All the Wrong Moves


A just-published chess memoir and a chess position from my recently-played game are both pleasing. All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything is by Sasha Chapin, who attained a US Chess rating of 1417 (based on 22 games). The diagrammed position at the end of this article is from round 3 of my latest tournament, the 2019 Texas Women’s Chess Championship (August 17-18, 2019).

All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything by Sasha Chapin

This excerpt from Chapin’s book shows how he engages the reader: “Despite my obvious lack of talent, I leapt across continents to play in far-flung competitions, studied with an eccentric grandmaster, spent almost all of my money, neglected my loved ones, and accumulated a few infections.” After reading that introduction, I wanted to find out where Chapin played and who the eccentric grandmaster was.

Reading on, I found that I had been to some of Chapin’s chess club and tournament locations. Also, I am well acquainted with Chapin’s “eccentric” grandmaster, Ben Finegold. Chapin’s words brilliantly capture Finegold’s physicality and sense of humor. And since Finegold is a truly memorable character, that’s one reason to buy the book. A second reason is that Chapin reveals Finegold’s secret of chess on almost the last page. Reaching the book’s end is easy, as All the Wrong Moves: A Memoir About Chess, Love, and Ruining Everything is a fast and enjoyable read.

Since Chapin’s book has no notated chess positions or games, just game summaries in words, I am sharing one of my own chess positions. As I wrote here, I tied for first in the 2019 Texas Women’s Chess Championship (TWCC) but got the second place award on tiebreaks. At the awards ceremony, at about 10:30 into this video taken by Renate Garcia, I learned that Games Judge Sharon Basepogu picked my third round game for one of the best game prizes, the “Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War Award.”

Sharon Basepogu is the North/Central Texas Middle School Girls Chess Champion and was one month too young to play in the TWCC, which was for Texas women ages 16 and older. So organizer Jim Hollingsworth put Sharon to work as Games Judge while Sharon’s mother Sheba competed in the TWCC.

Garcia, Hollingworth, Root, Basepogu

Sheryl McBroom took the photo of my receiving the “Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and War Award.” In the photo are Anneliese Garcia (Deputy Master of Ceremonies), Hollingsworth, me (holding certificate), and Sharon Basepogu (at right). Thanks to Sharon for choosing my game for an award and for her kind words “amazing, tricky, in-between move” about my fourteenth move.

[pgn][Event “2019 TWCC”]
[Site “?”]
[Date “2019.08.18”]
[Round “?”]
[White “Root, Alexey”]
[Black “Fidaire, Cristina”]
[Result “1-0”]
[ECO “A50”]
[WhiteElo “2000”]
[BlackElo “1464”]
[PlyCount “37”]
[EventDate “2019.??.??”]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 b6 4. e4 d5 5. e5 Nfd7 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Nxd5 Bb7 8.
Nc3 c5 9. Nf3 cxd4 10. Qxd4 Bxf3 11. gxf3 Qe7 12. Bb5 Kd8 13. Bf4 g5

{[#]White’s bishop is threatened which normally means White would react
immediately to that threat. However, one important chess concept is
zwischenzug, which is a German word meaning in-between move. So instead of retreating the bishop immediately, what can White play instead? There are actually even better in-between moves than the one I chose as White.}

14. Nd5 {Even better was 14. Qe4 or 14. Qd5. Both of those moves attack the R on a8, which cannot be saved. My move attacks the only defender of the g-pawn, the black queen on e7. When it moves, my bishop can capture the g5-pawn with check.}

Qe6 15. Bxg5+ Kc8 16. Rc1+ Bc5 17. f4

{I have time to play 17. f4, which secures my e5-pawn, since my queen is not in danger. The black bishop on c5 cannot capture the queen on d4, because my rook on c1 is pinning that bishop to its king.}

Nc6 18. Qe4 Rb8 19. Ba6+

{And Black resigned, as the only reply is 19…Rb7 and White will win more material.} 1-0[/pgn]

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on