23 May 2017

Early Goichberg Tournaments

Running through two recent posts Early N.Y. Scholastic Championships and Early U.S. High School Championships was a common thread: Bill Goichberg and the Continental Chess Association (CCA). The chronologically first of the tournaments mentioned in those posts was the 'Greater New York High School and Junior High School Championships', April 1966. The following overview of Tournament Life Announcements (TLAs) from 1965 shows the earliest Goichberg tournaments listed in Chess Life (CL).

From various issues of Chess Life 1965

In 1969, Goichberg ran for USCF Vice-President, a position held for the three previous years by Isaac Kashdan. His candidate statement in the June 1969 issue of CL summarized his early career.

William Goichberg: I believe I have the experience to serve our Federation well as a national officer. Currently I am Director of the Continental Chess Association, USCF's most active affiliate. Previously, I was USCF rating statistician for 3 1/2 years, during the latter part of which I also wrote many articles for CHESS LIFE.

I have organized and directed over 100 USCF-rated events in seven states, with a total of more than 10,000 entrants; these have brought in over 1500 new USCF members. Among these has been the largest tournament ever held in the U.S. (1966-7 Greater N. Y. Scholastic Champions, 614 players), the largest rated tournament (same, 486 players), the largest single-section tournament (1969 National High School Championship, 370 players), and the largest open tournament (1968 Atlantic Open, 329 players). Of the fourteen largest rated tournaments ever held in this country, I have directed ten.

The success of these events has not been limited to one area, but includes the largest non-holiday open ever held in New Jersey, Connecticut, and D.C., and the largest open ever in Delaware and upstate New York. This activity has given me a thorough understanding of the elements of successful chess promotion -- of organizers' problems and players' needs.

He lost the election to Frank Skoff, but it was not his last run for USCF office and he would one day become USCF President. As for the CCA, the earliest tournament reference I can find is the TLA for the August 1968 Eastern Open in Washington DC.

Bobby Fischer usually gets full credit for the so-called Fischer boom in the 1970s, because his fame triggered the excitement. Tireless organizers like Bill Goichberg had already seeded interest among U.S players and were able to harness the newfound fascination for chess.

22 May 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, One Table

The previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Cross References, documented a new table with Korchnoi's second-tier events, those which were not on the original overview of his tournament and match record. I ended the post saying,

The TMER page is somewhat messy, but that should improve when I merge the two tables. Before I do that I need to look at a half-dozen events on the TMER which have no corresponding L&O codes.

Two of those events were errors that I had introduced and four were events with no games in L&O:-

1948 USSR Junior Chp., Tallinn
1957 Armenian Chp. (hors concours)
1964 Leningrad Chp.
1970 Match vs Bronstein (training match)

Merging the two tables left one last set of cross references to be noted:-

L&O also has nearly 50 pages of crosstables covering major events. These could be flagged in the TMER.

I'll take care of that on my next post, which should be a wrapup for this stage of the series on 'Korchnoi's Career'.


L&O: Levy & O'Connell, 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' (Oxford University Press 1979)
TMER: Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-2015)

21 May 2017

An Education in Hustling

From The Prisoner Firefighters Battling California’s Wildfires (thenation.com),

Three clips from a new film exploring the seemingly ordinary landscapes touched by our prison system.

The three clips treat subjects ranging from the heroic to the mundane: fighting wildfires, playing chess, sending a package.

How Prison Taught This Man How to Play Chess (3:34) • 'When Nahshon Thomas was incarcerated in the 1980s, he didn’t know much about chess. But he met a guy who told him that he would never beat him at the game.'

The description continued,

He didn’t like to hear that, but he decided to learn from him. Now that he’s out, he teaches chess and plays for money in New York’s Washington Square Park. "If you see any black man out here hustlin’, trying to sell something," Thomas says, "he’s been to jail."

For more, see Prison permeates everything in its path (nsnews.com; 'Documentary explores the soul-wrenching business of incarceration at DOXA [Documentary Film Festival, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada]'):-

U.S. President Barack Obama made headlines last year when he tweeted: "We could eliminate tuition at every public college and university in America with the $80 billion we spend each year on incarcerations."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Add this topic to the ongoing series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), even though we're straying from the original thought.

19 May 2017

Adding Prestige to the Game

Rex Sinquefield introduces this Forbes clip saying,

Our top 10 or 20 players in the world don't have to do anything but play chess and they can earn a very good living -- $250.000 a year and up -- all of them can do that, just by playing chess. That's a big change. The emphasis to get money into chess was something started by Bobby Fischer. It's ironic because he didn't personally care about money at all. He wanted to get money into chess because he thought it added prestige to the game. He was right.

In our modern world, prestige is measured by money.

Checkmate: Earning A Living In Competitive Chess (2:36) • 'While some chess players can earn big bucks playing the game, many grandmasters are turning to coaching, lecturing and commentary to make a living in the sport.'

The video is an introduction to a Forbes.com story, Making A Living In Chess Is Tough - But The Internet Is Making It Easier (5 May 2017). A few days later, another Forbes article, How St. Louis Helped Kickstart An American Chess Renaissance (9 May 2017), started with another video, St. Louis: America's Premier Chess Destination, which was again introduced by Sinquefield. According to an earlier Forbes story, In The Esports Era, Chess Is Alive And Thriving (October 2016), Sinquefield is a 'Forbes Opinion writer'; see Contributor: Rex Sinquefield (forbes.com; 'I focus on pro-growth, free market tax reform solutions in states') for a summary of his opinions.

A year ago, I posted on The Money Game (May 2016), where Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance interviewed Maurice Ashley. There we learned that GM Carlsen is the only chess player earning a seven-figure income from chess. The other players have to be content with six figures. Can money replace the Elo rating system?

18 May 2017

Renewing the CNC

Remember FIDE's Longest Running Joke (February 2014), aka CNC, aka Chess News Corporation? No? Neither does anyone else.

I don't know what drives me to do it, but once a week (during my weekly news round) I stop by the CNC site to see what's new or what's changed. There's never anything new or changed, but it's some kind of a ritual I go through. Earlier this year I noticed that the CNC web site had disappeared and I recorded the event in the top screen capture. The fine print on the page said,

Chessnc.com expired on 02/16/2017 and is pending renewal or deletion.
Backorder Domain / Renew Now

I didn't know why anyone would want to backorder or renew the domain, but I continued to check the site once a week, just in case. This week, the site appeared again, along with the same photo seen in 'Running Joke', a photo from early 2012.

I recorded the latest incarnation in the bottom screen capture. Here the fine print said,

When Mr. Ilyumzhinov defeated his own record by becoming the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) again in 2009, he started working on ways how to promote chess and attract sponsors. That is when the idea to market chess through a partnership with a small start-up company called Chess Network Company (CEC) was born. In the past, FIDE was mostly focused on events once at a time and the world championship cycle was inconsistent. These constant changes made it difficult for FIDE to attract sponsorships. This was about to change with CNC getting involved, and at the FIDE Congress in October 2009 the partnership was made official.

CNC was tasked to create a legacy on which to build and keep the interest for chess worldwide, even after the events and tournaments ended. They would promote chess by increasing the media interest, making new chess brands and products and distributing chess news in internet.

CNC would not be given all marketing rights immediately but would work in full cooperation with FIDE. CNC will be creating and contracting chess events with the aim to get people more engaged and involved. With the chess in the core, CNC would be organizing promotional activities with the educational component in all of them, hosting celebrities and local leaders to attend and complement chess competitions.

With their extensive experience in marketing, CNC editorial team would be following chess tournaments, matches and games and all other chess-related events. The results will be presented in the media in an interesting and creative way with a goal to attract both chess and no-chess audience. In addition, CNC will be responsible for production and distribution of editorials including interviews with organizers of chess events, players and future talents. They will be bringing stories, photographs and interesting facts about chess, creating BrainGym puzzle and much more.

If the year in that excerpt was 2016 instead of 2009, it would read the same. I marked the official transition from CNC to its successor Agon in a post on my World Championship Blog, 2013 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship? (December 2013), a transition which started five years ago. So why the renewed interest in the moribund CNC site? I think it's related to the latest event in the Ilyumzhinov saga, He Didn't Resign (April 2017), but I'm sure we'll find out in due time. In the meantime, I'll keep checking the CNC site.

16 May 2017

Smythe, Not Smith

From the Bain Collection [loc.gov/pictures/collection/ggbain; LOC = Library of Congress]:-

The George Grantham Bain Collection represents the photographic files of one of America's earliest news picture agencies. The collection richly documents sports events, theater, celebrities, crime, strikes, disasters, political activities including the woman suffrage campaign, conventions and public celebrations.

The collection has only a few images featuring chess, although a wider net on loc.gov brings a few hundred.

J.H. Smythe Jr. & Whitaker

Whitaker is better known as Norman T. Whitaker [Wikipedia]:-

(1890–1975), an American International Master of chess, a lawyer, a civil servant, and a chess author. He was convicted of several crimes, was disbarred from the practice of law, and served several terms in prison. His most infamous criminal escapade was a confidence trick involving the Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932.

What about J.H. Smythe Jr.? Another photo from the Bain Collection, J.H. Smythe & Son, is captioned,

Reverend John Henry Smythe, Sr. with his son, chess expert John Henry Smythe Jr.

Smythe Jr. has a page on Chessgames.com, John Henry Smythe ('Number of games in database: 1; Years covered: 1901'),

(1883-1956), born in Philadelphia, USA. He learned the rules of chess at the age of 16. Smythe Jr. attended Philadelphia University and was the elected chess club president for three years.

That one game was a draw against Em.Lasker at a simul. Most of the discussion on Smythe's CG page was to determine his date of death, a project related to "Undeceased" CG players over 100 years old by Zanchess.

15 May 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Cross References

I ended my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, New Events, with an action:-

The next step will be to merge that table [of 70 'new' events] into the 101 events classified as 'Already on TMER'. (*)

In preparation for the merge, I added the months given by Levy & O'Connell in 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' (L&O) to most of the 70 new events. I also added codes used by L&O to the 101 events classified as 'Already on TMER'. This allows me to cross-reference the different sources of data going into the 1946-1977 portion of the TMER. L&O also has nearly 50 pages of crosstables covering major events. These could be flagged in the TMER.

The TMER page is somewhat messy, but that should improve when I merge the two tables. Before I do that I need to look at a half-dozen events on the TMER which have no corresponding L&O codes.

(*) TMER = Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-2015).

14 May 2017

A Mother's Day Chess Plaque

You might expect this fortnightly series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price to fall on Mother's Day once every two years, but due to the vagaries of blogging -- like a vacation once in a while -- adherence to a calendar cycle isn't that strict. Last year we had Chess Builders (May 2016), and I could just as easily go two consecutive years without observing Mom's special day.

Titled '~1930 CHESS MEDAL / PLAQUE YOUNG GIRL / WOMAN WITH CHESS 147 x 79 mm SIGN.CA4?', the item pictured below sold for US $327.55 after three bids from three bidders. It was one of a very few chess items that would make an appropriate Mother's Day gift.

The description repeated the title and added,

Size / Weight / Material:
147.0 mm x 79.0 mm x 6.0 mm / 232.0 gr / BRONZE

Condition: EXCELLENT; min. sign of use

Since the only identification on the piece is 'SIGN.CA4?' (in the upper left corner), and since I have no idea how to start figuring out what that means, I'll stop here. 'Happy Mother's Day!' to all mothers reading this post.

12 May 2017

The Prodigal Chess Player

The Flickr description said,

Section of the Prodigal Son window in St. Mary's parish church, Feltwell, Norfolk [England]. This is the eponymous son gambling away his money - he's just lost his shirt.

Prodigal: 'characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure; recklessly spendthrift' • Merriam-Webster

Chess, Feltwell © Flickr user Steve Day under Creative Commons.

The parable of the Prodigal Son starts,

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. [...]" • Luke 15:11-32, The Parable of the Lost Son (biblegateway.com; New International Version)

Games aren't mentioned in the passage, so how did chess get stuck with the bum rap? It isn't normally associated with 'wild living'. That distinction is normally reserved for any game that involves dice.

11 May 2017

Early U.S. High School Championships

While researching Early N.Y. Scholastic Championships (April 2017), where the first was in 1967, I noted,

I couldn't find the 1969 event and I imagine that it was pushed aside by the first 'National High School Championship'.

As usual with chess history, one thing led to another and I soon found myself researching early U.S. national high school championships. Shown here are the first five winners.

Top row: John Watson (1969), Robert Newbold (1970)
Bottom row: Larry Christiansen (1971), Craig Barnes (1972)

Where's the fifth? In 1973, Larry Christiansen, a future three-time U.S champion, repeated his 1971 success. References for all five events are shown in the following table, which uses the same codes as in the 'N.Y. Scholastic' post.

Event Date Announced Reported Rated
National High School Championship 1969-04 CL69B082
CL69B083 (note)
CL69E173 (cover)
CL69F234 (teams)
CL69F241 (article)
2nd Annual National High School Championship 1970-04 CL70C172 CL70F293 (cover)
CL70F310 (article)
3rd Annual... 1971-04 CL71C174 CL71F289 (cover)
CL71G394 (article)
4th Annual... 1972-04 CL72C198 CL72G438 CL72I568
5th U.S. Scholastic Championships 1973-05 CL73C176 CL73H447 CL73F298 (note on rating lists)

Along with Christiansen, John Watson is well known in the current chess scene, primarily as an author. What about the other two early champions?

The Chessgames.com page on Robert Newbold, shows the last game in 1977. This must have been from the 1977 San Francisco tournament (the 'Bagby' event, according to 'Chess Results, 1975-1977' by Gino Di Felice), which Newbold won. Amazon.com has an author's page for Robert C. Newbold, with four books on project management. The chess programming subdomain on Wikispaces.com has a page on Craig Barnes, showing activity in the 1970s and 80s.

For a list of national high school champions through 2013, see Scholastic Champions (chessmaniac.com) by Bill Wall.

09 May 2017

The Game of (Belgian) Kings

The eBay description for this photo said, 'Prince Philippe playing chess with father, King Baudouin', but I knew better.

25 July 1990 - Chateau de Ciergnon
(Photo: Van Parys Media, Brussels)

From Wikipedia's Baudouin of Belgium:-

The fifth King of the Belgians, following his father's abdication, from 1951 until his death in 1993. [...] Because he had no children with his wife, Fabiola de Mora, the crown passed to his younger brother, Albert II (formerly Prince of Liège), following his death.

From Wikipedia's Albert II of Belgium:-

The sixth King of the Belgians from 1993 until his abdication in 2013. [...] He was succeeded by his son Philippe on 21 July 2013.

If we change that eBay description to, 'Prince Philippe playing chess with uncle, King Baudouin', everything works.

08 May 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, New Events

The last time I did an update to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) was for:-

Since then, I've done a series of posts to identify other events from Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, based on 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell:-

In those last six posts, I isolated a total of 208 events. Those I classified as:-

  25 Unidentified
  12 Errors (fixed)
  70 Not on TMER
101 Already on TMER

For the 70 events classified as 'Not on TMER', I copied all data from the six posts and used it to create a new table for the TMER. The next step will be to merge that table into the 101 events classified as 'Already on TMER'.

07 May 2017

Applying Chess Skills to Life

In this series on the 'Sociology of Chess', I last covered the FIDE angle in FIDE's Social Commissions (December 2016). One of the two commissions recently issued FIDE Social Action Commission's Report (SAC; March 2017), 'How Chess Can Help Transform Communities Across the World' by Beatriz Marinello, Chair of Social Action Chess Commission. Here is a summary of its main points.

'Why does learning and playing chess make a positive impact in people’s lives?' • Two theories of learning are mentioned in the report. The first was developed by Jean Piaget.

In the 1960s educators and researchers began studying the benefits of learning and practicing chess. At that time, Jean Piaget, a Swiss clinical psychologist, who created the theory of cognitive development was the biggest influence in education and learning. His theory explains how a child constructs a mental model of the world. Jean Piaget disagreed with the idea that intelligence was a fixed trait, and regarded cognitive development as a process which occurs due to biological maturation and interaction with the environment. [...] With the game of chess, naturally, the question is: At what age can children learn chess? [...]

The second was developed by Howard Gardner.

In 1983 American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner presented the theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to Gardner, intelligence is broken down into nine different types, also called the nine domains of intelligence. [...]

I featured Gardner's work a few years ago in Chess and Spatial Intelligence (February 2014). Until this point, the SAC report is a summary of 'Chess in School' theoretical underpinnings, but the report continues.

The progression began from the need to understand how learning a game like chess can have educational value to using chess as a tool for social improvement and enhance people’s lives.

'How can the social aspects of chess transform lives across the world?' • The report presents two mission statements. The first is a statement of objectives.

The FIDE Social Action Commission (SAC) was created at the 83rd FIDE Congress General Assembly [2012] in Istanbul, Turkey. Our mission is to promote the use of chess as an equalizer, especially in the areas of women's equality and making chess accessible to children in at risk communities throughout the world; bridging the gap between the social and economic differences that impact people across the world. The Social Action Commission also promotes the use of chess as an aid for persons at risk from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses particularly among seniors.

The second is a description of methods.

Mission: The main focus of the Social Action Commission programs and projects is to understand the different ways in which to implement chess projects for social enhancement and positive impact in the communities. Our approach has been proven successful. Our Commission has been facilitating FIDE Trainers and Organizers Seminars. We understand that our goal requires the support of the local communities and empower people to work towards the mission of developing and growing chess. The Social Action Commission is involving families and communities; not only children, this provides holistic development and involvement.

The commission's main success today is the 'Smart Girl' chess program, presented in a series of photos.. The report concludes,

We are not just offering chess sets and chess programs, we are offering opportunities to at risk communities through chess and providing guidance on how to apply these chess skills to life in a way that can empower.

Excepting the Alzheimer's angle -- see More on Chess and Alzheimer's (July 2016) for my last post on that subject -- who can argue with empowerment through chess?

05 May 2017

Excerpts from 'Pawn Sacrifice'

The last time I posted about the movie 'Pawn Sacrifice' on this blog was The Real Bobby Fischer? (February 2016).

The film was much as I expected -- great entertainment, but weak on chess history and heavy on the 'Fischer as madman' theme. I wanted to do a longer review, but this will have to wait until I get another chance to see it.

I still haven't had another chance, but Youtube channel Movieclips has provided some excerpts from the film. Here's the last one.

Pawn Sacrifice (2014) - The Greatest Chess Game Ever Played Scene (10/10) | Movieclips (3:26) • 'Even Spassky (Liev Schreiber) is dazzled by Bobby's (Tobey Maguire) unprecedented chess techniques that win him the 1972 World Chess Championship.'

The game appears to be game six of the 1972 title match; see Robert James Fischer vs Boris Spassky; World Championship Match (1972) on Chessgames.com for the full game. The first nine excerpts are on a Movieclips playlist, Pawn Sacrifice (2014) - Movie.

04 May 2017

2017 CJA Awards Announcement

It's that time of year again, when the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) announce their annual award categories. For at least the third year running, the list of categories was published in the May Chess Life (CL) and not on the CJA's web site. Last year I posted three times on the CJA Awards...

...and I expect to do the same this year. A comparison of the categories for 2016 and 2017 reveals a few changes...

2016 2017

...mainly under 'News and Features'. The CJA's home page, at chessjournalism.org, lists a number of other significant announcements:-

  • 2016-10-10: President's Report • 2016 CJA Annual Meeting – President’s View, 'along with a collection of photos'
  • 2017-02-06: New CJA Webmaster Named by President • 'Bethany Carson is webmaster-elect'
  • 2017-03-15: Glenn Petersen retires • 'Dean of American Chess Editors'

One curiosity I noticed was in the President's Report:-

The [2016] awards were then read and I gave a brief comment about each category. The lengthiest of these dealt with the award for Best Tournament Report, which had a record 15 entries. There were questions about whether the voting would work for such a large category and I discussed having checked with one of our judges, who is a mathematician and who assured me that the scoring for such a large category would work fine.

That category, 'Best Tournament Report', is missing from the list of 2017 categories. Considering that the main purpose of the awards is to generate revenue for the CJA -- '$15 for the first entry (this includes membership or renewal to CJA) and an $8 fee for each subsequent entry' -- why eliminate the most successful income producer? Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to the 2017 award entries.

While I'm on the subject of awards, the May 2017 CL also brought the news that 'GM Andy Soltis is the 2017 Chess Educator of the Year'. Soltis has won numerous CJA awards in the past.

02 May 2017

May 1967 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, the two most important American chess magazines each featured a pillar of U.S. chess: the U.S. Open and Bobby Fischer.

Left: 'Site of 1967 U.S. Open'
Right: 'Monaco Grand Prix'

Chess Life

No, Kolti, not the eighteen million dollar Atlanta Stadium; but the Atlanta American Motor Hotel, which is part of the modern Atlanta skyline at the top et the photo. However, the Tournament Committee states the stadium will be filled the first three days of our tournament as the Braves meet the San Francisco Giants. Hotel space is at a premium whenever the Braves meet the Giants, so PLEASE MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS NOW.

'Kolti' would have been IM George Koltanowski. As we saw two years ago, the Chess Life half of the May 1965 'On the Cover' featured the 1965 U.S. Open, San Juan, Puerto Rico, with TD George Koltanowski. In other, related news, the Giants won the first two games of the three day series, but the Braves won the third game.

Chess Review

Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer of Brooklyn, the chess champion of the United States, may not have broken the bank at Monte Carlo but did carry off 5,000 francs, which we are told equals $1,015, along with a trophy presented by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, for his score of 7-2 in the tournament at Monte Carlo. The tournament had many curious points. Fischer swept to a 5-0 score and looked to be staging a runaway but then drew with Vassily Smyslov and Aleksandar Matanovich and, in a close last round, backed into his victory by losing to Yefim Geller while Smyslov took a "great-grand-master" draw in ten moves with Svetozar Gligorich.

The crosstable of the event was shown on the Chess Life half of last month's April 1967 'On the Cover'.

01 May 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Unidentified Events

After Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Short Events -- 'where Levy & O'Connell (L&O) showed only two or three games played by Korchnoi in a particular event' -- I tackled 'events' where L&O have only a single game. I found 36 games in this category. Of these,

  • 1/2 were games with no event given
  • 1/3 were errors either in L&O's index of players or in the scanning process; I corrected these
  • the rest were events where only a single game is in L&O

That last group of games/events could be included on Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). Next step: Starting with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Long Events (March 2017), add all of the newly identified events to the TMER.

30 April 2017

Staunton's Text Book

Here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, we've seen books and we've seen Howard Staunton, as in Luxury Chess Sets (February 2014), but I can't remember seeing a book by Staunton discussing his chess sets. The auction for the book pictured below was titled '1849 Chess Players Text Book Staunton 1st ed Jacques, very rare, NOT the handbook; Issued to go with the classic sets he signed & endorsed'. The winning bid was GBP 370 (approximately US $478.69, according to eBay) after 22 bids from six bidders.

The auction's description was especially informative:-

AUTHOR: H Staunton
TITLE: Chess Players Text Book.
YEAR: c1859, very early edition.
SIZE: 4 in x 5 in approx
CONDITION: I am selling the usual rare and interesting bargains this week. This is a very nice find; I have not seen another copy in 20 years. No copies on COPAC (*). Note that this is his text book, not the very common hand book. It seems to date from 1849 when his sets were first produced and specifically mentions the signed boxes of which there were only 500. Original green publisher's paperback binding generally clean and bright but with a few marks here and there, front cover and first few pages off, spine mostly missing. Inscribed and dated 1859 inside. All edges gilt. Pages very clean, few pencil notes towards the end. Text block binding strong. Well worth having, this is hard to find, also an early and important work.

Along with the book's cover and price list of chess sets, both shown in the composite image above, was a scan of the book's preface. It said,

The following pages were written to accompany the very elegant Chess-men with which the Designers have complimented the Author by associating his name. Being intended only for beginners, they are divested as much as possible of whatever might appear perplexing or repulsive; and the examples for study presented in the order conceived to be the most natural and easy for apprehension.

To profit fully by these examples, the learner will do well, when he is thoroughly conversant with the preliminary matter of the first six chapters, to restrict himself to the examination of one position at a sitting. Let him commence, for instance, with the easy Check-mate of Diagram No. 4, and when he quite comprehends the object of each move, proceed to the next diagram, and the next, and so on through the whole, in the sequence in which they appear. He will soon master this series of short contests, wherein one or two pieces only are engaged on each side, and then be in a condition to enter on the study of the OPENINGS, when the conflict is begun with the full array of both armies in opposition.

In playing over the several demonstrations, his labour will be greatly lightened, and his progress facilitated, by the use of the Chess-men to which we have alluded. To say nothing of their unquestionable superiority in form and proportion to all others intended for actual play, the happy thought of distinguishing the Pieces appertaining to the King, so that no confusion can arise, throughout the longest game, between the King's Rooks and Knights and those belonging to the Queen *, renders them peculiarly adapted for the purposes of Chess Analysis; and is of itself sufficient, we hope, to entitle them to the preference of those amateurs who are seeking to improve their play.


* In the registered Chess-men, the King's Rook and Knight are distinguished from the same pieces on the Queen's side by a small crown stamped on their summit.

Note the classic advice to study the endgame first -- 'master this series of short contests, wherein one or two pieces only are engaged on each side, and then be in a condition to enter on the study of the openings' -- given over 150 years ago. Less classic is the necessity to distinguish the Rooks and Knights on the Kingside from those on the Queenside.

(*) COPAC: National, Academic and Specialist Library Catalogue (copac.jisc.ac.uk)

28 April 2017

Queen of Katwe Meets Queen of IMF

Chess has brought Phiona Mutesi from the slums of Uganda to the portals of power in Washington, D.C.

Photo top left: SM17 Conversation with Phiona Mutesi (Queen of Katwe) © Flickr user International Monetary Fund under Creative Commons.

The caption for all images said,

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Communications Assistant Director Sabina Bhatia [in red jacket] welcomes Phiona Mutesi from Uganda to the IMF Headquarters 19 April 2017 in Washington, DC. Mutesi is a chess player from Uganda where her story got told by Disney films in "Queen of Katwe". IMF Staff Photograph / Stephen Jaffe

Mutesi has been mentioned in several posts on this blog. For the first, see 'The Queen of Katwe' (January 2011).

27 April 2017

Early N.Y. Scholastic Championships

A recent post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, started, 'Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were [...]'. There was another story that caught my interest, Golden Anniversary NY State Scholastic Shatters Attendance Records, because of the golden anniversary angle.

This year marked the 50th Anniversary of the New York State Scholastic Championship, and, as befits such a milestone, this year’s attendance shattered previous records. Last year, the event had 948 players, which was the third highest number since MSA began keeping statistics in 1991. The tournament had never broken the thousand player barrier—until this year’s total of 1165 players in eleven sections. Looking at previous MSA history, only six tournaments have broken that barrier, and five of those were New York City Scholastic Championships! • NB: If 'MSA' doesn't strike a chord, see US Chess Federation - Member Services Area.

For the past few years I've been spending one post per month on U.S chess news from 50 years ago -- the most recent was April 1967 'On the Cover' -- and I had the tools at hand to research this particular piece of chess history.

At first I thought the 'New York State Scholastic Championship' might have started as one of Bill Goichberg's early tournaments, but I soon learned that his event was the 'Greater New York Scholastic Championships'. As I gathered notes from different sources, I had trouble keeping track of the different bits of information, so I developed the following table to keep things straight. I know it's not easy to read, but it helps to know that 'CL66C077' means Chess Life 1966-03 ('A' through 'L' are months) p.77.

Event Date Announced Reported Rated
Greater New York High School and Junior High School Championships 1966-04 CL66C077 CL66E120 CL66H184
Greater New York Scholastic Championships 1966-12 CL66J255 CL67A014
(The Greater New York Scholastic Championships of December 1966 also received a mention in the March 1967 'On the Cover', where it was featured on the cover of Chess Review.)
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (3rd annual) 1967-12 CL67L401 CL68D140 CL68C097
New York Scholastic Championship
(Ithaca NY)
1968-03 CL68A039
'second statewide high school event for New York State'
Greater New York Scholastic Championships (4th annual) 1968-12 CL68L461 CL69E205 CL69C114

Back to the golden anniversary angle, it's not clear to me if 2017 was the 50th annual event or the 50th anniversary (i.e. the 51st event). Whatever it means, the numbering is probably off by a year or two. Does it matter? I also discovered the '51st Greater New York Scholastic Chess Championships 2017' on gnyscc.com. If 1966 was the first, then 2015 was the 50th, and again we're off by a year.

Enough nitpicking. The early New York scholastic events were the start of a long-running tradition and set the stage for the Fischer boom a few years later.


Later: After posting the above table I continued to look for early NY scholastic events. I eventually found the first 'New York Scholastic Championship'; the announcement was in Chess Review ('CR') rather than Chess Life ('CL').

Event: New York State High School Championship (Liverpool [Syracuse] NY)
Date: 1967-03
Announced: CR67B038 (1st Annual N.Y. State Scholastic Championship; secondary school students)
Reported: CL67D088
Rated: CL67F165

After the 1968-03 event listed in my original table, I found the following.

Event: New York State High School Championship (Binghamton NY; CCA)
Date: 1970-05
Announced: CL70C174
Reported: CL70G399(?)
Rated: CL70H456

Event: New York State Individual & Team of Two High School Championship (Binghamton NY)
Date: 1971-04
Announced: CL71D223
Reported: ?
Rated: CL71H462

I couldn't find the 1969 event and I imagine that it was pushed aside by the first 'National High School Championship'.

Event: National High School Championship (New York NY; CCA)
Date: 1969-04
Announced: CL69B082 (article B083)
Reported: CL69E173 (cover); CL69F234 (teams); CL69F241 (article)
Rated: CL69G301

Taking all of this together with my original observation,

Back to the golden anniversary [NY State Scholastic] angle, it's not clear to me if 2017 was the 50th annual event or the 50th anniversary (i.e. the 51st event). Whatever it means, the numbering is probably off by a year or two.

It's fair to say that the 2017 NY State Scholastic indeed marked the 50th anniversary of the first such event.

25 April 2017

GM Bisguier, Catalog Model

After last week's post, Bisguier's Earliest Years, I could have titled this current post 'Bisguier's Later Years'. I've used USCF product catalogs in the past -- see 'The Chips Are Down!' (July 2015) and An Early Digital Clock (August 2015) -- to establish a baseline for technical progress, but they also serve to fix commercial trends in time.

US Chess

Left: Official 1992 Winter Catalog
Right: Official 1992 Summer Catalog

1992 Winter Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends and uses the Deluxe Fold-Out Table! (Set and gandmaster not included.)

There were two models of the table that sold for $159 ('Deluxe' model) and $99 ('Space-Saving' model). The introduction for both said,

Let your dream chess table unfold! Own a beautiful wood chess table without having to rearrange the furniture! Folded up, this unique table is a space-saver that can be carried with just one hand. In a moment, the handle disappears as you fold out and lock into place a sturdy, full-size table! And yes, the squares align perfectly in the middle of the board!

This beauty is hand-made of solid American hardwoods by Amish craftsmen. The richness of the walnut squares and the distinctive grain of the light ash squares make each board unique. No cheap veneers here! Oak gives the table its strength.

1992 Summer Catalog:

GM Arthur Bisguier recommends the Informants as the rapid way to winning chess!

Volumes 50 and up sold for $25.50 each. The catalog explained,

Get the winning edge with Informants! Knowledge is power. You want your chess information well organized so you can find it quickly. And you want it fast so that you can score wins with the latest grandmaster ideas in your openings.

You know that Informant is the world's leading theoretical publication, with games selected and annotated by the world's best. The games are arranged by opening variation and subvariation, and keyed to the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings and Encyclopedia of Chess Endings for quicker reference. Includes the best combinations and endgames.

How do we know that the winter catalog preceded the summer catalog? The winter catalog said, 'Informant 53 arrives in March!'; the summer catalog said, 'Informant 54 is due out this summer!'

24 April 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Short Events

Continuing with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Team Events++, for today's post I looked at events where Levy & O'Connell (L&O) showed only two or three games played by Korchnoi in a particular event. I started with 37 of these.

The following chart shows how I cataloged the different events. A handful of events (e.g. '1946 USSR Junior Ch., Leningrad') are mismatches between the number of games according to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) and the number of games given in L&O. Another handful (e.g. '1949 MOS1') are not explained in L&O. One 'event' is an error introduced by the scanning of the L&O index; for a description of that process, see Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper (January 2017).

The rest of the events show the description given in L&O. Most of these are team matches between cities. Next post: the stragglers!

23 April 2017

Chess, Autism, and Youtube

April is National Autism Awareness Month. The last time I posted on the subject was Autism, Rumors, and Word Association (April 2014), and it seems appropriate to include it in the series on 'The Sociology of Chess', last seen a month ago in Chess Strategy Woodcut.

There aren't many videos that cover chess and autism. The following is from Youtube's ABC News (Australia) channel.

Chess club helping young minds (2:09) • '(24 Jun 2012) Launceston families have formed a chess club aimed at helping gifted children and those suffering from ADHD or autism.'

Another Youtube clip I considered for this post was KVDC Caspar Hermeling, chess and autism interview - Karel van Delft 2014 (Dutch language with English subtitles; Interviewer: 'You play chess and you have Asperger'). It ends with the thought,

Chess brought me much pleasure: the game itself and the social contacts.

Any true fan of the game would certainly agree.

21 April 2017

Parents at the Supernationals

This video, on Youtube's US Chess Federation channel, starts with a quote.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.'

At first I was puzzled by the clip, because it seems to be providing advice to parents for a specific tournament. But what tournament?

The Good Chess Parent (5:43) • 'If you're a parent, watch this video.'

Then I found another video published on the same day:-

Taken out of any context where the video might be referenced, the title is meaningless. The description said, 'Do you know everything you need for Supernationals 2017? Watch this video and find out.' Now I understood. Nearly a week later, the same channel published another video in the same series:-

Wikipedia buries the topic in a page on Scholastic chess in the United States. which is out of date:-

Beginning in 1997, there has been a single event known as the Supernationals where all events are held in one place simultaneously. [...] This event currently occurs every four years; the previous two Supernational events have shown huge participation numbers.

For more information on the forthcoming event, see SuperNationals VI (uschess.org), May 12-14, 201; Nashville, TN.

20 April 2017

Bisguier's Earliest Years

Over the last two weeks, the most important chess news stories were [ FIDE President Ilyumzhinov] Didn't Resign (on my WCC blog), 2017 Chess Champions: Men's Global Rising Star, Women's Surprise Player Prove Worth, Win U.S. and U.S. Women's Championships in Saint Louis (prnewswire.com; 'Grandmaster Wesley So and Women's Grandmaster Sabina Foisor Take Prestigious Titles of 2017 U.S. and U.S. Women's Champions, Respectively'), and Former US Champion and "Dean of Chess" Arthur Bisguier, Dies at 87 (uschess.org). That last article started,

Hall of Famer, US Champion and Grandmaster Arthur Bernard Bisguer (October 8, 1929- April 5, 2017) died at 87 years old of respiratory failure. In 2005, Arthur Bisguier was recognized by the US Chess Federation as “Dean of American Chess”, in honor of his promotion of and many contributions to the game.

From 'Chess Memoirs' by Dr. Joseph Platz (Chess Enterprises 1979, p.46):-

It was in 1943 at the Bronx Chess Club that I met a boy of 14 whose chess game made quite an impression on me. Immediately I sensed that here was a master in the making. I played him often and analyzed with him the way I had learned it from Lasker. I brought him to the Manhattan CC and there he met the competition which he needed to acquire master strength.

Soon he won the the championship of the Manhattan CC, and then the New York State Championship. Afterwards he won the U.S. Championship, he played and won some international tournaments abroad, and finally was awarded the title "International Grandmaster". His name: Arthur Bisguier. I claim to have discovered him and inspired him with the love for chess which is necessary for great achievements.

In the introduction to the same book, GM Bisguier echoed the story:-

When I started playing tournament chess in the early 1940's, my play was restricted almost entirely to public school and to the Bronx Empire City. Chess Club. There the perennial champion was a quiet, gentlemanly, solidly built yet shadowy figure by the name of Dr. Joseph Platz. Why shadowy? Because like the shadow he seemed to appear and disappear at the most unlikely times. [...]

Dr. Platz' play and demeanor, both on and off the board, served as an example for me during my formative years. His encouragement and practical advice provided a useful stimulus which served as a springboard for many of my successes in those days. His own play featured soundness with the right blend of daring aggression. He had a few "pet" lines in the opening which he handled with great virtuosity, so much so that he won more than his share of special prizes for brilliancies and best played games. To this day, thirty six years after I first met Dr. Platz, I still occasionally "borrow" one of his lines and they seldom disappoint me. Occasionally, as a result of not having the time to keep up with the latest wrinkles of opening theory, he would obtain a difficult position, but that was where his resourcefulness and tenacity held full sway, and he saved many a game where a less stouthearted player would have resigned. This was a legacy from his idol and mentor, the great former world champion, Dr. Emanuel Lasker. [...]

Arthur B. Bisguier; March, 1979; International Grandmaster

Bisguier's own autobiography ('The Art of Bisguier') was published in two volumes: The Early Years: 1945-1960 (amazon.com) and Selected Games 1961-2003 (ditto).

18 April 2017

April 1967 'On the Cover'

Last month's edition of 'On the Cover' (see March 1967 for details) featured two events for amateur players. This month's edition features two important events from 50 years ago that have been obscured by the passage of time.

Left: 'Fischer Triumphs in Grand Prix d'Echecs de Monaco'
Right: 'Ubiquitous Champion'

Chess Life

Coming in June: Grandmaster Lombardy's full report on this event.

Chess Review

Wherever one finds titles for the taking, in this country at the very least, it is apt to be Pal Benko who takes them. A former Hungarian champion, he has splurged to titles since coming here in the Eastern Open, the American Open, the National Open and the United States Open as well as numerous regional events. His latest exploit has been to re-affirm his near-monopoly on the championship of the Manhattan Chess Club in New York.

Wikipedia's page on the Manhattan Chess Club ('closed in 2002') has no list of champions. Benko's last solo 'On the Cover' was March 1966, but he also appeared in October 1966 ('U.S.Open Co-Champions') and November 1966 ('Our Men in Havana').

17 April 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Team Events++

Let's take stock. The first portion of Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) lists only the major events played by Korchnoi during the period 1946-1977. For the last few posts -- the most recent being Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More of the Same -- I've been comparing the TMER with the game record in Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O), which also covers the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career.

In the 'More of the Same' post, I identified 13 events missing from the TMER. The top portion of the following chart shows those events along with appropriate identification. Most are team events.

The bottom portion of the chart lists 34 more events where L&O gives between four and six games for the event. A handful of these match the TMER, e.g. '1957 European Team Ch., Vienna'. Another handful are listed on the TMER, but with a difference in the number of games played, e.g. '1950 Leningrad Ch. [13 games played]' but with only five games in L&O.

The majority of the events are missing from the TMER completely, e.g. '1956 ? [Molotov, Match vs. Kotkov]'. Most of the missing events are either team events or mini-matches. Some events have a footnote, e.g. '1959 Budapest (A)', which I'll address at a later time.

16 April 2017

The 'Seventh Season' Is Chess

The last time we saw a lithograph on Top eBay Chess Items by Price was Chess Stone Lithograph (December 2014). The item pictured below was titled 'Will Barnet Seventh Season signed and numbered 15/300 girl chess cat' and sold for US $1,300.00 on a single bid.

The item's description said,

"Seventh Season”; Color serigraph/ lithograph; 1975?; Framed size: 17 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.; Edition: 15/300; Signed and titled in pencil; Condition: excellent; Back of frame states: "Le septieme saison", French for "SEVENTH SEASON"

It also included the artist's biography:

American Artist: b. 1911-2012. Will Barnet was born in Beverly, Massachusetts. He studied at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and then at the Art Students League in New York. He cites Daumier as his first great inspiration at the age of 14, both for "his profound vision of life and his unequalled draftsmanship."

A prolific graphic artist, Barnet changed his style significantly at different points in his career. His earliest works were influenced by expressionism. His work of the 1930s and 1940s deals with the social themes in the forefront of the depression era, but also the more personal theme of the mother and child. They were followed by abstract works in the 1950s and 1960s, and finally evolved into more figurative works of silhouetted forms set against geometrically designed backgrounds.

From the earliest years Barnet valued concept equally with technique. Printmaking gave him a wider, freer means of expression although painting has remained another important medium throughout his career. He later taught art at such leading American schools as Yale University, Cornell University, the Art Students League and at Cooper Union. Among his students at Cooper Union were Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly.

Barnett's work has been exhibited in prominent museums and galleries in the United States and Canada and is included in many prestigious collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

To tell the truth, the image above isn't from the recent auction, where all images were photos taken at an angle (presumably to reduce glare) and weren't very good. The image is from a 2011 eBay auction, which said,

From a color serigraph produced in 1975, this beautiful book print was lithographically reproduced over 30 years ago, and printed on heavy, white stock. Paper size is about 11 by 15 1/2 inches; image size about 10 1/2 by 13 3/4 inches; highly suitable for framing

To learn more about the printing technique, see Wikipedia's Lithography. From the same source, the Will Barnet page informs,

He is probably best known for his enigmatic portraits of family, made from the 1970s onwards, notably the Silent Seasons series.

As for 'Seventh Season' and chess, I wasn't able to make the connection.

14 April 2017

Karpov's Stamp Exhibition

The description for this photo said,

Anatoly E.Karpov, World Chess Champion and President of the International Foundations of Peace Association, gives a welcome speech.

What's that got to do with postage stamps?

Anatoly E. Karpov © Flickr user UNIS Vienna under Creative Commons.

The related photo album, 'Exhibition of postal stamps from the collection of the world chess master Anatoly Karpov', said,

Opening ceremony of the exhibition of postal stamps from the collection of the world chess master Anatoly Karpov and simultaneous chess game with 14 representatives from international organizations competing against Anatoly Karpov on 4 April 2017 at the Vienna International Centre.

As for UNIS, it stands for 'United Nations Information Service'.

02 April 2017

Mrs. Piatigorsky's Autograph Collection

The name Piatigorsky has appeared on this blog many times, most notably for the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup (September 2016), but this is its first appearance for Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The item pictured below was titled '2nd Piatigorsky Cup program - signed by all the players, including Bobby Fischer', and sold for US $999.99, Buy-It-Now. Assuming it's legitimate, someone got a great bargain.

The description said,

This is the program book from the 2nd Piatigorsky Cup Grandmaster Chess Tournament held in 1966 at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. It is signed by all the players including World Champion GM Tigran Petrosian and future World Champions GM Robert Fischer and GM Boris Spassky. As you can see, several pages have small stains; but on the whole the program is in very good condition. The tournament is the strongest one ever held in California. (From the estate of Jacqueline Piatigorsky.)

Condidering the phrase 'From the estate of Jacqueline Piatigorsky', and adding the seller's background...

Interests: Anything concerned with California chess - magazines, photos, letters, pinbacks, tournament bulletins, newspaper columns and articles, posters, tournament flyers and other ephemera.

...it's certainly legitimate.

31 March 2017

PRO Chess League

From Youtube's David Pruess channel: 'I'm an International Master [IM] with 20 years of teaching experience'.

Greg Shahade Interview - PRO Chess League (39:33) • 'Interview with PRO Chess League Commissioner, Greg Shahade.'

The description continued,

We cover how [IM Shahade] measures the league's success, the first season's biggest excitement and greatest disappointment, changes for 2018, cheating, qualifying, how the league impacted his life, and more.

Plenty of thoughts for follow-up here.

30 March 2017

Chess in Concept Art

In last week's post Chess in Conceptual Art, I used Wikipedia to discover the difference between 'conceptual art' and 'concept art'. According to Wikipedia,

Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product.

It turns out that most of the examples involve the design of chess sets. Of the 13 images shown below, nearly all are chess sets.

Google image search on 'chess "concept" art -site:pinterest.com'

The keyword 'concept' is in quotes to exclude images from the 'conceptual' domain. I also excluded Pinterest because the site only duplicates original images from other sources and brings little else that is useful.

The most intriguing image is in the top row, third from the left: Concept art like chess battle (deviantart.com). The attached explanation -- 'The game should be in strategy but in real time where you get to move freely but position characters in tactical situations' -- is somewhat incoherent, but the artwork stands on its own.

The leftmost image in the second row also goes to Deviantart.com (as did all of the images in the previous post, 'Chess in Conceptual Art'): Chess Concepts, 'Character ideas for a chess based game in the works.' Although not immediately obvious, the drawing also depicts a chess set; first row: Bishop, Pawn, Rook (the big thing with its knuckles on the ground), King, Queen, Knight.

Not shown above is a complete comic book, as in Thread: Chess comic (conceptart.org), 'This is the first comic I've made, an instructional comic about chess, I'd really appreciate some honest feedback and ways to improve'. One page shows castling as a move of the Queen and Rook, which is why concept art can be useful to get the bugs out early.

28 March 2017

Did He Resign?

When was the last time a chess story grabbed so many mainstream press headlines without once mentioning the name Magnus Carlsen?

World chess body chief alleges plot to oust him: TASS
Reuters - 27 Mar 2017 • 'When asked in an email exchange with Reuters if he could clarify the situation, FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman...'

The article started,

The Russian head of world chess's governing body FIDE said on Monday he was the victim of a plot to oust him but denied a report by his own organization that he had resigned. The statement on the FIDE website said Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, its president since 1995, had announced his resignation on Sunday at the end of a federation board meeting in Greece. But Russia's TASS news agency quoted Ilyumzhinov as saying: "They wanted to oust me but it didn't work. I haven't signed anything and I'm not resigning. I think there is an American hand in this, and I think it's called a set-up."

The Google News summary (captured in the image above) showed nine related stories. For example:-

I've covered Ilyumzhinov many times on my blogs. For more about the U.S. Treasury Sanctions, see Spectating the 87th FIDE Congress (December 2016). For more about the internal problems leading to the latest spate of stories, see FIDE's Finances (February 2017). For the last time World Champion Carlsen made the news, see More about 'Outliers' (earlier this month).

27 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More of the Same

After the previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More Discrepancies, what more can be learned from 'Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O) covering the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career' combined with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-2015)? I started by looking at tournaments missing completely from the book's overview of his career.

The five missing events are identified in the first section of the following chart. Particularly intriguing is the '1974 New York blitz' event, which I can't recall seeing before. According to L&O, it was played in February 1974, which would have followed the match vs. Mecking played in January at Augusta GA.

The rest of the chart follows the lead from 'More Discrepancies', comparing L&O's index of opponents with its overview of events. This time I looked at events that had between seven and ten games. Almost all of the events played before the mid-1960s present a discrepancy and there are 13 additional unidentified events.

26 March 2017

Chess Strategy Woodcut

I'm slowly discovering that the most efficient method of exploring The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) is through related imagery. Last month I had a couple of posts featuring Louis Wolchonok (see Chess in New York Parks for the second post) and this month I'll feature another artist who often used chess as a theme.

'Chess Strategy', Irving Amen (woodcut print)

Wikipedia's Irving Amen informs,

Irving Amen (1918–2011) was a painter, printmaker and sculptor. Born in New York City in 1918, he began drawing at the age of four. A scholarship to the Pratt Institute was awarded to him when he was fourteen years old. With Michelangelo as his idol, he spent seven years in life classes perfecting his drawing. From 1942 to 1945 he served with the Armed Forces. He headed a mural project and executed murals in the United States and Belgium.

His first exhibition in woodcut was held at the New School for Social Research and his second at the Smithsonian Institution in 1949 and also exhibited at the Artists House in Jerusalem, the Library of Congress, and the National Academy of Design. [...] His work often depicts themes of Judaism, chess, people, music, Italy and Don Quixote. In his later years he lived and worked in Boca Raton, Florida.

The image appears to be loaded with symbolism. Is it just my imagination or is the bird in the bottom center in the form of a chess King? And is the bird in the bottom right corner connected to the thinking man in the top right corner? And why call the piece 'Chess Strategy'? For another example of the same artist's use of chess, see Chess Art? Amen! (November 2011).

24 March 2017

Posing for Euros

Once again, as in Sand Dudes Play Chess (June 2015), we are confronted with the deep philosophical question, 'What is this exactly' : a statue or elaborate makeup?

Chess and the Girl © Flickr user Juan Diego under Creative Commons.

Armed with the knowledge that the 'This photo is in 1 album: Madrid', plus the only information in the description -- 'Calle del Arenal' -- we learn that the calle 'is one of the 10 streets emanating from the Puerta del Sol Square' (gomadrid.com). This leads to the discovery,

Street performers must be permanent fixtures of Puerta del Sol. You might chance on one corner a motorcycle rider floating high with his bike, and on another a human statue playing chess. Others scatter all around the square as they act out the Predator, Edward Scissorshands, and various characters, mostly from Disney.

Each one is eager to get the attention of passing tourists. Be wary about taking their pictures, however, as it isn’t free. See to it that you have at least a euro to pay afterwards. (letstalkmadrid.com)

There's even another photo of the player wearing a hat: 2014, July ' a street performer at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, Spain (wikimedia.org); same table, same clock, different player, different position on the board. Don't forget to pay him a euro.

23 March 2017

Follow-up Closure

In my previous post, Chess in Conceptual Art, I wrote,

The upside about a category like Posts with label zFLUP (where FLUP = followup), is that it's always there when I need it. The downside is that, once in a while, I actually have to follow something up.

The downside is not just following something up, it's also about removing it from the list of things to follow up. Here are a few posts that required administrative closure.

Next step: Follow up something else.

21 March 2017

Chess in Conceptual Art

The upside about a category like Posts with label zFLUP (where FLUP = followup), is that it's always there when I need it. The downside is that, once in a while, I actually have to follow something up. Take the photo in A Lonely Knight (January 2017), for example, where the idea to followup was:-

Maybe it would help if I understood what 'conceptual art' meant.

Wikipedia says, 'not to be confused with concept art', and continues,

Conceptual art, sometimes simply called conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. • Conceptual art

I think I get it. The idea behind 'Lonely Knight' is romantic loss, which makes the photo conceptual. Wikipedia continues,

History: The French artist Marcel Duchamp paved the way for the conceptualists, providing them with examples of prototypically conceptual works -- the readymades, for instance.

The name Marcel Duchamp is often attached to chess, as in a half-dozen posts on this blog. The most recent was Borrowing Leaves (December 2015; 'Marcel Duchamp and Larry Evans playing chess'). Getting back to 'conceptual art', what differentiates it from 'concept art'? Wikipedia again:-

Concept art is a form of illustration used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, comic books or other media before it is put into the final product. • Concept art

While looking for examples of 'conceptual art', I became convinced that Google was confusing the term with 'concept art'. Wrapping the keyword in quotes ("conceptual") produced a different set of examples. I eventually found an entire category on deviantart.com.

Browsing Conceptual on DeviantArt

Where have I featured that site before? Oh, yes, in Chess on Your Mind (September 2009), which turns out to be another example of conceptual art.

20 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, More Discrepancies

Let's continue once again with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). In my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Long Events, I identified a number of discrepancies in Levy & O'Connell's book (L&O) covering the first 30 years -- the Soviet period -- of Korchnoi's career.

Since a discrepancy can arise from a number of situations -- an error in the book, an error in my manipulation of the data, or an error in the TMER index -- each discrepancy needs to be examined further.

Of the 10 discrepancies I flagged, one occurred because Korchnoi's result in an event was recorded incorrectly in the book's summary of his career. All of the others were due to an error in the index of the book : a wrong year, a wrong venue, or a game missing completely. I learned so much from the exercise that I prepared a similar overview of the next tranche of tournaments : where Korchnoi had between 11 and 15 opponents. Once again discrepancies in the number of games are flagged in square brackets ('[]').

A new curiosity is that five events are missing completely from the book's summary, which was also the original source of my TMER. These need to be investigated separately. While working on all of this, I noticed that L&O includes the month played for many events and days played for many individual games. I'll compare these with the TMER as soon as I get a chance.

19 March 2017

Lasker's Manual Autographed

As far as I can tell, the last time I featured Em.Lasker on Top eBay Chess Items by Price was Beating Dr.Lasker in a Simul (February 2013). The item pictured below was titled 'Chess book signed by Emanuel Lasker 1932 autograph' and sold for $400, 'Best offer accepted', down from an initial asking price of $600.

The item's description said,

Hard Lasker's Chess Manual 1932; The Printing-Craft Ltd., London; 349 pages with 308 black & white illustrations. • This chess manual has long been considered one of the most significant works on chess ever written. First revised edition. Lasker's Chess Manual is presented in a unique style and has great historical significance. Typical for Lasker, the focus is on general principles that can be used in a variety of situations, rather than lengthy analysis of a single line or position. First English edition was published in 1927. • A very good copy with an extremely scarce dust jacket. Signed by Emanuel Lasker.

Lasker's Manual is an occasional source of inspiration on this blog. See, for example, Lasker on Computer Chess (April 2012), and Thinking about Chess (April 2014).

17 March 2017

Hijab Wrapup

Remember Hijab Hubris (October 2016)? Here's the final result.

Interview and Press Conference Women's World Chess Champion 2017 (13:59) • 'Congratulations to Tan Zhongyi'

For an overview of the event, see World Chess Championship (Women) : 2017 FIDE Knockout Matches.

16 March 2017

A Short History of CCL

Last year, in Chess and Social Trends (October 2016), I kicked off the ongoing 'Chess and Sociology' series with a post about a huge Facebook group.

Chess Club Live (CCL) currently accounts for about half of the traffic to this blog -- I know this because the RSS feed breaks from time to time. I'm looking forward to delve further into its mysteries and into the overall sociology that surrounds chess as a global cultural phenomenon.

The founder of the group recently shared some facts about its history, including a related video.

Michael Chukwuma Mkpadi: The story of Chess Club Live was way back in 1996 I developed a chess page I called Michael's Chess Page. This was inspired by a chess page I used to browse in 1993-95 called Steve Pribut's Chess Page.

Later I created a chess server based on the WebChess open source code, called WebChess X. It sucked big time, but I learned a lot and got a loyal devoted fan base. Then in 2007 I joined Facebook and created a page for it, calling it the Facebook Chess Club. Facebook almost sued me and told me to rename it which I did to Chess Club Live. My friend Carina Jørgensen joined it when I was about to abandon the whole idea, convinced me it was a good idea, and allowed me the use of her chess art to use to promote it and make it cool.

It worked because we grew and then I decided to make something of permanent value we ought to share, but allow people to share on our page. We first shared content with Onlinechesslesson.net now iChess. They posted on our page and then we invited other pages and content creators.

I developed a chess RSS news feed for Chess Club Live using ideas invented by Aaron Swartz, then later created a social media network Social Chess Club Live. The founder of Lichess, Thibault Duplessis, saw it and agreed to allow me to integrate Lichess on every page, so they became our chess server widget. The rest, as they say, is history.

Here's the video on Vimeo.com.

Team Chess Club Live from Chess Club Live on Vimeo.

For more about the origins of CCL, see A story of Chess Tech (facebook.com/ChessClubLive; 3 November 2015). [Will this link work for non-Facebook visitors? I'll find out as soon as it is posted...]


Later: Re 'Will this link work', the video plays along with a message: 'To see more from Chess Club Live on Facebook, log in or create an account'. There are no other links.

14 March 2017

More about 'Outliers'

Whenever chess pops up in my Yahoo News feed, I try to use it as the basis of a blog post. The last time this happened was for Last World Championship Hubbub (December 2016). The latest occasion wasn't a chess article, but used chess as an introduction.

The 10,000-hour rule is wrong and perpetuates a cruel myth

That Yahoo stub page leads to the full article with the same title, The 10,000-hour rule is wrong... (businessinsider.com), which is attributed to Slate.com. The Yahoo caption expanded to

Sports - Business Insider • The 10,000-hour rule is wrong and perpetuates a cruel myth: A decade ago, Magnus Carlsen, who at the time was only 13 years old, created a sensation in the chess world when he defeated former world champion Anatoly Karpov at a chess tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the next day played then-top-rated Garry Kasparov -- who is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time -- to a draw. Carlsen's subsequent rise to chess stardom was meteoric: grandmaster status later in 2004; a share of first place in the Norwegian Chess Championship in 2006; youngest player ever to reach World No. 1 in 2010; and highest-rated player in history in 2012.

What makes someone rise to the top in music, games, sports, business, or science? In the late 1800s, Francis Galton -- founder of the scientific study of intelligence and a cousin of Charles Darwin -- analyzed the genealogical records of hundreds of scholars, artists, musicians, and other professionals and found that greatness tends to run in families.

Fast forward to the 1990s, where the prevailing view became 'prolonged effort, not innate talent, explained differences between experts and novices'. But there's a catch. For chess,

The number of hours of deliberate practice to first reach "master" status (a very high level of skill) ranged from 728 hours to 16,120 hours. This means that one player needed 22 times as much deliberate practice as another player to become a master.

This implies,

So, deliberate practice did not explain all, nearly all, or even most of the performance variation in these fields. In concrete terms, what this evidence means is that racking up a lot of deliberate practice is no guarantee that you'll become an expert. Other factors matter.

These other factors are age at starting the activity and genetic inequality. That second factor is the main point of the article, which concludes,

If we acknowledge that people differ in what they have to contribute, then we have an argument for a society in which all human beings are entitled to a life that includes access to decent housing, healthcare, and education, simply because they are human. Our abilities might not be identical, and our needs surely differ, but our basic human rights are universal.

Getting back to Magnus Carlsen, it's not clear why a discussion on 'differences between experts and novices' has any real relevance to his level. Perhaps it would be more useful to look at differences between experts and world-class practitioners. Maybe Dilbert was right after all: Dilbert on Mastering Chess (February 2013).

13 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Long Events

Continuing with Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015), in my previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Major Events, I wrote

The 'On Paper' post (also used in 'Three Views') would appear to be the most promising area for further analysis.

That post was Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 on Paper (January 2017). In that post I started to analyze the content of 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell by scanning the index of opponents.

According to a preliminary analysis, the book has 1663 games played against 486 opponents. I'll delve further into this record for my next post.

Delving further, I counted 215 events, of which 111 (about half) had more than five games. Of these events, 33 had more than 15 games. These events are shown in the following table.

The second column ('Venue') is the code used by Levy & O'Connell (L&O). The third column ('Ct') is the number of games I identified from their book's index. The last column is the name of the event used in the TMER, which also lists Korchnoi's final score in W-L-D format. That final score allows a quick calculation of the number of games played by Korchnoi. In events where that doesn't match the 'Ct' column, I've flagged the discrepancy in square brackets ('[]'). For example, in the 1954 Bucharest tournament I counted 16 games in the L&O book, but the TMER gives Korchnoi a final score of +10-1=6.

Since a discrepancy can arise from a number of situations -- an error in the book, an error in my manipulation of the data, or an error in the TMER index -- each discrepancy needs to be examined further. I looked at the last one, the 1977 match vs Spassky and discovered that one game in the book used a different code to identify the venue. This little exercise gave me some additional confidence to continue with the data.

12 March 2017

Branching Investigations

For my previous Flickr Friday post, Kitchen Sicilian, I had a choice between two equally worthy photos. Good thing that I'm running this series on chess and sociology, because it gives me the chance to use the other photo. On top of being a great scene, the photo shown below brings the social implications of chess in the USSR/Russia into the mix.

Yekaterinburg chess players © Flickr user Dmitry Kostin under Creative Commons.

In my previous post in this series, Correlating Chess with the 'Real World', I wrote

Another avenue to explore the connections between chess and society is video.

As is often the case when I start exploring some aspect of chess, the investigation branches into other areas, which themselves branch off. Sounds like chess itself, doesn't it?

10 March 2017

Kitchen Sicilian

Pick any 8-by-8 pattern on an infinitely sized checkerboard. Add a complete set of chess pieces using the traditional start position. What have you got? Something like this...

Kitchen Table Chess Design © Flickr user Lex McKee under Creative Commons.

...The description explained,

This innovative table design caught my attention in Dorchester today. Not sure where you'd put your pizza or steak, but you've got to admire great design!

How would you describe the position of White's Queen Rook? It's neither on a1 nor a2 and it's half off the board.

For another Flickr Friday look at tabletop chessboards, see Kasparov Passes the Salt (October 2010).


Later: For some reason, this post has attracted about five times the number of visits that a post on this blog normally receives. I suspect that -- because of the title ('Kitchen Sicilian') -- some visitors are expecting information about Italian cooking. Chess players recognize immediately what non-chess players would never realize: that the word 'Sicilian' refers to the formation of the chess pieces in the photo.