Is Donald Trump Playing 3-D Chess?
This edition of "In Other News" features a double dose of Russian stories, another double dose of young chess players making waves, and one of the most incredible acts of hubris in chess. You'll also see an examination of whether or not the leader of the free world thinks like we do.
Let's start with one of the most enigmatic and peripatetic men in chess, whose adventures are worthy of filling up an entire edition of In Other News all by himself.
GM Timur Gareyev, the currently record-holder for most simultaneous blindfold games played, played 48 boards blindfolded again. Well, sort of.
Hosted on the Russian television show "Удивительные люди" meaning "Amazing People," the American grandmaster had only five minutes to memorize 48 positions randomly selected by a computer (presumably these positions are all close to equal, but the show didn't specify other than to say they were in the "development stage"). Then, three young chess players, advertised to be "Candidates in Masters" (no rating is given, but presumably this could mean they are CMs), selected which position they wished to play against Gareyev.
The Uzbek-born GM previously told Chess.com that one of his memory tricks when playing full blindfold games is to associate the voice of the player with the particular game. He said he also builds a "memory palace" for each game where each move has a mental projection he forms in sequence (so for example 1. e4 could be a banana, and the response 1...c5 could be someone peeling that banana, and so forth).
Neither of these techniques exactly align with this particular challenge, but Gareyev performed well nonetheless. All of the show's hosts ended by fawning over the accomplishment, although for one, she suspected the positions resembled each other. After she got up and checked several of the 48 boards to ensure the positions were indeed different, she said, "Now I can surely say that I am amazed!"
According to his newsletter, next up for the restless Gareyev: A Chess960 exhibition in Norway, travels to Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, India, and Thailand, and plans to hike the Appalachian Trail.
Staying inside Russia for our next story, one prominent grandmaster has decided to publicly support Vladimir Putin for next year's election for president of Russia. GM Sergey Karjakin, who had previously posted on social media various pro-Putin messages, has now pinned a Tweet that translates to "Putin team. I'm on the team."
Всегда открыто поддерживал Владимира Путина, но теперь, наконец, могу сделать это официально. Putin team. Я в команде! pic.twitter.com/OvMuVwTZui— Sergey Karjakin ( @SergeyKaryakin) November 13, 2017
The Crimean-born super-GM's career resembles that of his homeland. Like the control of Crimea itself, Karjakin formerly represented Ukraine, but now plays for Russia. Previously, he donned a pro-Putin t-shirt for his Instagram page:
Screenshot of Karjakin's Instagram page from last year. His shirt translates to: "We don't give up on our own" (similar to the English expression: "We don't leave anyone behind").
Karjakin has also Tweeted in 2016 that it was a "big honor" to meet his country's leader.
It was a big honor for me to meet with mr.Putin! pic.twitter.com/uitYDxyVBJ— Sergey Karjakin ( @SergeyKaryakin) May 11, 2016
Despite all the praise and the claim that he is "on Team Putin" it's not clear if that means Karjakin has a specific role in the government or if he is part of Putin's reelection campaign.
Transitioning to American politics and its intersection with the chess world, recently the HBO show "VICE News" came calling on this reporter to help with a segment on President Donald Trump. Specifically, they wanted to know the validity of the oft-used metaphor that his thinking and techniques resemble the strategies of "3-D chess."
Amazingly, they managed to track down the creator of the "Star Trek" 3-D chess set, and a man whose garage is a 3-D chess club (the mullet-wearing character steals the show). Check out the segment for yourself:
We can only hope that the victory dance seen at 4:40 comes to high-level international competitions soon.
Another man who weighed in on the topic was GM Garry Kasparov. Yeah, he doesn't like the analogy either. Found here on a Politico podcast, Kasparov said that when he hears that Trump is playing chess, "I have my duty to defend the game that I've been playing for decades."
He said he doesn't appreciate the metaphor used on Putin, either, but said that if Putin and Trump played chess, the Russian would win.
"Both of them despise playing by the rules, so it's who will cheat first," Kasparov said. "But in any game of wits, I would bet on Putin, unfortunately."
People keep asking about 4-D chess, but this is looking more like dominoes... https://t.co/Sy6f4eiy4C— Garry Kasparov ( @Kasparov63) December 1, 2017
Sticking with chess-themed podcasts but removing the politics, one of the most recent episodes of "The Perpetual Chess Podcast" features the larger-than-life character of Jonathan Corbblah. The former New York City street hustler never quite made master, but did use his offbeat gambits and gregarious personality to play chess with several world champions. He even once parlayed his connections into a chess afternoon with George Soros.
Full disclosure: The host of the podcast, NM Ben Johnson, is this writer's former roommate, but that's hardly a reason not to subscribe as he approaches his 50th episode.
What he's become best known for is the double-digit number of trivia-based game shows he's appeared on, even once winning on the pinnacle of quiz shows -- "Jeopardy."
After you get done listening to his eclectic career in chess and trivia, you can also watch this special feature where he explains even more about his aspirations.
WGM Sabina Foisor, the current U.S. Women's Champion, was recently named to the "30 Under 30" list on Forbes.com for the category "Games." While the site doesn't list criteria for inclusion, the nomination did note that she was an "underdog" for the title. She was the 6th ranked according to FIDE rating, but was also playing only a few months after the passing of her mother.
Moments after winning her first U.S. Championship, WGM Sabina Foisor is embraced by fiancee GM Elshan Moradiabadi. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.
Curiously, Chess.com's reporting of the passing of IM Cristina Foisor came in a past "In Other News" column, which also discussed GM Fabiano Caruana making the same Forbes list for "Games." Who's the secret chess player working at that magazine anyway?
As if that's not enough, yet another chess player was named in this edition. Although not being featured for his chess exploits, 2100-rated Zachary Weiner made the "Sports" list as the Co-founder of "Overtime," a program that allows amateur athletes to create their own highlight reels.
Max Deutsch has many interesting ideas. For the last year, he's given his all to 12 different tasks, one month at a time. His final one just happens to have the drawback that it is insurmountable.
In October, his final month, Deutsch's goal was to study chess relentlessly (well, and to have his computer use some sort of "algorithm" to assist). At the end of that month, he would use his newfound knowledge to beat the world champion. That's right -- from almost no chess training to beating GM Magnus Carlsen in 30 days.
The article about his challenge is behind a pay wall, but luckily the "Wall Street Journal" produced this video:
And here's the game, where Carlsen said afterward that he played decently for about 10 moves:
Some of his dozen challenges over the course of this last year seemed more feasible than this one. Deutsch's list included memorizing the order of a deck of cards, landing a backflip, playing guitar, and other self-improvement disciplines. There's one glaring difference of course. None of his other challenges -- not one -- included someone else seeking to make you fail (well, unless you include April's task of holding a 30-minute conversation in Hebrew, in which the other person could attempt to complicate the dialogue).
So what did he have to say about his defeat?
"I greatly underestimated how much time it would take to defeat the world chess champion," he wrote on his blog. "It turns out, not so surprisingly, that this is a pretty ambitious feat after all."
Still, he doesn't seem to "get it" when it comes to the complicated nature of chess and the number of positions and patterns needed for mastery (let alone the intuitive decisions). He continues to explain that even if his computer were stronger and he could understand its algorithms better, that chess is about "10x" more involved than memorizing cards.
"I'd say, more realistically, this challenge could be completed in about 3-6 months, starting from where I started, working full time at it."
Let's just say if he wins a rematch, he will have more than a few buyers for that computer program.