Saturday, January 13, 2018

Keith Jackson: Voice of College Football--and Many Other Sports

Keith Jackson, for decades the voice of college football (and many other sports), passed away yesterday at the age of 89. Jackson is well known for his colorful expressions such as "Whoa, Nellie" and "Fum-bullll!" but he was more that just someone who mouthed catchphrases: he was a versatile broadcaster whose career spanned more than 50 years and who covered events ranging from college football to the NFL to the NBA to Major League Baseball to various Olympic sports and more. Jackson did the first live sports broadcast from the former Soviet Union and he was part of the original three man Monday Night Football broadcasting team along with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith.

Jackson won countless awards, including an Emmy, and he was inducted into two sports broadcasting halls of fame but he will probably always be most remembered as the familiar, comforting and informed voice of college football. If you turned on the TV and saw that Jackson was doing a college football game then you knew two things: (1) It was an important game and (2) this was would be a mistake-free, professional and entertaining broadcast.

Perhaps the best thing that you can say about any sportscaster is that he did not make the broadcast about himself; the game's the thing and the best sportscasters know that. Jackson once described his broadcasting philosophy as "Amplify, clarify and don't intrude." He lived up to those words every time he spoke into a microphone.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

International Master Justin Sarkar's Eloquent Explanation of the Benefits of Chess

There is a pernicious stereotype that obsession with chess causes mental illness and/or that great chess players are almost inevitably either crazy or at least extremely eccentric. For many people, World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer is the most famous example of the supposedly inextricable link between chess and insanity.

I am much more inclined to believe that Fischer's intense focus on chess during the first portion of his life kept him healthy/balanced (or at least as healthy/balanced as he was capable of being) and that after Fischer abandoned chess his life spiraled downhill. Dr. Joseph Ponterotto's Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer discusses how Fischer's mental health problems were much more likely caused/exacerbated by his family background (both genetic and environmental) than by his involvement with chess.

In the January 2018 edition of Chess Life magazine, International Master Justin Sarkar provides a concise and eloquent explanation of the powerful and positive impact chess has had on his life. Here is an excerpt:
I have a social condition--something on the autistic spectrum. I also battle with depression, which has been affecting me for some time. Among other things, it affects my memory, speed in doing things, and especially decision making, even with seemingly trivial things like choosing what to drink. Depression is a tough illness to face, especially when combined with my interpersonal communication struggles. People often seem to not quite "get it." Words can hardly even describe the impact of chess on me or where I would be without chess...

The inherent beauty of the game and personal benefits in fighting my illness speak louder than the implicit demands and stresses of chess tournament play, to the point of it being more like a stress reliever and positive distraction than other things.
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Previous Articles About IM Justin Sarkar:

International Master Justin Sarkar's "Perfect Game"

Justin Sarkar Overcomes Obstacles, Obtains GM Norm

IM Justin Sarkar Obtains Third GM Norm

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Browns Need a New Coach and a New Quarterback

On the cusp of making (or, to be precise, matching) NFL history by going 0-16, the Cleveland Browns fired top football executive Sashi Brown and replaced him with John Dorsey, who did not hesitate to offer a very honest public statement about Sashi Brown's performance: "I'll come straight out with it. The guys who were here before, that system, they didn't get real players."

"That system" is a not so veiled dig at the analytics-driven decisions made by Brown and his cohorts. Dorsey has a valid point about the overall player evaluation process conducted by the previous regime but--to the extent that Dorsey is providing cover for Coach Hue Jackson, who currently sports a 1-30 record with the Browns--it is important to make it very clear that while the Browns do not have a playoff caliber roster they also most emphatically do not have an 0-15 caliber roster, either.

Sports llustrated's Andy Benoit makes a detailed and compelling argument that with proper coaching the Browns would be a lot better than 0-15:
The Browns have one of the NFL’s better offensive lines. They have a quality thunder and lightning backfield with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. They have an athletic first-round rookie tight end, David Njoku. Their receiving corps needs help, but with second-year man Corey Coleman healthy and Josh Gordon back, it's no longer in dire straits. Defensively, the linebacking trio of Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert and (when healthy) Jamie Collins is one of football's fastest. The defensive line is adequate and getting better, given the flashes from 2017 No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. The secondary, a sieve in 2016 because of poor safety play, has improved after the arrivals of first-round rookie Jabrill Peppers and veteran corner Jason McCourty, as well as the progress made by 27-year-old CB Jamar Taylor. This is a roster that, frankly, should be somewhere between 4-12 and 6-10, not on the cusp of joining the winless 2008 Lions in infamy.

Cleveland's biggest problem is the players have not been put in position to succeed--most notably on offense, and specifically at quarterback. Second-round rookie DeShone Kizer has the tools to become a quality starter. He's physically capable of making 500-level throws at the deep-intermediate levels. He's tough in the pocket. He's athletic and mobile. Yes, he's raw, and his inconsistent precision accuracy is troubling (that issue rarely corrects itself). But quarterbacks with greater flaws have had successful NFL careers.
I made a similar point about Jackson's ineptitude last season:
A well coached team is disciplined and the players are always in the right position, even if the players lack the size, strength and/or speed to complete the play; the 2016 Browns are not just a bad team but they are a team that demonstrably lacks discipline and does not execute properly. CBS color commentator Solomon Wilcots repeatedly pointed out that the Browns should be double-teaming (San Diego tight end Antonio) Gates. The coach is responsible for the product on the field; if Jackson is giving the right instructions but the players are not executing then he needs to put different players on the field: the bottom line is that whatever happens on the field has either been taught by the coach or is being permitted to happen by the coach.
Hall of Fame Coach Bill Walsh, who built the San Francisco 49ers from also-rans into three-time Super Bowl champions, once explained how long it should take to build a good NFL team and how that process should work: "I am often asked how long it should take to turn an NFL franchise around. My short answer is: three years. Not every team will win the Super Bowl in its third season under a new coach (as we did in San Francisco in 1981) but it is reasonable to expect at least some signs of improvement by that time...There are reasons why some teams are able to remain competitive year after year while others never seem to get over the hump...My point is that it takes a concerted commitment from ownership, the front office, the coaching staff and the players for a team to succeed. It's the old 'a-chain-is-only-as-strong-as-its-weakest-link-theory' theory. If one of the four areas is weak, it's extremely difficult to overcome that flaw."

The Browns have been an awful team for the better part of two decades because the front office has been clueless, most of the coaches have been mediocre at best/incompetent at worst and the franchise has never prioritized the acquisition--and nurturing--of a top notch quarterback.

The Browns will likely go 0-16 this season but, with the right decision making process, they could be a playoff team in three years, provided that Dorsey (1) fires Coach Jackson and replaces him with a real NFL head coach, (2) acquires a very good/great quarterback and puts the proper structure/playmakers around that quarterback and (3) transforms the culture of the franchise from a culture that expects/accepts losing to one that demands winning results. Jackson may be a nice guy and a decent assistant coach but he has proven that he is not a championship-level coach--and the Browns should replace him with a coach who can ultimately win a championship. Likewise, as Benoit noted it is possible that Kizer could be molded into an adequate quarterback but it is unlikely that Kizer will ever be an elite quarterback. The coach-quarterback duo is essential to long-term NFL success, as proven by perennial contenders such as New England and Pittsburgh.

When Mike Ditka was hired to be the Chicago Bears' head coach, he met with the players and told them that he had some good news and some bad news: the good news was that the Bears would win a Super Bowl but the bad news was that most of the people in the room would not be with the team when they won. That is the attitude that Dorsey, his next head coach and their next starting quarterback must personify in order for the Browns to become a competitive NFL team instead of being a laughingstock.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Sedlar and Boor Tie for First in Dayton Chess Club Pawn Storm

Will Sedlar and Carl Boor had a hard-fought third round draw with each other en route to tying for first place in the Dayton Chess Club Pawn Storm with 3.5/4. Boor--a three-time Ohio Chess Champion (2002, 2007, 2011)--earned the USCF Senior Master title in 2012, becoming one of the few native Ohioans to accomplish this feat while spending the bulk of his playing career in Ohio. Sedlar, with a career-high post-tournament rating of 2395, is just five points away from becoming the next member of the exclusive club of Ohio USCF Senior Masters.

Just becoming a National Master in Ohio is no small feat. During the three decades that I have been an active USCF chess player, Ohio has typically had about 25-30 NMs at any given time and many of those NMs are from other places or spent significant time playing chess in other places. International Master Calvin Blocker, a 15-time Ohio Chess Champion, achieved a 2600-plus USCF rating in the late 1980s despite rarely playing outside of Ohio and he is without question the most accomplished native Ohio chess player. Boor's rise to Senior Master status while spending the vast majority of his playing career in Ohio is praiseworthy and Sedlar's dramatic ascent in the past few years is equally noteworthy. It takes a lot of determination and focus to achieve such heights in a sport that lacks much financial incentives or recognition outside of the chess community.

This was the 40th DCC Pawn Storm and that is also a milestone worth mentioning. Riley Driver has been running the Dayton Chess Club since the mid-1990s (with much help from his wife Sharon Driver) and he has done a lot of great work to promote chess at the local, state and national levels. Under his direction, the DCC has hosted numerous big events, including the Ohio Chess Congress, the Midwest Open Team Chess Festival and several Dayton Chess Festivals (which attracted numerous FIDE titled players), in addition to traditional DCC events such as the DCC Championship and the Gem City Open.

Sedlar has emerged as the dominant DCC Pawn Storm champion, as his November triumph marks his record 13th first place finish in the event (including five straight and seven of the last eight). Les Whorton and I tied for first place in the inaugural DCC Pawn Storm (March 2011) with a score of 4/5 and he and I remain tied for second place behind Sedlar with six DCC Pawn Storm wins apiece. Boor is now fourth on that list with four wins, followed by three players with three wins each (Yuri Barnakov, Oleksandr Chastukhin and Vladimir Tkatchouk) and three players with two wins each (Ron Burnett, John Lodger Hughes and Luke Xie).

Friday, September 1, 2017

Remembrances of Ohio Chess Champions John Stopa and Jim Harkins

This Labor Day Weekend, I will play in the Ohio Chess Congress for the 24th time; I have only missed the event five times since first participating in 1989. I am proud to have competed that often in the State Championship but it is also poignant to ponder the passage of time--and the passing of individual chess players who I have encountered over the years. Two-time Ohio Chess Champion (1950, 1985) James Schroeder passed away on July 8, 2017 and it has since come to my attention that two other Ohio Chess Champions recently passed away as well: John Stopa (July 7, 2017) and James Harkins (July 27, 2017). Stopa shared the Ohio title with Greg Serper and Boris Men in 1996, while Harkins won the championship three times (1964, 1968, 1973). Harkins tied for first in 1954 but lost the title on tiebreak points.

I played five USCF rated tournament games against John Stopa and two USCF rated tournament games against James Harkins. Ever since 2014--when I became a father and entered Law School--I have not been as involved with chess as I had been for the previous three decades. I feel out of the loop at times and I was stunned to hear of Stopa's passing, considering that he was just 64 years old and had seemed to be in good health the last time that I had seen him just a few months earlier. I did not have an immediate opportunity to write a proper tribute to him but I did post these remarks at his online memorial page:

"I had the privilege of playing five USCF rated games versus John. He was a strong player and a gentleman who always took time to analyze with me after our games. I recall him walking around tournaments recording the opening moves on the top boards. I got the sense that he was booking up on the competition, which is very smart. Rest in peace and my condolences to his family."

I wonder what happened to that pen and paper "database" that Stopa assembled over the years about Ohio's top players. Stopa literally wrote the book about Ohio's chess elite--or, at least he had the notes to write such a book--and it sure would be interesting to see the data that he collected over several decades.

Here is a hard fought draw that I earned against John Stopa five years ago. He and I each finished the tournament with 3.5/4 and shared first place with Charles Diebert.

North Market Swiss (Columbus, Ohio) January 5, 2012 (Round Three)
White:David Friedman (2083)
Black: John Stopa (2200)

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 a6 6. b4 Ba7 7. 0-0 d6 8. Bg5 h6 9. Be3 O-O 10. a4 Ne7 11. Nbd2 Ng6 12. Bxa7 Rxa7 13. d4 exd4 14. cxd4 d5 15. exd5 Nxd5 16. Qb3 Be6!? (...Nb6=)
17. Ne4 (White is slightly better) b6 18. Ne5 Nxe5 19. dxe5 Nf4 20. Bxe6 Nxe6 21. Rad1 Qh4 22. Qe3 Raa8 23. f4 Rfd8 24. f5 Ng5 25. Nxg5 Qxg5 26. Qe4 Rac8 27.e6 Rxd1 28. Rxd1 Rd8?? (...Re8 offers much more resistance than the text) 29. Re1? (Rxd8+ followed by e7 and Qe5 leads to a decisive advantage) 30. Qc4 g6 31. fxg6 fxg6 32. Qg4!? (Qe4 is much stronger) Kh7 33. Rf1 Rf8 34. Rxf8 Qxf8 35. Qd4 Kg8 36. Qc4 Qe7 37. Qe4 Kh7 38. h4 h5 39. b5 axb5 40. axb5 Kg7 41. g3 Kf6 42. Qf4+ Kxe6 43. Qe4+ Kf6 44. Qf4+ Kg7 45. Qd4+ Kh7 46. Qd3 Qc5+ 47. Kg2 Qf5 48. Qc4 Qd7 49. Qe2 I offered a draw here and John immediately accepted. He had four seconds left on his clock plus the five second delay, while I had about six minutes remaining.

Like John Stopa, James Harkins was an attorney by profession. Harkins was a fixture on the Cleveland chess scene since at least the 1950s. I used to travel to Cleveland fairly often to visit family members and play in chess tournaments, so I saw him at many events. It was clear that he was a highly respected person and competitor within the Cleveland chess community. I was fortunate enough to beat him the first time we played, when I was a class A player and he outrated me by more than 200 points, but I think that I benefited from premature resignation on his part; I remember looking at the game later and realizing that he still had play in the position, though perhaps he was frustrated and did not want to continue the struggle.

He obtained his chess revenge against me nearly 20 years later in our next--and, as it turns out, final--encounter:

Friday Action Classic (Cleveland Ohio) November 26, 2010 (Round Four)
White: David Friedman (2068)
Black: James Harkins (2039)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Ndb5 d6 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Nd5 Be7 10. Bxf6 Bxf6 11. c3 Bg5 12. Nc2 Rb8 13. Qf3 0-0 14. h4 Bh6 15. g4 Bf4 16.Nxf4 exf4 17. Qxf4 b4 18. Be2 bxc3 19. bxc3 Rb2 20.Qd2 Ne5 21. f3 Qf6 22. Rh3? (0-0-0) Bd7 23. Qc1 Rfb8 24. Nb4 This move wins an Exchange but subjects my K to a withering attack. Unfortunately, I did not have any better options, so I grabbed the material and hoped for the best. Rxe2+!? (...R8xb4 followed by Ng6 wins) 25. Kxe2 Bb5+? (...Nxf3) 26. Ke3? (Kf2) Bc4 27. g5?? (Rb1) Qe6-+ 28. Rg3 a5 29. Nc2 Nd3 30. Qg1 Qe5 31. Kd2 Qf4+ 32. Ne3?? (This loses quickly but Kd1 would only delay the inevitable after Rb2) Rb2+ 33. Kd1 Nf2+ 34. Kc1 Qxe3+ 35. Kxb2 Qd2+ 36. Ka3 Qxc3+

It will be great to reconnect with old friends--and perhaps make some new friends--at this year's Ohio Chess Congress but I will also feel some sadness and sense of loss because of the passing of several chess players who made rich contributions to Ohio's chess community.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Reflections About James Schroeder, Chess Master/Writer/Prison Chess Advocate

I was saddened to learn that James Schroeder--chess master, prolific writer and long-time advocate for prison chess programs--passed away on July 8 at the age of 89. IM John Donaldson wrote an obituary of Schroeder at Chess Life Online and, as one would expect from such a knowledgeable and proficient writer/historian, this account is thorough and in depth while also speaking from the heart. I only met Schroeder once but he had a strong impact on my chess career, so I would like to share some personal reflections both about that one meeting and also about what I learned about Schroeder over the years.

My first USCF rated chess tournament was the 1987 Gem City Open, held in Dayton, Ohio (I had scored 2/4 in a local high school tournament earlier in the year that was supposed to be rated but never was). Before the first round, I encountered an older gentleman (he was 60 at the time but to teenage ages that is elderly) who was selling chess books. At that point, my personal chess library was very small (and the internet did not exist), so I was thirsty for any chess knowledge. The man introduced himself as James Schroeder. I had no idea at the time that he was a chess master and a well known figure on the Ohio chess scene.

I selected Modern Chess Openings, 12th Edition (MCO 12, the most recent volume at the time) and Basic Chess Endings by Reuben Fine. I figured that if I knew how to start a game and how to finish a game then I would be in good stead. The MCO 12 was in excellent shape but the Basic Chess Endings was a little beat up, so I asked Schroeder if he would cut me a deal since I was buying more than one book. He was aghast. He told me in no uncertain terms that this book was a classic, that it contained essential knowledge and that his price was reasonable considering the book's value. I was taken aback by his vehemence but I took his words to heart and bought both books. I went 0-5 in that tournament but I developed a habit of consulting MCO and Basic Chess Endings after every serious game that I played (unless the game did not reach an endgame, of course) and I believe that this practice played a major role in my later chess accomplishments--including my first "big" chess prize ($100 for best score among Class C players in the 1989 Gem City Open), a 5-0 score in the U2000 section of the 2004 Gem City Open and a record 10 Dayton Chess Club Championships.

On April 9, 2017, I sent a letter to Schroeder (he did not have an email address) in which I thanked him for his positive influence on my chess career:
Dear Mr. Schroeder,

You sold me my first copy of MCO (12th Edition) and my first copy of Reuben Fine’s Basic Chess Endings at the 1987 Gem City Open in Dayton, Ohio. That was my first rated tournament and I went 0-5 to post a provisional rating of 1186. You beat Sergey Berchenko in the last round with Black to win the tournament and you later analyzed the game for the Dayton Chess Club Review, declaring that anyone who complains about having Black is a “fool” because unless you are playing a super GM you will always have at least one chance.

Those books you sold me, the game that you won against Berchenko and your sharp annotations made a deep impression on me. I went on to break Richard Ling’s record by winning 10 Dayton Chess Club championships.

I remember trying to bargain with you about the price of Basic Chess Endings because the book was well worn and you indignantly replied that it was a classic. You were right and more than 30 years later I still have that copy!

Anyway, I never had the chance to thank you and when I recently found your website I decided to send you this letter.

If you are still sending out copies of your book Confidential Chess Lessons and a list of books that you are selling I would love to receive both. I will soon be teaching my young daughter to play chess and I am sure that she could benefit from your book and from any books that you may still have in stock.

Thank you again,

David Friedman 
He wrote his reply on April 14. Considering that he sold me my first copy of MCO, it is ironic that one piece of advice that he offered was, "Never read an opening book." He also wrote, "Winning the Dayton Chess Club Championship 10 (times) is a great accomplishment" and he put in bold letters "NEVER STOP STUDYING THE ENDGAME." He added that he no longer writes Confidential Chess Lessons but he sent me some photocopied pages from the book; one passage, from an article titled "The Genius," begins "The object of the game is to cross the center of the board with your pieces and attack the opponent's position. I want to play this game to the best of my ability within the amount of time available. I am playing Amateurs, not Grandmasters; do not be afraid of anything. I must be confident and expect to win every game."

Schroeder is perhaps best known for his writing, his teaching and his advocacy for prison chess programs but it should not be forgotten that he was a strong player as well. IM Donaldson's obituary provides details about Schroeder's playing career and cites some wonderful games--including a draw against GM Lubomir Ftacnik and a flashy win against NM Jim Harkins (a three-time Ohio Chess Champion).

Schroeder won the Ohio Chess Congress in 1950 (scoring 5.5/6) and 1985 (scoring 5/6 to tie with IM Calvin Blocker in the prime of Blocker's career; this was the fourth of Blocker's record 15 Ohio titles). That set a record for most years between a player's first and last OCC titles (35), since broken by Ross Sprague (who won the OCC title in 1958, 1975, 1976 and 2005, with an astonishing 47 year span between his first and last titles).

James Schroeder's career as a chess player/writer/teacher lasted more than 70 years and impacted countless lives, which is quite a legacy.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier: A Personal Reminiscence

Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier passed away on Wednesday at the age of 87. Bisguier was a two-time U.S. Chess Junior Champion (1948, 1949), the 1954 U.S. Chess Champion, a three-time winner of the U.S. Chess Open (1950, 1956, 1959) and a three-time U.S. Chess Senior Champion (1989, 1997, 1998).

He earned the Grandmaster title during an era when only the elite players achieved that distinction, as there were only a few dozen Grandmasters in the world in the late 1950s. The young Bisguier was a swashbuckling exemplar of attacking chess; in his later years he adopted a more conservative style and he was still a dangerous tournament player well into his 80s.

I first met Bisguier in the 1990s at the Kings Island Open near Cincinnati, Ohio. He showed up at that tournament every year for many years--not to play, but to hold court in his own skittles room, where he analyzed players' games for free. For me, having my games analyzed by a legend was one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing in this event (and I had a fair amount of success there, one year beating three 2300s when I was not even rated 2100 and other years winning various class prizes).

Bisguier never put on airs and he never talked down to anyone. He would patiently analyze a game played by a 1200 with the same seriousness and attention to detail that he would apply to a game played by a 2100 and he would subtly adjust his explanations so that they would be intelligible to each player without making that player feel self-conscious.

The only thing that would exasperate Bisguier was if a player had an inaccurate scoresheet. Bisguier would say something to the effect of, "If you don't know what happened then I can't help you."

You could tell that he loved the game and that he enjoyed helping us to improve. Some players preferred to show their wins to Bisguier but I tended to show him my losses first (and then my wins, if there was enough time to do so), because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to gain as much knowledge as possible about my weaknesses.

Bisguier would state with self-deprecation that our tactics were better than his at that point but that he could show us the correct plan for a given situation; in reality, his tactics were still quite sharp, particularly in an analysis session with no clock running.

Some of Bisguier's comments will always stick with me, especially "I want my pieces to do something!" and "Where is your sense of danger?" The former remark--which he said to many players--was an exhortation to not only develop our pieces but to develop them actively. I have often said something similar to my students, reminding them of the supreme importance of active and coordinated piece play. The latter remark, directed specifically to me on more than one occasion, reflected his astonishment at the recklessness of my play as I paid the price after disregarding some rather serious threats being made by my opponents. The ironic thing is that Bisguier, as a young man, was a very brash and bold player, though of course his play was far more accurate than mine. My sense of danger still fails me at times but I have avoided the wrong path on many occasions by remembering Bisguier's warning and thus playing a necessary prophylactic move instead of just ignoring my opponent's threats.

Sometimes, at the end of a long day of providing analysis and when everyone had shown all of the games that they wanted to show, Bisguier would regale us with one of his games from the 1950s--or the 1990s! He had an incredible memory and he was an engaging raconteur as he entertained us with slashing victories from his youth or his somewhat more subdued wins as he captured one of his three U.S. Senior titles.

One of my favorite Bisguier stories about his career (which I both read about and then heard about from him as well) is how he came to win the inaugural Church's Grand Prix; as I recall, he was between jobs in 1979, so he decided that he might as well travel the country and try to make some money playing chess. Bisguier said this so casually, as if anyone in his early 50s could just suddenly ramp up his chess tournament schedule to play almost every weekend in a different city while enjoying sustained success against younger players, many of whom were full-time chess professionals. According to an article in the March 1980 issue of Chess Life, Bisguier finished with 80.62 Grand Prix points to narrowly beat International Master Vitaly Zaltsman. In addition to the various tournament prizes that Bisguier won along the way, he received $3000 plus automatic entry into the next U.S. Chess Championship (Zaltsman won $1500 and the next 10 players on the list received between $100 and $1000 each). In that article, Bisguier noted with pride that during the year he had increased his rating to a new career-high.

I was always puzzled that players above a certain rating felt that it was beneath them to show their games to Bisguier and I thought that it was crass and foolish that some players mentioned his name while debating who was the "weakest" active Grandmaster, as if mere mortal chess players have any business trying to make such a distinction; Bisguier's rating slowly but surely dropped from 2500+ to his 2200 floor but his wisdom and understanding of the game remained undimmed--and he had forgotten more about chess than most of those who mocked him would ever know, regardless of whether or not their current ratings were 50 or 100 points higher than his. A player who peaks at 2300 has not accomplished a fraction of what Bisguier did and should speak of Bisguier with nothing but humility and respect. To paraphrase what Yoda said to Luke Skywalker, "When 80 years old you reach, play chess as well you will not."

It has been a few years since I last had the opportunity to play at Kings Island and more than a few years since Bisguier stopped coming to the event; I miss seeing him every year as fall turned to winter in Ohio but I cherish the memories of my many interactions with him and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to spend so much time with one of the legends of 20th century American chess.

Rest in peace, Grandmaster Bisguier, and may your family be comforted at this time.