30 November 2014

'Museum Worthy' Photo

In this continuing series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we often see that photos can fetch a nice price, as in the previous post $65 per Square Inch of Photo, and more often see that autographed photos can fetch twice a nice price.

A case in point is the composite image shown on the left. Titled 'Nottingham 1936 Chess Photo - Signed by Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker & More!', it sold for somewhere between $4000 and $6500, 'Best offer accepted'.

The description started, 'Being offered is perhaps the most important and most prized piece of chess history in existence! What you see before you is the official Nottingham 1936 International Chess Tournament Photo signed by ALL 15 participants as well as tournament organizer J.N. Derbyshire.'

It continued,

According to the unofficial Chessmetrics ratings, the tournament was (as of March 2005) one of only five tournaments in history that had the top eight players in the world playing, and was (in terms of the leading players playing) the third strongest in history. All of the top twelve players on Chessmetrics' August 1936 rating list competed in the tournament except for numbers nine and ten (Andor Lilienthal and Paul Keres). The event is also notable for being Lasker's last major event, and for Botvinnik achieving the first Soviet success outside the Soviet Union."

The photo itself is roughly 6"x8" and is in excellent condition. It has been stored in a thick, UV resistant display case that wonderfully displays both sides of the piece. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a museum worthy piece that would be the crown jewel of even the most discriminating of chess memorabilia collections.

For the previous autographed item in 'Top eBay Chess Items', see Staunton and the First World Junior Championship.

28 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand II : the Venue

This fortnight's edition of Flickr Friday didn't turn up anything as compelling as the previous edition's Magnus Street Art. Let's have instead a stand-in image showing the Sochi Media Center, the venue for the recently concluded World Championship match.

Top: Postcard

Bottom: 'You Are Here' from en.sochimediacenter.ru

Europe Echecs reported that the playing area was empty for the first round, when tickets cost 60 €, and far from full for the second round, when tickets became free.

27 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand: Winner's Interview

A few days after successfully defending his title against Viswanathan Anand, World Champion Magnus Carlsen granted an interview to FIDE Press Officer Anastasiya Karlovich.

Interview with Magnus Carlsen (14:26) • 'After Winning World Chess Championship 2014'

Although Carlsen looks and sounds ill in the interview, he mustered the energy to give a frank account of his thoughts during the match. When asked, 'Which top players were helping you in this match?', he answered,

'Peter Heine Nielsen was here [in Sochi]' and Garry Kasparov was 'regularly in contact with Peter Heine'. Jon Ludvig Hammer, Laurent Fressinet, and Michael Adams 'were helping from home'.

Fressinet was Carlsen's opponent in the now famous video Too weak, too slow! (Youtube.com). As for 'Name three players who might be your opponents in two years',

The most obvious candidates are Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, and Alexander Grischuk.

For the corresponding interview between Carlsen and Karlovich from last year's match, see Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen interview 25.11.2013, also on Youtube.

25 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11: Anand's Gamble

While it often happens that a single chess move throws away a game, it's not often that one move throws away an entire match, and even less often that a World Championship title evaporates at the same time. That is exactly what happened in game 11 of the Carlsen - Anand II match in Sochi (see Carlsen - Anand, Game 11 and Match for some background).

The diagram shows the position after Carlsen's 26th move. Until this point the game had been a tense Berlin variation in the Spanish Opening (aka Ruy Lopez) with the typical characteristics of the so-called Berlin Wall: no Queens, two Knights and a Bishop for White versus two Bishops and a Knight for Black, and a healthy 4-3 Pawn structure for White on the Kingside versus a crippled 4-3 structure for Black on the Queenside.

A few moves earlier, Black had succeeded in breaking open the Queenside, creating open lines and new targets for the remaining pieces. White's last move plans to bring his King into the center and Anand now went into a 22 minute think, his longest of the game.

Carlsen - Anand (game 11)

After 26.Kg3-f3

While Anand was thinking, the two commentators -- GM Peter Svidler and GM Ian Nepomniachtchi -- both superstrong, 2700+ Russian players, looked at many possibilities in this dynamic position. The main lines they discussed began 26...Be7, 26...Rdb8, and 26...Bg7, in rough order of preference.

After Anand played 26...Rdb8, they immediately launched into a discussion of 27.Rb1 Rb4, sacrificing the exchange.

IN: 'This is just strange. Why should we give an exchange for some shadowy compensation?' • PS: 'It might be playable, but Black has no actual need to do this. [They look at a few moves.] Is this a winning attempt?' • IN: 'It's not a losing attempt, at least. Since we're not losing on the spot we can try it. In this position, Black can never be worse.' • PS: 'That's a large statement. I'm not sure I agree with that. [More moves] It looks interesting for Black, I have to say. Black now has everything under control, but it's a whole exchange. It's a risky way to continue.' • IN: 'I don't think this is going to happen.'

Carlsen played 27.Ke4, 'allowing 27...Rb3', according to Svidler. Nepomniachtchi replied, 'That's a bold decision.' While they were looking at ...Rb3 and other ideas, Anand's 27...Rb4, appeared on the board. Talk about bold decisions!

IN: 'Wow!' • PS: 'This is now very exciting. And we have a bit of an answer to the question we discussed earlier: Vishy does not feel like leaving everything until game 12. Black's position was not worse. He did not have to do that.' • IN: 'Do you really think it's the best moment to sacrifice?' • PS: 'It's a surprising moment, I have to say. You take, because you can't really not take. Magnus took about 20 seconds to take it. [...] This is a bit of a strange moment for the sacrifice. It was hanging in the air, the idea to play ...Rb4.' • IN: 'I think Vishy could wait for a better moment.'

As we all know, Anand's idea didn't work and he resigned less than 20 moves later, thereby abandoning the match.

PS: 'Congratulations to Magnus for winning the title. This has been a very dramatic game. There is definitely some cause for regret for Vishy here.' [...] • IN: 'Vishy went for some really unnecessary plan, with a completely unclear exchange sacrifice, and it just turned out that it was bad for him. [...] A strange decision took place today. I can't say if this exchange sacrifice was based on a miscalculation or some misunderstanding. I don't believe that Vishy can misunderstand chess. Even slightly.' • PS: 'The only explanation is that he felt he must be doing something. He can't wait. He can't continue making normal quiet moves improving his position slightly. He finally settled on Rb8-b4, which backfired badly.'

At his press conference, Anand said,

I evaluated [the normal continuations] as equal. I can't say why I suddenly decided to go for the exchange sac. It was a bad gamble and I was punished. [...] Earlier I was still playing objectively. When we got to move 27 I took a nervous decision.

For the full game, see Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 11) on Chessgames.com.

24 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11 and Match

Argh! It was just as I feared in Carlsen - Anand, Game 11.

If [Carlsen] wins, the match will be over and I will have missed all the excitement!

By the time I was able to sneak away from the dinner party and watch the game, it was all over. Carlsen had won game and match. No more World Championship games for two full years!

When I finally returned home, I watched the game video from start to finish, but knowing the outcome spoiled the suspense.

FIDE World Championship Match - Press Conference Carlsen - Game 11 (19:09) • 'With the win in Game 11, Magnus Carlsen became World Chess Champion and retained his title against challenger Viswanathan Anand.'

GM Anand was gracious in defeat: FIDE World Championship Match - Press Conference Anand - Game 11. 'It was a bad gamble and I was punished.'

Congratulations, GM Carlsen! The entire chess world is looking to you as their leader for the coming years.

23 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 11

Argh! It's Sunday today, game 11 of the big match, and just like for Anand - Carlsen, Game 3, my wife has arranged a social engagement for the entire afternoon! That means I won't be able to see the game until it's over?!

That also means the Beavis and Butthead at Sochi post will be sitting at the top of the blog's home page for another full day. It's already been there for two days, so enough's enough! What to do? How about a quick detour back to the 'Chess in School' series, last seen in The Dark Side of Scholastic Chess...

Seen on Uscfsales.com, Scholastic Club Starter Kit - For 10 Members - With Competition Pro Clocks, 'Everything needed to get your scholastic chess club up and running'.

This is not an endorsement. I didn't know there were such kits until I saw the ad, noted it as an FYI to myself, and know absolutely nothing else about the package. If you have some experience in this area, I would love to hear your comments below.

Back to Carlsen - Anand II, Carlsen has White today. If he wins, the match will be over and I will have missed all the excitement! Hope the afternoon that my wife has planned is worth it...

21 November 2014

Beavis and Butthead at Sochi

For the previous post on my World Chess Championship blog, Carlsen - Anand II, the Second Week, I wrote,

If I were responsible for the match, what would I change? Not much, with the possible exception of the press conference.

but this isn't quite what I had in mind.

The Most Exciting Chess Q&A Ever (3:10) • 'Featuring Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen'

The questions are from the press conference held after game eight. P.S. In case there's any doubt, I have only the greatest respect for both players.

20 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand II : Rumblings

Game nine of the Carlsen - Anand World Championship match in Sochi ended in a short draw, which gave me extra time to look into other matters. Going back to the Pre-match Press Conference, who was that fellow sitting to the right of the match stakeholders? Introduced as 'the organizer of the tournament, Ilya Merenzon', this was the first time I had become aware of him.

The first article I discovered was on Chess-news.ru, Agon Company Currently Belongs to Ilya Merenzon; Paulson No Longer Interested:-

Merenzon told us that the mysterious Agon company, which possesses the rights of conducting World Chess Championships and other major chess events, is currently being owned by him.

The last time I posted about Agon, Paulson, et al was Chess Leaks Like a Sieve (February 2014), a collection of unhappy stories that I thought could only get better.

The second article I discovered about Merenzon was on Livemint.com ('A financial daily covering stocks, commodities, companies and the economy'), Fide yet to get World Chess Championship prize fund, 'Fide has been mired in controversy ever since it awarded rights to manage the championship to a little-known firm, Agon':-

Sochi (Russia): It is inconceivable that the Russian organizers of the ongoing world chess championship won't pay Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand their match fees, but a top official on Friday revealed that the world chess federation hadn't yet received in its bank account the event's prize fund of €1 million. [...] Andrew Paulson, the founder of Agon, who until about a year ago was the principal promoter of the sport and described himself as the chief executive of world chess, has sold the firm to an associate, Ilya Merenzon, for £1. [...] Into his shoes has stepped in Merenzon, and his first task is to stump up €1 million -- the statutory minimum prize fund for the ongoing world chess title match.

Did I say this unhappy story that could only get better? Now I'm sure of it.

18 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : Carlsen's Blunder

After Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening, the players eventually reached the position shown in the diagram. In fact, they reached the position twice. After 23...a5, White spent two moves shuttling the light-squared Bishop to d1 and back to c2, while Black marked time moving the Rook to d8 and back.

After 23...a6-a5 & 25...Rd8-g8

On the second appearance of the position, Carlsen played a move which will be remembered for as long as World Championship matches are discussed.

  • 26.Kd2?? Followed by Anand's equally outrageous 26...a4??; the move 26...Nxe5 should win easily

During the press conference, both players said they saw their own blunder just after playing the move and punching the clock. Asked, 'Did this blunder influence your game afterwards?', they replied,

Carlsen: For me, my play wasn't that confident. I didn't feel that I found the right setup. So, yes, I guess it affected me to some extent. • Anand: Given the way I played the rest of the game, probably.

The diagrammed position is complicated and full of dynamics. What should Carlsen have played instead? During the press conference he mentioned,

  • 26.Kd1, indicating the same continuation as in the game, 26...a4 27.Ke2; here Black has the much better move 26...Nf8, when White loses the Pawn on g2.

Captures on g6 and h6 are problematic for various reasons.

  • 26.Rxh6? Nxe5
  • 26.Bxg6?! Rxg6
  • 26.Bxh6!? walks into a pin on the h-file; Black can continue 26...Kc8 or 26...Ka6, with the threat 27...Ne7, and good counterplay against White's Kingside Pawns

What did the commentators suggest? On the first occurrence of the position, they looked at 24.Bxh6. Then when the position was repeated for move 26, they decided to take a break. During the break the blunders occurred, and because the live video feed was also turned off, the reactions of the two players were not recorded. Let's call it 'the infamous seven minute gap'.

What do the engines suggest? A couple of non-committal moves, like Carlsen's first choice, 24.Bd1 (26.Bd1), score well.

  • 26.Rg3 and 26.Bd2

Perhaps the best move is more concrete and committal. It closes the diagonal to Black's Bishop, protects the Rook on g4, and puts the ball back in Black's court.

  • 26.f3, followed by Anand's 26...a4, or maybe a Knight move (26...Ne7, 26...Nf8).

While I was preparing this post, I didn't have time to see what the GM annotators have suggested. Along with the double blunder, the position will likely be discussed for as long as people are interested in chess.

17 November 2014

Carlsen - Anand, Game 6 : The Opening

I was intrigued by game six of the Carlsen - Anand match, not so much for the double blunder, but for the opening. I've played the variation several times for Black and was curious to see how my treatment compared to the World Champions' treatment.

The game started 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3, reaching the position shown in the top diagram. The first anomaly is here in this well known position. For some reason, my opponents have never played 5.c4 against me and I only know the diagrammed position thanks to a transposition starting with 1.d4. I documented it a few years ago in A Slippery Opening

The second anomaly is in Anand's next move, 6...Bb4. Here I've only played 6...Qc7, with a 50% success rate, winning as many games as I've lost, mostly against higher rated opponents.

After Anand's 6...Bb4, the game continued 7.Qd3 Nc6 8.Nxc6 dxc6, reaching the position shown in the bottom diagram. I checked this sequence on Chesslab.com and learned that, among the 2700+ crowd, the main alternatives to 7.Qd3 are 7.Qf3 and 7.Bd3, with 7.Bd2 and 7.e5 coming into consideration.

After 7.Qd3, Anand's 7...Nc6 is less popular than the alternatives, 7...Qc7 and 7...d5. The move 7...Nc6 is nearly always followed by 8.Nxc6 dxc6. This allows the Queen exchange either by 9.Qxd8+ Kxd8, as in the game, or by 9.e5, with a Black-initiated swap on d3.

I'm not sure why Anand went into this line. The Queen exchange seems to favor Carlsen's penchant for long endgames where he is slightly better. As things turned out, this is exactly the kind of game that was played, with Carlsen eventually winning. For the full game, see Magnus Carlsen vs Viswanathan Anand; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 6) on Chessgames.com.

16 November 2014

$65 per Square Inch of Photo

For the last two editions of Top eBay Chess Items by Price, where the most recent post was American Pastimes, we've had paintings. Now it's time to have a photo. Titled 'Vintage Photo 1940s Military Men Play Chess Game Smoke Pipe snapshot gay int', the image shown below sold for -- hold on to your hat -- US $1312.87 after receiving 17 bids from three bidders.

In the last five minutes of bidding, two bidders increased the price from $283.21 to the final bid. The losing bidder, who had been the first to bid on the photo at $7.50, must have wanted it badly, but not as badly as the winning bidder.

The description said only,

Original vintage 1940s snapshot. I found this in a old album. It measures 5 X 4 inches.

That comes to over $65 per square inch of photo. What makes the photo so special? I have no idea, unless the phrase 'gay int' -- apparently meaning 'gay interest' according to other auctions by the same seller -- has something to do with it.

The player on the left is holding his finger on the Rook, which signals that he hasn't yet completed his move. Many players do that when they first learn the touch-move rule.

14 November 2014

Magnus Street Art

Game five of the Carlsen - Anand II title match has just ended in a draw and the commentators think Magnus was lucky to escape. He didn't seem particularly concerned in the press conference. Whatever the case, the Norwegian will now have two consecutive games with the White pieces.

Magnus Carlsen © Flickr user svennevenn under Creative Commons.

The image of Magnus, minus the crown, is from one of his G-Star Raw posters. The art is signed 'La Staa' and a tag says 'Bergen'. Must be from Norway.

13 November 2014

The Evolution of Titles and Ratings

Continuing with Titles, Elo, and Ratings, when Arpad Elo wrote his book 'The Rating of Chess Players Past and Present' (Batsford 1978), he noted four major milestones.

  • 1950: Introduction of titles; GM/IM titles assigned retroactively

  • 1957: Titles awarded based on performance ('norms')

  • 1970: Introduction of international ratings

  • 1976: Norm calculations based on ratings

To document those four milestones, I added excerpts from 'Rating of Chess Players' to my page on FIDE Titles.

11 November 2014

Anand - Carlsen, Game 3

Despite what I said in my previous post (see Fischer's IM/GM Titles) about game two of the Carlsen - Anand match -- that I'm spending too much time watching the games -- I wasn't able to watch the third game, except for one glimpse at the beginning of the game and another after two hours. Today is a public holiday in Belgium and my wife had other ideas about how to spend the day.

When I finally had time to watch later, the game was already over but I was pleased to see that Anand had won. (I don't have a favorite in this match and would be happy if either player won. Most important is to have a good match.)

How had he won? I located the PGN for the game and loaded it into an engine. It didn't take an engine to tell me that Black was totally busted when Carlsen resigned on move 34. Where was the game's most critical moment?

After move 20, White looked to have an edge, with a well protected passed Pawn on c7. Playing over the next few moves convinced me that White's advantage was already close to decisive, so I went back to the position after move 10. Here White also looked better, with a space advantage and active pieces. It looked like Anand had caught Carlsen in the opening, probably as the result of superior preparation.

Who had varied first from game one? It was Carlsen. After 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4, he played 2...e6 instead of 2...g6, then transposed into a Queen's Gambit with 3.Nf3 d5. Anand set the further course of the game with 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4

I switched over to Chesslab.com and discovered that the position through 15.Nb5 had been played in seven games, after which the players followed a 2013 Aronian - Adams game. Anand was the first to vary from that game with 20.fxe4. A screen capture from the official site for the match, sochi2014.fide.com, shows the thinking times for that critical stretch. Carlsen spent more than 30 minutes on his 17th move.

Anand's play also slowed down at the same point. What were the two players thinking about? I wish I knew.

For the full game, see Viswanathan Anand vs Magnus Carlsen; Carlsen - Anand World Championship 2014 (game 3) on Chessgames.com.

10 November 2014

Titles, Elo, and Ratings

When you think 'chess ratings', you probably think about Arpad Elo, the father of the FIDE rating system. When you think 'Elo', you might also think about chess titles, because Elo's rating system had a profound impact on the awarding of titles.

I added Elo's own summary of early title regulations to my page on FIDE Titles (see Fischer's IM/GM Titles for the previous post about that page). Then I extracted the following chart from the same source.

Elo, 'The Rating of Chess Players Past and Present', p.69

It shows the evolution of FIDE's title and rating systems from 1950, when the first titles were awarded, to 1977, when Elo's book (Batsford 1978) was under preparation. For another look at Elo's work in the context of titles, see my 2008 post Titled Players, Sizing the Data.

09 November 2014

Fischer's IM/GM Titles

It happens every World Championship match. I spend so much time watching the games that I have no time left for blog posts. Today Carlsen beat Anand in game two, putting him one game ahead after the draw in game one. The Norwegian also came close to beating the Indian in the first game, making the current match situation grim for Anand.

The end of the second game meant it was time to complete a backburner project. I updated my new page on FIDE Titles (see Early FIDE Titles for the introduction), adding clippings that document the award of Fischer's IM and GM titles in 1958.

At the same time I located those two clippings, I discovered the article shown on the left. From the column 'Games by USCF Members' by John W. Collins, it appeared in the edition of Chess Life dated 20 April 1958.

Collins was Fischer's teacher, mentor, and friend. How could he call his protegé 'Grandmaster Fischer' five months before he was awarded the title for his performance at the 1958 Portoroz Interzonal? Did he confuse the IM title awarded in February 1958 with the GM title awarded in September?

No, Collins didn't confuse anything. The first clue is in the term 'USCF Grandmaster'. The second clue is in the sentence,

The Terrific Teenager earned his title by winning the U.S. Junior, U.S. Open, New Jersey Open, and the U.S. Championship.

The USCF's 'National Chess Ratings: First 1957 Supplementary List' (August 1957) showed Fischer in the middle of the Master class ('2200-2399') at 2298. The 'Second 1957 Supplementary List' (March 1958) listed him as a Grandmaster ('2600 points up') at 2626. What about the Senior Master class ('2400-2599')? Fischer skipped it completely.

There are FIDE grandmasters and, once upon a time, there were USCF grandmasters. Fischer was both.

07 November 2014

GM King on Carlsen vs. Anand II

Today is the opening ceremony for Carlsen - Anand II, and tomorrow the first game. Let's look at GM Daniel King's match preview.

World Chess Championship 2014: Carlsen vs Anand Preview (9:07) • 'Daniel King previews the World Championship Match 2014 between Carlsen and Anand in Sochi.'

For GM King's preview of the 2013 match, Carlsen - Anand I, see GM King on Anand vs. Carlsen.

06 November 2014

Early FIDE Titles

A few weeks ago on my World Chess Championship Blog, after uploading the latest Zonal Index Update I decided to look into FIDE's early efforts to award titles like GM and IM. My first stop was Marcel Berman's four-part memoirs, 'Mes Souvenirs des Congrès de 1946 à 1958' (My Memories of [FIDE] Congresses), published during 1960 and 1961 in the FIDE Review.

Berman's accounts cover the high points of 13 consecutive postwar FIDE Congresses, when the federation laid the groundwork for world class chess initiatives that are still in force today. I collected paragraphs discussing FIDE titles (all in French) into a single page in my World Chess Championship Zonal directory, under the name FIDE Titles.

The new page is only an outline, but it does indicate where further research might bear fruit. I have a few other clippings to add to the Berman material and will do so as time and priorities allow.

04 November 2014

November 1964 'On the Cover'

These days, when you receive a monthly chess magazine -- whether paper or electronic -- that says, for example, October 1964 'On the Cover', you get it at the beginning of October. Fifty years ago, the chronology wasn't so obvious. When, for example, were the following November 1964 covers received?

Left: 'Festival of Chess'
Right: 'Leads U.S. Team Again'

Chess Life

A festival that featured living chess pieces was held in Sukhumi, USSR, to mark the end of the World Challengers Tournament for Women, played there in October. (Sovfoto)

Chess Review

Samuel Reshevsky is scheduled to play first board for the U.S. team in the Olympiad in Israel this month. Pal Benko will defend second board.

CL: I have a page on the 'Challengers Tournament' at World Chess Championship (Women) : 1964 Candidates Tournament (missing playoff info and PGN; is it time to fix?). The event finished at the beginning of October. The lead story in the November 1964 issue of CL, about the Armed Forces Championship, says that it finished 13 November.

CR: Samuel Reshevsky... Pal Benko... i.e. no Fischer. Does everyone remember the story? Olimpbase.org has a page on the event at 16th Chess Olympiad: Tel Aviv 1964, which started at the beginning of November and ended the same month. The first news page in that issue of CR, titled 'The World of Chess', covered 15 recent events. None of the reports said when the event took place. Let's see when our two magazines report on the 1964 Olympiad. (A suivre)

03 November 2014

TMERs: Back to Kasparov

For my previous post on TMERs, Carlsen - Anand Missing Fields, I made some mass updates to the records for both players. For this post, I checked the data on Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-) and made several smaller, targeted updates.

I'm at the point where I wanted to be for Carlsen - Anand II, the World Championship match that starts later this week. While the match is being played, I'll probably use these Monday posts to take a look at various aspects of the match. When I run out of topics, I'll return to the Kasparov TMER, suspended for TMERs: Back to Carlsen - Anand, and continue with 'Kasparov's travels during his bid for the FIDE presidency'.

02 November 2014

American Pastimes

In my previous post for this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, titled Quest for Logic, I mentioned that my most favorite posts are about paintings. It's even more of a treat to have two consecutive posts featuring paintings.

The item pictured below, titled 'LOUIS CHARLES MOELLER, (American, 1855-1930), THE CHESS GAME, oil on canvas', subtitled 'Part of a live auction event on Sunday, Oct 26', sold for US $6500 after receiving 12 bids from a single bidder. The bidding history shows the bidder increasing his bids from a 'Starting Price' of US $2250 to the winning bid over a timeframe of less than a minute. Someone really wanted that painting.

Why not just set the starting price to the minimum acceptable bid? Knowing nothing about eBay live auctions, I can't answer that question.

The description added,

LOT 77; Seller's Estimate: USD 3000 - 5000

THE CHESS GAME; oil on canvas; signed Louis Moeller, l.r.; 18 x 24 1/4 in. (25 x 31 in.); bears Brockton Arts Center, Brockton, Massachusetts label, verso

Exhibitions: "American Pastimes", Brockton Arts Center, Brockton, Massachusetts, January 27 - April 17, 1977.

For more about the artist, see Wikipedia's entry on Louis Moeller.