Learning to Play Chess from a Master
What Jack and Owen Will Learn from Me.

At the advanced age of 71, I am attempting to get the world ready for a time at which I will not be around to make needed suggestions regarding the correct actions that need to be taken. The Scots in less than a half year will be voting on Scottish independence. I have written many articles about them being mature nation. Even Churchill, who wanted to maintain the British Empire, said of Scotland "of all small nations of this earth perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind."

Then there is the issue of Myanmar. I want to return to Yangon with Joan Baez where she will have a concert at Sule Pagoda and sing We Shall Overcome. Myanmar has a long ways to journey from where they are at the present to where they need to be in the future. I have benefitted from that trip and want them to benefit from my addressing their concerns on my webpage.

Add to the freeing of Scotland and Myanmar, there is Ukraine. Ukraine is one country to which I have not yet travelled. However, it is on my must visit list now.

Closer to home, there are many problems especially nationally on issue of racism, sexism, homophobia, healthcare reform, and income disparity. The radical right is radically wrong about the world as they see it. They do say some of the stupidest things.

At 71, I am still teaching college students who are beginning the process of thinking independently of their families and community. That is an ongoing process. It was a process for me as a student a half century ago. It is not easy but necessary...unless we become robots of the past.

Talk about a full slate of things to do in the time remaining for me. Robert Frost's words have a different meaning than when I first read them in high school:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In my adult life, I have had three children all of whom are gone, on their own, and doing well. I have granddaughter who is finishing her freshman year in college. She also has begun the journey of her life with abilities and understanding of the world around her. Then there are the two young grandchildren...Jack and Owen. Boy, if you love your kids, wait until you are as old as dirt and have grandchildren toddle into your life. While I love my adult family, they are well on their way on their journey through life...the two youngest are just beginning their toddle.

Along with all the issues that concern me about the world in which I live, it is they. So far, I can juggle addressing Scotland, Myanmar, Ukraine, the tea party and birthers... A couple of weeks ago, I decided to teach Jack and Owen my vast reservoir of knowledge about chess. I have not won any national chess competitions nor have I been invited to the Russian Championship. When I feel that I can, I will call somebody like Garry Kasparov. In the meantime, I will work upon honing my skills while transferring them to Jack and Owen.

Owen is a bit confused initially

Owen is a bit confused initially...

After a few minutes, he got with the program.

After a few minutes, he got with the program.

Interestingly, I was emailing a couple who will be going to Myanmar in a couple of months. I sent them a link to the itinerary that my wife and I used while there. In the process of emailing back in forth, that couple had to listen to me go off on my concerns about the independence of Scotland, Myanmar, and Ukraine. In return, they emailed me an article from the Smithsonian Magazine online. Giving me an article about the Ukraine is a little like giving an alcoholic a drink, and like an alcoholic, I appreciated it.

This is a photo from the article of Garry Kasparov, I assume, getting ready for a chess game.

Garry Kasparov preparing to play chess.

Garry Kasparov preparing to play chess.

This is Kasparov playing at the age of 11. A meditative moment of an adult chess master
This is Kasparov playing at the age of 11. A meditative moment of an adult chess master

It turns out that Kasparov has issues with the Russians over Ukraine. In fact, he spent time in jail as a dissident in 2012. After reading the article in the Smithsonian Magazine, when I go to Ukraine, I need to meet him. Maybe, I could test my chess skills against him. He has retired for playing chess professionally. I am not ready for Deep Blue.

What was interesting about Kasparov and me is that we see life and our activity as more than merely winning some game. It is about what he calls a "moral imperative." Kasparov said, "I was not playing to win, it was just something I believed was important for me as a human being. So it's like a moral imperative rather than coldblooded calculation."

Putin is not in the chess game of life functioning with the moral imperative. He wants to reclaim lost USSR territory...starting with Crimea and then parts if not all of Ukraine. Kasparov is not overwhelmed by the Western response to Putin, which was not by his standards aggressive enough. Kasparov does not like the portrayal of the chess player in Nabokov's The Defense.

The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov  Vladimir_Nabokov
The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov Vladimir_Nabokov

Kasparov is able to do what Steve Jobs told the graduating class of 2005 at Stanford. Jobs said that you cannot see the future clearly at all. You need to have courage and move in what you consider the correct direction. It is only on looking back can you connect the dots. Kasparov looks back to Nabokov's novel in 1930.

Kasparov also looks back to the 1936 Olympics and connects the dots to Sochi Olympics this year. Kasparov is illustrating Steve Job's issue of connecting the dots. Listen to the entire speech at the Stanford commencement speech if you have not already heard it. However, listen the first part of the video about connecting the dots if you heard his speech before.

The Berlin Olympics  Sochi Olympics
The Berlin Olympics Sochi Olympics

Kasparov said as he put the dots together, "The Olympics started four months after Germany (remilitarized the Rhineland), violating Versailles agreement, and within one month after the beginning of the civil war in Spain. Soon German planes were bombing Spanish cities-the Western powers pretended it was business as usual."

The Ukraine's protesting a Hitler-esque attempted control of the country from Russia.

The Ukraine's protesting a Hitler-esque attempted control of the country from Russia.

Kasparov evaluates Putin military chess strategy...both his strengths and weaknesses and looking back on history sees parallels between Putin and Hitler.

He got lucky from other factors: high price of oil, 9/11 attack, general
weakness of the West, complacency, muddy waters in the global
politics, apathy of Russian people-the combination [of all that]...
It's unimaginable to think he could cause as much damage as
Hitler. It's [different], 21st century from the 20th century. I
always say that Hitler used tanks, Putin's using banks. But the
damage Putin has caused to the integrity of Western financial,
political system has yet to be measured.

Kasparov has a sense of winning the moral advantage over time. Ron Rosenbaum, the writer of the Smithsonian article, saw the parallel between Nelson Mandela and Kasparov. Regardless how long it will take and the cost, those with the moral advantage will prevail.

As interestingly, while I agree with the parallel between Mandela, I also am able to put the dots together looking back upon history when I returned from Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Ko Naing have spent about 15-years each in house arrest or prison in Myanmar. While I was not able to contact Aung San Suu Kyi, I did interview Min Ko Naing. That interview in particular along with nearly a month in Myanmar changed my life. Thanks to my cardiologist, Dr. Marchand, I am able to put words to the change in my life.

As I read about Kasparov from the Smithsonian Magazine and the Internet, I would look forward to talking with him about seeing the light. He does see that some children are able to think in the logic of the computer while playing chess. In 1996, he played against Deep Blue, an IBM supercomputer. He won three games, two draws, and one loss. He was able to outthink a computer's logic...of that time. However, a year later, Deep Blue bested him.

This was Kasparov's first chess game with Deep Blue.

This was Kasparov's first chess game with Deep Blue.

Then Kasparov used his brain as a computer looking into Putin's future in relation to Ukraine. Kasparov, as a chess master, tells Ukrainians how to play their game against Putin.

They have to stay firm and they have to show confidence. We're
talking, of course, about a very diversified crowd, so there are
people who are on the street, ordinary people who are fighting
the future, and politicians who are also fighting for a future but
they do it sometimes with a very brute force of calculation. I
think that it's going to be a great turning point not only for
Ukraine but for the rest of the former Soviet Union-including
Russia. The strengths and the determination of young Ukrainians
on the streets of Kiev might be a deciding factor for the future.

Then Kasparov adds a closing comment to Ukrainians about their game. He told them to think five or six moves ahead of the game. My suggestion would be to make that suggestion applicable to all of our games in life beyond chess.

I am now in the process of trying to translate Kasparov's suggestion to my life but more importantly to the lives of Jack and Owen. The next chess game with the boys, I will try an entry level of Kasparov's idea. You can tell that I am thinking that it will take several moves and several years before I will feel secure that they get the message.

After going over the game and identifying all the pieces with their names, Jack asked an insightful question, "Where are the princesses? I will need to work on addressing that question first. However, he put the dots together with a king and queen, which resulted in his question. I do not think that it will take Jack and Owen long to become chess masters.

This is a link to Hans Moravec's predictions about the ability of the computer by 2050 and beyond. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Interestingly, he wrote this essay in 1991. He believed that within a half century that we would have thinking, not programmed computers.

Burma flag

Burmese independence flag

Visit the Burma Independence page to read more about this topic.

Scottish independence: Yes campaign

Scottish independence flag

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Ukraine flag

Ukraine flag

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Connecting The Dots

Connecting the Dots

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Forrest Gump Film Poster

Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does."

Visit the Stupid is As Stupid Does page to read more about this topic.