Monday, December 29, 2008

When you're in over your head, keep digging

Since my earlier post on USCF lawsuits has fallen off the page, I have reluctantly decided to add a new one. The latest in the series is a suit filed by the USCF in Illinois (the state in which the USCF is incorporated) seeking to remove Susan Polgar and Paul Truong from the Executive Board.

If you don't want to plow through the whole thing (for which I wouldn't blame you), the key paragraphs are 18-21 (alleging that Truong authored the so-called "Fake Sam Sloan" posts, and 50-53 (asserting that Polgar obtained illegal access to Randy Hough's e-mail account and published illegally obtained material). The first argument seems the weaker of the two, as it simply assumes that childish scribbling on the Internet justifies removal of an elected Board member. (We've had several oafs and buffoons on the Board in the past, and no one suggested removing them.) The second is more serious, as the charges, if proved, could carry jail time. While holding office from jail is an honored tradition in Boston, Chicago and New Jersey, it's one the USCF can probably do without.

What all this demonstrates is that neither side has any interest in compromise. Rather than seeking to reduce the tension, the majority faction on the Board has chosen to ramp it up. Of course, Polgar is equally at fault here (see the frivolous lawsuit she filed in Texas, not to mention the incredibly stupid move of naming attorney Karl Kronenberger as one of the defendants). But the majority faction, being in the stronger position, really ought to be the ones trying to make peace.

Update 1/4/08: There's an account of the latest lawsuit in the January 3 New York Times. Despite the source, it seems fair and balanced.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Steinitz - von Bardeleben, Hastings 1895

Steinitz was past his best in 1895, but as he himself put it, “I may be an old lion, but I can still bite someone’s hand off if he puts it in my mouth.” The choleric von Bardeleben left the room after move 25 and permitted his time to expire, whereupon Steinitz demonstrated to the onlookers a brilliant 10-move mating combination.

Steinitz - von Bardeleben
Hastings 1895


1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 d5

A rare alternative to 7. ... Nxe4 8. 0-0, when Black may choose between 8. ... Nxc3 9. bxc3 d5 (9. ... Bxc3 10. Qbb3 has been known to favor White ince the time of Greco), and the speculative Moeller Attack, 8. ... Bxc3 9. d5, which remains unresolved after a century of analysis.

8. exd5 Nxd5 9. 0-0 Be6 10. Bg5 Be7 11. Bxd5 Bxd5 12. Nxd5 Qxd5 13. Bxe7 Nxe7

Black still hopes to connect his Rooks by castling, but he will be unable to shake off the pressure on the central files. A slightly better try was 13. ... Kxe7 14. Re1+ Kf8.

14. Re1 f6 15. Qe2 Qd7 16. Rac1 c6

Allowing a powerful pawn sacrifice. Better was 16. ... Kf7; if 17. Qxe7+ Qxe7 18. Rxe7+ Kxe7 19. Rxc7+, the outcome remains uncertain, though White surely has enough pawns for the Exchange.

17. d5!

A fine move -- the d5 square, which Black has been using for his pieces, will be occupied by a Black pawn, the d4 square made accessible to White, and the c-file opened.

17. ... cxd5 18. Nd4 Kf7 19. Ne6 Rhc8 20. Qg4 g6 21. Ng5+ Ke8


22. Rxe7+!

Of course the Rook cannot be captured by the Queen (22. ... Qxe7 23. Rxc8+), and 22. ... Kxe7 leads to 23. Re1+ Kd6 24. Qb4+ Kc7 25. Ne6+ Kb8 26. Qf4+. But after Black’s next move, every White piece is en prise, and mate is threatened on c1 ...

22. ... Kf8 23. Rf7+ Kg8 24. Rg7+ Kh8

No better is 24. ... Kf8 25. Nxh7+.

25. Rxh7+ 1-0

For as Steinitz immediately demonstrated, White wins after 25. ... Kg8 with 26. Rg7+ Kh8 27. Qh4+ Kxg7 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Qh8+ Ke7 30. Qg7+ Ke8 31. Qg8+ Ke7 32. Qf7+ Kd8 33. Qf8+ Qe8 34. Nf7+ Kd7 35. Qd6 mate.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

... a plague a' both your houses

On November 30, Susan Polgar distributed the following via the USCF BINFO system, in response to suggestions by Jim Eade and Harold Dondis that she ramp down the litigiousness.

Dear Jim and Mr. Dondis,

As I have said before, I pleaded with this board for MORE THAN 1 YEAR to leave me, my family, and my job alone. They refused. The USCF and each board member received a Cease and Desist letter from my attorney dated May 14, 2008 (which is many months before I filed the lawsuit). They ignored it. I even offered to end it prior to filing the lawsuit shortly before the Dallas Delegates Meeting. They ignored it again. Now the USCF is trying to go after me criminally.

What would you like me to do? What do you suggest? Do you think I enjoy being accused of being a child abuser, child molester, and a criminal? Do you think I enjoy having people calling the media and my employers to spread baseless and defamatory accusations? Do you think I enjoy having my kids, my friends, my family, and my employer read about all of these things on the Internet? Do you think I enjoy spending over $75,000 in legal fees from my own pocket to defend against absolute nonsense? Do you think I enjoy losing one business / sponsorship deal after another because of all the garbage on the Internet? And these are just some of the major damages I suffered so far.

It is not me who started this. I spent 35 years building my excellent reputation in chess and it took 1 year for the USCF to destroy it. If anyone can think of a way to resolve this amicably and to have my reputation fully restored then please feel free to suggest it. It is NOT me who want to prolong this. But as long as the USCF and its board members continue to go down this road, I have no choice but to defend myself and my family.

Instead of allowing me to bring U.S. chess and the USCF up another level, I had to waste more than a year with this nonsense. They left me with no choice. I will do everything possible to defend and protect myself, my family, and my job.

I offered the USCF and this board various ways to end this in each board meeting only to have my offers laughed at and ignored each time for more than one year. Unless the USCF backs off completely and leave me and my family alone, this cannot stop.

My offer to withdraw the lawsuit against the USCF still stands. All parties are welcome to contact my attorneys if they wish to settle and end this.

Best wishes,

Susan Polgar

The problem with all this is that the portions of her lawsuit which concern the USCF are utterly baseless. The USCF did not accuse her of being a child abuser or interfere with her sponsorship efforts. If Polgar objects to the USCF allowing others to criticize her, she should either lobby Congress to change the law, or move to a country that doesn’t have freedom of speech.

Conceivably Polgar might have a claim against some of the other named defendants. Brian Lafferty, Sam Sloan, and Jerry Hanken have certainly made defamatory statements about her, though whether she could win a libel case is another matter. But the inclusion of the USCF in her laundry list has no basis in fact – and even if it did, for her to sue the USCF while remaining on the Executive Board is simply unethical.

It is true that four of the EB members (and the ED) have harshly criticized Polgar’s husband Paul Truong, and sought (unsuccessfully) to mount a recall against him. I suspect that this is the real reason behind Polgar’s naming the USCF as a defendant. But, whether you agree with it or not, this was legitimate political discourse, and if you can’t take it, you have no business running for office.

This is not to say that I have much sympathy for the other side. They brought this on themselves, which is fine – and on us, which is not. The “Board majority,” led by Bill Goichberg, decided that they could use the “Fake Sam Sloan” controversy to lever Truong off the Board. At least some of them may have been acting out of sincere conviction that Truong’s actions (well, the actions of which he was accused) were unconscionable. Sincerity is overrated. They had an obligation as stewards of the USCF to consider what would happen if they failed. They did fail. Now we have live with it.

La Bourdonnais - McDonnell, 21st Match Game, 1834

Though La Bourdonnais led by a wide margin in their match -- really a series of six matches -- Alexander McDonnell was by no means an easy mark. Here is one of their many wild attacking games, with an amusing final position.

La Bourdonnais - McDonnell
21st Match Game, 1834


1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. Qe2 Nf6 4. d3 Nc6 5. c3 Ne7 6. f4 exf4

Ignoring the center; a modern player would have answered 6. ... d6.

7. d4 Bb6 8. Bxf4 d6 9. Bd3 Ng6 10. Be3 0-0 11. h3 Re8 12. Nd2 Qe7 13. 0-0-0 c5

Correctly striking back in the center, though in 1834 Black’s plan was probably limited to opening a file near the White King.

14. Kb1 cxd4 15. cxd4 a5 16. Ngf3 Bd7 17. g4 h6 18. Rdg1

More logical seems 18. Rdf1 followed by 19. Rhg1. As the game goes, the Rh1 never does very much.

18. ... a4 19. g5 hxg5 20. Bxg5 a3 21. b3 Bc6 22. Rg4 Ba5 23. h4 Bxd2 24. Nxd2 Ra5 25. h5 (Diagram)

25. ... Rxg5!

With this Exchange sacrifice Black takes control of the dark squares and obtains a strong initiative.

26. Rxg5 Nf4 27. Qf3 Nxd3 28. d5

White must lose material, for 28. Qxd3 Nxe4 25. Nxe4? Bxe4 wins the White Queen, and 29. Rgg1 Nf2 is not much better.

28. ... Nxd5 29. Rhg1 Nc3+ 30. Ka1 Bxe4 31. Rxg7+ Kh8 32. Qg3

Threatening mate with 33. Rxh7+, but Black’s attack is quicker.

32. ... Bg6 33. hxg6 Qe1+ 34. Rxe1?

The final blunder. After 34. Nb1 White retains drawing chances.

34. ... Rxe1+ 35. Qxe1 Nxe1 36. Rh7+ Kg8 37. gxf7+ Kxh7 38. f8=Q Nc2 mate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Sadim Touch ...

... is the talent for turning gold into, ah, dross. FIDE has it in spades.

As you have no doubt read elsewhere, Armenia took first place in the recent Dresden Olympiad. The U.S., after a rocky start, took the bronze medal with a last-round upset of Ukraine. Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it.

Immediately after his last-round loss to Gata Kamsky, Ukraine top board Vassily Ivanchuk was ordered to take a "random drug test." He was understandably not in the best of moods, and he refused and stormed off.

This brought into play the idiotic rules FIDE has adopted in the course of its long and pointless attempt to suck up to the IOC. Ivanchuk may face a two-year suspension (though he'll certainly be welcome in my tournaments). Even worse (though Ivanchuk might not agree) is that his team may be disqualified. If so, the teams that faced them would lose tiebreak points, and the U.S. would be knocked out of third place in favor of Hungary.

One can only hope that this absurdity will lead to the top players telling FIDE what to do with its Olympic pipedream. (Nothing printable.) There is some evidence that this may be happening. Will the players stand up for themselves this time? Or will another infusion of Ilyumzhinov's money buy their acquiescence? Only time will tell.