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.

DIMENSIONS:
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!
Pizza who?
Pete's a great guy!

And the Ukrainian GM replied,

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

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

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

Then the exchange became political.

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

This was quickly followed by,

Knock knock
Who's there?
Crimea!
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.