31 October 2014

Chess at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof

For this edition of Flickr Friday, we have a composite photo: GMs Ponomariov, Korchnoi, Kasparov, Spassky, and Karpov. All were World Champions (Ponomariov via FIDE KO in 2002) or World Champion caliber (Korchnoi, who came within one game of winning the title in 1978).

Spassky photo:
The legendary Grandmaster Boris Spassky at work © Flickr user Jürg Vollmer under Creative Commons.

The description added, 'Chess simultaneous exhibition in Zürich Main Station (2009).' For more about the event, see Zurich: A chance to meet the World Champions on Chessbase.com:-

They will all be there, for the 200th jubilee of the oldest chess club in the world: the Schachgesellschaft Zürich. The festivities, which include a Jubilee Open, will see Anand, Karpov, Korchnoi, Kramnik, Spassky, Ponomariov and Topalov playing a Champions Rapid. They are joined by Garry Kasparov for a Champions Simul against 200 opponents.

The event was also covered in the book The Zurich Chess Club, 1809-2009 by Richard Forster, which I mentioned in a recent post on McFarland Chess Books.

30 October 2014

FIDE General Assembly Derailed

Every year I look forward to the minutes of FIDE's annual pow-wow, where the delegates of the national federations get together to discuss and debate the issues facing the chess world. The documents give me the opportunity to study and understand the mechanisms that drive the world's most important chess organization. The package was released this week in 85th FIDE Congress: General Assembly Minutes and Annexes, with minutes titled 'FIDE Congress; Tromso, Norway; General Assembly; 11-14 August 2014'.

On opening the file containing the annexes, I was disappointed to find only 14 documents, compared to the 76 that were in the corresponding 2013 package. My first thought was 'FIDE is hiding something this year', but this would be out of character for a group that has generally gone out of its way to communicate with its members. My second thought was 'Something went wrong during the meeting', so I started to read the minutes hoping to discover the details. And there it was: the agenda had been hopelessly derailed.

The agenda, announced end-June (see 85th FIDE Congress: General Assembly Agenda and Annexes), was divided into four parts:-

  • Section A: Elections.
  • Section B: Administrative matters.
  • Section C: Commissions.
  • Section D: FIDE Meetings, Tournaments and Matches.

On the first day, after a heated exchange involving the two presidential candidates during the discussion of the 'Financial Report' -- Kasparov: 'If elected I will give $10.000.000' (or something like that), Ilyumzhinov: 'I will give $20.000.000' -- the meeting steered into its main attraction, 'Section A: Elections'. Since I've already commented on that in FIDE Election: Four More Years (spoiler alert: Ilyumzhinov won), let's pick up the minutes some time later:-

The meeting was then adjourned for the Continental elections during which time the nominees for elected Vice-Presidents, Constitutional Commission, Ethics Commission and Verification Commission were to present their nominations to the FIDE Secretariat.

The General Assembly was resumed on the 12th of August.

Mr. Georgios Makropoulos said: One of the Continents yesterday did not organize its assembly, so because of our Statues and Regulations to proceed with the rest of the elections we will have to await the results of this Continent. So the elections will be tomorrow. Now we have two possibilities here. One is that we continue with our Agenda and we deal with the other points of the Agenda. The second is we should break and continue the Assembly tomorrow. [...] We are not going to make decisions and we suspend the session afterwards and we come tomorrow.

There were no objections. The meeting was suspended.

The third day was spent on the remaining elections and other appointments. One of the most important was, 'Mr. Nigel Freeman was re-appointed as FIDE Executive Director for a term of four years.' Then came the fourth and last day.

The session of 14th of the August. Mr. Nigel Freeman chaired the meeting.

No quorum.

Mr. Israel Gelfer remarked that next time we should start the Agenda from the bottom, because after elections delegates do not show up at the meetings. [...]

In the afternoon, after the break a roll call was made to see if the quorum existed. No quorum.

Mr. Herman Hamers said because there is no quorum, it means that we can’t make any decisions. [...]

As there was no quorum the rest of the Agenda could not be approved.

No quorum, no agenda, no decisions, no annexes, nothing for me to write about. What to do? Let's have a home movie showing highlights from the first day of the General Assembly. It starts with Kasparov presenting himself as the Croatian delegate and ends (I think) with the results of the presidential election having been announced.

FIDE President Elections (9:02) • 'Tromso, 11.08.2014'

What's happening at 1:30 into the clip? According to the minutes,

Cote d’Ivoire [Ivory Coast] delegate Mr. Essoh Jean Mathieu Claude Essis tried to usurp the floor, but FIDE Treasurer proceeded to present his financial report.

After that, Kasparov launches into the '$10.000.000' offer, followed by Ilyumzhinov's offer(s). As for the continent that 'did not organize its assembly', it was Africa. After witnessing the performance of the Ivory Coast delegate during the General Assembly, it's easy to imagine what happened at the continental level.

28 October 2014

Big Money Chess 'On the Cover'

Anyone who has been around top level chess for the last ten years can't help but have noticed the similarities between the recent Millionaire Open (already seen on this blog in Millionaire Wrapup) and the HB Global Challenge of May 2005. Maurice Ashley, big money, a new sponsor, and, as Mark Crowther's TWIC put it, 'American razzmatazz', all gave a strong feeling of déja vu. Borrowing from my monthly 'On the Cover' series, let's go back exactly ten years and take a second look at the HB Global Challenge.

Left: 'Show Me the Money : The Richest Chess Open Ever' (Cover: Sherie Wallace)
Right: 'Launching HB Global' (Cover: Kathleen Merz)

Chess Life October 2004

$500.000 Guaranteed: The biggest Open money in chess ever! by Kalev Pehme • Declaring that a new era is dawning in the world of chess, backers have announced a new tournament to be held in 2005 that is expected to reach new plateaus in several key areas. Called the HB Global Chess Challenge, the event has the largest prize fund ever for an open chess event: $500.000 guaranteed. A new record for participation is anticipated as well, with thousands of players from around the world traveling to the U.S. heartland for the event.

Chess Life August 2005

The HB Gobal Chess challenge by GM Maurice Ashley • [Won by GM Zviad Izoria] The question on everyone's lips is, "So what about next year?" I wish I knew.

While GM Ashley hasn't been seen on any recent covers of Chess Life -- he was pre-empted by 'New World Champion' Magnus Carlsen when the Millionaire Open was announced in the February 2014 issue -- the USCF first carried the announcement in December 2013, Millionaire Chess Comes to Vegas 2014 (USchess.org):-

GM Maurice Ashley just announced a ground-breaking event, set for October 2014 Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, the "Millionaire Chess Open." The event will feature a million dollars in guaranteed prizes including a $100,000 first prize in the Open section and $40,000 in various "Under sections." [...] Maurice says on the website, "That's right: a million dollars absolutely guaranteed! No other Open tournament in the long and storied history of chess has ever come close to guaranteeing that kind of prize money. The Millionaire Chess Open will be the first, and it will signal a new era in prizes and recognition for players at all levels."

October 2004: 'a new era is dawning'; December 2013: 'a new era in prizes and recognition'. New era or same old, same old? 'The question on everyone's lips is, "So what about next year?"'

27 October 2014

TMERs: Carlsen - Anand Missing Fields (*)

After the update of the PGN file in last week's Carlsen - Anand PGN Master, I returned to the Carlsen - Anand Index. I loaded the two indexes into a database to do crosschecks between related fields, then added data missing from one field but present (in a less friendly format) in another:-

Neither of the updated fields is complete for all events, but it gives me a base to identify data that is really missing.

(*) = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

26 October 2014

The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess

While preparing the previous post in this 'Chess in School' series, The First of the USCF Supernationals, I tried to discover what had become of the winners of that 1997 event. This led me to a name that is infamously associated with the scholastic movement: Robert M. Snyder.

Years ago, when writing for About.com, I was contacted by Snyder to review his series of 'Chess for Juniors' books. That email correspondence was lost when my PC failed later, but it was no more noteworthy than similar correspondence I had with many other chess authors. That review lives on thanks to Archive.org: Book reviews : 'Chess for Juniors' series by Robert M. Snyder.

(February 2005) If you look at the list of current chess bestsellers at Amazon.com, you can't help but notice that two books by the same author rank first (Chess for Juniors by Robert M. Snyder) and third (Unbeatable Chess Lessons for Juniors). Only the perennial favorite Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess, first published in 1966, prevents Snyder from capturing the top two spots.

Nearly two years later, after requests from parents demanding that I remove the review and after consultation with my editorial supervisor, I posted a followup: Elsewhere on the Web : A Cautionary Chess Tale.

During the first week of January, a top-selling chess author pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault on a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. Robert Snyder, 52, a resident of Fort Collins, Colorado, was the owner of the Chess for Juniors club and the author of the popular book 'Chess for Juniors' and its sequels. The former chess teacher had been accused of sexually assaulting several of his students.

This was not the end of Snyder's legal troubles. In Robert Michael Snyder, Wikipedia informs,

Snyder has been arrested and convicted for multiple sexual assaults involving children dating back to 1983. He was featured on America's Most Wanted after fleeing Colorado while still on supervised probation in 2008. He was found in Belize, and on March 30, 2010 after pleading guilty was given an open (up to life) sentence.

If the Snyder affair was an isolated case, I would leave it alone, but similar stories surface regularly enough that the subject can't be ignored. Sexual predators are often cunning people, making scholastic chess their natural target for two reasons.

24 October 2014

Millionaire Wrapup

John Cordisco, who played in the Under-1600 section of the Millionaire Chess Open recently held in Las Vegas, gives his thoughts on the tournament. During the video, which is more like a podcast illustrated with photos, he mentions that he's a tournament director from upstate New York. Although a bit long-winded at times, the clip manages to make a number of excellent points.

Millionaire Chess Post Mortem 2014 (45:52) • 'My thoughts concerning my experience at Millionaire Chess 2014.'

If this isn't your cup of tea, take a look at an official video from the penultimate round: Millionaire Chess Semifinals (3:20:34 running time).

23 October 2014

A $20.000 Endgame

By now, everyone knows that GM Wesley So won the Millionaire Chess Open, beating GM Ray Robson in the final round of the top section. But what about the lower sections? Thanks to Alan Lasser’s Game of the Week newsletter (GOTW; last seen on this blog in Unauthorized Psychedelic Opening Laboratory), I learned about one battle in the Under-2200 section -- that's the USCF Expert class -- where Rustam Bunyatov beat Matthew Derek Meredith in the final match for the top prize:-

Congratulations to GOTW subscriber Derek Meredith for winning second place in the under 2200 section of the Millionaire’s Open, I’m sure that $20,000 check is good consolation for losing the playoff for the $40,000 prize first prize.

The first two games of the playoff were drawn at the time limit of game/25. The next two games were at game/15; with the white pieces in the first game his position began to slip around move 21, so a few moves later he gambled on a speculative piece sac, which did not turn out well. That meant Derek had to win the second game with the Black pieces to tie up the match and send it to the five minute playoff games.

Alan called the second game 'the $20,000 endgame' and gave most of the moves, along with a few computer generated notes that flagged the main turning points. The top diagram shows the start of the endgame in Bunyatov - Meredith.

White has just lost the exchange for a Pawn and is now faced with a long battle for a draw, sufficient to win the two game mini-match. Black's plan is clear: Penetrate with the King into White's position and return the material at the right time for a winning King and Pawn endgame. White's plan is less clear: Trade off as many Pawns as possible, reducing to a drawn Rook vs. Bishop endgame. This will depend on some cooperation from Black.

Many moves later, the players reached the position shown in the bottom diagram. Both players have followed their respective plans, but Black is now faced with a critical decision, how to defend the d-Pawn. Black should play 63...Kc3, freeing the Rook for decisive action on the Kingside against the e- and h-Pawns. Instead he played 63...Rd7, tying the Rook to the d-Pawn. Here White played 64.Bd5, allowing 64...Kc3 after all. Better would have been 64.Bb5 (kicking the Rook off its best rank), with the idea 64...Rd8 65.Bc4 (stopping the Rook from reaching g8) 65...Kc3 66.Kf5 (heading for the h-Pawn). Black still must show that the win is there.

I imagine that similar dramas took place in more of the ten sections of the Millionaire Open. The GMs might get all the attention, but the amateur players share in the fun. For more about the tournament, see the TWIC report at Millionaire Chess 2014.