31 December 2009

29 December 2009

Scientific American's Chess Puzzles

As I expected, the number of articles in Scientific American favorable to chess far surpasses the number that were unfavorable (see Not Everyone Likes Chess for the original post). I didn't expect that the types of article split neatly into three categories : chess puzzles, computer chess, and chess neuroscience.

Chess puzzles appeared regularly during the SciAm reigns of two of America's greatest puzzlists -- Sam Loyd (1841-1911) and Martin Gardner (b.1914). Here's an excerpt from Gardner's 'Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions: The First Scientific American Book of Puzzles and Games' (University Of Chicago Press, 1988), Chapter 9, 'Sam Loyd: America's Greatest Puzzlist'.

For ten years Loyd apparently did little except push chess pieces about on a chessboard. At that time chess was enormously popular; many newspapers carried chess columns featuring problems devised by readers. Loyd's first problem was published by a New York paper when he was 14. During the next five years his output of chess puzzles was so prodigious that he became known throughout the chess world. When he was 16 he was made problem editor of Chess Monthly, at that time edited by D.W. Fiske and the young chess master, Paul Morphy. Later he edited several newspaper chess columns and contributed regularly, under various pseudonyms, to a score of others.

In 1877 and 1878 Loyd wrote a weekly chess page for Scientific American Supplement, beginning each article with an initial letter formed by the pieces of a chess problem. These columns comprised most of his book Chess Strategy, which he printed in 1878 on his own press in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Containing 500 of his choicest problems, this book is now much sought by collectors.
Scientific American Supplement: 'a weekly supplement to Scientific American Magazine that ran during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It featured new inventions, scientific discoveries, and biographies of scientists and inventors.' • While chess problems represented a significant portion of Loyd's work, they were a small portion of Gardner's. A list for Martin Gardner: Mathematical Games starts,
The great Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" columns in Scientific American were assembled, over the years, into fifteen volumes. I put together this simple listing to help me trace which book a remembered essay actually appears in.

and references four collections of chess puzzles.

  • The Eight Queens and Other Chessboard Diversions
  • Eccentric Chess and Other Problems
  • Chess Tasks
  • Mathematical Chess Problems

As for computer chess and chess neuroscience in Scientific American, watch this space...

28 December 2009

Who Has the Richer Store of Ideas?

Continuing with Two World Champions in Combat, the following remarks by Kasparov must have impressed GM Taimanov as much as they impressed me. He quoted the entire second paragraph ['World Chess Championship, Karpov - Kasparov, Moscow 1985' by Averbakh & Taimanov; p.136].

Q: What was the basis of your preparation for this second match?

A: This time the preparation was both more complicated and more straightforward. More complicated because there was so little time. I had to renew my reserves of nervous energy. We all understood that the nervous tension would be much greater. We were all convinced that the fight would be of a totally different nature and we would need to be prepared for the widest variety of possible situations.

As for the purely theoretical work, we managed to work through a whole mass of information and we evaluated it correctly. We took a great deal into consideration. Our choice of new openings was based on all this work. Let us take, for example, the Nimzo-Indian Defense, which was so successful for us. It is incidentally, one of the cornerstones of Karpov's openings which we had not tested until now in our games. And using this opening he got, as we say, "minus three" he lost three games [with no wins]. That is the advantage of preparatory theoretical study! And I am convinced that it is possible to impose one's own play on a game only if one has had the best possible preparation and can create a sufficient number of surprises for one's opponent.

Q: What do you think of Karpov's play in this match?

A: [...] The decisive factor was how each player approached the second match, who had the richer store of ideas, and who had evaluated the first match the better.

In my opinion, Karpov made a serious mistake in not drawing his conclusions from the final games of the first match, and in not properly assessing the facts at his disposal. We managed to understand Karpov's game, which is easier said than done, but it took us until the tenth game of the new match before we were sure that we had made the right preparation. We got the impression that Karpov had exaggerated his abilities when playing on "my" territory, and had underestimated the strong sides of my game.

I'm not completely certain what Kasparov meant in the first paragraph when he wrote about being 'prepared for the widest variety of possible situations'. At first reading I thought he meant different scenarios where he would be leading or behind after 'X' number of games with 'Y' number still to be played. Then it occurred to me that he might be talking about situations (i.e. positions) appearing on the board.

Kasparov wrote his own book on the second K-K match, where he had further comments on the subject of World Championship Opening Preparation. I'll discuss those another time.

25 December 2009

'We'll Spend Our Christmas Being Invisible'

What do you do when Video Friday falls on Christmas Day? You do the best you can...

Wizard Chess - Harry and the Potters (1:26) • 'A music video about Harry wanting to play Wizard Chess all Christmas Break.'

...'Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh, we'll spend our Christmas playing Wizard Chess. Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh, we'll play Wizard Chess this Christmas.'

22 December 2009

Gone but not Forgotten?

A few months ago there was this...

A few days ago there was this...

  • Chess.com Welcomes ChessPark Members • 'On Dec 21, 2009, Chesspark.com became part of Chess.com. Chess.com did not acquire the technology, servers, or team behind Chesspark - just the name.' [Chess.com]

A few hours ago I noticed that, except for a few small items under 'Pablo's Chess News', Chessville.com hasn't been updated since end-November...


Later: I found out more about the demise of Chessville and documented my findings in Chess960 @ Chessville.com.

21 December 2009

Two World Champions in Combat

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, here is an excerpt from GM Taimanov's introduction to 'World Chess Championship, Karpov - Kasparov, Moscow 1985' by Averbakh & Taimanov (1986, Raduga Publishers). The second match between the two K's took place a little more than six months after the first match (1984-85) was terminated. By winning the second match, Kasparov became World Champion for the first time.

Only on rare occasions did Karpov manage to employ his favorite razor-sharp positional armory, which he generally uses so impeccably. How did Kasparov entice Karpov, a man who believes so strongly in the right of classical concepts, into [Kasparov's] "romantic territory"? The answer is given by an analysis of the games: Kasparov was better equipped theoretically, his choice of opening was far richer, and he therefore more easily laid his roads into battle.

It is worth noting that the new champion has paid great attention to the study of openings from his earliest years. In his book 'Ordeal of Time' he asserts: "Matches between two high-class players often become testing grounds for certain types of opening. In a number of consecutive games the players first and foremost try to vindicate their creative conceptions. Obviously, success in this theoretical duel, by its very nature, has a great bearing on one's success in the whole match."

Kasparov's shrewd assessment was fully corroborated in this match. Kasparov was superior to his opponent in the openings, and this automatically gave him the initiative in each ensuing battle, as well as making a significant contribution to his overall success. Suffice it to say that by his exhaustive study of the Sicilian and Nimzowitsch defenses he was able to destroy those very weapons which had brought Karpov so much success in the past. Using these openings he gained five victories without suffering a single defeat -- a most decisive achievement!

Of course, the outcome of each game was not firmly decided in the opening stages, but the whole character of the struggle was formed according to the creative aspirations of Kasparov. (p.25)

Taimanov continued with a quote from a post-match interview by Kasparov that I'll give another time.

18 December 2009

Orpen at the Ashmolean

'Major Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen, KBE, RA, RHA (27 November 1878 - 29 September 1931) was an Irish portrait painter. He studied art at the Metropolitan School and at the Slade School in London where, at the time, great emphasis was put on the study of old masters. Orpen was a highly sought after society portraitist in his day.'

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford © Flickr user Martin Beek under
Creative Commons.

Portion of a larger work. Follow the first link for the complete painting.

17 December 2009

Serial Draw Offers II

The player who makes Serial Draw Offers, doesn't always appreciate that he is offering his opponent a valuable psychological clue about the game at hand. A few months ago I encountered a good example of the pitfalls in this practice.

The following position is from a chess960 game at Schemingmind.com, although there is no trace of the original start position and it isn't even relevant. A dozen moves earlier my opponent had already offered a couple of draws. The first offer came on ...a6-a5, when the a-Pawn was already passed, and the second offer came two moves later on ...a5-a4. The material was already unbalanced, Black having three Pawns for a Knight, but I was comfortable with my position, didn't feel any real danger from the a-Pawn, and decided to play on.

Chess960 @ Schemingmind.com

(After 45.Ke2-f3)
[FEN "7r/6k1/3ppp2/1R6/p1N1P2P/5Kp1/7b/4B3 b - - 0 45"]

In this position I was expecting 45...Rxh4 46.Nxd6 Rh8 47.Kg2. Black can force the exchange of White's last Pawn, when the reduced material gives Black the opportunity to swap down into a drawn endgame of Rook plus minor piece vs. Rook. For my part, I was planning to win the a-Pawn -- note that the Black Bishop is out of play on h2 and can't participate in the defense -- while keeping Black's King confined to its Kingside, threatened by a mating net. At the right moment my own King would join the attack and perhaps force a win. The plan was very tentative, but the winning chances were all on my side and I suspected my opponent was not looking for my plan.

Instead of 45...Rxh4, Black played 45...d5 and offered another draw. He was undoubtedly thinking that any Pawn swap was a step in the direction of a drawn endgame. I continued 46.exd5 Rxh4, followed by the surprising 47.d6! Rxc4 48.Rb7+, when Black was forced to give up the Rook for the d-Pawn. He resigned a few moves later.

Obvious draws are not always so simple.

15 December 2009

Great Moments in Sicilian ...d5 Theory

The diagram, a followup to my recent post ECO B33 & B44, illustrates a couple of famous and surprising Sicilian ...d5 moves that occurred in world class matches. On the left is a position from game one of Fischer - Petrosian, 1971 Candidates Final; on the right is game 16 of Karpov - Kasparov, World Championship 1985. What finally became of these two variations, which kept chess analysts busy around the world in the months after they were played?

The initial moves of Fischer - Petrosian were 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bg5 Be6 9.N1c3 a6 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Na3 d5. The position after 11.Na3 had been analyzed by Fischer in '60 Memorable Games' (no.54, Fischer - Najdorf, 1966 Santa Monica), where he gave 8...Be6 a '?' and concluded that Najdorf's 11...Nd4 was no better than Black's alternatives 'all favoring White'. In the 1971 game, Petrosian inexplicably varied from his home preparation, failed to play the best line, and lost a game he could have won.

The initial moves of Karpov - Kasparov were 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Nf6 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 d5. The same moves had been seen in the 12th game, which ended in an 18-move draw. During the week and a half between that game and the 16th, Karpov and his assistants had time to analyze 8...d5, but Kasparov, showing confidence in his own analysis, did not hesitate to repeat it. He won one of the best games of his illustrious career, as well as one of the most important. It was the turning point in the match which brought him the title of World Champion.

To play through the complete games see...

Robert James Fischer vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, Buenos Aires cf 1971


Anatoli Karpov vs Garry Kasparov, World Championship Match 1985

...on Chessgames.com. What was the ultimate fate of the two variations? Petrosian's move held up to the test of time, and Fischer's 9.N1c3 has been replaced by 9.Nd2. Kasparov's move was refuted a few months later by Karpov himself: 9.cxd5 exd5 10.exd5 Nb4 11.Be2 Bc5, and now not 12.O-O, but 12.Be3 Bxe3 13.Qa4! (Karpov - Van der Wiel, Brussels 1986). It was one of the rare cases where Kasparov's preparation later proved to be faulty.

14 December 2009

The Azmai Affair

From 'Five Crowns' by Seirawan and Tisdall, an account of the fifth Kasparov - Karpov match (New York / Lyon, 1990), here's another angle on World Championship Opening Preparation:

A note on the violent side of chess: a remarkable story surrounding the match was reported in the days leading up to play, by the Soviet wire service TASS. According to them, Kasparov second GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili was approached by a man claiming to be a Latvian businessman, Artur Ionis. Forces high up (?) were greatly interested in taking some of the wind out of the controversial champion's sails by relieving Kasparov of his title, Azmaiparashvili was informed. He offered Zurab a $7.000 advance to sell Kasparov's opening secrets.

The Georgian GM would get $50.000 if his employer managed to beat Karpov anyway, or $100.000 if Karpov won. When Azmai turned the offer down, Hollywood style mafiosi tactics followed, with the Georgian being warned about his health and particularly the safety of his loved ones. Later his mother-in-law in Tbilisi received a fire-bomb through the letter box. The incident resulted in slight injuries, according to the TASS report.

This kind of skullduggery has been absent from chess since the heated political days of Viktor Korchnoi as far as I [Tisdall] know. In Merano 1981 I remember the hall being swept for explosives every day and all sorts of fanatical mail coming in to the organization.

It is difficult to know what to think of the TASS story.

The Kasparov camp confirm it, but say they do not wish to associate Azmai's ordeal with the Karpov camp in any way. Karpov and company dismiss the whole idea as fantasy. The whole thing has overtones of the black-market thrillerdom that is an essential in the massive conspiracy theories that proliferate around the match -- but more of that later. I leave it to the reader to decide whether this bizarre jaunt into the criminal side of life is true or false, motivated by political terrorism or by crooked bookmakers trying to orchestrate a gambling coup. [p.5]

It is also difficult to know what to think of this story as written. Did anyone follow up with 'Latvian businessman Artur Ionis'? Re 'the Kasparov camp confirm it, but say they do not wish to associate Azmai's ordeal with the Karpov camp in any way', to whom else would the sale of opening secrets confer an advantage? To 'crooked bookmakers' making book on which opening will be played in the next game, like in The Dorfman Affair? If so, why the extra $50.000 if Karpov won? Surely this implies that Kasparov's opening secrets would somehow reach the ex-World Champion. It doesn't add up.

And what about 'the massive conspiracy theories that proliferate around the match', promised for later? Looks like I'll have to read the book carefully and report back when I understand more.


Later: About those 'massive conspiracy theories', here is part of the commentary for game 11, the fourth consecutive draw.

There is a growing cynicism that the match is no longer on the level. The conspiracy theorists are out in force, claiming that the players have decided to draw out and leave New York at 6-6, guaranteeing both sets of sponsors full value for their money. [p.16]

This sounds like something that the attendant journalists, having too much time on their hands between games, would invent.

11 December 2009

Keene on 1972 Fischer - Spassky, game 6

Never trust a man who wears a bow tie? A day after my post Keen on Keene, and by sheer coincidence, I discovered a video with the British GM (aka 'The Penguin') in person.

World Chess Championship 1972 Spassky v. Fischer (1/3) (4:40) • 'The match was played during the Cold War, but during a period of increasing détente. The Soviet chess system had long held a monopoly on the game at the highest level.'

'Thames Television presents "Duels of the Mind : The 12 Best Games of Chess", in association with Grandmaster Video Magazine. A Mozart Symphony, Fischer v. Spassky, Reykjavik 1972'; Keene: 'With me is the celebrated author and journalist Donald Woods...' • The Fischer - Spassky game, no. 11 in the '12 Best Games' series, was the sixth game of the match, the Queen's Gambit Declined which put Fischer ahead for the first time in the match.

The clip is a low quality video capture, the lips are out of sync with the sound, and the upload is possibly unauthorized -- all business as usual at YouTube. A description of the original product ('originally broadcast on Thames television in 1989') is available from the London Chess Centre: Duels of the Mind - Raymond Keene (4 DVDs).

10 December 2009

Keen on Keene

Just so no one gets the wrong idea from last week's post Pinning the King, I'm a big fan of GM Raymond Keene. How could anyone serious about chess not be? -- British champion, assistant to a World Champion candidate, organizer of three World Championship matches, FIDE insider, prolific writer -- the man has done it all.

I have a number of Keene's books on World Championship matches of the last 30+ years and they all make good reading, with or without a chess board. They follow a consistent formula : an account of the historical setting for the match followed by light, occasionally skimpy, annotations for each game with an informative introduction on the importance of that particular game.

Keene understands chess as few writers do. Having said that, I'm not naive and I wouldn't transact any business with him. Nor would I take for granted everything he has written without confirming it against another source. Chess fans who ignore him or who dismiss him because of his obvious faults are overlooking a wonderful resource.

08 December 2009

What Makes an Opening Extravagant?

The chess player is an alchemist. Starting with 16 pieces in a particular formation and alternating single moves of those pieces with an opponent having the same force, he converts the base forces of material and time into a solid gold position where his opponent's King is checkmated, i.e. can't escape capture. A player uses each single move to improve his position, where the improvement is measured according to tangible values. I described these well known values in Positional Play in Chess:

  • The center
  • Open lines / Piece activity
  • Pawn structure / Strong and weak squares
  • King safety

These are supplemented by a few intangible values that are easier to recognize than to describe:

  • The initiative
  • Interference with the opponent's plans

In other words, a chess player spends a move to improve his position, in the same way one might spend time or money to improve one's house or apartment. For some moves, particularly in the opening, a player can speculate on certain values at the expense of other values.

For example, the move 1.a3 ignores both the center and piece activity in the goal of interfering with the opponent's plans. This is accomplished by forcing the opponent to abandon his prepared repertoire and to think for himself. Similarly, a gambit ignores the material value of a Pawn and seeks compensating value in more control of the center, better piece activity, a clear initiative, or a combination of these factors.

Following the definitions in Extravagant Openings -- 'lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint', 'spending much more than necessary', or 'extremely or unreasonably high in price' -- this is what makes an opening extravagant. Just as in life, extravagance in chess is not necessarily punished, nor should it be.

07 December 2009

Playing the Opponent's Opening

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, here's an insight from Petrosian into a common opening strategy.

During a tournament, many forms of subtle psychological warfare are practiced. For example, occasionally an opening is used against an opponent who is known to favor it himself. The idea is to force him against his own weapons, when he will have to face not only real dangers but, very often, imaginary ones as well. This trick is, of course, not quite safe for one who adopts it...

Spassky did it several times against me in our matches for the World Championship. He tried this method in the line 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5, in the seventh game of our match in 1966. ('Petrosian's Legacy', p.29),

Of White's third move, Petrosian noted, 'Someone has remarked that Spassky has invited Petrosian to play in the yard of the house in which he grew up.' Although the game is well known, Petrosian's positional angle is less well known.

1966 World Championship (game 7)
Petrosian, Tigran

Spassky, Boris
(After 14...h6-h5)
[FEN "r3k2r/pbqnbp2/1p2p3/2ppP1pp/1P6/2PBPNB1/P4PPP/R2Q1RK1 w kq - 0 15"]

The following punctuation and comments are from the same source and are all Petrosian's: 15.h4 ('After the natural 15.h3, Black would advance his g-Pawn sooner or later, and White would not maintain his e5-Pawn.') 15...gxh4! ('Now Black should not be tempted by 15...g4, because of 16.Ng5 Nxe5 17.Bb5+') 16.Bf4 ('So White, for a moment has secured the e5-Pawn.') 16...O-O-O!

A significant moment: the players have got the maximum from the pieces that are in play, but the Rooks still have to be brought into play. The first priority for both sides is to find the best positions for the Rooks. With this in mind, note that the capture on h4 has opened the g-file for Black's Rooks.

Spassky seemed not to understand this particular feature of the position, otherwise, he, for better or worse would have taken at c5 to open the b-file for his Rooks or, if Black were to recapture with a piece, to activate his Rook on a1.

The game continued 17.a4? c4!.

After the game I discovered that this move amazed the spectators. Its disadvantage is obvious as the square d4 is now at White's perfect disposal -- but I would add, only verbally. His Queen and Rook can make no use of this square, and even his Knight, which normally would work best on such a square, cannot get there because it is tied to the defense of the Pawn on e5. Thus Black has free hands for operations along the g-file.

While analyzing the future course of the game one should [not] forget that the idea of the maneuver Be7-f8-g7 was still in the air, gaining the e5-Pawn which has now become White's sorrow, not pride.

To play through the complete game see...

Boris Spassky vs Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian; World Championship Match 1966 (game 7)

...on Chessgames.com.

04 December 2009

Gnomans Land

'The first garden gnomes were made in Gräfenroda, a town known for its ceramics in Thuringia, Germany, in the mid-1800s. Philip Griebel made terracotta animals as decorations, and produced gnomes based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of the gnomes' willingness to help in the garden at night. The garden gnome quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby.' - Wikipedia

Gnomes Playing Chess in a Graveyard © Flickr user Tony the Misfit under Creative Commons.

Gnomes in the gnews: Google News on 'gnomes'.

03 December 2009

Pinning the King

How do I get on these lists? A few weeks ago there was the email message I copied to Who Owns the World Championship? Today's morning mail had this:

Subject: An open letter to the Chess World
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 2009 23:14:16 +0100
From: Ida Eddis Foster

Dear Chess World - Please find attached a request for urgent action by the Chess World. - Yours truly, Ida Eddis Foster


Kingpin should be banned -- an open letter to the Chess World

Dear Chess World,

Shocked is scarcely the word for my reaction to issue 40 of Kingpin magazine. Reading the detailed article about Ray Keene, "Machiavelli on Ice", anyone would conclude that such a man merits no place at all in the chess world.

It was bad enough when the previous issue uncharitably put Ray's writing under the spotlight for 15 pages, together with some dark hints about his financial dealings. There should be a law against such things.

And now 13 more pages about what supposedly happened to investors' millions, and another unseemly charge of plagiarism, as if anybody cared. The heading contains a word not even in my dictionary, "Grandfraudster", and I regard this shambles with total disgust. Nobody's interested in such exposés, however much "documentary evidence" Kingpin finds to put on its website kingpinchess.net/penguin-files.

Enough is enough, and ideally Kingpin should be banned (or burned - or both). Failing that, I urge Ray's supporters, as well as all right-thinking chess-lovers, to:

1) Tell the Editor of Kingpin what he can do with copies of his magazine. The address is: kingpinchess@yahoo.com.

2) Write to the Editors of The Times and The Spectator, expressing dismay at the precise accusations against their chess correspondent and telling them they look ridiculous.

3) Send congratulatory messages to the British Chess Magazine and CHESS for steadfastly defending Ray's interests, by omission and/or commission.

4) Persuade leading officials of the English Chess Federation to make Ray the Finance Director, with unfettered powers.

5) Swamp chessgames.com with messages summarizing the attacks on him, so that Ray can respond at a safe site where, mercifully, there are still people who look up to him.

Please act now because Ray really needs help.

Yours truly, Ida Eddis Foster, Newtown, Rochester

2 December 2009

The KingpinChess.net URL included above is worth following if you have oodles of time to waste spend; note especially the 'Archives' links in the left sidebar. The site uses Wordpress as its publishing tool, meaning that it has a builtin RSS feed: kingpinchess.net/feed. (Mark Crowther's TWIC and Edward Winter's Chess Notes should both take note.)

01 December 2009

Extravagant Openings

Looking for a term to describe unusual openings in chess960 (you might be asking, 'Aren't they all unusual?'), I searched on various expressions that describe these openings in traditional chess. Here's what I found.

The most used phrase was a variation of one of those above. It exceeds the combined count of all the above, a phenomenon for which I have no explanation (*).

I wanted my phrase to include openings like gambits. These are usually not included in any of the above, unless they are openings like the Halloween Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nxe5), which might also be considered for the following list.

Then the phrase I was looking for popped into my head. It encompasses all of the above, and then some. Most importantly, it's not in widespread use.

From Merriam-Webster.comextravagant:

1 a obsolete : strange, curious; b archaic : wandering
2 a : exceeding the limits of reason or necessity (extravagant claims); b : lacking in moderation, balance, and restraint (extravagant praise); c : extremely or excessively elaborate (an extravagant display)
3 a : spending much more than necessary (has always been extravagant with her money); b : profuse, lavish
4 : extremely or unreasonably high in price (an extravagant purchase)

Yes, that's exactly what I was looking for: Extravagant Openings! Any one of those definitions could serve the purpose I have in mind.


(*): Re 'a phenomenon for which I have no explanation', it seems to be caused by a Google idiosyncrasy: 'In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to [those] already displayed.' This line of thought led to another candidate...

...which I'll save for another time.


Later: I received another suggestion via email; 'Since traditional chess has been depicted as a refuge for the logical mind, may I suggest MIND-BLOWING Openings, which would certainly cover most of my preferences.' As you can see in the stats...

...it's not in widespread usage.


Even Later: Two more terms are...

...The first was suggested by the title of Zagorovsky's 'Romantic Chess Openings'. The second was used in a Chesscafe.com column by Gary Lane.

30 November 2009

The Geller Affair

In a comment to my post on The Vladimirov Affair, Michael Goeller wrote,

An interesting case of match-second-betrayal I recall was Geller's (likely Soviet-ordered) betrayal of Spassky before the 1974 candidates match with Karpov. Byrne (who lost a quarterfinal match to Spassky) documents this very well in his NY Times book on the matches.

Since I wasn't familiar with this story, I immediately obtained a copy of Byrne's book. In his chapter on that 1974 candidates semifinal, Byrne introduced the match with the following paragraphs.

It was a terrible blow for [Spassky] to learn that Efim Geller, the brilliant opening analyst who had worked with him on the championship match in Iceland [vs. Fischer 1972], had now gone over to Karpov's camp. It is difficult to understand how the Soviet Chess Federation could permit such a move, which allowed Spassky's deepest secrets and opening plans to be turned over to his opponent.

Spassky did make some attempt to accommodate himself to the dismal situation by trying defenses that run counter to his classical style, namely the King's Indian Defense of game 3 and the Dutch Defense of game 7. However he played like a duck out of water and was lucky to give up only 1 1/2 points in the two games.

Moreover, Spassky played do-nothing continuations against Karpov's Caro-Kann Defense in games 2, 4, and 6, undoubtedly fearing unpleasant theoretical surprises. Fighting a match like this with blunted weapons would be too much for anyone, but why didn't Spassky begin earlier and work harder on enterprising alternatives to the openings Geller knew him to favor?

Spassky is a fascinating personality, a mixture of strange contradictions. He told me afterward that after his easy win in the first game he became so overconfident that he could not concentrate for the rest of the match. But how could he reconcile that with his worry over Geller's fine opening work? Could he have been excessively optimistic and scared skinny at the same time? ('Anatoly Karpov: The Road to the World Chess Championship', p.81)

What did Karpov have to say about Geller's help? In 1980, co-author Aleksandr [Alexander] Roshal quoted Geller in a brief account of pre-match preparations.

It had been noted that, as regards the openings, Spassky did not prepare very thoroughly for matches, and so it was decided to adopt against him as many different unexpected schemes as possible. In order to successfully adopt such tactics, Karpov had to undertake an enormous amount of preliminary work. It is sufficient to recall that Efim Geller, an openings expert, wrote:
"As regards versatility, Anatoly Karpov is inferior to his opponent. This is noticeable, in particular, in his limited opening repertoire. As White Karpov plays only 1.e4 and as Black sticks to one or two defenses..."
At that time Geller had not yet become Karpov's second trainer, and could not have known that the young grandmaster was not at all what he appeared to be. Spassky judged Karpov exactly as Geller did -- and was wrong. ('Chess Is My Life', p.137)

There is nothing else about Geller during the match itself. He first appears as one of Karpov's seconds for the final candidates match against Korchnoi. 'Karpov on Karpov' mentions a few anecdotes related to Geller, but nothing on the 1974 match with Spassky. I've already used the same source for a post on The 'Clear Head' Theory, a first hand account by Karpov on Spassky's style of opening preparation.

Kasparov echoes much of the above in his summary of the match preparation. In the more than 30 pages he devotes to the match, there is no mention of Geller's contribution to Karpov's team.

The Spassky - Karpov match was that epochal event, after which the enormous significance of opening proficiency became clear to everyone. Spassky prepared for the match in the old fashioned way, and this method proved inadequate, quickly leaving him effectively 'without an opening'. Whereas, by contrast, for two and a half months Karpov and his trainers polished their planned opening systems, studying not so much variations, as the conceptual fundamentals of opening lines, their middlegame and sometimes their endgame positions. Karpov worked for 10-12 hours a day! Spassky had no conception of the strength of the grandmaster against whom he had been drawn.

On this occasion Karpov was helped by Furman and Razuvaev (there was no Balashov: Spassky had turned to him for help, not knowing that he was in the opponent's team, and Yuri decided to observe neutrality). Two major surprises were prepared: with Black, the Caro-Kann Defense, and with White, a partial switch to 1.d4. ('My Great Predecessors V', p.249)

What to conclude here? The Soviet sources don't confirm Byrne's account and they provide an alternate, plausible explanation of Spassky's difficulties in the match. Is that because Byrne got it wrong -or- because the subject is awkward for Soviet insiders?

Byrne mentioned that he discussed the Karpov match with Spassky in person. It's a pity that Spassky has written nothing about his many key matches. He would be the best witness to explain what really happened.

27 November 2009

Bobby Fischer Gone Mad

Chapa: 'It's really not about chess. It's more about the emotions and the mind of a genius who has gone mad, quote unquote.'

Bobby Fischer Live Premiere (8:49) • 'Damian Chapa's latest film Bobby Fischer Live premiered at the Beverly Fairfax Theater in Hollywood on November 10th to a sold out audience'; from La Costa TV & PKS Entertainmant LLC.

Chapa: 'Once he became the greatest chess player in the world, he realized it's not enough to be the greatest at what you do. You have to be happy first. There's an art to living life, and the art is to be happy in life. He wasn't happy, he became miserable, and he went down into the darkness and the depths of psychological anger that only this film can explain.' • Trailer: Damian Chapa's Latest Feature Bobby Fischer Live, 'They called him the outlaw biker of chess'. • IMDB: Bobby Fischer Live (2009).

26 November 2009

B+N vs. N

After the cooked study in Tablebase 1 - Roycroft ½ alerted me to the hidden possibilities in the elementary endgame of Bishop and Knight vs. Knight, I decided to investigate further, using the position in the diagram as a starting point. The White King and Bishop cooperate to keep the enemy King confined to the corner, although it is in no immediate danger of being checkmated. If the Black King moves to c8, attacking the Bishop, the Bishop goes to a5, when it will take the White King four moves to attack it again on a6. This gives White plenty of tempi to maneuver against the Black Knight.

As for the Knights, it's easy to vary the position of one or the other to see the effect this has on the optimal solution. For example, in the diagrammed position, with White to move (WTM), White wins in 34 moves; with Black to move (BTM), White wins in 62, in spite of the fact that the Black Knight appears to be out of danger.

Whoever is on move, White wins

WTM: win in 34; BTM: win in 62
[FEN "k2B4/8/2K5/3N4/4n3/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

A useful heuristic is to recall that with Bishop and Knight versus bare King, the forced checkmate takes about 30 moves, worst case. That means that in the BTM solution above, a win in 62 reduces to approximately 30 moves to trap and capture the Knight, followed by 30 moves to execute the checkmate. With WTM in the diagram, the optimal solution (wins in 34) starts 1.Kb6, when a possible sequence is 1...Nf2 2.Bc7 Nd3 3.Bd6 Nb2 4.Ka6 Na4 5.Ba3 Kb8 6.Ka5, and the Knight is trapped.

Moving the White Knight from d5 to other squares produces different effects. With the Knight on f3 and WTM, the win will take 62 moves; with BTM, it will take a few moves longer. With the Knight on g2, WTM takes 67 moves, BTM 76 moves. On h2, WTM takes 66 moves, BTM 92 moves, probably bumping into the 50-move rule. With its Knight on h1, with or without the move White can't win, because its own wayward piece is dominated by the Black Knight.

Returning to the diagram, moving the Black Knight to other squares produces similar results. On f3, WTM is a win in 66 moves, while BTM is a draw after ...Nd4+. On g2, WTM is a win in 51 moves, BTM in 61 moves. On h1, WTM is a win in 28 moves, because Bh4 traps the Black Knight immediately; BTM loses in 56.

Fine, in 'Basic Chess Endings', analyzed two positions in this endgame. No. 274a showed how the weak side's Knight could be trapped, while No. 274b demonstrated a mating attack.

  • 274a: [FEN "4n2k/8/8/4KN2/2B5/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]; 1.Bf7 wins in 47 moves.
  • 274b: [FEN "7k/8/5NKB/8/3n4/8/8/8 b - - 0 1"]; 1...Nf5 loses in eight moves after 2.Bf8.

Fine underestimated the difficulty of this endgame. In 274b, he stated that the Knight on d4 'could draw if it were on one of a number of other squares: c6, c4, d3, h3, and of course any square from which a capture is possible'. He did not have the tools to see that with the Knight on h3, Black loses in 41 moves after 1...Nf4+ 2.Kf7 Ne6 3.Nd5 etc. Even with our modern tablebase tools, this endgame is not trivial.

24 November 2009

Tablebase 1 - Roycroft ½

The diagrammed position is no.400 in A.J.Roycroft's 'Test Tube Chess' (1972), subtitled 'A Comprehensive Introduction to the Chess Endgame Study'. As the caption indicates, it is a 1960 endgame study by Roycroft himself. The solution given in his book is 1.b5 Nf3 2.b6 Ne5 3.b7+ Kd7 4.b8=N+ Kc8 5.Ka8 Bg1 6.Nc6 Nc4 7.Ne7+ and 'Draws; 7.Na7+ or 7.Ne5 also [draws]'.

Roycroft, Problem, 1960

White to play and ?

With the underpromotion on move four, resulting in Bishop and Knight vs. Knight, the study is very pretty, isn't it? Unfortunately, there's a small glitch. According to the trusty tablebase, the position after 7.Ne7+ is a win for Black in 94 moves. The moves 7.Na7+ and 7.Ne5 also lose in 50 and 58 moves respectively.

In fact, if we go back to the diagram, with best play it is a win for Black in 71 moves. Best play is 5...Nd3 instead of 5...Bg1, which is less than optimal by seven moves. Even after 5...Bg1 6.Nc6, the move 6...Nd3 is better than 6...Nc4, which is less than optimal by 22 moves.

It appears that Roycroft underestimated the danger of having the White King confined to the corner. It is not enough that the White Knight breaks free into the open board. The tablebase shows that, while the White King is under threat of checkmate, its Knight is eventually dominated by Black's minor pieces and left without moves. After that, the Black King strolls over and captures the hapless Knight, when the resulting position is an elementary mate with Bishop and Knight vs. bare King.

How sensitive is the defense to different positions of the White Knight? I didn't look at everything, of course, but after 7.Na7+ in Roycroft's solution, the main line is 7...Kc7 8.Nb5+ Kc6 9.Nc3. Although the White Knight is apparently out of danger on c3, Black wins it in less than 20 moves. Picking up the Knight from c3 and placing it on any other empty square also leads to eventual loss.

Roycroft's book has other examples of positions that have been completely solved by tablebases. Most of them were evaluated correctly, but like his own study, there are a few exceptions. I'll look at more of those in future posts.

23 November 2009

The Dorfman Affair

The Vladimirov Affair wasn't the only example of skulduggery during the Kasparov - Karpov matches. From the Chessgames.com page on Josif D Dorfman, here is a copy of an article by Bernard Cafferty, BCM, October 1993 [my comments in brackets are based on the two page article in Europe Echecs (September 1993, p.14), referenced by Cafferty]:

Dorfman in the Toils: Iosif Dorfman was the principal target of a very long accusatory article 'Chess in the Toils of Spying' which appeared in issue 28 [July 1993, written by Vitaly Melik-Karamov] of the Russian popular weekly Ogonyok [sometimes written Ogoniuk or Ogonek]. The allegation was strongly made by a former KGB employee from Azerbaidjan [Victor Litvinov] and by an associate of Kasparov [apparently his mother] that considerable leakage of information had taken place in the various matches between Kasparov and Karpov.

Dorfman, the article claims, had been approached in 1984 by an intermediary who had spun the yarn that he had contacts with a betting ring which could make big money if it knew such things as choice of openings, which sealed move had been made... At one stage the Ukrainian GM was promised a flat in Moscow within two days (a great prize, hardly attainable so quickly by senior figures) as well as a huge sum in roubles and foreign currency. Dorfman's rebuttal in the September issue of Europe Echecs does not contain a formal denial, merely a comment that no proof is given for the allegations. The Ukrainian, who now lives in Cannes, speculated that the article was to counter a comment he made that Etienne Bacrot played better at the age of ten than Kasparov did at 13.

It could also be a belated attempt at explaining why Kasparov had fallen 5-0 behind in the first match, or a riposte to Dorfman who might be suspected of feeding information to Fischer to support the American's project to write a book proving all the K-K matches had 'fixed' games. Dorfman was able to quote Clara Kasparov in the Ogonyok article to the effect that the second match was 'straight' as compared to the others. Asked about the article, Kasparov was quoted as confirming it as all correct. Karpov refused to comment other than that he would respond later.

The accusations against Dorfman were based on events around the early games of the first match, the 48 game affair played in 1984-85 that was finally annulled by FIDE President Campomanes.

Kasparov discussed the affair in a Chesscafe.com Interview With Garry Kasparov by Hanon W. Russell, which centered on the recently published 'Garry Kasparov on Modern Chess, Part 2, Kasparov vs. Karpov, 1975-1985':

On Monday, September 29, 2008, accompanied by Mark Donlan, we had the opportunity to interview Kasparov. In discussing his new book, Garry was candid about the sometimes painful lessons he learned from his first two matches with Anatoly Karpov, and how these lessons helped transform him into the person he is today.

Kasparov: 'I'm not paranoid'.

HR: The openings -- what information was given to Karpov about your opening preparation?

GK: We assumed that there was the regular recording of the information that was available in our rooms. That some of the staff there -- the maids -- were working for the KGB, which is normal behavior in Russia. Today some people say Garry Kasparov was paranoid. I'm not paranoid; I'm just giving you the harsh realities of the Soviet Union, which unfortunately are resurrected in modern Russia as well. They were doing their regular search and I'm sure the information landed in the hands of people who passed it to Karpov. But also the story about Dorfman's being part of this betting line and offering inside information. It was clear that in game eleven Karpov decided to avoid the Grünfeld by playing Nf3, which had no other explanation unless he knew...

HR: You think Dorfman passed information?

GK: He was playing this betting line. He confessed later that he was offered nice conditions at the betting line, and he was participating, and in game eleven he said the dark-squared bishop would be fianchettoed -- and Karpov played Nf3. There's only one explanation for a professional player.

HR: He knew what was going to happen.

GK: To make sure whether it was Grünfeld or not. If I want to play Tarrasch, Nf3 doesn't make any difference.

HR: On page 95, in the notes to the seventh game, after 1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 c5, you write
"the time was spent hesitating, even though I had decided beforehand to play the Tarrasch Defence. Of course, Karpov was expecting this system: both in Niksic (1983) and in the Candidates matches (1983-84) I employed it with great success. In addition, as it later transpired, from the 1st to the 11th game one of my helpers, Iossif Dorfman, secretly played on the match totaliser, and before the 7th game he bet that in reply to 1 d4 it would be a Tarrasch Defense, but the totaliser was run by a man who was close to the Karpov camp..."
This paragraph by itself is very confusing to someone who doesn't have any information, so please explain what is the totaliser?

GK: There are many betting lines no matter what you do. There was a betting line on the openings, on the sealed moves, and Dorfman participated. He provided vital inside information.

HR: So what you mean is that in the seventh game of the match, he put his money on your playing the Tarrasch?

GK: Yes. Which, by the way, was not a big deal; Karpov could have anticipated the Tarrasch. It helps when you know the openings, but still there was an eighty percent probability that I would play the Tarrasch if I faced 1 d4. Actually, we prepared well. In game seven I had a very good position; we had an excellent opening novelty and I used it, but I spent too much time. After this horrible defeat in game six, my confidence was shattered. The problem is not game seven, the problems occurred later, especially game eleven, and other games where I assumed Karpov had very specific knowledge of the ideas. But that's not what happened in 1986 [the Vladimirov affair?]. In 1984-85 there was a general knowledge, but there was no access to my notebooks. After game eleven Dorfman stopped, because he recognized that it was a trap. He went to play the Soviet Championship, the first league, and he came back after game thirty-two.

Dorfman's transgressions, imagined or otherwise, must not have been too serious. He also served on Kasparov's team for the 1985 Moscow, 1986 London - Leningrad, and 1987 Seville matches.

20 November 2009

Umbrella Stand

All too often are the powers of the chess Queen hidden, waiting to be revealed to the creative mind.

Chess © Flickr user Roby Ferrari under Creative Commons.

Apparently taken in Salzburg, Austria.

19 November 2009

Chess X-files

While working on a recent post related to the origin of chess960 in 1996 -- Fischer Announces Fischerandom -- I was reminded of a long standing accusation by the 11th World Champion against the 12th and 13th World Champions.

Fischer also ridiculed the U.S. government for indicting him and issuing a federal arrest warrant in his name for his alleged violation of an executive order by then President Bush barring U.S. citizens from doing business with Yugoslavia. Fischer claimed one of the reasons the U.S. government has indicted him and issued the arrest warrant, which is valid all over the USA, was to prevent him from returning to the USA to get access to his enormous file on the first so-called world championship match between Karpov and Kasparov so that he could write a book proving that that match was prearranged move by move. [From the 1996 press release]

If the file was so important, why didn't Fischer have it sent to him? It appears that his paranoia let him trust no one. Or perhaps the file never existed.

17 November 2009

Not Everyone Likes Chess

A few years ago I posted a piece on About.com called The Not Everyone Likes Chess Department [Archive.org]. Here's an excerpt:

In 1997, one of the seminal battles between the human brain and artificial intelligence was fought and lost by the greatest chess player of all time, Garry Kasparov. In a contest of electrifying tedium, the Charles Atlas of mental arithmetic was soundly thrashed by a fridge called Deep Blue. [timesonline.co.uk]

It was intended to be an irregular series, but it was so irregular that I only wrote the one post. There just wasn't enough material. A recent SciAm article would have fit the bill perfectly : Hello Moon, Good-Bye Rennie, 'We look at the contents of the July issue of Scientific American magazine, the last under outgoing Editor in-Chief John Rennie'.

Podcast TranscriptionSteve: Welcome to Science Talk, the weekly Podcast of Scientific American, posted on June 26th 2009. I'm Steve Mirsky. This week, we'll take a look at the contents of the July issue of Scientific American magazine with Editor in Chief John Rennie, which includes taking a look backward. [...]

Steve: And, of course, one of my favorite sections in the magazine that we usually talk about a little bit. The 50, 100 and 150 years ago.

Rennie: Column.

Steve: Column, that's it.

Rennie: Steve, what was in the magazine?

Steve: A 150 years ago, here's a real indication of how cultural mores may change over time. 150 years ago we wrote,
"A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this it may be asked? We answer chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler requirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game. They require out of door exercises not this sort of mental gladiatorship."
Rennie: Wow.

Steve: Can you imagine, we came out against chess.

Rennie: Well, as you know, Steve it is well established that playing of chess leads to the playing of whist and mumblety-peg -- it's a gateway game.

Since that 1859 article, Scientific American has published other articles about the positive aspects of chess. I'll summarize them in a future post.

16 November 2009

The Vladimirov Affair

In Opening Preparation - Between the Lines, I remarked, 'We'll see in other World Championship matches that the problem of betrayal occurs frequently in match preparations'. Betrayal has always been a perception rather than an established fact. It is difficult for a player to prove that one of his trusted seconds has been less than faithful in serving the cause.

A case arose during the 1986 Kasparov - Karpov Title Match. Leading +4-1=11 with eight games to play, Kasparov lost the next three games -- the 17th, 18th, and 19th. The match was tied. Any player who had just lost three games could be expected to take a time-out, but the opposite occurred. Here's how Keene and Goodman introduced the 20th game.

After his elegant demolition of the Gruenfeld in game 19 Karpov took a surprise time out, postponing the 20th until the following Monday. The decision mystified observers who had expected the former champion to keep pushing against a weakened Kasparov, but grandmasters suggested that Karpov wished to use the weekend to prepare himself psychologically for the final phase of the match now that he had gained a real chance to win. Rumors that Karpov was ill were soon quashed that evening when Karpov was shown on Leningrad TV visiting an exhibition by the famous Soviet artist Ilya Glazunov with his girlfriend Natasha and close aide Vladimir Pischenko. ['The Centenary Match: Kasparov - Karpov III', p.112]

Kasparov gave more detail from an insider's point of view.

Before game 20 Karpov took his last postponement, and thus the match moved into the finishing straight -- the day of each subsequent game was now determined. Clearly, by his decision Karpov gave me time to "lick my wounds" and he lost the psychological initiative. Why did he do this? Later Karpov explained that he had problems in the opening, and perhaps this explanation will satisfy people who are remote from chess. [...]

Another factor, which gave rise to false rumors, should also be mentioned here. There were changes in [Kasparov's] training group, which was abandoned by Timoshchenko and Vladimirov. But whereas Timoshchenko's departure departure was 'planned', a serious conflict occurred in my relations with Vladimirov after the 19th game. To me he seemed to be behaving strangely -- copying out the analysis of openings employed in the match. I cannot assert anything, and I have no grounds for accusing him, but equally I can no longer trust Vladimirov as I used to. We parted company precisely the day before Karpov's postponement was announced. ['London - Leningrad Championship Games', p.112]

Even though Kasparov could not 'assert anything', he dropped enough hints to make his thinking crystal clear. This is from his introduction to the 19th game, where he discussed the choice of opening for that game:

A change of opening would have seemed more sensible. This was made in game 21, but there is reason to think that the employment of a new opening in game 19 would not have affected the opponent's preparedness. [p.109]

Karpov's prepared opening surprises in games 17 and 19, plus his 'amazing perception' and 'second sight' (Kasparov's words) in the analysis of the adjourned position in game 18, were enough to convince Kasparov that Vladimirov had to go.

13 November 2009

Monster Match

A few weeks ago, Flickr Friday (or is it Photo Friday?) featured King Kong vs. Godzilla. This week Video Friday (or is it Film Friday?) features Frankenstein vs. Dracula (or is it Dracula vs. Frankenstein?). 'Their very presence weaves a spell of mystery and horror.'

Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi Film Stars Frolics (0:57) • 'Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi play a game of chess to determine who leads the parade at the Film Stars Frolics'

P.S. Black moves first?

12 November 2009

A World Championship Fortress

An unusual example of an endgame fortress occurred in the fourth game of the 2000 Braingames World Championship match. A tablebase confirms that the following position, where White has the advantage of a Knight and Pawn, is drawn with best play.

2000 World Championship Match (game 4)
Kasparov, Garry

Kramnik, Vladimir
(After 56.Rf7-g7(xP))
[FEN "8/2N3R1/Pk6/4r3/8/8/8/3K4 b - - 0 56"]

The game continued 56...Ra5 57.Kd2 Ra1 58.Kc2, which is still a theoretical draw, but now Kasparov erred with 58...Rh1. The draw requires keeping the Black Rook on the a-file. With 59.Rg8, Kramnik could have forced a win, but he played 59.Kb2, allowing Kasparov to escape the loss with 59...Rh8. After 60.Kb3 Rc8 61.a7 Kxa7, the position simplified into the well known and easily drawn Rook and Knight vs. Rook endgame.

To play through the complete game see...

Vladimir Kramnik vs Garry Kasparov; World Championship Match 2000

...on Chessgames.com, where there are lots of comments on the missed opportunities of the two players plus explanations of the drawing maneuvers.

10 November 2009

ECO B33 & B44

A couple of small, related questions about the first game of the 1971 Fischer - Petrosian Candidates Final have been on my mind for some time, so I'm going to spend two blog posts to address them. The first question involves the difference between the line played in that game and the Sveshnikov variation (see Sveshnikov or Chelyabinsk? for some background on the moves and the name of the variation). I often play against the Sveshnikov as White and have remarked on the similarity between it and the opening of the Fischer - Petrosian game. What exactly is the difference?

The Sveshnikov goes like this: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5. Fischer - Petrosian went like this: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 (2...e6 and 4...Nc6 can be interchanged) 5.Nb5 d6 6.Bf4 e5 7.Be3 Nf6 8.Bg5. The following graphic compares side-by-side the resulting positions in the two variations.

The most significant difference between the two positions is that the players have taken an extra move pair in the position on the right, but White has played one move less (Nc3) than in the position on the left. How did this happen?

A comparison of the moves shows that, in Fischer - Petrosian, Black's e-Pawn took two moves to advance to e5, while White's Bishop took three moves to get to g5. That accounts both for the extra move pair and for White's lost tempo. As I've noted in the diagram, the Sveshnikov is ECO B33. Fischer - Petrosian is ECO B44.

If only all questions about openings were so easy to answer. I'll tackle the second of my two questions in a future post.

09 November 2009

Opening Preparation - Between the Lines

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, in The Choice of Seconds I gave Korchnoi's account of how in the 1974 match against Karpov he was outmaneuvered in building a team to assist him in match preparations. Let's continue with his account of the effect this had on the early stages of the match.

In the first eight games the advantage was clearly on Karpov's side. As Black against me, he made a very subtle choice of opening. It should not be forgotten that his chief adviser was Furman, a man with whom I had worked for years and who knew all my weaknesses. This greatly hampered me in the match. On account of the nature of my chess style, I found it difficult to refute one unexpected scheme chosen against me. We played three games with this opening [Korchnoi as White: games 1, 3, & 7], and despite my prepared analysis, I was forced to give way. For my play as Black I had several prepared schemes, and I did not know which of these would prove the most effective. It occurred to me that I should try out the most dubious of them, the Sicilian Dragon, at the start of the match. And that is what I did in the second game.

Korchnoi blamed the loss in game two on Karpov's superior opening preparation. For those remarks, see my first post titled World Championship Opening Preparation.

The third, fourth, and fifth games were, after strong pressure from Karpov, all drawn. In the sixth game I again adopted an experimental opening which I prepared all by myself just before the game. Already I did not particularly trust my seconds (Osnos and Dzhindzhikhashvili [Dzindzichashvili]). [...] Though few remember this game in the Petroff and practically no one pays it serious attention, I can testify that Karpov really earned his victory at the board.

It was good that I finally settled on the French, a defense which Karpov and I could have analysed together without him ever gaining an advantage. In view of Karpov's lead, it was already dangerous to experiment by choosing another opening, especially at a time when I had no confidence in my seconds. [...]

Beginning with the ninth game, I sensed that Karpov was finding it difficult to stand the strain. In this game, for the first time in the match, he offered a draw in the middle game. From the tenth game until the end of the match, I held the initiative in my hands. [...]

It was the seventeenth game that proved fatal. I remember that for the first time I played the Catalan Opening. I untypically offered my opponent a Pawn sacrifice. Karpov did not bother to hold the Pawn, and without thinking made another move. Equally untypical of Karpov, especially without thinking! I recall at the board I sank deep into thought: who could have betrayed me?

From Korchnoi's 'Chess Is My Life' (p.107). His remarks reveal several important points that help to understand the match strategies of the top players.

  • paragraph 1: 'We played three games with this opening' [Korchnoi as White: games 1, 3, & 7]; 'For my play as Black' • A useful way of looking at the openings in a match is to consider the games a weave of two separate matches: one match with player A as White in the even numbered games, the other with player B as White in the odd numbered games.

  • para.2: 'I did not particularly trust my seconds'; para.3: 'I had no confidence in my seconds'; para 5: 'who could have betrayed me?' • Although Korchnoi's writings consistently show him to be a deeply suspicious person, we'll see in other World Championship matches that the problem of betrayal occurs frequently in match preparations.

  • para.2: 'Karpov really earned his victory at the board' • This is in contrast to game two, where Korchnoi attributed his opponent's victory to pre-game preparation.

Other commentators, including Karpov, offer different explanations for the match's twists and turns.

06 November 2009

Marcel of the Field

'"Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess" at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York, through Oct. 30, 2009'

Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess © Flickr user '16 Miles of String' under Creative Commons.

For more in the same series, see the set "Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess" at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art.

05 November 2009

Counting Down to the 2010 FIDE Election

In yesterday's post on Who Owns the World Championship?, I noted that the bullets in Stan Vaughan's press release were all provocative and controversial. With the next Chess Olympiad and the 81st FIDE Congress scheduled for September 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk, the next FIDE election is somewhat less than a year away. It might not be too early to review FIDE's performance to date, using the topics behind Vaughan's bullets as an introductory guide. This would help to identify issues which are likely to face the candidates in the forthcoming election.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the 2010 election will center on Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's bid for re-election, especially the team surrounding him that is responsible for day-to-day FIDE operations. First elected by a special vote in 1995, the current FIDE president was re-elected in 1998, 2002, and 2006. The account of his first year as FIDE's top official is covered in chapter ten ('Paris, Elista, Yerevan...') of his autobiography, The President's Crown of Thorns [PDF], available for download on Fide.com.

Another summary of issues facing the world's best players is a recent questionnaire that I covered in Top Players on the Top Issues. It mentioned at least two topics on Vaughan's list -- time controls and ratings -- as well as a few other critical issues that should not be overlooked, some touching on the current World Championship cycle.

03 November 2009

Serial Draw Offers

One of the things I will never understand about correspondence chess is why some opponents continue to offer draws even though earlier offers have been refused. Here's an example from a few years ago.

I had Black and the game started with a Scheveningen Sicilian: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be3 Be7 7.f4 O-O 8.Qf3. Here I realized that with 8...Nc6, we would transpose into the famous Tal - Larsen encounter, game 10 of the Candidates Semifinal, Bled 1965. Although Tal played 9.O-O-O and won, I studied various notes on the game and concluded that Larsen's line was worth a try. After I played 8...Nc6, my opponent might not have recognized the transposition and played 9.Nxc6 instead of 9.O-O-O. I managed to achieve equality after a few more moves.

We eventually reached the position shown in the diagram.

ICCF 1st Webchess Open
Weeks, Mark (2374)

Sanchez Carol, Jesus (2080)
(After 25...Re8-f8)

White played 26.Rxf8+ and offered a draw that I declined with 26... Qxf8. The response was 27.Qxe5 'Draw?', 27...Rxb3 'No!', 28.Qc7 'Draw?', 28...Re3 'No!'. After falling silent for a few moves, my opponent offered another draw, lost a Pawn, repeated the offer, lost a piece, and repeated the offer a last time. A few moves later he resigned.

Here's the PGN game score.

[Event "1st Webchess Open Tournament - Group 16"]
[Site "ICCF-webchess.com"]
[Date "2005.02.01"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Sanchez Carol, Jesus"]
[Black "Weeks, Mark A"]
[Result "0-1"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be3 Be7 7.f4 O-O 8.Qf3 Nc6 9.Nxc6 bxc6 10.Be2 Qa5 11.O-O Ba6 12.Bxa6 Qxa6 13.Rad1 Rab8 14.b3 d5 15.e5 Nd7 16.Qg3 f6 17.f5 Nxe5 18.fxe6 Rfe8 19.Na4 Qc8 20.Qh3 Rb7 21.c4 dxc4 22.Bd4 cxb3 23.Bxe5 fxe5 24.axb3 Qb8 25.Qh5 Rf8 26.Rxf8+ {Draw?} 26... Qxf8 27.Qxe5 {Draw?} 27...Rxb3 28.Qc7 {Draw?} 28...Re3 29.Qxc6 h6 30.Rf1 Qd8 31. Kh1 Qd3 32.Rg1 {Draw?} 32...Kh7 33.Qc1 Qd4 34.Qc2+ Qe4 35.Qd2 Qxe6 36.Nc5 {Draw?} 36...Qe5 37.Nd7 Re2 38.Qc1 Qe4 39.Qc3 Bd6 40.Qb3 Re1 41.Nf6+ gxf6 42. Qf7+ Kh8 43.Qxf6+ Kg8 44.Qd8+ Bf8 45.h3 Rxg1+ 46.Kxg1 Qe1+ 47.Kh2 Qe5+ 48. g3 a5 49.Qd3 Qe6 50.Qb5 {Draw?} 50...Qa2+ 51.Kg1 a4 52.Qb6 a3 53.Qg6+ Kh8 0-1

What's the point of all the draw offers? Why bother playing in the first place?

02 November 2009

The Choice of Seconds

The subject of World Championship Opening Preparation is not just about players working with their seconds to prepare a repertoire. It's also about choosing those seconds. In recounting his preparations for the 1974 Final Candidates Match against Karpov, Korchnoi related several inside stories.

Faced with the likely refusal by Fischer to play the subsequent title match in 1975, the 1974 match was de facto for the World Championship. In case Fischer should decide to play, the Soviet federation considered Karpov the better bet to defeat the American and reclaim the World Championship lost by Spassky in 1972. Korchnoi wrote,

I already had one second, the master Osnos, and I didn't want to break with him, since we had worked together for the two previous matches [vs. Mecking and Petrosian]. I had to find someone who was insensitive to public opinion, and to the 'blows of fate' which could result from this opinion. There was no such volunteer among the grandmasters. My choice fell upon the inexperienced Dzhindzhikhashvili [more commonly spelled 'Dzindzichashvili'], a player with an 'indifferent' reputation in the world of officialdom. [...] I knew at least that, if the Party should ask him, Dzhindzhikhashvili would not betray me. But all kinds of weapon were to be used against me. [...] They very much wanted me not to trust my own seconds, who in any case were not all that strong. In the end they got their way.

By the efforts of the All-Union Chess Federation, a powerful staff was set up to help Karpov. Apart from the main trainers, there were Petrosian, Averbakh, Tal, and Botvinnik. Yes, Karpov persuaded even Botvinnik to give him advice. I was told a story of how once Tal and Vaganian arrived back from the Yugoslavia - USSR match. A car from the Communist Youth Organization Central Committee was awaiting them by the airport entrance. 'We're going straight to Karpov', said the executive, 'he's having trouble against the French Defense'. And they both went.

It is not surprising that for the match with Karpov I was weaker in the opening. After all, I was essentially alone. [...] One who made his sympathies for me well known was Smyslov. For this reason, when he returned to Moscow after the USSR First League championship, much as he resisted he was immediately sent off to a tournament in Venice.

From Korchnoi's 'Chess Is My Life' (p.105).

30 October 2009

A Professional Broadcast

Kasparov plays a simul. Short comments. Chess wins.

Your Next Move 2009 Highlights - Part 1 (9:56) • 'These videos contain the highlights from the Your Next Move 2009 chess event as recorded by EXQI Sport. The event featured Garry Kasparov, 20 players from large Belgian & international companies and 6 promising children. The video features comments from Nigel Short.'

29 October 2009

Where Do Dogs Go When They Die?

Charlie Beagle (1995-2009), at Age Four Months

Google: "Where Do Dogs Go When They Die". The different answers reveal something about a person's spiritual beliefs.

27 October 2009

Tablebase 1 - Polugaevsky/Kasparov ½

Two years ago, in Tablebase 2 - Botvinnik 0, I gave an example of the difficulty that world class players can have analyzing certain endgames that computers solve in a second. Ever since then, whenever I encounter a nontrivial endgame with six pieces or less, I almost always subject it to the tablebase test. This next example is from the Petrosian chapter in Kasparov's Predecessors III, where he discussed Polugaevsky's career.

Amsterdam 1970
Polugaevsky, Lev

Gligoric, Svetozar
(After 73.Be4-b7
[[FEN "8/1B6/8/5p2/5k2/8/3r1PK1/8 b - - 0 73"]

In the diagrammed position Black sealed 73...Rd3. Polugaevsky wrote,

As I was leaving the tournament hall, I was inclined to think it was a dead draw. But, on delving into the secrets of the position, I found subtleties of which I would never even have dreamed.

Kasparov added,

A lengthy analysis enabled a plan of playing for a win to be found: Black must drive the Bishop from the a8-h1 diagonal and restrict it as much as possible by pursuit with the Rook, and at a convenient moment advance his Pawn f5-f4-f3.It is not at all easy for White to defend.

A tablebase confirms that the position is indeed a draw. The game continued 74. Bc6 Rc3 75.Bd5 Kg4 76.Be6 Rc5 77.Bb3 Kf4 78.Bd1 Rc6 79.Bh5 Rh6 80.Bd1 Rg6+ 81.Kf1 Rd6 82.Bh5 Rd7 83.Kg2 Rg7+ 84.Kf1 Ke4, which is also a draw. Gligoric made a mistake on his 102nd move, letting Polugaevsky force a win.

The moves given above, however, are not all the best. After 83.Kg2, the trusty tablebase tells us that White loses in 44 moves and that the moves 83.Be2 and 83.Be8 were the only sure paths to the draw. The problem with 83.Kg2 is that after 83...Rg7+ 84.Kf1, which is best play, Black should continue 84...Kg5 instead of 84...Ke4, which again allows the draw. The fastest winning sequence with best defense is then

84...Kg5 85.Be2 Kh4 {OM: Only Move} 86.Bc4 Kh3 87.Be6 Kg4 {OM} 88.Bd5 Rd7 89.Bc4 Rc7 {OM} 90.Bg8 Rc8 91.Bf7 Rf8 92.Be6 Re8 93.Bd5 Rd8 94.Bb7 Rb8 95.Bd5 Rb5 96.Bc4 Rc5 97.Be2+ Kh3 {OM} 98.Bf3 Rc1+ 99.Ke2 Rc3 100.Bh1 Kg4 101.Bd5 Rc2+ 102.Ke1 Rc5 103.Bb7 f4 104.Kd2 f3 105.Ba6 Kh3 106.Bf1+ Kh2 107.Ke3 Rc3+ 108.Ke4 Kg1 109.Ba6

With 109...Kxf2, Black wins the f-Pawn and forces mate in 17. I've indicated forced moves with 'OM'. In other positions there are either equivalent moves or slightly inferior wins by a more circuitous route. To play through the complete game see...

Svetozar Gligoric vs Lev Polugaevsky; Amsterdam 1970

...on Chessgames.com.

26 October 2009

The 'Clear Head' Theory

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation, Karpov told the following story about preparations for the 1972 Spassky - Fischer match.

Suddenly - imagine - I received an invitation to attend the Spassky training session. This was an honor. True, my star too was rising swiftly, my name already carried considerable weight, and I had received my share of support. But all this was new to me, and the backstage preparations for a world title match seemed to me like a secret altar. To be there, to peer into this holy of holies was something I could not have imagined a mere year earlier. And so I went to the Spassky session.

Of course, I was not allowed anywhere near the holy of holies. I was considered a chance person and potentially dangerous. Therefore I was only occasionally invited to take part in some trite and non-essential analysis of one of Fischer's games.

I was amazed to see Spassky doing nothing.

Usually the morning would begin with him enthusiastically recounting, over breakfast, another episode from the Greek myths, which he dearly loved and read before going to bed. Then there would be tennis. Then something else. Anything except chess. At that time he was expounding the 'theory' of a clear head. With a clear head and refreshed, he would, with his talent, outplay anyone. This theory had been invented by his coach Bondarevsky so as somehow to justify the World Champion's pathological laziness.

Although I too consider myself lazy, Spassky's laziness astonished me. I was certainly not impressed by the fact that he had been able to win his match with Petrosian after such 'preparation'. With all due credit to Petrosian, I felt even then that the experience of the match with him could not be simply extrapolated to the coming match with Fischer. These were not just different people; Fischer symbolized the coming of an entirely new type of chess. Was this not obvious?

From Russians Versus Fischer by Plisetsky and Voronkov (p.287). I imagine this was the way players prepared in the pre-scientific (pre-Alekhine) age.

23 October 2009

CHθθSE Your Opponent

'This photo also belongs to: Chicago at Night -and- No-Flash Night Shots.'

Nighttime Chess on Michigan Ave © Flickr user Jaedub under Creative Commons.

The sign over the players appears to read 'Cheese Your Opponent'.

22 October 2009

Annotations Are a Guide to a Player's Style

Continuing with Early Kasparov Annotations, the next position is from Informant 28, covering the second half of 1979. It was the same Informant where Kasparov's first FIDE rating, shown in World Champion at What Age?, was published.

In December 1979, 16-year old IM Kasparov was an experienced pro playing in his second USSR Championship. The diagrammed position is from the third round against IM Yusupov, who finished second in the event, a half-point ahead of Kasparov. It stems from an unusual variation starting 9.Be3 against the Open Lopez.

1979 47th USSR Championship, Minsk
Yusupov, Artur

Kasparov, Garry
(After 12...d5-e4(xN))
[FEN "r2q1rk1/2p1bppp/p1n5/1p2P3/4p1b1/1BP1BN2/PP3PPP/R2Q1RK1 w - - 0 13"]

Kasparov played 13.Qd5, noting in Informant that 13...Qxd5 would leave White with a small advantage. Yusupov continued instead 13...exf3. After 14.Qxc6 fxg2 15.Qxg2 Qd7, Kasparov played the pretty 16.Bh6!, the point being that on 16...gxh6 17.f3, the Black Bishop is pinned and White recovers the sacrificed piece. Yusupov went wrong with 17...h5, then blundered a few moves later.

In his book 'Fighting Chess', Kasparov expanded the comment to Black's 13th move.

In the endgame arising after 13...Qxd5 14.Bxd5 exf3 15.Bxc6 fxg2 16.Kxg2 Rad8 17.a4, White has a clear advantage. This was already demonstrated in a game from the Alekhine - Teichman match, in Berlin 1921!

The comment reveals that, at the time of the game,

  • Kasparov already had an interest in chess history, and
  • the sequence through 17.f3 was home preparation.

Two important characteristics of future World Champion Kasparov were already apparent in the teenage Kasparov. To play through the complete game see...

Garry Kasparov vs Artur Yusupov, Minsk 1979

...on Chessgames.com.

20 October 2009

World Champion at What Age?

I liked the chart in The Class of 1990 so much that I decided to do a similar chart for the players who fought World Championship matches in the years 2000+.

The data is from FIDE Historical Ratings on Olimpbase, and shows the highest rating calculated for a player at age such-and-such. The Olimpbase data stops in 2001, which explains why the table stops at a certain age for each player.

19 October 2009

WCC Opening Preparation x 2

In my earlier post on this blog World Championship Opening Preparation, when I wrote, 'the title of this post is a subject of recurring interest to me', my words were truer than I realized. A few weeks before, I had used exactly the same title for a post on my chess960 blog: World Championship Opening Preparation. The topic on the first post -- 'top level chess games are won (or lost) during home preparation' -- fits perfectly with the thread of the current series, so I'm incorporating it by reference.

16 October 2009

Next Time, Guys, Smile!

The difference between shooting the Men's Championship and the Women's Championship: the women 'are much more photogenic'.

2009 Women's Chess Championship - Official Photographer (2:32) • 'Official photographer, Betsy Dynako explains what it is like being a chess photojournalist and specifically discusses the 2009 US Women's Chess Championship, hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.'

For more photos, see Photo impressions of the 2009 US Women's Championship.

15 October 2009

The Class of 1990

Yes, Magnus Carlsen is a great player, but so is Sergey Karjakin. After wondering if it's possible to compare their progress, I created the following chart, showing the FIDE ratings they attained at equivalent ages. It's a little rough because the rating updates don't coincide with birthdays, but I think it gives a good idea of how the players progressed. For example, at around age 12 (and zero months!?) Carlsen was rated 2250, while Karjakin was 2460. Carlsen caught up and surpassed Karjakin a few months before reaching age 16.

Both players are members of the class of 1990, the year they were born, as is Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The French player was third on the list of Top 20 Juniors September 2009, after Carlsen and Karjakin. What about other years? That FIDE September list shows that the top player in the class of 1992 is Fabiano Caruana, and of 1993 is Wesley So. For the purpose of comparison, I added their rating histories to my chart.

The recent data for Wesley So was missing, so I assembled it from other sources. That's why there's a gap for him at age 14 years and 6 months. If you want to check my work, I took the data from Fide.com:-

I wouldn't draw too many conclusions from this exercise, except to note that these are all fantastically talented chess players!

13 October 2009

Carlsen's TWIC Debut

Like the Streatham & Brixton blog in Magnus Carlsen is not that good. Is he?, anyone who hasn't already recognized the young Norwegian's rise to the world no.1 ranking can only shake his head in wonder. The first mention of Carlsen that I could find in TWIC is from 'THE WEEK IN CHESS 337 23rd April 2001 by Mark Crowther'.

Eirik Gullaksen reports: The Gausdal Classics were played at Gausdal Høifjellshotell in Norway 15-22. April 2001. In the GM group there was an impressive result by Åkesson, who cruised to a 2750 performance. The Swede also won the previous tournament at Gaudal, the Troll Masters in January.

The IMA group saw a good result by the Bulgarian Petrov, who seems to be climbing in the rating lists. Hole and Hersvik both came close to their first IM-norms, but in the end both were half a point short after drawing in the final round. 10 year old prodigy Magnus Carlsen made his debut at this level, and can be satisfied with his 2090 performance.

TWIC also published the following crosstable, showing Carlsen finishing +0-4=5.

Source: The Week in Chess

His next appearances in TWIC were

THE WEEK IN CHESS 354 20th August 2001 • Nordic Championships Bergen NOR (NOR), 4-12 viii 2001 • 1. Agrest, Evgenij g SWE 2529; 2. Kogan, Artur g ISR 2517; [...] 71. Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2084; and

THE WEEK IN CHESS 375 14th January 2002 • Troll Masters Gausdal NOR (NOR), 4-11 i 2002 • 1. Rausis, Igors g LAT 2466; 2. Womacka, Mathias m GER 2499; [...] 25. Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2127

TWIC 375 also mentioned a third place finish at the Open Norwegian Rapids.

The open Norwegian rapid chess championships were played in Fredrikstad (south-east of Oslo) 12th-13th January 2002. • Leading Final Standings: 1. GM Simen Agdestein 2572 NOR 10.0; 2. GM Vadim Milov 2595 SUI 9.0; 3. Magnus Carlsen 2072 NOR 6.5 [...] (120 participants)

How did Carlsen's rating decline from 11 January (2127) to 13 January (2072)?

12 October 2009

The World Championship According to Bareev

Continuing with World Championship Opening Preparation,
one of the resources I mentioned was 'From London to Elista' by Evgeny Bareev and Ilya Levitov. The book is a combination of narrative and annotations to all Kramnik's World Championship games between 2000 and 2006.

The narrative, structured as a series of dialogs between Bareev (B) and Levitov (L), includes in the chapter on the 2000 Kasparov - Kramnik match a long historical discussion titled 'On World Championship Matches' (p.48-59). It covers many secondary topics, including the evolution of opening preparation. Here is a summary of material related to advances in opening preparation.

(L): 'Shall we discuss the Capablanca - Alekhine match of 1927?' (B): 'That was a long time ago. They both played the Queen's Gambit until they were blue in the face.' (L): 'We also don't need to discuss the Alekhine - Euwe matches.' (B): 'It's worth noting one fact -- the openings discussion went beyond the boundaries of the Queen's Gambit.' (p.49)

A common theme of ex-Soviet (especially Russian) players is that the modern era of chess started with Botvinnik's victory in the 1948 match tournament. Before that was some kind of chess pre-history that just isn't relevant today.

(B): 'It makes sense to start with the match of Botvinnik - Bronstein of 1951. Both Kasparov and Kramnik are proteges of the Botvinnik school. They very carefully studied [Botvinnik's] legacy to their own benefit. I'll point out first of all that neither Botvinnik nor Bronstein were prepared to play chess at a high level. Botvinnik hadn't played competitively for three years as he was doing his scientific work. Naturally, he was out of form. And Bronstein... Kramnik, for example, thinks that he never reached Botvinnik's level.' (p.50)

(B): '[The 1954 Botvinnik - Smyslov] match showed that opening preparation is of paramount significance in World Championship matches. Botvinnik himself, after winning game 2 in 30 moves, wrote: "This game is a clear example of the usefulness of home preparation." He constantly anticipated where he could put pressure on his opponent. From this match we can already draw the conclusion that Botvinnik was an absolute genius at preparation. As the match went on, Botvinnik searched for weaknesses in his opponent's repertoire.' (p.51)

(B): '[In 1957] Smyslov's superiority was obvious. He prepared superbly and was able to knock out all of Botvinnik's openings.' (p.52)

(B): 'In 1960 Tal played a match with Botvinnik. The Patriarch [Botvinnik] had absolutely overwhelming superiority in the opening, but this was of no significance -- he couldn't figure Tal out. In the second match a year, Botvinnik was in the right mood, he chose the appropriate openings and he was used to Tal's style. As in the previous match, Botvinnik came out of the opening with better positions, but this time he didn't give Tal the opportunity to create an upset and he carefully realized his advantage.' (p.53)

(L): 'It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that all the Soviet champions, starting with Smyslov and ending with Kramnik, "grew out of Botvinnik". He wasn't just the founder and ideologue of the Soviet chess school, he also simply taught them to play professional chess. He taught them about correct preparation, the psychological aspects of competition, opening strategies, etc. etc.' (p.55)

After the other Soviet players had assimilated and perfected Botvinnik's methods, the next advance was made by Fischer and accelerated by Karpov.

(B): '[In 1972] Fischer tested [Spassky] in all the openings, looking for his weak points. Fischer was already a little stronger than Spassky by then, he had taken universalism to a new level, he could do everything, and do it well.' (p.56)

(B): '[Re Karpov and Korchnoi], their final Candidates Match of 1974 is more interesting [than their other two matches]. The idea of totality was realised, in particular, in the huge team of analysts that worked for Karpov. It was from that time onwards that the struggle for the title of World Chess Champion became a team sport.' (p.57)

That last sentence is worth special emphasis: 'the title of World Chess Champion became a team sport'.

(B): '[After Karpov - Korchnoi] the modern era begins -- the clashes of the titans. Again the general call-up of the strongest players -- let's find novelties to aid the victory of the right candidate. Kasparov found himself completely unprepared to play Karpov and after nine games of the limitless 1984 match he was four points down. Then Kasparov's staff began waiting for Karpov to tire. [...] The players used the same variation with both colors, inviting the opposing side to discover some secrets of their opening preparation.' (p.57)

(B): 'In [the 1985 match] Kasparov was superbly prepared for openings as Black, and he actively attacked as White. In those matches his conceptual approach to the opening engagement showed itself more clearly -- not just preparing some decent variation, but finding the kind of positions that were unfavorable to his opponent, foisting his style of play upon him. [...] Within six months [for the 1986 rematch] Karpov had tightened up his White openings for the rematch, but despite two opening catastrophes in games 5 and 17, Kasparov showed more impressive and varied play overall and dominated. [...] The scandal with Kasparov's second Vladimirov reminded me (regardless of what actually happened) that we live in the information age and we have to be careful for leaks of this valuable material.' (p.58)

The 'scandal' was Kasparov's suspicion that his opening preparation had been leaked to the opponent. This was a new theme that has been repeated since.

(B): 'Let's sum up what's been said. Before a World Championship match it's essential to draw the correct conclusions from the available information, then sit down for specific preparation. If you draw conceptually incorrect conclusions, then all your preparation will amount to nothing. You have to lay strong, firm, foundations. So in the first match [vs. Kasparov] Kramnik guessed right, he correctly broke the situation down into its constituent parts, but in the second [vs. Leko] it didn't work out. [...] The Kramnik - Leko match showed once again that it's impossible to approach such a contest in an ideal condition. They both became hostages to the idea that they were playing against perfection, so their preparation had to be perfect. They spooked themselves.' (p.59)

Bareev's summary stopped with the Kramnik - Leko match. For subsequent matches, we have to find other sources. The book 'From London to Elista' is one of the most important accounts of the World Championship, in particular the championship in the third millenium. I'll be drawing from it for other posts in this series.