Chess postscript

I would like to add something to what we have said in the last two books of Daybreak Press: On Beth’s Cute Tits and The Human Side of Chess.

In a game played today at the FIDE World Cup 2021, the camera captured the agonies that the chess player suffers when he commits a blunder, one of the themes of The Human Side (see the exact moment: here).

When we move the camera away we can see, in that same gaming room, that the women are playing separately: a parallel tournament to that of the men. The reason for this is that the difference in rating turns this intellectual sport into something similar to physical sports: males beat females. Unlike the media lies like the popular Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit in which the cute Beth beats the world champion, in the real world they have to separate the gals from the guys.

I know there are not many chess fans among racially conscious whites. Still, when The Human Side is available from Lulu, Inc. in both Spanish and English I will post a link here.

Published in: on July 19, 2021 at 1:01 pm  Comments (2)  

The human side of chess, 16

Stuck on a Greek island

The year in which I wrote the first draft of this book marked a century since the birth of Carlos Torre. Our age is, in many ways, worse than 1904: especially in overpopulation and in degradation of culture. But there is more freedom to question the family institution in which some parents assault their kids’ minds. A hundred years ago it was impossible to film Shine or even write about a similar case in real life. Claroscuro was titled this Oscar-winning film in Mexico, where millions of viewers saw how an abusive father literally drives his son mad.

There are two ways of seeing Caissa: as the great whore of the marginalised and even of those who have suffered crises like the one Torre suffered, or as a generous mother who welcomes the marginalised into her lap. In the original version of this booklet of 2004, an abominable bias towards the first interpretation appeared, although when speaking of my nostalgic park we glimpse that this mother welcomed many social outcasts and abused young people at home.

The fact is that not all of us were able to dedicate ourselves to cinema like GM Marcel Sisniega. At sixteen he had managed to become the national chess champion of Mexico. He came from such a wealthy family that he even had beautiful palm trees in his Cuernavaca garden. When Sisniega retired from competitive chess in his thirties, he presented his last book at La Cabaña of Las Arboledas park. I attended the event and at his speech he said that if the will to win had died out, as it had died out in him, it was pointless to continue playing chess tournaments. After that sporting farewell presentation before a select group of fans who went to La Cabaña, Sisniega devoted himself to the seventh art and in 1996 he made his debut in the film industry with the making of a short film. But even though Sisniega was a year younger than me, he died in 2013.

(Left, Marcel Sisniega Campbell.) Not all of us were able to have a career like Sisniega’s because not all of us received support from the family. That is why, although I dealt little with Fernando Pérez Melo in the park (who in a tournament in the 1980s came to play with Sisniega), I dedicate this booklet to that poor fellow who died after Sisniega died. The point is that the marginalised individual has to do something to escape his fate, and along with drugs, Caissa is one of the best ways to do it, although without killing neurons.

As a teenager I read a comic from Editorial Novaro where the origin of the game of chess was explained. With friendly illustrations I saw the story of a king of ancient Greece stuck on an island. His soldiers were hungry. Then the king devised a game to entertain them, from which chess would emerge.

Being trapped on a small island is a great story to understand the psychology of the player, and why many of these powerless individuals, but hungry for fight and life like those soldiers, have had no choice but to become immersed in a simulation of war, as is the magical kingdom of the sixty-four squares. At the time I review this book, seventeen years after the first version, I cannot even fight for the creation of an ethnostate because I am alone. The so-called white nationalists, bourgeois to the core, enact a reactionary, not a revolutionary, ideology. Fortunately, these Americans are heading for the biggest economic crisis in their history, and since the world’s fiat currencies are tied to the dollar, when the latter hyperinflates we will all suffer stagnations comparable to that of the hungry on the Greek island.

I would like to end this booklet with the words of the cartoonist Luis de la Torre from his cartoon series that he entitled ‘The Most Beautiful Way to Waste Time’ that I saw in the newspaper many years ago:

It seems incredible that a macropolis like this one where we survive barely has three or four [chess] clubs. Why in this Valley of Tears is it not promoted as education and therapy in schools, delegations, parks, companies, houses of culture, etc.? It sure can become a vice. But it is the healthiest of all vices.

Or the least unhealthy I would say.

Published in: on July 8, 2021 at 12:29 pm  Comments (1)  

The human side of chess, 15

What to do in case of mental disorder

Surprising in such prolific chess literature as that of the United States is the absence of biographies that explain the mental disorders of their chess champions: Morphy and Fischer. I have complained about friends in the park who lacked the heart to inquire about the personal tragedies of Roger, Iván, Gilberto and Ricardo. For example, I don’t remember hearing anything pertinent about the scar that Gilberto wore on his face due to the blow of the dish thrown by his mother. But this is not limited to my acquaintances: it is endemic outside the chess field. In writing this essay, I tried to search the internet for biographical material on Morphy, Steinitz and Torre. I was surprised that the attitude of the authors of books and web pages was identical to that of friend Antonio, whose supposed friendship was ‘to talk exclusively about chess’.

A section from the fourth volume of Kasparov’s five-volume collection of his predecessors is an exception, in that it portrays Fischer through astonishing anecdotes. Although Fischer’s feat from 1970 to 1972 is admirable from a strictly sporting viewpoint, it’s impossible to read those pages without thinking that Fischer was, in his personal life, a poor devil. Do you know, my dear readers, someone who could have had fame, money and glory and throughout the years threw that opportunity away as Fischer did? It is worth reading Kasparov’s My Great Predecessors, Volume 4 and finding out what happened to poor Bobby after he triumphed over Boris. I am referring to the final pages that are already free of game analysis and focus, pace the friend Antonio, on the human side of chess; in this case, Fischer’s psychological profile. However, and like Reinfeld, Kasparov knew nothing about the morbidity of family dynamics that can flourish in the adult in the form of psychosis.

Not even psychiatrists know these things.

If mental health professionals, or American chess writers, were down to earth they would try to write psycho-biographical studies on Morphy and Fischer. But when it comes to psychological trauma, it is impossible to find an in-depth analysis of those who have suffered this type of crisis. In this aspect my work is innovative. It seems that I am the first person in history who has devoted more than a thousand pages to pondering the tragedy of his own family (see the titles of my books on page 3).

To the names of deranged chess masters I have mentioned I might add Pillsbury. And let’s not forget the alcoholism of Chigorin, Alekhine and Tal. Former world champion Tal and his buddy Korchnoi, who was on the verge of taking the title from Karpov in 1978, were badly beaten up in Cuba for being drunk. Once Alekhine showed up to a simultaneous exhibition so drunk that he wet himself on the floor and the show had to be suspended. The numerous chess magazines circulating in endless languages are as misleading as Velasco’s book on Torre. They focus on the sporty aspect omitting the real life of the pathetic players.

The total lack of knowledge of the human mind in both psychiatrists and chess players is evident in the sovereign folly of blaming Staunton, a retired player in his day, for Morphy’s madness. I find it regrettable that even Reinfeld repeats this like a parrot. Ironically, it was thanks to Reinfeld’s book that I learned that it was Morphy’s mother who forbade her son from playing in public places again, and the best player in the world obeyed like a child. Also the professional chess writers Horowitz and Rothenberg repeat the Staunton myth in The Personality of Chess, where they quote the incredibly stupid words of Ernest Jones, Freud’s disciple, that Morphy was burned out by success. Based on the Freudian axiom of exonerating the abusive father or mother, Jones blames Staunton, who Morphy never played with! His crazy theories appear in the essay ‘The Problem of Paul Morphy’ published in 1931: a classic in psychoanalytic literature on the chess player. In Mexico, a country where the refutation that has been made to the Vienna quack, Freud, is unknown, I have found the fans repeating Jones’ nonsense.

Thus I arrive at the central question: What to do in case of mental disorder of a loved one? What to do, for example, if he gets naked on the streets or surround himself with women’s shoes?

With psychiatry ruled out as an iatrogenic profession, the good news is that we have the humanitarian alternative of Soteria Houses in Europe.

Unlike the therapy applied to Torre, which impaired his faculties and left him resentful for life with Ferriz, entering the Soteria Houses is perfectly voluntary. In the United States, those precincts flourished thanks to public funds before Big Pharma lobbied for the subsidies to be withdrawn. (The multibillion-dollar companies that manufacture drugs don’t tolerate competition from their medical model for treating disorders of the spirit.) In the Soteria-type houses that exist in Europe, the dignity of those who suffer a crisis is not violated. Neither you will find treatments such as electroshock, surgical lobotomy or intellectual impairment practised by chemicals euphemistically called ‘antipsychotics’. No matter how serious their delusions are, the person is respected and a friendly environment is provided until, after some time of good treatment, they can regain their senses.

Generally, people who get disturbed are not dangerous. Steinitz believing in his telekinetic powers, Torre imitating St. Francis or Morphy declaiming on the roof ‘and the little king will walk away in shame’ were harmless. Had they lived for a few months in a Soteria House, similar to the quarters for the alienated of the 19th-century Quakers, they would have recovered. There are no Soteria houses in Mexico, although the last Robert Whitaker’s video that I’ve watched now that I review this book, ‘The Rising Non-Pharmaceutical Paradigm for Psychosis’, shows us that alternative in first world countries:

When I advanced the idea of renting in Mexico City an apartment to take care of a friend of Russian descent along with an assistant (a young man who was disturbed), his older brother’s response was to commit him to a repressive institution, where he died. It is sad to say: but psychiatric repression is originated from family repression (Morphy’s family, too, wanted to commit him). That flat would have been cheaper for our friend than the psychiatric fees he paid. But the deference in the West to the medical profession is too ingrained. I hope that the way the medical establishment behaved now that I review this book, with all that media cancellation of the effectiveness of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 (to profit from Big Pharma vaccines), begins to wake up part of the population.

There are very few thinkers who have an exact idea of how the interests of pharmaceutical companies corrupt medical science. And this especially includes psychiatry. It was for this reason that I spent five years of my life, full time, researching the profession.

Published in: on July 7, 2021 at 12:50 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 15  

The human side of chess, 14

The profession called psychiatry

The first thing to keep in mind when a loved one is in crisis is the Hippocratic oath of doctors: do no more harm. Unfortunately, it is precisely the doctors who violate that oath, since the crises of the spirit should never be the province of the doctor.

Carlos Torre was electro-shocked in Monterrey when he lived with his three brothers, all doctors. I read this in the book 64 Variaciones Sobre un Tema de Torre by Germán de la Cruz. I was so intrigued that I made some inquiries. I spoke with Jorge Aldrete, a bridge and chess fan from Monterrey based in Mexico City, who had sold me several imported chess sets. Both Aldrete and Ferriz suggested that I contact Arturo Elizondo in Monterrey. On April 24, 2004, I spoke with Mr Elizondo, who graciously answered my questions. This man of more than eighty years was neither more nor less an eyewitness of the electroshocks to Torre. When I asked him if what de la Cruz said in his book was reliable, he replied: ‘I am sure because to control his physicality’ he was ‘by his side’ during electroconvulsive therapy. I asked him what the symptoms were so that they took such a drastic measure with the Yucatecan chess master. Elizondo replied: ‘The only thing, he was stubborn but he wasn’t aggressive and nothing like that’. Elizondo only slightly disagreed with de la Cruz’s version insofar as he affirmed that the brothers weren’t directly responsible for the commitment. ‘It was the nephew, surnamed Torre’, a Masonic grand master and colleague of Elizondo at the Nuevo León lodge. According to Elizondo, this happened in 1957 in the psychiatric ward of the General Hospital of Monterrey. Due to Torre’s ‘excitatory stage’ to use Elizondo’s expression, the diagnosis was manic-depressive, which is now called bipolar disorder. It had been the arousal phase of his manic-depressive crisis when they applied electroshocks to calm him down.

Universities teach kids psychiatric treatments, such as electroshock, as if they were the praxis of real medical science. No wonder that, being Elizondo a chemist sympathetic to medicine, he repeated to me what is claimed at the universities: that Torre-type excitations are of a ‘neurological nature’, a claim that Elizondo repeated several times during our telephone conversation. The truth is that, without any laboratory testing, psychiatrists rule out psychogenic hypotheses of delusions (see once again my anti-psychiatric site whose address appears on page 3 of this book). He also told me that electroshocks are ‘a very noble therapy’ because it ‘completely relaxes’ the excited. Elizondo participated in the coercive relaxation of Torre, in which he even helped hold him down. He even confessed to me, ‘One or two days I gave him accommodation, then he left with his nephew’. But what Elizondo ignored is that electroshock is a crime. This electric hammer blow to the head frequently erases part of the memory of the people who receive it. One of the cases I mention on my antipsychiatric site is that of a graduate student who, after she was shocked from depression, forgot what she had learned in college. We can imagine the handicap that the ‘therapy’ represented for her career. In Torre’s time there was the aggravating circumstance that it was common to perform marathon electroshock sessions: a practice that some call electrical lobotomy. We can imagine how this barbaric practice could have diminished Torre’s intellectual capacity for chess. Do you remember the scene of the electroshock applied to the character played by Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

This type of assault on healthy brains (like the character played by Nicholson, the electro-shocked folk had a healthy brain before ‘therapy’) continues to be performed in Mexico. This is done even in the largest psychiatric hospital in the nation: the Fray Bernardino Álvarez Hospital in Tlalpan, where students do their internships. In 1960, three years after his experience in Monterrey, Torre was once again harassed by his sponsors and by psychiatrists. When he lived in Mexico City, he was committed for a few days at the Sanatorio Floresta, which was in San Ángel, under the care of psychiatrist Alfonso Millán. Alfonso Ferriz told me this personally, who in his splendid naivety paid for the commitment. The Floresta psychiatric hospital no longer exists, but as I indicate on my aforementioned website, on November 25, 1970 an article appeared in Siempre! entitled ‘A season in hell’ written by two sane young men who were interned at Floresta. The authors of the article reveal that a grandson of Victoriano Huerta was lobotomised and confined there: ‘Before, he was very aggressive until he had a lobotomy. He now is a child. At meals he twists around on the chair, he eats desperately. While eating he drives the flies away from the table’. Ferriz and Elizondo acted in good faith, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. According to Ferriz himself in one of the interviews recorded by Obregón, Torre felt resented with him for life after the outrage of which he was a victim in the psychiatric hospital. In fact, Torre didn’t see Ferriz again until the latter visited Mérida.

In his book, Gabriel Velasco, ignoring what psychiatry is, after the New York crisis wrote that Torre ‘needed medical care’. There were still no electroshocks in the 1920s. But if Velasco refers to some other psychiatric therapy that was applied to him, this way of using language (‘medical care’) is a euphemism for medical crime. In the prologue to Velasco’s book, Jesús Suárez praises that Velasco has omitted all speculation about Torre’s ills. The truth is that it was pure intellectual cowardice, both by Velasco and Suárez, to have omitted that he was electro-shocked in Monterrey; that in Mexico he was admitted to the Floresta, and that he resented Ferriz for life.

Those who knew him were struck by the fact that Carlos Torre was a very affectionate person with people. He called them all angelito, padrecito, madrecita (little angel, little father, little mother): expressions that portray the goodness of his character. Let’s put ourselves in the master’s shoes for a moment. Imagine that we speak in sweet Mexican diminutives. How would we feel after the involuntary commitment by our loved ones? What would we feel after the assault on the brain in Monterrey? In addition to the intellectual loss, wouldn’t it be an attack on one’s dignity and self-esteem? How would our self-image look after the attack?

Although Ferriz assured me that he wasn’t electro-shocked in Mexico City, they administered him psychiatric drugs at the Floresta. I wonder if Torre was tormented there with drugs called neuroleptics: a ‘hell’ as described by the authors of Siempre! According to the words of Ferriz himself, which I wrote down in an interview at his house in March 2004, I guess that Torre was sane when committed. Ferriz confessed to me: ‘But also, he didn’t seem crazy! It was hard to get what was wrong with him’. Like the ‘stubbornness’ Elizondo spoke of, Ferriz interprets anger as a mental disorder. I didn’t argue with Ferriz or Elizondo. But after the interview with the former I wondered what they had done to Torre in the Floresta, the psychiatric hospital that had Huerta’s lobotomised grandson in custody. And by the way: was this guy lobotomised there? Nobody asks questions of this kind in Mexico for the simple reason that it’s difficult to imagine that a pseudoscience is taught in universities. It is a stupendous irony that in Mexico the medical institution had to have arisen precisely in the same building of the Inquisition of New Spain: the palace of the old Faculty of Medicine.

This brief book is far from my extensive treatise on psychiatry that can be read on the internet. But just to give an idea of what I am talking about, I will mention a chilling fact: In the 21st century, lobotomies continue to be performed in Mexico and the rest of the world. The fact that defenceless citizens are currently electro-shocked and lobotomised, as they did to the character that Nicholson played in One Flew, may seem incredible to us. But a little story will shed some light on this matter.

For three centuries, Western civilisation has been cruel to people suffering from spiritual crises. Although the individual who suffers a sudden crisis doesn’t harm anyone—let’s take as a paradigm the buffoonery of imitating St. Francis on a public streetcar—the brain of he who suffers the crisis is damaged by society. From the origins of the mental institution at Bedlam in London and general hospitals in France, the treatment of the individual in crisis has been simply to torture him with various techniques (see ‘From the Great Confinement to chemical Gulag’, pages 143-166 in my book Daybreak). Although these tortures have nothing to do with real medical necessity, they were given a scientific lustre in the 19th century for public acceptance. I wonder what they did to Steinitz in one of those so-called hospitals. In his time, psychiatrists hadn’t devised electroshock and lobotomy, techniques that directly damage the brain, but they did devise some torments that broke the spirit of the person in crisis. In 19th-century nursing homes, beatings and chains were a thing of every day. There were even torture devices. I have not read the biography of Steinitz written by Bachmann. I suppose the Kneip technique applied on Steinitz, an extreme regimen of ice water baths, was involuntary.

Iatrogenesis is the stupid attempts to heal by doctors that produce new and more serious disorders than the existing ones. I believe that Steinitz’s illusory ideas at the end of his life, such as his belief that he could move chess pieces without touching them, were aggravated by psychiatric iatrogenesis.

The Kneip torment is discontinued in psychiatry. Due to modern technology, since the 1930s medical science has progressed from tormenting Steinitz’s body to directly assaulting the brain—what they did to Torre. In addition to electroshocks, chemical lobotomisers that are administered to those who cross through crises like the one Torre suffered are currently very fashionable. With a prescription, about twenty of these chemicals are sold in Mexico: Clopsine, Ekilid, Fluanxol, Flupazine, Geodon, Haldol, Haloperil, Largactil, Leponex, Leptopsique, Melleril, Piportil, Pontiride, Rimastine, Risperdal, Semap, Seroquel, Sinogan, Siqualine, Stelazine, and Zyprexa. Aliosha Tavizon, with whom I used to speak at the Gandhi Cafeteria and who in his category won the Carlos Torre Tournament in 2003, was given one of these crap drugs due to an unreciprocated love that temporarily unhinged him. For months he had a crooked neck and many other muscles in his body. To speak to him, he had to position his torso in profile: a tardive dystonia that may have been irreversible. Under no circumstances, not even during flowery psychoses, should an individual ingest any of these dangerous neurotoxins. Fortunately, there are principled psychiatrists, like Peter Breggin, who denounce the crime of prescribing disabling drugs in their profession.

The West, and especially the United States, have fallen into the cognitive error of addressing any psychological disturbance from a biological POV, ignoring the humanities. I do not think that this pseudoscience will be repudiated soon despite the iatrogenesis it produces. In my treatise I show, in a nutshell, that the profession doesn’t pass the falsifiability test devised by Karl Popper that distinguishes between science and pseudoscience, and that those who finance psychiatric ‘science’ in journals are the same companies that manufacture the drugs mentioned above. The academia itself has been corrupted by Big Pharma. If the reader doesn’t want to read my book because I am not an established author, read Mad In America: Bad Science, Bad Medicine, and The Enduring Mistreatment of the Mentally Ill (Cambridge: Perseus, 2001). Robert Whitaker, the author, won the Pulitzer Prize for medical matters.

Published in: on July 5, 2021 at 2:31 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 14  

The human side of chess, 13

Bobby Fischer had horrendous problems with his mother, who invited her Jewish friends from Brooklyn to her apartment; friends who in the eyes of the boy Fischer were but little buddies. Fischer confessed to the women who knew him intimately that, at the age of twelve, he resented the absence of his mother as a great betrayal, who had a greater preference for her little buddies than for the child Bobby. When Fischer achieved grandmaster status at sixteen, his mother left him and his sister to move with friends to Europe. The teenage Fischer never mourned for his parental losses (his father had abandoned him even earlier, since Fischer was two years old). He rather did the opposite: he threw himself on Caissa’s skirts with unequalled vehemence. Such was the vehemence with which he amalgamated his life with Caissa’s that she gave him the magnificent gift of defeating, singlehandedly, the Soviet chess school at the age of twenty-nine. But out of his early unresolved experiences, which some of us call the betrayal of love, emerged the adult Fischer’s anti-Semitism.

Fischer was never a reader of, say, a wise scholar about Jewry like Kevin MacDonald, who continues to write about the subversive way Jews have been behaving in the West. Fischer’s anti-Semitism was more rancid, and at times paranoid. Already exiled in Budapest, he told one of his interviewers: ‘Day and night the Jews persecute me’. He called Kasparov ‘the Wenstein Jew’ despite the fact that Fischer was ethnically Jewish by both parents. (As our society doesn’t allow the child to express feelings of anger towards his parents, once the child is grown these feelings are transferred.)

After conquering the sceptre Fischer fled the world, especially from the journalists who harassed him. In 1975, the year that all the fans longed to see him defend his title against Karpov, Fischer befriended Claudia Mokarow, an older woman whom he affectionately called mommy. When the journalists tracked him down Fischer ran to Claudia’s apartment yelling: ‘Mommy, mommy, they’re here! Help me mommy: they’ve found me!’ Obviously Bobby, considered by some to be the greatest player in history, needed a motherly surrogate for the mother he never had. He never grew up. Some journalists from whom Fischer fled saw symbolism in the fact that Fischer’s mother was called Regina (a Late Latin feminine name meaning ‘queen’) and that when he was a child she was treated precisely as queen by the community of Jewish buddies that Regina brought to her apartment. Fischer never opened one of his classic chess games with the move 1. d4, pawn to Queen four, as we said before the algebraic notation.

Alexander Alekhine (World
Champion from 1927 to 1946).

I had already mentioned that Alekhine took it out on his spouses. His acquaintances noted Alekhine’s strange submission to authority: the quintessential parental figure. He was married four times, always to women older than him. A writer that Reinfeld mentions comments that it seemed that Alekhine wanted to be taken care of, and Edward Lasker says that when Alekhine was twenty years old, in a club he preferred to dance with a woman twice his age and thickness even though there were fairer girls around. All of this suggests an unresolved problem with the mother, who taught the child how to move the pieces. The proof is that one of his wives was twenty years old and the other thirty! His friends teased him that she was Philidor’s wife, a mummy. The tall and handsome Alekhine, whose games, especially those of his youth, are among the most artistic in the kingdom of Caissa, needed a mother. But for being so cruel to his wives he died alone and as a refugee in Portugal, while in Europe a witch-hunt was perpetrated against those who had collaborated with the Third Reich. Reinfeld wrote: ‘My feeling is that Alekhine was an unusually timid man who was terrified all his life by a profound feeling of insecurity’. And a few pages later he adds:

From all accounts, Madame Alekhine’s affection and maternal solicitude meant a great deal to Alekhine in his later years and had a very beneficial influence on him. But what more convincing proof could there be of his timidity, his insecurity, his fear of facing the world? There may also be significance in the fact that Alekhine was taught chess by her mother; this may have created a powerful emotional bond between his need for chess and his constant need for a mother. When all these elements are added up, I think we have an irresistible weight of evidence for the view that Alekhine’s genius for chess had its origin in an unusually virulent form of insecurity.

When Alekhine took refuge in Portugal from the witch-hunt unleashed by the allied forces he was already completely alone. Two days before his death he told a Portuguese fan: ‘Lupi, this loneliness is killing me!’ Unlike the title of this book in Spanish, En Pos de un Rey Metafórico, for the English translation I chose The Human Side of Chess. And it is that the photograph of someone who had been an idol in my early teens died in a hotel in his days of maximum solitude in times when the allied forces perpetrated a true holocaust of Germans, portrays the side of the game that fans don’t dare to see.

Also the great North American champion of the 19th century had something hideous unresolved with the figure of his mother. Paul Morphy, a native of New Orleans, the city where Carlos Torre would later grow up, had a curious habit of forming women’s shoes in a semicircle ‘because he liked to look at them.’

During a period of his life he would go up to the roof of his house to declaim in French a paragraph that seems to be taken from a song, of which its last words are et le petit Roi s’en ira tout penaud: and the little king will walk away covered in shame. Morphy saw no one except his mother with whom he spent every afternoon, whom he obeyed even though he was already the best chess player in the world. Even when his mother found him dead in the bathtub, Morphy was surrounded by women’s shoes. Morphy defeated all the active grandmasters of his time, including Löwenthal, Anderssen and Paulsen; although the match I like the most was the one he beat Harrwitz in Paris, played a century before I was born. That match shows that Morphy had already found, since then, how to handle the semi-open and closed openings. But like Fischer, Morphy suffered from paranoia. He believed that his brother-in-law and his friend Binder were conspiring to poison him and destroy his clothes, and it is said that on one occasion he showed up at Binder’s office and attacked him. Let us never forget that, like Fischer, Morphy retired from chess at the height of his chess career.

Paul Morphy, who died at 47.

I have said that Fischer’s greatest pleasure was breaking the adversary’s ego. This reminds me of why I was attracted to chess as a boy. I remember a time when I told my parents that the best moment of my life was when my opponent lost his morale to my game. This memory may give me the key to penetrate Fischer’s mind. ‘Break the ego’ is an oblique resonance of how his mother broke Fischer’s ego as a child (and how my mother destroyed it through constant humiliations). When decades before I found out that Fischer had said similar things I said, I was referring to a problem not only with my mother but with my father. In sixth grade my female teacher once asked the question of what had been the happiest moment of the students. To the teacher’s fluster, I replied euphorically that the happiest moment was when I defeated my father in chess: whom I loved enormously but at the same time I had to refute. His vehement religious beliefs had hurt the sensitive child that I was, but my childish mind didn’t know how to refute them.

Some have said that chess is a game of schachmaty, of killing the father. Before I read the enlightened philosophers and freethinkers, chess was a perfect metaphorical substitute for going after the father. The same word ‘refutation’ was constantly used by the adolescent I was, although without arguments yet, when talking about what I wanted to do with my parents’ beliefs: put an end to them. But because we love our parents, the volcano of anger that many children, and adult children, feel towards them can only erupt with substitute objects: opponents whose ego we break as Fischer would say. However, such a transfer can produce a split personality, especially in those who spend their lives running away from themselves through gambling. As I said, I have heard of various fans, and other adults who have nothing to do with chess, who have been damaged by their abusive parents and have suffered psychotic breakdowns: like that funny crazy man who, according to Reuben Fine, believed that Botvinnik was the real leader of the Soviet Union. But that’s a distant case. I remember the late Ricardo Bravo, one of those who went to the park and who was known to have suffered hellish conditions at home. Ricardo crossed the line from mere psychological trauma to insanity and virtually committed suicide by abruptly crossing a busy avenue.

The human side of chess, 12

In case of mental disorder

‘First do no harm’.

—Hippocratic Oath

Carlos Torre Repetto undressed on a streetcar in 1926 on Fifth Avenue in New York. That happened during the crisis that eventually led him to quit chess. The immigration police deported him in a steamer to Merida. Gabriel Velasco, the author of the only well-written book about the Mexican grandmaster, omits these vital events about his life in his misnamed book The Life and Games of Carlos Torre. I know Velasco personally, but in the next few pages I will break the taboo of not writing about Torre’s life. What did the champions think of the Mexican GM? Alekhine wrote:

(Left, Carlos Torre.) Since 1914 the chess world has not seen a first-rate luminary, one of those players who, like Lasker and Capablanca, mark a milestone in contemporary history… But about six months ago, shortly after the New York Tournament, in the United States appeared a faint light susceptible—at least we hope so—of transforming into a star of the first magnitude. We are talking about the young Carlos Torre, who is nineteen years old and whose short career has peculiarities worthy of attention… Without a doubt, Torre is not mature, which should not be surprising in a young man who has so little serious practice, but we admire the solidity of his game as well as his brilliant tactical qualities that allow him to emerge safely from sometimes dangerous positions in which he finds himself due to lack of experience. After having examined a number of his games, we cannot but congratulate Dr Tarrasch on his resolve to invite him to the next tournament of international masters to be held in Baden-Baden.

Alekhine wrote these words in 1924. Just two years later, when he came within a shot of winning the 1926 Chicago Tournament, Torre had the New York crisis. It is worth saying that the only game that Torre played with Alekhine was a ‘grandmasters draw’ played precisely in the 1925 Baden-Baden tournament. Alekhine, who two years later would dethrone Capablanca, immediately accepted the premature draw proposition by Torre on move fourteen: a sign of the respect he had for the Mexican. That year, the Moscow International Tournament was also held, where Torre made a sensational start. He started out beating three strong masters, including Marshall. He then drew two games with Tartakower and Spielmann to obtain other resounding victories, one of them against Sämisch, with which he placed himself along with Bogoljubov, Rubinstein and Lasker leading the tournament. Lasker said: ‘These first steps by young Torre are undoubtedly the first steps of a future world champion’. One of the most famous games of that tournament was the one Torre played with Lasker himself, who had been world champion from 1894 until Capablanca dethroned him in 1921, four years before the Moscow Tournament. Lasker held the title of champion for twenty-seven years. This great champion had to face Torre in the twelfth round of the tournament and got to obtain a positional advantage in the opening: an opening that was baptised as Torre Attack because the Mexican master introduced it to the practice of masterful chess. But on move 25 something unexpected happened. Word spread in the tournament hall: ‘Torre has sacrificed his queen to Lasker!’, something that rarely happens in professional chess. When it happens it causes a sensation. Within minutes Torre and Lasker had fans around their board. That game, known as ‘The Mill’, carved the name of Torre in chess annals; among others, it deserved an extensive comment from Nimzowitsch in My System.

I have quoted what Alekhine and Lasker thought of Torre’s future. The other champion of the time was Capablanca; as I said, the only Latin American who has won the title of world chess champion. It is an irony that very few Mexicans, and Alfonso Ferriz is an honourable exception, openly say that Torre could have conquered it as well. Capablanca commented on Torre after the Moscow International Tournament: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if this young man soon started to beat us all’. The only game between Capablanca and Torre was played in that tournament. Capablanca was then the world champion, and his virtuosity lay especially in his mastery and understanding of the end of the game: that is why his game with Torre has a special value. The Mexican played with such precision and ingenuity that he managed to tie a very difficult endgame with the champion. Averbach, the Russian pedagogue, chose this ending to illustrate the theory of positions in his book Comprehensive Chess Endings: Bishop vs. Knight. When analysing the ending one is left with the feeling that this game between Capablanca and Torre is beyond the comprehension of ordinary fans, and that only a chess professor like Averbach and others can decipher it. When he played with Torre, Capablanca was at the height of his abilities. His game with the other Latin American is a tribute to the classic style of both, and should be studied as a paradigm of the endgame of knight against ‘bad’ bishop.

Torre’s arch was like the myth of Phaeton. After Torre’s crisis at the age of twenty-one, which marks the end of his brilliant but fleeting career, he lived without a profession, in a petty way and depending on his family until the early 1950s. He worked for a time in a pharmacy helping his brother in Tamaulipas, but he didn’t make a career or have children. In 1955 Alfonso Ferriz brought him to the capital of Mexico and kept him in a ‘very cheap’ guest house, according to him. Both Ferriz and Alejandro Báez, generous chess lovers in Mexico, tried to help him. Ferriz employed him in a hardware store, but the sixty-four-square aesthete was overwhelmed by the clientele.

During my vacations from junior high to high school, I worked at the Bank of Mexico and over time I purchased chess books for my collection (when I came of age I got rid of all of them). After work at the Bank of Mexico in the centre of the great capital, I would visit El Metropolitano: a chess den that, like all dens, reminds me of the room where opium addicts tried to escape from reality. In that unlikely place I listened to the chess master Alejandro Báez. His talk wasn’t directed at the beardless ephebe I was, but at the fans Carlos Escondrillas, Raúl Ocampo and Benito Ramírez who frequented El Metropolitano. My presence at a distance in those talks in 1973 went unnoticed. But what stuck with me the most was that Báez pointed out Torre’s admiration for San Francisco: the saint who undressed in a public place as a protest against the humiliation that his father had inflicted on him. I deduced from Baez’s talk that imitating the Franciscan buffoonery frustrated Torre’s career.

Carlos Torre died in 1978. The Russian magazine Schachmaty published an account of the tournaments of the time when Torre had flourished, from 1920 to 1926. Although Torre was then fifth in the world behind Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine and Vidmar, he was ahead of masters of the calibre of Nimzowitsch, Rubinstein, Bogoljubov and Reti. Note that this fifth place refers to the early years of Torre’s career. Would he have reached the top without his psychotic breakdown, imitating the man of Assisi? As I said, in the book that Velasco wrote about Torre the premature retirement of the master from Yucatán is taboo.

Some Mexican players wonder why if Chigorin, who was close to being a world champion, is considered the father of national chess in Russia, Mexican fans ignore Torre’s figure. One possible answer is that the stigma attached to the term ‘mentally ill’ is the most degrading thing we can imagine: more degrading even than having been in jail or having had a homosexual scandal in Victorian times. It is a subject buried in mystery, and the Criollo Velasco’s reluctance to touch on the subject perpetuates the darkness. Many grandmasters, and even world champions, have suffered nervous breakdowns. Although Steinitz is considered the first world champion, at the dawn of the 20th century he died in abject poverty. It is rumoured that he believed that he was in electrical communication with God, that he could give him a pawn advantage and, in addition, win him.

(Plaque in honour of Wilhelm Steinitz, World Champion from 1886 to 1894, in Prague’s Josefov district.) What causes insanity? Since it is prohibitive for today’s society to ponder the havoc that abusive parents wreak on the mind of the growing child to become an adult, a pseudoscience is tolerated in universities that, without any physical evidence, blames the body of the disturbed individual. This is such an important subject that I have written a dense treatise to unravel it. Here I will limit myself to mentioning some reflections that have to do with chess players.

One of the things that motivated me to write this little book is to settle the score with Carlos Torre’s biography. Unfortunately, there is no relevant biographical material on Torre to know exactly why he lost his sanity. The rumours of his supposed syphilis don’t convince me. Ferriz told me that his friends took him with whores in Moscow. But Torre was sane for the last eighteen years of his life. Had he had neurosyphilis his symptoms would have gone from bad to worse. Torre’s mystical deviations and his imitation of the man from Assisi suggest a psychogenic problem. Likewise, Torre’s nervousness, manifested in the film that captured him playing in Moscow, as well as his habit of smoking four daily packs of Delicados brand cigarettes, suggests a psychogenic problem.

The syphilitic hypothesis that Ferriz told me reminds me of some speculations about Nietzsche’s madness. The author of the Zarathustra suffered from psychosis for almost a dozen years until he died: a psychosis very different from Torre’s fleeting crisis. But as in Torre’s case, blaming a supposed venereal disease for Nietzsche’s disorder has been done so that his tragedy fits within the taboos of our culture.

The root of Nietzsche’s madness was not somatic. The ‘poisonous worms’, as Nietzsche called his mother and his sister in the original version of Ecce Homo (not the version censored by his sister), may have played a role. In The Lost Key Alice Miller suggests that the poisonous pedagogy applied to him by his mother and aunts as a child (his father died prematurely) would drive him mad as an adult. It is worth saying that Stefan Zweig’s splendid literary essay The Struggle Against the Daimon (Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche) has also been translated into English and Spanish. As Nietzsche confesses to us in Ecce Homo, a kind of autobiography where his delusions of grandeur are already noticeable, his mother and sister were ‘the true abysmal thought’ of the philosopher in the face of the eternal return of the identical.

Nor is it convincing what Báez said: that Torre masturbated a lot. In the 19th century the myth that excessive masturbation among boys caused insanity became fashionable; and when old Báez said that Torre was a consummate onanist, I can’t help but remember that myth. Equally wrong is the story of Raúl Ocampo. Although Ocampo is one of the best connoisseurs of Mexican chess, Juan Obregón captured him on the tape recorder maintaining a bizarre theory: that a telegram sent to Torre by the Jews to inform him that his girlfriend was breaking up with him was the trick that triggered the crisis. When I interviewed Alfonso Ferriz, one of the few survivors who knew Torre, he couldn’t tell me anything substantial about the Yucatecan’s childhood and adolescence: the time when his mind was structured and the only thing that could provide us with the lost key to understand his mental state. But one of Ferriz’s anecdotes that most caught my attention was that Torre ‘had an almost mystical respect for women’. He called women las santitas (the holy little ones). ‘How is the little saint?’ was his question when referring to Ferriz’s wife.

I would like to talk a little more about Las Arboledas park. Although Fernando Pérez Melo fled home due to abuse and became destitute, I don’t know of anyone among the park fans who has held his father responsible. Society has been obsessed with not seeing the obvious. As the mother is the most deified figure in Mexico, why not start with her, breaking the taboo of the parental deity? Just as it caused a shock among the ancient Mexicans to see how the bearded people pulled from the pinnacles of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan the effigy of the Coatlicue’s son during the fall of the Aztec capital, for us to mature the figure of the mother has to be defenestrated. When Humboldt visited Mexico, the New Spaniards unearthed the Coatlicue statue to show it to him. They didn’t understand this work of art and they buried it again.

When I speak with Mexicans, I realise that they continue to bury the symbols of those female figures and terrible archetypes that they don’t understand or don’t want to understand. For this reason, the ‘santitas’ that Torre spoke of—compare it with Nietzsche’s expression ‘poisonous worms’—continue to be an object of veneration in Mexico. However, and despite all this speculation of mine, there is no substantial information about Torre’s childhood. Ferriz says that Torre never spoke about his parents or his siblings. So, instead of speculating about his childhood, I will focus on the life of a chess player who died in more recent times and about whom a little more is known.

Published in: on July 2, 2021 at 7:20 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 12  

The human side of chess, 11

Daniel King vs. Karpov

When I was a teenager without a compass to orient myself in a complex field, like many others I suffered from acute bibliomania. I bought more than sixty chess books, many imported, where I spent all the money I had earned on various jobs during the high school and middle school vacations. I mistakenly believed that by reading them my game would improve dramatically. Now I only have a dozen. Capablanca, who unlike many chess players knew how to live life, had more cookbooks than chess books.

Alekhine said: ‘Young players put themselves at serious risk when they blindly imitate the innovations of the masters without first checking all the details and consequences of those innovations’. It’s fun to watch my opponents gear up by following the latest fad in fashion in, say, the Closed Ruy López opening only to be confronted with my plain Bird Defence against the Ruy they hadn’t studied. In a tournament I beat Roberto González since the opening with this so-called inferior defence. After Kramnik won the match against Kasparov thanks to his draws with those endgames that emerge from the Berlin Defences, the hobbyists should wake up to the fact that the previous openings that the GMs had made fashionable don’t mean that we fans should play them. (See the number of pages that in Volume C of the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, one of the twelve books that I now own, the Closed Ruy López occupies.)

Let us remember how when Bobby Fischer conquered the crown, many beardless people imitated his complicated Najdorf Sicilians in the vain hope of becoming Bobbys, when the sensible thing is to play only those lines that we understand well. Fischer mastered the Najdorf with great virtuosity, but I doubt that many will understand it. (Interestingly, in The Queen’s Gambit, Beth’s first teacher suggests to the girl that she study this complicated defence: something that no good chess teacher would suggest to a child who is new to the game.) The one who explains the Najdorf very well is GM Daniel King on his YouTube channel. I was glad to learn that instructor José Luis Vargas, one of the park’s old friends, used my idea of ​​the twice-postponed exchange variant, Game # 3 of this book—an easy-to-understand variant—for one of his small pupils who scored important victories in tournaments, taking his opponents out of the fashion variants. Lasker, like Alekhine, chides the mania of learning variants without having understood the basic concept of an opening. By contrast, books with flashy marketing titles like Karpov’s The Open Game in Action are anti-didactic.

I confess that Anatoly Karpov’s career repulsed me and now fascinates me. In chess, before I became aware of the Jewish question, nothing bothered me more that Fischer had not defended his crown in 1975. This is something that disappointed me in such a way that it was enough to turn away from the game and dedicate myself to understanding human psychology. The American could have successfully defended his title in the 1970s, in the middle of the Cold War. What a sight it would have been to have continued with his 2780 rating when Karpov was still in the 2600s! Fischer was at his peak and scrawny Karpov would have been sandwiched between the fearsome Fischer of the 1970s and the new star, Garry Kasparov: who would have been champion in the 80s, or until the 90s if Fischer had not relapsed into his mental illness. That way Anatoli wouldn’t have risen so high on the altar of Caissa nor would he have been champion ten years in a row. At least that’s how I thought before I woke up to what is known on the internet as the JQ (Karpov, in the middle of the slices of bread in the sandwich, is a gentle.)

Although Karpov would achieve the all-time record for most tournaments won, as a pedagogue he is very bad. In the aforementioned book he published a Scotch Opening game that he played with Timann just to show off his victory. And he wrote about another Scotch game to excuse himself why he had lost with that opening in his world championship match. But the long series of variants and subvariants of the games that Karpov gives us has nothing to do with the ABC of that opening. After 1 e4 e5; 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4; 4 Nxd4 Nf6; 5 Cxc6 bxc6; 6 e5 why does the reader think that 6 …Nd5 isn’t played immediately (but 6 …Qe7)? The answer is that after 6 …Nd5 with 7 c4 and 8 Bd3 White would have a strong attack on the kingside. Without being forced to defend himself with 6 …Qe7! in the main variant, after 6 … Nd5? the bishop on d3 is particularly well placed. This d3 bishop is the Scotch’s letter A if Black plays it badly. I only found out about this because a man named Hidalgo, a Spaniard living in Mexico, scolded me in the park when, not knowing the basics of the opening, I played him 6… Nd5? But in his book The Open Game in Action Karpov omits what the now-deceased Hidalgo had told me. The intricate variations of the games that Karpov shows us with other masters of his calibre are the letters U, V and W of the Scotch: not the A. In short: what the champions play doesn’t have to be what we play: players with six hundred points less of rating.

With the exception of Kasparov’s didactic books on his predecessors, instead of reading other world champions I would suggest subscribing to Daniel King’s channel. Regarding defeats, we know that for the chess player they are like a small death. And sometimes only the fear of it crushes us. I will never forget an image from the 1980s when I had Ibrahim Martínez shivering—literally—in front of me in an active tournament, now called rapid chess (a Volga Gambit that I didn’t score and that I lost with Black, although I was much better). I also vividly remember the grimaces of anguish that in another tournament I saw Alberto Campos make in a game against Arturo Anguiano when the latter made an unexpected move. I commented on the terrible grimaces with Erwin Araica who, like every player, didn’t give it the slightest importance and spoke to me in cold logic about the evaluation of the position.

If someone decides to enter the arena, and I mean official tournaments, he must be prepared not only for defeats but for the draws of won games that lacked definition, and the agonies that some of us suffer while extracting a victory from the opponent. Playing in a tournament conjures up an image from the movie Gladiator in which the wrestlers urinated on the floor of the anteroom on their way to the sunny sands of the Colosseum. If that’s what you have decided, ‘Hail Caissa, those who will bet their ego salute you!’, I suggest that after each defeat (or pyrrhic victory) you find comfort in your personal journal. You can also comment on your games in informal texts, where you don’t have to publish the most embarrassing and intimate stuff. And not just like those nice games that I publish in this book: it is more useful to discuss our defeats with humans. I have written a comment on these and gave a copy to Rafael. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that my score in the 1990s in tournaments, including active tournaments in Houston, was 26 wins, 11 draws and 17 losses. The Club Mercenarios gave me a rating of 2176 but what counts is my FIDE rating: 2109. My numerous defeats are available to anyone who asks me (my e-mail appears on page 3).

The goal of these intimate diaries, public commentaries, and lessons in humility is to get to know each other better and avoid dichotomies of the mind: a topic I’ll address in the next chapter.

Published in: on July 1, 2021 at 7:31 pm  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 11  

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, 9

‘Why do chess players grieve so much after a defeat?… Because defeat is like a little death’. —Manuel Suárez / Boris Zlotnik

What to do after defeat

None of the chess fans I know knows that mastery of the game is due to factors that have nothing to do with his will. Only in a small group of vocations can a human being aspire to be a child prodigy. Music, mathematics and chess are paradigms. Some compare Bach’s music with mathematics, whose logic is inherent, or a priori a Kantian would say, to the human mind. Also, as a special form of computation that is chess, early training can turn a child with special characteristics into a Capablanca, for whom chess was his mother tongue. The same can be said for Russian and former Soviet republics players who, unlike my very modest level when I played Monroy, reach grandmaster norm at fifteen or sixteen.

Few things have impressed me more than the autobiographical part of Capablanca’s My Chess Career. By winning a match against American Frank Marshall, the Cuban reached the level of a grandmaster without studying a single opening book. This is the most representative fact that I can think of to point out how someone with good genes who learned to play chess from the age of four, and developed the edge of his mind in that computational area, can become a world champion. Capablanca’s brain, the ‘chess machine’, was trained in the span of life in which one is capable of developing new faculties. That is why music conservatories do not admit students after a certain age. The same thing happens in chess.

The neurological development of certain areas of the brain differs between a Capablanca or fifteen-year-old GMs and the rest of the hobbyists. An even more terrible truth is that a high IQ is innate, and has to do with the ethnic group to which one belongs. Not having heard this, many have pursued the mirage that, through sheer study, they would become grandmasters as if it were something similar to obtaining a doctorate in physics. In reality, the rating that a young man learning the game in his twenties can develop is relatively modest, and even the level of a child or pubescent if he doesn’t have the right genes for this game. If we study chess to reach the equivalent of a doctorate, the knowledge acquired can help us to be excellent instructors, but it won’t necessarily allow us to play like the first boards in the world. Like the violin or piano prodigies, in chess what counts is how much we train certain areas of our brain in childhood, puberty and adolescence. Using a crude computational analogy, what really matters is the kind of software our brains were trained with, in addition to racial hardware (nowadays, there are no active chess GMs of the black race).

In the introduction I said that the talks of some amateur fans motivated me to write this book. One of these friends is called Alcides, who is well educated in chess. In the café where we talked Alcides played matches with Yayo, who doesn’t read chess and doesn’t even know how to maintain the opposition in a king and pawn versus king ending. However, Yayo generally beat Alcides in matches. On several occasions I spoke with Alcides about the Lasker manual. He likes the original German version better than the shortened English and Spanish versions. One of these versions once wore on a coffee table, but as usual Lasker’s pupil was swept away by Yayo. Alcides is capable in his profession of computer science and handling of computers. But despite his chess and computational knowledge, his uneducated rival has a better brain to play chess. Let’s put it iconoclastically: Lasker’s manual, and in fact all the chess books that I know, are bad and anti-pedagogical because they don’t start from a vital axiom about the game: the development of certain brain areas differs among people and even among the races.

It is not my intention to discourage Caissa’s suitors. But the young aspiring would spare a lot of dreams if, at home or school, we had been given this elementary class in neurology and raciology. Personally, given my father’s talents in music and visual arts, that was where I could’ve excelled (think of prominent Mexican filmmakers in Hollywood like Cuarón, Iñárritu, and del Toro), not computational business like chess. But even if we take all of this into account, compared to Cuba the chess level in Mexico is low. If we add to this that many of us are ageing and that we don’t have good instructors, those Botvinnik and Averbach that the Russian children and lads had, it will be virtually impossible to make the quantum leap to become GMs. Here I can’t help but come to mind a photograph of instructor Botvinnik with a young Garri Kasparov next to him. It also comes to mind that both of Fischer’s parents were Jewish. His biological father was a brilliant mathematician (Ashkenazi Jews are the ethnic group ranked the highest on the IQ scale).

Listening to a thirteen-year-old boy play Beethoven’s concerto for violin and orchestra is like watching some children from the former Soviet republics play games of blitz. Such is the virtuosity of these Paganinis of Caissa that they give their colleagues a five-minute lead, by just two minutes of their own, and destroy them with diabolical precision. No matter how hard you study, you’ll never play blitz games like that: an infallible measurer of the level of a boy whose mother tongue had been chess. To meditate thoughtfully on what we read in chess literature, to put our games to Fritz to understand them better, to consult the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings to see where we made the imprecision, to play one tournament after another to accustom to fighting chess, may be instructive but not necessarily to jump significantly in skill level. At least not to take the leap that some young people fantasise about. Our brain is already formed, formatted I would dare to say.

Presently, the edge of my mind manifests itself in my speciality of understanding the psychic havoc that abusive parents cause—an area that has nothing to do with chess. Capablanca, who never undertook the chess study marathons that many unsuspecting do, played infinitely better than I and other inveterate scholars. I have said that few things have impressed me more than Capablanca beat a GM during a match without studying a single opening book (on another level, this is exactly what happened in Alcides’ matches with Yayo). At twenty Capablanca had not played a single match with a grandmaster, and he beat Marshall with a crushing score of +8 = 14 –1 (eight games won, fourteen draws and one loss). This is the fact that best illustrates what a genius is. If the pedagogues were humble enough to accept the innate deficiencies of the child, they would know that he won’t speak as fast as the Jew Ben Shapiro, or that he won’t obtain the title of GM of chess at thirteen as did the Nordic Magnus Carlsen, who would conquer the sceptre.

(Thirteen-year-old Carlsen in Norway giving a simultaneous exhibition.) We don’t need to rank high on verbal IQ, the speciality of the Jews, to become a champion. But we do need to rank high, like the Nordics, Slavs or Asians, in spatial intelligence. If you still want to play under these circumstances, my suggestion is that you write an intimate diary about your emotions in the game and your love of the game taking these facts into account.

The human side of chess, 8

5 Tort – Computer

HAL 9000 and man

I didn’t play this last game with a human being.

When I play with my computer it seems as unequal a struggle as competing in arithmetic with a calculator. As mathematician John von Newmann told Jacob Bronowski, chess is not a game: it is a special form of computing. But before Newmann, Lasker had already intuited that an entity ‘that could keep millions of variants in mind would not need planning’, the theory. The so-called ‘chess theory’ is a crutch for us mortals. The machine that sees billions of actions shows us the quintessence of chess not in its scarlet facet, but its pure and soulless logic. (Despite what fans of A.I. say, the computer system still has no soul.)

When I was fifteen, I went with my father to visit Robert Schirokauer, who changed his name to Robert Hartman, at his house in Cuernavaca. Hartman played chess and I brought my favorite Alekhine book: the beautiful games of his youth that my dad had given me.

Hartman told us that the machine would never beat man ‘because it was Man who programmed it’. Robert S. Hartman was wrong. This game, and on another level Kasparov’s games with Deep Blue, should move us humans to great swallowing of our pride. By the way, it was from Hartman that I learned the word ‘axiology’. His dense book The Knowledge of Good: Critique of Axiological Reason, whose Spanish version my father acquired before Hartman died, is still in the home library. Metapedia’s critical article on the anti-Nazi Hartman was started by me.

 
HOME GAME
November 2003
French Defense

1 e4 e6

2 d4 d5

3 Nc3 Nf6

4 Bg5 Be7

5 e5 Nfd7

6 Bxe7 Qxe7

7 f4 O-O

8 Nf3 c5

9 Nb5 ?!

It’s incredible but this move, which had given me so much success with the players in the park in similar positions, could be inaccurate. The rebuttal the machine applied to me—virtually the rest of the game—is so mathematical that it is terrifying to see such precision in a soulless object.

9… a6!

10 Nd6 f6

11 c3 Nc6

12 Be2 cxd4

13 cxd4 g5

14 g3 fxe5

15 fxe5 g4

16 Nh4 Ndxe5!

From this piece sacrifice Chessmaster didn’t let me go. It won the initiative until my surrender.

17 dxe5 Nxe5

18 Nxc8 Raxc8

19 Rf1 Qb4 +

20 Qd2 Rxf1 +

21 Bxf1 Qe4 +

22 Qe2 Rc2

23 Qxe4 dxe4

24 Rd1

When I made this move of my rook and the next ones I thought I was going to get a certain counterplay and equalizing chances, but…

25 … e3

25 Be2 Rxb2

26 Rd4 h5

27 Re4 Rb1 +

28 Bd1 Nd3 +

29 Ke2 Rxd1!

… I didn’t see this move!

30 Rxe3 Nb2

31 Rxe6 Rh1

32 Re7 Rxh2 +

33 Ke3 Nc4 +

34 Kf4 b5

35 Kg5 Rxa2

36 Kxh5 a5

37 Kxg4 b4

38 Kh5 Rf2

I confess that since move 33 I was taking back several moves: something that can be done to a mindless machine that cannot complain. But not only did I not find a checkmate net; there was not even a continuous check.

39 Kg6 Kf8

40 Rb7 Ne5 +

41 Kg5 Nf7 +

42 Kg6 Nd8

43 Rb8 Ke7

44 Nf5 + Rd7

45 Kf6 Nc6

46 Rb7 + Kc8

47 Rh7

I couldn’t move the rook to b5 because its rook would take my knight and the fork would come.

47 … b3

48 Rh1 a4

49 g4 a3

50 I resigned

I played this game with Chessmaster 8000, although then the Chessmaster 9000 version arrived. Only now, thirty years after having reproduced it for the first time thanks to one of Alekhine’s books, do I understand the French Defense between Capablanca and Reti played in New York, 1924. Capablanca played 9 Qd2 instead of the one I played and beat the Jewish Reti. The strongest commercial program for analysing games now that I review this book for publication is Fat Fritz 2. I do not doubt that if that new engine analysed the above game it would find moves that neither Chessmaster nor I could see.

Stanley Kubrick was a chess fan. I remember a photograph in which he is seen playing on a break with George Scott during the filming of Dr. Strangelove. In the annexes that come with the Chessmaster program you can read that in Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey the HAL 9000 supercomputer faces astronaut Frank Poole in a game of chess en route to Jupiter, and beats him.

But losing to a heartless machine like Chessmaster doesn’t hurt. The first tournament defeat that hurt me was neither more nor less the first game of my first chess tournament, which I played at the age of fifteen outside of what is now called the World Trade Center: the tallest building in Mexico City at the time. My opponent was the strong player Enrique Monroy, who with white opened with a Ruy López in which, with black, I tried to use a defense that Alekhine sometimes played. In part, my defeat was due to the tournament organisers not even informing all of us about time control. I played as if the time limit was not for the first 40 moves, but the entire game. That resulted in that even after reaching the time control I was responding to Monroy’s moves as if it was a blitz game! These were not yet the days of electronic chess clocks. We used mechanical clocks. At that time, losing by default meant that a little red flag on top of one of the two faces of the clocks dropped. Even though I was ignorant of the time control rules in the first round of my first tournament, I blamed myself for the defeat. It was so embarrassing for me to have been beaten that, once I arrived home in a dazed state, I told my parents that the game had ended in a draw…

Published in: on June 24, 2021 at 10:51 am  Comments Off on The human side of chess, 8