussed was the three wisemen - between us we could only come up with two names. Then I asked for the names of the twelve apostles. Joel said we could recreate the last supper. That led to counting the people present at the dinner. One person counted 12. Another person said that was wrong; he counted 14. So we did a slow count and discovered that there was 13 - which was just right for the last supper. (The painting by Da Vinci.) I remarked that this was the folks in charge of running the USCF and that brought a laugh all around.

This gives a flavor of the dinner. We were all relaxed and a little tired and having dinner and having a good time. I liked seeing these people not as celebrities and pols but as human beings.

At breakfast, Jim Berry and his wife sat at the table next to mine. As we were close together, we struck up a conversation. I raised the issue of the Oklahoma split. He pointed out that there were two sides to every story and proceeded to give his own. I replied that this put his actions in a new light as far as I was concerned. As for the USCF Forums, not everyone is unreasonable. He should have told his story direct here. I think he understood what I was trying to tell him. As for the election, it is a moot point now, anyway.

As for this morning's meeting, I was reluctant to speak as I had caused so much commotion the day before. They discussed the web site and the forum.

Paul pressed for improving content of the website, while Bill G and Mike N spoke of overworking J Shahade. For those who know my past views on this subject, you know I have strong and very negative views of how web content is handled. Bill G did agree that for US events, no one ought to beat out the USCF in reporting on them. They left the issue unresolved.

On to the discussion on the USCF Forum. The two sides on the Board seems to be "End it" versus "Mend it". Andy Applebaum has resigned and they spoke of the difficulty of finding people to be moderators and FOC members. Bill G said that there was a new regime of some kind with new AUG and new mandates but that has not started as of yet. It sounded to me that he was speaking more of change of policy than of personnel. The Board decided to wait and see what this new change would do. I can't explain this, as I don't know what he was talking about.

I spoke up to say that I had written extensively on forum management and I would just refer them to that. Bill H said that he would put be down for the moderation team but I had to decline as I am already committed this Forum. Paul laughed and said that him and Susan have had no problems with moderators quitting.

Other matters discussed was certifying coaches for kids. They were concerned with legal liabilities for this. The fear is you just know that someone in the country is going to abuse a kid and when it is found that he is a USCF certified coach, then they would sue the USCF. I spoke up and said that the USCF ought to have criminal background checks but they said that this would expose the USCF to even more criminal liability.

Bill G wants to change the election of EB members to the Australian ballot. Sounded like a good idea to me but everybody was against it.

Another Bill G proposal was to allow wealthy donors onto the Board. If someone were to kick in say $50,000 they could buy themselves a seat on the board for say two years, bypassing the election process. His proposal was in the concept stage only. There was much opposition to this, too. They did decide to look at having an Advisory Board as many non-profits do.

I'm afraid my coughing was getting worse and worse. Terry V gave me something to suck on and when Joel Channing asked me with real concern if I was alright, I knew it was time to leave. I was becoming too great a distraction.

In short, I was struck how nice everybody was. The whole experience was positive for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Knell of Doom

Last week the first baby boomer applied for social security.

People may play politics all they want but the iron laws of mathematics cannot be toyed with. In the next decades more money will go out of the social security fund than comes in. Much more. If the politicians can't make provisions now, then how will they ever be able to do it in the future?

We need to note that the Democrats in particular have blocked any reforms. They may become known in history as the party that created social security in the twentieth century and destroyed it in the twenty-first century.


Pictured: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chess Blog Carnival 2

We are up and running! Thank you Samurai Chess. See the latest edition of the Chess Blog Carnival at

I'm still under the weather but this shows the power of community. When one guy falls by the wayside, others step up.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Help Samuri Pawn!

Samuripawn has taken over the chess blog carnival due to my illness. Thank you Sam!

See Samuri Chess at:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

So Very Sorry!

I've been sick all this week and have been in bed. Have done only basic things. Hope to get Carnival up tomorrow.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Day Your TV Stops Working

18 months from now, broadcasters will stop sending analog signals in the US. This means that millions of people like me who refuse to invest in hi-def or cable or satellite dish receivers will turn on their TV's and get just snow on all their channels. Me, I just think that I watch TV too much, so I just use some "rabbit ears". If my TV were to stop working, that would probably be for the best.

Interesting angle from the Washington Post today.

Government is worried that Congress will face the "perfect storm" from the public when this happens. They're talking of spending millions in consumer education, and new regulations requiring retailers and others to join in "educating" the public about this. They are also worried that Hollywood may take a big hit when millions like me might simply stop watching TV - or else drastically change our viewing habits.

Unstated in the article is an important question about the job of government. I expect it to protect me - police, firefighters, etc. I expect it to look our for the overall economy. Education, yes. --- But is it part of government's responsibility to ENTERTAIN me, too?

If the entertainment industry fails to educate the public and suffers thereby, is that government's fault? And if I, myself, fail to follow the news, is that government's fault? In short, is it government's job to save the fool from the consequences of his actions?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Chess Blog Carnival: Only 2 Days Left

Sunday Sept 30, is the last day for Chess Blogs and other chess sites to submit articles for inclusion in the October Carnival. It will be published on my blog on October 1. The Carnival is an opportunity for readers to sample chess content from the net and for bloggers to showcase samples of their work. Other chess sites may participate, too.

Here is a link to last month’s carnival:

This is the organizing document for the carnival:

Submit articles to the carnival here:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Is This Kyoto Treaty Thing?

Can somebody please explain to me what the big deal is with the Kyoto Treaty on global warming? One of the first things George Bush did was to come out against it. He did a trip to Europe in 2001 (before 9-11) and was roundly denounced for it. Afterwards, a funny thing happenned. The obvious question was posed . Why hadn't any of the other countries ratified it?

Before Bush there was Clinton. The treaty had come up for a vote in the US Senate. It was unanimously voted down. This always struck me as a significant fact. Every Democrat had voted NO on the treaty. AND no other nation had ratified it.

After the Bush European trip, where all those politicians had bashed Bush and America for the attention of all those voters back home, European ratification became an issue. So, they had a big meeting in Vienna (rather than just going ahead and ratifying it). There they added a little clause at the end of the treaty. "None of this is legaly binding." Then they ratified it.

This has always struck me as a significant addition. Since then the announcement by one nation or another that they will fail to meet their Kyoto targets has been a routine part of the news.

So, what's the big deal with this Kyoto Treaty thing?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chess My Shakedown Period

I'm baaack!

The new position as Moderator at Chess Discussion has taken up a lot of my time. So, there are some holes in the daily postings. Now that I've got up to speed, I think I can resume my normal schedule here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Arnand Pulls Ahead in WCC

Cartoon by Mike Magnan, courtesy of Susan Polgar's Blog.

Vishwanathan Arnand of India is pulling ahead of the pack in the World Chess Championship in Mexico City. This will be the first time in centuries that someone from the Third World has made it to the very top of the chess world.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Don't Sue God

because he might answer back! This is a funny story in the news that I thought I'd share with you. ... 3986.shtml

This guy in Nebraska - Nebraska! - Aren't they level-headed in Nebraska? This story belongs in California. Anyway this guy in Nebraska sues God. Wants a court order to make Him stop world suffering or something like that. Says he just wants to make a point. But then God answers back. The court official says that His papers just "miraculously appeared" on the desk. - In keeping with the spirit of the story, no doubt. So now, the plaintiff has an actual lawsuit on his hands!

Jay Leno opined that this lawsuit is very unfair to God. God is in heaven. Where in heaven is He going to find a lawyer?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New Discussion Forum

A new forum for chess players and fans to talk to one another just went up today. It is called "Chess Discussion" and it is at I am one of the moderators of this forum.

It is owned by Susan Polgar and Paul Truong. I believe that this will become the premier forum for discussing chess in the world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Special Chess Blog

This is a blog for bloggers. Steve hopes that a small community of chess bloggers will post samples of their work there. It takes the carnival idea and kicks it up a notch!

Go here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9-11 Remembered

The website's copyright notice is here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Forum Moderation 4

Background note: See the background notes to the previous threads. Having laid out my philosophy for the first and the last time in the history of the forum, a mixed reception was given. I decided to use some of the criticisms as examples to further explain my thinking.

This thread is the logical next step in a revolution for these forums. Never before has the members had an opportunity to see a prospective Moderator’s vision, goals, - indeed, total thinking about the forum and the Moderator’s function in it – let alone concrete proposals for implementing needed change – before an appointment is made. Indeed, before the prospect even advanced his name to the proper USCF authorities. This event alone, represents a revolution in the governance of this forum.

Lessons from the election: Need for transparency. Need for specific policies a prospect wants to implement. Need to know prospect’s philosophical leanings. Need for members to discuss these and be informed.

It may be that no other prospect for Moderator or FOC may ever again produce a thread like this one. This was a special election; this is a special time. The chess players of America want the USCF Forum cleaned up. It is time to take the Forum to the next level. The bottleneck is proper policing. This is why this thread and this job is vital.

In this post I will address some of the questions asked and concerns stated up to now.


1) My sanction is a topic that deserves its own post. For now, briefly: As a Moderator, I intend to drawn upon this experience to see things from the other guy’s point of view. I don’t believe that anyone who has not undergone this experience can truly understand how unfair the sanctioning process currently is. A key change that is needed is that the member knows what he is being sanctioned for and has an opportunity to respond. - An opportunity that is meaningful. That is why my original statement about what I intend to do to/for people I put up for FOC sanction. BTW Susan Polgar, who was sanctioned also, can understand, I am sure.

2) Here’s an interesting case study in what’s an attack, what’s not an attack, and how things ought to be handled.

tsawmiller wrote:
If you become a moderator, will you intercede when personal attacks appear? Such as:

While George contaminates everything he touches, some of the rebuttals are getting out of hand. How can concerns about who becomes the next President of the USCF be "micromanagement"? This phrasing is surely just as dumb as anything George has said.
- jacklemoine

Upon reflection, the comment about George is regrettable. Far better to talk about his posts than about him, personally. On the other hand, calling some phrasing “dumb” is the normal give and take of discussion and debate. As in, “this idea is dumb because . . .” In this case, the because is implied in the previous sentence.

We don’t want to over-police. Not being able to criticize ideas and even to characterize them with pejorative words like “dumb” will inhibit discussion too much.

So, to summarize my overall philosophy: yes to attacking ideas/policies; no to attacking people.

3) "Negative Politics" thread. Brian M. actually made some astute observations (from his side’s perspective).

Jack's little description of how he would create a "Negative Politics" ghetto thread and segregate anything he considers to be negative politics already disqualifies him, if any more disqualification were required. The moderators role is to delete posts that egregiously violate the AUG, not to try to implement a personal "vision" of how other people ought to act on this forum.

Even if Jack had never done anything to discredit himself as a poster, his little manifesto of how he would act as a moderator has all the evidence anybody needs to realize that Jack would be rotten moderator.
- Brian Mottershead

And this:

Note that Jack doesn't say he is going to have a Politics thread, or a Positive
Politics thread, just a Negative Politics thread. And who is going to decide
whether a post is "negative" enough to be ghettoized, stigmatized, and ignored
in a "Negative Politics" thread? Jack, of course!
- Brian Mottershead
BM and the others of his crowd are right to oppose this idea. It will revolutionize the culture in this forum. It strikes directly at the low level stuff that does not rise to the level of removal and/or sanctions but still drag us down and hold the forum back.

Attackers’ comments remain public. Those who want attack posts can still see them in all their nasty glory as well as their author’s outrage at having their posts reclassified. And those who don’t want to see that stuff don’t have to look. Transparency of actions and individual choice for the readers - yes a revolution.

We cannot go back to moderating and policing as it was done before. Despite the myth-making, people were NEVER happy with the quality of moderating here. If this forum is to get to the next level, a new model of policing is needed. And we’re going to need people with both the vision and the guts to do the job.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Forum Moderation 3

Background note: Last July 30, I started a thread in the USCF Forum where I offered my ideas on policing forums. I had offered to be a Moderator for the USCF Forum and these comments were in that context. The USCF Forum was and remains a deeply troubled place. At the time most of the Moderators and the Forum Oversight Committee had resigned. They were down to just 1 Moderator and he has since died. I reproduce my posts here.

The trade-off we face is the values we place on freedom of speech and the values we place on civility. We want both. But to turn the dial towards one, we have to turn it away from the other.

My General Priority

As for me, I tend to value freedom of speech more. My skin has thickened in the last few months. We ought not regard things as “attacks” when they arise from the ordinary hurly-burly of discourse.

Application to the Forum

We do have a problem with too much negativity here. There is the outrageous. But there is also the low-level hostility that drags everything down. There is the black area but there is also the grey area, too. This has lead us to too much policing in the past as well as too little. I propose a common-sense middle ground.

People still ought to be sanctioned. Repeat violators ought to be subject to ever more lengthy sanctions. But what do we do with the low-level negative attacks about trivia that irritate more than outrage?

On the first day I became a Moderator, I would put up two new threads. One I would call, “Negative Politics” and the other “Against Moderator Jack”. Stuff like all that hoo-rah about Paul’s Vietnam chess, Susan’s marriage, their laptop, and other stuff like that that are sort of important but not really pertinent to ongoing USCF activities, I would just use the Moderator’s forum powers to reclassify to the “Negative Politics” thread. Depending on your point of view, this thread would become the garbage pit or the gold mine of the USCF Forum. As for the complaints about me, (and you just know there will be plenty), they could go to the “Against Moderator Jack” thread.

I would reclassify on a prospective rather than a retroactive basis.

That way, the readers don’t have to see a screen full of attack threads every time they open the forum in the browser. Also, substantive threads don't have to be hyjacked with attacks. And the attackers aren’t unduly censored.

Legitimate criticism of serious issues should still be untouched. Serious criticism of chess politicians and chess players should also be untouched. For example, see Donna’s criticisms on the USCF finances. It is the stuff of doubtful significance that I would reclassify.

As for ending all attacks/criticisms, no it isn’t going to happen. Heck, even Susan herself has stated that her and Paul have disagreed and voted against each other on issues. I would not be surprised in coming years to see posts from Paul criticizing Susan on some issue and vice versa. All of us will disagree with each other from time to time. A forum restricted to just “happy talk” will be a dull place to visit. A good, healthy debate will have a lot of robust give and take.

P.S. I would find attacks on other people like those attacks on Goichberg and Schultz actionable, too.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Forum Moderation 2

Background note: Last July 30, I started a thread in the USCF Forum where I offered my ideas on policing forums. I had offered to be a Moderator for the USCF Forum and these comments were in that context. The USCF Forum was and remains a deeply troubled place. At the time most of the Moderators and the Forum Oversight Committee had resigned. They were down to just 1 Moderator and he has since died. I reproduce them here.


Our problems with civil discourse in this forum is a part of a larger societal problem in the internet. Folks get online, are anonymous (on the USCF Forum semi-anonymous), have little personal acquaintance with the people they write of, and say mean, unkind things. You don’t need me to tell you how widespread a phenomenon this has become.

Our problems are that we want freedom of speech on the one hand, and civil behavior on the other. Worse, when it comes to civility, we can’t agree where to draw the line.

The USCF Forums

It has a bad reputation. It has a very bad reputation. I discovered first hand just how bad it was. I have a blog. Some people from the USCF helped me on it. Very important people contributed material to it. Susan Polgar, Paul Truong, Don Schultz, Bill Goichberg.

The material I used was positive pieces about the USCF and chess. The things that these worthys let me use contained some important information. But the feedback I got from the other chess sites I approached! They would not link to it or say anything about them to their readers because they would not touch anything having to do with USCF politics. People made the most surprising comments. One Web Editor wrote me that even a reference to USCF politics might bring the “crazies” on the USCF forum to his site.

Even the most innocuous pieces met this kind of resistance. What struck me was that the response had little to nothing to do with me. I could understand someone saying that, “you’re a nobody with a nothing blog.” But that was not it. It was all about USCF politics. Not even a piece written by the President of the USCF himself. Not even if it contained important information about USCF affairs. Maybe it was anti-Goichberg sentiment then? No. No to Truong. No to Jones. No to anybody who had anything to do with USCF politics and the “crazies” on the forum.
This was a surprise to me.

So there is a cost to the incivility of this forum. And this cost is born by every person who posts here. Relatively few people read your posts. So, how can we improve your readership?

The Importance of the USCF Forum: My Vision

I want this forum to build a sense of community among the chess players of the country. I want this forum to be an information engine. I want this forum to become an important part of the chess culture – and there is a chess culture, if we could only be aware of it.

We are heirs to a great heritage. From the Greats like Morphy and Steinitz, to the itinerant cowpoke on the dust-filled plains, though the great sweep of history, chess has been there.

When I first walked into the Seattle Chess Club in 1973, when it was still on Jackson Street in the old district, the relics of the past, of Admiral Byrd, chess magazines, and brick-a-brack from the earliest years of the century, were still there. A poetic eye could still see amidst the dust and the decay all around, ghostly figures from the past, seated at those rotting tables moving long-vanished pieces on the inlaid squares. To them, the tables were still new; the wood held it’s original shine; the square tiles laid down and cemented in by some forgotten artisan, signified the pride those chess players took in their club and the permanence they planned for it.

This is the place where we are with the USCF Forum today. It is a new century and it is a new place. Cyberspace. The Forums can be a real engine for pride and for growth. What is holding us back is the proper policing of it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Forum Moderation 1

Background note: Last July 30, I started a thread in the USCF Forum where I offered my ideas on policing forums. I had offered to be a Moderator for the USCF Forum and these comments were in that context. The USCF Forum was and remains a deeply troubled place. At the time most of the Moderators and the Forum Oversight Committee had resigned. They were down to just 1 Moderator and he has since died. I reproduce my posts here.

I have publicly mused about being a Moderator in the past. With the election over, it is time to look at the subject of Forum Policing again. I think that I should publicly state my positions if I become a Moderator so that you, the members as well as the ED and the EB can assess whether you want me or not. This is a case where transparancy benefits all concerned. I would not want to be a Moderator if the people on the Executive Board I supported do not want me to be one. But if I were a Moderator, this is how I would run things.

First, anonymity. I don’t believe in it. I will respect other Moderator’s anonymous status; I will not hide my own identity. I believe that USCF officials, whether elected or appointed, should be held accountable for their actions. Accountable to the appropriate superior body within the organization and then ultimately to you, the members. Fire the bum! In fact, this is your chance to fire the bum before he ever even gets in!

That means that not only my identity should be known to you, but my official actions, too. Yes, there are standards of confidentiality any deliberative body must have. We don’t need to spin endless legalese in this area. Millennia of human experience gives us common-sense guidance. A USCF Moderator must act collegially as well as authoritatively.

If I pull a post of yours, you should know what was pulled and why it was pulled. You should have a chance to state your side of the story. It the matter gets referred to the FOC or any other higher body, then they should get both my case against you and your defense. In short, both sides of the story. If they don't get both sides because you don’t respond in a reasonable time frame, then that is your problem.

I won’t go around and around on this stuff. I think that the Moderators and the FOC has generated WAY TOO MUCH work for themselves in the past. Yes, I take into account that they had to pioneer new territory. We have a AUG to go by as a result of their efforts. What I mean here, is that there is a middle ground between no due process and endless process, due and otherwise. I state my charge against you; you write your response; I consider your response; I decide whether to reverse myself or not; then the case goes on to higher authorities for disposition. That’s it for me.

So, both my identity and my official record should be known.

This is a lengthy post and I have a lot of thoughts on this subject. So I shall end this post here. My next post shall be on my philosophy on freedom of speech and civil discourse. In short, about pulling posts.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Religeon vs. Science?

May I suggest a little humility from both sides. Claims of knowledge on the part of science - especially as to what is known about the origin of the universe - are being made which way over reach what is actually known and are belied by the frequent changes in the theories.

As for religeon, I think that we ought to take the Bible literally unless there is significant scientific evidence to the contrary. It seems pretty clear to me that the Bible was not intended to have the scientific exactitude for dating that us moderns are used to. Mankind's very concept of time has evolved since ancient days.

To be fair here, today's aggressors do seem to come from not from science itself but from left-wingers who use science to advance an anti-Christian agenda. Creationism controversies in the news have wanted to include "intelligent design" as well as evolution in the schools. The other side has wanted only their own views taught. Even despite their lack of tolerance for the other side's point of view, the evolutionists would still have my sympathy if only they weren't so militant about it.

Here is an interesting article about the latest developments in this area from science's point of view.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Chess Carnival Fallout

Loomis wrote in comments to Sunday's post:

I like the carnival because it helps connect the chess blog community. However,
I think the format should encourage interaction. A lot of times people don't
check the comments of their old blog posts, so a link to an old post doesn't
lend itself to interaction between reader and author.
To which I have a modest proposal:

1) As for interaction between readers and authors, set up an automatic e-mail every time someone comments to a post on your blog. Blogger has that feature. I think that this is pretty common in other blog engines now, too.

2) To the more general phrase: "connect the chess blog community" (hold onto your seatbelt!) I suggest we use the USCF Forums. Now I know that they have a lousy rep but since the election they have been trying to clean them up. Only a few malcontents cause most of the trouble now and we know who they are.

Another problem is the lack of common-sense that the moderators have had in the past. It wasn't so long ago that posts on chess were pulled "because they didn't concern USCF business". They had trouble connecting in their minds the USCF mission to promote chess and allowing the website to promote chess. (Yes, I was the primary instigator/agitator on that battle.) However, now I think that this is a battle that has largly been won. In fact, the moderator that is most active now, Mr. Vaughn (Tanstaafl) has said that he considered discussion on the Chess Blog Carnival to be okay on the site. Kudos, Tan!

Most importantly of all, the larger chess community (at least in the USA) needs to fundamentally change the attitude towards the USCF. It is not THEIR USCF; it is OUR USCF. We do not have to shell out bucks and spend a lot of time developing a new forum for us to use. We already have one. It is bought and paid for by our membership dollars. All we have to do is use it.

As for the bloggers outside of the USA, I note that the USCF is affiliated with FIDE. With the new site renovation coming any day now, we could all use a public section in the Forum. Someday, the Executive Board may want to set up a seperate forum just for the internet bloggers but for now, I suggest we just use the CLUBS FORUM. And if some of the posts are in French, Russian, Chinese, or any other language, then so be it! Gens Una Sumas!

We ought not to go through any process or anything. We should just start using it. Just to get things started, I'm going to post this in a new thread on the forum. Check out this link for Chess Club Organization:

Monday, September 3, 2007

Wonders of the World

7 new Wonders to match the 7 original wonders. A private group conducted a global poll. People voted, American Idol style. It seems a little interesting as it reflects opinions on such things. As much as I worship Jesus Christ, the statue in Rio hardly ranks as humanities greatest accomplishments. Other entrants were similar. So many for Latin America, so many for the Middle Ease, and so on.

Here is the newest list. This is from the National Geographic.

  • Christ the Redeemer" statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Great Wall of China
  • The Colosseum, Rome, Italy
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Chichén Itzá, Mexico
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
  • The Colossus of Rhodes, Greece
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandra, Egypt
  • The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Iraq
  • The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, Turkey
  • The Temple of Artemis, Turkey

Just wonder why the Voyager* didn’t make it. Imagine standing in New York and hitting a golf ball to a hole in Los Angeles and scoring a hole-in-one. That was Voyager. One can think of a number of fantastic things mankind has accomplished in recent centuries.
As for the original wonders of the ancients, for the technology of their day, they really were Wonders of the World. The Colossus of Rhodes is an excellent example.


* Voyager is the name of the spacecraft that flew by the outer planets and eventually left the solar system entirely.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Lessons Learned

The big push to get the Chess Blog Carnival out is over and I’ve had a day to think about improving the process for the future. This was the first ever Carnival for Chess Blogs so naturally, there was going to be something of a learning curve.

The E-mail address issue was a surprise to me. I can understand the reluctance of bloggers to give out their e-mail addresses. Upon reflection, I am reluctant to receive e-mail addresses. If someone abuses the address then the question becomes who revealed it? I become a suspect. So, an alternate way for bloggers to submit posts is indicated.

The problem is that without e-mail addresses, there is no way for the host to inter-act with the blogger if the need arises. For example, I sent a post of mine to the History Carnival. I got a nice e-mail back from this month’s host telling me that my submission was unsuitable. He explained why it was unsuitable and what I would have to do in the future to qualify. This was very helpful information and I took it as such. says that they keep e-mail address confidential but they do require them. That’s how they resolved the issue. What do you think?

BTW I did have to reject 2 entries. The trouble was that they were only tangentially related to chess. They were about “brain enhancement techniques”. Mental exercise like physical exercise may be a good thing but in light of the USCF Natrol controversy a few years back, I just decided to pass and take a strict approach to topics – especially on the inaugural edition of the Carnival.

Meanwhile, it is time to look forward to the next Carnival on October 1. I am wondering if I should host it one more time in order to establish it more firmly or to pass it on to another blog. This is really now the property of the chess community, not of me. Now that people can see what a Carnival looks like, they can decide what they want to do.

I would like one of the larger chess sites to host it as soon as possible. This will help give this both legitimacy and visibility. In the meantime, will all the chess bloggers out there please, pretty please, put an announcement of this Carnival on your blogs?

And please give us your feedback by posting a comment below. These comments not only help me but all the rest of the chess community as well.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Chess Blog Carnival – 1

This carnival shows how vibrant the chess community is. A large number of chess web sites have submitted material. A far larger number is active. We hope to hear from them in future carnivals.

This carnival of chess blogs belongs to the larger chess community. Each month it will travel from blog to blog (like the traveling carnivals of old).

Before I begin, I wish to give a very special mention to Susan Polgar of Susan Polgar’s Chess Blog. It was through her blog that I got back into chess after a quarter century hiatus away from it. I met an old friend (Hi, Mike aka “Mulfish”) through it. When my wife came home from her first ever chess tournament, Susan took a break to send a very nice note. (At the time she was recovering from an illness.) Both her and Paul have helped me a lot on different things – and this despite the fact that I have sometimes criticized them – and continue to do so. – See my carnival entry below!

Her blog is one of the very few which talks about promoting the game. Here is an example.

This month:


Have you learned of GMAlexandra Kosteniuk’s Killer Chess Tips? She sent me the index page of her podcasts. Here she analyzes the Paul Morphy’s game at the Paris Opera. You just gotta listen to this!!


Mark Weeks is another go-to guy for chess blogs. This month he submitted Tales of Hoffman from the blog Chess for All Ages. His point: folks may be top writers but when they write about chess, they still need to get the details right.


Boylston Chess Club Weblog is the go-to place for active chess blogs. Here is an essay about the difficulties of keeping on top of the wonderful world of chess blogdom.

This month I’m offering The Executive Board Meeting from my blog. Like it or not, the USCF election was one of the top news stories of 2007. The aftermath was – well, see my statement about Susan above. As a church pastor once said, when a parishioner comes up to him and says, “I am saying this in love . . .” I know to dive behind my desk because something bad is going to be flying at me.

From Steve's Correspondence Chess Adventure comes this USCF / ICCF-US Update. There’s been a lot of talk about the USCF abandoning correspondence chess lately. How much of this is true? See Steve’s update.


Getting to 2000 presents a report on Midstate Open Tournament, Peoria. He gives each one of his games with analysis.

The Billy Colias Memorial Master Invitational Tournament honors his memory and The Knights of Castle Kimbark honors the event with this report: A Young Master Remembered.


Chess Improvement By Effort (Achoo!) presents an interest essay on the general ideas of Endgame play. The money quote:

After 3 month's of middlegame study I formulated that piece activity is the most import in middlegame strategy. After a few months of putting this idea into practice I want to change that in the following maxim: Activate your pieces in order to penetrate in the enemy camp. If I had to summarize the essence of endgame right now it would be: Activate your pieces and king in order to penetrate into the enemy camp. Yet the methods and subgoals are quite different.
Two tutorials/commentary on basic endgames from “likesforests” follow.

In The Endgame Tactician, he covers Rook and Pawn Endgames. This link is to # 2 in the series. Follow his link to #1. In another blog Final Moves, he presents The Curse of the Rook Pawn. The page loads slowly but it is worth the wait as it has all of those interactive diagrams.

We round out this section with two endgame positions analyzed for your pleasure:

Mousetrapper's Chess Log analyzes an endgame position in an attempt to draw the larger morals of endgame strategy in Nailing Down an Endgame Advantage. presents another position to analyze in A Patzer's Approach to the Evaluation of Endgame Positions.


Been to the US Open, lately? Be sure to get paired against Polly Wright after reading US Open Rd 9: One Thing I Hate About Playing in Tournaments in Castling Queen Side. And be sure to show up, too! She ends her piece with some ominous words about “smacking”. -Make that "getting smacked." (Grin!)

Oh, the dangers of blogging! Has the Chess Tyro been outed? Find out at Chess Tyro [.] com. But keep blogging on, CT. We’re all out to get you!

You just got to know that any site titled, hardcore pawnography just is going to be funny. Here is chess outlaw and the consequences of not paying a speeding ticket. Not to mention the failure to capitalize your letters!

And speaking of bad people doing bad things, here’s SonofPearl's Chess Blog with Chess Gamesmanship - a confession...

Maybe those last two guys should run into one another in a dark alley in the middle of the night somewhere. Just my luck, I’d be the homeless bum crawling out of my cardboard box and find myself in the middle of them!


Here’s a psychological look at developing chess ability from The Chess Journey, titled “Without error there can be no brilliancy." – Emanuel Lasker. Interesting technique, using a quote as a title.

Rook Van Winkle's Chess Blog submitted Chess Improvement Plan - Part One: Goals. This kind of goal-driven planning should serve as a foundation for any chess training program. Nice job!

The Back Rank presents Chess Tactics Server Thoughts. I’ve not used this myself as I’m still trying to get through CT-ART. I wonder how the Server compares to tactics software? The question is probably just a quibble. As long as we’re training on SOME tactics program, we’re making progress.


Questions, questions . . .

What’s the point of the opening? Robert Pearson's Chess Blog (the one with the hands!) offers Opening Study: Some Diverse Opinions, Part III. His money quote sums up his thesis:

The purpose of studying the opening is to, as often as possible, reach a good middlegame position without using a lot of clock time and mental effort, thus reserving your time and energy for improving that good middlegame position.

Meanwhile, Online Chess Blog asks, “How does one remember the plethora of chess openings?” in a short piece called Winning Chess Opening Moves. This is the old percentage analysis. This may not be the best. An opening line may have been played successfully a thousand times until someone comes up with a refutation. Then it stops getting played. The percentages would still show 1,000 wins and 1 loss.

P.S. Don’t mind my nasty editorials. Susan Polgar doesn’t listen to me either. And she’s a GM and the USCF Chairman, to boot. So don’t feel bad when I pan something.


Confessions of a Chess Novice asks Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution? Clever title. When studying tactical puzzles, he concentrates on pattern recognition of solutions rather than analysis of the positions. Good points, though I just KNOW that I need all the analytical practice that I can get.

Which is where Reassembler comes in. He presents Calculation Exercise 1.

Problem analysis or solution recognition? Chess Novice vs. Reassembler. My verdict: draw. We need both points of view.


This month’s entry is is more of a statistical analysis of bullet games versus blitz and longer time controls. Thanks, Chess Improvement for The Wealth of Bullets, part 2 of a series.

WRAPPING UP - - - - - -

One last question. Which blog do you think contributed the best article in this Carnival?

There are many chess blogs and many valued chess sites that weren’t listed above. Here’s a couple of favorites of mine.

World Chess Hall of Fame
FIDE The World Chess Federation
World Championship Tournament This is being played this month
The United States Chess Federation This is a temporary link as they are changing their website.
The Daily Dirt Chess Blog Well, you just have to judge this one for yourself!
ChessBase News

Look for the next edition of the Chess Blog Carnival October 1. You can find out more about it at That also gives a link where bloggers can submit their posts for inclusion in the next blog.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday is Last Day for Chess Submittals

The first ever carnival of chess blogs will go up Saturday, September 1. Response so far has been great. About 25 chess blogs have submitted samples of their work for the carnival.

If you have anything to submit, now is the deadline.

For further information, see the Chess Blog Carnival links on the right.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

World's Largest Cargo Ship

This is from my friend Kurt Paasch.

Get a load of this ship! 15,000 containers and a 207' beam Notice that 207' beam means it was NOT designed for the Panama or Suez canal.

It is strictly transpacific. Check out the "cruise speed". 31 mph means the goods arrive 4 days before the typical container ship (18-20 mph) on a China-to-California run. So this behemoth is hugely competitive carrying perishable goods.

This ship was built in five sections. The sections floated together and then welded.

The ship is named Emma Maersk.

The command bridge is higher than a 10 store building and has 11 crane rigs that can operate simultaneously.

Country of origin - Denmark

Length - 1,302 ft

Width - 207 ft

Net cargo - 123,200 tons

Engine - 14 in-line cylinders diesel engine (110,000 BHP) Cruise Speed - 31 mph

Cargo capacity - 15,000 TEU (1 TEU = 20 ft3 container)

Crew - 13 people First Trip - Sept. 08, 2006 Construction cost - US $145,000,000+

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

BIG, BIG Hole in the Universe

Last week, scientists discovered a huge hole in the universe. It is billions of light years across. It is not a black hole; it is not a space filled with "dark matter", "anti-matter", "dark energy", or anything else. It is just nothing. No stars, no nothing.

It was discovered by the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope. This region is 6 to 10 billion light years from us.

Why this is important. The science of cosmology (the study of the origin of the universe) has been undergoing a process similar to the process Aristotle's model of the universe underwent over the roughly 1700 years from his day to the time of the Rennaissance. Aristotle based astronomy on the premise that the sun and all of the other objects in the sky orbited the Earth. As the years went by, more and more observations conflicted with this premise. Scientists developed complex mathematical models ("spheres within spheres") to account for these problems. The Aristotlean Universe went from a relatively simple modal in his day to a vastly complicated modal by the end of the Middle Ages. Then Copernicus advanced an entirely new modal of the planets orbiting the Sun. This simplified things greatly and has been accepted down to our day.

The Big Bang theory is the commonly accepted modal nowadays for the origins of the universe. However, it has grown immensely complicated by subsequent observations. This vast void is the latest one.

The Illustration: The effect of matter on the cosmic microwave background (CMB). On the right, the CMB is released shortly after the Big Bang, with tiny ripples in temperature due to fluctuations in the early universe. As the radiation traverses the universe, it experiences slight perturbations. In the direction of the giant newly-discovered void, the WMAP satellite (top left) sees a cold spot, while the VLA (bottom left) sees fewer radio-emitting galaxies. CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA.

Monday, August 27, 2007

End What Iraq War?

Map of Iraq, courtesy of CIA World Factbook
So you want to end the Iraq War, do you? Well, which one? An interesting essay by Christopher Hitchens appeared today.
Suppose the USA just pulled out tomorrow. What would happen then? Would the fighting in Iraq just stop? Or would it get worse?
One of the fundamentals of the story that struck me was the priority the opponents in Iraq placed on bombing schools and killing teachers, especially schools and teachers that educated women. But then killing civilians has been a big priority from the first.
What would happen if all forces restraining them would withdraw and they were given free reign to massacre all the people they wanted? Would they exercize self restraint?
This is a very big question for those who say they want to end the war? Just the war the USA is fighting or do they also want to end the larger war against the peoples of Iraq?
And if they wish to end war, then what should be done?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Book of Joshua

At church today, I decided that I will use Sunday, the Lord's Day, to blog the Bible. My first book for the blog is Joshua, because it is my favorite. It is my fav because first, the character, Joshua, himself. Chapter 1, verse 1 introduces him thus:

[1] Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass,that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,[2] "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel."

At this point in the Bible, we've just sloughed through 4 different books about Moses and the 40 years in the desert. Moses is forever having his ups and downs. He doesn't want to confront Pharoah at all because he "is slow of speech". He certainly has his moments (Charleton Heston) but for a great prophet, he certainly gripes a lot. At one point, he even has his Bill Clinton moment (i.e. Monica Lewensky). There are lots of reasons why God does not permit him to enter the promised land.

With Joshua, there is a change of pace right at the beginning. After a speech from God lasting 8 more verses, the ball is handed to Joshua. Verse 10:

[10] Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,[11] "Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it."
No squawking, no complaining, no big wrestling with his inadequacies; God has commanded, so he just does it. I like that.

This book is about the conquest of the promised land. We're talking of the land presently known as the country of Israel. In modern times, this land was pretty arid and generally undesirable but in those days it was prosperous, "the land flowing with milk and honey." To the south and southeast was the deserts that continued down to Arabia but in those days it formed part of "The Fertile Crescent" that stretched from Egypt in the west to Bablylon (modern Iraq) in the east. With the Mediterranean directly west, giving it access to the sea, international commerce as well as domestic agriculture gave this land a high level of prosperity.

The next 5 chapters (Chapters 2 through 6) tell the marvelous story of the siege of Jericho. This city is one of the oldest in the history of the world. Archeologists are dating it back to 7,000 b.c. Even in Joshua's day, it must have been one of the world's greatest metropolises. He was only able to take it through divine intervention. The picture shows the Jews in procession. With one final blare of the trumpets, the walls came tumbling down.

The next five chapters (7 through 12) tell of the conquest of the rest of the land. The book emphasizes obedience to God rather than military superiority.

Another reason why I like this book is because it contains some of the most troubling passages in the Bible, too. The enemies of the Jews are all bad - each and every one of them. They are slaughtered, even to the children, even to the animals. From chapter 6:
[21] And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the word.
The book is unabashadly racist. There is just no getting around this. I also note how this is a very ancient book. Homer, and the rest of classical literature were centuries in the future at the time these events occured (14th. century b.c.) and standards of civilization were so much lower. I get impatient when people judge distant civilizations by the standards of the present, so I make allowances for different standards then and now. Still, all this slaughter! Despite the repeated assurances that the peoples were especially wicked, the modern reader must wonder how many Rahabs dwelt among them.

(Rahab was the good Jericho lady who helped the Jewish spies and hence was saved.)

What would have happened if the spies had entered someone else's home instead of Rahab's? What would have happened to Rahab it she had not lived next to the city wall? Was she especially virtuous or just especially lucky?

In Chapter 9, we find that virtue takes second place to geography. The people of Gibeon send a peace embassy to Joshua. The negotiations center on the issue of whether the Gibeon's land is near or far. Joshua accepts their word that they live far away and grants them peace. When he learns that they live close, he is enraged. Since he has given them his word, he spairs their lives but enslaves them, instead. The narrative treats this as another example of the local's wickedness, yet it is hard not to sympathize with them.

The best and the worst of the Bible are found in this one book.

There is another aspect here. This is also a very honest book. The Bible chronicles the Jews bad things as well as their good things. Even to the most ancient of writers, these stories must have shown that things were not right. Even the most ancient of partisans would have glossed over these stories.

The next 10 chapters tell us how the Jews divided the land among themselves and settled in.

Chapters 23 and 24 gives us Joshua's farewell address to the people. I especially like Chapter 24, verse 15
[15] And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
The theme of the book is obedience to God. While it is God's place to judge us, not our place to judge Him, I wish He had behaved more Godly in this book.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Important Chess Players

Spent the day building a database of games of my favorite chessplayers, supplemented by important matches and chess tournaments. The players who I believe are most important in the history of chess are:

Adolf Anderssen, Paul Morphy, Zukertort, Steinitz, Chigorin, Tarrasch, Lasker, Capablanca, Rubenstein, Alekhine, Keres, Botvinnik, Fischer, and Kasparov.

No, I did not include Korchnoi or Karpov. Korchnoi was too wierd for my tastes; Karpov was just too boring.

I'm not sure of current players. Surely not Krammik; maybe Topolov.

What is your opinion?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Herodotos - The Persian's Side

5. The Persians for their part say that things happened thus; and they conclude that the beginning of their quarrel with the Hellenes was on account of the taking of Ilion: but as regards Io the Phoenicians do not agree with the Persians in telling the tale thus; for they deny that they carried her off to Egypt by violent means, and they say on the other hand that when they were in Argos she was intimate with the master of their ship, and perceiving that she was with child, she was ashamed to confess it to her parents, and therefore sailed away with the Phoenicians of her own will, for fear of being found out. These are the tales told by the Persians and the Phoenicians severally: and concerning these things I am not going to say that they happened thus or thus, but when I have pointed to the man who first within my own knowledge began to commit wrong against the Hellenes, I shall go forward further with the story, giving an account of the cities of men, small as well as great: for those which in old times were great have for the most part become small, while those that were in my own time great used in former times to be small: so then, since I know that human prosperity never continues steadfast, I shall make mention of both indifferently.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Herodotos on the Trojan War

From Book 1.

This is the Showing forth of the Inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassos, to the end that neither the deeds of men may be forgotten by lapse of time, nor the works great and marvelous, which have been produced some by Hellenes and some by Barbarians, may
lose their renown; and especially that the causes may be remembered for which these waged war with one another.

1. Those of the Persians who have knowledge of history declare that the Phoenicians first began the quarrel. These, they say, came from that which is called the Erythraian Sea to this of ours; and having settled in the land where they continue even now to dwell, set themselves forthwith to make long voyages by sea. And conveying merchandise of Egypt and of Assyria they arrived at other places and also at Argos; now Argos was at that time in all points the first of the States within that land which is now called Hellas; --the Phoenicians arrived then at this land of Argos, and began to dispose of their ship's cargo: and on the fifth or sixth day after they had arrived, when their goods had been almost all sold, there came down to the sea a great company of women, and among them the daughter of the king; and her name, as the Hellenes also agree, was Io the daughter of Inachos. These standing near to the stern of the ship were buying of the wares such as pleased them most, when of a sudden the Phoenicians, passing the word from one to another, made a rush upon them; and the greater part of the women escaped by flight, but Io and certain others were carried off. So they put them on board their ship, and forthwith departed, sailing away to Egypt.

2. In this manner the Persians report that Io came to Egypt, not agreeing therein with the Hellenes, and this they say was the first beginning of wrongs. Then after this, they say, certain Hellenes (but the name of the people they are not able to report) put in to the city of Tyre in Phoenicia and carried off the king's daughter Europa;--these would doubtless be Cretans; --and so they were quits for the former injury. After this however the Hellenes, they say, were the authors of the second wrong; for they sailed in to Aia of Colchis and to the river Phasis with a ship of war, and from thence, after they had done the other business for which they came, they carried off the king's daughter Medea: and the king of Colchis sent a herald to the land of Hellas and demanded satisfaction for the rape and to have his daughter back; but they answered that, as the Barbarians had given them no satisfaction for the rape of Io the Argive, so neither would they give satisfaction to the Barbarians for this.

3. In the next generation after this, they say, Alexander the son of Priam, having heard of these things, desired to get a wife for himself by violence from Hellas, being fully assured that he would not be compelled to give any satisfaction for this wrong, inasmuch as the Hellenes gave none for theirs. So he carried off Helen, and the Hellenes resolved to send messengers first and to demand her back with satisfaction for the rape; and when they put forth this demand, the others alleged to them the rape of Medea, saying that the Hellenes were now desiring satisfaction to be given to them by others, though they had given none themselves nor had surrendered the person when demand was made.

4. Up to this point, they say, nothing more happened than the carrying away of women on both sides; but after this the Hellenes were very greatly to blame; for they set the first example of war, making an expedition into Asia before the Barbarians made any into Europe. Now they say that in their judgment, though it is an act of wrong to carry away women by force, it is a folly to set one's heart on taking vengeance for their rape, and the wise course is to pay no regard when they have been carried away; for it is evident that they would never be carried away if they were not themselves willing to go. And the Persians say that they, namely the people of Asia, when their women were carried away by force, had made it a matter of no account, but the Hellenes on account of a woman of Lacedemon gathered together a great armament, and then came to Asia and destroyed the dominion of Priam; and that from this time forward they had always considered the Hellenic race to be their enemy: for Asia and the Barbarian races which dwell there the Persians claim as belonging to them; but Europe and the Hellenic race they consider to be parted off from them.

Next installment: The Persian's side of the story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fischer-Spassky Documentary

There is a lot of junk on YouTube about chess. This documentary is a must-see for all chess fans.

This match for the world championship in 1973 was arguably one of the most privotal in chess history. For me, it was important because I had read a book on the history of the World Champions by Fred Reinfeld a few months earlier. This had reignited my interest in chess. Then this match hit the news. I had always been interested in chess since I was six. After these events, I was hooked.

In this documentary, look especially for the interviews of Spassky himself, as well as Robert Byrne and Larry Evans.

Episode 1Episode 2Episode 3Episode 4

After watching this, we can all appreciate Susan Polgar all the more. Would that Fischer had behaved with just half the professionalism she does! She operates a blog, organizes events for children, and actively participates in USCF affairs. Sad to see what Fischer could have accomplished.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Coaching and Me

This links to two upcoming workshops on Chess in Education. They are calling for papers in advance. I have something to say but I doubt that this would be the kind of thing they have in mind.

You see, I do part time chess coaching for a local company. This company provides after-school chess clubs for local elementary schools. You’d think that I’d be happy doing what I love and getting paid to do it. Mostly it’s good but there are some real problems. I wonder how the rest of the scholastic chess community escapes them.

First, not every chessplayer can take time off work to go coach a school chess club. That limits the population of potential chess coaches right there.

Second, not every chessplayer is good at handling kids, let alone having an education degree.

Third, not every chessplayer is independently rich. The job pays $20 per hour for 2 ½ hours. Include the gas in the IRS rate of $.48 per mile for total wear-and-tear on your car, factor in drive times of half an hour or more going and coming, and the effective compensation for this job goes way down. Basically, I figure that chess clubs shoot down the entire afternoon.

So . . .

The company has to scrounge for chess coaches. What they get are people with chess backgrounds (like me) but little education background and people with vice-versa. Understandably, the company prefers the latter kind of people than the former. People can learn chess principles for the job easier than chessplayers can learn education and people skills. At least, that’s what the company thinks.

So, you end up with employees who fall into two groups. Chessplayers and educators. The company staffs chess clubs with teams of coaches. They try to match chessplayers with educators.

(The company does do a lot of things right.)

I see that there is more of a problem with some of the educators than with the chessplayers among the coaches. Both groups understand the importance of knowing about kids and having good people skills with them. As for chess, some (not all) of the educators view it as having to know just the minimum about it as necessary.

From my memories as a student, a number of teachers viewed subjects that way. For educators who just want to slide by, chess can be viewed as even lower than academic subjects like history or math. To cover for their inadequacies, they just KNOW that:

  • Kids aren’t interested in famous chessplayers. When I mention that kids are interested in ballplayers, they retort that those players do physical sports, not mental like chess.
  • Kids aren’t interested in outside chess clubs. When I mention that the company operates a chess club on Thursday nights and it’s free, they just KNOW that only home-schoolers go to that.
  • Kids aren’t interested in participating in USCF tournaments – or any other outside scholastic tournament for that matter. Even the ones that the company sponsors itself.
  • Finally, kids should stick to the basic instructional materials and not wander off experimenting on their own. To these coaches, company-approved openings like the Colle are allowed; Alekhine’s Defense is not.
There’s a false dichotomy that these folks promote and (sadly) the company has bought into, that a chess coach can be either about being competitive or having fun. Why is one the enemy of the other? Why can’t kids have both?

I agree that we ought not push kids who don’t want to be pushed; BUT we ought to inform kids about upcoming events and allow them to decide for themselves if they wish to go further or not.

The basic problem with too many of these chess coaches is that since they don’t care about chess and don’t want to know more about it, they assume the kids don’t, either.

It irks me that these types of coaches are promoted to team leaders and even managers. They do seem to have good people skills – at self-promotion, at least. And the company does seem to prosper with this kind of people in charge. So, I don’t know. It just seems wrong.

It also reminds me of why I had difficulties with some teachers when I was young.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blogging Fisk - 1st. Impressions

Title: The Great War for Civilization
Subtitle: The Conquest of the Middle East

A reader had recommended this. So I finally got to it. Thanks, Niall!

This is a thick book. 1,000 pages long. I just started this. I read his Preface and most of Chapter 1. I also flipped through it, reading passages at random. So this is my first impression of it. It is not good.

This is a book that has strong points and weak ones. First, the strengths.

The author has lived most of his professional life in the Middle East. He has an eye for detail. Early on, he writes of his trip to Jalamabad, one of the biggest towns in east Afghanistan. He checks into the Spinghar Hotel, settles in his room when he gets this visitor.

Then a rustle, a kind of faint, rasping sound, comes from the silent air conditioner. I sit up and, five feet from my face, I see the dragon’s head of a giant lizard looking at me from the cooled bars of the machine. When I raise my hand, the head disappears for a moment. Then it is back, a miniature armoured brontosaurus face that is followed now by a long, rubbery torso, grey-green in the dim afternoon sunlight and a big sucking feet that grip the plastic air-conditioning vents. Like an old silent film, it moves in jerks. One moment, I see its head. Then at shutter’s speed, half its length of heavily-breathing rubberiness is out of the machine. A moment later, the whole half foot of creature is suspended on the curtain above my bed, swaying on the material, alien and disturbing, looking back at me over its fortress-like shoulder. What is it doing here? I ask myself. Then it scuttles out of sight into the drapery.

Fisk has a fine eye for detail. He puts you right in the hotel room with him and makes you feel the situation right alongside him. This quote is typical. I expect that after reading this book, I shall have a better feel for life in the Middle East because of it.

Fisk seems to have seen simply everything and everybody there. In the paragraph quoted above, he is in Jalabad waiting to see Osama bin Laden himself.

When he does meet him, he details the effort to see him, as well as the meeting itself with the same storytelling craftsmanship as the quote. One has a real sense of being there with him, witnessing the talk with the dreaded villain.

That’s where we get to the bad part.

Fisk does not seem to have the grasp of the higher levels of the story of the Middle East. His analysis of grand strategy and geopolitics is spotty and one-sided. He’s like a lieutenant trying to be a general. He sees the trees just fine. He describes each one beautifully. It’s just the forest he can’t see.

Start with the title: “The Conquest of the Middle East”. This is just a first impression, but I gather he thinks the USA wants to conquer it. Huh? Come again??

Then there’s that Preface. He starts with his father and World War I, and the Battle of the Somme. Skipping ahead, he ends the book with that too. He labels the war “pointless” and infers that the Middle East conflicts are the same. Again, huh?

First, if Germany had won either of the World Wars, the world would have been very different and MUCH worse! How can any educated person look at the nature of the regimes of the Kaiser or of the Nazis and not know this?

So we go to his analysis of Middle East conflicts. Yes, there are flaws with Israel and the United States. But and here’s the big BUT . . . can’t he see the differences between us and mad dictators like Saddam Hussein? I shall read further to find out. It’s just the first impression is not good.

There’s problems with military analysis. For example, in his first interview with Osama bid Laden, Osama states that he did not see any evidence of the USA helping the Arab cause in the Afgan war with the Soviets. (He had fought in that war and was reminiscing as well as analyzing it for Fisk.) He bragged about bulldozing roads to his strongpoints.

The obvious question would regard the role of airpower. Most analysts of that war had regarded the neutralizing of Soviet airpower as the decisive factor in the Arab victory of that war. That was due to the introduction of the American Stinger anti-air missile. Surely, this would have been worth at least one question by any reasonable reporter.

And that’s the problem so far. Here Fisk had, through great hardship and courage on his part, obtained great opportunities to interview key figures but because of his lack of analytical skills, he blows it. (To be fair to him, he operates in a professional mileau where it has become too common to judge success by scoring the interview rather than by scoring the story.)

As I said above, this is only a first impression. I shall continue reading. Maybe things might get better.

Disclaimer: This gives you a picture of the book and an idea of what it costs. The fact that I will be compensated if you click on the link and buy the book turns this post into a semi-advertisement. I only will link to for books I actually liked.