29 November 2013

Chess Pumpkins

Here's (half of) a rare chess set you won't find in anyone's collection.


Chess at the Keene Pumpkin Festival © Flickr user kkfea under Creative Commons.

From Wikipedia:-

The Keene Pumpkin Festival (a.k.a. Pumpkin Fest or P-Fest amongst teens) is a yearly celebration held in Keene, New Hampshire, United States, before Halloween. Each year, Keene residents and citizens from around the area attempt to amass the largest number of lit jack-o'-lanterns in one place, trying to meet or beat the world record (which they have held for many years). • Pumpkin Fest

For another photo from the same photographer, see Pumpkins.

28 November 2013

Chess and the 'Nerd Dollar'

I had a 'Hallelujah!' moment at the end of the recent post on Carlsen - Anand, More Mainstream Press. I asked the question, 'Why the media excitement about Carlsen?', and got the answer 'It's all about the "nerd dollar"!'. I should have realized that before. After all, it's money -- not sex, not love -- that makes the world go round.

That helped me sleep better for one night, but then I started to wonder: What exactly is the 'nerd dollar'? A web search on that term plus 'chess' returns only my 'More Mainstream Press' blog post and the article I quoted there. Widening the search by removing the word 'chess' returns a laundry list of pages that shed no light on the subject. An image search, shown below, is more useful. The fellow who appears twice in the top line (as well as the small image in the bottom line) is a poster boy for the concept. Those are nerd dollars he holds in his hands.


Google Image search on 'nerd dollar'

If you want to get to the heart of the concept, 'marketing to nerds' is a better path to follow. For example, 5 Simple Tips for Marketing to Nerds ('Nerds, geeks, eggheads and wonks are an influential audience'), lists,

  • 'Share your passion.' [That would be chess.]
  • 'Find your niche.' [Chess again.]
  • 'Hone your voice.' [Shout 'CHESS!']
  • 'Grow organically.' [What's that got to do with chess?]
  • 'Be inclusive.' [Chess960?]

If you're bothered by any negative connotations attached to nerds, geeks, etc., see my essay, Top 10 Myths About Chess. Myth no.5 is

Chess is for nerds • In fact, this isn't a myth, since chess is for everyone. It is for nerds, geeks, eggheads, and boffins, as much as it is for anyone else. People who need to call other people unpleasant names should better say, 'chess is only for nerds', but this is decidedly false. Even if it were true, so what? Smart, awkward, quirky people have made more contributions to the advancement of humanity than have the rest. If they want to play chess, that's their business.

And their business can be a frugal one. 'Who said, "The best things in life are free"? Whoever said it could have been talking about chess.' (From Chess for Free; 'You don't have to be a cheapskate to enjoy chess, but you don't have to be a millionaire either.')

26 November 2013

Carlsen - Anand, More Mainstream Press

Last week we saw Anand - Carlsen, Mainstream Press ('Model is greatest ever, but not in modeling'); this week it's a tidal wave of mainstream articles about the new World Champion. The latest chess piece from Yahoo.com muscled its way into the highbrow company of 'Kim K. charity move slammed' and 'Bowling tries a new look'.

Unlike 'Model is greatest ever', the headline and caption...

Chess champion could revolutionize the sport • Magnus Carlsen earned the title of world chess champion at age 22, as well as a massive payday. His mass-marketing appeal.

...actually had something to do with the content. Don't take my word for it, read the article yourself: Chess has a handsome, charismatic new star in world champion Magnus Carlsen [sports.yahoo.com]. In case you're still mystified about the reason for the media excitement, here's a clue from the article:-

With the "nerd dollar" one of the most powerful forces in modern marketing, Carlsen's combination of charisma and supreme strategic intelligence looks certain to pocket him some serious cash, as well as lead to a surge in popularity for his game of choice.

It's all about the 'nerd dollar'!

25 November 2013

TMERs : One Step at a Time

Sometimes my daily blog post is more a note to myself than a piece of general interest. These are usually categorized in Posts with label About.com, an ongoing project I started five years ago. This year I used the blog to track my progress on two 'Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record' (TMER) projects:-

I summarized the first TMER project in

then updated the second TMER over the next two months:-

  • 2013-09-09: In a Class by Himself • Last year, as part of my 'About to Tripod' project, I revived my page on 'Anand's TMER (1983-)', and recorded the milestone [on this blog]. The TMER page is currently flagged 'Last updated 2004-06-05', so it's high time to bring it up to date.
  • 2013-09-16: Anand's TMER 2004-2008 • Continuing with 'In a Class by Himself', a small project to update my page on 'Anand's TMER (1983-; last updated 2004-06-05)', I collected all subsequent games from events played through the end of 2008 that were included in The Week in Chess (TWIC).
  • 2013-09-23: Anand's TMER 2009-2013 • Last week I constructed an index for 'Anand's TMER 2004-2008', and this week I did the same for events he played up to the date of this post.
  • 2013-09-30: Anand's TMER PGN • Continuing with 'Anand's TMER' -- last seen in 2004-2008 and 2009-2013 -- I extracted, combined, and sorted the PGN for the events falling in the nine++ years 2004-2013.
  • 2013-10-07: Anand's W-L-D Record 2004-2008 • After creating Anand's TMER PGN' for the years 2004 to 2013, I started adding the events, including W-L-D (win, loss, draw) data, to the TMER index page. I managed to work through 2008 before running out of time.
  • 2013-10-14: Anand's W-L-D Record 2009-2013 • Continuing with 'Anand's W-L-D Record 2004-2008', I picked up where I left off and brought the W-L-D (win, loss, draw) data up to date through Anand's most recent tournament, the Tal Memorial, held at Moscow in June.
  • 2013-10-21: Anand's Game Scores 2004-2013 • After compiling the data for 'Anand's W-L-D Record 2009-2013', I uploaded the PGN game scores to the 'Chess for All Ages' web site.
  • 2013-10-28: Anand's TMER 1983-2013 • That's a wrap! After uploading 'Anand's Game Scores 2004-2013', I updated 'Viswanathan Anand's TMER (1983-)'. The TMER index now includes W-L-D data for all events through 2013.

Now I would like to remove the 'under construction' label from the Carlsen TMER. That means:-

  • Normalizing the large PGN file.
  • Splitting that file into PGN files for each event.
  • Documenting the separate PGN files on the TMER.
  • Adding venue to the TMER.
  • Removing the external references from the TMER.

There also remains some cleanup work for the Anand TMER -- the 'Games' count in the last column is not consistent over the old and new sections (not to mention other minor inconsistencies) -- but one step at a time. The first step was to load the Carlsen TMER and the corresponding PGN index into a database for further analysis.

24 November 2013

Carlsen - Anand, Signed Board

It was slim pickings for this edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The only item that was even a little out of the ordinary was titled 'Capablanca & Alekhine Chess World Champion Signed Autograph Stamp 1939'; it sold for US $1499.99, 'Buy It Now'. Since I wasn't certain of its origin ('Historic document autograph. National tournament 1939 with 46 signeds of all chess man who participated in this event'; NB: it was a cover, not a 'stamp'), I decided to look elsewhere.

The Carlsen - Anand World Championship match ended just two days ago, so I followed the same path as my previous post about 'Top eBay Chess Items', Anand - Carlsen Autographs, and looked for Carlsen - Anand items (Carlsen won the match, so he gets top billing from now on). Once again the top item from the last two weeks was an autographed item, pictured below. It was titled 'RARE signed chess set with Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsens [sic] autographs - mint cond' and sold for US $249.99 on a single bid.

The description said,

This is an unused chess set. Signed by Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen on the tournament Arctic Securities Chess Stars Rapid 2010 in Kristiansund - Norway. The chess set has been stored in my closet since then.

It's a pity that the seller misspelled Carlsen's name in the title (or left off the possessive apostrophe). The item didn't appear in my search on 'Carlsen', and this in a period of intense interest in the Norwegian grandmaster. The board could have sold for much more, even though it had nothing to do with the great match. In the coming months I expect to see a flurry of auction items related to the match.

22 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen Last Game Press Conference

The great match ended just a few moments ago. Since the previous edition of Video Friday covered the Anand - Carlsen Opening Ceremony, it's a fitting coincidence that this edition marks the end of the match.


Game 10 - Post Match Press Conference with Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen (26:36) • 'Magnus Carlsen drew game 10 to win the FIDE World Championship 2013 by beating Viswanathan Anand and joins elite list of World Champions.'

In the coming weeks and months, much will be written about the games in Chennai. For now, I would just like to offer congratulations to GM Carlsen on his becoming World Champion and thanks to GM Anand for having been such a worthy titleholder all these years. A new chapter in the ongoing evolution of chess starts today.

21 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, A Critical Blunder

The glass wall separating the players from the spectators mirrors the moment of resignation in game nine of the World Championship match in Chennai. Vishy Anand's loss to Magnus Carlsen gave the Norwegian a 3-0 lead with three games left to play in the 12 game match. The odds of Anand now winning three consecutive games are astronomical.


Game 9 - Viswanthan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen [Youtube.com]

A week ago, when I posted Anand - Carlsen, Missed Opportunity?, the match was tied after four drawn games. Most observers are expecting a quick, match-winning draw in the tenth game, when Carlsen has the White pieces.

19 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Mainstream Press

While scrolling Yahoo news, my eye saw the caption header, 'Model is greatest ever, but not in modeling', before it saw the photo. My first reaction was 'that guy looks familiar', then I did a double take when I recognized GM Carlsen. The caption said,

Magnus Carlsen has what every superstar has: endorsement deals, a growing bank balance, and millions of fans. Transcendent skills.

I'm not usually interested in stories about models, but I had to read this one.

The full article, titled Magnus Carlsen brings new style to the world of competitive chess [sports.yahoo.com], had a lead similar to the caption.

Magnus Carlsen has everything you might expect of a superstar athlete: a modeling contract, endorsement deals, a dedicated female fan club, a growing bank balance and millions of fans watching his every move.

Who said the mainstream press isn't interested in chess? Don't overlook the article's many comments.

18 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, the Edge

A few months ago, in The Carlsen Saga, I left unanswered The Carlsen Question, 'What makes him so good?'. If you've been paying attention to his World Championship match with Anand, one answer has been repeated over and over by the commentators: 'He's in good physical shape and he wears his opponents down in the endgame'.

That's an easy hypothesis to test; just look at his results in games at standard time control and see how they compare to his opponents' efforts. Since I already had reliable data in Anand's TMER and Carlsen's TMER (*), I decided to compare his results for this year against Anand's.

It turns out that the two antagonists played together in three tournaments in 2013. Those events are listed in the following chart along with their results, Carlsen on the first line for each event, Anand on the second. For example, in Wijk aan Zee, Carlsen finished first with a +7-0=6 score, while Anand finished third with +4-1=8. Both players finished lower in the two other events, Carlsen finishing higher than Anand each time.

The bottom of the chart shows the number of moves they made in the three events. Each player contested 31 games. Carlsen made an average of 48.7 moves per game, while Anand made 39.6. In other words, Carlsen's games were almost 25% longer than Anand's.

I wouldn't say that this little test is absolutely conclusive, but it does confirm what the pundits are saying. Carlsen plays longer games than his opponents.

(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

17 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, and Kasparov

Several reports from the early rounds of the World Championship chess match in Chennai mentioned the presence of former World Champion Garry Kasparov. For example, Kasparov stays silent observer as Anand, Carlsen draw again [livemint.com]:-

A day after Garry Kasparov arrived in Chennai and spoke at length about his visit to the ongoing world chess title match, the former world champion on Tuesday turned completely silent and surprisingly refused to comment on the third drawn game between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen, in which the Indian grandmaster appeared to have missed winning chances.

After having completely ignored Kasparov, the organizers of the world chess title match made amends by treating him as a guest on Tuesday. He was seen escorted to the playing hall by D.V. Sundar, vice-president of the World Chess Federation, capping speculation that Kasparov might have to stand in a queue to obtain a ticket. Oddly, he distanced himself from the media thereafter.

It turns out there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. I learned much from another report, this one by Jaideep Unudurti, Despite trying a hand in Russian politics, Garry Kasparov seems to miss chess [indiatimes.com]:-

Kasparov times these interventions well. He has an uncanny instinct of positioning himself in a media storm. Before and during the visit the players and organizers were inundated with questions on how Kasparov was going to be treated and so on. Like a persistent ghost of Christmas past, he turned up last year as well in Moscow for the Anand - Gelfand world championship match. He held court during game six and let forth with a volley of criticism. "As for Vishy, I think he's just sliding downhill" is a representative example.

Anand had told me after the match, "Kasparov was in complete overdrive. And he always comes up with eminently quotable statements which makes them much worse." Boris Gelfand, the challenger then, too got plenty of abuse from Kasparov, who called him the weakest challenger ever. What he didn't reveal was he had offered his help to Gelfand before the match. [...]

The bespectacled, balding Gelfand, nicknamed The Professor, however is a very decent man. He refused pointblank, thus provoking Kasparov's volcanic ire. How could anyone turn him down? Gelfand refused. No thank you, I have my own team. As Gelfand later said, "I invited people who wanted to help me and be with me to the end, not people who just wanted to hurt Anand".

Gelfand knew exactly why Gazza had descended from the heavens, brandishing his thunderbolts. "As far as I know, Anand refused to help support him and Karpov in the battle for the FIDE presidency. He thought that after he had helped Anand against Topalov, Anand would now support him." In the 2010 match against Topalov, Garry had Skyped Anand a few times with some inputs. Kasparov considered these favours which he hoped to cash in later. Anand showed no inclination to help Kasparov install his one-time rival Karpov on the FIDE throne.

On top of that Anand story, there is another, similar story in the same source concerning Carlsen. Now we know that Kasparov has a complicated history with both Anand and Carlsen. Having followed the ex-World Champion's career since his first match with Karpov in 1984, I'm not surprised. He has had a complicated history with (just about) every opponent he faced at the top.

Given that Kasparov has announced his intention to run for FIDE President, these past relationships could come back to haunt him. It does him no good to have the Indian and Norwegian chess federations -- not to mention another 80 or so federations whose vote he needs -- oppose his candidacy. Has Kasparov finally learned that success in politics requires compromise? If so, the lesson has taken him a long time to master.

15 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, the Venue

The photo shows the venue -- both the city and the hotel -- of the big chess match.


Chennai © Flickr user VinTN under Creative Commons.

The Hyatt Regency Chennai is the large building to the right on the horizon.

14 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Missed Opportunity?

Magnus Carlsen pushes out his chest and bites his lip just seconds before stealing a Pawn with 18...Bxa2!, against Vishy Anand. The move reminded informed observers of Bobby Fischer's famous blunder in the first game of his 1972 match against Boris Spassky. Many chess fans were already comparing 1972 Fischer - Spassky with 2013 Anand - Carlsen.


Game 4 - Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen [Youtube.com]

Athough the Bishop move gave the advantage to Carlsen, the game was eventually drawn. For the full game, see Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen; Anand-Carlsen World Championship (2013; g.4) on Chessgames.com. For more of Carlsen's games behind the Berlin Wall, see Player: Magnus Carlsen; Opening: Ruy Lopez (C67), also on Chessgames.com.

12 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Pregame Photos

Just before the start of game three of the World Championship match in Chennai, the players study the board while photographers press against the other side of the glass wall.

See also Anand - Carlsen Autographs, my previous post on the match.

11 November 2013

Carlsen's ICC Games

The type of summary I made on Anand - Carlsen Openings is only possible because the games between the two players have been collected into one place. As for GM Carlsen, my last post on his career, Early Carlsen Games, mentioned that 'the collection now has 1674 games'.

While that number certainly covers more games than anyone can study in detail, it represents only a fraction of the games that Carlsen has played until now. The following graphic, showing results from his time on the Internet Chess Club (ICC), says that he played more than 8000 games on ICC.

The first line in the display, labeled 'Wild', includes the three games listed in Carlsen Played Chess960. What about the other games? Are they worth collecting and preserving? Given the fervor that stimulates chess historians to discover obscure games by the great players of the past, Carlsen's games are certainly worth collecting. But who will/can do it? Along with the question of ownership, to which ICC has a claim, there are other factors to be considered. A suivre?

10 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen Autographs

For this current edition of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I could have used either of a couple of Fischer items. A nice photo of 13-year Bobby that I had never seen before sold for US $810 after receiving 29 bids from nine bidders. Another item, a couple of similar philatelic covers from the 1971 Fischer vs. Taimanov Candidates match at Vancouver -- one signed by Fischer, the other by Taimanov -- sold for $650 after one bid.

Instead of using one of those choices, I decided to look at items featuring GMs Anand or Carlsen, since today sees game two of their World Championship title match. I was pleased to find the tournament program shown below, one of the top items by price for both players. Its title was 'London Chess Classic 2010 SIGNED Anand / Carlsen / Kramnik' and it sold for GBP 75.00 ('approximately US $119.96') after one bid. A few days later another copy of the same program sold 'Buy It Now' for the same price.

As my composite image shows, Anand was world no.1 and Carlsen world no.2 at the time of the London tournament. The description added,

2nd London Chess Classic Olympia 8-15 Dec 2010; Tournament Programme [SIGNED]; By Magnus Carlsen / Hikaru Nakamura / Viswanathan (Vishy) Anand / Vladimir Kramnik / Michael Adams / Nigel Short / Luke McShane / David Howell

Approx Size: 8.25 x 11.75 inches (21 x 29.5 cms). Paperback. 31 printed pages. Light creasing to covers, slight rubbing to spine, short tear to top edge of front cover. Signed by all eight competitors. Signature of Vishy Anand is smudged. Overall Condition is Very Good.

I'm sure that some day this item will sell for much more.

08 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen Opening Ceremony

This fortnight's Video Friday falls one day after the ceremony opening the Anand - Carlsen World Championship match and one day before the first game of the match. I watched the ceremony yesterday and am pleased to present it on this blog. Much of it is in English and it is a wonderful celebration of chess.


FIDE World Chess Championship 2013 - Inaugural Ceremony - Live from Chennai! (1:56:52) • 'Streamed live on Nov 7, 2013'

The description added,

Catch the inaugural ceremony of the FIDE World Chess Championship 2013 live from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Chennai. The inauguration [was] presided by Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Ms. J Jayalalitha. Catch all the matches live and exclusive here on youtube.com/aicfofficial.

AICF stands for the 'All India Chess Federation'. A crore rupee is 10.000.000 rupees, currently about US$ 160.000.

07 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen, Predicting the Result

A few days ago I posted a summary of Anand - Carlsen Openings, based on the record of their games played with each other. Now let's look at a possible outcome of the match.

A player needs 6.5 points to win the match in games played at standard time control. Carlsen currently has a 95 point advantage in rating, which gives him a theoretical 63%-37% advantage in each game. After 10 games he would have only 6.30 theoretical points, meaning it would take him 11 games to achieve at least 6.5 points (6.93 theoretical points). Rounding off gives a match score of 7-4 in his favor.

Given that Carlsen has little experience with matches and no experience with the pressure of a World Championship match (he choked at the end of the London Candidates Tournament and was lucky to win the event), and that Anand has home court advantage (think food and other comforts, especially food), I'll give Anand a free point. That makes 7-5 for Carlsen.

Taking it back a step and going to the start of the 12th game, the score would be 6-5 for Carlsen. Kasparov wrote somewhere -- he's written so much that I couldn't possibly find the reference in a reasonable amount of time -- that the last game of a World Championship match follows it's own logic (or something similar). That means anything can happen.

If Anand somehow wins the crucial 12th game, ending with a tied score, the match goes to tiebreak. I won't repeat all of the tiebreak rules here, because they are available in the usual places. Let's just say they play a four-game rapidplay match followed by a number of two-game blitz matches, until someone wins one of these mini-matches.

According to my records -- Anand's TMER and Carlsen's TMER (*) -- the two have played together in two blitz events this year. In May, at Stavanger, they finished with the same score. In June, at Moscow, Anand finished ahead of Carlsen. In both events, they drew the game where they played each other. Neither player appears to be dominant in fast chess, so, once again, anything can happen.

As everyone already knows, Carlsen is the definite favorite to win this match. Anand's best shot at winning is to survive into tiebeak.

(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record

05 November 2013

Young Bobby Punched the Wrong Clock

Today I wanted to post a followup to Endgame: Geller - Fischer, 1970 Interzonal, but got bogged down in analysis. Instead I'll go with a backup Fischer piece.

Finding early references in the chess press to future chess celebrities is an easy pastime for amateur chess historians. A few years ago I noted Carlsen's TWIC Debut, while the article on the left is the earliest reference I have to Bobby Fischer. It appeared on page two of the February 5, 1956 issue of Chess Life (Vol. X, No. 11, in case you were wondering).

The event is recorded on p.95 of Bobby Fischer's Chess Games by Wade and O'Connell (Doubleday 1972). All games were marked 'The result, opponent's name and score of this game are not available'.

I haven't yet looked through issues of Chess Life before 1956, so I still might find an earlier reference to Fischer. The columnist, Allen Kaufman, is undoubtedly the future Executive Director of the American Chess Foundation, an influential group whose history appears not to have been written.

04 November 2013

Anand - Carlsen Openings

With the 2013 Anand - Carlsen title match only a few days away, let's look at the openings the two players have used when facing each other.

I extracted the Anand - Carlsen games stored with Anand's TMER 1983-2013 (TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record), and copied them to a separate file: Anand - Carlsen PGN 2005-2013. This came to 63 games, including one game they played as members of opposing teams.

Then I separated the games where Anand had White (30 games) from the games where Carlsen had White (33 games). I used these separate files to create the following summary, which also shows the number of times a move was played. For example, Anand has started 25 times with 1.e4, and 5 times with 1.d4. Then I added the summaries back to the original PGN file, making 65 'games' in total.

I hope the summary helps me understand the openings used by the two players in the match.

03 November 2013

'Chess in School' Is Multilevel

In my previous post on the subject, 'Chess in (the) School/Schools', I wrote, 'I'm still not sure what it means. [...] Bear with me while I try to figure it out.' Why the confusion? Because there are so many levels to the subject.

First, there are two programs that I described as 'cross-border initiatives' last year in FIDE/ECU Chess in Schools. The personalities behind each program clearly don't get along with the personalities in the other program. They are competitors.

Second, there are regional initiatives with similar sounding names, like Chess in Schools & Communities and CHESS-IN-THE-SCHOOLS. One is based in the U.K., the other in New York City. Can you tell which is which?

Third, there are local initiatives in specific schools. These programs are often the subject of local news reports and can be either classroom activities or extracurricular activities.

Finally, there are chess teachers who specialize in teaching to children. These can be people promoting the general subject 'how-to-teach-chess-to-children' or they can be people who are teaching chess in a specific school.

***

The people behind the FIDE program recently issued a colorful booklet available on cis.fide.com: Chess in Schools - Our Global Future; 'Our main promotional booklet. 48 pages (+4 page cover). It gives the basics of chess in schools. The whys, wherefors, etc.'

The referenced page includes a download link to a PDF document and a copy of the table of contents. I'll take a closer look at the booklet for my next post in this series.

01 November 2013

Blind Bargain

The caption said,

I wanted to see if I could create an entirely new product within a strict timeframe. Designed, modelled, lit, textured and rendered over 10 days. Took about 40 hours from initial idea to final image.

Note how the moves of the pieces are incorporated into their design.


Chess Set for the Blind © Flickr user dncnmckn under Creative Commons.

The design of the King and Queen (set up correctly on her color) are perhaps too similar. A smaller center for the Queen with longer points would fix that. Most sets for the blind that I've seen are pegged.

How does a blind person detect the color of a piece, not just on this set, but on any set?