When is a genius not a genius? The simple straight forward answer is, when he only poses as one. The problem with this situation, however, is the number of gullible people who are so easily lured into believing the fantastic claims which the self-styled 'genius' often makes for himself. As one fascinating example, let us look at the case of Ukrainian professor Dr Andriy Slyusarchuk who is now creating something of an international sensation as a result of his boast to possess "an immensely advanced brain" and the mystery that surrounds his recent blindfold victory over supercomputer Rybka, winning one encounter and drawing the other in a two-game match. Reporting on this 'phenomenon', Chess Today, the Internet-based chess newspaper, says "it is an immensely difficult task to explain to non-chess-players in Ukraine that something unfair might have taken place." In any case, the paper observes, there is apparently no way of proving that the "mystification", which the 39-year-old chess amateur claims he exercises, took place at all. "What can help are Slyusarchuk's numerous absurd statements which show his complete ignorance of chess - quite unforgivable for a guy who has read, as is claimed, more than 2000 chess books within several months!" the report observes.
"When The Absurd Triumphs" is the headline of the article written for Chess Today by GM Mikhail Golubev who tells about wide coverage by Ukranian TV plus the "significant sponsorship" and government support the event had received. This publicity, he notes, "exceeded the level of coverage of the Ukrainian 2010 Chess Olympiad victory," so much so that he suspects "the majority of my compatriots are sure now that a real genius is living among us." Lured by the drama of this episode, the international media quickly jumped on the story and YouTube, for one, produced a number of films documenting the 'brainman's' stunts. Readers of Chess Today reacted vigorously and variously, ranging from complaints-Since when are you paying attention to worthless news items like this?"-to a number of letters seriously discussing the mysterious powers of the human mind. As far as Double Rooks is concerned, Chess Today has taken the most sensible, albeit cynical, approach in justifying its series of articles on the Ukrainian professor's outlandish claims. "We believe," the paper states, "that Slyusarchuk is doing some tremendously important work and contributing to our understanding of the human mind.
"Really. He is showing us vividly just how gullible people are, how absurd a claim can be and still be accepted by the general public and the media.
"Andriy is demonstrating how far you can push things and still be taken seriously."It is interesting to note that a short report about the match with links was posted on the Ukrainian Federation Website but then removed abruptly. Reports in the Chinese media and other sources say that the Ukrainian 'genius' can also recite 20,000 books by heart and has memorised 30 million digits of Pi. Perhaps the most revealing-and amusing-of Slyusarchuk's attempts to demonstrate his prodigious mental powers occurred recently at the Kiev Lyceum before an impressive group of scientists and students. His amazing boast was that he could remember the location of pieces placed at random on 80 chess boards and, moreover, restore the position on four boards where changes would be made, after viewing them for only four and a half minutes. Among the participants were the crew of Channel 1+1 and less
than a hundred students who placed the pieces on their boards in arbitrary positions. The professor, who was there with his friend, a video cameraman, walked along the boards, spending about three seconds on each and then left the room. Ukraine GM Georgy Timoshenko, who was invited to the event by the popular television station, made changes on four of the boards. When he returned some time later, however, the self-styled "mentalist" had serious problems in restoring the four moves and after some 11 minutes asked for a break.
It was not clear whether he left the room. On resuming, he was able to restore two moves, then threw a tantrum over the third and finally got hopelessly stuck on the fourth. According to Timoshenko, "the genius obviously had difficulty with identification of the queen and king." The situation became even more bizarre when the GM discovered that the "mentally prodigious" professor was totally ignorant of long castling which was the fourth move he was supposed to restore. Timoshenko concludes: "In my commentary for the film crew, I said that I could be 99.9 percent certain that the entire show was a scam.
"Mr Slyusarchuk clearly had contact with his assistant in the room-remember his friendly camera operator?–and had received the board numbers and the moves I had made. "Because of his poor knowledge of the rules of chess, however, he could not always show these moves on the board.
"A few days later, I received a call from a girl at the TV company and was told that the film would not be shown as Slyusarchuk had threatened legal action." As a revealing footnote, it seems important to record that the "super-brained" professor has no interest in competitive chess or a possible match with GM Ivanchuk but is trying instead to raise money for a "Brain Institute" which he plans to create and lead.
In this genre, Double Rooks is reminded of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the world chess body, who claims he was abducted by aliens and taken to another planet. No doubt he also has his own believers.
Oh, the wonders of human gullibility.