30 September 2018

The Sociology of Chess960

Move over chess -- make some space for chess960! I ended last month's post on The Sociology of Chess (November 2016) with,

In nearly every post about the 'The Sociology of Chess', ChessBase India has at one candidate on the video short list, usually several candidates. I'm sure we'll see one of them again.

I could have followed-up that post, Best Blind Players of India, with one of a dozen videos about the impact of Indian chess, but this month another topic beckons.

On one of my other blogs, 'Chess960 (FRC)', where the 'FRC' stands for 'Fischer Random Chess', I documented an exhibition event from last month, Champions Showdown, St. Louis:-

Twenty games times five matches means 100 games of chess960 played by some of the best chess players in the world.

Here's a video from the sponsor of the event, the Saint Louis Chess Club, where the players discuss some high level aspects of Fischer's greatest invention.

2018 Champions Showdown: Thoughts on Chess960 (3:19) • 'Published on Sep 13, 2018'

The description said simply,

The players express their feelings on the chess960 variant before their chess960 matches. (USChessChamps.com)

In the three minute clip, GM Maurice Ashley asks three questions:-

0:00 'What is it that makes chess960 so much fun?'
1:00 'What are the special challenges of playing chess960?'
2:00 'Is chess960 the future?'

Before signing off, I have a quibble with the description. In Top 10 Myths About Chess960 (May 2012), myth number two is 'It's a variant of traditional chess'. It's not a variant; it's an evolution. Traditional chess is a subset of chess960.

28 September 2018

Google Adsense in 2018

Now that I've caught up with the Google Search Console and Google Search Coverage, I can continue with the topic introduced in the 'Search Console' post:-

Before fixing the Adsense problem, I decided to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year, at least a half-dozen significant emails from Google.

It turns out that more than a few of those emails had to do with Adsense, which is Google's service for matching advertisers to web pages. In March 2018, I received an email titled, 'Introducing the new AdSense Auto ads'. It said,

If you’re looking to increase your revenue potential and save time, we have a solution for you. We’ve brought the power of machine learning to AdSense Auto ads - a new way to place ads automatically on your site. Auto ads balance revenue and user experience by delivering the right ad at the right time to your visitors. You can use Auto ads independently or with your existing Google ads. Google scans the pages on your site, finds potential ad placements, and shows new ads when they’re likely to perform well and provide a good user experience.

I've never associated ads with 'a good user experience' -- it's generally the exact opposite -- but I'm always interested in whatever Google has to say on a subject. The email pointed to an Adsense resource that said, 'Auto ads use machine learning to make smart ad placement decisions on your behalf.' It started by asking what sort of ads I want and gave me a choice of six:-

In-page ads:
* Text & display ads : A simple way to get banner ads on your page. Google will choose the size, placement, and style of ads you show.
* In-feed ads : Native ads that flow naturally inside a feed (for example, a list of articles or products) offering a great user experience. [*]
* In-article ads : Native ads that fit seamlessly in between the paragraphs of your pages for an enhanced reading experience.
* Matched content : Native ads that combine ads with content recommendations from your site, designed to increase overall user engagement. [*]

Overlay ads:
* Anchor ads : Mobile ads that stick to the edge of the user's screen and are easily dismissible
* Vignette ads : Full-screen mobile ads that appear in between page loads on your site, also easily dismissible.'

The two that I've marked '*' are 'Currently only available for mobile.' For more about the functionality, see Ad code implementation : About Auto ads (support.google.com/adsense). That page carries a couple of illustrations that look like the following.

'The following examples show you how a page with an existing ad unit might look before and after Auto ads have been set up:'

Right, got it. The ads will take up half of the display. I'll pass on that. In July I received another, related email titled, 'Could your ads work better with your content?' It said,

Native ads match the look and feel of your site, flow with your content and unlock new revenue potential.

The email pointed to another Adsense resource that asked, 'What type of ad would you like to create?' Along with good old 'Text & display ads', which is what I've used since starting with Adsense, it offered three choices, along with the following help:-

The right side of the image above shows 'In-article' and 'Matched content' ads. I've used matched content ads for nearly two years and posted about them in Mixed 'Matched Content' (January 2017). Once again, I'll pass on the others.

All of these choices might be too heavy for me, but if I needed ad revenue to provide additional income, I would certainly try them. I'm sure many sites are happy with the possibilities.

27 September 2018

A Year of Yahoos!

No, not really. For last month's question, A Year of Yahoos?, I calculated,

That makes this month's August Yahoos the 11th straight month of Yahoos.

This month should be September Yahoos, but there were no Yahoos for the month, meaning that no chess stories were picked up by mainstream news and featured in Yahoo News for the current month. What to do?

Luckily, I have a convenient fallback -- last seen in July Yahoos (July 2018) -- which is to switch to Google News. Their service returns the headlines for 100 chess stories that they judge to have been significant over the past month. I started to select a couple of Google News stories and ended up with the following list:-

That first link is from St. Louis Public Radio and so are the rest, proving once again that St. Louis has a strong claim to be the USA's chess capital. I first looked for stories to complement a recent post on my chess960 blog, Champions Showdown, St. Louis (chess960frc.blogspot.com), found the two listed above, and then noticed that there were other good stories from the same source. The publication dates and the 'On Chess' titles indicate that the stories are from a weekly series.


In the absence of September Yahoos, I created a new category, Showing posts with label Yahoos, and added relevant posts. I expected to find about 20-25 old posts and was surprised to discover double that number. I could have added Flickr posts to the new category -- Flickr is, after all, a service of Yahoo -- but decided against it as this would have meant hundreds more posts, most of them having nothing to do with chess news.

Google image search on 'site:chessforallages.blogspot.com flickr'

The screen capture shows a few of the many images I've used from Flickr. Note that the layout of the Google image search results has changed since the last time I used the same technique, in Chess and Impressionism.

With the 2018 Olympiad currently underway, a FIDE presidential election next week, and a World Championship match next month, I hope we get some serious 'October Yahoos'. If not, there are plenty of alternative mainstream news sources.

25 September 2018

Carlsen / Caruana Record 2017-18

I started last week's post, Karpov Talks Carlsen - Caruana, stating,

With only 50 days remaining before the start of the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, I'd like to start running a weekly post about the match.

Yesterday's post, Carlsen's Record 2017-18, gave me the raw material for a comparison of the two players' records against each other over the last two years. It makes a total of 15 games.

For another, larger view of the same data, see >2016: Carlsen - Caruana (chessgames.com). How did the players score against each other? The data gives us the means to look at the record according to the time control (slow games vs. fast):-

  • Slow: +2-0=7 in favor of Carlsen
  • Fast: +3-1=2 (ditto)

If we take the 12 match games to be played at slow time control, Carlsen has the edge. If we take the tiebreak at fast time control, Carlsen also has the edge. It appears that Caruana is facing an uphill battle to become World Champion. This is confirmed by the lifetime record of the two players against each other (also chessgames.com):-

Classical games: Magnus Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana 10 to 5, with 18 draws.
Only rapid/exhibition games: Magnus Carlsen beat Fabiano Caruana 13 to 6, with 4 draws.

As for openings, the Chessgames.com data shows that both players are comfortable in all sorts of systems. 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Nf3, irregular openings -- anything is possible.

24 September 2018

Carlsen's Record 2017-18

After the previous posts, Carlsen's Events 2017-18 and Carlsen's Chess.com Events 2017-18, I prepared the data I had collected into a format similar to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (2000-; Last updated 2016-09-26). The result, including TWIC references, is shown in the following chart.

It's not easy to read, but is only an intermediate version and serves to introduce a few discussion points. Since I addressed the same issues two years -- see Carlsen's Record 2015-16 (September 2016) and Carlsen's TMER 2015-16 (ditto) -- I only have to follow the precedents set then:-

  • Multi stage events, e.g. 2017 PRO League -> different events
  • Different time controls, e.g. 2017 Carlsen - Ding Showdown -> separate scores in notes
  • Chess960 (Fischer Random) -> mention in notes

Some multi stage events are shown in the table with a small '+' after the TWIC reference. These were all Chess.com events which were played over a period of several months and are covered by multiple TWICs.

23 September 2018

Medieval Figures Analyze Modern Theory

For this month's edition of Flickr (Not) Friday, I had a tough choice among another intriguing example of an AI chess image (as in Not so Flickrless Friday earlier this year), an unidentified chess set priced in the stratosphere, or a series of images like the one shown below. For the other choices see 'Flickr Favorites' in the right sidebar (although you might have to scroll if you're reading this long after the date of the post.)

Alphonso teaches Bronstein © Flickr user Sofia Eulgem under Creative Commons.

The full title of the Flickr image is 'Alphonso teaches Bronstein, Nicolas Sphicas, Museum of Byzantine Culture, 27/6/2018-2/9/2018; Thessaloniki, Greece', and is one of several images with the same title. One paragraph of the the description says,

The artist is inspired by the medieval figures of the “Book of Games” (Libro de ajedrez, dados, y tablas, 1283) by Alphonso X called the Wise (1221-1284), King of Castile and Leon. The abstract figures are mobilized so as to illustrate the “King’s Indian opening”. It is an opening studied by David Bronstein, a leading chess player of 20th century, which influenced even world chess champions.

The paragraph is from the page “Alphonso teaches Bronstein!” (mbp.gr), where 'mbp' means Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki. The page continues,

In the world of Nicolas Sphicas the medieval figures, whose garments reflect the stylish Northern gothic styles, are depicted analyzing the modern chess theory.

The Alphonso X painings were part of my earliest introduction to chess art and to chess history on the web. I wonder how they've evolved through the years.

21 September 2018

Google Search Coverage

I ended last week's post, Google Search Console ('to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year'), on hold:-

The 'Performance' page for the old HTTP version of my site confirmed a large drop in search traffic since 2018-08-17. This should have been balanced by a corresponding increase in search traffic for the new HTTPS version, but Google told me 'Oops, you don't have access to this property'. After procuring the access, I received the message 'Processing data, please check again in a few days'.

A few days later, I received another email from Google:-

To: Owner of https://www.mark-weeks.com/ • Google systems confirm that on Sep 13, 2018 we started collecting Google Search impressions for your website in Search Console. This means that pages from your website are now appearing in Google search results for some queries. Here’s how you can monitor your site’s performance in search using Search Console.

The message pointed to a console resource called 'Coverage' that showed me how many of my pages were included in Google's search engine results. Here are the current charts for both the old and new versions of the site.

The rectangles at the top of each display say 'Error' (in red), 'Valid with warnings', 'Valid' (both white), and 'Excluded' (gray). Why are some pages on the old HTTP version marked 'Valid'? More importantly, why are other pages on the new HTTPS version marked 'Excluded'? The 'Excluded' pages fall into two categories:-

  • 'Duplicate without user-selected canonical'
  • 'Crawled - currently not indexed'

The Google help page, Index Coverage Status report (support.google.com), explains,

Duplicate page without canonical tag: This page has duplicates, none of which is marked canonical. We think this page is not the canonical one. You should explicitly mark the canonical for this page. (We're working on a tool to show you which page was selected as canonical, but we're not quite there yet.)


Crawled - currently not indexed: The page was crawled by Google, but not indexed. It may or may not be indexed in the future; no need to resubmit this URL for crawling.

What does 'canonical' mean? From Consolidate duplicate URLs:-

If you have a single page accessible by multiple URLs, or different pages with similar content (for example, a page with both a mobile and a desktop version), Google sees these as duplicate versions of the same page. Google will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.

For my site this refers to small pages that show some aspect of a position, like a chess trap, where all of the pages are structured similarly. The pages marked 'Crawled - not indexed' are of the same type. It's not really a problem, although my obsession with a topic that has nothing to do with chess might be a problem. In my next post I'll move on to another topic.

20 September 2018

Chess and Impressionism

After my first idea for today's post ran into trouble when I ran out of time (a follow-up to last week's A Remarkable Tool, if you're curious), I flipped back to last year's Chess and Art Movements (December 2017; 'chess cubism'), where I wrote,

With so many recognized art periods, there is plenty of source material here. I'll come back to the subject the next time I'm looking for an idea for my daily post.

When it comes to art movements, impressionism is one of the best known.

Google image search on 'chess impressionism'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '6' (from left to right).]

That's an interesting collage of images, but they don't all seem to be about chess. Take A4, for example, which leads to From Man Ray’s chess set to DalĂ­’s Arabian nights, subtitled, '11 fascinating works for under £100,000 -- offered across three different sales of Impressionist & Modern Art during 20th Century at Christie’s London'. The A4 image ('1. Touched by the finger of Bonnard') happens to be the first image on that page. Further down is '10. Surrealist chess', also shown in B2, a Man Ray chess set in a double image, with the chess set on the left:-

Chess became a passion and a ritual for Man Ray after his rooftop encounter with chess fanatic Marcel Duchamp in New York in 1924. The pair, who were great friends, would often play throughout the night, believing that games allowed them to explore the repressed desires of the unconscious. Man Ray designed his first chess set in 1920, with found objects from his studio. [...] Man Ray perceived the chessboard as a surrealist object.

What about the C2 image -- what does a photo of Mikhail Tal have to do with impressionism? The title of the source page explains, Tal Memorial in Museum of Russian Impressionism (gamesmaven.io/chessdailynews), where the Tal Memorial is a world-class chess tournament.

As for the real chess images in the Google collage, A1 is found on The Progressive Era : Art. Unfortunately, neither the artist nor the work is identified and my attempts to identify them turned up nothing.

A2 is the first of four images from Pinterest, a resource which used to be nearly worthless for instructional value, where links only led to pages with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of poorly identified images. The A2 image (also seen in B3) leads to The Chess Players - Sir John Lavery 1929 Impressionism Tate Gallery, London, UK.

A3 leads to an even more informative page: Alexandru Ciucurencu (Romanian, Post-Impressionism, 1903–1977). Here the work is identifed as 'The Chess Players', oil on cardboard, 61 x 91 cm, Brukenthal National Museum, Sibiu, Romania.

I could continue to walk through more of the images returned by Google, but I'll stop here. I'll try to return to 'A Remarkable Tool' in another post.

18 September 2018

Karpov Talks Carlsen - Caruana

With only 50 days remaining before the start of the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match, I'd like to start running a weekly post about the match. This video appeared on my short list for the most recent monthly post about new chess clips on Youtube -- Things That Chess Players Don't Say -- but I passed on it because of its many technical flaws. Having said that, when a former World Champion and one of the greatest players of all time talks about chess, I'm willing to give it a second try.

Live Stream: Anatoly Karpov on Magnus Carlsen vs Fabiano Caruana (51:49) • 'Streamed live on Aug 18, 2018'

The description said,

Big news: Anatoly Karpov is in the iChess studio, recording his very own Master Method course! Be sure to subscribe to our channel and follow us on social media to get the latest news and updates as the course gets developed and brought to release very soon.

Karpov is joined by his long-time friend Grandmaster Ron Henley. Aside from being a strong player in his own right, Ron acted as second, analyst and trainer for Karpov in many of his matches in the 1990s. Ron also trained 7-time US Women’s Champion, GM Irina Krush.

Karpov, like most of us, is looking forward to the World Chess Championship match later this year between current champ Magnus Carlsen, and the challenger, Fabiano Caruana. In this stream, Karpov will be looking at games from both players and seeing how their play styles contrast from each other, giving us an interesting preview of what we can look forward to in November.

For the two games presented by GM Karpov, both won by Black, see:-

on Chessgames.com.

17 September 2018

Carlsen's Chess.com Events 2017-18

Continuing with Carlsen's Events 2017-18, in that post:-

[I discovered] 556 games by the reigning World Champion. [...] The corresponding TWIC search for the 2015-16 update located *only* 282 Carlsen games. Why the large increase? It appears that many of the games played in 2017-18 were for Chess.com online events. The world's leading website for chess started organizing events at the highest level in 2016.

The following chart lists Chess.com events where Carlsen participated.

The year/month shown in the first column is when the event started, because a multi-stage online event can take many months to reach its final stage. Although the table lists 13 events, one was not an online event (IoM Masters) and the other 12 reduce to four separate competitions:-

  • 2016.10 chess.com Blitz Final
  • 2017.02 PRO League (2017)
  • 2017.10 chess.com Speed matches
  • 2018.01 PRO League (2018)

Those four events include 209 games.

16 September 2018

Things That Chess Players Don't Say

'Why are you upset? It's just a chess game!'

Things you should NEVER say to a chess player (5:49) • 'Published on Aug 16, 2018'

In case you had any doubts, the description informs,

This is a parody video. Please don't take it seriously. It does not reflect the actual opinion of the authors ... most of the time

See also Things beginner chess players say, from the same channel. While neither of the videos is really funny, they both ring true and some of us will recognize ourselves.

14 September 2018

Google Search Console

Over the past month, I've been spending some time each week to bring my web site in line with current trends -- see Verifying HTTPS and Image Directory Thumbnails. In the 'Verifying' post, I wrote,

One casualty of the migration was Google Adsense. The ads are missing, e.g. on the index page for the World Chess Championship, and the browser warns of mixed content. The code that calls an ad currently uses 'HTTP'. If I want the ads back I'll need to change the code on all pages, but it might be better to replace Adsense with something else in that space.

All things considered, I was happy with the results of the migration to HTTPS. What will Google force me to do next to keep the site operational?

Before fixing the Adsense problem, I decided to catch up on the many Google notices I've received since the beginning of the year, at least a half-dozen significant emails from Google. The company is very good at communicating with its 'publishers' (the Google term for web sites that display ads), but the information is more for commercial sites than for hobbyist sites like mine.

At the beginning of the year I received an email titled 'Introducing the new Search Console [for m-w.com]'. It said,

Search Console is introducing a redesigned product to help you manage your presence on Google Search. The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up to provide the tools and insights that site owners and SEOs have been asking for. You can now confirm which of your pages are indexed and get information on how to fix indexing errors. You can also monitor your performance on Google Search with 16-months of data (to enable year-over-year comparisons).

There is far more information available through the Google Search Console than I can possibly use. The 'Performance' page for the old HTTP version of my site confirmed a large drop in search traffic since 2018-08-17.

This should have been balanced by a corresponding increase in search traffic for the new HTTPS version, but Google told me 'Oops, you don't have access to this property'. After procuring the access, I received the message 'Processing data, please check again in a few days'. Aye aye, sir! [To be continued]

13 September 2018

A Remarkable Tool

In my previous post, An Important Seven-piece Endgame, I discussed endgames of the type R+2P vs. R+P as given in 'Rook Endings' by Levenfish and Smyslov. I ended the discussion with:-

Despite the supposed simplicity of the other examples, I discovered a number of inaccuracies in their analysis. I'll discuss one or two of them in a future post.

Unlike the era of Levenfish and Smyslov (L&S), these endgames are now completely transparent thanks to the use of tablebases (TB). Consider the position in the top diagram below (Furman - Kopaev, event/year not specified). The TB gives 1.g5 as the only move, which is also the first move that L&S give. They wrote,

A strong move, opening up the White King's path to h5. It also makes it more difficult for Black's Pawn to advance.

Both sources agree that White has a won game and give 1...h5 as the best continuation for Black. L&S first examine 2.Rh6, where White wins the h-Pawn by force: 2...Rb2+ 3.Kg3 Rb3+ 4.Kf2 Rb2+ 5.Ke1 Ke3 6.Kd1 Kd3 7.Kc1 Rh2 8.Rxh5. The poor positions of the White Rook and King allow Black to draw with 8...Kc3 9.Kd1 Kd3 10.Ke1 Ke3 11.Kf1 Kf3 12.Kg1 Rg2+ 13.Kh1 Kf2 forcing perpetual check. (To follow the analysis in this post on Lichess, use the link below the diagrams.)

Lichess: 8/7p/5R2/8/4k1PP/1r6/6K1/8 w - - 0 1

The bottom diagram shows the position after the correct move 2.gxh6 (e.p.), followed by 2...Rb7 3.Kg3 Ke5. L&S now give the incorrect 4.Rg6, followed by 4...Kf5 5.Rg5+ Kf6 6.Kg4 Ra7 7.Kh5 Rf7 8.Rg6+ Ke7. Here Black can draw with 8...Kf5 9.Rg7 Kf6.

After 8...Ke7, L&S duplicate their error by giving 9.Rg7 Kf8, where 9...Kf6 leads to the same position (and the same draw) after 9...Kf6 in the previous paragraph. Instead of 9.Rg7, the continuation 9.Ra6 Rf8 10.h7 would win.

Back to the bottom diagram, instead of a draw with 4.Rg6, the TB says White should play 4.Rf8 Rh7 5.Kg4 Rxh6 6.Kg5, with mate in 64(!). This allows two conclusions: (1) the TB is a remarkable tool, and (2) not all Rook & a-/h-Pawn endings are drawn.

11 September 2018

An Important Seven-piece Endgame

Continuing with the Seven-piece Tablebase on Lichess (August 2018), I first looked at endgames of Q+2P vs. Q+P in A Flawed Seven-piece Study (ditto):-

The next section in Averbakh's book covers Q+2P:Q+P where the strong side has a passed Pawn. I fed all six examples to the Lichess tablebase and discovered that Averbakh's analysis was correct on five of them.

I then turned my attention to R+2P:R+P. Before tackling Averbakh, I decided to return to 'Rook Endings' by Levenfish and Smyslov, previously seen on this blog in Levenfish's Rook Endings (January 2011) and The Bridge, the Diversion, and the Best Defense (November 2011). The authors introduced the section titled 'Rook and Two v. Rook and One' with:-

This section is of great practical interest, as endings of this type, quite naturally, arise very often: as when one player has won a pawn during the game but at the same time most of the pawns have been exchanged off. As is clear from previous chapters, a R + P v. R ending is by no means always won for the superior side. The situation becomes more complicated with the addition of an extra pawn on each side, as this allows for new resources both for the attack and for the defence.

For example, the superior side can sometimes reduce to an ending with two far advanced connected pawns against a rook, whilst the defending side can sometimes reduce to an ending with rook v. far advanced pawn. Sometimes the defending side manages to transpose into a drawn ending with R + 2P v. R of the type analysed in Chapter 3.

No less important is the fact that, in analysing more complex rook endings, positions with two pawns v. one pawn can come up. Only if these positions are correctly appraised can the correct way to solving the more complex endings be found. But up till now endings with R + 2P v. R + P have been very poorly dealt with in chess literature.

The section is separated into positions having similar characteristics in their Pawn structure. The first diagrams in the section are of the type that is easiest to assess.

When the pawns are opposite each other and the superior side does not have a passed pawn, the result is usually a draw.

For example, the first position is shown in the following diagram.

White can make no progress: 1.Rh6 Ra4 2.Rh7+ Kf6 3.Rh6+ Kf7 4.Re6 Rb4 5.Kg5 Ra4 6.e5 Ra5. The position after the third move repeats the position after the first move, probably to show two different tries by White.

Despite the supposed simplicity of the other examples, I discovered a number of inaccuracies in their analysis. I'll discuss one or two of them in a future post.

10 September 2018

Carlsen's Events 2017-18

With a World Championship match due to start in less than two months, it's a good time to return to Magnus Carlsen's Tournament, Match, and Exhibition Record (TMER; 'Last updated 2016-09-26'). I'll follow the same pattern used in the previous cycle of updates that started two years ago with Carlsen's Events 2015-16 (September 2016).

Since the last event on the TMER is currently '2016-09 42nd Olympiad, Baku AZE', I searched all issues of TWIC following that Olympiad and discovered 564 'Carlsen' games. Eight of those were played by Magnus's father, leaving 556 games by the reigning World Champion.

The following table shows the main events that Carlsen played in the last two years along with a count of games for each event. Because of limited space, the table isn't complete, e.g. events that included both rapid and blitz show only a count for the rapid games.

The corresponding TWIC search for the 2015-16 update located *only* 282 Carlsen games. Why the large increase? It appears that many of the games played in 2017-18 were for Chess.com online events. The world's leading website for chess started organizing events at the highest level in 2016.

09 September 2018

The Imagery of Chess, New York 1944

Continuing this blog's eight-and-a-half year series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), in the previous post, Chess with Two Cardinals (August 2018), I wrote,

This month my short list had only one item, but it was not short on quality.

This month I had well over a half dozen items on the short list and it was even longer on quality. The item pictured below relates to The Imagery of Chess, St. Louis (August 2017). Titled 'Marcel Duchamp, Max / Imagery of Chess A Group Exhibition of Paintings Sculpture', it sold for US $500.00, 'Best offer accepted'.

The auction listing included an uncommonly detailed description of the item on sale:-

The Imagery of Chess: A Group Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Newly Designed Chessmen, Music and Miscellany
Author: Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst
Publication: New York: Julien Levy Gallery, 1944
Binding: Single sheet
Condition: Fine

Description: A wonderful -- and uncommon -- piece of chess ephemera, the original announcement for the December 1944-January 1945 exhibition, which was both published and hosted by the formidable Julien Levy Gallery of New York. Marcel Duchamp, widely known as a passionate, highly accomplished chess player in his own right, designed the layout for the announcement and Max Ernst illustrated the title page, with its bright-red chessmen.

The announcement is made up of a thick single sheet, folded into fourths. On the first verso is a manifesto called "On Designing Chessmen", calling for the improved design of chess pieces over the French and the Staunton sets. And, opposite this, is the list of the 32 contributing artists in the show, the number 32 having been chosen by Duchamp to match the number of chess pieces on the board.

Included among the 32 artists are Andre Breton, John Cage, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Arshile Gorky, Man Ray, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, Yves Tanguy, etc. And finally, on the last verso is an artistic, fanciful image of a chess set called "Brotherhood of sister squares" by Marcel Duchamp and "End game" by V. Halberstadt. And below this, an announcement that "GEORGE KOLTANOWSKI World Champion of Blindfold Chess will play blindfolded 5 simultaneous games against Alfred Barr, Jr., Max Ernst, Frederick Kiesler, Julien Levy, Dorothea Tanning and Dr. Gregory Zilboorg -- Admission by Invitation Only -- MARCEL DUCHAMP referee".

The show ran from Dec. 12th 1944 thru Jan. 31st 1945 and the announcement is in pristine condition. Crisp and bright and fresh as the day it was issued almost 75 years ago. In fact, this copy is from Julien Levy's estate in Bridgewater, CT.

On the page 'On Designing Chessmen', an unnamed writer said,

The standard chess sets now in use, the FRENCH set and the STAUNTON, are both somewhat confusing in the similarity and intricacy of their forms. In the French set for example, the Bishop is a little Queen and the pawn a little Bishop. Cannot a new set be designed, that is, without a too radical departure from the traditional figures, at once more harmonious and more agreeable to the touch and to the sight, and above all, more adequate to the role the figure has to play in the struggle? Thus, at any moment of the drama its optical aspect would represent (by the shape of the actors) a clear incisive image of its inner conflicts. In the complicated modern game the figures should inspire the player instead of confusing him.. They should whisper to him at the right moment: "Move now to QB4. ... Break through the center. ... Pin the Knight. ... Let me win a piece. ... We can exchange Queens, the pawn will be metamorphosed into a new Queen. ... to mate the King.

And they should never make a MISTAKE.

For another example of Duchamp connecting the world of chess with the vastly larger world of art, see, A Six-Figure Chess Item at Auction (November 2017).

07 September 2018

Image Directory Thumbnails

While I was working on the series about image recognition, last seen in Chess Piece Recognition (July 2018), I decided it would be a good idea to have a tool that could display the contents of an online image directory using thumbnails instead of file names. Using the search term 'directory index thumbnails', I eventually located gfwilliams/ThinGallery (github.com; 'A single-file web gallery. Uses EXIF thumbnails to quickly display thumbnails for a directory with no server-side code').

I followed the instructions and uploaded a copy of a GALLERY file to the directory I use for this blog. The results are shown below.


The result isn't perfect. The thumbnails take a few minutes to load and the result is only for JPG images (NB: also PNG), but it's still better than nothing.

To understand the correlation between my convention for image names and the corresponding post, note that the image in the upper left is from Tablebase 1 - Botvinnik 0 (September 2007). I hope I don't get a flood of complaints for possible copyright violation.

06 September 2018

September 1968 'On the Cover'

In this blog's monthly 'On the Cover' series, when was the last time the same chess personality featured on the covers of both American chess magazines 50 years ago? It turns out that it was exactly two years ago, in September 1966 'On the Cover', when Spassky was so honored. A few months before that, in May 1966 'On the Cover', Petrosian was similarly honored.

This month, 50 years ago, Larry Evans became the first person to appear solo on the cover of both magazines. The captions on the following photos explain the circumstances.

Left: 'U.S. Champion Larry Evans'
Right: 'Three Time Champ'

Chess Life

The 1968 United States Championship, a 12-man invitational round-robin, was won handily by the second-best player in the country. Larry Evans, a sometime New Yorker (he prefers the west coast), landed on top of this truncated field by dint of what can only be described as accurate plodding. He accepted gambits, grabbed pawns, capitalized on his opponents' errors (there were plenty) and in general was content to let his renowned technique do all the work.

Chess Review

Larry Evans of New York won the United States Championship for the third time. He did so by effectively tacking down just the points needed till his last-round draw with Arthur B. Bisguier secured his first in the standings. It was Evans' play which was most impressive throughout the toumament.

GM Evans also appeared in the series for the November 1966 'On the Cover', as a member of the U.S. Olympiad team ('Evans, Addison, Benko, Fischer, Rossolimo, R. Byrne, and Team Captain D. Byrne'). For one of his many other mentions on this blog, see Borrowing Leaves (December 2015), playing chess with Marcel Duchamp.

For a less flattering portrayal of this month's featured American, see Edward Winter's The Facts about Larry Evans (chesshistory.com). It's hard to reconcile that Evans the player and Evans the writer were the same person.