16 June 2024

An Unexplained Chess Set

For this month's Flickr favorite, I could have chosen another AI generated photo as in No Hunk-o'-Junk Here (April 2024), but none of the three candidates on the short list were particularly inspiring. I was more intrigued by the photo shown below although there was almost no information about it. The description of the photo repeated its title and added only,

Curt Schlevogt, Ingrid Collection

There were no tags offering further clues. This leads to the often asked question, 'What have we here?'.

Preciosa Chess Set 08 © Flickr user Preciosa Ornela under Creative Commons.

A little searching on the obvious keywords led to 'Desna' Decorative Glass - Preciosa Ornela (preciosa-ornela.com), where Desna is a town in the Czech Republic; Google: 'Population: 3,084 (Jan 1, 2020)'. One section of the page informed,

Chess Set • Desna Since 1847 • Curt Schlevogt, Collection Ingrid • This exclusive chess set is possible to purchase in our Glass Shop in Desna.

A suggestion to 'View More Photos' points to Decorative Glass - Desná since 1847 (flickr.com; 'We would like to introduce you to the artistic crystalware collection from PRECIOSA'). And now that we have come full circle back to Flickr, the journey ends here. We might never know if there is a story behind the set.

09 June 2024

Chess.com ARR, Takeaways, and Sound Bites

Only 180 views for a chat with the man who shepherded the greatest chess boom of all time? The most popular chess streamers probably get that much attention in the first millisecond of their latest stream. There is definitely something wrong with this picture.

Erik Allebest - From 0 to 150 million ARR - The Chess.com story (1:12:33) • '[Published on] May 12, 2024'

I thought I knew most of the important accounting and investing acronyms, but ARR had me stumped. Although there are dozens of ARR acronyms in use, I'm guessing that the right one is explained on the page What is annual recurring revenue (ARR) and how to calculate it (paddle.com):-

Annual recurring revenue is a crucial success metric for subscription companies. Learn why it’s important and how to calculate it correctly. [...; AAR] is the yearly value of revenue generated from subscriptions, contracts, and other recurring billing cycles.

The description of the video starts,

Chess.com has grown from being a simple chess service to a thriving 150 million ARR business. The company has focused on making chess accessible to everyone through services around a product that hasn’t changed in centuries. We touch on the challenges of scaling a company and the role of titles and leadership in an organization and how many times Erik wanted to give up in the process.

Wanted to give up? Say it ain't so, Erik! The rest of the video description is worth a look and covers 'Takeaways', 'Sound Bites', and 'Chapters' (important segments in the video). Someone spent time putting all of this together and received only 180 views. For a previous post on the world's most successful commercial chess enterprise, see The Rise of Chess.com (January 2023; 32,365 views).

04 June 2024

June 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

In last month's post about American chess magazines of yesteryear, May 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (May 2024), we had the Candidates stage of the World Championship on the left and American news on the right. Here we go again.

Left: '?'
Right: '"I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas" • GM Jaan Ehlvest; Winner of the 1999 National Open'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Soviet Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, vanquisher of Mecking and then Petrosian. during a talk on the Mecking match before an exhibition at Chess City in New York. The delightful Korchnoi describes the Mecking encounter [inside]. Photo by Nigel Eddis.

Once again, the first chess content in the magazine was 'The Editor's Page - News & Views' by Burt Hochberg. His summary of the contemporary scene is again worth quoting. It started,

It will come as startling news to many that Anatoly Karpov, who turned 23 in May, has roundly defeated ex-World Champion Boris Spassky in their semifinal Candidates Match in Leningrad. Though widely expected to be Fischer's "revenge" challenger in 1975, Spassky was not everyone's choice. His compatriot Korchnoi, for example, told us in New York that despite Spassky's decisive win of the Soviet title last year, some grandmasters (including Korchnoi) recognized in Spassky's games signs that he had not yet recovered from his 1972 defeat at Fischer's hands. [...]

A few paragraphs later, Hochberg covered the other half of the semifinals.

In Odessa, USSR, the Korchnoi-Petrosian semifinal match came to an abrupt end when Petrosian resigned the match on account of illness with the score 3-1 against him. Five games were played, with only one draw among them, a stark contrast with the 1971 match between these rivals. Svetozar Gligoric analyzes this match in our July issue. [NB: Yes!]

After news about various U.S. championships, Hochberg ended his summary with a quote from GM Korchnoi's four page report on the match.

Quotation of the month: "Despite the objective difficulty of the position, I continued to play quietly and confidently, as though all was well, as though I, and not my opponent, was winning. As I later learned, this manner of play really drove Mecking mad!" -- V. Korchnoi

The full title of the Korchnoi report was 'The Korchnoi - Mecking Match' by Viktor Korchnoi. Echoing the 'Quotation of the month', it started,

There were many critical moments in my match with Mecking. A lot of mistakes were made and in fact there was not a single error-free game. My opponent has learned to set up his game rather well strategically and his tactical skill was always up to par. However, owing to his character disposition he was not capable of consistent play through the match. At difficult moments I succeeded in saving bad positions and even scoring important points by means of stubborn defense unforeseen by my opponent. Here are three fragments from the match which were turning points in the overall struggle.

For the results of all the matches mentioned here, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

It was a three-way tie for first place in Las Vegas, at the National Open, and Jaan Ehlvest took home the Edmondson Cup on tiebreaks. It was the third time that Jaan tied for top honors, but this was the first time he won the Cup, edging out Ilya Smirin and Gregory Kaidanov. Almost 1,000 players journeyed to Las Vegas to compete over the board, and to enjoy the ambiance of the Riviera Hotel and Casino, enhanced by the organizing skills of Al Losoff and a skilled staff. Coverage, provided by Edmar Mednis, begins [inside].

And yes, one could say one saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas... • Cover photo by Brian Killigrew.

The four-page, illustrated tournament report 'National Open: More Excitement and Fun' by GM Edmar Mednis started,

The 1999 National Open was held from March 19-21 at its luxurious home, Riviera Hotel & Casino, on the famous "Strip" in Las Vegas. Chief organizer Alan ("Al") Losoff had again put together a fantastic festival of competitive chess and pure enjoyment. Players were guaranteed a lot more money than last year ($50,000 vs. $42,000), with the actual payout being $53,350.

The turnout was an impressive 986, with 260 (including 27 GMs) in the Open section, 347 in the Reserve section (under 2000), 340 in the Booster section (under 1600), and 39 in the Unrated section. The larger guaranteed prizes meant that all section winners received more for their successful efforts. The three winners in the Open each made $4000, the two in the Reserve got $2500 each, and the two in the Booster each pocketed $1200. The schedule was two rounds per day, the time limit was 40/2, 20/1, SD/30, and an unlimited number of half-point buys [sic] were available.

And in case you're as clueless about the cover as I was ... Q: What means 'I saw Ehlvest in Las Vegas'? • A: That must be Ehlvest Presley. • Q: Is that a hound dog's name?

02 June 2024

Everybody Loves Morphy

A couple of months ago in this series on Top eBay Chess Items by Price (March 2010), the post of the month was Morphy Unpublished (April 2024). There I wrote,

On this blog's long running series 'Top eBay Chess Items', Morphy items are not unusual. Having said that, it's been a few years since the previous post on Morphy.

And here we are again. The item pictured below was titled '1860 Sage Token No. 3 Paul Morphy Chess King Harrwitz & Staunton Copper Plated', and carried the note 'AU Details, copper plate white metal'. It sold for US $2225.00 after 34 bids from eight bidders. After a starting price of $0.99, in the last hour of the auction the price rose almost 50% from $1501.

The description started by echoing the title,

1860 Sage Historical Token No. 3, AU Details, copper plate white metal.

Then quoted most of the token's inscription,

[Front:] Paul Morphy, The American Chess King. [Back:] He Has Beaten Harrwitz In Chess Playing And Staunton In Courtesy • No. 3 Aug. 8. [Sage's Odds and Ends]

Then added,

Sage's Historical Tokens (150-250).

I couldn't find much about the tokens, although I didn't look very hard. The page A.B. Sage Series | Coin Census Population Report | NGC (ngccoin.com; NGC Census : US Tokens & Medals : A.B. Sage Series), mentions the Morphy token twice.

30 May 2024

An Indian-Norwegian Yahoo

Last month's Yahoos post, Candidate Yahoos (April 2024), started:-

Of the 99 chess stories returned by Google News for the month of April, 27 were about the just concluded Candidates tournament.

Skip ahead one month and we get similar:-

Of the 101 chess stories returned by Google News for the month of May, 28 were about...

Were about what exactly? The lead section, with nine related stories, was titled 'R Praggnanandhaa defeats Magnus Carlsen in classical format'. Add to that more on the same game mixed in with other chess news and we get 24 Pragg-Carlsen stories. Add another four stories on related topics and we get 28 total.

In other words, one game in May received more attention from Google News than the most important tournament of the year received in April. Here's a typical story from Pragg's home country India:-

To follow the game, see Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa vs Magnus Carlsen; 12th Norway Chess (2024), Stavanger NOR, rd 3, May 29 (chessgames.com). I've played this line ('Sicilian Defense: Kan. Modern Variation') many times with both colors and I don't know what's 'provocative' about it. Maybe I'll find out by the time the June Yahoos are available.

[Yahoos (mainstream news stories about chess) are derived from Google News top-100 (or so) stories from the past month.]

19 May 2024

Shoreditch Street Art

The title of this month's Flickr featured photo says 'graffiti', but it looks more like 'street art' to me. Don't ask me what the difference is; I just know it when I see it. The last time we saw 'graffiti' on this blog was Only on Sunday (April 2023; yes, that's definitely graffiti). The last time we saw 'street art' was No Monkey Business Here (July 2017; Description: 'Street art in London').

Tris graffiti, Shoreditch © Flickr user duncan cumming under Creative Commons.

The decsription on this photo said,

Game on! This is the first piece in a chess battle between Tris and Core246. Two years later it's still in progress.

The Wikipedia page Shoreditch (wikipedia.org), says,

Shoreditch lies just north-east of the border with the City of London and is considered to be a part of London's East End.

By some curious coincidence, the full description in 'Monkey Business' says, 'Street art in London, Shoreditch'. Or maybe it's not a coincidence. The 'People also ask' section of a Google search on 'Shoreditch' informs,

Q: 'What is Shoreditch famous for?' • A: 'Shoreditch is famous for its street art, which can be seen all over the area. The area is also known for its trendy bars and restaurants, as well as its thriving creative scene.'

The Flickr user credited with this month's photo maintains an album titled 'Shoreditch graffiti & street art', currently with more than 32.000 photos. Too bad there's no search on the album. It might be both informative and entertaining to browse more chess street art.

14 May 2024

May 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover'

Last month's post about American chess magazines of 50 and 25 years ago, April 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (April 2024), was all about American chess. This month we're reminded that there are always important chess events happening in the rest of the world.

Left: '?'
Right: 'Maurice Ashley - Our Newest Grandmaster'

Chess Life & Review (50 Years Ago)

Anatoly Karpov (left) and Tigran Petrosian, winners of their quarterfinal candidates matches. See [inside] for Spassky's assessment of his match opponent in the current semi-finals, and for Szabo's penetrating review of Petrosian's victory.

For the report on the two other quarterfinal matches, see March 1974 & 1999 'On the Cover' (March 2024). For the crosstables of all four matches, see 1973-75 Candidates Matches (m-w.com).

Chess Life (25 Years Ago)

Maurice Ashley, Grandmaster
Grandmaster Maurice Ashley.
Sounds good either way

Technically, until the next meeting of the FIDE Qualifications Committee, I [CL Editor Glenn Petersen] suppose we should say "Grandmaster-Elect" Maurice Ashley. But that's a technicality I'm willing to ignore. Although there are many who are strong enough to achieve the aim (but lack opportunities; see [inside]), few are more deserving than Mr. Ashley.

And not just for what he has accomplished over the board, is he deserving. As a coach, as a role model for young people, as a chess teacher, chess author, chess announcer -- indeed, as an enthusiastic spokesman in almost all areas of chess promotion, Maurice has made his presence notable. Certainly, as the first Black Grandmaster in the world, his place in history is assured. However, there will be no mere 15 minutes of fame for this young man. As he continues to climb mountains (see Brian Killigrew's interview [inside]), and to set standards for generations of youngsters to come, we predict Mr. Ashley 's moment in the sun will be lifelong. • Cover photo by Brian Killigrew

I'm guessing we'll see GM Ashley on the right side of many future 'On the Cover' posts.