25 June 2017

'Mystery Painting' on eBay

In this long running series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price, I try to avoid repeating featured items, but sometimes it can't be helped. If the painting pictured below looks familiar, it might be because it's been the basis for two previous posts:-

This latest appearance of the painting was titled 'Vintage C.W.Towin, Genre Oil Painting, French Cavalier Men Playing Chess'. It sold for US $455 after 33 bids from eight bidders.

The description said,

After a Google [image] search we found that this mid-20th century oil painting on stretched canvas is a very well executed copy of the famous painting “Chess Players” by the Belgian artist, Alex de Andreis (1880-1929). It depicts two French cavalier men in the middle of an intense chess match. The gentleman to the left is holding a clay pipe in one hand and stroking his beard as he contemplates the next move. His opponent is [sic] a glass of liquor and has a very confident look on his face.

The quality of this 24” by 20” oil painting is excellent and with the exception of some stable craquelar to a few areas, there are no problems or any restorations. The artist has signed the lower right hand corner “C.V.Towin”. This circa 1950s Oil Painting comes in its original 22 3/4" by 26 3/4" gilded frame.

Although the composition is the same as the variations shown in the 'Still a Mystery' post, the details are different. I found this latest variation in another recent auction C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century), 04.06.17, Sold: $153.40 (aspireauctions.com) along with the further explanation,

50. C. V. Towin (American, 20th Century) • 20" x 24" • Chess players. Oil on canvas, signed lower right, framed in carved and gessoed wooden frame, overall 23" x 27". • Condition: Slight craquelure surface, some losses to frame, otherwise very good. • Estimate: $250/500 • Sold with Premium: $153.40 • Closed: Apr 6, 2017

With each new post, the painting becomes less of a mystery. It was probably painted by Alex de Andreis (aka d'Andreis), variously identified as (take your pick):

British, 1880-1929; Belgian, 1871-1929; Belgian, 1871-1939; Belgian/British, 1880-1929

The painting was first copied by the Taber Prang Art Co. (not 'Tabor Prang' as my December 2007 post recorded) and later copied by other artists. The main mystery remaining now is -- where is the original painting?

23 June 2017

Chess Emotions Run High

At the beginning of the month I wrote a post Award Winning Chess Photos, about the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org). The photos below are from the same contest. I've cropped out the museum label, which started,

Sports; 2nd prize stories • Michael Hanke; Czech Republic

The photographer's description of the photo explained,

This exhibition was at the BCCC [Barcelona Center of Contemporary Culture] near where we were staying, and one of the festival sites, so we spent a good two hours looking at it. [...] This series of photos from a chess tournament caught my eye. Particularly the expression on the little boy's face - it reminded me of how James gets when he's intensely involved in a game.

The little boy's face reminds me more of a primal scream and I have to wonder if he's winning or losing.


World Press Photo © Flickr user Clare Griffiths under Creative Commons.

The museum label also had a short description of each photo (there are two in the center).

A father gives his son advice in Zdice. • The moments before the start of a new round in Zdice. • Parents and trainers watch the course of a game in Slany. • Emotions run high at a tournament in Kamenice.

'Advice in Zdice'. Does that rhyme?

22 June 2017

Sports Illustrated 'On the Cover'

On top of learning More About Thomas Emery, in that previous post I discovered that an influential American sports magazine was a source for in-depth feature articles about chess.

Here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

Back to that old question, The Graffiti Wall - Is Chess a Sport? (December 2013), if SI thinks it's a sport, then the matter is settled. The magazine has even featured chess on its cover.


Left: 'U.S Chess Champion Lisa Lane'
Right: 'Bobby's Chessboard Mastery'

7 August 1961: QUEEN OF KNIGHTS AND PAWNS • 'Once tolerated as a good-looking girl who played chess, Lisa Lane is now a champion who wants the world title' • seven page article by Robert Cantwell

Lisa Lane is an ardent and optimistic girl who won the U.S. women's chess championship soon after she learned how to play chess and now expects whatever she is involved into work out as well. If Lisa hears of a tournament that may possibly be held at some time in the future she takes it for granted that she will play in it, she naturally believes that she will win, and from that it is only a logical step for her to buy a new dress in anticipation of her victory.

14 August 1972: HOW TO COOK A RUSSIAN GOOSE • 'First, catch a Russian -- and at long last Bobby Fischer apparently has, dominating Boris Spassky so completely that only a sharp reversal can keep the young American from becoming world champion' • four page article, also by Robert Cantwell

On summer evenings in Iceland the sun barely sinks below the horizon. There is a joke going around that Bobby Fischer demanded it set three hours earlier, but so far the Icelandic Chess Federation hasn't been able to arrange it. In any case, it is daylight most of the time, and the only real darkness in the land these days has been in the cavernous interior of Reykjavik's Exhibition Hall, where the World Championship Chess Match is going on, and possibly in the heart of Russia's Boris Spassky.

The last photo in the Lisa Lane piece looked familiar and I found it in an eBay post, Two American Champions (March 2016).

20 June 2017

More About Thomas Emery

While working on a recent post, Thomas Emery, I was disappointed that I found so little non-chess web material about the man. I continued to look and found details about his family in a book, 'Founders and Famous Families of Cincinnati' by Wendy Hart Beckman. This first passage (p.88-89) is about Emery's grandfather.

[Procter and Gamble, ca.1837] began by creating soaps and candles for Cincinnati's citizenry. Gamble made the soaps and candles, and Procter took care of administrative duties and marketing. He loaded the products up in their wheelbarrow and carted them around to the various stores to sell. Soon their business grew enough that they could move to a location on Western Row (now called Central Avenue), closer to the slaughterhouses.

They were not alone in taking advantage of the rich supply of pork fats, though. By the end of the decade, they were joined by Michael Werk from Alsace, Thomas Emery from England, and Andrew Jergens from Germany, all of whom started businesses using the abundant fats and oils of Porkopolis to make soaps and candles. Soon Cincinnati's soaps were sold throughout the state, thanks to a great extent to the canals.

Thomas Emery did not always enjoy success in his candlemaking. Born in England, he immigrated to the United States in 1832 with his wife and his son, Thomas Josephus Emery. Emery first tried his hand at selling real estate and then began dabbling in soaps and lard oil. His first attempts only landed him in bankruptcy, however. Soon enough, Thomas Emery found his niche: real estate and fatty acids.

The second passage (p.140) is about his uncle.

Thomas J. Emery married Mary Hopkins in 1866; Samuel Hannaford built their family home, the Edgecliffe, which overlooked the Ohio River. However, theirs was not to remain a happy family for long. They had two sons: Sheldon, born in 1867, and Albert, born in 1868. Albert died at the age of 16 as the result of a sledding accident, and Sheldon died at 23 from pneumonia while a student at Harvard. Thomas died in 1906, leaving his widow a lonely millionaire for 21 years. He left her his $20 million fortune with no directives as to how to spend it.

The last passage (p.141) is about his father.

Mary Emery died in 1927 at the age of 83. Tom and Mary Emery had no heirs; younger brother John was still a bachelor in his 60s, so he married a 22-year-old woman and had five children to pass on the family name and philanthropic tradition. That tradition was carried on in John J. Emery Jr., who also enjoyed success in the hotel business, building the 48-story Carew Tower (Cincinnati's tallest building at the time), the Netherland Plaza, and the Terrace Plaza hotels. He also founded Cincinnati Country Day School and held leadership roles with the Boy Scouts of America and the Cincinnati Art Museum. Meanwhile, his sister Audrey showed herself for having a flair for fashion and flings. She was voted one of the ten most beautiful women in America and married into Russian nobility not once, but twice, including the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, the cousin of Nicholas, Russia's last czar.

The family relatioships are shown in a family tree from Cincinnati Magazine, December 1988 (p.76).


THOMAS EMERY and wife, KEZIA BROWN.
(Born 1798 in Bedford, England; arrived in America in early 1830s; died 1857)

Chess benefactor Thomas (1896-1975) is shown farthest to the right on the second row. Two of his siblings have found their way into Wikipedia:-

His son, not shown in the family tree, died in 2004: John Joseph Emery.

John Joseph Emery, 73, died Nov. 27, 2004, in Bar Harbor. He was born March 11, 1931, in Biarritz, France, the son of Thomas and Constance (Thomas) Emery. His family came to the United States in 1940, because of the war, where they resided in Oyster Bay, Long Island. [...] His grandfather, John J. Emery, built "The Turrets", an historic cottage in Bar Harbor, in which the family lived, it is now owned by the College of the Atlantic, of which John was a big supporter.'

Since this is a chess blog and there's nothing yet about chess in this post, I'll add a few Thomas Emery chess stories that I encountered during my investigations. First here's a long article from Sports Illustrated about the first Armed Forces chess tournament.

1960-06-06: Revival of an old Army game • 'In the annals of American sport it would be difficult to find any event so completely overshadowed as was the first annual armed forces chess tournament in Washington a fortnight ago. About the time the 12 contestants had adjusted themselves to playing in the air-conditioned basement of the USO building on Lafayette Square, the U-2-summit affair exploded, and the entire city was awash with excitement.'

Next here's a New York Times article about another event Emery sponsored.

1973-11-04: Lyman and Chess are back on TV • 'Introduced by the Gillette sports song, Shelby Lyman, the chess teacher, returned to the air yesterday, providing move-by-move analysis on Channel 13 of the first in four-game match between the champions of the Marshall and Manhattan Chess Clubs. [...] The match is being financed by a $25,000 grant from Thomas Emery and the American Chess Foundation. Emery, a long-time chess patron, subsidized José Raul Capablanca, the Cuban who was world champion from 1921 to 1927, The foundation underwrites the United States Chess Championship and the Armed Forces Chess Championship.'

Finally, here's a story about the disposition of Emery's bequest to the Armed Forces tournament.

Honor the Intent by Don Schultz • 'The Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism are not the only victim of the Chess-in-the-Schools new policy. An example is the income from over a million dollars of Thomas Emery donations. Emery was a close friend of many of our finest players, including Frank Marshall and Al Horowitz. He helped support master chess. He also was a member of the Marine Corps during World War I and as a result had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960, and continued to sponsor it during his lifetime. He had every expectation that income from his donations would continue to be used for master and armed forces chess promotions. But it is not. All of it is now being used for the Chess-in-the Schools New York City inner city school programs.'

Back to my first Thomas Emery post, will I find as luch about the other chess patrons mentioned there?

19 June 2017

Site Stats and Images

In a recent post, Site Stats and Adsense, I used the server log on my personal domain to look at the relative popularity of my web pages. Similar techniques can be used for images. I did this a few years ago in Photos of February (March 2015):-

One thing I've always wanted to do -- but never found the time -- is to analyze the popularity of the various images stored on the site.

I don't want to repeat that exercise here, other than to mention the most popular photo for May 2017:-


The Match That Never Was (September 2012)

The log can also be used to follow the progress of a new post by tracking its corresponding image. Let's take, for example, my first post from May 2017 that used an image -- May 1967 'On the Cover'. -- and follow the progress of that image from the moment of its creation. (Because it's the information provided by the link which is most important here, I'll give the URL of the referring page without converting it to a link.)

The first call of a new image is always from its directory. This is because I check the image after uploading it, in case it was somehow damaged in the process (it happens). I then copy the full URL and add it to my new post.

  • http://www.mark-weeks.com/cfaa/

The next call of the new image is by the mechanism that distributes it to social media. For this CFAA blog, I see five accesses by dlvr.it, where a short URL expands to the full URL of the new post plus the parameters utm_source=dlvr.it & utm_medium=facebook.

  • http://dlvr.it/P2yc0M

After this the new image starts to be displayed on a single page for the new post or on the home page of the blog, where the most recent post appears first.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/2017/05/may-1967-on-cover.html
  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/

Some time later, the image is called from various content aggregators. Here's one that appears regularly...

  • http://newsblur.com/site/1749928/chess-for-all-ages

...and here's another that appears to be worth exploring:-

  • http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles?query=chess%20player

After more posts have been added to the blog, the original post starts to show up on pages of 'Older Posts'.

  • http://chessforallages.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2017-05-04T17:39:00%2B02:00&max-results=7

Since I also use my m-w.com domain to store images for my other blogs, the same process applies to them. Here's the most popular image on my World Chess Championship blog for the month of May.


Che Guevara at the Havana Zonal (January 2014)

And here's the most popular image on my Chess960 (FRC) blog for the same period.


Finding Top ICC Chess960 Players (November 2013)

That last chess960 image, as simple as it is, was just as popular as the top CFAA images, even though the C960 blog gets about 10% of the traffic that CFAA gets. Why this popularity? My server log only tells me that nearly all of the access were from Google. For example, the first access of the month was from

  • https://www.google.com.ph/

That's pretty much normal for an investigation into site statistics. An answered question nearly always leads to new questions.

18 June 2017

The Chess Remedy?

Ever since I started this series on 'The Sociology of Chess', it seems that whenever I work up a short list for Video Friday (last seen in Kasparov Talks at Google), there's at least one clip that delves into some aspect related to sociology. This latest one starts,

The youth of this generation, particularly those in the inner cities, are suffering from a failing educational system and high amounts of addiction. Politicians, social activists, and various charity organizations have been working to stop this epidemic for [many] years. What if I told you that the answer was simple? What if I told you that the answer was chess?


Caleb Varghese: Chess - A Social and Educational Remedy (16:21) • 'Published on Jun 16, 2017'

This might not be the best presentation I've seen on the 'Chess in Schools' topic and it might contain some questionable facts, but it covers more territory than most such presentations do. Here is a list of the slides used:-

  • Originally played by warrior class and aristocracy
  • 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu
  • Strategy and tactics
  • Understanding reactions to every action
  • Chess solution to addiction?
  • A village in India
  • Playing chess improves critical thinking skills
  • Magnus Carlsen plays blindfold simul against 10 Harvard lawyers ('highest ranked chess players in the world'?)
  • Chess makes you smart
  • Extracurricular activities supplement academic studies
  • Chess evens the playing field
  • Chess promotes discipline
  • Get chess in schools
  • It's your move

For more about the context of the presentation, see English 10P Talks Reveal a Wide Range of Student Interests and Passions! (thewheatleyway.org; Old Westbury, Long Island, New York; 1 June 2017).

16 June 2017

Kasparov Talks at Google

The short list for this edition of Video Friday was eventually further shortened to two Kasparov clips. The first was a MasterClass trailer. If you have a Facebook account and if you have ever shown any interest in chess, you have probably been presented this clip more times than you can count on your fingers and toes. If not, it's here: Garry Kasparov Teaches Chess | Official Trailer (youtube.com; MasterClass). The second Kasparov clip on the short list was more interesting.


Garry Kasparov: "Deep Thinking" | Talks at Google (38:50) • 'Garry Kasparov and DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis discuss Garry’s new book, his match with Deep Blue and his thoughts on the future of AI in the world of chess.'

At the beginning of the video, moderator Hassabis mentions his review of GM Kasparov's most recent book, 'Deep Thinking', where I think he means Artificial Intelligence: Chess match of the century (nature.com). Kasparov replies,

Thank you very much for your review and also for all the protection against all the tech guys who criticized me for not being an expert.

Does that mean the book is not for tech people? I'll come back to that question when I get the chance to read the book. One of the comments to the clip informs,

Demis Hassabis was once the second strongest under-14 chess player in the world (Elo 2300), behind Judit Polgar.

As for 'Talks at Google', I featured another episode a few years back in a Video Friday post titled Computer Chess 'Comedy' (July 2013), about the movie 'Computer Chess'. GM Kasparov appeared in an earlier Google talk, Garry Kasparov | Talks at Google (youtube.com; 'Uploaded on Nov 18, 2010'), when he was invited because of his own article on Diego Rasskin-Gutman's 'Chess Metaphors' in the New York Times Review of Books.

15 June 2017

Fischer and Chess Review 'On the Cover'

Earlier this month, in June 1967 'On the Cover', I asked the question

Chess Review: how many times through the years was Fischer featured?

This led to two posts where I didn't answer the question...

...but now I can give a partial answer: 15 times through the beginning of 1964.

Those 15 covers include the 12 shown above plus three marked with an asterix ('*') in the following list:-

  • 1956-01: *; see 'Bobby's First "On the Cover"'
  • 1956-12: 'Game of the Century'; 3rd Rosenwald
  • 1957-04: 'Meeting of Extremes'; match with Euwe
  • 1958-02: 'Youngest Champion'; U.S. Championship & qualification to interzonal
  • 1958-05: 'CBS had a secret'; Garry Moore and 'I've Got a Secret'; see also The Best Fischer Clip Ever (February 2008)
  • 1959-02: * (same photo as 1958-02); 'Champion Again!'; 5th Rosenwald & U.S. Championship
  • 1959-03: *; 'Composite View of U.S. Championship', (incl. same photo as 1958-02)
  • 1960-02: 'Anti-Climax'; U.S. Championship (Rosenwald Trophy), 3rd straight win
  • 1960-12: 'The USA Team'; World Team Championship, 1960 Leipzig (NB: word 'Olympiad' not used)
  • 1961-02: 'Fourth Straight Year'; the accompanying article explained, 'Known officially as the Lessing J. Rosenwald Tournament for the U.S. Chess Championship and Frank J. Marshall Trophy, 1960-1961'
  • 1962-04: 'Fischer Forges Forward'; 1962 Stockholm Interzonal
  • 1962-05: 'Fischer Lauded at the Marshall Chess Club'; winner of 1962 Stockholm Interzonal; also shown are Caroline Marshall and John W. Collins
  • 1963-02: 'Champ Fifth Time'
  • 1963-10: 'U.S. Champion Splurges in Swisses'; Western Open & N.Y. State Open
  • 1964-02: 'Study in Concentration'; U.S. Championship (+11-0=0)

With March 1964 'On the Cover' (March 2014), I started a monthly look at the covers from 50 years ago of both Chess Life and Chess Review (CR). Fischer on a subsequent CR cover was first documented in July 1965 'On the Cover' (July 2015). The 'On the Cover' series has two more years to run, after which I'll make a final tally of Fischer CR covers.

13 June 2017

Thomas Emery

One of my first posts this year, January 1967 'On the Cover', demanded a follow-up:-

'Thomas Emery Trophy', 'Thomas Emery Awards dinner' -- who was Thomas Emery and what was his connection to the American Chess Foundation?

The June 1957 issue of Chess Review (CR) carried a two page feature 'Thomas Emery: Amateur Extraordinary' by T.A. Dunst. It started,

An amateur chess player who stands off U.S. champions, assorted grandmasters, ex-world champions and the like, is certainly a rara avis. That distinction belongs to genial Thomas Emery of New 'York, who, at 62, is a man of many interests, including world travel, the study of medicine and delving into the mysterious topography of the chessboard.

When Frank Marshall in 1942 wrote My Fifty Years of Chess, summing up an international chess career and 27 years possession of the United States chess championship, the book contained a great deal more of Thomas Emery than the preface which he supplied; for the friendship between the two men was of the Damon - Pythias variety, and they spent endless hours in philosophizing and in analyzing openings, endings and middle-game intrigue.

Half about Emery's life, half about Emery's approach to chess, the article focused on his three major interests: his military career, his medical career, and his chess.


Thomas Emery, Chess Review, June 1957, p.177

Of his military career,

Emery, a native New Yorker, stems from ancestry which is about 80 per cent English. He attended tutoring school in England, where the brother of a schoolmate named Buffer became a member of the British chess team in 1910. Young Emery threw himself into chess about this time and, within a year, was taking the team player's measure.

Soon after the United States entered World War I, Emery found himself in the Officers' Training Camp at Plattsburg. Scoring 98 per cent in his studies, he was called to Washington to be commissioned a captain at the age of 21 in the Quartermaster Corps. [...] Emery turned down the captain, and enlisted in the U.S. Marines, in which organization he served with distinction. Because of his knowledge of French. he acted as interpreter. He was wounded in 1918 and later recommended for bravery. He was honorably discharged in August of 1919.

Of his medical career,

It was during World War II that Emery pursued intensive medical studies, an interest which has never flagged and which is second only to his enthusiasm for chess. He has lectured on hematology at the North Country Community Hospital in Glen Cove and, in 1943, was appointed Senior First Aid Instructor for the whole of Long Island. In this connection. Emery takes justifiable pride in the knowledge that many of his students continued in the field of nursing and medicine. Perhaps, there is a hereditary influence in all this. for Emery's grandfather. Brig.-Gen. Charles Tripler Alexander, was a surgeon under Custer and a chief-surgeon under Sherman.

A few years after CR's 1957 article, the cover of the May 1960 issue of Chess Review featured a photo of the 'Thomas Emery Armed Forces Chess Trophy'. Inside the magazine announced,

On the occasion of the first tournament for the Thomas Emery Armed Forces Chess Awards, scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. from May 15th to May 21st, the American Chess Foundation salutes:
The Selected Finalists: [12 players named]
Mr. Thomas Emery, distinguished American, internationally-famous chess player and generous patron of the Awards.
The Department of Defense.
The United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) and its affiliated agencies.
The NAVY TIMES for its Special Award.
Mr. I.S. Turover for his Special Award.
-and-
Colonel John D. Matheson, Chairman of the ACF-USCF Joint Committee for Armed Forces Chess, for his magnificent direction of the project, together with those associated with him on the Committee: Col. E.B. Ely; Thomas Emery; Dr. Eliot Hearst; Sgt. Bob Karch ; I.S. Turover and Sidney Wallach.

For more about the series of tournaments, see Wikipedia's United States Armed Forces Chess. Emery is mentioned only once, in passing. The 1957 CR article included three scores of games by Emery: draws with Bisguier and Euwe, and a win against Menchik. It also mentioned three amateur chess players who made their names in other fields.

This brief sketch of an amateur who plays chess in the tradition of Henry T. Buckle, the historian, Moritz Rosenthal, the pianist, and Charles Schwab, the steel king, would not be complete without a word about his wife, Constance. [...]

Does this mean more follow-up posts ahead?

12 June 2017

Site Stats and Adsense

In last week's post, Chess Stats Year-Over-Year, I investigated a drop in my site's visitor statistics:-

Those numbers show an increase from to 2015 to 2016 on the old server, then a decrease from 2016 to 2017 on the transfer to the new server. The last number, 'recs/page', indicates that something might have changed in the server mechanism that delivers pages. I'll investigate those numbers in another post.

While I was looking at those numbers, I encountered a few anomalies that raised new questions. I flagged those to my server provider and will wait for a response before I go much further. In the meantime, I noticed a new problem regarding Google Adsense. Here's a screen capture showing the top and bottom of a typical page on my CFAA site.


Improve Your Middle Game (Part 1 - Patterns)

What's the point? I last discussed the top ad ('Luxury Cruises' in this example) in

I last discussed the bottom ads in

The top ad doesn't blend well into the rest of the page. Google ads should be unobtrusive, but this one dominates the content. I should either move it or eliminate it entirely.

The bottom ads are simply wrong. That 'Matched Content' link from January shows a few Google ads mixed with image links to my own pages. All we see in the page pictured above are a couple of Google ads with links to my content missing completely. The problem occurs on a number of my pages, while other pages show the ads and internal links correctly. As far as I can tell, the ad code on all pages is identical. I'll see if this is a temporary error before carrying it any further.

I doubt that these Adsense issues are reseponsible for the decline in visitor traffic, but they don't help. In any case, I'm spending too much time on them, which is a distraction from the content itself.

11 June 2017

Dube and Chotka

Sometimes the series of posts on Top eBay Chess Items by Price are more about price than they are about chess and this is one of those times. The item pictured below was titled 'Dube oil on canvas Still Life with Chess Piece and Coffee Pot' and sold at live auction for US $8500 after 36 bids. The seller's estimate had been US $2000-4000.

The description said,

Dube (Duilio or Dulie Dube Barnabe; Italian, 1914-1961), 'Still Life with Chess Pieces', oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, signed Barnabe lower right,

Dube, an Italian-French painter and graphic artist, received his artistic education from Giorgio Morandi in Bologna. He lived and worked since 1946 in Paris where he was strongly influenced by the work of Picasso.

Framed in a silver leaf frame with several liners measuring 46 x 53 inches. Condition Report: In generally good condition with a few superficial scratches and minor planar distortion.

Of the several names appearing in the description, a search on 'artist barnabe' returned the best results. A related image search indicates that chess was not a recurring theme in his work.

***

More Chotka: A previous post in 'Top eBay Chess Items', The Artist and the Artwork (April 2015), featured a painted bronze by Anton Chotka. Over the past fortnight a similar work appeared on eBay and sold for $1300, 'Best offer accepted', on an asking price of $4999.99. A link on the auction page points to another, similar Chotka item on Sothebys.com:-

Estimate: 3000-5000 EUR; Lot sold: 7750 EUR (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)

I have no idea why the price for different, similar Chotka pieces varies so much. My 'Artist / Artwork' post showed uncertainty about Chotka's life span. Sotheby's gave 'Anton Chotka, 1878-1928'.

09 June 2017

Light Mummies Play Chess

There's not much chess in this picture, but I couldn't shake the question: How did the photographer do it?


That's the Spirit © Flickr user Levi Turman under Creative Commons.

The description said,

Light drawing at an outdoor chess table. Unfortunately there is a very bright light on the nearby trail, I'll want to bring a ND filter next time so I can paint slower.

Light drawing? ND filter? That raises more questions than it answers. The photographer's 'Groups' page points to Strobist.com | Flickr, which might offer further clues for the clueless, like me. For more unusual chess partners, see Big Dummies (February 2010) and Sand Dudes (June 2015), playing chess, of course.

08 June 2017

Young Bobby in Chess Life

My previous post, Young Bobby's First 'On the Cover', was about the January 1956 issue of Chess Review. When was Fischer first featured on the cover of Chess Life (CL)? In the early years of its existence, CL was published as a small newspaper twice a month, with eight pages per issue. There were few photos other than the likenesses of columnists or imagery on ads. The first half of 1956 used only a half-dozen photos, none showing Fischer. CL's first four photos of young Bobby are shown below.

Top left: CL 1956-07-20

'U.S. JUNIOR CHAMPION! Bobby Fischer (right) of Brooklyn in the process of defeating veteran Samuel Sklaroff of Philadelphia at the U.S. Amateur Championship in Asbury Park. Bobby is only 13 years old but shows strong indications of becoming a master.' • What does the U.S. Amateur Championship (May 1956) have to do with the U.S. Junior Championship (July 1956)? Fischer's victory in the U.S. Junior was announced on the same page as the photo, which was undoubtedly the most recent photo available.

Top right: CL 1956-08-20

'U.S. Junior Champion Bobby Fischer of Brooklyn, 13, poses for the cameraman of "The Oklahoman" before the start of the U.S. Open. Bobby stole the show at Oklahoma City, appeared twice on television, played like a master, finished in 8th place on tie-breaking points, scored 8.5-3.5 without losing a single game.'

Bottom left: CL 1956-12-05

'STUDY IN TENSION. Bobby Fischer fidgets, bites his nails and squirms in general when in trouble. Here, in the last round, facing acute time pressure (See the clock -- 12 is the deadline) and a very critical position, he falls into a characteristic pose. (Photography and comments by Dr. Harold Sussman)' • Sussman also wrote the full page report on the tournament, the 3rd Rosenwald, New York, October 1956. This was the tournament where Fischer beat Donald Byrne in the 'Game of the Century' and finished +2-4=5. The left half of the photo, cropped at Fischer's elbow, was reused in later issues of Chess Life.

Bottom right: CL 1957-09-05

'At the U.S. Open Championship -- Photography by Marshall Rohland. [...] Champion-to-be Bobby Fischer gets set to play Edmar Mednis in the eighth round.' • Fischer won the game. His final score was +8-0=4 at the event held in Cleveland, August 1957.

The tournament report started, 'At 14 years, Bobby Fischer, Erasmus High student of Brooklyn, becomes the youngest master to win the U.S. Open title, as in 1956 he was the youngest player to win the U.S. Junior title. Fischer scored 10-2 in a games-won tie with U.S. Champion Arthur Bisguier but gained the title on adjusted tie-breaking points, with Bisguier placing second.'

Chess Life shifted to magazine format in January 1961, with Fischer biographer Frank Brady as editor. The first cover featured a photo of Fischer playing Reshevsky in the 1960-61 U.S. Championship.

06 June 2017

Young Bobby's First 'On the Cover'

In this month's 'On the Cover' (see June 1967 'On the Cover'), I wondered,

As for Chess Review, how many times through the years was Fischer featured? In the previous month he was pictured twice for the May 1967 'On the Cover'.

While I can't yet answer that question, other than to say 'a lot!', I can point to the first Chess Review (CR) cover that featured Fischer. It's shown below, bearing the date January 1956.

That's Bobby inside the rectangle of tables, top left corner, facing left. A full page story inside carried the same title as the cover photo: 'Small Time Big Time'; I have to admit that I don't understand what it means. The introduction to the story said,

ON THE COVER: Small Time Big Time • MOSTLY, it is the big time masters who put on simultaneous exhibitions. So we present with pleasure this (cover) picture and story offered by Joseph Brooks of the Yorktown Chess Club and manager of the Youth Group there. (The picture on this page, which gives a better close-up of Bobby Fischer, is by Virginia Williamson. And the event was recounted fulsomely in the New York Times, also.)

The story continued,

The astonished members of the oldest American Chess Club -- the Manhattan Chess Club of Central Park South of New York City -- witnessed the most unusual and unique chess exhibition, November 26. Bobby Fischer, age 12, the chess prodigy of the Manhattan Chess Club, played simultaneously twelve members of the Youth Group (age 7 to 12) of the Yorktown Chess Club. Bobby won all games, eliminating the first opponent in 50 minutes and the last one in two hours and twenty minutes.

Chess is recognized as the foremost game of intellectual skill -- it is most cosmopolitan of all games and it develops the mind to face occasions as they arise, it demands foresight, brilliancy and resource. Up to now, it was considered a game for adults, and the occasional appearance of a child player was an exception to the general rule.

A year ago, the Yorktown Chess Club sponsored the first known Youth Group. The membership has rapidly grown, and there are now 86 active children between the ages of 7 and 12 who meet regularly once a week to receive instructions and to play regular tournament games. It was 12 youths of this unusual group that Bobby Fischer played, opening the door to chess to the youth of America.

The next paragraph shows why it's useful to be bilingual in both algebraic and descriptive chess notation.

Bobby Fischer, who played White, opened on 12 boards with 1.P-K4, followed by 2.N-KB3 and 3.B-B4. The Yorktowners who were expecting Bobby to play the Queen's or King's Gambit were caught by surprise and five of them made the error of replying with 1...P-K4, 2...N-QB3 (which is good) and 3...N-KB3 (instead of 3...B-B4).

That naturally gave Bobby five winning games as he promptly followed with 4.K-KNS and then NxP. From that point on, however, the youngsters got real busy, setting up the strongest defense possible and fighting to the bitter end.

The other seven players put up good opening resistance to the middle game. Bobby played a strong offensive game with his Pawns and basically used the technique praised by the famous Steiner. He received from the Manhattan Chess Club a watch with an inscription and a check from the Yorktown Chess Club.

After more details about the exhibition, CR attached a coda to the Brooks story.

Not told in the foregoing story is one of interest. Bobby Fischer is a Brooklyn product, lives not too far from the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field. When Dr, Harold Sussman started to teach chess to his own son, he collected a group of youngsters for livelier interest in learning competitively. Brightest light of the group was -- you guessed it -- Bobby Fischer!

A few years ago, in Young Bobby Punched the Wrong Clock (November 2013), I noted an early story about Fischer from the February 1956 issue of Chess Life (CL). The 20 May 1956 issue of CL contained the 'tenth national chess rating list'. One entry was

Fischer, Bobby (Brooklyn NY) ... 1726

On the next rating list, a year later, he was listed in the MASTERS section at 2231. 'Bobby' had changed to 'Robt. J'.

05 June 2017

Chess Stats Year-Over-Year

Last week I used my Monday post to finish with Korchnoi's Career 1946-1977 (Crosstables; 'it's time to move to another project'), and now I'm going to take a few weeks to look at statistics on my main site m-w.com (linked on the right). In the past few months I've noticed a big drop in the number of daily visitors and I would like to know why.

Since chess has a seasonal bias -- peak interest in the winter, trough in the summer -- the best way to analyze a trend is with a year-over-year comparison. Normally I would compare stats reports from the same month in two consecutive years, but this is infeasible right now. The stats reporting package on my server host has changed twice in the last two years, as documented in two posts:-

That second post explains the main use of stats.

I look at the overall stats once a day to make sure that everything is working correctly and to identify any anomalies as quickly as possible. After watching the stats for a while, I get used to certain recurring patterns in the numbers and know intuitively when something is off.

Since something is definitely off, I need to analyze the server log files from this year and last year. While I'm at it, I'll go back one more year to identify any bias introduced by the transfer to a new host server last year. I extracted my monthly archive log files for May 2015 and May 2016, then downloaded the daily files for May 2017 and concatenated them into a single month. Here are the first numbers I derived:-

Logs:-
2015-05: 374144 recs, 27504 HTML, 13.6 recs/page
2016-05: 434545 recs, 31724 HTML, 13.7
2017-05: 268142 recs, 23124 HTML, 11.6

Those numbers show an increase from to 2015 to 2016 on the old server, then a decrease from 2016 to 2017 on the transfer to the new server. The last number, 'recs/page', indicates that something might have changed in the server mechanism that delivers pages. I'll investigate those numbers in another post.

04 June 2017

Award Winning Chess Photos

Maybe I made a mistake calling this series The Sociology of Chess (November 2016). Maybe I should have called it instead 'The Imagery of Chess'. The most recent post was a video:-

Before that were posts on art and on photography, of which the last were:-

Now let's get back to photography. This post is inspired by the 2017 Photo Contest (worldpressphoto.org), where chess featured in 'Sports, second prize stories': Youth Chess Tournaments; Michael Hanke, Czech Republic.

Michael Hanke was born in Kladno, Czech Republic, in 1972. His photographic career began when he was 40 years old, however, only one year later, he began to receive prestigious awards for his work, both at regional level (Czech Press Photo) and international level (Sony World Photography Awards, International Photographer of the Year). From the very beginning of his career, he has dedicated his work to the humanistic and social black-and-white documentary photography, focusing on long-term projects.

For more photos, see the photographer's personal site at Michael Hanke Photography : Youth Chess Tournaments.


Google image search on
'site:michaelhanke.photography chess'

02 June 2017

1.h4 h5 2.g4 g5

With 419.113 views and 12.161 likes, this sketch from Studio C (youtube.com; BYUTV) must be funny, right? After all, the 'C' in 'Studio C' stands for comedy.


A Chess Player Prodigy (4:49) • 'Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Even a chess playing prodigy?? Well get ready to sweep up the floors cause your jaw is going to DROP!'

To see the 1.760 comments, use the usual trick of right-click on the video. Those numbers are all very impressive, but I have a problem: I couldn't muster as much as a chuckle. The 'BYU' in BYUTV stands for Brigham Young University, so it must be a generational difference. Maybe I'll have better luck with the non-chess sketches on the 'Studio C' channel.

01 June 2017

June 1967 'On the Cover'

Fifty years ago, for the second time in three months (the April 1967 'On the Cover' was the first), Chess Life used a crosstable on its cover with the promise of a future article. As for Chess Review, how many times through the years was Fischer featured? In the previous month he was pictured twice for the May 1967 'On the Cover'.


Left: 'Sarajevo 1967'
Right: 'Pause to Reflect'

Chess Life

GM Byrne, left, explaining the game of chess to Savon, center, and USSR Champion Stein. Byrne later treated Stein to another lesson over the board, accounting for Stein's only loss of the tournament. • A full report on this important tournament will appear in July's Chess Life.

Chess Review

On the Cover • Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources, that Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer will not play in the Interzonal this year at Tunis. Those so stating may be indulging in wishful thinking. But, if Fischer plans not to play, it's time for him to pause and reflect!

He has expressed the thought that, in the "good old days," it was simple: the would-be challenger of the World Champion just put up the cash and got his chance. Now he must compete over three years in ill-paying affairs.

Actually, the FIDE program to qualify a challenger is laborious as others than Fischer can attest. Former World Champion Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it.* The program does repay by meager prizes as Fischer is not alone in protesting. Many grandmasters stay out to earn lusher prizes in other tournaments while FIDE candidates grind their way through the program. And the program does take time: a zonal tournament near to home, the distant interzonal of some twenty-odd rounds, a good month expended; and then three more (at least for the ultimate challenger) distant and grueling contests in the challenger round. A lot of time and strain and little reward, truly.

Fischer has also vented the thought that, if he can build up a good enough reputation and perhaps defeat the top Soviet players, especially in matches, the Soviet will be brought by pressure of public opinion to concede his right to a match for the world title. And he is thinking again that, if he puts up the lure of a purse...

Here is the time to pause to reflect. In the old days, the champion bit when a purse was tempting enough -- but seldom when the challenger was the most formidable. Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca not even though he won the great New York Tournament of 1924, nor a match with Alekhine. Capa never got a rematch with Alekhine who took on his "cousin" Bogulyubov repeatedly, instead. And the Soviet players, well subsidized by the government, are not so susceptible to cash lures. And the Soviet has repeatedly stressed that it considers the FIDE program the only legitimate route for a challenger. Reshevsky vainly pressed for matches for years. He even gained the title, Champion of the West, but could not get a match even with a lesser Soviet light. And he even outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament. Fischer should meditate on how the Soviet coolly ignored Reshevsky's claims.

The FIDE program does have some drawbacks as we can see by now. But it does guarantee any would-be challenger -- if he's the good-enough player -- a match for the world title. It is worth some present sacrifice, after all, to have that chance. If Fischer doesn't play at Tunis, he forfeits it. Pause to reflect!

* Botvinnik of course rankles under a special grievance: the FIDE deprived him of his right to a return match for his former title.

That CR editorial has some noteworthy statements. • 'Rumor has it, most strongly from Soviet sources': How could the Soviets know what Fischer was planning to do? • 'Botvinnik has denounced this labor and strain and refuses to descend to participation in it': Didn't he help design the qualification system? • 'Lasker never got a return match with Capablanca': Did he seek one? • '[Reshevsky] gained the title, Champion of the West': Was this the 1952 match with Najdorf? • '[Reshevsky] outscored Botvinnik personally 2.5-1.5 in the International Team Tournament': What tournament was this? (Chessgames.com says, Classical games: Mikhail Botvinnik beat Samuel Reshevsky 5 to 2, with 7 draws.) • Plenty of follow-ups here!