A 30-Year Zugzwang And The 4-Hour Chess Workweek

A 30-Year Zugzwang And The 4-Hour Chess Workweek

| 10 | Misc

What happens when an efficiency expert and a driven chess player meet? What periodical went three decades in between a certain chess reference?

November was a massive month of "secondary" chess news. How big? There was so much quantity that we need two "In Other News" reports. Enjoy part one, and as always, make sure your coffee mug is full and you're ready to click to learn more.

Josh Waitzkin Appears On Tim Ferriss Podcast

The former child prodigy and real-life subject of "Searching for Bobby Fischer," now a world champion in Tai Chi Push Hands, has been removed from the chess world so long that he is rarely referenced with his title (Waitzkin is an IM). However, his book "The Art of Learning" makes him a perfect comrade to Tim Ferriss, a man most famous for his book "The 4-Hour Workweek".

IM Josh Waitzkin in the zone. (Photo courtesy

Ferriss also won a world title in martial arts in 1999 (through some cunning usage of the rules in Sanshou -- Chinese kickboxing). Both are avid learners and interested in the actual craft of learning.

Both are also into the "self-help" market -- Ferriss branched out to write about body conditioning while the podcast mentions that Waitzkin mentors top athletes and bankers. The hour-plus talk will enlighten you to some unconventional ways to live one's life.

A Feminist Double-Standard In Chess?

Most readers here can take solace that they can likely beat the woman who holds the record for highest IQ in the world. But one of Marilyn vos Savant's readers didn't inquire about a chess puzzle, instead "A.C." wanted to know if an opponent's behavior was copacetic.

Some readers would argue that the world's highest IQ is not being put to good use! (Photo courtesy

The "Parade" columnist didn't mince words. vos Savant flagged the woman's behavior as uncordial. "Do the male chess players ever crow with victory when a man beats a woman?" she asks rhetorically. Sadly, some men don't have a chance to play even a single woman at their local club to find out.

Myanmar Open International Won By Top Burmese Player

The continued opening of Myanmar to the outside world meant another international tournament last month (the country also had elections in November). The peripatetic GM Nigel Short won last year, but this year a local player took top honors. This is the same country that early this century had FIDE dock all of its players several hundred rating points due to "closed-door" tournaments with questionable results.

If "happiness is a passed pawn" then chess players like this reporter need to visit this section of Myanmar's most famous temple, the Shwedagon Pagoda.

IM Wynn Zaw Htun, the current number one in Myanmar, bested three GMs in the final standings and won with 7.5/9. He didn't really have to work that hard in the final round.

But how to classify the opening? Do we call it a reverse Trompowsky, or maybe a upside-down Hippo Defense? Perhaps it's just right for a game played in Rangoon, Burma, or Yangon, Myanmar, depending on your politics!

16th Bangkok Chess Club Open Announced

Staying in Southeast Asia, this year's Bangkok Open will be in the middle of the city (the tournament alternates between the metropolis and a nearby beach on odd years). 

Although in a recent survey users voted for other "exotic" tournament locations, the tournament usually features several world-class players. Past winners have included GMs Jan Gustafsson, Francisco Vallejo Pons, and of course Nigel Short (twice)! Last year 20 grandmasters played.

Careful! The Bangkok Open always coincides with Songkran, the Thai New Year, in which it's impossible to escape a water fight as this reporter found out.

The World's Longest Zugzwang

"The Chicago Tribune," the largest newspaper in the third-largest city in the U.S., may not be the best place to go for your chess news. Its staff collectively won 15 Pulitzer Prizes in the last 30 years, but not once did the word "zugzwang" appear in print. Anywhere.

Its last previous reference was at least in relation to chess. On October 25, 1985, William Safire wrote that Karpov, trailing in his match with Kasparov, was in "zugzwang."

This time around the connotation dealt a lack of progress in Iranian-Russian relations. Zugzwang is essentially a shibboleth for chess players -- anyone who uses it is quite likely part of our subculture.

What on earth does this photo have to do with chess? It's one of the menu offerings at Zugzwang Bar and Restaurant in South Africa!

The World's Longest Adjournment

Well, perhaps not a literal adjournment, but such was this writer's caption to this unique photo recreation conjured in New York City's Washington Square Park.

The tables may have been replaced with newer models, but GM Fabiano Caruana was back there in the rain with his former coach and columnist NM Bruce Pandolfini. Some photos are truly timeless.

Bruce Pandolfini and Fabiano Caruana (with about a 1000-point difference). Write your best caption in the comments!

What's The Price Of An 1850s Staunton Chess Set?

The ivory pieces were estimated to be worth €8000-10,000 before going on sale in Dublin last month. Were you there? If you were the lucky buyer, let us know in the comments how much you paid for them!

This 1850s red and off-white set is older than the world championship. (Photo: "Irish Times").

Annual University Chess Match Sees Texas Beat Belgrade

The University of Texas at Dallas, one of the longest-running chess scholarship universities in the U.S., has contested the "Svetozar Gligoric Transatlantic Cup" with the University of Belgrade since 2006.

The decade-old event has spanned the life and death of its namesake and with the latest win by the Americans the lifetime series is now tied up at four wins apiece and two drawn matches. The Comets had not won however since 2009 -- this year's narrow 9-7 victory came mostly from the 6.5-1.5 score from the top boards (Texas featured six GMs while Serbia didn't have a single GM on its 16-person roster).

Inside the Belgrade Chess Club, which encapsulates the male-dominated chess world mentioned in the Marilyn vos Savant article.

"Tinier" Chess Match Bridges ChessKids In North Carolina And Nigeria

"Hunter" is a great name for a chess school. The elite public school in New York City has won perhaps hundreds of national team titles under the guidance of FM Sunil Weeramantry, but this "Hunter" is an elementary school in Raleigh, NC.

Three students of Nigerian descent, among a club of 130, helped serve as the impetus for the friendly match with the West African nation. The use of ('s scholastic site) and Skype allowed the kids to play a live match and greet each other.

"Ambassador Krush" Highlights 2nd New Orleans Chess Festival

In a recent interview, American GM Irina Krush told this reporter that after winning her seventh national title, she will likely be playing less and becoming an "ambassador" for chess through public appearances, her chess school, and commentary gigs.

GM Irina Krush had it tough in the Big Easy. (Photo: New Orleans Chess Fest Facebook page).

In one such appearance, she was the guest star for the second annual New Orleans Chess Fest. Krush played blindfold chess, a 21-board simul, and helped command the human chess match.

Last year was a sponsor, and if you've made it this far in this long report you deserve a Zydeco-chess mashup to leave you feeling happy.


Stayed tuned for part two of this month's "In Other News" coming soon!

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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