31 May 2019

After 'Le Palamede'

After collecting mid-19th century chess periodicals for four countries, I had one significant gap to address. In Le Palamede (March 2019), I documented that French publication with:-

From Di Felice, 'Chess Periodicals, 1836-2008' [NB: The first number ('1778') is Di Felice's internal reference.]:-

1778. Palamède (Le) : Revue Mensuelle des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1836–1847)

The first French periodical doesn't even bring us to the 1851 London Tournament. What publications appeared afterwards?

1946. Régence (La) : Journal des Échecs, Rédigé par Une Société d’Amateurs (1849–1851) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 1849)–Vol.3, no.12 (Dec 1851). Monthly. Editor Kieseritsky. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Illus., 20 cm. Magazine. General. French.

After 1849–1851, there was a gap of several years.

1947. Régence (La) : Revue des Échecs et Autres Jeux (1856–1857) Vol.1, no.1 (Jan 15, 1856)–Vol.2, no.1 (Jan 15, 1857). Frequency unknown. Editor Arnous de Rivière. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Diagrs., 28 cm. Magazine. General. French.

The cover pages of the two different series are shown in the following composite image. The 1856 cover is probably off-center because of a scanning problem.

Left: 1849; Right: 1856

After 1856–1857, there was another gap.

1699. Nouvelle Régence (La) : Revue Spéciale des Échecs (1860–1864) Vol.1 (1860)–Vol.5, no.4 (Apr 1864). Monthly. Editor Paul Journoud. Publisher Café de la Régence. Paris. France. Diagrs., 23 cm. Magazine. General. French. Note Vol.1 has title Régence (La): Revue Spéciale des Échecs. Replaced by Palamède Français (Le).

Paul Journoud (wikipedia.org) was to edit other publications. Wikipedia says, 'He was an editor of several chess periodicals: La Régence (1860), La Nouvelle Régence (1861–1864), Le Palamède Français (1864), and Le Sphinx (1865–1867).'

1779. Palamède Français (Le) : Revue des Échecs et des Autres Jeux de Combinaison (1864–1865) Vol.1, no.1 (Sept 1864)–Vol.2, no.15 (Nov 1865). Monthly. Editors Paul Journoud, Ladislav Maczuski. Publisher C. Lahure. Paris. France. 24 cm. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaces Nouvelle Régence (La).

Le Palamède Français started some months after its predecessor, La Nouvelle Régence, and overlapped its successor, Le Sphinx.

2528. Sphinx (Le) : Journal des Échecs (1865–1867) Vol.1, no.1 (Apr 15, 1865)–Vol.2, no.18 (Dec 15, 1867). Fortnightly, later 10 issues per year. Editor Paul Journoud. Publisher Imp. Vallée. Paris. France. Illus., cm. 22 x 13. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaced by Philidorien (Le).

The next periodical in the chain, Le Philidorien, lasted only a few months.

1828. Philidorien (Le) : Petite Encyclopédie des Échecs (1868) No.1 (Apr 1868)–no.6 (Sept 1868). Monthly. Editor C. Sanson. Publisher P. Lebrige-Duquesne. Paris. France. Magazine. General. French. Note Replaces Sphinx (Le): Journal des Échecs.

I managed to find all of the above on Google Books. I don't know whether the copies are complete or internally consistent, but I'll find out when I use them for further reference.

30 May 2019

May Amazon Yahoos Crumble

In last month's end-of-the-month Yahoo post, April Yahoos -- Much Ado About Nothing?, I wrote,

I'm once again reduced to pecking at crumbs just like in previous months. The only chess reference I spotted while browsing mainstream news headlines is shown in the following screen capture.

This month I had a stream of crumbs, shown below. They brought memories of Yahoo ghosts of blogging past:-

  • 2019-01-31: January Amazon Yahoos • 'The Yahoo news service picked up zero chess stories from the mainstream press. There was, nevertheless, one chess-related item in my news feed.'
  • 2019-02-28: February Amazon Yahoos • 'Of celebrities and sports, there was plenty to choose from; of chess there was nothing. Is the problem perhaps an overall deterioration in the Yahoo news feed itself?'

Deterioration in the Yahoo news feed, probably. An unwanted -- let's call it creepy -- coupling of my Yahoo habits with my Amazon habits, definitely.

'Sponsored --$-- Amazon.com'

The reappearance of Amazon Yahoos was provoked by my work on the post:-

While I was preparing that post, I looked at one -- let me emphasize that: ONE! -- book about Morphy on Amazon. I don't remember exactly what book it was, but it was a modern edition of a 19th-century book. I spent ten seconds looking at it, said to myself 'That's interesting', and moved on to another aspect of Morphy's career. The book might have been the second one shown in the ad dated '2019-05-22', titled 'Morphy's Games of Chess, and Frère's Problem Tournament (Classic Reprint) Paperback – April 5, 2018; by Paul Charles Morphy (Author)' on Amazon.

Yes, after writing that last paragraph I'm certain that was the book I looked at, because what I found interesting was that Morphy had written a book. I hadn't known that. The same book is the third shown in the ad dated '2019-05-29'. Amazon/Yahoo showed me the first ad 3-4 times over the next day, left me alone for a week, then reappeared with the second ad. The third book in the first ad is Kasparov's 'My Great Predecessors, Part 1', and the second book in the second ad is Zenon Franco's 'Morphy: Move by Move'. Why Kasparov? Probably because there's a section about Morphy in his book. The third ad, which appeared this morning, dropped the Morphy theme and offered two books by Jeremy Silman. Why Silman? I have no idea.

Ditto for the first book in all three ads: Capablanca's 'Chess Fundamentals'. I have no idea why Amazon keeps pushing this book. I used to own a copy, gave it to someone, and now have a PDF copy. As an aside, the Amazon product page says it has 138 pages, while the last page in my PDF version is page 61. Whatever the real number of pages is, I won't be buying it from Amazon. Let's see how long the ads continue.

As another aside, I bought 'Predecessors, Part 1' with earnings from Amazon's affiliate program. At one time, around the year 2000, my earnings from that program were enough to buy a book from time to time. Nowadays if I earn five cents a year from the program it's a windfall. I could say more about the Amazon affiliate program, but today is not the right time or place.

If there is one chess story I would like to have seen in the mainstream press during the month of May, it was the first event in this year's Grand Prix series. I'll cover that soon on my World Chess Championship Blog, so I'll say no more about it here.

28 May 2019

Google Obsessed

This post should have been a follow-up to Chess Obsessed and Chess Obsessed II, but instead I got side-tracked by Google nagging me for the umpteenth time. This time it was a problem with Adsense. That's the Google service that puts ads on my pages, like this blog or my website. The latest message said,

Earnings at risk - One or more of your sites does not have an ads.txt file. Fix this now to avoid severe impact to your revenue.

Speaking honestly, there isn't much revenue to impact severely. The ads basically pay the cost of the domain ISP and serve as a check that things are running normally. No ad impressions means there's a problem somewhere and I check the numbers once a week.

The procedure to create the file is explained on the page Declare authorized sellers with ads.txt (support.google.com). I followed the instructions, so now it's up to Google to tell me if I followed them correctly.


After that detour, I still had some time to prepare Chess Obsessed III. The last photo I picked for the mini-series is shown below.

The eBay description said,

1954 Original Photo THREE DIMENSIONAL CHESS Mankato Teachers College Game; size is 8" x 10"

That's certainly a straightforward (and unusual) implementation of 3D chess. If pieces are allowed to move up and down from board to board, I can't imagine what the rules would be. The setup could also be used by two players for an eight board simul against each other. For another post on the same subject, see How About a Game of 3D-Chess? (November 2017).

27 May 2019

Leela Wins TCEC S15; Stockfish Wins CCC8 Finals

In last week's post, TCEC S15 and CCC8 Finals Both Underway, we left our two major engine-vs-engine competitions in full swing. To summarize that post:-

TCEC: With just over half of the S15 superfinal games played, Leela leads Stockfish by 27.5-24.5 (+8-5=40). • CCC: In the final stage, with about two-thirds of the games already played, the order of the four engines is Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Houdini. The point spread between each successive place is almost enough to guarantee that this will be the final standing.

In the meantime, both competitions crystallized around clear winners.

TCEC: It ain't over 'til it's over, but the S15 superfinal is effectively over. Leela leads Stockfish by seven games with six games still to be played; the current score is +14-7=73. It's been more than three months since S14 ended, which I documented in Stockfish Wins TCEC S14; CCC6 S2 Underway (February 2019; also links to TCEC winners for S10-S13): 'the final score +10-9=81 in Stockfish's favor'. Last month, in TCEC S15 DivP Underway; Leela Wins CCC7 Final (April 2019), I commented,

CCC7 marked the symbolic end of the dominance of the traditional, handcrafted, alpha-beta engines. The passing of the baton to a new generation needs to be confirmed by a TCEC victory for an AI/NN engine, but that is a question of 'when', not 'if'.

The baton has now been passed. For future TCEC/CCC competitions, I expect that more AI/NN engines will join the race and that the alpha-beta engines will struggle to maintain the pace.

CCC: CCC8 finished in the order predicted last week: Stockfish, Leela, etc. A final report on the event, Stockfish Strikes Back, Tops Lc0 In Computer Chess Championship (chess.com), said,

Lc0 defeated Stockfish in their head-to-head match, four wins to three. Lc0 also won its head-to-head matches with the other two finalists. But Stockfish performed better in the four-engine round-robin to take back the title by beating up on the two weaker engines.

The Chess.com report continued,

The four finalists will join a field of 18 total chess engines for the next event, CCC9: The Gauntlet, which will begin after the CCC8 bonus games (live now). CCC9 will try a new format with four stages of increasingly powerful engines. Strong engines will be seeded into stages two and three, but will still play in the preliminary rounds to challenge a varied field, including some new entrants to the Computer Chess Championship.

In the meantime, the CCC8 Bonus also finished, won by Brainfish. The following chart shows the final crosstables for the two CCC8 events that finished during the past week.

Top: CCC8 Final; Bottom: CCC8 Bonus

In next week's post I expect we'll have news about TCEC S16 and more details about CCC9. Since we're at a transition point for both competitions, it's a good time to decide whether I want to continue these weekly reports.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

26 May 2019

Books on Soviet Chess History

I couldn't find an appropriate video for this month's edition of The Sociology of Chess (November 2016), but I had a good backup idea. While I was preparing last week's post Chess Obsessed II ('The phrase "chess obsessed" once referred to an entire nation.'), I discovered a post on the English Chess Forum, Books on Soviet Chess (ecforum.org.uk; June 2013):-

Could someone personally recommend a publication on the history of Soviet Chess?

Along with literary luminaries like Leonard Barden, Tim Harding, and Richard James, forum members suggested about a dozen titles. I assembled the following list:-

  • Averbakh, 'Centre-Stage and Behind the Scenes'
  • Cafferty & Taimanov, 'Soviet Chess'
  • Eales, 'Chess: 'The History Of A Game'
  • Johnston, 'White King and Red Queen'
  • Kotov & Yudovich, 'The Soviet School of Chess'
  • Linder, 'Chess in Old Russia'
  • Richards, 'Soviet Chess'
  • Soltis, 'Soviet Chess 1917-1991'
  • Sosonko, 'Russian Silhouettes'
  • Spanier, 'Total Chess'
  • Wade, 'Soviet Chess'

More accurately, there are 11 titles on the list, of which I have all but three. A title that wasn't on the list, because it was published in September 2013, is:-

  • Hudson, 'Storming Fortresses: A Political History Of Chess In The Soviet Union, 1917-1948'

It's available as a PDF from a number of sources, and lately I've been reading it to expand my knowledge of Soviet chess history. Its abstract starts,

From the end of the Second World War through the demise of USSR, Soviet chess players dominated world chess. Not only did they control the world champion title after 1948 (except for the Fischer interlude), they also monopolized all other areas of international chess competition. When the Soviets captured the world title in 1948, this was the culmination of a long, carefully cultivated program to foster a chess community in the Soviet Union. The rationale for this initiative, which engaged the attention of the highest levels of the Soviet state, had deep ideological roots.

This dissertation explores the social/political history of chess in the Soviet Union, particularly its utility to Party and State. The story of Soviet chess begins in the Civil War, when chess was enlisted as a training tool for military recruits. After the Bolshevik victory, a very similar rationale was used to promote chess as an instrument for training Party cadre in the burgeoning Communist Party. The same attributes desired in soldiers were also desired in Party activists, and chess was seen as a tool for nurturing these attributes.

Out of curiosity I ran a search on the general subject and came up with the following.

Google image search on 'chess historians soviet'
[Call the rows 'A' to 'C' (from top to bottom) and number the images in each row '1' to '7' (from left to right).]

In the middle of that screen capture ('B5') is another title that deserves to be on the list:-

  • Gulko, Popov, Felshtinsky, & Korchnoi, 'The KGB Plays Chess: The Soviet Secret Police and the Fight for the World Chess Crown'

Since I've read that one as well, I'll spend some time to locate the three other titles that I haven't read.

24 May 2019

D.W.Fiske Bio

Some of what we know about Paul Morphy's heyday, the period from 1857 to 1859, is due to the work of Daniel Willard Fiske. Last year he was the subject of a post on this blog in:-

Fiske returned over the past week in two posts:-

The 'Images' post was based on Fiske's book 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies'. The book starts with a one page biography of Fiske, dated January 1912.

[Readers of "Chess Tales" who are not familiar with the career of the author may be interested in the following biographical note.]

Daniel Willard Fiske was born in Ellisburgh, N.Y., November 11, 1831, and died in Frankfort-on-the-Main, September 17th, 1904. He was educated at Cazenovia Seminary and at Hamilton College, but left the latter institution before graduation to go abroad and study the Scandinavian languages. He passed two years at the University of Upsala, Sweden, and returned to New York in 1852, taking a place in the Astor Library, where he remained until 1859. He was General Secretary of the American Geographical Society, 1859-60.

In 1857 the American Chess Monthly was founded, which he edited in conjunction with Paul Morphy, 1857-60; and compiled the "Book of the First American Chess Congress," held in New York, 1857. He had been connected with the United States Legation, Copenhagen, 1850-51; and became Attaché to the United States Legation, Vienna, 1861-62, under Motley. Later he was connected with the Syracuse Daily Journal, and in 1867 was on the staff of the Hartford Courant.

In 1868 he traveled abroad, visiting Egypt and Palestine, when he received a call to be Professor of North-European languages, and Librarian, at Cornell University. He was an ardent member of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity. Iceland he visited in 1879. His marriage to Miss Jennie McGraw occurred in 1880. In 1883 he resigned his offices at Cornell and took up his permanent residence in Florence, Italy.

Mr. Fiske's miscellaneous writings were numerous and varied, and reprints of the more important will appear later. His valuable book collections, which were presented to the Cornell University Library, related to Dante, to Tetrarch, to Icelandic History and Literature, and to the Rhaeto-Romanic language. Besides the great collections which have enriched Cornell University, that institution has also received from his estate a fund for the uses and purposes of the Library, of more than half a million dollars.

A similar, expanded biography can be found in 'Willard Fiske, Life and Correspondence: A Biographical Study' (1925) by Horatio Stevens White. The book also compresses the path of Fiske's life into a single page, titled 'Chronological Outlines', shown below.

It is curious that Morphy's heyday coincided with the period in Fiske's life where his main interest was chess, 'Chess Monthly, 1857-60 (1852-61)'. I've always had a special interest in Fiske, because he was associated with my alma mater, Cornell University. It is also curious that he lived/worked in Hartford CT, Copenhagen, and Frankfurt, three cities where I've lived and worked. What provoked him to lose interest in chess?

23 May 2019

Chess Obsessed II

What rhymes with chess? Bless, dress, guess, mess, press, stress -- Yes! Bless this mess? Those are one syllable words. There are even more two syllable words that rhyme, but the word that interests me for this post is 'obsess', as in last week's Chess Obsessed. The motivation for that post was simple:-

I found a half-dozen recent eBay photos from roughly the same period as the item in the 'Hyde' post, couldn't decide which I liked best, and chose the one that I knew most about.

For this post I chose another photo from the same batch, this time on a subject that I would like to know more about.

The description said,

Russia USSR real photo card 1960s Soviet chess club. Boys pioneers. Photo card by Amursky, 1960s. Size 14.5 * 9.7 cm

What would I like to know more about? Chess in the Soviet Pioneer clubs. I started with a reliable source about which I blogged ten years ago:-

Although the word 'Pioneers' doesn't appear in the index of 'Soviet Chess', the phrase 'junior chess' does, and chapter five is titled 'Chess among Women and Juniors'. First, a digression : the relevant passage on junior chess (p.59-60) is immediately preceded by an important fact about Soviet women's chess that is worth keeping in mind:-

From 1938, although republic and city championships continued as before, championships of the U.S.S.R. for women were dropped from the calendar as it was hoped that women would compete in the men's championship. This policy proved misguided, however, as the difference in standard between the sexes was too great, and after the end of the Second World War separate championships for women were again instituted.

Back to junior chess, the chapter continues:-

During the [1930s] the number of schoolboys enrolled in the chess organization increased enormously. In the previous decade, although isolated clubs, most notably in Leningrad, and a few senior players had taken an interest in the younger generation, the general attitude towards enrolling juniors in the chess movement was far from favourable. Later, however, chess clubs were started at Pioneer Houses and often in schools. (The game was never taught as part of the school curriculum.) This work took such rapid root that almost 100,000 school-children competed in the qualifying tournaments for the All-Union junior championships of 1934 and 1936.

Many present-day Soviet grandmasters received instruction in the chess clubs of Pioneer Houses, which remain still the chief centres for junior chess today. Smyslov and Averbakh, for example, were taught at the Pioneer House in Moscow, Taimanov and Spassky in the Leningrad Pioneer House and Bronstein at a similar institution in Kiev. Petrosyan and Nona Gaprindashvili both learnt the game in the Tbilisi Pioneer groups.

One of the dangers facing Western masters visiting the Soviet Union since the mid thirties has been a simultaneous display against Russian schoolboys. The first foreign masters to experience their strength were Lasker, Spielmann and Liliental at the time of the 1935 Moscow tournament, but the most striking result, from the schoolboys' point of view, was a display given in 1951 by the English master Wade, who against thirty Moscow young pioneers scored ten draws and twenty losses.

Poor Bob Wade -- he scored +0-20=10 in a simul against children. The phrase 'chess obsessed' once referred to an entire nation.

21 May 2019

Images of Morphy

In last week's post, Paul Morphy, Annotator, I mentioned the book 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies' by Daniel Willard Fiske (1912). Fiske died in 1904, and the publication of 'Chess Tales' was the work of its editor, Horatio S. White. My copy of the Google Books scan shows both White's bookplate and his handwritten inscription ('Literary Executor for the Willard Fiske Estate'). The book is a collection of about 30 reprints, mainly from Chess Monthly (see another post from earlier this month, Five Volumes of 'Chess Monthly') plus a few other sources. The book's 'Introduction' explains its genesis.

The chapter titled 'Paul Morphy' contains six pages with images of Morphy. I collected these into a single composite image, shown below.

All of the image pages were captioned. Top row, left to right:-

(Signed: 'Yours, dear Fiske, Paul Morphy')
Frontispiece to Volume III of the Chess Monthly, 1859

By Courtesy of the Manhattan Chess Club, New York

From the Collection of Eugene B. Cook

Bottom row, left to right:-

By Lequesne
From the Collection of the late John Boyd Thacher,
of Albany, New York


By Courtesy of the Manhattan Chess Club
New York. From the Original in the Club Room

All of these images can be found elsewhere. Take, for example, the image in the center of the top row ('PLAYERS AT THE FIRST AMERICAN CHESS CONGRESS'), attributed to Matthew Brady. From 'Paul Morphy: Pride and Sorrow of Chess' by David Lawson (2010, p.77):-

During the time of the Congress, Matthew Brady, the well-known photographer, took several pictures of Morphy, singly and with other members of the Congress, and it was announced in the Chess Monthly of July 1858 that there would be published

"a lithographic Picture embracing Likenesses of about Twenty of the most eminent Chess Players in the United States—the same being an exact Copy of the group as arranged and Photographed by Mr. Brady of New York. In the foreground is represented the figures of Messrs. Morphy and Paulsen in the act of playing their memorable Match, with Judge Meek of Alabama as Arbitrator and the rear is made up of leading Chess Players watching with intense interest the progress of the Game."

The photo to the right of the top row is also attributed to Brady. The bust was mentioned in the 'Paul Morphy, Annotator' post (Fiske: 'the bust of Morphy constitutes the best likeness obtainable -- all those appearing in books are caricatures'). The last image in the bottom row was painted by Charles Loring Elliott (wikipedia.org; 1812–1868). For more images of Morphy, see Visions of Morphy (chess.com; batgirl; March 2016).

20 May 2019

TCEC S15 and CCC8 Finals Both Underway

A week ago, in Leela Wins TCEC Cup 3; CCC8 S1 99% Finished, we left both of our two world class engine-to-engine competitions with their final stages just getting underway. Here's a recap of that post:-

TCEC: The S15 superfinal started [between Leela and Stockfish] and the score is currently tied at +1-1=11. • CCC: The CCC8 qualifying stage finished in the order -- Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Antifish, Houdini, Komodo -- no tiebreaks required. Leelenstein beat Antifish for the second qualifying spot in the Leela family.

What is the current status of the two tournaments?

TCEC: With just over half of the S15 superfinal games played, Leela leads Stockfish by 27.5-24.5 (+8-5=40). At one point, Leela led by five points.

CCC: Here's a portion of the final crosstable from the CCC8 qualifying stage, showing how the first 12 engines (out of 24 engines total) fared against each other.

In the final stage, with about two-thirds of the games already played, the order of the four engines is Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Houdini. The point spread between each successive place is almost enough to guarantee that this will be the final standing.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • Leela = LC0 = LCzero]

19 May 2019

The Real Caravaggio?

For this month's edition of Flickr photos, I had a good choice of interesting photos, one of which was a photo of a painting. I decided to use the painting, because I couldn't remember having seen it before.

Joueurs d'échecs, Le Caravage, 1610 © Flickr user Pierre under Creative Commons.

The description of the photo/painting pointed out (in French) that the chess board is positioned incorrectly, with the corner square white *not* on right. I had a bigger problem with the chess board -- it looks too modern and the slight tilt downward to the right is wrong. I have a plastic folding board in the same colors that looks very much like the board in the painting. This is undoubtedly a coincidence and the similiarity is my imagination playing tricks on me, but it still annoyed me.

Using an image search on 'chess caravaggio' (the artist's name in English), I located a half-dozen copies of the painting, one version of which had a different chess board. The others all had the same funny-looking board seen in the Flickr photo. There were other differences between the two versions, enough to convince me that they were two different paintings.

The Flickr description gives 'Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia' as a source. The white patch on the right side might be from a flash and is even more visible in the original (I've cropped out the painting's frame). Which version is hanging in Venice?

17 May 2019

Paul Morphy, Annotator

In a recent post on this blog, Paul Morphy, Editor, I looked at the first two volumes of 'Chess Monthly' and wondered whether Morphy wrote the notes to the games. Here's a summary of the post:-

The bottom entry (1858) lists four Morphy games starting on p.15. [...] The first game, Paulsen - Morphy (p.15), is the famous game where Morphy sacrificed his Queen for a Bishop. It has a page and a half of notes. The other three Morphy games have a half-page of notes. [...; Fiske:] "The Book of the [1st American Chess] Congress will hardly be ready before Spring. ... The notes to the games will be chiefly by Mr. Morphy." [...] Were the notes to the Morphy games taken from the draft of the book? [...] Next stop: The Book of the 1st American Chess Congress.

I already had a copy of the book, downloaded from the Open Library when I was working on the post Fiske's 'Chess in Iceland' (July 2018). That copy turned out to be problematic when I was using it in my Kindle. The pages were dark yellow and slow to load, so I located a better copy in Google Books. The title page was preceded by a colored chess problem, as shown in the following image.

Title: 'The Book of the First American Chess Congress' Author: Daniel Willard Fiske, MA; Published: New York, Rudd & Carlton, 1859. The subtitle says,

Containing the proceedings of that celebrated assemblage, held in New York, in the year 1857, with the papers read in its sessions, the games played in the grand tournament, and the stratagems entered in the problem tournay; together with sketches of the history of chess in the old and new worlds.

The book's dedication says,

To Paul Morphy, the hero of that American tournament whose story is here told, and the conqueror upon the traditionary battle fields of Europe, I dedicate this book with every sentiment of esteem and friendship.

The book's preface mentions,

To my kind and distinguished friend, Mr. PAUL MORPHY, the reader is under obligations for comments to several of the games in the Grand Tournament.

Long story short: Morphy wrote the notes to 'several' of the games in the book. While I was working on this, I also learned more about the games in 'Chess Monthly'. The following is from another of Fiske's chess books, 'Chess Tales & Chess Miscellanies' (1912), as a long note to the chapter titled 'Paul Morphy'. The note was titled 'Morphy as a Chess Editor' and attributed to the Times Democrat, New Orleans, March 10, 1901, p. 15:-

From some unknown cause, but undoubtedly as a fact, there seems to have obtained a fairly general belief among the chess fraternity, and especially the editorial section thereof, that Paul Morphy merely lent the use of his name, without substantial editorial work, to the two chess periodicals with which he was connected during his career; namely, the American Chess Monthly during 1858, 1859, and 1860, and the column in the New York Ledger appearing in 1859-1860. In part refutation, at least, of this current idea, we think the following excerpt from a letter written under date of February 5, 1901, from Prof. Daniel Willard Fiske, then at Florence, Italy, to Mr. Will H. Lyons, the well-known chess bibliopole of Newport, Ky., will prove interesting to our readers. It will be recollected that Professor Fiske was Morphy's associate in the editorship of the Chess Monthly. He observes:

"I was very much interested in Mr. Buck's account of Paul Morphy. He errs, however, when he states that Mr. Morphy contributed very little to the Chess Monthly while his name was upon the title-page. During the course of the second, third, and fourth volumes, a large part, possibly the greater part, of the games were selected and annotated by him. His annotations, for their clearness, their firmness, their gentlemanliness, and their terse, accurate English, have not, I think, ever been equalled. They well deserve republication. Unfortunately the indexes do not enable anyone to ascertain with which games Mr. Morphy had to do. My own copy has his initials attached to the games he annotated.

If possible, I will endeavor to have sent you from Paris three large photographs (front view, three-quarters view, side view) of the bust of Mr. Morphy in the Café de la Régence. They are not very satisfactory, partly because the light under which they were taken was so placed as to give a gray appearance to the hair. On the whole, the bust of Morphy constitutes the best likeness obtainable -- all those appearing in books are caricatures."

We confess that we ourselves were not aware that so large a proportion of the games and annotations that enrich the specially splendid 1858, 1859, and 1860 volumes of the Chess Monthly were due to Paul Morphy, but there can be no questioning the accuracy and reliability of Professor Fiske's statements in the matter. It would surely be a boon to possessors of that already valuable periodical, and a marked increase in its chess value to all lovers of the game, if he would furnish for publication, from his set of the Chess Monthly, the data indicating the games selected and annotated by the King of Chess-Kings. We should be only too pleased to give the matter place in our column.

It may be remarked in this connection that, as far as concerns the chess department in the New York Ledger of 1859-1860, aside from the fact that the entire series of at least the earlier half of the games and annotations bear unmistakable marks of Morphy's handiwork, we have personal knowledge that he expended much labor on that particular portion of the column. But the clouds of a mighty oncoming conflict on the bloody fields of the Civil War were already sweeping over the sons of the North and South alike, and small wonder that Morphy was compelled to commit the latter part of the volume to the capable hands of his friend, Fuller, of New York. This is a his- torical fact too well known to need repetition or discussion.

[Paul Morphy died at New Orleans, July 10, 1884.]

In that passage there is much for further research. For this post, I'll stop here.

16 May 2019

Chess Obsessed

After Moscow Panoramas, what else can I do that avoids 'requiring any significant amount of work'? How about something along the lines of 'The Game of Life' or 'The Chess-Players' (January 2019), which was based on that month's 'Top eBay Chess Items by Price'? For the current month that would be a post following on Hyde's Mandragorias (May 2019).

I found a half-dozen recent eBay photos from roughly the same period as the item in the 'Hyde' post, couldn't decide which I liked best, and chose the one that I knew most about. Another photo from the same film is on my page Chess in the Movies (p.2), where the description says, 'Brainwashed (Schachnovelle, 1961); Allied Artists Pictures; Curt Jurgens'.

Curd Jurgens - Brainwashed

Is the actor's name Curt or Curd? The film also figured in a post on this blog, Chess Behanced (February 2014), where I made the connection between Stefan Zweig's novella 'The Royal Game' (aka Schachnovelle) and 'Brainwashed'. That post pointed to a couple of Wikipedia references and used the name Curd Jürgens. The Wikipedia page, Curd Jürgens, starts,

Curd Gustav Andreas Gottlieb Franz Jürgens (13 December 1915 – 18 June 1982) was a German-Austrian stage and film actor. He was usually billed in English-speaking films as Curt Jurgens.

It looks like it's 'Curd' in German and 'Curt' in English. As I do with most differences in spelling, I'll continue to use whatever my source uses along with a mention (usually 'aka') of the alternative.

Back to that 'Chess in the Movies' page, I created it sometime around 2005. It might be worthwhile to survey images I've collected since then and, if I have enough examples, add another sub-page on the same topic. One last word about the original eBay photo: it sold for $19.59 'Buy It Now'.

14 May 2019

Moscow Panoramas

Just like a few months ago in Postcards from 1935 Moscow (January 2019)...

I'm swamped with other projects and have no time for a post requiring any significant amount of work.

...so let's have some more photos 'Spotted on eBay'.

Top: 12th Soviet Chess Championship, Moscow, IX-X, 1940. For another photo on this blog from the same source, see The 12th Soviet Championship (September 2017)
Bottom: Final candidates match, Moscow, IX-XI, 1974, 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com)

The top photo 'consists of four photos glued together'. The bottom photo is a single panoramic view.

13 May 2019

Leela Wins TCEC Cup 3; CCC8 S1 99% Finished

When we left last week's post about two ongoing, world class engine-vs-engine competitions, TCEC Cup 3 Nears QF; CCC8 S1 90% Finished, the situation looked something like this:-

TCEC: Currently in the octofinal stage (the round of 16) five of the original 32 engines have already qualified for the quarterfinal, with three octofinal matches remaining to determine the other three quarterfinalists • CCC: Of the original 24 engines, 21 have entered [CCC8] and have run the gauntlet of the engines that started before them. Fizbo is the 22nd engine to start, leaving only Stockfish and Leela still to start.

What's the status a week later?

TCEC: In TCEC Cup 3, Leela beat Stockfish in the final match with a score of +2-1=7, to confirm its victory in TCEC Cup 2. The following chart shows the last four matches that determined 1st through 4th places in the final standings.

The S15 superfinal started afterwards and the score is currently tied at +1-1=11. For a reminder on how the two engines qualified, see the post from two weeks ago, TCEC S15 Final: SF vs. Leela; CCC8 S1 at 3/4 Mark.

CCC: Looks like last week's title, 'CCC8 S1 90% Finished', was overly optimistic. The first, qualifying stage is still running. Leela was the last engine to start the event and still has four mini-matches left on the schedule. I'll add an update to this post when the final result is known.

With both TCEC S15 and CCC8 in their final stages, it's useful to have an overview of finishes to previous competitions:-

Newcomers to chess engine tournaments might benefit from a basic information page published recently by the organizer of the CCC competitions: Computer Chess Engines: A Quick Guide (chess.com).

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page. • Leela = LC0 = LCzero]


Later: A few hours after I prepared the main post above, the CCC8 qualifying stage finished in the order -- Stockfish, Leela, Leelenstein, Antifish, Houdini, Komodo -- no tiebreaks required. Since the rules specified, 'Top 4 engines advance to final, only two can be from a single, or shared, code-base', Leelenstein beat Antifish for the second qualifying spot in the Leela family. Also noteworthy is Houdini's narrow half-point placing above Komodo. I'll have more details in next week's post.

12 May 2019

The Hand That Feeds You

The last time we saw the Grand Chess Tour (GCT) on this blog was Chess Lions in Leuven (June 2018), about the GCT leg in Belgium. The tour is back in 2019, and it's been much expanded. What do the players think?

Grand Chess Tour: 2019 Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz - GCT expands in 2019 (2:44) • 'Published on May 12, 2019'

What do you think they think? More events, more money -- what's not to like? The description to the video said,

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley feels the Grand Chess Tour Players out on how they feel towards the expansion of the Grand Chess Tour circuit into new Countries beginning with the Côte d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz in Africa.

Starting with GM Nakamura ('more events, more players, more variety, more prize money'), followed by GMs Wesley So, Vachier-Lagrave, Topalov, Karjakin, and Carlsen ('The more the merrier!'), the players have nothing but good to say. For more about the series of events this year, see 2019 Grand Chess Tour (grandchesstour.org). Unfortunately for those of us who live in Belgium, the Belgian leg has disappeared. I should have visited last year when I had the chance!

10 May 2019

Paul Morphy, Editor

In the previous post in this series, Five Volumes of 'Chess Monthly', I wrote,

Both title pages [1857, v01; 1858, v02] mention Paul Morphy and D.W. Fiske as editors (plus 'Problem Department by E.B. Cook'), although the handwritten page [1857, v01] indicates that Morphy's name was added later. [...] It's not clear what role he actually played in the publication of Chess Monthly. I'll tackle that another time.

I found a review of v02 at Chess Book Chats: The Chess Monthly by Morphy and Fiske (May 2018; part 1/2). It said,

This is the second volume, for the year 1858, with Paul Morphy named as co-editor, although he had spent the second half of the year in Europe; and the whole volume is largely a tribute to Morphy with extensive reports of his exploits both at home and abroad. Of the 97 games included in this volume, the great majority are by Morphy, starting with games from the First American Chess Congress, held in New York in October and November 1857, and ending with many of his astonishing performances in England and France.

That makes sense, although 'great majority [of games] are by Morphy', might be an exaggeration. Quibbles aside, here is an extract of the Morphy entries from the general indices of the first two volumes of 'Chess Monthly'.

Top: 1857, v01 • Bottom: 1858, v02

The top entry (1857) lists four Morphy games starting on p.368. All of the games were given without notes. The bottom entry (1858) lists four Morphy games starting on p.15. Here is a list of the games, including two games sandwiched between the Morphy games (all links to Chessgames.com):-

The first game, Paulsen - Morphy (p.15), is the famous game where Morphy sacrificed his Queen for a Bishop. It has a page and a half of notes. The other three Morphy games have a half-page of notes. The first page of the edition where the games appeared (January 1958) said,

The Book of the [1st American Chess] Congress will hardly be ready before Spring. This delay is occasioned in part by the desire of the Editor to make the Historical Sketch of American Chess as complete as possible. The notes to the games will be chiefly by Mr. Morphy.

Were the notes to the Morphy games taken from the draft of the book? I'll look at that another time. If four of the six games in the game section were by Morphy, what about the other two? The second game, Montgomery - Paulsen (p.18), would also be found in the book of the congress. The third game appears to be missing from the databases; at least I couldn't find it during a few minutes of searching. Curious about the game, I entered the moves myself:-

[Event "Consultation Game"]
[Site "Paris"]
[Date "1857.06.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Viscount Casabianca / Count Isouard"]
[Black "Duke of Brunswick / Harrwitz"]
[Result "0-1"]
[Source "Chess_Monthly (v02; 1858; p.19)"]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 e6 4.Nc3 a6 5.a4 g6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Bg7 8.Nde2 Nge7 9.O-O f5 10.exf5 Nxf5 11.Bd3 O-O 12.Bxf5 Rxf5 13.Ng3 Rf7 14.Nce4 d5 15.Nc5 Qe7 16.Nd3 e5 17.Re1 Be6 18.f3 Raf8 19.c3 h5 20.Be3 d4 21.cxd4 exd4 22.Bf2 h4 23.Ne2 h3 24.Bg3 Bh6 25.f4 hxg2 26.Nf2 Bg7 27.Ne4 Bd5 28.Ng5 Rf5 29.Rc1 Qd8 30.Rc5 d3 31.Qxd3 Qxg5 32.Rd1 Nb4 33.Qd2 Qg4 34.Re1 Re8 35.Qxb4 Rxe2 36.Rxd5 Rxd5 37.Qc4 Bd4+ 38.Bf2 Bxf2# 0-1

Its main point of interest appears to be the Queen sacrifice on move 31. Next stop: The Book of the 1st American Chess Congress.

09 May 2019


No, we're not talking about Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor (congratulations to the proud parents!), we're talking about Archie comics. Although I had more than a half-dozen comic covers to choose from, the one shown below seemed the most appropriate, given the news from Britain's royal family.

Archie's Pals 'n' Gals (No.162)

The dialog balloons say,

Veronica: 'Stand aside, Betty! King Archie is mine'

Betty: 'He is not! This QUEEN plays to WIN!'

Archie: 'If I'm a KING, how come they treat me like a PAWN?'

In real life, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor has about as much chance of being King as he has of becoming World Chess Champion, but he's still born into a charmed life. The story reminds me of the recent post, April Yahoos -- Much Ado About Nothing? (April 2019), where I asked, 'Is there a better way to illustrate the idea of a King than with a chess King?' • The Game of Kings? A King or a Pawn?

07 May 2019

2019 CJA Awards Announcement

It's become an annual exercise on this blog -- following the Chess Journalists of America (CJA) awards. Last year, just like previous years, it took three posts to cover the main activity:-

I even got a fourth post out of the exercise to look at some of the new categories introduced in 2018:-

The 2019 awards were announced in the May issue of Chess Life (CL). Just like in last year's post, here are the award categories for 2018 and 2019 presented side-by-side. (That's the cover of the August 2017 CL in the upper right corner.) For 2019, the CJA has added nine new categories, highlighted in yellow.

2018 2019

How to enter? There's an entry form on the CJA's web site, Chess Journalism (chessjournalism.org). The structure of the online entry categories doesn't correspond exactly to what was printed in the May CL, but I'll assume that everything is covered. The announcement specified,

The prestigious awards, which are open to anyone, showcase American works published in English between June 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019.

If you're a CJA member (I'm not), good luck!

06 May 2019

TCEC Cup 3 Nears QF; CCC8 S1 90% Finished

The title of last week's post on the two engine-vs-engines tournaments that I'm following was TCEC S15 Final: SF vs. Leela; CCC8 S1 at 3/4 Mark. Deciphering that title requires a summary of the post:-

TCEC: In the last event for S15, Stockfish and Leela will play a season-ending final match (aka superfinal, sufi) for the second time to determine the best engine on the planet. [...] Before the final match, the TCEC will be holding another cup event, as announced in TCEC Cup 3... • CCC: As of this writing, 18 engines have started play in CCC8; the most recent was Leelenstein. Nearly 590 games have been played. That means 75% of the engines have started play, but somewhat more than half of the games have been played.

During the intervening week, TCEC Cup 3 and CCC8 have both advanced; neither has finished, but both should be finished before next Monday's post. Let's have a quick look at their current status.

TCEC: Currently in the octofinal stage (the round of 16) five of the original 32 engines have already qualified for the quarterfinal, with three octofinal matches remaining to determine the other three quarterfinalists. So far there have been no surprises in the mini-matches.

CCC: Of the original 24 engines, 21 have entered the event and have run the gauntlet of the engines that started before them. Fizbo is the 22nd engine to start, leaving only Stockfish and Leela still to start. The following chart shows the current standings for the first 12 of the 21 engines that have already played each other.

A week ago I wrote, 'Houdini and Antifish are at no.1 and no.2, unfortunately a meaningless observation.' Leelenstein, which was just starting the event at that time, is currently at no.1, followed by Antifish and Houdini. Assuming that both Stockfish and Leela finish among the first four, that leaves place for two more engines. Only two engines from the same AI/NN family can qualify for the final stage, and -- as far as I know -- all of the top AI/NN engines are from the Leela family. That means Leelenstein and Antifish will be fighting each other for one of the last two places in the final.

[For further information from the various stakeholders in the engine-to-engine events, see the tab 'TCEC/CCC Links' at the top of this page.]

05 May 2019

Hyde's Mandragorias

When was the last time I featured a book on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010)? Not counting comic books, it appears to have been Lombardy's MCO (October 2017), over a year and a half ago.

The item pictured below was titled, '1694 HYDE Oriental Games HISTORY OF CHESS +Nard Backgammon HEBREW ARABIC CHINESE', subtitled, 'RARE 1ST EDITION OF "FIRST SCHOLARLY HISTORY OF CHESS"'. It sold for US $1450 after 48 bids from 16 bidders, on a starting price of $9.75.

The description started with a text image that I transcribed as

Thomas Hyde

Mandragorias, seu, Historia shahiludii [...] :
de ludis Orientalium


in Tribus Scriptis Hebraicis.


Hoc est dicere, trunculorum : cum
quibusdam aliis Arabum,
Persarum, Indorum,

That Latin text appears to have been taken from portions of the book's title page and a 17th-century version of a preface. The rest of the description might be the longest I have ever seen on eBay that wasn't a copy/paste from Wikipedia. It started,

First Complete Edition of this pioneering and highly esteemed study on the history of chess, as well as nard and other oriental games. Three parts in one (2 volumes, with 1st volume comprising 2 parts). Text in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, Persian, English and other languages. Illustrated with several engravings in text and 3 folding engraved plates.

This was followed by a collection of quotes from other sources, of which the most authoritative was from Murray:-

"The closing years of the [17th] century saw the publication by the Oxford University Press of Hyde's Mandragorias, seu Historia shahiludii (1694), the first really scientific contribution to the history of chess. A second volume, with the title Historia Nerdiludii, treated in a similar way of other Oriental games. The author, Thomas Hyde, was one of the first Oriental scholars of his age, and was successively Professor of Hebrew and if Arabic in the [Oxford] University, in addition to filling the position of Bodley's Librarian from 1665 until 1701. He used his vast knowledge of Arabic literature to establish the Indian origin of chess, and, although no chess-player himself, the careful use which he made of his authorities, and the copious extracts which he gives, make his work of great value even at the present time." (Harold Murray, A History of Chess, p.841)

After much more of the same, including a few paragraphs on Thomas Hyde (1636-1702), was a physical description of the book.

Octavo, text block measures 16 cm x 9½ cm. Bound in contemporary (ca. 1700) full vellum dyed brownish-orange over rigid boards; flat spine richly decorated in gilt, and with a gilt-lettered title label. • 3 parts bound in 1 volume. Pagination: [72], 184, [4], 71, [17], 278, [2 blank] pages + 3 folding plates. Collated and COMPLETE (with half-title and final blank present). • Illustrated with 3 folding engraved plates (in the 1st part), and several engravings and woodcuts in text. Printed in roman and italic letter (for Latin), black letter/gothic (for English and German), Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and other exotic types, some of which (Chinese, Sanskrit, etc) are engraved. • Each of the three parts with its own dated title-page and its own pagination. Includes half-title ("De ludis Orientalibus...") with the imprimatur (dated Sept. 20 1693) on verso. Dedications, dedicatory epistles, and prefaces to the reader to the 1st and 2nd volume, respectively.

It's unusual to see so much effort put into an eBay description. The seller certainly earned his $1450.

03 May 2019

Five Volumes of 'Chess Monthly'

In last week's post, Early American Chess Periodicals, I used machine translation to understand an article from the August 1861 edition of Schachzeitung. Here's an excerpt:-

Recently, the American [Chess Monthly] has an equally thorough, as detailed compilation of all the leaves of their land brought the chess more or less have reciprocated extensively and permanently. We see that in all, 87 newspapers play our games, if only temporarily, were interested. Present are of course, it was only about eleven, which continued [to bring] a column over the chess; they are the following: [...]

Hoping to find the original article in English, I went back to Google Books to locate copies of Chess Monthly and found five volumes (1857-61, v01-05). The title pages for volumes 01 & 02 are shown below.

Left: 1857, v01; Right: 1858, v02
Bottom: Bookplate

The bookplate, which was also in the Google scans, says, 'Ex Libris : Dr. M.Niemeijer'. I mentioned Niemeijer in Chess Sources for Google Books (April 2019), because his book collection is one of the sources for the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) in The Hague. As the image above shows, the title page for the 1857 annual volume (v01) of Chess Monthly was handwritten, as was the general index for the entire year. I assume that it is Niemeijer's handwriting.

Both title pages mention Paul Morphy and D.W. Fiske as editors (plus 'Problem Department by E.B. Cook'), although the handwritten page indicates that Morphy's name was added later. In a recent post on my World Championship blog, Early Chess Periodicals (April 2019), I noted a strong connection between those periodicals and the early history of the World Championship:-

The year in brackets ('[]') is the year of the periodical's first publication. That is followed by the name(s) of someone who played a role both in the early years of the periodical and in the early events now considered to have been forerunners ('Unofficial events') of the World Championship. [...] Labourdonnais, Staunton, and Anderssen are all accounted for. St.Amant played two matches against Staunton.

Now we can add Morphy's name to the list, although it's not clear what role he actually played in the publication of Chess Monthly. I'll tackle that another time.

The last volume of Chess Monthly (1861, v05) also has a title page and general index written in Niemeijer's hand. The title page includes the note, 'Five numbers only were published from January to May when the issue ceased.' The first article in the May 1861 edition is the English language source of the Schachzeitung translation. Now we can see how close the translation is to the original (spoiler alert: it's not very good).

02 May 2019

May 1969 'On the Cover'

If this month's 'On the Cover' looks vaguely familiar, it might be because we've already seen the Chess Life side on this blog in Early U.S. High School Championships (May 2017). I'll come back to that post after I present both covers from 50 years ago.

Left: 'John Watson - Winner of the 1st National High School Championship'
Right: 'Chess Sets'

Chess Life

The CL cover promised 'Details next month', so let's skip ahead to the June 1969 Chess Life.

With 370 players from 21 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico, the National High School Championship made a spectacularly successful debut at the McAlpin Hotel in New York April 11-13. Entrants came from as far as Hawaii and all eight USCF regions were represented. The Individual Champion, with a 7 1/2 - 1/2 score, was John Watson, a senior at Brownell-Talbot High School, Omaha, Nebraska; while the team title, determined by combining the scores of each school's four best scorers, went to the "Gompers" team of Chicago, Ill., all of whose members attend Lane Technical High School.

Getting back to that 2017 post on 'Early U.S. High School Championships', I wrote of the five first winners, 'Along with [Larry] Christiansen, John Watson is well known in the current chess scene, primarily as an author.' Indeed, we've seen him several times on this blog in discussions of books. The most extensive writeup was probably Notes on Material Imbalances (January 2013), where I mentioned, '"Secrets Of Modern Chess Strategy" by John Watson (Gambit 1998), a winner of several "Book of the Year" awards'.

Chess Review

Bob Rosenwald says of our cover sets this month: "Enclosed are photos of two different chess sets I recently designed. The top is made of brass; the lower, wood turned on a lathe -- my first serious attempt in some years to design a beautiful and playable set. I feel the bottom one lends itself admirably to a production line -- perhaps in a high quality plastic." This is Bob's fourth cover appearance!

Four Rosenwald cover appearances? I found the third in April 1966 'On the Cover', where the CR blurb said, 'Robert Rosenwald, who seems to specialize in "out" art on the chessboard'. The second was April 1964 'On the Cover', where the CR blurb said, 'The new Rosenwald set (compare with one on March cover last year) [...] Set designed and executed by Robert L. Rosenwald.' Since that 'On the Cover' was only the second in a new series, Rosenwald's work from the March CR 1963 isn't available for a comparison.

CR had a habit of featuring chess pieces on its covers. The previous occurrence was July 1968 'On the Cover where the CR blurb explained that is was from a 'display of chess sets held at the Brooklyn Museum'.