Vishy Anand Shows a Chess Cheater Real Class

Vishy Anand

What Happened

Chess India hosted a charity event, Checkmate Covid, to help those suffering from the results of Covid-19. In it a variety of celebrities played former World Champion Viswanathan, affectionately called Vishy by his many fans, Anand in a simultaneous exhibition.

One of those pitted against Vishy Anand was billionaire Nikhil Kamath. Kamath played a virtually flawless game after which Vishy Anand told an interviewer: Yesterday was a celebrity simul for people to raise money. It was a fun experience upholding the ethics of the game. I just played the position on the board and expected the same from everyone.

With just a few seconds left on his clock Kamath achieved a winning position and Anand resigned. Anand could have continued playing and flagged his opponent, that is to say, won the game because his foe ran out of time. Vishy Anand chose not to do so and that is the focus of my blog today. Why resign to someone who is clearly cheating, in a charity event of all things?

Who is Vishy Anand

Vishy Anand is the former World Chess Champion having defeated Alexei Shirov in 2000 after having lost two previous championship matches against Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov. The two are often considered among the greatest chess players in history.

He then defended the title three times before losing it in 2013 to Magnus Carlsen who is also considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player in history. During Anand’s championship defeats and victories, he never complained about a loss or bragged about victory. He is universally considered one of the classiest chess players in history, an assessment with which I agree wholeheartedly.

That is why this cheating scandal so angered the world. Not shocked. People cheat, even in charity events, everyone knows that. It’s just that Vishy Anand is such a fantastically kind and generous person, his fans and friends were absolutely outraged at the disrespectful behavior of Kamath. Chessnetwork, also a classy and kind fellow, posted a video about the transgression in which you can sense his rage.

Why did Anand resign when he knew full well Kamath was cheating? Because Anand was true to himself, a mantra of the Libertarian. You want to cheat? That’s on you. I only answer to myself. Anand realized he was in a losing position and resigned because that’s sportsmanship. It all but brings tears to my eyes and I’m not spewing hyperbole.

The Apology

Kamath issued an apology, if you can call it that, after figuratively every chess player in the world called him out. In it he blamed other people for being stupid enough to believe he, Kamath, could beat Anand in a chess match. It is ridiculous that so many are thinking that I really beat Vishy sir in a chess game, that is almost like me waking up and winning a 100m race with Usain Bolt.

Yeah, blame other people for their anger at your cheating. That’s the opposite of Anand. People are enraged and continue to be so, go figure.

Conclusion

Be like Vishy. That’s my conclusion. Be the better person. You’re not helping anyone else; you’re helping yourself.

Tom Liberman

Qualifying Mayhem in the Bullet Chess Championship

Bullet Chess Championship

What is a Qualifier?

What does the word qualify mean to you? That’s a question of great importance in regards to the 2021 Bullet Chess Championship. In the tournament a number of players compete to play for $25,000 in prize money. This group of competitors is broken into two parts.

One group, made up of those who are considered the best bullet chess players in the world, are prequalified into the Bullet Chess Championship finals.

The rest of the players are required to enter four qualifier events. In each of these, the top four players of a 20 round Swiss tournament advance to a knockout stage with the eventual winner gaining qualification for the Bullet Chess Championship.

That all makes a lot of sense. You don’t want the best players in the world knocked out before the final which is streamed on various outlets including Twitch. They are the personalities who draw the viewers.

So, that leads us to our question. What does it mean to qualify for a tournament? You’re probably wondering why I’m even asking this apparently simple question. I ask because the Bullet Chess Championship organizers apparently don’t know the answer. Read on.

Prequalified Players Enter the Qualifier

Here’s where the tournament organizers made what I consider to be an egregious error. The first group, those already with a place in the final tournament, played in the qualifying tournaments.

What? You rightly exclaim. That makes no sense. What if they win? Good question. During the first two qualifiers none of the exempted players made it into the top four of the Swiss so it was a moot point. However, in the third qualifier a fellow named Hikaru Nakamura, who is widely considered the best or near best bullet chess player in the world, won. As might be expected.

I assumed if a prequalified player made it into the top four, the next best player moves forward. Nope, the prequalified Nakamura went into the knockout and defeated both his opponents. The final was pointless. Whoever played Nakamura qualified because Nakamura is already qualified. If that sentence makes sense.

Why I think it is Horribly Wrong

In my opinion there is no way the prequalified players should play in a qualifier. It’s right there, in the word. Such players have an enormous advantage in that they don’t have any pressure on them. In addition, every game such a player wins or loses in the Swiss affects who makes it to the final four.

In the knockout stage it’s the same thing. No pressure, if they win in the semi-final then another player, desperately trying to qualify, is knocked out and the player who wins the other semi-final is automatically qualified for the finals even if they lose.

Conclusion

What moron thought this was a good idea, let alone a fair one? I’m a chess fan and I’m triggered!

Should Prequalified Players play in the Qualifier?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Tom Liberman

Watching People Argue in a Chess Chat

Chess Chat

Chess Chat is as filled with acrimonious debate as any political forum and, while watching the first round of the Norway Chess Tournament an instructive moment occurred which I will wax on about today. Don’t be too distressed, the topic isn’t primarily chess, or chess chat, it’s how to have a productive debate.

In this case the chess chat included a hearty exchange, including nasty insults as per usual, between two interlocuters debating as to which chess format, blitz or classical was more interesting, or more to the point whether or not classical chess is boring. Of some note but not important to the point is that one of the debaters is essentially the chief sponsor of chess in the United States. He took the side that classical chess was more interesting while an unknown but equally belligerent opponent took the opposite view.

Don’t worry, the chess talk is finished. What is important to understand is the nature of the question being debated and how to arrive at an objective answer. One side of the debate posited that a particular thing was more boring than another thing of largely the same nature.

What is the first thing to understand in order to arrive at a conclusion to this debate? What is boring, how do we define boring in this context, it must be determined. We cannot have any meaningful answer until we do so. Now, there are a number of ways to do this, but what is vitally important to understand is that neither of the two challengers made any attempt to do so.

They simply wrote facts back and forth at one another. This many people watched that tournament, so many people watched the other tournament. The quality of play in this style is better than the other style. It was endless, pointless, and much to the dismay of most of the people in chat, hideously boring. No one got anywhere except to clog up the chess chat with their ranting and most certainly, no one’s opinions were changed. Meanwhile, there was some quite interesting chess being played that the two debaters completely ignored.

The lesson is simple enough, you can’t arrive at an objective answer without defining what it is you are debating. A lesson neither of the two debaters understood or, frankly, are ever likely to understand.

Thus ends the lesson, young Ionians. Go outside to practice your Phalanx maneuvers and we shall return to the problem on the morrow.

Tom Liberman

Thinking for Yourself in Chess and Life

Thinking for Yourself

I was on Lichess watching the Magnus Carlsen v. Hikaru Nakamura match of the Magnus Chess Tour Finals when an interesting example of thinking for yourself, and the benefits therein, presented itself. It is often suggested thinking for yourself is better; but if someone else does the thinking for you, and always gives you good answers, why not just do what she or he says? I’ll tell you why.

Many of those watching the games rely on the computer analysis to tell them who is winning at any particular moment and what is the best move to make for either player. Others of us watch without the computer engine analysis and discuss what might be the better move and which player seems to have the advantage at any given moment.

It is clear those using the engine to tell them the best move and who is winning are clearly correct far more often than those of us simply watching the game and relying on our own calculations. Therefore, they are better off, right? Wrong.

Thinking for yourself is not only a great deal more fun, it not only makes you a better chess player, but it also actually gives you greater insight into the game being played at that moment. Here is what happened twice during the match I watched yesterday. Warning, if you’re not a chess fan this might get a little dull.

Basically, during a game there are moments when you can sacrifice a piece in order to gain initiative through tactics. When you are thinking for yourself, you are looking for such tactics. When you are relying on the computer to tell you the best move you largely are not watching for such moments.

In two games there was a potential tactic available for several moves which covered perhaps ten minutes of time allowing time for analysis. Those of us in chat not using the computer mentioned the sacrifice possibility multiple times and eventually, in both cases it was made.

This leads me to the purpose of this entire blog. When the sacrifices were actually viable, the computer engine immediately suggested them as the best move and those relying on the engine began to speculate if the player might see it. These fans thought it was almost impossible to see such a move. When the player made the sacrifice, they were stunned by the astounding ability of the player.

Of course, those of us not relying on the computer had long been speculating on the move and didn’t see it as all that impossible at all.

I guess the point is, yes, if you rely on almost perfect machines and aren’t thinking for yourself, you will win every chess game but once those engines are off, you have no idea how to play at all. You get no enjoyment from predicting the move a Grand Master makes. No thrill of seeing a brilliant sacrifice on your own. Your life is both diminished in enjoyment and your ability to make good decisions without help is irreparably damaged.

Turn off the engine, stop listening to other people, think it through yourself. It’s harder, yes, but more rewarding.

Tom Liberman

Candidates Chess Tournament Suspension is a Big Can of Worms

Candidates Chess Tournament

The 2020 Candidates Chess Tournament being held in Russia was suspended on March 26th upon reaching the halfway point and this is a big old giant mess. As my few loyal fans know, I’m a chess nerd, so this is big news for me. The Candidates Chess Tournament is held every two years with the winner going on to play the current World Chess Champion for the title.

As most people are aware, there is a pandemic spreading across the globe at the moment and this caused Russian officials to suspend all air flights. This means the players in the tournament will have no way to leave Russia at the conclusion of the tournament. This being the case, it was decided to suspend the Candidates Chess Tournament and resume after the crisis ends.

This series of events is a nightmare. First of all, the tournament is an eight-player round-robin event. One of the eight, Teimour Radjabov, had strong concerns about going on with the event in the first place and asked the FIDE, the governing body, to postpone the event. They said they could not do so and he decided to withdraw. In his place a fellow named Maxime Vachier-Lagrave was allowed to participate. MVL, as he is affectionally called, is currently tied for first place.

So, where does that leave us? A mess, that’s where. Radjabov has a legitimate complaint that he should be allowed into the tournament because it was suspended as he asked for it to be, essentially, he was right and the FIDE was wrong. Meanwhile, MVL shouldn’t have been there in the first place and if he wins then all the other players have complaints. Even if MVL loses, he defeated other players that perhaps Radjabov would not have beaten and the entire standings are essentially compromised.

The winner of the tournament will be tainted, through no fault of their own but that of circumstance. If the winner of the tournament is tainted then what happens if that person defeats reigning champion Magnus Carlsen and become the new world chess champion? As we of the tribe are prone to say, Oy Vey.

Preparation is thrown into flux as well. Carlsen has a much shorter time to prepare for his opponent whereas his foe can use this delay to work on a game plan against Carlsen. Does the can of worms ever end?

I can’t even lay all the blame on the FIDE, yes, they should have postponed the tournament from the start but there were legitimate reasons to continue. Postponing would have been a difficult decision that brought its own problems as far as scheduling and preparation work as mentioned above. There weren’t any good answers.

Honestly, at this point, I say forget it. Let Carlsen keep the trophy for two more years.

Tom Liberman

Anand and Kramnik or Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Anand and Kramnik

In the chess world, which I enjoy although about which I’m aware my loyal fans are somewhat less enthusiastic, there is an interesting dichotomy in the behavior of two former world champions, Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand. Anand is still playing top level chess while Kramnik decided to give up competitive chess. Whose decision is right and whose is wrong?

It is certain one must be a good decision while the other is bad because they are in opposition to each other. Is it proper to continue to play chess competitively when you were once world champion but have little or no chance of once against ascending those dizzying heights? Kramnik is five years younger than Anand but decided he’d had enough, while Anand is still playing and doing extremely well at top-level events.

Surely, we must decide one of the two is correct while the other made a terrible mistake. That is our job, after all. It is all but impossible that both adults are capable of making the best decision about their own life and that I shouldn’t be telling them how to go about living.

It’s impossible that Anand enjoys playing chess and feels he is a role-model for the many young Indian players who are making their presence known with some great chess. Therefore, the best decision for him was to keep playing the game he loves. No, I must inform him that his once greatness is gone and now, he must retire to save his dignity.

It is likewise quite clear that Kramnik, younger than Anand, still has some great chess in him. That just because he doesn’t enjoy playing as much and wants to pursue other avenues in his life is no reason to quit so young. I am just the person to tell him how to go about leading his life.

It’s impossible for mentally capable adults to make better decisions about their life than I can make for them. Frankly, I think the governments of India and Russia should interject themselves into this matter and pass a law forcing Anand to quit and Kramnik to return to the game. Or, wait, forcing them both to quit, or no, forcing them both to keep playing. Or something. We need government oversight; we need other people telling us how to lead our lives. Yes! I’m outraged at one of them, I’m not sure which, but there is wrongness here and it must be addressed! Who better to do it than me? Than the government?

Tom Liberman

Wesley So and the Question of Pragmatism over Glory

Wesley So

Today was an interesting day in the chess world when Wesley So decided on a pragmatic course of action when he had an opportunity for glorious victory. It was a complicated decision with a number of factors but I thought it was the correct choice; I am interested in what other people think. Let me explain.

There is a chess event called the Grand Chess Tour in which the top players in the world compete in a series of individual tournaments. The top four point getters in all the tournaments advance to a big money final. Each of the tournaments themselves have significant prizes for finishing in the top spots. Wesley So was invited to participate even though he had a relatively subpar chess season the previous year. He is considered one of the weakest players in the event. Weak being relative, he is a fantastic chess player by any standard.

In the first stop of the tour he did reasonably well, fourth out of ten players, and is having an excellent tournament in the second stop, this is where he made his pragmatic decision.

The current stop on the Grand Chess Tour, Croatia, has more points available to get into the finals than other events because of the format. It also has a somewhat different structure than other tournaments in that the players play eleven games in twelve days with only a single rest day after the sixth game.

Wesley So is doing exceptionally well. Going into the penultimate round he was in clear second place behind only World Champion Magnus Carlsen who is playing some of the best chess of his career. He was also a full point ahead of several players who were tied for third place. In a chess game you get half a point for a draw, 1 point for a win, and 0 points for a loss.

This situation means if he drew the game against Carlsen it almost certainly guaranteed Wesley So would finish the tournament in second place. This finish would gain him significantly more money and points than finishing tied for third or worse, a distinct possibility if he lost the game against Carlsen.

Wesley So was playing with the white pieces which is considered an advantage and generally speaking the player with white is the aggressor and the player with black is trying to draw the game, although this is certainly not absolute.

I know I’ve spent considerable time setting up the question but I think it’s important that we weigh all the factors, overall Grand Chess Tour position, individual event position, general fatigue, the state of Carlsen’s play, etc.

In any case, Wesley So played a relatively passive game and quickly settled for a draw with Carlsen. This almost guaranteed him second place in the tournament and also allowed him to rest up for the final round of a tournament in which fatigue certainly plays a role.

Many people are being critical of this decision, they think he had a chance to win the tournament and he should have gone all out, even though doing so against an in-form Carlsen was extremely dangerous. Wesley So weighed the benefits of drawing against the negative potential of losing and decided the former was the wiser course of action. I happen to agree with him but I can see the other point of view.

So, what do you think?

Should Wesley So have gone for Glory or was a Pragmatic Draw the right decision?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Tom Liberman

Kasparov and the Problem with Moral Codes

Kasparov-banned-fideThere’s an interesting story in the world of chess that I think illustrates one of the problems with so called Ethical Codes.

Former chess champion Gary Kasparov has been forbidden to hold office in the chess federation, FIDE, for two years because of an accusation of attempted bribery during his recent campaign to become president of that organization.

Ethical Codes are created by organizations as a way to prevent behavior that they considered unethical. If an employee violates this code they are subject to punishment up to and including termination. The modern use of such codes in business is often related to justifying punishment rather than preventing unwanted behavior.

I’m not completely opposed to such codes. I think an organization has every right to create their own rules. I recently wrote about how the U.S. Soccer Federation should prevent Hope Solo from participating in the Olympics because of her troubling off-field activities. Likewise I spoke about the NFL’s sanctioning of Ray Rice for similar transgressions.

The problem in this case is that the FIDE is absolutely and totally corrupt. It is run by a man who routinely uses bribery to implement policy. To have such an organization stipulate ethical violations against a member for doing exactly what they themselves do is a rather tough pill to swallow.

When a code is applied unfairly it’s not really a code at all. It’s just a cudgel used to keep those who disagree in line and punish enemies.

What is to be done?

I’m opposed to removing such codes because I think any organization has the right to create their own rules. I’m also against a higher agency coming in and dictating how an organization applies it codes because this just means corruption moves up to that higher agency. The problem is not solved at all, despite the illusion of improvement, and in many ways made worse because the higher the agency the more people it has control over.

The only real solution is for members of the organization to see through the facade and elect better representatives or form their own group.

It’s not easy to convince those currently in power that misapplication of rules in a way that benefits them is, in the long run, bad for them. It is. If one person can misapply rules to gain advantages then soon enough someone will come to power who is not your ally and will use the same methods against you. It is far better to apply rules fairly and evenly and allow the best to succeed within the confines of your structure.

While that philosophy is comforting, the pragmatist in me realizes that reality is not. Kasparov is banned. The FIDE is corrupt. No solution appears imminent. Those in power and those who support them seem perfectly happy with the arrangement as it is. They have enormous bankrolls and there is no shortage of people willing to do anything for money. The Libertarian ideal is but a dream.

What can I do about it? I’ll write another book and hope the leaders at FIDE read it, understand it, and apply the principles of freedom to their organization. What else can I do?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

The Magnus Carlsen Story – He Just Wanted to Beat his Sister – I Get It

Susan and Carlsen Family Bilbao 2008I just read a really nice story about a fellow named Magnus Carlsen who is the best chess player in the world. He might well be the best chess player in the history of the world. He also seems like a pretty nice guy.

The story goes into how Magnus took up chess at the age of five because he father was keen to teach both Magnus and his older sister, Ellen. According to Henrik Carlsen, Magnus didn’t immediately pick up the game as have other chess prodigies throughout history. He learned the moves but didn’t fall in love with the game and insist on playing it all the time. Then something happened.

About three years after learning the game his older sister started to get good at chess.

Now Magnus was interested in getting better at chess because, as Henrik says in the story, he just wanted to beat his sister. That’s a motivation I understand thoroughly. You see, I have an older sister also. I pushed her down the stairs once. I dumped an entire glass of water in her bed once, yes, she was in it at the time. I tried to beat her at Risk and Monopoly but generally came out on the short end of that stick.

If you look closely at the picture you’ll quickly note that Carlsen has two other sisters. The woman in the middle is mom who is not a chess player. I have five sisters including the half-sisters and step-sisters. So I’ve got Magnus beat there. If we just count up sisters I should be a significantly better Risk player than Magnus is a chess player. At least that’s the logic with which I’m running.

There’s not really a point to my blog today other than a shout out to my metaphorical sibling Magnus. I get it, my brother!

Now to try and figure out why I didn’t become the greatest Risk player in the history of the world. There’s got to be a reason.

Anyone other guys out there with a female, older sibling care to tell some stories in the comments?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Purchase The Broken Throne today!
See All my Books

Internet Chess and How to Improve your Life

Internet Chess You wouldn’t think that playing internet chess would give insight into a better way to lead your life but that’s exactly what happened to me when I started to play. I’ve discovered that diversity and balance improve life and I’ll tell you why.

I played chess as a young lad. My father taught me the game and I played him many times over the years. When I got to Junior High School, as they called it back in the old days, I joined the chess team. On that team I played pretty regularly with the same group of people and the instructor.

Once I got to high school I started to play water polo and never really looked at chess again except for the occasional game with a friend.

Many years later my niece took up the game in a relatively serious way. She started to play tournaments and I decided that I’d take up chess again so as to give her an opponent.

There are a number of places to play chess on the internet. I currently play slow chess at Gameknot and fast chess at ChessCube and Chess.com. The grand-daddy of chess sites is ICC where the masters play.

Now, as to my point. As a lad I played a lot of chess, particularly in junior high school. My game got to a level where I thought it was fairly good but the thing I didn’t consider was not necessarily the quality of my opponent but their quantity and different playing styles. In my youth I largely played people who used the same style and I played them over and over again.

When I joined the internet chess community I was immediately exposed to a multitude of styles, a huge variety of openings, and a vast array of levels. I played openings I’d never heard of against opponent both significantly weaker than me and infinitely stronger.

What I learned is that playing that variety of players with their varying styles improved my chess game far more quickly and comprehensively than playing the same people over and over again.

Now, I’m going to get a little philosophical. I think this lesson can be taken to your life as a whole. If you experience the same thing over and over again it is difficult to improve in anything. If your job has you doing the same thing again and again. If you have discussions with the same people again and again, if you eat the same food again and again, you are limiting your life. Not only are you not experiencing a full life but your skills are stagnating.

Try new ways of doing old things. Even if the new way looks really stupid give it a try. You never know what you might learn. Look at life differently, sit at a different place in the conference room, talk to someone new for a moment, try a different menu item or a whole new restaurant.

I suspect that the more of anything we experience the better we get. If you want to maximize your skills at anything then I’d suggest immersing yourself in a wide variety of that thing. Not that it is easy. It takes time and effort but in the end you will improve yourself and your life dramatically.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. If you’re playing chess on the internet and you see this flag then get ready for a beating!

Russia Flag