ICS Interview – Gnejs

THE ICS INTERVIEWS SERIES – No. 013 – GNEJS
Interviewed August 2019
First published September 2019

INTERVIEWER

Thanks for doing this interview. You played bughouse and crazyhouse on FICS for many years in the 1990s. Then you took a break for a while. What made you come back to playing?

GNEJS

Well I suppose the question is why I quit. Bughouse was eating up my life. I played on average 4 hours per day 365 days a year for 5 years or so, not counting the hours the pieces were spinning in my head when I was not watching the screen. So I decided to take control in my life and more or less quit around 2001, only playing occasionally otb. I did play a little zhouse back then, but there was no competition when they first introduced it. Now competition seems really tough. I play zhouse because bughouse seems … well, a little buggy. I don’t like the bughouse layout at chess.com. Anyway, I decided to play the Swedish bughouse championship again, and i wanted to dust some rust off. Zhouse was my surrogate to try to get back in some sort of shape. I guess the question to your initial question is that I started playing a bit again because the game does not mean life and death to me any more.

INTERVIEWER

And with that, how did the game come to mean so much to you in the first place? What were you doing at the time that you found FICS or online chess in general? I know you play chess OTB, but how did you find bughouse in the first place?

GNEJS

Bughouse was very popular in Sweden since the early 1970s. I learned it when I started playing chess around 1981 and I liked it. A LOT. So when we went to tournament I would play as much bughouse as possible instead of analyzing and preparing for games. And I started analyzing bughouse instead. Thinking. I mean really thinking. Noone had really done it before, I think. What are the pieces worth in bughouse? Stuff like that. I worked in the casino business when I was playing the most bughouse. Then I met a lady, and she made me realize that there are more important things in life (believe it or not).

INTERVIEWER

A lot of us understand the “meeting a lady” part. You’re well known for being one of the strongest bughouse players, especially in the early days – being the first to truly crack that 2800 barrier on FICS. There are a lot of old players and websites from that era that have pretty much disappeared too. Who do you wish you could play again today?

GNEJS

Oh, I just want to play and have fun. Like in the old days, before I got serious. But it would be fun to travel a bit and play bughouse otb. And maybe even finish the bughouse book I started writing so many times. The Swedes would be easy to set up a game with, but I would love to meet and play guys like jkiller, pminear and WhoAmI again.

INTERVIEWER

JKiller is actually on lichess as lichess/@/JKTheBullfrog . pminear is on chess.com, but I have no idea what happened with WhoAmI after he quit for the same reasons you said you did. Didn’t you go to a couple of gatherings in the late 1990s? The ajedrez one? And have you seen the collaborative bughouse book that Tecumseh edited with chapters from multiple FICS players? How long have you been writing your bughouse book?

GNEJS

Yeah, I spoke a bit with Jeremy when I started playing at chess.com. I went to the first meeting at ajedrez’s and also to the first gathering in Vegas. That was in 2001, just a few days before 9/11 and I did not want to fly after that. I heard of Tecumseh’s book, but I never saw it. Most of the book is just in my head, but I did write down a lot of opening theory and strategic ideas. I think I threw it all away, so I would have to start from scratch.

INTERVIEWER

You met Pendor at one of those gatherings, as well as a lot of other people including Flesh of the dearly beloved and departed Flesh’s Bughouse Page. You were also willing to be involved with one of the classics of the bughouse canon with ErrantFischer’s bughouse pages. Are there any other websites you wish were still around? SuperGrover’s bughouse.net keeps coming back to the living and then dying again. I used to write down a bunch of things on paper and then threw a lot of it out as well. Did you ever see DragonX’s bughouse opening ECO website?

GNEJS

Nope, never saw that. Most of what I read about bughouse is crap, I am afraid. It would be nice if some serious player would write something.

INTERVIEWER

Shifting gears a little bit away from bughouse, when do you first remember playing crazyhouse? Was it on MEWIS?

GNEJS

Nah, it was on Fics. Late 1990’s probably. Fascinating game, but not quite my cup of tea.

INTERVIEWER

Are there any other variants that you ever enjoyed playing beyond bughouse?

GNEJS

I tried many, but most of them are inferior to chess. I can’t say that I am good at anything than bughouse.

INTERVIEWER

Do you miss the old chess servers or do you think lichess is a fine replacement for some of them? What interface were you usually using before Thief?

GNEJS

I used Slics(?). Was that the name? lichess is very nice and I also like chess.com, but unfortunately lichess has no bughouse and the bughouse at chess.com seems buggy and communication is bad. I hope lichess will implement bughouse in the future.

INTERVIEWER

Yes, SLICS by Don Fong (dfong) was a great interface – it was my favorite one by far as well. What other chess servers did you ever play on? What do you think of Kazim (KnightDog 2.0 / VABORIS) using your name (Gnejs) on so many other servers?

GNEJS

I played on Fics and ICC. Ha ha, guess he must admire me or something. It gets weird though, when people think I am the copycat.

INTERVIEWER

At least it’s not a scrub, right? What did you think of the early crazyhouse and bughouse engines such as Sunsetter, or even the first bughouse databases like TAsunder’s d2d4.de and JamesBaud’s database?

GNEJS

A funny thing about Sjeng is that the guy (Gian-Carlo Pascutto) who named it after me (my handle backwards) went on to make Leela Zero. The bughouse programs were … interesting. I see now that the best zhouse programs are super strong.

INTERVIEWER

That’s pretty interesting. What are your thoughts on computer chess in general? There seems to be more opportunity than ever for rampant cheating. It’s even made international news lately with that grandmaster caught for using his phone in the bathroom…

GNEJS

Yeah, maybe Magnus Carlsen is the last human world champion. It will be increasingly easier to cheat. Soon people will get implants and stuff like that. People will always find ways to cheat, I am afraid.

INTERVIEWER

Like TheRaven and his lag generator for bughouse? I’m not even sure a “lag compensator” like skaCZ’s would help in that case. Any thoughts about all the ways people cheated in bughouse?

GNEJS

I hope karma is a bitch for them!

INTERVIEWER

Any advice for people wanting to learn bughouse today? FICS isn’t realistic anymore and chess.com hasn’t been real good lately. Just play crazyhouse?

GNEJS

Play where the best play at the moment. I suppose that is chess.com.

INTERVIEWER

Do you miss the FICS community or have you kept in touch with anyone?

GNEJS

I’ll tell you what I don’t miss about Fics: the a-holes who constantly yell at eachother. I can see why Fics bug died. I meet some of the Swedes at chess events, e.g. Mårten Aronsson (Firefly), Nils Grandelius and Linus Olsson (LinusO). We have played otb on a couple occasions. Other than that, I have have tried to stay away from bughouse.

INTERVIEWER

What are you doing these days apart from chess and bughouse?

GNEJS

I haven’t played much chess at all since I turned 20, but I have been coaching juniors a lot. I teach math at high school to make a living. I have a 22 year old daughter and also a 14 year old bonus-daughter with my wife.

INTERVIEWER

Any final thoughts about online chess?

GNEJS

The internet was like made for chess/bug/zhouse! So much fun stuff to watch and play. I love it.


André Nilsson (Gnejs) is one of the world’s best bughouse players, being the first player to reach a 2800+ rating, in 1996! He currently plays on lichess as OldHas-Been (even if he isn’t a has-been)! For quite a while, his bughouse rating on FICS was 200 points higher than everybody else’s, and he’s been often referred to as the best bughouse player, the measuring-stick upon which everybody else is measured against. Thanks again for doing this interview, Gnejs!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.