Why We’re Jubilant

by admin on March 28, 2018

This is a Facebook post I wrote today, and I decided to post it here too. (It’s very short!)

One of my Facebook friends, Mike Zaloznyy, started a thread asking why there was so much rejoicing over Fabiano Caruana’s qualifying to play a match for the chess world championship with Magnus Carlsen. In particular, Mike wondered, did it have to do with the fact that there aren’t any Russians playing?

I don’t think so, but I think I have figured out the reason for the jubilation. It is our pent-up longing for an American challenger that we can be proud of. Fate dealt us a really cruel blow when the one great American chess genius, Bobby Fischer, turned out to be a paranoid bigot who dragged the whole game into disrepute. We were prepared to embrace Fischer, but he turned out to be someone you wanted to get as far away from as possible.

With Caruana, we have an American world championship contender who is (as far as I know) a sportsman, a gentleman, and completely sane. That’s all we’ve wanted for the last 46 years. Now, there’s one other thing that the news media will surely want: They will want Fabi to win. Otherwise, the non-chess-playing world will forget him and move on. But that’s something to worry about another day. For today, we can rejoice in his great accomplishment!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Braun March 28, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Yes, exactly!! I saw Mike’s FB post and the responses also, and I was surprised at the negative comments. But those of us who have been playing in the U.S. since the Fischer boom are beyond excited. I feel like we were deprived of some great chess from Fischer just as I started to take a real interest in the game. After decades of Karpov, Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Carlsen and others, an American finally made it to the final match. Caruana worked hard to get where he is. Who cares if it was here in the US or in Europe? He’s always prepared, he’s versatile and very patient. He doesn’t gloat when he wins, he doesn’t make excuses when he loses. We should get behind him and hope for the best in November. But whatever the result is, I’m so impressed with the way he bounced back and gave himself a chance. He should be a role model for young chess players everywhere.


paul B. March 28, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Dana, I have to disagree with your assessment of Bobby. I don’t think that he dragged the whole game into disrepute because by the time his bigotry was in the news he was a very marginal figure.

I lived through the period of Bobby’s glory, when he took on the Soviet chess behemoth like David facing Goliath and thrilled us all with his victory. We were ecstatic, giddy with joy. Thousands of new players flocked to the game; chess teachers couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Bobby’s slow mental disintegration was not much different from what happened to Kurt Godel, whose paranoia about food poisoning caused him to stop eating. He weighed 70 pounds at death, I’ve read. in both cases, their flawed end games in life did not detract from the brilliance of their play when they were at their best.

Now, if you want a chess player to run away from, Lenin is your man. Lenin was so good at chess that he used to play simuls. Sadly, we know nothing of his games although it might be possible that somewhere in the Lenin’s archives there might be some undiscovered material.

Here is a glimpse of Lenin’s thought processes. He noted that there was a vast famine in Russia in the 1920’s, caused by Bolshevik confiscation of grain from the peasants. Lenin saw a cynical opportunity there. He wrote that the famine could be used as a smokescreen to break the power of the Orthodox Church by claiming that the Bolsheviks needed to confiscate church property in order to pay for imported food to end the famine. They seized church property but never used a kopek of it to buy food. That idea struck me as the product of a chess player’s mind – seeing an imbalance created by a position on the board and exploiting it in a completely unanticipated way.


Larry Smith March 29, 2018 at 7:50 am

If you’re taking a poll, I’m glad to see Fabi win the Candidates, but I wouldn’t use the word “jubilant.” And it never occurred to me that I was glad there isn’t a Russian in the finals.

As with professional sports, I have some favorite chess players that I find I root for. And like the cheeseheads who root for the Green Bay Packers, it’s not rational. Sure, you can explain that you like Player X because he/she is uncompromising, or a great endgame player. But I find myself happy or sad (for want of more nuanced words) when favorite players do well or poorly, in the same way that I root for the L.A. Lakers.


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