30 June 2014

Kasparov TMER: Early Years

Continuing with the Kasparov TMER (Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record) -- last seen in Updated 2014-06-02 and Next Steps -- I tackled the action to 'Compare the TMER with Kasparov on Garry Kasparov, Part I: 1973-1985'.

The first step was to compare the games in the book with the TMER PGN file available on Garry Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1973-). Since the full PGN file dates to March 2003, and some of the files for individual events were created in October 2000, the exercise was as much a look at the PGN file as it was at Kasparov's book.

Of the 100 games in the book, I identified seven early games missing in the PGN file. I also noticed several discrepancies in basic game data (round number, date played, etc.) on the PGN file. I'll address these at the same time I match the events listed on the TMER index with those described in the book.

29 June 2014

Diderot Chess

Two years ago, in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I featured the work of Chessspy in a post titled Restoring Chess Sets. This current edition of 'Top Chess Items' once again features Chessspy, this time for an auction titled 'ANTIQUE 18th CENTURY DIDEROT CHESS SET WITH ASSOCIATED BOX, EXTREMELY RARE', pictured below. The chess set sold for US $3150 after receiving 12 bids from seven bidders.

The description added,

In the late 1700s, a man named Denis Diderot (pronounced "DEE-derr-oh") compiled an encyclopedia of all the crafts of the 18th century. The entire encyclopedia was published between 1751 and 1772. It was 17 volumes of text plus 11 volumes of etched plates. The plates showed what was available at the time and how everything in the period was made. The Encyclopedia was tremendously important then, and it is perhaps even more important now because it lets us know what was made in the 18th century and how it was all done.

There is a plate in Diderot's Encyclopedia that shows a chess set. So we know that this style of chess set is AT LEAST as old as the Encyclopedia. Well, it almost goes without saying that very few of these chess sets have survived the 250+ years. Jon Crumiller has one (look it up online using his excellent site) and there are a couple of others in the world. That is about it.

About a year ago, I was lucky enough to discover a part set: 23 of the original 32 pieces. I had to devise various method of reproducing the 18th century manufacturing method and so it has taken me quite a while to finish this exciting and unusual project. It is now complete and on auction. I have put it with a box that is vintage and has nothing whatsoever to do with the set except that it holds it very nicely and also looks good with it.

The box doubles as the board and is also shown in the photo.

27 June 2014

Meet the Monks

Returning from vacation, what better way to get back to blogging than an unusual photo of the world's current no.1 & 2 chess players?


Chess grandmasters Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian play simul on 10 boards with monks and residents of Tatev © Flickr user PAN Photo under Creative Commons.

It's a pity the photographer had to ruin the published copy with '© PAN Photo' written five times on the image. Is he worried that people would crop it out?

10 June 2014

The 'No Cheating' Jigsaw Puzzle

Two essays on one of the hottest subjects in chess have appeared this month:-

The Goldowsky piece has 'award winning' stamped all over it. Rarely is a technical subject explained with such clarity.

While researching the topic of cheating for the umpteenth time, I discovered the following image -- a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle showing two wizards playing chess -- which portrays the crux of the debate particularly well.


'No Cheating'
Jigsaw Puzzles - SunsOut.com

I'm also following this subject in another thread, last seen in Ethics and Cheating.

09 June 2014

Kasparov TMER: Next Steps

I ended Kasparov TMER: Last updated 2014-06-02 (*) with a 'summary of projects for a rainy day'. The first was easy:-

2014-05-12: Was there really no activity between March and September 2003?

I confirmed that Kasparov played no publicly recorded games during that period. His book 'My Great Predecessors, Part 1' was published in August 2003, with Part 2 following in January 2004. I suppose he was busy with those. The last project is more complicated:-

Kasparov's run for FIDE President has seen him travelling to many countries, often giving exhibitions. Where are those documented?

His biggest fan club, Chessbase.com, announced Kasparov for President – 2014 FIDE Campaign on 8 October 2013. The usual sources -- Google and Youtube -- have a mountain of information starting from that date. Along with those are a number of good sources to be investigated:-

Since this will all require considerable time, the problem will be to find that time to check all sources. [(*) TMER = Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record]

08 June 2014

Castles in the Hair

In this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I don't get nearly as much artwork as I would like, so it's a pleasure to have two consecutive posts featuring art. The previous post was Another Najdorf.

The item on the left was titled 'QUEEN PLAYS CHESS Orig Oil Painting Peru Fine Art'. It sold for US $700, 'Best offer accepted'. The additional technical info described the painting as 'Size: 13.8 inches W x 25.5 inches H • Weight: 0.40 pounds • Materials: Oil and beeswax on canvas • Additional Info: Arrives unframed; Unstretched; Signed by the artist.'

The description said,

'Queen's Check' (2007) • Images from the game of chess fill this dreamlike composition by H├ęctor Acevedo. Horses in medieval finery prance across the canvas where a woman stands. Superimposed against her hair, a castle tower appears as though inhabiting her thoughts. "Leaves take the place of her mouth," the artist says. "In this way, I suggest a communication that transcends the spoken word." • Titled: "Jaque de la reina" in Spanish. Artist: Hector Acevedo

The artist added, '"I like subtlety, I like to hide, what is hidden creates mystery and mystery is the secret of art - in this way I challenge the viewer's imagination.' I wouldn't have guessed that this is an example of chess art, but the 'castle tower' in the woman's hair convinced me.

06 June 2014

Chess Mohawk

You say, 'Mohican'; I say, 'Mohawk'. Whatever you call it, this photo is not for all ages.


Chess piece mohican © Flickr user Funk Dooby under Creative Commons.

The tags said, 'world naked bike ride', 'wnbr', 'oil dependency', etc. Who ever thought WNBR could have something to do with chess?

05 June 2014

The USCF in Numbers

In my previous post, June 1964 'On the Cover', I discovered a list of U.S. Amateur Champions in a recent USCF Yearbook. On the same yearbook page as that list was a chart showing the growth of the USCF since 1940. Why 1940? I explained that a few months ago in Happy Anniversary, Chess Federations!.

A more recent copy of the same chart, available at 2013yearbook.pdf (I'm not sure if it's accessible to non-USCF members), is shown below. From around 1000 members in 1940, the federation grew to 78.466 members in June 2013.

The growth has not been linear. There was a spurt from 11.202 members mid-1968 to 59.779 members in 1974, then a long, choppy decline, then another period of growth from 52.898 members in 1990 to a peak of 88.908 members in 2002. The last dozen years have seen the organization in decline again.

The early 1970s are known as the 'Fischer years', when the struggle of the American Champion to become World Champion was tracked by the mainstream press. Here's an excerpt from the November 1972 issue of Chess Life (CL), titled 'Presidential Report' by Dr. Leroy Dubeck, USCF President 1969-1972.

The precedent has been established for each outgoing USCF President to present a brief report of the highlights of his term of office. Furthermore my predecessor, Marshall Rohland, compiled a rather interesting cross table of USCF growth over the past decades. I have appended the appropriate data for 1970-1972

As one can tell at a glance, we have grown dramatically during the past three years from about 13.000 members to 34.000 members and subscribers as of 30 June 1972. This dramatic growth was due to three main factors. We acquired Chess Review in the fall of 1969 and merged that magazine with Chess Life to produce the finest magazine in the English language, Chess Life & Review. Secondly the enormous publicity given to Bobby Fischer in particular and to chess in general by the mass news media has contributed significantly to our growth rate. As the publicity given to chess grew, so did our numbers. During the summer weeks concurrent with the World Championship match our growth rate dramatically increased. This has more than justified the decision of my administration to support Fischer's quest for the World Chess Championship.

Last, but certainly not least, our growth has been due to the untiring efforts of hundreds of chess organizers across the country who have worked tirelessly to expand USCF activity everywhere. Furthermore, the efficient staff at our business office, under the leadership of Executive Director Edmondson, have played an important role in assisting our grass roots supporters.

The numbers were echoed in the same issue of CL under 'Summary of USCF Business Meetings'.

Membership statistics were presented showing a 259% increase over the last six years. An annual growth rate, projected from the first six months of the year, was calculated at 32.9%, with a figure of 55.000 to be reached by 1975.

From CL, October 1973, 'Summary of 1973 USCF Business Meetings':-

Executive Director Edmondson presented a remarkably glowing membership and financial picture. Membership had almost reached 60.000 at the end of June, a 695% increase over the last ten years. Fiscal 1973 had a net gain of $223.800 of which $100.00 [sic; not sure if $10.000 or $100.000 is meant] is being set aside for relocation and reorganization of the Newburgh Business Office, now rapidly outgrowing its present quarters.

From CL, November 1974, 'Summary of 1974 USCF Business Meetings':-

Mr. Edmondson explained the smaller than usual increase in membership over tha last fiscal year (1.9%) as being due to the energy crisis, the economic recession, and World Champion Fischer's withdrawal from competition and threats not to defend his title. As measures to combat the decline in growth, Mr. Edmondson cited action in the following areas: (1) develop a 'stable of stars' of promising young players and training programs, (2) seeking publicity in the general news media for these stars, [...]

From CL, November 1975, 'Summary of 1975 USCF Business Meetings':-

Executive Director Edmondson reported that membership as of 30 June 1975, was 53.588, a decrease of 10.4%, but that an upturn was predicted by the end of the calendar year, unless the national economic situation worsened.

We know now that the economy had nothing to do with the decline. The increasing interest in chess and the subsequent falloff were both due to Fischer. As for the growth in the 1990s and the subsequent decline, I have no ready explanation.

03 June 2014

June 1964 'On the Cover'

This month's 'On the Cover' post maybe lacks the historical interest of last month's (see May 1964 'On the Cover'), but small events and moments are just as important to chess because they can touch so many people directly.


Left: 'U.S. Amateur Champion'
Right: 'Bates-Fenner Set'

Chess Life

Michael Hailparn, a 32-year-old instructor of philosophy at Glassboro State College, N.J. was the clear winner of the 1964 U.S. Amateur Chess Championship at Asbury Park over the Memorial Day weekend.

Chess Review

A unique and picturesque porcelain chess set was presented to architect Ward W. Fenner of Rowayton, Conn., as a Christmas present by his daughter Virginia: the board followed a year later. Cover shows White pieces at top, Black at bottom, full set and board in the middle. [...] Photos by Virginia's husband, David D. Bates.

I found a list of U.S. Amateur Champions (rated under 2200) in the April 2007 issue of Chess Life, available online at 2006 USCF Yearbook [PDF, archive.uschess.org]. The first winner of the event was E. Schuyler Jackson, Jr. in 1942. Since there were no ratings in 1942, how was amateur eligibility determined?

02 June 2014

Kasparov TMER: Last updated 2014-06-02

After filling in the blanks:-

+ Kasparov TMER: Last updated 2014-05-19
+ Kasparov TMER: PGN
= Garry Kasparov's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1973-); Last updated 2014-06-02.

Summary of projects for a rainy day (with the date of the original post):-

  • 2014-05-12: Was there really no activity between March and September 2003?
  • 2014-05-19: Comparing the results with a post I did last year, Kasparov at 50, reveals some gaps.
  • 2014-05-26: Compare the TMER with Kasparov on Garry Kasparov, Part I.
  • 2014-05-26: Remove events on the TMER marked in blue?

Kasparov's run for FIDE President (see FIDE Election: Time for a Change) has seen him travelling to many countries, often giving exhibitions. Where are those documented?

01 June 2014

The Riddles of Chess

Before I return to the main thread of the 'Chess in School' series, last seen on this blog in Three Studies, I need to address another aspect of the previous post in the series, Journal of Chess Research. Make that two aspects, because the first priority is to repeat a couple of links flagged in a comment to that 'Journal' post...

...those two links looking more permanent than the one I gave previously.

The second priority is to add another field needing peer-reviewed research, the impact of chess on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. I was reminded of this on the Streatham & Brixton blog in a post titled Doctor Garry Is In. While that post was only a short introduction to the subject, the followup post, Doctor Garry II: De Nos Jours, clearly stated the problem.

At times it seems like we're getting one chesser or another using twitter to tell us something about dementia every other day, but the week when there’s an actual organised attempt to push the issue into the nation’s consciousness [Dementia Awareness Week] we get nothing at all. I just can’t understand it. It’s almost as if the provision of information about dementia isn’t the primary purpose of those tweets at all.

The next post, Doctor Garry III: Dogs That Don't Bark, was even more direct.

Dr. Verghese was the lead author of a journal article which is routinely cited amongst chessers on the internet. Leontxo Garcia recently called it "the best study" on the thesis that chess could, "prevent or delay Alzheimer’s".

Sounds promising, except for one thing.

Verghese’s article doesn’t actually mention chess. At all.

'Chess Research' could be a growth industry. We have one field of study involving youngsters and another involving oldsters. What about the great mass of humanity in the middle, the beast that the riddle of the Sphinx says, 'walks on two legs at noon'? It's the age when people are least likely to take up the game. What can chess possibly do for them?