Jan 2, 2011, 12:00 AM
First of all, let me take this opportunity and wish to all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
The goal of my highly unscientific research is to establish who was the best chess player amongst celebrities. And I am talking about celebrities who weren't professional chess players (sorry Bobby and Garry fans).
There are some conditions and restrictions I established for my research. The first and foremost, I needed to see actual games played by the celebrity in question. Therefore, even though I am really tempted to announce Carla Gugino (the actress pictured above) the winner right away, I was not able to locate any actual chess games she played, so unfortunately she was disqualified from the contest.
The second rule is the game needs to be legit. It is not a secret that there are many clearly doctored games like the next one:
If it is not obvious for you that this game is a fake, just look at the position in the diagram. It became popular only about three decades after this game was allegedly played. Heck, the great Alexander Alekhine officially introduced his defense in the tournament in Budapest in 1921! Since it is difficult for me to believe that the famous Russian writer Maxim Gorky was decades ahead of Alekhine in the opening theory of chess, I ignore this game.
Also I refused to evaluate the strength of a chess player based on just one game.
So, unfortunately, Ray Charles who seems to be a really good chess player was out of the contest since I was able to locate just one game of his that was published in Chess Life magazine.
Despite his blindness, he was obviously a very decent chess player. For instance, had he played an obvious capture on move 17, then GM Evans would have been hard-pressed to beat the untitled player.
You can ask why I established the rule of more than one game needed for evaluation. Well, I had my own personal experience which I want to share, so it will be easier for you to understand my position here.
A long time ago, when I was 13-year old I played one of the countless Soviet Junior events. The game was complicated and I got in serious time trouble. I was playing Black and my King travelled all the way from g8 to e5. And here, when my flag was about to fall and my King was in the center with the board full of pieces, my opponent suddenly offered me a draw. I didn't have time to think and immediately accepted the offer. Then my opponent explained to me that he didn't see any way to stop my King's march to safety Ke5-d6-c7-b8! Indeed it was unstoppable, and as a result I would have gotten a winning position thanks to four extra pawns that my opponent sacrificed to lure my King into the center.
After the game my coach told me what one famous Soviet celebrity coach who watched the game said about me. He said : "this kid will never be a chess player." I am not going to reveal the name of this coach (who liked to mention World Champions and World title contenders amongst his students) only because he died many years ago. But I was really appalled. How could anyone in his right mind judge a 13-year old kid based on just one game (or should I say the last 5 minutes of the game played in a terrible time trouble)? Of course my coach passed on the words of that person because she new me very well. It gave me a lot of motivation to prove him wrong and in some 5 years I tied for first in the World Junior Championship and then won the European Junior Championship. So I finally reached the moment I was waiting for a long time: to ask that pseudo-coach what he thinks about that episode now. But to tell you the truth, in 5 years his insult really faded, so I just never spoke to him.
Anyway, I hope now you, my dear readers, can understand why I don't want to judge people based on just one game.
Now, it is time to start the contest. As I mentioned in my previous article (
Consequently, whenever I see something that drastically differs from this assumption (like the result of the next game), I have my doubts.
Sure enough, a quick search shows that Woody Harrelson had some help during the game. And the helper was GM Yasser Seirawan!
The first celebrity I am going to evaluate is Humphrey Bogart. There is a lot of evidence (and pictures) that prove that he liked to play chess. Here is a game he played against his wife - actress Lauren Bacall.
Some anti-positional moves he played and some missed tactical opportunities don't allow me to rate him above USCF 1500. But what I find really interesting is that Garry Kasparov used a similar pin in one of his games. Did he study the games of Humphrey Bogart? :)