31 December 2012

Objective About Fischer

I've already mentioned Joseph G. Ponterotto's 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' in two short posts, where the last one was Not So Funny. It looks like the book is going to provide material for a series of posts similar to Frank Brady's 'ENDGAME' (see the series summary in Fischer's Best Games).

For good measure, I rescued from archive another old review of Fischer material -- Tales of Two Fischers (March 2005) -- and added it to my page on Chess History. It was hard enough remaining objective about Fischer when he was alive. Next month marks the fifth anniversary of his death and, given the wealth of new details on his life, it hasn't become any easier.

30 December 2012

Not So Funny

Old Woody Allen joke:-

A guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, 'Hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken.' Then the doc says, 'Why don't you turn him in?' Then the guy says, 'I would but I need the eggs!'

Not so old Bobby Fischer story:-

At the Marshall Chess Club [late 1950s], no one doubted the teenager's talent. But his prickly behavior was alienating some of the wealthy sponsors whose support he would need to rise to the top.

"Some of what he did was so outrageous it was decided maybe he had emotional problems," says [Allen] Kaufman, who attended the meeting. What to do? Board members talked about finding a psychiatrist. They considered Reuben Fine, himself one of the giants of the game. Then someone raised a question: What if therapy worked? What if treatment sapped Fischer's drive to win, depriving the United States of its first homegrown world champ?

Meeting adjourned. No one, Kaufman recalls, wanted to tamper with that finely tuned brain.

[Fischer story from Joseph G. Ponterotto's 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' (first noted on this blog a few days ago in The Broken Bridge), quoting 'Life is not a board game' by Peter Nicholas and Clea Benson, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2003.]

27 December 2012

The Broken Bridge (*)

For the second time in a little more than three months, I'm on the wrong side of William W. Corasick. This time it feels like I've been hit by a truck, which is my layman's description of the flu.

Since I'm spending most of the day on my back, drifting in and out of random, incomprehensibly grey dreams, I decided to tackle the one chess gift I received on Christmas Day: 'A Psychobiography of Bobby Fischer' by Joseph G. Ponterotto. Boy, was that ever a mistake! I can't remember reading a more depressing chess book. I'm almost certain that my downtrodden mood has a lot to do with my initial assessment, so I'll come back to the subject when there's more color in my life.

(*) Google translation of 'ponte rotto'.

25 December 2012

Famous Christmas Plates

This image is something I archived from eBay in 2003. The description said,

The print is an offset-lithograph printed circa 1905. The sheet measures 9 x 6 inches and is in good condition aside from being trimmed on the top edge. The image is titled "Cornered". It is inscribed "Famous Christmas Plates. 517. Black and White Christmas Plate for 1899". The print is an illustration from an early-1900's issue of the London Magazine.

Is that Father Christmas at the board?

For last year's Christmas post and links to previous years, see The True Spirit and Meaning of Christmas.

24 December 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring...

...Because they were all out having a great time at a Christmas Eve party, me included. That's why I only had time to do some routine maintenance for About to Tripod. It's hardly worth mentioning, but I'll say it anyway: naming conventions. See you tomorrow!

23 December 2012

A Chess Set Fit for the Queen of England

Every year at this time on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, it's the same thing -- lots of interesting items to choose from in the weeks before Christmas, little in the weeks after. For this last edition before Christmas, I chose to feature an item titled 'Sonnett Original Sculpture Ceramic CORGI Chess Set with Board, R&W vs.Tri. OOAK!'. Pictured below, it sold for US $2247 after receiving 27 bids from 10 bidders. The auction page received 431 page views.

The description started with a story.

You could say that it took me 20 years to make this chess set! Back in the 80's and 90's when I was selling solely at The Washington International Horse Show, I made a chess set of Corgis vs. Jack Russells. But it turned out people preferred one or the other, which does make sense. So I vowed to split the set and make two new ones, for red and white vs. tri Corgis, and for smooth coated Jack Russell terriers vs. broken coats.

I packed it away in 1992 and kept putting if off the project because of all the work involved. Early this year I started working on the tri Corgis, doing a couple of figures a month until it is finally finished! I will tackle the Jack Russell one next year, hopefully.

And what about the pieces?

For each side I've made a detailed King and Queen. The Bishops are Corgis in glasses sitting on a stack of chess book and poring over their computers. The Knights both have hobby horses and the Rooks are either cottages or townhouses. The Pawns are all puppies, each doing something different that puppies do. For the limited amount of pictures I wasn't able to show all the small details, but they are there!

On the four corners of the wooden chess board I've put sculpted Corgi faces (two red & white and two tri-color) and some decorative ceramic leaves. The entire set of chess pieces has been hand sculpted by me from ceramic clay. There are no molds involved, each piece is one-of-a-kind. Needless to say, I am never going to do another Corgi chess set!

Each piece was sculpted, dried and painted in detail. They then went through two high temperature kiln firings which gave them a permanent glazed finish. I have put felt on the bottom of each piece. Measurements: the standard chess board is 20" square, and is square on it is 2" square. The King on each side is a little over 3 1/2" in height.

For more about the artiest, see BarbieSonnett.com.

21 December 2012

Green and Cream Vinyl Rollup

The photo's description explained,

This guy was sitting alone, but with a chess board all set up for a new game. I don't know if he was expecting a friend to show up, or whether it was a tacit invitation to anyone who might wander by, and decide that a friendly game of chess would be a great way to spend the afternoon.

I have a set and board identical to those shown in the photo.

New York Public Library, Nov 2012 © Flickr user Ed Yourdon under Creative Commons.

See also Ed Yourdon's photostream / Tags / chess.

20 December 2012

Where Did This Come From?

MW Archive Date: 2000-04-12
(That's all I know!)

17 December 2012

Light and Lustre

In a few weeks I'll look at the statistics for Anand's TMER and Kasparov's TMER to decide if it's worth converting any of the other TMER pages from the Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records portion of my World Championship site. While working on the two TMERs, I noticed another page that I had overlooked when planning About to Tripod. It's now available on The Light and Lustre of Chess : Paolo Boi and Leonardo de Cutri, linked once again from Chess History.

16 December 2012

Newtown Was America's Wake-up Call

[No chess post today. This is one of the moments when an insignificant board game is nothing more than that.]


Fellow Americans, it's time to end the madness. Our children are being slaughtered before our eyes. This is not what the founding fathers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution:-

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It's time to decide what those wise men meant, given the technology of their time, and to adapt their meaning to the technology of our time. Then it's time to use Article Five of the same Constitution to effect that change.


On Facebook, people are requesting, 'Please place 20 stars on your wall in honor of the 20 little angels that were sent to Heaven today.'

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

It's the least I can do.

14 December 2012

Up for a Grammy?

Remember Stephanie De-Sykes and Life's Too Short for Chess? This song is even better!

ANDY HARDINGER CHESS! (3:09) • 'What about a game of chess?'

How many words in the English language end with '-ness'? The song could go on for years! Example:-

A lot of players are full of cluelessness. CHESS! ♪
This board game requires some combativeness. CHESS! ♪

etc. etc. ♫ What does 'a corky game' mean?

13 December 2012

Engine Evaluation

A couple of paths converged recently to give me a fresh perspective on an old topic: chess engine evaluation of specific positions. The first path was on using the engines to evaluate positions in various games. In several games the engines kept producing evaluations that didn't look right to me. The positions were all of the type having complicated material tradeoffs on the board -- Pawns vs. pieces, Rooks vs. minor pieces with Pawns on one side or the other, Queens vs. pieces -- that sort of thing. An engine would tell me the position was worth +1.0 for White or -2.0 for Black, where instinct told me that the evaluation might possibly be way off.

The second path was on engine evaluation of start positions in chess960. I won't go into detail here, because I know it's an esoteric subject that doesn't interest many people, so I'll just point to a post on my chess960 blog where I documented my findings: Twin Research. The upshot is that different engines play into the same variations, but the variations seem not to be the best. Is this because the engines are flawed or because there is something wrong with the chess960 start positions?

I realized that I didn't know much about the subject of material evaluation, engine or otherwise. I did, however, remember an article from Chess Life by Larry Kaufman. I found it in the March 1999 issue: 'The Evaluation of Material Imbalances' by IM Larry Kaufman. The then-IM is now a GM and the article is available on the Web on Dan Heisman's site: 'reprinted with Larry's permission'. I have more to say about the subject, but right now I have to help the girls decorate the Christmas tree. I'll come back to this another time.

11 December 2012

Capablanca and Alekhine on Rabinovich

It turns out that my favorable treatment of 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich...

...is in good company:-

Ilya Rabinovich (1891-1942) has a rare, probably unique, distinction: he wrote a book, Endshpil (two editions, published in 1927 and 1938), which was hailed as 'excellent' by both Capablanca and Alekhine.

From 7873. 'Excellent' on Chesshistory.com.

10 December 2012

Kasparov's TMER

In About to Tripod, I decided to move at least two of my resources for Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER) to my own site. Last week I started with Anand's TMER. This week it's Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record. As usual, I also added the link to my index page on Chess History.

09 December 2012

Snap-On Chess

Do good things come in twos? The previous edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price featured a pair of Fischer autographed tournament covers in Fisching for Fischer, while before that we had Top Chess Item Twins. The current edition is composed of two auctions for a 'Snap-On Tools Drueke Chess Set', both auctions closing during the last fortnight. The first set sold for US $600.00 after 11 bids, while a few days later the second sold for US $565.55 after 17 bids. The composite image below shows the set stored in its tool set box with each of the three drawers opened to show the pieces.

The first auction explained,

This is a very rare Drueke chess set. These were made for Snap-On as a special sales award. These could not be bought, only won by dealers in a year long sales contest. The chess pieces themselves are the unique part of this chess set. They are made of the same metal that Snap-On uses to make their sockets and wrenches. The pieces are nickel/chrome plated just as the sockets and wrenches are. One set of pieces is chrome, and the other set is gold chrome plated.

Heavy weight, shiny pieces -- beautiful! The base of each piece has Snap-On engraved with the part number that the particular chess piece was made out of. For example the Knight has Snap-On 5/8 S9706KFUA, a specialty socket; the Bishop has Snap-On SX3, a 1/2 drive 3 inch extension, etc. The pieces are stored in a miniature, black, Snap-On tool box replica -- very neat! The board is full size 21 inches x 21 inches, hand made DRUEKE, with Snap-On laser engraved on two ends of the border.

Both auctions mentioned that the 'set has never been used'. It was obviously made to be admired.

07 December 2012

'Fusing Music, Chess, and Martial Arts'

It says right there, 'The Game of Chess Is Like a Sword'.

hip hop art © Flickr user starfive under Creative Commons.

The Hip Hop Chess Federation even has a Hip Hop Chess Federation Blog: 'the worlds first non-profit fusing music, chess and martial arts to promote unity, strategy and non-violence'.

06 December 2012

Endgames with Equivalent Piece (and Pawns)

Contrary to the old saying, not all Rook endgames are drawn. So says the chart shown below, which is drawn from A Database for ICCF Finals. The statistics are from ICCF World Championships, where the players are top-notch, motivated, and have ample time to explore the subtleties of every position that arises during a game. Games were counted if the material was present for at least six half-moves.

The numbers show the count of endgames with different pieces in contest with a piece of the same value, both sides having Pawns. For example, from a total of 2704 games in the database, there were 16 Queen and Pawn (Q+P) endgames with the same number of Pawns on both sides (=0). There were 17 Q+P endgames with an advantage of a single extra Pawn for White (+1), and 9 with an extra Pawn for Black (-1). The rest of the numbers should explain themselves.

What does this table show? Not much, I'm afraid. The counts are too small to draw any real conclusions, but they give a few directions for further investigation.

04 December 2012

Increasing Draws in ICCF Finals

Are engines destroying correspondence chess? General opinion says, 'yes', but what are the facts? One useful metric would be the percentage of drawn games in events at the highest level, the World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess. Since engines are the great equalizer, at least tactically, you might expect the percentage of draws to be increasing.

The following graph, taken from A Database for ICCF Finals that I created a few weeks ago, confirms that trend. The stacked bars show the percentage of wins for White (yellow), wins for Black (red), and draws (blue), starting with the 1st WCCC in 1950, through the 24th, completed recently. The years correspond to the start of each event.

The latest event had more than 70% draws (101 out of 136 games) plus less than 10% wins for Black (12 games). If the trend continues, we'll eventually see some yellow, no red, and a lot of blue.

03 December 2012

Anand's TMER

Next on the list for About to Tripod are the player career pages found on my World Chess Championship site. I call them Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER). The first conversion is for the current World Champion, Anand's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record, also linked from my index page on Chess History.

02 December 2012

FIDE Journalists' Commission

In 2012 FIDE General Assembly : Whither the World Championship?, I excerpted from the minutes of FIDE President Ilyumzhinov's annual report to the FIDE minions. Another topic of specific interest to bloggers in general, and to me specifically, came near the end of Ilyumzhinov's report.

Our Agenda is very big, therefore let me shortly comment on several other issues. I have been approached on several occasions regarding the refusal to issue an accreditation to one Russian journalist, and there even open letters in this respect. I addressed the Head of the Organising Committee with a request to carefully consider this issue and I would appreciate Ali's [Nihat Yazici] comments on this.

On one hand, we should not interfere with the media members to carry out their work which is very necessary for us, we should not veto to a profession, but on the other hand, it is necessary to regularize the process of accrediting those who are real professional journalists, who do not disseminate speculations and information which has not been checked, and those who are aware of professional ethics.

Therefore I task Mr. Georgios Makropoulos and M. Khodarkovsky to create a special commission, comprising, first of all, journalists. And, to close the topic, I request that this journalist be issued an accreditation badge.

Later, in the section titled '16. Events Commission', is another mention of the subject.

Journalists' Commission. Mr. Makropoulos said that there are bloggers who claim they are journalists, if they open a website. We want all the people who want to act as chess journalists, to be registered within FIDE, they will have a right to be accredited in all FIDE events, they should decide the basic principles that should be followed. FIDE will try with the Organisers to arrange their facilities, hotel discounts etc.

FIDE President mentioned Mr. Makropoulos and M. Khodarkovsky who have worked as professional journalists and Ms. A. Karlovich, as for the second woman, Mr. Makropoulos proposed Ms. Marinello, and we will try to do the job of registering media members.

General Assembly approved the proposal of Mr. Makropoulos.

This reminded me that while working on my first post for the topic, 83rd FIDE Congress, I had transcribed further remarks by Makropoulos; see 2012 FIDE Congress - EB Meeting Part 1 [Youtube.com] at 22:55 into the clip.

Kirsan asked me to prepare a proposal. He wants to create a new commission for journalists -- facing the problems that we have many times -- in order to register officially journalists, because we don't know who are journalists and who are not really journalists in the chess world. Because the truth it is not journalists everyone who is writing something in a web site. We want also that these people who are working on the web sites and who are writing about chess somehow to have some recognition by FIDE, as people who are working as chess journalists.

So we have on the one hand all journalists that they are registered with their official associations of journalists in their own countries or international associations because of course all these people they should be automatically registered [to report on important events(?)]. And we have many others who cannot provide any official recognition that they are journalists but they are working on many web sites in the world or in chess magazines.

We will try to organize all these people, register them within FIDE. We will try to provide help for them for their work, facilities during the events, special discounts, if it is possible, for their hotels and accommodation and at the same time we would like that these people by themselves to create a minimum understanding of principles how they should work, because most of them they never have been real journalists, they never have finished any school, journalist or university, and we know how many problems there are. How many times just because they don't like somebody they can insult him and nothing is going on. I'm not talking about insulting [me(?)], insulting everybody, officials of federations.

So we would like somehow to bring these people, speak with them, decide what is the correct way to go with this effort of being a chess journalist. And at the same time to help them, to make sure that they will have the right support, they will be always accreditated [sic] and if we can also help them to get better discounts, let's say, for traveling and hotels, then we'll do our best. So this is the idea, so we would like that the Board here will accept the creation of these three commissions -- the two that Nigel [Freeman] proposed -- so we fully recommend to the [General] Assembly and Kirsan he will present the names of the chairmen and members of these commissions. Is there any comment here?

I'll wait and see what FIDE proposes before passing judgement on the idea. And, no, I haven't forgotten Larisa Yudina.

30 November 2012

Fire on Board, Literally

With apologies to GM Shirov.

Chess on Fire (0:51) • 'No description available'

No description needed.

29 November 2012

Rabinovich on a 'Large Number of Fighting Units'

Even though I've already discussed 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich in two previous posts -- A Textbook for Teaching Endgames and Rook Endings According to Rabinovich -- there is much more to say about the book. The most interesting section for the advanced player is undoubtedly chapter 8, 'Exploiting the Advantage in Endings with a Large Number of Pieces (Basic Technical Methods)'. It starts,

In practice, endings with a large number of fighting units have an importance of the first magnitude. Before we can reach a position with one or two pawns, the game necessarily must pass through a more complex endgame.

This is the sort of chapter that I would expect to find last in an endgame book, after all of the individual chapters on specific pieces in combat with each other or with Pawns. Indeed, the first five chapters are elementary mates (listed in my 'Textbook for Teaching' post), chapter 6 is titled 'Mate with Bishop + Knight', and chapter 7 is titled 'Minor Piece vs. Pawns'. Now in chapter 8 we jump from the simple to the complex, another example of the sometimes strange order that Rabinovich uses to present his material. He explains,

We consider it possible to start with the examination of endings containing a large number of fighting units, now that in previous chapters we laid out all the steps necessary for this. In this chapter we shall deal with endings defined by a superiority either in position or in force.

Next to the exploitation of such an advantage, "technique" alone is sometimes enough -- that is, knowing a few methods which have been utilized previously in similar positions. Here is a classic example of this type.

Another curiosity about the book's structure concerns the sections of chapter 8. The table of contents divides the chapter into subjects like 'Aggressively placed pieces' and 'Queenside pawn majority', to repeat the first two. These classifications, as useful as they are to understanding the theme under discussion, are nowhere to be found in the text of the chapter. The first example in the chapter, an example of aggressive pieces, starts from the diagram.

Spielmann - Rubinstein, 1909 St Petersburg

After 44.Kg3-f3

Here the author uses a key technique to understand endgames, which is also key to understanding positional play in chess. I call it 'verbal analysis', but have also seen it called 'schematic thinking', in contrast to the calculation of variations. Rabinovich starts by looking at the pieces.

First let's compare the position of the pieces. The strength of the Black pieces is self-evident. His Rook is attacking the enemy pawns, and the white rook must defend these pawns; the Black Rook occupies an active position, while White's is in a passive position. Black's King is also more active than White's: it will go to d5, where not only will it be completely safe, but it will bring pressure to bear on the d4- pawn, and in some cases on the White Rook (by ...Kc4/e4).

Then he looks at the Pawns.

Now let us turn our attention to the Pawn structure. In this regard, too, Black must be preferred. White's Pawn position is "nothing but weaknesses": all his pawns are broken up, isolated; it is true that Black's Pawn position is also not perfect: the d6-pawn is isolated, and the g-pawns are somewhat restricted by their "doubled" state. If now we proceed from formal analysis to a deeper evaluation, then White's pawn structure does not come off any better: on the contrary, we can see that the weakness of the Black d6-pawn is only apparent, since that pawn is well-enough protected by its King. Further, the position of Black's Pawns is such that White's King cannot approach them, while Black's King is threatening to invade through either e4 or c4.

What can White put up against all these advantages? Only the presence of a passed (but stymied) pawn on a3, and the faint hope that the loss of one pawn might not equal the loss of the whole game.

Only then does he look at the course of the game, which continued 44...Kd5 45.Ke2, a Pawn sacrifice. Again we have verbal analysis,

White makes skillful use of his only chance – the passed Pawn. Now it would not be good for Black to take on d4, since after the trade of Rooks the a3-Pawn acquires threatening power.

This is followed by a specific variation that must be calculated (and that I won't repeat here). The more than 30 positions in the chapter, all from grandmaster play, are filled with this weaving of positional considerations and tactical calculations, the same sort of thought process that a beginner must learn to become a good chess player. Anyone who masters this, masters chess.

27 November 2012

Openings from the ICCF Finals

I signed off last week's post on A Database for ICCF Finals promising myself to concentrate on the middlegames and endgames in this unique collection of accumulated chess knowledge. I haven't been able to develop any useful techniques to do this, because the openings keep getting in the way. Let's look at those first.

The chart in the 'Database' post already offers a number of talking points. The first is the relative success of the initial Knight moves. The move 1.Nf3 shows a 59.9% success rate for White, while 1.Nc3 shows 65.9%, almost 2/3. I can't explain the success of 1.Nf3. It leads into the same variations that one expects from the 1.d4/1.c4/1.Nf3 complex, but is apparently more successful than either of the alternatives. Perhaps it's just a statistical anomaly.

The move 1.Nc3 is easier to explain. It was used by a single competitor, Ove Ekebjaerg of Denmark; see The chess games of Ove C Ekebjaerg on Chessgames.com, where the 1.Nc3 connection has also been discovered. He played in the 9th (ended in 1983), 14th (2000), and 16th (2004) ICCF Correspondence Finals, where his best finish was second place in the 14th final, behind Tonu Oim. His overall score with 1.Nc3 in the three events was +8-1=13. The single loss was to Oim in the 9th final, which Oim also won. According to Chesslab.com, the critical line is 1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 dxe4 (or 2...d4) 3.Nce2 e5, when 4.Ng3 is more successful than 4.Nf3. It's also worth noting that when engines go head-to-head without a book, 1.Nc3 is a top candidate move; see Chess960 Opening Theory for more.

Back to the 'Database' post, I was also intrigued by the responses to 1.e4. The worst response, at least according to the ICCF statistics, is 1...e6, with a 63.1% success rate for White. The best response is 1...g6, with 51.7% for White. I would not have been surprised to see these results reversed. The stats for 1...e6 come largely from the Winawer (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3), where 27 games brought 74.0% success to White. The move 3...Nf6 was also in White's favor, with 24 games going 66.6% for White.

The number of games starting 1...g6 is probably too small to draw any conclusions. After 2.d4, the number increases with the transposition 1.d4 g6 2.e4 coming into consideration. After 2...Bg7, the stats start to skew in White's favor.

Finally, what about the 631 games starting 1.d4 Nf6? Which move, for example, shows better results for Black -- the King's Indian or the Gruenfeld? Here are the stats from the ICCF finals for the sequence 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, followed by 2...g6 3.Nc3 (the differences in frequency from one table to the next are due to transpositions from 1.c4, etc.).

After 2.c4, the move 2...e6 brings somewhat better results than 2...g6. Similarly, after 3.Nc3 the move 3...d5 works a little better than 3...Bg7. This is not good news for players of the King's Indian, like me, but I'm sure we'll continue to play it. Statistics are, after all, only 50% of the story.

26 November 2012

The Other Side of the Herring Pool

My latest conversion for About to Tripod, titled Deschapelles : The Chess-King, starts,

The English play more chess than the French; but the latter can boast of players with whom we have never been able to cope. We love to start with an apparent paradox. Our neighbours on the other side of the herring-pool have always possessed players of so high a pitch of excellence, that they may be fairly styled phenomena; but of artists a grade lower, Britain could at any time shew six for one.

The fact is, whatever be the pursuit taken up by the French, there are among them to be found individuals capable of carrying that pursuit to an excess inappreciable by souls of less ardent temperament. The best astronomers, chemists, cooks, mathematicians, dancers, architects, and military engineers, are French. And so it is with chess; while we are content to knock under, and as veteran soldiers, keep our places quietly in the ranks.

As with the other pages in this series, I added it to the index page on Chess History.

25 November 2012

Fisching for Fischer

The last time I looked at Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I highlighted Chess Item Twins. While this current episode doesn't feature twins, it does show a couple of items that are members of the same family.

The item shown on the top, from the Bled segment of the 1959 Candidates tournament (Tal 1st, Fischer & Gligoric 5th/6th; 8 players), sold for US $766.89 after 11 bids by seven bidders. The item on the bottom, from the 1970 Rovinj/Zagreb international tournament (Fischer 1st, 2.0 points ahead of Hort, Gligoric, Smyslov, & Korchnoi, all =2nd; 18 players), sold for $636.00 after 2 bids.

Another cover from the past fortnight that I didn't show, titled 'ICELAND CHESS Bobby Fischer vs. Boris Spassky autographes on cover', sold for $450 after two bids. Put these together with the items I pictured in my recent post on Fischer Memorabilia, and we have a real bull market in Fischer autographs.

Are all of these signatures genuine? I have no way of knowing, but I wouldn't venture into this field without examining the material by Bobby Fischer Autograph Expert Lawrence Totaro ('Fisching for Forgeries').

23 November 2012

Chess with Mirror Sunglasses

After Korchnoi in his 1977 Candidates Final match vs. Spassky (or was it the 1978 title match vs. Karpov).

Downtown, Denver, CO, USA © Flickr user C Thomas Anderson under Creative Commons.

I cropped this to highlight the sunglasses. The original (see link) was submitted to the 'Global Photojournalism; Politics, News, Protest, and Culture group'. For more chess images from the group, see search group on 'chess'.

22 November 2012

'Not a Sane Bone in His Body'

The current issue of Cornell Alumni Magazine has a feature article titled Good Sport by Brad Herzog, writing about sports journalist Jeremy Schaap. That's the same Schaap who gained notoriety in the chess world when Bobby Fischer was released from Japan to Iceland in 2005. I once used the video footage in a post appropriately titled Fischer and Schaap. Curious to discover if the encounter had made any impression on Schaap, I read the article expecting at best a passing reference to chess and Fischer. I was surprised to find that the subject was used as the final scene for the three page feature.

One of Schaap’s proudest moments came when he pursued a story that his father had first covered decades earlier. Dick Schaap had met chess player Bobby Fischer in 1958, when the fourteen-year-old prodigy won the U.S. national championship. Schaap later took him to ballgames, played tennis with him, even served as the master of ceremonies for Bobby Fischer Day after Fischer defeated Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky in an iconic Cold War confrontation in Iceland.

Dick Schaap, perhaps even a better known sports journalist than his son, died in 2001, but the story continued.

In 2004, Fischer was arrested for a passport violation in Japan, but he avoided deportation when Iceland offered him honorary citizenship the following year. Having tracked his movements since long before his father passed away, Schaap convinced his ESPN bosses that an interview with Fischer was a once-in-a-generation opportunity. They agreed, and he made it to Reykjavik in time to watch Fischer’s flight arrive.

The video I embedded in my 'Fischer and Schaap' post has since been removed, but it was easy to find another on YouTube: The Strange Life of Bobby Fischer. It shows highlights from Fischer's press conference given the day after his arrival in Iceland. The key moment in the clip was recounted by Herzog. I've abridged it slightly here:-

"Your father was Dick Schaap?" Fischer responded suddenly. "He rapped me very hard. He said that I don't have a sane bone in my body. I didn't forget that."

"I don't think he meant it literally," said Schaap.

Fischer then embarked on a diatribe, recalling how Dick Schaap had been "kind of like a father figure," and then later, "like a typical Jewish snake, he had the most vicious things to say about me."

"I have to object—" said Schaap.

"Did you read what he said in that article?" asked Fischer, his voice rising.

"I'm not sure if I read it, but I know that he said it," Schaap replied, then added: "Honestly, I don't know that you've done much here today really to disprove anything he said."

As Schaap turned and walked out, the camera was on Fischer's face, rendered speechless and close to tears. I wondered about the original source of the 'doesn't have a sane bone' comment and set out looking for it. I didn't find it, but I did find a longer video with much more Fischer footage.

Bobby Fischer - ESPN SportsCenter (13:01)

It shows many of the moments where the lives of Dick Schaap and Bobby Fischer came together. Herzog closed his article on Jeremy Schaap by noting,

A few months later, for his feature report on "Finding Bobby Fischer," shown both on ESPN and ABC's "World News Tonight," he received an Emmy. It was called the Dick Schaap Outstanding Writing Award.

I suppose the 'ESPN SportsCenter' clip embedded above was the same that won the Emmy. Now if I could just find the source of the 'sane bone' comment. It obviously weighed heavily on Fischer's spirit.


Later: 'Jim West On Chess' to the rescue: Schaap's Article on Fischer has the entire piece.

'Whatever Happened to Bobby Fischer? : Our Peripatetic Reporter Pursues an Old Friend' by Dick Schaap • 'Take the avarice of Monopoly, the complexity of chess, the loneliness of solitaire, the frustrations of a maze, and the absurdity of an eyeball bender, mix well and you'll have a hint of the new game I have invented. The game is called "In Search of Bobby Fischer." [...] I will continue to play this game, to pursue the former world chess champion, because I genuinely like Bobby Fischer. He possesses two classic virtues: He is never dull, and he does not have a sane bone in his body. I'll let you know when I find him. Don't hold your breath.'

If Fischer thought that Schaap 'rapped me very hard', he must have heard the quote from a third party. See the JWOC link for the rest. Thanks, Jim!

20 November 2012

A Database for ICCF Finals

Last week on my World Championship Blog, I brought my page about correspondence championships up to date; see ICCF 20th to 24th WCCC Finals (PGN) for details. What to do next with these potentially instructive games? I combined the games for all 24 finals into a single database and loaded it into SCID. The software gave me the following breakdown of initial moves (1st move, 1.e4 responses, 1.d4 responses):-

When I first added the crosstables for the 1st through 14th championships, I analyzed the game scores and posted the results in Chess History on the Web (2001 no.24) : Correspondence Chess. I could do a similar analysis again, but I'd rather look at middlegames and endgames. How to do that? I'll post here as soon as I figure it out.

19 November 2012

'Chess Is Chess' by Chess Informant

Continuing with About to Tripod, I added Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Statistics to my page on Chess History. Published in 2000, the CI material is a good summary of chess history through the end of the first millenium.

18 November 2012


Do you recognize these chess quotes, translated into Esperanto?

  • La peonojn estas la animo de la ludo.

  • Mi nur volas fari, iam, estas nur ludi ŝakon.

  • Antaŭ la fino ludo, la dioj metis la mezo ludo.

  • Kiam vi vidas bonan movon, serĉi pli bonan unu.

  • Mi ne kredas je psikologio. Mi kredas bonan movojn.

  • Multaj fariĝis ŝako sinjoroj, neniu iĝis la mastro de ŝako.

  • Ŝako, kiel amo, kiel muziko, havas la povon por fari viroj feliĉa.

  • Ne ĉiuj artistoj estas ajedrecistas, sed ĉiuj ajedrecistas estas artistoj.

  • La gajnanto de la ludo estas la ludanto kiu faras la sekvan-al-lasta eraro.

  • De ŝako ĝi diris ke la vivo ne estas sufiĉa tempo por tio, sed tio estas la kulpo de la vivo, ne ŝako.

Google Translate: English -> Esperanto.

16 November 2012

Chairman, FIDE Trainers' Commission

World Youth Chess Championship - Adrian Mikhalchishin (16:26) • 'An Introduction to the 2012 World Youth Chess Championship'

GM Mikhalchishin is Chairman of the FIDE Trainers' Commission; official site trainers.fide.com.

15 November 2012

Rook Endings According to Rabinovich

In A Textbook for Teaching Endgames, I introduced 'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich and quoted from the author's 'Foreword':-

First, study the first five chapters Then, proceeding to the following chapters, we recommend that you rely on the "concentric" method of teaching them – that is, first acquaint your audience only with the basic positions in each chapter, delaying a deeper study of the given theme to the second ring. The toughest questions (chapters 9 and 14 – [Pawn and Rook] endings, for example) we recommend that you divide up into three concentric rings.

The ring concept, although intriguing, is largely self-explanatory. Looking at the topics for the chapter on Rook Endings, I would expect to find the same in any similar book. The order is definitely unusual; most books start with Rook vs Pawns (and no Rook).

337 CHAPTER 14: Rook Endings
337 A Rook + Rook Pawn vs Rook [Examples 197-213]
361 B Rook + non-Rook Pawn vs Rook
362 a) Black's King stands in front of the Pawn
369 b) Black's King is driven away from the Pawn
393 c) Black's King is behind the Pawn [Examples 214-253]
404 C Rook + two Pawns vs Pawn
404 a) Connected Pawns
409 b) Disconnected Pawns [Examples 254-273]
417 D Rook vs Pawns
417 a) Single Pawn
426 b) Rook vs two Pawns
436 c) Rook vs three Pawns [Examples 274-296]
441 E Rook + Pawn vs Rook + Pawn
447 F Rook + two Pawns vs Rook + Pawn
453 G Rook endings with a large number of Pawns

471 CHAPTER 15 Queen vs Rook (or Rook + Pawns)

I've included the starting page numbers for each section to give an idea how much material is available for that topic. The 134 pages for the chapter are roughly 25% of the book's 523 pages. If that seems like a large book, it's partly because there is ample white space on each page.

I imagine that splitting the material 'into three concentric rings' means a few examples from each section for the first ring, with the rest of the material through section 'F' for the second ring. Section 'G', which necessarily builds on all of the preceding material, would be the third ring, supplemented with the examples at the end of each major section. The examples, presented with solutions, are exercises to test your knowledge of the basic material. Here is a sample page from section 'B'.

Section 'G' examines 12 endgames.

  • Capablanca – Tartakower; New York 1924
  • Kashdan – Alekhine; Folkestone 1933
  • Levenfish – Lisitsyn; Moscow 1935
  • Lasker – Levenfish; Moscow 1925
  • Eliskases – Levenfish; Moscow 1936
  • Alekhine – Capablanca; World Championship (34); Buenos Aires 1927
  • Flohr – Ragozin; Moscow 1936
  • Capablanca – Yates; Hastings 1930
  • Duras – Capablanca; New York 1913
  • Alekhine – Euwe; World Championship (27); Netherlands 1935
  • Lasker – Eliskases; Moscow 1936
  • Rabinovich – Levenfish; Moscow 1935

Many of these are familiar endgame examples, even classics, and half of the games are from the three pre-WWII Moscow tournaments. This underscores the book's main weakness: the material is severely dated and has been rehashed in more recent endgame books. Having said that, I can't think of any reason not to use the Rabinovich work as an introductory text. Has anyone checked its analysis against a tablebase?

13 November 2012

The Innocent Morality

On the way to writing the post that eventually became Top eBay Chess Item Twins, I had several other eBay auctions short-listed. The most intriguing was titled '1496 Welsh John of Wales INCUNABLE / CHESS Origin / Welsh / Incunabula Venice', subtitled '1st printed book describing game of CHESS'. It sold for US $4999 on a single bid. The description said,

John of Wales, OFM (Wales, 13th century - Paris 1285), a.k.a. John Waleys and Johannes Guallensis, was a Franciscan theologian who wrote several well-received Latin works, primarily preaching aids, in Oxford and Paris in the late-thirteenth century. This book has somewhat recently gained great fame as being the first printed book to describe the game of chess. I find no other incunable editions for sale worldwide, but do find a 2011 auction of an incunable edition of this title selling for 12,000 EUROS!

Main author: Johannes Guallensis / John of Wales
Title: Communiloquium [...]
Published: Venetiis [Venècia] : Giorgius Arrivabene, 30 juliol, 1496
Language: Latin

I decided to check the phrase 'recently gained great fame as being the first printed book to describe the game of chess'. The book is described in Murray's 'History of Chess' (1913) in the section 'Chess in Europe', where he divided early European chess literature into two categories: 'Didactic Literature' and 'The Moralities'. The Communiloquium was grouped with the earliest of the moralities, of which he examined a dozen manuscripts. Murray paraphrased the chess portion of the work starting,

The world resembles a chess-board which is chequered white and black, the colours showing the two conditions of life and death, or praise and blame. The chessmen are men of the world who have a common birth, occupy different stations and hold different titles in this life, who contend together, and finally have a common fate which levels all ranks. The King often lies under the other pieces in the bag.

Using that paragraph as a start point, you can find the entire passage copied elsewhere on the web. Murray called it 'the Innocent Morality, leaving the question of authorship open'. Of the many variations he examined, some he attributed to Pope Innocent III (1163-1216), others to Johannes Gallensis (John of Waleys). He had much more to say about the work, starting with 'neither authorship can be accepted in the present form'.

A different, later work by Jacobus de Cessolis -- see my related page Chess Bibliography (before 1800) for years -- is the best known of the moralities. There are even more variations in existence than there are of the earlier work.

12 November 2012

Portrait of La Bourdonnais

After the brief interlude for Nothing Much to See Here, I continued with About to Tripod and added Portrait of La Bourdonnais to my page on Chess History. 'Portrait' is one of my favorite player sketches. It starts,

A change comes over the Régence, and the noise reaches its climax, as if the elements of confusion in the caldron had received their final stirabout. What portly form do we see making its way through the crowd, at this, the eleventh hour? Fifty persons accost him at once, all eager to wind up the evening with one more game; -- all shouting, and laughing, and screaming, with the peculiar and prodigious gesticulations of La belle France, rising many octaves above concert pitch. The crash is terrific.

Not to know the potentate who enters with noise exceeding that of drum and trumpet, were indeed to prove yourself unknown. The new-comer is De la Bourdonnais, since the retirement of Deschapelles, the acknowledged first chess-player in the world.

Someone once said it sounds more like a rock star than a chess player. The sketch is the last piece of a series titled Excerpt from The Café de la Régence, by a Chess-player [Part 1/7], from Fraser's Magazine, Vol. XXII, July to December, 1840.

11 November 2012

Top eBay Chess Item Twins

In this ongoing series for Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I've seen items relisted after a lapse because the first buyer never paid, but I can't recall seeing the same item sold twice in the same fortnight. The painting pictured below, from an auction titled 'Amazing French Antique Oil Painting Playing Chess', sold on 1 November for US $950 after receiving one bid. Four days later it sold again for $1600, this time with the words 'Gold Frame' appended to the title. There was no more information about the second sale, e.g. time or bids. Was there some kind of error on eBay's part?

The first description said,

Gorgeous 19th. Century Continental oil painting on canvas, interior scene, depicting a man and woman playing chess. 19th century Period Frame. The Painting Professionally restored and is in Excellent Condition. Everything we sell is 100% Authentic

The second said,

Gorgeous 19th. Century French oil painting on canvas, interior scene, depicting a man and woman playing chess. 19th century Period Frame. Everything we sell is 100% Authentic

The seller was the same in both cases. On top of the two sales here, I'm sure I've seen the item before, perhaps many times, although I can't say for sure if it was sold.

09 November 2012

Caissart Graffiti

Some folks say graffiti is art, others say it's vandalism.

Dr Chess 87 © Flickr user Akbar Sim under Creative Commons.

Waldorpstraat, Den Haag (The Hague), Netherlands.

08 November 2012

Candidate Karpov's Endgame Technique

Combining Masters of the Endgame, where I identified a number of players well known for their superior endgame play, with Endgame Storyboard, where I worked out a technique for discussing endgames on this blog, the image below is a slight adaptation of the one I used in the 'Storyboard' post. The game is the fourth from a 1974 Candidates Match and can be found on Chessgames.com at Anatoly Karpov vs Lev Polugaevsky; Moscow cqf 1974.

On top of the references in the 'Masters of the Endgame' post, I found the game annotated in collections by Botvinnik, R.Byrne, and Mednis. The differences in the notes of the three GMs convinced me that this game was not as straightforward as I thought at first.

Looking at the first and last positions in the storyboard, everyone agrees that Polugaevsky was better after 22...Rxe6, while Karpov was winning after 45...Re5. In fact, he was already winning after 41.b5, the sealed move, where Botvinnik commented, 'The adjournment analysis of this position can not have brought Black any comfort.' What happened in the ~20 moves after 22...Rxe6?

After 25...Be3, Karpov's 26.Bxe3 was given a '?' by the two Americans. Mednis noted, 'Rather incomprehensible from as fine a strategist as Karpov'. Botvinnik agreed with the others that 26.Bxg4 was 'probably better' than the move played, but gave Karpov the benefit of the doubt, saying, 'Karpov does not want to part with his Bishop, which protects his e-Pawn so effectively.' Karpov was known for his stubborn defense of inferior positions, often converting them to draws or even wins.

The tide began to turn with 30.Rd3. Here Black played 30...g5, the start of a series of inferior moves. Mednis tried to show that Black had a forced win of a Pawn, but the engines do not confirm his analysis. After 31.h3 h5 32.Nd5, Black went awry with 32...Nxd5, when 33.Rxd5 left the Black Kingside Pawns vulnerable and initiated a plan of advancing the White Queenside Pawns.

Polugaevsky's last chance was after 36.R1d4. He played 36...f6, hemming in his own Rook and missing the chance to stop White's advance with 36...b6. Karpov didn't give Black a second chance and played 37.a5. I often see this type of Pawn move in Karpov's games, where he both furthers his own plan and blocks his opponent's best defense.

It took only a few weak moves by Polugaevsky to give Karpov his first win in the Candidate series on the way to becoming World Champion. The eighth game in the same match was given by several commentators as another example of Karpov's endgame prowess.

06 November 2012

It's Silly Season in Chess Life

Today is an election day in the United States and, not entirely by coincidence, the November Chess Life arrived in the mail box. The lead article was 'The Politics of Chess Players' by Alexander Robinson. The subtitle noted,

As we elect a U.S. president this month, one writer asks, "Do conservatives play chess differently than liberals?"

This is a dangerous topic for a chess magazine, since chess is by all appearances a nonpolitical occupation. The author explains,

I've always noticed that a great number of chess players are political, and many were happy to answer when asked if they were "very/somewhat Liberal/Conservative/ "Centrist"? With chess not being particularly popular in America compared to many Socialist/Leftist European and Asian countries (from everything I've heard and observed,) one might expect that Liberal (LP) chess players would signifigantly outnumber Conservatives (CP), but I found this not to be true. One possible explanation for this evenness is, in my opinion, a certain "Libertarian" strain among chess players as, unfortunately, many of the best players do fit the stereotypically shy personality.

Note the definitions of 'LP' and 'CP'. They are important to understand the rest. Note also the spelling of the word 'signifigantly' and the non-sequitur in the last sentence. Was this article edited? The bulk of it consisted of 20 bullets titled 'DATA'. Here are the first three.

• First, I must make the point that questions like whether "CPs are more 'aggressive' or 'sympathetic' than LPs" are, in my view, inapplicable to chess. The point of chess is to capture your opponent's king and protect your own in the most effective way you can, so "aggressiveness" is good, no matter what "kind" of player one is. However:

• CPs play more speed chess than LPs, who tend to play more 20+ minute games.

• CPs tend to look to exploit an opponent's weakness, while LPs tend to create plans and list concepts like "balance/ imbalance" more than do CPs.

The other 17 bullets are more of the same, although some are considerably wordier. My favorite is

• CPs tend to use the tactic of "pinning" to paralyze his/her opponent's pieces while LPs use more so-called "skewer/x-ray" tactics to force opponents to uncover their back-rank pieces.

From the first of the 'CONCLUSIONS', which follow the 'DATA', we learn,

In all the above categories, the differences between CPs and LPs became more pronounced as their rating/skill level increased.

So masters and experts pin or skewer as a result of their political convictions, not on the tactical requirements of the position. That's simply rubbish.

I'm not familiar with the author, Alexander Robinson, and there is no information on his background or credentials. He mentions 'a bachelor's degree in psychology' and 'players I met locally in New York City', but for all I can tell, the name is a pseudonym. Anonymous articles shouldn't be published in Chess Life, especially when they are as silly as this one is.

05 November 2012

Nothing Much to See Here

Last week, while working on Cessolis, Damiano, Vida, and More, I learned a useful technique for slimming down the size of HTML tables. This week I applied the technique to a number of bloated pages, e.g. the last table in Chess Ratings. Next week I'll continue with About to Tripod.

04 November 2012

Searching for Chess

While I had my database software open to investigate Correspondence Chess Ratings and Chess960, it seemed like a good time to investigate an October upsurge in interest in my About.com instructional material. Just like the last time I looked into a similar phenomenon, documented in Google Likes Me Why Exactly?, I found nothing particularly noteworthy; a rising tide lifts all boats. Since the same 'A:' pages that I highlighted in 'Google Likes Me' popped up again, I decided to complete the unfinished action that I noted:-

The next logical step would be to see what searches returned those particular pages, but that will have to wait for another time.

Here are my top five pages returned by Google search in October, along with the most frequent search strings used.

My chess equipment page wasn't in the earlier 'Google Likes Me' list. This gives me a clue about the reason for the upsurge : chess is increasing in popularity.

02 November 2012

One Day in New York

Russ Makofsky: 'Greenwich Village is known as the chess capital of the world.' • Justus Williams: 'When I was in third grade, my Mom wanted me to pick up an activity. Instead of choosing basketball, she wanted me to try something different, so she put me in a chess program. That's how I got started.' • Voice-over: 'With the success of his game, Justus has been named one of the fifty most influential African-Americans in the U.S.'.

New York City's Chess Scene (4:43) • 'New York is home to more than 70% of America's chess playing population, and the game is an integral part of the city's street culture.'

For the rest of the BBC series, see Episode 16 - New York City’s chess scene.

01 November 2012

Endgame Storyboard

An experiment to integrate a storyboard view of an endgame with its associated commentary, a la Four Endgames to Know.


22...Rxe6: Bla bla bla.

26...Nxe3: Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla.

30.Rd3: Bla?

36.R1d4: Bla bla bla.

41.b5 (s): The sealed move. Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla.

45...Re5: And the rest is a matter of technique.

30 October 2012

Gligoric Remembered

My post from a few months ago on GM Svetozar Gligoric, A Greater Degree of Risk, wasn't sufficient tribute to the great player who took many the measure of the World Champions. Chessbase.com did a four part series, starting with Svetozar Gligoric 1923-2012. The site continued with

"If you post a follow-up article on Gligoric, please don't make the mistake of other sites and simply copy & paste his win versus Petrosian from Rovinj-Zagreb from Wikipedia," wrote Kiril Penusliski. We asked the Macedonian art historian to select examples that better illustrate the unique Gligoric style, and he sent us some beautifully annotated games of his teacher and mentor.

'Remembering Svetozar Gligoric': Part one, Part two, Part three, featured the following games:-

  • Gligoric – Keres, URS-YUG 1958
  • Gligoric – Botvinnik, EU-chT (Men) 1965
  • Maric – Gligoric, Belgrade 1962
  • Smyslov – Gligoric, Candidates Tournament 1959
  • Bilek – Gligoric, Teeside 1972
  • Fischer – Gligoric, Varna ol (Men) fin 1962

Four wins with Black, against some of the best players in the world.

29 October 2012

Cessolis, Damiano, Vida, and More

Continuing with About to Tripod, I moved Chess Bibliography (before 1800), and added it to my page on Chess History. I had forgotten about this page, which might well be worth a closer look. How many works are included here? Which had the greatest impact on the development of the game?

28 October 2012

British Birds from Blade Runner

In this ongoing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, sometimes I see an item that just begs to be chosen. A good example is pictured below. Titled 'British Birds Chess Set Blade Runner Movie Prop', it sold for US $800, after receiving 27 bids from 12 bidders. The description started,

As a huge fan of the Blade Runner movie, I was interested in the chess set J.F. Sebastian had in his home. Here's a screen capture of the scene where you can see Roy and the chess set.

Two other photos from the auction page are shown in my composite image below.

The description continued,

A few of the birds have a few defects, including beaks that were broken off. You can see the missing pieces in the photos. I did a lot of sleuthing to find out where these were made and went through a lot of trouble importing this from the United Kingdom. These are no longer made. The original set was made by a company that is no longer in existence.

Unfortunately, the 'company that is no longer in existence' wasn't named. If you're interested, you'll have to do your own sleuthing.

26 October 2012

A Fisheye View of Chess

The short list for this edition of Flickr Friday was between two photos from San Francisco. The other choice was a spiral staircase at Mechanics' Institute Library.

Founded in 1854 to serve the vocational needs of out-of-work gold miners, the Institute today is a favorite of avid readers, writers, downtown employees, students, film lovers, chess players, and the 21st century nomadic worker who needs a quiet place to plug in a laptop and do research. (Wikipedia)

The chess shot won.

Chess Game, Market Street, San Francisco © Flickr user e.b. image under Creative Commons.

'This photo also appears in Fisheye Fanatics, Alphaholics Anonymous [Sony Alpha], and several HDR groups [High Dynamic Range imaging; see also the Mechanics' Institute photo].'

25 October 2012

Feller, Rybka, Arbiters, and More

If, like me, you have a passing interest in the administrative, organizational side of chess, then you might want to see FIDE's General Assembly 2012 Decisions. This lists the main decisions made at the 83rd FIDE Congress in September. I read through the summary document plus a number of the annexes, and while I found a few worthy of highlighting in a blog post, the most relevant was the 'Ethics Commission report'. A few years ago I wrote about this important commission in a post titled FIDE Ethics, and have been following the subject ever since.

While some of the ethics cases never reach deliberation -- 'rejected as not receivable and has to be dismissed' -- the majority are given full consideration. The most important case that reached a conclusion this year was one you might remember:-

Case 2/2011: "French Team" (complaint submitted by the French Chess Federation against Mr. Sébastien FELLER, Mr. Arnaud HAUCHARD and Mr. Cyril MARZOLO and report submitted by the FIDE Executive Director), the EC unanimously rules that:
- all submitted objections and preliminary requests have to be dismissed;
- Mr. Sébastien FELLER, Mr. Arnaud HAUCHARD and Mr. Cyril MARZOLO are responsible for the violation of par. 2.2.5 of the FIDE Code of Ethics [...]

Par. 2.2.5, along with other ethical sins, is defined in the FIDE Handbook, chapter Code of Ethics:-

Cheating or attempts at cheating during games and tournaments. Violent, threatening or other unseemly behavior during or in connection with a chess event.

Another case that garnered attention in the mass media is just getting underway:-

Case 2/2012: "Rybka and ICGA" (complaint by Mr Vas Rajlich and Mr Chris Whittington against the International Computer Games Association ("ICGA")) Procedural decision (preliminary request of additional information).

I last discussed this in The Rybka Affair: An Official Reaction, and am pleased to see that it is being pursued through formal channels rather than through open letters published on Chessbase.com. Another such case is

Case 10/2012: "Arbiters at the Chess Olympiad in Istanbul" (complaint submitted by the English Chess Federation against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation), the EC unanimously rules that:
- the case against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation concerning an assumed violation of par. 2.2.3 and 2.2.11 of the FIDE Code of Ethics has to be considered as receivable;

Another case involving Turkey:-

Case 14/2012: "Turkish young players in a European Youth Chanpionship". The EC unanimously ruled that the submitted complaint by the Turkish chess Federation is admissible.

I recall reading about the specifics of that case, but wasn't able to locate the background. If I do find more, I'll attach the information to this post. Not all of the cases dismissed as 'not receivable' are done so because they lack merit. One recent case was submitted by both sides:-

Case 9/2012: "Participation of Mr Suat Atalik in the Golden Sand tournament in Bulgaria" (communication/complaint by the Turkish Chess Federation against Mr Suat Atalik and the organisers of the tournament and complaint by Mr Suat Atalik against Mr Ali Nihat Yazici and against the Turkish Chess Federation)


Case 12/2012: "Participation of Mr Suat Atalik in a tournament in Kavala - Greece" (complaint by Mr Suat Atalik against the Turkish and the Greek Chess Federations)

The Ethics Commission offered a long opinion on this subject. It started,

Finally the EC, being requested of an advisory opinion, discussed the implications for FIDE rules of the suspension of a player following a decision of a national chess federation, a situation that was recently the object of various cases submitted to the EC.
FIDE and national chess federations are all independent entities, with their own internal legal systems, otherwise FIDE "unites national chess federations throughout the world" and "is the recognized international federation in the domain of chess", "recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the supreme body responsible for the game of chess" (1.1 FIDE Statute).

Other international sports federations expressly regulate the relationships between national and international sporting justice, the FIDE Statutes till now did not regulate the point. Without a specific regulation of the point, no limit to the respective competences can be presumed.

It's an important issue, fraught with commercial consequences, as the ongoing saga of Lance Armstrong in the cycling world should make abundantly clear.

23 October 2012

Masters of the Endgame

Before continuing with A Textbook for Teaching Endgames, I'd like to return to a post from earlier this year, Four Endgames to Know, where I built a database of endgames from books dedicated to that phase of the game. On top of letting me determine which endgames are the most frequent in instructional books, my database also told me which players' games provide the most material for endgame study. Here's the list.


For example, there are 166 games on my database where Karpov was one of the players. That doesn't mean 166 different games, because some games appeared in more than one book. The counts do not include games from Chess Informant Endgames. That resource might be useful for a similar exercise.

The first four names are at the top of the list because one book was dedicated to the games of that player. Again taking Karpov as an example, the book is 'Endgame Virtuoso Anatoly Karpov' by Karolyi & Aplin, which includes 106 endgames by the 12th World Champion. Fischer has two such books, while Seirawan is on the list because his endgame book includes many examples from his own games. Larsen appears to be on the list because he was on the losing side of many examples. Having noted that, it takes a great game to beat a great player, making his games still worthy of special attention.

I'll come back to the list above in a future post or two. Games for these players selected by more than one author would make a good start for special analysis.

22 October 2012

Chess Marches On

For my first action on About to Tripod, I moved the The March of Chess from Tripod to my own domain and added it to the index page on Chess History. My adaptation of the illustration from the inside cover of Davidson's A Short History of Chess is perhaps in retrospect a bit funky, but I've become attached to it over the years.

If you think the illustration is straightforward, it's not. Earlier this year, in Davidson's Mismatch I discovered that the years shown on the illustration are mostly wrong and don't match the information given in the book itself.

21 October 2012

Drink Red Wine, Play Better Chess

What was it exactly that Alekhine used to drink?

From Yahoo! Health:-

Boost your brain: Resveratrol may also be the key to keeping your memory sharp, says Philippe Marambaud, PhD, a senior research scientist at New York's Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders.

The compound has been shown to hamper the formation of beta-amyloid protein, a key ingredient in the plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. Marambaud suggests flexing your noodle by doing crossword puzzles and brain teasers for an hour then cooling down with a glass of wine.

For more, see 8 Reasons To Love Red Wine.

19 October 2012

Feet on the Floor and Focus

Chess For Success (Portland, Oregon): 'Helping Children Succeed One Move at a Time.'

Phillip Margolin, Founder & Board Member, Chess for Success (4:30) • 'Comcast Newsmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington is hosted by veteran journalist Ken Ackerman. It features informational discussions with local, state and federal elected officials as well as community, non-profit, education and civic leaders.'

'In order to figure out the right move, you have to sit with your feet on the floor, you have to focus all of your attention on the board, you can't be talking or looking around, and then you have to figure out what to do with each move, what the consequences will be, you have to compare and contrast, and then you check your result once you decide what move to make. That's what an elementary school kid has to do to read a book with comprehesion, solve math problems, or basically do anything in school that involves problem solving.'

18 October 2012

A Textbook for Teaching Endgames

Regular readers of this blog know that I have a keen interest in chess960. While I leave most of my thoughts on that topic to my chess960 blog (see links in the sidebar to the main page and to the most recent post), once in a while the subject is compelling enough to mention here.

Freed from the need to analyze opening variations to the 15th move, my focus naturally turned to other aspects of chess. Since Fischer's creation presents a much richer set of middlegame considerations, the common denominator across traditional chess and chess960 is the endgame. There is absolutely no difference between endgame theory for chess960 and for its historical predecessor.

Ever since my post on A Brief History of Endgame Theory, I've been on the lookout for the authors and titles mentioned. One work that keeps crossing my radar is worthy of being deemed a 'classic'.

The first endgame guide in Russian appeared during the Soviet era. This was I. Rabinovich's work Endshpil (first edition 1927, second edition 1938).

As luck would have it, the book is bring reprinted.

'The Russian Endgame Handbook' by Ilya Rabinovich, 'Translated and Revised from the 1938 Edition'; Mongoose Press; October 2012; 523 pages. • 'An old Soviet quip has it that Western amateurs "play the opening like grandmasters, the middlegame like experts, and the endgame like beginners". Soviet-trained players would fearlessly steer the game toward the final phase, confident of their superior endgame skill. Ilya Rabinovich’s Russian Endgame Manual is a major reason for this.' [Publisher's site] • 312 diagrams, figurine algebraic notation.

In this post I'll set the context and in another post I'll look at an example or two from the book. The 'Editor’s Preface' informs,

Ilya Rabinovich's classic endgame manual was first published in the Soviet Union in 1927 and reissued in 1938 under the title of The Endgame. We present here a "translated and revised" edition, meaning that we gladly accepted Jim Marfia's excellent translation of the 1938 Russian text and then made slight alterations to the voice, to make the final result sound more natural to the mind's ear in our less formal times, yet without changing the meaning of any statement.

Although this work was conceived as a teaching aid for group lessons, the individual student can make good use of everything in it (except for the foreword). The book you are holding truly constitutes a complete course on the endgame, assuming little about the reader's knowledge of the final phase of the game but taking the student to a high level of understanding.

For this edition, we have dispensed with the more complex aspects of the author's discussion of the theory of "corresponding squares", which we consider to be of diminishing value in these times of increasingly fast time controls and sudden-death play. On the other hand, for the reader's convenience we have added many new diagrams for the exercises and alternative positions.

The author's 'Foreword', expanding on the concept of the teaching aid, says,

This work is conceived chiefly as a method for advising instructors and teachers in group learning settings. Since the instructor must deal not only with skilled chessplayers but also with beginners, this book focuses on both elementary and complex endings, as well as on endings with middlegame features. In laying out the elementary themes, special attention is paid to the methodical side of the question, and in our treatment of more complex endings, to the illustration of the latest discoveries and, where possible, to a fuller elaboration of the theme.

For group study, we recommend the study of separate endgame themes in the following order. First, study the first five chapters. Then, proceeding to the following chapters, we recommend that you rely on the "concentric" method of teaching them – that is, first acquaint your audience only with the basic positions in each chapter, delaying a deeper study of the given theme to the second ring. The toughest questions (chapters 9 and 14 – Rook and Pawn endings, for example) we recommend that you divide up into three concentric rings. [...]

In putting together this book, the author also kept in mind those who study endings on their own, and those wishing to refresh or touch up their endgame knowledge. It is precisely for the sake of this rather large group of people, who seek to improve their skills by self-instruction, that this book includes a considerable number of examples as well as explanatory games.

The recommendation to 'study the first five chapters' means the following topics:-

1. The Simplest Mates
2. King and Pawn vs. King
3. Queen vs. Pawn (or Pawns)
4. King, Minor Piece, and Pawn vs. King (and Pawn)
5. Mate with Bishop and Knight

In a followup post I'll explore the ring concept. Is there any chess player below GM level who doesn't need to work on Rook and Pawn endings?

16 October 2012

Blue Ribbon Chess Books 2011

It's that time of year again, when I update my running list of Award Winning Chess Books. There were two repeat winners in 2011. John Nunn won his fourth award for as many titles, although one award was shared with another author. Jeremy Silman won his fifth award for a third title; his book on Pal Benko, co-authored with the American-Hungarian GM, won three awards in 2004.

For the equivalent post on last year's awards, see Blue Ribbon Chess Books 2010. As I mentioned in that post, it would make more sense to update the list of awards immediately after the ChessCafe award has been announced in February, but I can't seem to shake the habit of looking at the awards just before the year-end holiday shopping season.

15 October 2012

About to Tripod

The post on server log reports, Most 'HTTP 404' Are External Errors, brought to an end my four year project to convert my About.com material to my own site. It is somehow fitting that this coincides with the end of About.com as a subsidiary of the New York Times, documented in my recent post Answers About Ask.

For my next trick, I will move to the same platform miscellaneous material predating the About.com work. The work is currently at Tripod.com on a page titled Chess History on the Web : Support material. The 16 bullets of interest there point to various articles related to chess history.

  • A Short History of Chess by Henry A. Davidson : Illustration from inside cover (2012-10-22)
  • Chess Downloads : compiled by Lee Holder
  • Chess Bibliography (before 1800) (2012-10-29)
  • Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2012-12-10)
  • Kramnik's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2013-01-14)
  • Staunton's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record
  • Anand's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2012-12-03)
  • Karpov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1960-1984) (2013-01-21)
  • Karpov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1985-) (2013-01-28)
  • Portrait of La Bourdonnais (2012-11-12)
  • Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Screen shots
  • Chess Informant's Chess Is Chess : Statistics (2012-11-19)
  • The Game is Afoot : In Memory of Terry Crandall
  • Deschapelles : The Chess-King (2012-11-26)
  • Ponomariov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record
  • La Bourdonnais annotates Philidor++

I don't intend to move everything. For the 19th century articles on the early French champions -- Deschapelles and La Bourdonnais (x2) -- I'll move those that are in English. For the Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records (TMER) -- Anand, Karpov (x2), Kasparov, Kramnik, Ponomariov, and Staunton -- I'll move two or three and use my stats to determine if there is any real interest in them. For the rest, I'll decide case by case.

The work I did on A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection rekindled my interest in the TMER data, but I don't know what equivalent material is currently available elsewhere on the web. Maybe the idea is already covered adequately. Whatever the situation, it looks like my Mondays are still going to be busy for the next few months.


Added later:-

  • The Light and Lustre of Chess : Paolo Boi and Leonardo de Cutri (2012-12-17)

More to come?

14 October 2012

Four Figure Chess Sets

For this continuing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I like to feature items other than chess sets, but for this current episode there was absolutely nothing else to highlight. I even dove beneath my normal cutoff price of US $500 and found zilch. What to do? Chess sets it will be, but with a twist. Here are the top selling chess sets from the last three months of closed eBay auctions.

From left to right, top to bottom, with final selling price and auction title:-

  • $6000 : Extraordinary, Fantastic, Murano Glass, Large, Italy, Jews/Catholics Chess Set
  • $5200 : Important Pewter, Gold & Silver Napoleonic Chess set
  • $3800 : Antique Chinese jade stone figural chess set hand carved Asian w case board 32 p
  • $2912 : Antique Jaques Staunton boxed chess set. Very rare pre1860 example.
  • $2800 : Rare Antique 1900's Chinese Ox Bone Chess Set Signed 6" Kings!
  • $2500 : New stunning CAS Iberia King Arthur Chess Set - Table and Base $3700+
  • $2500 : Vintage 1970's Pierre Cardin Chess set Eames mod modern panton mid century era
  • $2500 : Vintage old crow decanter chess set~full set of 32~ sealed~ in original boxes

When the price I list doesn't match the price shown in the screen snapshot, it is generally a 'best offer' price. There were nearly 50 chess sets during the three month period that sold for $1000 or more.

12 October 2012

A Servant of the Secret Fire

This chess set appears to be the same set shown in Lord of the Rings, Trilogy Edition. Although the present example is unpainted, what a contrast in artistic quality the two photos make.

You Shall Not Pass!!! © Flickr user Cyril-Rana!! under Creative Commons.

The photographer wrote,

I love chess, but the biggest problem of playing it, is that I always end up taking photos of it rather taking part in it. I just love my Lord of the Rings chess set. Spent the whole evening clicking, tinkering with the lighting in my mini DIY studio.

I was already the tenth person to add the photo to my favorites, even though it had been uploaded less than a day earlier.

11 October 2012

Carlsen Plays Everything

After constructing A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection, my first task was to get a feel for the opening systems used by the Norwegian GM. I started by taking his games as White. I noted the frequency of his first moves, then noted the responses by his opponents to those moves. I repeated this for the second move, the third move, and so on, until I reached a point where there were only a handful of moves in the current variation. You might think of this as creating a tree of opening variations based on his repertoire. Then I did the same for his games as Black.

What did I learn from this exercise? Not much, really. Carlsen plays everything. If a move is sound he plays it. If, in whatever position, there are several sound continuations, he plays them all. He must be an extremely challenging opponent to prepare for, because he's likely to play anything.

I even found a few games where Carlsen played moves that are considered less than sound. For example, here are three games where he opened 1.a3 (Anderssen's Opening) as White.

The links are to the corresponding games on Chessgames.com, usually with commentary. Here's a game from a few months ago where he played 1.a4.

One of the Chessgames kibitzers to that game quoted Chessvibes:-

Carlsen starting his game against Radjabov with 1.a4 had a little history. During the previous World Blitz Championship, in Moscow, November 2010, Radjabov had said to Carlsen: "Everyone is getting tired. You might as well start with 1.a4 and you can still beat them."

Carlsen won that game with 1.a4. Maybe Radjabov should have suggested 1.g4. What are the rest of us mere mortals supposed to make of this?

09 October 2012

A Magnus Carlsen Game Collection

After working with historical game collections to write Another Fictitious Match and 1946 Alekhine - Botvinnik, I got the urge to look at the opening repertoire of a modern player. GM Carlsen seemed like a good choice. Although I've played through many of his games, I've never developed an appreciation for the opening systems he prefers. Looking at his games in more depth might teach me a thing or two.

I found a good collection of 1395 of his games at Chess Grandmaster Magnus Carlsen Fansite - Games, loaded it into a database, and discovered that it stopped in January 2011, with the 73rd Tata Steel GMA group at Wijk aan Zee. To bring the games up to date, I first looked at Carlsen, Magnus PGN Chess Games FIDE on ratings.fide.com, and downloaded files for the events I was missing.

The FIDE files turned out to be problematic. They were not all in the same text format, some were missing mandatory PGN header tags, and there was junk prepended to one file. On top of that, the files had games for players other than Carlsen and some files were incomplete for him. Instead of struggling with those files, I decided my time would be better spent extracting the games from TWIC downloads. TWIC files are big and somewhat cumbersome, but they are always consistent and accurate.

In Carlsen's TWIC Debut, I once traced the Norwegian's first mention in TWIC to April 2001. I didn't need to go back this far, so I only examined TWIC files back to mid-2010. This gave me 167 recent Carlsen games. The total of 1562 game compared favorably with the 1427 games currently in the Magnus Carlsen collection on Chessgames.com. Why the difference? I'll leave that question to a more diligent researcher. As for my new collection, I'll take a closer look at GM Carlsen's repertoire in another post.


February 2013: I eventually created a usable version of the file suitable for distribution: carlsen.zip. For more info about the creation of the file, see Carlsen TMER PGN.