28 April 2017

Queen of Katwe Meets Queen of IMF

Chess has brought Phiona Mutesi from the slums of Uganda to the portals of power in Washington, D.C.


Photo top left: SM17 Conversation with Phiona Mutesi (Queen of Katwe) © Flickr user International Monetary Fund under Creative Commons.

The caption for all images said,

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Communications Assistant Director Sabina Bhatia [in red jacket] welcomes Phiona Mutesi from Uganda to the IMF Headquarters 19 April 2017 in Washington, DC. Mutesi is a chess player from Uganda where her story got told by Disney films in "Queen of Katwe". IMF Staff Photograph / Stephen Jaffe

Mutesi has been mentioned in several posts on this blog. For the first, see 'The Queen of Katwe' (January 2011).

27 April 2017

Early N.Y. Scholastic Championships

A recent post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, started, 'Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were [...]'. There was another story that caught my interest, Golden Anniversary NY State Scholastic Shatters Attendance Records, because of the golden anniversary angle.

This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the New York State Scholastic Championship, and, as befits such a milestone, this year’s attendance shattered previous records. Last year, the event had 948 players, which was the third highest number since MSA began keeping statistics in 1991. The tournament had never broken the thousand player barrier—until this year’s total of 1165 players in eleven sections. Looking at previous MSA history, only six tournaments have broken that barrier, and five of those were New York City Scholastic Championships! • NB: If 'MSA' doesn't strike a chord, see US Chess Federation - Member Services Area.

For the past few years I've been spending one post per month on U.S chess news from 50 years ago -- the most recent was April 1967 'On the Cover' -- and I had the tools at hand to research this particular piece of chess history.

At first I thought the 'New York State Scholastic Championship' might have started as one of Bill Goichberg's early tournaments, but I soon learned that his event was the 'Greater New York Scholastic Championships'. As I gathered notes from different sources, I had trouble keeping track of the different bits of information, so I developed the following table to keep things straight. I know it's not easy to read, but it helps to know that 'CL66C077' means Chess Life 1966-03 ('A' through 'L' are months) p.77.

Event Date Announced Reported Rated
Greater New York High School and Junior High School Championships 1966-04 CL66C077 CL66E120 CL66H184
Greater New York Scholastic Championships 1966-12 CL66J255 CL67A014
CR67C078
CL67D095
(The Greater New York Scholastic Championships of December 1966 also received a mention in the March 1967 'On the Cover', where it was featured on the cover of Chess Review.)
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (3rd annual) 1967-12 CL67L401 CL68D140 CL68C097
New York Scholastic Championship
(Ithaca NY)
1968-03 CL68A039
CR68B044
CL68F219
'second statewide high school event for New York State'
CL68E188
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (4th annual) 1968-12 CL68L461 CL69E205 CL69C114

Back to the golden anniversary angle, it's not clear to me if 2017 was the 50th annual event or the 50th anniversary (i.e. the 51st event). Whatever it means, the numbering is probably off by a year or two. Does it matter? I also discovered the '51st Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championships 2017' on gnyscc.com. If 1966 was the first, then 2015 was the 50th, and again we're off by a year.

Enough nitpicking. The early New York scholastic events were the start of a long-running tradition and set the stage for the Fischer boom a few years later.

25 April 2017

GM Bisguier, Catalog Model

After last week's post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, I could have titled this current post 'Bisguier's Later Years'. I've used USCF product catalogs in the past -- see 'The Chips Are Down!' (July 2015) and An Early Digital Clock (August 2015) -- to establish a baseline for technical progress, but they also serve to fix commercial trends in time.

US Chess

Left: Official 1992 Winter Catalog
Right: Official 1992 Summer Catalog

1992 Winter Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends and uses the Deluxe Fold-Out Table! (Set and gandmaster not included.)

There were two models of the table that sold for $159 ('Deluxe' model) and $99 ('Space-Saving' model). The introduction for both said,

Let your dream chess table unfold! Own a beautiful wood chess table without having to rearrange the furniture! Folded up, this unique table is a space-saver that can be carried with just one hand. In a moment, the handle disappears as you fold out and lock into place a sturdy, full-size table! And yes, the squares align perfectly in the middle of the board!

This beauty is hand-made of solid American hardwoods by Amish craftsmen. The richness of the walnut squares and the distinctive grain of the light ash squares make each board unique. No cheap veneers here! Oak gives the table its strength.

1992 Summer Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends the Informants as the rapid way to winning chess!

Volumes 50 and up sold for $25.50 each. The catalog explained,

Get the winning edge with Informants! Knowledge is power. You want your chess information well organized so you can find it quickly. And you want it fast so that you can score wins with the latest grandmaster ideas in your openings.

You know that Informant is the world's leading theoretical publication, with games selected and annotated by the world's best. The games are arranged by opening variation and subvariation, and keyed to the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and Encyclopedia of Chess Endings for quicker reference. Includes the best combinations and endgames.

How do we know that the winter catalog preceded the summer catalog? The winter catalog said, 'Informant 53 arrives in March!'; the summer catalog said, 'Informant 54 is due out this summer!'

24 April 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Short Events

Continuing with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Team Events++, for today's post I looked at events where Levy & O'Connell (L&O) showed only two or three games played by Korchnoi in a particular event. I started with 37 of these.

The following chart shows how I cataloged the different events. A handful of events (e.g. '1946 USSR Junior Ch., Leningrad') are mismatches between the number of games according to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) and the number of games given in L&O. Another handful (e.g. '1949 MOS1') are not explained in L&O. One 'event' is an error introduced by the scanning of the L&O index; for a description of that process, see Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper (January 2017).

The rest of the events show the description given in L&O. Most of these are team matches between cities. Next post: the stragglers!

23 April 2017

Chess, Autism, and Youtube

April is National Autism Awareness Month. The last time I posted on the subject was Autism, Rumors, and Word Association (April 2014), and it seems appropriate to include it in the series on 'The Sociology of Chess', last seen a month ago in Chess Strategy Woodcut.

There aren't many videos that cover chess and autism. The following is from Youtube's ABC News (Australia) channel.


Chess club helping young minds (2:09) • '(24 Jun 2012) Launceston families have formed a chess club aimed at helping gifted children and those suffering from ADHD or autism.'

Another Youtube clip I considered for this post was KVDC Caspar Hermeling, chess and autism interview - Karel van Delft 2014 (Dutch language with English subtitles; Interviewer: 'You play chess and you have Asperger'). It ends with the thought,

Chess brought me much pleasure: the game itself and the social contacts.

Any true fan of the game would certainly agree.

21 April 2017

Parents at the Supernationals

This video, on Youtube's US Chess Federation channel, starts with a quote.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.'

At first I was puzzled by the clip, because it seems to be providing advice to parents for a specific tournament. But what tournament?


The Good Chess Parent (5:43) • 'If you're a parent, watch this video.'

Then I found another video published on the same day:-

Taken out of any context where the video might be referenced, the title is meaningless. The description said, 'Do you know everything you need for Supernationals 2017? Watch this video and find out.' Now I understood. Nearly a week later, the same channel published another video in the same series:-

Wikipedia buries the topic in a page on Scholastic chess in the United States. which is out of date:-

Beginning in 1997, there has been a single event known as the Supernationals where all events are held in one place simultaneously. [...] This event currently occurs every four years; the previous two Supernational events have shown huge participation numbers.

For more information on the forthcoming event, see SuperNationals VI (uschess.org), May 12-14, 201; Nashville, TN.

20 April 2017

Bisguier's Earliest Years

Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were [ FIDE President Ilyumzhinov] Didn't Resign (on my WCC blog), 2017 Chess Champions: Men's Global Rising Star, Women's Surprise Player Prove Worth, Win U.S. and U.S. Women's Championships in Saint Louis (prnewswire.com; 'Grandmaster Wesley So and Women's Grandmaster Sabina Foisor Take Prestigious Titles of 2017 U.S. and U.S. Women's Champions, Respectively'), and Former US Champion and "Dean of Chess" Arthur Bisguier, Dies at 87 (uschess.org). That last article started,

Hall of Famer, US Champion and Grandmaster Arthur Bernard Bisguer (October 8, 1929- April 5, 2017) died at 87 years old of respiratory failure. In 2005, Arthur Bisguier was recognized by the US Chess Federation as “Dean of American Chess”, in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game.

From 'Chess Memoirs' by Dr. Joseph Platz (Chess Enterprises 1979, p.46):-

It was in 1943 at the Bronx Chess Club that I met a boy of 14 whose chess game made quite an impression on me. Immediately I sensed that here was a master in the making. I played him often and analyzed with him the way I had learned it from Lasker. I brought him to the Manhattan CC and there he met the competition which he needed to acquire master strength.

Soon he won the the championship of the Manhattan CC, and then the New York State Championship. Afterwards he won the U.S. Championship, he played and won some international tournaments abroad, and finally was awarded the title "International Grandmaster". His name: Arthur Bisguier. I claim to have discovered him and inspired him with the love for chess which is necessary for great achievements.

In the introduction to the same book, GM Bisguier echoed the story:-

When I started playing tournament chess in the early 1940's, my play was restricted almost entirely to public school and to the Bronx Empire City. Chess Club. There the perennial champion was a quiet, gentlemanly, solidly built yet shadowy figure by the name of Dr. Joseph Platz. Why shadowy? Because like the shadow he seemed to appear and disappear at the most unlikely times. [...]

Dr. Platz' play and demeanor, both on and off the board, served as an example for me during my formative years. His encouragement and practical advice provided a useful stimulus which served as a springboard for many of my successes in those days. His own play featured soundness with the right blend of daring aggression. He had a few "pet" lines in the opening which he handled with great virtuosity, so much so that he won more than his share of special prizes for brilliancies and best played games. To this day, thirty six years after I first met Dr. Platz, I still occasionally "borrow" one of his lines and they seldom disappoint me. Occasionally, as a result of not having the time to keep up with the latest wrinkles of opening theory, he would obtain a difficult position, but that was where his resourcefulness and tenacity held full sway, and he saved many a game where a less stouthearted player would have resigned. This was a legacy from his idol and mentor, the great former world champion, Dr. Emanuel Lasker. [...]

Arthur B. Bisguier; March, 1979; International Grandmaster

Bisguier's own autobiography ('The Art of Bisguier') was published in two volumes: The Early Years: 1945-1960 (amazon.com) and Selected Games 1961-2003 (ditto).