August 31, 2003
THE BEST POLITICIAN YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
I'll take "Successful Modern Moslem Heads of State" for $500, Alex.
August 30, 2003
BRONSTEIN AND THE MAN
Today is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the 1953 Zurich chess tournament, one of the strongest in history. The best players in the world competed for the chance to challenge then-champion Mikhail Botvinnik. The book of the tournament, written by Russian grandmaster David Bronstein (who tied for 2nd), is a classic of chess literature.
Two years earlier, Bronstein drew a match with Botvinnik for the world championship. In the chess-mad Soviet Union, it was a sensation. Botvinnik was Stalin's boy - he played rational, positional, "scientific" chess. Bronstein played the other kind, but he was good. Really good. With two games left to play, Bronstein led the match and just needed two draws to claim the title. But he lost the next game (resigning a position that might have been lost, or might not have been), and drew the final one, allowing Botvinnik to retain his title.
What happened? They're still arguing today about that today. There's a story that Bronstein once consoled Bobby Fischer, who was crying after he lost a game to Spassky: "listen, they forced me to lose an entire match to Botvinnik, and I didn't cry."
Who knows what really happened, but a couple of thoughts:
1) Stalin was happy with the champion he had.
2) Bronstein was not much of a Stalinist, what with his father just getting out of the Gulag.
3) Bronstein was Jewish, a poor career move in that environment.
4) And, just to make things worse, "David Bronstein" was also Trotsky's name.
What could he do? He got in The Man's face, played him even, and went home.
His autobiography is The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
August 29, 2003
It's a little disappointing that Israel has not yet developed a missile powerful enough to destroy a donkey cart. Three missiles got the job done, however.
The Israeli missiles are still ahead of the Hamas Qassam-2, which the BBC reports has been fired 2000 times without inflicting any casualties.
CASEY AT THE BAT
"Casey at the Bat" was written over at the Examiner Building by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, who Hearst knew from his Harvard days (Thayer ran the Lampoon).
Here is a link to Christopher Bing's (dare I say - sumptuous) new edition.
It is intended as a children's book, but I suspect it's the sort of children's book that is most appreciated by adults. My son enjoys chewing the cover, however.
There's a good piece on Bing here.
Dashed off in an afternoon, the poem followed poor Thayer around for the rest of his life. In his last days he was seized with the desire to write but was too ill. "Now I have something to say, I am too weak to say it." More here.