The human side of chess, 10

Gentile Reinfeld vs. Jew Reti

I have said that except for computers the colour of chess is the colour of blood, and that some chess players live more in the world of emotions than in that of cold logic that neophytes observe from the outside. In those emotions, including the thirst to win, the fate of a game is sometimes settled. But from the point of view of the oracle of Delphi I am afraid to say that many players are still children: they don’t know themselves, much less the universe and the gods. Recall how all Fischer read were the Sunday newspaper comic strips, and how Karpov defended the totalitarian regime of his country before the revolutions of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

At this point I would like to say something about the chess writer Fred Reinfeld. Although in his time the elements didn’t exist to penetrate the hearts of lost souls, he at least made an attempt to probe them. In Mexico, there is a tendency to value European writers at the expense of Americans. I remember what Octavio Paz said about his grandfather’s library, which was rich in French writers and poor in North Americans. Reinfeld had a humble job as a bureaucrat, sought to move up the social ladder, and managed to commercialise many of his chess books in the United States. But it was in a book by Paz precisely where I read that what is written for money lacks artistic value. Nonetheless, Reinfeld wrote a good book. The Great Chess Masters and their Games: The Human Side of Chess, published in 1952, superior to Masters of the Chess Board by Richard Reti in terms of a didactic vision of what chess is. This statement will sound terrible anathema to those who only know the business side of Reinfeld’s books, but his book shows that Reti omitted the personal element in his analysis of the match between Anderssen and Morphy. I think Reinfeld’s critique of dry schematics, that is, of almost every chess commentator, should be read. I’m not saying reread because books like this are rarely on hobbyist bookshelves. Focusing on the psychological aspect of the champions, Reinfeld tells us: ‘I must confess that I am at a loss to understand why these observations have not been made previously’.

A single example will suffice to illustrate his assessment of why Anderssen lost the match. The German master didn’t fail to understand the hidden laws of chess, the canonical version in Reti’s books. He failed to define his well-thought-out games with Morphy. And he failed because at his age his brain wasn’t as trained to play as his young rival’s. It is sad that Reti’s followers simply repeat the myth of their European mentor without qualms: that Morphy had a secret weapon, his positional knowledge of the open game, the centre and the rapid mobility of the pieces. The truth is that Anderssen understood those principles equally. Reinfeld says something similar about the match between Zukertort and Steinitz, and it is also sad that only because he was not champion the beautiful games of Zukertort, who died two years after his defeat, have been relegated to obscurity.

For Reinfeld, who wrote in the middle of the last century, the most exciting world championships were those of Steinitz with Zukertort and those of Euwe with Alekhine (remember that Reinfeld published when Botvinnik was already three years as champion). On the matches between Chigorin and Steinitz, the bloodiest in world championship history, Reinfeld wrote:

They had an unrivalled insight into the nature of chess. Whereas the popularizers think of chess as being amenable to order, logic, exactitude, calculation, foresight and other comparable qualities, Steinitz and Tchigorin agreed on one thing: that chess can be, and often is, as irrational as life itself. It is full of disorder, imperfection, blunders, inexactitudes, fortuituous happenings, unforeseen consequences.

It is precisely due to the lack of insight from the fans that a great champion like Lasker has never been understood. If there is one thing that caught my attention about his match with Steinitz, it was that he defended himself in a lost position where he could be left with three pawns less. That happened in the seventh game in which the young Lasker disputed the crown of the mature champion. Steinitz made an eccentricity by placing his knight to the h8 square that ended up being quite expensive.

Misunderstanding the extremely complicated position that emerged, a position analogous to those that would emerge much later in Tal’s games, he became demoralized and lost the next four games, the match and the crown. Reti erred in Masters of the Chess Board by saying that Lasker played badly on purpose to confuse the opponent. It’s obvious that Lasker didn’t want to lose so many pawns in his decisive game with Steinitz. Rather, what Lasker was doing was, as Nimzowitsch would say, ‘heroically defend himself’ in lost positions where most of us players would feel dejected. Intuitively, Lasker did that—something that Nimzowitsch, another dry game theorist, didn’t see either—because Lasker knew that if he flipped a losing position he would have a moral advantage over his opponent.

Reinfeld’s extended book subtitle reads: ‘The Story of the World Champions: Their Triumphs and their Illusions, Their Achievements and Their Failures’. Sometimes in my diary I write things that never appear in the schematic books of Colección Escaques, a notable Spanish publisher of chess books during my adolescence; in the more than dry Informants or in Reti’s aseptic books. On one occasion I wrote: ‘I was peeing in fear’ because of my nerves during a game. I’ve heard that the same thing happens to other players. ‘To the bathroom, to the bathroom, to the bathroom’ a friend told me about his tournament experiences. When I wanted to break the taboo and wrote in the Club Mercenarios newsletter the agonies that I revealed in the previous chapter, Willy de Winter, one of the main chess promoters in Mexico, misunderstood my initiative. At the beginning of the next round he asked me in public ‘How do you feel?’ as if implying that only I suffered from tribulations, when the truth is that many others do. De Winter’s question ignored that my initiative was simply to break one of the taboos in chess literature: to speak as frankly as possible, and in the first person singular, about our emotions when we play. But laymen have been able to see the player’s emotions. In 1922 a London journalist wrote about Alekhine:

He is a hatched-faced blond giant, with a sweep of hair over his forehead, and several inches of cuff protruding from his sleeve. First he rests his head in his hands, works his ears into indescribable shapes, clasps his hands under his chin in pitiful supplication, shifts uneasily in his seat like a dog on an ant-hill, frowns, elevates his eyebrows, rises suddenly and stands behind his chair for a panoramic view of the table, resumes his seat, then, as the twin clock at his side ticks remorselessly on, sweeps his hair back for the thousand time, shifts a Pawn, taps the clock button, and records his move.

This is the agony that the chess player encounters not in a game, but in a single move. This is chess. However, de Winter never talks about his emotions in the chess newsletter that he publishes, despite the fact that fans have seen him rise up like Alekhine; put one of his feet on the chair, elbow on his knee and hand on his cheek when he gets nervous in a tournament. It is evident that strong emotions when playing are suffered by all of us. What I said about avoiding self-knowledge is also exemplified by de Winter with the question he asked me.

The idea of journaling is not only to help us heal the pride that only women have the right to tell their sorrows and to cry. We must make contact with what fans not only silence to others, but to ourselves. Making deep contact with our emotions reconciles us with them and allows us to mature. Many chess players, including some who were child prodigies, have failed precisely because they denied the feminine part in them. They didn’t manage to harmonise their cognitive apparatus with the sentimental part of their psyche, nor did they make a healthy eruption of the magma they suffer in the interior towards the temperate surfaces of reason.[1] The private diary that no one but one reads is part of the cure for this psychic congestion.

Another of my suggestions is that you write a comment about your games, emphasising the ones you have lost. Many chess players have a huge ego. They always find the cleverest excuses for their defeats, and they tend to remember only their victories. They look like turkeys puffed up with pride the day before they are killed for Christmas dinner.

Let us remember how Fischer broke with the tradition of Alekhine and Capablanca of writing only about their victories. In My 60 Memorable Games Fischer spoke with great honesty about his draws and even some of the defeats that hurt him the most. The idea of journaling is to deflate turkey pride and accept our level of play. But like other people’s diaries, your own is a private matter. In my comments about my games I cited some of my emotions, but in the diaries we write even more intimate things than saying that we ran to the bathroom. On the other hand, writing a not so intimate comment about the games we have played, and I did try that in the previous chapter, in addition to being healthy it means that we can photocopy it and distribute it among our friends. It is a great therapy to share with others the reasons why we lost or why we suffered so much during the victories, something that others have confessed to me that also happens to them.

There are other advantages to commenting on our games in writing. When I transcribed and analysed the fifty games that I played in tournaments in the nineties, great surprises occurred. For example, due to the low self-esteem through which I was crossing in 1993, I realised that I had resigned a clearly drawish endgame of rooks with Jorge Martín del Campo. Likewise, in another game where I lost the exchange with black against Fernando Araiza, I suddenly resigned. Ten years later, by putting that same position on Fritz, the machine played a tedious game with itself of more than a hundred moves that ended in a draw, proving that my resigning was foolish. During the live game I hadn’t realised that, with eight pawns on each side, losing the exchange in that closed position didn’t mean a decisive advantage. This was recognised by Fritz from the visual thinking screen where he put the sign ‘equality’ or ‘something better’ and not the ‘clear advantage’ of white in the various positions it played after my resignation. Likewise, for years I blamed my opening choice, a Richter attack that I played against Alberto Escobedo in a French Defence, instead of focusing on a blunder that for some reason my memory failed to register: the real cause of my defeat. I had mistakenly been left under the impression that the now-deceased Escobedo had outdone me cleanly in a defence he knew pretty well. When I put Fritz the position I realised that before the blunder, the game I played with Escobedo was even. In fact, the game that Fritz played with itself also ended in a draw.

It is true that chess is so complicated that we shouldn’t even trust computational analysis as the last word on a position. In Caissa’s magical domain the computer can still do mistakes, as Hal 9000 erred en route to Jupiter by underestimating Dave. However, at a slow pace of play it is generally a good reference to calibrate a complicated position that would otherwise take a lot of trouble to disentangle. This is what Kasparov observed in the first volume about his great predecessors: even a computer would take a long time to decipher that position that emerged in the seventh game of the Steinitz-Lasker match, mentioned above. The Fritz I own is a sophisticated program. I recommend that hobbyists take some private lessons with users of the program before using it. It is a great GM slave who not only plays with us every time we ask him to, but it can be forced to play a specific position to solve our doubts, such as the doubts I had about my games with del Campo, Araiza, Escobedo and many others.

While transcribing, analysing, and even photocopying my comments about my games and sharing them with friends doesn’t level me up, it improves morale. But the knowledge of oneself, to reconcile with the past and with the defeats, is a practice that doesn’t occur to those who focus on variants, those who devour Informants or variants of ChessBase believing that by memorising them they will win. The truth is that I have found them crying in tournaments when faced with reality. It’s very easy to get a player out of his favourite line, which prompts me to the next suggestion.


(1) See ‘The Eternal Feminine’ in pages 176-180 of my Daybreak. PDF clickable from the sidebar.

Published in: on June 29, 2021 at 5:40 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 10  

The human side of chess, 7

4 ‘The Russian’ – Tort

In pursuit of a metaphorical king

I played this game in a tournament of the Ibrahim Martínez club in the Colonia Roma in Mexico City: a neighbourhood that Alfonso Cuarón made known to the world with Roma, a film that I have criticised on my website The West’s Darkest Hour. I couldn’t say it’s a great game but I’m including it because I used to enjoy reproducing it at home, safe from the agonies of live fighting. Even after playing it long ago, I am delighted to see how I crucified the poor white king in the first row of the board. As in the games in which I defeated Norgaard and friend Marco, the direct attack on the king is what gives us the greatest pleasure. Not during the tortuous live game, of course; but safe at home, with beautiful Staunton pieces of wood, and with our living room fireplace lit.

Time control: 2 hours / 40 movements
February 24, 1993

1 e4 e5

2 f4 d5

The Falkbeer Countergambit.

3 exd5 c6!?

I prepared the Nimzowitsch variant of the countergambit especially for this game. I had made inquiries about the opening repertoire of my opponent, Manuel García Marquina, a young white man nicknamed ‘The Russian’ in chess circles. The referee of the event himself had the indiscretion to tell me that he was playing the King’s Gambit. ‘Really?’ I replied with wicked eyes and a smile. And I went home happy to prepare a line for the Russian: a variant that surprised him.

4 Nf3

Another possibility is 4 Qe2. After this game I heard these words from a fan who was surprised by my victory: ‘The Russian is a specialist in the King’s Gambit’.

4 … e4

5 Qe2 Nf6

6 d3 cxd5

7 dxe4 dxe4

8 Nc3 Bb4

9 Qb5 +

Already in the postmortem, according to some beautiful variants played by the machine, 9 Bd2 would have been better for Black.

9 … Nc6

10 Ne5 Bxc3 +

This opens the a3-f8 diagonal. But if 10… Qd4; 11 Tb1 Nd5; 12 Nxc6 and the resulting complications seem to leave White better. I confess that these calculations, and countless others, I do thanks to my computer system. Only with these sophisticated toys that play first-rate chess have I managed to delve deeply into many of my games.

11 bxc3 O-O

12 Nxc6??

12 Ba3! could have tied the game after 12 … Re8; 13 Rd1 Qc7 (but not 13… Qa5 because 14 Qxa5 followed by 15 Bb5, winning); 14 Bd6 Db6; 15 Bc5 and draw by repetition of moves.

12 … bxc6

13 Qxc6 Bg4

14 Ba3 Re8

15 Qd6 Qa5

16 Bb4 Qa4

17 Bc4 a5

18 h3

And now the direct assault on the king:

18… Rd8

19 Qc7 Qxc2

20 hxg4 Qxg2

21 Qxf7 + Kh8

22 Rh6 e3

23 White resigns

Chess players are sadists. Many of us were abused as children by our parents and, as we must honour them, we take it out on scapegoats. My youth idol Alekhine beat his wives and suffered attacks of violence. Once he lost a game he destroyed some furniture in his hotel and occasionally threw his king across the room. And it was Alekhine himself who said: ‘During a chess tournament a master must envisage himself as a cross between an ascetic monk and a beast of prey’.

An American journalist asked the former champion Spassky, of style influenced by Alekhine, if he believed that the young Seirawan, then the promise of the United States, would conquer the crown. Spassky replied that he doubted it, and added that to become world champion it is necessary to be a kind of bird of prey, a potential murderer: a gift that not all chess players have. In no other game or sport do players speak of ‘killing’, ‘destroying’ or ‘breaking’ the opponent as in chess (remember my quoted diary: ‘I had always wanted to kill Marco with a queen sacrifice’). The type of chess player Spassky refers to sometimes plays in order to engender the morbid pleasure of seeing his opponent bow down. In 1971, a year before being crowned world chess champion, Bobby Fischer (1943-2008) responded to Dick Cavett during a television show: ‘The greatest pleasure? When you break his ego’ referring to the opponent’s ego; and there are those who have said, with some hyperbole, that Fischer had the mentality of a killer.

Unscrupulous psychologists insert electrodes into the rats’ pleasure centres in the brain. They are then conditioned to push a button for ultra-rewarding stimulation. Electrode-implanted rats become addicted to infinite pleasure; so much so that they stop eating and, when they put a metal floor where they will receive a strong electric shock if they step on it, they gladly do so in order to touch the button and artificially masturbate their neurons. What does the torment matter if what is pursued is the absolute glory of that moment!

The players I know appreciate my electric chair metaphor. They say it’s accurate to illustrate the gambit that we do in life when we play in tournaments. Like me, they have suffered horrors in a gambling room that sometimes looks like a torture chamber. But the apparent masochism of faithfully subscribing to the next tournament is inexplicable to them. These gambling addicts, with no insight about what they did to us as children, must have a huge motive for revenge that compels them to hunt down a metaphorical king. We cannot attack those who gave us life. But in the game we can crucify our opponent from time to time.

Published in: on June 23, 2021 at 11:53 am  Comments (2)  

The human side of chess, 6

3 Tort – Norgaard

Fuck chess!

After playing three months at Club Mercenarios, this was the first time Jesper Norgaard, a Dane who fathered children with a Mexican woman, lost. In the end, everyone shook my hand, which filled me with satisfaction, especially the congratulations from Héctor Busto. Even the now deceased Ricardo Ramírez Honey published the game in the newspaper. But that is not the reason for picking it up here, but the agonies that I wrote down live during the game. My second retirement from tournament chess in my thirties (I had retired for the first time in my twenties) can be traced to this pseudo-victory.

Time control: 2 hours / 45 movements
November 12, 1992

1 e4 e5

2 Nf3 Nc6

3 Bb5

The Ruy López Opening is Jesper’s favourite, but here I am the one who plays white.

3 … a6

4 Ba4 Nf6

5 O-O Be7

6 Bxc6 dxc6

7 Qe1!?

The twice-postponed exchange variation surprised Jesper. The idea is to prevent the black pin Bg4.

7 … Nd7

It was not good 7 … Bd6 for 8 d4, with initiative. With the textual, which is the one recommended by theory, white recovers the time he lost by changing his ‘Spanish bishop’.

8 d4 exd4

9 Nxd4 O-O

10 Nc3 Ne5

Instead, Marcel Sisniega played 10 … Bf6 against Roberto Martín del Campo in the first game of the Closed National Championship, played three months after my game with Jesper, and won in thirty-five moves.

11 Nde2 Bc5

The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings analyses up to this move, and evaluates the position as equal play. The rest was our improvisation.

12 Kh1

The idea is f4-f5-f6 with a strong attack. Months later the story reached my ears that in a chess event held in Ciudad Juárez, Jesper was asked about this game and that he had replied he had fallen in ‘a laboratory move’. But it was not like that. I only knew religiously as far the encyclopaedia goes.

12 … f5

Jesper used half an hour of his time on this move because he knew he was in trouble. At postmortem he commented that he disliked 12 … Qh4 for 13 f4, which according to him would have led to an inferior endgame. Unlike Marco (‘I’m short fuse’ he told me the last time I saw him, in the sense that he exploded for anything), Jesper commented on the postmortem without any apparent discomfort.

13 f4 Ng4

14 e5 Be6

15 h3 Ne3

16 Bxe3 Bxe3

17 Rd1 Qe7

18 Rf3 Ba7

Two bishops against two knights! But if Black cannot activate them, they are badly parried due to the passed and protected pawn.

19 Rfd3 Kh8

20 Nd4 Bc4

21 R3d2 Rae8

Black’s last moves prepare the liberating …g5 that never came.

22 Qg3 Bb6?

23 Nxc6!

Jesper later told me he didn’t see it. On a blank sheet that I hid behind the score sheet of some games of this tournament, I wrote the agonies that I suffered in the live game. The idea was to calm me down, understand the situation and temper my nerves. On the sheet I wrote: ‘(11:19 PM). Having played 23 NxBP makes me the bitch nervous. That nasty! Fuck chess if this is what it does to me! What does it matter to me even if I have a clear advantage…!’

23 … Qc5

24 Nd4 Qb4

25 b3 Bf7?

In the postmortem Jesper explained to me that, since he looked bad positionally, he preferred to lose another pawn in order to complicate the game. But on the loose sheet during the live game I wrote: ‘(11:34 PM). Again after 25 PQN3: Stress, when discharged, makes you see visions!’ And it is that the chair in which I was sitting when facing Jesper was like an electric chair. It was as if it gave ‘shocks’ but I had to remain seated if I wanted to win.

26 Nf5

‘The stress continues at 26. I know it’s crucial that…’ and here I stopped writing because my opponent played:

26 … Bg6

27 Nd5 Qa3

28 Ch4 Bh5

29 Nf3 Ba5

30 c3 c6

31 Ne3 Bxc3

32 Nc4

This knight manoeuvre gave me the victory but I suffered a lot in finding it because I was in time trouble.

32 … Qb4

33 Rd7 Re7

From now on, I will call the chess programs that I had, Fritz and Chessmaster, ‘the machine’, which in this position analysed 33 …Rf7 to which a winning 34 Qg5 would also come, although without the next attack on the King:

34 Qg5 Rxd7

35 Rxd7 Bf7

In my home analysis the machine analysed 35 …Bg6, which could also have been followed by 36 Nd6. At this point the now-deceased Luis Vaca, who presided over the Mercenarios and whom I highly esteemed, called his friends with these words: ‘The Jesper-Tort game is very, very tough!’

36 Nd6 Bg6

The summoned onlookers made an exclamation: the attack on the King was overwhelming. If Black had defended himself with 36 …h6, 37 Qf5 would come.

37 Rd8 Qxf4

Jesper made a curious gesture of displeasure at this moment when we had all Mercenarios players on top. The truth is that they were fascinated by blood and wanted to see him lose. But I suffered more, although in this position it seems laughable, because I was forced to deliver a proper coup de grace and not screw it up, with the very little time on the clock I had.

38 Qxf4 Rd8

39 Nf7 + Bf7

40 Qxf7 h6

41 e6 Black resigns

Although I won, what no one found out and that I only now confess, is that the victory cost me dear. In my diary the next day I wrote down my agonies, although I will edit the comments on the moves to focus on the psychological aspect, and will correct some syntax:

How tough! There were moments of confusion and suffering and, obviously, of ‘ghosts’ like that Qd1 that I saw but the knight prevented it… Very annoying. It was no use writing down my agonies during the game, which was supposed to relieve stress. What did relieve me somewhat was talking to Jorge Aguirre, talking about anything. I hope that for the next game I don’t get like that. It is clear that the cause of stress is the duty to win in an advantageous position and the paranoia of making a mistake. But it’s mostly ‘self-consciousness’ by onlookers that triggers stress. How will I avoid it in the next game?

Speak? Talk to onlookers? ‘How was your game?’ for example—or whatever, whatever to lower the excruciating stress! I wish there was therapy for this. I wish I was as calm as Romanishin [a Ukrainian GM I saw playing in an international tournament], I wish I was a laid-back! But that’s opposite to the spirit of the chess player, the opposite to the spirit of the fighter. I still have to try something or it’s pure masochism every tournament.

The funny thing is that when I thought I was wrong by not taking the Bb6 I relaxed. Maybe it’s because it loosened my tension as I no longer had a perfect game. Perhaps perfectionism causes stress because the paranoia of making a mistake comes. Or maybe it was that I had already talked to these guys…

What a strain relief once my rival gave up! Alejandro Tirado (who yesterday called those in my book about Cuba ‘worms’) watched the game for a long time. Afterwards I felt that he was envious that I had defeated the number #1 player. He had lost his game. Also after …QxP; QxQ I made a pause which contributed that my win be appreciated by the onlookers. It’s funny how at home I like to remember that they saw my attack and victory, but that at the time it was an extreme torment. The sign is changed. The torment becomes glory.

I played the game in the only tournament I have ever won: a club tournament. The memory still comes to me perfectly that when I got home after my decisive victory over Argentine Silvio Pla, three rounds later, with which I secured the first place, I slept the quietest and sweetest night I had slept in a long, long time. Excited, I signed up for the next club tournament. But my victories were still expensive. It’s amazing how chess players keep their emotions to their souls. I have come to the conclusion that it is perfect nonsense to approach chess from a purely logical viewpoint. The heavy intellectual analyses of chess literature not only fail to reflect our inner life: they are misleading to know what’s going on in our little heads. Only if the confessions of the players were written and published would we get to the core of the game.

In my diary I underlined in red my comments about a miniature that I inflicted on Willy de Winter in the first round of my second tournament in Mercenarios:

I lost this game a hundred times in my inside, paranoid insides!

What should I do?

I’m a failure as a chess player…

Today’s suffering was incredible: the greatest stress of all that I’ve experienced. I’d have accepted a draw on any move!

Note the ‘I am a failure as a chess player’. After playing with de Winter I had played ten games on Mercenarios, and except for a single draw I had won them all. None had defeated me. But I was right: these agonies screamed at me, over and over again, that I was in no way a tournament-playing guy, and augured something ominous for my competitive future.

The Spanish writer Fernando Savater stated in an interview: ‘I think that the great secret of chess, what makes it so superior to other logic games, lies in its tremendous intensity. This game compromises the ego of the person. A card player may feel affected because he has lost a lot of money, but he has not bet himself, which is what the chess player does. In this sense, chess can be dangerous’.

Wise insight! To Javier Anaya of the Mercenarios I owe the comparison of chess with mountaineering, where horrors are also suffered although mountaineers continue to climb mountains. I will be told that the comparison is defective since in mountaineering you risk your life and in chess ‘only the ego’. I disagree, and the best answer I can think of is to weigh the following anecdote.

There was Keres, called ‘the champion without a crown’ playing a tournament in 1944 in Estonia in the middle of the world war when an air raid sent everyone fleeing to the shelters. Those who saw him stay asked him in amazement if he wasn’t afraid. Keres replied: ‘I am hardening up my nerves for the World Championship fight’. The torment of sitting in a kind of electric chair at an important chess event causes more stress than the fear of bombings!

One last comment on the total lack of communication between fans. No one at the club realised that my victory over de Winter had been Pyrrhic. In the autistic bubbles in which they live locked up, between players it isn’t politically correct to speak about a lost soul. From the outside we appear to be scientists engaged in a game of pure logic. The truth is that when we play we twist in the magma of emotions. The colour of chess is not the black and white that onlookers see: it’s scarlet red.

After my game with de Winter in my second tournament at Mercenarios, a tournament appropriately called ‘Guerra y Paz’ (War and Peace), in the next round I beat Jesús Casillas. Interestingly, when I was aware that I had made a hideous mistake in that game, my nerves magically calmed down. The experience with Casillas and an identical one with René Sánchez, the only one who had obtained a draw from me until then, suggests that it’s precisely the desire for perfection, to want to play as flawlessly as the algorithms of a computer, which causes the crisis in the chess player. We have to understand that human beings do not have silicone minds. We are creatures of emotions. There is no such thing as ‘Mr. Chess Spock’, not even the world champion. It is known how nervous Kasparov was in his games with Anand for the World Championship, and let’s not talk about Ivanchuk.

After my game with Casillas, which I won only thanks to a very human mistake he made, my tortured invincibility in Mercenarios evaporated. Jesper Norgaard was the first to snatch a point from me in a very close duel that ended at 2:30 in the morning. Those still present at that time, engrossed to see the then invincible fall, congratulated the Dane as they had congratulated me when I won the previous tournament. In the next round something worse came: ‘the shortest game I’ve played in a tournament’, Roberto González, my opponent, told me. I resigned in the middle of the opening because of a crude trap that he tended to win my queen. That would be the beginning of the great collapse of my level of play both in that and in the following tournaments that I played in ’93.

Although with some exceptions, as can be seen in the next game.

Published in: on June 22, 2021 at 3:29 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 6  

The human side of chess, 4

1 Grushka – Tort

A beautiful game

If I kept this game it is because I showed it to the poet Jaime Sabines in a 1981 letter, a copy of which I still have. I had played several games of chess with Sabines at his house. In times when my parents’ treatment had spoiled my future, I believed that, being the governor’s brother in Chiapas, he would help me find a job.

Carlos Grushka, the opponent in this only game that I kept from my first tournaments had been, the previous year, youth champion of his country and later he would be Argentine runner-up; he represented Argentina in four Olympics, drew with Karpov and beat Larsen.

I have no interest in analysing this game with the computer system, which didn’t exist then. The analyses that I transcribe are those that appear in my letter to Sabines, when I was twenty-three years old. The poet, by the way, didn’t reply to my letter. But some time later I went to see him in Chiapas in search of work: something that constantly fails us players who were marginalised by our families.



Time control: 2½ hours / 40 movements


1 Nf3 Nf6

2 g3 d5

3 Bg2 Nbd7

I hadn’t studied this opening, so I improvised according to my own sense.

4 d4 e6

5 O-O Be7

6 c4 O-O

7 Nbd2 c5

8 b3 b6

9 Bb2 Bb7

10 Rc1 Rc8

11 e3 Rc7

12 Qe2 Qa8

13 Ne1 cxd4

14 Bxd4 Bb4

Threatening 15 … Bxd2 and 16 … dxc4, leaving a weak and isolated pawn on an open file.

15 Nef3 dxc4

16 Nxc4 Rfc8

17 Rcd1 b5

18 Nce5 Nxe5

19 Bxe5 Rc2

20 Qxb5 Ng4

21 Ne1

If 21 Qxb4 Bxf3; 22 Bxf3 Qxf3 threatening both 23 Nxf2 and taking the bishop.

21… Bxg2

22 Nxg2

He played that because 22 Nxc2 would lose a piece.

22… Nxf2!!

I have forgotten many moves, games and even opponents that I’ve faced over the board, but will never forget this great knight move. Grushka wasn’t expecting it.

23 Rxf2 Rxf2

24 Nf4

If he took my rook, the check of my other rook would be deadly.

24 … Qf3

25 Qd7

Had he taken my bishop, 25 … Qxd1 would also be fatal.

25 … Rcc2

26 Qd8 + Bf8

27 White resigns

Grushka got upset when I wanted to comment on this game as a postmortem. It’s obvious that his defeat didn’t match the image he had cultivated with his friends from the Club Mercenarios who had brought him to the tournament. After this game, in a raid that some young members of the Mercenarios gave me, Manuel López Michelone, with whom I would also play in that tournament, said something in front of me of bad taste. I was in the back of the car savouring my victory. Manuel, who was in the lead, said to his friends: ‘Who knows why Grushka lost’. It was as if the triumph wasn’t due to how I played, but to something mysterious!

Fortunately, friend Gerardo Brauer congratulated me and made very favourable comments on my plan to have brought the queen to square A8 to double my rooks on the C-file, which gave me a good development in addition to the beauty of an attack on the king from the corner of the board. Not all chess players are able to recognise that the other simply played well. But what stuck me the most that night was what another member of the Mercenarios told me, who was driving the car. He did it with the best of his intentions, but it hurt me. He told me that he had met my mother and that he ‘liked her very well’. I was speechless. I didn’t even smile. It was precisely she who had caused the abuse at home: something that Mario Guevara couldn’t know, and in fact in 1981 I didn’t even live with my mother but with my grandmother. I couldn’t communicate it due to the taboo of never criticising the parents, so I kept quiet among these young chess players and about the rest of the raid I don’t remember anymore.

Published in: on June 20, 2021 at 11:45 am  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 4  

The human side of chess, 3

‘Psychology is the most important factor in chess’.


In pursuit of a metaphorical king

This booklet is not only written for the hobbyist. If you are not a chess player, you can ignore the algebraic notation of the games that appear in this chapter and read exclusively my literary comments. I will be told that very little will be learned by studying my games or those of any other player other than what FIDE classifies as IM, International Master or GM: a Grand Master of the board (above the GMs there is only the world champion). I doubt that is true. Defeats that cause us humiliation are experienced by all: champions, teachers, club players and ordinary fans. And the best therapy for both the professional and the amateur is to meditate, and eventually write, about what has hurt us. While it is impossible for me to write a confessional testimony about the insights of an alien mind, I can talk about my emotions during games. In this chapter I present four games that I played with humans and one that I played with my computer.

The score sheets (1) for the games I played in tournaments in my teens and twenties, which were not FIDE endorsed tournaments, have been lost. At that time I was going through a great family storm and got rid of both my collection of chess books and my equipment to play—a story I have heard from other young people. It was precisely because of the problems at home that, like many others, I had taken refuge in the skirts of Caissa. I didn’t keep my youth games from tournaments, when I really fell in love with the goddess of chess, for the simple reason that my family problems stifled any interest in keeping them. Three of the games collected here, whose score sheets I kept, I played already in my twenties and thirties, when the family storm had passed.

My proposal in this chapter is to invite the player to talk about his emotions through his own games. The fan will be able to play with much more confidence after formally analysing those emotions, so that he knows himself a little better. It is a therapy not only about our defeats and setbacks: we also have to explain why some chess players suffer so much when we extract a victory from the opponent. The causes for which the chess player suffers are complex. It is known that intuitive psychology is not his forte. Lacking insight, even some world champions have ruined their lives as soon as they are crowned with the laurel of victory. What many ordinary professional and amateur chess players evade is the knowledge of how they were treated as children, and take refuge in Caissa as I did as a teenager.

Hardly any attempt has been made to write about the psychology of the chess player from the inner experiences of a player. Of the chess fans I know, no one takes seriously, for example, the study of the psychoanalyst Reuben Fine, The Psychology of the Chess Player. Fine argues that the game’s phallic symbolism is obvious: that the king represents the penis; the checkmate the castration, and other sublime imbecilities. Ernest Jones himself, Freud’s most orthodox acolyte and a great chess fan, speculates foolishly about ‘the mother and the paternal penis’ when addressing the simple fact of the change of the figure of the grand vizier into queen when the game supposedly transformed in its passage from the Arab world to the West. It is with the desire to show the player from the inside, rather than from psychoanalytical theories of no value, that I present my intimate confessions as well as some observations about my opponents.


(1) For a Glossary of chess see: here.

Published in: on June 19, 2021 at 1:03 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 3  

Battle of the bastards

‘Battle of the Bastards’ is the ninth and penultimate episode of the sixth season of HBO’s fantasy television series Game of Thrones and its 59th episode overall. This episode is emblematic of the series. It starts with a very easy victory for Dany, much easier than Caesar’s Veni, Vidi, Vici after the Masters invade Meereen with their fleet.

Later we see the Battle of the North—the best melee battle I’ve ever seen from a cinematic point of view. Unlike Dany and the fire of her dragons that burn the invading fleet, in the Battle of the Bastards you can see the ruthless rawness of what war really is, which is reflected in this image of the poor men under the command of the bastard Jon that are about to fight in numerical disadvantage against the army of the bastard Ramsay.

Dany, on the other side of the world in Martin’s fiction, is so powerful that she’s even capable of thinking in exterminationist terms. At the pyramid, which is being bombarded from the ships in the bay, she says to Tyrion: ‘I will crucify the Masters. I will get their fleets afire, kill every last one of their soldiers and return their cities to the dirt. That is my plan’.

The contrast between the Battle of Meereen Bay and the Battle of the Bastards couldn’t be greater. While the men on Jon’s side struggle to remain alive in a battle very realistic thanks to special effects (it is difficult to film a great carnage of horses during direct combat), the SJW Dany is granted everything thanks to the fire of her dragons. It was a great blunder to put both battles in the same episode because it shows how grotesque all this feminism is where the conquering woman appears as ultra-privileged in her warrior powers while the men have to fight every inch of the ground with blood and iron, as two armies fought in the open fields of yesteryear.

In the discussion with Tyrone, her advisor, Dany, before riding her dragon, tells him that she’s completely different from her father, who wanted to burn King’s Landing including men, women and children, even those loyal to the mad king. Tyrion replies: ‘You’re talking about destroying entire cities. It’s not entirely different’.

Another infuriating thing about many episodes, including this one, is the stupid little music they play when Dany rides her dragon and everything comes out smooth and easy—really irritating, especially compared to the eerie music they play right before the Battle of the Bastards is fought. In addition, we must take into account that all this war of Dany against the Masters is due to the latter refusing to abandon the slave system. We can already imagine what fantastic cinema would be like today if the Confederates had won the American Civil War!

Just as in the pyramid of Meereen Dany wants to become genocidal and Tyrone begs her for restraint, in the gloomy north we also see a discussion after the war council in Jon’s tent: another argument between woman and man before the battle, and also with the roles reversed. Sansa says such obvious things to Jon about elemental strategy that it is sad to see the man’s naivety. Sansa also alerts Jon about the psyops Ramsay will use on the battlefield. As we’ll see later, Jon fell flat on one of those tricks, and had it not been for the unexpected intervention of the Knights of Vale at the last minute he would have lost the Battle of the Bastards.

The script is pure rubbish although the battle, as I said, is worth watching. But before it the scriptwriters inserted a scene that reminds me of what I said in ‘On Beth’s cute tits’ although now I’m not referring to breasts but the buttocks of a woman.

Theon and Yara arrive in Meereen and ally with Dany, offering their fleet in exchange for help in overthrowing Euron and acknowledging Yara’s claim on the Iron Islands. This happens after Dany won the battle in the bay thanks to her dragons. There is a memorable phrase in the dialogue of these two women. Yara said to Dany: ‘We’d like you to help us murder an uncle [Euron] or two who don’t think a woman’s fit to rule’. That happens when we look at the image below (from left to right, Tyrion, Dany, Yara, and Theon).

Sometimes it is necessary to introduce our most intimate insights to make a point. When the episode aired on June 19, 2016, I thought how incongruous it was. In this image those who have power are women: Tyrion, the queen’s adviser, is a dwarf and Theon was literally castrated by Ramsay. When I saw the scene in 2016, I thought that we were getting the spectacle of the buttocks of the hyper-masculinised Yara, who negotiates with Dany, but they show us her buttocks in a phallic way.

A few years ago I visited the Tower of London and saw Henry VIII’s armour. I was surprised by the large metallic bulge in the genital area of the armour. Whoever was directing the tour spoke of it as a psychological weapon or psyop. But here, and I’m following my soliloquy from years ago when the episode premiered, it is Yara’s buttocks that we see, who is not only a dyke but wants to be the first queen of the Iron Islands after killing Euron. The emasculated Theon who really has the right to rule the islands once again supports, now in front of Dany, Yara’s claim and in the end these two women reach an agreement right there, in the enclosure of the pyramid that we see above.

Anyone who remembers what I said in my article about Beth’s tits will see that a creature whose buttocks seduce us cannot be a great warrior that beats us too (or a world chess champion, in Beth’s case). This topic is so important that that essay of last November will give the title to the book of my next collection of articles, although this time the central theme will be feminism. What I noticed when I saw the episode for the first time is how the language of the images seduces us: how they put Yara in tight pants so that her buttocks are drawn next to the humble Theon, the broken man.

Women have bigger buttocks than us. Years before I had already noticed this trick and also by another pair of Jewish directors, the Wachowski brothers. I’ll never forget how in The Matrix we see very well drawn the buttocks under the pants of another woman, Trinity, when she is about to board a helicopter immediately after receiving a brief course to pilot it. In cinematic language, they used a low shot by showing us this brave female warrior from behind. But this time the psyop was not the armour protrusion for Henry VIII’s balls, but Trinity’s elegant buttocks in a nonsexual scene.

Published in: on April 23, 2021 at 1:23 pm  Comments Off on Battle of the bastards  

A response…

to what Walsh says: here.

Even racialist Americans choose Christian suicide. This is a screenshot of what Wallace’s site looks like today. Every day he changes images for it. Remember that Luther introduced the Old Testament to the Aryan mind by translating it to German. Taking into account what Jamie says below (in that thread, after Walsh’s comment), Wallace is one of those typical men who doesn’t realise that the parental abuse he suffered as a lad—he was involuntarily committed by his parents to a psychiatric ward—is unconsciously related to his clinging to their religion.

This psychological phenomenon is called ‘identifying with the perpetrator’, instead of rebelling (what I do in my 11-book autobiography).

Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 11:38 am  Comments Off on A response…  

My father’s tale

I’ll be busy for a few days and won’t post articles until I finish a course. But I would like to leave these lines during my absence. The thing is, when reading Karlheinz Deschner’s chapter on Pope Gregory I came across this sentence:

Archbishop Maximus did public penance in July 599, prostrate after hours in a street and shouting: ‘I have sinned against God and blessed Gregory’.

The anecdote reminded me of a story that my father told me decades ago. A king had to humble himself for days at the doors of the pope’s residence because he feared for the salvation of his soul: begging the Vicar of Christ to forgive him (I think the pope’s name was Gregory). Finally the pope deigned to open the doors and forgive him. My father told me this with enthusiasm, in the sense that even the most powerful king had to humble himself before the headperson of the Roman Catholic Church. The lad I was didn’t like that story, but only much later did I begin to understand my father’s mind.

One of the milestones in understanding why he was so destructive to me was Silvano Arieti’s book that I have already talked about in Day of Wrath. In Father, the sixth book of my series of eleven I quote some passages from Arieti that astonished me and I’m going to explain them with my own examples. Think of the baby monkeys that are sold as pets, how they cling to the owner as if she were a mother (the instinct is hard-wired in the creature as it’s vital not to fall from the trees). The point is that some adults deal with childhood trauma like these young pets do with their owners: by desperately clinging to authoritarian figures.

Arieti mentions his patients who, to use my example, hung themselves like little apes onto substitute images of their parents: a church, a political party, and even their own spouse. In Father I analyse how, in repressing his childhood traumas, he clung to no less than three defensive mechanisms: religion, nationalism, and his wife. But we are talking about pathological levels of hanging onto the surrogate parent, like an ape who never grows. The example that comes to mind is a biographer of Mary Baker Eddy who recounted that one of her most faithful disciples declared that even if she had seen Mrs. Eddy commit a crime, she wouldn’t believe her own eyes!

That is the level of co-dependent subjugation my father wielded regarding his church, the nationalist myths of the country where he was raised, and his wife. So when in my adolescence my mother went crazy my father went crazy too: what in my books I’ve called the captive mind or folie à deux.

I am not going to explain here everything I said in my sixth book in Spanish. The English speaker can order a copy of my first book to get an idea (see Letter to mom Medusa on the sidebar). What I want to get to is that some insecure people tend to fall into a state of folie à deux not only with the wife, but with the church or political party to which they belong. Analogous cases of Eddy’s disciple are endemic, for example, when I try to argue with those who cannot conceive that Mesoamerican Indians ate their children despite the overwhelming evidence from the first ethnologist of the American continent.

Once the defence mechanism is established, for instance the nationalistic pride of some Mexicans, the subject is capable of the most irrational scepticism before the evidence for the simple fact that what he is doing is protecting a worldview, his ego or substitute parent. From this angle we can understand why even some Jew-wise racialists, as we saw in my post yesterday, don’t tolerate that one fails to honour the god of the Jews. That powerful archetype functions like a surrogate parent.

Arieti’s book is entitled Interpretation of Schizophrenia and, although it deals with psychiatric cases, as I read it I realised that it could apply equally to an enormous number of people who have never been diagnosed psychiatrically.

My father comes to mind. He was enthusiastic about the pious tale of the pope who made a king humble himself in Rome. Now many Americans, equally childish, desire a powerful father in the form of the State and are excited that the country of the First Amendment will soon repudiate that amendment. It doesn’t matter whether the defence mechanism is religious or political: the psychological need is the same. Just as Eddy’s disciple wouldn’t believe her eyes as Mrs. Eddy became a god-like figure, I have met people who deny the historicity of Lenin’s and Stalin’s crimes.

The drive that compels us—to quote the lyrics of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony—to believe in ‘a loving Father behind the starry vault’ means that Beethoven had a drunken father who, as a child, often beat him. We are mammals and, as the monkey of the anecdote, the unconscious need to have a surrogate father once our dad fails is infinite: a Christian attempt to heal childhood traumas. But it is deceptive magic because Yahweh is not our father, he’s our enemy.

Those who haven’t read my essay ‘God’, a page from one of my eleven books, could read it now.

Published in: on February 2, 2021 at 6:37 pm  Comments Off on My father’s tale  

Whipping the fog and pride

‘It was as useless to fight against the interpretations of ignorance as to whip the fog’.

—George Elliot, Middlemarch

Throughout the first decades of my life I was very naive. I believed that it was possible to reason with people simply by citing facts and solid arguments based on those facts. I hadn’t realised that humanity is a failed species, and that throughout civilisations humans have believed simply what they want to believe, even if they are the most horrible and cruel religions or secular ideologies.

After reading Schopenhauer I realised that everything has to do with the will, and that it is impossible to change the worldview of an ordinary human unless one first gains his will.

When I learned in my twenties of liberal Christian criticism about the historicity of New Testament accounts, in my infinite naivety I believed that I could use that knowledge to argue with my father. For example, I once told him that Herod’s massacre of the innocents could not be historical since Flavius Josephus, the historian of the 1st century of our era, would not have overlooked it in his famous history of Jewry. But Josephus doesn’t mention it. The only thing my father did was get angry, and of course my solid argument didn’t make the slightest dent in his traditional Catholic worldview.

The same I came to observe with the people of the left whom I dealt with. As my visitors know, I grew up in a country in Latin America. In the days before the internet, my acquaintances were not interested in what could be accessed through the cultural magazines of the country, for example, the magazine Vuelta by Octavio Paz: who criticised Marxism-Leninism. The left-wing people whom I dealt with weren’t interested in Paz’s magazine, even though he was the Spanish speaker whose prose was the most lyrical in his day.

(Left, Juan del Río and his wife, who invited me to enter Eschatology in December 1978. Both have already died.) Likewise, when I began to apostatise from Eschatology, a cult of the New Age type in which I spent some years of my life (see the first of my essays in Daybreak), my teacher Juan del Río didn’t answer any of my arguments even when I sent them in writing. Juan died because eschatologists believe that all diseases have a psychosomatic aetiology, and despite having the financial means, a colon cancer that tormented him for years wasn’t properly treated. In his book-review ‘Do not rely on “mental healing”, scepticism is healthy’, the American S. Currie tells about a similar case:

My mother left leather-bound editions of The Sickle (1918) and The Sharp Sickle (1938) [the textbooks of Eschatology] to me before she passed away. She used to read to me from these books on Sundays when I was young. I believe her mother, my grandmother, originally introduced her to these books when she was a young woman. Both my mother and grandmother died of colon cancer. My father was a physician. In my mother’s case, she kept her early symptoms secret from my Dad and everyone else so that she could work on them via ‘mental healing’. When at last she did tell my Dad and she went to her doctor, it was too late. I both love these books as my mother’s close possessions, and despise them for encouraging her to ignore modern medicine. I will not leave them to my children.

Some time later, now with the advantage of the internet, I discovered the forums of white nationalists, and it happened exactly the same that had happened to me with my father, the Latin American leftists and the eschatologists: they don’t tolerate cognitive dissonance. If they tolerated it the first thing they would do would be a severe examination of conscience of how it is possible to be Jew-wise and at the same time bend the knee before the god of the Jews. It took me a few years to realise that white nationalists are as closed-minded as my father, the people of the old left that I dealt with, and the eschatologists.

For the record, I have been in this world for over sixty years, and this has been my experience with the common human. Trying to fight ignorance with all of them has been like whipping the fog: a pointless experience. I’m not referring to one hundred percent of Christians, leftists or white nationalists because it is obvious that there are exceptions. I mean the bulk of the population.

What they all lack is a little humility. I abandoned Christianity, leftist ideologies, Eschatology and White Nationalism out of humility (now I don’t consider myself a white nationalist but rather a ‘priest of the 14 words’ to distinguish myself from them): humility to face tough or ugly facts. What all these people suffer from is pride, the original sin to quote their own vocabulary.

Published in: on January 23, 2021 at 1:42 pm  Comments Off on Whipping the fog and pride  

Folie en masse

‘Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one’. —Charles Mackay.

This quotation comes from a book first published in 1841.

Published in: on January 23, 2021 at 12:01 am  Comments Off on Folie en masse