17 August 2017

Young Bobby and Sister Joan

Here are two photos of Bobby Fischer and his sister Joan (later Targ) that I hadn't seeen before.

Top: Chess Life, 5 October 1958; 'While Bobby's sister tells two Belgrade reporters her impressions of Europe, the U.S. Champ listens attentively to Yugoslav Master Janosevic, who met them at the airport.' (Portoroz Interzonal)

Bottom: Chess Review, February 1960; 'Fischer and fan: his sister.' (U.S. Championship; more photos ['by R. Echeverria'] of Fischer and other players on same page)

15 August 2017

Who Knows? Google Knows!

As soon as I finished last week's post on Prokopljevic's Cartoons, I performed my usual quick check on the final result to ensure that everything was OK. I was very surprised to see that the Google Adsense link was for a set of cards featuring Prokopljevic's cartoons!? (That's the ad just beneath the photo of my head.)

The related link for the ad went to Echecs: lot de 12 cartes postales 'Gens Una Sumus' de Jovan Prokopljevic (priceminister.com). Was this because the post was for Prokopljevic's cartoons -or- because I had been looking at the same Priceminister.com page earlier that day while preparing the post? When it comes to Google, who knows?

A few years ago, to help a friend who is not web savvy, I spent 30 minutes looking at web pages for robot cleaners of swimming pools. The pesky Adsense ads for robot cleaners are still following me. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" Google knows!

14 August 2017

Master Ratings and Master Titles

Between the publication of the second and third lists of USCF ratings (see the previous post in this series, USCF Rating Lists in the 1950s, for a chronology), the USCF grappled with a number of new issues provoked by the introduction of ratings. The following editorial was published in the 5 July 1951 issue of Chess Life, under the title 'Masters -- and Masters in the National Rating System'.

From letters recently received, it becomes apparent that many players are still confused regarding one phase of the National Rating System, and that they insist, despite all that has been written to the contrary, in considering that the Rating System does the one thing that it very definitely does not attempt to do.

Let us therefore repeat again, in the fond hope that this time our statement will be understood, that the National Rating System does not determine the permanent status of any chess player nor indicate how he will be ranked ultimately in the history of the game. The National Rating System does no more than indicate the current effective playing rank of a player at one particular period in his career, without regard to his achievements in past decades beyond the scope of the system and without prophesy as to his possible future attainments.

For a number of reasons which we will not catalogue at this time, there is a definite need for this current evaluation of how a player is actually performing at a given period. But the value of this current and transitory rating is sadly distorted when some misinformed chess players insist upon considering this current performance rating as conferring or withholding honorary titles. This the National Rating System does not do. and it was never intended to do. In the Rating System a player may shift from Senior Master to Expert classifications in the matter of a few years, according to his performances in current tournament play -- the fact that he may temporarily hold the classification of Master in the rating system does not actually make ham a Master in the honorary sense that the term has been applied in the past; the fact that another player, long considered a Master in the honorary sense, slips in more recent play to the Expert classification, does not deprive him of the many honors gained as a Master, nor the right to be considered as a Master in the honorary sense.

It is to be expected that even the most formidable player, if he continues to play tournament chess after his prime, will eventually lose rank in the National Rating System which can evaluate only current performances and cannot, except in a very limited sense, make exceptions for past heroics. If the recognised Master continues to play tournament chess long enough, in his final years he is almost certainly doomed to a reduction in his current performance ratings to an Expert classification. But this reduction does not actually make him any the less a Master in the honorary sense.

This was further explained by an example from baseball, showing how the performance of a great player can decline in the twilight of a career.

National Chess Ratings are merely the chess equivalent of the yearly baseball batting averages, and the confusion over them has arisen solely because some chess players insist upon considering them so much more than that.

However. since there has been so much confusion in players' minds between "Master" as an honorary title conferred for outstanding performance in the world of chess and the ”Master classification" in the National Rating System, CHESS LIFE will recommend to the annual meeting of the USCF Board of Directors at the Fort Worth meeting that the Federation create and recognize, outside of the scope of the National Rating System, an honorary classification of "Masters" in the same sense that the present FIDE titles of "International Master" [IM] and "International Grandmaster" [GM] are conferred for outstanding performances of the past as well as of the present.

CHESS LIFE will recommend specifically that the honorary rank of "Master Emeritus" be conferred upon all chess players of the USA who may be deemed to have at any time in the past earned the right to the title of "Master" before the operations of the National Rating System became effective, and whose present standings in the current performance ratings are below that of the "Master classification"; that the selection of those players entitled to such recognition be placed in the charge of a special committee qualified to judge and assess past records of tournament performance.

CHESS LIFE further will recommend that it be provided that in the future any chess player in the USA who has held a "Master classification" in the National Rating System for a period of years (exact length of tenure to be determined by the Board of Directors) automatically becomes a Master Emeritus upon dropping in the current performance ratings to a classification lower than that of "Master".

CHESS LIFE will also recommend that the Board of Directors make full provision for conferring the title of Master Emeritus upon such qualified chess players who have won recognition as "Masters' in European events and have since become Americans, whether they participate actively in tournament play in the USA or not, provided that they contribute substantially to the promotion of chess in the USA.

CHESS LIFE will further propose that the list of recognized Masters Emeriti be published in connection with the semi-annual printing of the National Ratings.

Montgomery Major

For a discussion of FIDE IM and GM titles, see Early FIDE Titles (November 2014).

13 August 2017

The Imagery of Chess, St. Louis

What's the connection between sociology and art? The Wikipedia page Sociology of art is little more than a stub that says, 'Studying the sociology of art throughout history is the study of the social history of art, how various societies contributed to the appearance of certain artists' and 'This article needs attention from an expert in Sociology.'

The phrase I've highlighted appears to be an independent topic, but only redirects to Wikipedia's History of art, a subject large enough for a college degree. The 'Sociology of art' page also points to Art in Cyberspace — Sociology of Art (sociosite.net), a huge page that starts,

The creation of works of art, their distribution and their effect on people are processes which can observed all through history. They represent a universal phenomenon of human society in action. As such they are open to sociological examination and imagination. They are the object of a sociology of art.

The connection between chess and art, while also too broad to be easily digested, can be reduced to bite-size chunks. Here's one.

Living St. Louis | The Imagery of Chess: St. Louis Artists (4:35) • 'A diverse group of St. Louis artists and musicians interpreted the game of chess for the exhibit, "The Imagery of Chess: St. Louis Artists" at the World Chess Hall of Fame.'

World Chess Hall of Fame chief curator Shannon Bailey explains,

It was inspired by the Imagery of Chess that took place in 1944 in New York City. It was arranged by three art enthusiasts and artists, Julien Levy, who owned the Julien Levy Gallery where the exhibition took place, Marcel Duchamp, who's one of the most important artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and was an avid chess player, and Max Ernst, a very famous artist.

For more about the exhibit, see World Chess Hall Of Fame Chief Curator Shannon Bailey On New Exhibition (alivemag.com; February 2017). I once wrote about a previous exhibition with the same name, Elsewhere on the Web : The Imagery of Chess Revisited (archive.org -> chess.about.com; January 2006).

Chess and art have their closest relationship in the 32 pieces of wood, glass, or just about any other material used to make chess sets. The Imagery of Chess Revisited, one of the current exhibits at the Noguchi Museum, Long Island City (Queens), New York, is the latest look by the art world at that relationship.

The artist featured in the video, Martin Brief, mentions Yoko Ono's white chess set. I covered it in another post, Chess Sightseeing (March 2014).

11 August 2017

GM Confession Booth

Top GMs Nakamura, Svidler, Wesley So, Caruana, and Aronian confess their worst childhood sin at the chessboard. As for Carlsen, 'In Norway, kids are very well behaved'.

2017 Sinquefield Cup: Worst Behavior as a Kid? (2:05) • 'Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez talks with the 2017 Sinquefield Cup players about their worst behaviors as kids playing chess.'

Who exhibited the worst behavior? The least worst? I'll go with Nakamura ('quite a few instances') and Wesley So ('sleepless nights').

10 August 2017

Prokopljevic's Cartoons

A few weeks ago, in The Fifth Entry, I ended a post about Jovan Prokopljevic with an action.

Several collections of Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published, but I wasn't able to catalog them in the time available for this post. I'll save that for another time.

I tackled the material again today, and again ran out of time. Prokopljevic's cartoons have been published and re-published in so many different editions that I can't get a grip on them. For example, the 13 caricatures of the World Champions, shown as a collage in the 'Fifth Entry' post, have been published as postcards with the Chess Informant logo over a short game by the featured champion and in a book 'Black and White Evergreen' with Informant style annotations of famous games by the champions.

What to write about in this post? I noticed that Prokopljevic's non-chess cartoons are even more well known than his chess cartoons, because they often use political themes. The following is a good example.

Source: Serbian Cartoon Show Banned Ahead of Polls (balkaninsight.com; February 2014) • 'Serbian caricaturist Jovan Prokopljevic says his exhibition was abruptly pulled, apparently because of sensitivities about the March 16 elections.'

The article mentioned,

Prokopljevic has been as a caricaturist for his entire working life. His work includes more than 15.000 cartoons and has won him many domestic and international awards.

How many awards? According to another Serbian source, Jovan Prokopljevic awarded for the 101st time (inserbia.info; March 2013),

Architect Jovan Prokopljevic, one of the most awarded Serbian cartoonists, has recently received his 101st caricature award. Prokopljevic, full-time caricaturist at Serbia’s oldest daily Politika, has won three awards over the last month at international competitions in Iran, China, and Turkey exceeding the number of 100 international and domestic awards.

I might come back to the chess cartoons another day, but I have no reason to believe that I will be more successful.

08 August 2017

2017 CJA Awards

If it seems like only two weeks ago that I posted about the 2017 CJA Award Entries, that's because it was indeed exactly two weeks ago. The Chess Journalists of America announced their annual awards last week and the full list can be found at Prize List for 2017 CJA Awards (chessjournalism.org), along with many links to the winning material. Just as in last year's post, 2016 CJA Awards (August 2016), I'll concentrate on the four categories that interest me the most.

  • Best Book
  • Chess Journalist of the Year
  • Best Chess Art
  • Best Chess Blog

The 'Best Book' categories had three winners: two in the 'Instructional' category, by Mark Dvoretsky and Cyrus Lakdawala, and one in the 'Other' category (that's a CJA code word for chess history), published by McFarland. The 'Other' category also included an Honorable Mention, also published by McFarland. Three and a half awards for one category? Good thing I no longer maintain my page on Award Winning Chess Books.

The winner of 'Chess Journalist of the Year' was Vanessa West, with Honorable Mention to Pete Tamburro. Of the four nominees, my money was on Peter Doggers of Chess.com, who by any objective standard is head-and-shoulders above the others. I am certain that his time will come. Statements by all four nominees can be found on Nominations received for Chess Journalist of the Year (chessjournalism.org).

For 'Best Chess Art', I used four of the five nominations to illustrate the '2017 Entries' post. The winner was the entry showing the big '70', for 'Chess Life Turns 70!, Chess Life, Cover, September 2016, by Scott Raymond'. In the related photo categories, 'Best Chess Photojournalism' and 'Best Single Photo', David Llada was the winner of both.

Since there were no nominations for 'Best Chess Blog' for the second consecutive year, I should follow last year's '2016 Awards' and mention the winner of 'Best General Chess Website'. Unfortunately, there were no nominations for that category either, so I'll just stop here.

A detail I hadn't noticed until writing this post is that nominations (and winners) for the ten 'News and Features' categories were doubled: one for 'Print' and one for 'Online'. Just like chess itself, chess journalism is a growth industry. Heartfelt congratulations to all the winners!

07 August 2017

USCF Rating Lists in the 1950s

Two recent posts covered the introduction of USCF ratings in 1950:-

The second USCF rating list was published in the 5 March 1951 issue of Chess Life (CL). It was introduced by an editorial titled 'National Ratings', signed Montgomery Major, the editor of CL.

In this issue we publish the second list of National Performance Ratings, as of December 31, 1950. Before we comment upon certain of the changes in rating of individual players, it may be well to state that for the second and last time, we publish the complete list of available ratings of U.S. chess players, regardless of membership in the USCF. It was not originally our intention to do this, but the National Rating System has aroused so much interest throughout the country that we feel it is a very definite service to chess to publish once again the whole list for comparison and study.

Hereafter, however, below the rank of master we well publish only the names of USCF members. This is not an attempt at dictatorship as we have been accused illogically by certain readers, but merely the recognition of a basic principle in America that the average American expects and is willing to pay for what he receives, provided he gets value received for his money. The cost of maintaining a rating system is considerable, for it demands careful statistical computations by a trained statistician. Such expert services cannot be obtained without charge, even if the charge is a nominal one in comparison with the work accomplished. Since the members of the Federation are footing this bill with their dues, it is only just that the benefits should be exclusively theirs. And since any chess player can become a member of the Federation tor the nominal dues of $3 per year, it is obviously ridiculous to claim that this restriction of published ratings to the USCF membership works any hardship on any player. Any player, who cannot persuade himself to part with $3 for the many benefits to chess provided by the Federation, cannot be very much interested in the rating system, however much he may profess to be.

Comparison between the first list of ratings and the second list provides some interesting studies as well as a very definite illustration of the effect of the "lag" in computation of ratings. But quite possibly some readers may be confused by the apparent discrepancies, and tberefore the subject demands a few illustrative comments.

It will be noted, undoubtedly, that Isaac Kashdan has dropped from the list of senior masters to the list of masters, and that he has done this without competing in any rated event since the list as of July 31 was published. This may at first glimpse seem illogical, but it actually is a very clear example of the principle of the "lag" in computing ratings. The ratings (as of July 31, 1950) covered each player's career from 1947 through the first half of 1950, and the published rating was his highest rating in any one of these four periods.

In the case of Kashdan, 1947 was a gala year. He won the U.S. Open Championship at Corpus Christi. This bolstered up an already high past record of performance, including his second to Reshevsky in the 1946 U.S. Biennial Championship. But 1948 told a somewhat different story. Kashdan only placed second in the 1948 US. Open Championship at Baltimore, and again was second in the 1948 U.S. Biennial Championship at South Fallsburg. So, when the performances in 1947 were removed from the current computation In the listing as of December 31, Kashdan's rating then was determined by his highest scoring in 1948, 1949 or 1950 and the resultant drop in his performance rating reflected his less successful appearances in recent tournaments. It is noteworthy that if Kashdan had followed his poorer year in 1948 with a more successful performance in 1949 or 1950, due to the "lag" procedure in rating, his one bad year would not have made any appearance in the ratings. Thus the "lag" tends to protect a player against one bad season, but cannot continue to bolster up his ratings over a period at years.

As Kashdan through a series of circumstances, including illness, has not competed in any rated event since 1948, he has not had an opportunity to reestablish a senior master rating performance.

An illustration of the reverse principle in the "lag" comes from the advent into the master class from the expert group of Eliot Hearst, F. S. Howard and Walter Shipman in the ratings as of December 31, 1951. These younger players began to be felt in chess as far back as 1946 and 1947, but their climb into the master class was slightly delayed by the drag effected by the lower performance points of their earlier chess career. To overcome the effect of this "lag" it was necessary for each of them by consistent performance to prove that their successes were not merely a flash in the pan. For Eliot Hearst it was the New York State Championship in September, 1950 that provided the ultimate boost into master class. for F. S. Howard it was the New Jersey State Championship.

In many cases, it will be noted that there has been no change in the rating. These players have not competed in rated events in the last half of 1950, while their peak period of performance has been since the year 1947, so no change is effected by removing the choice of 1947 from their performance rating basis. Their standings will only be effected by their performances in 1951 in tournaments yet to be played and rated.

The composite image below shows some of the highlights of the second list.

A total of 16 rating lists were published in the 1950s. Some years, e.g. 1954 through 1956, saw only a single list.

CL 1950-11-20; as of 31 July 1950
CL 1951-03-05; as of 31 December 1950
CL 1951-10-05; as of 31 July 1951
CL 1952-03-05; as of 31 December 1951
CL 1952-10-05; as of 31 July 1952
CL 1953-05-20; Spring 1953
CL 1953-12-20; Fall 1953
CL 1954-06-05; Spring 1954
CL 1955-05-05; Spring 1955
CL 1956-05-20; as of 31 December 1955 (A)
CL 1957-05-20; Spring 1957
CL 1957-08-20; as of 31 March 1957 (B)
CL 1958-03-05; as of 30 September 1957 (C)
CL 1959-02-05; as of 30 September 1958
CL 1959-08-20; as of 31 May 1959
CL 1959-12-05; as of 30 June 1959 (?; D)

(A) List No.10; 'New Classifications Adopted'
(B) 1st 1957 Supplementary List
(C) 2nd 1957 Supplementary List
(D) Supplement No.1; signed Frank R. Brady, USCF Rating Statistician

Kenneth Harkness retired mid-1959. The 1950s were the 'Harkness' decade for U.S chess ratings.

06 August 2017

A Chess Playing Priest

I can't remember doing a post for Top eBay Chess Items by Price that had nothing to with chess, so this must be a first. The item pictured below was titled 'Chess Grandmaster Reverand William Lombardy's very own Chalice' and sold for US $900.00 after one bid.

The left photo shows the chalice standing on its case. The bouquet behind it gives an idea of its size. The eBay description of the item was brief.

This chalice once belonged to Rev. William Lombardy. He is the famed chess grandmaster who trained Bobby Fischer. Lombardy was also Fischer's second in the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik vs Boris Spassky.

The bottom of the chalice is inscribed,

To our son
Rev. William J. Lombardy
Ordained May 27, 1967
Wishing you many blessings

Love, Mother & Dad

For more about Lombardy, see William Lombardy (wikipedia.org) and The chess games of William James Lombardy (chessgames.com).

04 August 2017

A Chess Wardrobe

Holy Caissa! Not only is this photo reminiscent of a previous Flickr Friday, 'Nice Jacket!' (January 2015), it also appears to be the same fellow.

Chess Fever © Flickr user schaakbond under Creative Commons.

Flickr also informs, 'This photo is in 1 album': 2017 Condigne Dutch Open Round 1 by Alina l'Ami. The same photographer figured indirectly in yesterday's post, Fabulous Fabiano.

03 August 2017

Fabulous Fabiano

The last time I used a Yahoo headline, More about 'Outliers' (March 2017), I wrote,

Whenever chess pops up in my Yahoo News feed, I try to use it as the basis of a blog post.

In fact, that's not completely true. Since the beginning of 2016, I've accumulated Yahoo chess headlines at about the rate of one a month and have used only a few of them. Today I spotted another one, this time about Fabiano Caruana. While adding it to the collection of the others, I reviewed all of the headlines.

Which chess personality has been featured the most? Garry Kasparov is near the top of the list: twice for chess and once for his latest book on AI. The player who has received the most chess headlines is GM Caruana himself. Here's a visual list.

Here's the same list with links to the the original articles. All three are from businessinsider.com and were written by Matthew DeBord.

2016-03-12: The World Chess Champion could be an American for the first time since Bobby Fischer in 1972

It's been a very long drought for Americans when it comes to the World Chess Championship. The last American to win was, famously, Bobby Fischer in 1972. Fischer defeated Boris Spassky in Iceland, but never defended his title. It was of course a long drought before 1972: in the modern era, post-1900, there had never been a World Chess Champion from the United States, prior to Fischer, and the only players who even had a shot after him were Robert Byrne and Gata Kamsky. Norways's Magnus Carlsen, the current WCC, is actually the first player from the West since Fischer to claim the title. Starting Friday in Moscow, the next World Championship cycle is beginning, with the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

2016-04-24: One of the biggest comebacks in chess is happening right now in St. Louis

The US Chess Championship and US Women's Chess Championship are underway in St. Louis. On the women's side, 2015 champion Irina Krush is shooting for history and her 8th title, putting her just one behind Gisela Kahn Gresser, a mid-20th-century player who dominated the game in her era. Krush is currently trailing the leaders by half a point. On the men's side, the field is phenomenally strong -- possibly the "strongest ever," according to Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, who dropped by Business Insider's offices before the tournament kicked off to discuss all things chess, including his historic induction into the US Chess Hall of Fame, the first African-American to be according [sic] the honor.

2017-08-03: America's best hope for a World Chess Champion is returning to the tournament that marked his most epic victory

The Sinqufield Cup is underway at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, and once again, the world's most elite players have turned out to battle for the prize. The Cup is a stop on the Grand Chess Tour, which also includes tournaments in Paris and London and is intended to function as a sort of counterpoint to the World Chess Championship. The WCC has been won the last three times by Norway's Magnus Carlsen, who is once again the field at the Sinquefield Cup. In his first game, he's facing down American Fabiano Caruana, currently the number three player in the world -- and the number two in the US, behind Wesley So.

Credit for the photo of Caruana used in the first and third articles is given to Alina L'Ami.

01 August 2017

August 1967 'On the Cover'

Since this is not a particularly inspiring month for the regular 'On the Cover' post, what can be added?

Left: '1967 U.S. Amateur Champion'
Right: 'Quick Lessons in Quiz Tactics - Who Wins and How?'

Chess Life

Ron Lohrman Takes U.S. Amateur by Burt Hochberg • This time they thought of everything. In the first place, the Hotel Warwick, located in a beautiful section of downtown Philadelphia, is one of the better hotels in this historic city. Our own accomodations were fabulous -- although booked into a single room, we found it spacious, airy and immaculate. The hotel itself is situated in the heart of a great shopping area, close to museums, libraries, concert halls, etc. When we sat down to play the first round, however, was when we became aware of the great care and attention to detail that went into the planning of the tournament. There was plenty of space between boards, so that one wasn't sitting in a neighbor's lap; there was enough space between the long rows of tables, too, allowing easy passage to and from one's board.

Last year the U.S. Amateur was shown on CL's June issue -- June 1966 'On the Cover' -- just as it had been in 'On the Cover' for 1964 and 1965. Going back to June 1963, we find the first cover appearance of a U.S. Amateur Champion on CL (Kenneth Clayton). In the previous year, the April 1962 CL cover featured the tournament announcement.

The USCF has completed arrangements for this year's U.S. Amateur Chess Championship, to be played in Asbury Park over the weekend of May 25-26-27. The Amateur has long been one of the nation's most popular chess events, and there are indications that this year's tournament will be the largest ever.

Was the change of venue -- Asbury Park to Philadelphia -- the big news of August 1967? After all, Burt Hochberg was the editor of Chess Life, was apparently onsite to check out the facilities, and started his tournament report with kudos to the organizers.

Chess Review

Bat 1000! • For the beginning of the dog days, or into the middle of them, ye kindly editor weakens and offers you a real opportunity to improve your slugging average.

The CR cover was an illustration of the word 'humdrum'. It showed the ten positions from the issue's 'Chess Quiz' column, which was introduced with the quote I've used above. The mention of 'dog days (of summer)' and the two references to baseball ('bat 1000' and 'slugging average') indicate that editor I.A.Horowitz had more on his mind than chess. Even chess editors are human.