Saturday, January 30, 2010


Not everyday I write something will be meaningful to all, but most likely meaningful to at least one person.

There is one Blog I read almost every day (he writes on Sunday too) and if I miss one, I go back and catch it. It's not chess though he knows how to play chess and is pretty smart.

There is a life other than chess, but like Samantha Marquez from the show Las Vegas, I am here to get you to, analogously, "gamble." I am your "chess host."

I have at least 20 people or more (maybe 40-50) who do not get PDFs or have computers and who want nothing to do with them. The funny thing, the weird thing, is they buy as much as the hundreds of email names I have! Sometimes I think the web is a big distraction. Sure, if you've made up your mind to get something, you can congratulate yourself quickly.

But if you get a mail catalog you can peruse it, in bed, at the breakfast table, in the john, the car, etc. Then order. You can circle items and prices.

The problem with the PDF approach is that I can spend hours and hours creating a nice one and it can easily become an instant "throw away." By this I mean, there are people out there who hate to print ANYTHING out because it uses up toner or ink. I know, I know, cheap--but I have experienced this.

If you subscribe to something such as The Chess Reports or Chess EXTRAS you will print that out, most likely, because you are paying for it. See the difference? Your money.

Or you can talk yourself out of "reading" the online PDFs. Studies have shown that people are more likely to read a catalog than something on the web (if it is too lengthy). And if they have a catalog, why bother to print it out?

On the other hand, the ONE thing you shouldn't forget is that PDFs are MORE current. Printing out catalogs and mailing them is a time consuming and lengthy, expensive process. There is a tendency to shy away from that route. But, I am going to start paying closer attention to those who have to have the $10 printed catalogs.

Years ago, when I printed catalogs and bulk mailed them, I would send maybe 6-7000 out and there might be, over time, a 20-25% response, which is considered phenomenal. I considered it a waste of 75% because the cost comes out of my pocket, not some theoretician's.

If you look at the cost of making a catalog (PDF or printed), keeping up your listings, hire someone to answer the phone and other expenses--coupled with a discount, it can lead me to wondering who will disappear over the next couple years unless they have deep pockets and are willing to lose (and out of the other side of their mouth they are telling you what they really invest in!!)

The Blogger that I told you about at the beginning, had a post the other day on people's contradictory nature, referring to the "lizard brain." The lizard brain controls most of what people do and the "rational" brain has to work like hell to get noticed. It's like playing on the internet with the fee plus time lost versus the cost of a weekend tournament. One is quick self-gratification and the other has a better chance of being cheaper in the long run and more profitable from a learning standpoint. Should I watch this "really cool show" on TV or get out some of those books I have bought and actually learn something? Watching TV wins most of the time because it takes no brain power nor perseverance.

Kids are an exception because they have a lot fewer responsibilities. But my son Nate spends at least 30 minutes of every day with his son doing something, and the attention Alex gets is going to have big pay offs later in life. Nate is sacrificing the now to have a better relationship with his son as he gets older. Maybe they will both go to chess tournaments,

Do you like to take the easy route when you get off of work?

Friday, January 29, 2010


I found out today that my web domain: has been down for 2 days and that's why I have gotten no emails and therefore have answered none. So if you wrote, please write again. I believe it is back up just a few minutes ago.

The end of the year can be chaotic with all kinds of renewals, dropping certain sites that were automatic renewals, taxes, end of year bookkeeping, and paying this person and that--it is my unfavorite time of the year.

Even shipping to me has been slow. Somehow a package I have sent to a customer has disappeared. I was trying to clean some wax out of my ear last week for a date and all I succeeded in doing was making myself deaf! I am hoping the medicine and "bulb" will change all that sooner. It's like a "perfect storm" of interruptions.

However one thing has been done. I have finished the Purdy book and am proofing it. I can't yet announce the details except that it will be about $25.00 (USA) and a special price to certain groups. The cover hasn't been designed yet as we think long and hard about these things.

However before closing I will make one special offer: If you subscribe to The Chess Reports between today and Monday (Jan. 29-Feb. 1) I will sell you a subscription to semester 8 for $25 instead of the usual $50. Four days only. Issue #99 will be out next week (Friday). You will also be emailed back issues for Semester 8.

Hope you have a terrific weekend even if you have snow and ice up to your waistline.

Information on the Purdy book will be announced later. I have yet to index the book and that takes considerable time. So hold your thoughts.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today I created a FREE monthly "tips" sheet--this one for January 2010.

What is a TIP? In this case it is a written set of instructions designed to help improve your game.

There will be 11 more months of tips.

The thrust is: When you order from G&L Chess I will include a color copy of the Monthly Tip Sheet at no additional charge. Since January is almost shot (although there are a few days left) if you order in February you will get both the January and February Tip sheets.

These aren't "Mickey Mouse" tips either. I will generally take them from one book with the hopes of selling a copy of that book. There will be six tips, almost filling a page. No obligation for you to buy the book the tips were taken from.

I won't list the title of the book because it is too easy to assume if you have the book that you know what's in it, or even most of what is in it. And if you don't have the book it might intrigue you. As some of you know by now, the G&L inventory is all good stuff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Rich Fireman (as have others in the past) asked about Lasker #6, referencing Lasker & His Contemporaries. Is it going to be released? I don't know, and if so, when.

I have the material in some folders, stuff most of you have never seen even still. I am no longer in the "labor of love" business. LOL = what one does when starting out and we don't know any better. What do I mean?

I had a passion for Lasker (and still do) but it takes a long time to sell 750 - 1,000 copies of something like that. Compromises and deals are made, copies are wholesaled and given away for review. Working on the magazine itself really makes a dent in my time line--I could be working on something else that would pay those everyday bills. Patrons are a thing of the past (not my past, but way in the past!) It's a shame, but life is like that. I could do pre-solds, which I have done but then some will start asking, "When will it be out?" (Ans.: when I get enough pre-solds.)

Amateurs take a quick read and say "1,000 x $20 = $20,000." That's myopic (they always pick the higher numbers too) and not even close to true. The impatient are the bane of every business person because they know so little (and not too amazingly, never have done anything like this themselves). If I got the full tilt I would consider it. But then the new price would be $30-40 and the problem starts all over again. (Some are amazingly quick to point to dollar figures of the old days, but somehow forget that their own pay has doubled or tripled since those very days.)

Lasker #5 won an award, I think the Fred Cramer Award... a green marbled obelisk type of thing and a couple hundred bucks (Thanks Fred). I shared the money with John Hilbert who helped me edit a number of articles for that issue.

The designer of the cover, Ken Prestley (Austin, TX), is staying at my house this week. I am going to get pictures of him and create an article for the next issue of Chess EXTRAS. A good designer can make a huge difference in sales when the product goes on is in a store. I have promised a couple articles about two guys who have designed for me in the past, and may expand it to three, one for each of the next three issues of CE.

My house is quiet for overnight guests: no cats or barking dogs, no crying babies or kids running around (mine are all grown up), no blaring TV (I don't even have one--how else did you think I could keep pushing out this mass of chess information?), no cranked up music (ever ride in someone else's car?), no others in the house screaming to use the bathroom or shower... so it's a good place to relax (as others have told me).

Thus, while Ken goes to visit some other people overnight in Iowa City, I will finish up the first half of the secret (in terms of content) Purdy project... though not as grand of a secret as Apple's unveiling of a "tablet" later today.

The problem with the "brain" at Thinkers' Press, inc. is having too many ideas and the time needed to determine which ones will be commercial. I am hoping the Purdy project will be the first one for 2010.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Over a hundred years many books have been published on how to play chess. Some of them pretend to have secrets, others tell you how simple it can be, and still others make it look like a story or cartoon.

Although there will be those who disagree, in my opinion as a veteran bookseller, uniformly they have not worked, or been that good. Cutesy doesn't stick with us as readers, that's quick entertainment.

Chess isn't impossible to learn or hard to learn, but winning consistently?; that's a whole other problem. In any game, most people want to win, and "beginner's luck" doesn't play that big of a role when it comes to chess.

Cecil JOHN Seddon Purdy was one of the great teachers of all time when it came to getting better at chess. He had a "knack;" sort of like your grandfather telling you an interesting anecdote. You can see many examples of that in The Search for Chess Perfection II which was published by TPi several years ago. (Still available at $34.95, postage paid in USA.)

I am working on a new Purdy project. I believe it will be the best compact chess teaching tool out there. It will be a combination of Purdy's genius for teaching and my company's (TPi) penchant for designing the look to convey his words (Purdy was not a designer).

The exposure will be broad-based.

Monday, January 25, 2010


At the mall recently, barely inside a Barnes & Noble (B&N) store, I encountered a table with two people. One was a woman named Connie. Connie had ghost-written a book named X (not the real name, but let's play it safe). She told me the author (Michael) wrote about 50 words (an abstract perhaps?) and she wrote the rest of the 328 page sci-fi book. She gave me a copy and both signed it (I didn't request this).

Supposedly it was a finalist some years back for the Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) award.

Michael is listed as a "writer" at the back of the book. However, Connie said she was given the task to make whole cloth out of a patch. She seemed annoyed. The smiling, semi-garrulous guy behind the table was Mike who clearly had read it probably 500 times and could recite it to anyone who cared. He was what the British call, a twit. I'm an American, I still think he is a twit.

Even when you are paid or given some compensation, there is always a little rub when someone doesn't shrink from taking credit for someone else's work. Connie was a little smarter, she at least had her name listed as co-author on the cover, so I suspect her payment came from any royalties (?) which may have accrued. Her purpose for being in B&N was to get new projects. Her latest one was on haunted houses. It turned out that I also knew the publisher as we had once worked together at a writer's workshop (See? There's a lot you don't know about me.)

Right away I could tell she was talented. Lots of excellent references but some overkill too.

Another risky business. Probably another burnout... what we do to pay the bills!?

With respect to chess I wrote a column for a guy years ago for the chess section of the American Topical Association (philately). Maybe I got some ad space. My irritation was that he turned to use my work to get elected as president of the whole organization. That gnawed a nerve in me. At first you might think you are helping out a busy person (as well as yourself) but in reality, the other person sometimes doesn't have the skill to do what they may see in you... does this mean that those who seek "power" have a low skill set? Not necessarily of course, but look in the recent past about how many politicians have zero abilities when it comes to computers, the web, e-mail, etc. (Or, telling the truth.)

Before someone goes off half-cocked and reminds me that politicians have other things on their minds--I question that, if you leave out Roberts Rules of Order and "correct" procedures. Most were regular people when they got elected and they took with them what they knew at the time. Same for the guy mentioned above running for office and for the woman who has written science fiction, ghost stories, and many other things.

We need to be learning all the time. Last Fall I took an accounting course from one of the local colleges. This afternoon I added to my knowledge of script-handling for managing difficult-to-read manuscripts that I get. The advantages of more learning are obvious so I won't detail them.

But if you want something ghost written (chess or otherwise) try your hand first. If it looks like you can't cut it you have two alternatives as I see it (not counting a third, don't do anything):
1) Hire me to get someone to rewrite (I seldom have the desire or inclination to do it myself);
2) Hire someone yourself (do not use relatives or friends even if they have degrees in English, journalism, etc. There are a bunch of reasons to avoid this trap (timeliness, overkill, revenge...))

I want to quote something I read just this morning in InDesign Magazine #26. It's a frequent problem I have with manuscript submissions:
"Despite your repeated pleas, the authors of the Word documents use spaces to line up text, multiple tabs to line up tables, and insert double returns between paragraphs."

And there are a lot more. That's why I hope to issue a "style" manual this Fall for Thinkers' Press, inc. The cost will be $15 and can be used with almost any chess publisher, or for that matter, almost any publisher. Let me know if you would like to get one.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Over my publishing career I have put out books and magazines totaling nearly 140 different titles. Over and over company efforts get praise for their quality and originality. Thus, TPi gets recommended to others. I tell prospects when they bring a book MS (manuscript) to me, one thing they get that is not available anywhere else is, me. I've been doing this a while. I have an idea of what works. (Lots of misguidance out there.)

Some of you know I publish "vanity" books nowadays. That is, somebody tells me they have a manuscript (usually chess, but not always) and would like to have it published. There is a preliminary period of questions first (call me at 563-271-6657). Then we go into the other phases (contract, costs, delivery time, and so on... including formatting and shipping to me.)

Sometimes projects get dropped, sometimes they are on file, and so it goes (Linda Ellerbee) on.

The newsletter will set up conditions and what are considered publishing standards. I am constantly appalled at the content and "design" of the manuscripts I receive--it makes me feel like the author has NEVER seen a chess book in their life! Then, when I spend all that time to put the manuscript into a viable form, the author pays for it!

So if you are contemplating, now or in the future, something on chess... drop me an email at:

At the moment I have about 20 people signed up for this e-list. If I get a few more I will put out a colorful brochure on working with TPi. I will also discuss something NEW--what I call private stock. The private stock press can be for your own amusement, for friends or employees, for churches, not for sale, etc. where I publish your manuscript in book form as it is. I don't proof, I don't edit, I don't really change anything (unless it is obvious and egregious). Some people are full of self-confidence in not making errors (I have yet to see it actually happen) and some know they need help. Help is available; it, like everything, costs extra.

Sorry... at this time I am not taking manuscripts for royalty publishing (i.e., the author gets paid based on sales and I front the cost of the book). Sometime this year TPi will republish SOME of the Purdy books.

I look forward to new hopes and am taking reservations now. January is used, and most likely March, already.

Friday, January 22, 2010


When I was in grad school there was a popular bookstore called The Paper Place. It carried lots of Dover paperbacks on a huge variety of subjects such as chess, mathematics, physics, puzzles, and whatever else the back of the book catalog featured. In the store you could hear non-stop classical musical and smell pipe tobacco (later the place burned down).

I remember the Sam Loyd books (on all kinds of amusements). When Sam was younger he was considerably thinner but he kept the brushy mustache. I'm not sure what made his mind tick but he had some real teasers and brain benders. He was fond of chess but also many other things. Magazines of the day featured his chess (and other) puzzles.

I am going to give some URLs to further our proclivities to waste time, from Gary Kevin Ware. . Apparently Loyd invented the 14/15 version of the puzzle while I thought it was the whole 15. . This contains the comments to Ware's "offending" article about "Indians." He mentions that Shahade did not understand the pun. He gave her ample time by titling the article (which got him fired) at least a month in advance. Who was it who complained--ban this dude (or dudette). . This is a direct link to Gary's Gems. If you just want to go to his Home Page, it is: . . This is a co-written article on Sam Loyd by Gary and Dr. Steven Dowd. . This contains Sam Loyd's Cyclopedia (5000 puzzles)... unbelievable.

It's a known mathematical fact that when pairs of numbers are switched from the original 15 puzzle that the solutions are impossible without cheating. These could make for some profitable though immoral bar bets.

Thanks to Gary for the links and better luck in the future Gary.

Someday I'll have an article on the popularity, or most likely, unpopularity, of puzzles in the U.S. media.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I've been blogging and doing internet stuff since 1993 (I started with AOL). I'm still learning things and I suspect that readers will be learning things too.
For example, "avoiding spam filters." The days of being hammered by "commercials" for everything from Viagra to escaping princes from Nigeria seem to be slowing down (some). At least I seldom see this anymore (I use gmail as my router).
But I've discovered some practices by friends which work to their disadvantage. Here's one: CHECK what your spam filter (if your IP has one) is holding in the way of emails. [Spam Filters are not perfect and just because it filtered something doesn't mean it was done correctly.] Sometimes Google stops legitimate emails! When it does I click on "not spam" and it reroutes to my Inbox. I do not know what that is all about... but, I know a catalog reseller in Germany who has 60,000 names on his email lists and he says keeping up with the spam filters is an ongoing process. We used to communicate regularly and now and then he doesn't get my emails.

What I have found (not with him but others) is that some people PURGE their Spam Filter contents without checking what's in them! Hence, if you send me any kind of an email from YOUR place, there is a better chance my Mail program will keep your address on file. This in turn makes your chances of getting something solid from me much more likely! The Blog and Web Orders will be two ways of further accomplishing that.

I have been working, off and on, on creating a new web site. Lots of decisions must be made, and the time needed to implement them must be taken into consideration. Then there is the maintenance and cost factor. So, in the beginning, dropping me a line or writing to me is no con, it's a way to establish your email address with me (not 100% perfect but it works better than most other ways).

This morning I read, on, an excellent interview with friend Karsten Mueller concerning his book on Bobby Fischer (with nearly 1000 annotated games). Karsten is always on point and he doesn't speculate. He has played through all the games and drawn certain conclusions, a few of which overturned his previous thoughts. One is: Fischer liked keeping the game under control and he sacrificed less often than Mueller had previously believed. The interview is worth reading, you might check it out.

He also seems to agree with Kasparov that Fischer was probably the greatest "natural" talent chess has ever produced. He sees some of Magnus Carlsen in Fischer too.

I am sending out a reminder today of a 5 page chess SALE ending this Saturday. If you didn't hear from me about this, I don't have you on my email list. Writing to me and asking for one will get it fired off to you.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


We are creatures of habit and our results are what we get from being that way. Most of us are lazy in that regard. We make rumor a "fact." Right now Rybka is THE analysis program. It's available both on the Convekta/Chess Assistant and ChessBase platforms.

A short while back Rybka had this 3000+ Elo and had won the world computer chess championship. It became the darling of stronger chess players, writers, and analysts. Yet, ChessBase's flagship program, Fritz, was being used by most amateurs (and ChessBase itself online). But it does pay to investigate other programs. (By the way, Fritz does have some advantages over Rybka.)

ChessBase announced recently the availability of Shredder 12 multi-processor (i.e., Deep Shredder). I've used the regular Shredder many times in the past because it tended to be more aggressive in unclear situations than Fritz was. However, there were times when I felt Shredder's evaluations were overly optimistic and unprovable.

Apparently Shredder is NOW more precise in its evaluations says author Stefan Meyer Kahlen. CB also says it is 100 points higher in Elo strength (so... what would that make it then?).

I think it would be worth investigating Deep Shredder this time if you have a multi-processor computer system (and they are becoming more and more common). More accuracy, more aggression, a higher-Elo, and a revised and expanded opening book... give it some thought, try it and let me know your results if you will. I published similar information by Lazaro Munoz in issue #97 of The Chess Reports.

You can get it from G&L CHESS (that's me) by writing to -- I am not sure of the delivered price but will let you know.

I am serious, don't keep assuming that Deep Rybka is the Big Boy on the block. I have to order it because I am no fool. I could keep it on hand but at the risk of never selling it because of what I wrote in the first paragraph about "creatures of habit."

A little side note: I use analysis engines in my writings, publishings, and thinking. I don't always agree with them. I assume other writers use them too (and some don't use them very well). I don't see the point of invoking, continually, like some do, the name of the analysis engine they use. Even the GMs use these in their writings--and we must assume they all do nowadays. It might be easier for a writer to say instead: "This was MY idea!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


For years most of us suffered under the comment from analysts that "White enjoys the benefits of having the first move." And when you look at analysis, many lines end in plus over equals--but to me that is primarily BECAUSE, all things being equal (which they seldom are), White has the next move.

Well folks, it's time to tell you that garbage laid out a while stinks, as if we didn't already know. Yesterday at Wijk aan Zee, there were four Black wins. Shirov beat Tiviakov (not impossible), Nakamura took out Short, Carlsen beat van Wely (who loses more games in the last few years than in a long time), and Ivanchuk beat Smeets (not unlikely). On the other hand I "see" these winners winning their games as White against "lesser" opposition.

What I am saying here is not to upset the theoretician's applecart so much as to note that since about 2006, Black seems to be winning a lot more games than he used to. Is this because he is better prepared? Is he/she taking more chances? Is White slow to notice this trend? Perhaps it is all of these. Look at the ChessBase web site and you will notice the big todo which is often made of Black wins. Imagine, if this weren't possible, what would be the point of playing high-level chess?

In the old days we heard about smokers, days off, adjournments, White's advantages, seconds, and the slow pace of theory rising to the top. ALL that has changed!

Just as Radjabov revitalized the King's Indian (after Kasparov had given it up), and the Schliemann has been rejuvenated (after Joel Benjamin basically wrote it off in Chess Chow)... chess openings are still viable for Black. I expect, one of these days, to see a revision of theory for the black side of the French Defense (Moskalenko is working on a French Defense Winawer book now). You saw it here first.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Last night I was doing some web browsing and I was getting bugged by the fact that "some" think that the prices of a well-known company beat everyone else's every time. And blah blah blah. I started tracking the information and, once again, these people were full of the usual crap. This time I studied software prices for chess products. But often the "misperception is reality" (my take on the old "perception is reality" phrase) thing passes as Fact rather than Fiction. I will pass out the 10 point details later of how a PR snowjob gets people to believe stuff that is intrinsically not true...

And for the last couple days I have been thinking about something else, Haiti. These people who have been devastated are, as I write, people. They have love, family, jobs, a government, pain, death and medical problems we all have experienced but theirs were experienced in a particularly harsh way. What do you do when your life goes completely to hell? How does one have hope? Is there a tomorrow?

Other than praying for them, what else can be done? Yes, people donate money to the Red Cross or Catholic Relief Services and other relief programs. The Red Cross has taken its share of grief for past practices. Movie stars and singers are raising awareness by holding gigs and returning the money to provide relief to the devastated Haitians. Twitter is now involved and FaceBook.

But today I saw something which caught my eye and which I found amazingly hard to believe. If you own an iPhone (and a lot of people do), there is a game called Chess Elite. You can buy this "app" through the iTunes store.

I don't have the space to provide the details about changing your Elo rating, prizes, and so on, so here is the URL:

99games says that they will provide data about the distribution of funds by Feb. 25th. If you like gaming on handhelds why not look into this? You get your chess fix and get to do some good too (if you haven't already). I don't know this company, it was featured on the MacNN site which I read several times a day. If any of you participate, please let me know as I would like to know your experiences about this, the app you used and so on. It reads like a worthwhile idea and one has to thank whoever was thinking "out of the cube" (as I called my Blog post the other day). I love ingenuity and compassion.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


What happens when a pretty decent player, in the Senior Open in Tulsa (2009), scores 4.5/6 and uses as his main weapon 1.Nc3 ? I have explored his play in a two part article for the next Friday edition of The Chess Reports.

To be clear, there was nothing easy about writing this. Theory (whatever that is for an opening such as this) gets pretty much tossed out the window. To top it off, the play afterwards is surprisingly good and yet unorthodox (also out the window): 1.Nc3 c5 and bizarre variations of 1.Nc3 d5.

I am sure Mike Schemm's opponents were surprised too. And while there was a little "sloppy" play, most of us wouldn't notice it at first. Endgame play was better than you might think. To me the players indulged in "hard chess."

Schemm finished higher than GM Gulko. His games were featured in the November issue of Northwest Chess; the annotations are mine. You can read Part I next Friday. If you aren't yet a subscriber, $50 will fix that! (13 meaty issues).

I'd like to thank Russ Miller for the subscription. There are a lot of interesting games in state and regional publications. The jury is out on the Van Geet, and these games are even further out!

Friday, January 15, 2010


This Blog site will occasionally publicize writers, companies, and organizations connected with chess. One author I wanted to mention today is Gary Kevin Ware.

For some time Gary was the Problems' Editor for CLO (Chess Life Online). He was removed for a pun he made ("The Only Good Indian is a Loyd Indian."). Originally Jennifer Shahade didn't pay any attention to the comment, but some bellyacher did. These types exist everywhere--they are the "I have no life Police." Remove THEM.

If you don't already know, the inventor of the "15 Puzzle" was Sam Loyd. This guy's brainpower bordered on the incredible as he came up with puzzles (including chess) and "toys" which are enchanting, baffling, and maddening. Gary discusses, online now (his own), such things as Turton Doubling, Sam Loyd, and many other aspects of chess that were big news more than a century ago (for example). Some of this business is way outside my bailiwick, but I am sure I have readers who will find Gary's work fascinating.

When Gary told me about it originally, his problem with the USCF, and remaining on the "hired" team, I figured he was doomed, and without good reason--just "somebody's reason."

I'm not much of a believer in PC (political correctness). PCers worry and anguish a lot over offending anyone (except those who confront them) about anything. And just as you think it is only about race, religion, creed, height, weight and size, or mental capacity, they will come up with something else that would make you scratch your head as if it were a rash. This is how originally a Christian nation on Dec. 25th has become a "Holiday" tradition, even though so far Christmas trees are still Christmas trees!

You can register and gander at Gary's web site by going to:

I hope you have fun there and don't break your brain (too much).

PS: I saw Bobby Fischer one night on Johnny Carson (it might now even be on YouTube) working the 15 puzzle by Sam Loyd. Fischer claimed to be the world champion of that puzzle. His fingers danced like they were being hit by lightning as he took a jumbled up "setting" and "righted" it extremely quickly. If he ever worked on the Rubik's Cube, I am sure he was a master of that too. I don't know how much has been publicized about Fischer's capacity for games (that's how his sister got him started on chess), but I have a feeling these things intrigued him no end.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Down for most of yesterday... sorry to have missed you.

How familiar are YOU with the British chess magazine KINGPIN? I know Jonathan Manley, the head guy there, and I heard from him this morning. When I was in Georgia he inquired as to if I would be interested in carrying his "tongue-in-check" magazine (I couldn't resist). I couldn't do it at that time so I thought I would broach the subject via this Blog (which is growing!)

Kingpin has some funny articles (and satire) and some "serious" articles (I think they are serious!). Some of the humor (humour to those who can't spell) is "inside," so don't expect to get it all. However, enough people have heard of it that it is worth mentioning. If I did do this distributorship thing I am not sure of the details, but I do expect a reply soon. You know, stuff like, how much does it cost? (The conversion of dollars, euros, and pounds is not difficult, it just keeps changing!). Maybe this would be a peaceful way to put PayPal to use. Let me know what you think.

You might be surprised, considering this is a blog, but I get emails instead of all Blog comments. Some are quite insightful and with permission I may post some of them on this Blog. So far the most comments I have received are in regard to the (3) books I recently mentioned.

I discovered, much to my dismay, that without the internet connected, I got a lot of bookkeeping done yesterday! So today, I will keep this relatively brief. Thanks for "tuning" in.

PS: I am working on a book for a fellow in Washington, the state. His take on chess is interestingly different as he throws in lots of literary "dialect," sort of like Stephen Gerzadowicz used to do, but still it is different. I'll let you know when I am near finished. I still do private book publishing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


So far I've had few complaints, over time, about sending out catalogs, flyers, and such--about once a week. Those who want to be removed from my email messages are removed, and I'm glad. Most businesses don't have the time (really) to defend ourselves or to tell someone that they had requested such and such... so when I get bouncebacks, in general, unless I know the recipient, I delete.

Some customers have web domains which are overly strict in spam control. "Spam" is anything they want it to be even if I have done business with that customer. I use a "forwarding" service and they do not tolerate sending "spam." So you can be pretty sure that I am an approved patron and I don't enjoy wasting time, theirs or mine.
I've removed people's names only later to have them request I reinstate. I think Alzheimer's is now a national disease!

There are so-called experts out there on email marketing:
1) Don't use caps;
2) Don't use the word FREE in the subject line;
3) Get permission to use someone's email address (I almost always contact people who have requested things from me). They break their silence. This, I've been told, is considered ethical. I have sent stuff to "friends of a friend" and in general, no repercussions... but now and then, I do hear from someone who is probably on his computer all day long and who enjoys "being in power."

One of the attractions of the internet is this so-called "anonymity" thing. It gets used by "writers" when they are too chicken to stand toe to toe with someone else and express their objections because the objectee "just might" be able to mentally disarm them.

If you write to my Blog in the comments, you are considered fair game, but that doesn't imply I will always contact you... sometimes I am just seriously busy.

ANNOUNCEMENT: I have prepared a big document. It will be FREE to those who use my analysis and evaluation services. It is based on the 2005 World Chess Championship in San Luis. It has not yet been published. It is not based on ANY book or notes from other sources. It's main purpose is two:
1) Separate the crap and hype from what really was played in San Louis (e.g., the implication is that Topalov was invincible. Not so, he was practical.)
2) Show you something about my analytical skills and curiosity. I ask questions and try to answer them as if I were sitting at the board.
Why use ALL grandmaster games? Primarily because these people are "guilty" of playing very good chess and because they can swiftly demonstrate what can happen when their opponent makes a mistake. Amazingly, there weren't many mistakes of an obvious nature--they were usually little mistakes which grew into bigger ones. Also, you might get hope from the fact that some people just seemed to be lethargic at certain times, just like we ourselves can be.

And lastly, I will show you not only what was "hot" in San Luis, but give you reasons of why YOU might play such chess (one reason is because of the large "body" of work which exists).

An announcement will be made sometime soon. Not since 1948 was such a championship held. The characters included: Svidler, Anand, Topalov, Polgar, Leko, Kasimdzhanov, Adams, and Morozevich.

Here's a factoid for you. Are you an e4 player? Good!! Why? Because out of 56 games in this round robin mini-match tournament, only 6 games did not start with 1. e4. Almost unbelievable isn't it?

Some more: 25 games were Sicilians!
There was only 1 French and it was drawn between Anand and Morozevich,
Only 4 Sicilians were won with the Black pieces while White won 9... maybe there should have been more Frenches!
The often used and abused Petroff only showed 5 times! White won 1 and so did Black.
14 Ruy Lopezes were played. White won 3 and lost 1.

All the games are commented and there are tons of diagrams and lots of analyses. Only in the last few games did analysis drop way off as it was clear that certain parties had, in effect, given up on their chances of being a "hero."

If you enjoy finding traps, tricks, and tips, these games provided plenty at a much higher level. Svidler played some impressive games at times, so did Topalov (very innovative and aggressive games). Polgar tried very hard in most of her games, but something was lacking even though everyone respected her. Anand, when in the right mood, could play some cold-blooded chess. Morozevich seemed to be somewhat inconsistent yet as soon as you tried to take him for granted, he'd buckle down and make you sorry you didn't believe in him.

I don't know that this book-document will be for regular sale (sometimes you have to hold some things back)... but this is to let you know that marketing TPi and G&L Chess is always on my mind, sort of Willie Nelson-like.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Not too long ago a customer from out of town came by to pick up some chess things (I love that, and he called first!).
As often happens, we got into the sticky subject of "chess improvement." He described some things to me and I offered (it seemed to be safe to say this) and I said, "It sounds to me like your progress is stalled because you are "risk averse." He looked at me in surprise and said, "that's what my trainer IM X said to me!"
I am eventually setting up my annotation and evaluation business for those who are rated 1800 and under. It will be affordable--because I am going to try something different (I'll tell you in due time). My point is, for 10 years I was a programmer and analyst for the Dept. of Defense. I was hired to think but I don't believe that had anything to do with naming my publishing business Thinkers' Press, although there may have been some subliminal influence (if you want to know more, pick up and read a copy of my book, The Chess Assassin's Business Manual.)
The named IM was not Andrew Martin, but Martin had told me in an email I should consider working with those who want to get better and who do not have the money to spend on an IM, GM, or even a master.
It's very weird, in a way. I've never had much time to study chess or read it, though I put in the time for the publication work I do. If I ever had the time, maybe I would have made master. There are some other traits that are needed. Among them: ability to risk, correct analysis of expectations, understanding your weaknesses, and having a tendency toward a killer instinct. It's amazing how far these can get you. Add in some tactical skill, some theory, and you become even stronger.
Not to belabor the point, but one day a friend of mine was finishing a game at the chess club. Joe was a strong enough player, but he overthought everything. He too was a mathematical analyst. I think the game ended in a draw or a very prolonged win for him. After it was over, there is a tendency, sometimes, for know-it-alls to descend on the board and ask a question like "What if you had done this?" I generally do not engage in that because I know how much I dislike it. But this one time, I suggested an "endgame" win in like 7 moves. After some hand waving, exchanging, and some "crazy" sacrifices he said, "Well how can I see all that?"
At that point it occurred to me that what I was doing was engaging in a goal and doing everything I could to reach that goal (probably queening a pawn). The moves and sacs were sound. But, by being ultra careful, he couldn't see the forest for the proverbial trees (I've done it too). But the win was there and it was efficient.
Andrew has seen my books and my analysis over the years. He thinks I have a gift to help many of you guys. I probably do. And like he said, because I don't wear that "certificate of merit" badge around my neck, I would be more affordable. So stay tuned or let me know if you are interested and I can shoot you some information/quotes. (I am not 100% ready yet, I have some other things to get off of my plate first.)
But in another area related to risk, you are aware (well, many of you are) that I released a 4-page color brochure on Saturday and offered some prizes. For the biggest order from that brochure, a FREE copy of the new New in Chess Magazine 25th Anniversary issue, 142 pages, will be given away! If you are the biggest orderer using PayPal, I offer another copy of that extra illustrious magazine/book for FREE.
I got an order immediately, that Saturday night. It must be over $100. Can you top that? I don't dare tell you the exact amount or someone will try like hell to order something that in total would cost $1 more (these "Neanderthals" on eBay do not impress me at all.)
The sale only lasts until this Saturday and the same prize will be offered to two different people. In case you don't think I have enough books and DVDs listed on those pages, two more books came in today. They were both by IM Igor Khmelnitsky (no, he is not the IM in the story above). One is his Chess Exam on Tactics ($19.95 ret, G&L $16.95, and Gold Card $14.95) and the other is his newest Chess Exam: You vs. Bobby Fischer (ret. $21.95, G&L $18.75, Gold Card $16.50).
So what's the risk/goal? That you wait and the sale (it's a good one too) is over. You might be tempted to get a Gold Card (and save even more $$$) which is $50. There is or will be an offer which is only good in January for those who already own a Gold Card. I can't think of it right now (too much going on) but you will know more by next week.
The days go by quickly, don't they. This morning I was thinking of the $15 million dollar Louisiana Purchase and wondering what that would be in todays $$$... no doubt billions. Our government took a chance.
I intend to write about a lot of business and personal topics in upcoming issues of Chess EXTRAS, the kind of stuff you won't see on here or in The Chess Reports. Why there? Because we all have to pay to get the really, really good stuff worth paying for. I get a marketing newsletter and CD every month that I pay about $500 a year for, lots of people do--and lots don't. It's the good stuff, the information that overturns much of the crap in the many business books on the shelves at Borders. It's like that. I hear from a few people every so often telling me I can't do this, I shouldn't do that, and virtually none of them know what they are writing about. So I will explain it in CE and why I choose not to follow their path, or, never have.

Coming... The Mystery Box and how tough it can be to invent a really great product with a great marketing plan and how difficult it always is to overcome obstacles put there because the internet can be so inflammatory. You can get cheated out of something great because someone who is a birdbrain occasionally gets someone to pay attention to him, for all the wrong reasons: name dropping is one of them.

Oh yes, a subscription to all six issues of Chess EXTRAS is $65, or, $50 if you own a Gold Card. See how valuable that card is? I will also be writing about the Gold Card.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Tonight I am slated to get together with some church choir members (am I preaching to the choir?) to play some kind of trivia game. Everyone says it is fun and I am sure it will be. These little "bits" are not cheap. Besides the $10 entry fee, I was requested to bring unspecified drinks. One guy is bringing beer and wine his wife told me. I am bringing Minute Maid's Lemonade Light, Diet Pepsi (which I can't stand, but then again, I won't be drinking that), and Mtn Dew (the people at Pepsi have become the new wave generation of "texting" on products! This added up to $12.00 and we'll be there for 2-3 hours. Try a chess tournament, the expense isn't so bad if you sleep on the floor or outside in your car (eeek!).

The reason this appeared on my radar is that I have a book somewhere called Chess Trivia. It's an okay book, but I would think it would be fun having a Trivial Pursuit type version of chess for chess clubs, friends at one's home, schools, and other types of parties. I am somewhat afraid it wouldn't sell well. One thing I learned the hard way in all my chess marketing attempts of the past is that many chess players are more anal than engineers (ask wives).

It's as if many can't take a time out--and that "chess" is something that is squeezed into a life schedule rather than used to enjoy oneself. In his recent Facebook pages we see IM Andrew Martin "having fun," what a concept. I'll let you know how the party went and whether chess could be "shaped" into such a "fashion event."

But here's the deal on chess trivia:
1) It would have to be accurate Q & A.
2) It would have to "look" entertaining--i.e., colorful with a flair and readable type.
3) Players would have to have a chance (questions such as "What is Morozevich's first name?") and not insane remarks (such as "What cities has Bobby Fischer been held in jail?") unless there was an advanced version for the ultra geeks. It would need world wide publicity such as
4) It could not be too expensive--many buyers relegate expensive-only to books of 500 pages or more, hardcover, colorful pictures, and written by Kasparov. How much would you pay?

Question: If I came up with such a version--would you be interested enough to buy one (at a reasonable price?). I'll revisit this later.

In the meantime: I will be sending out a limited time offer, jazzy, 4-page colorful PDF brochure this afternoon to everyone who is on my "free catalog" email list. If you don't think you are, drop me a line at:

It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow!

PS: Just got back from Trivia night. Lots of movie questions, Iowa basketball (huh?), and strange burial states among others. The group I was in finished 2nd out of 10. We got our money back. It was fun, but strange.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Since 1971 I have seen a lot books, and every so often an author comes forth with a book designed for beginners or young people. I know that most of these authors will disagree with me, but usually the buyers don't. Most of these books do not manage to engage their intended reader (I won't go into the reasons now).

How and why do fathers and mothers teach their kids' chess? Then there are brothers and sisters, friends, and video games which "train" too.

But, it seems publishers don't give up. I aim to give only facts, not cast aspersions. I would like to know what readers of this Blog think (I'm sure that surprises some of you). All the following titles will be produced by New in Chess from February through May of this year. I do not intend to stock these books unless my customers want them... so here is your chance to vote.

First: Mastering Positional Chess by 14 year old Junior World Champion, Daniel Naroditsky (a USA kid). NIC is going all out to promote this. The parents get involved in the Introduction and it is claimed that Daniel is a "born writer." It's designed for "club players." Book will retail at $23.95. My question: are there enough aspiring chess prodigies (and their parents) out there to support this publication by buying it? And what about the rest of you?This is supposed to be a "practical lessons" book. It's mentioned that he is the youngest chess author ever (I am not sure what that means to the rest of us. Maybe when he gets older it will matter. What does one do with a room full of prodigies?)

Second: Bobby Fischer for beginners by Renzo Verwer. Apparently the focus is that it is "for everyone interested in human drama." Many of us are. Points are: youth in Brooklyn, his career, his conflicts, his girlfriends, and his "tragic" death in Iceland in 2008. The $16.95 paperback will have photos and illustrative moments with an extra emphasis on some of his chess moves (does this mean that the "game of the century" will be wheeled out again? Because of the "taste" for Fischer news it's my contention that if you can write reasonably well about a subject such as Fischer, there should be more authors getting published. Myself I have no current intentions to publish anything on Fischer. I did it once and lost money.

Third: Checkmate for Children by Kevin Stark. Having taught elementary school children with another instructor some years back (early 90s), like the author, I do believe that getting kids/beginners to understand how important the subject of checkmate is -- is huge. It's a high hurdle... the concept that you "don't take the King." This book has as a selling point: the big market of children's chess books ! Really? Why isn't everyone working on that?

I am fascinated by the "marketing copy" being written for these books. Not the way I would write it, but I would also like to know and see how successful these books will be. Some years ago Murray Chandler did a couple books for Gambit which turned out to be very popular. They were a cut above the average, especially How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.

I am sure many of you who read this Blog have many other important things to do, but just take a couple minutes and tell me what you personally think. Maybe I've been barking up the wrong tree.


These two men just won a quarter-finals stage in the WCF championship levels in Las Vegas. I know who Gross is as I featured him in an interview with Lawrence Totaro for my Squares magazine a few years back. He's about 74 now and closing in on Korchnoi's 79!

For those who don't remember, Ron Gross was a good "friend" of Robert Fischer and a pretty strong chess player. He was a friend of Fischer's (despite his being Jewish!) until he commented on Fischer, which was a no-no when Fischer was alive. Bobby was trusting until you broke one of "his" rules. Your rules didn't count. We all need friends but Fischer, being in his insular world, appeared not to care in the long run. Yet, anyone who is that "chess smart" does brood, though it's not always for the better. Brooding will include the reflecting upon past misdeeds by others and an unwillingness to see the rest of us as human.

Who will win to face the WCF champion (who I think is Stan Vaughn)? Of course I don't know. Stan wants the prize money... he's always been looking for the "brass ring," as I suppose many of us have. He works hard sending out news announcements and pumping up the volume but it reminds me of a movie when no one cares about people getting wiped out. It's important to create a relationship with the watcher of the movie so you can feel sadness when they get creamed. Empathy.

The WCF is an alternative chess federation with their own rating system (how he has the time to do all this is the real mystery). If ever there seems to be rating inflation (at least if you use the Elo methods), the WCF has them,

As to Squares, I still have issues 1-8 available. I have seen them sell on eBay for $70-80. Why I don't know when anyone can buy them from me for $30, shipping included. Issue #8 is the scarce one and when it is gone I most likely will toss the rest of them out. (Mailing them singly, even as marketing pieces, is expensive.) Glossy paper. Letter sized. Lots of fotos. Stories and articles by a huge variety of people--some who have since gone on to greater things.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


One person told me they couldn't comment on my Blog. Anyone else having trouble with this? (contact me at Do you have to be a member of Blogspot to comment? Seems I saw that somewhere. Or maybe be a member of my BLOG? I know in the past there's has been an occasional problem with "whackos" leaving really insane comments. (Look at the Washington Post comments sometimes. It is proof there are zombies among us. George R. take note.)

Two reviews of new books made the pages of The Chess Reports today for the Friday edition. Henry Miskaryan's Armenian Chess in the XXI Century and IM Igor Khmelnitsky's You vs. Bobby Fischer in his Chess Exam series.

Tony Boron gave me a tip on a control to "time" when I want to release the Blog. Thanks Tony, I found it (probably the only triangle flippy I hadn't looked at!).

It was nice to hear from Jerry Nash who was a USCF scholastic consultant. Jerry is top drawer plus he knows all the workings of dealing with FIDE. He's looking for more consulting work and if you know of something, get in touch with me and I'll pass it on. He's spent a lot of time in the Education field so schools looking for help on that should get with Jerry.

Is Chess Life PC (politically correct)? You bet. They fired the columnist online who wrote about "chess problems" because someone raised the issue of some "racial" remark. It was actually a pretty good pun but you have these people who sit around with nothing to do except b&m about stuff. I wonder if I was the editor of content how I would have handled it? Hmmm. I suspect I would have written a letter to the correspondent and told him to "get a life." Then the higher up PC-wimps would have fired me. So I would have to have in my contract, "can't fire me for not being PC unless the firer admits they are a PC-wimp. This month a letter was published about female exploitation using Lev Alburt as the pinup boy (which he has been on a number of his own book covers!). The problem is, Chess Life is still perceived as a family chess magazine, whatever that means. Some dude was worried about younger kids seeing that issue, which, they don't get anyway unless perhaps their bigger brothers gets the regular one!

Howard Goldowsky tells me that Mongoose Press will be publishing some chess fiction including a story of Sherlock Holmes. When it is an actuality I will tell you more about it.

There's been a redesign of The Chess Reports. Subscription price for semester 8 is $50 for 13 issues.

More to be said but I have some other things to work on.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Once again there is another article on the ChessBase website to advance the hypothesis that Garry Kasparov was the greatest chess player of all time. Maybe he is the "greatest chess player of all time who had the help of seconds and banks of computer engines and databases from ChessBase." Despite all that assistance his Elo, at its highest, was only 2851! Garry did this in 1999.

Fischer on the other hand had an Elo of 2785 after his match with Spassky in 1972, a difference of 66 points and 27 years. In the interim many have suggested there has been considerable rating inflation. Today there are 30 people (at their maximum rating) who are rated at or over 2731, a difference of 120 points between Kasparov's highest and 2731. Fischer was rated at 2785 which was 120 points (or so) higher than his nearest competitor, Spassky! And Fischer lost a few rating points for not beating Spassky even worse! (Kasparov's nearest max. rating competitor, Topalov, was 2813, a difference of 38 points.) Elo's system is really about comparative "relative" performances.

What's more, Fischer's disdain for seconds, and there being no computers available then, seriously puts into question that Kasparov was the best player of all time--I think objectively, Kasparov knows this and why he writes so deferentially about him.

The next thing we know someone will write that Kasparov was stronger than Paul Morphy, whom many had previously regarded as close to "unbelievable." Why this unprovable emphasis on who is/was the best? I think there is a better question: If you were a grandmaster and your family's life was on the line, who would you fear more as an opponent, for one game, an alive Fischer (1972) without a computer or seconds, or Kasparov (1999) without a computer or seconds?


Some of you may be aware of the emails coming out of Las Vegas concerning Stan Vaughn's version of the world chess championship (he calls it the real world championship). He's sniping at FIDE (who doesn't?) keeping Grandmasters from playing in this event by, in effect, disowning them.

That doesn't explain why the lower-rated GMs aren't playing. A decent, lower end GM could carve himself up a large pile of change and not give a crap what FIDE thinks for the rest of his life. Somewhere around $6 million bucks worth of prizes. It's being hosted at the Riviera where many other events of a chess nature have been held in the past, usually the National Open.

Everyone is skittish I think. The American Chess Federation has been fighting the USCF for ages about who has the right to do whatever. I've noted that master friends John Blackstone and Ron Gross have played in parts of this "championship" event. Stan has so many rounds, quarter-finals, and different names for each phase (Robert Fischer, Sammy Reshevsky, Reuben Fine...) that I have lost interest. The ChessBase web site doesn't take this event as seriously as I know Stan wishes they would.

I suspect the sponsors will pay unless Stan finds a way to make this big show go into default mode. (Stan is the current world chess federation champion, almost by proclamation.) I know Stan, he's approached me about a couple things. I fell for the first one in Las Vegas. It was a mountain resort 30-60 miles out of town. I was told 300 people were expected to arrive and I would be the only dealer. Well, I was the only reseller but there were only 64 players! (Someone forgot to mention that the American Open was being held simultaneously in Santa Monica!)

That was a long trip out there and back! I sold $3,500 worth of stuff, which wasn't terrible, but my mind was thinking of a larger number since it takes 2 days to get out there and 2 to get back. A lot of packing and I brought along another person to help out. And I lost a week fo work back home. In other words, not profitable.

Bob Karch was the TD and when a problem did arise, no one could get him away from the slot machine he was winning on (I was there, I saw it dumping out the money!). Mike Brooks was there and so was Dmitry Gurevich. I think Walter Browne too and you can guess that none of them bought anything from me. The taxi ride from the airport was so expensive that Mike had to borrow some dollars from me to eat! He paid me back when he got home as I knew he would.

I was glad to get back home to my girlfriend. One little joke however. I saw a guy there who I recognized as running for Sheriff back in my home county of Scott in Iowa. He had, on his arm, this beautiful babe (if I ever saw one). I walked up to him (he was in the sales area) and you could tell he was visibly surprised when I asked about the "sheriff's race." I then asked, "So what brings you here?" He stumbled for a second, recovered, and said, with the girl hanging on his arm, "I'm working undercover." I couldn't resist as I replied, "I bet."

Saturday, January 2, 2010


I saw a brilliant performance of Sherlock Holmes (the movie) by Robert Downey Jr. See it. Forget that "I'll wait 'til it comes to DVD" procrastination line. Downey expresses an athleticism we all could use--it keeps the brain pumping. Imagine working on this movie while also working on Iron Man 2.

You might recall, if you are a Holmesian buff like I used to be, Holmes didn't have anything nice to say about chess, remarking that it was "The mark of a scheming mind!" (He's right!)

However, for today, I would like you to carry out this thought while you are busy in the coming week. If you were writing a script where Sherlock (or Mycroft, his smarter brother!) is involved in playing chess (thinking of course of Downey playing the role since Jeremy Brett is no longer with us), what would you write? Would you include Moriarty or a new foe? And if you were getting a chess advisor (don't be fooled, some of these advisors are idiots, and sometimes the producer is the biggest idiot) for Downey (assuming he doesn't play chess), who would you tag for that spot?

One final comment about Holmes. I've seen a few movie reviewers question Holmes' fighting/action capabilities (as were apparent in the movie). Once again we have journalists who know nothing writing about something they should leave alone. As a matter of fact, in one of the Holmes' stories he dukes it out with a guy in a bar--and levels him like a pancake.

Though there are only a few copies left of Bob Basalla's Chess at the Movies, I am reminded how he regales us with lots of the inanities of filming chess for the movies. The book was a monster 422 letter-sized pages! 500 copies were sold!
You might recall in 2002 I had raconteur and full-time genius Raymond Smullyan at the 3rd Chess Festival. Though he doesn't consider himself a chess player he is full of fun and mind games including one puzzle about chess which was a tremendous display of deduction. It was published in his book The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, which set him on the road to a fabulous series of books about logic. Thinkers' Press, inc. (me) published his autobiography, Some Interesting Memories A Paradoxical Life (ret. $15.95). Ray is still writing even though he is approaching 90!
Heard from Staunton chess set designer and manufacturer Frank Camaratta Jr. yesterday. He sold his House of Staunton business some time ago but he has a company called House of Staunton Antiques. He is also preparing a book on the Staunton pieces and its predecessors. He said the project has ballooned out of scale and he is discovering how much a person doesn't really know once you apply yourself to a heady project (any project). I can empathize. I suggested cutting the work into two volumes.

The word "Antiques" intrigued me because about 15 years ago I introduced a chess catalog called something like Antiquarian Chess. There were a number of people who wrote and asked me what "antiquarian" meant and I am sure some of them didn't purchase anything until they found out! Aren't there dictionaries available anymore? Isn't the word an obvious take-off of "antique?" Maybe that's the problem, the word antique--it might only be associated with the word "grandpa."
I'll probably take Sundays off from writing this blog though I must admit, so far I have enjoyed it. I recall, years ago, the blog and my catalog pages were getting millions of hits a year, but the orders weren't commensurate despite "everyone" telling me having a web site was the only way to go. This may blow up your pantaloons, but about 20-25% of my customers stubbornly refuse to get or use a computer and want me to send them paper catalogs. Unless they pay $10 for them (some do), "it won't happen;" too costly to print and mail anymore--and yet-- I can't include all the photographs I used to do because it makes the PDF huge--so you can count on an eventual web site.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I suppose I would be different than others if I didn't start out with "Happy New Year" as my header... so be it.

But it will be "new chess times" in 2010. Lawrence Totaro asked me what I thought about Magnus Carlsen and my answer was that he would eclipse Kasparov if he can stand the strain. I think Norwegians are good at standing the strain so we should see some exciting play from him in 2010. I can't imagine him being a second on Anand's team for the match against Topalov because he's going to be vying for that same position, probably sooner rather than later.

GM Karsten Mueller has given me some inside info on the DVD format of his new ChessBase study of tactics over the book format (I have it in stock, check my catalog). I'll watch the DVD first and then share with you. Karsten has been a friend for a long time and his honesty in all chess matters means a great deal to me.

Speaking of which (honesty) this blog is no one's shill except my own. That is, I don't represent Batsford, Gambit, NIC, etc. It's not that I am against doing that, but the big guys want free publicity because I get review copies now and then. A real review takes a lot of time, much more than the cost of the item being reviewed (over the years my comments were responsible for big sales for them, but alas, they show no appreciation). There is no guarantee that would translate into sales dollars simply because many chess aficionados are watching their wallets these days and are looking for real and commensurate value in their purchases. So, even though I do believe chess literature is better than ever, that doesn't mean every one of them will be a sales winner.

Let me digress for a second and tell you of a potential winner, Gambit's FCO--Fundamental Chess Openings by Paul van der Sterren. When I originally mentioned this book in my now common "one sheeter" marketing pages, the results were nothing much. Big book, reasonable price. But now that time has set in (and probably some reviews from others), and the new year came, I am almost out of them!

During all that period the only commentary I had about van der Sterren's book was in the pages of The Chess Reports. Even there I couldn't go into much depth, the book is too large. However, I keep it in the bathroom (!) along with a pencil. I make checkmarks (oooh, I can hear the anti-defacer league in full body armor) of bits I find helpful; starting to accumulate a lot of checkmarks and notes. It is NOT a book loaded with variations, but it IS a book loaded with cautions, history, and what the current "forces" believe concerning main lines + sideline info. Not every opening is detailed, but all the biggies are: Sicilian, French, English, Slavs, King's Indian, and probably 20 others. (You won't see 1 g4 or 1 f3. Here is what Paul says about these where "White really tries to shoot himself in the foot": "Out of loyalty to those unfortunates who have occasionally indulged in these strange moves in their youth, I shall not even give you the names of these 'openings.' ") Reminds me of Kasparov in Batsford Chess Openings.

While most covers of Gambit books are pretty lame, the typography on their covers is even worse; it reeks of making ONE decision: Helvetica, and sticking with that. The name of the author is done in red with a thick black outline against an orange-ish backdrop (something like a museum, therefore, very appropriate for this blog). Double ouch. But the book itself, though possessing the same look as all other Gambit books, has some great material and that's really what I want... but the cover makes it harder for me to sell. Interestingly enough, while GM van der Sterren has been a great chess player and surveyor of all he saw, his name is not a household one. I hope that doesn't mean much to you. Club players often do not know the names of chess guys outside their purview... a shame really. (I conducted a pictorial survey of this "thought experiment" at the recent Chess Clinic #5, and some of the answers were scary!)

Eventually I will have more to say about this $29.95 (retail) book. In the meantime, if you have the G&L chess catalog and are looking for a great pathfinder (and extraordinary savings), contact me while I still have some. (Sure, I can reorder more, but there is always that lag time... remember, we all want to start 2010 off with a butt-kicking bang. Once in a while a book is popular enough it has to be reprinted and thus another time lag.)

A toast to you and a welcome to the next decade! Set up those pieces and start your engines.