31 March 2013

Caveat Fischer - Spassky

'Not another post about the 1972 Fischer - Spassky match', I can hear you groaning. Yes, I'm afraid it is, the third out of the last four posts in this ongoing series about Top eBay Chess Items by Price, where the previous 'Match of the Century' post was 1972 Fischer - Spassky Poster. Along with the auction I'm featuring here, there was even a second lot of miscellaneous items from the match on my short list. That auction went for $600.

The current auction was titled '1972 World Chess Champions Bobby Fischer Boris Spassky in Reykjavik'. The description said,

21 tickets from the World Chess Championship 1972 in Reykjavik. 40 covers and some are of the same sort. One of three chess clocks used in the match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky

This lot sold for US $3500 after 33 bids from 10 bidders. The 21 tickets and 40 covers would probably have trouble fetching three figures on their own, so the main object of attention was the clock, pictured below.

One of the bidders asked,

I was hoping you might enlighten me on how you acquired the clock and tickets etc.? Is there any full-proof this clock was indeed one of the official clocks of the World Championship series?

and was told,

I am selling these items for a good friend of my mother. These items belonged to her husband that passed away. He was working at the tournament where the world chess championship 1972 was held in Reykjavik. His name was [KOK]. That is where the clock was acquired.

What caught my attention was the color of the wood used in the clock. I have a similar clock that I received for my birthday many years ago and the entire clock is made from wood pieces that are all close in color. The clock in the photo clearly shows a darker wood on the four edges of the clock frame, where my clock has a light color, like the wood surrounding the clock faces in the photo.

I did a Google image search on 'fischer spassky 1972' and couldn't find a single example of a photo showing a clock with two colors for the wood. This, of course, proves nothing in itself, but someone plunked down $3500 on an item that can't be verified.

29 March 2013

Moscow 1925

Moscow 1925 Chess Tournament - Capablanca (17:45) • 'English - Spanish short video about the 1925 chess tournament held in Moscow.'

'With mixture of original photos and videos, and clips from the Cuban - Soviet film about Capablanca.' • For more about the film, see Capablanca (1986) [nytimes.com] or Capablanca (1987) [imdb.com].

28 March 2013

Only in Our Dreams

The headline said, 'World chess agrees new TV deal with BBC', followed by this story...

WORLD CHESS and the BBC have agreed a three-year contract that ensures the sport's major events will be on terrestrial television until at least 2017.

The BBC will be host broadcaster of the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters until the end of the 2016-17 season under the terms of the new agreement.

The three major events on the calendar will be broadcast on television, online and via the BBC iPlayer, with the corporation committing to over 260 hours of coverage.

"This is wonderful news for the many millions of chess fans throughout the UK who love watching the sport on the BBC," World Chess chairman Gimme Gravy said.

"Last year's World Championship was watched by 28.5 million people which proves what a wide appeal there is for chess.

"The World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters are among the highlights of the sporting calendar so it's terrific that they will remain on terrestrial television."

Director of BBC Sport Ima Honcho added: "The World Chess Championships are an important part of our sports rights portfolio and we're delighted to be continuing our coverage of these three major tournaments."

The news was also welcomed by players, with world number one and UK Champion Chuck Mate adding: "Everyone's first memories of chess are watching the big events on the BBC, so it's great for the players and fans to know that those tournaments will be on terrestrial TV for at least the next four years."

...For the real story, see World snooker agrees new TV deal with BBC (Independent.ie). At what point did you realize the story was a spoof? At 'World Championship was watched by 28.5 million people'?

26 March 2013

25 March 2013

'Wonderboy' 2000-2001

Let's take a checkpoint. First I created an up-to-date PGN file of Magnus Carlsen games (see Carlsen TMER Index). Then I added basic data about the events in which the games were played (see Carlsen TMER TWIC Refs through Carlsen TMER 2001-2003). This I released as a standalone page, Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-).

That's not a bad process to create an overview of a player's career, but it does have a drawback -- the events are identified from the PGN games, but the games are undoubtedly drawn from an incomplete record of the player's events. The next step is to gather information about missing events by investigating other sources. I started with 'Wonderboy' by Simen Agdestein, the Norwegian GM who was Carlsen's trainer during the years when the young star advanced from master level to grandmaster level. The following table lists the events covered by GM Agdestein in the first three chapters of his book.

This is an improvement over my existing standalone page, which has only one event listed in 2000. For my next post in this series, I'll continue with chapter four.

(TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record)

24 March 2013

'Black Is OK' - 12 Discussion Points

After Adorjan on the Keres Attack, my post on GM Adorjan's first 'Black Is OK' book, let's return to the second and third books, which I discussed in Adorjan's 'Presumption of Innocence'. In the version that can be found online -- Black Is OK, or the presumption of innocence in the Game of Chess -- Adorjan presents many arguments in support of his thesis. I selected an even dozen quotes for further discussion.

  1. I presume - in the spirit of the presumption of innocence - that the position is equal. It is White who has to prove that he can get an advantage. [...] Starting the game should not be mistaken for taking the initiative!
  2. Qualified players will mostly come up with the same reply as a great number of world champions or chess thinkers since Lasker: the logical outcome of the game is a draw.
  3. If one of the players wins the game, his opponent has certainly made some mistake.
  4. Portisch said something to the effect that he had tried almost all openings and defences during his long chess career, and found that about two-thirds of these were disadvantageous for BLACK. So there is the remaining one-third, and all BLACK has to do is play these openings and defences, and then he has nothing to fear.
  5. People do not win too often with the BLACK pieces because they do not even want to, and that’s why White has a psychological advantage.
  6. It is simply impossible to claim that BLACK stands no chance whatsoever.
  7. You cannot launch an attack without exposing some weaknesses in your own position.
  8. [A] common argument is that White starts the game, and thus he determines the course of the battle and the character of the position. [Adorjan disagrees.]
  9. The extra tempo can have some significance only if the position acquires a symmetric character.
  10. White’s only advantage is that he can avoid sharp play in any opening, exchange the pieces off, and if he does it well, he will have his draw.
  11. If both players make good moves, they will inevitably reach an equal position.
  12. A chess game is never in perfect equilibrium, except for obviously drawn positions. [...] Once BLACK has equalised, he is already better.

There is lots of material there for further discussion, but first I'll take time out for the the eighth round of the 2013 Candidates Tournament in London.

22 March 2013

Musée de Cluny

'In courtyard at Musée de Cluny.'

Giant Chess © Flickr user yobgorf under Creative Commons.

Wikipedia: Musée national du Moyen Âge • 'The Musée national du Moyen Âge, formerly Musée de Cluny, officially known as the Musée national du Moyen Âge - Thermes et hôtel de Cluny, is a museum in Paris, France.'

21 March 2013

Chess Mafia?

The WCF's Stan Vaughan talks to Mario Jefferson, 'a citizen reporter'.

Video streaming by Ustream
Interview with Stan Vaughan (44:10) • 'WCF World Chess Champion Stan Vaughan talks about the "International Chess Mafia" in this TV interview'

For my previous post on Vaughan, see Things I Learned from the WCF.

19 March 2013

Chess Comics No.3: Batman vs. Penguin

The secret is no longer a secret! I started this series on chess comics -- see Chess Comics No.2: 'Black Knight', for the previous edition -- so I wouldn't have to spend precious time blogging during the 2013 Candidates Tournament in London.

Today's 'comic' (why do they call them that even when they're not funny?) is from 'Batman' no.448, published in 1990. In the story, titled 'Pawns', Batman and his nemesis Penguin are engaged in a chess game. No.448, the first of three parts, was followed by 'Detective Comics' no.615 (part two, no kidding!), and 'Batman' no.449. DC no.615 had no mention of chess and I didn't bother to look at 'Batman' no.449.

From 'Batman' no.448

Penguin: 'I've been indulging in chess ever since I was a mere hatchling. Its play requires intricate planning that forces one to not only plan each move far ahead ... but to account for any and all contingencies.' • Just ask Magnus.

18 March 2013

Carlsen TMER 2001-2003

Continuing with Carlsen TMER 2004-2007, I added the earliest three years to the TMER index: Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record. It was just in time, too, since Carlsen is currently playing in the 2013 Candidates Event and is one of the favorites to win.

What's next with the TMER? Keeping it up to date would be nice, which would be a first for one of my Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Records. (Adding a link to that page for the Carlsen index would be a good start.) There are also many gaps in my 'Carlsen Record': how he finished in all events and what were the results of individual games. These gaps are mainly in his earliest events, long before the chess press started tracking his every tournament. The team championships appear to be the most problematic.

A review of 'Wonderboy' by Simen Agdestein seems like the next best step. Amazon.com lists the publication date as 1 October 2004. New copies of the book are over $100 each, so get your copy now if you are a collector.

17 March 2013

Jaques Carton Pierre Casket

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, Jaques chess sets are a dime a dozen (*), but I can't remember ever seeing a 'casket' for Jaques sets. The item pictured below was titled 'Antique Jaques Carton Pierre casket c1855 for a chess set'. On the way to 780 views, it garnered 42 bids from 10 bidders, eventually selling for GBP 820 ('approximately US $1,240.74', according to eBay).

The description added,

The very first Jaques Staunton chess sets were sold in these Carton Pierre caskets. They were available from 1849 up to 1927.

The best way to tell the age of these during the first five years or so is the detailed ribbon (tooling) around the inside lid. This one matches those found with chess sets dating c 1855 / 1860. This one has the plush royal blue velvet lining.

The Jaques label is usually on the underside, but the label on this one is missing. Some of the usual damage to the lid and top edging, which is to be expected. The side ribbons are still in place and some of the leather hinge is still intact,which is quite rare.

It would be useful to know the dimensions of the casket, but that info was missing.


(*) If you consider $10.000 to be a 'dime'.

15 March 2013

More Birds from Blade Runner

A few months ago, in the ongoing series Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I featured a set of British Birds from Blade Runner. Now here's an excerpt from the film showing the same chess set.

Blade Runner On Chess (2:35) • 'Chess clip appears in "Blade Runner" (June 1982) [...]'

'[...] about a dystopian Los Angeles in November 2019 in which genetically engineered replicants are hunted down and "retired" by police special operatives known as "Blade Runners".'

14 March 2013

Adorjan on the Keres Attack

Continuing with the 'Black Is OK!' (BOK) series, where the previous post was Adorjan's 'Presumption of Innocence', the image I used from Adorjan's mailing list included a condensed curriculum vitae for the author. Here is the same CV in text format. It's impressive enough, even for a world class grandmaster.

International Chess Grandmaster
Olympic Champion (1978)
World Champion Candidate (1979-80)
3 times Champion of Hungary
The Player of the Year 1991
Garry Kasparov's assistant (1979-86)
Peter Leko's trainer (1996-99)
Ambassador of RAINBOW CHESS
Co-author of rock-opera '1956'

The first book in the BOK series (BOK1) is now 25 years old. How does the analysis hold up after so much time? The first chapter in BOK1, 'A Blow to the Keres Attack', overlaps my own opening repertoire, making it doubly useful for me to research. The diagram shows the position after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 h6 7.h4, where 6.g4 starts the Keres Attack against Black's Sicilian Scheveningen.

The games in BOK1 all continue 7...Nc6 8.Rg1 h5. I have always continued 7...Be7 with very good results, so we have already diverged from my repertoire. After 8...h5, all of Adorjan's examples except one continue 9.g5. The one exception was taken from game one of the first Karpov - Kasparov match (1984-85, the 48 game marathon match), where Karpov continued 9.gxh5 -- 'an unpleasant surprise' according to Kasparov in part two of his 'Modern Chess' series.

As Kasparov's assistant during that period, Adorjan helped with the match preparation, concentrating on 9.g5. He attributed Karpov's move to 'an infallible sense of danger'. Nowadays, 9.gxh5 is the main line, probably due to the strength of Adorjan's system against 9.g5. Conclusion? Adorjan's recommendation is so good that players of the White pieces routinely avoid it. Black is better than OK!

12 March 2013

Chess Comics No.2: 'Black Knight'

Table of Contents: 'What could a simple chesspiece mean, you ask, probably nothing... unless it's the BLACK KNIGHT!'

From 'Black Cat Mystery Comics'

Vol.1 No.43, April 1953

The story of the match Dr.Bardo vs. Marik started,

It was only a chess figurine molded from lifeless ebony... But in every game, its shadow loomed like a creeping spectre, a horrible vision of death!

Where is Chess Comics No.1? It's here: After Fishey vs. Spasstic.

11 March 2013

Carlsen TMER 2004-2007

Nine years down, three to go. Continuing with Carlsen TMER 2008-2012, I added the years 2004 through 2007 to the TMER index: Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record. There remain the years 2001 to 2003 to do.

Last week I wrote a followup post on the Bilbao Scoring System. This week I found an earlier event using the system -- the 2007 World Cup Blindfold -- played at Bilbao, of course.

It's also worth noting an About.com Elsewhere on the Web post I wrote in December 2007 about Carlsen's participation at the 2007 Tal Memorial and World Cup: Diary of a Chess Star [Archive.org]. The post is a set of links to a blog maintained by Henrik Carlsen, Magnus's father. The original blog is long gone, but the content lives on thanks to Archive.org: blog.magnuschess.com.

10 March 2013

Next Short Draw: 2750

In the ruckus about the last round, three-move draw at the recent 2013 Reykjavik Open -- see Eljanov and others on Eljanov vs So, posted on the official site -- one detail interested me more than the other discussion points. GM Wesley So, apparently on his Facebook page, said,

I do not understand what is wrong with taking a quick draw on the last round to secure a 2700 Elo.

In a comment to that post, GM So's college coach, GM Susan Polgar, agreed,

I support Wesley's decision to secure a historic milestone of 2700+ for him, his country, and his university. Now he can move on to work on achieving bigger goals.

This sort of reasoning used to apply to securing title norms, like the GM title. With the GM title so common that it no longer indicates a professional player's relative strength, the reasoning is now being used to achieve rating milestones. It's a versatile argument that can be used to justify a quick draw at any level, starting from, say, 1000 Elo on up.

As many people have pointed out, it's up to tournament organizers to stop short draws by writing appropriate rules for their events. If organizers and their sponsors don't care, there's not much that anyone else can do.

I have a different problem with this way of thinking. As long as players are applauded for manipulating their ratings, let's stop pretending that chess is a sport.

08 March 2013

Calgary's "Winter"

A few years ago I featured a chess playing statue in a Flickr Friday post titled Calgary's "Winner". Here is a different shot of the same statue, different season. Chess players never hibernate.

Untitled © Flickr user Linda's photography under Creative Commons.

Tags: Calgary, Downtown, Chess Guy, 8th and 8th.

07 March 2013

Adorjan's 'Presumption of Innocence'

In my post Is Adorjan OK?, I listed the three titles in the 'Black Is OK!' series by GM Andras Adorjan, along with their dates of publication. In this post, I'll call them BOK1, -2, -3 in the order of publication: 'Black Is OK!' (BOK1), 'Black Is Still OK!' (BOK2), and 'Black Is OK Forever!' (BOK3).

There was a 16 year gap between BOK1 and BOK2, and only one year between BOK2 and BOK3. The difference between BOK1 and the other two books is substantial; there is little similarity between them. BOK2 and BOK3, however, look like two volumes of the same work; they are very similar in style and substance.

BOK1 starts with eight chapters, each dealing with a specific opening variation for Black, followed by two chapters of games covering many openings. Most of the games feature Adorjan playing Black, and many predate the formulation of the 'Black Is OK!' concept.

BOK2 and BOK3 are a mixture of chapters on different topics. A few of the chapters cover a specific variation, but most chapters are either essays without games or a collection of games that illustrate a specific topic. Some of the chapters were written by authors other than Adorjan. At the heart of both books is a chapter titled 'BLACK IS OK or the Presumption of Innocence in the Game of Chess'. I have seen several different versions of the BOK2 chapter with slight differences between them, one of which is available on GMsquare.com: Presumption of Innocence.

In 2006, I was on a mailing list maintained by GM Adorjan and, along with other documents, received another version of 'Presumption of Innocence'. It carried the letterhead shown above (along with contact info) and started as follows:-

Dear Chessfriends - It is just 18 years since my book ‘BLACK IS OK!’ has been published by Batsford (1988). By the end of the year 2004 there is another work is supposed to appear by the same Publisher, Author under a slightly different title: ‘BLACK IS still OK!’ This second volume is by no means another updated, enlarged (224 pages) opus. On the contrary: it has close to nothing of the ‘first-born’. The past 15 years brought more than enough new experience, material, anyway I don’t sell something twice.

What I would like to have is as much as possible opinions of the subject. Any kind and the more personal is the better! The players’ strength doesn’t matter for as in the chessboard anybody may find a good move. Even by chance! There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ answers – who is to give marks? – since we all searching for the TRUTH in the darkness...

Below you find my essay to give food for thought. I would be most grateful, if you’d share it with your readership. [...] Some may think, it’s purely a theoretical dispute. No, it does have practical importance and use. We play every second game in our life with BLACK!

Based on the date mismatches, I guess it was first distributed in 2003. At the end of the essay was a questionnaire with four questions:-

1. Which colour do you prefer?
2. What is the logical outcome of a game if both sides play perfect?
3. Is there any difference between the statistics of top-level games and games played by mediocre or very weak players?
4. How does the type of the tournament (correspondence, rapid, junior, senior, open, round-robin) influence the balance?

You can find the same questions along with the suggested answers on the GMsquare.com page I already mentioned. I'll come back to the topic in a future post.

05 March 2013

Bilbao Scoring System

On yesterday's post, Carlsen TMER 2008-2012, I wrote,

One complication that I hadn't encountered before are events that use the 3/1/0 scoring system (three points for a win, one for a draw). The first chronologically was the 2008 Grand Slam Final, after which I identified seven other events. I'm not even sure what the system is called.

As usual, it wasn't hard to find the commonly accepted name. A search on 'chess soccer scoring', which it resembles, leads immediately to 'Bilbao scoring system', as in Some thoughts on the Bilbao scoring system in London on Chessbase.com. The Bilbao reference brings us full circle to the 2008 Grand Slam Final, played in Bilbao, Spain, where the system was first used for a world class chess event. Mark Crowther wrote,

The Bilbao Grand Slam final was won by Veselin Topalov who was a convincing winner of the event in the end. There was a system of 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw which I'm not a fan of; it's an ugly system which had only the small effect of promoting Carlsen up a couple of places and I think none on the way the players competed. [...] Rightly or wrongly I'm going to stick with 1, 1/2 and 0 in the actual results part of the table. [TWIC723; 15 September 2008]

In December 2009, the same system was adopted for the 1st London Chess Classic, organized by Crowther's sponsor and won by Carlsen. Crowther wasn't the only chess fan who initially turned his thumb down on the Bilbao system. The comments to Bilbao Grand Slam Chess Final (2008) on Chessgames.com, written at the time of the event, show an overwhelming dislike and distrust of the system. Change always comes hard to the chess world, at all levels.

04 March 2013

Carlsen TMER 2008-2012

After creating the index to Magnus Carlsen's games, as described in Carlsen TMER TWIC Refs, the next step was to add his results. I did this for the years 2008-2012, then uploaded the index to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-). As usual, there are gaps that need more detailed research, but I'll get to those in due time.

One complication that I hadn't encountered before are events that use the 3/1/0 scoring system (three points for a win, one for a draw). The first chronologically was the 2008 Grand Slam Final, after which I identified seven other events. I'm not even sure what the system is called. TBD...

(TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record)

03 March 2013

1972 Fischer - Spassky Poster

In this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, Fischer items are often the most attractive choice. My previous post, Fischer's Doodle, featured autographed tickets to the 1972 Fischer - Spassky title match, and this current post features a poster, pictured at the left, from the same match.

The title of the item was 'Fischer-Spassky Chess World championship game 1972 original silk printed poster', and it sold for US $521 after nine bids from two bidders. Someone really wanted that poster! The item's description simply repeated the title and there were no other remarks worth saving for posterity.

Unfortunately, the photo of the poster wasn't very good and my attempts to make it more attractive might have done even more harm. For a better image, see Chess Posters at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB), the national library of the Netherlands. The KB also houses the second largest collection of chess books in the world.

01 March 2013

'Chess Is Absolutely Science'

Title: 'Russian Chess School Vol II: The Science of Chess Strategy with GM Eduard Gufeld'

Eduard Gufeld - Chess Strategy (1:51:41) • 'Gufeld shares with you the secrets he has taught to many of the world's best players'

'I'm Eduard Gufeld, international chess grandmaster, writer, journalist, trainer, coach, and what is more important for me, what I like very much, I am chess promoter.'