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After the Game

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Much is being made of Kasparov's move from chess to politics, a high-profile player entering a high-profile field. But what do other GMs get up to when they stop playing? Apart from coaching, writing, chess politics, and other chess-related activities, that is. American GMs have a deserved reputation for early departures from the chess world and so have something of a head start.

One of the highest profile GMs is Kenneth Rogoff, who was high up at the International Monetary Fund and is now a Harvard prof. He didn't exactly set the chess world on fire, but he came a close second in the US championship in 1975 behind Browne and made a respectable Interzonal score.

Gata Kamsky would be the other side of this coin, a huge chess success who fiercely kept out of the public eye in the "private sector" before his current return to the game. (He's playing at Corus next year!) Any European GMs give up the game before reaching 30? Jeroen Piket seems out of the game and into business life. Valery Salov hasn't played since 1999 and had something of a public nervous breakdown. I don't know if his bizarre sites are still being updated, or what he's doing to pay the rent these days. I hope he's found peace. Others? Many women players are "lost" to motherhood.

The oft-posited (by chessplayers) theory that being good at chess is an indicator of broader aptitudes or even genius hasn't really had much of a practical workout.


With a few notable exceptions, I would think that those who truly would be good at a broad range of activities would not be those who achieved a super-high level at chess. Why? Because I believe those who have a true interest in multiple activities would not be able to focus enough on chess alone to be able to advance that far. I know, myself, that I have a deep passion for music, writing, chess, computers, and foreign affairs. I find myself stretched thin between my various passions, and though I can become quite good at all of them, I don't believe I can become a true high-level master of any of them. I always believed if I could concentrate on just one then I could really achieve something, but I just can't abandon my other loves. Can a true elite GM in chess successfully switch from chess to something else? I am sure they can, but can they achieve the same elite status? That I am unsure of, except perhaps on issues such as what Kasparov is pursuing, where celebrity often means as much as ability.

Taimanov, cough cough

I was looking through a book about the olympiad in Lucerne 1982 and there I saw a name i didn´t recognize, James E. Tarjan, 1. reserve in the team of USA. He had good results, 7 points out of 9, no losses. See here http://www.olimpbase.org/1982/1982usa.html
I made some researches on the internet and saw he played five olympiads, 1982 was his last. His results: 32 wins, 13 draws and 6 losses in 51 games, that makes 75,5%. See here http://www.olimpbase.org/olimpbase_players.php Some more information on Tarjan: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=23094
Seems like he chose a career as a librarian.

By the way, where´s Josh Waitzkin, has he given up chess?

And what of Waitzkin's nemesis Jeff Sarwer, world champion in his age group and protean talent who once sat on a GM commentary panel for a K-K match in the 80's and out-guessed the adults trying to predict candidate moves? He and his sister terrorized the under-12 chess community until they were suddenly pulled from the game by their sociopathic father (Rustam Kamsky had nothing on Mike Sarwer).

There was a desperately sad Vanity Fair profile on the Sarwers in the late-80's, after which they dropped from sight altogether. Does anyone know what became of Jeff and his family? It was a big loss for chess' future at the time.

I don't know if Josh seriously studies chess anymore. It seems he is excelling in another field - Push Hands Tai Chi Chuan. He has won National Championships and World Championships in Tai Chi Chuan competitions.

Why is Kamnsky back to chess?! Was he not doing well financially outside of chess?

Interesting topic!

Two former American prodigies, who became IMs, Stuart Rachels and Ken Regan, quit chess before age 30 (maybe before age 20!) to go on to successful academic careers in, respectively, philosophy and computer science. (They write papers that are way more esoteric than any theoretical novelty in the Ruy!)

I guess Reuben Fine was the strongest American ever to give up chess to pursue another career. He became a Freudian psychologist, and a fairly prominent one, I believe.

As to whether chess is an indicator of broader aptitudes, let me quote the excellent film Dirty Pretty Things: "Good at chess means bad at life."

In the US I would think of Dlugy and Patrick Wolff and in Europe besides Piket (nowadays personal assistant of Van Oosterom) Mathew Sadler.

Also Michael Wilder (US Champ 1988) gave up chess before age 30 to go to law school and watch kung fu movies full-time.

Chess, as in life, if you are a jack of all trades, you become a master of none. Tarjan is indeed a librarian and raising his family in Palo Alto, CA. Dlugy is in jail in Perm, Russian on maybe another trumped up charge by the old soviet rulers. Rachels plays bridge today as recreation. If you are not in the, at least, top 100 in the world, making a living at chess, is a long pursuit! I achieved USCF National Master status, play rated tournament games of about 15 at most a year, and work my ass off in geotechnical engineering full time!

Whatever happened to former British chess champion Julian Hodgson? He hasn't played in the Bundesliga
or competed for his old title of British chess champion in several years.
Last I heard of him was he was teaching chess at some upper crust British boy's school, but that has been at least 4 years ago.

Jeff Sarwer was a good kid. Somebody met him on a bus not so long ago in Ontario. I never had anything to complain about in his dad, but perhaps he took the kids into hiding because the kids, like the Polgar sisters later, did not go to school and they were being sought by authorities.

The funniest show on Canadian TV is "22 Minutes" produced by Henry Sarwer-Foner. I wonder if he is related?

Top Canadian players: Frank Anderson and Peter Biyiasas both emigrated to California. I think Anderson's day job was as a scientist, but he also advertised financial advice in a small add in Chess Life (or was it Chess Review?). Biyiasas worked for IBM and then set up his own software company. Likewise, Duncan Suttles had (has?) his own (software) company. Abe Yanofsky became a lawyer and mayor of West Kildonan. After amalgamation, he was an alderman on Winnipeg City Council. Rumour has it that Alexandre Le Siege is playing online poker professionally. Bluvshtein is still in high school. Tyomkin plays and teaches. And to round out the Canadian GMs, Kevin Spraggett dabbles in chess politics. He has also staged a remarkable ELO comeback at the advanced age of 50.

What ever happened to Sarwer's 1988 match opponent in Saint John, Gabriel Schwartzman?

How about Matt Sadler and David Norwood? Both are pretty strong GMs.

Hey Mr Berry, don't forget IM Lawrence Day, your journalist counterpart to the east, as well as the greatest of them all, the late Bryon Nickoloff. For those unfamiliar with this underachieving IM, Nickoloff was the Sid Vicious of chess, scalp-conqueror of Joel Benjamin and David Norwood, and missed Shirov by a whisker in their lone encounter while the latter was world #3. But heavy living took its heavy toll and he left chess for the afterlife last summer.

Speaking of Norwood, didn't he get into the money business? He interviewed in New In Chess in the late 90's commenting about the infamous Bankers Trust open casting call for chess masters.

As a side note, I knew Peter Biyiasis' wife a number a years ago, about the time he joined IBM. I can't swear the following tale is true, but if so it is certainly a telling story about professional chess.
As I heard the story, one cold winter's day Peter was playing in a tournament near San Francisco. He was staying with some friends, as were several other players in the same tournament. After some of the players got into a disagreement over which one of them could sleep nearest the fireplace that night, Peter took stock of his surroundings and life and basically decided he deserved better. That's when he took a programming class, aced it, and was hired by IBM.


If you're an American chessplayer, the economic incentive to stay in the game just doesn't seem to be very strong compared to other economic opportunities here. The pressure to make chess economically viable proved too much for Fischer. I think you should add him to your list. He gave up chess for antisemitic paranoid schizophrenia. Hey, I'm glad there's a preview option now, for posting. It gives me the opportunity to add that I admire Kasparov more for what he's doing right now than anything he did in chess and that's saying a lot since Kasparov may have been the greatest chessplayer of all time. Kudos to you, Mig, and to chessbase, for shining the spotlight on Kasparov's political activities. I hope Kasparov stays in the game, the game of statesmanship. He has my support.

Someone is bound to mention the great Paul Morphy who gave up chess to become a lawyer. May as well be me. ;-)

I have the greatest admiration for Kasparov but this particular field he has chosen, politics, is very dangerous, anywhere in the world. His celebrity status is not a protection. Even Gorbachov almost lost his life on a couple of ocassions... Just for comparison, among other things, Karpov partially owns a car manufacturing company.

Kamsky at Corus--deserving or not? Personally, I was never a big fan of Gata's, but I would like to hear everybody else's opinion.

Valery Salov . . . the illegitimate love child of Adenoid Hynkel and L. Ron Hubbard . . .

Kamsky's in Corus because he's American. I hope he'll shine but I fear he won't, since he's been away from top opposition for ten years.

Yes, joining the legions of Americans invited to Corus over the years. Can you name the last ones? Feel free to include the B and C groups.

Kamsky is there because he is a world-class player making news by returning to the game. It's a perfect pick because it's a story. Everyone will be watching to see if he does great in this first big test or flames out. Comeback stories are classic.

I was limiting the discourse to GMs. Frank Anderson was not a GM, but he did have the norms. Furthermore, Nickoloff and Day are less interesting in terms of this thread because they did (do) not have a career outside of chess.

Aside from Anderson, another Canadian whose potential GM title fell victim to Cold War politics was Fedor Bohatirchuk. He was already 57 when he immigrated to Canada. He became a professor of Radiology at the University of Ottawa and a strong influence upon the same Lawrence Day.

Lest we forget, another immensely talented player, Igor Ivanov, has recently been found by FIDE to have the required norms and is a GM. He is also a musician (cello and piano), athlete, and a poet of life. At the World Active (Rapid) Championship in Mazatlan 1988, Igor swam out to the island in the bay. That wasn't like doing 20 laps in a pool, the island was waaaaaaaay out there. Upon reaching the island he looked around for a few minutes then prepared to swim back to the mainland. However, he put his foot in the water and immediately felt excruciating pain. Not knowing the nature of what had just happened, he decided to continue the long swim home. Fortunately for the chess world, he made it. It transpired that he had stepped on an echinoderm, a sea urchin. The doctor gave him a shot (adrenaline?) to counteract the pain, which had not lessened during that time. Like Paul Bunyan, Igor is a character who does not need a retirement career.

Jonathan, Igor Ivanov, who you mention, is that the same Igor Ivanov, who is mentioned on chessbase: http://chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2475 a guy, who is going through chemo-therapy?

"Can you name the last ones? Feel free to include the B and C groups." Onischuk and Nakamura, this year and last. Concerning Kamsky, his rating and career accomplishments are good enough for A-group (unlike the above two) but he's certainly no more qualified than a host of others who won't be playing. The "comeback" story may factor into his inclusion but his nationality was probably what sealed the deal. Tournament organizers care about appealing to major markets and the USA is one of the biggest.

Arnold Denker became a very successful businessman after he found he could not make a living at chess, in spite of winning the US Championship. Later in life he gave a great deal to charity, including funding the various Denker prizes for American scholastic players.


GM Timman wrote a very nice memorial to him (Denker passed away earlier this year at the age of 90) in New in Chess.

Jeff Sawyer --
Any one know if he's done interview about his life in chess ? Julia Sawyer ? where are they now ?
do they regret playing

Nasser Abbasi
He was very strong player in 1994 ! Seemed like he was at least IM level, moving up even higher
Does anyone know what he's doing now ? Does he have website ?

Nasser Abbasi was a very good friend of mine. Last I heard, he was in California. If anyone knows what he is up to, let me know!

This is far from the final story, ending with a casual rumor and leaving a 15-year cavity. Perhaps Mr Berry should tell us more about his friend's chance meeting with JS on a city bus...!

A few other names worth adding to this thread:

IM Norman Weinstein - gave up chess and got rich (just how, I can't recall).

IM James Sherwin - Rare combination of success in both chess and business AT THE SAME TIME. I think he played in at least one US Championship in 1960s (when it was a closed, elite tournament with only 10 to 20 top players); all the while climbing the corporate ladder to become CEO (or was it COO?) of at least one big public corporation. Then, caught in a 1980s scandal, he was convicted of stock manipulation and sentenced to prison, but the conviction was overturned on appeal. Now in his late 70s, he still competes in US tournaments.

Craig Chellstorp and Ross Stoutenborough -- They finished 1st and 2nd in the 1972 US Junior Invitational (Larry Christiansen was 3rd.) Both left chess within a few years later, before attaining a title. It's fair to say both were at least 2400 strength in 1972.

Coincidentally, I was just looking through an old issue of CL&R and came across its account of the '72 Junior championship Aside from it being won by two players who would soon leave chess, there were a couple of interesting things.

One, Tim Taylor - of the recent Hungarian adventure contretemps in Chess Life - participated and was accompanied by his wife. This is the only time I can remember a Jr. Ch. participant being married at the time (although I haven't exactly been keeping tabs on the matter).

Second, future grandmaster Christiansen was knocked out of a tie for second place in a last round loss to someone named Jon Jacobs. (Whatever happened to that guy?? Any help in tracking him down would be appreciated!)


Thanks, Brian, for helping me sneak that in. My final-round game against Larry was a "must-win" for me, because the result put me me a last-place TIE, with Danny Kopec, at 1.5 / 7. Had I not won, I would have had last place all to myself. ;)

That was the beginning of the end of my personal chess ambitions. On the whole my play was the strongest in my life, before or since, but I was simply out of my league. I did blow a number of won games, but not through crude blunders; apart from quick losses to the 2 weakest entrants other than myself (Takashi Kurosaki and Craig Barnes), the rest of my games were long, complicated see-saw affairs.

Taylor, for instance, essayed an unsound response to my Albin Countergambit - 1.d4 d5 2. c4 e5 3.exd5 d4 4.e3? Bb4+ 5.Bd2 dxe3 6.Qa4+ (6.Bxb4? exf2+ 8.Ke2 fxg1(N)+! is a well-known trap). I played 6...Bd7 7.Qxb4 exd2+, when Black's compensation for the pawn is probably not quite sufficient, and eventually went down to defeat. Instead, Black would be winning after 6...Nc6! 7.Bxb4 exf2+ 8.Kxf2 Qh4+ 9.g3 Qd4+.

An even bigger hearbreaker was my game with tournament winner Chellstorp. Playing White in a Ruy Lopez, I got the better of his Chigorin Defense. By move 25 I had an extra pawn and was well on the way to snuffing out his counterchances. Then the difference in our strenghts began to assert. I found myself gradually, inexorably outplayed. I rejected at least one draw offer, but by adjournment time Black, although still a pawn down, had enough counterplay (2 Bishops in an open position) that his chances probably were at least equal. I stayed up all night preparing various traps. To my chargin, Chellstorp's sealed move differed from the one that all my adjournment analysis started from. The adjournment session continued for another 20 or 30 moves, during which Chellstorp's pieces grew ever more active, until my position finally collapsed.

And in the very next issue I see that you tied for 1st in that year's Junior Open, ahead of future IMs John Watson and Elliott Winslow!

BTW, whatever happened to Craig Barnes, who tied for 3rd in the Invitational?



If you have Chess Life issues from way back then, check out Nov. 1971. It has that classic cover pic of Fischer and Evans in a swimming pool, with a wooden chess board floating between them on which they are analyzing a game!.

There's an account in there of that year's Junior Open. I was highest-rated on the wall chart, ahead of Christiansen and Biyiasas! I got crushed by a local A-player in round 3, but it was well worth it. That game topped the column of 4 games from the Junior Open that appeared alongside the full-page narrative (written, by the way, by its TD: none other than Hanon W. Russell, better known today as the owner of Chesscafe and the USCF book and equipment concession!).

So there's my loss at the top of the left-hand column...And, what do you think occupies the remaining two columns on the same page? Well, the headline is: "Fischer Leading, 4-1/2 - 2-1/2". And there alongside my game, are 6 games from the Fischer-Petrosian final Candidates' Match!

Not sure what happened to Craig Barnes; he may still be playing. Kurosaki is, and (like me) is currently rated the same or a little lower than he was in '72.

I remember you from that U.S. Junior open Jon. I was just a little local twerp back then but I did take home the top 14 year old trophy. A partner my age and I won the casual U.S. Junior "siamese" championship. We beat (I swear this is true) Larry C. and Bruce Harper best 2 out of 3 in the finals. Didn't you have some pretty big 70's hair back then?

In re: whether players are still active. The USCF maintains a database of current and past members, and their tournament records since 1991. These records apparently data back to the early 1980s, so many former members from the 1970s will not be listed. Non-members have free access to this database.

Craig Barnes may have gone into software engineering. One other prominent player from the early 1970s, Robert Gruchacz, died very recently. His online obituary is in the Chicago Tribune.

Pseudonym, you just got me depressed. I knew Gruchacz very well, we were perennial rivals throughout our high school years, and he had an influence on me. When I won the Continental Junior (1971?), he was my only loss. That game led me to take up the double-fianchetto with White, which I still employ to this day.

I did not know Gruchacz had died; I am stunned. This comes just a few days after a reunion dinner of alumni of a former employer, where I learned that a former colleague and contemporary who I had much admired, Craig Dunlap (not a chess player, to my knowledge), also died recently.

I recall that Gruchacz was a physics major in college, got both a Wall Street job and an IM title soon after graduating, and gave up chess as soon as he got the title.

FYI, the USCF MSA (ratings inquiry) database, which is open to the public and extremely easy to use, only goes back to 1990, not 1980. FIDE has a similar rating-search feature available to the public, as many readers will know.


So you remember me from the '71 Junior Open? Unfortunately for me, you've gotta stand in line. That tourney seems to be my claim to fame -- or is it infamy?

People running the gamut from Larry Parr (the ex-Chess Life editor and rgcp gadfly) to a recent ICC blitz game opponent (his handle was "Akdog"; I didn't get his name) have told me they remember me from that tournament. Invariably, they cite my 24-move loss to local A-player Mike Montchalin, on the Black side of an Albin Countergambit.

I really can't explain the staying power that seems to have. A pre-tournament favorite suffering an upset loss is hardly unusual, in a Junior Open or any other event. (For instance, I notice that Salvijus Bercys lost to a low-rated player in an early round of the National K-12 championship last week. I doubt he'll be hearing about it from strangers 35 years from now.)

I guess it must be either the very deep-rooted chess culture of the Pacific Northwest (people on both sides of the border seem to really take their chess to heart, the way people here in the Northeast take baseball and basketball); or, the prominent placement that Chess Life gave to its coverage of the tournament. With the Montchalin-Jacobs game score sharing the top of a page with the Fischer-Petrosian WCC Candidates' final, it's a good bet that 10 times as many people saw my name as would have otherwise. Maybe it subliminally registered.

Jon, wow..sorry. I didn't mean to contribute to you getting wound up over bad memories. If it makes you feel any better about that loss to Montchalin he spent many years in the 2200-2300 range.

Don't worry, Whiskey. I didn't mean to sound annoyed; and frankly, I truly am happier being known for a loss, than unknown altogether.

And I see you are correct about Montchalin. I assumed he had dropped out of chess before 1980; but I now see that he has remained (somewhat) active. He last played in 2003, in the Oregon Championship. And his latest rating is 2190 -- which is all of 1 (one) point away from mine! Perhaps he and I will be reunited over the board one of these days!

Whiskey, upon arriving home a couple hours ago I just got an email that relates directly to the above comments, and should be of great interest to you. Post your email address here, and I will forward it to you. Alternately, if you know Bill McGeary, email him and ask him about it (tell him you're from the Northwest and I sent you).

Thanks Jon. I knew who Bill McGeary was by sight but I never met him. Here's my email address: whskyreb@centurytel.net thanks in advance..

I was wondering what happened to some of the also-rans – players who competed regularly in High School, but then left the game. These were the guys who never became champions, but weren’t complete unknown either. I grew up in the Main Line suburbs of Philadelphia (just west of the city), and distinctly remember a strong player named Michael Pastor. In December 1972, I went up to New York City to play in the High School championship there. It was at the McAlpine hotel on 34th street, just a short distance from the Empire State Building. I was about 14, rated 1550, and didn’t do too well, but do remember the outcome.

Three strong players were vying for the title, Paul Jacklyn, Ken Frieden and Matthew Looks. Jacklyn won it on tie-break, but got lucky in the final round. He was in a losing position against Dave Striker, on the black side of an English, but managed to find a draw by perpetual check.

I seem to remember that Michael Pastor played in the 1974 US Junior. Of the players who were in their last year in High School back in 1972-73, Daniel Shapiro (who is listed in the New York Masters website) and Eric Schiller (who moved to California and became a chess writer) still seem to be active. But most of the others seem to have given up the game.

Gary, If it's a specific year you're interested in and a specific region (the Northeast), then I think it's fair to say there was a gap of a few years between "generations" of strong high-school-age chess players. Between the time one group graduated (Kopec was '71, Taylor probably '71, Gruchacz '72, myself '72, etc.) and the next, stronger group reached graduation -- Rohde, Wilder, Regan, et al -- there was a gap of a few years. In other words there was a little bit of a drought at the top, in the New York area at least, for the H.S. scene in '73 and maybe '74. Anyway that is my recollection.

By the way Goichberg's CCA has a Web page somewhere on his site that I think gives the whole history National High School Championship - not just winners, but detailed narratives of each year's event. I think he might have something similar for the Greater NY H.S. Championship from those years, as well, so if you want to relive the glorious past you should check it out.

Gary, If it's a specific year you're interested in and a specific region (the Northeast), then I think it's fair to say there was a gap of a few years between "generations" of strong high-school-age chess players. Between the time one group graduated (Kopec was '71, Taylor probably '71, Gruchacz '72, myself '72, etc.) and the next, stronger group reached graduation -- Rohde, Wilder, Regan, et al -- there was a gap of a few years. In other words there was a little bit of a drought at the top, in the New York area at least, for the H.S. scene in '73 and maybe '74. Anyway that is my recollection.

By the way Goichberg's CCA has a Web page somewhere on his site that I think gives the whole history National High School Championship - not just winners, but detailed narratives of each year's event. I think he might have something similar for the Greater NY H.S. Championship from those years, as well, so if you want to relive the glorious past you should check it out.

The USCF ratings list seems to show all people who were members in 1990 or later, no matter how long it had been since their last rated game. I myself haven't played any rated chess since 1983, but my rating is still there.

Re Robert Gruchacz--are we sure this is true? The Chicago Tribune has an online service for all obituaries over the past year, and he is not listed.

Norman Weinstein got rich as a currency trader. It was he who placed the famous Bankers Trust ad that David Norwood responded to; according to Weinstein, the analytic capabilities that one develops in top level chess are also very applicable to finance jobs. Two GMs and three IMs were hired in response to the ad, if I remember correctly. I believe that the GMs were Norwood and Maxim Dlugy; if anyone has any information on who the IMs were, it would be greatly appreciated.

Chicago Tribune, March 12, 2006:

Robert S. Gruchacz of Scottsdale, Arizona passed away March 7, 2006. Bob was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 30, 1953. He is survived by his wife, Jean, and mother, Nola. Bob was a graduate of St. Peter's Prep and also Columbia University. After college, he played chess in Europe for five years. He was an International Master in Chess. In 1981 he moved to Chicago and traded on the Chicago Options Exchange until 1999. Bob was full of life and loved by all. We will miss him very much. No services are planned at this time. Life-Paths Funeral Home, Scottsdale, handled arrangements.

Thank you, I don't know how I missed that the first time. I have posted the obituary onto his chessgames.com player page http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessplayer?pid=15440.

Here are a few items of interest regarding former players, and some who are still active but mainly involved in other professions.

www.magnetargames.com Canadian software company owned by Duncan Suttles.

www.pega.com Consulting firm owned by East Coast player Alan Trefler, who achieved some good tournament results around 1975.

The following three were all strong High School players, whom I had the pleasure of competing against in the early 1970s. They are all really brilliant guys, and it was great to have been able to meet them, as well as play against them.

Ken Frieden, New York area player, now heads the Judaic studies program at Syracuse university, and has several books in print.

Harold Boas, Chicago area player, now professor of mathematics at Texas A&M University.

Jon Frankle, originally from Iowa, now out in Silicon Valley, and a research engineer at www.cadence.com.

I was a classmate of "Gruch" at Columbia. Caissant - just saw your note on chessgames.com about his death, very sad makes me feel mortal.With Sal Matera, Gary Klein, and Julius Loftson, Gruchacz was on the Columbia team that won the 1971 Pan American Intercollegiate Tournament. The most interesting player on the team was Gary Klein who later dropped out of school to play backgammon professionally. I asked Gary once about his last round loss in the 1970 High school championship to Robert Newbold. He replied with something I never heard from another chessplayer about a bad loss. He didn't claim to be ill, didn't show me a move he could have made which would have won, didn't whine that he had black - He told me simply that "Newbold was a better player than me".

Columbia U won the Pan-Am again in 1984 with the team of Mark Ginsburg, Jeremey Barth, Earl Hall (there is also a building at Columbia named Earl Hall!!) and Simon Yelsky. The tournament was held in Kitchener, Ontario. Earl Hall, at 2370, was a monster third board.

Sorry for going off-topic, but I just noticed something funny that related to another thread whose heading I can't recall, and I thought some here might appreciate hearing it.

A guy named Mark Ashland posted some comments (on one of the various World Open-related threads I think) that drew some attention partly due to his signature. He signed it something like Mark Ashland, Esq. CPA PhD MBA -- i.e., at least 2 business titles, and maybe 3 or 4.

What I just noticed, as I happened be scanning the crosstable of last year's HB Global tournament, was that Mark Ashland's USCF member file apparently also includes "CPA" after his name....so it apparently follows his name in the crosstable of each tournament he plays.

I found that rather funny.

Lots of names come to mind, many mentioned above. Tarjan is not in Palo Alto (where I was living for a few years...) but in Santa Cruz (...where I live now) -- he's a researcher at the Public Library. I have yet to run into him there. I know he quit chess and went back to school in 1981 or so, did the analysis room commentary at the U.S. Open in Pasadena (the one where Korchnoi played and tied for 1st after Kasparov didn't show for their Candidates Match) but didn't play again as far as I know.

In terms of chess players who worked at Bankers Trust, the list includes Girome Bono, Max Dlugy, Anna Gulko, Sal Matera, David Norwood, in addition to myself.

Norman, I'd like to speak/email with you, not about chess. If you see this please email me (jacobs310@optonline.net).

A historical digression: this story goes back to the mid-nineteenth century. As is well-known, Paul Morphy retired from serious chess in 1859, intending to pursue a career in law and philosophy. At the time, he did leave open the option of playing again. As Morphy was becoming inactive, a new player was achieving some good results in Europe, the young Austrian Ignatz von Kolisch. Kolisch wrote to Morphy inquiring as to his interest in a match, and Morphy was initially amenable.

But in 1863, when Morphy was again in Europe, he rather rudely refused to play Kolisch, citing the fact that Kolisch had only drawn matches against Adolf Anderssen and Louis Paulsen. This was uncharacteristic for Morphy, who was known for his courtesy, and it also was largely unwarranted, since Paulsen was significantly stronger in 1863 than he had been in 1857-58.

Morphy’s retirement from chess has been the subject of speculation, but his own statement of his reasons is clear enough. The following is from a letter than he wrote to a friend in 1863:

“We are all following with intense anxiety the tremendous conflict now raging beyond the Atlantic. Under such circumstances you will readily understand that I should feel little disposed to engage in the objectless strife of the chess board. I am more strongly confirmed than ever in the belief that the time devoted to chess is literally frittered away. It is, to be sure, a most exhilarating sport, but it is only a sport. And it is not to be wondered at that those who
have been passionately addicted to this charming pastime should
one day ask themselves whether sober reason does not advise its
utter dereliction.”

Morphy would of course come to blame chess for the failure of his legal career, but there were other reasons. In 1860, he had taken a strong stand against secession. His legal reasoning was quite similar to the decisions issued by the Supreme Court at the time. But it made him unpopular in the South. Even after the war, the business leaders of New Orleans were for the most part former officers in the Confederate army, who were not prepared to admit that the war had been a mistake. While Morphy’s views on the Confederacy were ultimately vindicated by history, he was ahead of his time.

In an ironic coincidence, Morphy and Kolisch abandoned the game completely at about the same time. Kolisch had just won the strong tournament in Paris in the summer of 1867. But at this point, he moved to Vienna and founded a bank. Within ten years, Kolisch had become extremely wealthy. He continued to support chess, but no longer played. If Morphy has come down in history as the “pride and sorrow of chess”, Kolisch was one of the game’s most underrated players, who later achieved considerable success in his profession.


Are you the same Norman Weinstein who attended MIT during 1967-1971 and was a resident of Burton 3rd? As I recollect, I played you about 400 times and never won. I always wondered what happened to you.

Does anyone know whatever happened to some players from Long Island who were active first in the 1970s, and may have continued to play after that?

Danny Shapiro
Matt Looks
Dan Jacklyn, Paul Jacklyn


Loren (chess fan)

Danny Shapiro still plays occasionally. He is an FM, I believe; I think he still lives in the NY area. I spent some time with him during the 2006 World Open.

Parenthetically, since computer cheating was a huge subject during that tournament, and Danny knew I was a prominent anti-cheating activist, he stunned me with this story: He was one of the opponents of what may have been the very first over-the-board computer cheater ever to make headlines - the infamous, and rather hilarious, dreadlocked "John von Neumann", at the World Open way, way back in 1993!

Matthew Looks was something like my "permanent opponent" (a phrase Kasparov once used about Karpov) in the early 1970s: it seems we faced each other in almost every tournament we played in. I last saw him in Manhattan about 10 or 15 years ago, I think. Don't know what he's up to now.

I thought all of the Jacklyns had left chess by 1980 or so. But, while absent-mindedly perusing the back pages of a recent issue of Chess Life, I noticed that Herbert Jacklyn - their father - was listed as a donor to the USCF or one of its trusts.

Matthew Looks is currently is a teacher at an NYC private school. I don't believe he's been active in professional chess recently. I see him regularly, I'll let him know you've been wondering about him, Jon Jacobs.

someone asked what FM meant in chess as to GM which means grandmaster.

Strand, FM stands for "FIDE Master." It was the first in what looks to be a string of what I'd call consolation-prize titles: rather trivial distinctions that organizations like to give out to people not good enough to earn a truly difficult distinction (IM or GM).

You become an FM, pretty much automatically, when your FIDE rating hits 2300 (even if it immediately drops below thereafter) and you pay the required fee to FIDE. No norms are required, the way they are to become an IM or a GM.

These days, a slew of other low-level FIDE titles have been introduced, including CM (candidate master), along with the various women-specific titles like WFM, WIM and WGM. The last two do require norms, but the performance level is set so low that it's an insult to the corresponding genderless titles, with which the non-chess media naturally and universally confuses them.

That's a little harsh, if you ask me. FMs are very strong players and FM title is a difficult one to get. I assume you are an IM or a GM, Jon Jacobs, but still, FM title does deserve respect in the big picture. It may be easier to get than IM or GM, but just because it is harder to become a world champion than a GM doesn't mean a GM is a consolation title. FM is way up there in the chess food chain, as far as the great majority of the chess playing oublic is concerned, in fact it is probably considerably more than the great majority of even serious chess amateurs can ever achieve.

I'd add to the above discussion that FM is a rating-based title, and does not require norms. That's one of the main reasons that many people regard IM and GM as unique in difficulty and prestige.

The following quotation is directly from the FIDE handbook:

"Those titles gained by achieving a published rating at some time or other:

Fide Master 2300"

An FM title is definitely an accomplishment, and one that most players will not achieve. But it represents a peak performance as of a single day, and does not take into account the ratings of the opponents.

IM and GM are even rarer, for legitimate reasons. In most cases, they require being able to produce a level of performance on at least three different occasions over time, against a field of very strong players. It's an entirely different kind of title.

As of August 1, 2008, there were
1,158 GMs
2,874 IMs
5,242 FMs
and 183,788 total players

in the FIDE list of active players.


p.s. I have an article on my Guide for Chess Fans website that discusses the various titles, including FM, for those who'd also like to see them compared to national titles.


RB, I'm an FM. (Had I held a higher title, it would have been Nigel Short-ish of me to have pooh-poohed the FM title as bluntly as I did above.)

Yes, FMs are strong compared with amateurs. Strength-wise I view myself as being definitely in the weaker half, perhaps the weakest 1/4, among all FMs I've met.

But that misses the point. Which is: why would RB or Duif or anyone else use AMATEURS as the benchmark for FMs? This is a TITLE we're talking about. Sort of like M.D. or Ph.D or (closer to home) CFA or CPA. Those titles signify PROFESSIONAL-caliber levels of skill or knowledge.

Similarly, GM and IM traditionally have been reserved for professional-strength chess players. Yes I know that last sentence stretches one of the most common meanings of "professional" as "capable of earning a living through the practice of..." But you get the picture.

And that should make clear why I called FM a "consolation-prize title": It was precisely BECAUSE it's the kind of title that serious amateurs can realistically aspire to (even though, as RB suggested, the great majority won't achieve it). Or, to switch to Duif's wording, it's an "accomplishment" that good-but-not-great players can point to with pride.

That stands in sharp contrast to how I (and I think many others) view the IM and GM titles. They aren't a bragging point for weekend warriors. They represent a QUALIFICATION, a step toward membership in an elite (yeah I know some of you snobs here will puke at seeing that word "elite" applied to mere 2450s, as opposed to 2750s) that indisputably and permanently separates the title holder from the rest of humanity.


My apologies if I was confusing. I think you and I are essentially in agreement here on the main point. As I mentioned, I consider IM and GM to be an entirely different type of title than FM, or any of the other titles that don't use a norm system.

I would disagree, though, on one small aspect.
In higher education, it would be inaccurate to describe a bachelor's degree as a "consolation prize" given to those who don't get a doctorate.

Getting the bachelor's is no guarantee that one has the ability to do the kind of original work needed to earn a Ph.d. But having only a bachelor's degree doesn't mean one tried for a Ph.d. and failed, either. It represents a lesser level of accomplishment, but that may have been a question of time or money or opportunity. It's still an accomplishment in and of itself.

Someone who is an FM is a very good player. Someone who is a GM is a great player. The original question was how does FM compare to GM. Asking the question presumes an amateur's point of view, so I think it's fair to acknowledge the accomplishment of the FMs while still noting the critical difference in quality that a norm-based title represents.


p.s. Sigh. My voice software insists on writing "Ph.d." instead of "Ph.D." Very frustrating! As the daughter of two college professors (both holders of research doctorates) and the former wife of another, I do certainly know the correct abbreviation.

Of course bachelor's degrees aren't consolation prizes. But I didn't mean my analogy to extend that far.

As a directly competitive activity, a zero-sum game, chess accomplishment differs fundamentally from academic accomplishment at any level. A bachelor's, or even a Ph.d for that matter, in principle should be available to anyone above some "floor" level of preparatory education and intellect who puts in the necessary time to fulfill the requirements. Sure it's competitive, but to my understanding it's not directly competitive - not unless several key points in the process are "graded on a curve" (which they might be - I haven't set foot in academia in decades, so forgive me if I'm mistaken). But in chess, to gain the needed rating points and norms it's necessary to consistently win 1-on-1 contests against other people who are, presumably, trying just as hard to do the same.

I'll leave it to others to judge whether the argument I've just stated means I shouldn't have drawn any type of analogy between chess titles and academic degress in the first place.

Nor is the above meant to imply that a chess title should be valued above an academic degree. (Just try listing your FM, IM or even GM title on your resume as though on par with an academic degree, and watch what happens!)

Jon J. discussed whether college degrees are "competitive" in the zero-sum sense of the word; and thought they are probably not competitive.
In some cases I disagree.

I know a smart college kid who is attending the Univ of Washington (here in Seattle). He has payed $$,$$$.00 per year to UW for his goal of obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Business (non-refundable).

UW refuses to tell such students whether they will be accepted into the Business major/department until *after* their sophomore year.

UW told this 3.5 GPA kid essentially --
-- "No; you will have to major in something else, I hear Sociology is nice."
Is this what people call "bait and switch"?

The initial acceptance letter to the then high schooler should include acceptance into his chosen major; before his first day as a freshman.

Interesting anecdote, Gene. You're right, it does sound sleazy on the university's part. Then again, there are echoes of what I recall from back (WAY back) in the day.

In the 1970s students at just about every college got to pick their majors at the end of freshman year. And I do recall certain majors being selective: you had to submit applications and get through interviews in order to get into those majors - much as if you were applying to the university itself all over again! (Heck, even getting into the more popular DORMS required applications and arm-twisting, ferchrissake!)

On the other hand, to my knowledge, no one was choosing to attend that institution on the presumption they'd get into one of those special, competitive majors. So that's a big difference from UW. Since business is the most popular major around these days, it feels to me like they shouldn't be accepting people into the university who don't meet their standards for admission into the business major.

But really, isn't it up to the market to decide? I mean, if a prospective applicant - and more important, the applicant's parents - is/are dead set on majoring in business, the smart thing to do would be to pass up UW in favor of a different institution. So the market will punish UW for its arrogance. (Rough analog: When I applied to grad school, the admissions people at the top one in the field had their noses so high in the air, figuratively speaking, when they showed me around campus, that for that reason alone I declined their eventual offer of admission.)

Then again, it could well be that UW is playing on what I've labeled the "velvet rope effect." It's the converse (or inverse or obverse or whatever) of the old Groucho Marx line, "I wouldn't want to join any club that would have me as a member." The modern, urban version is, "If they reject me, they must be my gateway to happiness / success / fame" or whatever it is you're seeking.

In other words - like those New York clubs that used to deploy bouncers and velvet ropes to create an aura of exclusivity even when there were no patrons inside - UW's placement of a velvet rope between the business major and a large chunk of its student body, might actually ATTRACT more people to attend (rather than repelling people as I suggested earlier - which would happen only if choices were dictated by rational hedonism, rather than masochism.)

Count me in as one of those who remember you Jon at the US Junior in Portland. It was Hanon who tipped Montchalin off as to your affection for the Albin CG, but I guess you already know that. Sorry you found Portland dull tghen (I remember you complaining once as you left the playing room)--but in comparison to NYC, no shock. It still is a sleepy burg even with its pretensions to something else :)

Hi Jon. I remember a match in the Pan Am you were at Berkeley and I was Playing at Mich State.I think you were playing Zoran Gajic. I was paired against Cooke if i remember corectly. We won the match and I think we tied with University of Toronto for first and lost on tiebreaks, but i may be confusing it with another year. It was a long time ago and my memory not so good... Incidentally was awarded my Fm title recently after being eligble 23 years ago. Never applied for it apparently...I still stay in touch with Vince McCambridge who is an institutional bond salesman here in the bay area...

If there are any theater buffs here in the world of chess, you may have seen this obituary notice:


Quite sad. Ardelle's son was a chess master in the early 1970s, and played in the 1974 U.S. Junior Championship.

Jon Berry, Bruce Harper, and maybe Ben Kruger stayed at my place during the 1971 US Junior Open.

During the thirty minute drive to the tournament, Bruce Harper asked what I was going to play, as white, against Jon Jacobs.

"1. d4" I answered.

Harper replied, "He plays the Albin Counter Gambit. He always plays the Albin Counter Gambit. Do you know how to play against the Albin Counter Gambit?"

"No." I answered.

Bruce Harper proceeded to explain, blindfolded, that white must play a3. AND he guaranteed that Jon Jacobs would reply with ....,a5.

Bruce Harper further explained that white should fianchetto BOTH Bishops.

I found b4!,.... myself.... over the board.

Jon Jacobs accepted my offer to post mortem. What a gentleman!

I haven't played tournament chess in a long time. Every month or two, I play a few games with the computer. I sometimes play a couple of games with a B player.
My main interest is economics. I have no formal training in it, but I find it absolutely fascinating.

Tyler Cowen & Keneth Rogoff are a couple famous economists/chess players from our generation.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on June 30, 2005 1:53 AM.

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