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 which is out of date:-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.

09 March 2017

Blog Search Tool

Note to followers of all Blogspot.com blogs, like this one. Recently the blog search tool has been much improved. The search result used to be presented in a search result box that appeared at the top of the page. It displayed maximum four results per box and each link had to be opened individually to see its content. This was clumsy and inconvenient.

Now the results are presented in a page similar to other aggregated content, like the 'LABELS' links in the right navigation bar. The results can be scrolled and searched further by using a browser search tool. For example, the search Posts sorted by date for query "marshall" returns Frank Marshall, Marshall Chess Club, USCF President Marshall Rohland, opening variations like the Marshall Gambit, etc. etc. Posts sorted by relevance for query "averbakh" returns various posts where the omnipresent Soviet GM gets a mention. The default is 'sorted by relevance'.

On this blog, the search tool is also located on the right navigation bar, although placement is the blog author's choice. I tend to place blog tools in the order that I use them most.

07 March 2017

March 1967 'On the Cover'

As 'On the Cover' moves into its fourth year of looking back at American chess 50 years ago (see March 1964 'On the Cover', March 2014, for the first post) we find both chess magazines featuring amateur events.

Left: 'Independence Hall, Philadelphia; Come to the U.S. Amateur'
Right: 'Young Scholars'

Chess Life

HISTORIC PHILADELPHIA INVITES YOU TO PLAY IN 1967 U.S. AMATEUR by E. B. Edmondson • Philadelphia has never been the same since young Ben Franklin arrived in town. As his varied interests grew, and as the United States gained its independence, so did the city grow as he transformed It into the cultural center of the Western Hemisphere. Ben Franklin loved chess, and the game still thrives in this city which was the site of the New World's earliest chess activity. It seems most appropriate that the U.S. Amateur, which has taken its place as one of the nation's foremost chess events, should be held this May 27-30 in Philadelphia's Warwick Hotel.

Chess Review

New York. Described by the USCF as a "record-shattering event," the 1967 Greater New York Scholastic Championships drew an amazing horde of 614 youngsters from more than 200 metropolitan schools. Heretofore the largest crowd at an American chess meet had numbered 265. Sal Matera, a Junior at Brooklyn Prep, won the Greater New York High School title for the second straight year when he nosed out Norman Weinstein of the Bronx High School of Science after each had scored 7.5-0.5 in the field of 301 players. [...] Some of the youngest chess scholars are movingly caught in this photo by Edward Lasker.

Fortunately, there was a viewable, black-and-white copy of Ed.Lasker's photo accompanying the article. For CR's previous attempt at a color cover photo, see December 1966 'On the Cover' (December 2016) with its 'funky green cover'.

06 March 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977, Major Events

After the previous post, Korchnoi's Career 1976-2000, Major Events, I again used the Chessmetrics.com data (see that post for a link) to add months to events played during the first 30 years of Korchnoi's career. I supplemented that data with similar info from Cafferty and Taimanov's 'The Soviet Championships' and from my own WCC site (see right sidebar).

I then loaded 'the whole kit and kaboodle' (does anyone still use that expression?) to Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015). This is the fourth iteration on the Soviet period of Korchnoi's TMER:-

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

05 March 2017

Paved with Questions

After a short break from chess blogging, what better way to jump back in than a post on Top eBay Chess Items by Price? In my single previous post about jewelry with a chess theme, The Value of Jewelry (March 2016), I confessed,

I have to admit that I don't understand the price at all.

Ditto for the current item, which was titled, '10K Yellow Gold Real Diamond King Chess Piece Pendant Men's Pave Charm 0.40 CT'. It sold for $479.99 'Buy-It-Now', and mentioned,

List price: $1,530.00; 2 available / 1 sold

Is a list price of more than three times the final price a sales trick?

Left: Front / Right: Back

The description said,

This exclusive eye-catching genuine diamond 3D Chess King piece pendant is crafted in real 10K yellow gold & shimmering white diamonds, ensuring sparkle from every angle. Radiant with 0.40 ct. t.w. of genuine diamonds, this pendant is buffed to a polished luster. Custom pendant has well built frame, with caged back for durability. The diamonds are securely held between the gold mounting in a pave setting with prongs, making the overall appearance larger and lustrous. White diamond studded bail to complete the custom look,

The bail of this pendant will fit up-to 7mm wide chain. This beautiful chess piece charm has custom feel & look to it, making a bold fashion statement. These are all 100% genuine brilliant round diamonds. All the diamonds are matching throughout. Great size men's pendant. This pendant is 4.10 grams and 1.70" in length. [0.45" in width]

Back to the title, what is a 'Pave Charm'?

The pavé setting, pronounced "pa-vay," comes from the French word "to pave," as in paved with diamonds. By closely setting small diamonds together with minimal visibility of the tiny metal beads or prongs holding the stones in place, the effect is one of continuous sparkle.

For more about 'pa-vay', see 16 Awesome Engagement Ring Styles You Need to Learn About (diamonds.pro). Interesting: Diamonds.pro. Is there a Chess.pro? Entering the address returns, 'Congratulations! Chess.pro is available for sale!'

Domain Name: chess.pro
Price: $4,999.00

Once again, 'I have to admit that I don't understand the price at all.'

26 February 2017

Correlating Chess with the 'Real World'

In this series on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), I've been using art to illustrate some of the most obvious themes, as in the previous post, Chess in New York Parks. Another avenue to explore the connections between chess and society is video. I touched on this in World Championship Sociology,

Surprisingly few of those [World Championship] videos show the spectators, the everyday people whose collective interest makes the event worth playing and worth broadcasting.

but there is a richer mine of information in videos that document the efforts of chess players/instructors to use chess as a positive force to change people's lives. Here's one example.

How a simple game of chess can break through stereotypes (7:56) • 'To Lemuel LaRouche, chess is more than a game. By getting young people from different backgrounds to engage in the game of chess, you can alter bad perceptions, stereotypes and mistrust. Special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault sits down with LaRouche for a conversation.'

PBS NewsHour (from Athens, Georgia):

This is one of Lemuel LaRouche's day jobs, teaching graduate students at the University of Georgia's School of Social Work. But LaRouche is a man of many parts, one who doesn't separate town from gown, especially the parts of town populated by troubled youth.


These kids are looking for opportunities, looking for a way out, bouncing from foster home to foster home. [...] Chess is such a metaphor for life. When I teach chess, I try to teach it from the perspective of, how do you take this game and correlate it with the real world?

For a full transcript of the video, see How a simple game of chess can break through stereotypes (pbs.org).

24 February 2017

Blogging @ Chess.com

Have you ever wondered how to blog at Chess.com?

Using Chess.com: How To Blog (4:43) • 'Chess.com Vice President Danny Rensch explains how to blog on Chess.com.'

The follow-up video is:-

The list of most recent blog posts by top bloggers is at:-

A few years ago I tried blogging at Chess.com and found the tools a bit clunky. Things look much improved since then.

23 February 2017

A Personal Category

A couple of personal posts over the past year -- Still There After All These Years (January 2016) and Photographic Proof of Presence (February 2017) -- left me needing a suitable label to categorize them. Otherwise I might repeat the same story in a future post. I changed the category 'Label "MW's CC games"' (CC = correspondence chess) to Label "MW's games" and the problem was solved.

21 February 2017

Photographic Proof of Presence

While gathering background info on last week's post, Joop van Oosterom (1937–2016), I flipped through old copies of Europe Echecs (EE) looking for stories about early editions of the Melody Amber tournaments. The second edition, held in March-April 1993, was the first to use the Amber formula of one rapid tournament and one blindfold tournament. Before I found its writeup in the May 1993 EE, I looked at earlier issues of EE, where the photo shown below caught my eye.

Europe Echecs, March 1993

'Aubervilliers : Computers among the GMs'
'Nearly 850 players, that makes a crowd! A partial (!) view of the tournament'
(Photo: Alain Fayard)

'I think I played in that tournament', I said to myself. At the time I was working and living in Paris from Monday through Friday, then commuting back to Brussels on the weekend. On one particular weekend I had to stay in Paris -- I can't remember why -- and decided to play chess. Friday evening at the local chess club someone mentioned Aubervilliers and told me how to get there, so the next day I took the metro, found the tournament site, and played.

Because it was a rapidplay time control I didn't record my moves and I have no record of the event in any of my chess papers from that period. Back to the photo, that's me in the third row of tables from the bottom, third player from the left, facing the camera.

I have a vague memory of a young Michael Adams at the tournament, but his name isn't mentioned in the EE report. If someone told me I dreamed the whole thing, I wouldn't argue. But there's that photo.

20 February 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1976-2000, Major Events

The previous milestone on Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015) was Korchnoi's Career 1976-2000, One View, where at the end I noted the next step:-

Assign months to the various events. At the same time, create a list of external references for the events.

I started to look up events one by one, noting the month the event was played and the best reference I could find. This was a slow process until I found Chessmetrics Player Profile: Viktor Korchnoi. The page is a summary of the major events in Korchnoi's career that were played at slow time controls. Some older events are missing the month played, but I was able to cover around 75% of the events already listed on the TMER.

Next step: (1) Tackle the incomplete events for 1976-2000. (2) Use the Chessmetrics.com data on events played before 1976.

19 February 2017

Chess Boards, All in a Row

Given how much I like paintings here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, has it really been more than three months since I last featured one? Since Which Is the Original? (January 2017) was more about copying than it was about the artwork, then Focused on the Game (November 2016) was indeed the last painting featured.

The auction for the painting pictured below was titled 'Magnificent 1950's O/C Painting of "Chess Game" by Allen Wadsworth'. It apparently asked US $1200 and sold for $1000, 'Best offer accepted'.

The item's description added,

This is a magnificent 1950's oil on canvas painting of showing two men playing chess. It has a wonderful subject, detail and design. It used to belong to The Brand Library in California. It measures 30" by 24" framed and 24" by 18" unframed. It is signed by the artist on the lower left.

By coincidence, I found the same painting on a page titled Allen Wadsworth took skills from 1970s Ajijic straight to Hollywood (sombrerobooks.com), which gave some biographical info about the artist.

Allen Wadsworth, born in about 1939, had at least two exhibitions in Ajijic in the 1970s and honed his carpentry and painting skills in the village prior to embarking on a long and distinguished career in Hollywood as a set painter and scenic artist for major movies and TV shows.

The setting, with chess boards neatly arranged on adjacent tables, would appear to be an outdoor chess tournament or maybe a simultaneous exhibition. A week ago, in Chess in New York Parks, I featured artist Louis Wolchonok for the latest post in a series about The Sociology of Chess. Could it be that any painting showing chess in a social setting is worthy of that series?

17 February 2017

Max Euwe, Max Euwe

A strong feeling of deja vu told me that I had featured the 'Max Euwe Centrum' in a previous edition of Flickr Friday, but I couldn't find a relevant post. Maybe it's because I visited the center many years ago on a trip to Amsterdam. It was well worth the visit.

Max Euweplein © Flickr user C.-04 under Creative Commons.

What's the connection between the Euwe center and the photo? The giant chess set is located next to the entrance; Max Euwe Centrum (maxeuwe.nl, 'An institute unparallelled in the world of chess'):-

Max Euwe Centrum
Max Euweplein 30a
1017 MB Amsterdam

This is not to be confused with the Monaco-based 'Association Max Euwe' sponsored by the subject of yesterday's post, Joop van Oosterom (1937–2016), although it wouldn't surprise me to find a relationship between the two main Max Euwe groups.

16 February 2017

Joop van Oosterom (1937–2016)

It's been a bad period for former World Correspondence Champions. Last month we lost Hans Berliner (1929-2017), and this month we learned of the disappearance of Johannes Jacobus [Joop] van Oosterom (1937–2016).

Along with correspondence chess, Berliner was known for world class contributions to computer chess. Van Oosterom was a world class chess philanthropist. Here is a photo from his first (Melody) Amber chess tournament (wikipedia.org), Roquebrune, France, February 1992.

Europe Echecs, March 1992

The Polgar sisters, van Oosterom, and GM Karpov
(Photo: Alain Fayard)

And here is a list of van Oosterom's top correspondence chess achievements, from my page on the World Chess Championship : Correspondence Chess:-

Why list the 14th event, where van Oosterom did not participate? The first game in Tim Harding's '64 Great Chess Games : Masterpieces of Postal and E-Mail Chess' (Dublin 2002), van Oosterom - Timmerman (15th CC World Championship Final), explains,

These two great Dutch rivals have had parallel careers in CC for two decades. Timmerman, a mathematician, is the current (15th) Correspondence Chess World Champion and has also won several other major tournaments.

For several consecutive years, he was the world's highest rated active correspondence player. As Timmerman is world champion, I have made a special exception and he is the only player with two wins in this book.

Van Oosterom (founder of Volmac software, which is now part of the Cap Gemini corporation) is a wealthy man who lives with his family in Monaco. He is well known as a sponsor of both OTB and correspondence tournaments (e.g. the Melody Amber series, named for his daughter, the NBC Millennium email tournament, and the ICCF Jubilee Champions and Elite events).

Van Oosterom was just starting the 14th World Championship Final in 1994 when illness forced him to defer his place and so he was fated once more to be thwarted by Timmerman in the next final which began two years later.

About this game: This was one of the most important games in the 15th World Championship Final, in which van Oosterom was also a contender for a high placing. At the time this game was played, he had never beaten Timmerman, a psychological factor that may have counterbalanced his colour advantage.

Van Oosterom finished the event a point behind Timmerman. In his book, Harding also included one of van Oosterom's wins: van Oosterom - Reynolds (15th CC World Championship Final). Both games can be fouund on Chessgames.com...

...along with many more of van Oosterom's games.

14 February 2017

A Chess Valentine

See also Romance in Chess, ('What could possibly be less romantic than chess?), and 'Valentine, Be Mine' ... Does Not Compute! (February 2014).

13 February 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1976-2000, One View

My ongoing project to construct Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 1946-2015), currently has three sections, each section covering a different period of his career:-

  • 1945-1977 (the Soviet period)
  • 1976-2000 (the pre-Internet period)
  • 1998-2015 (the TWIC period)

I'll eliminate the overlaps when I merge the three sections into a single table. Last week I worked on the first section, as documented in Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977, Three Views.

To make progress for the period 1945-1977, I need to work only with the Levy & O'Connell material (on paper) and the GMchess data. The UPITT data can be ignored for now.

Two weeks ago I worked on the second section, Korchnoi's TMER 1976-2000, comparing the GMchess data and the UPITT data for that period.

[I had] two tables covering the period 1976-2000, which was one too many. I combined them into a single table and updated the TMER accordingly. While the result is far from perfect, it's still better than what I had before.

That single table was in fact two columns where an event in column A (GMchess) corresponded to an event in column B (UPITT). This week I collapsed the two columns into a single column by rectifying differences between the columns. When it comes to identifying chess events, there are two pieces of information that can create discrepancies:-

  • The year, esp. when an event starts in one year and ends in another.
  • The venue, when a locality goes by different names.

Neither of the two columns provided a complete record of Korchnoi's career, because small events like weekend team tournaments can easily slip through the cracks. At some point I'll have to come back to these, but they can be ignored for now.

Next step: Assign months to the various events. At the same time, create a list of external references for the events.

12 February 2017

Chess in New York Parks

While working on the post Chess and Social Realism, I wondered how many images of works by Louis Wolchonok (1898-1973, New York City; see that post for more) I had accumulated through the years. I found exactly 20.

The image in the bottom row, center is the same one I used in the 'Social Realism' post. The description on the painting to its right said,

Louis Wolchonok (American 1898-1973) 'Chess Players', watercolor, 20" x 24", signed lower right, dated 1936 reverse, estate stamp on reverse, matted/framed and in excellent condition. Wolchonok is a well listed New York artist. He was a college art professor in New York and published three books on art. His watercolors are highly sought, selling as high as $5,000.

With a few exceptions, the paintings show groups of men in outdoor settings.

10 February 2017

Chess Broadcasting Gets Professional

The short list for this edition of Video Friday was dominated by clips from the Wijk aan Zee closed tournament and the Gibraltar open tournament, which overlapped each other. For example:-

As good as these are, the best was from GBC News, aka the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation.

Prizes awarded at Tradewise Chess Festival - 03 Feb 17 (4:00) • 'Gibraltar’s Tradewise Chess champions for 2017 have praised the high calibre of the festival, which is in its fifteenth year.'

The description continued,

The USA’s Hikaru Nakamura, who won the championship for the third year running, and women’s champion, Ju Wenjun from China, were both presented their awards at a dinner at the Caleta hotel last night.

At some time over the last decade, chess broadcasting jumped to the professional level. Kudos to everyone involved.

09 February 2017

Quantum Chess

A few months ago, in a post on another one of my blogs (if you really want to know, see Quantum Computers, November 2016), I developed a strong interest in all things quantum. Working on that post reminded me of a Youtube video that appeared a year ago on the IQIM Caltech channel:-

  • Stephen Hawking faces Paul Rudd in epic chess match (feat. Keanu Reeves) • 'Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information and Matter in association with Trouper Productions brings you a chess match for the ages: Paul Rudd vs. Stephen Hawking in a game of Quantum Chess, narrated by Keanu Reeves. The game is real and the stakes are high as the future of humanity hangs in the balance. Can Paul Rudd beat Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our generation, in a game of chess that will determine the future of humanity? Most likely not. Unless... • Quantum Chess Developer: Chris Cantwell and Broken Circle Studios'

When the clip first came out, I didn't understand it, but it made more sense on the second viewing. With nearly 3.8M views, 63.6K likes, and 3.0K comments, it's safe to say that many other people were also impressed. The Chess Mind, 'A blog for chess fans, by a chess fan', gets a flash mention -- see Quantum Chess, Anyone? (thechessmind.net) -- which lifts the credibility of the video yet another notch. Some links from the video's description:-

A followup video was released later, although the chess content is almost nil:-

The developer of quantum chess gives a longer, more technical explanation in the following video.

Christopher Cantwell - Quantum Chess: Making Quantum Phenomena Accessible (1:26:51) • Institute for Quantum Studies - 'Recorded seminar at Chapman University.'

Around nine minutes into the clip he discusses two other versions of quantum chess:-

If by some quantum miracle I manage to digest all of the above, I'll come back to the subject in a future post.

07 February 2017

That 'History-Making Tournament'

Continuing with February 1967 'On the Cover', I quoted the start of 'A History-Making Tournament! ... an electronic computer played chess against human beings under regular tournament conditions', a non-cover story from the February 1967 Chess Life (CL). I ended with:-

The story continued with 'a report sent in by Benjamin Landey'. The chess playing computer was named MacHack VI.

Here's the rest of that CL report:-

The following is an excerpt from a report sent in by Benjamin Landey, well-known New England chess organiser, and Tournament Director for this event.

"Aside from all the fun we had, and the joshing, the entry (of the computer) was part of serious scientific research.

"Technical advice (about chess, not computers) in the programming was given by Larry Kaufman, Baisley, and Wagner, all highly rated and all MIT students. Kaufman is an undergraduate. (Editor's note: He Is also the winner of the recent American Open at Santa Monica. See the December CL [and December 1966 'On the Cover'.])

"The present programming makes of the computer a beginner. However, partly as a result of the experience in this tournament, the program will be improved.

"MacHack VI (the computer's name) played all five rounds and ended up with a game score of 1/2 - 4 1/2. It was able to pull off a couple of pretty combinations but is very weak in the endgame.

"The chess program was written by Richard Greenblatt of MIT'S Project Mac for the PDP-6 computer. It is hoped that it can play regularly in tournaments so that its strength can be more accurately compared to that of human beings.

"MacHack VI's current rating is a provisional 1239 (Class D). The computer's play is extremely erratic; witness the following games:

The report continued with a couple of games that I recorded while playing through them:-

[Event "Massachusetts Amateur Championship"]
[Site "Boston MA"]
[Date "1967.01.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Wagner, Carl"]
[Black "MacHack VI"]
[Result "1-0"]

1.g3 e5 2.Nf3 e4 3.Nd4 Bc5 4.Nb3 Bb6 5.Bg2 Nf6 6.c4 d6 7.Nc3 Be6 8.d3 exd3 9.Bxb7 Nbd7 10.exd3 Rb8 11.Bg2 O-O 12.O-O Bg4 13.Qc2 Re8 14.d4 c5 15.Be3 cxd4 16.Nxd4 Ne5 17.h3 Bd7 18.b3 Bc5 19.Rad1 Qc8 20.Kh2 Ng6 21.Bg5 Re5 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Ne4 f5 24.Nf6+ Kg7 25.Nxd7 Qxd7 26.Nc6 Rbe8 27.Nxe5 Rxe5 28.Qc3 f6 29.Rd3 Re2 30.Rd2 Rxd2 31.Qxd2 Ne5 32.Rd1 Qc7 33.Bd5 Kg6 34.b4 Bb6 35.Qc2 Nc6 36.Be6 Nd4 37.Rxd4 Bxd4 38.Qxf5+ Kg7 39.Qg4+ Kh6 40.Qxd4 Qe7 41.Qh4+ Kg6 42.Bf5+ Kg7 43.Qxh7+ Kf8 44.Qh8+ Kf7 45.Qa8 Qc7 46.Qd5+ Kg7 47.Kg2 Qe7 48.h4 Kh6 49.g4 Kg7 50.h5 Qe2 51.h6+ Kf8 52.h7 Qxf2+ 53.Kxf2 Ke7 54.h8=Q a6 55.Qe6# 1-0

[Event "Massachusetts Amateur Championship"]
[Site "Boston MA"]
[Date "1967.01.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Conroy"]
[Black "MacHack VI"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Qf3 Qd5 9.Qxd5 Nxd5 10.Be2 Bf5 11.d3 Bb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 O-O 14.a3 f6 15.Ngf3 Rab8 16.b4 Nb7 17.O-O Nc3 18.Rfe1 Nxe2+ 19.Rxe2 Nd6 20.Ne4 Nxe4 21.dxe4 Be6 22.Rd1 Bc4 23.Red2 Rb7 24.Rd8 Rxd8 25.Rxd8+ Kf7 26.Nh4 g5 27.Nf5 Rc7 28.g4 Kg6 29.Rd6 Be2 30.Rd8 Bxg4 31.Rg8+ Kh5 32.Ng7+ Kh6 33.Nf5+ Kh5 34.Ng7+ Kh6 1/2-1/2

The USCF rating list in the December 1966 CL listed MacHack's opponents as:-

  • 'Wagner C. (N.J.) 2163', and
  • 'Conroy, J. (Mass.) 1365'

The tournament (30 players) was rated for the June 1967 CL rating supplement, where we find:-

  • 'MacHack V. (Mass.) 1338*'

Later in the year we find:-

  • 'MacHack VI (Mass.) 1493*'

The asterix after a rating meant a provisional rating based on 10-24 games ('less reliable than established ratings').

The same two games, although identified incompletely, can be found on Chessgames.com under Greenblatt (Computer), 'born 1966'; 'Number of games in database: 7; Years covered: 1967 to 1977'. Another of the seven games is in the September 1967 CL, along with a game fragment showing a nice combination by the machine. The three games from 1977 are attributed to Bobby Fischer.

06 February 2017

Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977, Three Views

Two weeks ago, in Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 (on Paper), I extracted an index of Korchnoi's games for the period 1945-1977 from the book 'Korchnoi's Chess Games' by Levy & O'Connell. Last week, in Korchnoi's TMER 1976-2000, I compared games for the period 1976-2000 from two PGN collections compiled around the turn of the century -- one by UPITT and one by GMchess.

Of course, the two PGN collections also include games going back to 1945. How do these three sources, a book and two files, compare in their coverage of Korchnoi's pre-1978 period?

The chart on the left shows a count of games played in a given year for each of the three sources, plus an average of the three sources. For any particular year, the counts are roughly equivalent.

How does the data compare for a specific year? The following table shows events for the year 1977 from the three sources.

Src Yr Venue Ct
L&O 1977 *KL 1
L&O 1977 *KS 1
L&O 1977 KS 1
L&O 1977 LEE 13
L&O 1977 MTX 9
L&O 1977 xKP1 12
L&O 1977 xKP2 13
L&O 1977 xKS 17

GMC 1977 Montreux (Switzerland) 10
GMC 1977 Netherlands 2
GMC 1977 Zurich (Switzerland) 3
GMC 1977 Ch Germany (team) (South-west) 1977/78 * Germany 1
GMC 1977 Ch Netherlands * Leeuwarden (Netherlands) 13
GMC 1977 Ch World (match) (cand.) (1/2) * Evian (France) 12
GMC 1977 Ch World (match) (cand.) (1/4) * Ciocco (Italy) 13

UPI 1977 Belgrade cm f 17
UPI 1977 Ciocco cqf ,CAND 4
UPI 1977 Evian cm sf 12
UPI 1977 Il Ciocco cm qf 8
UPI 1977 Leeuwarden NED ch 11
UPI 1977 Montreux 10

While the data again looks comparable, it's only because I eliminated 75% of the 'events' for UPITT, where the PGN headers haven't been standardized. Even for the six remaining events, Ciocco and Il Ciocco identify the same Candidates match.

To make progress for the period 1945-1977, I need to work only with the Levy & O'Connell material (on paper) and the GMchess data. The UPITT data can be ignored for now.

05 February 2017

Chess with Rare Woods

We don't see many chess tables here on Top eBay Chess Items by Price. The only one I can remember was Quarter Sawn Chess (December 2013).

The title of the auction on this latest table was 'Horse Head Chess Table and Chairs; Beautiful, Unique, One of a Kind; Hand Carved, Made with Rare Woods'. The item sold for US $5500, Buy-It-Now. That's more than twice the price of the 'Quarter Sawn' table, which was also a beautiful piece.

The description said,

This unique chess set was purchased in the 1980's when living in the Philippines. It came from and was made in a small village of wood carvers in Baguio. Beautiful authentic high quality Philippine hand carved wood Chess table and chairs.

The table top is supported by a pedestal carved into a horse's head that sits on a square base. Horse head carving's are on the pedestal of both table and chairs.

Chess pieces are made from rare ebony, ironwood (kamagong) and molave. The table itself has a variety of woods from cacia raintree to narra. The inlay comes from three different types of woods.

The table top is reversible and flips to serve as a backgammon board. The table is 5" deep for storage of chess pieces. All chess pieces have felt on the bottom.

This piece is in excellent shape for its age. Has been stored for many years. There is a varnish coating over entire pieces to protect all wood. There is some peeling in small areas of the varnish and few light scratches.

Table - 28.0" H x 28.0" D x 28.0" W
Chairs - 18.0" H x 12.0" W
Chess Pieces - range from 4" to 7"

Note the reference to Baguio, Philippines. This was the venue for the 1978 Karpov - Korchnoi Title Match, Which Karpov won +6-5=21.

03 February 2017

Knock Knock!

What do the world's top grandmasters do while waiting for the start of the next round at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival? They tell jokes!

Open de Gibraltar de Ajedrez © Flickr user InfoGibraltar under Creative Commons.

As GM Peter Svidler said to GM Vassily Ivanchuk,

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Pizza who?
Pete's a great guy!

And the Ukrainian GM replied,

Knock knock!
Who's there?
Chuck who?
Chuck mate!

Not to be outdone, the seven-time Russian champion said,

Knock knock
Who's there?
Russian who?
Rushin' to tell bad jokes!

Then the exchange became political.

Knock knock
Who's there?
Putin who?
Putin me to sleep!

This was quickly followed by,

Knock knock
Who's there?
Crimea who?
Crimea river!

Just as the exchange was about to turn politically incorrect, the round started. • For a more conventionial Flickr Friday post on a previous edition of the same event, see Gibraltar's Tradewise Chess (February 2014).

02 February 2017

February 1967 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, for 65 cents each, you could buy an issue of both of the leading American chess magazines.

Left: 'Past and Future'
Right: 'Eight Straight'

Chess Life

THE PAST: Gordon Knight, president of Georgia's Peachtree Chess Club passes winner's check to William Lombardy, champion of last fall's Peach State Open. James R. Ballard (center), a USCF Director and Vice-President of the Atlanta Chess Association, holds championship trophy.

THE FUTURE: The Atlanta Chess Association is hosting the 1967 U.S. Open, August 13-25, at the Atlanta American Motor Hotel. The concurrent U.S. Speed Championship will be held on August 19 at Massey Junior College, which was patron and host to the Peach State Open. President Jack Barnette of Massey is enthusiastically supporting the 1967 U.S. Open.

Chess Review

Fischer Adds to his Record in the U. S. Championships • Robert J. Fischer has now competed in and won eight straight U. S. Championships. He tied Samuel Reshevsky's record with six straight, broke it last year with seven and now holds a brand new record. With his record-tieing sixth straight championship, Fischer won all eleven games. In the first round this time, after he had pulled out from a losing position against Benko, and won, it looked again as though he was going all the way.

Fischer's eighth win (+8-0=3) was covered in last month's CL; see January 1967 'On the Cover'. The February CL had another half-page story of historical interest.

A History-Making Tournament! • January 21-23, 1966: Boston, Massachusetts; United States of America, Planet Earth. [should be 1967?]

The Massachusetts Amateur Championship marks the very first time (in the world, as far as we know) that an electronic computer played chess against human beings under regular tournament conditions; time limit, Swiss-system pairings, touch-move, the works.

In the past, as everyone knows, computers have been programmed for chess playing, but only for scientific experimental purposes, and their opponents have usually been limited to the programmer and his colleagues. This time the computer was paired against rated chess players who were interested only in winning the game, not to demonstrate a scientific point.

The story continued with 'a report sent in by Benjamin Landey, well-known New England chess organiser, and Tournament Director for this event'. The chess playing computer was named MacHack VI.

31 January 2017

'White Always Mates'

A couple of recent news reports -- John Hurt, diverse actor of screen and stage, dies at 77 – video obituary (theguardian.com) and George Orwell's '1984' Has Become a Bestseller Again (biography.com) -- reminded me that I had a relevant image somewhere in my digital collection. I found it without too much trouble.

John Hurt, Movie: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

What's the chess connection? I located a digital copy of the book, downloaded it, and searched for the word 'chess'. The first reference was almost inconsequential, but reminded me of the central themes of the book, which I first read when I was 12-13 years old, and which was one of the first influences I can recall that really made me think.

It was the lonely hour of fifteen. Winston could not now remember how he had come to be in the cafe at such a time. The place was almost empty. A tinny music was trickling from the telescreens. The three men sat in their corner almost motionless, never speaking. Uncommanded, the waiter brought fresh glasses of gin. There was a chessboard on the table beside them, with the pieces set out but no game started. And then, for perhaps half a minute in all, something happened to the telescreens. The tune that they were playing changed, and the tone of the music changed too. There came into it -- but it was something hard to describe. It was a peculiar, cracked, braying, jeering note: in his mind Winston called it a yellow note. And then a voice from the telescreen was singing:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me:
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree.

The three men never stirred. But when Winston glanced again at Rutherford's ruinous face, he saw that his eyes were full of tears. And for the first time he noticed, with a kind of inward shudder, and yet not knowing at what he shuddered, that both Aaronson and Rutherford had broken noses.

A little later all three were re-arrested. It appeared that they had engaged in fresh conspiracies from the very moment of their release.

On top of two more fleeting references that show Orwell's familiarity with the game...

The physical difficulty of meeting was enormous. It was like trying to make a move at chess when you were already mated. Whichever way you turned, the telescreen faced you.


A person growing up with Newspeak as his sole language would no more know that equal had once had the secondary meaning of 'politically equal', or that free had once meant 'intellectually free', than for instance, a person who had never heard of chess would be aware of the secondary meanings attaching to Queen and Rook.

...the longest chess reference was almost certainly the inspiration for the scene in the movie.

A waiter, again unbidden, brought the chessboard and the current issue of The Times, with the page turned down at the chess problem. Then, seeing that Winston's glass was empty, he brought the gin bottle and filled it. There was no need to give orders. They knew his habits. The chessboard was always waiting for him, his corner table was always reserved; even when the place was full he had it to himself, since nobody cared to be seen sitting too close to him. He never even bothered to count his drinks. At irregular intervals they presented him with a dirty slip of paper which they said was the bill, but he had the impression that they always undercharged him. It would have made no difference if it had been the other way about. He had always plenty of money nowadays. He even had a job, a sinecure, more highly-paid than his old job had been.

The music from the telescreen stopped and a voice took over. Winston raised his head to listen. No bulletins from the front, however. It was merely a brief announcement from the Ministry of Plenty. In the preceding quarter, it appeared, the Tenth ThreeYear Plan's quota for bootlaces had been overfulfilled by 98 per cent. He examined the chess problem and set out the pieces. It was a tricky ending, involving a couple of knights. 'White to play and mate in two moves.' Winston looked up at the portrait of Big Brother. White always mates, he thought with a sort of cloudy mysticism. Always, without exception, it is so arranged. In no chess problem since the beginning of the world has black ever won. Did it not symbolize the eternal, unvarying triumph of Good over Evil? The huge face gazed back at him, full of calm power. White always mates.

Is 'White always mates' really symbolic of the 'unvarying triumph of Good over Evil?' I can't believe that Orwell was so optimistic. Perhaps it's meant to be ironic.


Later: For more about the film, see the IMDB's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). NB: '1984' is both the name of the movie and the year it was released.

30 January 2017

Korchnoi's TMER 1976-2000

Before continuing last week's post, Korchnoi's Career 1945-1977 (on Paper), I had to do a little clean-up on Viktor Korchnoi's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (1946-1977; TMER). When I started the project, I used two different PGN files to get an overview of his career during the period 1976-2000:-

  • Korchnoi's Events 1977-1996 • 'I chose one of the files, extracted all games from 1977 and afterwards (2130 games, including many duplicates), and loaded the PGN headers into a database. The file I chose had no information in the PGN '[Event]' tag, so I was forced to work with the '[Site]' tag. This tag had never been standardized and I found over 730 different combinations of year/site, covering the period 1977-1996.' (1 August 2016)

  • Korchnoi's Events 1976-2000 • 'The original PGN file I used for that 1977-1996 post appears to have been from the 1990s UPITT collection and was named KORCH2PG.ZIP. [...] I found a second ZIP file in my own archive, originally from GM Khalifman's GMchess.com site. [...] The original file contained 3832 Korchnoi games, of which 2282 were from the years 1976 to 2001.' (22 August 2016)

That left two tables covering the period 1976-2000, which was one too many. I combined them into a single table and updated the TMER accordingly. While the result is far from perfect, it's still better than what I had before. Next step: Order the events chronologically on this portion of the TMER.