31 May 2016

Chess Links, Chess History

A few weeks ago, in My Name in Bytes, I re-discovered Chess-links.org, 'Top chess websites sorted by popularity (rating by alexa.com)'.

There I am at no.91, mark-weeks.com, sandwiched between book publisher everymanchess.com and long defunct whychess.ru. [...] My real interest in the list is centered on the top-10 sites.

Another interest was the categorization of the sites. My site has little icons categorizing it under

Unfortunately, there is no related functionality to return all sites under 'History' or all under 'Statistics'. I decided to make a little tool to do this myself, based on the site's Top-500 list (which has 600 sites). Here, for example, is a summary of the list's sites that are categorized as 'History'.

That's definitely a mixed bag. There are a few sites that are unquestionably about chess history (e.g. chesshistory.com and olimpbase.org), a few that return to the subject frequently (ecforum.org.uk and rybkachess.com), and a few head scratchers (chesshere.com and thechessworld.com).

After looking at the Top-500 list for a few hours, I have the impression that it is maintained somewhat haphazardly. Many of the blogs on the site are no longer active (like kenilworthian.blogspot.com above). Perhaps the 'head scratchers' include descriptions from an earlier incarnation of the domain name.

30 May 2016

Karjakin's/Carlsen's Olympiad Records

Last week I looked at Karjakin's Early Team Events, and this week I'll look at his participation in Olympiad events. While I'm there, let's compare his record to Carlsen's record.

The following charts are from Olimpbase.org. Larger versions are available via the links for each player, where results from other team competitions -- e.g. World Team Championship & European Club Cup -- can also be found.

CHESS OLYMPIADS
Top: Karjakin, Sergei

Bottom: Carlsen, Magnus

The two players, both born in 1990, started competing in Olympiad events in 2004. Carlsen has played five times for Norway, always on 1st board, while Karjakin has played three times for the Ukraine and three times for Russia. Overall, Karjakin has been more successful than Carlsen.

The 2016 Chess Olympiad (Wikipedia) is scheduled for September in Baku. According to Leonard Barden of The Guardian, Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin unlikely to meet before world title (April 2016).

Carlsen will play the €150,000 Grand Tour blitz tournaments at Paris in May and Brussels in June, the Bilbao Grand Slam in July and the 2016 Olympiad at Baku in September, leaving two months for his final preparations.

Karjakin will compete at Shamkir in Azerbaijan in May, in the Russia v China match in June and finally at Baku. Theoretically the pair could meet at the 150-nation Olympiad but the chance is small. Russia will be going for gold while Norway, even with the world champion to lead them, will do well to finish in the top 15.

That last sentence doesn't mention that the two players have never competed on the same board. Will Karjakin now play on board one for the Russian team?

29 May 2016

A Way Station on the Journey Through Life

The previous post in the 'Chess in School' series, Nearly Two Decades Later, discussed the documentary 'Chess Kids' (1996 & 2011) and ended with a question about scholastic retention.

Of the eight players in the photo, only Judit Polgar was still playing chess at the time of the second interview. Is there anything to be learned here?

The 30-minute follow-up portion of the film is structured in three parts: first the former child chess stars reminisce about the 1990 World Youth tournament in which they took part, then they discuss the impact of the full length feature film 'Searching for Bobby Fischer' (1993), and finally they talk about the force of chess on their lives as children and as adults. In this post I'll quote from that last part.

G.Schwartzman: 'I kid my Dad all the time that he taught me the wrong game. If I'd become as good at golf as I did at chess I would be set financially for the rest of my life. [...] That part of it stinks a little bit.' (1:00:18 into the video)
J.Waitzkin: 'I was winning and winning and winning and everyone told me I was such a winner. [...] If you lose then it must mean that you're a loser.' (1:05:29)

Also relevant are two quotes from long-time celebrities in the chess community.

B.Pandolfini: 'Some of these youngsters who took off very nicely had trouble living up to that additional expectation.' (1:06:30)
F.Brady: 'Some people might find the pressure is so great -- "I'm a prodigy, now I have to win every tournament, I have to win every game..." -- that psychological pressure might be a deterrant.' (1:06:37)

Back to the former 'Chess Kids'.

V.Fossum: 'I got a lot of pleasure out of just engaging with the game on this level that was completely un-self-conscious. As I progressed as a player I became more conscious of my performance and I struggled with this tension between the original reason that I was drawn to play chess, which was purely for fun and at the same time feeling that I had suddenly become caught up in this very intense, very high pressure environment.' (1:06:57)
M.Pehme: 'It's a bizarre experience being at the top of a field when you're so young. When you're at the top of your sport everyone knows who you are and everyone's gunning for you. You have nowhere to go but to maintain your position. It makes things stressful and difficult and I wasn't always appreciative of how much fun chess can be.' (1:08:45)
G.Schwartzman: 'When I was 17 I became a grandmaster. [...] I won the U.S. Open in 1996. I was 20 years old at the time. [...] When I graduated college I went to work. That's when chess definitely suffered. It's a tough game to play competitively, preofessionally at a grandmaster level while also working.' (1:10:25)
M.Pehme: 'To win the [1993 National Junior High School Championship] as an individual was a great personal accomplishment. In a lot of ways at that point was when I felt ready to leave chess. I felt that I had attained the mark I set out for.' (1:11:14)
J.Conlon: 'Chess, the games are over in four hours. The problems you encounter in the game, you think about the problem for 20 minutes, you decide what move to make, you try and win. The problems in physics might take 20 years to solve and they need the efforts of hundreds of people. The sort of idea that takes 20 years to crack compareed to the sort of idea that takes 20 minutes to crack. You can see which one is more satisfying.' (1:13:07)

In their active days these youngsters weren't average child chess players. They were among the best in the world for their age group. All of them left chess behind and went on to become successful adults in various careers. Isn't that what school is intended to do for young minds?

27 May 2016

'Is Really Good Sales Now'

Must be giant chess sets week. First we had Top eBay Giant Chess Sets by Price. That same day I received a message from Chinese manufacturer CNchess.com with an entire category of 'Giant Garden Outdoor Chess Sets'. Today while creating the short list for Flickr Friday, I found five photos featuring more of the same. The one I liked best, subtitled 'In the heart of the village Bad Ragaz, Switzerland', is shown below.


New Game - New Chance © Flickr user Kecko under Creative Commons.

Back to CNchess.com, their message said,

GC-8 Garden Chess Set with Colored Box • If you buy above 1000 sets GC-8 king tall 8" garden chess set and we can print your design on the colored box. This garden set is really good sales now.

Now all I have to do is round up another 999 interested parties.

26 May 2016

ChessAutographs.com

It turns out that the cautionary tale from my previous post, Caveat eBay Chess Autographs, is not unusual. While researching the matter I encountered many statements like 'over 80% of autographs on eBay are fake'. There is plenty of advice on how to avoid fakes. Here are two from the same eBay seller:-

Chess autograph collectors have the additional resource that I mentioned in the 'Caveat' post: Chessautographs.com. Here's an example of the sort of info found on the site.


1982 Interpolis (Program)

That display is split into three parts. First there's a list of the players shown on the item; it can be sorted in different ways by clicking on the column headers. Then there's an image list of the individual autographs on the item. Then there's the item itself.

All of this can be accessed top-down in different ways: by autographed item, by player, or by annual rating list. Want to find the Bobby Fischer autographs? Click 'Chessplayers', click 'Fischer', and voila! The five Fischer autographs currently in the collection are shown along with Fischer's Wikipedia page (or change that to get his Chessgames.com page). I wish I'd had that resource when I bought the eBay item that had all the players' signatures in the 1979 Riga Interzonal except the one I was most interested in: Mikhail Tal's.

24 May 2016

Caveat eBay Chess Autographs

Remember Echoes of a Postcard (April 2016), where I noted that an eBay auction for chess autographs was similar, but not identical, to an item featured on Chesshistory.com nearly ten years ago? About a month later I received a comment explaining the difference.

The document in your article is clearly not genuine. I own the original postcard which you can see here:

chessautographs.com/Data/...

The seller now has two other fake documents for sale on eBay. Fortunately no one has bought them yet.

Without publishing the comment, I contacted the sender to find out more about the 'fake'. He replied,

At first I would give [the seller] the benefit of the doubt. When you don't have the option to compare the documents with the originals, you could be fooled. The buyer of the Bad Kissingen 1928 document thought they were real enough, because he gave positive feedback on eBay after having paid $900.

My correspondent also sent the following composite image...

...and remarked,

The best evidence that my Bad Kissingen postcard was copied can be seen on the second 'L' on the Marshall autograph. Marshall allowed himself to end his signature with a rather frivolous curl. The person who made the copy thought that curl belonged to the Reti signature. And he drew it in another color, as you can see.

Yes, indeed. The eBay item is almost certainly a copy of the document shown on Chesshistory.com / Chessautographs.com. Add the 'Echoes' post to the list:-

Caveat eBay?

23 May 2016

Karjakin's Early Team Events

While researching the last two posts in this series -- Karjakin's Early Corus Encounters with Carlsen & Karjakin & Carlsen's World Championship Careers -- I was impressed by the number of team events in which Karjakin participated. Here's a list I assembled from early TWIC references.

2002-08: TWIC 408, 7) World Youth Olympiad 2002 [Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Team Ukraine]

2003-05: TWIC 445, 16) Forthcoming Events and Links [Saint-Petersburg vs. Paris; (1)]

2003-12: TWIC 476, 18) Russia vs Ukraine Internet Blitz [Team Ukraine]

2004-10: TWIC 518, 8) Bilbao International Chess Festival [1st People vs Computers World Chess Team Championship]

2004-10: TWIC 521, 2) 36th Chess Olympiad [Calvia (Majorca); Karjakin (top scorer with 92.9% on board 6, second reserve)]

2005-08: TWIC 561, 2) 15th European Team Championship [Team Ukraine]

2005-08: TWIC 564, 3) 49th Spanish Teams Honours Division [Team C.A. Magic Merida]

2005-09: TWIC 567, 2) European Club Cup [Team NAO]

2005-10: TWIC 575, 2) World Team Championship [Beer-Sheva, Israel; Team Ukraine]

2006-04: TWIC 595, 5) Top 16 French League [Team NAO; final stages 4-7 May 2006; (2)]

2006-05: TWIC 604, 2) Chess Olympiad [Team Ukraine]

2006-08: TWIC 617, 4) NK Hoteles Chess Tournament [A team of 'Experience' and a team of 'Rising Stars']

2006-09: TWIC 626, 4) Spanish Teams [November 2006 (Final); Team Linex Magic]

2007-05: TWIC 653, 3) Russian Team Championships [Sochi; Team Tomsk 400]

Other references:
(1) 'Distant chess' in St Petersburg and Paris (chessbase.com; May 2003)
(2) NAO Is No More (this blog; October 2006)

There are undoubtedly team events missing from the list, but it's a start for future investigation. The Olympiad record would make a useful follow-up topic.

22 May 2016

Top eBay Giant Chess Sets by Price

The previous episode of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, which I titled Chess Builders, was about Mother's Day. I rejected featuring a giant plastic chess set, because 'I just couldn't picture Mom playing chess outside in her garden'.

For this episode I had two more giant sets -- a sign of the season? -- and not wanting to choose between them, I decided on a composite post featuring all of the top sets from recent months. The results are shown below.

Following are the titles and selling prices of the six sets. The King in the first set listed is more than four feet tall, nearly twice as tall as the King in the last few sets.

  • Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 49" King - Garden Chess Set - Outdoor Chess Set • US $939
  • MegaChess Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 37" King • US $789
  • Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 37" King - Garden Chess Set - Outdoor Chess Set • US $649
  • MegaChess Giant Plastic Chess Set with 25" King with a Nylon Chessboard • US $529
  • Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 25" King with Nylon Chess Board Outdoor Chess Set • US $440
  • Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 25" King • US $400

Although the last two sets have the same photo, one is with 'nylon chess board', the other without. While browsing these closed listings, eBay informs me that there are more than a half-dozen giant sets currently on offer.

20 May 2016

We Will Be Agog!

From the World Chess YouTube channel...


Making of the World Chess Candidates Tournament (6:15) • 'A short film about the 2016 World Chess Candidates Tournament that took place in Moscow in March of 2016.'

...Good things to know: (Pretty woman talking) 'Chess is a game for the strong, a game for winners, a game for those who rule the world.' • (Ditto) 'I see chess as first and foremost a strong and courageous handsome man.' • (Voiceover) 'The whole world will be agog as Karjakin attempts to dethrone Carlsen in the World Chess Championship final.'

19 May 2016

My Name in Bytes!

After establishing that I'm Not a Chess Historian, what else could Giga Alert tell me? In the past, the service has mainly alerted me to the existence of my own resources, like this blog, but lately it has been showing more originality. Take the following table, for example.


Chess Links and Websites

There I am at no.91, mark-weeks.com, sandwiched between book publisher everymanchess.com and long defunct whychess.ru. I have an Alexa number of 613604 (no. 613.604 of all websites in the world?) and 178 incoming links (it's more than that). My real interest in the list is centered on the top-10 sites. I am very surprised to find lichess.org and chess24.com at no.2 and no.3, just ahead of the old stalwart chessbase.com.

Also interesting was to find my name on ChessScotland.com: Caorle 1972. That was a zonal tournament and the site has details that might be useful for my zonal pages.

I've done some work to validate chess960 and wasn't surprised to find my name on Some hard questions for chess philosophers and the elite (chess959.com). The main page of the blog is titled Chess959 – Thinking starts at move 1, 'No Memorization Required!', and also deserves a closer look.

Most of the Giga references are to pages like CHESSSPY & FLOOTSIE! in the press (chessspy.com, for one of my blog posts), or Still Thrills: The Drama of Chess (academia.edu, for a WCC page). The most surprising reference was to a wiki-style page: Chessprogramming - Mark Weeks. My name in bytes, indeed.

***

Follow-up: Searching for Zonals.

17 May 2016

Blog Follow-ups

Why didn't I think of that before? Instead of maintaining a list of blog posts that need a follow-up, why not use a blog tag? And so I did -- 'FLUP'.


Google Image search on 'flup'

I'm getting off-topic, but it turns out that the word 'flup' is used elsewhere, often in an odd context. Following the images shown above, I discovered:-

  • Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, Portugal (Faculty of Letters, the University of Porto)
  • 'Looking for an incredibly rare 4 letter domain name package?? http://flup.com is for sale...'; flup on Twitter
  • FLUP line of 'Drain Openers'
  • 'Flup, el idioma de la comunicaciĆ³n'
  • '"Flup is like pushups for the brain" -- Play the game critics are calling "the most inventive puzzle game since the Rubik’s cube."'
  • 'The project is called flup (short for follow up with me) and it's an online system that helps you swap contact details safely and easily, and arrange follow ups (we call it a flup).'
  • (The one eyed monster in the middle of the bottom row): 'Name: Flup Landed; Age: 7 3/4 years old; Place of birth: Plextan, Xtron'

Next step: Follow up my chess 'flups'.

16 May 2016

Karjakin/Carlsen's World Championship Careers

In Karjakin's First Encounters with Carlsen, I noted that both Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin played in the 2004 FIDE Knockout World Championship in Tripoli, Libya, and that both were eliminated in the first round. This was their first of many participations in World Championship events. Let's look at their respective records since then.

(C21) MC: 2004 KO ; SK: 2004 KO

Here I'll use a bit of shorthand to document the record. The notation 'C21' is a convention I developed for my World Chess Championship index to differentiate events played in (sometimes overlapping) FIDE cycles. The links are to my page on the 2004 Knockout tournament.

(C22) MC: 2005 WCup , 2005-07 Cnd; SK: 2005 WCup

In the next cycle, the knockout event became the World Cup, a qualifying step to the rest of the cycle. Karjakin was again eliminated in the first round. Carlsen survived to the fourth round, where he lost the match but continued to play for a qualifying place in the subsequent candidates matches. He succeeded, but in the first match was eliminated from the rest of the cycle by Aronian.

(C23) MC: 2007 WCup ; SK: 2007 WCup

In the next cycle, both players survived to the semifinal round of the World Cup. Carlsen was eliminated by Kamsky, and Karjakin was eliminated by Shirov. Kamsky beat Shirov in the final round to qualify for a subsequent match.

(C24) MC: 2008-09 GP ; SK: 2008-09 GP , 2009 WCup

The next cycle saw the introduction of the Grand Prix series. Carlsen dropped out after playing one event and declined to play in the World Cup. Karjakin played in both, but was again eliminated in the semifinal round of the World Cup, losing to Gelfand, who went on to win the event.

(C25) MC: 2013 CT , 2013 WCC; SK: 2011 WCup

In the next cycle, Carlsen was seeded into the Candidates Tournament by rating and narrowly won on tiebreak ahead of Kramnik. This catapulted him into a title match with Anand, which he also won. Karjakin was eliminated in the third round of the World Cup by Judit Polgar.

(C26) MC: 2014 WCC; SK: 2012-13 GP , 2013 WCup , 2014 CT

(C27) SK: 2014-15 GP , 2015 WCup , 2016 CT

As World Champion, Carlsen was exempt from qualifying the stages of the next cycles. Karjakin qualified by rating into the 2014 Candidates. He finished second behind Anand, but after a minus score in the first half, he was never in the running for first. In the current cycle, he won the World Cup, then won the Candidates event, setting up a title match with Carlsen later this year.

15 May 2016

Nearly Two Decades Later

After posting about Chess Kids (2011), I took the time to watch the video and take notes. The 80 minute film is in fact two movies. The first 50 minutes show the original 'Chess Kids' (1996), a documentary built around interviews with young chess stars, their parents, and coaches. The last 30 minutes show more interviews with the former youngsters, recorded nearly two decades later.

The original interviews were made during the 1990 World Youth Chess 'Festival for Peace', a FIDE event better known as the World Youth Chess Championship (wikipedia.org). The Wikipedia page includes details on the 1990 event which took place at Marian College, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (USA). The film mentions '170 chess geniuses' who gathered from all corners of the globe. A news story from that time, Youngsters Face Off In World Competition (sun-sentinel.com; July 1990), described the tournament for its Florida readers.

Eighteen young American players will begin competing today for six world championships. [...] Championships will be contested by boys and girls born on or after Jan. 1, 1976 (called the under 14 section); on or after Jan. 1, 1978 (under 12); and on or after Jan. 1, 1980 (under 10).

The event coincided with a period that I call The Start of the Scholastic Boom (July 2014). The following screen capture from the video shows eight players who were featured in the before and after segments of the 2011 documentary.


Photo pairs: In 1990, in 2007

The eight individuals are: (left to right, top to bottom) 1st row: Joseph Conlon, Judit Polgar; 2nd row: Morgan Pehme, Josh Waitzkin; 3rd row: Victoria Fossum, Nawrose Nur; 4th row: David Newman, Gabriel Schwartzman Other chess luminaries appearing in the film: (in order of first appearance) Fred Waitzkin, Bruce Pandolfini, IM Nikolay Minev, GM Pal Benko, Svetozar Jovanovic (Dalton school), and GM Arnold Denker.

Another name I recognized was Richard Peterson, the father of 'two children playing' -- David, 10, & Andrea, 7 -- both in their respective U-10 sections. Peterson made a name for himself in the 1990s with his chess activities in Arizona and California. A recent article also mentions those two children from a previous marriage: Petersons raise family of chess achievers (November 2012).

My 2014 post on the 'Scholastic Boom' ended with the challenge of scholastic retention. Of the eight players in the photo and the two Petersons, only Judit Polgar was still playing chess at the time of the second interview. Is there anything to be learned here?

13 May 2016

Nuts to You!

One of the comments suggested a caption contest. I would like to know how the photo was done.


Vadim Trunov - Chess players © Flickr user Michail Kirkov under Creative Commons.

See also Chess-Squirrel-Jay in a similar pose. For more cute critters captured(?) by the same photographer, see Vadim Trunov Photos (500px.com).

12 May 2016

The Money Game

I ended a recent post, Chess @ Yahoo Finance, with the promise of a follow-up post.

There's more to be said here -- including a look at the >100 comments attached to the article -- but I'll save that for another time.

You might expect an article in Yahoo Finance to be about money and so it is.

"If you’re the world champion, Magnus Carlsen, you probably should be making $10 to $15 million each year, but he doesn't," says [Maurice] Ashley, the world’s first black grandmaster, who is personally trying to grow the sport's popularity with his own tournament, the Millionaire Chess Open. Carlsen makes about $4 million in a year, Ashley estimates, and that's including endorsement deals that no other player has.

While an annual income of $4 million would be more than enough for most people, that's not the whole story. Carlsen is the exception.

For other top players in the world, "It's more like a six-figure income," Ashley says. "If you're a baseball player, six figures is like a tip."

Some people might wonder about a society where baseball players receive such a large part of the pie. GM Ashley's goal is to bring chess players to the same level.


Inside the ultra-competitive world of professional chess
(Daniel Roberts; finance.yahoo.com)

An integral part of any Yahoo article is the comment section. I've highlighted Yahoo comments several times in the past.

What do Jack and Jane Yahoo have to say about money in chess? Here is a summary of the most interesting remarks.

  • Chess is not a spectator sport, you rarely get anyone to pay to watch it. It also can not do what poker does, since it has zero luck in and you can not get suckers to believe they can put thousands dollars of buy-ins to a tournaments that will mostly be distributed among the pros over a period of time. Chess is head-to-head and has a numeric system that tells you that an IM will beat you 99.9% of the time.

  • I will never go to a competition because I am not a good chess player; I just enjoy playing it when I can. So, if I could catch chess matches on TV or internet streams, I will watch them. If Mr. Ashley commentates, that will be a plus since I like his take on the game of chess and insight into its history, not to mention that he can make a seemingly 'boring' match appear engaging and exciting!

  • Live commentary and streaming video has helped a lot. I greatly enjoy watching the U.S. Women's Chess Championship (hosted the past several years from the St. Louis Chess Club). The commentary especially has helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the game. Chess is not for the faint of heart. It takes mental, physical and emotional toughness to play at a competitive level, and years of training, practice, and talent to try and reach the top. Even then, few do.

  • All about demand. Lots of people will pay to watch baseball, basketball, or football. I couldn't imaging a more boring time than attending a live chess match. I would think a person who makes six figures playing a board game would be jumping for joy that they could make such an income on something that the majority of the lay-public has no interest in.

  • For all sports the money comes from the fan base, what are the fans willing to pay to watch? Since you can't fill a stadium to watch a match your revenue is going to be limited. This is all basic business, nothing sinister.

  • They have to make chess viewership more exciting like any other sport. Until then, big money sponsors won't care for chess. When there are story lines like trash talking Magnus against other players, or players not shaking hand at the table, that draws some attention but these storylines are few and far between.

  • Several reasons why chess is not very popular:
    1) There are no legitimate story lines! For example, take any sport like baseball and basketball, and you have great rivalries, fans who dislike each other, players who publicly criticize each other, to get the fire started. Chess does none of that. In 1972, when it was USA vs USSR, it drew people. So, chess needs a monster story line, but right now there are none.
    2) The average person can not follow the train of thought of the grandmasters, and it is impossible to explain to the average person what the GM is thinking or doing during the game.
    3) Unless you study chess yourself, there is zero, and I mean zero appeal as far as excitement goes, there are no athletic plays, high jumps, big catches, huge tackles, it is a purely non physical sport.
    4) There are no promoters. I mean, look at boxing -- there is Don King, Bob Arum, Ellerby, guys who trump up the rivalries and try to get people excited. Who is promoting chess?

  • I used to think nothing was worse than watching baseball. Then I caught a golf game on TV. then I came across a fishing program and nearly passed out from boredom. Then, I walked into my mother watching a religious program -- nothing could be as bad as church on TV, right? Nope, watching chess is the bottom (or top) of the most boring things to watch on TV! Love playing it -- can't watch it.

  • Player salaries are correlated to public interest. Complaining is not going to create public interest.

  • Chess is very boring to watch, it's one of those things where you have to play it to really get into it. We can see the touchdowns scored, the half-court game-winning shot, we can even see the plays forming on a court or field. I just don't see big-name sponsors ever going to chess, it peaked in popularity in the US 40+ years ago and the pro sports in the US have sped up to the point where chess isn't even a blip on the radar for TV programming on a snowy day in February or March.

  • When I was younger I spent a lot of time playing in chess tournaments, and my roommate actually moved to California because the chess competition was better. I won my share of tournaments and was a decent enough player to win my state championship, but I finally gave it up because there was indeed no money in it, and to play at a high competitive level requires a ton of time studying and practicing, same as being at the top level of anything else. I used to joke that I started writing poetry instead because I could make more money that way.

Comparisons with other 'sports' are inevitable.

  • Those poker players and video gamers make pretty good money. Just look at some poker or video game tournaments around the world. Each of those "games" are an industry on its own. You gotta build an audience and keep feeding them entertaining products. Seems like chess is not doing a good job of it.

  • Video gamers actually can make it a profession and make more than whatever you are probably making. They make bank from winning tourneys, sponsors, help sites, and streaming. Faker, the #1 player of League of Legends, just turned down a 7-figure contract so he could stay with his original team.

  • I resent the comment in the article comparing a chess tournament to a poker tournament. In a poker tournament the players have to buy-in with their own money and this forms the prize pool. The house (casino) takes a 10% to 15% rake. Why could a chess tournament be organized in a similar manner? • (Reply:) Actually, from what I recall playing chess very, very seriously 20 years ago, the tournament structure in chess is very similar to poker. The organizers take a certain amount of money and the prize pool depends on the number of paid entries. Key differences are: Separate class prizes, because of skill level. Chess is a brutally honest game where everything is in front of the players on both sides. Poker is a game about lying, falsehood, and projecting to others in order to misread your cards. Hence in poker it is a lot easier to have an upset as there is an element of luck and always the potential to misread an opponent. In chess it is much less likely because it is impossible to hide anything.

  • I absolutely agree that poker is more like the real world than chess. The real world is definitely more about the ability to lie and take advantage of others. As much as chessplayers like me would generally like to deny it. In the corporate world, there are many more leaders who take advantage of others by hiding their cards and trying to impress their managers than there are those who succeed through honesty. Hence, in many ways, poker is a much better 'corporate world' skill than is chess. Also true in many other walks of life (law, politics, etc.). We honest chess players may not like it, but as we are honest, we should be able to admit the truth and not 'dislike' comments on the truth.

  • Many sports are way underpaid for the best in the world. Pool and billiards, darts, chess, bowling, and many others. All of the money seems to go to football, tennis and golf. • (Reply:) I fence and the only ways to make any money at it are teaching or getting an endorsement (which are pretty hard to come by).

GM Nakamura, one of the top American players, has a knack for generating controversy.

  • I don't understand Naka's comment: "So explains Hikaru Nakamura, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world, and was No. 2 at one point last year. 'If you're not at the elite levels, there are a lot more opportunities to play tournaments. Where I'm at now, there are fewer tournaments, because it's a waste of time to play weaker players. In poker, you want to play the weaker guys. In chess, it's the opposite.'" He can play any tournament he wants -- there's prize money in quite a few. It's a waste of time to win tournaments?

  • I disagree with Nakamura's assertion that the late, mad Bobby Fischer was "not interesting" and a "nerd." Chess was never more popular then in 1972 when Fischer met Spassky in Iceland. They are still making movies and writing books about Fischer's curious life. It is sad that his paranoia led to his downfall, but that is what makes his story so fascinating -- even to those who don't play chess.

Great story, good comments. Thanks, Yahoo, for hosting the discussion.

10 May 2016

2016 CJA Awards Announcement

The more things change the more they stay the same? At this time last year we had 2015 CJA Awards Announcement, Offline, where the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) announced their annual award categories in the May Chess Life (CL). The list of categories for the 2016 awards also appeared in the May CL and is reproduced on the left.

The same list still hasn't appeared on the CJA Home Page, and it's anyone's guess if it will appear before the submission deadline of 15 June. The 26 award categories this year compare with 21 last year, so it will likely take longer for the list to get itself organized and make the trek to cja.org.

Last year's 'THE TOP FIVE' has been reduced to 'THE TOP FOUR' and a side-by-side comparison reveals that 'Best Book' has been split off to a new super-category with three of its own categories: 'Best Book — Instructional', 'Best Book — Other', and 'Best Electronic Book' (in contrast to paper copies for the first two).

The biggest news is that 'Best Chess Blog' is no longer last on the list of categories! That dubious distinction now belongs to 'Best State Newsletter (Electronic Issue Only)', which has been split off from the TOP-FOUR's 'Best State Magazine/Newsletter'.

If you're interested in the CJA's activities -- isn't everyone? -- the CJA home page lists a couple of important recent announcements:-

  • 2 September 2015: Unofficial "Minutes" of CJA Meeting
  • 5 January 2016: 'Directory of Officials' updated

That 'Minutes' link explains the disarray on the CJA's own site.

Ryan Velez spoke on what he expects to do upon taking over the website. He will be migrating us to a webs.com site. There is much to move and I assume Ryan will do it over a matter of weeks.

Last year I posted on the 2015 CJA Awards in August and expect to do the same this year. [NB: I'm not a CJA member, but have long been interested in the group's activities.]

09 May 2016

Karjakin's Early Corus Encounters with Carlsen

In the previous episode, Karjakin's First Encounters with Carlsen, we saw that the two young stars played in tournaments without meeting each other over the board, then first played in Corus 2005. Their early careers can be tracked in the Corus (Wijk aan Zee NED) events.

Karjakin's first appearance at Corus was the GMB (the GM 'B' round robin) 2003 event, where he finished fifth with +3-2=8. He did not play the following year, when Carlsen won the GMC Corus 2004 section with +9-1=3, giving him promotion to the next GMB event.

The crosstable for GMB Corus 2005 is shown below. Karjakin won with +7-1=5, while Carlsen finished in the middle of the pack with +3-2=8. Their individual game was a draw.

In Corus 2006, Karjakin finished the GMA section with +4-3=6, losing to both co-winners Anand and Topalov. After Carlsen tied for first with Motylev in the GMB section with +6-1=6, both players were promoted to next year's GMA, setting up another direct encounter with Karjakin.

In GMA Corus 2007 (shown above), Karjakin finished on 50% with +3-3=7, while Carlsen tied for last place with +0-4=9. Their individual game, Sergey Karjakin vs Magnus Carlsen; Corus (2007), was another draw.

The following year, GMA Corus 2008, Karjakin did not play, while Carlsen finished +5-2=6 to tie for first with Aronian. in the Karjakin - Carlsen rivalry, the Norwegian thus reached a significant milestone first.

[Crosstables taken from Mark Crowther's The Week In Chess (TWIC), the chess world's premier news service.]

08 May 2016

Chess Builders

You might expect this fortnightly Sunday series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price to fall on Mother's Day once every two years. You might also expect that it's not always easy to locate a suitable gift for Mom, as in Capablanca Letters++ (May 2014).

On my short list this year I had the choice between two chess sets: '1984 $4500 Igor Carl Faberge Chess Sterling Silver Rubies Emeralds' (US $1995.95) and 'Giant Plastic Chess Set with a 37" King' (US $789.00). The first set was damaged and the second set...well...I just couldn't picture Mom playing chess outside in her garden. That left me with the item shown below.

Titled 'Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000) "Two Builders Playing Chess"', the print sold at live auction for US $2800 after five bids. The previous 'Top eBay Items' featuring a live auction was The Kitten Theme (January 2016).

The description mentioned, 'Seller's Estimate: USD 3000 - 5000', and added,

1996, soft ground/aquatint etching, from an edition of 65, signed, numbered and dated. Size: 32 x 44 cm (sight); 53 x 67 cm (frame).

The artist's Wikipedia page, Jacob Lawrence informs,

An African-American painter known for his portrayal of African-American life. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism," though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem. Among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters, he was 23 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60-panel Migration Series, painted on cardboard.

In the same live auction, four other 'Builders' prints by Lawrence also sold for four figures. Another page on the artist, Jacob Lawrence - DC Moore Gallery, explains,

Thematically, he concentrated on the topic of Builders. Within the wide field of development offered by the Builders subject, Lawrence underscored a life-long vision of man’s labor and struggle as his major theme.

While this isn't the sort of gift I would normally give Mom, I'm sure she would like it.

06 May 2016

Chess Kids (2011)

Besides the obvious, what do Judit Polgar and Josh Waitzkin have in common? They both appeared in Chess Kids (1996; imdb.com). Fifteen years later there was a follow-up film.


Chess Kids: Special Edition - Full Movie | Snagfilms (1:20:09) • 'They were prodigies then. See where they are now. Here is Lynn Hamrick's (2011) special edition film.'

The description continued,

The original version of CHESS KIDS, go behind the scenes at the World Youth Chess Tournament - the largest ever held in the United States. Meet Josh Waitzkin, the real-life subject of Searching For Bobby Fischer, and Judit Polgar, the best female player of all time. Hear children as young as seven reveal how they ace the world's oldest game.

In CHESS KIDS - SPECIAL EDITION, Lynn returns after nearly two decades to pick up where she left off. Revisit Josh Waitzkin, Judit Polgar, and others who reflect on their chess lives past and present. Morgan Pehme, Bruce Pandolfini and Josh speak candidly about their fictionalized portrayals in the movie Searching For Bobby Fischer.

I'd never seen the film before and was always curious about its message. Now I know. See also the Facebook page: Chess Kids.

05 May 2016

Chess @ Yahoo Finance

Not too long ago, in a post titled No More Yahoos? (February 2016), I noted that Yahoo had shut down its comic section, its news carrousel, and its game section (in descending order of importance to me!). It's good to see that chess is still being featured in the news section from time to time, and the other day was one of those times.


'Inside the high-stress world of pro chess'

That 'Inside' headline was subtitled,

Players have built their lives around chess, are extremely skilled, and still struggle to make much of a living. Competing for six hours straight »

and beat out four other stories for top billing:-

'Woj: Ewing to interview for Kings job'
'Photos: White House Correspondents’ Dinner'
'Obama out: Best zingers from his final WHCD'
'Can Fiorina help Cruz in California?'

Making this even more noteworthy is that the four other stories are mainly of interest to American readers. Does this mean that the 'high-stress world of pro chess' is also of interest to American readers? If so, the world's third most populous country might be picking up where the Fischer story left off in the 1970s.

The Yahoo headline led to a story Inside the ultra-competitive world of professional chess by Daniel Roberts. If you look at the URL buried under that title, you'll see

'world chess championship, inside the business of chess, magnus carlsen, maurice ashley, hikaru nakamura'

and if you look at the Daniel Roberts article ('a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology'), you'll see two videos featuring Maurice Ashley. The first is an interview and the second is the clip behind my post And the Award for Best Chess Actor Goes to... (February 2016). There's more to be said here -- including a look at the >100 comments attached to the article -- but I'll save that for another time.

03 May 2016

May 1966 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago the chess world witnessed a defense of the World Championship title by Tigran Petrosian. In those days a title match lasted for two months.


Left: 'Petrosian Keeps Title'
Right: 'World Champion (Photo by Cantwell at Curacao 1962)'

Chess Life

Tigran Petrosian retained the world chess title by defeating challenger Boris Spassky in the 22nd game of their match. Petrosian's victory gave him a 12-10 edge and made it impossible for Spassky to achieve a plus score in the 24-game contest.

Chess Review

World Champion Tigran Petrosyan of the USSR, specifically of Armenia, is currently defending his title. The Challenger, Boris Spassky, also of the USSR (Leningrad), is meeting him in the Variety Theater in Moscow, three games per week. Spassky is 29, Petrosyan 33. Spassky had White in the first game, a Caro-Kann Defense, and in the five games finished as we go to press, Petrosyan had put up three Caro-Kanns.

CL reported through game 22, CR through game 5. Curious about the publication schedules, I looked for the dates of those games. Although I have a half-dozen references at hand for the match, only one gave the dates on which the individual games were played. Gelo's 'Chess World Championships, 1834-1984' lists 20-21 April 1966 for game 5, and 3 June for game 22.

In the April 1966 'On the Cover', CL said, 'The Match Begins • First Six Games Drawn'. Although the cover dates of the two chess publications are the same, there is a one month difference in the content they reported.

02 May 2016

Karjakin's First Encounters with Carlsen

Let's continue to look at GM Karjakin's early career, like his GM Title and Early Games. The Chessgames.com page for Karjakin vs. Carlsen lists their first game as Magnus Carlsen vs Sergey Karjakin; Corus Tournament: Group B (2005).

In fact, they had already played in events without having to play each other. Here are two examples from TWIC (TheWeekInChess.com).

For more about the Tripoli event, see my page on the 2004 FIDE Knockout Matches. The TWIC report mentions that Carlsen was eliminated in the first round of the event, but says nothing about Karjakin. For years there has been a media bias in the West favoring the Norwegian over the Russian. Is the opposite true of Russian media?

01 May 2016

Tenth Anniversary!

Blogging, that is. The first post on this blog was Another head? (1 May 2006), and the second, Why 'Chess for All Ages'? (2 May 2006), established the routine for daily blogging. The post for the first anniversary was M'aidez, M'aidez (1 May 2007). I don't remember if I picked May Day on purpose or if it just worked out that way.


Google image search on 'May Day'

Blogger.com, which is the Blogspot.com tool for managing the blog, says there have been 2188 posts before this one. I doubt there will be a 20th anniversary, but who really knows? It's always one day at a time.